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
[Eight Years Ago]
Master Liam reached down a hand toward Orlando, who was sitting cross-legged on the floor next to him. The hand was empty, so he wanted something. Orlando'd been paying attention to the dinner meeting going on around the table, so he knew his master wanted the dossier on Mr. Taylor, the man the opposition was pushing for Chairman of the Board of SilicaSystems. Orlando slid it out of the perfectly organized briefcase, which was perched on his lap, and put it into his master's hand. The meeting flowed on, punctuated by the clink of silverware on china and the occasional dull tap of fine crystal on the tablecloth when someone put down a glass.
The next time his master's hand reached down, it had a fork in it with a chunk of rare steak. Orlando leaned forward and took the bite of meat, chewing while he sorted through the pages of SilicaSystems' corporate charter, looking for a clause he remembered from one of their prep sessions.
They'd spent days holed up in Master's office at home, Master and Orlando, with Johnny, who'd been travelling all week making personal contact with allies and fence-sitters, often contributing over the phone or through e-mail. They'd collected and sorted information and sounded out other board members and shareholders, trying to build a block of votes before flying out to Triangle Park for the stockholders' meeting. The vote was the next morning, and Master Liam and other major shareholders who favored Mr. MacAllister as the new Chairman were having one last work session before the morning meeting
Orlando touched his master's thigh and held up the correct charter page with his thumb pointing at the relevant clause. Master Liam took it from him, stared at it for a few moments, then ruffled Orlando's hair in approval and dove back into the swirl of strategizing.
All of which was pretty well representative of Orlando's life for the previous five years. It was exhausting at times, but he could count the days each year when he was away from his master on the fingers of one hand, and usually with fingers left over; that made all the paperwork and travel and late nights -- including too many of the other kind of late nights, where they were just working and there was hardly time for Orlando to give his master a blowjob to help him sleep before dropping off in exhaustion himself -- worth it. It was much better than being left at home like a little kid.
While sitting on the floor (carpeted, thick, good padding -- body-slaves quickly became experts on carpets and flooring) waiting for his next cue that Master needed something, he caught a smug look from Mr. Clooney's body-slave. He raised an eyebrow at the pampered twit and stared him down.
Matt was a body-slave and only a body-slave. He knelt on the floor next to his master's chair, half curled up in his lap, getting pets from his master and treats from the table and contributing nothing at all to the meeting except his reasonably cute presence. Mr. Clooney had a personal assistant, a free woman named Ms. Margulies who sat at the table with the other free people and actually did work. Matt seemed to think doing nothing but sit on the floor and look cute was some kind of privilege, but Orlando knew better. In the four years since he'd first met Mr. Clooney, at another business meeting similar to this one, the man had gone through three other body-slaves before Matt. Ms. Margulies had been with him the entire time, and from what Orlando'd picked up listening to random remarks, she'd been with him for around twenty years.
Mr. Clooney and Ms. Margulies might or might not've been fucking, but obviously doing nothing for Mr. Clooney but get fucked by him wasn't the way to hold his attention. Matt would learn. If he had any luck, when Mr. Clooney got around to selling him next month or next year, he'd find a master half as good as Orlando's.
Mr. Sinclair -- no, Lord Sinclair now, and Orlando had better remember it -- still owned Karl, and had him keeping notes and tallies on a white board on one wall. The restaurant was accustomed to having business meetings among the private gatherings in its back rooms and was willing to provide (for a fee, which Orlando had negotiated) all sorts of meeting-type amenities.
Lord Sinclair had been kind enough to ask after Orlando's health when they'd first arrived. He always did, the few times a year he and Master Liam got together for business or occasionally pleasure. Orlando had the impression that Lord Sinclair felt bad about his gutter collapsing.
Not that he cared about Orlando personally; he'd probably have felt just as bad if a piece of his house had fallen and injured one of Master Liam's horses. Lord Sinclair was ambitious and finally gaining that title he'd wanted hadn't slown him down. Lord Neeson was a valuable friend to have; being at least partially responsible for his body-slave breaking his back would probably make anyone a little tense and eager to curry a bit of extra favor.
Orlando handed up the packet of recent financials for three other companies Mr. MacAllister was involved with. Two had been doing well and the third had been a trainwreck long before he'd joined the organization, but there were fewer wrecked cars now than there'd been before he'd taken over; he was obviously a competent manager. Or maybe he just knew how to hire competent help -- either one was valuable.
Master Liam took the packet and handed down a chunk of roasted potato. Orlando bit it neatly off his master's fork and focused back on his work.
"I'm sorry, My Lord, I haven't found any more of Orlando's effects. There was never much hope for the clothing, honestly."
"What do you have for me, then?" Lord Neeson's question was a sharp snap, and carried the clear assumption that there would be progress of some sort to relate. Thewlis was very happy to have something because this was not a man he cared to disappoint.
He might have to eventually and that wasn't a happy thought. There were still a couple of possibilities, but he was beginning to think that the slave was probably dead, or near enough. Until he had proof of that, however, his current employer was paying a ridiculous amount to guarantee Thewlis's exclusive attention, and he was more than willing to cash the checks and pound the pavement.
"I found both people who took the keyring and the collar to the pawn shops. Both items were found in dumpsters, one behind a small grocery and the other in an industrial park. I questioned both parties and am satisfied that they did indeed simply find the items. The young lady who found the keyring is homeless and was going through the grocery's dumpster looking for discarded produce and such. The gentleman who was searching the industrial park dumpster is a metal artist -- he welds bits together into sculptures and finds people to buy them. Neither came across as either too jittery or too smooth."
Lord Neeson scowled and nodded. "What else?"
"I've been talking to some people, trying to find leads on other slaves who've vanished. I have contacts in a few police departments and I've asked around among people I know who work for those such as yourself who own large numbers of slaves. There's a reluctance to stick to the topic, however."
"So will they talk to you or not?"
"On this subject, mostly not. Information on the disposition of slaves must go strictly through Commerce, and Commerce will assure anyone who asks that there are never any successful escapes, that all runaway slaves are tracked down eventually and set to less desirable but more secure tasks."
"Orlando is not a runaway." Lord Neeson glared at him and his voice was hard enough to cut diamond. Oddly enough, Thewlis believed him.
Normally that would've been his first assumption, particularly with a master this harsh. In fact, he had assumed it when he'd begun investigating. He'd been given a free hand to speak with any of the slaves or free employees about the estate, however, and not with either Neeson or an agent lurking over his shoulder, and everyone he'd talked with had agreed that Orlando had adored his master and would have only left kicking and screaming. Happy as a cockroach with a restaurant dumpster all to itself, was how one of the house slaves had put it. Not terribly flattering, but definitely descriptive.
So assuming all these people who'd known the boy his entire life were correct, then he hadn't run away.
"So you've said, My Lord," he replied, bowing his head respectfully. "But Commerce has no category for 'stolen' slaves. There are only slaves in Commerce, slaves contracted out, slaves who've died in service, and the occasional runaway who is always brought back, although not always alive, and if so is rarely living for long after. That's the party line."
"Obviously bullshit," said Neeson with a scowl. "Orlando can't have been the first slave in modern history to have ever been stolen."
"Clearly not," Thewlis agreed. "But consider, they have a vested interest in making sure everyone knows, for a fact, that runaways are always found and punished. There's no way to tell the difference between a successful runaway and a theft, therefore thefts don't exist any more than successful runaways do."
"At least not officially." Neeson looked both angry and thoughtful, with his jaw tight and his fingers tapping on his desk. "And I doubt they'd say anything different even if I asked myself."
"Unfortunately not, My Lord. But you could perhaps speak with some of the other owners of your acquaintance? People who might be willing to discuss the subject with one of their own?"
Neeson looked thoughtful and frowned. "What exactly would I be asking them? What are we looking for, aside for the bare fact of another missing slave or two? Who might well have run away?"
"First of all, we're looking for signs indicating that they might not have run away. Your Orlando was apparently more content with his lot than most slaves, but there might well have been others who were not discontent enough to take the chance of being caught as runaways. As I said during our previous meeting, more thefts mean more evidence, which will make it that much more likely that we can track down the thieves."
"Fine. I'll ask around, then, and if I find any other signs of theft, I'll persuade the owners to talk to you, since you know what questions to ask."
"That would be excellent, if you could arrange it." Thewlis bowed his head again and thought about how best to make use of such a series of meetings. One-on-one might get the owners to speak more freely, but if they could manage a group meeting with a number of people who'd had slaves stolen, listening to the others speaking could trigger memories and produce more information.
"What are the chances that this was aimed specifically at me?"
"My lord?" Thewlis changed mental gears and wondered what Lord Neeson was thinking. He was obvious more upset than he cared to let on, but might someone have counted on... on what? The fact that stealing his body-slave might throw him off his game? That seemed rather a long shot.
"Orlando was privy to all of my business dealings, and has been for a dozen years."
Ahh, now that was an interesting possibility. "Is that commonly known?"
"Yes. He attends meetings with me and acts as my secretary. Johnny is competent to work alone and travels as my representative a good deal; Orlando is the one who's constantly by me and anyone who's done business with me would know it."
"Or anyone they've mentioned it to," Thewlis agreed with a nod. "So this might've been an act of business espionage, if a rival thinks they can get enough information out of the boy to make the risk worthwhile."
Neeson looked pained. "He wouldn't willingly betray me."
"Of course not, My Lord," Thewlis said, trying hard to sound reassuring. "But there are drugs which would do the job no matter how loyal your boy is."
"Drugs? Of course." Neeson looked relieved for a moment, and Thewlis could only imagine what he'd been thinking. The more physical forms of persuasion made for dramatic scenes in movies, but they were time-consuming and the information they produced was unreliable. Victims tended to tell torturers whatever they wanted to hear, rather than what was true.
If that was what Neeson had been thinking, however, then it was no wonder his appearance had suffered. His face was more lined than Thewlis remembered from their first meeting, there were dark smudges under his eyes, and there might have been a bit more silver in his hair. It was possible that if Orlando had adored his master, his master might well have adored him back. And a rival who'd noticed could have spotted a two-for-one deal on stealing the boy -- both whatever secrets and strategies they could get out of him, and whatever benefit they gained from distracting Neeson away from his business affairs.
Not that Thewlis would ever suggest such a thing aloud.
Next Chapter: Chapter Ten