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
Everything David knew was wrong. Kneel up, kneel down, bow, present -- it was all wrong and Mr. Anderson had him drilling for hours every day. His knees were too far apart, his hands were in the wrong place, his posture was wrong -- Mr. Anderson circled him with a long, whippy switch and corrected him over and over and over, sometimes with just a tap and sometimes with a stinging smack.
He hardly ever got really beaten anymore. Mr. Anderson said it was because he was obviously trying, and the taps and smacks were just to help him remember. David didn't know why it was so hard, though. He'd never had that much trouble before.
But then, where would he have learned any of that before? He had patchy memories, bits and pieces that didn't quite fit together, of learning all of this some time in the past, of doing well and being praised, but why would a free man ever have learned the proper way to make obeisance to a master?
The dreams still came, of the tall, handsome man -- his father, it had to be -- and the energetic, worried-looking woman -- his mother? -- and a dark-haired man who teased him, older than him but younger than the tall man -- a brother? -- but they were all tangled up with people from the store. His old boss, the cheap grump, and Lance, one of the other salesmen. He and Lance had been fiercely competitive in their sales numbers, but had always been able to go out for a beer afterward.
David had done a lot of things to make sales, but going down on his knees to a customer -- for any reason -- wasn't one of them.
He still dreamed, though, warm and sexy and safe, and he was kneeling in some of those memories. Cuddling and sex and... paperwork? Contracts and proxies and getting flogged until his ass was red and swollen and getting fucked and it feeling so good even with the pain and the articles of incorporation and annual reports....
It had to be a dream because that was just whacked.
That was probably it, though. He'd dreamed that he was a slave, or something sort of like it, and he'd dreamed that he knew all the kneeling stuff but he really didn't.
That had to be it.
Johnny sorted through the paper mail while walking back up from the box. The driveway was nearly half a mile long so he always had plenty of time to do a first sort and read most of the business mail between the box and the house.
Advertiser, advertiser, legal, advertiser, invitation, advertiser--
Johnny stopped. The next piece was an official looking envelope with a Commerce office return address. That was never good news.
He started walking again and tore it open, pulling out the folded letter. Official notice, thirty days, deadline....
Johnny closed his eyes and groaned out loud. He knew the driveway well enough to keep walking, but part of him wanted to turn around and go back and just... sleep under the mailbox or something.
That wouldn't work -- it was supposed to rain later that night and he'd catch pneumonia or something and die. Although that might be preferable to handing Master Liam the official notice that Orlando had been declared a runaway and removed from the master's custody, his contract revoked. The Department of Commerce was reclaiming custodianship of the absent and presumed runaway Orlando Bloom, leaving Lord Neeson without a body-slave.
Reclaiming. Johnny sneered down at the official seal. They'd never had custody -- Orlando was home-grown and had always belonged to the master, Commerce had never had anything to do with it except for the one time the master'd had to take Orlando to the local Center up in Santa Clara as a baby to be chipped and branded and file all the right papers.
But that was just pointless grumping because it didn't change anything -- Master Liam had thirty days to acquire a new body-slave. If he was still without one on the thirty-first day from the date on the official notice, penalty fees would begin to accrue.
Johnny winced. He could just imagine his master's response to the threat of penalty fees.
He could certainly afford to pay, but there were other considerations. There'd already been comments about Orlando's absence, and questions about Johnny's reappearance on his knees at Liam's side. Reinstating him as a body-slave was one option, although Johnny couldn't do all the travelling he'd been doing over the last... hell, more than a decade now, and serve as a body-slave too. The master really did need someone else.
He wasn't going to like that. Hell, Johnny didn't actually like it himself. Bringing in some stranger, no matter how well trained -- the master could handle any little Chad-style punk they might end up with, but he didn't need that kind of hassle just then, not with everything else going on.
Master Liam was absolutely sure that Orlando would be found. It reminded Johnny of twelve years ago when the master had been just as sure that Orlando would walk again, and damn if he hadn't been right, despite what the doctors had told him. But this was different and Johnny was afraid they'd never see Orlando again.
Even if he was found, he didn't belong to the master anymore -- Commerce would take him and if they insisted on treating him like a runaway, he'd be better off dead. He would be dead soon enough, which sucked and Johnny'd never say so out loud to the master, but it was true, everyone knew it.
Johnny trudged back up to the house, more slowly than usual, his whole body tight with stress.
He'd just leave the letter on Master Liam's desk, and hope to be somewhere else -- somewhere far away -- when the master read it.
Thewlis was just about to pack it in and head home when his phone rang. He considered just leaving it to voicemail, but then he recognized the number and grabbed it.
"This is Juarez. You still interested in the Eastridge bust?"
"Definitely. Anything new turn up?"
"Yeah, something weird. The ME noticed that one of the bodies we took out of the place not only had a scar which could've been from a chip removal, but he'd had a slave brand taken off too."
"Taken off?" Thewlis had to stop himself from taking the phone away from his ear and staring at it. "How do you take off a freeze brand?"
"Some kind of skin graft. Nice job, too. The doc said the only reason she noticed was because a whip had cut into it -- it was that guy they took apart? -- and she was looking at the wound, noticed some weird borders where there shouldn't be any borders and went poking."
"A graft? That didn't show at all?" Thewlis frowned and tried to remember what he'd read on the subject. It wasn't much, but enough to know-- "That's not a cheap procedure."
"Hell no," agreed Juarez. "Doc said a regular graft is just to keep everything covered while new skin grows in and there's always scars. This is something else -- she said it takes a sheet of something fancy that helps keep the sewn-on skin alive and getting all attached and whatever, so it blends with the rest of your skin around it."
"And just the surgeon's bill will likely run you enough to buy... well, perhaps not a car, but a decent motorcycle. As I said, not cheap."
"Right. So whoever did this spent a boatload of money on hiding the fact that this guy is a slave, then what -- used him as a disposable party favor? It's crazy."
"I agree, it makes no sense." Thewlis frowned and tried to come up with some scenario where spending however many thousands of dollars on pulling a slave out of the system and then just killing him was a logical course of action. "Why kill the slave who'd cost a large amount of money when any one of their other slaves -- presumably their cheaper slaves -- would have done as well?"
"Punishment?" Juarez suggested. "Maybe the guy'd been acting up and they decided to just get rid of him? Example to all the others at the same time."
"Perhaps," Thewlis said, but he was dubious. "I can think of any number of punishments which would've made almost as great an impact, though, and would have left the man alive to be used later. And if I can come up with several, I'm sure the club organizers could think of dozens."
"Yeah, in their sleep. So again, why waste him?"
Thewlis had a thought. "Wait, maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. We're assuming the purpose of the surgery was to hide this particular man from Commerce. What if the surgery was the point of it, though? An end in itself?"
"What, some whack-job just likes playing surgeon?"
"I suppose that's a possibility as well, but I was thinking that perhaps a surgeon was perfecting a technique and the man was merely a... a practice piece. Removing the chip is one thing, but plastic surgery is a complex specialty and a doctor, even a surgeon, who wanted to be able to hide slaves from the system would likely need a few tries to work out exactly how to remove the brand without leaving any betraying marks."
"Huh." Juarez paused for a moment, then said, "So if the point was just the practice, then the surgeon who did it might not care much about how much he sold the guy for afterward?"
"Quite possibly not," Thewlis agreed. "If he just wanted a body to practice on, then whatever he got for it when he was done would've been a nice bonus, but not vital."
"That could explain how a slave with expensive work done on him ended up in that shithole club. But that means there's someone out there practicing to pull slaves out of the system. Commerce is gonna hemorrhage." Juarez didn't sound at all upset by that thought; in fact Thewlis could hear a grin in his voice.
"I imagine they will, whenever they figure it out," he said. He certainly wasn't going to tell them. Whether Detective Juarez was required to, or decided to, was up to him. So far as Thewlis was concerned, they were perhaps owed the basic data, but they could work out their own conclusions. With any luck, Juarez would agree.
"Thank you for letting me know what your ME found," he said.
Juarez replied, "Not a problem. That was a great tip, we're gonna send some real slimebags straight to the mines. You keep giving me that kind of good stuff, I don't mind sharing."
Thewlis had to smile at that and was just as glad Juarez couldn't see him grinning. "I still appreciate it. I'll let you know if I think of anything else."
"You do that. Later, Thewlis."
They hung up, and Thewlis went back to locking up, then left.
On the way home, his thoughts ran around in circles. There was something hovering at the back of his mind, something he should have thought of. Something obvious, something important, something fluttering for attention just out of reach.
He struggled to pin it down for a while, then gave up. It'd come when it was ready.
In the mean time, he needed to contact Nick again. Thewlis remembered arguments about the brand -- it was definitely the bottleneck when it came to getting slaves out of the system. Even if you shipped them to a place that actually had cold weather, even in Toronto or Minneapolis or Bangor, people who wore scarves or turtlenecks three hundred and sixty-five days a year would draw suspicion.
They'd talked about plastic surgery, though. It was a major investment in time and effort, to say nothing of requiring an absolutely trustworthy plastic surgeon. It was the best way to achieve their goal of true freedom for the slaves, or as close as they'd ever get, living on stolen or constructed identities, but the cost per slave....
Still, obviously someone was doing it, or was working up to it. Nick needed to know because this was one more major piece of their plan that someone else was abusing.
And then it hit him, so hard he almost sideswiped a parked car.
Nick said Marty had become a plastic surgeon. Marty, who'd never been a real member of their group, but who'd been there for most of the discussions. Marty, who had all their ideas and also had the skills to pull off the hard parts himself.
Thewlis went barrelling through his front door eight minutes later. He shot off an e-mail to Nick, then started researching one Dr. Marton Csokas.
Next Chapter: Chapter Twenty