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.
2) This'll be my last chapter posted until after New Year. I'm leaving this afternoon to fly up to my Mom's for Christmas, and between decorating and shopping and baking a bazillion cookies and whatever-all-else we end up doing, I probably won't have time to do much writing at all. Everyone have a great holiday, whichever one you celebrate! [wave]
Previous Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One
Marton parked his car at the top of a cliff about half an hour out of Monterey. A couple slots over was a run-down Ford with a large unrepaired dent which had started to rust. A strong ocean wind moaned through the air, whipping past the distorted Monterey cypresses and howling between the two cars and across the all-but-empty expanse of blacktop. Waves crashed against the rocks below. There was no one else within sight, or at least not visible; it was too cold for anyone else to've been attracted to that particular scenic lookout point. Good enough.
A skinny man with unkempt dark hair and a few days' growth of stubble got out of the dented car. He moved over to Marton's side, looking around and over both shoulders, then said, "So?"
"My part's done," Marton replied. He pulled a flimsy slip of paper with a Commerce seal out of an envelope and showed it to the other man, one finger held strategically over a particular spot. The other man reached out for it, but Marton jerked it up and away. "You don't need to touch it. Just look. It's genuine. So far as the system is concerned, David Grant has been enslaved and his debts absorbed into Commerce's bookkeeping."
The actual David Grant gave him a pouty scowl. "How much did you get?"
Marton tightened his grip on the voucher for a moment, as if ensuring that his finger still covered that blank on the form. "That's none of your concern. I've performed a service and the fee you agreed to pay is now due." He put the voucher back in its envelope and returned it to his jacket's inside pocket.
The ex-Mister Grant took a step back toward his car. "If you've really done it and it's official, what's to stop me from just leaving?"
Marton rolled his eyes, not bothering to hide his scorn. "If you were to do that then I'd have to make sure you don't live much longer, just as a way of protecting my business reputation. It wouldn't even be illegal -- you don't actually exist anymore." Complete bullshit, of course -- a dead body turning up would attract official attention no matter what -- but it was a good line and he'd used it a number of times. The casual, impatient delivery usually sold it.
Grant held up both hands and said, "Hey, no problem, just asking. Bad joke, sorry. I've been kind of stressed, you know?"
"I'm sure you have," Marton said. "So how about if we finish this and move on?"
"Right, fine. Hang on, I'll write you a check." He reached into his coat but stopped when Marton barked out a laugh.
"You're still joking, obviously, if you think I'd take a check from someone who was within a hair's breadth of being enslaved for debt." Marton stopped smiling and stared at him hard. "Cash. As we agreed."
"Right, right, sorry." Grant turned away and popped the trunk of his car. He pulled out a battered briefcase, then took three tries to get the trunk to stay closed. He set the case down on the trunk of Marton's car and popped it open to show messily-bound stacks of cash. "There, fifteen thousand." He looked down and muttered, "Hardly seems fair, you already getting paid for the job."
"You're paying me because I did you a service and you agreed to do so," Marton said. "And because paying five percent of your indebted amount is much better than paying a hundred percent. Besides, it's good for you to get back into the habit of paying what you owe. Repeat customers are charged ten percent."
Grant snorted, and apparently found where his spine had been hiding, because he said, "You're a real ballsy fuck, aren't you?"
"I'm a rich ballsy fuck, who has a lot of friends who aren't afraid to commit illegal acts. I suggest you remember that." Marton closed the briefcase, opened his trunk and tossed it inside. "Speaking of which, if you like I can refer you to some of my friends to create your new identity. Unless you have someone in mind already?"
"Huh? What new identity?"
Marton sighed. "Obviously you can't be David Grant anymore. David Grant has been sucked up into Commerce and is even now being taught to kneel, walk on a leash, and enthusiastically suck on anything stuffed into his mouth. If any activity shows up under his name, if you get a job or pay taxes or apply for a marriage license or anything which comes to the government's attention, they'll notice the discrepancy and be right back after you."
"What?!" Grant stared, then snarled, "You never told me that!"
"No, you're right, I'm sorry. I just assumed you had an ounce or two of brains in your head and could figure it out for yourself."
"You fucker!" Grant came at him swinging. Marton dodged easily, and a punch in the nose sent Grant sprawling on the pavement.
"It's not my fault you're an idiot," Marton said. "Although you might want to work on that once you have your new identity, or you'll just find yourself in the same mess again." He moved around to the driver's side of his own car and opened the door, then added, "Or maybe you'd be better off as a slave after all, with other people telling you what to do, keeping you from screwing up your life. Some people are just better off that way. I guess you'll know within the next few years whether you're one of them." He waved, then got in his car and backed out.
Grant scuttled back, even though he was a good five feet away from Marton's path. Whatever. The man was clearly a moron and would probably end up in a collar eventually, just from his own bad judgement. Hell, he'd probably kept his house, despite Marton's advice when they'd first made the arrangements to find a substitute for Grant. He could've sold it before and stashed the cash, but once the new Grant had been processed into Commerce, the government owned all his property of record. Trying to sell it after that point would ring every siren in the place. Same with his car; that was the same one he'd been driving when he'd made contact a long five months earlier.
It wasn't Marton's problem, though. He had Grant's fifteen grand, and within a couple of weeks, when Grant's debts were settled by Commerce, the Silver Oasis would be "repaid" the one-point-two-mil he'd faked up in paper. Grant's fee was pocket change, but it was the principle of the thing. And besides, all those five percent fees had added up to a nice pile.
A couple more weeks and he'd be on a beach, drinking something out of a hurricane glass, with clever hands of both genders rubbing tanning oil into his skin. Almost there.
Liam slammed into Johnny one last time and then collapsed on top of him in a boneless sprawl. Johnny lay still beneath him for the minute or so it took Liam to get his brain functioning, then his nervous system, then his arms and legs. He rolled off into another sprawl, this one face up on the mattress, his eyes closed and his breath still short.
He felt the mattress shift and heard Johnny moving quietly toward the bathroom.
So normal and so not. The immediate tension was gone from his body but the stress deeper inside still coiled and twisted.
It'd been over a month and he'd honestly expected to have gotten over it by now. Not completely, no; there'd always be some sadness, some loss. Like when his father had died, or his first dog. But instead it was all still there -- the sense that something was missing, the feeling of emptiness even in a house full of staff, the lack of real satisfaction having sex with anyone else -- even Johnny, who'd pleased him very well before Orlando'd first come to his bed.
Johnny still pleased him of course, but it wasn't the same.
He couldn't help remembering the last time he'd almost lost Orlando, when he'd almost convinced himself that selling the boy was the right thing to do. The logic still held -- he could see that as well as he ever had -- but logic hadn't been a part of it when he'd decided to keep him after all. It'd been all about raw need and no, that wasn't healthy, but he hadn't been able to bear even the thought of it, when it'd come time to go ahead or go home.
And yet even then it'd seemed like it was the initial pain of the losing that he couldn't stand, rather than the longer-term loss. He hadn't been able to make himself yank off the bandage, and he'd been ashamed but he couldn't help it. And he'd been sure that if only he had found the courage to get through that initial ripping pain, that it would have faded and healed in time.
You lost people, you just did, that was how the world worked. He'd lost his grandparents, and his parents, and an aunt and two uncles. He'd lost dogs and horses he'd loved, in the way one loves dogs and horses. And he'd lost the person he'd believed Natasha had been; finding out that he'd been mistaken about that was just as much of a loss as if she'd died, in a way.
He'd lost people and grieved and gotten over it and gone on. It was what one did.
And slaves -- people weren't supposed to become attached to slaves. Certainly no more than one became attached to dogs or horses. And he never had, never before.
But it had been a month and there was still a hole in his life where Orlando had perfectly fit, and there shouldn't be. Not after all this time.
Johnny glided back into the room, cleaned Liam off with a warm washcloth and tossed it into a hamper. Then he went down on his knees beside the bed, bowed his head and said, "Master?"
"Yes?" Liam glanced over at him and wondered what had come up.
"Master, I beg your forgiveness for any impertinence, but it's my duty to look out for your business interests and I feel I have to ask -- have you considered searching for a new body-slave yet?"
Liam sat bolt upright on the bed, any relaxation the sex might've left gone from his body. "What the fuck brought that up?" he snarled. "And yes, that is damned impertinent."
Johnny ducked down to press his forehead to the carpet. "I apologize, Master. But the deadline is in three weeks, and it takes time to find someone suitable and negotiate a purchase. You need someone to serve you--"
"I have you," snapped Liam. "And despite this current wave of insanity -- for which you will be thrashed, by the way -- you do an adequate job of serving my needs."
"Master, I'm sorry," said Johnny again, his voice muffled by being pressed even further into the carpet, "but I'm scheduled to go to Baltimore next week, and then straight to Paris. I'll be gone for at least ten days. Unless you've decided to cancel my trip?"
"Then you'll be alone for that time. It's not right. You need someone to care for you, and you need someone to assist you with the business on this end. I've been travelling for you for almost fifteen years and you seemed happy with how things have been arranged. If you prefer to go back to doing business over the phone, or online, or travelling yourself, then arrangements need to be made. I can't do both, though. I'm sorry, Master, I wish I could."
"Also," Johnny said, his voice tense, "it's not right for me to be your body-slave on social occasions. I'm forty-five, Master. I'm too old to do you credit."
"You're still gorgeous and you know it."
"Thank you, Master, but that's not the point. Other people will talk and make disrespectful remarks. It could hurt you in negotiations."
It could make you look weak. Johnny hadn't said so, of course, but it was what he meant. There's Neeson, a bit of early dementia there, can't get over the loss of a slave, hah! What a pity. Pathetic. Obviously lost his edge.
He could show the whole fucking lot of them that he hadn't lost anything (except one gorgeous boy, a little voice whispered) but swimming with the sharks meant persuading them not to mob you, meant maintaining the reputation of being too tough to take down. If they all tried it, or even just a barely strong enough alliance, it could hurt him. He couldn't afford to look weak, to show any kind of breach in his defenses. Liam knew he had a reputation as a hard-ass and it'd served him well enough for the last four decades; he'd gotten used to operating that way. He needed to maintain it.
The overheard conversation from the At Bay dinner flashed into his mind. Everyone knew how highly he valued Orlando, how rarely he let anyone else touch him. Everyone knew, and there must've been some suspicions that maybe he was more attached than was usual all along. Hell, Tasha'd mentioned it too, that people had talked about him, although he'd assumed at the time that she was just sniping, throwing any weapon she could come up with.
He'd always had enough power to ward off the sniping, force it to stay under cover. But if he made a spectacle of himself...?
Liam swung his legs over the side of the bed, barely missing cracking Johnny's head with a heel. Johnny didn't move, of course, although Liam could see the muscles in his shoulders tense up. He reached for his pajama bottoms, just because it was undignified to administer actual punishment while naked, and said, "Go fetch me a flogger."
Johnny said, "Yes, Master," and rose gracefully before heading into the dressing room. Just because he was right didn't mean he hadn't been impertinent and presumptuous.
Next Chapter: Chapter Twenty-Three