|The All-Judging Butterfly (poisontaster) wrote in whatwekeep,|
@ 2008-10-20 14:41:00
Title: Every Certainty I Had
Pairing: Connor Paolo/ Joshua Jackson; Also includes to varying degrees the Fllowing Cast: Summer Glau, Thomas Dekker, Rob Lowe, Penn Badgley, Blake Lively, and Danny from CSI (As though the character were a person, rather than using Carmine.)
Rating: Very Innocent progressing in later chaperts to smuttiness
Disclaimer: It's not real. If you think it is, Good God, you're crazier than I am!! So much thanks to poisontaster for opening the universe and letting us all play in the sandbox.
Summary: Connor sees the disaster his family is headed toward and takes it upon himself to save them.
For a Who's Who go to daughterofelros.livejournal.com/97070.ht
They were going to lose the house.
Connor had been sorting through the mail when he found the letter. He knew things had been bad after his Father had been injured and kept out of work long enough that he’d been laid off. It was always bad for something like that to happen in these kind of times, but there’d still been his mother’s job to support them. Her hours had been cut back though as the pregnancy progressed. There were also odd jobs Connor himself had been doing whenever he could, scraping more money to help put food on the table. They’d been floundering for awhile now. But he hadn’t known things had gotten this bad.
Hands shaking, he slid the letter back into the envelope and put it back with the rest of the mail. The implications were…enormous. They still owed more than half of the mortgage payments, which given the fact that this was New York City, were less like owing money and more like owing your soul. Literally. Because with no other assets to liquidate, his parents freedom was on the line. His wasn’t of course. If his parents were branded as debtors and taken into slavery, he’d simply become a ward of the state until he reached 18. But…He’d probably never see them again, his father wouldn’t survive long, and his little sister… his little sister would be born into slavery. Although they’d never owned slaves, Connor understood the basics of the system. Once in, there was no way out again. It was a cruel enough fate for those who fell to it. But to be born into it, to never know freedom…that was something that he couldn’t comprehend and could not allow to happen. And he thought he knew a way to prevent it. His fingers were so numb he could hardly feel the cellphone in his hands, or the buttons he was pushing. But he heard the tinny ringing sound as lifted the phone to his ear and prayed the number was still the same one from before. Penn answered on the third ring.
“Hey.” His voice sounded like that of a man much older, much wearier than he was. Connor swallowed, trying to alleviate the sudden dryness of his mouth.
“I… I have to talk to you. Meet me in the park in ten minutes.”
“Connor? I… okay. But…” Connor clicked the phone shut. He had no time for Penn’s curiosity. He hadn’t talked to his former friend in two years- not since Penn had left school to work full time. Partly, the lack of communication had been due to the fact their paths rarely crossed, but it had also partly been due to Penn’s choice of career; working in a processing house that readied slaves for market wasn’t something that Connor could really except as morally correct. Now though, he was grateful for the fact. He was careful not to look too closely at the house as he left, or to find his parents. It would be too difficult to say goodbye to them, and it might make him change his mind. He didn’t pause on his way out to grab anything; he wouldn’t need it where he was going, taking anything would just be a waste.
Penn was already waiting by the time Connor got to the park, huddled in a brown leather jacket against the cold and the spray from the fountain.
“Hey.” The greeting was strained, awkward for not having seen each other in so long. Connor nodded, returned the greeting.
“So what can I do for you?”
“You… your job is basically to find new slaves, right?”
“Sort of. Processing means that I basically do the paperwork, and get a commission for successfully transferring a slave into the system for training.”
“So if someone wanted to sell themselves into slavery, and send the money to their family, you can arrange that, right?” Penn’s eyes widened and he started shaking his head back and forth subtly.
“Can you do it?” His voice was flat. Penn sighed.
“Then I have a commission for you.”
Shock, disbelief, fear, regret flickered across Penn’s face before coming to rest at resignation.
“Alright then. We can set up an appointment, and”
“No.” Connor interrupted. “I want to do it now.”
Penn nodded faintly. “My office is this way then.”
It was a short walk, and they took it in silence, Penn obviously still a little uncomfortable and Connor contemplating the fact that this would be the last time he’d ever see the sky as a free man. If a week shy of seventeen even counted as being a man.
The offices where Penn worked were small, crowded into a suite of other offices on the ground floor of an old High-Rise. It seemed so…blasé, papers shuffled in stacks, strewn across nondescript desks, phones ringing occasionally in the background. Penn gestured for Connor to sit on the plastic chair in front of the desk, shrugging out of his own coat and dropping it onto the back of his own chair. The paperwork only took about an hour to complete, and when Connor signed his name on the last line and pushed it back to Penn, he felt a chill crawl down his spine.
“Well. That’s that, then. There’ll be someone coming by in about ten minutes to collect you and bring you to a holding facility. They’ll do some basic training there, hold you until they think you’re ready to be sold. There’s no guarantee how long that will be. If your selling price is higher than the standard, the additional money will be split between the seller and the person you’ve designated as your beneficiary. I’ll walk you to the lobby.” Penn hesitated in shuffling the papers into the folder. “Listen. I know it’s none of my business, but do your parents know? That you’re doing this?” Connor shook his head mutely and Penn bit his lip, then slid him a pen and a piece of paper from a tray by the monitor. “Write them a note then. Say… whatever you think is necessary. I’ll make sure they get it.”
He picked up the pen, unsure what he would possibly write. In the end, he just told them that he loved them, and explained that he had made his decision to help them all, and that even though he’d never get to meet her, he hoped they’d tell his baby sister he loved her; that he loved all of them. And then, aware the fact that his eyes were near to tearing he folded it and handed it to Penn, who shoved it into his pocket.
The Commerce Agent who had been sent to collect him was already waiting in the lobby when Penn led him there; she was a short woman, solidly built and with a bland face that seemed like it had never experienced a smile and rarely seen a frown. She and Penn shook hands cursorily, then she removed a flat cardboard box from her shoulder bag and opened it to reveal a plain length of sturdy metal chain which she stepped forward and fastened around Connor’s neck with a small padlock, the faint snick of the lock sealing the loss of his autonomy. He’d completely forgotten about the collar, and his fingers came up inadvertently to touch the cold metal. She turned then, heading for the door. “Hurry up, Slave. The car is waiting.”
He spent the first few weeks of his new life essentially back in school; He was taught and drilled on various aspects of the New Slavery Act and expectations of slave deportment until he could recite them in his sleep. Classes differed from his previous high school curriculum, certainly, with curriculum pieces like “Dissecting a Frog” being replaced with classes that could be titled things like, “How to Kneel for Hours Without Moving: A Practical Demonstration”. The training facility with its bland, clean walls and hostel-like atmosphere was not unlike what he understood of Escrow, to which he was assured he would be moved eventually once he was ready to be sold.
When he had first arrived, there had been three of them sleeping in the room he was assigned- a boy named Billy about two years younger than Connor himself, and an older blonde man of roughly thirty named James who was quiet and reserved, but pleasant enough to be around. A little over two weeks after Connor’s arrival, James was taken away to Escrow, leaving Connor and Billy alone in the room meant for six. Two nights later just after the lights were shut off, he heard Billy slip out of bed and come to stand next to his.
“What is it, Billy?” He tried not to sound cold, but wasn’t sure he succeeded. Slaves were not permitted to speak once the lights were off, and punishments for infractions were guaranteed to be unpleasant- he tried to avoid punishments at all costs. But Billy was still standing there, and that was even more obvious than talking if someone were peer in and check on them. He slid over, clearing space for the younger boy to sit. At least that would be less obvious.
“This is kind of awkward.” Billy began. “It’s just… I mean, I’m being trained as a body slave, right? And when I’m sold, it can be to anyone- male or female.”
“Yeah…” Connor had no idea where the kid was going with this.
“So…I’ve never done anything with a guy. Girls, sure. But never a guy. I guess I’m wondering- can I kiss you? So that the first guy I kiss isn’t someone who has the power to sell me if I don’t please him?”
The request blindsided him since he wasn’t being trained as a body slave, and he’d never considered that the gender of his Owner might matter. As a result, he was left scrambling to come up with an answer.
“Um, I guess.” Was the best he could manage.
“Great.” The younger boy rose up on his knees, leaning in to press his lips to Connor’s. It was awkward, to say the least. Not in the way he’d thought it might be, kissing a guy. Technically, it wasn’t unpleasant. But it was cold, emotionless and mediocre at best. Billy seemed pleased however, pulling away with a relieved smile and a whispered ‘thank you’ before slipping back to his own bed. Connor just lay there staring up at the bottom of the bed above and feeling profoundly glad that he wouldn’t have to do things like that the rest of his life, pretending emotion and faking enthusiasm for someone else using his body.
: : :
Penn adjusted his bowtie for roughly the seventy-eighth time in the last hour, staring at his reflection in the window and being unable to shake the feeling that he looked inadequate.
“Honestly, you look fine.” Blake gave him an exasperated stare from her seat across the limo, flipping her blonde hair back over her shoulder, bracelets tinkling together musically with the movement. “If you don’t stop fidgeting, everyone at the party is going to notice you. Just relax, escort me through the door, and then you can go find whoever it is you’re so dying to talk to that you called and begged me to make you my ‘plus one’ to this party I had no intention of attending in the first place.”
She looked amused, leaning forward to put her cleavage at full advantage. “I wonder what you’d do if you didn’t have me as an old school friend to get you into these things? Would you pose as a waiter?” Her eyes were amusedly catty.
“It’s not a half-bad idea.” He murmured
“I know it’s not.” She said as the car pulled up to the building entrance and the door was opened to a small flutter of flash bulbs going off. “It was my idea, after all, and I’m brilliant.” She accepted the attendant’s hand to step out of the door, leaving Penn to follow her and held out his elbow for her to slip her arm through for the walk up the stairs and into the party.
It was a lot like the three or four other parties he’d attended in the past, glittering personalities al around, Lords, Ladies, Masters, Mistresses, some of them trailing slaves, others not- all fantastically wealthy and of high status. It took him a moment, but he finally spotted his quarry back in the corner of the room, partially hidden from view by the ridiculously opulent curtains. He leaned in to whisper this fact to Blake, who ended the politely superficial conversation she’d been having with Lord Baldwin and scanned the crowd. “The things I do to my reputation for you.” She murmured, never letting the smile leave her face, and waving at another young woman across the room. It took them several minutes to navigate their way to the corner, what with Blake having to stop and exchange bits of conversation with other society members, but finally they were close enough that Penn could reach out a hand and introduce himself again.
“Penn Badgley, Mr. Lowe. We last met at Lady Paltrow’s Midsummer Banquet.”
“Where I believe I told you to call me Rob.” A warm smile spread across the brunette man’s attractive face as he grasped Penn’s hand firmly. “A pleasure to see you again.” He followed Penn’s gaze to the young man and woman standing next to him. “Let me introduce you to my younger sister Summer…” The striking brunette smiled warmly and reached out to shake his hand, “and her body slave Thomas.” Thomas gave a slight bow. Penn hadn’t realized the young man was a slave. He seemed perfectly self-assured and at ease. Unsure how to react he nodded and turned back to catch Summer blatantly sizing him up.
“Another one of your stray puppies?” she directed her question to Rob, sipping her champagne delicately.
“More like one of my dogcatchers.” He said quietly, the bright smile never leaving his face despite the fact it no longer reached his eyes. “It’s alright. You can talk freely in front of them.” Penn nodded, taking a deep breath.
“I need a favor.” Rob indicated that he should continue. “A friend of mine recently sold himself into slavery to keep his family free. I know you normally try to devote your time to extreme cases, but…I had to tell his mother what had happened and she… I promised I’d do everything I can for him. He’s not in Escrow yet, but there are some representatives sniffing around, making inquiries though. Lord Bale, for one. Also Lord Crowe.” He wasn’t sure, but he thought he might have seen Rob stiffen a little at the mention of the last one. No surprise, really. Lord Crowe was renowned for rough treatment of his slaves of all stations. “Connor- my friend- He’s only seventeen. If there’s anything you can do...”
“Do you have a case number?”
Penn nodded, pulling the slip of paper out of his pocket and handing it to the charismatic lawyer who nodded in return.
“I’ll see what I can do. I can’t promise anything other than that I’ll try.”
“Thank you.” Penn said, flashing a grateful smile and edging back into the crowd before anyone gossiping observers could think that their exchange had lasted long enough to be interesting. Summer watched him go over the rim of her Champagne flute.
“What’s that?” Rob turned back to her.
“Your solution. Get Josh to buy him. He has the money, and, god knows, a small enough household that the addition would seem only logical. And it would keep the boy out of Crowe’s hands. Play that card if he starts to protest. He won’t though. He has a weak spot for puppies.”
“You’re too clever for your own good.” Rob smiled with grudging admiration as he sipped from his own glass.
“Cleverer than my thick-skulled brothers, certainly.”
“Keep thinking that little sister, keep thinking that.”