The Strongest Bond

Disclaimer: The characters are mine! They may share a passing resemblance with other people but I just blame their stylists.  Sequel to ‘The Binding Tie’ you really need to read that first in order to understand what is going on here.

Violence/Sex: Slavery exists in this fic as does extreme violence. Sexual violence of a m/f variety in here. Also a loving consensual f/f relationship. If you’re too young to vote, you should probably go elsewhere.
Feedback:   Much appreciated mjb1_1@hotmail.com

Chapter 11

Fingers threaded through blond hair, clutching and releasing to a rhythm that only she knew.  Sitting alone on the patio of the large house, head hanging in her hands, Hunter knew that she should be inside with her lover but she just needed these few moments.  Nobody inside could understand what she was going through, especially not Francesca; it would only hurt the younger woman if she told her just how empty she felt at this moment.  There was just her now, nobody else knew what it was to be a slave, held captive for so much of your life that you could barely believe you were free.

“Free,” tipping her head back, she breathed the word out into the night. 

She didn’t really think it would last, something else she hadn’t revealed to her beloved Chess.  For too long she had been a pessimist, that wasn’t about to change, especially in the face of recent events.  She couldn’t escape the thought that there was only one way to stop Francesca being hurt by all this, really hurt, and that as solutions went, it was no solution at all.  The Prince family could little afford more scandal after the year that they had lived through, nor could they afford jail time if Dettore’s plans went through.

Hearing footsteps join her on the concrete, she turned to meet the eyes of Salvatore Prince.  The older man moved to join her on the lounge chair, perching on the edge so that their shoulders touched.  Hunter turned her gaze back to the sky, Sal following suit.  They sat like that, stargazing, both locked in their own thoughts for long minutes before Hunter broke the silence.

“Sal.”

“Hi Stretch.”  He grinned down at the smaller woman.

“Not funny Sal.” 

“I could start calling you shorty or stimpy or…”

“Oh God, not that!  Fine, Stretch it is.”  Thankful for the levity she knew that she had to talk to Sal about what was on her mind.  As she opened her mouth to speak, he beat her to the punch.

“I know today was hard for you, almost like a real funeral I suppose.  The last thing that we want is for you to feel alone, you can talk to us, you’re one of the family now.  I am sorry that we had to make such a production out of the ‘funeral’.”

“It’s ok Sal, I know why we had to do it.  Worked like a charm, what journalist could resist going to the pet cremation?  You were brilliant; nobody could possibly believe that you thought of us as anything other than property.”  She noticed that he winced at this and laid a hand on his shoulder in reassurance.  “I know that’s not you but maybe you missed your vocation.”

“I don’t think I would have been much of a screen idol.  Now you on the other hand… That was an Oscar winning performance.”  He thought of how solid and reserved she had been, even cowering at a raised hand at one point.  It had been a painful experience, having to treat her that way, but the hope was that tomorrow’s newspapers would boast how they had revealed the ‘truth’ behind the rumours.

“As long as it worked, that’s all that matters.”  There was more there and he waited patiently, knowing that eventually she would open up.  “I think we need to do one more thing.”

“No, this is enough; we need to keep some semblance of a real life for you and my Princess.”   

“Sal, just hear me out.  I know that Chess won’t like it but you can’t let this get out, especially now.  Of course I would love to be able to walk down the street with her, showing everybody we are together.  We both know that isn’t going to happen.” Rubbing at her aching temples she rid to order her thoughts.  “I don’t know much about this free world but I do know people.  Dettore has created a climate of fear and distrust and that’s going to give him power.  I had enough masters who ran things that way.  He’s made things happen and now he’ll stop it.”

“I can’t argue with that.”

“I’m hoping you won’t argue with this either.  Today was a good start, Shep and Meg are safe and it went some way to hide our relationship, now we need to drive that point home.” 

“I’m not going to like this, am I?”  His heart broke as he thought about all of the pain that this young woman had already suffered.

“Probably not; Francesca certainly won’t want to agree with it.  You need to send me for conditioning.  It’ll explain away why I was acting overly friendly and prove that you are responsible slave owners.  It’ll also mean that I can show a change in the camp.”  It was a less than palatable idea, even to her.

“We can’t send you back to that life.”

“If we don’t do this I’ll be back there anyway. It’s not so bad, I’ve been to conditioning several times; I’ve never been the most compliant of slaves.”

“The rebellion?”

“That was the worst time but I had been before and after.  I won’t lie and say I want to do this but I do have to do this.  I have to protect Chess.  I’ll only be gone a couple of weeks.”

Sal mulled the idea over as he watched her chewing her lower lip.  I hope you know what you’re doing kid, for both your sakes.  How could he possibly say no to her idea?  It was her choice to make and he would let her.  The fact that she had said so much clearly showed her intent.

“You said you wouldn’t leave her,” his mind quickly flitted to the conversation they had in his study days before.

“I wouldn’t, not to save myself, but to protect her… to protect all of you… I have to do this.”  

“When do you want to do this?”

“You’re having a meeting with a few of your managers in a week; if I act out then it’ll give you witnesses and an excuse to send me without it seeming to come out of the blue.”  Feeling a caring touch on her shoulder she knew that her partner’s father understood.  “Now all I have to do is convince Francesca that this is the best chance we have.”  Even as she spoke her shoulders were already slumping in defeat.

######

Taking a sip of her rapidly cooling coffee, the heiress continued to peruse the itinerary that Raz had provided for her.  Absently setting the cup back onto the saucer with a tiny click, dark brows drew together in consternation.  Running a delicate finger down the page she double checked the point that had her perplexed, not quite able to believe the volume of dates in front of her.

Raz had done a fine job in getting her out into the public domain.  The list of appearances was impressive, no doubt most media agencies wanted their pound of flesh from somebody so high profile.  If the drama of the previous year was not enough to wet their appetites then the new controversy about her relationship with Hunter certainly had.  With a new album waiting to be released it was a real publicist’s dream.

Most people seemed to think that her alleged ‘relationship’ with the slave was nothing more than a stunt.  The family, Rashid and Cliff had all braced for impact yet their had been surprisingly little backlash.  A couple of her father’s holdings had received abusive mails and protests but not nearly as widespread as they had feared.  She, on the other hand, had received great exposure and advanced sales of the new album were through the roof.  Radio stations were playing older tracks with abandon and, professionally at least, things were looking rosy for the youngest of the Prince dynasty.

Hearing the office door open, brushing over the thick carpeting, a smile spread across her face but she didn’t turn around.  Pretending that she was engrossed in the information in front of her, she ignored the soft footsteps that approached her chair.  When two brawny arms came forward to wrap around her shoulders and a cheek rested on her head, she reached up to rest fingertips along warm skin.

“What’cha doing?”  The words were drawled out.

“These are my plans for the next… god knows how long.”  Shuffling through the paper, she showed the impressive list to the woman looking over her head.

“Wow.  You’re not going to be home much, are you?”  The die was cast.

“What do you mean I?  You’ll be with me,” there had been something in the other woman’s voice that set the singer on edge.

“Chess,” she pulled away, reaching out to turn the other woman’s chair so that they now faced each other.  The brunette could see the tension etched in the other woman’s face and braced herself for what was to come.  “I need you to listen to what I have to say before you shoot me down.”

“I don’t understand, Rhani.  What’s going on?”  The younger woman stood and moved closer to her partner.

Grasping the taller woman’s and, the warrior led her over to the loveseat.  Sitting o that they were facing one another, she grasped a refined hand in her own battle hardened one and desperately tried to focus her thoughts.  She knew that nothing less than her best would make Francesca agree with her idea.

“I spoke with your father and we both agree that it would be a good idea if I was sent in for conditioning…”

“What? I don’t understand, Rhani, send you where?  For what?”  The small blond could feel her companion becoming increasingly agitated.

“Chess, please hear me out, it’s really nothing to worry about.”  Squeezing a trembling hand in reassurance she continued, “It will alleviate any lingering suspicions about us and only takes two weeks.”

“Rhani, people don’t believe those rumours!  They think it’s a publicity stunt.”  The hopeful look in blue eyes was almost heartbreaking.

“Most people believe that, not all.  I need to protect you; let me?”

“Why can’t you ever let me protect you?”  Cool fingers brushed a scared cheek.

“Just my nature, I guess.”

“If you do this,” a deep breath, “I need to know exactly what conditioning means.”

“Basically it’s where slaves who aren’t following orders are sent to be re-trained.  It really isn’t that bad,” at a dubious look she quickly amended, “Fine, so it’s no bed of roses but it’s nothing I can’t handle.  It certainly isn’t anything like indoctrination.  It’s just a place where they reinforce your initial instructions so that you can be given back to your master.”

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“I will be physically disciplined and there’s a little light brain washing.”  Cringing she waited for the response to this.

“Brain washing!” The startled exclamation was what she had expected.

“Chess, I’ve been through this three times and after each one I’ve gone back to my usual pig headed self.  Now I have you to snap me back too.”

“I can’t talk you out of this, can I?” 

“Nope.”  Resigned, the heiress leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the other woman’s lips in agreement.

#######

DOWN WITH PRINCE INDUSTRIES!

FREEDOM FOR THE FREE!

SLAVE LABOUR IS GOOD LABOUR!

KEEP SLAVERY!

The placards bobbed up and down as irate protestors marched in front of the office building.  The small office, a subsidiary of Prince Industries, had been focused on by pro slavery campaigners since the news reports about Francesca.  It was true that public opinion was largely on the singer’s side, believing it to be nothing more than speculation.  However those that did react, reacted publicly.

It had been days since the picketing had started and still no sign of it letting up.  Salvatore Prince had made statements to the press, as had his daughter and none of it had swayed them.  It seemed that they would continue to menace this, and other offices, until either they were proved right or Dettore became a senator.

With every intention of being on the streets for the long hall, they had created a camp of sorts in the car park of the building.  People manned a makeshift kitchen while others kept their eye on the news on a personal LCD television.  Pete, sitting and watching that small screen found the news just starting.  He could barely believe his eyes as the headlines scrolled past and dashed to get the groups leader in to see it.

“Jonathan, you gotta come and see this!”  Handing his sign over to another man, Jonathan followed his comrade into the tent.  Once in front of the screen a crestfallen look covered his face.

‘In celebrity news; singer Francesca Prince, subject of much recent controversy, is sending her slave to a conditioning centre.  Prince, who some speculated was having an affair with the same slave, told reporters that she had no choice but to take these measures.  Insiders revealed that the slave, bought as a bodyguard, turned violent during a board meeting at the Prince family mansion and had to be restrained by security.  The slave, formerly renowned gladiator Hunter, will be at the Sanctuary 4 centre, well known for its success in retraining slaves.  One can only wonder; what will happen with this star next?  You can be sure; we’ll be here to tell you!

In other news, officials have said…’

“Damn it!”  The curse was mumbled too low for the other man to hear.  “Pete, go tell everybody that the protest is over.  No way are those rumours true, we’ve been duped by the press.”  Watching the other man scuttle out of the room he hurriedly took the cell phone from his pocked and dialled a familiar number.

“Yes?”

“Cliff, we have a problem.” 

######

Coming to a halt on the gravel driveway, the large black truck looked out of place in front of the huge white building.  Two uniformed men alighted from the vehicle and made their way to the heavy front door.  Before either man could raise his hand to knock the door was opened by a suited man who was unmistakably a butler.

“We’re here for the slave.”  Gruff and to the point, these men saw no reason for artifice.

“Right this way.”  He led them through the house and to the back where the stable block had been made to look as it had when the slaves first arrived.  The family had decided that they should not be present when this happened, so had said their goodbyes already.  As he led them through the door he took in the sight of them scanning the place and was glad that the family had made it look as austere as possible.

Taking them to the backmost corner, where a closet had been made to look like a cell, he turned to his followers, “She’s in here.  I’ll leave you gentlemen to it; you can take her out around the side of the property.”  Turning on his heels, he was gone.

“You ready for this one?  She’s strong.”  The darker of the two men turned to address his partner.

“We have tazers and the restraints; I see no reason to stress out.”  Unhooking the weapon from his belt and passing the collar and cuffs over he grasped the door handle, “Let’s get this over with.  We do have other pick ups to do today.”

Brutally jerking the door open, they were ready to be rushed by the person inside; instead they were pleased to see that she was already tied up.  With her wrists and ankles bound, and tied to each other behind her back, she was helpless and unable to move.  Warily the man with the cuffs moved forward and snapped the collar around the little blonde’s neck.  Flipping the switch on he was pleased to hear the familiar hum that told him that the device was working.  Securing the cuffs over the ropes he preceded to untie her bonds.

“We know you know how this works, but just in case you forgot,” she was roughly brought to her feet.  “Any funny business and the collar will shock you until you stop or fall unconscious.  We decide what constitutes funny business.  All you have to do is walk to the transport and sit.  Do you understand?”

“Yes.”  She sounded docile, subdued.

“They drugged her, good, another job we don’t have to do.”  Gesturing with the tazer the taller of the two men motioned for her to walk.  “Get moving.”

They followed the warrior around the house and back to their van.  The dark man moved around the side and opened a door before pulling the small woman in behind him.  Inside the body of the van was split into tiny compartments, only big enough for the slave to sit or stand it.  It prevented unnecessary damage to them and the van.  Shoving her inside a cell, he locked the door and made his way back outside.  Joining his companion in the cab, they pulled away from the Prince property on their way to another collection.

##########

Cliff Walsh sat at his desk, in the dark.  He was alone in the building, except for a handful of cleaning staff.  For hours he had sat, just running the news over and over again.  He had been so sure that his little ploy would work, that attention on such a prominent family would boost Bradley’s numbers and take all eyes off of him.  It had all collapsed like a house of cards.  He needed to do something, fast.  Trouble was, he was out of ideas.

The pencil that he had been twirling in his fingers suddenly snapped under the pressure of his hand.  He slammed down the pieces.  Looking at the wreckage on the desk an idea suddenly formed.  A cruel smile spread across his face as he raised the phone and dialled…

To Be Continued...

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