Shopping, a story introduction in Fae Apoc

Content Warnings: Fae Apoc. Slavery. Caging. Implied abuse of many sorts. Keeping, non-consensually.

This is the beginning of something inspired by two sources: a Leverage OT3 fanfic I read once & loved & will find again (Parker/Eliot/Hardison, though I may have them in the wrong order) and a handful of really good Falcon/Captain America/Winter Soldier fics. However, Tony, Henri, and the slave are neither Parker, Hardison, and Eliot, nor are they Cap, Falcon, and the Winter Soldier.

…Though I really ought to have made Tony blonde…

“I don’t see why we need someone else. We do perfectly fine the way we are. Why would you want to buy a slave?“ The tall, angry man managed to make the word sounds somewhere below worm. “Also, this place is disgusting. It’s all muddy here, and it smells. It smells like a stable. No, no, it smells like the inside of a pig pen. And do you know why? Because these slaves are treated like nothing more than animals—”

“Henri, please shut up.” The ground was very muddy. The place did stink. And the slaves in this “dealership” were kept in cages that, in some cases, had once housed animals. Even animals would notice the sound of that much complaining. These slaves both noticed and understood it. Their eyes were following the show. Their bodies, caged, some bounds, were still and tense.

“I’m just saying—”

“Yes, and you’ve been saying it for a while. The truth of the matter, Henri.” The woman’s voice dropped to a whisper, but not so quiet that the nearby slaves could not hear her. “The truth is, we nearly died twice in the last two weeks. Brilliant you may be, but you are not a fighter and neither am I.”

“I could be! If I wanted to, I could do all the fighting. I’m tough!”

The slavers, too, were watching them bicker, every single seller and handler and guard in the place. She was tall, dark, and beautiful, dressed in a fashion that suggested affluence, especially twenty years after the end of the world. He was taller, darker, and stunningly handsome, dressed just as nicely – and wearing a collar. A collar so very nicely made, crafted of gold inlaid with silver, that it had to be pre-apocalypse manufacture. They looked rich. And, while rich people did buy slaves, these rich people looked utterly out of place in this slave lot.

She was browsing while they bickered, her leather-clad toes leaving a very deliberate pattern down the rows of cages. And he was flailing, his hands never moving and his voice never slowing, while she shopped this stinking pit like it was a boutique in Paris. Not that botiques – or Paris – existed anymore.

“I just – oh, hell, no.”

The cage in front of them was smaller than the others, more like a dog kennel. This place, however, it didn’t deal in dogs.

Some of the cages held two, three, as many as five captives. This one was not big enough for more than one; it was hardly big enough for the man in it. The cage’s single resident was sitting on his heels, muzzled, collared, and bound. His dirty hair – impossible to guess the color through the filth – was falling in his face. His blue eyes were not looking up at them; they were studying the woman’s toes and her leather shoes.

“No, just no.” The one called Henri shook his head again. “Tony, come on. You want to get a maid, someone to play hide-the-duster with, that’s fine. But this is just – no. Come on. Joke’s over?”

“If you want a maid, certainly.” The head slaver had come up beside them while they were talking. “We can sell you a maid. But if you need a guard dog, this one is very obedient, very strong, and very… quiet.”

“Why is he muzzled, then?” The woman knelt down. The man in the cage continued to look at her feet.

“Ah, well, he does like to bite. You just have to remember to give him an order about that.” The slaver rubbed his wrist surreptitiously. Both of the tall, dark people — both Tony and Henri — pretended not to notice.

“And is he obedient?” Tony’s voice held questions she wasn’t asking, some complex cypher nobody here except perhaps her slave could decode.

The slaver coughed. “Ah, well. All slaves are obedient. You simply have to know how to talk to them.”

“Mmm.” Behind her, Henri shifted from foot to foot. The caged man darted a glance upwards – not at Tony, but at Henri – before returning to staring at his feet. “Well, he’s filthy. And he bites. I’m sure you’ll give me a discount for that.”

The slaver coughed. “He’s an obedient, well-trained attack dog that understands English and – at last count – seventeen other languages, including three that I thought dead. He is worth every penny I’m asking for him.”

Nobody paid in pennies anymore. Nobody knew what pennies were, anymore. Tony pointedly pretended not to notice. Henri scrupulously studied another, cleaner, larger cage, in which three slim, pretty people waited.

“You know, we really could do with a maid…”

“Maybe we’ll get a maid the next time we go shopping. Sir, I’ll give you…” She unclipped a heavy gold bangle from her wrist. “This, for the slave and two changes of clothing for him.”

The slaver looked her over, weighed the bangle in his hand, and looked her over again. “That and one of the gold earrings your boy is wearing.”

“Henri.” She held out a hand without looking.

“What? No. No, no way. These earrings, these were gifts. Gifts!”

“I know, Henri. I gave them to you. The little one, with the diamond stud.”

“Come on, this just is not fair. You’re taking my earring to buy this – this – no.”

“Throw a muzzle in?” Tony was asking the slaver, but the question wasn’t for him.

The slaver, too stupid to notice that, beginning to relax his posture. “Certainly. I have any number of very nice pieces. It depends, of course, on if you want him to be silent or just to have his mouth… occupied.”

“All right, all right. All you had to do is ask nicely, you know.” Henri held up his hands in mock-surrender. “I’m shutting up now. See me shutting up. My mouth is zipped.”

“I’ll take a muzzle as well. The slave, two changes of clothing, and a muzzle.” Tony held out her free hand.

The slaver shook it. “Glad to be ri- that is, I’m sure he’ll be very useful for you. Come on out of there, boy.” He unlatched the cage; the slave shuffled out. “You belong to her now, you understand?”

The slave’s eyes darted up to Tony, and he nodded, short and sharp, before looking back to her toes.

She took his chin in her hand, her fingers pressing against his throat, tilting his face back up to hers. “You belong to me,” she repeated, “and I accept you into my care. Those things, sir? And then we’ll be out of your hair.”

“Yes, of course ma’am. Yes.” The slaver hurried off to his supply tent.

“This isn’t happening,” Henri sulked. “You’re not really going to bring this – this guy into our house? He’s probably not toilet trained.”

“Henri.” Tony’s voice lost all of its humor. “That is enough.” Her fingers pressed a little harder against the slave’s throat. “All right, darling, you’re with us now. Don’t attack me, don’t attack Henri here, even though he probably deserves it. Don’t bite either of us, mmm, and don’t run off. Do you understand?”

Understanding was important. The Keeping would take care of the obedience, but only if he understood the orders. The slave hesitated, and then nodded, pressing his throat harder into her fingers.

“Good boy.” She left her hand exactly where it was. “Henri, get the muzzle off of him. Gently, love, gently.”

“I still think this is a bad idea.” Henri’s complaints kept flowing, even as he moved to do what he was told. “It’s just a bad idea. This place. This…” Deft fingers unlocked the muzzle even without a key. “We’re not keeping this, are we?” For the first time, Henri’s voice had a bit of a plea in it. And when Tony shook her head no, he dropped the muzzle in the mud as if it were on fire.

Her eyes were on the new slave, her fingers still pressed against his throat in gentle pressure. “Do you have a name?”

His mouth worked. His throat worked. After a moment, he produced a sound that could have been a word. He ducked his head, pushing his throat against her fingers again. Behind him, Henri worked on unbinding his ankles, still muttering to himself.

Tony moved her fingers down until they were only lightly pushing against the slave’s adam’s apple. He worked his throat again, and this time managed a word. “Dog.”

“Dog.” Tony repeated the word very quietly. “Very well then.”

“You see!?” Henri complained. “You see! This is a bad choice.”

“Nevertheless, I’ve made it. Come on… Dog. Henri.” She took the supplies from the slaver without looking at him. “We’re going home.”

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