Title: Rainbow’s Freedom (Rainbow Prisms Arc) (35/42)
Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Roy/Johnny, Garon, Harrison Caldwell, Alma, Aaron Melkin, James Regan, and various unnamed slaves
Series Notes: In the 23rd century, Earth is a technologically-advanced society that practices the ancient institution of slavery. Clark finally learns about his identity and heritage. Will that knowledge tear him and Bruce apart? Meanwhile, Rebellion and Abolition twist and turn in the pageantry of events.
The entire series can be found here.
Genres: AU, Challenge, Drama, Slavefic
Rating: (this chapter): PG-13
Warnings: Slave abuse, aftermath of mutilation
Summary: Roy and Johnny inspect Briarwood Estates.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): January 24, 2011
Date Of Posting: January 23, 2012
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2329
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: The magnificent story cover is by the wonderfully-talented ctbn60. Thanks so much, luv! :)
Edgar Allen Poirot
"The House Of Ashwoood"
Roy drove the squad to the gates of Briarwood Estates, Johnny tense beside him as Roy spoke into the speaker to announce their presence. The massive iron gates clanked open, Roy steering them up the long driveway.
He had really hoped that one of the other shifts would have managed to inspect this place by now. He disliked Edmund Caldwell intensely after seeing that tape. To be honest, he had thought him reprehensible before that tape had become public, due to the stories he had heard about his cruelty.
He kept his eyes on the road, well aware of the rigid set to his partner’s body. Despite Edmund ordered to stay away from all non-Caldwell slaves, Johnny was still vulnerable. Roy had been so worried that he had gone to their captain to ask him to assign another shift to this task, but Hank had informed him regretfully that he had been specifically ordered not to make an exception in this case.
“The higher-ups want to see how you two handle a charged situation like this.”
Roy wanted to scream that Johnny handled insults and danger every day because of who he was, and not just because he was a slave. A lot of people despised him for being Indian. Half or whole, it made no difference to the bigots.
But of course he didn’t say that. Hank knew just as well as he did what Johnny went through.
So that was why he and Johnny were riding up to the Caldwell mansion, Roy parking the squad and Johnny grabbing the datapad with the checklist. They exited the vehicle, Roy hoping for a call. He used the brass doorknocker and he and Johnny waited.
The mansion was similar to Wayne Manor in Gothic-style architecture with spires and gables and columns out front, but Roy couldn’t help but feel that the place was vaguely sinister.
Maybe not vaguely.
Johnny was close enough to brush his arm against his, and Roy didn’t blame him in the least. He would keep his partner close to him until they left this benighted house.
Footsteps sounded and the door was slowly opened. A tall, thin man with wisps of gray hair and piercing gray eyes peered out at them. He was dressed like a butler, and his belligerent expression suggested that he was a freeman.
“Yes?” he asked in a clipped voice.
“We’re here from the Fire Department to perform an inspection,” said Roy, restraining himself from putting Johnny behind him as the steely eyes looked his partner up-and-down, lingering on the Indian-style necklace that served as his slave collar.
“I suppose you couldn’t schedule an appointment?” asked the butler sourly.
“No, sir, we sent out notices alerting people we were giving to sweep the entire neighborhood, but not individual visits.” Roy didn’t add that houses were supposed to be up-to-code. General notification made sense, because once the first house was inspected, word got around to the others, but there was still an element of surprise in these unannounced visits. “May we come in?”
The butler looked as if he would rather slam the door in their faces, but he grudgingly allowed them in.
The foyer was large with an enormous chandelier, grand winding staircase, and small alcoves filled with marble busts.
The foyer closely resembled the other mansions’ foyers but despite the spotlessness of the vast room with sunlight spilling in through the windows, to Roy it seemed darker somehow, as if a pall hung over not just the foyer but the entire house.
“Garon, where is the coffee I ordered?” A big-boned man of medium height with dark-brown hair and eyes marched into the foyer, eyes narrowing as he saw the firemen. “Yes, can I help you?”
“We’re here to perform fire inspection,” said Roy.
“Mr. Caldwell, fire inspections are routine, but in light of the Adler fire, the Department deemed it necessary to speed up the timetable.”
Harrison frowned but said, “That’s reasonable. Do what you need to do. Garon, complete cooperation with these gentlemen.”
As Harrison turned to walk away he flung over his shoulder, “And get me that coffee!”
“Yes, sir.” Garon said icily to Roy and Johnny, “This way.”
The butler led the way to the kitchen. A stout, gray-haired woman was busy chopping vegetables at the counter, her slave bracelets blurring with the motion.
The kitchen was enormous, far bigger than Wayne Manor’s, but Roy guessed that the old look had been maintained there while here during upgrades, modern changes had been implemented without historical regard.
The cook did not look up from her work. Garon said, “Perform your inspection. I’ll show you to the next area.” He poured a cup of coffee and headed out of the kitchen quickly.
The chop-chop-chop! of the cook’s knife was the only sound as Roy and Johnny checked the wiring and outlets. Johnny looked over the oven burners as a maid came in.
She looked barely eighteen, thin and keeping her eyes down. Dressed in the traditional black outfit with white frilly trim, including a little cap, her lank brown hair half-hid her face.
Roy noticed the bruises and cuts on her arms and legs, pursing his lips in anger. He watched as she skittishly walked by him as if she half-expected a blow from Roy. He could see that Johnny was watching her, too.
Roy returned to his inspection, trying to keep his eye on his work. The faster that he and Johnny could get out of here, the better.
Garon returned. “Alma, do you need any help with lunch?”
“Where were you, girl?” Garon slapped the maid across the face. Roy and Johnny immediately turned around.
“Master Harrison was most vexed. I had to bring him his coffee myself! Where have you been?”
“I was told by Mrs. Haverstock to help Myra move furniture in the parlor.”
Garon frowned. “Get back there, then.”
“I…I have to deliver tea to the Master.”
Gavin quickly waved his hand. “Well, hurry up, you stupid slut! If you keep the Master waiting, you’ll probably lose an eye!”
The girl whimpered and scurried off after pouring the tea, Roy biting his lip. He could complain about the maid’s treatment and things would go worse for her, if that was possible. Frustration built up inside him as he looked at Johnny’s stricken face.
Roy quickly finished his inspection, glad that everything was up-to-code. The thought of having to return to this house of horrors to do a follow-up inspection made his stomach churn.
“Everything okay with the stove?” he asked Johnny.
“Is everything okay with the burners?” he asked again, a little more firmly.
“Good.” Roy turned to Garon. “We need to inspect all the rooms for outlets, and the basement and garage. Any other buildings on the premises?”
“The stables and the old carriage house where the field hands live.”
Roy nodded crisply. “Let’s go.”
Johnny quickly came to his side at Roy’s silent order to attend him. Roy rarely used his Intimate Master status but had every intention of keeping his vulnerable lover close to him. That torture tape kept running through his head.
They followed the butler, passing a male slave. Roy’s stomach roiled as he saw that the young man was missing an arm, and a jagged scar ran down one cheek, disappearing up under an eye patch. Johnny’s soft gasp indicated that he had seen the slave’s injuries, too. Roy reached out and grasped Johnny’s wrist in a proprietary gesture.
Johnny was grateful for Roy’s action. He was feeling extremely vulnerable in this house. He had suffered cruelty from freemen before, but usually in the heat of passion as they had gone too far using him as a pleasure slave. These slaves lived in terror day-to-day, the menace hanging over this house like a miasma.
They passed a closed door and Johnny suddenly felt he was being watched. He quickly turned around, but no one was in the hall. As he turned back, he heard the quiet snick! of a door being shut. Shivering, he kept his eyes straight ahead.
He tried to keep the memory of the torture tape repressed. When scenes had been shown on television during coverage of Edmund Caldwell’s trial, Roy had done something rare: he had used his right as Intimate Master to order Johnny not to watch, for which Johnny was grateful. He had been terrified of what he had seen, even in only the first moment.
He was grateful for Roy’s protection. He did it out of love and a sense of fairness. Roy hated injustice, and he was surrounded by it. As a civil servant, Roy could not openly advocate Abolitionism or even make a contribution.
Johnny knew that Roy sincerely believed in freedom for all. He had believed it before falling in love with Johnny.
Johnny nearly bumped into an endtable with a valuable vase. He quickly re-focused. Of all places to be inattentive! He had to keep his mind on the task at hand.
They inspected the entire house, Roy requesting to be led to the basement.
“We’ll have to come back. Our chauffeur is in the garage right now and the groom in the stables. We can come back to the basement on your way out,” said Garon.
Maybe Garon was stalling, but everything else had checked out perfectly. Johnny doubted that the butler was trying to hide something.
He welcomed getting out in the fresh air, and he knew that Roy did, too. They walked along the path past magnificent gardens down to the garage. A young man in shirtsleeves was waxing a limousine. He looked up, brown eyes wary. He was a freeman, but Johnny supposed that even the un-manacled had reason to be jumpy around here.
Aaron Melkin was average height and build, his chestnut hair short. He wore uniform pants and shoes, a casual shirt and a chauffeur’s cap.
“Melkin, these men are to inspect the garage. They’re from the Fire Department.”
Aaron nodded. “I’ll show ‘em what they need to know.” His eyes flicked over Johnny’s collar and bracelets.
“Send them to the stables when they’re done.”
Aaron nodded. “This way, gentlemen.”
Roy and Johnny followed Aaron into the garage, impressed by the expensive cars.
“Here’s an outlet, an there’s one at the end of the garage. Here’s the fire extinguisher.”
“Do you plug more than one machine in this outlet?” Roy asked.
“Sometimes, but not often.”
“Okay, that’s all right. This outlet can handle two. It’s when you get three that you’re asking for trouble.”
“No doubt.” Aaron glanced at Johnny, who resolutely kept his eyes fixed on the checklist.
“How old is this fire extinguisher?” Roy asked.
“It was just replaced.”
Roy nodded as he checked the tag with the dates of manufacture and purchase. “The garage checks out. Can you point us in the direction of the stables?”
“I’ll lead you over. It’s time for my break, anyway.”
Johnny was grateful for the fresh air gain, though the chauffeur didn’t give him the creeps like Garon did. He wondered about such a pleasant young man working in this hell house, but then, freemen used their status as a shield against what was going on right under their noses.
A howl pierced the air, Roy and Johnny stopping in their tracks as Aaron turned with them to look up at the house. For a moment, Johnny was certain that he had seen anguish in the chauffeur’s brown eyes, but it could have been his imagination.
“This way, gentlemen,” Aaron said as he resumed walking down the dirt path.
The smell of the surrounding evergreen and pine trees was fragrant in the crisp autumn air. Ordinarily Johnny would have breathed in their scent, delighting in Nature’s perfume, but his heart was hammering and his stomach knotting. He was certain that the scream had come from the maid.
I hope she still has her eye, he thought miserably, unconsciously touching his face right beneath his right eye.
The stable was an old-fashioned building of wood and hay and horses, something Johnny could appreciate very much. He was immediately wary of the head groom, though, a solidly-built man with red hair and a permanent scowl on his face. He wore jeans and an orange-checked flannel shirt. Shiny riding boots and a rust-red cap completed the outfit.
“What’s goin’ on, Melkin?”
“Just fire inspection, Regan.”
“Hmph. Well, get to it.” He snapped at a slave boy, "Get Wildfire ready to ride.”
“I need to see…” Roy began.
Regan waved his hand dismissively. “Aaron can show you. I’ve got to exercise Wildfire. If that stupid stableboy gets him ready!”
The thin stableboy hurried forward with the requested horse five minutes later as Roy and Johnny performed their inspection.
“The groom’s a bit crotchety,” Roy said to Aaron.
Aaron smiled. “Oh, he’s all right. Just been here forever.”
Regan slapped the stableboy and mounted Wildfire. “Muck out the stalls before I get back.”
Regan galloped off, the stableboy watching him go. Dark hair hung in his eyes and he pushed it back, trudging into the stable. He was about Dick’s age and height, though much thinner.
Johnny quickly updated the checklist. He calmed himself by allowing his senses to register the smell of Roy’s cologne, the sight of his blond hair, and the smoothness of his skin as he brushed his arm against his partner’s.
“Well, my break’s over. You can find the carriage house a short way up the hill,” said Aaron.
“Thanks,” Roy said. After Aaron left, Roy turned to Johnny. “Let’s speed up this inspection, Junior.”
“You know it.”
They set a fast pace up the hill.