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I've got a huge backlog of fanfic that I'd been meaning to crosspost to my lj, but never got around to it. Until now, anyway. XD Most of what I've got is Homestuck, so apologies if that isn't your fandom of choice. I'll try to get back around to working on some of my other fandoms again.

Fandom: Homestuck
Series: Land of the Meek
Fic: Dirt in the Sky, chapter four
Warnings for dubcon and slavery apply.


Equius was ten sweeps old, and felt very cold and alone.

The former sensation, at least, was almost certainly an illusion, brought on by what he felt to be an uncomfortably conspicuous lack of a shirt and the appraising looks green-blooded, maroon-vested employees of the house were giving him as they moved to and fro across the wide room that lay just behind the stage. He had already been questioned, vetted, and thoroughly tested by both the house’s professional appraiser and two inspectors from rival houses, but he fancied he could still feel their eyes on him, mentally calculating their share of his worth. The other slaves and lusii that filled the room were little better; they sat or leaned against the walls in silent resignation, listening to the patter of the auctioneer with a thin veneer of affected inattention. Try as he might, Equius could not ignore it completely, knowing full well that soon he would be out there on that stage, and that all he could hope for was the chance that someone in the audience would be more interested in his actual skills than they were in exercising cruelty. He didn’t imagine the thoughts of his silent companions, who had been steadfast in refusing eye contact or conversation – for what was the point, when they were all about to be separated anyway? – were any different, though a selfish part of him rather thought it might be worse for him. Most of them were roughly his age, and so had presumably been raised for scenes such as this, but the only master he had ever known had been his moirail, Nepeta.

Nepeta…She’d wept when they were finally separated, protesting to the last – but quietly, too quietly for the Legislacerator to hear. “Let’s just go,” she’d whispered in his ear, as they embraced for the last time. “We could fight our way out, and run for it, they’d never expect that…” But he’d shaken his head, and with infinite care kissed her cheek. He couldn’t risk any harm coming to her, least of all because of him – so he’d released her and turned to the Legislacerator – who perhaps had heard Nepeta after all, for he offered Equius a small nod and immediately turned to go, gesturing for Equius to follow him. And then had come the long, lonely journey to the capital, allowing Equius plenty of time to contemplate his fate.

He’d been allowed to keep Aurthour, so he wasn’t truly alone. But in a way his lusus’s presence hurt as much as it comforted; Aurthour was just as helpless as he was, if not more so.

There was a stir at the far end of the room; Equius looked up in time to see a group of the house’s employees wheel in a large tank filled with water. The lights in the waiting room were dim, but as the tank came closer he could see some sort of trollish shape inside; he peered closer when it finally came to a stop just a few feet away, and was shocked when a grey face that seemed all sharp, needle-like teeth and purple-lined fins suddenly slammed up against the glass, accompanied by two webbed hands that produced barely-audible squeaks as they scratched the invisible barrier with helpless fury. He jumped back with a startled exclamation, prompting a few derisive laughs from the handlers and a few other slaves, but otherwise no one took much notice. He flushed with embarrassment anyway, watching as the seadweller, clad only in a pair of purple shorts tight enough to border on indecency, threw itself at the lid of the tank in a frenzy of rage.

The muscles of its masculine chest stood out in sharp relief as it braced itself against the side of the tank and shoved at the lid; despite the outlandish gashes that marred its rib cage – Equius supposed they were meant to be gills – it nevertheless seemed to be prime condition. He would have been quite interested in staying and seeing if it could budge the heavy lid, but just then his name was called – it was time for him and Aurthour to take their place on the stage.

Compared to the dimness of the waiting room, the stage was painfully bright. Equius was dazzled by the lights, and would surely never have found his way to his assigned place by the podium if it weren’t for the auctioneer’s patter and the guiding hand of the greenblood on his arm. But in a way, the blindness was a comfort; while he could still hear the audience, he could not see them, and so could not see the way they were looking at him with what he was sure was a mix of greed and contempt. He tried to shut out the faint susurration of their presence, concentrating instead on the auctioneer, who was currently describing his marketable skills.

“ – despite being entirely self-taught, the honorable inspectors have given his skills in the area of mechanical engineering an epsilon rating; who can say what impact proper training might have? But that isn’t the end of it, my honorable lords and ladies.” The auctioneer lowered his voice; out of the corner of his eye Equius could see him lean closer to the vocal amplification device. “The subject possesses quite an unusually prodigious strength, on a level that this house, nor any other in the city, has ever seen before. Out of desperation, the appraisers at last resorted to the classification system used by telekinetics – if our august audience will pardon the liberty -- and rated the subject’s strength at the gamma level.”

Equius’s breath caught in his throat as the audience murmured to itself in surprise; this last part was news to him, for though the appraisers had been very interested in testing the limits of his strength, they had of course neglected to share the final verdict with him. Gamma level was the third highest rating a telekinetic could possibly achieve – and ratings above delta were so rare that he couldn’t help but feel as though an icy spike of fear had just been plunged into his chest. What would become of him if no one bought him today? The Legislacerator had insisted that his proper place was in the hive of a psionic, where he could be properly monitored and controlled – but what if not even the psionics wanted him? Would...would he be culled?

The auctioneer didn’t seem to think so. He was nodding in response to the crowd’s audible, if non-verbal surprise, and after noting that such extreme strength was indeed an unusual trait to have he noted, in an almost casual tone, that further details could be found in the copy of the house catalog that every member of the audience had received at the door. Equius wondered for a wild moment if the auction house had gone so far as to include excerpts from the Legislacerator’s report – and then the bidding began.

The prices being quoted were enough to make his head spin; even the opening bid was more money than he and Nepeta had ever seen. But then it rocketed upward at a rate he would never have expected, the genteel audience turning on itself in a battle that was no less frenzied for all that it was waged with upraised placards and discrete coughs. The auctioneer handled it all with professional aplomb; he at least didn’t seem to be surprised in the slightest. At last two outliers appeared, who continued the bidding for several long seconds after all the rest had dropped out – and then it was over. Equius found himself the property of one Lady Aradia Megido, of the Guild of Death.

The name meant nothing to him, but the auctioneer and the other employees of the house certainly seemed to consider it important. He was rushed off the stage and given a shirt – if having said article thrown into his face could be considered “giving.” He was ordered out of the waiting room, two greenbloods falling into place on either side of him and Aurthour and leading him in what he thought might be the direction of the main atrium – but then someone called out to them, and confusion reigned for a handful of minutes while everyone talked at once. The reason why eventually became clear; it seemed that the Lady Megido wished to meet her new slave in one of the private salons on the auction house’s upper floors, rather than having him brought to her private box in the amphitheater or taking herself down to the bookkeeper’s office as was the norm. Equius was under the impression that something else was going on, something even more unusual, but the greenbloods had this particular way of speaking out of long familiarity with each other and their jobs – they might as well have been talking in code for all the good listening in did him. And of course none of them bothered to explain the situation to him.

He was led to a room on the second floor, where it was his understanding members of the clientele would meet to feed and entertain themselves between auctions. He had rumors that private transactions also occasionally went on in these rooms – but the idea that this Lady Megido would wish to resell him immediately after buying him seemed implausible. He wished he could ask the guards for more information, but the irritated looks on their faces – no doubt in response to the break in routine – forbade questioning. In any case he had learned very early on in his stay here that while he might have been able to get away with addressing greenbloods as near-equals while he masqueraded as Nepeta’s property, such informality would not stand in these rarified circles.

The guard held the salon door open for him, and then closed as soon as soon as he had crossed the threshold, Aurthour close on his heels. They had been left alone with the psionic and her lusus.

She was...beautiful. Equius hadn’t been expecting that; he had never been this close to anyone with blood higher than yellow, and with only the stories of psionic displays of strength to go by he had almost been expecting some kind of fearsome monster, something between a troll and a Tyrant, perhaps. He had certainly not been expecting the delicate maiden who sat at a small table across the room from him now, her chin resting on a slender hand as she glanced up from the copy of the house catalog that she had been perusing.

She was dressed in a maroon robe, the bodice tailored closely to her voluptuous, feminine curves, while the sleeves hung like gossamer drapes from her arms, cascading gently halfway to the floor where her lusus lay curled up just by her feet, its horns a perfect match to the pair that lay nestled in the lady’s exquisite black curls. Her hair was further decorated with a fine gold mesh that glistened in the moonlight, crowned by a large garnet that rested on the forehead of her charming, heart-shaped face. Her lips and eyelids were painted the same dark red as her robe, the same dark red that filled the irises of her eyes, both of them like shining spheres of gold in the spotless grey of her face, and each crowned by a delicate brow that might have been drawn on with ink. One of those brows transformed from a bow to a shapely arch, and Equius belatedly realized that he was staring.

He fell to his knees, cutting off his own view of the lady, and began to stammer an apology. “Forgive me, mistress,” he said, the title feeling strange on his tongue. He’d used it to address Nepeta of course, whenever they were in public, but that was just for show; this was reality, and it terrified him. “I-I meant no offense.” Sweat was already pooling in the small of his back and beading on his face; he tensed further when the lady laughed at him, the sound like a note struck from a silver bell.

“Come here,” she told him; she didn’t SOUND angry, only amused. He dared to look at her again as he rose to his feet, and found her studying him with what appeared to be great interest. He blushed under her scrutiny, but obeyed the command, crossing the room and, when she told him to take a seat, carefully pulling out the chair arranged across from her and sitting down, Aurthour standing at loose attention just over his shoulder. Though the lusus could not speak, that didn’t mean he wasn’t equally aware of the delicacy the situation required; if anything Equius trusted his custodian to behave properly more than he did himself.

The lady’s attention had turned back to the catalog; Equius lowered his gaze, trying to avoid falling back into the trap he had already tripped once. The table was set for two, every implement appearing to be of the highest quality materials; the exquisitely painted teapot, resting on a complicated doily in the exact center of the table, seemed almost to glow with the heat of the liquid it contained. Normally being in the presence of such expensive delicacy would have made Equius feel like a beefbeast in a porcelain repository cabinet – and indeed, part of him was cringing away from the table, as if a stray breath might have shattered the cup and saucer set before him – but the main body of his attention was taken up by the silver-like hand with which the Lady Megido slowly turned the pages of the catalog. Her nails were painted with a pearlescent maroon lacquer, and around her middle finger rested a golden ring, adorned with a garnet alike in shape and beauty to the larger one on her forehead. From the ring hung suspended a fine mesh of golden wire that covered the back of her hand, bejeweled with tiny glittering beads, and attached to a likewise golden bracelet around her wrist.

A single elegantly manicured finger tapped the catalog, snapping Equius out of his reverie just in time to look up and catch the lady’s questioning glance. “Did you really destroy a Gamblignant tank?” she asked him; most people would surely have been shocked or made suspicious by such a claim, but she seemed only mildly intrigued. He, meanwhile, had grimaced and looked back down at the table. So they had included the Legislacerator’s report after all...

“It was...actually a retired military vehicle that the Gamblignants had stolen, mistress,” he said slowly, unsure how much detail the catalog had given her and not wanting to be seen as deceitful. “Or so I was later told. But I was only trying to defend my owner.” The memory was still fresh in his mind; Nepeta’s cry of pain, her blood staining the sand – the blue veil that had descended over his vision.

He had come back to himself in the midst of a field of shattered metal, face down in the bloody sand with Nepeta pounding on his back and sobbing, begging him to STOP –

“As displays of loyalty go, it certainly sounds commendable,” the Lady Megido said, leaving the catalog where it lay on the tablecloth and lacing her delicate fingers beneath her chin. “One wonders why she went on to sell you.”

“It wasn’t her choice,” he said immediately, a fresh crop of sweat prickling his brow. The urge to defend Nepeta was too deeply ingrained to ignore, but he forced himself to adopt a softer, more deferential tone as he continued. “There was an investigation not too long after the attack –“ The two of them had been working as caravan guards, and as soon as the captain of the caravan had recovered from his shock, he’d placed them both under arrest. He’d seemed so RELIEVED to see them handed over to the Legislacerator as soon as they’d reached the next city, even though Nepeta had nearly dried trying to protect his charges. “—The Legislacerator felt I would be better off in the hivehold of a powerful psionic, who would be better equipped to, ah, control me...” His palms were growing damp with sweat. Equius wondered, half-hysterically, if the lady would notice if he dried them on the legs of his pants.
The memory was still fresh in his mind: the Legislacerator leaning over the back of Nepeta’s chair, hand tight in her hair while he whispered into her ear, informing her that she hadn’t yet broken any laws, there wasn’t a minimum age requirement on claiming salvage after all, but oh, there were quite a few laws regarding the proper compliance due a Legislacerator...

He’d been speaking to Nepeta, but his eyes had been on Equius; he’d seen right through their charade, of that Equius was somehow certain. So he’d begged Nepeta to cooperate, despite her anger and tears; he could not bear to see her come to harm...Even if it meant never seeing her again.

“And yet you are a mechanic,” the lady said, unknowingly intruding on his thought. “You’ve surely handled delicate objects...?” She was still watching him intently; Equius could not help but recall some of the wilder stories he’d heard, of psionics who could hear the thoughts of others.

“Of course, mistress,” he said, the title coming out more easily this time – but he could not help the way he hesitated slightly over the next words to pass his lips. “My...previous owner insisted on it.”

“Really,” the lady said, and while Equius hesitated, unsure how to answer, she sat back in her chair. “I believe a demonstration is in order,” she continued, and gestured at the teapot with a single elegant sweep of her exquisitely adorned hand. “Pour for me.”

For a handful of seconds, Equius could do nothing but stare at her in abject astonishment. It...It wasn’t as though he had never performed this exact task for Nepeta before – her liking for tea was so intense it bordered on an addiction – but never under anything like these circumstances, and never with a tea set that looked so DELICATE. Nepeta favored thick stoneware for everyday use; she owned a second set of very respectable porcelain, but it spent nearly all its time wrapped up and carefully crated, only seeing moonlight on the rare occasions they spent more than a night or two in one place – and the set currently laid out on the table before him was SO fine, so obviously of the HIGHEST quality, that it made even that carefully guarded second set look a tray full of stones.

Lady Megido was watching him intently; Equius had no desire to discover what would become of him if he displeased her now. With a thick swallow he pushed his chair back and stood, reaching for the teapot. Just closing his fingers around the slender handle without snapping it felt like a victory, but the task of actually picking the tea pot up and pouring the tea still remained. He was abruptly aware of a trickle of sweat winding down his back, almost as distracting as the lady’s eyes.

Somehow he was able to complete the task without incident, though the entire experience left him trembling with the effort of controlling his strength. He sagged back into his seat with a barely-stifled sound of relief, too exhausted to do more than idly wish for a towel – but the linen napkin the lady gave him made a handy substitute. He watched her with a sort of horrified wonder as he carefully mopped his brow and she stirred two nectarous hexahedrons into her tea, wondering what would happen next...But the possibility that she might take a single sip and then smile at him, radiant and beautiful, didn’t even enter his mind.

“Most impressive,” she murmured, casting him an appraising glance through her delicate curled eyelashes that made him shiver and sweat anew. “But what of your mechanical skills? I understand you’ve worked with miners?”

“Sometimes, yes,” he answered; while the highly mobile lifestyle he and Nepeta preferred had lent itself more to support positions within the great trading caravans – she as a guard, he as a mechanic – he had taken commission work in Nepeta’s name on several occasions. Building mining equipment was hardly the most creative work there was, but it had paid well; the two of them had even been talking about spending this sweep’s hot bright season in a mining community instead of returning to the wilderness like they usually did...

But this was no time to count up his regrets, and in any case the Lady Megido scarcely gave him a chance to think. She seemed immensely interested in his skills, and questioned him at length; Equius began to form the impression that she had purchased him with some specific project in mind, especially after she displayed open delight at his confession to a predilection for designing his own machines, a skill the appraisers had shown little interest in. Ingenuity wasn’t exactly a skill prized among bluebloods; the Lady Megido’s interest discomfited and intrigued Equius in equal measures, and he wished more than ever that he dared ask her a few questions of his own.

At last she sat back in her chair, looking him over with far more warmth than she’d shown when he first entered the room. “I believe you will do quite nicely,” she murmured mysteriously, and picked up a small bell that had been sitting beside her place setting the entire time. She rang it once, and within a matter of seconds the door had opened, an amberblooded lady wearing the vest of the house peering inside anxiously.

“I am quite satisfied,” the Lady Megido told her. “Bring me the paperwork.”