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o o o

His Mistress was his everything. When she left, he was nothing.

Preparing for his escape took Neal over a month of careful planning. Had slaves not been seen somewhere between cockroaches and slugs on the evolutionary scale, it would have taken even longer. The reason they were above snails? They didn't melt when sprinkled with salt.

Prison slaves were a commodity. Toilet paper, mouthwash, orange scrubs, and cheap ass: the necessities of life behind bars. According to the smug warden who ruled over this hole, prison slaves reduced inmate-on-inmate rape by over 75%. The disturbingly well trained slave boy within Neal honestly thought it was good to be needed. The equally competent conman, however, tended to paint the words with a heavy coat of sarcasm.

Ah, the joys of being a slave since birth and a certifiable genius, too.

Neal took a deep breath and stared into the mirror. An almost unrecognizable slave stared back at him, and he shivered. Was he really going to do this? If he was caught, life would become hell. Not that it was exactly heaven now.

The truth was, playing the good slave who serviced inmates on a nice, neat rotating schedule was a lot more bearable back when he'd still had the shining light of Mistress at the end of the four year bitch tunnel. But now that she was gone, he couldn't stand it anymore.

Four years ago when the Feds first showed up and made claim to Neal's contract for the next four years—the usual sentence for a first time offender that also happened to be a slave—he'd expected his mistress to abandon him instantly. What did he have left to offer her? Instead she'd simply hugged him, kissed him on the top of his head, and promised to visit him every week until he was hers again. Which was why he'd been so confused when, with only months left on his criminal contract, she'd appeared for her usual visit with the news that his private contract had been sold and that he would be put up for public auction upon release.

Neal looked down at the razor in his hands, silently contemplating whether he should use it on his beard or whether it might be better suited on his wrists. That was definitely a brighter option than suffering one more day of the perverted shit Fat Ronny liked to do to Neal with his toothbrush.

Neal had been trained for sex (or "pleasure," as they called it uptown) since he was a child, but there was a big difference between having your body served up like a fine wine and being forced into filthy cells twice a week to be impaled by inmates with untamed pubic hair and terrible body odor.

"Slave! Why are you roaming outside your cage block?" Neal jumped half a foot, stuffing his hard-earned PSS uniform into the sink bowl as he turned around. He couldn't lose it. Six sloppy blow jobs had been the price for Joey Hamilton to filch the clothes off the Public Service Slave who delivered toilet paper and toothpaste to the prison. The oversized thug of an inmate had probably left the poor kid tied up somewhere in the guts of this shit hole, but Neal didn't have time to feel sorry for his fellow slave. He had to see his mistress.

"Sir, please, I—" He cut off abruptly as he came face to face with Frank, a janitorial slave who was brought in once a week to clean the toilets. At over forty years old, Frank was ancient for a slave. If it came down to it, Neal could probably take him. Fighting wasn't really Neal's style, but unlike freemen, a good slave like Frank couldn't be bribed.

Neal had been a good slave once, a long, long time ago.

"I… I have things to do outside my cage block," Neal managed to stutter, wincing at his own pathetic lie. He was a conman, for God's sake!

"Stupid things, it looks like," the slave shot back, eyes flickering over the assortment of items Neal had gathered. Frank's age worn face twisted with disapproval, then softened slightly. His voice, though, was as hard as ever. "When I finish my rounds, I will be reporting you to the masters for being out of bounds."

Neal ducked his head in gratitude, the knot easing in his gut. Any freeman would have taken the statement as a threat, but Neal saw it for the warning it was. Frank had no choice but to report him. Saying so out loud was a warning that the guards would be looking for him soon, but Neal knew that his fellow slave would take his time with his rounds today, even though inefficient work would certainly lead to punishment by his masters at the cleaning company.

Frank pushed his cart of bleach and buckets out the door. "I can't clean here with you in my way, slave. I'll come back after I finish D block. You'd better be out of my way by then."

"Yes, Frank," Neal replied, guilt welling up in his chest as the slave disappeared out the door. He'd basically just signed off on Frank's order of euthanasia by making him a part of this escape.

If Neal were truly a good person, he would return to his cageblock and forget this whole thing. But he wasn't actually a person at all, was he? He was a slave, and he needed to return to the mistress of his soul.

Neal turned back to the mirror, working as quickly as he could until his face was once more the smooth picture of beauty that kept his Trader's Suggested Retail Price so high. Though with "prison slave" now on his pedigree, he wasn't sure what it would be. Ten dollars? That was what he felt like he was worth when inmates who could pass as grizzly bears climbed aboard him like he was a yacht.

Quickly stripping off his traffic cone orange boxers, Neal used dirty water from the toilet to slick back his mass of curls into something more manageable before pulling on the PSS uniform.

Neal squared his shoulders and grabbed the keycard he'd re-written using a tape player loaned to him in exchange for a three hour fuck. The bathroom door loomed before him, looking as though it might grow teeth and rip him to pieces the moment he stepped out.

This was it. If he left now, the choice was truly made. The guards could, and likely would, kill him on sight if they recognized him. He was only a slave, after all—it wasn't like offing an actual inmate.

It was time to be brave.

"Mistress, Mistress, Mistress." Neal chanted her name under his breath as he stepped into the corridor, forcing himself to saunter down the hall like he owned it. Pulling a con was all about confidence. Hiding your terror was par for the course.

As he passed through the inmate work area, Neal caught Fat Ronny giving him a long look from behind some sort of machinery. Time seemed to freeze as he stared back at the obese bastard. He couldn't get caught now. Not this close. Please, please, please…

Ronny smirked, giving Neal a surreptitious thumbs up before ducking his head back down to continue his work.

For the first time since his arrival, Neal had the urge to hug Ronny. For this he'd gladly forgive the man every angry thrust of the toothbrush and slap of the face.

At the security gates, Neal slid the keycard through, smiling as the door popped open with a buzz. He held his breath as the alarm in the guard box began to flash and beep, the electronic registration chip embedded in his neck setting off the alarm and alerting the dozing guard that a slave had stepped through.

The guard blinked lazily at him and, upon seeing his PSS uniform, waved him through, eyelids drooping back down.

A rush of adrenaline hit Neal as he slid the card through the final lock, He was overcome by the realization that he was one step away from real slavery, not this farce of a government system that locked good stock like him up with slaves who could count their IQ on their fingers and toes. A single step and he would once again be slave Neal Caffrey, property of Mistress Kate Moreau.

The gate opened with a buzz, and Neal wanted nothing more than to run across the parking lot, whooping for joy. Since that would be more than a little conspicuous, he suppressed the urge, though he did allow himself a huge grin. He set to work hot wiring an old van—anything made before 1998 was a breeze—and a few minutes later he was off, curls whipping in the wind as he slipped a cassette tape into the player, grinning broadly at the irony of the song blasting from the speakers.

"Hold on, I'm comin'!"

o o o

Agent Peter Burke scowled, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched the safecracker turn the knob. Every move was painfully slow, and he really wanted to shout at someone. This was taking forever.

As badly as he wanted to catch the Dutchman, El would kill him if he missed dinner tonight. Some of her friends from her art gallery days had purchased a new baby boy to be a playmate for their seven month old son, and they were holding a party to celebrate the delivery of the slave from whatever warehouse he'd come from. El had made it very clear that his attendance was required.

After spending all day working in the Vice Collar division, the last thing Peter wanted was to hang out with a bunch of artsy fartsy types who believed in buying lifetime contracts on slaves so they could serve in their "forever homes." Not that the idea wasn't cute—very Humane Society meets open adoption—but Peter spent all day dealing with the scum of the slave trade, and he preferred to leave anything related to slavery at the office.

Black market slave traders had dirty hands, and he'd seen things that would make your average slavemaster weep. It was his job to track down slave owners who used their slaves to commit crimes (a whole new kind of patsy), on top of keeping the illegal slave market at bay, something easier said than done. And this wasn't even counting all the time he spent working with White Collar to check up on big slave corporations like SlaveMart and Adler Industries. It was hard to think about happy endings in forever homes when you spent your days watching slaves take bullets—or worse—for their masters.

Just last week, Vice Collar had raided the house of a slave trader and found a dozen kids with faked registration chips stolen from God knows where and implanted on the fly, as attested to by the scars on the backs of their necks. All of them were well trained in sex work, and not a one of them was the legal age of twelve.

A real win, that one. Selling child slaves for sex wasn't uncommon, but having the evidence to bust a trader was a rare triumph. Slaves' testimonies weren't good in court, but most slaves wouldn't speak to them even if they had been. Peter could beg and bribe, but their lips were sealed. Whether it was loyalty, training, or simply the fear that their "rebel act" against their masters might get back to the big corporations, Peter wasn't sure. All he knew is that they would rather face criminal contracts than talk.

Thank God they'd won that case, though. Peter would never be able to bleach the image of a dozen kids stripped naked and collared, watching the raid in total silence with heads lowered and hands clasped politely behind their backs as bullets flew. From their reluctance to break position even to save their own lives, Peter guessed they'd been in training at least two years. Considering that one of them wasn't a day over six, it was pretty stomach turning.

"Okay, the first number is… 3."

Peter sighed, glancing at his watch. He needed to get out of here if he wanted to make it to dinner, but, dammit, he was so close to the Dutchman that he could almost smell him.

"And a 2…"

There was an excited murmur, fifty Harvard grads shuffling in their wingtips, practically vibrating with excitement. Peter wasn't ready to count his chickens before they hatched, but he was excited, too. The Dutchman was a ghost, but if they could catch him, they would be able to take down over a dozen slave traders suspected of dealing with him, too.

"Okay, the last number is…"

Peter took a deep breath and tugged nervously at the end of his tie. They were so close…

"It's a 4! The code is 3-2-4!"

Cheering broke out amongst the agents, and someone slapped Peter on the back, but he just frowned, mind spinning. He should be thrilled, but something was wrong. What was wrong? 3-2-4, 3-2-4… The code was 3-2-4.

Oh, shit!

"Don't open it!" Peter shouted, waving his arms like a madman. "Don't open—" His words were cut off by a loud blast, followed by a huge cloud of dust raining down on them. "Dammit!" Peter shouted, throwing his cellphone on the ground just to make himself feel better. "Dammit, people! I said not to open it! What the hell is wrong with you?"

Maybe it was a little harsh considering that they were all still coughing and trying to make each other out through the dust, but Peter was pissed. Really pissed. He was going to be late because of a fucking setup! El would have his balls because of a goddamn setup!

"B-Boss," Jones managed to croak, wiping his face with the back of his hand. "H-h—" He coughed loudly. "How did you know it was gonna blow?"

"3-2-4," Peter said. "The combination was 3-2-4." Everyone stared at him, and he let out a sigh. "Look at your phones. 3-2-4. What does it spell?"

"FBI," Jones said after a moment of fumbling with his cell. He sounded pissed. Good. He should be pissed. "It was a setup."

"Yeah," Peter said in a dry voice, wondering idly if he could take Jones home and let El rip his balls off. "It was a setup. Dammit! After all that time, we're this close to the Dutchman, and BOOM!" He tossed his hands into the air to emphasize his point, not that it needed emphasizing with the air around them still shimmering with dust.

Peter frowned, catching a glimpse of something on his jacket. He grabbed it between two fingers, raising it up to get a better look. I was definitely plastic, though it was too small for him to tell what kind.

"Does anybody know what this is?" he questioned, holding up the sliver. The group stared at him blankly, and he rolled his eyes. "God, how many of you went to Harvard?" Hands started to rise, making Peter grit his teeth. "Don't raise your hands! Someone get this to the lab and figure out what the hell it is. Jones—"

His next directive was cut off as the new girl—Diana?—pushed her way to the front of the group, actually shoving Jones aside.

"Boss," she said in a low voice, "I need to talk to you."

Peter sighed, gesturing to the mess around them. "Now is really not a good time—"

"Boss," she cut in again, obviously not caring too much about things like rank and seniority. "Neal Caffrey's escaped."

The words took a moment to process. Neal Caffrey… had escaped? From a goddamn government contract after almost four full years of playing the good slave? She had to be kidding him. "Please tell me this is a joke," he said, knowing full well that it wasn't.

She shook her head, mouth quirking up at the look on his face. "Sorry, Boss."

o o o

"This is where they stuck him?" Peter questioned, eyeing the prison with disdain.

The warden nodded, pushing his glasses up his pointy nose as he flipped through some paperwork. "Yes. It was determined that a prison setting would be the most compatible placement. His criminal contract could be maintained while making full use of his registration's suggested product usage.

"What the hell does that even mean?" Peter muttered, making a face as they stopped outside the main gate, which looked in on the filthy yard beyond. What could Neal possibly be registered for that would be of any use here? Cooking, maybe? Or janitorial service?

Peter had chased the slave under a variety of forged registrations, the suggested products usages ranging from culinary arts to administrative skills to garbage transportation, but he'd never seen Neal's real papers. His mistress at the time, Kate Moreau, had refused the FBI access. Since there was no evidence whatsoever that Neal's crimes had any connection to Ms. Moreau, Peter hadn't been able to get a warrant for her property. Neal was apparently a criminal on his own orders, a real rarity. That sort of thing was usually beat out of slaves during training.

It was amazing how much you could know about someone without knowing anything at all. Before they'd had a clue who Neal was, much less what he was, they'd nicknamed him James Bondage, a play off the fact that he was always stealing expensive bondage equipment from wealthy collectors or creating forgeries of famous slave art to sell to museums and auction houses.

Peter supposed it was meant as a joke on them, but it backfired in the end. Neal's intense focus on slavery was what planted the idea that their conman might be a slave in Peter's mind. The profilers had laughed at him, claiming he was out of his mind and saying that no slave was daring enough to pull off such a stunt. Obviously they'd never met Neal. The boy was cheeky as hell. Not to mention the best conman Peter had ever seen, slave or not.

It was only after realizing James Bondage was actually James in Bondage that Neal's biggest con came to light. Forget selling yourself in an interview, Neal Caffrey was selling himself for real.

Rewiring his registration chip and using his artistic skills to forge the paper documents, Neal would sell a very expensive version of himself to some unsuspecting billionaire, send the payment to an offshore account, and then take off back to his mistress, leaving no trace that he'd ever existed. He managed to sell himself every time, no matter how high the price.

Those roguish good looks were pretty irresistible. Peter wasn't attracted to men, but there was something about Caffrey that made a guy want to smile, or possibly fumble with the crotch of his pants. In a totally heterosexual way, of course.

"So tell me again what happened?" Peter said, glancing at the warden.

The man ran a shaky hand over his bald scalp as they were buzzed through the gates. "It went down this morning. The slave known as Neal woke up, shaved off its beard, put on a Public Service Slave uniform, and used a keycard reprogrammed with a cassette player to override the security gate."

Seriously? Neal walked out the front door? And nobody noticed? Remind him not to send any serial killers to this place.

"How did he get a PSS uniform?"

The man's pudgy cheeks went red. "Uh, we found the PSS tied up naked in one of the storage closets this morning." He licked his lips nervously.

Tying up innocent slaves and stealing their clothes didn't really seem like a Caffrey thing to do, but Peter supposed it was better than what some people would have done to keep a slave quiet.

"Don't worry," the warden added quickly. "We took care of it, and the janitorial slave, too. Disposal will pick them up tomorrow."

Peter wasn't sure what that meant, but right then he didn't care. "You said Neal shaved his beard. Neal Caffrey doesn't have a beard."

Or body hair in general, like most upscale slaves. And pleasure slaves. Those pitiful kids flashed through his mind again.

The warden's brow furrowed. "From what I can see on the security tapes, he's been growing it for awhile. About a month?"

Peter's eyebrows shot up at that. "A month, huh? What happened a month ago? Anything unusual?"

"Hm…" The man chewed his lip nervously. He should be nervous, having let a criminal waltz out right under his nose. "Um, I believe he had a visitor. His mistress? She came every week, though, so it wasn't unusual." He paused, frowning. "Except that she hasn't been around much since then. Maybe at all. I always remember her when she comes. She's very beautiful." He smiled, and not in a nice way. "Very, very beautiful. Especially her legs. And her hips. And her breasts."

Peter grimaced. Not only was this guy incompetent, he was a pervert, too. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. She's an attractive lady. How about you show me those tapes?"

o o o

Neal stared down at the bottle, not sure whether he wanted to clutch it to his chest or smash it into a thousand pieces.

She was gone, really gone. Mistress had left him. He wasn't hers anymore.

A tear trickled down his cheek, and Neal didn't bother to wipe it away.

It was all over now. He would go back to that horrible place for at least another four years, that is if the government didn't decide to turn him into a Public Service Announcement and nail him to the wall in a training facility for all the good slaves to see. God knew euthanasia was considered too kind a death for a rebel like him. Not that Neal was actually a rebel in way, shape, or form. There was no one in the world he worshipped more than Mistress, and everything he'd ever done had been for her.

Mistress had deserved to have everything she wanted. She'd deserved to wear diamonds and drive fancy cars and drink the wine the really came in this old bottle. It had been his duty to provide all of that for her, which is why he'd committed all those crimes. Sure, he'd done it without her permission, but only to keep her safe. That way, if he was caught, not a single drop of the blame splattered on her. It had worked, too.

Neal gripped the old wine bottle even tighter. Let them call him a rebel. Neal knew in his heart that he was the best of slaves.

"Hey, kid."

Neal started at the voice, eyes going wide as he craned his neck to look at the man standing behind him. He knew they'd catch him, but he hadn't expected it to be this fast. A poor assumption when someone like Special Agent Peter Burke was involved.

As a youth, Neal had been trained to submit to all freemen, but Agent Burke was the sort of man that made him want to get down on his knees and beg. It went beyond the beefy hands and big shoulders to the confidence within. The way he held himself, the way he walked, the way he spoke… the man radiated power. Agent Burke was the essence of masterful, and it made Neal feel as vulnerable as it did safe. Even more so now that the agent had exercised his power and put Neal in his place.

Suave, intelligent conman Neal Caffrey knew that the feeling was only a gut reaction born of his years of training. He knew as well as anyone that men willing to hurt you were not a safe haven simply because they protected you from everyone else. But the brainwashing had started young, and it took an almost painful amount of effort for Neal to push past that emotional barrier when near a man like Agent Burke. The fact that the man's mere presence transformed Neal into a groveling boy-slave frustrated and embarrassed him, which was why he did his best to be as cocky around the man as possible, despite the fact that it scared the shit out of him.

In the end, it was no surprise Agent Burke was the one who found him. The man had chased Neal relentlessly for over three years, like a cat playing with a mouse, before showing his claws and taking home his prize. Agent Burke was the one behind Neal's prison slave contract, Neal was certain of that. Criminal contracts came in hundreds of shapes and sizes—cleaning sewage pipes, donating non-essential organs, working at radiation plants—but very few involved sexual service. Fucklings were too cheap and plentiful for anyone to need a criminal slave for that.

No, Agent Burke had definitely arranged the prison slave contract for Neal in order to remind the slave that he was the weaker male by cutting Neal off from everything he loved and putting him down in the most degrading way possible, all without lifting a finger.

Neal didn't know whether to hate the man or admire him. A tendency to appreciate those best at hurting you was one of the many twisted side effects of training. But how could you not appreciate Agent Burke? He was so masterful and intelligent and handsome. If he hadn't sentenced Neal to four years of shower block gangbangs, even the conman inside of him might have found the man attractive.

"Hello, Agent Burke," Neal said, bowing his head politely. He wasn't feeling up to the playful banter he usually used to mask his fear of this man.

"Hello, Neal," the agent replied dryly. "Funny meeting you here."

"Hilarious," Neal agreed, lifting his eyes from the man's shoes to his face. "Weren't you wearing that suit the last time you caught me, sir?" He pasted a jaunty smile on his face that he didn't feel at all. Might as well slip back into his old routine as the sassy slave. Maybe today would be the day Agent Burke got sick of it and snapped his neck. At least then he wouldn't feel this terrible pain in his heart anymore.

"Hey now!" Agent Burke said, pretending to be offended as he tugged at his lapels. "The classics never go out of style!"

Neal gave a soft snort and rolled his eyes, not giving a damn that it was beyond even his usual level of careless disrespect.

"What's with the bottle?"

Neal looked up at the agent again, surprised by the question. Or, to be more precise, surprised that Agent Burke gave a shit. Sure, it was illegal for slaves to consume alcohol, but he seriously doubted the FBI gave a damn if he'd sipped some vino in his days.

"It belonged to Mistress, sir," Neal said, stroking the bottle cradled against his chest. "When my master at the time left my contract to her, she couldn't afford anything like this." He turned the bottle, revealing the expensive label. "So she would buy cheap box wine, I'd pour it into this bottle to serve her, and we would both pretend it was fine wine." Neal sighed. "It was a promise of what Mistress would have someday, a promise of a future where I would serve her the wine she deserved."

"And what does it mean now?" Agent Burke asked, voice unreadable.

Neal set the bottle on the floor, pushing it almost violently away from him. "It means goodbye, sir."

The silence stretched between them for a moment then the agent spoke, his voice matter of fact. "You know you're going to get another four year criminal contract for this, and that's if you're lucky."

"I don't care," Neal snapped. He was struck by a sudden urge to hurl that damn bottle across the room. "Sir," he added belatedly as he tried to diffuse the harshness of his words. He turned his head away so that he didn't have to look at Agent Burke. If the man was taking pleasure in Neal's pain, he didn't want to see it. "It was worth it to try and find Mistress."

The words didn't ring completely true, and slivers of doubt rose up in Neal's mind. A slave had no right to decide who owned it. Who did he think he was, questioning his mistress' judgement and taking off like a lovesick fool?

Neal rubbed at his eyes, wiping away the unshed tears. He didn't cry often. It was hard to cry anymore, after all of the painful and degrading acts of service he'd performed throughout his life. But the idea that his escape hadn't been worth it was more painful than any whip. If it wasn't worth it, then Neal had condemned himself to another four years of pain and humiliation so intense it gave his training days a run for their money—and he'd done it for absolutely nothing.

No! He wouldn't allow himself to think like that. He loved Mistress, and she loved him. She'd told him so… but she'd also told him she would never sell him, and that had turned out to be nothing more than bedroom talk.

A tear managed to escape, and Neal rubbed it off with his shoulder, hoping Agent Burke didn't notice.

"Okay, come on, kid," Agent Burke said, gesturing for Neal to stand.

Neal obeyed like a good slave, placing his hands behind his back in their usual position, right hand clasping the left wrist, and dropped his head. Time to go back to hell.

Agent Burked reached out, wrapping an arm around Neal's shoulders in an almost comforting way as he directed him toward the door.

Neal swallowed, the simple motion of walking making his ass ache terribly thanks to the unhealed tears inside of him from the week's fuckings. Less than twenty-four hours after his escape and he was headed right back to being the bitch in a room full of oversexed bullies.

He hoped Agent Burke had a good time at night jerking off to images of Neal on his knees, face covered in spit and semen and puke as cock after cock plundered his mouth. Not that Neal had any right to be bitter. Fucking was what he did; that wasn't Agent Burke's fault. Hence his title of "fuckling."

Something caught Neal's eye as they walked past the window, the fading sunlight flickering across a small piece of plastic stuck to Agent Burke's suit. Neal stopped abruptly, breath catching as his admittedly brilliant mind began to whirl, his blue eyes locked on the plastic. If that was really what it looked like, maybe there was still a way out of this.

It was a simple enough plan. The government held Neal's contract. Agent Burke worked for the government, therefore Neal's contract could be held by Agent Burke, who worked in Vice Collar. Neal knew more about the vice surrounding collars than any of the man's little Harvard bred Feds. With Neal to help him on his cases, Agent Burke's success rates would go up for sure, and the number of men fucking Neal would go down as well. Maybe. Probably. Hopefully.

It was a win-win situation for everyone, if Neal could somehow prove that he was worth more helping out Vice Collar than sucking off a bunch of felons.

"Sir," he spoke up, hands a little shaky as he reached out and plucked the plastic strip from Agent Burke's suit. "What's it worth to you if I tell you what this is?"

Neal held his breath, almost daring to hope. Vice Collar definitely did not have the info on this newest tech, not a chance. Neal only knew about it because Mozzie had spent his entire last visit babbling on and on about the Canadian conspiracy to wipe out the indigenous population of Alaska. Oh yeah, and also about their advances in the slave trade.

Mozzie might be a total looney, calling himself a "liberationist slave trainer," but there were days when Neal was really grateful to have come into the man's possession. He wouldn't let Neal call him Trainer or Master or even "sir," but he'd trained—no, taught—Neal to be the perfect con artist.

Agent Burke studied the plastic with a suspicious eye. "You know what it is, Neal?"

Neal licked his lips nervously, knowing he was treading in dangerous waters. By law, he had to tell Agent Burke anything he knew, but that would mean showing his hand before the game even began.

He needed to ease into this, especially since the agent was unlikely to be pleased by Neal's sudden flash of inspiration. The man had personally chosen to condemn Neal to prison slavery, implying he wanted Neal to stay a prison slave. But surely even a man as masterful as Agent Burke would agree that four years of violent and humiliating sex with strange, perverted men was enough to remind Neal of his place.

"You have to tell me anything you know, boy. It's your duty as a slave."

"And I will!" Neal said quickly, flashing his million dollar grin. "I absolutely will, sir! I just…" he swallowed hard, feeling nauseous. Were these words really about to come out of his mouth? "I want one thing in exchange."

He'd said it. He had actually said it. Neal half expected the skies to rip apart and the wrath of God to rain down upon him, but the world kept turning, there was no lightning to be seen, and all of his bodily organs seemed to be functioning normally.

"You're a slave," Agent Burke replied, leaning back and crossing his arms as he studied Neal. "And a criminal. I don't have to give you anything. In fact, I could just tie you to that pillar over there and whip the skin off your back with my belt until you cough up what I need to know, couldn't I?" His tone was teasing, and he looked more amused than anything else, but the words still made Neal's stomach churn.

It would be okay. Even if Agent Burke did strap him down and beat him, a belt wasn't the worst he'd had. It wasn't even in the vicinity.

"Trust me," Neal said as evenly as he could manage. "I am very aware of your power here, sir." He put extra emphasis on the word, forcing himself not to flinch when the man rolled his eyes. "I'm simply asking. One little favor to help you out."

The agent sighed, and for a second Neal thought the agent was going to shoot him, despite showing no signs of actually being riled up. But the gun remained at his side, and Neal relaxed. Minutely.

"What do you want, Caffrey?" Agent Burke asked as he rubbed his eyes, sounding like he was ready to go home.

It took a moment for Neal to process that the agent was talking to him. Slaves were never called by their last names. Doing so implied certain boundaries and personal space that no slave was granted. "I want you to visit me in prison in one week. That's all I want, sir. One little visit, Mas—I mean, sir. Just say you'll come, and I will tell you right now what this is." Neal held up the delicate piece of plastic.

Agent Burke stared at him for another long moment, and Neal's heart sped up. Finally the man let out yet another sigh, rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck. "A visit, in one week. That's what you want?"

Neal nodded rapidly. One week should give him time to figure out the best way to reel Agent Burke into his plan. He'd also have time to consider what a man like this would want in a slave and mold himself into the perfect product. God knew he had plenty of experience in that.

Though Neal wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to know what a man who happily sent slaves off to be savagely penetrated as a punishment for forging registration documents would ask of his own personal slaves.

He shoved the thought away. Even if Agent Burke was as kinky as they came, it couldn't be as bad as having at least thirty men a week fucking him up the ass. Not unless the man was using an unhealthy amount of Viagra.

"Okay, fine, I'll come see you in a week." The agent sounded exasperated. "Now tell me. "What is that?" He pointed to the plastic.

Neal couldn't quite hide his self-satisfied smirk. "It's the bio-plastic covering for the new Canadian slave registration implant."