jessara40k_lj: (Dresden)
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Title: In the Seasons of Conscription Part 7

Fandom: Homestuck

Characters: Sollux/Eridan, Sollux/Feferi, Eridan/Karkat

Rating: NC-17

Warnings: Consent issues, discussion of slavery, mpreg



Feferi sat down on Sollux's lap, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, and nuzzling his throat.

"FF." He kissed one horn. "Good to thee you again. ED, now will you tell me why you wanted uth all here?"

"You knoww it's not long until Conscription. The ships captained by breeders arrivve a bit early and wwe get notified a wwhich breeders are interested in advvance. There's fourteen breeders wwilin' to take on a breeder not a their line this Conscription. I can apply for a place with one a them, or just claim a position on one a the regular ships."

"Nice as it is to hear about weird breeder customs and culture, what's all this got to do with us?" Feferi silently agreed with Karkat, and looking up she realised that Sollux was just as puzzled.

"It affects all a you, wwhat I decide to do - if you don't wwant the input you can just stay quiet, but I wwant you all to be informed at least - I'll need to take you all wwith me to the intervvieww if I get to it. And Sol...if wwe decide I should apply to a breeder's ship I'll need your hackin' skills to help me figure out wwhich twwo I should apply to."

"Why not jutht apply to all of them?"

"Beside's the fact that they're told howw many applications I'vve made - and more than three's an automatic rejection? By applyin' I'm offerin' to make the damless' bargain - it's our equivvalent a the orphan's choice - and I wwant to make sure the price is goin' to be one I'm wwillin' to pay."

"Wait...you're telling us that breeders have to think about trading pailing? For what exactly?"

"Sollux...water they talking about?" Trading pailing? Who'd do something like that?

"So, you wwant to educate your matesprit, or shall I? Kar, I'll explain more once Fef's got the basics."

"I will." The arm around her waist tightened a little as Sollux's other hand came up to pet her hair. "Trollth who don't havve a luthuth, who lothe them before about four or five thweepth jutht die - motht of them. Above that age they can choothe to look for an older troll - or even jutht a highblood - who can take care of them and offer to therve them in return. That includeth pailing if they want."

"Oh, that's terribubble." She shivered at the thought.

"Tell her the rest Sollux." Karkat sounded angry at Sollux, not what he was describing, but why?

"Helmthman grade telekineticth can 'volunteer' for early recruitment at any age. I don't know how to workth for breederth."

"I don't think that's wwhat Kar meant, Sol." Eridan was laughing about trolls four or five sweeps old bein forced to pail trolls approaching Conscription. "A troll wwith enough resources before Conscription to support another troll is probably highblooded enough to keep them as a slavve on Conscription. And fuck, you knoww that Gam's practically an orphan in all but name, has been since he wwas three or four swweeps old, any troll high ranked enough to keep a slavve can get awway wwith losin' a lusus - although Vvris couldn't get awway wwith 'losing' hers until she wwas eight.

"A breeder wwho loses his lusus and can't provvide proof that she avvenged it - includin' proof he killed the perpetrator, not just the nearest troll or large predator - is spayed, and no longer classed as a breeder. If she tries to hide the loss and gets caught he'll be spayed, crippled and sold at auction, usually as a concubine.

"Anywway th damless' bargain's a lot better than the orphan's choice. For one thing, wwe're transferred before our captain could decide to challenge us, so wwe don't havve to wwory about any...unagreed extensions. And wwe get to negotiate the price - some of it can be shifted to our households. For example, Fef, if I apply to a breeder captain she'll probably demand some control ovver howw I use your life extension abilities. He might just wwant to givve me a list of wwho I can trade it wwith, or she might demand control ovver so many extensions evvery swweep."

"That sounds reasonabubble enough. But water you going to get in return?"

"A mentor. That's one a the things I'll need you to find out for me Sol, howw wwell their prior proteges have done after leavvin' their ships. There's all sorts a advvantages to bein' on a breeder's ship. It's a layer a extra protection against challenges, because my captain's approvval wwould be needed. And I'd get extra trainin' in howw to fight and more experience before I ad to face a real challenge.

"I'd also be introduced around by my captain wwhich wwould givve me the basis for buildin' myself a netwwork a contacts."

"Tho, if it'th tho great for you, why aren't you jutht applying? What'th the downthide - other than having to thervice your captain?" He pulled Feferi back to his chest, tension thrumming through his body as he cradled her.

"Oh, come on Sol, you knoww I don't havve a problem wwith that. As long as it doesn't get any blacker or more unbalanced than wwhat I had wwith Vvris I'll be fine." Feferi shut her eyes, and leaned into Sollux's chest - he'd been in that unbalanced relationship for her because she was too weak to do her own killing.

"If you must knoww the dowwnsides are all about you. I can't protect you from my captain if she's a breeder, not the wway I can if he isn't. If a breeder accepts me I can't spend the next half-swweep in orbit makin' sure you just learn the techniques for the Helm instead a bein' broken to it - I'll havve to get Gam or Eq to stay and take care a you instead. And that's all assumin' you're not goin' to havve territorial issuea about my captain takin' me in wwhen it's impossible for you."

"ED, you know I don't care about thtupid highblood thatuth gameth."

"Do you really think acting irrational about quadrant infringements is something only highbloods do?" Karkat sounded scornfully amused. "Even if it's just imaginary and we don't have the right to be possessive about them." He finished on a rueful note.

"Kar, I like you bein' possessivve. Matter a fact I'm a little insulted at howw well Sol's taking the idea a my captain takin' me in." Feferi opened her eyes to look at Eridan. Was she imagining the hint of hurt in his voice? It certainly wasn't showing on his face.

"You made thut I wouldn't think about taking a highblood in ever again." Feferi flinched at the bitterness in Sollux's voice - he'd forgiven her for hurting him like that, but obviously not Eridan.

"Guess I did at that." Eridan laughed at the idea, looking smug about it. "You do get that it wwas aimed at Fef, not you, as far as anyone wwatchin' those feeds you found wwould knoww or care?"

"Yeth, I know. Teaching me my place wath jutht a thide-benefit. I thtill don't want to do anything like that ever again."

"Sol...you knoww I don't think of you that wway...don't you?" Was Eridan's voice rising in hurt or anger? As she watched Karkat climbed into Eridan's lap and reached up to pap him. He didn't get the chance, Eridan caught his hand, and kissed it, ever so carefully. "Not outa control right noww, Kar. Sol, you get that if I wwanted you to 'knoww your place' I'd nevver havve made you my kismesis?"

"Yeth ED, I know that." Sollux spoke slowly and clearly, and Eridan stiffened visibly. "We were talking about what nothy outthiderth would think."

"Yeah, I just wwanted to make sure wwe both separated reality and the official line the same wway. Speakin' a outsiders...remember howw I said I'd havve to punish you if any a them caught you wwith Fef?" He looked very serious now, and Feferi shivered.

"You're not going to make FF do that again." Sollux's arms tightened protectively around her. She shouldn't need to be protected, and she certainly shouldn't feel a sense of satisfaction and security in how quickly Sollux moved to defend her, but she did. There was a bitter sort of humour in how quickly she'd adapted to her new place as Eridan's second consort, nothing more to him than a trophy taken from his kismesis.

"No, that could be misread as rewwardin' you." With her body. "But draggin' you to a medeviscerator or docterrorist for check ups wwould look properly possessivve."

"You can't do that Eridan!" Karkat sounded highbloodedly scandalised - what was wrong with getting Sollux proper treatment, Feferi wondered resentfully. "Do you want them to think you don't consider Sollux worth patching up yourself?"

"KK, he thaid he'd leave me limping from pailing. I don't want ED trying to 'patch up' my bulge."

"Actually, I had somethin' else in mind. If it wwas just pailin' I wwouldn't need to patch you up - you'd be chafed and bruised at the hip maybe, not much more. But thanks for pointin' out howw greens might see things Kar. It's...not unheard of for a breeder wwith a psionic kismesis to absolutely wwreck his nook, on the basis that she's nevver goin' to get any use out a it. I'd nevver go that far, but I thought if I leavve scratches from my clawws and wwash it out wwith a painful antiseptic, one that I ask for in advvance..."

"So they'll know you've got plans for him, and that you want to avoid infection. That's...actually pretty romantic."

"If Sol's okay wwith the idea. I wwon't do it if you don't think it's somethin' you can handle. And...the other idea I had wwas if you still had genetic material dried on your skin wwhen I took you to get your nook checked out."

"I don't know. Whothe material would it be?" Sollux was shaking a little at the thought - Feferi couldn't blame him, this entire digression was horrifying, that Eridan would be planning on demeaning Sollux so badly.

"Wwell yours for certain. And it wwould look odd if mine wwasn't there. And dependin' on if you already had Fef's material on you wwhen you get caught..."

"Umm...if it helps I can assure you that he won't get distracted and go too far." Karkat blushed brightly as he spoke. "He''ll tell you how hot you look, but he'll stay in control throughout."

"Don't say that like it's impressivve Kar." Eridan was almost pouting, reverting to his earlier emotional volatility in safe company. "You knoww I don't enjoy passivvity in a lovver Sol. And that sort of game's not safe to play wwith anyone who isn't passivve wwhile I'vve got my clawws inside them." He spread his fingers, displaying his long, sharp breeder's claws. Feferi thought she'd be too scared to move with those inside of her, but Karkat looked annoyed.

"But it's okay for you to rub at my nook when I've got most of my fingers - most of my fucking hand - inside of you?"

"Wwell...yes. You've got nice tidy wworker's claws." He lifted Karkat's hand to his mouth, kissing each claw in turn. "Wwe can talk about you takin' a more activve role in that sort a play if my claws are evver cut dowwn." He looked at Sollux and at Feferi and smiled. "But wwith you, Sol, there'd havve to be evvidence that I'd suppressed your powwers."

"You mean they'd tetht for your venom."

"Yes, they wwould." Eridan chuckled ruefully. "I wwas hopin' that wwould be a surprise for you the first time I used it." He shrugged and continued speaking. "Since you already knoww about it, I can explain one more a the benefits a makin' the damless' bargain is regular exposure to my captain's vvenom. Our vvenom gets more potent as you go up the hemospectrum and as wwe get older. It nevver gets lethal for some reason, but the other thing that increases the potency is if wwe'vve had an elder breeder's vvenom."

"Tho, that giveth you what?" Feferi couldn't see the benefit in being regularly poisoned either.

"Wwe're not affected at all by vvenom significantly less potent than our owwn. And the degree wwe're affected by stronger vvenom depends on the difference in potency." He paused, watching them all expectantly.

"And all the challenge fights between breeders in the movies end with a bite. Anything you can do to make your venom stronger makes it more likely that you'll win, doesn't it?"

"Yes. And so does bein' a better fighter. Wwinnin's about howw much vvenom you can get into your rivval. That, or doin' enough damage to put them out a commission. Anywway Sol, do you think you can handle wwaht wwe'vve been talkin' about?" Feferi stiffened on Sollux's lap - that was a challenge and no troll would refuse a challenge from his kismesis. Eridan seemed to realise that too, because his eyes widened, and he hastily continued before Sollux had a chance to answer. "That's not a challenge Sol. You think I'm askin' too much a you wwe can just go back to the straight black pailin' idea."

"I don't know if I can." There was painful honesty in Sollux's voice. "Could we...try it out while we're thtill onplanet? And if a breeder captain acceptth you then you can do it again, and the deliver me for helmthman training in person."

"Along wwith wwhoevver I havve takin' care a you, yes." Eridan nodded, looking at Sollux with the sort of respect he'd never shown Feferi. "So you wwant me to try to join a breeder captain. And you're offerin' to givve me a clear vvictory before you go into helmsman training. Wwhat do you wwant in return?"

"We're all thafer if you're thtronger when you have to take challengeth." Sollux pointed that out with dry humour in his voice. "And what are you willing to offer me in return?"

"Hmm...for the dry run I'll roll ovver for you a night before wwe first intervvieww wwith a breeder captain, givve you as much of a fight as you wwant and let you leavve discreet marks." He lifted a hand, letting his sleeve fall abck to expose his full wrist. "It looks good for the both a us if you're a wworthy opponent wwith some sense a restraint."

"Strong enough and willing enough to fight that it doesn't look like he's a black consort in all but name, and smart enough not to screw us all over by embarraassing you in front of someone who can give you more power to protect us."

"Exactly Kar. Sol, that wwork for you?"

"Let FF take care of me after the dry run." He kissed her cheek and spoke to her directly. "You can do that for me, can't you FF?"

"I can try. I want to kelp you, but...I don't know if I can." Tyrians were supposed to be able to heal, but she'd never learned how.

"I'll tell the concubines to come to you to get minor stuff fixed so you can get some practice in wwithout wworryin' about the results a failure. Are you okay wwith me tryin' for a place wwith an elder breeder then, Fef?"

"Off course I am. Conchestly, why wouldn't I be - the only difference is they get to pick some of the trolls I kelp to live longer."

"Yeah. Wwhatevver happens I wwon't knoww howw much freedom I can givve you onboard until wwe're settled in on the ship. Sol, higher grades're expected to report earlier than common conscripts, so you'll be processed early wwhatevver happens." How did that follow? But Sollux was nodding as if it made sense. "Let me remind you that showwin' up wwith evvidence a my regard on your body's an extra bit a protection wwhile you're trainin'. Wwith that in mind, I'm perfectly happy to schedule the delivery for wwhen I havve to report, and for you to leavve lots a evvidence that you put up a fight."

"I know it'th to my benefit. I wouldn't have offered otherwithe." Feferi glanced up to see a feral grin on Sollux's face. "But if you're going to let me mark up your pretty face I won't thay no."

"Isn't reporting with visible - unconcealable - marks a dangerous display of weakness?"

"Even Vvriska didn't wwant a kismesis wwho'd roll over and let her wwin all a the time - just most of it. A course I don't knoww if she evver figured out I wwas lettin' her wwin, but that's beside the point."

"She didn't know. Not until Kanaya explained it to her after Sollux proposed to you." Feferi explained eagerly, happy to hear a question she could answer.

"Right, I already kneww she's not as smart as she thinks she it - her powwers can make her lazy about readin' people. I look wweak and cowwardly if my kismesis isn't strong enough to stand up to me and givve me somethin' to remember him by."

"Oh, yeah. Sorry Sollux. I should have known that, it's a fucking blackrom classic - Ijust. Fuck, sorry Eridan, I keep on forgetting how stupid it is for me to be protective of you."

"No Kar, I'm sorry." Eridan kissed the tip of one horn and Feferi looked away - this wasn's something she should be watching, even if Eridan didn't care about that. "It's not fair to expect you to ignore your protectivve instincts, especially wwhen I'm relying on your insight to help me see things I might otherwwise miss. And it's really not fair to keep information from you."

"Except you're not. The entire reason you called this meeting was to keep us all informed and get our opinions about a decision you need to make." He laughed, and Feferi peeked up to see him ducking his head. "I still should have known better. Always beating your kismesis doesn't make you look strong."

"And alwways losin's only marginally better. You wwant your spade as close to an equal as you can get. That's wwhy you never hear about a breeder wwith anythin' but a psionic or another breeder in her spade." Eridan shook his head. "Anywway Kat, howw do you feel about me makin' the damless' bargain? You're the only one wwho hasn't givven an opinion yet."

"Because I'm going to be the least affected. I wwon't be payin' for any a the benefits this offers or at extra risk because you won't be there to protect me in person."

"Kar, try not to antagonise my kismesis. And it is goin' to affect you - I'll havve to pay Eq's probable price in advvance. I'm entitled to up to twwo guards for my harem, as part a my household."

"Oh, right." That explanation seemed to mean more to Karkat than it did to Feferi. "Nepeta's given up that crush she had on me - Vriska makes her a lot happier than I could. Who'd be in charge, me or her?"

"That isn't prescribed - it's up to me, to wwho I support more, if I care to intervvene. Do you wwant me to make a decree either wway, or wwould you rather establish dominance between the twwo of you?"

"Let us work it out between us - if I can't assert my control with the benefit of my established position I don't deserve to be in charge." Karkat answered more harshly than Feferi would have, but Eridan laughed in what sounded like genuine pleasure at that.

"I don't doubt that you'll showw her not to mess wwith you in short order Kar. Noww, Sol, I'll get a list a wwho the breeder captains interested in takin' on a protege this Conscription are in twwo or three nights, along wwith basic files. I'll send them ovver to you to research, along wwith wwhat I need to knoww, but do you wwant me to do the first round elimination myself first?"

"I don't know. How long will that take you?" Feferi wanted to giggle at the skepticism in Sollux's voice.

"It shouldn't take too long." She'd thought Sollux had been challenging Eridan, hadn't he, so why was he so calm about his answer? "I'll just be lookin' for one a the twwo obvious dealbreakers for me - a black harem, or bein' a blueblood. And I'll split out the captains I only wwant you toresearch if you hit enough other dealbreakers to reduce the preferred list to...three I think."

"Erifin? Why is the captain being a blueblood a dealbreaker?" She didn't get it.

"Fuck Feferi, you're an embarrassment. I'm an outcaste mutant, you're a tyrian - I shouldn't be explaining this to you." Heat flared in Feferi's cheekbones at Karkat's amused exasperation. "A blueblood breeder - even a captain - won't be able to help keep us safe. I'm sort of surprised that an indigo captain would?" He glanced up at Eridan with a frown as he finished.

"Not as wwell as a sea breeder captain wwould, no. That's wwhy indigobloods are last resorts, along with captains wwho havve a black consort or havven't had any proteges before." He laughed, looking almost embarrassed. "But it's not exactly likely there'll be any blue or indigo captains lookin' to take on a protege. Out a fifty breeder captains only three are indigo and twwo blue. The rest are all vviolet." He shrugged now. "I just wwant evverything tied dowwn securely noww if I can manage it."

"Tho, what'th reathon for me to thtop checking out a breeder?"

"If he's got a history a killin' or cripplin' her kismeses, or his proteges or if she's got more than one failed protege in his harem. I'll wwrite a full list dowwn for you later, or type it up, but wwhat it comes dowwn to is anythin' that tells us if she's got a hitory of failin' his proteges or of usin' them. Some of it's goin' to be obvvious a course, but some of the signa are real contextual. Like leavvin' your mentor's ship wwith a harem less than twwice the size of the one you had at Conscription."

"You're expected to double your harem in - how long did you say you'd be staying with your first captain?" Feferi glanced up at Sollux, she could see that he shared Karkat's disbelieving shock too.

"It depends, if a breeder captain accepts me I'll be movved shortly after my fifth season - so it could be anything from just ovver fifteen sweeps to just under thirty.

"As to doublin' my harem in that time...first you do all knoww the alternativve to non-criminal cullin', don't you?"

"There'th an alternative?" At least Feferi wasn't the only one this was news to. In fact Karkat looked confused too.

"Right, wwell...other than criminals, trolls wwho're due to be culled can choose to be put up for auction instead. And they get to decide wwhat they can be sold for, at least the first time.

"Auctions for concubines are held twwice a swweep, wwith breeders entitled to buy havvin' the chance to set up meetin's betwween the neww slavves wwho catch their eye, and either themselvves or their designated representativves.

"Kar, that wwould be you, and I'll havve to send a guard wwith you. Subject to my captain's approvval if he's a breeder, I'm entitled to up to twwo replacements for any concubine wwho dies and to add half the number a concubines in my harem at the time after evvery successful season.

"What happenth if you hav an odd number, do you round up or down?"

"And what about breeders who don't take a harem on Conscription? Are they committing to never having concubines?" Why did Karkat think that mattered?

"You mean like if a breeder has his quadrants filled on Conscription then loses one?" Any breeder with an empty harem and concupiscent quadrant after a successful season is entitled to buy up to half as many concubines as she could have brought into the Fleet with him. So a sea breeder for instance could buy up to fivve concubines in order to start her harem late.

"Sol, if wwe already havve an odd number then the limit's rounded to an odd number. So our theoretical sea breeder starting her harem late could add up to three concubines after his next successful season. And if the only changes in my harem between noww and my fourth season wwas addin' the maximum allowwed after each season I could buy up to thirteen concubines in the next swweep."

"Tho after ten theathons you could have four hundred and fifty concubineth?"

"In theory, yes. But that's enugh to creww - ovvercreww really - some a the smaller ships. I don't wwant a harem a more than...a hundred at most - and that's after I'vve got a ship a my owwn and can get them to do some a the admin wwork or somethin' else useful wwhere no one else gets to see most a them.

"Speakin' a doin' something useful...Fef, I wwant you to think about wwhether you'd be okay wwith trainin' as a medevviscerator if I can arrange it." He remembered how much she'd wanted that? Feferi was going to give him an eager yes, but Karkat interrupted, sounding unhappy.

"Won't putting your concubines to work look bad though? And how will people react to you having Feferi trained as a medeviscerator?"

"I said once I'vve got my owwn ship that's wwhat I'll wwant Kar, and no, it's kind a taken for granted that any breeder wwith a ship and a harem wwill get at least some of the wwork that doesn't invvolvve dealin' wwith outsiders done by his harem. I look...sentimental at best if none a them can do that much. The same applies if I actually havve to buy or hire a personal secretary wwhen I come to need one instead a givvin' one a my concubines the 'honour'.

"And as long as I attach a real docterrorist or medeviscerator to my ousehold once I'vve got the rank for it gettin' Fef some trainin' just showws that I'vve got a pragmatic streak to go wwith the subtle and invventivve cruelty."

"Cruelty...oh, fuck, it's a status thing, isn't it? Everyone's going ot think you're punishing her for her termerity in being Sollux's matesprit. How does being so obsessive over him look?"

"I'm a bit young to be havvin' such an extreme reaction, but breeders are expected to be possessivve about their quadrant, evven more than most highbloods.

"Fef, don't givve me an answwer until you'vve really thought about this. You'd be under the same discipline as any other trainee and because it wwould look like a punishment the only protection I could givve you wwould be to forbid scarrin' you or puttin' you in a condition wwhere you can't servve me, but that still leavves a lot a room to hurt a seadwweller."

"No one would expect you to care if she was hurting, as long as she was physically capable of doing what you wanted - or am I wrong?" Karkat sounded equally concerned and amused by the idea. "And I'd lay odds the greens who'd be teaching you would just love an excuse to 'punish' a seadweller."

"You're right about the expectations and assumptions about my motivves and meaning, Kar, and I wwouldn't take that bet about the greens. Anywway Fef, don't givve me an answwer until you'vve considered all a that.

"Sol, sorry, wwe got really sidetracked, wwhat do you wwant me to do about that list?"

"Jutht thend me the criteria and thet your thythtem to forward the litht to me - you can do that, can't you?"

"A course I can, I redirect it to my personal mail anywway." Feferi glanced over at Eridan, trying to read the tension in his body, did Sollux really think he was going to answer his challenge with a no? "Once you'vve got my registry address you can start holdin' you end a lookin' obsessivve ovver each other up."

"You were theriouth then. When you hinted you'd let me fight over you." Feferi looked at Sollux now, his face was as blank as his voice. Surely he found the idea of him firghting over Eridan as wrong as she did. "And what happenth if I get caught?"

"Think you'd knoww the consequences a bein' caught hackin' Imperial databases better than I wwould. As to bein' caught in my mail - it depends on wwhat you're caught doin'. Activvely interferin' wwith Imperial correspondence other than to make sure you're the one dealin' wwith any rivvals is goin' to be seen as a lack a sefl-discipline serious enough to be handled abovve my head. If you're mostly just lookin' no-one's goin' to care, uless they wwant to set off a fight by lettin' me knoww about it."

"To be clear - I can thpy on your mail all I want, and delay meththageth about anyone trying to thteal your thpade and I'll jutht have to fight you if I'm caught. Anything elthe and you can't keep me from ending up a helmthman.

"Do I have to lothe that fight?"

"No, a course not. Might evven look better if you wwon - although I wwon't throww it, and it really should be a recurrin' issue I think.

"There's one more thing Sol - if you havven't had notification a your first Contribution yet you'll get it soon, and you should really do some dry runs before you face the drones." With that he stood and led Karkat out - Feferi could recognise the indirect order by now.

"Do...you want me to get a practise pail then, Solefish?"

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