What The Cat Dragged In Ch. 31bypsyche_b_mused©
This has been ages in coming, and all I can do is humbly apologize. Real life was overwhelming for awhile and posting something bad for the sake of posting isn't really being true to the spirit of the story you all love to read and I love to write.
A couple of notes: Free the Girls is a real charity. You can find out more about them by searching the name. The quote that Victor reads to Stan does come from an Edgar Allen Poe story. If you don't know which one, I'll name it at the end.
31. Montresor and Fortunato
Kelly did her best not to hang on to Victor too tightly on the way out. The solid sound of the door closing behind them took the last bit of resolve she had left. She felt her knees weaken. Victor held her tighter.
"I think I'm going to be sick."
He pulled her against his chest, holding her there. "You got anything left to be sick with?"
She looked up at him. "How did you-" She stepped back and held her hand over her mouth. "Oh God, you smell it!"
"Nah." He smiled a little. "I just know you."
Kelly blushed and stepped closer to him again.
"Conlon." His voice had a rough edge to it. His eyes were on hers, a little smile on his lips. "'F you got something to say to your former boss, he's in the next room on the right side of the corridor." Victor held out a slip of paper. "This code overrides the scanner."
Conlon nodded and took the scrap of paper. He disappeared around a bend in the dim hallway.
"C'mon." Victor took Kelly's arm and led her up a flight of stairs and into a small room furnished with an ancient green plaid sofa, an avocado green fridge, sink and microwave, and a sagging cot covered in a gray blanket. Spartan as it was, it was still the only place she'd seen that seemed fit for a kind of bare bones habitation.
A shiver went through her as she looked at the gray little space. "You sleep here?"
He shrugged and sat down on the sofa. He took her wrist and pulled her down with him. She stretched out, her head resting against his chest. "Not too often. It's more of a place to get something to eat or shower. Shit like that."
Questions strobed through her mind with the intensity of a camera flash. As quickly as they came, she decided she didn't want the answers. Didn't need them because she had a pretty good idea already. Kelly arched a little closer to him instead.
Creed watched her go from silent and still to trembling, to crying to sleeping with her fingers tangled in his shirt in the space of twenty minutes. Didn't really surprise him. Stan was a fucking millstone around her neck and he'd just cut the rope. That had to stir some kind of emotional shit in a frail. Even one who had handled herself like a goddamn pro a few minutes before.
One hand drifted over her back, tracing slow circles with his claws. The other moved into her hair, carefully pulling out the pins, letting her hair fall around her shoulders in soft waves and ringlets. It changed her features, softened them back into that perpetual innocence he'd become so entranced by. Still, when he looked at her just right, he could see the strength in the set of her chin and the tilt of her nose. Steel concealed by silk. The idea made him smile.
Exactly the kind of female an alpha needed. He leaned closer and put his nose against the top of her head, taking in her scent. Under the chemical tang of some kind of styling product, her scent was sweeter than ever. The perpetual edge of nervous fear was gone, replaced by sweet sunshine, cool breezes and honeyed vanilla. His cock stirred against her hip.
The thought of fucking her crossed his mind, but he rejected that idea. Fuck wasn't even the right word. It wasn't the right idea. Fucking was what Giada was doing in the alley. Course he had no goddamn idea what else to call it, but he knew that whatever it was, it wasn't something he wanted to do in a place like this.
He let his mind drift to the idea of going back to the apartment for a little while. Spend a few hours in bed with the frail, letting himself get lost in the other half of his life for a little while. Course, like always, he couldn't do that because motherfucker Stan was in the way. Bastard would keep interfering in his life until he was dead too. Creed was as sure about that as he was that the frail hadn't slept right since he left. He stared at the glowing red numbers on the cheap digital alarm clock and watched another minute click by. He sighed rubbed his forehead against the top of her head.
She murmured something he couldn't make out, then arched her back and settled against him again.
Fucking frail. She was gonna make this hard. He wrapped his fingers in her hair and moved her head so that she was looking at him. "C'mon frail."
Her eyes fluttered open. Recognition of where she was dawned slowly.
He let go of her hair.
"I fell asleep." She sat up and looked around the dingy space.
"Goddamn fast." He smiled a little. "When was the last time you got a decent night's sleep anyway?"
A blush colored her cheeks. "The night you left." She smiled at him. "Doesn't really matter. You're back now. I always sleep better when you're next to me."
And now he was back to feeling like a son of a bitch again. "It'll be another night at least."
Her calm collapsed. "But...you're here! In the same city, why-"
"You don't want me to answer that question." He got up and started to pace. "I'll be back and forth between the apartment and here for awhile. I ain't gonna tell you how long it'll be because I got no fucking idea. If you're awake, I'll tell you when I'm leaving and if I got an idea of when I'll be back I'll tell you that too. Beyond that, you don't ask why or what or any of that shit."
Kelly looked down at her hands. "I don't know if I can." Her voice was quiet.
The tone in her voice made something inside him ache. He stroked his fingers through her hair. "Yeah you can." His voice was softer. "C'mon. I'll have Conlon take you back." He reached for her arm, but she moved away. She pulled her fingers through her hair.
"Let me do something with my hair first. Where are the pins?"
He reached into his pocket handed her the hairpins. He pointed to a door at the far end of the room. "Bathroom's through there."
She disappeared and came back a moment later with her hair smoothed and held back from her face in soft waves. This time, she let him take her arm. He led her down the stairs. Halfway down, he couldn't take the silence and staccato footsteps any more. "You really gonna forgive that sorry bastard?"
Kelly shrugged with one delicate shoulder. "Maybe. Maybe not." A little smile twitched the corner of her mouth. "Sounded good in the moment though."
Creed chuckled. "Too fucking much." He kissed her softly, his tongue teasing hers for a delicious moment. "Wait here. I'm gonna get Conlon."
Creed watched her sit on the stairs, then he headed down the hall. Cavallo was in another bare room, cuffed to another metal chair, but there was no observation window. Creed stood outside the door, straining to hear signs of pain, of argument, or anything else. At first, there was nothing but silence. Then he heard a low moan coming from the other side of the door. He put his hand on the scanner and walked in.
The sharp smell of piss hit him as soon as he opened the door. A table was pushed against the wall, Conlon sat on it, his back resting against the wall, his feet resting on the edge. Cavallo was still secured to the chair, a wet stain spread out from the crotch of his sweats and a puddle had formed around his feet. Creed grabbed a handful of Cavallo's thinning hair and lifted his head revealing a doughy face that he would have been hard-pressed to pick out of a crowd.
Creed let out a disgusted growl. "Dirty fucking animal." The former boss's breath was raspy, shallow. Creed looked at Conlon. "Looks pretty damn good for as much time as you had with him."
Conlon tilted his head in an approximation of a shrug, a self-satisfied smile on his face. "Figured you'd be upset if I got too creative." He sat up.
"Goddamn right. That don't mean you had to just sit there and watched him piss himself."
Conlon got up and walked over to the man in the chair. A little smile quirked the corner of his mouth. "First night I was with Giada, I ended up between two drunk bastards who both thought they had some kind of claim to her because they'd screwed her. Of course, being the kind of slut she was, I don't think she even knew either one's name. I learned two things that night, one was that I was gonna hate that goddamn job." He shoved a fist into the right side of Cavallo's chest. The bastard screamed and started to babble apologies. "The other was that broken ribs hurt like a motherfucker."
Creed looked at the smaller man. He probed the side of the restrained man's chest, bringing a hoarse cry and the salty scent of incipient tears. A slow grin spread across Creed's face. He looked at the other mutant. "Not bad. There might be some hope for you yet." He stood up and faced Conlon. "Frail needs to go back to the apartment. I'll be there in a few minutes to let you out."
The smaller man nodded and walked out of the room. Creed waited until the door was shut before he opened a cabinet on the wall. The video system was a recent, lucky addition. He turned on the monitor and picked up a remote. "Down to just you and me, Paulie." Victor said.
"Look, I didn't know you cared about the girl." Cavallo was doing his best to sound confident and reasonable. The edge of desperation in his voice and the stink of fear and piss broke the illusion. "If I'd known, we could have made a deal."
"A deal." Creed had to work hard not to laugh.
"Well yeah." He shrugged and winced. "You're a businessman, so am I."
Creed nodded. "Here's the only deal we're gonna make." He hit play and the video of Kelly's unconscious arrival at the bunker filled the screen in living color. "You're gonna wait here like a good little boy and watch the video." Creed had cut the tape together himself. He couldn't bear the idea of Link seeing the frail at her most vulnerable. Ghostly images of pain and terror and defiance floated before his eyes. He pushed them aside. Getting blindly pissed off at this point wouldn't do him any good anyway.
Creed hit Cavallo hard enough to break his nose. The former boss gave a short cry and sprayed a mist of blood out onto the front of his white t-shirt. "Shut the fuck up. I don't think you watched it the right way the first time. See, you were looking at it as a way to get your fucking rocks off. This time, it's more of a professional courtesy. Foreshadowing for what the rest of your life is going to be like."
"Let's not be hasty. I've still got connections." He coughed out another mist of blood.
"I don't give a shit about how much you scream, talk, babble, swear, whatever. My frail is still here and she's dealt with more than enough shit from you for one lifetime. She don't need to hear you now." Creed opened a drawer the side of the table and got out a tennis ball and a roll of silver duct tape. He shoved the ball in Cavallo's mouth. A sharp cracking sound filled the room as the former boss's jaw opened too wide too fast. The cry of pain came out as nothing more than a muffled whine. Creed wrapped two long strips of tape around Cavallo's head to ensure that the ball stayed in place. He pushed against Paulie's broken ribs again, just to test the improvised gag. When he was satisfied that his captive's cry of pain was effectively blocked, Creed walked out of the room.
Kelly stood in front of the one way glass and watched Stan. The speaker was off and Kelly wasn't bold enough to start trying buttons. She didn't really need sound anyway. It looked as if Stan had tired himself out with all the screaming and struggling. He was sitting there with his head hanging down, his chin on his chest. Seeing him like that, tied up, vulnerable, made her feel almost sorry for him.
She told herself that Stan didn't deserve that twinge of guilt. Not after everything he'd done. After everything he'd caused to happen.
The sound of a footstep made her turn. Conlon appeared from around the corner. He walked over and stood next to her, his eyes on Stan.
"Makes me a terrible person doesn't it." Her voice was quiet. "Leaving him here with Victor."
Conlon shrugged. "I don't know. You wanted to talk to him so that you could end it for yourself, right?"
The corner of her mouth quirked into a little smile. "To try to anyway."
"He needs his own ending. His'll just be different than yours."
Creed let Conlon and the frail out. When he got back, he stood in front of the window looking at Stan.
The speakers were off. The fat bastard's chest was rising and falling rhythmically. He was snoring. Sleep was a defense mechanism. The mind escaping from reality. Maybe it was a good thing. Creed needed time to calm himself down.
Torture was a delicate thing. It took planning, knowledge, and calm if you were going to do it right and he'd waited too long for this not to do it right. He could say that he owed it to the frail. That was true enough in its own way, though it was mostly for himself. Kelly had already gotten her closure. Now he needed his.
Stan stirred in the chair, and then he sat up with a start. Creed opened the door and leaned against the frame, a smile slowly spreading across his face. "Have a nice nap?"
The heavy scent of fear and sweat saturated the room. "Look, I'll tell you anything you want to know."
Creed gave a low chuckle and shut the door behind himself. "Why the fuck would I ask you anything? You wouldn't know the truth if ran up and shit in your lap." Creed moved behind Stan. Stan tried to turn his head enough to see what was happening. "Nah, 'f I wanna know anything about what you did, I'll ask the frail." He set a pair of pliers on the folding chair the frail had used. The metal on metal sound make Stan flinch.
"People will know I'm missing." Stan was struggling to keep his voice calm. "They'll be looking for me. Besides, I'm responsible for Cody's care. Kelly would just hate it if she thought her dear little brother was just warehoused somewhere. That'd be your fault."
Creed shrugged and sat on the floor in front of Stan. "You know anything about me Stan?"
Creed could see Stan's mind racing, trying to come up with a good answer. "I don't know, a little."
"What you mean is no." Creed pulled off Stan's shoes.
"Shut the fuck up. Let me enlighten you. I don't do anything half-assed." He pulled Stan's socks off and ignored the accompanying protests and ineffectual struggles. "Far as anybody is gonna be able to tell, you decided to disappear for awhile. You got overwhelmed with all the family shit going on and the constant media attention. Course it looks like you like that, but that's just a front you put on for the cameras. I got plans for the kid too."
Creed picked up the pliers.
Stan was squirming in his chair. The pool of terror deepened. "What are those for?"
Creed grinned and pinched the little toe of Stan's right foot in the jaws of pliers. Stan gave a shocked cry and started to babble again. Creed didn't bother listening to what Stan was saying; he just waited until the tirade slowed. Then he eased the pressure on the digit, just slightly.
"Oh thank God, I knew you were a reasonable-"
Creed crushed the bones in the toe and grinned as Stan's scream filled the room.
He was whimpering. "Wh-Why-?"
"Why? You really are a dumb son of a bitch." Creed crushed the little toe on the other foot. Stan screamed again. This time a rush of piss accompanied the scream.
"Sh-She forgave me!" He was blubbering like a fucking baby now.
Creed smiled. "Yeah, the frail is pure class." He crushed the second toe on Stan's right foot and waited for the scream to die down to a desperate sobbing. "This ain't about her though."
"Who then?" The words were barely discernible, but Creed'd had years of practice in deciphering pained screams.
Creed grinned and chose the third toe of Stan's left foot. The pliers shattered and ground the small bones. Stan's scream was hoarse. "Me. She's my mate. Never thought I even wanted a mate and then she showed up. You hurt her because you thought you could get away with it or because you got balls the size of fucking raisins. I don't give a shit why you did it. I just know that you pissed me off. She's pure class, but I'm a fucking son of a bitch."
He closed the pliers on the big toe on Stan's left foot.
Kelly stripped off her clothes and got into the shower as soon as she got back to the apartment. She stood there under the hot water and tried to forget about where she'd been and what she'd seen.
She knew what Victor did, but until she walked into that twisting maze of corridors and cameras it had been nothing more an abstraction. Easily pushed aside by the emptiness left by Victor's absence and routines of daily life. Today she had to face the truth head on in a place painted desperation gray and smelling of stagnation and fear. It was as carefully planned as Cavallo's bunker and served the same purpose. That was the unavoidable fact.
Kelly turned up the hot water and massaged the back of her neck.
Cassie would have told her to leave. Professor Xavier would probably show up in person to offer false sympathy laced with smugness. Her grandfather would tell her that he wanted her to be happy and that would be the truth. Granna wouldn't mean to use it as a weapon, but she would.
Kelly sighed. The idea was ridiculous anyway. She was Victor's mate. Being without him, even now, made her feel like she was missing a piece of her soul. She'd figure out a way to cope with this the same way she'd learned to cope with his moods and to hear the endearments under the insults. Besides, something had flickered through his eyes just after he woke her. Something between ache and embarrassment and resignation. She wasn't sure what that meant, but that fleeting look lingered in her mind.
She sighed and turned off the water. She wrapped a towel around herself and stepped out of the shower to confront the pile of clothes on the bathroom floor. Just the sight of them brought her back to that sterile little room and all the anger and fear contained inside it. She could just toss the clothes. It seemed like a waste, but she doubted she'd ever be able to look at them again without fighting nausea. She looked at the pile a moment longer. Just because they were tainted to her, didn't mean they were tainted to everyone.
She dried off and pulled on sweats and a t-shirt, and then she went to the kitchen for a grocery bag and a manila envelope. Kelly made a stop at her computer and after a few keystrokes addressed the envelope to Free the Girls and filled out the bare minimum on their donation form. She tossed out the panties and stockings. The blouse and skirt went into the bag in a crumpled heap. The bra went into the envelope along with the printed form and twenty dollars from her household money. The bra had still had the tags on it that morning. She hoped they would forgive her for not washing it first. She picked up the phone and called Conlon.
The few minutes it took him to get up to the apartment seemed more like a stretch of weeks. Kelly's eyes never left the bag of clothing, as if it would somehow manifest Stan or that stark place or some other demon from the last few hours.