Dark Paths Ch. 06bySadieRose©
Chapter Six &Ndash; Crime &Amp; Punishment
"Welcome to the sixth instalment of Dark Paths, the latest labour of love in the lives of Sadie and Bellora. We have been working hard to bring you this chapter as soon as possible so we hope that it lives up to the expectations of our lovely readers. We feel it is only fair to warn you that this chapter contains some non-consensual activity and quite a lot of violence, but no Vampires or humans were killed during the production of Chapter Six. The usual terms and conditions apply; copyright belongs to Sadie Rose and Bellora Quinn and we will let the dogs out if we catch anyone breaking and entering our intellectual property. Enjoy!"
"Are you okay, angel?" PJ's concern sounded genuine over the phone. "Is Rayne with you? Did they hurt him?"
There was the sound of muffled conversation in the background as he seemed to relay what he knew to the others. Xavier felt his throat tighten and had to take a deep breath. He wasn't going to cry like a idiot.
"I-I'm okay. Can't talk right now." Although, he was pretty sure any cabby in this city had heard crazier shit than tales of abduction and vampires, Xavier was feeling paranoid at the moment. "I'll tell you everything when I get there."
A little under an hour later he was walking up the steps into a Bed and Breakfast motel just off the Freeway. PJ, Clay, and Chavez were seated about on the wide porch. Xavier came up the steps looking shell shocked and roughed up, but otherwise all right but Clay was on his feet at once when he saw how disoriented the young dancer was and noted the bruises on his handsome face. He caught Xavier before the young man stumbled and fell into his arms and the others were beside him in an instant, shocked and full of unexpectedly-gentle concern.
"Jeez! What happened?" PJ wanted to know. In his heart of hearts he had only half believed Rayne's tale of Vampires and abduction but now a cold spike of fear hit him in the chest.
"I don't know, I don't know!" Xavier choked out, just because he was confused. "Rayne traded himself for me. I couldn't do anything, they threw me out, even if I could've stayed I don't know what I could've done."
"You're not making much sense, sweetheart." Clay said gently.
Xavier swallowed hard, choking back frustrated tears. He took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. He started from the beginning, with the club, and Steffen. He glossed over some parts, but it was pretty easy to fill in the blanks.
"…and then the guy says Rayne's gonna take my place, that he's not letting him go. They are all outta their fuckin' skulls crazy. We have to get Rayne out of there before they hurt him bad."
Now the two older men exchanged a look that went over Xavier's head. Chavez moved in and put his arms around the kid and Clay pushed himself to his feet slowly. PJ murmured; "So he wasn't exaggerating. These guys do not sound like reasonable people."
"Maybe he was right and you should head on out to Paris," Clay sighed, folding his arms and looking down seriously at the Irishman. "Take the boy with you, in case they go back on their word and come looking for him."
"I should take the boy?" Paddy looked amused. "And what are you planning to do, Action Man? Go in there with all guns blazing. You think I'm gonna let you do all that alone?"
"We got some favours we can call in," Clay responded with a tight, humourless smile. In that moment, with that grim look in his eye, Xavier could begin to imagine what a formidable figure the big, black former porn star had been as a younger man. He might be carrying a little weight now that he was in his forties but a lot of that bulk was still muscle as Xav could testify. "If this Lagrado wants to mess with one of ours maybe he should realise that we don't back down without a fight. But I'd be happier knowing that you and Xav were safe in Paris with Mikka to watch your backs."
"Uh-huh," PJ shook his head and chuckled wryly. "You don't get rid of me that easily. I mightn't be super fit any more but so long as I can hold a weapon I'm not going anywhere." He reached out to stroke Xavier's hair, aware that the Dancer was upset and only just holding it together. "Come on honey," he said, coaxing the boy to his feet with Chavez's assistance. "Let's get you into a hot tub and get you to bed. Are you sure you weren't followed back here?"
"No." Xavier murmured, "Not sure of anything right now. I walked the opposite way for a while, and changed cabs a few times." He shrugged. Exhaustion tugged at him. Getting clean sounded fantastic, so did food, and a bed. It felt terribly selfish when all he could think about was what might be happening to Rayne, but if he didn't eat or sleep he was not going to be much help. He let Chavez and Paddy lead him up the stairs.
Xavier felt hollow as he stripped while Chavez plugged the drain in the tub and got the water running. He was swaying on his feet. He caught the look Chavez was giving him.
A glance in the mirror told him what. His usually golden tan skin looked like pale ashes and the bruises from fists and a few boots were a dark purple contrast. He looked pretty well worked-over. His eyes slid away from the glass and Xavier gingerly got into the hot water.
To his relief they didn't make him talk about it. They were both men of the world and it didn't take a genius to figure out that Xavier had taken the works during his brief stay with Lagrado and his henchmen. PJ looked concerned and distracted as they got the younger man into the steaming tub. Chavez took control of the issue and stripped to his shorts, climbing into the huge bathtub with him.
"Go rustle up some food," he suggested to his boss, who nodded sagely and left them to it.
Chavez must have seen the moment of anxiety in Xavier's eyes as he climbed into the water, for he knelt back and kept his hands on the side of the tub in clear sight. That look told him more than words what Xavier hadn't said.
"It's okay," he murmured, as gently as Xav had ever heard him speak. "I'll keep my shorts on if that's what you want. But you're gonna flake out in here and I don't wanna let you drown after what you've survived, okay? Let's just wash you down, huh? And once you're clean it's up to you if you wanna sleep alone or not. But nothing needs to happen, okay? You understand?"
A flash of irritation crossed Xavier's face. "Stop it. I don't need the kid glove treatment, alright? I'm fine."
Chavez didn't reply, but he stayed where he was. Xavier cupped his hands and brought the water up to wash his face. His hands shook like a feeble old man's and it had little to do with the exhaustion he felt. He kept seeing that thing in the basement, it's dead eyes looking at him, the greenish grey of its putrid skin. He could feel the liquid sliminess on his skin where it had grabbed him and pulled him up close, smell the cloying stench of death and rot.
The smell clung to him; a phantom only he could sense. If his stomach was not already so empty he would have retched over the side of the tub. As it was he forced down the gorge that rose in his throat and grabbed the soap to scrub the scent and feel of slime from his skin. He wanted to scrub his skin raw, but his efforts were more listless than vigorous. The heat of the tub was getting to him, making his head swim, and Chavez swayed alarmingly in front of him.
He slid back against the side of the tub, trying to make the dizziness go away. "Chavez… I'm gonna…" he started to warn him but wavered out of consciousness before he got the words out.
The other man was over him at once, disregarding his companion's earlier defensive outburst and sliding his arms around Xavier's limp body, pulling him up so that he lay with his head tilted back over the lip of the tub. Miraculously he managed to get the dancer out of the water without slipping up or braining the pair of them.
"Someone get a doctor!" he yelled through into the next room where he could vaguely hear Clay talking on the phone. "Quick! This is serious!"
He laid his head on Xavier's chest listening for his heartbeat, feeling for his pulse, which was faint and rapid like the flutter of insect wings under his fingers. The kid was too pale; too cold. It wasn't right.
The next couple hours were a circus. An ambulance was called. Upon the paramedics' arrival and assessment of Xavier, suspicion immediately fell on Paddy, Clay, and Chavez, who could not exactly explain how he came to be in this condition. The signs of blood loss were immediately apparent, although where he had lost so much blood from was not. Xavier had no visible flesh wounds, but the bruises pointed to an internal bleed. He was put on oxygen, hooked up with a saline IV and provided with a transfusion of blood. Standard trauma procedure for a gunshot or stab victim, but Xavier wasn't either. They had him on the stretcher and were loading him into the back of the ambulance when he came to.
He immediately refused transport and started to freak out about the IV. While they were trying to calm him and convince him he needed to go to he hospital they also discreetly questioned him about his friends' involvement in his injuries. Was it an accident? Did someone just get a little too rough?
Even disorientated and panicked he had enough presence of mind to come up with a quick story. It turned out that it was a good thing PJ, Clay and Chavez hadn't come up with some elaborate cover, because then there was nothing to contradict Xavier, who told them he had been out club hopping and got jumped, before heading out here to meet his friends. It was actually close to the truth, which always made for the most convincing lie.
In the end he absolutely refused to go to the hospital, despite the urging of everyone around him. The pint of blood and saline revived him considerably. The paramedics insisted he must be bleeding internally and Xavier just as vehemently insisted that wasn't the problem. They couldn't force him to go when he was lucid and able to get off the stretcher on his own; which he did, only wobbling a little.
Finally Paddy pulled him aside. He hoped he could get the boy to see sense if he talked to him one on one so he didn't feel so cornered, and also reassure him they weren't going to disappear on him if he went for a check-up.
"It's not that, PJ. I can't go, trust me. If I'm admitted they'll start digging into my medical history." Xavier paused. "There isn't anything recent but if you OD few times too many your name gets in the system. I'm not gonna get thrown back in Psych because they think I'm suicidal and did this to myself somehow."
It was perhaps a little paranoid, but Xavier had good reason to be. His last hospital stay they had deemed him a danger to himself and locked him up for a ten day psychological evaluation in which he was forced to admit to being suicidal when actually he'd just been stupid. They kept him in the hole until they ran out of questions, then booted him out with a handful of psychotropic prescriptions.
Xavier knew he was not suicidal or nuts, although the second was looking somewhat debatable right now. Regardless, he wasn't going to risk getting locked up again. "Please don't make me go. There's nothing wrong with me. They just took too much, you know that."
For a moment PJ McNamara looked down seriously into his wide, earnest eyes. He seemed to deliberate but at last he pulled Xav into a warm bear-hug of an embrace and murmured into his hair; "Okay honey, so long as you promise me faithfully that you're not gonna flake on us again tonight, I'll keep you here with us. I won't be responsible for you dropping dead though. You get me? If I think you're slipping away again you go straight to the ER."
In the back of his mind he was also recalling a similar episode, many years before, sitting on a hospital bed. Then it had been the 20-year-old Rayne he was watching, with his wrists and hands bandaged like a prize fighter, head down, floating on a sea of sedatives, telling him determinedly that he was okay and he could handle himself. Time slipped by but these kids didn't change. He could not comfort Rayne tonight but he could take care of the boy. And he knew that he would do that.
Xavier relaxed against that broad chest with a sigh of relief. The paramedics reluctantly left. That settled, there was nothing left to do but go back inside. Now that the excitement was over Xav inquired about the food PJ had been working on tracking down. His appetite at least hadn't suffered! He ate whatever was put in front of him in his usual manner - like a half starved wolverine - which seemed to reassure everyone that he might not be so badly off after all.
Clay was on the phone for most of the time whilst he ate. Finally it was determined that nothing much could be done in what remained of the night. They were going to have to wait on reinforcements. While they waited Xavier got some much-needed sleep, sliding in with Chavez. His body temperature was still a little lower then normal and Xavier wrapped himself around the warmth Chavez offered and quickly fell asleep. This time it was a normal, if exhausted sleep.
Rayne was not having as peaceful a night.
His arrival in San Francisco, and the subsequent snubs he had - however inadvertently - dealt Lagrado had not gone unnoticed by other powerful vampires in the area. Neither had Cole Lagrado's retaliation. The Vampire Masters watched and waited, seeing if they could scent weakness in Lagrado, or if he would cross any lines. Either could damage his power structure in the city. So far he'd been very conservative in how he had handled the situation.
He was playing by the rules. There had been no deaths. Rayne Wylde's public humiliation would restore any face he had lost. A Council Gathering had been called and would meet the following night. In the meantime, Cole allowed Steffen to entertain himself with the singer, as compensation for losing his pet.
In the end, getting Xavier out of Lagrado's clutches seemed to have been the easy part. Once the boy was hauled out of the cell and the curious crowd dispersed, his captor seemed almost to lose interest.
One of the vampires had remained, the one who'd seemed most upset at the idea of Xav's release and as the singer was dragged to his knees and forcibly manacled to the wall of the small, windowless hovel which had been his lover's prison, he watched eagerly. Once the struggle had been won by Rayne's captors and the singer was pulling on his chains with sheer bloody minded determination, Lagrado made his exit. He patted the other on the shoulder with a humourless smile and said; "He's yours. For now! Don't damage him too badly, he has an audience with the Elders tomorrow night."
Steffen's soulless dark eyes regarded Rayne impassively as the door closed on the room. The cruelty in Steffen was innate; becoming a vampire had only magnified his disregard for his victims. In life he had brutally tortured, raped, and killed dozens of young boys. Cole Lagrado had appreciated his inventiveness as a killer and knew that the brutality he employed would serve him well. He employed the mortal Steffen as one of his enforcers, and after watching him work for several months he had Turned him, granting the tall muscular enforcer a long Unlife in which to practice his fondest desires. Steffen now had the weight of two centuries worth of perverse crimes behind him.
He had also a burning resentment for the Englishman chained in front of him. He'd barely had a taste of Xavier, thinking he would have more time; months, perhaps, to draw out and savour the boy's terror before breaking him. To have so sweet a treat snatched from his hands rankled in the worst way.
He moved closer, reaching a hand down to caress the side of Rayne's face. "Your boyfriend's screams were very sweet. So endearing, the way he tried not to struggle."
The singer stared back up at him, cool and unblinking in the darkness. Rayne's night vision had improved 100% since his Turning and the darkness no longer held any fears for him. He endured the older Vampire's touch in silence, assessing him. Often other Undead guarded their thoughts and memories around their own kind. Steffen did not, He was practically broadcasting what he was to anyone capable of receiving it. Rayne knew he was doing it on purpose; he guessed the effect it was supposed to have.
"So... you get off on hurting and scaring defenceless little boys, do you sweetheart?" he sneered at last, in a low, husky tone. "That's a fine use of an Unlife, I don't think."
At the same time he was thinking; Good boy, Xavier. You hit a nerve there.
Steffen gave a low chuckle. "It is indeed a fine Unlife, whether you consider it so or not." His fingers slid deeper into Rayne's hair and tugged back sharply. "Shall we see if you have more fight then your mortal boy? Should I remove your chains? I'll even let you have a head start; see how fast you run."
Rayne's eyes widened slightly, and shifted to take in the narrow parameters of the cell in which he was locked with this... as a committed vegetarian in his mortal life, 'animal' was too kind a word to use on Steffen. His lips curled back from extended fangs and he uttered a little hiss of cynical laughter.
"Did you let Xav off the leash then? I don't think so. Bastard!" His fingers tightened around the chains that ran from his cuffs to the wall and he pulled himself up until he was sitting, facing Steffen, back to the wall. "Go on then, big fella. I dare you to slip my lead. I took one of your boys out at the airport. Do you think I'm gonna sit on my arse and cry cause you've locked me in the dark?"
"Oh, but I did give him his opportunity to run." Steffen leered at Rayne, his fangs extended far enough now to look wickedly sharp. "He preferred to lay down and spread his legs. He liked my bite, but then you made sure he would crave it, didn't you?"
Rayne's fingers tightened around the chains and he jerked down hard on them, wanting nothing more than to punch the smug look off this bastard's face and feed him his own god-damned fangs. The moorings in the solid stone wall held though and he snarled back at Steffen, a sound all the more menacing for the softness of its tone.
"You don't know the first fucking thing about what him and me have done together," he growled furiously. "Don't even talk about us in the same context! If he seemed willing then you can bet he'd got you figured out. He knew a fight would turn you on and he couldn't win it. Me, on the other hand..." Rayne left the remark unfinished. He didn't have enough words to tell this evil bastard what he wanted to do in retaliation for the hurt and humiliation Xavier had suffered.
Steffen's chuckle this time held a little more humour though it was just as mocking. "You think you could fight free? Maybe you will be fun after all." He reached and unlocked one of the cuffs around Rayne's wrist, grabbing it in a bone-crushing grip in case his new toy decided to swing at him before he got the other wrist freed.
Rayne caught a little hiss of indrawn breath at the pressure on his slim wrist and writhed around so that he could draw one knee up keeping it between himself and his captor as Steffen wrestled with the lock on the other cuff, single-handed. As the metal bracelet clinked open, Rayne's hand flew for his face, clawing at his eyes and simultaneously he kicked out and upward, his heel connecting with linen and soft flesh between the bigger Vampire's thighs. He half turned, on his side, trying to wriggle down between Steffen's legs whilst the pain was still preoccupying his gaoler's mind.