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~:: Endgame ::~
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She slept fitfully. Between the potent drug and being in shock, she'd remained unconscious for several hours. She woke up as the threads of daylight crept in around the dark blinds. Her entire body ached as though it was one giant bruise. As her mind fought its way out from under the drug-induced fog, she found him wrapped around her. She realized she was once again tied spread-eagle across his bed. He had climbed in next to her and promptly passed out. A shrill ringing split the air as he turned his head groggily, searching for the source of the sound. He pulled himself from the bed and stumbled to the living room, following the obnoxious tone. Punching a button on the cell phone, he heard Maritus bark gruffly, "It is finished. Dispose of her."
His heart sank upon hearing the edict. This was the very first time he'd ever had a job he simply did not want to complete. The feelings it was evoking where more painful than any physical wound he'd ever endured.
He slipped silently back into the room, cloaked in darkness. He watched her, unseen, for a long moment before he stole to the side of the bed. "I really don't want to do this," he whispered aloud. Although she could not see him, she knew he was near. She trembled as she realized that he'd just been given the order to kill her.
Instead of feeling the cold steel of his blade, however, she suddenly felt surrounded by warmth as he returned to the bed and wrapped himself around her. He buried his nose in her hair, inhaling her soft, warm scent.
This time his assault came slowly and deliberately. There was no brutal force this time, only gentle caresses. She lay perfectly motionless knowing that she was powerless to stop him. The drug he'd injected was still present in her system enough to muddle control of her psionic energies. She couldn't even focus enough to draw upon her command of the powers of darkness. A single tear formed in the corner of one eye. The last drop of saline she could muster, it trickled in a burning trail down her temple and mingled with the sweat that beaded on her forehead. She opened her dry throat and sobbed piteously.
Hearing the cracking in her voice as she cried out, he pulled away from her and once again disappeared. Moments later he returned to gently lift her head and tip a small glass of cool water to her lips. She opened her mouth and caught as much of the spilling liquid as she could, swallowing in great gulps.
Her brain ached trying to contemplate this enigma. Why was he now being kind and gentle, when she was certain that he was about to execute her? And why had he brought her here instead of killing her in her room in Talos?
He watched a range of emotion contort her visage as she pondered the situation. He realized her ability to focus her thoughts was returning. He returned to the kitchen to refill the now empty glass and grabbed another syringe from his coat as he passed the coat rack.
He was beside her before she could detect his presence. She felt the jab a microsecond before the powerful drug coursed through her system. She closed her eyes as her thoughts once again moved into a state of incoherence.
Once again the shrill ringing cut the air. He retrieved the phone and returned to the bedroom as he pushed the button to answer it. Once again he heard the voice of the cruel doctor. "Marcus, have you completed your obligation?"
He fumbled for words as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Actually, I am not finished with her yet. Naimah gave me permission to do as I pleased with the girl before I dispatched her. I am in the middle of enjoying her right now. I will finish her when I am done."
He heard the doctor guffaw. "That is fine, Marcus. Make her suffer. There is nothing like being able to enjoy your work, I always say. I assume the sedatives I gave you have kept her sufficiently subdued?"
"Yes, it worked perfectly. She is completely at my mercy."
"Very well. Naimah wishes to know when you have disposed of the girl. I will be in touch."
With that, the call ended and Marcus turned to see Sheken violently sobbing. He realized she'd heard the entire conversation and now knew exactly what was planned for her. A completely unfamiliar wave of guilt washed over him. He chided himself for succumbing to such unseemly emotions but was powerless to control it.
Placing the phone on the nightstand, he sat on the edge of the bed and dropped his head into his hands. She was so close that he could feel the heat of her body radiating against his naked flesh. One last time, he told himself, as he lifted the sheets. A pale red stain on the sheets caught his eye as he moved to lie beside her. The proximity and positioning told him that it must have come from his body brushing the fabric as he slept. Her wrists had stopped oozing blood when he washed them and applied the salve, and the position of the stain was nowhere near where her wrists were firmly bound. Suddenly he had a flash of realization.
"That was the first time for you, wasn't it?" he asked her in a terse whisper.
She nodded her head furiously without opening her eyes as her visage crumpled into a grimace of anguish. Tears formed at the edges of her thick lashes.
"I guess I can't really say I am sorry. It would be shame to have wasted..." his voice trailed as he realized what he was about to say. "I mean... I guess it wouldn't have mattered, even if I'd known."
She made no indication of whether or not she'd even heard him as she lay motionless except for the deep heaving of her chest with each sob.
A wave of pity suddenly washed over him. He reached out a hand to smooth the wild strands of hair that clung to her face. As his fingertip touched the soft skin she flinched. Gently he moved closer and wrapped an arm around her as he slid into a prone position at her side.
"Look," he whispered hoarsely, "I am going to do something I have never done in my entire life. I am going to be honest. You know that I was sent to kill you. But I don't know how I am going to do this. Something deep inside me... something that I didn't even know was there... is making this very hard. I have never...backed down...from a job before."
She opened her eyes and looked at him. Tears were streaming down his face and dropping from his chin onto her bare chest.
The pain and anguish in her gaze mirrored his own. In a sudden burst of lucidity, he knew there was no way he was going to be able to complete this job. His head began to spin as a myriad of possible outcomes to this situation flashed before his eyes. If Maritus figured out that he'd double-crossed him, there would be hell to pay. He was certain that Naimah would have him punished for failing her. Chances are he would not survive the repercussions. But he knew deep in his heart that these would be risks that he was fated to take.
"I..." he started, as he struggled to catch his breath in air that felt as thick and hot as if he were swimming in molten lava. "I can't do this. I...cannot...kill...you."
Saying that he collapsed over her, sobbing like a broken hearted child. Her thoughts were still muddled by the potent neurotoxin that was seething through her veins. She drew a deep breath and tried to focus on this bizarre turn of events.
He swung his legs up onto the bed and moved in close. He could feel the warmth of her soft flesh pressing against his own bare skin. It drew him in and melted him at the same time. His body nestled against her prone form as he clung to her and cried harder than he'd ever cried in his life. All the tears he'd swallowed throughout his life came flooding out in a torrent of sorrow that was so profound, he felt like it might destroy him with its intensity.
He cried until he was gasping for breath. His eyes felt like they were about to bleed and there was an ache in his chest that seemed to be anchored in the core of his very soul. He clung to her as if she were the only buoy keeping him above the tempestuous sea of anguish.
Holding her breath, she trembled beneath his embrace. His breathing finally became slow and rhythmic. She tugged carefully at her bonds, hoping beyond hope that she could extricate herself without waking him when he stirred and opened his eyes. Her heart sank.
Slowly, he sat up and began to untie her bonds. Once her hands were free, she reached down and tugged the blankets up to cover her nakedness. It dawned on him that he'd destroyed her only clothing. He slowly made his way to the closet and began to rifle through the clothes hanging there. He found a dark soft flannel shirt that he'd bought shortly after moving to this forsaken island, before he became acclimated to the cold damp breezes that were so common here. He was of slight build so that the shirt was not exceedingly large. He carefully undid the buttons and approached her to place it gently over her shoulders. She obediently slid her sore arms into the sleeves.
The shirt was soft against her skin. She reached down to fasten the buttons but before she could do so he had leaned forward and was working his way up from her waist to stop two buttons below the collar button. He looked down at the lower half of the shirt and turned back towards the closet to allow her to finished those buttons on her own.
Even something as simple as working a tiny disc of plastic into a small hole was proving to be a challenge for her drug-addled consciousness. It took several minutes before she mastered one of the buttons, and still had several below it. He returned from the closet with a dark blue pair of sweatpants with a drawstring waist, only to find her eyes welling with tears of frustration. Tenderly he reached forward and deftly fastened the remainder of the buttons. Without a word, he laid the pants on the bed and walked from the room.
How are you going to get out of this? You can't take her back this time, after what you did to her last night. His mind churned as he pondered the ramifications.
Wandering to the kitchen, he poured two tall glasses of milk. He didn't really feel much like eating with his stomach in a knot but knew the milk would be soothing. She jumped as he walked back into the bedroom and held forth one glass for her. With a look of sheer gratitude she took the glass in both hands and knocked it back in one sole gulp. Placing the empty glass on a bedside table, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and let out a quiet belch.
He sat down beside her and met her eyes with his own. "I..uh...am sorry... for..." his voice faded to an inaudible whisper.
She stared at him but couldn't find her voice. She simply dropped her gaze and took in a deep breath. Her head was still spinning but she wasn't sure if it was the bizarre turn of events, the chemicals in her bloodstream, or a combination of both. This was all so much like some disjointed nightmare. She kept hoping she'd wake up back at home, in her own bed. Closing her eyes, she thought of her mother.
"She's alive. But she's in the Rogue Isles."
"What?" Zakai jerked his head back as if he'd been punched. "You think she ran off with that stalker she was with the last time?"
"No. I think he took her. For what reason, I do not know, but I am going to find out. All I can sense right now is that she's upset and terrified."
"Keres, I am going to Warburg."
Her partner looked at her in shock. "Are you sure that is a good idea?"
"It is a starting point. I have to find her. Once I get there I will figure out where she is and how to get there."
He nodded slowly. "Do you think we should call Az? She knows Warburg like the back of her hand, and she has lots of connections there. Maybe she can help."
Dawl nodded and dialed the number to Az's flat in Kings Row. No one answered. Next she dialed her sister's cell phone. The hollow ringing echoed for several moments. Dawl sighed. "I wonder where she went? I am too focused on Sheken to be able to track her down now. I can only link with one of them at a time. We will have to go without her."
"May I go, Mother," Zakai asked.
"No. You don't have the security level needed to be allowed to go. You stay here just in case I am wrong and she comes back. Call me immediately if that happens."
Zakai's brow furrowed with worry but he nodded his acquiescence as his parents rushed out the door, headed for Kings Row and the long chopper flight to the fringes of the infamous Rogue Isles.
"Sheken," he spoke gently, "you have to understand that this wasn't personal. I was hired to do this...job." He winced at the implications of that last, tiny word.
She nodded almost mechanically.
"I know after what happened last night, this is not going to mean much, but please believe me." He could hear the words tumbling from his mouth but to his ears, it was almost as if he were speaking some foreign tongue. Why did he care if she believed him? What kind of strange effect was she having on him that was breaking down emotional barriers he'd spent a lifetime reinforcing.
"I didn't want to take this job, even from the beginning."
Her eyes opened wide. She felt her mother pressing into her thoughts. I am coming, baby. Just hang on. I will find you.
Her first thought was one of being scolded for being with him again. Then she realized, this time it wasn't her fault. She'd done nothing wrong. She closed her eyes and focused on her mother. I'm okay, mom. At least for now. Be careful coming here.
He studied her intently. Her face betrayed a myriad of emotions as she pondered the situation. The drug was finally wearing off. That is probably why I was able to link with Mom, she thought. He realized it too. He was tempted to use the last injection to protect himself but decided instead to let her recover.
It really didn't matter if she attacked him. Maritus would soon figure out that he had betrayed him. Then perhaps nothing would matter.
"We have to get you out of here. If Naimah finds you here she will kill you herself."
Sheken nodded weakly. She fully understood the fact that Naimah would be a formidable opponent. She still remembered hearing her parents speak of the fateful trip to Hell to retrieve her aunt Azazela's soul from Xandaros and his wicked daughter.
A soft knock at the door brought his heart leaping into his throat. He grabbed her as gently as he could and guided her to the closet, pushing her backwards and pulling the clothing across the rod in front of her. "Don't move, don't make a sound, and try not to even breathe," he hissed.
Flinging open the door, his eyes flew open in utter shock. Before him stood the tiny succubus that was known to be the right hand of Doctor Maritus. It was she who had beguiled him into the doctor's service to begin with and endowed him with powers he still didn't fully understand. Taking a deep breath, he braced himself for the worst as she brushed passed him and into his shabby abode.