Title: ashes to ashes

Author: drollicpixie

Pairing: Zoe/Kyle

Summary: She's falling. Her heart is sick. Her bones are dust. The yawning maw of the pit waits below. His arms are raised up to catch her. Coven AU.

Rating: Explicit.

WARNINGS: This story has elements of self-harm, substance abuse, dub-con, non-con/rape (not graphic), violence, and violent thoughts towards women. This fic is disturbing. If that's not your cup of tea I would advise not reading.

Author Notes: Written for the AHS Fic Exchange – Round 4 – for venomwithlove. As my prompt mentioned both Violet/Tate and Zoe/Kyle, I thought I would take some elements of the Murder House pair and superimpose them onto the Coven pair. Extended since the contest – new content and further backstory added. This is the longest one-shot I have ever posted. And it could probably use a touch more editing but I've already stared at it long enough that I'm barely seeing the words anymore.

Winner - Favorite Hot Feels Fic & Mod's Favorite Award. Thanks!

Original Characters: Leonard Parris is played by David Tennant, Nicola by Lucy Hale.

7 years earlier

Kyle Spencer was so cute. His shaggy dark blond hair falling in his face as he goofed around with the boys seated in front of them. He had never paid her any special attention, nothing out of the ordinary: complaining how lame gym was, talking, laughing with a group of people at her locker, passing her a note from Leah who sat on the other side of him in French. But she was hyperaware of him. His every move, smile, word, catalogued and stored in her memory banks, her heart.

She was standing in the theater, still bright and noisy, crowded with people, as they waited for the previews, the end of the revolving ads and trivia. Their section was largely empty as no one else had the desire to join a bunch of seventh graders. Most people were down a level, closer to the screen, or up in the balcony. Leah had just rushed off to the bathroom, tears streaming down her face, as Steve Randall watched. He had ended their two week relationship. In front of everyone. And Zoe was considering running after her friend but Leah was a real bitch when she wanted to be alone.

She was probably smoking, hidden in some corner stall, blubbering and blowing her nose into toilet paper. If Zoe got caught smelling like cigarettes when she went home there would be hell to pay. She would be grounded for a week, a month! So she was stuck teetering on the edge of movement, torn between her sense of loyalty and her sense of self-preservation.

"Hey, Zoe," her eyes shot up right into the dark, friendly gaze of Kyle, and her breath caught.

"Oh, hi," she returned, palms already sweating. Was it hot in the theater all of a sudden?

"Where'd Leah go?" Oh, of course, she sighed. Kyle liked Leah. All the guys did. Leah's mom let her wear pink lipstick and black eyeliner. And Leah had tits. While Zoe was only allowed cherry chapstick and was still woefully undeveloped: training bra, boyish body, long skinny limbs and feet she was always tripping over.

Tucking a strand of her waist-length straight hair behind her ear she wet her gloss-less lips and stared up at him. He stood almost six inches taller than her. Not that it was hard, Zoe was one of the smallest in their class. "She had to," she glanced at the door.

Kyle smiled and her heart thumped against her chest. "I thought you all did that together?" She shrugged, flushing, she could not talk to Kyle Spencer about the bathroom!

"Well, I better keep you company 'til she comes back." His mouth spread impossibly wider as he climbed over the back of his seat and crashed into her row. The boy beside him, Jeremy, rolled his eyes, shoved Kyle's leg when it nearly collided with his face. "Come on," he patted the seat next to him, lifted the armrest so that it was one large space, and she dropped down hesitantly, inching back slowly, watching him the entire time.

They talked about school, the movie they were seeing, Steve dumping Leah. He was two rows down chatting up a girl from the catholic school and Zoe shook her head. Boys could be so cute, but they were the worst.

And before she could think much about it: how fun Kyle was, how easy he was to talk to, how adorable the freckle on the end of his nose was, he was kissing her. It was sudden, out of the blue, and took her by complete stuttering surprise.

Zoe had never been kissed before. Not by a boy. Kissing Leah at a sleepover didn't count. And it was a dare anyway.

Her eyes were open in shock though his were closed. Kyle's mouth tasted like buttered popcorn. After a moment he pulled back, gazing at her shyly. When her tongue poked out to wet her lips he grinned and did it again.

That time she let her lids flutter downward, let him guide her, opening to him, her tongue tentatively touching the inside of his mouth as Leah had shown her. Kyle's fingers were on her waist, grip loose, as her hands pressed down into the seat cushion between, unsure if she should move them to his neck, his hair. She had always wanted to touch his hair, see if it was as soft as she imagined.

With a whoosh of air and a slight sizzling sound behind them, the two were wrenched apart. "Zoe Benson!" A man's voice rang out with scandalized disappointment.

Her wide eyes shot first to Kyle, utterly embarrassed, then behind her, startled, contrite, nervous.

"Grandpa Leonard?" she breathed. And there he stood, black fedora, black suit, red carnation pinned to his jacket, just as he always looked.

It had been a while since Zoe had seen her grandfather. He was dead. At least he was in her timeline.

Leonard Parris was a warlock of the highest class, a former council member, and he could travel through time and space with the blink of an eye and a snap of his fingers.

"What on earth?" he demanded, hauling Kyle up by his shoulder, his upper arm. The boy stared down at her terrified. "Does your mother know you're here," her grandfather paused, gaze narrowing meaningfully, "with this," he studied Kyle, taking in his sweatshirt and jeans, his red Chuck Taylors, and sighed, "young man?"

"Um," Zoe tried, biting her lip, "she knows I'm at the movies..."

"I see."

"She didn't come with me," Kyle coughed, "sir. We just know each other from school."

The older man peered at the boy before him as he would some interesting and before unseen species; something to be understood but still possibly feared, as it was unknown to him.

Finally, having had enough embarrassment for a lifetime and seeing Leah coming back through the door, Zoe huffed, "Grandpa, let him go!"

For someone's grandfather, Leonard looked remarkably young and fit, which he probably was, appearing to be no more than forty in his own timeline. But he knew his family: the kids, the grandkids, hell, even a couple of great grandkids, and he liked to visit with them when he could. And Zoe was special, always had been. She had the witch in her. He could feel, smell, the power and knew that one day she would do the family proud.

And no stupid little boy was going to spoil that for her. Kissing! At her age! But how old was she? He never could be sure with the younger generations. Still, he released the boy but not without some further chastisement, "And you just go around putting your lips on young women in movie houses do you, boy?"

"Kyle, sir," he stammered, inching back, away. There was no magic in that one. Not even a drop. He wasn't good enough for a Parris. His granddaughter was the offspring of two of the best connected, most powerful, old Salem families. And the boy thought he had it in him to touch her, covet her. Because he did, of that Leonard was sure, it was all over his face. He desired to have her, own her, keep her.

"Grandpa!" Zoe huffed in annoyance, sounding more like her mother, her grandmother, than anyone should be allowed to, and it made his heart ache for his girls. "Stop," she said when he looked at her, lip protruding, and he almost expected her to stamp her little foot. "I like him." Her tone was pleading as her large hazel eyes shot wide, realizing what she had said out loud.

"What?" the older man thundered.

"You do?" the boy asked in wonder, breaking out in a grin even as he continued to watch Leonard with trepidation, a hint of fear. The non-magical often feared what they did not understand, sensed the otherness in their bones.

But before Zoe could respond to either of them there was a commotion outside, the sound of an explosion, like thunder but closer. Leonard's face whipped around, glaring up at the projection room. "Get her out of here! Now!" he hollered at Kyle as people began pouring from the theater, rushing and pushing.

"Grandpa?" Zoe gasped even as Kyle took her by the arm and began tugging.

"I'll be alright, sweetheart," he told her with a grin. "Go on." And they were off as he turned, sprinting for the stairs to the balcony, dashing into the melee, toward danger, as he always did. Leonard knew his granddaughter would be alright because he knew he would see her again, further on down the road. Or he already had, depending on how you saw things. Time wasn't linear; actually it was just a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. And he simply travelled through it.

"Zoe!" Kyle gripped her hand in his, trying to keep her close to him in the crush of bodies hurrying toward the emergency exits. Sirens were blaring, the lights gone black so only eerie caution strips and bright strobes lit their way.

"I'm here," she replied, squeezing his fingers and hoping their friends were alright. Until she tripped, falling to the sticky floor, nearly trampled by the worried mob.

Kyle hurried back to help her to her feet, hands under her arms, hauling her up along his body, buffering the masses until she was standing again. It was the wrong time and maybe completely inappropriate, but Zoe couldn't help the shiver that ran through her at the feel of his arms around her, his chest pressed to her back. And then they were moving again, Kyle pushing her along in front of him.

A second blast tore through the building, a wave hurtling down the corridor they were in, tossing them like ragdolls as a ball of flame licked at the air, fluttering after them.

Zoe and Kyle were almost at the door, eyes wide, as they were blown through it and tossed effortlessly to the pavement beyond.

When she woke up, sore and aching all over, Zoe couldn't hear a thing, only a high-pitched ringing and it hurt to open her eyes. She felt so bone-tired, all she could think about was going to sleep but she couldn't find Kyle. Slowly, painfully, putting her arms underneath her and getting to her knees she crawled forward, searching frantically.

Zoe's hands were wet. Someone must have spilled their soda she thought, carelessly wiping the liquid off on her white sweater, and watching it turn red. With a thick unsure swallow Zoe lifted her head even as her neck screamed out in pain and tried to take in the sight around her. People, or pieces of people, blood, hunks of meat, and torn clothing. It smelled like burning leaves and barbecue.

She was soaked in blood. It ran down her bare legs, over her eyes, matting her hair down on one side.

"Kyle!" her voice pierced the silence in her own head and suddenly sound came rushing back in. Sirens and screams, people calling for help, others moaning. A helicopter above.

He wasn't actually hard to find, only a few people over, closer to the building. His face was a mass of black and brilliant red on one side, the color traveling down his neck and into his scorched waves of hair. His eyes were closed but she could see his chest moving, rising, and she scuttled toward him on bruised knees and torn palms.

"Oh my god," she exhaled, "Kyle," placing her hand on the unmarred side of his face. He was still, sleeping or unconscious. She looked around them before screaming, "Help!" Her voice breaking, "Help us!"

Footsteps pounded the pavement, a police officer, a medic, and then a second, charging over. The officer pulled her back, let the two EMTs do their work on Kyle.

"What happened?" he asked, "Did you see anything?"

She couldn't tear her eyes away from the boy before her, his shirt being ripped open, monitors being taped to one side of his chest. The blackened flesh was there too, down his arm, his side, over his shoulder. Zoe thought it looked so painful and she wished that she could help him, that she had that power. And maybe she would, someday, but at that moment all she could do was stare as tears slipped down her cheeks.

"It just exploded," she whispered finally, "everything. Boom."

At the hospital, Zoe's parents were informed that she was an incredibly lucky young woman. She had faired better than anyone else trapped in the corridor when the fire swept through. In fact, she had escaped with only a minor concussion, a bruised rib, and a cut on her forehead.

"She's covered in blood, most of it her own, we thought," the doctor explained, scratching his head, "but we can barely find a scratch on her. It's a miracle." And her mother just beamed, stroking her head, sharing a look with her father who nodded. Zoe had the gift, just as they had always suspected, and at twelve she had presented her first power, to heal herself.

Not only was it rare to present gifts so early but to begin with such a powerful, useful, one was a triumph for their families.

Zoe herself just wanted to see Kyle, to know if he was okay, where he was. "He saved me," she explained over and over again.

But the doctor said he needed his rest, he was a very injured boy, his mother was with him, and Zoe could come back in a few days to visit if she wanted. She agreed, let her parents lead her away, avoiding the eyes of all the other parents, the families, who were not so lucky.

"Grandpa Leonard was there," she told them on the ride home, quietly from the backseat.

"Ah," her father said with a grim smile, "well that explains it."

"Trouble follows that man everywhere! Next time I see him I am going to give him a piece of my mind. He should have gotten you out of there the moment he saw you, he had to know what was coming."

"He always knows," her father chuckled. But Zoe stayed silent. Sometimes magic folk could be so callus, only thinking of themselves at times of tragedy. All she could think of was Kyle and the feel of his lips on hers, her small hand grasped in his bigger warmer one.

Zoe returned to the hospital midweek requesting to see Kyle Spencer. They informed her that he was in the burn unit, on the sixth floor, turn right down the hall.

"I'll wait here," her mother said, lowering herself into a grubby chair. She looked so out of place; her expensive black pantsuit and Chanel purse, dark sunglasses, black hat and perfectly coiffed hair. She looked like a witch, Zoe thought as she made her way to the bank of elevators. But then again, she was.

They had just come from the memorial service for those who died at the theater. Leah and her friends, they had all made it out, escaping through the front, while Zoe and Kyle had wormed their way to the rear. There was still no solid explanation for the blast. Some people said it was terrorists, most people said it was a faulty gas line.

The burn unit was silent, only the occasional beep, the squeak of a shoe on linoleum.

"I'm looking for Kyle Spencer," Zoe repeated quietly to the woman in scrubs behind a massive desk. She stood up and stared down at the girl, smiling.

"How nice! Kyle will be so happy to see a friend." She shook her head, "I think that poor boy is going stir crazy trapped up in here."

"So, he's okay?" Zoe exhaled in a rush.

The woman stopped, looked at her kindly. "He's got a lot of bandages right now. Your friend was badly burned, but he's still the same boy, okay honey? He can talk to you just fine." Zoe nodded nervously. "I just don't want you to be surprised or scared when you see him, okay? It's still him under all that."

They walked down the hall, past door after door, until finally they stopped. "Here you go!" She smiled again, knocking on the door jam. "Kyle, you have a visitor."

"Tell them to go away," he grumbled from inside, the television on low.

"But it's," the nurse looked to her.

"Zoe. Zoe Benson."

"Zoe is here!"

Being small Zoe managed to sneak a glimpse under the woman's arm and into the room as there was a sharp intake of breath. Kyle was propped up on the bed, hospital gown over his one arm, half his chest, the rest of his torso heavily bandaged. Her eyes trailed up to his face. His hair was slicked back and there were even more bandages, red angry looking flesh around his far eye.

"Go away!" he practically shrieked. "I don't want to see her! She can't come in."

"Kyle," the woman began.

"No! Go away! Go away!"

Zoe thought it sounded like he was crying but she couldn't be sure. "Kyle!" she called out.

"Go away," he said once more, his voice a broken wail.

The nurse sighed, glanced down at the pretty little girl before her. "I'm sorry, honey."

Zoe bit her lip feeling like she was going to cry too. "He saved me," she said to the stranger watching her. But the woman simply nodded again, ushering her back to the desk, the elevators.

Zoe never saw him again after that. He wouldn't see her the second or third time she visited either and her mother refused to take her a fourth time, calling Kyle an ungrateful boy.

He didn't come back to school and a month later she heard he and his mother had picked up and moved to Louisiana to be closer to family.

But it wasn't the last time she thought of him; Zoe thought of Kyle every day. When she first woke up, before she fell asleep at night. She thought of him the next time a boy kissed her, anytime a boy kissed her. She thought of him when she let Charlie fuck her and she thought of him when Charlie died, as she sat at his funeral. The only two boys she had ever cared about: one burned and scarred, leaving, never to be seen again, breaking her heart, and the other dying between her thighs.

Mother said that kind of thing happened. Some witches had bad luck and with her healing powers came repercussions. She could heal with her body and she could harm. Charlie had been an accident; too much emotion pouring out of her, fear, anxiety, longing, and she had managed to drain the life from him. A heart attack the doctors said, probably a congenital condition that no one had ever spotted, not her fault.

They were wrong though. It had been her fault, she had known it the moments his eyes went wide, he gasped, body shuddering and convulsing below her. Zoe had stolen Charlie's life. Felt it to her core. Felt it in the lightening of her heart, the lifting of her ever gloomy spirits.

She was broken, damaged, an aching soul, a withered heart. Her body had been calling out for a cure for so many years, begging for something, anything, to aid in it's repair. She could slash her throat and watch it heal within seconds in the bathroom mirror but there was nothing her power could do to mend the damage wrought on her soul. But in that instant, the first time she had been truly and fully connected to another, it had tried. Reaching, lashing out, extending tendrils from deep within her, into Charlie's body, draining the life out of him, bleeding his heart, absorbing whatever it was inside of him that made him whole. She had killed him, just as much as if she had stuck a blade into his chest. It had been a wholly selfish act however unintentional it had been.

And Zoe had felt good, lighter, happier, in those moments, even with a dead boy resting between her thighs, than she had felt since she was a child. Then the guilt had settled, like a stone, into her stomach, making her clamber off his lifeless form, rushing to the bathroom, spewing forth yellow froth, acid, from her roiling guts. She hadn't fucking wanted Charlie to die. He had always been a nice guy, one of the good ones. The fact that he had ever even entertained the notion of caring for her, possibly loving her, had been almost unbelievable. Zoe was an utter fuck up, a mess, shattered and torn to ribbons. But Charlie had seen the slashes on her arms, the scars on her stomach, pressed his fingers against them and stared into her with such feeling that she wanted to love him.

She hadn't. Couldn't. Her heart was too wasted, too black, and there was only room in it for one boy. Her obsession. She carried him with her always, a secret, held close. And while at first that had made her guilt grow, claw inside her, eventually it freed her. Charlie had to die in order for her to live, to carry on. She had needed what was inside of him. It revived her, renewed her ambitions to escape, change her life, who she was, how people saw her. To find Kyle and be someone new, someone whole, with him. Zoe knew she was being callous. To so easily dismiss a boy who had cared for her, for another who had run away and never looked back, who had perhaps never even wanted her. And she had always despised her kind for their pitiless cruelty but in the end, she understood it, because when you could have what you wanted, just take it, it was hard to think of others.

But the day her parents packed her off to Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, the premier boarding school for young witches, in New Orleans, the day after her boyfriend's funeral, she couldn't help but think that perhaps her gift was a curse in disguise. That witchcraft really was the work of the devil. The darkness was inside of her and it had no intention of going anywhere, not with a so brutally shattered but talented host to inhabit.

Present day

The other girls didn't understand, saw her scars and stared, eyed her with suspicion. It was hilarious. A bunch of witches treating her with hostility and suspicion. But every group needed a scapegoat.

Zoe had been cutting herself for years, since that night at the movies, since her parents explained that her body was magically impervious to harm. That she had lived, walked away, while others had died, been disfigured, because she was special, she was better than other people. Zoe didn't feel better than anyone. Instead a hatred for herself, her ability, fate and the cruelty of life, welled up inside of her and the only way to set it free was to hack at her flesh, mutilate herself, show the world that she should be damaged too.

In the beginning the wounds sealed closed, knitted up, and vanished within minutes. But with time and practice and patience, Zoe had come to master the skill of self-harm, gained control over her healing abilities, letting the cuts linger for days, weeks, festering and hot, scarring her arms and legs, the back and sides of her neck, her breasts and stomach. Once she slashed her thigh so deeply, so violently, that she nearly bled out. She thought about it, dying in a pool of blood like the ones she had crawled through that night but was too afraid to see what, if anything, was on the other side, so she let the gash close.

That was her first near suicide. Three more had followed over the years. But she had begun to wonder if she could even die. Would her body take over even after her conscious mind had fled? How strong was her gift of preservation?

She went into therapy for awhile, as she walked the tricky road of transition between preteen and teen. An entire year of explaining to some dick, sitting in a leather arm chair, smug and assured in his intellect, degrees on the wall behind him, that she was filled with poison, that she needed to free it. She wanted to be clean. Everyone deserved that. And the only way for Zoe to cleanse herself was to bleed, let the rot and pain flow from her veins, stain the porcelain of her sink, the beige of her carpet, the sky blue of her quilt.

He didn't help her, couldn't, not really. And she was kept from ever being truly honest with him. Zoe had to keep the family secret. So, she figured, if she was allowed to hold that back, what was stopping her from baring the therapist her other, more precious, private thoughts. She never mentioned Kyle, that night. He, Ben, Dr. Harmon, tried to tease the story from her. Zoe's parents, in their family session, had revealed that small fact. That their daughter had never been quite right, not since the theater explosion, since her trip to the hospital. And the doctor, in his infinite wisdom, wanted her to understand that that was alright, that he understood. He didn't understand shit.

Eventually she quit going, against her therapist's orders, her parent's orders. There were threats and bribes but nothing worked. Zoe didn't want anything. She couldn't be enticed with money or clothes. Not allowing her out to spend time with friends simply made her raise a brow. Zoe did not have friends. Not anymore.

It was only a matter of time before The Benson's gave up on her, broke down, let her slip away into the metaphorical night. They allowed her to paint her room the blackest purple available, pleased that she had shown an interest in anything outside of dragging an Exact-o knife across her flesh. And from there Zoe entered a short-lived period of exploration into interior design. Her bedding went from bright sky to onyx, dark curtains shuttered over windows drowning the light, posters torn down, toys tossed in the trash.

Zoe never asked to replace the carpeting of her bedroom; it lay festooned in red, black, and copper, splattered with her blood. Her favorite stain was the size of a dessert plate, situated beside her bed, where her life had pooled, gushing from her femoral artery. That was the incident, the final straw as it were, which landed her in Dr. Harmon's office, crammed onto a black leather sofa between her mother and her father, their faces dour masks of disapproval.

Next it was an interest in clothes, making her mother smile until she saw what her daughter had purchased with her freshly minted credit card. Black stockings, black bras, black lace. Everything was black; some of it oversized and ridiculous, purchased at thrift stores and smelling like mothballs, the rest was like something out of a lingerie catalogue. Zoe's father no longer knew where to look. But her parents shared equally nervous glances.

It was around that time that she met Charlie, a grungy low-level drug dealer, a grade ahead of her at school, a place she rarely bothered to frequent. He had been behind the bleachers, sneaking a cigarette, as she sat in the dirt, legs crossed, Marshall headphones drowning out the sound of the world around her, pumping music into her veins, as she rolled a joint. He had bummed a hit, stared at the pale skin above her knit knee socks, and thrown a simple but disarming grin her way.

Her second attempt at suicide had been in the few days between Charlie's death and his funeral. With her parents out of the house Zoe had cleaned out the medicine cabinets, downed nearly four dozen pills: blue, white, green, pink, and slashed her arms from wrist to elbow, slipping into the bathtub, feeling the water bob against her throat as her eyes closed. She awoke within minutes, surrounded by red, in the tub, on the floor, though the cuts had already knit closed, vanished. There was a pool of rainbow colored vomit, thick with undigested lumps, coating the tiles. Her mouth tasted of chalk and sick, sour and awful.

And she was alive. Whether she had actually died Zoe did not know. She was certain that she had passed out but from there is was all black, dark, until she was gasping and groaning, breathing.

The mess was cleaned, the bathroom put to rights, before either of her parents got home. She doubted that they ever knew what she had done, or at least attempted to do, probably thought she sold the pills or something equally stupid. And two days later she was gone, shipped away, swept under the rug, a secret, a sin, to be hidden from sight.

Zoe wanted to care, to feel, but she didn't. There was nothing. What difference did it make to her? Being home with her parents, the watchful, baleful stares of their neighbors, her classmates. Or being somewhere, anywhere, else. Miss Robichaux's was as good a place as any other.

She had only seen them, her mother and father, twice since that fateful day, when she was marched bodily from her bedroom, flanked by the albino guards, Myrtle Snow pulling up the rear, her bags loaded onto a train and sent south. Both times had been when they visited New Orleans. Zoe refused to return home, even for the holidays, listening to her mother weep into the phone, her heart a hollowed out shell.

Over time she decided that she liked being there, alone. She preferred the freedom, the anonymity, of school. Zoe even liked some of the other girls who dwelled within the mansion's walls. There were psychics and mind-readers, girls who stared at Spirit Boards and Tarot cards, talked in tongues, talked in nonsense. Others could fashion potions to ensnare the mind and body, grant longevity, stop pregnancies and end hangovers, all while grinning, discussing tattoos and bands and hot pink hair dye. There were pyros, girls who could control the elements of nature itself, command winds and storms. Some could raise the dead, some could simply talk to or see them, bending the veil between worlds.

Misty Day had the power of resurgence, bringing dead tissue back to life. She came in handy at a place like Miss Robichaux's, at least half a dozen girls enrolled were on suicide watch at any one time.

Their race wasn't dying out because of fear to reproduce, to procreate, it was dwindling from the pain and torment that bent and twisted the girls who carried the lineage. Powers, abilities, like theirs came with a heavy price, a burden, which too many could not live with.

There were two kinds of girls at Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies: those who had known about witchcraft their entire lives, whose parents and grandparents had been witches and warlocks, and those who discovered magic only when their powers presented themselves. Usually after they did something reckless or stupid or dangerous. Accidentally, or purposefully, killed someone. That was when they would be approached, collected, sheltered under the academy's roof, taught the rites and rituals of magic.

Nan likened it to Pure bloods and Muggle-borns but Zoe never managed to give two shits. They were all equal parts fucked up, unhinged. Some girls escaped that fate, a very few, who were balanced and sweet, loved their families, had never so much as killed a fly. But Zoe didn't hang with those girls, they bored her. Their goodness only reflected her darkness and she had no use for them.

Sometimes it felt like living in an asylum. Other times it was Hogwarts, minus the boys, who were trained elsewhere, somewhere up north. Or that school in X-Men for freaks and abominations. But to Zoe Benson it was home and she loved it. As much as she could love, care for, anything.

Her roommate at Miss Robichaux's, Madison Montgomery, had her own issues. Drug and alcohol abuse, a sex addiction, an attraction to much older, married men. And a penchant for killing anyone, any wife, who got in her way. Madison's telekinetic ability gave her the power to murder fairly at will and a way to never be blamed for it. And it had been murder, her forth or fifth, Zoe was never entirely positive, that got her sent to the academy.

Ms. Foxx, the school mistress, was trying to work with the girl, but like with most of the other hopeless cases among her pupils, she was failing miserably. It was probably the reason the two, Zoe and Madison, had been paired up in the first place. Hoping they would find a lifeline in one another, pull each other to the surface. In reality they were the millstone dragging the other down into the depths by the neck.

Madison would watch Zoe with the razor, slinking off into the bathroom, and roll her eyes. But she didn't give a shit. They had a pact: watch the others back and stay the fuck out of the way. It had worked pretty well over the years that they had shared a room.

Madison was self destructive, explosive, the shrapnel from her fall outs hitting far and wide. She lied, schemed, cheated. Her number one priority was herself but Zoe could never fault her for feeling that way. She had to protect herself, they were witches, the necessity to guard oneself against outside forces, the world, those who would hunt or harm them, was paramount. And Madison had taken those lessons to heart. But the girl was fun; she liked to fuck, get high, drink herself into oblivion. She was the best friend that Zoe had ever had. If friends was what they were. If people like them could feel deeply enough, purely enough, to have that kind of connection to another human being. Either way, she was more than just a sack of meat to Zoe. She was a person, someone who meant something to her, who she could talk to, who she would defend. And as for Madison's so-called negative traits, the fact that she had committed murder without feeling a drop of remorse, those were the things that her friend liked most about her.

And Madison, in return, loved Zoe with all of her wretched, shriveled heart. She admired Zoe; how she never tried to hide her scars. She put them on display, right in people's faces, made them look, see her pain writ clear across her body. She made people uncomfortable. She enjoyed it, watching them squirm. They never made her roommate squirm though. They made her wet, made her lick her lips and flutter her lashes.

As Zoe dressed Madison would often gaze at her body. She had even chosen her favorite scars: on the back of Zoe's thighs, thick and brutal, the width of a baby's finger, gagged and long, interspersed with a smattering of light swift slash marks. The rest were beautiful too. The front of her legs, her forearms, were like a work of art, a still life done in cross-hatch. The rows of scars along her sides, inching up her ribcage, to her small breasts, to her neck, Madison dreamed of running her tongue along the raised ladder rungs. There was a small heart on the inside of her thigh, cut deep and rubbed with alcohol until it remained for all time, beside a burn the size of a quarter, shaped like an old cigarette lighter from a car.

Madison liked taking her friend out, showing her off like perverse eye-candy, getting drunk and draping her arms around Zoe, whispering in her ear as men, boys, women too, looked on. Some were disgusted, sneered, others shifted, uncomfortable in the most pleasurable of ways. She took her shopping, insisted on buying garter belts and stockings, black lace bras, watching her roommate twirl in the low lights of the dressing room. They would giggle at the register, matching sets, two of everything. Just like regular girls. Who could kill you in a heartbeat. Who could burn the whole fucking place down and just walk away without a glance over their shoulder.

Once, Madison had dragged Zoe to a party at some country club with a pool. Surveying the varying stares as Zoe dropped her black sheer tunic, let it flutter to the floor, stepping toward the water, barefoot and resplendent, skin a walking bruise, a canvas of scar tissue. Her friend had watched, skimpy white bikini, enjoying the show, until her target came into view: the teenaged son of one of her former conquests. The older man's horrified gaze as the boy slipped, cracking his skull on the edge of the pool, rolling into the water, had almost made up for the scathing fashion in which he had banished her from his life. Zoe had played the part of shocked bystander to perfection. Madison mused that maybe she wasn't the only witch with a talent for acting.

Nothing however beat Tea With the Trolls, as they liked calling it. Women and men, magical folk, pouring into Miss Robichaux's once or twice a year, gossiping and showing off, drinking tea by the gallon and shoveling miniature cakes down their gullets. Those were the moments when Zoe would really shine. She was one of the most talented girls at the academy, some even whispered that she could be a future Supreme, but she lacked even the most basic of polite social skills. At least in those situations, when she chose to be graceless. See-through blouses, skirts cut up to her cooch, thigh-highs, and combat boots. At the last one she had purposely bloodied her lip before waltzing down the stairs and spent half of the afternoon with blood on her teeth as she repeatedly worked the wound open.

"So much for flashing that impressive healing ability," Madison had whispered around the rim of her china cup. Nan, Nicola Radcliffe, Sarah Prim, had all smirked. Zoe worked her magic and forced yet more blood to burble up, letting it run over her lower lip and into her tea like a red font.

The witches, grown and in full command of their powers, glared. They were there to observe the progress of the newest crop of their linage, their future, and Zoe Benson was the perfect representation of everything that gone wrong in the community, the Coven, since Cordelia Foxx, daughter of the current Supreme, took over the school.

Madison always seemed to have her finger on the pulse of things. She always knew where the best parties were, who was in town that was worth seeing, and where they could get served. And she didn't just fucking know. She got Twitter alerts. Phone buzzing and chirping, lighting up where ever she had carelessly thrown it before skipping off to take a shower. Zoe just shook her head as it beeped, demanding to be noticed, and continued to paint her nails a green so dark it appeared black against her milk-white skin.

"Party tonight," her roommate smiled minutes later, fluffy towel wrapped around her sun-kissed body. Zoe merely quirked an eyebrow as if to say, so? "It's a Tulane thing," Madison added.

"I thought you didn't party with children," she smirked.

Madison glared. "Fuck you." Usually the former child star could be found mixing in either the seedier dive bars in town or the high class clubs that catered to her ilk, her gentlemen of choice. Not with a bunch of colleges kids. She rolled her eyes, pouted, "I'm bored. And I'm out of coke. So do you want to go or what?"

Zoe was restless, her skin feeling too tight, pulled taught around her muscles, her bones, itching to break free. A fraternity party was the perfect opportunity to blow off some steam. She almost laughed, a gleeful mood striking her, as she recapped the bottle of polish. "Yeah, I wanna go," she grinned, climbing off the bed, tugging her shirt over her head.

Madison watched with hungry eyes, lower lip caught between her too perfect, too white, teeth. "Okay, Sally Scar-tissue," she replied finally, slinking toward their closet, "you want to borrow a dress?" Adding with a hint of deviousness, "Because I have just the thing to show off all your pretty artwork."

Madison's clothes were scandalous at the best of times; for classes, the dinners Foxx insisted they attend with their fellow witches. Her party dresses were in a category all of their own.

So, Zoe had squeezed into Madison's dress: black, glittering, one-shouldered. It rode obscenely high on her thighs, exposing the straps of her black garter belt. The red slashes on the upper portion of her legs stood out boldly against her pale flesh, the stark darkness of her stockings. Her black peep-toed heels were studded on the back with silver spikes. Another acquisition from the girls' shared closet.

Madison herself had donned a gold and silver second skin, writhing as she dressed like a snake shedding it's outer layer. It showed off a slim waist and ample cleavage. She looked like a wet dream with her hair a tousled mass of blond. Between her two companions she was a ray of sunlight in the night.

The third girl was a contrast of white skin and black hair, vibrant ruby lips. Her feathered black collar hung over small shoulders, black dress cut down to her navel, sweeping low enough on her back to show the dimples on either side of her spine. Her black stilettoes added more than four inches to her usual height and made her move with a kind of stilted elegance.

At the last moment they had allowed Nicola to tag along with them. Madison despised the other girl. She was hot and she was a bitch and Madison hated competition in those departments. But it didn't stop her from occasionally putting her tongue down Nicola's throat, or into her pussy, as Zoe attempted to drown out the sounds they made at night with her headphones. Nicola still knew how much it fucking annoyed her though; the bitch was a telepath.

It was her ability in particular, which had lead to the girls inviting her to join them. Not only was she able to read the thoughts inside any individuals head, she had an uncanny ability to influence them, guide them, make them do or believe what she desired. Both things came in terribly handy when sneaking away from Miss Robichaux's under the cover of darkness, running the risk of bumping into their mistress, or worse, Spalding, the butler, around any corner.

And, truth be told, Nicola wasn't a bad person. Zoe actually liked spending time with her. When she wasn't fucking Madison at least. She hadn't always been into girls, she had confided in Zoe one evening. When she was still living at home, just your average Goth girl, attending high school in Pennsylvania, she had had, what she thought was, a very serious boyfriend. They had been together for nearly a year when she finally offered up her virginity on a slightly tipsy platter, at a party. It wasn't special or romantic, but it had felt like it was a long time coming.

Her gifts were in their earliest stages, people's inner thoughts like confusing whispers in her ear. She thought she was going insane, had been put on a number of anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants to quell the voices. Words like bi-polar and schizophrenia were tossed at her parents. But eventually the drugs couldn't contain her power, the whispers growing into screams and she learned the ugly truth, what had been written on the faces of so many who knew her, what bounced around in their skulls. Her boyfriend had been fucking her best friend, half of her friends, half of the girls at school, behind her back. She realized he was only using her because she was lucky enough to have her own car and was willing to drive his sorry ass all over town. Because, she believed, they were in love.

A couple of days later, after her discovery, her heartbreak, the boyfriend stepped right out into the middle of a busy street, directly in front of an eighteen wheeler. He didn't die instantly. He lay sprawled on the pavement, pool of blood collecting behind his destroyed skull, gathering in the corners of his mouth, as Nicola watched, stone faced, from the sidewalk. It was a tragedy, the local newspaper wrote. A few weeks later Foxx appeared on the Radcliffe's doorstep, the good book of Salem, the ancestry of witchcraft, tucked under her arm, a tab of parchment marking the page of Nicola's ancestor, Prudence. Happy to have an explanation for their daughter's bizarre behavior, way of dress, the Radcliffe's were very willing to ship her back to New Orleans with the pleasant woman sipping lemonade in their kitchen.

Nicola cried everyday after arriving at school. For the boyfriend, for her parents, for her life, lost. Madison had immediately found her tiresome. But there was something refreshing in it, her pain, her regret, in Zoe's opinion. Not every girl sent, collected, attending Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, was a villain. While, to some, it was a punishment, a form of imprisonment, to others it was a safeguard, a protection against themselves, from their powers. Some girls simply dwelled within the mansion to learn. But it was the first two groups that drew Zoe in. Those were the girls she considered allies. They understood her and she them. None more so than Madison.

Zoe had even tried it off with her roommate a couple of times, her bright hungry gaze drawing her in, but she just couldn't get into it. Girls weren't her thing. And Madison would fuck just about anything with a pulse. It didn't make you feel very special. So that had been the end of the experiment. The other girl had moved on to the next in line and Zoe had gone in search of cock.

2 years earlier

She had gotten wasted at Madison's urging, drowning themselves in Hurricanes on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. They never paid for a drink.

"I told you, you'd have a great time!" her friend hollered over the busy crowd, the live band playing at the back of the bar. Zoe just flashed that mean little smirk, her eyes hazy with a potent mixture of drink and benzos.

Two boys watched them from across the bar, talking back and forth, gesturing, leering. The first leaned forward, placed an order with the barkeep, the second sent a smile their direction.

Madison, noticing their interest, and never one to miss an opportunity, grabbed at the front of her roommate's gauzy black chiffon blouse, popping three buttons and tugging the other girl's tits into view before she could so much as squawk in protest. "You may not have a lot here, Kitty Cat, but work what you've got."

When the proffered plastic cups of booze landed in front of them, a hand gesturing down the cracked wooden bar top, Madison grinned, waved them over.

The guy who chose Zoe, singling her out from the pack like a wounded animal, put his palm, warm and heavy, on her lower back, nodded his agreement when she suggested finding somewhere more quiet. He was some college kid from out west, just in town for the week, and he had done the job, hadn't even had a heart attack. Zoe, on the other hand, nearly passed out on the street, barely out of the alley he had left her in, panties torn, hickies on her neck, the tops of her breasts, mascara and liquid liner streaming down her face, vomiting up rushes of hot liquid on the sidewalk. She couldn't look at a bottle of hard liquor for nearly a month without tasting bile.

After that, she had done alright. Fucked a few guys, always drunk to the point of near collapse, and began to believe that Charlie was just a fluke, a first time thing.

1 year prior

It was an experiment really, walking off with that guy after only a gin and soda, a line of coke, but Madison was busy and the two other girl's from Robichaux's were no where to be found. Zoe was bored, lonely. She had been feeling down, depressed, in the weeks prior; no reason why specifically, nothing particular that started it, her downward spiral. And the fraternity brother she had been talking to was nice enough, handsome enough, tall and muscular, a wild mane of dark brown on his head, stubble on his chin. But she was unsettled, jittery, mind a swirling mass of disjointed bloody images. The movie theater, the death and the carnage. Sometimes it was like she was still in it, like her life from that point had been a dream, a trauma induced nightmare, and she was going to wake up still in her gore smattered clothes, head wound throbbing.

Zoe just wanted to escape, even for a moment, and set her mind free.

He fucking died. An aneurism; blood oozing from tear ducts, his nose, his ears. Zoe had finished even after his body went limp. His dick was still hard. All that blood and she thought of Kyle, wherever, whoever he was, when she came. And she walked away, another anonymous face at a sorority house. She could have been anyone.

They found the body in the morning, crashed out on a lawn chair. It was on the news. No one remembered anything out of the ordinary and Zoe never mentioned it to another soul. Though she had an idea that both Nicola and Nan knew; their gifts were to know your darkest secrets and Zoe had too many under lock and key to worry about hiding such an insignificant blip.

She hated herself for not caring about him, for never even learning his name. She had simply turned off the television as the news story regarding his death played, making a sarcastic comment, dismissing it with a wave of her hand.

It was months before she fucked anyone else. She let Madison go down on her a couple of times, and it was good, but it didn't satiate that need inside of her. That dark, clawing thing that begged for cock, twisted her up and made her wet, soaking. She related whatever it was with her need for pain, for hurt. The thing that begged guys to spank her, hit her, choke her, make her see stars, send her into fits of pain and pleasure. It lived inside of her, her own demon. Zoe wondered if it had been forced into her during the blast, the explosion at the movie theater, thrust inside her twelve year old body where it had taken up residence, living, thriving on her pain ever since.

Kyle fucking hated parties. Girls eyeing him from across the room, smiling, whispering to their friends. It always ended the same way: they would flock over like a group of twittering birds, say or slur a hello, and within moments be gawking, staring openly at his scars, before drifting away, still whispering about him but in a much less desirable way. Sure, his fraternity brothers, his friends, never mentioned them, hardly noticed them anymore but he knew they were there. Saw them reflected in other people's eyes, in their expressions.

The doctors had done what they could for him at the hospital in Virginia and then later in New Orleans after their move south. Surgeries and skin grafts, creams and ointments, but his hair never grew back on that part of his scalp, his ear was still a twisted useless mass of scar tissue. His face looked decent, heavily mottled with raised flesh but only about a third of it, and the color was mostly right, a touch dark, purple in places. You couldn't necessarily see it at first glance, especially not in dim light. His chest, shoulder, and arm were more heavily scarred but those places he could cover. That was why, even with the warm muggy air that night, he was wearing a long sleeved thermal under his polo, his collar popped, to hide the most skin from view.

He didn't want to be ungrateful for all that had been done for him, he really didn't, but sometimes resentment burned inside of him. The doctors had granted him a second chance but what they had given him was only a half life, something between functional, normal and freak, sideshow act. And eventually, with time, his dual physicality had rent him in two mentally as well, no longer able to hold his demons in check. Kyle felt lost in the world. Was he just one of the guys or a perversion of humanity, a monster? He never could quite tell.

He sighed, taking another sip of his beer, knowing that he should have just stayed in. Gotten drunk in his room, beat off, gone to bed. The night was a bust and he felt like complete shit. But that was when he saw her. Fuck, she was beautiful.

"Zoe," Nicola began as they stood just beyond the front door of the house, blood red nails dragging along her bare forearm, dancing down and along the cross-hatching of scars there. "There's a boy watching you."

Madison glowered, rolled her eyes, "Cut the fortune teller act, bitch."

"Where?" Zoe asked, eyes flickering to the side. It had been awhile. She was feeling needy.

But Nicola was frowning, glancing around warily. Shaking her wild mane she said, "Don't look for him. The things I see, what he sees, what he wants to do to you..."

"He hot?" Madison winked. Zoe smirked.

"He doesn't see himself. Only you." Her gaze snapped up, locking Zoe in place with its intensity, "Violating you. Inside you. His hands on your throat. He wants," but she shook her head again. "Get out, no, stop, I don't want to see!"

Madison cackled, arm draping around Nicola's shoulders, feathers ruffling, reaching to brush her tit. It was Zoe's turn to roll her eyes. "You're only making her want him more, you know. You're, like, hitting all her kink buttons. Zoe loves the rapey vibe," she purred, leering. "Murderers turn her on and shit. Thinks they'll give her what she really wants."

"What's that?" Their third asked.

"Sweet, sweet release," Madison replied, cocking a perfectly waxed brow, "in more ways than one." Nicola's eyes went round as she stared at Zoe who shook her head, amused. For a mind-reader, that girl could be so fucking dense. Or maybe she was just more polite than Nan; actively avoided reading your thoughts when she didn't have to, left you alone when she could. Maybe Nicola Radcliffe knew far less about her than Zoe had ever considered and she was almost grateful.

Tossing her long hair behind her shoulder, exposing a series of slashes, ladder rungs running up the side of her neck to her ear, Zoe laughed, suggesting, "Let's get some fucking drinks before I find my dream guy, huh? I am way too sober to let anyone fuck me right now."

"If they want to live," Madison stage whispered, Nicola swallowing. Zoe glared. Clearly she had given the telepath too much fucking credit. "Oh, I'm kidding, Black Widow."

Madison had a million nicknames for her roommate. Zoe only had two for Madison: Bitch and Cunt. Both were fitting.

"Fuck you."

"One more," Madison pleaded, eyes wide, knees bent as she bounced lightly. Then with out waiting for permission, approval, whatever it was that Zoe had no intention of granting, "My girl gives new meaning to the phrase hate fuck!"

"Really?" she snarked, as a few boring, everyday, college girls in cotton dresses walked by eyeing them speculatively. The three witches in the hallway stood out from the rest of the pack; people automatically treated them with distrust. That was just the way it was for magic folk. Zoe was glad they stayed away. She didn't like them either. Those skanks would probably burn them at the stake if given half a chance. That kind of shit didn't change, it just went out of fashion.

She saw his scars first, his messy bleached blond curls second, and both made her want to see more. He was slipping around a corner, disappearing into the heaving mass of bodies in the main room. Zoe grabbed her cup and the fresh beer out of Nicola's hand. The girl huffed, tried to argue, but Madison laughed, latching onto her lips, as Zoe walked away from her friends.

She wobbled on her heels, drunk and unused to balancing in anything more than a pair of Docs. His hair was like a beacon; flashing pink, purple, blue, green in the light of the strobes. The music thrummed loudly, dancing through her veins, mingling with the vodka, the lines had blown.

He was alone, skirting the edge of the dance floor, turning down a dark corridor just beyond. Zoe bit her lip, smiled, wondered if he meant it as the invitation she took it as.

Everything about the moment was familiar. Like a dream you had once and almost forgot but it was happening when you were awake. The rush of fear, the crowd, the warm exhilaration deep in the pit of her stomach. Her hand in his, that was the only part that was missing.

Nicola had told her, after being plied with a few drinks, he was a killer. He'd done it before, wanted to do it again, and Zoe had felt her panties grow damp, her thighs slick. That kind of shit really did turn her on. Madison wasn't fucking around. But to find someone, an actual fucking murderer, surprised her. Plenty of guys liked to rough a girl up, toss her around, call her slut or whore or bitch, but it was part of the game for them. Zoe wanted it for real; the danger, the adrenaline, the inevitability.

"Looks like you've found your soul mate, cunt." Madison cocked her head to the side, examining her friend, "Why are you still hanging around with us?" Maybe she had been joking. Probably she hadn't been. Four years had been enough time for the two girls to get to know one another, really understand how the other worked.

9 years earlier

Madison's step-daddy raped her when she was a kid. Held her down on her pink comforter, under her canopy, face mashed into her lace covered pillow, as he took her roughly from behind, whispering in her ear about what a little fucking slut she was, how he knew she wanted it, even as she cried for him to stop. The room had formerly been her sanctuary, an escape from her neglectful drug addicted mother, the place where she could forget about work and money and how much she hated her life. The unicorn stuffed animal from her father, the posters hung on the walls, boys she dreamed of gazing down at her, the yellow smiley face balloon from the wrap party she had attended that afternoon for her most recent project, watched helplessly. Her mother just ignored it, what was happening to her daughter, right under her nose, in her house, and spent the asshole's money; blew her problems and his fortune up her nose.

Her daughter slaughtered them both, Carrie-style. It was her first kill. She was eleven.

In the interim years, before ending up at Miss Robichaux's, Madison had lived with her aunt, her mother's sister, who wasn't much better. Just another bitch taking a cut and spending the child star's cash.

Madison never really learned to appreciate, to love, other people. She could barely stomach to trust them. Killing became just another part of life. If the girl didn't get what she wanted, felt belittled of demeaned, unwanted, cast aside, she removed the problem from the equation and moved on. No one batted an eyelash until that director. The one she was fucking, twice her age, married with three kids. He would tear her apart on set, rip her to shreds, call her talentless, worthless, all in a bid to look innocent. In the end, she dropped a fifty pound light on his head, busting his skull open for all to see. That brought Madison Montgomery to the attention of Cordelia Foxx at Miss Robichaux's.

Zoe had been sixteen the first time. Nicola seventeen. They were all fucking murderers. Why didn't he deserve the chance that they had been given? Some people were just built to kill. It was in their breath, their blood, their bones. Some people became killers due to circumstance. Zoe, Madison, their experiences had twisted them, their abilities just made it, killing, hurting, easier. Witchcraft allowed them to feel divine, above earthly matters, above consequences and punishments and guilt. Witches took, they did not give. And that was just the way it was.

"What are you doing down here?" the voice of a boy asked her from the darkest deepest point of hall.

"I thought you looked thirsty," Zoe replied.

"Yeah?" he chuckled menacingly, "that your superpower?"

"One of them," she smirked, leaning back into the wall, staying a few feet from him. That blond hair was just visible, as was the outline of his face, all pale hard features, chiseled from marble.

He didn't move and she didn't know what game he was playing, but she liked it. Biting her lip, Zoe smiled again, and held out the red cup of beer in his direction.

She had followed him, just trailed him down the blackest corridor in the fucking place and offered him a drink. Like life was simple like that. Like he hadn't spent the past hour imaging her blue lips and cold skin, his hands clamped around her neck, his cock pounding into her, as her limp thighs fell to the side.

But she was so fucking gorgeous. That dress, her tight little body, silken hair going on for miles, just like her legs. Fuck, and the stockings, the straps. A girl like her was put on earth to torture a guy like him. Because girls like her didn't just give it to guys like him. Maybe she'd smile but then she would see them and her eyes would give her away. Pity or disgust, he didn't fucking want either. He wanted to get his dick wet. He wanted something aside from his spit-slicked palm and something brutal playing on his laptop.

But even more, Kyle wanted to be a normal fucking guy. One who had stayed home that night rather than chasing after the specter of Zoe Benson, a girl he had convinced himself was the most breathtaking creature on the planet. He wanted to hear about the movie theater explosion on television the next morning, stunned into silence like the rest of the town. He wanted to ask Zoe how she was the next time he saw her, show her compassion, let her cry on his shoulder, kiss away her tears, and take her to the mall the following weekend to eat pizza and play arcade games.

7 years earlier

Kyle watched Leah storm out of the theater, hands covering her face, as Zoe stared, wide eyed, concerned but unmoving. Getting her alone up until that point had been near impossible but it felt like his moment had finally come. With a deep breath, a pull on his cherry Slush Puppy, he turned to smile at her. And she smiled back. He was lost.

His mother, the doctors, therapists, had always acted like he couldn't feel, express, love. That he didn't understand it. They were wrong. With all of their tests and bullshit. Frowning and sharing concerned looks. The last test they had given him involved word association; which two words go together, giving him a list of three: warm, loving, cold. Kyle's immediate thought had been warm and cold, both temperatures but glancing up at the open, apprehensive faces of both his mother and the doctor he knew instinctively that that was not the answer they wanted to hear. Kyle, molding his face into a thoughtful, innocent, mask said, "Warm and loving," the doctor breathed a sigh of relief, his mother following suit. Kyle smiled.

He could love, he knew he could. Because Kyle loved Zoe Benson with all of his heart. She was his. His very own. Thinking of possessing her, having her, body and soul, was enough to make him react violently, embarrassingly.

Kyle, occasionally, walked by her house, at night, after his mother had passed out, his father long since gone, leaving them one afternoon without a word. Zoe had the front bedroom, windows opening onto the street. Her curtains would billow in the breeze as she pranced around her room, dancing to music, singing into her hair brush, twirling. In her underpants and little else. It was indecent really, the way she paraded her body, put it on display. He was only there to protect her virtue, keep other, less worthy, eyes from prying where they did not belong.

Sometimes, frequently, he thought of her. When he touched himself. Rubbing and stroking until he came, gasping and flushed. And fuck, she made the world feel right, perfect. Like there was nothing wrong with him, like the school hadn't recommended special counseling, like killing the neighbor's nasty fucking poodle had been an accident. Images of her on his bed, sheets rumpled, her mouth slack. Zoe, trussed up, a hint of a smirk on her mouth as he gagged her. Or on her knees. Her loved her on her knees. Bending over, begging him to take her, because only he was good enough. Fuck, she was amazing. The way she smiled at him in class, talked to him at her locker, like he was the only boy in the world, the only person she could see. He felt like a star, important, singular in her attentions, affections.

She really was the only girl for him. Until everything went wrong. Blew up in his face, literally.

Kyle wanted a normal fucking face. Not one people shied away from or gawked at, slowly turning him from a supposedly outgoing kid into a studious introvert. He wanted to go to homecoming, prom, leave for college and reinvent himself. It was hard to become someone else when a third of your face was still scarred and people just couldn't help but wonder what the hell happened to you. Then thanked god or whatever that it hadn't happened to them.

He wanted girls to flirt with him. To see him, not just his good side, as his mother called it. He wanted to be wanted. But most of all Kyle was desperate to have normal urges. He didn't want to think about blood and bullet holes, bile and shit and piss, filth. He wanted to lay a girl down on his bed and worship her with his mouth, slowly peel away her clothes, make her blush and giggle as he slid into her, told her she was precious or beautiful or some shit. He wanted that to do it for him, make him hard. It didn't. It make his dick limp, made him feel like heaving.

Give him a girl, bound and gagged, tears on her face, panties hanging off one foot, and he could drill a hole right through her. Hard as titanium. Give him a chance to work her over, observe his creation, and maybe he could fucking fall in love again. But in the taking he lost the chance of the giving. No hearts were gifted to him and his lady loves ended their time with him sinking into the black swamp near his uncle's lonely bayou cabin, fodder for the gators.

"Are you shy or something?" she asked him with a grin. He shrugged one shoulder, biting his lower lip. Zoe melted a tiny bit, knees weak. She took a step forward, toward him, "I like the shy thing."

He finally reached for the proffered cup, their fingers brushing, sending a shiver up Zoe's spine.

Taking a deep swallow of her own drink she continued to study him. The beauty of his mottled flesh, the physical representation of pain, of sorrow. She wanted to touch him, it, stroke the pads of her fingers along the raised lumpy skin, skim his ravaged ear, skip along his bare scalp. Her thighs squeezed together at the mere thought of it, the crotch of her panties soaked through.

He was keeping a distance from her and as she slowly stepped toward him. Each step she took caused him to back further into the corner, disappearing deeper into the shadows. "Don't you like girls?" she asked. And he froze. She smiled, sipped her drink, stalking her prey, playing the game by her own rules. "Don't you like me?"

Thick black lashes fluttered against her porcelain cheeks as she coquettishly breathed, "You've been thinking about me." His eyes darted side to side, back and forth, searching. Did he want to escape? Or knock her flat, drag her out by her hair and bury himself balls deep inside her sopping cunt?

"I know you have." Zoe was immediately in front of him then. Barely separated by six inches from the object of her lusting. "And I like it," she sighed, picturing the beautiful, grotesque imaginings of his mind, making Nicola's words come to life in her fantasy.

Kyle wanted to say nothing; remain mute and stoic, hard. If he gave into her words, her voice, started to believe, he would be bitterly disappointed. Again. But how did she know? She couldn't, he reminded himself. She was just flirting, acting coy. His heart however beat out a frantic rhythm against his ribs.

Taking a deep swallow of beer, a second, and a third, he glared at her. Fucking self-centered, gorgeous, perfect bitch. If she only knew. He was fucking dangerous. He was the devil himself. He was a hunter, twisted and gnarled, mind ravaged. And she just continued to walk into his trap. Kyle wished she would just fucking leave him alone.

Every step back he took, she took two forward, until he was up against the wall, locked in a corner. And suddenly he wondered if he was the only one of the two of them on the prowl, his breath escaping in a stuttering exhale as he stared into her shining hazel orbs, she licked her lips. He was entranced.

The fingers of her hand, the one devoid of a party cup, came to rest lightly on his chest. Kyle's wide eyes flicked down, taking in the picture of her slender digits, dark nails, on him and swallowed. Her touch danced along his ribs, came to the collar of his polo, tripped up to his chin, and finally rested on his bottom lip, tugging ever so slightly, exposing the moist pink inside.

That gaze of hers was on him again, a flash of small white teeth and a mean little smirk. For the first time in years he felt like prey instead of predator. And then in a sudden flurry of movement her mouth was on his, needy, insistent, hot and wet. His brain shut down as his back slammed against the wall, her body aligned, molded, to his front.

He all but dragged her through the exit at the end of the hall, lips sliding, tongues tangling, his hand up her dress, stroking that wet seam through her panties, fingers already slick with her want. He pulled back, considering her as she gripped his belt loops, bringing his pelvis, his straining cock, into contact with the warm place between her thighs, bucking against him with a lazy roll of her hips.

When he didn't move, because he couldn't, frozen in a haze of lust and incredulity, she smiled again. "You know, I didn't follow you out here because I thought you wanted to play patty-cake so," she licked her lips, put a hand behind his neck and drew him back in.

Kyle almost couldn't believe it. That she wanted him. Hot mouth and hot cunt begging for it. So he assumed she hadn't seen it, them, the scars, yet. And he wanted her to, wanted to feel her tense, shy away, so he could remind himself that she was not special, that she was just like every other bitch out there.

He rocked forward, thrusting, and she sighed as his mouth fell away from her own with a wet pop, her head knocking into the wall with a soft thud. Kyle held his cup with his teeth, reached into his pocket with his free hand, the one not pressed up against her dripping pussy, and fished out his cell phone, glancing down at it. The screen illuminated him in a blue-white glow. In combination with the dim lighting on the side of the house she finally caught a good look at his face. His beautiful face. The scars raised but smooth, covering a significant portion of his right side. Her head tilted, considering him from her position against the rough brick. And his eyes bore into her, mouth a firm line, the fingers against her snatch twitching.

"Wait," Zoe's throat closed, realization dawning on her. Why it had all been so very familiar. Why Nicola had tuned into him, that one particular boy in a crowded house, so easily, so quickly. How, why, they were connected. Why she had been so immediately drawn to him, so eager to have him. But she couldn't speak, shock writ clear across her face.

"No," he shook his head. "You see, we're past that now." She had confirmed his worst suspicion. She was just like every other soulless cunt in the world. She saw them. Next she'd ask what happened, frown, say how sorry she was, and suggest they return to the party. But things had gone too far, his need at a fever pitch. There was only one way to satiate it.

He brought out a little orange prescription bottle from his pocket, popped the top and dumped two pills out onto his hand. Zoe eyed him, head cocked, silken hair cascading down her left side. He grumbled, "Sorry," mouth around the rim of his almost empty cup, "it's time for my pills". She nodded, continuing to gaze at him in something akin to disbelief, awe. Had she never seen someone with fucking burn scars before? What the fuck was wrong with her? He hated her fucking stare, her gorgeous fucking eyes. She was so open and sweet like that, her mouth forming the shape of a little 'O'. So unlike the normal looks he was on the receiving end of but just as painful because it reminded him of what she saw, what was there. Why someone as exquisite as her, with her leaking cunt and tiny tits, the perfect girl, would never go for him.

And before she could say anything, just fucking ask the question she was terrified to ask, afraid the answer would be no, or that he would reject her again if it was yes, his mouth was on her neck, tongue dragging up toward her ear, tracing her jaw. He expected her to go rigid but instead her breathing faltered, a small needy sound slipping from her. His lips sought hers, aggressive, desperate and maybe just a little bit broken, as she sighed, melting into him. He was so good, coaxing her to open for him, fingers slipping down the wet insides of her thighs, trailing away from the place she was burning for his touch.

The capsules in her mouth came as a surprise as they glided smoothly from him to her. She struggled, trying to pull back, shake him off, ask what the fuck he thought he was doing. But when his lips left hers, his hand took their place. He smiled, a devil's grin, blond hair in his eyes, as he pinched her nose, stopping her ability to draw air.

"Swallow them and I'll let go," he told her, their foreheads brushing. She shook her head no. "Do it," he growled, other hand tearing her panties aside, brutally pinching her clit and making her gasp as his body crowded her into the wall, scraping her back. Her eyes were wide as she did what he asked.

Kyle removed his palm, allowed her to inhale a much needed breath, before his fingers left her pussy. One arm pinned her, forearm across her chest, holding her in place, as his sopping digits nudged past lips. She moaned at the taste of herself and he smirked. His fingers swept under her tongue, between her gums and her cheek, before pulling back out slathered in her saliva. "Good girl," he hummed, kissing her lightly.

"What did you give me?" She panted.

"Nothing serious, a couple muscle relaxants. It will make this all," he paused, thoughtful but excited, "easier. You're going to feel so good soon. Free, like a bird." And he kissed her again, stroking her sides. "I like birds," he whispered against her mouth.

"Why do you like them?" Why was she asking? She should have been thinking but she didn't want to think. She wanted Kyle. And every moment more she spent with him the more certain she was that the boy before her was, in fact, Kyle Spencer. His dark eyes were studying her and all she could see was that boy at the movies, the one who kissed her, who held her hand, who saved her, and she wondered if he saw her too.

He shrugged, "They can fly away when things get too crazy, I guess. And they're so fragile. Small, thin bones, delicate wings, so graceful," his mouth slide across hers as Zoe's body grew pliant in his arms, soft and yielding. He put a hand around her waist to keep her on her feet. "Like you," he added, stepping away from the fraternity house, propping her up as she fumbled, legs wobbling. "So small," his mouth on her ear, "so precious."

Kyle would probably claim that he did not have a type, that he went after easy targets, girls who were available, accessible. But that wouldn't have been entirely honest. He liked young girls, not yet eighteen usually, small, petite, with soft features and big eyes. Girls who looked to him for help, assistance, in their time of need. He found them on the streets, outside of shelters, weeping in alleyways behind bars. And they, in their naïveté, would allow him to lead them away, lead them not to the light as they hoped, but further into darkness. But they always went willingly. At least in the beginning.

The drugs were quick and he administered them in a variety of ways: drinks, food, directly from his mouth. That was his favorite but rarely used as it required direct contact, his face, scarred and horrible, right there against their own. The girls so rarely offered up kisses. They usually needed to be stolen, taken, lips and teeth and brutality.

When they were calm, docile, sweet, curled up to rest like tiny kittens, Kyle would get to work. Strip them down to their underwear, dress them up again. Pleated skirts and knees socks, sweater sets, floral dresses, and Peter Pan collared blouses. The clothes of a girl, unaware of herself, young and unsure, not yet ready to burst from the page of her own story, create herself. That came later, he was sure. She would have grown, become a woman, changed her style of dress, perhaps over and over, until she found the one that suited best. But all Kyle could do was remember. So he worked with what he had.

Social media, Facebook and that shit, had granted him the opportunity to find her. He had searched, tirelessly, fingers scrolling through page after page, name after name. But she was no where. Not a glimpse. Aside from one interesting piece of information, which had caused him to take his dick in hand, slide his spit soaked palm over the bulbous head and down the shaft.

It was a newspaper article, a quick blurb from his old town. A teenaged boy had died, heart attack. Kyle almost remembered the name, a kid a year or two ahead of him at school. But it wasn't that that caught his attention, his notice. It was what was between the lines. He had died with a girl in his bed, cock in her pussy. Kyle was almost certain. And that, special little death, had him hard, biting the flesh of his hand to keep from cursing, moaning, calling out her name.

But it couldn't have been Zoe. Pure, gentle, happy Zoe with her cherry chapstick lips and silken wave of hair. But in his thoughts, his imagination, she was anyone he wanted her to be. So he pictured her, older, even more beautiful, riding that guy as he thrashed, dying, watching his life ebb away, grinning. Because a girl like that, she could love someone like him. Even if he was nothing but filth.

He always took them, his girls, to the cabin, his deceased uncle's lonely hideaway where no one could hear their cries, the begging. His mother thought he was studying, fishing, doing what boys do when they need to let off some steam, be alone. And maybe she was right, he just doubted that she had the proper vision to see his art.

They were art. Works of beauty and pleasure. Their tear stained faces and cum soaked panties. The burns and bite marks, ligatures and bruises. The girl's bodies was his canvas and he made quick work of their surfaces. But like all good things, they too had to come to an end, which usually involved a plastic bag over the face and one last good, rough, fuck. Before he let them slip away, return to obscurity, nothingness, in the dark waters of the swamp, gators waiting, watching, just below the mottled surface.

There had been five over the years, since he started driving. He longed for more but Kyle wasn't greedy, he wouldn't take more than was his due. The monster in him called, howled, but he kept it chained in the darkness at the back of his mind. The truest part of him. His secret.

It wouldn't do to take too many, to get noticed. That was how you got caught. And if you got caught there were no more girls, no more fun. He would probably be the one getting fucked, in some prison, before they have him the injection. And Kyle had no interest in his life going down that path. He had things to do. He was going to a good university. One day he would be an engineer, working with the city, the mayor, the governor of Louisiana. And they would see his scars and perhaps pity him but he would know, that they shook hands with, made deals with, worked with, a monster, heart and soul black as hell, blood on his hands. And that, that got his dick hard too.

They looked like any other couple as they emerged from the darkness; girl drunk and leaning on her boyfriend as he smiled and made conversation, helping her home.

Zoe could still speak though her speech was somewhat slurred. "Where are you taking me?"

"My room," he replied amicably. "I'm the president of Kappa Lambda Gamma. We're not the coolest guys on campus but we're no Tri-Lambs." She breathed a chuckle, tossing him a smile and he returned it, adding, "I live at the house. It's not far."

He had never brought a girl back with him, home, shown them his space. But he couldn't bring himself to drag her any further, to his car, out there into the night, to the swamp. Not her.

"I can't believe you're in a frat," Zoe snorted, the drugs making her fell even drunker than she already did. "I think frats are full of fascists."

She willed her body to process the muscle relaxants, expel them like a cancer. She could usually will off the effects of a night out, healing herself, but had never had to try it with prescription pills let alone at full potency.

"You know," he slowed, turning her in his arms and kissing her hard, Zoe's hands clutching fistfuls of his polo. Kyle left her gasping before continuing, "I don't mind being reduced to a stereotype but," he hummed along her neck, sucking a fresh blooming bruise into the skin there, as her head fell back, small hands dropping to hook into his waistband, "I'm here on a scholarship. There's more to me than just that."

"I know," Zoe replied on a sigh, leaning into him as he stilled. It hit him, how like a regular date it was, that moment. Being with a girl, laughing, smiling, kissing and touching. His heart pounded, thumped, slammed against his chest. And he hated her a little bit more for making him feel that way, accepted, wanted. Because he had filled her up with pills and she was supposed to be frightened, fighting, not enjoying herself, giggling and babbling at him.

But Kyle grinned, couldn't stop himself. "Yeah?" He played along, cursing himself, his weakness, his fingers itching to be inside her again, feel her slick spongy walls grasping him, welcoming him.

"You like dogs. And your favorite color is red. You were a boy scout. And your dad walked out when you were little. You stopped those guys you hung out with from beating up Ryan Nichols just because people thought he was gay." Her voice was wistful, eyes growing heavy. Every time she blinked it was harder to open them again. Zoe felt like she was having an out of body experience, warning herself to stop talking. "Shut up," she said out loud, instead of in her head.

"What?" He gripped her upper arm hard enough to bruise.

"He doesn't know you," she continued.

Kyle was at a loss. The drugs made you feel drunk and his girl had been drunk when she swallowed them, but she was talking crazy. They stopped in the middle of the road, standing still in one another's arms. Her hands trailed up his chest, his neck, fingertips ghosting along his scars without fear or trepidation. Her face was utterly free of repulsion, in fact there was something shiny in her eyes as she sighed, body falling against his, sagging with a sort of relief.

"You kissed me that night," she whispered finally, against his mouth. "I had wanted to kiss you for so long and you did it. But then," her tongue ran along his lower lip, "boom. And you never wanted to see me again." Her voice broke and she knew she had lost her grip, that the drugs were coursing through her veins, utterly overpowering her defenses. "But why, Kyle?" And was she fucking crying? She hadn't cried since she was twelve years old. Not when Charlie died, not when her parents sent her away. Not since Kyle Spencer refused her final visit at the hospital, since he moved away without a word, leaving her in tatters, in pieces, never to be whole again. "What did I do?"

He was stunned. When had she learned his name? He was certain he had never told her. And how did she know all that shit? She was rambling, raving, he could blame the pills, the booze, the coke he had spied her blowing up her nose. Unless, he paused. But Kyle refused to believe. He had given up on hope, on soul mates and the idea of her love, years before. She couldn't be her. Life was cruel; it took, it did not give.

The Lambda house loomed as he helped her shamble across the lawn, her legs coltish and wobbling, tears streaming down her face, hands clutching him, tugging his shirt, his hair, desperately trying to crawl inside of him, so she would never have to let him go.

Kyle didn't dare take her through the front door, the way she fucking looked, though he doubted any of his brothers would be in before midnight. Instead he maneuvered them toward the rear, entering the unlocked door of the kitchen, and guided her up the silent, black, disused staircase. Her heels pounded the old boards, her hands trailing along the walls, black fingernails scraping the plaster.

"You live here?" She asked, some of the starlight back in her gaze, snivels drying up.


"I live in an old mansion too. It's a school, for girls," she swallowed, listing to the side, "with problems. They call us exceptional. The only thing exceptional about us is how fucked up we are."

His room was tidy, organized, impersonal but she didn't seem to care, didn't ask any questions, just flung herself down on his mattress, cheek against the quilt as her eyes drifted closed, making herself comfortable, barely able to move.

Kyle closed the door quietly, turning to look at the girl on his bed, a hand rubbing over his eyes, cock hard and straining against his khakis. Her squirming, wiggling, in that tight-ass short fucking dress was doing nothing to improve the situation. But he had to ask. "How the fuck did you know all that shit about me?"

"Huh?" came the muffled reply.

"Before, you said…"

Zoe shrugged, limply rolling onto her back, knees falling apart. His gaze dropped, followed the line of her leg, the stockings, up to that place he knew she was hot and wet, just for him. "Because you're Kyle Spencer."

His eyes squeezed tight, muscles contracting, fury building in his gut. "I never fucking told you that," and he was storming toward her, climbing up on the mattress, planting a knee on other side of her torso and grasping her wrists, tugging them above her head and leaning down into her face, his onyx eyes held a mixture of rage and fascination.

She sighed up at him, wetting her lips, seemingly unconcerned about her position. She was either the dumbest bitch he had ever brought home or she wasn't fucking scared of anything.

When he continued to say nothing, to only stare, Zoe got nervous, shifting beneath him, as she felt some kind of emotion, pain, regret maybe, rising inside of her. He didn't remember her. And why would he, she thought. Just another stupid girl at the movies when he was in junior high. Sure, he had saved her life that night, but he would have done the same for anyone, that was just the kind of boy he had been. And when she had gone to see him, to tell him thank you, or perhaps that she thought she was in love with him, whatever burst out of her mouth first, he had sent her away. Over and over. He had rejected her. And why shouldn't he have? She was a freak. She had healed while he had suffered, languished in a hospital bed. He hated her, just as she had always suspected. Kyle blamed her for what happened to him. She blamed herself. So she couldn't fault him for not realizing who she was. Perhaps he would be disgusted if she told him, move away from her, shove her aside, scream and thunder. Or worse, silently dismiss her.

"You don't know me," she swallowed. It was a question and a statement rolled into one.

"Should I?" His face was red, the words low and menacing, his face inching a fraction closer. Kyle wanted her to say it. To dash his hopes, tell him that she was not her.

Zoe nodded, tucking her lip between her teeth, on the verge of tears, lost, unable to control her own body. In other words, she was a fucking wreck. Kyle's head cocked to the side, scrutinizing her like some lab rat, something to study and dissect. And part of her wanted him to do just that: cut her up, take out her heart, her lungs, let her die and put her on display. Because she wanted no part in her life, in the world as it was. She hadn't, not really, not since she was a twelve year old girl.

He might actually be doing her a favor. Once she had had a dream, something to think on, ponder, hope for, but if Kyle Spencer was there, with her, and didn't know her, didn't want anything to do with her, again, then she would have nothing left. Death was her only option.

With a trembling sigh, her cheeks damp and cool, she exhaled softly, "I'm Zoe. Zoe Benson. From…" But she stopped, the way he was looking at her, mouth agape, bright wavy locks falling over his forehead and into his eyes, made her chest ache, heart sluggishly pulling toward him.

"Zoe," he repeated.

She nodded again, tears tracking down her face, rolling into her hair, her ears.

"But how?" It wasn't possible.

She wanted to answer him, to go into detail, explain how exactly they had come to find one another again but a tiny ember ignited in her chest and began to grow, scorching, burning, tearing her open in agonizing pain. She swallowed.

He, Kyle fucking Spencer, had made her that way, the way she was. The fucking mess, the train wreck, sprawled beneath him, and he didn't even have the decency to show some spark of emotion when he discovered who she was. He wasn't angry, or sad, or happy. He was just Kyle, quiet and fucking staring at her. And Zoe was so fucking exhausted of all that shit. "How am I here?" she demanded. "Well, you fucking drugged me and half carried me home, like a twisted fucking psychopath. Or do you mean in New Orleans? Because that is one hell of shitty-ass story. But it all starts right around the time you kissed me in that stupid movie theater and then never spoke to me again."

His rage had been put on hold, simmering just below the surface, as he fought to understand, to make sense of the whole situation. It was clear that she did not understand fucking anything. How could he have let her see him? How could he have faced her again? She was so perfect, so beautiful and pure. He had, in one night, possibly the best night of his young life, up until the point of the blast, become a monster. It hadn't been enough that people already suspected it, that there was something wrong with him, inside. But he had to look the part too. He shook his head angrily. "I fucking loved you!" He didn't know why he said it, exploding, spit flying past his teeth, his lips, spraying her face, as her mouth dropped open, eyes wide with surprise.

Finally, after a heart-stopping moment, her face contorted into something dark, that mean little smirk playing at her lips, as she scoffed, "You were thirteen."

Kyle couldn't hold back any longer, not as she dismissed his confession. "Don't fucking diminish the way I felt," he released her wrists and lifted her by the shoulders, slamming her back down on the bed, her neck wrenching with the force.

"You fucking sent me away!" Zoe screeched, arms thrashing as she clawed at his face with tingling fingers.

"Because I looked like this!" he boomed in return, showing her the scars, lifting his hair, tugging his collar aside, so that she could get a fuller extent of his disfigurement. "I never wanted you to see me. Never. Not like this."

She released a lungful of air she hadn't realized she was holding in a whoosh, a look of understanding gracing her features before her palm clumsily cupped his face, her talons withdrawn. "I like you like this," she breathed, hips lifting awkwardly off the mattress, seeking friction, seeking him, to prove her point. "You're beautiful."

And the word, that word, the one he had so often and for so many years used when he thought of her, coming from her lips, to describe him, made Kyle more furious than anything else that had happened that night. What kind of fucking game was she playing? Was it a ploy to get away? He couldn't believe, not for one fraction of a second, that she was serious. His hands were around her throat before he could stop himself, could actually think about what he was doing. His fingers grasped, squeezed, as she let out a choked exhale, eyes slipping closed, chin tilting up as the dim light in his room made her damp lips sparkle.

Her first impulse was to try and pry Kyle's crushing grip from her windpipe, body struggling to supply oxygen to her blood, her brain, it was instinctual. But instead she reached for his belt, tugging uselessly, desperately. She bumped his erect cock, slid her hand down, and then repeated the process, cupping him through his pants.

The boy above her, his eyes skittering to his fly, watched her futile attempts at seduction, and slowly eased his hold. "You want," his gaze snapped back to hers, "with me? Still?" She nodded a reply, biting her lip. Kyle removed her hand, placed it on her own milky thigh, and wrenched his belt from the loops with a loud crack that made Zoe's spine arch up.

She turned her head side to side, lifted her neck into the warm sweating grip of the single hand still there and whined, "Don't stop."

"Fuck," It fell from his lips like a prayer, a benediction. "You mean, you want me to," he jerked his head toward her hoping she understood his meaning.

"Yeah," she sighed, body moving, slowly undulating below him.

"Zoe," he shook his head. Was she crazy? He had tried to fucking strangle her.

"I want you to," she batted her thick black lashes. "I like it."

"No," he told her.

"Kyle," her tone was warning as those large doe eyes appraised him cynically.

"Fuck. No." He repeated. He wasn't risking her life. She was Zoe Benson. She was there, with him, hot and ready, body pliant, willing. His dick was so fucking hard. He wasn't going to fucking choke her out. At least not until he had sunk into her wet hole, pounded her into his bed, filled her up with jizz, and lapped it up out of her cunt. He didn't have time for that shit. Not when she wanted him. God, really fucking truly wanted him.

"Stop being a little pussy bitch and just do it!" she barked catching him off guard and like that his hands were on her throat again, out of his control.

She had a death wish he realized too late. Maybe she had all that time, since that night. But he feared he may have already fallen in love with her. Again. And he didn't want her to go, to die like the others. Not then, not when he had finally found her. Not when she was so tragically, wonderfully, perfect. The embodiment of his darkest, neediest, fantasies.

Her lips were so plump, full and red, raw, as her chest rose and fell, the rhythm all off. Her eyes, he wanted them to close, loll, but instead she glared, fixing him in her hard challenging gaze. Daring him to squeeze tighter, crush her windpipe, kill her.

The voices, the dark intent that dwelled within, encouraged him. Bullying him into unspeakable acts. And they were becoming harder and harder to ignore.

"No!" He wrenched himself back onto his haunches, releasing her, hovering, watching air rush into her lungs, feeding oxygen to her starving blood cells. "I won't," he shook his head, smacking a palm brutally against his skull, "I won't. I won't," trying to knock his terrible, horrible thoughts out. "I won't," he repeated, voice cracked and broken.

She didn't argue. Zoe used all of her might, her will, to swing a fist up and into Kyle's jaw, then grimaced in pain, surprised at how much the act of hitting someone hurt. And it wasn't even a powerful blow. The drugs were wearing thin but still present in her system.

Kyle couldn't think. Not then. That black monstrous part of him reacted. His fist closing again around her throat, the lower half of his body, thick and desperate for her, bumped against her cunt, making her legs fall farther apart as he rutted himself into the cradle of her thighs. It was all so very much like he had imagined it earlier in the night, long before he knew who she was, how very perfect she might be. And she was fucking it all up, ruining it. Making him hurt her.

"Is this what you fucking want?" he seethed, mouth moving close to her face, feeling her stuttering little breaths. His cheek rubbed hers in an approximation of affection. She was so soft, so warm and fresh. His lips moved to her ear, whispering, "Is this what you need?" One hand slipped to her cunt, stroked her before retreating once more to his fly, popping the button, working the teeth of his zipper down.

"I could kill you," she wheezed with the little air she had left, fingers worming their way past his, inside his boxers, groping for his dick. "I've done it before."

"What?" He stared, grip never slackening, as his mouth dropped open subtly. Knowing that she had killed, that she was a killer, sent a rush through his body, making him shake, muscles locking and releasing, jittery. "Before? That guy? Did you.." but instead of finishing he kissed her, groaning into her mouth, heart racing.

Zoe had worried that he would stutter, stop, freeze against her, ask questions, forcing her to fight or cajole him into the act. There was honestly little she could do in her current state; her body had a mind of its own. Between the pills he had slipped her and the aching desire for his cock, she was as helpless as a newborn lamb.

But his lips against her, greedy, brutal, his tongue running down the ladder rung of scars on her neck, ghosting along the shell of her ear, giving her goose-bumps, encouraged her. "It'd be worth it," he grunted, as her sigh heated his neck, fingers wrapped loosely around him.

"Zoe," he groaned. Her wrist snapped, jerking him, as he bit his lip, releasing her throat. She gasped, chest heaving upwards as air rushed into her lungs.

"Fuck," she whimpered, his hands sliding up her skirt, dragging the soaked cotton of her gray underwear over her straps, down her thighs, her calves, leaving them hanging from one black silk covered ankle. "I want," she shook her head, adrift on a sea of desire.

Kyle wrenched her upward into a stooped sitting position and proceeded to rapidly divest her of her dress, the sound of seams tearing the only sound in the room, before letting her fall back against the bed with a soft thud. Trying to be of some, any, assistance, Zoe attempted to kick off her studded stilettoes. "Leave them," Kyle urged, his hands coming up under her knees, opening her to his penetrating gaze.

"You really want a second asshole?" She smirked, her voice nothing more than a rasp after his previous ministrations. He shrugged, lip quirking.

He was staring at her, couldn't fucking stop. Everything about her was beautiful: her porcelain skin, marred and savaged by scar tissue, bleeding sores, cigarette burns. The map of destruction painted across her flesh was mesmerizing. She had brutalized her body in a way even he couldn't recreate. She was a master. And he worshipped at her feet. Wanted to worship every inch of her.

Zoe, impatient, made a whining noise at the back of her throat, pelvis coming up, her bare, sopping cunt glistening in the low light. Kyle stood, eyes never straying from her magnificent body, writhing on his bed. He tugged his polo over his head, teeth gnawing at the inside of his cheek as he debated.

"I want all of you," she murmured.

And Kyle knew what she meant so with a deep intake of breath he yanked his thermal off as well, exposing the worst of his damaged flesh to her lazily perusing eyes. Then his khakis and boxers were dropped to the ground and he was back on the bed, between her thighs, the place he most longed to be in the entire existing universe, and she welcomed him with a lift of her brows and a coquettish smile.

"Fuck," he sighed and she nodded, pleased. Her stiletto covered toe nudged his calf showing her eagerness. Without further thought or preamble Kyle surged forward, driving his cock deep inside her, watching, delirious with pleasure, as her eyes went wide then fluttered nearly closed. Her small, pert, pink-tipped breasts heaved, as he filled her completely, stretching her, a tiny yelp escaping past her pursed lips. It was like coming home. He had never had a girl he hadn't forced before and the feel of her body taking him in, accepting, welcoming him, slick and greedy, was almost more than he could bear. Zoe shifted her hips and he sank yet deeper, right to the root, groaning, eyes closed, mouth pressed to the join of her shoulder and neck.

When he had collected himself somewhat he withdrew entirely, allowing only the very tip, hot and weeping, to remain in contact with her scorching flesh. He wanted it to fucking last but there was no way that it was going to. Kyle urgently wanted, needed, her to cum, to observe her face in the throws of ecstasy, and as he thought it, he found his hands, almost of their own volition, moving steadily from their position on her sharp narrow hipbones up, tracing the dip of her waist, over the ridges and valleys of her ribs, skimming the rounded sides of her tits, over her jutting collarbones and to her neck.

They made contact with the long, pale column of her throat, already purple and black, testing. The tips of his fingers dug in, a light touch. She grunted, thrust up, ass rising off the bed, eyes closed, lip caught painfully between her teeth. Kyle's thumb drifted upward, coming into contact with her jawline, forcing her to lift her chin, head tilting back to accommodate him. "Fucking look at me," he ground out, thrusting brutally then stilling. Hazel orbs flashed. His hands tightened their grip. "Tell me to fuck you harder." Zoe's hair cascaded around her making a halo of silk as she made a show of struggling. "Say it," he was bruising her skin, marking her with his hands, making her even more beautiful. And he wanted, needed, to hear her fucking say it. Wanted her to beg him. Beg him to make her cum.

With a steely look and a harsh snort she growled, "Fuck me harder," voice a hoarse whisper.

"Sorry," he breathed roughly against the side of her face, "I couldn't fucking hear you."

Zoe wheezed, air barely rasping into and out of her lungs. Her body was helpless to do anything more than squirm, her pelvis begging him. "Fuck," she managed, eyes rolling to the back of her head, then, "Fuck me harder, Kyle." A beat, "Please, god. Fuck me."

His lips twisted into something resembling a smirk but it was more sinister, darker. He, up on his knees, pounded the supple hole between her thighs, his grip never loosening, as her body began to quake and shiver. The inner walls of her cunt spasming, begging him for more. "You're so fucking wet," he sighed, "you little slut." His tongue darted out to lap up the small line of drool that ran from her mouth down her cheek. And with his words, a thumb pressed against her pulse point, feeling it flutter, she came apart around his cock, grasping him, clenching, holding him like a molten vice.

When Kyle, two sloppy pumps later, spilled inside of her, Zoe's mouth opened on a silent cry. Her inner muscles continued to hold him, milking him, draining his balls dry. The action was a rough mimicry of his fingers on her neck. It was almost poetic. But glancing down at her, his blood thrumming through his veins, feeling high, he saw that she had gone still, limp.

"Zoe?" He rushed, voice hoarse, sweaty hair in his eyes. He boggled at the hands around her throat, observing them from another perspective, like they were not attached to his arms, his torso. Slowly, with stiff fingers, he released his grip. The girl below him lay still, head cocked to the side, bloodshot eyes open, staring at a fixed point on the wall. Her chest did not rise with the sudden intake of breath he had been silently praying for.

"Zoe!" His face shifted from a sated sleepy mask, to one of fury again, violently taking her by the shoulders and shaking her. Her body flailed, arms swinging as he lifted her from the mattress, head rocking back painfully, her mouth open. "No!" He felt the burn of tears behind his eyes. "No! You don't die! You can't," his vision swam, stung, as Kyle dropped her lifeless corpse back onto the bed. "Fuck!" He turned, screamed, rocking forward, taking his head in his hands. He was going to vomit, bile rose up in his throat, acid in his mouth.

Behind him, Zoe's fingers twitched, eyes rolling in their sockets, before she gasped, half screamed, sitting up, sputtering and coughing. Kyle spun where he sat, handfuls of his hair still painfully being yanked from his scalp. "Fuck. That shit burns," Zoe panted, gaze flickering to him as she inhaled roughly and he stared back helpless, eyes the size of saucers.

"How?" He rapidly crawled toward her, clutching her naked body to his chest, a sob nearly choking him.

"You know, I always wondered if I could do that," she told him nonchalantly, like girls coming back from the dead was nothing particularly interesting or exciting. Like she hadn't just changed his life in the matter of one evening, one moment. Like she wasn't already the only thing in the world he could ever truly love. The only thing that mattered to him in the whole filthy goddamn horror show they lived in. "I'd come close a couple times but I never knew. I'd always been alone. Maybe I'd just passed out or something. But that shit was crazy!"

"You died," he stated dumbly.

"I guess. Yeah."

"But you're alive."

"Apparently," she grinned.

The drug had quit her system entirely, body active and her own, fully functioning once more, heart pounding, lungs inflating, deflating. Zoe immediately reached for her boy, hands, fingertips, skittering across the pocked and marled flesh of his scars, exploring, memorizing.

"Sorry," he frowned.

"For killing me?" She lifted a shoulder helplessly.

Kyle bit the inside of his cheek. He had actually meant for the state of his chest, his disfigurement. But, he figured, he should have been sorry for killing her, so he nodded.

"It's okay," she breathed against his lips, hands sliding down his chest, chipped nails scraping across his nipples, and over his shoulders to cup the back of his neck. "I forgive you." He kissed her then, desperately, urgently, crushing her delicate body to his own as his thumbs dragged down her ribcage, over her hips, to her thighs, where they tucked themselves into the straps of her black garter belt. Zoe pulled back first, eyes flitting downward to take in his already fully erect cock, and lifted a well-sculpted brow. "Already, huh?" He had no words so he nodded. And she grinned, yanking his mouth back down to meet her own.

"We could run away together," he hushed into the overheated skin of her bruised neck, later, as they lay collapsed and boneless on top of his quilt.

"We could," she agreed, toes flexing as his fingers tripped across her clit, slipping inside, wetting themselves, and returning. "Or I could just stay here with you."

"All night?" he smiled, boyish and full of charm. So like the old Kyle. She liked that there was still a little piece of him, the boy she had known, inside. Because she knew, deep down, there was a tiny part of the old Zoe in residence in her as well.

She shrugged, "Forever? I mean, why waste a perfectly good Tulane scholarship."

He shifted so that his face was above her, driving three fingers into her body mercilessly as she squeaked then gasped, eyes glassy, before leaning down and savagely biting her lower lip.

Zoe's hand worked its way from his shoulder to his neck, climbing along the tight raised tissue there. Over his jaw, thumb running along the scarred flesh at the side of his face, before raking into his hair, tugging it away from his exposed scalp. "Soft," she mumbled, blood on her teeth, hips undulating up into his wet, waiting palm. "I always knew it would be." He smirked wickedly against her mouth.