I am so, so sorry. But my ideas for this fic have just completely tapered out, so this is the LAST chapter. Happy reading!


The next morning, Tala tried to convince himself that what had happened to Adrik had been some kind of horrible dream. It was only when he realised that Bryan was snuggled up beside him, tears dried onto his face, that it really sank in. He struggled up out of bed and ran next door, pushing his way into Adrik's room and looking around. It was spotless. There was nothing there...nothing but the bed, the shower and the toilet...

"What are you doing in here, Ivanov?" Tala turned and found Boris behind him, and suddenly remembered what the older Russian had said the night before...

'Then do I take one of your little friends? What about your little favourite, Tala? Would you prefer me to take him?'

"You leave me alone!"

"Oh, what's the matter?"

"I won't let you do what you did to Adrik to me!" Boris looked slightly surprised, then smiled.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to listen in on private conversations?" Tala gasped. Boris knew he'd never met his mother, he knew! "And besides, you don't interest me now. You're too little. You'd be no fun. But when you get a little older...thirteen, fourteen, say...you'll be just nice. Just ready to be educated in the ways of-"

"No!" Tala felt his eyes fill with tears. "You shouldn't! Why don't you find a wife? Have children of your own? People as old as you are always married!"

"And you were brought up as a posh little snob. I bet all your upper-class friends were married by my age, but I'm not, and the next time you tell me to find a wife...I'm going to beat you until you can't say it any more." Tala shook, backing away.

"Adrik was right!" He cried, voice shrill with fear. Boris advanced on him, glowering. "You shouldn't pick on us!"

"Tala?" Bryan was standing in the doorway, looking nervous.

"Both of you go back to bed!" Boris snapped. He leaned down to Tala's level, making the young redhead shy away, backing against the wall. "Don't think you would be able to stop me if I wanted you now." His hand grasped Tala's arm, dragging him out of the room. "Breakfast is still at seven. You'll have to make it down by yourselves from now on." And with that he strode away. Tala burst into tears and ran back into their bedroom, letting Bryan follow him, climbing up onto his bed and hugging him.

"My mama always said that if people cry you should give them hugs and kisses to make them better..." He kissed Tala's cheek and looked down at him carefully. "Do you feel better?"

"No! I want Adrik!"

"I do too. He stopped them all from teasing me..."

"It's not fair!"

"No. I thought Boris was nice..." Bryan shuddered. "He's scary. Like that man that killed Mama's friend...she was all covered in blood and they said she was raped...and I think that means when someone is gay with you and you don't want them to be...but Mama wouldn't say, so I don't really know..." He hesitated. "Mama saw lots of bad men. They always made me scared..." Bryan shut his eyes and leaned against Tala companiably. "There was a man with a gun once. He said he was going to shoot Mama. But he didn't. Because I bit him. But Mama told me off later and said he might have given me a bad disease so I'm not allowed to bite people any more."

"Why?"

"I don't know. Mama didn't like talking to me about things."

"I've never met my ma...my mother..."

"I bet she's nice."

"Nicer than Boris..."

"My mama wasn't always nice to me." Bryan sniffled. "Once she said she hated me..." Tala looked up, concerned, then hugged Bryan and kissed his cheek just as Bryan had done for him.

"I bet she didn't. People say things they don't really mean..."

"She hit me...because I cried so much and it made her angry..." Tala nodded, then gasped.

"We'll be late for breakfast if we don't hurry up!"

After one last comforting hug they got dressed and made their way to the breakfast room. When they got there, there was none of the usual chatter and laughter. Just a wall of complete silence. So everyone knew about Adrik... A couple of the boys were crying, but Tala already knew he wouldn't be able to cry about it any more. He just felt numb, as if the life he was living wasn't real.

But even as Boris started going on about another new recruit- Kai somebody or other- Tala looked around at all the sad, angry, hurt and shocked faces. And he knew that that was how everything was going to be forever. Or as long as it took to get out of the abbey...


"Happy Birthday, Tala. Fourteen today...quite the young man..."

"No, Boris."

"No?"

"No. Because I know what you are and I'm not scared of you. I won't let you treat me like you treat Adrik." The name still brought a pang of sadness into Tala's heart. The first person who had ever really cared about him...that had been Adrik. "You'll either have to kill me or give up because I won't let you have me!" Boris chuckled.

"Maybe I'll have to give it another year. Maybe another couple. But you'll be in this abbey until the day you die, Tala, so sooner or later..." He headed for the door. "Sooner or later..." As the door closed, Tala glared at it.

"Sooner or later, I'll get out."


Anya Ivanov sighed as she came in from the biting winter winds, closing her front door behind her and trudging into her two-roomed apartment. It was dark inside, so she flicked on the light, collapsing into her chair. "M...Mother?" She turned, finally seeing the young man who'd been hiding behind the door. That red hair...those blue eyes...it couldn't be-?

"-Tala-?" Though exhausted, Anya stood up, hands flying to cover her mouth.

Tala surveyed his mother thoughtfully. The years had not been kind to her. Her hair was streaked with grey and there were deep lines around her eyes, but this was the place...and this was the woman who fit the only description he'd found. "I'm Tala...and you...you're my mother..."

With a cry of joy Anya ran to her son, flinging her arms around him and kissing both of his cheeks. "Oh Tala...my baby..."

"I'm not quite a baby any more, Mother."

"And when your grandfather said you'd run away...oh Tala...I didn't dare to think..."

"Mother...I've been in an abusive, dark place since I ran away from Grandfather...but now I'm free. And I...wanted to come and see you. Just to know you were still alive." He sighed, looking down at his mother with awe. "Mother..." He wanted to use the word as much as possible, just to get used to using it. "Can I go and get Bryan from the car?"

"Of course, Tala!" The redhead bit his lip. Now or never...

"Mother...he's my boyfriend."

"Oh! And you left him outside! Bring him in Tala, bring him in!" Not wanting to go back outside, Tala flipped open his mobile, calling Bryan's number.

"Hey Bryan...Bryan...it -is- her! You have to come inside!"

And then Bryan appeared, feeling hopelessly self-conscious. "Um...hello." He said, swallowing nervously. Anya gasped with shock and hugged him as well, overcome. She started to cry, fat tears of happiness running down her cheeks as she embraced her son again. "Oh Tala...Tala...how many years has it been since you were a newborn and I held you in my arms?"

"Sixteen..." Tala managed to whisper. "By all accounts..." Anya laughed tearily, pulling away to look at her son more closely.

"You look so like your father..."

Tala smiled, tears starting to creep into his own eyes. He was home again. With his mother, who'd been taken from him all those years ago...and through so much manipulation, was back with him again.

Fin


There, the end. And hopefully I'll post something half decent soon...something better than this, anyway...

R&R please!