My Love is Vengeance

The first time I saw Jackson Rippner since he escaped, I screamed. I remember the desperation of that moment, the panic. He smiled darkly after gagging me, asked how I was doing. My eyes were overflowing with tears and malevolence. He took me away, attempted to train me to join him, to serve him. It only took me a week to escape.

The second time was in my apartment. He was lounging quietly on my living-room sofa, admiring my sketching. I had learned stealth, discretion. I crept up, attempted to get him into a choke-hold. He flipped me onto the coffee table, told me I had much yet to learn. I spat at him that I would never be taught by a monster. He said that I was running from myself, and then he left.

I began to train in martial arts, to seek means to protect myself against him. I moved, knowing quietly to myself that it would do no good. Sweating, bruised and exhausted, I convinced myself that I was not playing into his hands. The next time we met, it was on slightly more even ground. I fought well, with a calm that unnerved him. But he was still stronger, more powerful. I detested him for it.

He has seen me no less than twenty times in this past year. Once a month, he comes, battles with me. Our bodies are pressed close when we scuffle, close enough to bring unspoken questions and wonder. I have begun to look forward to these visits, to discharge tension, to work towards the ultimate goal; beating him, being strong enough to reclaim power.

So it is not with panic I greet the noise of near-silent footfalls when I return to my apartment. I do not fear when a figure wreathed in shadows engages me, fingers at my throat, poised to kill. I respond in kind, breaking out of his hold and pursing a fast and furious fistfight that ends with me pressed up against his chest, every part of us too close.

Our breaths mingle, quietly, rhythmically. There are perhaps unlimited possibilities, ways to cause pain from this position, to fight once more. But I am frozen, crushed against him like this. I act on an urge, a primitive impulse that is irresistible.

My fingers rake along his chest, digging deep enough through layers of clothing to leave a mark. A moan of twisted agony and pleasure escapes my mouth, falls from my lips.

I can feel his breathing, the quick, rasping gasps against my hair. A brutal smile maligns my face, and I am drunk on the power I possess.

This is not right; it is not sacred, pure, beautiful. This is angry, jealous, unforgiving; a perfect vision of hell. It is irrevocably flawed and ruined, twisted and contorted. And yet, I want more of this bitter poison. I long to drink from the dregs of this perversity until I am satisfied, sated and contented with my own brutality.

My own pulse is spiraling out of control. My heart jumps, suddenly and without warning. This is too close; it is too raw, teetering over the balance, threatening to spill over. It is primal, instinctive and deadly.

And then, his lips are rough and dry against mine. They savage me, tasting and controlling until I am limp against his chest, pressed too close, heat blazing through layers of clothing. We are consummating the attraction that has burned within us from the beginning; a flash of eyes, a brush of skin against skin.

It is an elaborate power play, and spiraling quickly out of control. It will consume me if I am not careful; his eyes are lidded, lifted in ecstasy. There is nothing innocent about his look as he turns to regard me. Danger spikes within me, adding to the pulsing heat, tearing me apart from the inside.

I am able to tear myself away, the sensation akin to ripping flesh from flesh. Walking away, I pant for breath, still feeling his presence behind me. It is tantalizing, a whisper of what waits for me if I only submit. My cheeks are flushed and red with desire, with unfulfilled promise. I clench my fingernails quietly against my palms, gathering the energy to resist.

He is the first one to speak, iron-coldness in his tone, grasping for control. His voice is steel, penetrating me suddenly and without warning. I shudder.

"Pleasure, Lisa. Perfect, mutual pleasure. Yet you resist."

A mirthless laugh attacks my ears. I want to shut it out, to stop drowning in his nearness. It is invasive, is wrong. Everything about this is wrong, has been ever since he started kissing me.

"The idea that I would ever feel anything but hate towards you is ludicrous."

My tone is ice, sliding over and around him. It matches him perfectly, masks our passion with near-perfect deception. He is not yet ready to be deceived, however, and he comes toward me, his body heat spreading over me in a flush.

"I have wounds as well," he murmurs against my ear. I can hear them in the rasping of his voice, the catch in his breath that would not have been there a two years ago.

A guilty jolt of pleasure tears through me as I think of everything I had felt, seeing him broken, lying helpless. Power, and vengeance. The knowledge that I had caused this had been far more intoxicating than any wine. I had finally found a way to fight, a way to resist. Strength that had been untapped for years flooded through me. It was meaning, purpose, knowledge, and so much more.

I had found myself in maiming Jackson Rippner. Revulsion shudders through me as I contemplate and dread how utterly similar we were. Submission is death; submission to desire, or to becoming like him.

I find myself resisting his counterstrike, parrying with another blow.

"This is wrong," my voice rings with sincerity. I cannot turn to regard the look in his eyes; it will destroy me.

"Would this," he reaches from behind, grasps my hand, unclenches the fist, "be so wrong?"

For a brief, unparalleled second, there is a moment of naked vulnerability. It lies somewhere deep in his tone; unprecedented longing, for more than just the physical. I can feel a wave of recoil tearing at him from the inside for revealing weakness. Weakness, to him, is also death.

"Yes," I moan from deep within my throat. The tenderness he displays nearly undoes me. Perhaps, were I younger and more naive, it would.

He moves closer, too close, and I can feel the smirk crossing his face.

Simply, eloquently, he breathes, "Why?"

"Leave," I hiss, not trusting myself, not trusting anything, most of all him. I will resist him, with all my strength. Becoming vulnerable is opening a gaping wound that would prefer to be kept shut, bandaged lightly over by time and apathy. And he does not offer healing; he offers pain and despair, twisted desire that only ends in frustration.

Quietly, his fingers caress my collarbone, skimming over my skin. They travel to the hollow at my neck, bitterly, ironically pausing before stroking the side of my face. I am a captive, held prisoner by my own needs and wants. Hate sweeps over me, intensely familiar. Hate for these twisted desires; hate for him, for the pain he has brought.

My hands slowly unfreeze, sliding sinuously up through his scalp to clutch his hair. A tear falls from my eye, quietly falling down my cheek. I resist, my throat panting with suppressed emotion. He feels it in the way my body tenses. I expect no sympathy, no mercy.

He turns me around quietly, eyes glowing in the dark like a cat. He impales me with the impossible force of his gaze. There is nothing I can do, no path of resistance.

A long, slender white finger quietly catches the tear before it can fall onto my chest. Never looking away, he slowly brings it to his lips, tastes it. I am weary, so weary of fighting, of being broken, of longing with no resolution. I seek rest; will I ever find it?

Something collapses within me, and the tears start falling now. They are rapid, and are caused by something far deeper and eternal than fear. I do not look at him, fearing either sympathy or disgust. I know how to deal with neither.

Suddenly, there is an arm around me, possessive, comforting, soothing. I sob brokenly into the chest of the man who tried to kill me. Unformed words try to escape my my lips. A broken, defiant shard within me still loathes him beyond measure. But it is outweighed by sheer, bittersweet longing.

I close my eyes, allow surrender too easily. My hackles rise at the thought of the power he is wielding over me now. I had sworn never to be weak again, defenseless. I do not notice the trembling that inflicts his hand, the undiluted empathy that rises within him. I do not see the weakness in him, the flaw that runs through him, makes him beautiful.

I sigh quietly into his chest, expelling the tension I feel. Quietly, without making a sound, he gathers me into his arms. He is strong, and perhaps that should worry me instead of comforting me. But, for a second, untouched by pain or darkness, there is only warmth, and something that could be mistaken for love.