Disclaimer: I don't own CSI:Miami or NY.
Author's note: This is set in the same universe as 'Speed Demon'. It's AU and will eventually be Danny/Speed slash. There will be fifty stories - each will be posted seperately, so don't expect anymore chapters on this particular story.
Into the Pyre
Italy – 1841
Gabriella Messer set her basket down on the table and glanced across the field. A frown appeared, crinkling her forehead when she saw her husband and eldest son working closely together, a fair distance away.
Dusk was fast approaching and soon the light would be too poor for them to continue their work, but Antonio was insistent that they needed to harvest the crops as soon as possible.
She understood his concerns more than anyone; the owner of the land might have been gracious enough to offer them a home in exchange for harvesting the fields, but Benito Messer was anything but a patient man.
The crops were slow this year; nothing seemed to be growing as rapidly as it had previously and it made Gabriella anxious about Benito's reaction towards the failing harvest.
The bond siblings shared didn't exist when Benito was doing business with his younger brother; Benito was the employer and Antonio the employee, nothing more.
Her hand moved to rest on her swollen stomach when she felt the child inside her move. The brunette woman's frown slowly became a smile when she thought about the new life she would soon be giving birth to.
"Mama," a quiet voice asked from her side and she felt small hands tug her tunic.
Gabriella turned and smiled down at her young son, Daniel; he was five years old and was already becoming a mirror image of his father and older brother.
"Mama," the little boy repeated, pulling on her tunic once more.
"Yes, Daniel?" Gabriella questioned, picking her basket up once more.
"I'm hungry," Daniel replied, his lips forming a pout as he looked up at his mother with wide blue eyes.
Gabriella chuckled and moved towards the door. "You ate a few hours ago."
"I'm hungry again," Daniel persisted, following her obediently. "Please?" he pleaded.
She paused in the doorway, looking back over at Antonio and Giovani. They were still hard at work and she knew Antonio would collapse into their bed in several hours, exhausted from the effort it took to please his brother.
"Why is Papa still working?" Daniel whispered, his eyes following Gabriella's gaze to his father and brother.
Gabriella sighed and shook her head, her brown curls falling into her face. "Uncle Benito wants this month's crops," she replied simply.
She didn't tell him that the crops had been due to day before; working something out was hers and Antonio's jobs, not Daniel's.
"Let's find you something to eat," she added before Daniel could question her further.
The young brunette's face broke out in a smile and he nodded his head eagerly, before running into the house heading for the kitchen.
A crashing sound woke Daniel up with a start and the five-year-old sat up on his cot, looking around widely for the source.
It wasn't long before he heard it again, coming from somewhere below him. He rubbed his hand over his eyes sleepily, trying to clear the remaining cobwebs of sleep from his mind.
The floor was cold under his feet and he silently slid out of bed. The moon was still high in the sky and the moonlight was shining in through the thin cotton curtains that hung over the window.
His sandals were hard to fasten and his fingers kept slipping over the laces. Gabriella always fastened them for him and he couldn't remember how she did it so quickly and tightly.
Voices were coming from downstairs; whispered words he couldn't quite make out and none of the voices sounded familiar either.
Daniel tiptoed across the landing and, slid a wooden panel open. It wasn't common knowledge, but there was a hidden staircase that lead to the kitchen, which he liked to use when he got hungry in the middle of the night.
Slowly, he crept down the stairs, remembering to stick to the shadows in case anyone was waiting for him. He had eavesdropped on enough conversations between his parents and he knew exactly which stairs to step on gently and which ones creaked in certain areas.
The kitchen was empty and Daniel breathed a silent sigh of relief as he crossed the kitchen.
As he neared the door he could tell the whispers were coming from the dining room on the other side.
Now that he was closer he could make out his Uncle Benito's voice, and if the clicking sound Daniel could hear was his boots, he was pacing the floor.
"You shouldn't have pushed me, Antonio," Benito said, his voice strong and powerful. "I told you the crops were due on Tuesday. It's now Thursday and they still haven't even been harvested."
"I told you, Beni." Antonio's voice sounded desperate and fearful. "I need more time to harvest them. You'll have them by the weekend, I swear on my honor."
Benito's laugh was cold and cut Daniel through to the core as he continued to listen. "And what shall I tell my customers? That my pathetic excuse for a younger brother can't even manage to harvest one month's worth of crops?"
The voices stopped and the only sounds Daniel could hear were Benito's boots on the hardwood floor and a woman sobbing. He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood when he realized that his mother was the one crying.
"Where's the other one?" Benito's voice finally asked. "The boy… Davide... Drago…"
"Sir," a strange voice answered, "we've searched the entire house and grounds; he's nowhere to be found."
Gabriella gasped in horror and he heard his name before she hissed in pain.
"Where is he?" Benito demanded. Gabriella remained silent and the slap echoed loud through to the kitchen where Daniel was listening. "Where is he?" he repeated.
"Leave her alone!" Antonio shouted defiantly.
Benito chuckled sadistically. "Where is the boy? Daniel, I think your lovely wife called him." Antonio remained silent. "Answer me!"
"I don't know," Antonio replied honestly. "He should be in his bed."
"You're lying," Benito spat. "Trying to protecting him isn't going to save his life."
Daniel had to cover his mouth with his hand to stifle the horrified gasp he accidentally let slip.
"Sir?" the strange voice spoke once more. "What shall we do about the boy?"
"Seal the exits and burn the whole farm down," Benito ordered easily.
Daniel's eyes widened and he took off in a sprint, running through the kitchen door into the gardens. Gabriella's scream of fear could be heard outside as he ran across the farm, his back glued to the tree line as he tried to stay out of the moon's light.
His young legs weren't strong and after several minutes of running as fast as he could he had to pause; his lungs and thighs were burning painfully and each breath he took only served to feed the fire.
Through the moonlit darkness he could see the silhouette of Benito and his soldiers stepping out of the farmhouse as the building caught fire. He knew he wasn't going to make it very far before he was caught and killed.
Daniel could hear the hunting dogs barking as the soldiers prepared to release them. They would find him within seconds; there was no doubt about that.
He glanced up at the trees behind him and sighed, knowing he had no other option. Daniel hated the woods; Giovani had always told him that they were haunted and evil things lived there.
There were small gaps in the trees that were just big enough for a thin five-year-old to squeeze through, but a fully-grown hunting dog would have trouble getting inside.
The dogs were closing in on him, following his scent and he had barely slid inside when he saw their wet noses poking through the hole.
"They've found something!" a voice shouted.
"Call them off," Benito instructed. "I want to deal with this one myself."
Daniel gulped silently and tried to look around at his surroundings, but the leaves were so thick above him, no moonlight could get through to light his way. He jumped when he heard a sword cutting away at the trees.
"I know you're in there, Daniel," Benito called from the other side. "You can't hide from me. I will get you and you'll die, just like the rest of your family."
Daniel was shaking from fear as he tried to think of something to do. He didn't want to die but he also knew he wouldn't survive a night alone in the woods.
Moonlight began to filter in from the other side as Benito continued to hack away.
Suddenly the air around him shifted, making the woods beyond appear to be nothing more than a blur. Daniel let out an involuntary yelp of surprise when he saw his surroundings change.
Benito grinned menacingly as he tore away the last part of the overgrowth, revealing the space where his nephew should be standing.
"What…?" he growled when he saw that Daniel had disappeared seemingly into thin air. "Impossible."
"Sir?" his head soldier questioned.
"Lieutenant De Luca, gather your men and search the woods. I want his head."
The Lieutenant nodded and moved to gather his soldiers, who then began searching the woods for a child who wasn't even there.