A/N (soooo long and rambling, forgive me): This is a one shot (that is rapidly turning into a two or three shot...stupid muse) that is based on the NWN module A Dance with Rogues. I recently began playing through these mods again, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see so much new/slightly altered stuff from the first time I played them ages ago. For whatever reason, I decided to play an evil character, and I absolutely loved it. Yay mental problems. If you have never played A Dance with Rogues, you might still be able to follow the story for the most part, but there's a boat load of spoilers all over this thing. Consider yourself warned.

Anyway, the character in the story below probably needs a little introduction. Her name is Rynn although it's not mentioned in this story, and she is (eventually) a chaotic evil rogue/sorceress (if this was NWN2, she'd be an arcane trickster), petite build (ie, low con and str), mousy brown hair, green eyes, very good at sneaking and setting magically enhanced traps but not so much good in a stand up fight. She doesn't start out evil, more neutral than anything else, but her, uh..."fall from grace" is a gradual progression of the choices she makes based on the situations she finds herself forced into. She doesn't trust men, or most anyone for that matter, but she does trust and respect Master Nathan almost without reserve because he's worked so hard to protect her. When Vico "rescues" her from the castle, she tries to fight him off, to the point where he has to carry her unconscious butt back to the Bear Pit. Since that night, she's never mentioned to anyone what happened between them (although many people know the truth) and tries her best to pretend like it never happened. Now this particular story takes place right after being rescued from the Dhorn prison where Arto threatens to torture the princess. My twisted mind decided that threatening her wasn't enough. That'll make sense soon enough. Oh, and yes Vico is wearing leathers instead of plate (I know someone is going to point that out...) because I figure unless he's on a mission, who would want to walk around all the time in full armor?

Warning: Rated M for language and adult themes. I couldn't imagine writing a story that features Vico in any way without a ton of foul language. It's not normally my habit to put a lot of cussing in because I personally think it can take away from the writing, but this story without the obscenities just didn't do it for me.

Disclaimer: I in no way claim ownership of any person, place or thing in the following story. A Dance with Rogues is owned by the lovely Valine, and all credit goes to her for everything here. I just wanted to play with her creation for a while. :)


Burned

I'd never been burned before. Well, unless a singe from a long-wicked candle or a splash of bubbling grease from a hot pan counts as a "burn." Those things could never compare to the mind-numbing agony – not to mention the stench…I would never forget that smell – of living flesh being purposely roasted by a red-hot iron rod.

Pain flared up the right side of my back as I hauled my armor up over my head, my breath hissing between my teeth as I fought back the urge to cry out. Swaying on my feet, I braced myself against the wall as black spots washed over my vision, but I managed to ride out the pain without losing consciousness this time.

I tried to twist my neck around to look at the damage done to my back, but all I could see was the raw, blackened edge of skin on the ridge of my shoulder. With a sigh, I stared down at my filthy hands, the blood stains around my chipped fingernails, and wondered idly if I smelled as bad as I felt. Though I knew I hadn't been there but a day at most, I'd had enough of that Dhorn prison to last a lifetime.

The steaming bath across the room from me beckoned, promising to sooth my aching muscles and wash away the grime of that foul cell, but I was slow to finish undressing. This was going to hurt like hell, and I wasn't ashamed to admit that I was scared of the pain. There was also something strange about being back in my old "room" at the Bear Pit, but I was worried that my little apartment might have been compromised. Nathan had promised to send someone to check it out.

Chella, the sweet woman that she was, had taken one look at me when I'd come down the stairs and insisted that she draw me a bath. I knew better than to argue. Some days I wondered if she was the only good thing left in this world.

I took a deep breath to steel myself and neatly piled my gear beside the bath, my weapons within arm's reach, and eased myself into the water. The scrapes and bruises across my body protested, but within moments the sting had faded and my body relaxed in the warmth of the water. Still, I could not bring myself to lay back and clean the burn, telling myself to wait until the water was cooler before attempting such a thing.

As I washed the rest of me with a rough but clean cloth, my mind wandered. Nathan was worried, and that made me worry all the more. The Dhorn had grown bold, more so than usual it seemed, as was proven by my sudden arrest, and on false charges at that. It made my blood boil to be accused of being a whore, especially considering the rather long list of other crimes I'd actually committed. Of course, Arto had no proof of either my real crimes or the false charges, but that made little difference to him.

Arto Benthur. I'd seen the man less than half a dozen times, yet I'd already sworn to myself that he would die by my hands, and it would be a slow death at that. He made murderers like me look like saints with his lies and twisted beliefs, his fanaticism that bordered on madness. It was strange and somewhat worrying to me to remember that his eyes were sane and clear, not the eyes of the raving zealot he seemed to be, and it made me wonder all over again what his true motivations were.

Raised voices outside the door brought me out of my thoughts. "Aye, you'll leave that girl alone you scoundrel, or I'll have Nathan down here faster than you can blink!" Chella practically shrieked, and I almost smiled as I pictured her waving her massive rolling pin at whoever had drawn her ire.

"Oh, don't be like that, Chella," a deep, caustic voice soothed. The familiar sound made my eyes narrow as I instinctively drew my knees up to my chest to cover myself, ignoring the pain that flared up my back at the movement, and I scowled at the closed door to the kitchens. He was the last person I wanted to see right then. "I just want to check on our little birdie. Heard she let herself get captured by the Dhorn, and managed to get Tarleth killed too. Thought I should congratulate her."

Chella's voice was dramatically lower as she responded, but I could still hear her angry words. "Shut your mouth, Vico! None of this was her fault, she didn't go asking for it!"

I heard Vico snort, then the door opened a sliver but it stopped and shook uncertainly as if it were being tugged back and forth. "It's okay, Chella," I called out, making sure I was as covered as possible in the bathtub. Not that it mattered – Vico always looked at me as if I was naked, even fully clothed. Maybe that's why the idea of him there didn't bother me so much. Or maybe I just wanted to prove that I wasn't afraid of him. "Just let him say his peace so he can go."

The portly woman popped her head inside the door and frowned at me, her eyes searching my face as if she could see how I was really feeling. She'd never been too good at reading me…if she was she would have removed my weapons from the room. "Fine," she snapped, moving aside to glare at the man in black leathers as he slid through the doorway. "I'll be right outside if you need me, sweetie."

I felt myself nod, but my eyes were fixed on the scruffy killer eyeing me with a lecherous smirk on his handsome face. "Well, birdie," he murmured as soon as the door was shut, "here I thought you were getting smarter. Do you always invite men in during bath time?"

I shrugged, surprising myself with how calm I felt. "I didn't invite you – you invited yourself. Besides, I'm far from helpless, Vico." With my knees still pulled up to my chest, I rested my hands on the edge of the tub and let the newfound power flow through my fingers. Pale fire flickered across the back of my knuckles, and I lifted my hands in front of my eyes, caressing the flames as they danced harmlessly over my skin. "Care to test me?"

"Cute trick," Vico drawled, looking completely unimpressed.

So much for intimidation. Sighing, I extinguished the fire and asked impatiently, "What do you want?"

"I really thought you were learning, birdie." He started to pace a little in the small room. "You took down Rick Carr like nothing – his own men didn't even know he was dead until the next day. Jacia told me you pulled off some jobs for her too, not an easy thing to do." He looked disgusted as he shook his head at me. "But then you went and just let the Dhorn have you."

"Hardly."

"Don't give me that shit. How long had they been following you? Days? Weeks? And you never noticed? They knew exactly where to find you."

"They ambushed me, Vico," I said in a bored voice as I looked away and resumed rubbing the cloth over my arms. "Since you have all the answers, tell me: what could I have done differently, hmm?"

"Oh, I don't know…maybe try not getting caught?" I was more surprised than I would ever let on when I looked up and saw real annoyance written across his face. Was he worried about me, or just worried that I'd rat out the family? "Or if you do, show some spine and fight back."

"Thank you for the advice," I answered coldly. "I'll try to remember that the next time I'm knocked unconscious and dragged back to Dhorn headquarters."

"There better not be a next time. This bullshit got a perfectly good member of this family killed trying to save you, little princess. Next time there might not be someone there to die for you."

"I didn't ask her to die for me!" I snarled, the words fading to a pained grunt as I sat forward, stretching open the burn scabs on my back. I relaxed my posture and met his eyes, but he'd noticed my discomfort and was already moving around the back of the tub.

His expression was utterly blank as his gaze drifted over my ravaged skin, but his eyes at that moment…they terrified me. He stared at me for nearly a minute, a very long minute, before he spoke. "The Dhorn tortured you," he stated flatly, an odd rough quality to his tone.

"No," I responded, watching his face carefully. "This wasn't torture. This was to show me what my torture would feel like if I didn't comply." He looked up into my eyes, his face still expressionless, but something about his gaze compelled me to explain. After a brief description of what Arto had said was in store for me, I concluded, "And then he asked me if I'd ever felt 'the kiss of red hot metal against my flesh'."

"And you were stupid enough to answer?" Vico sneered.

"I was stupid enough not to," I shot back. "The bastard said I couldn't really appreciate what was in store for me without a taste…." I swallowed the bitter bile that rose in the back of my throat as I remembered with shame how I'd screamed as the iron rod had rolled upward across my back, searing and peeling off layers of my flesh.

I watched Vico's jaw work as he studied my face for another moment, then he nudged my small pack with the toe of his boot. "Take a healing potion," he ordered.

"Gee, I never thought of that, jackass," I snapped, angered by the authority in his tone, but he just stared at me expectantly as if he hadn't heard me speak. "I will after I clean it. I don't want it to scar."

Vico snorted, his lip curled as he shook his head. "Still the vain little princess. Don't worry, birdie, that pretty skin of yours won't last long anyway if you keep living this life."

"It's not vanity, idiot. Scars are noticeable, especially one this size. If someone saw it, they might be able to identify me. We wouldn't want that, now would we?"

If I didn't know him better, I'd swear there was something close to admiration on his face as he nodded once slowly. "Fine," he said gruffly as he fiddled with one of the pouches on his belt. "Sit forward."

"What the hell are you doing?" I demanded and leaned as far away from him as I could as he crouched behind the tub, some small jar with a pale ointment inside open in his hand.

"Just relax, little birdie," he murmured with a mocking smirk. "It'll only hurt for a second."

"Don't you dare touch me!" The heated, hate-filled hiss tore from my lips before I could stop the words, words fueled by harsh, cruel memories of his hands on my skin. A dark look crossed Vico's face as he spotted the momentary terror in my eyes, but it was gone so quickly that I couldn't be sure what he was thinking.

His voice was soft, almost gentle in a way I'd never have imagined could come from him as he assured me, "I'm not going to hurt you. This will kill any infections in the wound and numb the skin so you can clean it without pain. Trust me, I use it all the time."

I glared and held my hand out to him. "I'll do it myself," I insisted, still nervous that he was so close to me, and my own fear infuriated me. How dare he make me feel this way.

"You can't even see it," he pointed out, falling back to his usual less-than-kind tone. "Don't be such a baby. Now hold still."

Before I could protest, his callused fingers began smoothing the pungent ointment over my charred skin. Biting back a gasp of pain, I focused my energy on not crying out or flinching away from his surprisingly gentle touch. It was only a few seconds before I felt the area begin to grow numb, just as he'd said it would, and the relief of being momentarily free of pain left me a little lightheaded.

I relaxed and let a small sigh slip out as he attentively covered every inch of my damaged skin with the stinky miracle slime. I still felt nervous despite the fact that he wasn't even bothering to ogle me while he went about his task. I hadn't even realized I was absently twisting the ring on my right hand until he asked, "Where did you get that?"

Surprised, I lifted my hand to study the black pearl set in the rather plain silver band, aware that Vico's hand had paused on my back as he looked at the ring over my shoulder. "It was…a gift," I answered as a slow, malicious smile curved my lips.

"Right," Vico drawled sarcastically. "You mean you stole it."

I shrugged and let my hand fall down along the outside of the tub. "Think what you want."

Vico didn't respond, but he removed his hand from my back and I assumed he'd finished doctoring me up. Still crouched, he shifted his weight so that he was more beside me than behind me and dipped his fingers into the bath water to wash off the ointment. His hand was a bare inch away from my naked breast, and an insolent smile answered my scowl. "Need helping washing?" he purred wickedly.

"Like I would ever let you touch me again," I snarled, trying my best to hold back the icy rage that reared up in me. I hated, hated that he could make me switch gears so quickly, and not for the first time in the last few months I thought about killing him.

His smiled widened to a dark chuckle and he had the audacity to trail his dripping fingers up my bare arm. Somehow I managed not to flinch at the feather-light contact, but my teeth were grinding together audibly as he taunted, "You…just…did."

"Fuck you."

Again he chuckled, but he removed his hand from my shoulder. "Listen, birdie, the past is past. I wanted you, so I took you. Maybe I'm wrong, but you seem like the type of girl who understands that."

I blinked at him, too surprised at first to form a response, but the truth slowly dawned on me. I did understand. Maybe I hadn't when he'd first found me all those months ago, but I sure as hell did now. If someone wasn't strong enough or smart enough to hold on to what was theirs, they didn't deserve to keep it. I'd said something similar to a foolish paladin not long before…he'd looked down his nose at me then, but it was I who was stripping his corpse a few days later. Maybe he should have listened better.

Vico was watching me with this knowing expression behind his eyes, and he seemed to be waiting for me to say something. "You're not wrong," I answered softly, watching him through half-lidded eyes, purposely putting a suggestive tone in my voice. Men are so easily distracted.

Smirking wickedly, Vico leaned closer to me but didn't touch me. "Of course I'm not. Because it feels good to do what you want, doesn't it?"

I think my wide, cruel smile startled him, because there was suddenly suspicion in his eyes. "Let's find out, shall we?"

He hadn't noticed that my hand was still outside tub, hanging right beside his thigh. He hadn't noticed me subtlety rifling through my equipment at his feet. And he certainly hadn't noticed the small dagger in my hand…at least not until it was buried in the thick muscles of his upper thigh. To my credit, I was careful to stab him in a spot that wouldn't likely be fatal…maybe I didn't want him dead after all. Yet.

It took a second for his mind to register the pain, and I kept smiling as he just stared in disbelief at my hand curled around the hilt of the blade buried in his thigh. As his blood began to darken his leathers, he stumbled to his feet beside my tub with a growl of pain, and I let my fingers slip off the weapon as a flood of furious curses flew from his lips. "What the fuck? You crazy bitch!"

I laughed aloud, a twisted joy blossoming in my chest as I threw my head back and let the laughter shake my body. The look on his face was priceless. "Wow, you're right, Vico. That feels really good." He stared down at me in bewilderment, and that just made me laugh harder. "You should probably patch that up," I chuckled, wiping at the tears that had formed in my eyes. "You're bleeding in my bath water."

I lost my composure all over again as his expression turned thunderous, but I sobered quickly when a fiendish grin split his face. "Well, we wouldn't want that now would we, Princess?" Before I could move, he was in the bath with me, fully armed and armored, the dagger still in his leg, water sloshing all over the floor as he pinned me down with his much larger body. I froze in place as his hand caressed the back of my neck, his rough stubble scratching my cheek as he leaned in close to my ear.

He was laughing.

"Crazy bitch," he whispered breathlessly.

And then he was off of me, standing in an expanding puddle of pinkish water as his mocking eyes raked over my now exposed body. The tiny bit of water that hadn't been thrown out of the tub had been turned bright red with his blood, and with a disgusted sound I scrambled out and tugged my towel off the hook. "Idiot," I growled as I covered myself, but not before he got more than an eyeful of my naked form.

He laughed, his dark eyes sparkling with amusement. "It's your own fault, birdie." He paused, wincing only slightly as he jerked the dagger out of his thigh. With an unreadable expression he offered me the wet, bloody blade hilt-first, ignoring the varitable fount of fresh blood pumping down his leg and onto the floor. "I hope you enjoyed your revenge."

I glowered as I accepted the weapon, but an evil grin was soon tugging at the corners of my mouth as I remembered the look on his face when I'd stabbed him. "It did feel good," I admitted with a chuckle. "I'd probably feel even better if I did it again, maybe a slightly more fatal spot…."

"I wouldn't try it," he answered smoothly as he crouched beside my pack and took out a healing potion.

"Hey!" I complained as he stood up and downed the bland liquid in one long draught. "That was my last one, you jackass."

He shrugged and turned his back to me, his hand reaching for the door. "Guess you'll scar after all, huh birdie? Don't get caught again." Without looking back at me, he slipped out the door.

I sighed and scowled at the soaking wet floor and the bloody bath water, vaguely aware of Chella screaming at Vico for dripping water and "is that blood?!" all over her kitchen. He just laughed. It wasn't until then that I noticed the healing potions sitting on the crate behind the bathtub. Confused, I wandered over and picked up one of the three vials. They were stronger, more potent than the one Vico had taken from my pack…and he'd left them there for me. Why?

Chella burst into the room, her face flushed with alarm. "Sweetie, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," I muttered, still stunned by Vico's gift. "It's not my blood." The words made me chuckle in spite of myself, and when I looked up at Chella's horrified expression, I almost lost my composure completely again as laughter bubbled up in my chest.

"I'll…get some towels," Chella said carefully, and I nodded in reply as I tried to stifle my giggles. She probably thought I was crazy, or getting there at least, but I didn't care. It felt good to laugh, especially at Vico's expense, but I knew I'd never get close enough to him to repeat the encounter. My eyes drifted back to the healing potions, and I gave them a long calculating stare. He cared enough to leave those for me, which made no sense at all to me, but…perhaps I could get close enough…if I played my hand right.