Disclaimer: I do not own Sanctuary. Don't even own myself – parents have claimed that – Sigh. Story of my life.

A/N: Wow this chapter has taken a while to make. Been very, very, very busy. However, I must say I love this chapter simply because it will have ASHLEY in it! Yes folks, that's right! Ashley! Yessss!

"Heathrow Ground. Ramses. Approaching West Apron. Request permission to land. Over."

"Acknowledged Ramses. Heathrow Ground. Affirmative. Cleared to land West Apron. Over and out."

A sleek white jet approached the runway with declining speed. The length of the body barely skidded as tires met tarmac. The stream-lined form of the Gulfstream G650 slowly approached a massive hangar before halting within the metal establishment. Satisfied the blonde removed the headset she wore and gently hung it on a peg above the cockpit overhead. Hands moved quickly to cut the power to the engines, flicking switch after switch off in the process. Satisfied, she heard the gentle purr of the aerodynamic beast settle down before unclasping her seatbelt and standing. After the seven hour flight between Japan and Old City, she was more than happy and ready to stretch. Groaning in satisfaction at the ability to finally move around, Ashley Magnus stretched and rotated her body to remove the kinks from her barely used muscles.

She always hated long flights, but the opportunity to fly one of her mother's executive jets, especially the Ramses, was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Satisfied at her flight abilities she turned her light head towards the seated pilot next to her.

"So…how was I?" she questioned exuberantly. Pale blue eyes lit up dramatically as Ashley regarded the aged veteran captain as he removed his own headset and dutifully hung it on the remaining peg.

"Not bad. Smoothest landing so far. Not quite the skill your mother has, but the lack of skidding shows that you've improved greatly, kid," responded the flight captain.

"Really Mike? That's it? "Not bad"…," Ashley's fingers moved to quote the last two words, a bit miffed that her excellent piloting skills were being under appreciated at the moment. When Mike offered her a shrug in return, she knew that attaining any detailed explanations as to why she only received a Not Bad would only give her a headache. The veteran pilot was stubborn and Ashley Magnus knew that if she butted heads with him, they would be at it all day long. And quite frankly, she did not have the time to try and convince and bully the old dog today. Maybe some other time. "Whatever…," she mumbled. She never could reign in her temper and a string of profanities left her mouth as she exited the cockpit and moved towards the luxurious seating section.

Mike, for his part, only barked out in laughter as he heard the young Magnus begin cursing and swearing like a seasoned sailor. "Better watch that mouth of yours, little lady. Mamma shoulda smacked you a good one for using that kinda language 'round here." He twisted his head off to the side to catch her sticking her tongue out at him before picking up her all black Icon Squad II backpack from the seating area. With a shake of his head, he hollered out before she could leap off the descending stairs, "tell your mamma I said hi!"

"Sure thing!" she hollered back before bounding down the stairs and into the hangar. She was greeted by a few crewmen who began the routine check-up over the plane. She waved at them in return, really eager to get home after her little expedition around the world. She visibly winced at the wrath she would probably incur with her mom, most likely Uncle James had already told her about her little departure to Morocco, Berlin, and Japan. And if she knew her mother's crew as well as she did, Mike had probably relayed every single stop to Watson in the most discrete manner possible. Sighing, she mentally began to form her apology and timing the perfect opportunity to show her puppy dog eyes.

'There's always a 50/50 shot that she'll fall for it…'she thought pensively. Despite the fact that she was well over her teenage years, Ashley always dreaded rows with her mother. They never lasted long, usually a few hours, and then both would allow their respective frustrations to simmer and cool down before approaching one another on much friendlier terms. Ashley could never remember a time in which she and her mother had never settled their differences. Her mother had a wonderful grasp of understanding situations and with her years of experience, she was far more patient than Ashley Magnus could ever dream of. While she remained the epitome of calm and collectedness, her daughter was the quintessence of rambunctious energy that could not be easily contained.

With a dash of exuberance in her step, Ashley found her way through towards the parking garage near the West Apron hangar. She found several cars neatly parked in diagonal rows. She ignored each and every waxed surface and gleaming tires that she crossed paths with and made her way to the other end of the private garage. Sapphire eyes lit up at the sight of a perfectly black and silver trimmed custom designed 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa GSX1300R.

"Oh baby, did you miss me?" she practically cooed at the dark combination of metal and rubber. Gloved hands reached out to glide over the smooth surface of the motorcycle. Out of all the motorcycles that she had received over the years this was her second favorite. The fastest bike in her collection by far, but still only her second favorite. She remembered the day she had received this bike. Her 21st birthday – 2 years ago to be precise – she had practically begged her mom to buy her the Hayabusa. She recalled how the elder Magnus had scoffed at such a frivolous request.

Disappointed, Ashley had nearly pouted the entire month prior to her birthday, only pride refraining her from doing so. She refused to show her mother that childish antic knowing that she would soon be 21 and would be regarded as a petulant little girl if she were to drop to such low forms of guilt tripping. And thus, she had sucked it up and feigned absolute indifference to her mother's comment about frivolous desires. When the faithful day had arrived, she had expected the usual routine of breakfast with the family consisting of her mother, the Big Guy, Henry, and Will, followed by a stroll out lunch with her mother and finally dinner once again with the family plus Uncle James and Uncle Declan. However, the morning after she had come down the stairs, her mother had handed her a case file and stated that they were backed up on retrievals. She had awoken later than everyone else within the house and had the last job on the list – the job no one wanted to take: Sewer stake-out.

Her frustrations had grown to nearly unbearable levels when her mother had just walked away without even uttering a 'Happy Birthday Ashley!' But she did not comment, hiding the hurt on her face and went off to prepare for the stake-out. After fuming and dressing at the same time in the privacy of her bedroom, Ashley had stomped down towards the armory and packed all the necessary equipment before trudging off to the garage. She had wanted to punch every single vase on the way, but that would have been far too obvious. Entering the garage, she noticed that every single car and motorcycle that her mother and she had ever purchased was gone. The entire garage completely devoid of anything. Well not completely.

In the middle of the garage stood a tarp covered thing. A little suspicious, she had cautiously made her way towards the object and lifted the dusty black tarp. Underneath the heavy item was a gleaming black and silver Suzuki Hayabua GSX1300R. Not just any Suzuki Hayabusa, the 2008 version of the Hayabusa, literally one of the fastest models out of all the years that were released for this bike. Ashley recalled how she had dropped her bags and practically ran her hands over the brand new motorcycle. Instantly, she regretted her emotions towards her mom, there should have never been any doubt that her mom would forget her birthday. And the simple fact that not only did she get the bike, but she bought the perfect year and model; her mother was no doubt truly amazing!

When she returned to the house, she found all of her family gathered near the staircase, holding the cheekiest grins they could muster. They seemed amused at her earlier silent rants across the house, believing that they had all forgotten her birthday. She hugged her mother, her exuberant energy at the prospect of riding her new treasure around town uncontainable. After a brief, due to her impatience to test out the new beast, breakfast – Ashley had grabbed the keys and tore out of the house like a bat out of hell.

Grinning at the fond memory, the young blonde straddled the motorcycle and turned the engine on. The gentle purring of the metal beast beneath her fingertips caused a tremor of excitement to reverberate through her entire body. It felt good to be back on solid ground and driving her vehicles. Traveling was wonderful in itself, but there was always something to be said for home. Reaching into her squad pack, she removed the matching silver and black full-face helmet. 'Bad enough I'm going to get a verbal tirade for moving around the world without prior notice, the last thing I need is to give mom more fuel for the fire by not protecting my head.'

With practiced patience, her fingers moved to ensure that the helmet was secure before flipping the visor down. The sun had set hours ago and would not affect her vision. However, she hated getting dry eyes during a ride and goggles were disgustingly tacky. Kicking the stand, Ashley leaned forward and veered the motorcycle towards the exit. With a twist and roar, she barreled past rows of cars with the sleek elegance of a jungle cat.

A shift in the air rustled the tranquility of the trees followed by a flash of purplish light. Two bodies silhouetted against the receding horizon, a glare of red and orange flashing across the landscape making the grass appear as if they were flames swaying in the breeze. Eloisa's grip tightened against the arm in which hers were wrapped around. The sharp edge of nails digging into expensive cloth as her equilibrium was thrown off balance. Never had she experienced such a way of transportation and could feel the remnants of the small breakfast she had consumed earlier rising along the lines of her esophagus. Unable to quell the acidic concoction, she turned away from the tall male beside her and met with tall blades of grass.

With a quirk of a brow, Druitt watched with a perfected look of boredom as retching sounds began to escape the young woman. Realizing that she did nothing about her long strands of hair, he capitulated to playing the chivalrous role and moved to gather the mud encrusted silken threads. Satisfied that no bile had mixed with her already sullied tendrils, he waited patiently until the liquid gargle ebbed into dry heaves. With efficient movements, he twisted and coiled the silken strands of vibrant red and allowed the collected bun to settle on the nape of her neck before moving away.

"Forgive me Ms. Fiammetta, I should have warned you about the teleportation. At times I forget that people are unused to such forms of transportation and should have better prepared you for such an event. Please accept my sincerest of apologies."

Breathing heavily, Eloisa swiped the back of her hand along her mouth, allowing her stomach to settle once more before taking a long, relaxing breath. Satisfied that she would not coat her host in a layer of her own stomach contents she turned and considered his words. "There's nothing to forgive, I should've been aware that you would teleport us to your location."

'She knows that I am able to teleport…what else does this young woman know…' he thought vaguely, eyes narrowing in consideration of possible decisions he could follow through with concerning this young woman. 'Her vast stores of knowledge regarding my history are a bit disconcerting. Hm…I will deal with that later.' In regards to her words, Druitt merely nodded his head once and regally proffered his arm to her.

Still unsteady upon her feet, she appreciated the strength of his arm as she rose to her full height, which she noted was still considerably lower than his own resounding 6'4. Leaning more upon him than she was comfortable with, Eloisa lifted her eyes to the approaching gate and gasped in awe at the property that was before her. Living on the minimum of her odd jobs within the States, she was used to moving from one small roach infested apartment to another. Never, could she contemplate being inside a home that was obviously meant for not only luxury but privacy as well.

Before her stood an incredible building of what looked to be three stories high. She could not label the property as ostentatious due to its rather simplistic farmhouse design with its stone walls. She cast a sideways glance at the dark and imposing male figure beside her and back towards the house they were approaching.

'This house looks homey and welcoming…and yet he is far from the image of a laboring father who returns home and cuddles with his children…' The property simply did not fit his acquired image at all.

Amused at her pathetic tries of hiding her shock and confusion, Druitt spoke in gentle tones. "This is an excellent example of a stone built farmhouse with origins dating back to the 18th century. It was originally three separate properties, but given my propensity for solitude, I purchased the surrounding two properties rather than be forced to be amiable to questionable neighbors." A dark chuckle escaped past thin lips at the dry joke he delivered.

Still infused with awe, she listened carefully to his dialogue although the joke her host presented was lost within the mixture of shock, as her eyes swept around the surrounding area noticing that the only sight available was the excellent panoramic views of open plains and mountains. There were no other homes that she could see.

"And where exactly are we, Mr. Druitt?"

"We are currently in the heart of the Pyrnes-Orientales department of the Languedoc-Roussillon area of southern France. Occupying a very private and rural location with far-reaching panoramic views, as you can see," he swept his free arm out to emphasize the lack of human interference, "this is an excellent home that sits right on the border with Spain."

"It's quite beautiful…," she whispered reverently.

"Indeed. The view is quite magnificent," he concurred. When they approached the black, intricately weaved gate, John opened the thin barrier and motioned for Eloisa to enter. Following after her, he closed the gate, not bothering to lock it, and once again hooked her arm in his. Now within the property, Eloisa could see the courtyard was lined with plants and gravel which led to a garage – most likely added only a few years before. She appreciated the sight of simplistic lines and healthy infusion of plants and nature. The vines that curled along the edges of the main house as well as the pathway leading to the backhouse were very enticing to the eye.

"Here we are," John paused before the massive double wooden doors and opened the entryway. Eloisa mentally noted that the front door was unlocked as well.

'Considering his ability to kill and teleport anywhere, the need to lock doors becomes very redundant.' Crossing the threshold, Eloisa's eyes cast over the stone walls and the wooden furniture that lined the hallway. She kept her sights open, head swiveling left and right in successive motions. Druitt, amused by this methodic search of hers, remained quiet.

'At first you were speechless, but now you are searching out any places that you may hide. Old habits easily overcome curiosity and pleasantry. What a shame, my little one. Can you ever enjoy new sights without feeling the oppressive jaws of your nurtured habits enclosing around you?' Quirking a brow, Druitt had to mentally laugh at the image of what her life would have consisted of. This small, frail slip of a girl cowering in a corner in an attempt to stave off a few hours of pain, only to find that avoiding such events would only lead to an extended session of torture. He released her hand and took half a step back. "May I take your sweater, Ms. Fiammetta?"

As soon as the words left his mouth, he noticed the way she instantly cringed and wrapped her slender arms around her waist, tightening the brown sweater around her body like a shield.

"N-no," she whispered with such vehemence for a moment he was struck speechless at her audacity. Druitt merely arched a brow at her words. From the corner of her eye, she noticed the look of momentary anger ghosting over his face before she continued, stumbling over her words in her pace. "I-I mean, n-no thank you, sir."

Hands curled like talons into the soft fibers of the sweater, praying to any and all gods out there that he would not insist on relieving her of the item. Druitt stared into her eyes, enjoying the flush upon her skin as she broke the contact to place her gaze upon the floor. 'You are quite amusing, my little one.'

"Of course, Ms. Fiammetta," he purred in that luxuriously deep baritone as he stepped lightly into the hallway, purposely bypassing her as if she were nonexistent. The action caused a stab of pain in the young woman's stomach. She had spent years avoiding the attentions of people and was quite successful at it. However, with this man, the lack of his attention made her nervous and even depressed. Disregarding her body's trained reaction to find a closet to sidle into, she followed the taller gentleman, hoping that he would acknowledge her presence.

Pleased at her predictable reactions to his actions, Druitt turned the corner sharply and entered the living room. The room was vast. The high ceiling offering a view of the wooden railings to both the second and third floors as the wall to wall windows, separated by wooden panels, encompassed the wall directly across the railings and offered a perfect view of the open fields and mountains. The living room itself was lined with thick carpets over wooden paneled floors. A large fireplace took the space of one of the three remaining walls as large sumptuous couches and armchairs littered the center of the room with tasteful little coffee table and side tables. Reaching for the lapels of his coat; John shed the heavy layer followed by the dark blazer of his suit and tossed it into one of the armchairs before turning his attentions back to Eloisa. He reached for her purse and learning from her earlier actions about defying his requests, she quickly acquiesced to his manners and allowed him to place the purse onto one of the side tables near the couch.

"If you would like to take a moment to freshen yourself, there is a rest room in the hallway. Simply turn right after entering the hall and open the first door to your left."

"Thank you." She bowed her head and hesitated for a fraction of a second before moving out of the room and into the hallway.

Head cocked to the side, Druitt watched as the young lithe woman moved towards the exit. Now that he was free to watch her without distraction, he noticed the slight limp in her step. 'She did not fracture any bones during her run through the alley. And she showed no pain in the walk towards the house. Must be an old fracture that never healed properly…,' he thought with little to no remorse, '…poor lass. The years of systematic abuse is so painfully written in your actions and face.' Druitt grinned sadistically, 'the thought of my time with you gives me such excitement. I will enjoy our play together.'

Enjoying the sight of her retreating back, John had to commend the young woman for the lack of noise in her steps. Like a housecat, softly trotting within the hallways of an ancient house. A feat that was difficult to achieve when one wears heavy footwear such as boots. 'You strain to be unheard. Very canny of you, my dear. Will you stab me in my sleep when our time together turns sour on your end?'

When he could no longer catch her scent near the room, John reached for the purse and perused the contents.

'Neat and tidy,' he mused as he found a wallet, passport, and a cheap chap stick. 'You left nothing in here for others to be distracted by. Even in death, you want your murderer to not be hindered. Simply kill you and grab your wallet, nothing else to siphon through. How morbidly kind of you to be so efficient.' He drew out the wallet and slid the driver's license from its sheath. The image on the plastic identification was eerily similar to the woman who had exited the room moments before. No smile. Skin pale. Eyes dead. Her name was printed in bold black letters as Eloisa Fiammetta, age 27, and a resident of Tacoma, Washington. 'Interesting, Italians are usually named after several descendents within the family and enjoy including their full name upon their identifications. You're lack of providing your extended name proves that you wish to have no connections to your past. I wonder why that is? Abusive household, perhaps?'

Returning her personal affects back into their proper place, John closed the purse and placed it back onto the side table as if it were never disturbed. Long strides led him to the back of the room where he poured himself and his guest a snifter of brandy. He lifted a crystal snifter in each hand and made his way back towards the center of the living area before settling his tall form in one of the plush leather armchairs. With infinite care, John lifted the glass to his lips and sipped the liquid. The burning sensation flowed down his throat and calmed his mind like a cooling balm. Ruing, he closed his eyes and leaned his head backwards, letting the scents and sounds of his home filter through his hypersensitive senses.

Eloisa followed Druitt's directions to the letter, easily finding the bathroom in the hallway. Slipping inside, the door closed behind her with a click. She did not bother to turn on the light, just not yet. Most people feared the darkness, believing that it was a shelter for monsters to lurk within. But she had learned. Monsters did not need the darkness to attack. Oh, how she learned that lesson well. There the young red-head stood, back pressed against the wooden door, savoring the lack of light. The darkness had always been her friend, her protector. Each night she survived a round of brutal beatings and stinging slaps, they would lock her in the room and the darkness always brought peace – respite. It was the only moment in which she found comfort. In the darkness, no one would touch her.

Breathing deeply, she flipped the switch and winced as the harsh light enlightened the room.

'They always come in the light,' she thought bitterly. The pain always began anew when their shadows could be traced upon the floor.

Respiratory rate increasing, Eloisa shuttered her eyes closed and urged her body to calm, mentally reminding herself that she was alone in the rest room and soon, soon she would find the peace she had always craved for. After a few moments, her thoughts and body relaxed enough for her to open those dead green eyes. Another moment and she found herself facing the bathroom mirror. The sight of her body made her whimper. Hair caked in mud, far too much for her to remove in just a sink alone. Her burnished red strands were also in tangles and clothes stained. She caught a glimpse of what looked to be vomit clinging to the edges of her sweater and realized that she had walked into Mr. Druitt's impeccably clean home looking like a fright of a mess.

Hands trembling, she turned on the water and tugged off those supple leather gloves. Gently, she pulled at the sleeves of her brown sweater, effectively ignoring the shallow cuts upon the exposed pale flesh. Cupping her slender fingers underneath the gushing faucet, she leaned over and splashed the frigid water onto her face. With controlled patience she ignored the slap of ice cold liquid and repeated the process until her teeth clattered and she could no longer see a trace of mud upon her features. She knew she was limited in her capability of 'freshening up', but it would be discourteous not to make an effort to appear hygienic.

Resigned to her fate, the water was shut off and the young woman toweled her face dry with an available green hand towel which hung from a ring attached to the wall. She sighed appreciatively at the feel of soft cotton fibers running along her face and soaking up the frigid droplets that had clung to her porcelain like skin. With slow, deliberate movements, she hung the towel back upon the ring and exited the small room, flicking the light off as she left. With barely a click to warn her host of her impending arrival, Eloisa softly treaded along the wooden floor to return to the living room. She was relieved that no noise emanated from her footsteps as she approached the massive space.

Upon entrance, green eyes shifted about swiftly. Mind cataloguing places in which she could squeeze her body into should the need arise. After the brief, yet thorough search, her emerald orbs finally settled upon the man seated in one of the armchairs. He looked to be asleep with his head tilted back, legs crossed fashionably, arms resting along the thick leather arms of the chair as one cradled a brandy snifter in its palms. The young woman could not help but appreciate the sight before her. She had little to no interest in the opposite gender; in fact she had little interest in her own gender for that matter. Yet, she was thoroughly intrigued and daresay even attached to this man before her. In a state of utter relaxation, as he was now, he exuded such an aura of controlled danger. Barely moving and still Eloisa could feel the unmitigated power that Montague John Druitt possessed. At a loss as to what her next actions should be considering the precarious situation she was in, Eloisa shifted in her position by the threshold. Even this action was startlingly quiet.

A blank space before him. A void of infinite space and possibilities. A splash of deep crimson caused a gash to form across the scene and he watched with patient breath as the color swirled like pure blood sucked into a drain. Another color. But what to add? Vermillion. A vibrant and earthy stain to smear and mix with the blood. Like a medieval battlefield with grass and grime to soak up the crimson liquid. Brown, a tarnished color bordering on the shade of rust, mixed into the image within his thoughts, completing the colors of earth and blood irrevocably mixed in morbid supplication to the dangerous claws of Man.

A new scent.

'She's returned…,' he noted off-handedly. With deliberate care, he drained the colors from his thoughts, returning the space of his genius back into the black void as his consciousness slipped into the forefront of his mind. He waited patiently, easily picking up the slight shifts in the young woman's movement with no disturbances in his own physical body to betray his sudden shift in awareness. Her nervous actions caused the waves of her scent to flower across the room, an amusing response for him to savor. 'What will you do my little one?' When she made no physical action to make her presence known, Druitt mentally smirked, quite pleased at her submissive demeanor. 'You know better than to disturb my presence and are now awaiting for my reaction instead. Very good, my little one. This pleases me immensely.'

"Sit down." His voice, although soft in its tenor, resonated with such a command that it sliced through the silence like a whip.

Eloisa's body jolted in unabated fear as that dark, nearly sinister voice of his broke the silence. Red-head snapped up to see if Mr. Druitt had been looking at her but found him still situated in casual repose. It looked as if he had not moved from his earlier position and left her to gawk in wonder. She had not expected the older gentleman to become aware of her presence and the mere fact that he had easily perceived that she was in the room only moment after she had entered brought forth that panic and fear she had wallowed in within the alleyway. Nervousness caused her hand to tremble as she realized that her gloves, which she had not slipped back on earlier, could not seem to find its mark upon her hand.


When Druitt spoke again, she raised her head to look at him, confused at the words, only to find that he was currently standing next to the couch, one hand supporting his weight on the back of the chair as the other lifted the glass of brandy to his lips. Shaken at his quick movement, Eloisa made haste in sliding on her gloves and securing them firmly before she approached the elegantly taller male. When she was close enough, she side-stepped his much larger frame, head bowed the entire time before sitting in one of the couches. She moaned in pleasure when the cushions conformed to her body, cradling her form in their warmth. A sound she had meant to stifle but could achieve to slightly muffle. Never had she luxuriated in such a wonderful sensation such as this.

John cocked his head to the side, observing her body through the entire exchange. He mentally marked the bruises upon her wrists, the scars barely noticeable signifying the lack of conviction in each slice attempted.

'I am quite certain that there are several more scars adorning your body, my little one. Does pale flesh dappled in black and blue cover those brittle bones of yours?' his thoughts hissed with succulent pleasure, 'what noise will they make when snapped? Will they make any noise at all? And what sounds can I draw from those luscious lips?' Druitt practically vibrated with excitement at the infinite possibilities that a woman such as Eloisa Fiammetta presented.

As soon as she was seated, he himself re-established the relaxed posture he was in moments before. Large hands motioned to the glass of brandy upon the coffee table. "Drink, please. It will help you relax."

At the sight of the alcoholic beverage in front of her, Eloisa stiffened almost immediately, the sensation of warmth escaping her body as if she had been slapped. Druitt took notice and arched a brow imperceptibly.

"No thank you." Her words were sharp and quick, nearly slipping from her mouth in the form of a scream.

'Hm, you equate imbibing liquor with a loss of control. Either your father or mother was a drunkard. Or perhaps your former abusers?' he cocked his head to the side, contemplating how he would use this new found information. 'No. I shall refrain from worshipping Dionysus in your presence. That look of utter helplessness on your face makes me envious…from now on my little one I will be the only being in your thoughts. No longer will former abusive acquaintances cross your memories. You will learn how possessive I am with objects I wish to destroy.'

With deliberate care, he purposely deposited his glass upon the wooden table, allowing her to distinguish the fact that his glass harbored only half an inch less of liquid in comparison to her own. In a blink of an eye, her rigid body relaxed. "Thank you."

Her voice was a barely strained whisper.

'That's right, my dear. I'm a benevolent sadist.' Even now he could see the cogs of her mind working, the strands of her loyalty beginning to form and bond to his visage. 'Like a rabbit falling into the fox's burrow.' Nodding in acceptance, John resumed his former position. He watched the younger woman scrupulously; knowing that to engage her in any conversation whilst she was tense would prove disastrous. And so, he merely smiled congenially at her.

Disarmed at his rather charming personality, Eloisa calmed further. Her heart rate began thumping at a normal steady rhythm, although her nerves were still running rampant. When still he did not speak, she understood that Mr. Druitt was allowing her time to adjust to his presence within his home. Instantly, she warmed at the concept. Never had another human being ever given her thoughts consideration. Perhaps her proposition would not be refused by him.

Absolutely amused at her perfectly predictable facial expressions, Druitt was able to calculate the exact moment in which his little toy was finally amiable to conversation. Not one to dally with unnecessary questions, given his time was certainly precarious at the moment; he delved directly into the heart of the problem.

"So, Ms. Fiammetta, please tell me about you."

"Why do you care about my past? Surely you know what I want."

Druitt cocked his head to the side, noting the defensiveness in her voice. "As I have stated earlier in our meeting, Ms. Fiammetta, I do not possess the ability for clairvoyance. I do not, as you have blatantly stated, know what you want."

'She is refraining from speaking about her past experiences. The switch between her anger and complacency is a coping mechanism she has built for protection. What other defenses have you created around your mind, my little one? You will learn that hiding behind those walls is useless against me, my dear.'

"If you wish to have my help, it would be far more convenient for you to encourage a positive relationship between us. Would it not?" He smirked as her hands clenched into twin fists upon her lap. Trapped. She knew that whatever plans she had concocted in her miserable little mind would be fruitless without his participation. No response escaped her lips and John sat, bemused as he noted the now prominent vein throbbing at her temple.

'You want to answer in a bitter remark, don't you my dear? But training has taught you that there is no right answer to such a question. Any answer you give will result in a blow. Tut, tut, tut. Your former masters have much to learn. There are far worse methods of pain than just physical violence alone.'

"Shall we begin anew, Ms Fiammetta?" his voice, although pleasant in delivery, held an undercurrent of command and authority that Eloisa could not disobey. She nodded in response. "Please kindly use your words, Ms. Fiammetta. You have been given the ability to speak openly and it would do the world an injustice not to share your lovely voice."

Blushing at the compliment, Eloisa shook her head again and within a fraction of that moment realized that mistake. "I-I am sorry. Forigive me. I mean – yes, please let's just start over."

"Very good," John shifted in his seat, uncrossing his legs and re-crossing those elegantly long limbs in the opposite manner, "please, do tell me about yourself."

Knowing better than to fight, she conceded to his request. "I was born in Agrigento, Italy. My family was very poor and my father was part of one of the many gangs that resided in our city. I was the youngest and the only girl out of the 4 children my parents had. Every morning was the same – harassment and threats and every night differed from no other. He would drink excessively with his friends and cause a ruckus in our town and then he would return home and demand to be treated like a king. Our lack of wealth prevented it and soon after he would beat my mother and threaten to kill one of us if she so much as screamed. And she never did, no matter how much harder he hit her. All to prevent him from taking his drunken anger out on one of us…"

Druitt refrained from speaking, allowing her to continue whenever her level of comfort encouraged her verbal display.

"Growing up in a place like that, my eldest brother ended up joining the gang too. And by then, no one was safe in the house…"

John planted an elbow upon the armchair, hand cradling his chin as he processed the beginnings of her rather brutal life. "And what actions did your brother take upon your mother and other siblings, my dear?"

Her eyes had glazed over at the memory. Her voice assuming a monotonous edge as her mind separated from her body in the tell-tale sign of coping. "The same things my father did. But he was more violent. All the anger that he had for my father he took out on me and my brothers. He wasn't allowed to touch mamma…"

At the last admission, Druitt noted the way her legs reflexively seemed to clench together. 'Hm, she refers to her brothers and father in third person. Almost clinical in association…yet refers to her mother as mamma. Close relationship.'

"And what of your mamma, Eloisa?"

Head snapped up at the mention of her Christian name. 'He hasn't called me that at all in our entire exchange.'

"She died. What else could possibly happen when you're living a fucked up life like that? He beat her to death."

Sighing in only a slight showing of irritation, John eased backwards, still composed and relaxed. "That is not quite what I meant. Obviously, given the circumstances of her life, death was an inevitable escape from her troubles." The way she glared at him at the comment made a tingle run across his spine. "I am far more interested in the relationship you two had. Did she comfort you after your brother beat and molested you?"

Her beautiful green eyes widened in shock at the mention of molestation. "H-how did – he didn – no!"

"There is no point in denying a simple fact. At the mention of your brother's interests forced away from the interests of the woman who had given birth to him, you clenched your legs together. It is a natural reaction to show your physical response to a memory. In this case, the memory of your brother trying to touch you forced your physical body to react in the present. You tried to stop him, did you not Eloisa? Fighting him off with every bit of strength you could muster."


"It was useless. He was older, larger, far stronger then a scrawny little girl such as yourself? Mhm?"


"And how did you cope, Eloisa?"

"Mamma…she would take my hand in the afternoon, when my father and brothers were out with their gangs…," she was far away now, lost in the memories that she held dearest. The memories that she would actively reach for and expand on in her thoughts when reality became far too harsh to live within. Druitt remained tense in anxiousness, as if he were about to taste the sweetest wine in the world. "She would take me to the coast, and would sit with me on one of the rocks. Just…just cradling me, and we would watch the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. She would tell me to close my eyes and she would sing."

Slowly, eyelids shuttered over those cold sapphire eyes. 'So that is her most treasured memory.'

When only silence ensued after her declaration, John cracked a single eye open in expectance. He was met with a cold-hearted glare from his new social companion.

"You are free to continue when you please, Ms. Fiammetta." She cringed when he returned to the more formal presentation of her name.

"Why should I? You haven't given me anything in return!"

"I could give you many things in return. Money, jewelry, clothes. However, none of those little tokens would be appreciated by one as dull in tastes such as you."

Jaw clenched, she practically growled, "What does it matter about my past!"

'Ah. You're irritation stems from the fact that you have shared your treasured memory with a stranger. And now you wish to lay blame upon me. I knew you would be an amusing little catch.'

"It matters to you simply because it matters to me. Understand, Ms. Fiammetta," he leaned forward, his eyes flashing dangerously, "that our conversation at this moment will determine how we spend our future time together."

"I didn't seek you out to spend my goddamned time with you!" she hissed, that brassy note of annoyance coloring her words like previously in the alley. She clearly did not enjoy the way he toyed with her as if she were a ball of yarn meant to be tossed between his claws.

"No. Clearly, you are here because you have sought escape several times. And from what I have seen of those scars upon your wrists, you have failed miserably. Tell me truly, Ms. Fiametta, did you even bleed? Those cuts are so shallow that not even a crimson drop was shed. Am I correct?"

Color dapples the cheeks of her pretty face at his words, anger and shame intermingled upon the creases of her forehead. Hands, which were trembling, subconsciously tightened around its counterparts wrists as if the pressure would make the lines of her attempted shame disappear.

"It is not death you fear, Ms. Fiammetta. It is the act of death that frightens you. Despite your anger and indifference towards the world, you still cling miserably to the tethers of your pathetic life – unable to take that final step. That is why you are here. You could easily throw yourself off a bridge or building, hang yourself, and ingest copious amounts of drugs until you fall into that final sleep. But that is not enough, is it Ms. Fiammetta? What you want, what you desire, is a meaningful death. You want to be remembered in your last days. That is why you sought after me for months."

Sad, angry tears pooled in those emerald eyes. But still, she said nothing.

"I shall make this transition easier for you, my dear. I wish for you to be my Eloisa for a period of time with my choice of length. I want to see how you process different forms of pain. It would please me immensely to learn how your mind works." He paused, allowing her to understand the relationship that would foster between them. "If, however, your obstinacy proves to be a grievance towards my patience, I will throw you back onto the streets with a level of pain and anguish that your little mind has not ever conceived before."

Still no reponse.

"If your effort within this exchange pleases me, I will be willing to put you out of your misery."

The young red-head remained docile, chin quivering, upon the couch. Instantly, John knew she would not bolt; her hopes currently lied with him. Standing to his full towering height, he stretched his arms and back and worked the kinks from his muscles.

"Please do take the time to consider my proposal. I have other business to attend to and I shall return in a few hours. Do feel free to use my home for any of your necessities."

With a graceful bow, he exited the living room and made his way towards the closet near the front door. Donning one of his leather jackets, Druitt could not help but feel that glorious adrenaline running through his veins. The rush of power was heady and filled him with such youthful vigor. With a sinful grin, he exited his home and gathered his thoughts before feeling that familiar ripping sensation.

A/N: I know, really dark turn. But this is an analysis of choice. So what happens next? And now it is official, Ashley is alive! Take that! And yes we will see more of her in the next couple of chapters, as well as see the interaction between John and Helen in future chapters and I tell you folks, it ain't pretty. Someone is going to get hurt, big time.

Please read and review! Reviews make my heart pitter-patter.

-two finger salute-

Entrenched out.