Disclaimer: I make no profit from this as it is not mine. Lol sadness.
For the first six months of her stay at the orphanage, Amy was assigned a psychiatrist. She was a nice woman, always dressed in the same black skirt and white blouse. She came to the little office at the end of the second floor hallway twice a week, right after Amy was dismissed from breakfast.
Her purpose, she had said, was to talk Amy through the trauma, help her sort herself out and move on. But Amy didn't want to talk about the accident. She wanted to forget it. She heard from the older kids at the orphanage that children who refused the shrink's help were deemed unstable and unfit to be adopted. They were picked up by men wearing white doctor's outfits and never seen again. They went to the crazy house, they said, a place full of cold, white rooms and scary, dangerous people. Amy knew she didn't want to go there.
Reluctantly, she answered all of the nice lady's questions and half-heartedly participated in the therapeutic exercises, the threat of the crazy house hanging over her head.
During the quiet hour she spent with the lady who smelt like vanilla pudding, Amy found her mind drifting away from the repetitive questions and her attention drawn again and again to the poster hanging on the wall of the otherwise bare room.
It was an old thing, all faded and crumpled looking, but for a little girl it was fascinating none the less. The Milky Way sprawled in a vast darkness, sparkling and endless. Several times Amy had tried to count all the little stars in the picture, but each time she lost her place and gave up in frustration.
Every time she awoke shaking and crying from her latest recollection of that terrible, terrible day, she would remember those stars. They were so, so far. So tiny and pretty, dancing and spinning. She imagined that she was amongst them, somewhere so distant that the Earth was just a tiny speck in the distance. You couldn't begin to hope to make out people. It was quiet and cool there, like the living room in the house Amy had lived in with her parents. Nothing really mattered when you were out there all alone. No one needed you to smile and no one wanted you to tell them why you had a nightmare again.
Amy thought of her place amongst the stars now as she lay awake at 3 am. The nightmares had returned with a vengeance, all of her worst memories, new and old, colliding and mixing to shape something that filled her with gut wrenching terror.
Staring out the window helped her cope as she lay shivering. The lights of the city, the ones that were on anyway, were not very different from stars, and served just fine as a substitute.
When she felt as steady as she was going to get, Amy decided against going back to sleep. She'd be exhausted all day, but she couldn't bring herself to risk having nightmares twice in one night. She was worn out mentally as it were.
Climbing out of bed, she almost stepped on the dog, who was curled up beside her bed. Patting him softly on the head in apology, she looked around for Hope, but in the darkness the cat was nowhere to be seen.
Rising and stretching her tense shoulders, Amy pulled on her robe and a pair of thick socks. She could've sworn that the apartment got colder every day. There was no thermostat to confirm her suspicions and she doubted that Bane even noticed considering his near feverish body temperature.
The Rottweiler followed her to the kitchen, the click-click of his claws on the hard wood floors the only sound breaking the silence. Amy didn't turn on the light, finding the kettle by memory. The dark was comforting in a way. It felt almost as if she stayed in it long enough, she would just fade into it and disappear, leaving her problems behind.
It was immature and selfish, certainly, to want to shed her responsibilities like that, but Amy was so exhausted and worn out inside that she was beyond giving a damn.
She sat in one of the kitchen chairs with the dog lying across her feet, and finally admitted to herself that she couldn't keep supressing the memory of the attack. Breaking it apart and dealing with those emotions while she sat here in the dark, feeling safe and hidden, was much easier than leaving it to haunt her in the middle of the night as it had already begun to. The shrink that had treated her as a child had been right; she couldn't just forget about it.
The shrink was wrong however, when she thought was that six months was enough for a child to get over trauma like Amy's. Amy never ended up seeking another psychiatrist as an adult, so the memory still lingered like a weed, occasionally poisoning the rest of her, before receding and seeking shelter in the cracks. She'd never been strong enough to deal with that ordeal herself. She doubted that even if she survived this mess that she ever would be.
Closing her eyes, she brought back the mental image of the woman weeping at the mouth of the alley. Where had the man, Eric - she marveled at the fact that she could remember such a stupid detail - even come from? The street had been deserted as far as she had seen, although she couldn't say that she was looking too closely at every dark corner either.
Sadly, Amy realized that should she see someone else in distress, as the woman had pretended to be, she probably wouldn't be able to just walk away, no matter her previous experience. She'd drive herself crazy later wondering whether she'd just brushed off someone who had genuinely needed help. She could only rely on the idea that someone like Bane or Barsad would be with her should things go awry.
She was somewhat comforted by the fact that, all things considered, she could've had much worse than a concussion and some bruises. The blow from the bat could have killed her, or caused serious brain damage, and had it not been for the dog, she had every chance of being just another dead body in an alley somewhere.
Reminded of her furry saviour, she reached down and scratched behind his ears. And to think she'd been afraid of Rottweilers before.
She studied the animal's sleeping form and wondered what to name him. She supposed Bane probably had an idea if she cared to ask him, but she was still somewhat dissatisfied with his name for the cat. Hope was a pretty name, but given the context of its origin, it felt a little cryptic. It didn't roll off her tongue quite as nicely and carefree as something like Mittens or Spot might have. She couldn't bring herself to change it though, as it served as a rather firm reminder of just how grave and out of her hands her current predicament was.
The canine at her feet would forever, in her mind, be associated with her near death experience. She certainly didn't resent the animal for that, was thankful to him for his loyalty, but she wanted him to have a name that didn't hold any deeper meaning. Something that could belong to any old dog.
The kettle finished boiling her water with a soft click, and Amy carefully extracted her feet from under the dog. Skipping over her usual teas, Amy peered into the cupboard until she found the box she had noticed earlier. Hot chocolate was a surprise amongst surprises and Amy had nearly dismissed it as another tea.
It was the nice, flavoured kind, with little marshmallows already added to the powder. Amy smiled to herself. It was always the little things that made her glad.
Cup in hand, she beckoned the dog and sank down onto a couch in the living room. She wondered if Bane was sleeping.
Raoul lay awake, his eyes fixed on the dingy ceiling of the shelter. They hadn't risked airing out the space in case the heat gave out, so the smell of dog still hung in the air. He'd never liked dogs. His sleeping bag did almost nothing to soften the hardness of the floor beneath him, and already his back ached. He'd be in rough shape tomorrow.
But that wasn't what kept him awake. Amy hadn't showed. He'd waited several hours, restlessly pacing by the door. Blake would be upset. After all, it was his idea to use her.
Blake's new girlfriend had been very loose-tongued about her friend, and the news she'd been told about the bomb. Just proved how full of shit Bane's revolutionary speeches had really been.
Raoul's job should have been easy. Get the girl to trust him just enough to make her cooperate. His little act with her mutt had sparked her interest in him. It hadn't hurt that she was easy on the eyes, made his role easier to play.
Even so, he would have loved to have slaughtered her right then and there.
Anyone else who was that close to Bane on a regular basis would have killed him ten times over by now, but the soft hearted bitch instead spent her time rescuing animals from the cold. He wouldn't be surprised if she warmed Bane's bed at night. The thought made him want to puke.
But Blake had been adamant about keeping her alive. A cop, through and through, that one, but a smart cop. The little wretch was important to the plan, and Blake had wanted it to move along, to have the information they needed in no more than two weeks. Her absence halted it, caused a delay they couldn't afford.
Raoul didn't intend to stay idle. She had to leave her ivory tower eventually. The cop had already figured out exactly which tower that was, so it was only a matter of "accidentally" running in to her and leading her and her guards into an ambush. From there, he was sure she'd be easy to bend to their will.
And if she proved resilient, well, he was just itching to make her hurt.
Bane froze only a few steps after he started descending the stairs. He had no trouble seeing her in the darkness. The petite figure of the little angel was curled up on the couch, sipping slowly from a mug. Something chocolaty, judging by the smell that wafted up to him.
The scent was not hindered by his mask, as he had taken it off before heading downstairs. It was careless of him to wander around the apartment without it under the assumption that she was asleep. She seemed to be just as nocturnal as he.
The medicine he had injected into his arm would replace the mask for no more than an hour, and he usually spent that time carefully, caring for himself and nourishing his body. But he had wanted to try one of her pastries. She had looked so bright and cheerful making them, her eyes sparkling in delight when she greeted him. It had been positively contagious.
Her presence thwarted his plan.
The dog lying on the floor beside her lifted its head, ears perking up at the sound of his approach that only canine hearing could pick up. Bane held his breath. He wondered what she would do if she saw him now, without his mask. Would she shy away from his scars? Or would she start asking questions? The curiosity almost pushed him to do something to draw her attention, but he restrained himself.
He counted the seconds until the dog lowered its head back onto its paws and closed its eyes, deeming him non-threatening. Amy remained oblivious to his presence. She had a peculiar expression on her face, as if she were having an argument with herself. Her nose was scrunched up and her eyebrows furrowed. The corners of her mouth turned down delicately in a stubborn frown.
Crouching so he could see her better through the bannister of the stairs, he took care to breathe lightly. The absence of the mask made it easier to go undetected.
Amy set her cup down on the coffee table with a muted click. With a sigh, she stretched her legs out in front of her on the couch and closed her eyes. He couldn't help but notice the difference.
While Talia was graceful in the same way a snake was, all precision and deadliness, Amy reminded him of a gazelle. There was lightness to her, like that of a seasoned dancer. It made her look almost as if she were flowing through the movements, like water.
Bane realized more than ever just how breakable she was.
The only other time he had felt the need to be protective of someone had been with Talia. But she had been a child thrown into a place that even grown men had had trouble surviving. Amy was different. She was stronger than her tiny frame looked. Not physically, but with an inner core that she kept carefully hidden and he delighted in catching glimpses of.
She'd been upset with him when he awoke on the couch, and there had been a fiery anger in her eyes. It was foolish of him to want to crack her icy pretense of indifference when the plan was so near its completion, but he couldn't deny himself this one last pleasure. He wanted to see just how bright his little angel could burn.
Smiling beneath his mask, Bane returned to the darkness of the second floor. He could have some of her sweets another time.
"No. God. You're so bad at this."
The morning had dawned bright and pleasantly cheery, and Amy sat on the couch in a patch of sunlight streaming through the window. Barsad sat across from her on the loveseat, munching on what was probably his fifth cupcake. The dog lay between them, under the coffee table, idly observing.
Barsad had been rummaging in the fridge when she emerged from her bedroom. He informed her – around a mouthful of cookie - that Bane was gone for the day. He must've slipped out while she had been showering in the wee hours of the morning.
After breakfast, she got Barsad to help her name the Rottweiler, seeing as she wasn't going anywhere thanks to her concussion. So far, he was entirely unhelpful. The suggestions he provided were boring and unoriginal, and just didn't click. Amy groaned in frustration.
"You're on your own then, cupcake," he told her. Amy let out a snort of laughter.
She pointed at the pastry in the mercenary's hand. "Get it? Cupcake?"
He only looked at her. Rolling her eyes, she rose from the couch and went to the kitchen. If only there was internet, then she could've easily googled dog names and been done with it. Instead she was stuck with her less than exciting imagination. Until it hit her.
Abandoning the cup she had just grabbed, she dashed back into the living room.
"Cupcake!" she repeated, "Oh my God, it's perfect! I'll name him Cupcake!" She was fairly shaking with excitement. What an adorable name! It was perfect!
Barsad chocked on the mouthful of sugary goodness he had just bitten off. While he coughed up a lung, Amy sunk down onto the floor to sit cross legged beside the dog – no, beside Cupcake – and stroked his fur. Oh, happy day.
Re-emerging from the kitchen, Barsad pointed an accusing finger at her, his face flushed from his near death experience. "Cupcake? You want to name him Cupcake?" He advanced on her until he stood right beside her seated form. It was mildly intimidating considering he managed to block out a considerable amount of sunlight from the window and cast her in shadow.
"That." He pointed a finger at the dog. "That is a fighting dog. That is a beast that could tear a man into pieces. It deserves a proper name. Not an insulting joke like Cupcake." He spat the last word as if it offended him personally.
Indignant, Amy rose to her feet and scowled at Barsad. "My dog, my name," she ground out.
"It is a stupid name," he growled back. He advanced on her so that he was right in her face. Amy refused to be cowed, standing her ground and getting right back into his personal space.
"Cupcake," she hissed, "is a good dog. He's not some killing machine."
Barsad's lip curled in distaste and his hands curled into fists. Amy took a similar stance, her arms crossed.
They would've stood there for hours, it seemed, seething at each other, if Bane hadn't chosen that moment to burst in.
He stomped in, his sharp eyes on the feuding duo. For their part, the two sprung apart like teenagers caught necking in the backseat of a car. After a second's hesitation, Barsad nodded jerkily to Bane and made his way to the door.
"This isn't over," he told Amy angrily before disappearing out the door.
While Amy continued to stew in her fury, Bane clomped to the couch, depositing his coat on the arm. Breaking out her trance, Amy glanced at him as she sat back down beside the dog. His face was stony and his eyes cold. That sent a shiver through her. When Bane looked like that, someone was going to die.
Bane raised a not so patient eyebrow at her, as if to say Well? What was that about?
"He didn't like the name I picked for the dog," she explained quietly. Under his scrutinizing gaze she felt young and stupid. The whole argument suddenly felt like a childish spat.
"And what is this name that angered him so greatly?" he inquired. Amy felt her face flush. She hadn't thought about what Bane would think of her when he found out.
"It's nothing. It's stupid," she assured him quickly. Bolting upright, she went to escape to her room but he caught her wrist in a bruising grip. She stopped walking but refused to face him.
"I asked you a question." His voice was quiet and icy. Amy swallowed nervously.
"You'll think it's silly," she murmured. His hand tightened fractionally on her wrist, making her wince. It was a clear signal that she really didn't want to make him repeat himself.
"Cupcake," she said finally, "I named him Cupcake." She expected him to laugh at her. To tell her she was a stupid, stupid angel or something of the sort. Rather than insult her, he merely snorted and released her wrist.
"You would see softness in the Devil, wouldn't you?" he remarked softly. She shot him a peeved look and rubbed her wrist, before sinking onto the couch.
"Barsad said you'd be gone all day," she said in lieu of a question.
"Change of plans," Bane replied curtly. He would only give her snippets of information, just enough to keep her from refusing to follow his plans. That made Amy furious. She was lying – even if it was indirectly – to millions of people for him and he couldn't so much as tell her why he came back to the apartment covered in blood.
Suddenly feeling entirely too overwhelmed by his presence, she pushed herself off of the couch and paced to the window. She glared at the city below, the illusion of its peacefulness only serving to make her more irate.
"I want to go with Barsad when he goes to walk the dogs," she stated. It was the only thing she could come up with to get her out of the apartment without Bane asking too many questions.
"You certainly enjoy spending time with him," he snapped. Amy whirled to face him, his tone surprising her. What did he care?
"It's not like I have much choice for company," she replied saucily.
Bane glanced at her and began to say something, before stopping and looking straight ahead again. He sat like that for a moment, his expression thoughtful.
"Yes, you will go with him." He made it sound like it had been his idea all along.
Huffing in annoyance, Amy stormed away to her room to change into something warmer.
That morning had proven useful for Bane. The men who patrolled the area surrounding the building had reported seeing the same individuals over and over again. He had patrolled himself, carefully keeping out of sight, and noticed the same faces, hurrying this way or that but always ending right back where they started.
Bane didn't believe in coincidence. These men were watching for something, waiting. Bane just wasn't sure what. He did have a good idea of who, though.
Barsad had identified one of the sighted men as someone who he had seen Amy speak with. The conversation had seemed amiable – flirtatious even – to him. It was little to go on, but there was only one way of figuring out if their target was the little angel.
She had provided the idea herself. A guard supposedly preoccupied with walking the dogs and considerable distance from where Bane's men were congregated. The bait would seem only too easy to take.
And if they did, Bane would be right behind to purge the city of them.
The fresh air felt good on Amy's face after spending so much time indoors. Barsad was at her side, several leashes in each hand. Amy held Cupcake's lead and a box of cookies in the other. The cookies were for Cassidy. Her friend's words still hurt, but Amy found herself unwilling to hold a grudge when she didn't even know if she'd survive till spring.
Barsad set a quick pace, his long legs covering more ground than Amy's. It didn't take long for him to be several feet in front of her. Amy glared at the back of his head. He could sulk all he liked, but she'd be damned if he made her jog for him.
Just then a voice called Amy's name from behind them. Barsad whipped around almost as if he had been expecting it, a grim smile on his face. He turned to Amy with a knowing look on his face.
"It is your friend, from the shelter," he told her. How he could see the person's face from this distance she had no idea. All she could make out was a vaguely male looking figure dressed in black.
As the man jogged closer, Amy realized that Barsad had been right in identifying him. The mercenary watched the arrival with a spark in his eyes, like he was remembering an inside joke. Amy's stomach twisted in unease. Something was off.
"Amy!" Raoul reached them out of breath, his face red from exertion. "Weird that we'd be at the same place, at the same time, huh?" Out of the corner of her eye she saw Barsad break into a full out grin. She felt light headed.
"Maybe it's fate," she said weakly. Raoul threw back his head and laughed like she'd just told the funniest joke he'd ever heard.
"You're a funny girl, Amy, a very funny girl." He sounded rushed, desperate almost and his eyes kept darting from place to place as if he were waiting for something to pop up. Cupcake growled.
"What do you say, we take a walk, huh? Just a little walk down towards your friend's dress place?" he questioned rapidly. Something in her mind screamed that this was going all sorts of wrong but before she could voice her protest, Raoul had grabbed her arm, making her drop her box of cookies. Raoul trampled it in his haste to half-drag, half-yank her back the way he had come.
Barsad avoided her gaze, his face an impassive mask. Some guard he was.
"No, Raoul, let me go. You're hurting me," she protested. She tried to wrench her arm free of him but to no avail. Why wasn't Barsad doing anything!?
"Your friend, you see." Raoul continued talking like she hadn't even spoken. "Your friend – Cassidy? Is that her name? – she was awful sorry for what she said the other day. Told my buddy Blake – John Blake, you heard of him? – that she wanted to apologize, make amends you see, but you wasn't showing up anymore, not giving her a chance." Amy tried to dig in her heels to slow his movement but the flat soles of her boots provided almost no friction against the icy ground. Cupcake growled, baring his teeth at Raoul. That made him pause. He looked at Barsad.
"Take the mutts. They'll only interfere." Barsad silently nodded and grabbed for the leash in Amy's hand.
"What are you doing? Help me! Barsad!" Amy pulled her arm back to keep the leash out of his reach. At this point, only Cupcake stood between her and whatever it was that Raoul planned for her. The Rottweiler was growling in earnest now. It only took Barsad a minute to wrestle the lead out her hands and to tug the angry dog away.
Raoul started pulling her again, this time towards an alley. Amy screamed and kicked at him. A sharp pain rocked her head to the side and Amy felt her lip split. He'd slapped her. With her head at this angle she saw Barsad slowly disappearing in the distance, Cupcake fighting him the whole way.
"Keep quiet, bitch, and I might not break your jaw," Raoul's voice hissed by her ear. He nearly dislocated her shoulder pulling her to her feet and lugging her forward. She was still reeling from the blow, stumbling and unable to fight him.
The alley was a dead end, with a metal door partly hidden behind a garbage bin. Raoul wrenched it open and shoved her through. She went down, scraping her palms and knees on the ground. Tears blurred her vision, both from the pain and the panic.
"Oh my God, Amy!" The voice was familiar, painfully so, and Amy screwed her eyes shut to escape confirming her suspicions.
"Raoul, you said you'd bring her willingly!" This voice belonged to a young man. There were hands on her face now, turning her head so they could see her abused cheek.
"Oh my God, what happened to her!?" Amy finally opened her eyes. Cassidy was crouching over her, her face lined with worry. Amy bit back a sob.
"She fell," Raoul said confidently. He appeared in her line of vision, squatting behind Cassidy. "Isn't that right darling?" His eyes glimmered maliciously. She wanted to scream and tell them that he was lying, but there was something so horribly cold and inhuman in his eyes that it terrified her beyond reason.
Pushing herself into the wall at her back, Amy looked away from him. She swallowed past the knot in her throat and willed herself not to cry. She needed to focus and figure out how to escape.
Seemingly satisfied, Raoul stood up and sauntered away. Cassidy continued to inspect Amy's face, apologizing in a stream of undistinguishable words. Amy ignored her, taking in the rest of the room. There was a man with dark hair who looked like he was in his late twenties hovering nearby, murmuring in low voices with Raoul. He looked anxious. There were several other men in the room too. They congregated beside the radiators that stuck out of the far wall, occasionally throwing glances at her and whispering amongst themselves. They didn't look very friendly.
From what she could see, this room looked like a disused classroom. There were no desks, but what looked like an old black board hung on one of the walls. There were window frames but the actual windows had been bricked over.
Amy turned to Cassidy who was still chattering nonsense. Grabbing her hand, Amy met her eyes.
"Cassidy, why am I here? Why are you here?" she asked here. "Is this a rebellion? Because that is a terrible, terrible idea, Cassidy. Bane sniffs them out in no time. This is dangerous, damn it!" She was babbling but she couldn't stop herself in her panic.
Cassidy shook her head, her expression guilty. "I can't tell you Amy. I want to, but I can't."
Amy felt her stomach drop. What were they doing that Cassidy couldn't even tell her about? The dark haired man chose that moment to approach them. He tugged softly on Cassidy's hand.
"C'mon, we have to go. We need to lead Bane's men away from here." Cassidy began to protest but he shushed her and pulled her into her arms. "Raoul will look after Amy."
Amy nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt Raoul's hand on her face, turning it away from the leaving couple.
"You know I will," he said with a smile that made Amy start shaking anew. She was about to start fighting him when she felt something sharp dig into her side. Looking down she saw a switchblade pressed against her stomach. It was hidden from Cassidy and the man by her body, and Amy could only watch helplessly as they stepped out of the building. The door had barely shut when Raoul grabbed a fistful of her hair and dragged her upright. She clawed at his hand but he produced the switchblade again, pressing it against her throat this time.
"Alone at last," he said in a mockingly gentle tone, "Aren't you ready to have some fun sweetheart?"
Author's Note: Not entirely satisfied with this chapter. It felt a little boring to me. I hope this sort of evens out, at least a little, my three month plus absence. Worry not! I pinky swore to myself that I'd finish this thing before summer ended so I'd have no distractions when school starts up in September.
But on a different note, I want to thank-you all for your endless support! Thank-you! Thank-you! Thank-you! Reviews keep me motivated and coming back to this story again and again!
Please let me know what you think of the story so far. Did it take a direction you didn't expect/didn't want? Did I totally make you hate it by making Raoul evil? Do you think I'm making Amy too scaredy cat or Bane too soft? I'm curious and constructive criticism always helps a lot!
Until next (hopefully soon) time!
P.S. I think I wrote the word cupcake at least a dozen times in this chapter and it eventually turned into cupake and cucake. A dog named Cupake? I think so.