A/N: I'm trying something a little different here. I've remained as faithful as I could to the dialogue from the script, written by William Goldman, only changing what was needed to fit the setting of a modern day AU.
This is a gift!fic for Great Angemon.
I heard the clink as two cups were set down on a metal table. At least, it sounded like metal. But I didn't dare remove the blindfold. I could still feel the cold steel of the short man's knife at my throat, the skin puckering around the place where his blade had nicked me.
"You guessed wrong," said the mysterious man.
"You only think I guessed wrong," the short man said, his laughter echoing in the room. "That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned.
"You fool," he continued, spitting out the words. "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia.' But only slightly less well known is this: 'Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'"
His laughter continued, bouncing back from the corners of the room, even after the source had stopped. I heard a thud as a body hit the ground. Had the masked man managed to fight off the effects of the poison long enough to kill the short Sicilian man or had he actually outwitted the self-proclaimed mastermind?
I felt a hand land lightly on my temple. Taking a deep breath, I willed myself to be still. Perhaps it was the Sicilian, and he'd only stopped laughing because the masked man was dead. And if it was the masked man... well, I wasn't sure if I should be scared or relieved that he'd rescued me from the Sicilian and his gang.
The blindfold was pulled away, and I could see the mysterious man for the first time. A black hood covered his head and neck so that only his mouth and eyes were exposed. His lips formed a thin line, stern and unsmiling. But his eyes...
I had been apprehensive when I came across the Sicilian, his broken down car blocking the deserted highway, forcing me out of my '67 Mustang. I had been scared when his two lackeys had emerged from the trees and surrounded me. The brute had been bad enough, a large man in every sense of the word, but it was the other, the one with the Spanish accent and the wicked looking knife, that frightened me more.
Now, however, I understood what it meant to be scared. There was a coldness in this man's eyes, a killer's instinct. I wondered what had become of the two men that had traveled with me, the men who had been sent off to fight this mysterious stranger and never returned. Were their bodies lying on the concrete somewhere in this abandoned factory? Were they as dead as the Sicilian, his fine suit wrinkled and dirty as he smiled up at me from the floor?
"Who are you?" I asked, inwardly cursing at the slight quiver in my voice.
"I am no one to be trifled with," he said, gripping my wrists roughly as he cut through my bonds. "That is all you ever need know."
He yanked me to my feet, clasping my hand to lead me from the room. But the Sicilian was still staring up at me with his dead eyes. Eyes that were still warmer than those of the masked man.
I glanced at the table, at the two cups and the empty vial. How had he done it? I hadn't been able to follow the Sicilian's circular reasoning, but perhaps if the man could explain how he'd known what the Sicilian would do, how he'd cheated death... perhaps I could trust him, then.
"To think – all this time," I said, "it was your cup that was poisoned."
"They were both poisoned," said the man, his patience wearing thin as he pulled me towards the door. "I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder."
Though his answer was far from reassuring, his glare spurred me forward, and I resigned myself to following his orders. But I would not trust him. I resolved to find a way to escape his company because the man in the mask terrified me.
"Catch your breath," he said, shoving me towards a gray sedan.
We'd only been a few blocks from the abandoned factory when the first helicopter had flown by, its bright light cutting through the darkness as it swept across the road. The masked man dragged me into the shadows, confirming my suspicions that he had not been sent to rescue me. We had darted furtively through alleys and streets for the better part of an hour before arriving here in this underground parking lot.
"If you'll release me," I said as he fiddled with the car's trunk, "whatever you ask for ransom you'll get it, I promise you."
The trunk popped open, and he gestured me inside. Biting down on my lip to stop it from trembling, I crawled into the trunk with as much dignity as I could muster. He couldn't ransom me if I were dead, so there must be some other reason for stuffing me in a trunk. At least, I hoped so.
"And what is that worth, the promise of a woman?" Surprisingly, he climbed in beside me and felt along the back wall. He released the catch, and the seat folded forward. "You're very funny, Highness."
Highness. As if I were some pampered princess whose rich parents had spoiled her rotten. Obviously, he didn't know who I was. It had been all over the newspapers when my engagement to Senator Humperdinck had been announced – the simple country girl who had caught the eye of the nation's most eligible bachelor.
"I was giving you a chance," I said, crawling through the opening. He followed after he'd pulled the trunk shut, and then passed me to begin working on the steering column. "No matter where you take me... There's no one more connected than Senator Humperdinck. He can create a media storm with a single call. Put every law enforcement agency on your tail. He can find you."
"You think your dearest love will save you?" said the masked man, snorting with derision.
"I never said he was my dearest love." The words had tumbled out before I could stop them. The public wasn't supposed to know. It could hurt his campaign. Perhaps I could still fix this. "And yes, he will save me. That I know."
He stopped fiddling with the wires and turned towards me, fixing those cold eyes on mine. "You admit to me you do not love your fiancé?"
I could lie. I could give him the well-rehearsed lines I'd given to everyone else – the cameras and reporters, friends and even family members. But his stare compelled me to the truth. "He knows I do not love him."
His eyes narrowed for a fraction of a second before he turned away, continuing to hot-wire the car. "'Are not capable of love' is what you mean."
White-hot fury rose in me, suffused with memories of warm summer nights on the porch swing, that stubborn lock of blond hair that always fell into his eyes, that first wonderful, magical kiss and every kiss that followed. Oh, I had loved. And I had lost. "I have loved more deeply than a killer like yourself could ever dream."
With frightening speed, he wrenched me from my corner of the backseat, his face inches from mine. I held my breath, too afraid to move. In fact, I was paralyzed, held in place by the gloved hands clutching my arms.
His eyes scanned my face. Despite the dim light, I could finally see the color. They were blue – icy blue eyes without a trace of empathy.
"That was a warning, Highness," he said, shoving me away in disgust. "The next time, my hand flies on its own. For where I come from, there are penalties when a woman lies."
I drew my knees to my chest and curled myself into a ball, trying desperately to hold back the tears. Although he'd done nothing to harm me, less even than the Sicilian and his gang, I felt violated.
He started the car, and we drove out of the garage and into the night. I could hear the helicopters above and raised my head to see them converge upon the factory. I watched them grow smaller and smaller, the last bit of hope became a pinpoint of light in the distance until that, too, disappeared.
"Rest, Highness," he said.
We had been driving for hours through smaller byways and back roads, avoiding the major interstates. After we'd left the city and its suburbs behind, he'd ordered me to sit beside him in the passenger seat. I didn't dare close my eyes for fear of what might happen while I slept.
"I know who you are," I said softly. His smirk and my exhaustion gave me courage to continue. "Your cruelty reveals everything. You're with the military. Admit it."
"With pride," he said with a flourish of his hand. "What can I do for you?"
"You can die slowly, cut into a thousand pieces."
"Hardly complimentary, Your Highness." There was amusement in his voice, as if my words held no threat. Of course, they didn't. He held all the power, and I wasn't likely to forget. "Why loose your venom on me?"
"You killed my love."
"It's possible; I kill a lot of people," he said. The nonchalance in his tone chilled me, but he didn't refute my admission of love like he did before. "Who was this love of yours? Another politician, like this one, ugly, rich, and scabby?"
"No," I said. "A farm boy. Poor. Poor and perfect, with eyes like the sea after a storm."
I stared out the window, over the seas of grain and time to a young girl who mercilessly teased the foster boy next door, with his stringy blond hair that refused to stay in place and who followed her everywhere. He always returned, as constant as a shadow no matter what insults I flung or the pranks I played.
And then I learned that he would do anything I asked. An apple from McCaffrey's farm thirty miles away? As you wish. The doll from the booth at the state fair? As you wish. He'd even restored my father's old, rusted '67 Mustang because I'd asked, polishing it until I could see my reflection.
"As you wish" was all he ever said, asking nothing in return for his efforts. It took me ages to realize that he did it because he loved me. It took only a little longer to realize that I loved him.
But it wasn't soon enough. Our senior year flew by, and he was gone. His foster parents had kicked him out when the government checks stopped coming, and he had no money for college. He'd done the only thing he could do – enlist.
"He was on a mission in Afghanistan," I said. Though the words were painful, I kept the emotion from my voice. I wouldn't have him using this, twisting my words against me. "The vehicle he was traveling in was destroyed by an IED. It took me almost a year to receive confirmation of his death."
"We can't afford to make exceptions for every high school sweetheart with little to show for her supposed claim to a man's affections." He glanced pointedly at my flat stomach and smallish breasts. "Then it's nothing but work, work, work, all the time."
I crossed my arms over my chest, ineffectually shielding myself from his scrutiny. Yes, having a baby would have made it easier to prove my relationship, but it didn't mean I loved him any less because I didn't share a child with him. "You mock my pain!"
"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."
Life is pain. My life had been nothing but pain since he left. But at least he'd been alive. When I learned of his death, the pain had been too much to bear. All that was left was numbness.
We sat in silence for a while, the endless pavement before us.
"I remember this farm boy of yours, I think." He glanced at me again, gauging my reaction as he spoke. "This would be, what, five years ago?"
Five years, three month, and twelve days.
"Does it bother you to hear?"
"Nothing you can say will upset me," I said, wishing I could believe my words. He'd already proven how easy it was to rile me.
"He died well, that should please you. No bribe attempts or blubbering when they sent him out. He simply said, 'Please. Please, I need to live'."
In his last letter, he'd written that he would be going to a hotly contested area, but he couldn't say where. He'd asked for a transfer or a delay, but had been denied. It was as if he knew he was going to die.
"It was the 'please' that caught my memory," continued the man in the mask. "I caught up with him later and asked him what was so important for him. 'True love,' he replied. And then he spoke of a girl of surpassing beauty and faithfulness. I can only assume he meant you."
I bit back my tears as the wound in my heart re-opened. The only comfort I had was that his last thoughts had been of me, of our love.
"You should be thankful that he was killed before he found out what you really are."
"And what am I?" I cried, no longer caring that he saw my pain, that he'd peeled back my defenses. He would not take this from me. He would not insult my love.
"Faithfulness, he talked of madam," he said, taking his eyes off the road to glare at me, "your enduring faithfulness. Now, tell me truly, when you found out he was gone, did you get engaged to your politician that same hour, or did you wait a whole week out of respect for the dead?"
"You mocked me once, never do it again – I died that day!" Anger rose in me again. He didn't know me, didn't know the strings that shackled me to Humperdinck. And he didn't know that we were coming up on a patch of ice. "You can die too, for all I care!"
I yanked the steering wheel. We skid across the ice, the car spinning out of control. His hand grabbed mine. I tried to pull away, but he refused to let go. I stared at his face, and his lips curved into a smile. It warmed his eyes, the icy blue melting into clear blue skies after a storm.
"As you wish," he said.
Suddenly, my world was set right as the car flipped over the embankment and rolled down the hill.