For mollybon, in gratitude for her sweet and encouraging PM, and rjk, because I do worry about the quality of my updates sometimes! And for everyone who's sticking with this story even though so far it's mostly Hurt and very little Romance or Comfort. Believe me, when the time is right, I will earn my M rating over and over ;)


As she passed him, his arm shot out and he grabbed her wrist, nearly crushing it in the grip of his long fingers. She cried out, both in pain and surprise, and turned to face him.

There was that intense look on his face again, the same look he'd given her before he'd kissed her, and she half expected him to pull her against his chest and ravish her mouth once more. She would kiss him back, she decided. She would use whatever tools she had at her disposal to make her plan a success.

"You forgot your boots," he said, voice low and rough, almost a growl. It sent a shiver down her spine the same way his touch sent shivers throughout the rest of her body.

"Oh," she whispered, heart pounding. She felt dizzy and oddly let down after the mental preparations she'd made. "I- I didn't see them."

He gestured towards the bed, and she noticed for the first time a pair of black leather boots tucked just underneath.

"Put them on," he ordered with a wry twist of his full lips. "Quickly this time."



She couldn't count the number of times she'd opened her eyes to find John staring down at her. Ever since he'd taken her- which was to say, ever since she could remember- it seemed to happen more often than not. Consciousness would come in its own good time but chances were he'd be standing by, waiting for her to awaken. It was almost routine by now. It was almost boring to meet his near colorless eyes and realize she'd been sleeping.

But something was different this time.

The room, for one, was not the cell she'd become accustomed to. More worrisome however was the fact that it was out of focus and spinning lazily around her, or maybe she was spinning, bobbing and turning like a leaf caught in a river's eddy. He was out of focus too, peering into her face with an expression that might have been concern if she could see it clearly.

"Stand still," she muttered, and her tongue felt thick and heavy, her lips not quite hers. She couldn't understand where she was, what she was feeling, or why. The last thing she could recall was a hot flush of embarrassment and a pair of black leather boots…

"You will be fine in a moment," he informed her. "If you are dizzy, do not try to sit up. These side effects of the sedative will wear off momentarily."

That caught her attention, cutting through the lethargic haze she was wrapped in, distracting her from the low throbbing beginning in her temples. "Sedative? What sedative?"

Against his instructions, she pushed herself into a sitting position, then closed her eyes and swallowed hard to fight the sick feeling in her stomach.

"The sedative I gave you before our escape," he answered, as though it were obvious. "I injected you when you turned to get your boots."

Her eyes flew open and she glared at him with all the fury she could muster. "You are such a bastard."

He sneered at her, face hardening in contempt. "There were no other options. We had to leave, quickly, and I could not waste time devising a means to prevent you from escaping."

"So you drugged me into unconsciousness without my consent," she summarized. "Again."

"And would you have consented?" he demanded, the question obviously rhetorical. "No? To any of what I've done? No? Do not try my patience with petty complaints."

Alia was almost grateful for the anger she felt. The heat of it seemed to burn through the final aftereffects of whatever drug he'd given her.

"Of course I wouldn't have consented. And I didn't, not to any of it, but… It's different, different from everything else." She stopped herself from continuing. "It doesn't matter. You don't care."

"I do not," he agreed easily. "And it is no different. I must control you as I see fit."

She looked at him standing there, so tall and proud and handsome and strong, and laughed bitterly. "You wouldn't understand. You've never known helplessness like this. But I swear to you, John, somehow, someday, I'll see you made helpless. And I really think I'll enjoy it."

It might have been an empty threat, but she realized as she said it that it didn't feel like one. She didn't quite understand where all this rage had come from, but she was grateful for it. It was freeing to feel something other than confusion and fear.

"I have been helpless," he told her, gravely. "Am helpless. Will remain so, until I find what I am looking for… Until you lead me to it. So enjoy it if you can. But never underestimate what I will do to keep you in my power until that day comes."

There was something poignant in his tone as he spoke, something dark and heavy weighing down a voice that was dark and heavy already. It reminded her that no matter how composed he seemed, at any given moment his desperation lay in wait inside of him. She'd seen it, felt it, touched it with her lips. He could be undone… She had done it. And she could use it, if she could just determine how.

Her plan, such as it was, had been a failure so far. But she didn't believe the fault lay with the plan itself. The fault lay with her, with her execution of it, but she had nothing but time. Somehow, she would get inside of him. She would make him come undone and then make him up again in the image of someone whose weakness was her. If it was possible she would hurt him. For everything he'd done to her, she would. And she would be free.

"I can't promise not to try to escape," she said when the silence stretched too long. She knew he imagined she would attempt some daring and physically taxing bit of stupidity, such as running from him, and she wouldn't rule it out necessarily. But she doubted he expected that her best way out was through him.

"If you believe there is anywhere you can go to be truly free of me, you are not as intelligent as I thought. I would tear the universe apart to find you, and you would regret it when I did." His voice never sounded so soft, or so beautiful, as it did when he was threatening her.

This time, her laugh was genuine. "Believe me, I regret it already."

"As well you might," he answered, and she imagined there was a hint of humor in his face for the barest second before it disappeared again. "But do not think you can escape me. And do not think you should. You would not be safe, either from me or anyone else."

She was immediately reminded of her dream, of the feeling of pursuit. If she'd had the chance to think about it at all, she'd have assumed that he was the one chasing her… But she realized suddenly that there was no evidence to support that conclusion. No evidence to refute it, either, of course, but… "What do you mean?"

"Believe me," he began, his mouth compressed into a thin, grim line. "You are far safer in my custody than with those who are against me."

"Am I?"

He narrowed his pale eyes at her as though trying to judge whether she were serious in her questioning. "Until I know what you know, you are more important, more precious to me than my own life. Anyone who thinks to take you from me will have to kill me to do it."

The unspoken And that is highly unlikely lingered in the silence following his vow.

She knew, of course she knew, that his words had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the information he believed she had, but they still made her feel… Something. She wasn't sure what, and wasn't sure she wanted to know.

"You would do well to remember it," he added pointedly. "Any attempt to escape me would be… Unwise."

The only possible response she could make would do nothing but force the conversation to loop back on itself, an ouroboros of his threats and her defiance and really it was pointless. She had no desire to remind him yet again that she would certainly attempt escape if given half a chance. Instead, she allowed her focus to wander from him, examining the room they inhabited for the first time.

Much like her previous cell, it was mostly empty, containing only her bed with nightstands flanking it. The walls were pale gray and blank (reminding her uncomfortably of the eyes she could still feel trained on her face), but there was a window draped in sheer gray fabric, and through it she could see the lights of a city skyline.

Her heart rate accelerated suddenly as she realized the implications. She was no longer trapped in a bunker, isolated. She was near some kind of civilization. She was freer now than she had ever been in all the time he'd held her.

"Where are we?" she asked, trying to keep the excitement from her voice.

He tilted his head to the side and almost smiled. "Do you not recognize it? We are in your flat in London."