Eleven: Promises in the Night
: Laurell K. Hamilton owns all things Anita Blake. Only the story is my own.Rating: RNote:
Please note that this chapter continues to deal with issues of abuse and non-consensual sex.~*~Part Eleven
Promises in the Night~*~
I let Jean-Claude usher me into a small, white-tiled bathroom, complete with shower and bathtub. I'd walked by this room many times, but never knew what was inside.
"I always thought this was a storage closet," I mumbled as Jean-Claude closed the door behind us.
"No, ma petite." Jean-Claude opened the cupboard doors underneath the sink and pulled out a couple of fluffy white towels. "This is here in case any of the dancers do not wish to shower in the change rooms."
"Oh." I watched Jean-Claude's hands as he laid the towels on the counter, smoothing out a tiny wrinkle. "Does anyone use it?"
"Occasionally." Jean-Claude went back to the cupboard and pulled out a new toothbrush, still in its plastic wrapping from the store. He laid it beside the counter. "Robert will bring toothpaste, along with your water and clothes, ma petite."
My stomach clenched at the vampire's name. "Why him?" I asked.
"Because he is the only one here who will not ask questions, nor say anything to another," Jean-Claude said, turning to me. "I know you dislike him, but he is my second and he will do as I say."
I wasn't able to meet Jean-Claude's gaze, and part of me was pissed off that I was acting like this, like I was falling apart. I didn't have the fucking time to act like a victim.
"Was Robert still around, in your... other time, ma petite?" Jean-Claude asked.
"No," I said distantly, walking over to the mirror. I made myself look at my reflection. In the harsh florescent light, the bruises stood out starkly against my pale skin. "He was killed."
The room grew still, Jean-Claude as motionless as death. "How?"
I reached out and touched the glass with my fingers, over the reflection of my injuries. "Sabin's human servant and werewolf killed him." The bruise on my jaw was half-hidden behind my hair, and other than a scrape on my cheek, my face was almost unmarked. The dark, hollow circles under my eyes weren't from a physical injury.
Jean-Claude appeared in the mirror behind me, surprise on his face. "Ma petite, these things you say are beyond belief."
"What is?" I asked flatly. "That Sabin's triumvirate came to town looking for help, and killed Robert? That Cassandra, Sabin's wolf, infiltrated the Thronnos Rokke clan? That Sabin gave up feeding on humans for his lady wolf?" I spun around, getting angry. I wasn't sure why, but it was a familiar sensation and I latched on it. "Or that they almost killed us and Richard before Edward killed Dominic?"
I pushed past Jean-Claude and paced the few steps across the bathroom. The tile was cool and slippery under my stocking feet, and I focused on that, not the aches in my body and my head.
A knock sounded at the door, startling me. Jean-Claude opened the door half-way and took something from whoever was outside. He said a few low words, then the door closed again.
Jean-Claude laid his armful, a hairbrush and a bottle of water on top of a pair of neatly folded sweats, on the counter beside the towels. "Sabin has a human servant named Dominic, true, but he does not have a triumvirate."
"Yes, he does." I was already tired of this. I knew that everything I'd tell him would be argued. "His animal to call is the wolf. Her name's Cassandra, and she's a short werewolf, pretty, and she convinced Sabin to stop feeding off humans." I walked over to the counter and, not looking at Jean-Claude, picked up the brush. "He began to rot." I closed my eyes briefly against the memory of Sabin's decay. "It was really horrible." I concentrated on separating a lock of hair from the matted mess on my head, and brushed it out. "You told me then that there were so many things you'd do for a woman you loved, but that was not one of them."
"To give up feeding..." Jean-Claude's voice was filled with a quiet horror. He didn't believe me, not yet, but he was close. "What a horrible thing."
"Plus, he totally abused your trust and tried to kill us all," I pointed out. "We needed to redo the marks, and I almost didn't make it to you guys after I killed Gabriel and Raina. I almost lost you guys." The brush hit a particularly tangled knot in my hair, and tears rose to my eyes, but I kept pulling dully at my hair.
"Ma petite, may I do that?" Jean-Claude asked softly. I clenched the brush in my hand. After what Alejandro had done, I didn't want anyone touching my hair. That's stupid!
I chastised myself. Jean-Claude's not going to hurt me.
Still, it took all I had to hand the brush to Jean-Claude. The only consolation I had was that my hand didn't shake at all.
Jean-Claude carefully teased loose a section of my hair, and began to brush it out so it didn't hurt. "When Robert died," I said, taking up the story again, "You mourned him, and I didn't get why."
"Living so long with an individual can create bonds, if not of friendship then of endurance," Jean-Claude said. He picked up another thin section of my hair and set to work.
"You said something like that at the time." I reached for the water bottle. It was slightly chilled, and was one of the more expensive brands of imported French spring water on the market. It was reassuringly Jean-Claude, to bring me only the best like this. I blinked back the sudden stinging in my eyes and uncapped the bottle.
"May I ask a question?"
"You said that 'we' needed to redo the marks, in this incident with Sabin," Jean-Claude said. "Who was 'we', and why did we need to redo the marks?"
I put the bottle of water on the counter hastily. "It was me and you and Richard," I said after a moment. I couldn't just tell Jean-Claude half the story, not when this all impacted him so greatly. I may not be able to tell anyone else, including Richard, any of it, but Jean-Claude needed to know.
I needed him to believe me.
"Richard?" Jean-Claude asked, voice masking mild surprise. "Why would you and I and he form a triumvirate, if that is indeed what you are speaking of?"
"He's more powerful than he lets on. By next summer, he's going to decide to stop hiding, and start protecting people who come to him." The bandage on my left hand was beginning to peel up, so I pulled the entire thing off my hand. The scratch was healing nicely. Not as fast as it had when I had the third mark, but still quicker than human.
"In spite of the power, ma petite..."
"And there was another thing," I said quickly. "You know how I'm a necromancer, and he's a werewolf and stuff." Jean-Claude nodded. "We found out that I can be a bridge between all three of us."
"Fascinating." There was something in his voice that I didn't want to spend the energy to decipher, but it made me look hard at him in the mirror. He moved slightly to brush more of my hair. "But, and forgive my questions, it was my understand that when a triumvirate is formed, all four marks must be given at once. You already have two of my marks, ma petite."
"But the thing with Alejandro..." I stopped talking when Jean-Claude's head shot up, his blue eyes burning. I glared back. "What?"
Jean-Claude held the brush away from my head. "I do not wish you to be agitated needlessly, ma petite," he told me.
I'd had enough of looking at myself, and turned around to face Jean-Claude. "The only thing that's agitating me is trying to remember all of this," I said fiercely. "Look, it was three fucking years ago, and none of this stuff happened the first time! A lot's happened to me, to us, since then, and I can't help but think that I'm missing something important!"
I put my hands against his chest, bracing myself against him. Feeling him here, so real, helped me concentrate on what was important.
"I apologize for presuming, ma petite," Jean-Claude said. He waited, supporting me, until I took a deep breath and stood away from him. "You were speaking of Alejandro?"
I nodded. "I've got two of your marks, right? Last time-- I mean, before--" I broke off. "Hell, I don't even know what to call it!"
"Call it whatever you will," Jean-Claude said. He moved around me to resume brushing my hair. I let the soft tugging motions on my head distract me for a few minutes, before I pulled myself back.
"Last time, on this night, I had three zombies to raise with Larry, like tonight. But last time, the cops called and I had to go and deal with Cal Rupert. He was the first victim of Alejandro's kiss."
"You mentioned him last night."
"Yeah." I reached around for the water, wincing at the pull on the aching muscles in my shoulder. "Today, I went and executed Cal's living will as soon as the sun came up, so that wasn't a problem. But last time, I got to work late, and Larry was raising the third zombie by himself. We were behind schedule, and when we were done, Humans First came after us."
Meticulously, and with as much detail as I could remember, I told Jean-Claude all that had happened that night. He listened carefully, even after he finished brushing my hair.
"So Alejandro gave you the first mark that night."
"Yeah." I ran my finger over the wet rim of the bottle, thinking. "Then a couple of days later, after Inger took me to see Mr. Oliver, Melanie, Oliver's lamia, tried to kill me and I ended up in the caves, and he gave me the second mark."
"Then you carried two marks from each of us."
"Sort of." I took another long drink from the bottle. The cool water stung my sore throat, but I wouldn't admit that weakness to myself. "While I was in the caves, one of the lamia's mates bit me. Then I got home, and Richard was there for our date. The poison decided to act up then, and he brought me to you."
"The third mark can protect against poison," Jean-Claude said, his voice carefully empty.
"And that's what you did." I put the now-empty bottle on the counter. "But I was unconscious and when I woke up, I freaked out."
Jean-Claude breathed out slowly. "I can see why that might have happened."
I looked up at him. "That doesn't make what I did right!" I exclaimed. "I told Mr. Oliver who you were! I was scared and I felt that both you and Richard lied to me, but that doesn't make it right! I--" My voice stopped suddenly. I couldn't admit out loud that I'd betrayed Jean-Claude, even when it was the truth. I slid to the floor, pulling my skirt up as high as it would go.
After a moment, Jean-Claude joined me on the floor. "What did I do when I was faced with this?"
I turned my head away from him, staring at a small scrape on the side of the tub. "I told you when I figured out that Mr. Oliver was going to try to destroy the city. You somehow managed to negotiate a one-on-one fight, at the Circus."
"Why would Mr. Oliver agree to this?"
I shrugged. "I don't remember. But he did, and he promised not to make the earth move. And it was a really big fight, right on Halloween. I even brought Edward."
"Bringing Death to the ball," Jean-Claude murmured. "I have heard that Monsieur Edward is in town."
"And trying to find out who the Master is. I'm pretty sure it was Karl Inger who hired Edward to find you. What kind of powerful vampire gets a human assassin to take out an opponent, anyway?"
"A ruthless one." Jean-Claude shifted around me. I kept staring at the tub. "Ma petite, a council member of Mr. Oliver's years does not get to his place by accident. If he could have Edward kill his opponent, then he would have every right to sweep into this city and become Master."
"It's still not right," I snapped.
"I suppose not." Jean-Claude leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees, watching me. After a few minutes, I chanced a glance at him. He was watching my face closely. "Why, in this other time, ma petite, did you tell Oliver who I was?"
I dropped my eyes, an ashamed flush rushing to my cheeks. "I was scared. You were taking my choices away from me and I lashed out."
"And what did I do, afterward?"
I fiddled with a rip on the side of my skirt. "You didn't mention it again. You just dealt with it." The cold floor was making my butt go numb, but I didn't really want to face the shower quiet yet. "I think the fact that I almost died had a little to do with it."
"You almost died? How did that happen, ma petite?"
I tried to take a deep breath, and something caught in my throat. I started coughing hard, so hard I almost fell over. Jean-Claude's hands caught me and held me upright. As soon as I could manage, I pushed him away and huddled against the side of the tub. "During the fight, Alejandro gave me the final two marks. Then I ripped his heart out."
Jean-Claude knelt beside me, still as the grave. "Even with the marks so fresh, ma petite, with the Master dead..."
"Edward had to perform CPR on me until the ambulance got there." I closed my eyes. "I was in a coma for three days."
Enough of this. I pushed myself up to sit on the side of the tub, and began to undo the buttons on my shirt with shaky fingers.
"It's not like I haven't been hurt before," I hurried on. "But you kept saying I should have taken the fourth mark, and you were probably right--"
"Ma petite," Jean-Claude tried to interrupt me.
"But I couldn't get to that point, to be immortal and give up that last little bit of me, you know?" I continued. I started to shrug out of my blouse. "Richard never talked about it; and I was never sure what he was thinking about being bound to us both forever--"
I looked up at him. "What?"
He was making very careful eye contact with me. "Are you sure you do not wish me to leave?"
Leave? What was he talking about? I looked down, and finally registered that I'd been getting undressed with Jean-Claude sitting less than a foot from me. Horrified, I tried to pull my shirt back up over my shoulders, but my fingers weren't working.
Jean-Claude pulled a towel off the counter and draped it lightly over my shoulders. I pulled the fuzzy cloth tight around me, unable to meet his eyes.
"I take it that we were lovers.... before?" Jean-Claude asked. His voice was soft and wistful, and it made me feel a hundred times worse. At this point, I'd only ever kissed Jean-Claude, once. He'd never seen me naked, or even in my underwear. What the hell was I doing, stripping in front of him like this, after what happened?
"Yeah," I said in a voice thick with conflicting emotions.
He reached out and pulled the rest of the towels over. "I trust I always behaved like the perfect gentleman," he said, trying to keep his voice light and empty. I knew him too well to believe that tone in his voice. I'd hurt him, badly, and that knowledge burned like a coal in my gut. "I will leave you to your shower. If you need--"
"Don't leave!" I blurted out. I let go of the towel with one hand and clutched at his sleeve. "I'm sorry, I just can't..."
"Would you like me to wait outside the door?" Jean-Claude asked patiently, gently untangling my fingers from the lace on his shirt. "I will be as close..."
His voice trailed off as I started shaking my head. Outside the door was too far away. Hell, maybe I could just handcuff him to me for the rest of my life. "Please stay."
Carefully, Jean-Claude brought my hand to his lips and kissed an unbruised part of my skin. "As you wish."
I ended up undressing in the tub with the shower curtain closed. Just enough privacy, for both me and Jean-Claude. The warm water hit my skin when I turned on the shower head, and I had to hold back my hiss of pain.
"Tell me a story," I said to Jean-Claude when I caught my breath.
"What kind of story?" Jean-Claude asked, his voice flowing together with the sound of the shower until it was as if he was speaking inside my head. The water running down my face was suddenly too hot, and I had to brush away angry tears.
"Something to distract me," I said. "Anything."
Jean-Claude was silent for a moment, then began to tell me a fanciful story of a nobleman's banquet, long ago in France. The sound of his voice was the only familiar thing I had to hold on to as I stood under the shower's luke-warm spray. I felt like I was washing off my whole skin; the person I used to be, before this all started, was washing down the drain with the dried blood and the tears.~*~
"You should come with me to the Circus."
"No," I said for the third time. "Alejandro knows you're the Master, but he doesn't know your hiding place! If he sees me there, he'll know where to go to attack you!"
I tucked my legs underneath me on the couch, back in Jean-Claude's office. It was almost three in the morning. The sunrise was four hours away, give or take, and I wasn't walking out those doors until the sun was up and Alejandro was dead to the world.
The lateness of the hour made my hands tremble as I tucked the blanket up around my shoulders. I couldn't seem to get warm, but that wasn't important. Nothing really seemed important.
I knew that I needed to be thinking of something important, about how to stop Mr. Oliver and keep Jean-Claude and everyone safe. But every time I thought about Mr. Oliver, I kept remembering Alejandro, and my mind skipped away.
The couch dipped slightly as Jean-Claude sat down. "If I cannot convince you to go to a doctor, or to go to a more secure area, then will you at least get some sleep?"
Instead of answering him, I stared down at the bump my toes made in the blanket. "I think I'm missing something." Slowly, I looked up. "Am I missing something? Larry's in the hospital, and the police are... Should I be helping RPIT?"
"Non, ma petite." Jean-Claude put his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, never breaking eye contact with me. "I believe you are still in shock."
I blinked at him. "Why would I be in shock?"
"No." I shook my head. "Look, I know it's about power and violence and not--" My voice broke, making me even madder at myself. "It's not about sex. I've gotten beaten up lots of times." So why now?
Jean-Claude smiled sadly. "But rape is different."
?" I pleaded.
"It just is."
I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against my knees. I needed... I didn't know what I needed. I wanted this all to stop, but I didn't know how, or even why it was happening. I wanted...
I wanted to be in control again.
"Will you tell me more about your... other time?" Jean-Claude asked after a few minutes, his voice coming from a long way away. I jerked my head up and blinked at him. I'd almost fallen asleep. I couldn't do that, not now.
"Sure," I said. Did this mean he believed me? Maybe. Maybe he was just humoring me. I had to think he trusted me enough to believe me. Otherwise, how could I trust myself, that I wasn't going crazy?
I told him about Richard and how he'd killed Marcus. I told him about Gretchen, and Asher, and Meng Die and the Council's visit and Belle Morte and Musette. I kept meaning to tell him about the wereleopards and Nathaniel and Micah, but everything hurt too much when I thought about them and I found myself changing the subject.
Jean-Claude listened to my ramblings, the words spilling out of my mouth until they hardly made any sense, as I tried desperately to stay awake. I found myself talking about things that I'd never told him, about my childhood and what scared me and all the things I wanted to do before I died.
In the last hour before sunrise, Jean-Claude moved next to me on the couch and put his arm around my shoulders, holding me as if I was made of glass. Shivering, I leaned against him and let my eyes close, not falling into sleep, but letting go of the thin edge of adrenaline that had been keeping me running all night.
Finally, Jean-Claude had to leave. He called to me until I woke up enough to find the sneakers I'd borrowed from Stephen, and walk with him through the deserted club to the door, and outside into the night. Either I felt safe with Jean-Claude, or I was too tired to try and see the threats that could have been hiding.
I was willing to bet it wasn't safety.
"I wish you would come with--" Jean-Claude began. I'd had enough of this, though.
"Not going to happen," I said, a bit roughly. The longer I was on my feet, the more I dreaded walking out that door into the real world.
It was a weakness I couldn't afford.
"What will you do?"
"Hail a cab, go to RPIT, see if they found anything."
Jean-Claude looked at me very hard. "Do not go after Alejandro on your own," he said.
I glared back. "Fine," I said sharply after a minute. "No going after Alejandro on my own."
Robert came out of the shadows then, hovering to get Jean-Claude's attention. "The sun is going to rise," he said nervously when Jean-Claude looked at him.
"Just go, Jean-Claude," I said, stepping away. "I'll be fine."
"Ma petite, I do not like leaving you like this." Jean-Claude turned his back on Robert and took my hand in his.
"You haven't got a choice," I whispered. I squeezed his hand as tightly as I could, taking that last bit of strength from him. "I'll see you tonight, I promise."
He wanted to say more, I could see that. Even though the sky was as black as pitch, I could feel the sunrise coming.
"I love you," I said, almost inaudibly as he slowly withdrew his hand from mine.
Something passed over his face, a look of wonder and pain and so much emotion it hurt to watch. "Je t'aimerai toujours, ma petite."
Jean-Claude took to the sky in a whoosh of air, Robert a blond blur after him. I stood staring at them for a moment, wondering what I was doing.
Taking careful steps in Stephen's too-large shoes, I started walking toward the nearest payphone. The cold air woke me up enough to realize, after about ten steps, that I was being watched.
"Come out, Edward," I said, turning around. Sure enough, Edward stepped out of the alley behind the club.
"I figured I was going to have come in there after dawn and get you," he said, so solemnly.
"Well, here I am," I said, beginning to get angry again. "You have a car around here? Or is this the part where you decide to get the Master's location out of me?"
Edward shook his head. "Not after last night."
My breath froze in my lungs. "What do you mean, after last night?" I demanded, ignoring the pain in my throat.
"I saw the police report," he said. I didn't bother asking how he'd gotten his hands on it.
"And where are we going now?" he asked.
I took a step closer to him so I could see him a bit better. "What do you know?" I asked suspiciously.
"I know your friend was hurt by vampires." Edward pointed at the bruise on my face. "And I can guess how you got that."
"Oh, really?" I demanded coldly.
Edward just looked at me. No pity, so sympathy, just the cold killer's stare he'd always had.
"So where to?" he asked after a minute.
I blinked, then backed away. "I need some clothes, so my place," I said. "Then the drugstore."
"And after that?" He started walking, and I fell in step beside him.
"After that, I need guns."
"Are we killing something?" Edward asked, his interest finally spiked.
"That's the plan."
I hadn't promised Jean-Claude I wasn't going to go after Alejandro. I just said I wasn't going to go alone. to be continued