Brothers in Arms
by Dark Amethyst

Chapter 4

* * * * * * * *

= = = R = = =

I wake slowly and groggily, as usual. My head is resting on something hard and warm, and moving slightly. Opening my eyes reluctantly, I realize it is Nephrite's broad chest I'm lying upon. My mind reels with remembrance and disbelief, then swiftly with shame and fury.

Admittedly, thoughts of the passion we shared, and even the fact that I am here now, touching his magnificent body, all cause a toe-curling thrill of lust to rush through me. But in my heart and mind, I am confused…extremely confused.

I don’t understand his obsession with breaking my will and humiliating me. Nor do I understand or forgive him for beating me.

I move carefully off him, desperate not to wake him, my resentment growing as I accidentally put weight on my bottom. It’s quite dark in the bedroom, the light from the small window suggesting very early morning. The word 'light' wanders through my brain and I realize casually that the light was on when I fell asleep. Nephrite must have been up and turned it off. I glance at the switch and narrow my eyes as I notice it is still 'up'. Walking over quietly, I feel it, expecting it to be halfway switched or some such thing - but it is not. It’s pushed all the way up.

Burned out, I guess…that was handy.

I switch it off, then flick the switch up again to confirm my theory - but the light does come on. I turn it off again hurriedly, fearing it will wake Nephrite, feeling increasingly perplexed and panicky.

I move to the door and open it as silently as possible, but as I do, I remember beating at it and pulling on it last night to no avail. My stomach turns over in fear as I check the door and frame pro-forma, knowing I'll find no clue or explanation.

I glance back over my shoulder at Nephrite - powerful and arrogant, even asleep - and I'm very frightened indeed.

I've got to go - I've got to get away from him.

I was going to have a shower, which I very much need - but my mind urges me to waste no time and go - now, while it’s still remotely possible.

Go where, I ask myself forlornly, standing torn in the doorway, scared and miserable.

Just get dressed, Rachael. Now!

I hurry to obey, picking up my clothes from yesterday item by item, pulling them on with shaking hands. My jeans are pure agony over my raw backside.

I watch Nephrite as I dress, my heart racing in anger and terror - and desperate wanting. He is so gorgeous…so strong…

My body begins to melt as I gaze at him, but my mind's voice cracks like a whip through my brain.

Out, Rachael! Out the door!

I move silently out of the bedroom, walking on my toes almost. I briefly consider getting some food, but my mind won't allow it. I creak open the damn closet door and grab my coat and purse. I scoop up my boots and go to unlock the door. It is already unlocked.

Now I am beyond frightened, for I know for certain that I locked the door behind me when I came in yesterday. I always, always do, being more than a little paranoid. How then did Nephrite get in? He left his keys on the table.

“Go, Rachael. Now,” my mind repeats, sounding much less brave and not a little terrified.

I open the door with the barest sound and leave it open behind me as I race to the stairwell. Pausing to struggle into my jacket, I leave my boots off for now and run down the concrete stairs in just my socks, my heart in my mouth.

When I get to the ground floor, I push the heavy door open and gasp the chilly morning air, my lungs heaving. Not feeling safe yet, at all, I run down the back lane that the door opens onto, and keep running, for blocks and blocks, turning occasionally until I'm too tired to go on.

Panting, I lean against the wall of the high building beside me, then slide exhaustedly down to sit, right on the sidewalk, despite the pain this causes me. Being down here anyway, I at last put on my boots, looking about me a bit now. People are starting to move about on the streets and sidewalks, and a few cast strange glances as they step around me. I ignore them but feel glad of their reassuring presences.

When I have my boots tied and my breath back somewhat, I stand up and continue moving away from my building, but a walk now, my mind beginning to work again.

Where the hell am I going? Where can I go? It's not as if I can just take a holiday! That movie yesterday and the extra groceries put me way over budget already…

I fight back a wave of despair as I look over the skyline. I've lived here for almost a year now, but I still don't know the city that well. In the days, I'm o.k., but at night, I'm always frightened. I usually teach until late and must walk a fair ways home…but I usually walk through the park, hoping no one would be intent on evil in such a peaceful place. Of course, that's where I found Nephrite. Although admittedly, he wasn't intent on evil…not at first, anyway.

Thinking of Nephrite and of that night I met him, the irony of my position strikes me. Now I’m the one lost and helpless with nowhere to go… Who will help me, I wonder?

Come on, Rachael! Toughen up. You're not helpless. You're not ill, and it's not raining. You've got an entire day to find a plan. You've been on your own since you were eighteen, you can get through this! Deal with some pragmatics!

OK - I need food. I need shelter. And somewhere to sleep. And I can't pay for any of it! A church? A homeless shelter? These options don't appeal to me at all, and I furrow my brow thinking, stopping a moment before I walk in front of a car in my abstraction.

Finally a plan comes to me. I will live at the university, of course. It's a perfect idea. I know it inside out and it will feel just like home. I'll sleep in the library. I can even shower in the gym locker room. I'll live on cheap cafeteria soup and noodles. I'll be fine. So there, Nephrite!

= = = N = = =

I’m woken late, by the growing sunlight in Rachael's bedroom. I stretch lazily, loving this bed and its size and softness. Rachael is up, I notice casually. Hopefully she's started something for our breakfast.

I sit up and turn to rest my feet on the floor. My packages still lie here, not yet unpacked. Rachael will have to do as she was told and hang these things up.

I stand and stretch again, feeling rested and energetic, and lecherous after last night's dalliance with Rachael. My mind runs over the events of last night, and I wonder how she’s feeling today.

I leave the bedroom as I ponder this, headed for a shower - and there’s my answer. She has gone. Not just gone - fled. The front door stands open as a testament to her hurried exit.

Cursing, I move to slam the door then lean against it, thinking.

This is my own fault. Absolutely. You can’t half-tame a spirit like hers, then trust her to hang around. Yes, she called me lord, but that was only her body talking. It's her mind I have yet to conquer.

This is the worst time to let her get away, too. She'll be smarting for days from her punishment - and that will fuel her resentment. Who knows when she'll be back. As stubborn as she is - maybe never! And yet - of course she has to. All her clothes and things are here. How long can she be without them?

I glance over her small apartment and meager possessions and feel a twinge of worry and guilt. Where will she go? Perhaps she has friends or family to stay with…yet I remember her telling me yesterday how alone and far from home she also was. What will she do - for food, for shelter?

Guilt grows in me - an unaccustomed emotion…it makes me uncomfortable, and then angry.

Rachael is stubborn - easily the most stubborn person I've ever encountered, human or otherwise. And if she's stubborn to the point of starving herself, then it's her own fault and her own problem.

Dismissing the matter from my mind, I go and shower, then dress, choosing some new clothes from my still unpacked parcels. Growling slightly, I give in to the inevitable and hang up my own new clothes, shoving Rachael's with difficulty to one side of the small jam-packed closet.

This place is ridiculous! I hate it here. No-one should have to live like this - let alone me.

I realize then that I haven’t tried yet today to cross home - and for the first time, I hesitate a moment, wondering if I'm successful, whether I'd be able to return here.

The not-knowing is too much for me and I do clear my mind and try - but I fail, as usual. My disappointment is not as great at the failure as it was yesterday or the day before. Could it be that I'm learning to like it here? I don’t think so…

I wander into the kitchen to find something to eat, considering. It's Rachael. That's what's keeping me here. Taming her is proving an adequate distraction…but it is a distraction. Underneath it - what purpose do I have? None. No purpose and no place here.

My spirits sink and I grow melancholy. I regard the knife I used to cut my orange and pick it up, looking it over appraisingly.

Shall I end this now? Can I find any reason not to?

Rachael would probably get a nasty fright when she finally returned - to find me dead in her kitchen. She'd probably feel guilty as well.

I think about her a moment, still toying with the knife, testing its edge gingerly against my fingertips. She is so strange…so human and incomprehensible to me. The way she looked at me - so much yearning and hunger. It wasn't all physical, I'm certain. She's lonely. But – she’s not desperate. She won't take me at any price. She has her pride.

I have to respect that. I'm also baited yet again. How do I win her? I have to find her first. And I will. But for that I'll need some help.

. . .

I'm going to have to rob another bank if this keeps up.

It’s been a difficult day of cajoling and desperate bribery, but I have finally managed to find a new apartment - and I have paid very dearly.

It's worth it though. I'm pleased and soothed as I move around the spacious luxuriant suite. The ceilings are high and the windows huge…plenty of room for Rachael's antique bed in the master bedroom…gorgeous bathroom with a tub big enough for two at least…a spacious kitchen for Rachael to cook in. Of course, I have to get her here first.

Thinking this, I move through the bright glassed-in sunroom out to the large patio. I scan the horizon, satisfied. This is the tallest building around - no obstructions to the sky…to the stars. This should do very well.

The pool beside me sparkles and flashes beckoningly in the glaring sun.

Why not? I can’t go out anyway. I've got to be here when the movers arrive.

I strip off my clothes and dive in, loving the initial shock of the water. I skim along the bottom, then bend and break the surface, porpoise-like. I begin to swim in earnest, back and forth across the pool, pushing myself hard. I must, at least, retain my physical strength.

When I finally tire, I pull myself up on the pool's edge and lie down, letting the sun dry me. Thankfully I feel sleepy and let myself drift off. I’ll need to be wakeful tonight…

By dusk, the movers have come and gone. I wander through the apartment – Rachael’s sparse furniture only making the place look more empty.

I’m hungry. I suppose I must find a restaurant.

I move out onto the patio, looking out over the huge city.

Where are you, Rachael? What in hell are you doing? You should be here.

I close my eyes and sense…trying to find her as I found Naru-chan…but I can’t. I seem to have had more power when I was without form. Having a body seems to take up a good deal of energy.

I sigh in frustration, opening my eyes, then raising them to the sky. Not dark enough…but it will be in a few hours. I’ll go and eat, and then we’ll see if we can’t find Rachael…

= = = R = = =

It’s getting dark now. I stare at the sky through the window beside my study desk. They’ve just given the first warning that the library’s closing soon. Time to hide, I guess.

I get up with relief, my backside killing me. It hurts so much to sit down…but my feet were sore from all the walking today. I go into the bathroom stealthily, when no one is around. All the remaining students have headed for the elevator anyway. Once in the bathroom, I move down to the last stall, and step up onto the toilet, crouching down to hide my head, and leaving the door open. I’ve seen this in movies before…it has to work.

I stand here for ages, my back and legs complaining more and more stridently. Two more announcements come…all is silent otherwise. Nobody’s come in. Perhaps this drama is unnecessary.

At last, my suspense is ended and the lights go out abruptly – leaving me in total darkness. I climb carefully down, then find my way through the bathroom – my hands outstretched, feeling my way. Finally finding the door, I pull it open. The room outside is as daylight in comparison – the windows letting in the dusk and the glowing lights of the city.

I move slowly past the rows of books, unable to keep from running my fingers over them in affection. Walking to the corner, where there is an empty space without shelves or desks, I step up to the glass walls, looking down at the city beneath my feet, feeling slight vertigo, as if falling or floating.

I feel, as I suspected, curiously at home here, surrounded by books…the familiar dusty smell of old pages and leather…the scent of knowledge. I smile, fancying myself queen of books…empress of history…and this my castle…but I am under siege.

I touch the glass, then lean my forehead against it, thinking of Nephrite. A strange yearning fills me as I unwisely rerun last night’s events in my mind. And suddenly, I am desperate to see him again…to go back and beg his mercy…to feel his touch again, whatever the cost.

Rachael! This is the kind of relationship you see warnings about – classic domestic violence!

That’s true. It’s exactly like that. And I’ve never understood the women who stay. Until now. I always swore I’d never let anyone beat me. Obviously that was a foolish resolution! The question is…would I let it happen twice?

No… The answer finally does come, but not easily or lightly. My whole body is in rebellion…begging to return to its master. It’s only with extreme difficulty that my mind asserts its authority.

I won’t go back. I won’t. He’s treated me terribly, and there’d be worse to come, I’m certain. I don’t need a person like that, no matter how lonely I am.

I step back from the window where night has come on in earnest outside. Clouds cover the sky. I think a storm is brewing.

I lay down on my belly, finding just enough space to do so, and rest my head on my arms. My earlier pride and pleasure at my splendid independence has evaporated. I now merely feel alone and displaced. I indulge myself in tears for a while, and it works out for the best – tiring me out. Soon, with little effort, I manage to fall into a miserable sleep.

= = = N = = =

When I step out of the restaurant and find it raining, a terrible fury grips me, and for a moment I clench my fists and close my eyes, fighting to restrain my temper.

“Patience,” I admonish myself. “There’s no hurry. You, of all people, have nothing but time.”

I take a deep breath and let it out in a frustrated huff, casting a last annoyed glance at the thick clouds covering the sky.

What else can I do? I can’t sleep anymore. I’m full of restlessness and my mind is whirling with unsolvable questions.

I glance up and down the street and notice the neon sign of a bar a short way along. Decision made. That’s precisely what I need.

Coming out of the rain, I find the crowded bar hot and stuffy. Loud voices and louder music assail my ears. I make my way past tables to take a seat at the bar.

“What can I get you?” the barman shouts at me, over the din.

I’m staring up undecided at the wall of spirits behind him…bottles of every description sparkling on the shelves.

“Brandy,” I tell him at last, paying him ten times what it could possibly cost. “The best you’ve got.”

A girl seated beside me stares, undisguised. I stare back. She’s apparently here with the young man on her right, but she has no eyes for him. She’s watching me, fascinated.

She’s very young…certainly older than Naru-chan was when I left her, but still with that bright-eyed innocence and vivacity. She’s definitely Japanese – long, shiny black hair and beautiful, wide brown eyes.

The barman returns to me, bearing an elegant square glass bottle – carved and faceted to catch the light. He pours me a glass and I take it eagerly, cradling the rounded glass in my hand, swirling the amber liquid and inhaling luxuriantly.

“Are you going to drink it or make love to it?” my neighbour asks me, smiling enticingly.

“What’s wrong with a little foreplay?” I ask her, an eyebrow raised.

She giggles naughtily as I take an appreciative swallow. I glance beyond her to her ‘boyfriend’, and I’m delighted by his increasingly murderous expression.

In a few moments, as I finish the glass, the barman comes by again, asking me what I thought.

“It’s wonderful,” I almost sigh, then look up to him. “Let me have the rest of the bottle.”

His eyebrows shoot up.

“Not for now,” I clarify. “To take with me.”

He shakes his head now, understanding.

“Sorry. Can’t do that – I’ll lose my license.”

A surge of temper goes through me and I find it difficult to fight it down. I could destroy him, but it would cause a scene – police – certainly witnesses. I intend to stay in this city for now – a manhunt would be inconvenient.

Money, of course. I’ve learned that lesson already. A man can have anything here, if he’s prepared to pay for it. Everyone can be bought.

This fellow proves no exception. Once enough bills have been stacked on the bar, his high moral code vanishes and the bottle reappears.

I pour my own refill, looking over at the girl. I call for another drink for her, noting her empty glass.

“She happens to be here with me!”

Finally – the boyfriend has spoken up. I lean forward a bit to see past her to him. He’s young too, though not as young as she. He looks strong and fit. Excellent.

“You could have fooled me,” I tell him, glancing down at her unabashedly. For her part, she doesn’t seem upset by the friction…rather she’s pleased and flattered. She sips her fresh drink daintily, glancing slyly from one to the other of us.

I finish my brandy, and pour another, impressed by its obvious potency. I feel wonderful - strong, and even happy. I haven’t felt this good since Beryl put me in charge. All my worries of why and wherefore have vanished. Even the thought of Rachael doesn’t bother me. Why worry about her when I’ve got this young thing here, smiling at me as if I were the answer to all her prayers?

My rival looks less pleased than I, glowering at his drink and casting warning glances at me. It won’t take much more. Just a little nudge.

I take my glass in my left hand, and drape the other arm around the girl’s slim shoulders.

“A toast?” I suggest. But that’s as far as I get. Her friend shoves my arm off her back, springing to his feet.

“Don’t touch her!” he shouts at me, fists clenched.

I shoot back the rest of the brandy – regretting having to rush it…then pull back the lady’s head by her soft black hair and kiss her invasively. She doesn’t resist one molecule. Her boyfriend is another story.

He grabs me by my clothes and, to my surprise, is able to pull me away from her and off my barstool. I don’t fall, but as I’m standing, he lands an impressive blow to my face. My head turns, but I don’t move otherwise. I glance back at him, unable to keep from smiling in anticipation.

“Outside!!” begs the barman, seeing impending destruction.

“Of course,” I agree, not taking my eyes off my opponent. “After you.”

Grudgingly, he turns and moves to the door. The girl has risen to her feet, looking flushed with excitement. I motion to my brandy bottle.

“Carry that for me.”

Outside, surrounded by eager on-lookers from the bar, my friend is waiting on the sidewalk – fists raised like a prizefighter. I smile again, probably to his annoyance. Quickly removing my expensive jacket, I hand it to our lady, then raise my own hands before I get another shot to the face.

He’s so angry. This will be too easy. Typical human – can’t control his emotions. I calm my own mind, circling slowly round him, waiting for him to come at me.

He doesn’t attack right away, perhaps not as rash as I judged him. I can fix that.

“I don’t know why you’re so angry with me,” I taunt. “I can’t help it if your little girl comes on to strange men right in front of you. I’m hardly going to turn down a piece like her.”

He grimaces and takes a shot at me, but I move aside easily. He tries another, aimed at my stomach, and I let him land this one, bracing myself as he hits me. I use his closeness to give him a good right jab – sending him flying back.

When he recovers, stepping forward again, his lip is bleeding. My heart beats faster, adrenalin rushing through me. I love this. If only he were more of a challenge. I’m bigger than he, and obviously stronger. Yet – he doesn’t give up – used to winning, plainly.

I catch sight of the young lady, standing in the small crowd, watching half in dread, half in excitement. She imagines I’m doing this to win her! Still…she’ll be a nice enough fringe benefit.

In the small moment my attention is on her, my opponent wisely uses the chance to give me another good shot to the jaw. This one hurts, despite the alcohol and adrenalin. My own temper flares up.

Enough of this. My turn now.

I wait as he moves slowly around me…holding back my rage…until the building is behind him. I rush forward then, shoving him back. With the wall behind him, he can’t manoeuvre away, and I let him have it – face and belly, again and again. He manages to get in a feeble blow or two – but he’s no match for me. He begins to slow then finally stops raising his hands, even in defense.

Fight, damn you!

“I hope you don’t mind if I take the lady home and give her what she so plainly desires. You’re certainly in no condition to.”

“Fuck you,” he growls back, managing one more swing – but he’s finished.

I land one last uppercut to his chin – knocking his head heavily against the wall behind him…and down he goes.

I fight a surge of disappointment. Too bloody easy. I turn around eagerly to the crowd, hoping to find someone else that will take me on – but they disperse with alacrity – disappearing back into the bar now that the show’s over. My young lady remains, clutching my jacket and brandy, and looking strangely nervous now.

I stare at her appraisingly as I calm myself down. She is very pretty and delicate. My appetite for battle is turning rapidly into lust.

I remember how I felt after I defeated Zoicite’s youma…staring at Naru-chan, my heart still racing…filled with this same hunger and lust…but it was different. She looked so young, so innocent and pure…her eyes filled with that absurd hope and belief in my goodness. It made me want to deserve it – to act honourably.

I feel nothing of that now. Without her, I feel the opposite - inclined to do precisely as I please…to prove to myself, perhaps, how wrong she was…how I didn’t…don’t…deserve her.

I move to the girl and retrieve my jacket. She doesn’t speak, watching wide-eyed as I put it on and straighten it. I put a hand on her waist, and pull her slightly as I move off down the street. She comes, but with a backward glance at her friend’s prone figure.

“Will he be all right?” she asks in a quiet voice.

“Who cares?” I tell her dismissively, not looking back. “You’re mine now.”

She glances up at that, looking frightened…with a very small echo of Rachael’s defiance in her eyes. She says nothing, though, and walks obediently with me until we reach my car.

She’s obviously impressed by it, breaking from my grasp to walk around it excitedly. I stand by the hood, arms crossed, watching her. My desire is growing by the second. I haven’t felt this way in a long time. Working for Beryl and fearing for one’s neck has a way of negating any carnal interests. But last night with Rachael has reawakened me with a vengeance.

Rachael tries to linger in my thoughts, but I dismiss her angrily. The girl completes her circuit of the car and moves to stand before me, looking expectant and nervous. I take my precious bottle from her and set it gently on the curb. I realize I haven’t yet asked her name, but I don’t care. Pleasantries are not what I want from her.

I reach forward and take her jaw, bending to pull her face to mine. She kisses me back hungrily, giving me her tongue when I seek for it. I run my hands along her slender form, pressing her against me.

I want her now. I can’t wait.

Holding her slim shoulders, I lower her down to my car’s low flat hood. She realizes my intention and begins to struggle vaguely.

“Stop it,” I demand, having absolutely no patience at the moment. I push her dress up, but she struggles more. I reach down and encircle her throat with my hand.

“Be still,” I order sternly. “I said you’re mine now. I’ll do what I like with you.” I bring my face lower to hold her frightened eyes threateningly. “Do you understand?”

She nods quickly, her pulse racing under my fingers. Keeping her throat, I can’t help myself from making my next demand.

“Call me ‘master’.”

“Master,” she responds automatically, with absolutely no understanding or truth. Rachael has returned, unbidden, to my mind, and for a moment I see her beneath me, hear her calling me lord and meaning it with every fibre of her body. Rachael knew what a master was. This child hasn’t a clue.

I don’t care, I insist to myself. I want obedience, and that’s good enough.

The girl lies quietly now, and I can’t wait any longer. Freeing both of us of interfering clothes, I enter her quickly and forcefully, in no mood for preliminaries. She cries out in pain, gripping my shoulders.

“Hush,” I tell her, paying her not much heed, thrusting deeply, enjoying myself.

“Stop…” She is crying, struggling again. “Please. You’re hurting me.”

“Just relax,” I tell her, annoyance in my voice. I see Rachael beneath my hands again, taking the unavoidable pain so bravely.

The girl is screaming now, begging someone else to aid her. Before I know what I’m doing, I reach a hand towards her, and begin to draw her energy out. The sensation silences her, reducing her to frightened moans. Her energy floats in the air before me like a blue mist, and for a moment I’m in a quandary as to what to do with it. Beryl no longer requires it…so why can’t I have it for myself?

Finding no reason not to, I draw it into my own body, and I’m filled with a delicious rush. My feelings of frustration and weakness vanish and I drink the power in thirstily.

The sensation is so exquisite that it pushes me physically over the edge and I fall upon the girl – overcome on all sides by mind-blowing pleasure. I barely remember to stop the flow of her energy in time – but I do, and she has survived. Her heart still beats under my chest.

When I’ve recovered somewhat, I roll over and lie on my back, gazing up at the stars above me. It takes me a moment before I realize that at last, the sky is clear.

I’ve got to get home.

I stand and tidy my clothes, then help the moaning girl to her feet. Feeling slight pity suddenly, I touch a finger to her forehead and close my eyes, calling on the stars to clear her memories, and wishing the same for her boyfriend. I feel the familiar force rush through me and into her, and to my relief, it doesn’t tire me. I open my eyes again, and turn her back up the street.

“Go,” I tell her gently, giving her a slight push. “Help your friend.”

She moves off slowly, back toward the unconscious figure by the bar, and retrieving my brandy from the curb, I get in my car, satisfied.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 5

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury