1 Mirrorball – Crowe’s Point

Author: Tawny

Character: SID 6.7 “Virtuosity”

Rating: R

Disclaimer: The following story has been written with no intention of claiming ownership or solicitation, nor does the author claim the movie character(s) as his/her own.  The movie character(s) have been borrowed solely out of a love of the particular movie and is not intended for any other purpose but amusement and entertainment.

 

Part One

 

The parking lot of the Crowe’s Point Hotel was nearly deserted when the champagne colored GMC pickup truck pulled to a stop. Had anyone been nearby they would have heard the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony blaring from the stereo, the words to the “Ode to Joy” being mouthed by the driver. Tonya shut the engine off as the last note faded into oblivion and gathered up the stray contents in the cab, shoving them into a flight bag on the passenger seat. She stood for a moment, stretching to help alleviate the stiffness that comes with driving hour after hour and surveyed the scene laid out before her, watching for any hint of movement around the hotel. Only after seeing that a few people were working in the front gardens did she finally unload her bags and head for the entrance.

 

Liz sat with her back to the main door as she talked on the phone at the reception desk of the hotel. Tonya stood and listened briefly, a small smile emerged as she realized who the woman behind the desk was and with whom she was speaking. Setting down her bags, she stopped listening and glanced around. The lobby was cozy and comfortable reminding her of the hotel lobbies from old black and white films that she loved. The one from “My Favorite Wife” jumped to her mind almost immediately, but this was on a smaller scale. I think I’m going to like it here, she thought. Outside she spotted a man working among the flowers that she couldn’t quite identify. She knew she should know him, but couldn’t quite put a name to the face. And what a beautiful face it was! Long chestnut hair that fell just to his jaw line framed the blue-green eyes she knew were there although she was too far away to see them. She admired him as she waited for Liz to notice her. After a few minutes, Tonya turned and tapped gently on the bell.

 

“Oh shit!” Liz jumped and turned at the sound. Her shocked look quickly disappeared as she focused on the new guest. “Sorry Peaches, didn’t mean to yell in your ear. Gotta go. There’s someone here.” Tonya could hear Peaches speaking through the phone and giggled as she thought of Charlie Brown’s teacher (waa-waa-wa-wa). “Don’t know. I’ll call you later.” Liz hung up and started to speak, but Tonya jumped in first.

 

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” Tonya removed her sunglasses and hung them off of the back of her tee shirt.

 

“Don’t worry about it. I’m Liz and welcome to the Crowe’s Nest. What can I do to help you?”

 

“Well, do you have any available rooms?”

 

“We aren’t very busy right now, what with the holidays and all. Do you have a reservation?”

 

“No, I didn’t decide to come here until this morning.” Tonya noted the look of confusion cross Liz’s face, but it passed just as quickly as it had came. “Is that a problem?”

 

“No, no it’s not a problem, but we usually know when new folks are showing up, that’s all. How long do think you’ll be staying?”

 

“At least a week.”

 

“No problem miss…I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

 

“Tonya. Tonya Webster.” Liz looked as if she were running through her mental Rolodex trying to find a match. “You might recognize me as Tawny. Tawny always sounded like it’s softer and more approachable than Tonya, so I use that on-line.”

 

“From the group?” Tonya nodded, removing her ball cap to run her hands through her dark brown hair that was cut short. She wore no make-up and Liz suddenly wondered if she even needed any with her tanned complexion. “Well, I guess I didn’t think you’d show up this quickly. Most of us had chatted with the others or were already friends before we came here. Not all, just some.” Liz added the last bit as she saw Tonya straighten and bristle a bit. Why the hell am I trying to make her feel unwelcome?

 

“Yeah, well I had some sudden free time and just decided to check it out.” Her voice was harder now and her brown eyes had lost the laughter Liz had seen initially.

 

“No prob. Let me get one of the guys to help you take your luggage up to your room.”

 

“I can get it. Thanks anyway.” Tonya took the key and headed up the stairs just as Cort came in from working outside.

 

“Who’s that?” He said pointing to the stairs with a dirt-covered finger. “Didn’t know we were expecting anyone.”

 

“Neither did I.” Her voice sounded distant and Cort approached with a quizzical look on his face. “I think I pissed her off.”

 

Closing the door behind her, Tonya set her bags down and began to survey the room. The suite (she wouldn’t call it a room) was nicely appointed and looked like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog. The walls were a solid brick color with the trim done in a light beige that contrasted beautifully and coordinated with the carpet. The furniture was almost too much to believe: a large leather-covered sofa, matching armchair with an ottoman, large coffee table was in a dark mahogany along with matching end tables. Across from the sofa was a large armoire that held a magnificent entertainment system that included a large TV, VCR, DVD, and a stereo to die for.

 

Moving to the bedroom, she found it to be just as wonderful as the main room. The walls were sage in color, but the dresser and bedside tables were in the same mahogany theme. She held her breath without even thinking about it when she approached the queen sized wrought iron headboard and footboard that wrapped around the mattress. Her fingers found the cool metal and curled around it. The sheets were, well a floral pattern that she didn’t particularly care for, but they were well coordinated and exquisitely soft to the touch. She wondered if she would ever even leave her room, but brushed that thought as quickly as she knew that she had to explore this mysterious place.

 

Finally, she unpacked and settled onto the bed to relax. She dozed off almost immediately and “he” was there to greet her. She hadn’t found sleep without “his” presence in her dreams for months and since finding out about the CN, the dreams had intensified. Tonya moaned in the empty room as her dream lover softly caressed her. “He” was a tender lover one night and rough the next, never repeating himself or their encounters together, but never revealing his identity to her. Every night she experienced some new aspect of passion that she wished were real. “He” was somehow connected to this place and she was determined to find out why.

 

A persistent knocking on the door woke Tonya some time later. “I’m coming.” She tried to rub the sleep from her eyes and noticed with some surprise that the sun had moved closer to the western horizon while she had slept. Opening the door, she found Liz standing there with a very handsome man who appeared to be only a few years younger than her.

 

“Were you sleeping?” Liz didn’t sound as confident as she had before and had an almost placating sound in her voice. She had worried all afternoon about what she had said to Tonya and decided to make it up to her if she could.

 

“Just napping.” She stretched her arms behind her back still not fully awake. “What can I do for ya?”

 

“Several of us are going to the Tavern next door for supper in about an hour. Would you like to join us?”

 

“Who is ‘us’?” Tonya looked again at the man standing in the hall. A blush rose to his cheeks as her eyes roamed across his body. She had a good idea of what to expect when she came here, but was pleased to find that her imagination was never as good as the real thing. “Who’s your friend?” She asked tilting her head in his direction.

 

“Oh, this is Andy. Andy meet Tonya.”

 

“Pleased to meet you ma’am.” He spoke softly, unable to hide his rich Aussie accent or meet her eyes. He’s a shy one. Young though. She thought as she continued to admire him. If they’re all like this close up, I am REALLY going to like it here.

 

“Dinner sounds good. Do ya want me to just meet ya there?” Tonya’s slight southern accent thickened as she leaned on the doorframe, crossing her arms, finally addressing Liz. Liz wondered why she had said what she had about everyone being friends first before coming here and also why Tonya seemed ticked off by it. She couldn’t really blame her though; she would have felt alienated as well if someone had told her that.

 

“You can meet us over there if you would like. The Tavern is just next door.”

 

“So you said.” Tonya straightened and excused herself so she could shower prior to dinner. Liz and Andy headed for the stairs.

 

“So what did you think?” Liz waited to speak until they were halfway down the stairs.

 

“She’s pretty.” Liz stopped and turned to look at him.

 

“That’s not what I meant. Do you think I pissed her off?”

 

“Seemed a bit cold. You may have. Give it some time though and definitely buy her a cold one!” He laughed a bit. “Brews always help!”

 

“Men” was all she said as she trudged down the hall away from the still giggling Andy.

 

Not a half and hour later, Tonya left her room and headed to the bar. She wanted to get a feel for the place before the others arrived, however, once outside, she spied a path that lead to the beach. Having never seen the ocean before and the heady salt smell that permeated everything here were all the reasons that she needed to change direction and walk towards the setting sun. The others could wait. She had always been somewhat of a loner, never letting anyone get too close, never showing her true self to anyone. Most people thought her a little strange when they met her, but she played on that fact, using it to keep people at bay and in a place where she could manipulate them if she needed to. Slipping out of her sandals, she walked down the beach towards the gentle surf lapping at the shore. Stopping just short of the water’s edge, she sat, wrapping her arms around her legs and watched the sun begin to dip down beyond the horizon.

 

After the sun had set and the stars had begun to shine bright in the sky, Tonya finally rose and began brushing herself off. She had almost fallen asleep a couple of times and had wanted to see “him” again, but knew she was expected at the bar. From what she had learned of the ladies in the group, she knew that if she didn’t arrive soon they would send out a search party to find her. That was not the way she wanted to greet these people. She wanted it to be on her own terms. As she approached the door, she spied someone approaching from the direction of the hotel and smiled as the man came closer.

 

“Hi. You must be Tonya.” She felt her stomach tighten slightly as the soft Australian voice washed over her like the waves in the ocean. The owner of the voice came into the lamplight and she knew him immediately, Lachlan. His resemblance to Andy was uncanny except he looked older and had more of a manly build than that of a boy.

 

“News must travel fast around here.” She knew immediately that Lachlan was not the one she sought, as she had with Andy. She didn’t know if any of them were, but she could certainly hope. “I assume you are Lachlan?”

 

“Yes ma’am, Lachlan Curry. The best pilot from the Southern Hemisphere at your service.” He looked at her for a moment and noticed that she didn’t seem to be surprised to see him. “Have you met any of other the residents here yet?”

 

“Only Andy and I think I saw Cort working outside when I checked in, but I couldn’t be sure. Why do you ask?”

 

“Well… no reason really. How do you like it here so far?” Not wanting to be too inquisitive yet, he tried changing the subject.

 

“Its beautiful.” She tilted her head towards the beach. “Just watched the sunset.”

 

“By yourself?”

 

“Yeah, nothing wrong with being alone. Besides that I just needed a short period of adjustment.” She winked at him and he smiled. She’s doing just fine, he thought as she broached the subject that he had tried to avoid.

 

“Some people find it difficult to adjust to all of this… all of us.” He looked at her again and noticed that despite her simple attire of a white cotton shirt (thin enough he could see the outline of her bra underneath), jean shorts and a pair of sandals, she was quite attractive. She seemed strong and independent. Lil came to mind immediately and he had to work to pull himself back into the present. “You’ll be just fine though. Wanna get a drink?” He asked pointing to the door.

 

“Sure. I was headed in that direction anyway.” She said laughing. He made a big show of holding his arm out to her and lead her through the doors.

 

“Come with me young miss and I’ll buy you whatever type of poison you would like to indulge in and I may also introduce you to some of the others.” They entered the bar arm in arm, laughing all the way.

 


Part Two

 

In the few short hours since she had arrived, Tonya had made quite an impression. Liz sat back and watched her as Lachlan spun her around the dance floor, making her laugh. Dinner had gone well and Liz had apologized for the earlier misunderstanding. Tonya only shrugged her shoulders, stating that she had been tired from driving and was feeling a little on edge. She watched Tonya, as she did with all the new arrivals, and noted that she never blinked or seemed taken aback as the men were introduced to her. Having seen many arrive, and some nearly faint as they realized this place was indeed ‘real’, Liz was impressed that Tonya seemed nonplussed. In fact, she found herself liking her more and more as the evening wore on.

 

Lachlan dipped her as the tune came to an end and she laughed loudly, making the others whom had joined them laugh as well, it was simply infectious. Tina and Laura were there as were Max, John, Bud, Cort, and of course, Lachlan. The guys were quite taken with her, and finding that she could drink like a man was a definite plus. She had already managed argue with Cort about religion and discuss military tactics with Max, indulging in a long diatribe about the American Civil War and the effect of technology changing the face of warfare. As the couples returned to the table, several of the men teased John about how his dancing abilities had improved and that Tina had not been limping off of the dance floor as was usually the case. Tina snuggled close to him and smiled happily at her big Alaskan Sheriff. Andy approached with another round of drinks, setting two tumblers in front of Tonya.

 

“Drinking double fisted now, huh?” Bud leaned in and nudged her with an elbow.

 

“Not really. One is for you.” Tonya pushed one the glasses filled with amber liquid into the space in front of him. “I can’t stand to watch you drink that rot-gut shit anymore. If you’re going to drink the hard stuff, at least drink the best.”

 

“What is it?” He asked as he held up the glass, examining it in the light.

 

“Glen Livet.” She sipped from her glass as she elbowed him slightly, the movement causing some of the precious ambrosia to slosh over the edges. “Are ya gonna drink it or take a picture of it?”

 

“It’s good?”

 

“White, just drink it.” She took another sip and continued to watch Bud, smiling at his reaction. He had never struck her as one who adapted to change well, at least in LAC, so this challenge to his routine was fun to watch. He continued to debate for a few moments and then took a deep breath before tipping the glass to his lips.

 

“God that’s good.” The look on his face was priceless as his eyebrows rose in surprise and he licked at his lips to lap up the tiny drops of alcohol which lingered there. Tonya had to look away as the sight of his tongue sweeping gingerly across his soft lips (oh, they had to be soft) made muscles quiver in her midsection.

 

“Better than that shit you’re drinking. Hell of a lot better than Crown.” She shifted in her seat to help ease the slight discomfort she found sitting in such close proximity to Bud and the others.

 

After a few more minutes spent in friendly banter, Tonya and Tina began a movie trivia contest. Once John had found out that Tonya was a movie buff as well, he could not help but try to see who could best the other. He had never been a big movie fan, but was always amazed at the information that Tina could dredge up on a moment’s notice regarding films of about any genre. Bud had also pushed them into it, always ready for a friendly bout. For 45 minutes the ladies threw question after question at one another, trying to stump the other, but always ending in a stalemate.

 

“Alright, got a killer one for ya.” Tonya leaned in on her elbows, obviously feeling the effects of the alcohol she had consumed. “Name the man, actor, puppeteer, what-have-you who was ‘Godzilla’?” She giggled slightly as Tina’s face dropped.

 

“I have no idea.” Tina looked defeated. “Who was it?” John’s hand found its way to her shoulder, squeezing it gently.

 

“No clue!” Tonya began laughing in earnest as realization dawned on her opponent’s face. “I was really hoping that you did, you seem to know everything else!” The group laughed as Tonya toasted Tina and then signaled Andy at the bar for another round.

 

“You’re good!” Tina hiccuped; she was feeling light-headed, but gladly accepted another Mimosa as it was offered to her. “So, I should assume that you’ve seen all of RC’s films or do I even need to ask?”

 

“Oh yeah. I’ve seen each and every one of them.” Tonya had a tendency to talk with her hands and the scotch just seemed to make all of her movements more flamboyant as her outstretched hands nearly smacked Lachlan in the face. “Kinda nice seein’ y’all in the flesh though.” She raised her glass to each of the guys before tipping it skyward, draining it in one shot.

 

“You don’t seem upset or even stunned. I nearly fainted the first time I saw these guys.” Tina looked lovingly at John. “It took a long time for me to get comfortable with all of this.” Tonya looked into the empty glass in her had almost longingly, trying to mentally conjure up a refill before responding.

 

“They exist here for me,” she said tapping a finger to her temple. “Why couldn’t they exist there for so many others that they finally manifest themselves into our ‘reality’ or ‘reality’ as we choose it to be? I don’t find any of this surprising at all. It’s when we close ourselves off from our dreams that our world crumbles.” She sat for a moment in silence and thought of her dreams, wondering what they would bring tonight. She hadn’t been this drunk in a long time and she hoped that she would be able to dream, because sitting with these guys was making her wish her dream man were real! She had no intentions of letting go of her dreams.

 

“Shadows and dust.” Max said very simply looking down at his hands, remembering the words of Proximo and the dreams of the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Tonya nodded and saluted him with her empty glass.

 

“I haven’t seen everybody here yet, have I?” She asked speaking to no one in particular.

 

“There are a few of us who like to be alone.” John was the one to answer.

 

“And some who we wish would leave us alone.” Bud quipped quietly, drawing a glare from John.

 

“Bud, don’t even start that shit again.” John pointed a finger in Bud’s direction. “We’ve been through this so many times that I’m sick to death of it!”

 

“What in hell are you two going on about?” Tonya looked from one to the other, totally confused.

 

“Sid.” They spoke the name in unison, still staring at each other, neither one willing to back down. Silence descended upon the group as they waited for someone to speak first.

 

“All I keep trying to say, John, is that life would be so much nicer here if we just shut him down.” John squirmed in his chair and Tina moved away slightly as if she knew exactly where this conversation was going.

 

“As much as I can’t stand him, he has just as much right to be here as you, me or anyone else. Fuck Bud, have you ever thought that if we could shut him out that someone could shut YOU out.” Bud grimaced at John’s words and started to speak when he was cut off.

 

“Speaking of the ‘Bad Seed’,” Max interjected attempting to keep John and Bud from another long fight regarding the validity of Sid’s continued existence. “I haven’t seen him all night. And, no offense is meant by this,” nodding in Tonya’s direction, “but, he usually has a knack for sniffing out all of the new arrivals.” Laura blanched slightly and Tonya picked up on her discomfort immediately.

 

“Tonya,” the sound of Tina’s voice drew her eyes to her. “I…we need to warn you about Sid.”

 

“Let me guess, he ruthlessly pursues guests, or anything else in a skirt he can find. No offense Max. He finds a weakness, say a woman’s physical desire for him and uses that to try to ply her to his will.” Laura looked even more uncomfortable. Sid got to her, Tonya realized. She must have been quite the victim. Having seen ‘Virtuosity’ countless times, Tonya knew that there was something about Laura, a weakness, maybe the one just used as an illustration, that made her easy prey. She had picked up on no frailties to speak of during the evening; but then again, she hadn’t been looking for any. Surely Sid had found something and pressed her.

 

“Yes and he tries to stir up trouble whenever he can strictly for his own sick and twisted amusement.” Tina was very serious now. “Try to stay clear of him and Hando if you can.”

 

“Well, thanks for the warning.” Tonya was once again distracted by her empty glass and was surprised to hear John’s voice, calmer now.

 

“There’s something else that we need to talk to you about or rather to ask you about.” She giggled every time he said ‘aboot’, thinking of South Park each time. “Are you still with me?”

 

“Yeah, just distracted. Too much scotch. Whatcha wanna know?”

 

“Well, most guests are drawn here for a reason. All have one thing in common, they all love RC’s movies.” Tonya nodded and grinned. “But, that alone is not enough to pull someone in here. Usually, when a lady joins us, its because she has made a connection with one or more of the characters.”

 

“Sort of a bond? Is that what you’re saying?” Tonya’s focus was waning, but she had to concentrate on this. His question may be her question.

 

“Sort of.” Tina picked up the explanation. “Some characters may entertain you, but the connection is made when one of them totally captivates you, consumes you…”

 

“Invades your dreams?” Tonya asked, speaking into her glass. Tina and John both leaned forward.

 

“Yes, but the ‘bond’, as you call it, is not one sided. The guys feel it too.” Tonya looked up and stared at them, her jaw slack. Liz had watched her through the course of the conversation and was surprised to see her exterior control finally crack. She wasn’t expecting that!

 

“When someone new comes, we just sort of know who drew them in.” This time Cort spoke from the end of the table. “Problem that we’re hav’n now is that you’re kind of a mystery.”

 

“I’m a mystery?” Tonya seemed to recover from her earlier shock and now was once more a full participant in the conversation. “What does that mean?” Cort turned and signaled to Andy to bring her another drink before continuing.

 

“It simply means that we have no idea who drew you here.” He looked around the table as the other men agreed with him. “Now either you’re bond is with *ALL* of us or you have somehow blocked yourself off.” Andy approached and set her drink in front of her before heading back to the bar. This was interesting, but he would find out all about it later.

 

Tonya sat back and scanned the patrons of the bar as if looking for someone and then turned to study her companions. She found no match with “Him”. That was how “He” was connected to this place, but if none of them knew, how would she know? “I guess that I’ve done the latter,” she said before taking her last drink in one shot.

 

Sid sat in his room and pouted most of the night, waiting for all of the ‘spoil-sports’ to leave. The last few months they had ridiculed him, tied him up naked to a sign outside, buried him in the sand and even removed his character module! He had also been kicked in the groin and thrown out of windows more times than he cared to remember. They wanted him to change, but he had no idea how to do that or if he even wanted to. Whenever he had tried to change his behavior, they had laughed at him or interrogated him to find out his motives.

 

“Assholes,” he mumbled as he kicked one of his many suits that were thrown across the bed with a bare foot. He sat up against he headboard, arms crossed across his bare chest, as he smoldered. Most of the other guys here had paired up with someone and, occasionally, even doubled up. Yet he was alone. Fucking Hando even had women flocking to him…HANDO! Once he thought that he could just charm women out of their pants, but that didn’t really work and when it did, it was…unsatisfying. Being the sexual aggressor had worked, he smiled to himself, as long as he made it seem like ‘they’ had control of whether or not anything happened. The real problem was that he had not had a ‘conquest’ in quite some time and, even though he wasn’t really human, he was sexually frustrated.

 

Closing his eyes, he tried to conjure up those qualities in a woman that would be a match for him. This was an easy task, because it had become part of his nightly ritual since his recent dry-spell had started. He knew that she could not be as vain as he was because they would get no where fast. He had to concentrate on himself. She couldn’t be a pushover, they were fun for awhile, but he tired of them quickly. Finally, she would have to have a will of her own. None of these women who sat around and molded themselves into what their ‘man’ wanted them to be, but someone who at least have the decency to be honest with themselves. No fun in trying to subjugate someone who didn’t know what she was in the first place or who didn’t know what she was giving up. He had even gotten so carried away with this fantasy that “she” now had a physical description that he had created in his mind and brought to play when his bed was cold, which, unfortunately, was a nightly occurrence.

 

He giggled as he thought of the women in this place. Not a one of them was up to standards. Such WOMEN, giggling and cackling all the time and then crying, oh god how he hated the crying. If he was the cause of their misery, he loved it, but the endless ‘oh I miss you’ or ‘oh you hurt me’ drove him fucking nuts. He needed a woman to be more like a man when emotions were involved. He moaned as he realized the chances of meeting a woman like than here were nil to none and that his ideals were for shit.

 

Glancing at the clock, he noticed it was later than he thought. He grabbed a suit from his closet and ran his hands down the lapels admiringly before donning it. Preening in front of one of the many full-length mirrors, he finished adjusting the suit and fixing his hair. “Time to go see what trouble you can stir up, Beautiful.” With that, he strode out the door, hoping that the ‘do-gooders’ were gone for the night.

 


Part Three

 

Sid waited for a few minutes on the landing watching the group of regulars leave, well, all save one were regulars. They all shuffled out the door before he got a good look at her, all talking loudly about ‘breakfast’, but there was a new guest for him to try and play with. The new ones were always fun, until the rest of the group got to them and egged them into harassing him or even physically attacking him. With Cort on one side and Bud on her other, he was sure approaching her now would be futile as the self-appointed white knights of the CN were all hovering about. If he was lucky (very lucky) the group may not have had time to poison her mind against him yet. Suddenly, he heard Andy laugh and headed for the bar. Andy would know the scoop; he was handier to have around than a tabloid journalist!

 

“Good evening Andy.” Sid tried to use his friendliest tone with his ‘brother’ (HA!) and Andy waved from the other end of the bar. Having already decided on a line of questioning, Sid waited patiently for Andy to approach.

 

“Evenin’ Sid. Where have you been all night? I expected you down here much earlier.”

 

“Why is that?” He looked to his suit and gingerly brushed off a non-existent piece of lint from his lapel.

 

“Well, a new guest arrived today and it seems that you always manage to find them straight away.” Andy silently wondered what Sid was up to now, but held his tongue. Watching how Sid’s mind worked was always interesting, unfortunately someone always managed to get pissed off or hurt.

 

“I didn’t know that anyone was going to be here.”

 

Andy grabbed his drink and leaned on the bar a little ways from Sid with a confused look on his face. “You know Sid, that’s the strangest bit of all. No one knew she was coming.” Andy looked around the bar and seeing that no one needed him immediately, continued on. “After dinner John and Cort asked her about it and she didn’t know what they were talking about, or so I gathered. I didn’t have a chance to listen.”

 

“No one knew?” Sid was surprised by this and momentarily let his confusion surface, but buried it immediately. “Does she know one of the other guests?”

 

“Not really. From what I heard, she’s on-line in their group, but no one really knows anything about her.” Andy forgot who he was talking to as he continued. “And Liz pissed her off as soon as she arrived.”

 

“Really?” Sid was really interested now.

 

“Yeah, guess she told Tonya, that’s her name, that all of the ladies that come here are either invited or were friends with one of the others before they showed up. Liz said Tonya’s face was just like stone after she said that.” Andy grabbed a towel and began to wipe the bar as he spoke. “When I met her she looked at me like I was a piece of meat. Really weird, ya know. But I think she was still ticked off.”

 

“I take it the two made up. Didn’t Liz leave with her and the others just now?”

 

“Yeah. Once she got a few drinks in her, Liz said she lightened up a lot.”

 

Sid packed the little tidbit away to use later if he needed to. Maybe they wouldn’t so easily influence her if she had already had conflicts with them. “Well that sounds nice.” Sid’s voice was dripping with sarcasm as he pushed himself from the bar. “I think I’ll get some fresh air.”

 

“Sid, don’t go and do anything stupid.” The mischievous smile plastered on Sid’s face made warning bells go off in Andy’s head. “I know you’re up to something. For God’s sake, just let well enough alone for now.”

 

Sid cocked his head to one side as he considered Andy’s words. “Your God’s or mine.” With that he turned and exited the bar like a man on a mission.

 

Andy muttered under his breath and prayed that Sid behaved. If he didn’t though, he wanted to be the first one to talk to Sid when he returned.

 

The night air was crisp and Sid inhaled the smell of the ocean deep into his lungs. He now had somewhat of an upper hand in this game and he sorely wanted to play. The unusual situation was going to work to his advantage and he giggled a little, anticipating how much fun it would all be. Sid watched the hotel and watched the lights go on in the rooms he knew to be occupied, silently biding his time. Finally, the lights when on in one of the new rooms and then off again just minutes later. Smiling, Sid made his way to the back of the building, sure that the new arrival would be asleep soon.

 

Tonya’s eyes snapped open and she found herself in familiar surroundings; she was dreaming. A warm breeze slowly made its way through the long gauze curtains that surrounded the room, lifting them off the marble floor, making them dance in the night air.

 

She turned and set her bare feet on the floor and pushed herself off the large settee that, apart from the large braziers in the four corners of the room that cast a comforting glow throughout the space, was the only piece of furniture. Through the gaps in the curtains starlight shone in, illuminating the balcony on one side.

 

“Are you here?” Her voice always sounded alien to her here. “Hello?” Silence answered her. She moved out to the balcony and leaned her bare arms on the wide ledge. She stared up at the sky as meteors streaked above her and wondered if she had drank too much. The dream was different. Usually “he” was here to meet her when she awoke, so to speak, but he was gone.

 

“I haven’t gone.”

 

She turned and looked around for him, but saw nothing. “Where are you?”

 

“I am here.” Spinning around she saw his shadowy figure approach. “Did you think I would not be here?”

 

“I… I didn’t know. Everything is strange now. I feel I am close to you, but I can’t find you.” She melted as his hand cupped her face, tracing her lips with his thumb. Trembling, she tried to form another question, but his caresses lessened her ability to think coherently.

 

“Yes, we are near. Closer than you know.” His voice enveloped her as his lips brushed her earlobe. She did not realize he had come so close, but felt the heat emanating from him. “Tomorrow.”

 

Tonya didn’t know if she could wait any longer, but knew that pleading with him would be futile. “How will I know you? I don’t even know what you look like.”

 

“Oh, I will be the one to call you by you’re *true* name. The name of your ancestors.” He kissed her passionately and then stood back, letting the light of the stars shine on her face. “You do realize that I will not be exactly as I am here?”

 

“How will you be different? I know you’re real, but…”

 

“You have influenced me here and in your dreams I have been what you needed, when you needed it. Outside of here,” she followed the shadowed hand as he made a sweeping gesture around them, “I follow my own needs and desires. I will not be as easily influenced by you.” She reached for him and held him close, her head resting on his wide, muscular shoulder. “Do you understand?” He felt her nod as she clung to him.

 

“Will I be able to see you again, here?” Fear of the unknown consumed her. Tonya had grown accustomed to having him with her every night and she did not want to hear the inevitable truth. For the longest time he was the only person that she could depend upon even though he was a figment of her imagination. He was there for her every time she closed her eyes and sleep descended to wrap her up in his presence. Only now she knew that he existed, in the real world, within her grasp.

 

“No, Tatiana you will not.” He pulled back and held her face in his hands. Tears came unbidden and she brushed them away, annoyed with them. She didn’t cry anywhere but here and the fact that she needed to now irritated her. “There will be no need for me. Once you find me, you will dream as others do, randomly and without consistency. You will have my true self to deal with and this incarnation would only be a distraction for you.” Neither said anything for a few minutes. They simply held one another knowing that this was their last encounter; the dawn would bring a new day and a new set of challenges. Slowly, he pulled away and led her through the curtains to the settee. “Let us say goodbye, Cherie.”

 

They settled down together and began to kiss. His hands roamed over the diaphanous material that draped her body and began to remove it from her shoulders, kissing along her collarbone. His hands never stopped their exploration of her body and soon she was free of her clothing, but not from the constant torture he inflicted upon her with his mouth. Pleasure washed through her as she felt her heart begin to race faster and her mind covered in a fog of delight. Suddenly, as quickly as he had begun, he was gone. Opening her eyes, she saw blue-green eyes staring deeply into her own.

 

“Why did you stop?” she asked, her breath ragged, but her voice clear and strong.

 

“I want you to forget about tomorrow. I want it to be only us. This night is to be forever.” He kissed her deeply. She realized that he was the generous lover tonight and that was indeed what she needed.

 

What was it going to be like when she met him outside of her dreams? A small voice inside of her cried out in warning that the man with her now was not the man of the flesh.

 

“Make me forget.” She pushed the voice away and decided to enjoy this for all it was worth.

 

Sid had climbing the roof and dropping down onto the balconies of the rooms down to a fine art and he managed it noiselessly this time. Slipping through the window and into the main room he stopped to listen for sounds, the telltale signs of sleep. Finally satisfied, he made his way to the bedroom to begin his game but stopped when he saw Tonya laying out across the covers of her bed. The moonlight that had lit his way across the rooftop shone in on her like a spotlight, illuminating her exposed skin, making it shine in the night. Moving closer he saw the face of a woman that he had become so familiar with… in his fantasies. Her short hair framed her face and her eyes moved rapidly beneath closed lids. Sid knew their color. She moaned in her sleep and he jumped back, startled. This was too weird, even for him.

 

Sid sat down gently on the edge of the bed and leaned forward to divine more about this fetching creature that shouldn’t exist. Leaning in close, almost touching her, she smelled as he imagined she would, a pure musky scent that was purely female and…he could smell her arousal. /Dreaming of me, Cherie? / he thought as she moaned again. He smiled broadly and started to giggle. There was no doubt in his mind who had drawn her here! He unconsciously straightened with pride as he thought of how many were here, at least in part, because of him. Oh, they wouldn’t admit it often or even give into him, well, most didn’t, but he did help bring them here. He felt the anger return from earlier as he remembered how his brethren would inevitably swoop in and steal the ladies away with their ‘vulnerability’ or their ‘sensitivity’. Not a one of them liked him, not even John. John had stood up to the others for him, but not because he liked him. It benefited him to do so.

 

Tonya’s breathing increased and Sid pulled himself back into the moment, fascinated. Her mouth fell open as she seemed to struggle for breath and Sid felt his pants becoming uncomfortably tight. Closing his eyes, he imagined the things he could do to elicit the same sounds from her. As his imagination began to soar, her noises became more excited. He pictured her naked beneath him, bucking wildly and begging him to ease her suffering. Opening his eyes, he began to pull away, only to be stopped when her hand darted out and grabbed his arm.

 

“Why did you stop?” Her voice was clear and strong. Sid sat down slowly and watched her, knowing she was still asleep and unable to pull away as her hand clamped down on his arm. He tried to imagine her reaction to finding him here, but was unable to visualize anything other than what he could do to bring her to climax. He realized that he had been imagining the possible scenarios on his way to her room.

 

“What do you want me to do, Cherie?” He whispered the words into the shell of her ear before his tongue darted out to taste her.

 

“Make me forget.”

 

Sid was confused, but remembered she was dreaming. He continued to suckle her earlobe and neck finding it too great a temptation to resist (like he would have anyway!). Tonya stifled a cry as he slid a hand up the outside of her shirt to cup a breast, working his thumb across the center until it grew hard under his touch. Suddenly he stopped and sat up as the realization struck him that she was only receptive to this invasion because she thought it was a dream. That will change soon enough.

 

Extricating his arm from her grasp he pulled back off of the bed and watched her writhe in passion. He wanted her. It was that simple. Seeing the physical incarnation of his fantasies suddenly before him, in the flesh, making sounds and moving in such a way that made him painfully hard, he became more determined to possess her. Sid, however surprisingly, realized that he wanted her to be conscious and to know it was him taking her, pleasuring her, touching her. Slowly he backed out of the room. Tomorrow would be more eventful that he had originally anticipated.

 

He giggled maniacally as he closed the window behind him and slid back up onto the roof. He had a plan and the game was afoot!

 


Part Four

 

Morning came and Sid was out of bed uncharacteristically early, before 10 am. Smiling and humming, he made his way to the kitchen of the hotel, only to find Annabella already there. Making his way past one of the bustling serving staff, he snuck up behind her, mindful to keep a safe distance in case she had a knife again. “Good morning, Cherie.” She swung around to face him brandishing the only weapon she had at her disposal, a whisk. “Umm…you look good enough to eat.”

 

“What do you want Sid? I don’t have time for your games this morning.” She returned to the eggs, beating the whites into stiff peaks, trying to downplay how startled she was.

 

“Oh, now can’t I just come and say hello to you without an ulterior motive?” He leaned forward and placed a small kiss on the back of her neck. She spun around again and this time managed to splatter the front of his suit with egg.

 

“No, you can’t. What do you want?” Sid looked down at his suit and back up to Annabella. She couldn’t read his face to tell what he was thinking, but she didn’t think it was good.

 

“I want to order a breakfast tray, if that is alright?”

 

“Go place the order up front with Rick. Jesus Sid, you know that. What do you think I am, your personal kitchen slave?” She didn’t know why she had said that, but regretted it just as his head cocked to one side, a smirk on his lips.

 

“Would you like to be?” He moved forward again, suddenly encouraged by her choice of words. “The kitchen can be more fun than a bedroom.”

 

“Sid, back off! I didn’t mean it like that and you know it!” She pointed the whisk at his chest and poked him with it, emphasizing every word. “If you want that tray anytime soon, you had better put in for it now.”

 

Sid held his hands up in defeat and headed for the doors to the dining room. Annabella threw the whisk back into the bowl and rapidly began beating the eggs again. Oh, he irritated her, but he was pleasant to look at, like all the other guys here. All shared the physical attributes of RC, but each had their own personality and Sid’s, well, she thought his needed to be scraped off the bottom of her shoes. One of her staff approached and watched Annabella before speaking.

 

“What are you doing?” Trevor liked Annabella and hated seeing her upset. He had started here right after she had and they had struck up a congenial relationship. They worked well together and he knew how flustered Sid made her. Sid managed to stir up trouble wherever he went and Trevor was smart enough to stay out of the way.

 

“Making meringue, why?” She was upset and had no intention of hiding it.

 

“Do you think that you may need to change whisks?” Annabella looked up at Trevor and watched him mimic her poking Sid in the chest.

 

“Ah shit.” Annabella walked to the trash can and immediately dumped the contents of the bowl inside. “Trevor, be a dear and get me some more eggs.”

 

Sid placed the order and headed quickly back to his room to change. He hadn’t even been dressed for an hour and already he had another suit for the cleaners. He seriously thought about sending Annabella the bill for the suit, but knew that it would be more trouble than it was worth. Seeing her agitated was worth it. As he opened his closet, he found than he had only two more suits that were clean and cursed silently. He headed down the stairs, once more dressed for the day, this time in his favorite purple suit, and dropped a bundle at the end of the bar to be picked up later by the cleaners.

 

Outside, he turned to head for the hotel and saw a tall woman exit the front doors. Tonya. She headed for the beach with a large item, maybe a towel, draped over one shoulder. Sid quickly ran to a tree and ducked behind it watching his prey take the well-worn path that led to the ocean. Once he got closer he watched her walk, hips swaying slightly from side to side, tapping a bottle of tanning oil against her leg without thought or rhythm. Forgetting about the food, that he had insisted upon having, he followed her.

 

Tonya felt good this morning, despite the lingering alcoholic cloud that seemed to surround her. When she woke, she decided to tan on the beach and quickly changed into her bikini. She threw on a plain white tank, a pair of oversized jean cut-offs and slipped into her sandals. Once on the beach, she shed her sandals and casually kicked at the warm sand with her feet. She walked for a long while, before finding a secluded enough spot, placed her blanket down and stripped out of the tank and shorts. She applied oil liberally across her already tanned skin and laid back to soak up what sun she could.

 

Sid watched her settle down onto the towel and waited for her to get comfortable before approaching. He couldn’t believe his luck, catching her alone after her first night out at the Nest. His plan to catch her alone in her room was one thing, but here he would have an even greater advantage. All he wanted initially was to catch her off guard and drop subtle hints about the cliques that had formed at the Nest. If he could get her to question the intentions of the others, he would be able to seduce her to his side and eventually into his bed.

 

His breath had caught in his throat as she had slipped gracefully out of her clothes revealing the suit beneath, temporarily banishing thoughts of his scheme. He committed every curve, every inch of skin to memory to use later. She was amazing. Although shorter than he was, she was still tall, probably 5’8″ or 9″. Nothing about the way she dressed or acted seemed to indicate that she really knew what she looked like. Tonya was toned, but not overly muscular so she still retained a soft look. Keeping to the casual end of casual dress, she was almost the antithesis of Sid, but he had to admit, licking his lips, that denim had never looked so good. Finally, after several minutes, Sid adjusted his suit and stealthily walked towards her stopping when he stood at her head, his long shadow cast along her prone form. Grinning, he anticipated the wonderful high-pitched scream that she would let loose when she opened her eyes to find him hovering above her.

 

Tonya shifted on her towel and opened her eyes briefly, shielding her face from the morning’s glare with one hand. “You’re in my sun.” No panic, no scream, just that one simple statement; Sid was speechless. She continued to lie there like it was the most natural thing in the world to find him standing there. /This is going to be a challenge/ he thought as he realized that she was like no other female he had ever dealt with. Scooting over to the edge of the towel, Tonya patted to space next to her. “Are you going to stand there all day or are you going to have a seat?”

 

Sid moved with some effort and sat down next to her. Somehow the roles had switched. He had gone from feeling in total control to feeling controlled, something that NEVER happened to him! Tonya was stretched out on her back with one knee bent and her arms above her head, her eyes closed once more. She seemed perfectly comfortable in his presence, another thing that simply never happened. Women were either scared to death of him, overwhelmed by his beauty or disgusted by what he was. Finding her seemingly at ease was a little unnerving. Silence prevailed for a few minutes before Sid, unable to go long without hearing his own voice and needing to take control of the situation once more, spoke, his voice full of as much charm as he could muster. “So, are you in the habit of lying half-naked next to total strangers?”

 

She didn’t answer immediately, allowing the sound of carefully enunciated words and his perfectly pitched voice to wash over her (she did have a thing for men’s voices). “No, I’m not, but I don’t really consider you a stranger Sid.”

 

He giggled, sounding like an overjoyed child on Christmas morning. “Didn’t take you long to figure that out. What gave me away?”

 

“The suit.” Her facial expression never changed as she shifted around a little, trying to find that most elusive of positions, the comfortable one.

 

“Did the ‘do-gooders’ warn you about me? They can never manage to meet someone new without talking about me.” His voice lost its humorous tone, making Tonya sit up on her elbows to look directly at him.

 

“They told me to stay clear of you.” She watched Sid wrestle with his confusion for a brief moment, taking in the sight of him for the first time. Perfectly styled reddish-brown hair, muscular body that was perfectly framed in the tailored suit, eyes that danced from blue to green in the sunlight; he was indeed eye candy! Maybe a little too cocky and self-absorbed, but those were things that she could dismiss with relative ease. “I like to make my own judgments about people.”

 

Sid felt some control come back to him as he realized that she had just given him an opening. “Do you think they’re wrong about me?” He moved to stretch out parallel to her, propping his head up on one arm and tracing a line along the length of her torso, careful not to touch her yet. “Don’t you think I might be dangerous?” The questions were laced with innuendo and conceit.

 

Tonya was glad she was lying down, because she wasn’t she could have stood up and withstood the heated look he had as his eyes devoured her. He was definitely a bad-boy! “I do think they may be partially wrong about you, but I do think you’re trouble.” She rolled over to the other side of the towel and pulled a bottle of cream out the pocket of her shorts, throwing it at Sid. “Better put that on if you’re going to stay for awhile. I don’t think a burn would look good on you.” Sid looked at the bottle and then back to Tonya, who had returned to her previous position to soak up the sun. Lying back, she was smiling up at the sky and biting her bottom lip.

 

“What are you smiling at?” She said nothing, but let loose a giggle, which she quickly silenced and bit her lip once more to keep the laughter at bay. He looked so out place sitting on the beach in a suit with a sun worshipper. Another giggle escaped and Sid turned to her with anger in his eyes. “What are you laughing at?”

 

“You.” She laughed uncontrollably now, the angry tone of his voice doing nothing to her but add to the irony of the setting. “You look ridiculous.”

 

“How dare you say that ‘I’ look ridiculous?”

 

“Just look around you. Don’t you feel just a little out of place? ” She sat up, holding her sides, trying to get a deep breath. “Something tells me that you don’t often frequent the beach.” She reached out and fingered the lapel of his jacket, noting quickly how soft the material was. “These aren’t exactly beach combing duds.”

 

Sid looked to his favorite suit and caught on that he must indeed look out of place, but he looked good, so that’s all that really mattered. “I like this suit. It accentuates my personality.”

 

“It certainly draws attention.” She stated in her very subtle southern drawl.

 

“I am deserving of attention, don’t you think?”

 

“Yes, yes you are.” Tonya lay down on the blanket once more and tried to change the subject. “So, don’t you have anywhere to be?”

 

“I only want to be with you, Cherie.” Running his finger along the line of her body once more, Sid laid the charm on. He wanted to elicit a reaction and he got one.

 

“God, that has to be a record. You’ve been here less than five minutes and you’re already trying to put the moves on me. Do I look like a complete moron?” Instead of being frightened, she was getting pissed.

 

“No, just a beautiful woman in need of… male companionship. I certainly meet the requirements and then some.”

 

“Sid, tell me, is it hard to be so damned narcissistic?” That being said, the fight was on. “What is that you’re looking for here? An easy conquest? An ego stroke? What?”

 

Anger resurfaced and Sid stood up to try, if nothing else, to get an advantage. Quickly, he decided to redirect her. “What I am is not my fault, it’s not even my choice.”

 

“That is such utter and complete bullshit!” Tonya’s face contorted with fury as she erupted. “That may have been true for about the first 5 minutes or so of your life, but at a certain point you can’t blame your creator anymore.”

 

“Do you want me to go back and ask that twit Lindenmyer to re-design me? Should I be more resentful for the things that I don’t have? Personally I enjoy the things that I have be given.”

 

“That doesn’t surprise me. However you do come up short in the humanity department.”

 

Being on the defensive was foreign territory for him and he discovered that he never had an advantage over her. “What is your suggestion to remedy that?”

 

“Get some balls perhaps?” The sardonic tone of her voice lightened and she began to laugh once more. “Or maybe you could go stand in front of the All Powerful OZ and ask for a heart, Tin Man.” Her laughter cut him to the bone and he realized that he could gain nothing here.

 

Tonya headed back up the beach to the hotel about an hour later intent on getting a shower and a nap, not in that particular order. She giggled slightly at the thought of Sid storming off shortly after their fight. Smiling as she thought of how out of place he looked wearing that garish suit on the beach! He was beautiful, but she couldn’t stop laughing at him and that finally drove him off. She had wished he had stayed longer, but his pride had been too damaged to allow him to stay. Deciding that she liked Sid, despite his arrogance, she hoped that she would run into to her newfound sparring partner again later.

 

Stopping off at the restaurant first, she ordered a large cappuccino to go. While she was waiting, she spotted Liz at the desk speaking to a strange woman. Trying to figure out if this was another new face or one that she should know, she waited for her drink. Thanking Rick, she took her coffee and headed for the stairs but Liz stopped her.

 

“Hey Tonya. Come over here for a sec. There’s someone that you should meet.” Tonya took a deep swig as she headed over, hoping that this would be short and sweet.

 

“Mornin’ Liz.”

 

“I’m surprised to see you up and about so early. No one else has come down yet.” Liz smiled.

 

“How are you doin’?” Liz held up her own large cup of coffee and smiled.

 

“Caffeine is a gift of the gods, isn’t it?” Tonya chuckled and lifted her cup in agreement.

 

“I guess you all had a good time last night.” The new woman smiled broadly. “Since Liz is busy filling herself with coffee, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Peaches.” Tonya smiled and took her hand, as the name clicked registered with one in her memory as the owner of the hotel.

 

“I’m Tonya, nice to meet you. I was told that you gone doing some family stuff.”

 

“Yeah, I would have preferred to simply stay here, but that wasn’t the way it worked out. So, how long have you been here?”

 

“Got in yesterday. Surprised Liz didn’t relate the whole ugly story.” Liz feigned a look of shock and surprise as Peaches shot her a questioning glance.

 

“I do declare,” Liz put on her best southern belle accent, batting her eyelids for all she was worth. “I do not know to what you are referring.” Both women erupted into laughter, leaving Peaches out of the loop. The harder Liz laughed, the harder Tonya did. Peaches raised and eyebrow at Liz, giving her a look that said you had better spill it. “Oh Peaches, nothing happened but a misunderstanding.” She related the story for Peaches of Tonya’s arrival, but it took forever as Tonya kept interrupting and giggling.

 

Finally with the story out, Peaches looked at Tonya and nodded slightly. “I really should have told Liz that you were coming, but I got so caught up… ”

 

“What?” Tonya and Liz both stopped laughing and looked at Peaches. “You knew that I was coming?”

 

“Yeah, she surprised us all. How did you… wait, I forget that you have some kind of bizarre psychic sense when it comes to the CN.” Liz should have known that Peaches would have already known about Tonya coming.

 

“If you knew I was coming, then you know… ” Tonya’s voice was flat and her face no longer revealed any emotion. She had shut herself down from the inside out.

 

“Honey, I know why you’re here and believe me, everyone is welcome, no matter what.” Tonya began to ask more, but was cut off by female voices yelling Peaches’ name and running towards the desk. She would have to get more info later.

 


Part Five

 

Evening quickly approached and Tonya felt wonderful and revived after being here only 24 hours. The morning tanning session had whisked away any hangover she may have had and she was ready to go again. The other ladies did not seem to fair as well. Tina didn’t come out of her room until about 2 p.m., and she quickly returned as she smelled the lingering odors of lunch from the kitchen, looking as peeked as someone who had consumed a fifth of tequila and not five mimosas. Laura, Liz and the guys consumed more caffeine than Tonya thought was humanly possible, all in the vain attempt to try to feel human again. In fact the only people in the building who admitted to being up to the challenge of the bar tonight were Annabella and Peaches.

 

She spent most of the day wondering what Peaches had meant this morning, when she said she was welcome here no matter what. She hated when people were cryptic and she wished that they would just say what they meant. But what if her coming here was not for the best? The circumstances surrounding her decision to come were not the most ideal. Wednesday morning she had walked off of her job of six years in a fit of anger and had no intention of ever going back.

 

After arriving home and working off some stress of the morning, she logged onto the net and went about playing for several hours. It was then that she checked the posts at the group and made a decision; she was going to the Crowe’s Nest. No one seemed to ever say exactly where it was, just that if you needed to get there, you would find it. She could think of no better time than the present. She had plenty of money to last for a while and the prospects for a new job were always open, in fact, she had just interviewed for a position last week that she still may get. Leaving the troubles of home for a week or so sounded like heaven and that was all the incentive she needed to pack up her shit and go.

 

She still hadn’t come any closer to figuring out who had drawn her here, who had been the one to pull her in from the ‘real’ world; the only thing she knew for certain was who hadn’t. None of the guys from last night, although Bud presented himself as quite a mystery, she still knew it wasn’t him. She had only met Sid today and he was definitely a mystery.

 

Wandering outside, Tonya headed for the beach once more. She had planned to lie out under the stars for a while later on, but the warm breeze drifting in from the sea and the clear sky was too much to resist. Sitting down she saw two falling stars like the ones she remembered from her dreams. Had it only been last night that she was cut loose from “him”? Suddenly a pang of sadness hit her and she realized that her days would not be spent in anticipation of sleep, of dreams again. “He” would not be there to welcome her into sleep’s embrace tonight or indeed any other.

 

Knowing full well that she would find what she needed here, she felt more positive about the evening. “He” had told her that he was closer than she thought, but how close was that? She often thought that her dreams had taken her to somewhere beyond that stars that shone on the Earth, so being closer than that meant that “he” could be anywhere in the universe! However, she knew that he was here…she could feel that he was here and “He” would reveal himself tonight (or at least she hoped he did). Hours passed as she thought of “him” before she noticed that she was thirsty. The others would surely think that she had stood them up. Quickly she jumped up and headed for the bar.

 

The tavern was filled nearly to capacity when she walked through the doors. There were those there only to socialize, those to drink their way to oblivion, and those there to watch the guys. Liz had filled her in on the lurkers: people who came from the cyber-world to ogle and drool over the boys, but who made no commitment to the place. They would simply wander in from time to time, drink until they had their fill of the place and then leave. Liz also told her that some of the boys preferred the lurkers to the regular guests, Kim came to mind as she watched him cross the room and pass a drink to a young thing that didn’t look like she was even old enough to drink. Jail bait, bud, she thought as she passed them by without a word.

 

Finding the rarest of all things, a seat at the bar, she smiled as she spotted Andy. “Hey Andy!” She could barely hear herself over the cacophony of loud voices, clicking glasses and the DJ’s music. Andy was at the other end of the bar and had no chance in hell of ever hearing her yell. Sitting back to wait, Tonya spotted another RC incarnation and the Elvis burns gave away his identity instantly.

 

“What can I get ya, luv?” He yelled over the din.

 

“Stoli’s on the rocks with a lime.” Colin stared at her for a moment before turning to retrieve her drink.

 

“You’ve got to be Tonya.” He yelled upon his return. Tonya took a quick drink and nodded her head. “Figured it had to be you, Andy was telling me about ya. Says you can drink like a man. I’d like to see that!”

 

“Stick around. The night’s still young.”

 

“Colin.” He stated as he took her hand and, to her surprise, turned it and gave a very polite kiss instead of the expected shake.

 

“A girl can’t catch a break around here?”

 

“Never. Are ya lookin’ for someone?”

 

“Yeah. Peaches and Annabella, have you seen them?”

 

“Yeah. There was a big group in here, but they all called it a night a little earlier. I haven’t seen Annabella at all, but Trevor is here.” He pointed the young man out as someone waved from down the bar and Colin moved off. “Back in a tick.”

 

Tonya settled onto her seat and took another swallow of the cool liquid. As it burnt its way down her throat, she suddenly felt that she was being watched. Looking around she saw nothing but the strangers that filled the bar. She didn’t look up to see Sid standing on the landing above.

 

Sid watched everything in the bar from his perch and his eyes hadn’t left Tonya since she walked through the doors. Amazing, he thought, she would be stunning in anything that she chose to wear. Tonight she remained in her typical casual dress, but she radiated a self-confidence that would have outshone the most dazzling jewels.

 

It was her confidence that had him hooked; he knew it even as he had stormed off the beach this morning. Losing the fight lost its importance as it dawned on him that he really did have to have her. There were others her for him to play with, but he didn’t want to do that with her; he just wanted her. Her name even captivated him. He let it roll over his tongue as he watched her. No, it wasn’t right, her name didn’t fit her. She required something with more strength and mystery. He smiled broadly as it came to him: Tatiana.

 

Having her was now his all-consuming goal, and he knew that he would need to be more creative than he had ever been in the past. Sid had no doubt that she was here for him, she had to be, but why didn’t the others know it? Not that he ever put much stock in what any of them had to say, but they were all usually right on the money when it came to these connections.

 

What was it about Tonya that the others couldn’t see? Maybe it was because she was here for him and they couldn’t understand it or imagine it. That would be a more likely scenario; no one here thought that anyone would ever be interested in him and so when someone did show up, they simply couldn’t allow themselves to see it. He had a connection with her and it was stronger than anything that he had felt in the past. All the other connections that he had in the past were shared; the person was drawn to him and another.

 

Anger rose in him again as he remembered that they never failed to choose someone else over him. Maximus vexed him most of all. So many women had come here in the last year to bask in the glory of that martyred fool and he, like the ‘gentle warrior’ he was supposed to be, tried to downplay the true numbers of estrogen-poisoned followers he had. Sid felt like an after-thought when compared to the General, and that angered him more than anything else did. He would not be second best!

 

Sid pulled himself out of his thoughts and looked around for Tonya, who was no longer sitting at the bar. Scanning the room, he finally found her in the arms of that twit, Trevor, dancing. Without a thought, he flew down the stairs and headed for the couple.

 

Tonya had asked Trevor to dance after Colin had come back and introduced them. Since everyone else she knew here so far had come and gone before she even arrived tonight, she decided to make the best of it. They were spinning around each other on the dance floor, laughing, but unable to hear anything. Suddenly Trevor’s face fell and he went a sickly shade of pale. Tonya had no idea what was happening. He mouthed words that were lost in the prevailing noise and looked as if he were going to be ill. She started to reach for him, when a strong hand gripped her wrist and spun her around. Breath exploded from her lungs as she made contact with Sid’s chest.

 

“What are you doing?” Sid’s voice barely cut through the din in the room as he roared at Trevor. “What are you doing outside of your kitchen, boy?” Trevor’s youth and inexperience in volatile situations showed immediately as he raised his hands in a gesture of submission and began backing away. Sid turned his attention immediately to Tonya. He did not yell or scream at her; he just looked down at her with a mixture of desire, anger and confusion.

 

Tonya was conflicted, to say the least. The moment he had roughly grabbed her, she felt no pain but electricity as it coursed from the point of contact to her loins, sparking a need that, she suspected, may overpower her. She had felt, more than heard, the words spoken to Trevor as she was pressed tightly to his chest, but couldn’t do anything other that feel the heat radiating from Sid’s body as he stood against her. On the beach, he had not touched her and she wondered if it would have felt this intense. She had thought of him off and on all day, hoping to see him again, talk with him again, but not like this. Suddenly, she was aware of him staring down at her, his blue-green eyes filling her vision as he tried to stare her down.

 

“What do think you’re doing, Sid?” Desire was suddenly replaced by anger as Tonya yelled, not actually trying to be heard over the noise. “Let go of me!”

 

Sid continued to stare at her and hold her close, his grip loosening slightly on her wrist. On any other day, in any other place, Tonya would have had the good sense to feel a hint of fear, but here, now, she felt nothing but blinding rage. A small circle had formed around them as others on the dance floor seemed to detect the potential for danger emanating from the two, and had started to move away. As he stared at her, he seemed to reach some kind of decision and turned to leave, pulling her with him. The crowd parted and no one tried to stop him.

 

The doors to the tavern shook violently as Sid slammed them open in one swift movement. Tonya was sure to bruise from the grip he had on her, but she refused to let go of her anger and feel fear. “Sid, let go of me!” He stopped after turning the corner of the tavern and pushed her back against the wall, effectively stopping any attempt at escape.

 

“I have no intention of letting you go.” He spoke so low that she almost didn’t hear him. “I want to be with you.” The words escaped his lips and he hoped she hadn’t heard them. He could only hope that if she did that she would dismiss it as meaning something else.

 

“You WILL let me go!” Tonya spoke through clenched teeth as his head dropped to her neck, inhaling her scent, his breath against her skin making her pulse quicken. Right now the thought of ‘being with him’ sickened her, even though a few moments ago she had wanted nothing more.

 

“You, my dear, are so angry. Why?” He lifted his head and ran his tongue along her the line of her jaw, tasting her. She stiffened under his touch, as his hand that had held her hip moved up under her shirt, her skin nearly burning his fingers where they touched. “I don’t want your anger, as delightful as it is. No, I want something more from you.”

 

She wasn’t fighting him, either from anger or something else, but he used the time he had to cup a breast in his hand. He thought of last night, the sounds she made as she dreamed, and he wanted her to cry out for him in passion. He was blind to everything else at the moment; her anger had done nothing except intensify his need for her. Firm flesh responded to his touch and her breath caught in her throat as his fingers brushed against the most sensitive area of her breast. He released her other wrist and moved his hand slowly up her arm, kissing her neck at the same time, continuing the onslaught on her senses.

 

Tonya felt herself relaxing under Sid’s caresses and thought she would be sitting on the ground if he weren’t holding her against the wall. She wanted him! As wrong as it may have been, she wanted him. His mouth moved slowly across her neck as his hands massaged her body, only giving her a taste of the forbidden fruit. Her hands raised and she started to reach for him, to return caresses, to feel the heat of his skin, but she stopped in mid-motion. This would not how she would have him. I won’t be victimized, she thought as she started to push him away from her.

 

“Whatever you think you are going to get tonight, you’re wrong. You won’t have me.” Not like this.

 

“Ah, but I will.” He placed a rough kiss on her mouth and tried to force her to open for him. For months now he had only the imagined vision of her to distract him, but now that he was so close to her, touching her, tasting her; he was overwhelmed. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain as she bit his lip and she pushed hard against his chest. Anger resurfaced in her immediately, despite all he had done to divert her attention. Pushing him back off of her, with strength that she didn’t know she had, she grabbed the lapels of his jacket, and flipped him around causing his side to make hard contact with the wall.

 

“I said ‘no’.” Tonya she was breathing fast trying to work through the adrenaline dump.

 

Sid’s eyes were wide with shock. No snide reply or witty retort could form in his mind as he tried to figure out what just happened. The one thing that he had expected from her, fear, was notably absent in her. She should be intimated, terrified, and easily bent to his will, especially after he all but carried her from the bar, but she was too strong for that. This wasn’t like his fantasies, but even there she had the balls to fight him toe to toe, if that was what was called for. He had gone from having complete physical dominance over her and was now in a stalemate, her strength both surprising and arousing him.

 

“You wanted to know why I was angry, well I’ll tell you why, Tin Man!” She flung the name at him like a knife. “You cannot just walk up and take over my life! I am not a toy or a plaything. I am a HUMAN BEING who is perfectly capable of making decisions for myself and I don’t appreciate you strolling in and trying to take those from me.” Never letting go of his jacket, she now pressed herself against him. “You can’t just walk up and take me anywhere you want, or anyway you want, just because you flash those baby blues of yours.”

 

She backed away and looked at him, bracing himself against the wall. He looked like a wounded animal and she knew that the most effective place to aim her attack was his ego. Grinning wickedly, she swept an appraising glance over him from head to toe and cocked her head to one side. “Believe it or not, Sid, you are resistible.”

 

Tonya turned to walk away, but he reached out and touched her arm lightly, stilling her. He couldn’t let her leave having the advantage. “Wait, Tatiana, don’t go.” She closed her eyes against the night, but did not respond. Oh God. It’s him. Slowly, he turned her to him and caressed her face softly. “Don’t go.”

 

His voice was soft and sultry, but she perceived no malice in him at that moment. Perhaps he was trying to manipulate her, but how did know to call her that? She had not known what to expect of this place, but she found it unnerving to think that her reason for being here was the resident psycho; there were enough of those in her past. She began to shake uncontrollably and moved back a step. “What did you call me?”

 

“Tatiana.” Matching her step to keep the distance between them even, he sensed that he had stumbled upon a weakness, a kink in her armor, and he intended to use it, no matter how insignificant it may seem. “That is what your name is, isn’t it?”

 

“No, its Tonya.” He did say it. It’s him. She wrapped her arms tightly around her torso as she took another step back. How can it be him?

 

Stepping forward again, he glanced over her shoulder to the wall that was now at her back once more. “Tonya is a Russian name and, if I’m not mistaken, it is the short, more casual form of Tatiana.” He took another step forward and she moved in tandem, backing into the wall. Placing his hands next to her head, he leaned his body against hers. “I don’t want to call you by a nickname that peasants would use. I want to call you by the name used by the upper class, because, we are indeed a step above everyone else here.”

 

Breathing became difficult as Sid filled her entire field of vision once more. She mentally kicked herself for showing her shock to him; he now wielded it as a weapon against her. But if she had to lose to someone, then….

 

“Tonya does not suit you at all. Tatiana sounds more natural and you are stronger than anyone else I’ve ever met.” To his surprise, she responded with laughter.

 

“Just like earlier, do you think I’m a moron?” She had to get control again and so she worked from their earlier ‘discussion’. “Where do you come up with these cheesy lines?”

 

Her laughter continued and Sid could almost see victory slipping from his grasp. She reached up and tapped his chest with her hand, pushing him back slightly. “I had higher hopes for you, Tin Man, but you disappoint once again.” Again, she used her nickname for him to cut at him and his temper flared up instantly.

 

“STOP CALLING ME THAT!” He screamed in her face, but she seemed unaffected.

 

“What, does it bother you for me to call you Tin Man?” Suddenly she found herself pressed hard against the wall, his hands biting into the skin of her upper arms, marring the tanned flesh.

 

“I told you not to call me that.” The lower tone of his speech now was dripping with fury. His brow had furrowed and his eyes were hidden in dangerous shadows as his fingers dug deeper into the muscles in her arms. The endorphins that coursed through her blood stream blocked the pain, but she knew that she would be wearing the badges of this confrontation for days.

 

“I think now its only fair that I call you that if you’re going to insist on calling me Tatiana.” She could only hope that this tact worked to free her. “Or should I call you Mr. sadistic, intelligent and dangerous? Perhaps Blue-Goo-Boy would be even better?”

 

“I am only what I was designed to be,” Sid held her eyes and started to lose himself. He suddenly wished for more light so he could see the flecks of gold that he knew would be shining out at him. “You would use my entire existence against me, but I cannot help what I am.”

 

“That’s bullshit, Sid, and you know it. Besides that, your reason for being here does not excuse your behavior. ”

 

“I was programmed to…” Feeling his grasp suddenly loosen, she pulled free of him and moved slightly to the side to give her an escape route, if she needed one.

 

“I don’t give a shit what you were programmed to do.” First he treats her like an object and then tries to say that he has no responsibility for his actions. Unwittingly, Sid had committed the one faux pas that irritated more than anything else he may have done. “I’ve seen ‘Virtuosity’ and I have a fair idea of what you’re capable of, but you’re a self-evolving program outside of VR. Two key words in that sentence, self and evolving. Your original program may have given you about 200 demented minds to work from, but YOU chose what you wanted from them. All of those twisted bastards that make up your ORIGINAL personality program had choices and they made some sick ones, but they still had choices. So do you!”

 

“What choices…”

 

“Shut up!” Sid’s face once more registered shock. “You are responsible for your own actions, no matter how small. How long have you been trying to use that excuse, ‘its not my fault or my choice’? You wanna know what I think? I think that you’re really afraid.”

 

“What am I afraid of?” Sid’s voice betrayed him; he spoke in a soft shaky voice for the first time in his life. It didn’t get past Tonya either. She stepped close to him once more, almost standing on top of him.

 

“I think you’re afraid of being yourself. I think you’re afraid of finding out who you really are, of what you are capable of being that no close minded little lab rat every thought of, of actually living. You use your programming as an excuse to play on your impulses, but you haven’t been bound by the parameters of the original program for years.” Tonya lowered her voice and tried to meet his eyes, but he kept pulling away. “Most of all, I think you’re afraid of those ‘things’ that they put inside of you to create you.”

 

Tonya began to run down the list of personalities they had used to ‘grow him up’: Gasey, DiSalvo, Lucas, Hitler, Bundy, Dahmer, Manson, Chessman and others. Oh my God, how much of them did they use? She thought, her agitation all but fleeing her as she finally got a good look at Sid. He looked like he was in pain, warring emotions playing across his beautiful face faster than she could identify them. Without warning he pulled away from her and headed around the back of the tavern, leaving her standing alone in the night with nothing but the muted sound of music playing in the bar.

 


Part Six

 

Peaches woke early the next morning. She had a lot to do and wanted to get at it as soon as possible, but the sun had yet to rise and she was wide-awake. Not wanting to leave the warmth of Cort’s side so soon, she snuggled closer against him. He mumbled a little and wrapped his arms tighter around her waist.

 

“Um, mornin’ sunshine.” Peaches shuttered as he whispered into her ear, his breath caressing and tickling her neck.

 

“Mornin’ cowboy. Sleep well?”

 

“As well as can be expected when you’re around.” He pulled her so her backside was pressed solidly against his growing arousal.

 

“Well, that can’t be comfortable.” She joked as she wiggled against him, eliciting a deep moan. “I’ll have to see what I can do about that.” She turned in his arms and kissed him deeply.

 

“This is the way that we should start everyday.” Cort pulled her flush against him and caressed her gently, as his lips claimed hers. Suddenly, he remembered his chore for the day. “Um, I’ve got to go up to the stables this mornin’, remember Hon?”

 

“Not for awhile you don’t.” Peaches ran her hand down his chest, running her fingers first through the sparse hair in the center, and then lower, making her intentions clear. “Besides, I’ve got some other plans for you this morning.”

 

The sun rose over the same beach as it had set on the night before. Tonya sat and gazed at the purple and pink fingers of light spreading out across the horizon, not shocked by another paradox of this place. She had come back to the beach after Sid left her, and just sat all night long, watching the sky, trying to understand what was happening to her. In the few days that she had been here, last night was the first time she felt really confused.

 

Why Sid? She wondered as gulls circled above looking for the first meal of the day. Of all the people she would have considered, Sid was not necessarily at the top of the list, but it was because of him, she had to admit that she had ventured down this road.

 

She remembered being on a date several years ago, with a man who was destined to break her heart, and being drug to the movies to see another sci-fi flick, one of many. She had gone only to be with the man, but forgot he was even there as soon as the villain came on the screen. In a few minutes, she was hooked and literally jumped up in her seat when her companion leaned over to whisper to her, having forgotten he was even there. Now, years later, in this mystical place, she had come face to face with the man who had captured her heart and imagination at that moment.

 

Why not Sid? Everything suddenly felt very natural; the sunrise, the waves lapping at the shore, the birds, all of it had a place; even Sid. Logically she knew that he should not be there, be anywhere, but he was. Just as the sun waxed and waned over the same horizon here, almost as if the CN were on a plate that spun just above the real world, the fact that movie characters could come to life seemed to fit right in to the scheme of things. Who was she to question what universes existed or could exist? Stephen Hawking would probably have a stroke trying to explain it, and so she settled into a quiet acceptance of her surroundings without further analysis. Yes, even Sid, the unnatural, cybernetic, homicidal genius that was created, at least on film, by avarice and a complete lack of understanding of the human condition, had his place here and was natural.

 

She stood finally and stretched, trying to work out the knots that had begun to form in her muscles. Goosebumps had begun to rise on her skin as the dampness finally got to her. She rubbed her hands briskly across her skin and winced when she touched her biceps. Each arm bore the purple outlines of Sid’s hands with small crescent-shaped cuts at the tip of each finger.

 

Sid wasn’t what she was expecting; she hadn’t even considered him hurting her. Even though he hadn’t hit her, it might of been easier if he had and gotten it over with. She would not tolerate anyone striking her, but he hadn’t. He had only grabbed her and held on with overwhelming strength, granted he had done so in anger, as was his nature, but it still hurt her.

 

Tonya walked slowly up the path towards the hotel, reflecting on the last thing she saw before he ran off, as she had throughout the night. Was it fear, anger, or simply pain that flashed across his face? There was pain in him, of this she was sure, deep seated and soul consuming pain. Did she really want to expose herself to it?

 

As she reached the main path, she saw Cort exit through the front doors and head off towards the stables with a woman she had not seen before. They seemed to be chatting quite amiably and she assumed that the redhead was another guest. There were so many women here, most of whom she had not met. She couldn’t believe that Liz had said that they weren’t that busy. Apparently, since she was expected, at least by Peaches, her arrival wouldn’t have put them out at all. She glanced again towards the two and wondered what the hell they were doing out so early.

 

Not normally a morning person, the only time she saw the sunrise was after nights like last night, she yawned and realized that she would need to sleep soon. Entering the lobby, she heard humming and saw Peaches rifling through papers at the reception desk, smiling from ear to ear. Tonya didn’t really want to talk to anyone right then, but she had never been able to talk with Peaches yesterday. She needed to talk to someone and Peaches seemed like the only one who might be able to help.

 

Peaches glanced up for a moment and spotted Tonya crossing the lobby. Her smile fell as she took in the newcomer’s disheveled appearance. “Rough night?” Something about Tonya’s posture and gait indicated that she had not had a pleasant evening.

 

“That would be the understatement of the century.” There was little energy to be spent on pleasantries, so Tonya just cut to the chase. “Why didn’t you tell me who I was here for yesterday?”

 

“I couldn’t.” She stopped what she was doing and pulled out a chair for Tonya, next to her at the desk. Peaches knew that Tonya had discovered her connection was with Sid, and Sid alone. “That was something that you needed to find out on your own.”

 

Tonya sat down heavily and rubbed her eyes. “Is that why you said what you did, about being welcome here no matter what? Because you knew I was here because of Sid?”

 

“Yeah. There are a lot of people around here that, well…hate him. He’s been nothing but a source of pain and agony for almost everyone since day one.”

 

“Kinda figured that.” As Tonya rubbed her arms again, she flinched slightly.

 

Peaches caught sight of the bruises on her upper arms. “What happened to you?” She suddenly noticed the thick bruise around Tonya’s wrist and put two and two together. “What did he do to you?” Peaches’ eyes grew wide and her voice quivered. “He didn’t…”

 

“No, he didn’t.” She knew what Peaches was asking. “Nothing like what you’re thinking.”

 

“Well…”

 

“I ran into him at the Tavern last night, after all of you left. He came out of the blue and grabbed me. Pulled me outside.” The feelings of desire that she had felt last night came rushing back to her, causing her to blush. No time for that now. “We fought and he was a little rough. I guess I pushed a few buttons, because he ran off after he did this.” She lifted her shirtsleeves for Peaches to see the marks.

 

“Are you okay?” Tonya simply nodded to indicate that she was. Peaches could tell that Tonya did not wish to speak further about how she got the bruises and changed the subject. . “What do you mean “he ran off’?”

 

“I fought back the only way I knew how.” Peaches just stared at her, clearly not understanding. “I insulted him and attacked him verbally. Couldn’t do much else,” pointing to her arms.

 

“What on earth did you say to him?” She had known him to leave after an argument, but that was usually when he was outnumbered to begin with. If he had her restrained, as he obviously did, then what did she say to make him leave?

 

“I told him that I thought he was afraid.”

 

“Afraid of what?”

 

“Everything.” Tonya was becoming exasperated and sleep deprivation didn’t help any. “He seems to be very reactive, at least as far as I’ve seen. He doesn’t deal with agitation well. Instead of thinking about what he’s going to say or do, he just does it. When confronted with anything he reacts by becoming very defensive.” She rubbed her eyes and yawned before continuing. “Everyone I have ever met that lived with fear, who were ruled by their fears, all behaved very much the same way. The worst ones found others to inflict their pain on.”

 

Peaches sat in silence as she listened to Tonya; her quick grasp of Sid’s methods and behaviors was a little frightening. She had wondered for years why Sid behaved as he did, but never considered fear to be the motivation behind all of his sick and twisted little schemes around here. Tormenting those around him always seemed to be more of a hobby, but was Tonya saying that it was all a cry for help? “Seems odd that he just picked you right out of the crowd and drug you outside, but, then again we are talking about Sid-ney here, and he’s not the most predictable person in the world.”

 

“You know I fought with him earlier today, yesterday now, right before I met you.”

 

“Why didn’t you say anything then?”

 

Shuffling in her chair, Tonya ran her hand through her hair and tried to find the right words. “I didn’t say anything, because I enjoyed it.” The surprise on Peaches’ face made Tonya look to the floor before continuing. “I went to tan and I guess he followed me. Man, is he something! We had bantered back and forth for a bit, but he ticked me off and I lost it. Ran off then too.”

 

Peaches chuckled a bit. “Seems you have a way of getting under his skin.”

 

“Yeah, guess I do.” Tonya stifled a yawn and rubbed her eyes. “I’m sorry Peaches, but I can’t talk about this anymore right now.” Peaches looked at Tonya and saw how tired she was. “I just needed to talk to someone for a few minutes.”

 

“Have you slept at all?” Peaches asked, suddenly very concerned.

 

“Nope. I need to stop thinking about all of this and just sleep for about a day or two.” Laughing slightly, Tonya lifted herself out of the chair and headed for the elevator, too tired to climb the steps to her room.

 

“Try and get some rest.” You’re going to need it, Peaches thought as she returned to her work. Peaches had known this was coming, but she had hoped that Tonya would have had an easier time with Sid, since she was here for him. The connection process never failed to amaze her. People were drawn to each other here by more than just physical attraction or curiosity. Those with the strongest connections were usually in need of something that only the other person could provide. If Tonya were right about Sid then maybe that’s what he needed: someone to see him as he really was. But what did Tonya need from Sid? Certainly not bruises. Hope Bud doesn’t see that.

 

Finally making it to her room, Tonya went to the stereo first and turned the CD changer on random play. The cassette of CD’s was just one that she pulled from her bag and she really didn’t care what was on it. Instead of going to the bedroom, she closed the curtains and stretched out on the couch. She didn’t want to lie in her bed where she had last dreamed, not right now. All she wanted to do was lie down and sleep. The stereo buzzed to life as the first notes of the song rolled from the speakers and Tonya tried to remember the song. Finally, at almost the end of the first verse she had the name of the artist, Sarah McLachlan.

 

You woke up screaming aloud a prayer from your secret god

You feed off our fears and hold back your tears,

You give us tantrum and a know it all grin,

Just when we need one, when the evening’s thin,

Oh you’re so beautiful; a beautiful fucked up man,

You’re setting up your razor wire shrine.

`Cause you’re working, building a mystery,

Holding on and holding it in,

Yeah you’re working building a mystery

And choosing so carefully.

 

The image of Sid flashed to her mind immediately. She had never thought that this song could ever apply to anyone, but it had Sid to a tee, at least this bit did. He most certainly was a ‘beautiful fucked up man’ if she had ever met one! But the words ‘setting up your razor-wire shrine’ got her thinking about him in a different light once more. Was his shrine fear, loneliness, uncertainty? What was he trying to protect himself from? Dismissing additional thoughts, she closed her eyes as the song ended and a selection from Yo-Yo Ma cued up, the soft sounds of the cello lulling her to sleep.

 

Sid paced in his room like a caged animal. He heard the stirrings in the Tavern as others rose to meet the day, doors slamming as his brothers headed out or headed in throughout the morning. Sleep had not been for him either. Over and over he played the scene out with Tonya in his head, trying to figure out when control had slipped through his fingers. She wanted him, of that he was sure; her pulse had quickened the moment he touched her, well before her anger had taken over. Closing his eyes, he remembered the burning feeling of her flesh under his fingers as his hands had caressed the bare skin of her stomach. His body responded to the memory, as it had every time during the long night, as he replayed this moment over in his mind. Her taunt flesh screamed for his touch, but she had ignored her own body and viciously attacked him, both physically and mentally.

 

Picking up a chair, he hurled it to the wall, smashing at least two of his precious mirrors as the legs pierced the wall, leaving the chair hanging precariously. No one came running to find out what had happened as Sid stood breathing like he had just run a marathon. Something had to give, as he couldn’t get Tonya out of his mind. She had accused him of being afraid. HA! But her words had cut too close to home; he always considered his programming as the rationale for his behavior, never as a defense mechanism. What if she could really see him? What would happen if he let her see?

 

Shaking the thoughts from his head, he tried to figure out what to do next. All he wanted to do at that moment was run, to get as far away from here as he could go, not deal with the potential truth in her words and forget about everything. Making a decision, Sid ran his hands through his hair and walked out his door, looking for someone, anyone to focus his attention on that wasn’t that WITCH.

 

Silence greeted him as he took the steps down to the main part of the bar, he noticed that it was much later in the day than he had thought, the afternoon had come and nearly gone. He headed for the back exit, intent on going to the hotel to find dear Laura (she had always been one who he loved to play with), but stopped suddenly as he heard the front doors open and someone run through crying. Stepping into the shadows, a flash of red hair caught his eye as NormaJean ran past, not seeing him, and into one of the back rooms. A lecherous grin rose to his lips, as the possibilities for this day had just become VERY interesting. Straightening his suit, he slid out of the shadows and followed NormaJean into the back room.

 

Tonya awoke very suddenly, screaming and breathing hard as if she had just run miles. The nightmare lingered with her as she tried to put it out of her mind as she showered, washing away the dirt and sand from the beach. The dream was persistent. She had dreamed, not of a lover, but of a young boy tormented by demons, chased, and tortured when caught; his screams filling her head. His tormentors seemed familiar to her, but she could put no names to the swirl of faces that surrounded her.

 

The boy slowly changed in the dream, disassociating himself from his weakest part, his heart, ripping it out, becoming like the monsters that tormented him, hiding from them in their midst. The boy’s eyes hardened to an icy blue as he stared out at her, no longer showing the fear that lay deep within. She tried to reach out to him, to help take away some of the pain, but he turned away from her, putting himself between her and the creatures that began to consume one another, shielding her from the carnage.

 

Suddenly, she was aware of being alone in a large hall with cathedral ceilings and the sound of footfalls echoing in from a corridor. The place seemed familiar, almost as if this was where a choice would be made, had been made, and life changed. The boy walked into the room and headed to the large television screen that filled one wall. A voice thundered through her and the room, asking of the boy a question that would determine his fate. She stood in fear as the boy did not respond, but stood his ground. The voice boomed once more, becoming impatient with the silence. Without warning, the boy screamed and flung his body into the screen, bringing it down on top of him, shards of glass flying to every corner, filling the space; her screams lost in the deafening sound of tinkling glass.

 

Tonya dried herself as the memory of the dream clung to her. She looked into the mirror and saw the nap had left her looking more exhausted than before. What did the dream mean? She dressed quickly, unable to ignore the new feeling that it was a warning, a message, and a cry for help. The hallway was empty as she stepped from her room, as was the lobby and the yard of the hotel. The farther she ventured from the relative safety of her room the stronger the feeling that something was wrong.

 

Closing her eyes, she tried to breathe and let her feet lead her where they would. After a few steps, she opened her eyes and saw the Tavern up the path. The feeling was nearly overwhelming now as each step drew her closer to the tavern doors. Silence prevailed in the deserted hall, but a feeling of dread gripped at her heart, moving her forward, albeit slowly. As she neared the back rooms she heard voices; one, a woman’s, sounded as if every word was choked out through tears, and the other was…Sid.

 

Stepping through a doorway, she entered a room that appeared to be a lounge, and saw Sid pressing a red headed woman, the one she had seen earlier with Cort, to the far wall, much as he had done to her the night before. The woman stood with her arms pinned to her sides, tears streaming unchecked down her cheeks, breathing rapidly, but not fighting him. She’s terrified. As this thought entered Tonya’s mind, the woman looked up and locked eyes with her.

 

Tonya’s breath caught in her throat as desperation flowed from the brilliant green eyes, willing Tonya the help, to get Sid away from her. The word ‘please’ escaped the woman’s lips as she pleaded for Tonya to do something.

 

“Please what? Tell me what I can do for you, my love.” Sid’s voice, as he spoke to his victim, cut through Tonya. God, he’s trying this again. She watched in fascination as the scene from last night unfolded in front of her, his hand tracing up the outside of her shirt to stroke her breast and then her cheek. Tonya felt the anger return as she watched this sick play unfold. He buried his head against the side of the woman’s face and a look of terror filled her face once more, spurring Tonya into action.

 

“Sid…? What do you think you’re doing?”

 

“You!…..What are you doing here?” Tonya was slightly shocked at how quickly he turned on her. He acted like an animal caught and it’s cover blown just before the killer strike. She would not back down; he had gone too far. Doing this to her was one thing, but forcefully subjecting another to his lascivious attentions was another.

 

“No, Sid, I asked you what YOU were doing here.” Still holding the woman with one hand, Sid stood and stared at Tonya. Confidence and strength radiated from her, stunning him into inaction. Glancing at NormaJean, he wondered now why he had done what he did. The answer was simple: he needed to re-enact the fantasy with Tonya that ended so poorly. He needed to feel the control, feel what it would be like to dominate her. “Let her go, Sid.” Tonya spoke now in a lower tone of voice. Tonya’s anger with Sid waned as she saw the pain on his face, much as it was last night before he ran off. As much as she needed to help the woman, Sid needed her more.

 

Not knowing what to do, Sid quickly ran through the alternatives available to him, all less than appealing to give him the desired outcome. Suddenly, he was aware of Tonya moving towards him with her hand outstretched. “Sid? You need to let her go…” Her voice had softened and the sound rang through him like a bell. This was the first time that she had spoken to him with any note of affection or kindness and it felt natural, soothing. She was not playing a game, she was not merely trying to make him move away from Norma, but she spoke as someone who really cared for him. His eyes locked on hers and the gold flecks that he wished to see last night were there. A sour taste filled his mouth as he realized that he had been bested in one foul swoop by nothing more that her gentle touch.

 

His hand reached for hers almost without thought. She was there, willing to accept just as he was, and not trying to force him to be anything else, despite what he had just done. He folded tentatively into her embrace, allowing himself the pleasure of accepting someone else’s strength for once. She murmured comforting words into his ear as she held him close. He was struck by the fact that in giving herself, of expressing a tender side of her to him, that she did not lose herself in the act. What strength he thought she had before was not lessened, but increased.

 

Tonya simply held him for a moment. This was a development that she could not have foreseen or even had guessed. She wasn’t disgusted, repulsed, or even afraid. All she could think was that Sid had been the boy in her dream and only now was she able to lend him the aid he needed.

 

Without warning, the feeling of danger returned to her. She looked around and realized that someone was coming and that they had to leave now. “Come on, Sid; we need to get out of here…” He did not speak, but took her hand as she headed for a door that she hoped lead outside. Opening the door, she lead Sid through it before turning to the woman to tell her that she was okay. The woman still was pressed against the wall, but the terror was gone from her eyes.

 

Sid moved as if in a dream, slow and sluggish, holding onto Tonya’s hand with a loose grip. Pulling him outside, she stopped to look at him, letting him lean against the wall, trying to determine if he was just playing her. His eyes had lost that sharpness that was ever present, skin pale, and cool to the touch. She hadn’t been frightened by anything up until this point in time, but she felt fear rising inside of her, like a wave. He looks like shit. She quickly looked around and wondered what to do. Others were coming now, adding to the desperate urge to flee. “Sid, come with me.” She pulled him and started moving towards the parking lot.

 

They rounded the corner of the Tavern just in time to see a large group run in the front doors. She pulled Sid along, but he didn’t seem to be able to move. “Hurry up.” She thought they would never reach the truck, but finally did. Opening the passenger door, she tried to get Sid to get in, but he seemed to freeze up, only his feet continued to move as if he were still running. “Come on Sid, help me out here.”

 

Sid jolted at the sound of his name and looked down at her as though he was surprised to see her. She repeated what she had said and he finally heard the words. “Where are we going?” The voice sounded alien, although he knew it belonged to him. He continued to stare at her as if mesmerized. Fingers brushed his cheek, pulling him back even further towards reality.

 

“Anywhere but here.” Tonya spoke softly as she continued to caress his cheek and forehead. “We have got to get out of here.” She winced suddenly as his hand made contact with her injured wrist. He started to speak, pain and confusion playing across his face as he took her hand in his. She looked up to face him, but caught the flash of movement over his shoulder as two men ran out of the door they had just exited. Quickly pulling her hand back, she pushed him into the truck. “We don’t have time for that now. Gotta go, Gotta go.”

 

She ran to other side and jumped in the driver’s seat. Adjusting the mirror, she saw the two running fast for the truck. Fumbling to grab the extra key in the ashtray, she found it none to soon and started the truck as they reached the edge of the parking lot. The sound of spinning tires filled the air as she floored the truck. The two pursuers tried to grab onto the bed, but slipped off as she pulled away, one only able to smack the side with a hand, apparently in frustration.

 


Part Seven

 

Tonya drove for what felt like hours, but somehow knew that they had not gone far from the Nest. Sid simply sat and looked out the window, lost in his own thoughts, his own world. Patience running thin and her nerves on edge, Tonya pulled over at a gas station, if only to get out a stretch for a few minutes.

 

“Do you want anything?” Sid didn’t move or make any indication that he had heard her. “Sid, do want anything to drink?” After a few moments, he shook his head and looked down into his hands. It was the first time he had moved since they left.

 

Tonya got out and went inside to get bottled water for both of them and a pack of cigarettes. She hadn’t smoked in a long time, almost two years, but today she really needed one. While she paid, she could see Sid in the truck just sitting there as she had left him. She was torn between wanting to hold him, comfort him, and kick the living shit out of him for the stunt he pulled earlier. He seemed to be in the midst of an internal battle that had left him seemingly incapacitated.

 

/Who was the woman? / Tonya exited the building and lit her cigarette, inhaling deeply, and asked herself the same question again. She had wondered this for hours and Sid would not respond to her when she addressed him. /Why was Sid attacking her? / The scene replayed in her mind again and she couldn’t help but think that Sid had been recreating the scene with her the night before, either that or he never varied his methods, going after women in the same manner every time. That wouldn’t have surprised her. From what she knew of serial killers, most stuck to a routine, a ritual, and a pattern of behaviors that they recreated each time they killed, always seeking the same feeling of power and control. Someone here had told her that Sid couldn’t kill anyone, but apparently he had found another way of reliving these sick fantasies.

 

She took another drag off her smoke and wondered if she just shouldn’t run. Sid may not be able to kill her, but he certainly could hurt her. Running away might be the easiest thing to do, especially right now with him being so out of it. She could slip away, leave, and he wouldn’t be able to find her. She could go home. Never would she have to worry about Sid and all of his problems. Feeling a burning sensation, she quickly threw down the cigarette that had burned down to the butt. Now was the time to make a decision, and she paced for a bit in front of the truck before she made up her mind.

 

Sid didn’t flinch when she opened her door and climbed in. Since leaving, he had been trying to figure out what had happened to him. Why did he feel so different when he was with her? Or even when he thought about her? The voices that were constantly with him, always fighting to be heard, were strangely silent now. Abandoned…that is how he felt, he was fighting on his own. That was the difference: the silence. Each time he had been near her, the silence had been deafening. He wanted so badly to have the voices back, to comfort him with nothing more than their familiarity.

 

“Sid, wake up damn it!” She shook him for the fifth time since getting back in and he just sat there like a slug. “SID!” Slowly he turned to her, his eyes more a dull green than a vibrant blue. She sighed with relief. /He’s still with me. / “Are you going to be okay?” A slight non-committal nod was his only response.

 

Leaning back into her seat, exhaustion began to take over and she started feeling very lethargic. Glancing at Sid, she wondered suddenly if he had slept any at all; dark blue circles had formed under his eyes. He started to drift away again as he tilted his head towards the window once more.

 

“Sid, I need you to stay with me.” As she spoke, she turned to take his face in her hands, stroking his cheek, almost unconsciously. “We both need some rest and I don’t think going back to the hotel is a very good idea.” There was a distant look in his eyes when they finally made eye contact and she got the distinct impression that she was seeing someone new…someone who had been watching from the wings for years and was just now venturing out into the world. The image of the frightened boy from her dreams came back to her and she felt her heart breaking. If only she could help that boy, maybe she could help the man. “Got any ideas?”

 

“About what?” Sid could not concentrate on what she was saying, focusing only on the feeling of her hands on his skin.

 

“Where can we go? This is your world, your territory, not mine.” She looked sad, he thought, as she spoke. He tried to think of where to go and had it in a flash.

 

“We can go to the harbor. There is a boat there that no one ever uses. Should be safe.” Tonya just looked at him, her brows furrowed. “What?”

 

Shaking her head, she turned to start the truck. “I shouldn’t be surprised. A harbor…The Titanic isn’t moored there is it?”

 

“Why would that be there?”

 

“Let’s just say that I wouldn’t be shocked if it were.” She put the truck in gear and sat there for a minute. “Where is it?”

 

Yawning, Sid pointed back the way they had come and told her that it was only a mile or so away. She couldn’t remember passing a harbor, but she took a deep breath and just drove. Sid was asleep before they even hit the highway, but he had been right. About a mile up the road was a sign indicating the turn to Crowe’s Harbor and marking it as private property. Pulling up behind a storage building, to hide the truck from the road, she gasped as she saw the ‘boat’. In front of her was moored a beautiful cabin cruiser at least 50 feet long, if not longer, named the Cosmic 4.

 

She sat and just stared at it for a few minutes, in complete awe, before venturing out. The ship was in immaculate condition. For something that no one used, it looked like it had just been cleaned. Running her fingers along the walnut trim, she explored, finding two large cabins and a stateroom, all without a speck of dust anywhere. There were even provisions; food, water, wine, everything one would need for a weekend get away all stored in the galley. This was indeed a good place to hide out for a while. She returned to the truck and grabbed a knapsack that she kept behind the seat for emergencies and tried to wake Sid up.

 

Half-dragging and half-carrying Sid onto the boat was exhausting. He had lapsed into a deep sleep and could only help minimally as he slid in and out of consciousness. Finally, she got him into the large stateroom and literally threw him down onto the bed, his legs dangling over the end, before she sat down next to him. Sid moaned as he tried to free one arm from an uncomfortable angle under his back. Reaching to help him, Tonya wondered if she should take off his jacket. As vain as he was, he surely would be livid upon waking and finding himself in a wrinkled suit. She decided to leave him as he was; after what he had pulled tonight he didn’t deserve any extra consideration. She’d done enough already.

 

He had gone almost lifeless as soon as she had touched him at the Tavern, and he had only gotten worse. Brushing a stray lock of hair from his face, she marveled at how innocent he looked when he slept, no pretense, no arrogance, and no dashing wicked grin, just calm. Beautiful was exactly what he was at this moment. Tonya placed a chaste kiss on his forehead and laid back to find sleep herself.

 

For the second time in as many days, Tonya was awake to see the sunrise. A dull light began to fill the room as Sid’s arm tightened around her midsection. She had awoken earlier to find that, at some point during the night, he had pulled himself further up onto the bed and had wrapped himself around her. His breathing was steady and brushed her neck as he slept, comforting her as much as the feel of his body against hers. She lay awake for a while, watching as light continued to fill the room, feeling his chest rise and fall against her back, before succumbing to sleep once more. There were no dreams this night: no nightmares to horrify her, no fantasies to leave her wanting, just sleep.

 

Gulls. There had to be hundreds of them all around. Opening his eyes, Sid blinked a little bit at the harsh light of the morning. It took him a few seconds to figure out where he was. They had gotten to the boat, but Sid had no recollection of it, or of getting into bed. The last thing he remembered was Tonya holding his hand as she drove, lightly running her thumb across the top. She was still with him, pressed close to him and fast asleep.

 

Sid remembered all of the women that he had been with, and there were quite a few. He thought them either delectable, enticing, alluring, easy or even lovely, but none, he thought, were truly beautiful. Tonya stirred slightly and murmured something before settling once more. She was beautiful and that was the one adjective that he usually reserved for himself, but he found no other to truly describe her. Her hair that was mussed from sleep looked soft and, as he ran his fingers through it, brushing it into some semblance of order, he found that it was silky to the touch. There was a difference about her beyond her physical appeal, an aspect of her soul that drew him to her, something about her that made Sid think that they were meant to be together. He was extremely jealous of the others and the relationships that they had, he wanted someone to be with, someone who actually liked him. He needed someone.

 

She rolled over onto her back; his arm still draped around her, and glanced sleepily up at him. “Ah, he’s awake.” She teased as she tried to stretch.

 

“Yes, I’m awake.” His eyes had still not recovered that unmistakable glint that made him appear so cocky most of the time. Tonya enjoyed waking up in his arms and was comforted to find that he was no longer catatonic. “How did we get here?”

 

“In the truck.” The tilt of his head said that he wasn’t in joking mood. “I followed your directions. The truck is tucked away and no one should be able to find it, unless of course they come down here looking for us.”

 

“I don’t remember anything after we left the gas station. How did I get here?” Tonya took a moment to respond, as she couldn’t seem to pull away from his eyes, suddenly willing to become lost in their depths. Her body responded to his presence and the feel of his arm draped across her; her breathing quickening slightly as she thought of how easy it would be just to let herself go and kiss him, taste him…

 

“I dragged your ass in here.” Tonya pulled herself up to sit against the headboard and out of his embrace. “You were so tired…I didn’t want to wake you.” Sid rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. Tonya wondered if he was going to pull a repeat performance of his rendition of `The Quiet Man’. “Sid, what’s wrong?”

 

He turned over and looked at her for a few moments before speaking. “Nothing.”

 

“Okay. Nothing, huh?” Tonya crawled off the bed and picked up the bag she had dropped on the floor last night, clearly irritated. “Well, I’m going to go take a shower. If you decide that `nothing’ is worth talking about…” She just looked at him with a hint of sadness before turning to find the head.

 

She entered the bath and loudly closed the door. Turning the water on as hot as it would go, she decided to let the heat work some of the tension out of her. All the tender fantasies of before were gone and she just felt angry. She knew why she was ticked, she thought that after last night that Sid SHOULD tell her what was going on, but she also knew how very unlikely that was to happen. The water coursed down her back as she turned to let it roll across her shoulders, remembering a time in her own life when she had said the same things to family and friends. /No, Ma. I swear nothing is wrong. /Absently she ran her thumbs across her wrists, along the blue line of the veins, and the nearly imperceptible scars that ran along them. She’d been through this before, the coming to terms with one’s own demons and had survived. Now if she could only get through this with Sid.

 

Sid rummaged through the other cabins, trying to find some clothes that were inadvertently left behind after his last visit to the Cosmic 4. In one closet he found some pants and a silk shirt in another. He wanted to change out of his heavily wrinkled suit and carefully folded it as each piece was removed, all but his pants. He heard the door of the shower open and Tonya beginning to move about. He quickly grabbed the clothes and headed for the shower, not seeing her anywhere.

 

Tonya heard the shower start up and briefly had an image of Sid naked, water cascading over the solid mass of his body, her hands moving over him to feel the soft steel of muscle over bone. This was the other problem that she had been fighting with. She wanted him. She couldn’t deny it and didn’t think that she would even be able to lie about if asked. Even after all of the shit that he had pulled, the pain he had caused, and the pain he would inevitably cause in the future, she still caught herself thinking of them together. Her stomach rumbled, pulling her out of her daydream. After some rummaging she found pasta, sauce, wine, and everything needed to fix it. She set about her task and didn’t notice when Sid came up behind her.

 

“What are you doing?” Tonya jumped slightly at the sudden invasion, very aware of the heat coming off of him and his clean scent as he placed a hand on her shoulder. The images, that she had fought so hard to banish from her mind earlier, rushed back to her, unbidden and unwelcome.

 

“I was hungry. Didn’t know if you needed to eat.” She kept her back to him as she dropped the fettuccine into the boiling water, unwilling to show him how much he was affecting her.

 

“I could eat.” He moved back and sat on the edge of the table and watched her go through the motions of cooking. She had changed into a white tank top with thin straps and a pair of khaki cargo shorts, which did nothing, but emphasis her long legs and feminine form. Fantasies of divesting her of her clothing slowly filled his mind, and feeling the beginnings of his arousal, he moved to go outside. He left without looking back.

 

Tonya looked up just in time to see him head out the door and go directly to the bow of the ship. Having shed his beloved suit, for a pair of blue Dockers and white silk shirt that hung open, she watched him tread barefoot across the deck, completely amazed by his beauty. She stared at him as he just stood leaning over the railing, gazing out at the ocean for the longest time. Despite all of his shortcomings, he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Water boiled out of the pot and onto the hot surface of the stove and Tonya turned back to finishing the makeshift meal.

 

Sid had no idea how long he had stood there when he heard Tonya leave the cabin. Dishes clinked against glass and he turned to watch her set the deck table. She never even looked at him. Her silence struck him as hard as someone slapping him. He thought she was still pissed and hated that he was the cause. All he wanted from her was the affection that he had found in her voice and her touch yesterday when she rescued him. /She rescued me. / For the first time he realized what had actually happened and what she had done. /SHE…RESCUED…ME! / Struck dumb with awe, Sid couldn’t move as she brought out the food and wine.

 

Tonya looked over the table and was satisfied that she had everything. Glancing up, she saw Sid looking right at her, hanging onto the railing as if his life depended on it. “Sid?” She went to him and noticed that his knuckles started turning white the closer she got. “Sid, what is it?”

 

“You…” Tonya stopped short of him and just stared at him, looking confused and hurt. “You rescued me.” Saying nothing, Tonya quickly recovered and closed the distance between them, taking one of his large hands off of the rail, placing it easily in her smaller one.

 

“Yeah, I guess I did.” She pulled him away from the railing and led him to the table. He stopped after a few steps and turned her towards him.

 

“Why?”

 

“Why what?”

 

“Why did you help me?” Tonya touched his face, and lightly ran her thumb along the cleft in his chin. “Why did you come to the Tavern?”

 

“I had a feeling that you needed me.” She looked into his eyes for a moment and then turned him back towards the table. “Come on. Let’s eat before it gets cold.” They ate in silence under the overhang of the top deck, protected from the heat of the midday sun. Tonya drank the wine like water and Sid got up to get another bottle when they drained the first one. When she was done, she leaned back into her chair and waited for him to finish. “Sid, who was she? The woman yesterday?” Tonya took a sip of wine and waited for denial and excuses.

 

“NormaJean. She got here the same day you did.” Sid pushed his plate back and rested his elbows on the table. He knew that she would have to know what had happened, and he just wanted to tell her everything. No games…No lies.

 

“Why did she look so terrified?”

 

“Because she’s afraid of me.” Sid smiled when he thought of her and sat back, laughing slightly to himself. “She’s this virginal little church mouse, and I had not been able to properly introduce myself to her.”

 

“Is that what that was, an introduction? It looked more like assault to me.” Tonya took a large gulp of wine, draining the cup and tried to remain calm.

 

Sid poured them another glass as she finished hers. “I like to make myself known to the ladies.”

 

“Oh, I see…is that what you were doing the other night with me?” Sid actually bristled a bit. “From what I saw yesterday, it looked like a re-enactment, but surely you are more creative than that.” Sid looked like he was going to get mad for a second. She wanted to clear the air some and make her intentions known. “Do me a favor, will ya? Don’t give me any lame excuses. Just for right now, pretend that you can tell the truth. I don’t have the energy for fighting, so just don’t. I just need to know why I needed to save your happy ass. Okay?”

 

“Fair enough.” Sid picked up his chair and moved closer to her, so they could share the wine without either one having to get up. “I followed her into the back room and pretended that she was you.” He looked out at the ocean and avoided her eyes.

 

Tonya took a deep breath and another drink. Either they were going to get to the bottom of this or she was going to get drunk. Right then, getting drunk sounded pretty good. “Why…I don’t…uh…” She couldn’t actually form the question that had nagged at her all night long.

 

“Why did I pretend she was you?” Tonya only nodded. “Because I wanted things to be different between us that first night. I wanted to take you and I wanted you to give yourself to me. When that didn’t happen…”

 

“You went and found someone that you could take what you wanted from.” It was Sid’s turn to nod.

 

“It’s all a game.” Sid looked back at the ocean, but saw her stiffen in her chair. “I wanted to play and you wouldn’t. Believe me, I didn’t go looking for Norma, she just showed up.”

 

“You were looking for someone else, weren’t you?” She ignored the game playing reference for now as a realization hit her. “You were looking for Laura.”

 

“They told you about that?” Sid wasn’t surprised that part of their warning would be what had transpired between him and Laura. “They…”

 

Tonya cut him off. “No one told me anything. I figured it out on my own.” Sid turned to look at her, searching her face for an explanation. “All you have to do is look at Laura when someone says your name to see the disgust in her face.”

 

“Disgust?” Sid never thought that she would find him disgusting. “But…”

 

“Whatever you think you had with her, believe me, she doesn’t agree.” Tonya was surprised to discover that Sid couldn’t see that Laura wanted nothing to do with him, but it made sense. He was too wrapped up in himself to really care about what she thought. “So, let me see if I have all of this straight. You were disappointed that I didn’t give in, you got pissed and decided that you would go and find Laura, because she had already given in to you at least once, but Norma showed up and you decided to use her instead. Is that right?”

 

Sid nodded. “That’s pretty much it.” A couple of days here and she already had a lot figured out. She got up and walked to the rail, standing there for a few moments just listening to the waves. Sid walked over and stood next to her, leaning with his back against the rail so he could see her face, trying to read her. “What are you thinking?”

 

“I was just wondering why you would be so upset…over me.”

 

Sid ran the back of his hand along her arm and up to her neck. Tonya closed her eyes and tilted her head to expose more of herself to him. Speaking barely above a whisper, Sid leaned close so that she could hear him. “Don’t you know why you’re here?”

 

“I’m here because of you.” Sid was silent and continued to caress her using only the back of his hand, tracing the line of her collarbone. “You were the one who drew me here, but I didn’t know until the other night outside the tavern.”

 

“How did you know?” Sid moved behind her and placed his hands over hers on the rail, resting his chin on her shoulder, before placing light kisses along her neck.

 

Tonya leaned back against him, his shirt still open, with his warm skin against hers. “I knew when you called me ‘Tatiana’.”

 

“What?” Sid turned her to face him, staying close and leaning gently against her.

 

“It’s not important.” Tonya just wanted him to continue kissing her as he had been.

 

Sid lifted her chin with his fingers until she was looking directly at him. “I think it is.”

 

“No.” She pushed him away and he moved back against to rail. “Let’s just leave it at that.”

 

“Alright.” Disappointment filled him as he saw her pulling away from him, both physically and emotionally. His goal was usually to do what he needed to do to get laid, but he found himself craving her affection, just as much as he craved her body. Those few moments where she had dropped her guard, and the wall around her heart, left him needing more, almost as if he were addicted.

 

Tonya walked back to the table and poured herself another glass of wine before leaning back against the wall of the main cabin, just opposite of where he stood. “Ok, when did you know why I was here?”

 

“When I watched you at the bar…just before…” He trailed off and looked away. He had been troubled all day, seeing the impressions of his hands that had been burned into her skin, the evidence of his inability to control the flood of emotions that raged within him.

 

“Just before you pulled me outside.” Tonya unconsciously rubbed at her wrist, more evidence of his violent behavior. Surprisingly, there was no malice or anger in her voice.

 

“I couldn’t control myself.”

 

“You could have. We’ve talked about this before, about being responsible for your actions, your decisions.” She kept a quiet tone as spoke, almost as if she had forgiven him his trespass.

 

“I only did what I was…”

 

“Don’t. Don’t even start with that crap. Who were you that night?” Sid looked at her finally. “Who was the dominant personality? Bundy? No, not subtle enough.”

 

“It was me.” Tonya stopped and looked confused. “It was only me.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Sid began walking slowly towards her. “I mean that whenever I’m with you, it’s just me. There are no others here. The voices are gone.”

 

Tonya thought that he sounded sad. What must that be like to have hundreds of people inside, all fighting to be heard all of the time, and then having them be still? “Is this all part of your game?” Suddenly concerned, Tonya wondered if he was playing with her now as he had with the others. “Trying to soften me up by telling me that I’m not dealing with a pack of sadistic shits, all rolled up into one?”

 

Reaching where she stood, Sid watched as her face changed from one of soft regard to wary uneasiness. “Is it part of a game? Isn’t everything a game?” Her breathing increased as he began to invade her personal space, breasts heaving slightly, and he realized, finally, that she wore no bra. Her arousal was plainly evident and he felt the painful tension growing between them.

 

“Don’t answer a question with a question. Tell me, is this a game?” Her voice had lower to a mere whisper as he took the glass from her hands and took a sip before tossing it over his shoulder, the glass falling silently into the ocean. She knew in that instant that she would play his game, willing to take whatever risks came with such a gamble.

 

“I don’t know.” Looking down into her eyes, gold now dancing in the sunlight, he knew what he wanted and what he had to do. “Why did you come to the Tavern yesterday?”

 

“What?” He grabbed her shoulders and looked at her in the eyes. All she could focus on was how blue his ever-changing eyes were now, bright and sharp.

 

“I’ll ask you again. Why did you come to the Tavern yesterday?”

 

“I thought that you might need me.” She looked down at her feet, for the first time questioning her motivation for seeking him out. Had it been just to help him, to find the small boy in her dream or because…

 

“Tatiana, I do need you.” He started to pull her close, but stopped suddenly as he caught sight once more the proof of their tumultuous beginnings. The marks he had left before had not faded, but had started to turn an ugly blackish-green. “I didn’t mean…” He stopped himself as he realized that he was about to make another excuse for his behavior and that she would have accept no excuses. Lightly running his palms across her arms, he pressed his forehead to hers. “I caused you pain by thinking only of myself. I don’t want to cause you pain. I don’t want to hurt you and I won’t hurt you again.”

 

Tonya looked directly into his eyes and knew that this was as close to an apology as Sid was able to give. “Just remember that. Okay?” She ruffled his hair a bit, trying to lighten the mood, causing him to grimace slightly and take a step back. He looked at her for a moment and then proceeded to vigorously rub both his hands through his hair, messing it only slightly in the process.

 

“Is this better?” He asked with a sly grin.

 

Tonya smiled and stepped towards him to ruffle it a little more. “Infinitely.” She kept her fingers in his hair, gently stroking the long locks on the top from his face, amazed at how soft it was. Always perfect, she had expected his hair to be stiff from gel, but it appeared to lay naturally as it did, perfectly styled. Sid’s eyes closed as her hand moved to stroke his cheek.

 

“Tatiana…” Turning his head, his lips brushed lightly against the palm of her hand, causing her to shiver. Sid took her hand in his; caressing each finger and moving to place light kisses over her bruised wrist. “I…I want to…I can’t take this back, but I want to.”

 

Tonya closed her eyes as he spoke her name, feeling dizzy as his lips and breath caressed her wounded flesh. When she did open her eyes, Sid was still holding her hand, but gazing at her, not lecherously, but questioningly. She held his eyes for what seemed like hours as he finally intertwined his fingers with hers, his other hand moving to cup her cheek, his thumb lightly tracing the outline of her lips. Leaning into his hand, she gave her answer to his unspoken query: ‘yes’.

 

Finally giving in to her desire, Tonya’s eyes drifted closed once more as he leaned forward to place a tentative kiss on her lips. She was suddenly struck by the gentleness of his movements, handling her as if she were made of glass, trying hard to keep his word not to hurt her. Kissing him back, she ran her tongue along his bottom lip, tasting the wine flavor that lingered there, causing him to inhale deeply and open his mouth to her.

 

Sid lost all capacity for thought in the instant that she became the aggressor and deepened the kiss into something more passionate, nipping at his lower lip before teasing him with her silky tongue. His need for her had risen to a fever pitch and she moaned into his mouth as he enveloped her in his arms, pulling her flush against him, allowing her to feel just how much he physically needed her at that moment.

 

Tonya felt him hardening against her hip and knew this was the point of no return. While she believed in the permanence of nothing, that everything eventually ended just as it had begun, this decision would impact her for the rest of her life. Sid began to kiss his way down her neck; his warm breath tickling her just before his mouth laid claim to the tender, sensitive flesh. She lost the ability to think as all of her senses were overwhelmed by what he was doing to her, by touching her, tasting her, by his closeness. As he nipped gently at her earlobe, she felt the familiar tightening of the muscles in her abdomen and moisture beginning to spread.

 

“Let me give you pleasure, Cherie.” Sid whispered into her ear and ran his tongue along the outer shell, as he had several nights before. “Let me show you what I’ve wanted to do since the moment I first saw you.” He quickly took her in a deep kiss, his hands roamed across her back and then around her to cup her breasts through the soft cotton of her shirt, teasing the nipples to attention, never stopping the exploration of her mouth. Tonya attempted to return the touches and the pleasure he was giving her, but he kept brushing her hands away, seemingly satisfied with pleasing her.

 

“Sid,” she tried to speak between kisses. “Let…me…touch…you.” His hands moved under her shirt, pulling it up, shaking his head ‘no’ the entire time. Once the shirt was over her head, he quickly wrapped the material over on itself several times, trapping Tonya’s hands in its soft grip. Holding her imprisoned hands above her head with one of his own and he surveyed the landscape of her body, tracing circles around one nipple with a finger. Lifting her arms, he threw down a life preserver hanging from a hook and slipped her shirt over it, freeing his hands.

 

“Ah, Tatiana…” His voice had dropped to a husky whisper as he pressed his body against hers, backing her against the outer wall of the cabin. “You are going to enjoy this.” He took possession of her mouth, kissing her roughly as she pressed against him, trying to possess him as well. His hands leisurely venturing over her heated skin, leaving tendrils of fire in their wake.

 

Sid turned his attention to her breasts and she arched against him as he teased one nipple to a turgid peak, before taking it into his mouth. Moving his tongue in small circles, just as his finger had done earlier, teasing her with his tongue and teeth, while caressing and pinching her other breast. Smiling to himself, he continued to nibble and lick one breast before moving to the other, ecstatic that she was responding to him, moaning and pressing her body closer to his, just as he had wanted her to do the night he snuck into her room.

 

Tonya couldn’t believe how emancipated she felt. She was free to focus all of her attention on what havoc Sid was wreaking on her. Wherever he touched her, it felt like her skin was on fire. She tried to slow her breathing; afraid she would lose control of her body too soon. He was touching her everywhere at once. As his one hand slid down her stomach to work at the button of her shorts, leaving her skin burning for more, the other slid past the boundary of her shorts to cup her ass, pulling her closer still. Her breath caught in her throat as he began a two pronged assault to rid her of that last shred of clothing, his hands pushing the garment down at an agonizingly slow pace.

 

“Oh God.” She whispered as he pressed his hand against the nest of curls he found at the apex of her thighs and squeezed her gently from behind at the same time, finally pushing her shorts enough so that they fell at her feet.

 

“No, not God, Cherie.” He moved to plant soft kisses up her sternum to her neck, until he was looking down into her heavy-lidded eyes. “It’s just me.” He kept his eyes locked with hers as he slipped his middle finger along the outer line of her sex, increasing the light touch only enough to part her lips to find the moisture hidden there. She rocked her hips forward, closer to his hand, forcing herself to open wider to his exploration. Sid smiled and kissed her gently as he slid slowly into her moist depths with only the one finger, teasing her clit with the ball of his hand.

 

“Do you like this?” He moved to sprinkle kisses along her jaw line and down her neck as she rolled her head back, biting her lip. She moaned her approval. “Tell me you like this.” He bit at her shoulder, adding another finger to penetrate her, causing her to moan once more.

 

“Sid…” Tonya was having difficulty trying to speak and concentrate on keeping herself from falling over the edge at the same time. He was playing her like a fine string instrument, plucking her, increasing the tautness of her body.

 

“Tell me.”

 

“I like it, don’t stop. Oh Sid, this feels so good.” She turned to face him, her face flushed and breathing rapid. “I want more of you. I need you inside of me.” He stopped her reply as he kissed her with total abandon. Tonya’s breathing became more ragged as his tongue mimicked the movements of his hand, and he began to rock his pelvis against her hip, trying to relieve the discomfort of his own aroused state. Breaking the kiss, Sid moved to whisper into her ears all the things he wanted to do to her, promises of erotic bliss that she knew he could fulfill. She felt herself falling, even though his grip on her never lessened, and suddenly the world slid away.

 

Sid felt the tightening of her muscles around his hand and pulled back to watch her as she climaxed. Her body was rigid as tremors coursed through her. He continued to move within her, prolonging the orgasm, causing her to come over and over again. Finally releasing her from the wall, he pulled her close, kissing her deeply.

 

Tonya practically tore the shirt from her wrists, and wound her hands into Sid’s hair the moment she was free. They fought for possession of each other as they stumbled and bumped their way through the door to the main cabin, stopping every few feet, lost in their hunger for each other.

 

“Sid, where are we going?” She stopped him mid way through the galley.

 

“The bed…” It was now her turn to shake her head `no’ and she pushed him back against the table, fumbling with the fastenings of his pants. “No.” She pushed his pants down around his ankles, finding his throbbing penis with her hand, stroking him with a feather-light touch. “I need you now.”

 

Sid groaned loudly as she dropped to her knees and kissed the tip of his cock. Licking at the head, she began moving in small circles, taking him into her mouth. She stroked him with one hand while she began to move her mouth over him, adding more of his length with each movement, until he felt her hot breath against the skin at the base. He watched her pull back and then swallow him again; finding that watching her was just as erotic as the feel of her around him. Suddenly, Sid threw his head back and groaned loudly as vibrations totally engulfed him, nearly overwhelming him as she began to softly hum a familiar tune.

 

She withdrew and looked up at him as he struggled to maintain control. His face was the very picture of desire and lust as he reached down to grab her, turning her around to sit her on the edge of the table. “No more teasing.” His voice was a low growl and she heard herself purr in response.

 

Wrapping her legs around his waist, she was practically begging him to fuck her. Sid was overwhelmed by her brazenness and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her face to his. Delivering a desperate kiss, he thrust quickly forward and sheathed his entire length into her welcoming body. Her cry of pleasure was lost in his mouth and he felt her tighten around him, a small orgasm coursing through her before he even pulled back from his entry. As she relaxed around him, he began slowly moving within her slick folds, torturing both of them with a slow, steady pace. She kissed him tenderly, keeping her eyes on his, trying to rock her pelvis up to meet his every thrust.

 

The cabin was filled with the sounds of heavy breathing, stifled moans and of two bodies coupling in time to the waves striking the hull, desperate to become one, if only for a brief flicker of time. Hands traveled over sweat-slicked skin, grasping and clinging, holding each other close, neither one wanting to let go. But let go they did, coming together, Sid thrown over the edge as Tonya stiffened, her body involuntarily milking him of his essence and his resolve.

 

Tonya laid her head on his shoulder and tried to slow her breathing to a normal rate. Neither spoke as they just held onto each other, drifting back to reality. Feeling his heart beat slow and breathing return to normal, she lifted her now leaden arms to wrap them around his neck exhausted by the emotional joyride of the last few hours. Sid only responded by tightening his grip around her.

 


Part Eight

 

Over the course of the night, things at the Nest had begun to settle down. NormaJean and Mannie had left early that morning, heading off to his hut, to try and get to know each other a little bit better. Peaches was sure that they also wanted to get away in case Sid came back and started up again. The other residents at the Nest had searched all last night for Sid and Tonya, some of them until the early morning hours, but none had been able to find them. All they knew for certain was that they hadn’t gone into the Real World, but the Nest was enormous, growing with every new arrival, which left a lot of places for them to hide.

 

Almost everyone turned up at the Tavern for lunch and talk had immediately turned to the hurried escape of Sid and Tonya. Bud had heard about Sid’s advances on Norma and was thoroughly pissed. He and Alex had been the ones out searching until dawn, but they had found nothing. The passing of time did nothing to lessen Bud’s anger, as he now worried about Tonya’s safety. “I hate sitting here. It feels like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Bud fidgeted in his chair. “That mechanical piece of…”

 

“Bud, stop it now.” John crossed back over from the bar with beers for Bud and himself, playing peacemaker once more.

 

“He kidnapped her! God, John, how are we just supposed to sit here…”

 

“That isn’t what Norma said, Bud. Didn’t you listen? She said that Tonya pulled Sid out, not the other way around.” John was frustrated and it was beginning to show. Tina pulled herself closer and took one of his big hands in hers, trying to calm him. “Sid didn’t kidnap her.”

 

Trisha, who had been standing, moved to place her hands on Bud’s shoulders. Unconsciously, he reached up and clasped her hands. “Why do you insist that she was kidnapped?” Trisha placed a kiss on his head and then moved to sit next to him. “She is obviously a big girl and can take care of herself, if everything I’ve heard is true.”

 

“I can’t believe that she would…” Bud glanced around the table and then looked directly in his lady’s eyes. “I like her. Why would she run off with Sid? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

 

Trisha started to respond when Peaches and Cort’s arrival interrupted her. Peaches looked dead tired and Cort walked arm in arm with her until they reached the table. “Peaches, honey, are you okay?”

 

“Yeah Trish, I’ve just been awake most of the night.” Cort’s face showed concern and the telltale signs that he had sat up through the night with her; puffy, blood shot eyes that blended in well with everyone else’s. Peaches looked at the other tired faces that greeted her and wanted to slap Sid for being the cause of all of this. Hardly anyone who were there, yesterday when Norma was assaulted, had gotten any sleep. Some from worry, some from anger, and others from spending the night scouring the area for any sign of Sid-ney.

 

Bud and Alex looked the worse for wear. They had spent until dawn driving around trying to find where Sid may have gone. Peaches knew from the look on Bud’s face that he still hadn’t given up the idea of a kidnapping. She had tried to convince him that Tonya had done what she had because she chose to and not because Sid forced her. Somehow, after talking to her, Peaches didn’t think that Tonya would allow Sid to do anything to her that she didn’t want him to.

 

Alex though…Peaches couldn’t quite figure out why, all of a sudden, he would come out from the background and start defending people; it just wasn’t like him. Not that he wasn’t a good guy, but he normally avoided trouble, and Sid.

 

“Does anyone want some lunch?” Annabella’s voice got everyone’s attention as she entered the room and most of those gathered nodded their replies. Alex walked over and pulled her into a hug.

 

“Do you need any help, Slim?” Pushing some hair out of her eyes and over her ears, Alex stood and marveled at the beautiful woman in his arms.

 

Annabella smiled up at him and wrapped a hand around the back of his neck, pulling him down for a quick kiss. “Well, Stretch, you can help me in the kitchen to bring everything out. Then you can eat and go get some sleep.”

 

“Are you not working today? Can you join me?” The tone of his voice was pleading.

 

“No.” She hugged him tightly to her, wishing that he had been with her last night instead of out looking for Sid. “You need to get some rest.” She lifted his injured hand and checked it over for any bruising. “How do your hand feel today?”

 

“It feels a little stiff, but I’ll live.” He kissed her again, lingering for a moment over her lips, relishing the feel of her against him. “Let’s get this rabble fed so I can go to sleep.” Annabella led him into the kitchen, assuring him that she would join him later.

 

Everyone ate and several moved off to catch up on sleep. Bud allowed Trisha to take him back to her room to rest, but he protested until John and Peaches convinced him that he wouldn’t be able to do anything if he collapsed from sleep deprivation. Taking Trisha’s hand, Bud followed her to her room, unable to stop worrying about Tonya. Was she okay? Had that cyber-bastard hurt her? Sleep claimed him, even though these and other questions still swirled through his mind.

 

Stretching, Tonya slowly opened her eyes, surprised to find that it was still afternoon. Aching muscles threatened to wipe the smile from her face, but the memory of why she ached make her smile more. The events of the day replayed through her mind and she was amazed that the tension that had seemed ever present between Sid and her, played out the way it had. She didn’t think of herself as particularly desirable to most people, but Sid was far from ordinary.

 

After several minutes, she finally decided to get up and find Sid. She grabbed his shirt and threw it on, as hers had been carelessly discarded elsewhere, and giggled slightly as it nearly swallowed her. He had resumed his position at the bow, looking out at the ocean, the afternoon sun beating down on his only slightly bronzed skin. Seabirds dipped in and out of the nutrient rich waters, sounding out almost constantly, filling the air with a joyous sound. Tonya simply watched him for a few moments; taking in the wonderful scene which lay out before her. /Eye candy/. Sidling up next to him, she leaned on the railing, disturbing his reverie.

 

“She’s awake.” He mused as he moved to pull her into an embrace. Surprised once more at the tenderness he could display, Tonya allowed herself to be pulled up onto her tiptoes and into his arms.

 

“How long did I sleep? It felt like years.” Tonya eased some hair from his eyes before wrapping her arms around his neck.

 

“Not too long.”

 

“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?”

 

“Because,” he planted a soft kiss on the corner of her mouth, “you’re going to need all of your strength for later.” Capturing her lips he began to plunder her mouth with his, the urgency gone, but the need remained. Breaking off, Sid ran his hands down her back, under the shirt, lifting it to caress the back of her thighs. “I have a few plans for you and I.”

 

“Well, we really do need to figure out when we’re going back.” The look that passed over Sid’s face was almost unreadable. She thought for a moment that he may be angry, but he pulled her closer, lifting her feet off of the ground, kissed her again and then started to carry her back inside.

 

“I’m not ready to go yet.” Once inside, Sid headed directly to the bed in the stateroom and unceremoniously tossed her down on it. “We have some unfinished business right here.” Tonya wondered if he was ever planning to leave. The look in his eyes at that moment made her skin flush, as he stood above her and devoured her with his eyes, his intentions clear.

 

“Sid, we have to go back at some point.” She watched as he placed one knee on the bed and proceeded to lean over her, one hand working at the buttons of the shirt.

 

“Why?” Nuzzling at her neck as he spoke, he felt her resistance lessen and a soft whimper escaped her lips. “Neither one of us has anything to go back to, so why hurry?” He moved his other leg up onto the bed and straddled her, never stopping his oral onslaught and used both hands to unbutton the shirt. He didn’t want to talk or even think about going back. He had everything that he wanted right now and he didn’t want this to end. Most of the time he didn’t get to do what he wanted to and here he had someone who, he hoped, wanted to be with him.

 

Lifting up, he looked down on her and took in the picture that she made; her hair still tousled from sleep, his white shirt barely covering her sun kissed skin, and as her eyes opened, a glazed look that, to him, betrayed her willingness. In the past, once he had bedded a woman, leaving him was the next item on their agenda. She was already talking about going back and he wanted to be sure that she didn’t want to leave him.

 

“Sid, we have to…”

 

“We don’t have to do anything.” Barely more than a whisper escaped his lips as used one hand to brush the shirt open, never breaking eye contact, his hand lightly touching the dusky nipple that jutted out, causing her to gasp softly. “The only thing we have to do is this.” Taking the newly exposed nipple into his mouth, Tonya writhed under him, moaning as he increased the pressure, pulling more of her into his mouth.

 

She arched her back and wound her hands into his hair, holding his head in place as Sid licked and nipped at her breast. His hands wandered across her skin, one moving the shirt so that it lay completely open, and his fingers moved in small circles across her stomach, moving ever so slowly downward.

 

“We’ll talk later.” She breathed as she lifted his head from her breast and kissed him. The idea of leaving didn’t appeal to her either, but it was something that they were going to have to do. They both had to face what had happened. However, right then she wanted nothing more than to stay with Sid on this boat, on this bed, and forget that the rest of the world even existed.

 

Losing herself in the kiss and the feel of his curious hand across her skin, she pulled him down until his bare chest pressed solidly against hers. Sid moaned into her mouth as she teased him with her tongue and moved to place a knee in between her legs, easing them apart until he could lay his entire body against hers. His erection strained against the confines of his pants and she moved to free him from the offending garment, suddenly desperate to feel him skin to skin, without hindrance.

 

Sid pulled back suddenly and got off the bed. Tonya pulled herself further up onto the bed, ridding herself of his shirt as he let his pants fall to the floor at his feet. The image he presented would have stolen her breath if she had not already been struggling to gather air into her lungs; he was indeed beautiful. He looked like a statue, perfectly formed in flesh instead of marble. Reaching out to take her hand, he pulled her up to stand against him, instead of joining her. He giggled at the confused look on her face. “I want to touch you everywhere and if we start there,” pointing back at the bed, “it will be over too soon. I don’t think you want that, now do you?”

 

She shook her head, grinning, and reached up to run her hands across the broad plane of his chest. Sid let her touch him this time and she went to this task willingly. She avoided touching the most sensitive areas, drawing soft sounds of pleasure from his lips whenever her fingers or lips ventured close. His hands were equally as busy, caressing her back and sides as she lavished him with her attention. They both quickly tired of this part of the game and Sid signaled the end when he went to kiss her. Tonya expected a kiss of possession or a demanding one, but Sid surprised her, kissing her softly, his tongue slowly tracing the outline of her lips before moving inward.

 

After several minutes of just kissing her, his mind reeled from the simple taste of her and he wanted to taste more. He moved her backwards to sit on the edge of the mattress, kneeling on the floor in front of her. Her skin was flushed from arousal and her breathing was rapid, but steady. “Lay back for me.” After a moment, she complied and he moved her legs apart until she was completely open for him. Sid took his time, dragging his mouth from her neck, until he was teasing her clit and inner lips with his mouth and fingers, bringing her just to the edge and then backing off. Tonya moaned and begged for him to finish, her fingers digging into his scalp, arms, any part of him that she could touch, but he only continued to torture her. Finally, sensing that she could take little more, he fulfilled her wishes and she came, screaming his name.

 

When Tonya opened her eyes, Sid was kneeling above her, watching her and stroking her sides as her breathing returned somewhat to normal. Grinning from ear to ear, Sid looked down on her, and appeared very satisfied with himself. She knew that he had wanted her to lose control and she had. Now it was his turn.

 

Running her hand over the hair that dusted his chest and stomach, she wrapped her hand around his erection and watched his face as she began to gently stroke. Sitting up to kiss him, she tried to push him back onto the bed, but with surprising speed, Sid flipped her over face first onto the bed, and pulled her back until her knees rested on the floor. Tonya’s breath caught in her throat as he ran his hands down her back, over her ass and thighs, kissing and nipping at the back of her neck as he entered her.

 

Slowly, ever so slowly, Sid sheathed himself in her compliant body and began to move at an agonizingly slow pace. As Tonya pushed back against him, trying to deepen the penetration, Sid could feel her muscles contract around him as he withdrew, as if she were trying to trap him within her. Her breathing became rapid and she began to quiver beneath him; he knew she was close. Pulling her back a bit further off of the bed, Sid reached a hand under her and found her clit with his fingers, causing her to cry out. There were no words that she could form as she came again, only animal like grunts of joy. Sid smiled to himself as she tightened so much that he could no longer move and he lightly bit and licked the skin of her back, listening to her, waiting for her orgasm to fade.

 

When he was able to move again, he pulled out and lifted her once more onto the bed, rolling her over on her back. Her skin was flushed and glistening with sweat. Entering her quickly, he worked toward his own climax, lifting her legs to wrap around his waist, pumping into her hard and fast, burying himself deeper in her slick folds with every thrust. Even though she was tired, Tonya lifted herself off the bed to meet his hips, pleading with him to fuck her and watched his face as he lost control. With a roar that echoed through the small room, Sid spent himself in her, and collapsed onto her chest as she followed him.

 

Tonya had no illusions about what this had been about. It was an act of possession, pure and simple. Sid wanted to mark her as his and to dominate her. She kissed his forehead as he lay there, wrapping herself around him as he slowly recovered, knowing that this was something that he needed…hell, they both needed this. Just to touch someone. To connect with someone, but Sid needed to be in control, so she let him take control and reaped the considerable benefits of doing so. She giggled slightly and when Sid lifted her head to look at her, she laughed even harder.

 

He moved to her side, but still held her, unwilling to lose touch with her. “What are you laughing about now?”

 

“Nothing really.” She tried to stop giggling and couldn’t. Stroking the arm that he draped over her, she kissed him passionately, turning until they were pressed together again. “I was just wondering if you’re going to do that every time you don’t want to talk about something.”

 

“You never know, I just might.” Rolling over onto his back, he pulled her next to him and she rested her head on his chest. She didn’t want to leave him, after what had just happened, he just knew it. She was really here for him. This was a new feeling for him, knowing that someone wanted him and he didn’t really know how to deal with that. He had wanted this for so long, now that he had it…

 

Sid lay there and played with her fingers as she started to lightly doze, massaging each finger, enjoying the feel of her skin. Turning her hand over to caress the palm, his eyes wandered down the wrist. One blue line of her veins was darker than the other. Pulling her hand close, he discovered the faint scar tissue running along the visible length of the vein.

 

His brows furrowed and he cast a glance at her face. It was obvious that the marks had been self-inflicted, one scar running parallel to another only a hairsbreadth apart, and he wondered what had happened to her. His Tatiana was a pillar of strength and self-assurance, but there was more to her than that. At some point she had changed into what she was today, but what had she been before? He placed a kiss on her forehead and pulled her closer, suddenly feeling very protective of her.

 

Tonya rested against his chest, content to listen to the steady beat of his heart and the slower rhythm of his breathing. Keeping her eyes closed, she quietly enjoyed just being there, being alive and having someone to share it with for a while. Sid caresses slowed as he neared her wrists and she felt tension enter his body as she lay against him. Taking several deep breaths, Tonya steeled herself against the pain that threatened to seep out from the depths of her soul.

 

“I was young when that happened.” Her voice was so low, she wasn’t sure if she had spoken.

 

“I don’t understand. Why…?”

 

Resting her chin on his chest, she watched as he tried to process what she was saying. “I was in a lot of pain.” She covered his heart with her hand to indicate where the pain was. “It seemed easier, for a time, to deal with physical pain than the intangible kind.”

 

“How old were you?” His arms tightened around her, keeping her close, as he felt her pulling away.

 

“I was 7 the first time I tried and 19 the last.” Tonya didn’t really know if he could understand, but she felt the need to tell him. “At the time, I didn’t know why I hurt so badly. Every breath was an effort. Every day was torture and all I knew was that I wanted it to end.”

 

“Why were you hurting?” Sid wasn’t afraid of anything, but he feared what her answer would be. He knew first hand what humans were capable of doing to one another, and he cringed inwardly at the thought of anyone doing anything to harm her.

 

“I was raped.” Silence fell heavy in the room and she turned away from Sid so she wouldn’t have to look at him as she spoke. This was hard enough without having to see his face. “My family was very large. I’m the middle of 5 kids, the only girl, but that never seemed to be enough for my parents. They were always letting some kid stay with us and even took in foster children. Most of them were okay, but one of the kids, Mark, was 15 when he was sent to live with us. Dad worked all the time, so Mom was left to watch everyone by herself. They had problems and Mom was, well…, a bit off. A true Queen of Denial.”

 

“Mark was very good at playing the system and knew how to get to people. He would get everyone fighting and then would slink back into the shadows.” Tonya rolled off of Sid’s chest and lay with her back to him. “He was a real predator. When everyone was distracted, he would pick a victim and torment them. I was given special treatment.” The last words were spat from her mouth, as she involuntarily shuddered against the flood of memories. Sid reached out to touch her, but she pulled away from him. “He never could get me to willingly play his games, so he raped me. He got a knife from the kitchen and held it to my throat, threatening to kill me if I so much as made a sound. I was 5 when that happened, when it started.”

 

Sid started to reach for her again, but held back, knowing she would push him away. His chest felt tight and it had gotten worse as she spoke. “You said you tried to…, but that you didn’t know why you hurt. How could you not know?”

 

“I buried it all inside. I pretended it didn’t happen and pushed it down so far that I didn’t have to deal with it. Even when he would pull me aside and….” Tonya curled up into a tight ball and shivered as she spoke. “I would pull away, leave my body, go somewhere where it didn’t hurt and I controlled everything. It was years later when the memories came flooding back and nearly cost me everything.”

 

Her words rang through his head as he began to fully grasp what she was telling him. She had been the victim of the same act that he had been willing to commit just two nights ago outside the tavern. He had wondered then at her strength, but he knew now where that well of strength came from. Tonya had already lived through it once, so she had no fear of standing up against that same violence now. Sid felt sick to his stomach.

 

Despite her efforts to push him back, Sid wrapped himself around her and she began to sob quietly. Nothing could have prepared him for this. Kissing her hair, murmuring into her ear that she was safe, holding her as she cried, Sid felt like a hypocrite. What kind of monster was he that he would commit the worst of crimes, but lay here and tell her that she was safe with him? /She is safe with me. / Sid railed against the implications of such a thought. They shared too much pain in common, but where as she pulled it inward and punished herself, Sid pushed his out and onto the innocent victims that had suffered under his wrath. The epiphany was disturbing and he knew that she had already lived through what was now threatening to overwhelm him. All he could do now was to hold her close and try to help take some of her pain away.

 

By the time they made it back to the hotel, the sun had set and the darkness of night had settled in, the fog rolling in off of the water made it seem even darker. They decided it would be best to avoid the other residents for awhile longer and quietly ascended the back stairs to Tonya’s room. Despite Sid’s best efforts (and they were damn fine efforts), Tonya found herself tense and nervous after the revelations of the day. Pacing seemed to only increase her anxiety. While Sid showered, she scribbled out a note that she would be right back and headed for the tavern to get something to drink. Alcohol was never an answer to her problems, but maybe a couple of drinks would help her relax.

 

There was no one around in the hotel and Tonya breathed a sigh of relief. She had no idea what the guys would do to Sid when they found him, but she had the feeling it wouldn’t be fun to watch. Entering the tavern through a back door, she headed for the bar and placed an order for a bottle of Glen Livet with Andy. The look he gave her made her giggle; he looked as if her were scared of her and shook slightly as he handed the bottle over, his eyes scanning the room the entire time, never meeting hers. Most of the regulars were sitting in the booths and tables on the far wall and she watched as some of the couples in darker booths made out like teenagers. Feeling her skin flush at the sight, she headed back out the way she came in.

 

No one met her on the way back and she bounded up the main stairs to her room as quickly as she could, intent on tucking herself away, before word spread that she was back. A smile formed on her face as she thought back to the couples hidden away in the tavern and how she and Sid could pass the remaining hours of the evening. She did not see the imposing figure heading down from the second floor landing.

 

“Tonya!” She heard Bud yell her name just as she came into contact with his hard body. He couldn’t stop himself in time to keep from running into her, sending her stumbling backwards, only to roll down the last few steps, hitting the far wall with a solid THUD.

 

She felt nothing for a second. Everything had gone black and the sound of the ocean filled her ears, drowning out the silence of the hotel with the rhythmic pounding of the waves, crushing every sound, including her name as she heard it called out in the far distance….

 


Part Nine

 

“Trisha!” Bud was in shock, first at seeing Tonya flying up the stairs and then watching her tumble down them unable to react fast enough to stop her fall. “Trisha, come out here quick!” Tonya had passed out just as he had reached her and he was scared to death. Guilt already gnawed at him for having anything to do with hurting her, but the fear that she may be seriously injured suppressed any such feelings for the time being. Bud heard Trisha stifle a gasp as she spotted the cause of Bud’s excitement and her footfalls on the steps as she ran down to join him.

 

“Bugger! What happened?” Trisha moved Bud to the side, as she started checking the unconscious woman for injuries.

 

“It was an accident.” He stammered. “We ran into each other and she fell. I couldn’t stop her.” Trisha didn’t even need to look at him; she could hear the pain in his voice and knew that it would be reflected in his eyes. Her hands moved quickly over Tonya’s arms, checking for broken bones, after she had checked her head and neck. Her hands pushed the sleeves up on the tee shirt and she froze at the sight before her.

 

“What’s wrong?” The panic in Bud’s voice was palpable, as he leaned over her shoulder to find out for himself. Bud’s hands quickly replaced Trisha’s and pushed the sleeves up to reveal the ugly bruises in the shape of hands on Tonya’s biceps.

 

“That son-of-a-bitch!” He snarled the words out through clenched teeth and was flying up the stairs before Trisha could try and stop him. She sighed heavily, knowing stopping Bud when he was like this was nearly impossible. Tonya moaned suddenly, bringing Trisha back to the matters at hand.

 

Sid read the note Tonya had left him and started drying off, still dripping water from the shower. They had hardly spoken on the drive back to the Nest; Tonya still upset from what she had told him and he hadn’t know what to say. The fact that she had cried in his arms gnawed at him and the fact that he didn’t mind bothered him even more. He hated crying, but he didn’t hate her or her crying. He didn’t know what he was feeling, but it wasn’t the normal anger or contempt. The absence of those emotions was unsettling.

 

Moving back to the bathroom, Sid thought about what had happened between them so far. He initially had wanted to play with her, bend her to his will and discard her, as he had with the others, but she had met him at every step, refusing to be used. Then he discovered that not only did he want her, but needed her. At their first meeting, he had noticed the silence, the absence of hate in the voices of those within him and that same silence returned every time he was near her. The need for the silence was becoming addictive. As he crossed the threshold of the bedroom, the door exploded behind him and he turned in time to see Bud charging through the room at him.

 

“You prick! What did you do to her?” Bud’s fist caught Sid in the stomach, momentarily knocking the wind out of him, dropping him to one knee. Stunned, Sid struggled to stand up, but Bud grabbed his arm and threw him over the sofa, overturning a table and smashing another. He tasted his blood in his mouth and started to fight back.

 

“Fuck you, White.” Sid never landed the punch he tried to throw; Bud kicked him hard in the knee causing him to lose his balance and fall to the floor once more.

 

“Shut-up, shitbird! You can’t take it when a man stands up to you?” The next kick landed squarely in Sid’s ribs, bruising at least two. Pain flared through Sid’s body as it dawned on him that Bud had seen Tonya and the bruises that he had left on her. This was something that he had asked for, only in the sense that he should have known what White would do when he finally saw her. He hadn’t cared at the time, but now it seemed that this was a natural consequence for what he had done. The urge to fight left him just as a large section of the heavy, broken coffee table connected with his head.

 

Trisha sat above Tonya as she finally tried to move. “Lie still, honey. You took quite a tumble.”

 

“Where’s Sid?” Tonya’s eyes snapped open, suddenly very lucid and tried to sit up. Muscles screamed in protest and a wave of nausea stopped any further movement.

 

“Come on, lie still for a minute.” Trisha tried to get Tonya to listen, but after a few moments she struggled to sit up again, giving up once more.

 

“Who are you and where is Sid?”

 

“I’m Trisha and I don’t know where Sid is.” Trisha spotted the worried look crossing Tonya’s face and wondered if she was concerned for Sid or about Sid. “You’re Tonya, right?”

 

“Yes.” Moving slowly to sit up and lean against the wall, Tonya closed her eyes and took several deep breaths to keep her head from spinning. “What happened?”

 

Trisha moved to sit by her side, leaning against the wall, and relayed the whole story, or as much as she knew of it. “Bud and I were just checking your arms, to make sure nothing was broken…” She averted her eyes from Tonya and whispered so low that Tonya barely heard her. “We found the bruises.”

 

Tonya ran her hands absently over her arms, remembering suddenly that they were still there, when a spark of fear ran through her. “Where’s Bud?” Panic threatened to sweep her away as she looked around for White, knowing that he was gone already. “Trisha,” she sounded desperate and silently cursed herself for it. “Where did he go?”

 

“Upstairs.” A muted crash of wood emphasized Trisha’s words.

 

“Shit!” Tonya struggled to get up, but found she wasn’t steady enough to walk on her own, let alone stand. “You have got to help me to my room.” Trisha stood next to her, but made no move to help her. “Trisha?”

 

“You should let Bud deal with this.” She suddenly felt very guilty for her inaction, as a look of disbelief and pain washed over Tonya’s features. When Bud ‘got his blood up’, there was very little that anyone could do to stop him. Sending Tonya into the fray now would be unthinkable, as she had seen the dangerous glint in Bud’s eyes when he had turned to bound up the stairs, taking them two at a time in his haste.

 

“Bullshit!” Another crash from above pushed Tonya into action and she lunged for the railing, pulling herself up the first few steps, stopping on the third when she thought she would pass out. She inhaled deeply; nausea threatening and the stairwell spinning like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The crashes and yelling from above continued, as she tried to move up the steps. A small sound escaped her lips, as she envisioned Bud beating Sid to death and she hated herself at that moment: for caring, for letting herself become so involved, for being here, for being unable to stop the mindless violence.

 

Trisha was at her side suddenly and helping her up the steps. Tonya looked to the woman at her side, confused, and only got a shrug for a response. Stopping every few steps so that Tonya could rest, Trisha half carried her up the stairs to the landing and headed for the elevator. There was no way that Tonya could make it up another floor and the noises from above had disappeared, scaring both women. Silence greeted them and, as the doors of the lift slid open, they headed tentatively down the now eerily quiet hall.

 

“Get up you prick.” Tonya heard Bud’s low growl first and grabbed onto her doorframe for support, the splintered wood cutting into her palm as she swung her body into the room to see Bud hovering over Sid, kicking him hard in the ribs. ” I should have killed you a long time ago.”

 

“NO!” She meant to yell, but the word had no power behind it and came out as a strangled whisper. Sid didn’t move. He was curled up into a ball, naked, and a small pool of blue was forming on the floor from a gaping hole in the back of his head, growing with each kick to the midsection. Large blue marks covering his back and legs.

 

“Bud stop!” Trisha left Tonya at the door and moved to Bud, placing a hand on his arm, before he turned on her. Blinded by rage, nervous seconds passed before recognition washed over him, his body relaxing almost instantly and muscles in his jaw loosening. “He’s had enough.”

 

No one spoke for several moments as the tension in the room began to wane. Trisha pulled Bud over to a chair and made him sit, just as Tonya collapsed unconscious onto the floor.

 

The noise of the incident had drawn others on the floor to see what was happening. “What the…” Annabella moved into the room and knelt by Tonya, followed by Alex. “What happened here?”

 

“Long story.” Trisha caressed Bud’s forehead. “Annabella, go get John. I think that Tonya has a concussion. Alex, help me carry her in the other room.” Annabella dashed away and Alex moved to pick up Tonya. They got her into her room and tucked her under the covers to keep her warm, as Alex looked from Tonya to Sid through the open door.

 

“What happened here? Or do I want to know?” he asked.

 

“I’ll tell you later. Do me a favor?” Trisha sat on the edge of the bed. “Get Bud out of here. Take him to get a drink, anything, but get him out of here.” Alex looked at Bud slumped in a chair and silently praised his brother for getting to do what he had wanted to do the other night. Stepping over Sid’s unconscious form, he lead Bud down the hall to Annabella’s room without a backwards glance.

 

Tonya awoke to a splitting headache and a very bright light shining in her eyes. “Hey, stop that.” Lifting her hand to block out the light, she heard a deep chuckle and a higher, feminine voice.

 

“Well, it looks as if you’ll live.” Tonya opened her eyes, squinting against the light in the room and saw John sitting next to her, holding a pen light. “You’re not going to be doing much for a little while, but you’ll be okay.”

 

“What happened to you?” Tina moved over, into Tonya’s peripheral vision, looking pale and worried.

 

“I ran into Bud.” She winced when she spoke and laid her arm over her face to rescue her from the pain of the light. “Hit the wall.”

 

“That will do it.” John got up off of the bed and put the light back into the large first aid kit on the nightstand. “You’ve got a concussion, but after a few days, you’ll be as good as new. Head hurt?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Hurt anywhere else?”

 

“Everywhere.” Tonya tried to reach for the light, her arm flailing weakly in the general direction of the lamp, failing miserably to reach it.

 

Tina flipped off the lamp and sat on the edge of the bed. “Do you need anything right now? Water? Cool cloth?”

 

“Un-uh.” Tonya just wanted to sleep, but something seemed wrong. Suddenly, she tried to sit up, remembering what had transpired in the sitting room. “Where’s Sid?”

 

John shifted restlessly. “He’s in the other room, but you need your rest. So lets…”

 

“How is he?” Tina and John exchanged curious glances as she tried to raise herself off of the bed.

 

“He’s out right now.” John said as Tina tried to get she to lay back. “Bud worked him over pretty good.”

 

A moan passed through Tonya’s lips as she fought against the smaller woman. “Let me up. He needs help.”

 

John moved over and helped Tina push her back down. “If you promise to be good and lay here for a few minutes, I’ll go see what I can do. Okay?” Tonya nodded her head and rolled onto her side, trying to block out the urge to throw up.

 

Sid came awake and screamed as he felt his body regenerating itself. After a few moments, the pain passed and he sat up quickly, scanning the room and finding only John. “Where is she?”

 

John tilted his head to indicate the bedroom as he threw the mangled remains of a glass vase, mostly destroyed now from regenerating Sid, into the trash. “Tina is in with her.” Sid looked around the room: the busted door, the broken and toppled furniture, the dried blue on the carpet. “You should go clean up and then you can tell me what the hell has been going on, because let me tell you it doesn’t look good.”

 

“Fuck you, John.” Sid snapped as he pulled the towel around him and rose to his feet, now ready to fight.

 

“No, Sid, fuck you!” John pushed Sid back to the floor and quietly let him have it. “I have been the one, and the only one, around here trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, so don’t pull this indignant bullshit with me.” John moved over and hovered directly over Sid. “You attack NormaJean, disappear for a day and then Tonya comes back with bruises all over her arms. What the fuck has been going on?”

 

Moments passed and Sid said nothing. He sat on the floor and just looked at John. /What had been going on? / He had no idea how to begin to answer that question.

 

“You had better start talking, cause I’m just about ready to join up with the others about shutting you down.”

 

“I will not be shut down!” Sid jumped to his feet and stood nose to nose with his brother, intent on doing anything to remain operational. “I have just as much right to be here as anyone. Isn’t that what you always say?”

 

“Then prove it!” John pushed against Sid’s chest with one hand. “Prove to me that I’m not wrong about this!”

 

Tonya came awake screaming, causing Tina to jump out of her chair and run to the bed. “Shhh…It was a dream. You’re safe now.” Tina held Tonya as she gasped for air, waking more fully with each passing second. “Come on, it was only a dream and its over.”

 

John had made sure that she could sit with Tonya in case she got sick again, while he took Sid back to the Tavern. Sid had stood outside the door, whining like a little kid to be admitted to the room, but John wouldn’t allow it, not at least until he knew what was going on. Once Tonya had fallen asleep, she tossed and turned almost constantly, making Tina worry. With a concussion, Tonya would be dazed for quite a while and she had already made several bizarre comments about seagulls.

 

“Where am I?” Tonya looked off into a corner as she spoke.

 

“You’re in your room.”

 

“This isn’t my room.” Tonya looked at Tina with wide eyes that were glassy and bloodshot. “I don’t have a room like this at my house.”

 

“You’re at the Crowe’s Hotel. Do you remember that?” Tonya shook her head slightly, wincing at the effort. “This is your room at the hotel and you fell down the stairs. You have a concussion.”

 

“I know where I’m at now.”

 

“Do you?” Tina perked up a bit at this.

 

“I’m over the rainbow.” Tina was worried now; every time Tonya spoke she became less coherent. She needed John back and soon.

 

“I dreamed of the boy again.”

 

“What boy?”

 

“The boy in the hall of mirrors.” Tonya moved away and rolled onto her side. Her face was ashen and Tina got her a cool cloth to put on her forehead. “He keeps staring at me, but I don’t know what to do. Whenever I walk away, he screams cause the faces in the wind come back to him.”

 

“What do the faces in the wind do to the boy?” Tina had no idea what she was talking about, but felt much more comfortable with Tonya talking.

 

“Horrible things. They start pulling at him from all directions and it hurts him.” Tonya shuddered and then quieted. Tina heard the door close in the other room and looked up to see John walk into the room. “They fight each other too. They all want him to pay attention to them and he can’t. There are too many.”

 

John started to speak, but stopped when Tina mouthed the words ‘bad dream’ at him. He looked pale and tired, but Tina knew they would be keeping watch here tonight. “What does the boy do then?”

 

“He rips his heart out.” John looked up, worry lines forming across his handsome brow. “They can’t hurt him if he doesn’t have a heart.”

 

“Well, it sounds like a nasty dream, but its over now. Why don’t you get some sleep?” Tina noted her slight nod and that she had dozed off almost as soon as she had mentioned the word sleep. John and Tina moved quietly into the sitting room. “What took you so long?”

 

“Sid is…well, he’s Sid.” John plopped hard onto the sofa, pulling Tina down onto his lap. “He says that the bruises are from two days ago, but I want to talk to Tonya.”

 

“That’s not going to happen tonight. She is really out of it.” Tina snuggled close to John’s chest and laid her head on his shoulder. “You heard her in there.”

 

“Yeah, what was that all about?”

 

“Nightmare. She is sleeping terribly. In the last two hours, she has woken up screaming three times. This was the first time she said anything.”

 

“She said something in there… about there being too many. Too many what?”

 

“Too many faces.” Tina moved so she could look John in the eyes. “I have no idea what she’s talking about.”

 

“Sid was just about as bizarre. I think Bud may have knocked his module loose or something. He kept talking about silence, but wouldn’t elaborate.” Tina pulled herself close to him and sighed heavily. “Feels a little like the `Twilight Zone’ around here, doesn’t it?” Neither spoke again as they settled in a long night, constantly vigilant for noises coming from the bedroom.

 


Part Ten

 

Sid paced in his room, upset and alone. Something wasn’t right and John’s behavior had told him all that John wouldn’t: something was wrong with Tonya. Outside of her room, he couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t let him enter, but after John brought him back to the tavern, he had it figured out.

 

Checking his watch for the hundredth time in the last hour, he decided that it should be safe for him to sneak out. Stealthily making his way down the hall, he listened for any noise that would indicate trouble. He smiled to himself when he passed in front of East’s room. The quiet of the night was disrupted by the soft sounds of moaning coming from behind the closed door. /Kath must be here. /

 

His smile quickly faded as he thought of Tonya and headed down the stairs and outside. Following his normal path to the hotel, Sid wondered what had happened earlier. Bud had attacked him from out of the blue and he never got an answer on how he found her. He didn’t think that Tonya would have sought Bud out and shown him the bruises, knowing how he would react, but some of the stronger voices were implying just that. They started slowly and he found it easy to force them out, but it was disturbing now to have them return. Living for a short time without them had been paradise and he wanted that back.

 

The hotel was dark, but although the moon was waning, there was still plenty of light to see by. Making his way up the outside of the building, he quickly found himself outside Tonya’s room. Some lights were on in the sitting room and he was surprised to see Tina and John cuddled up together on the couch, fast asleep. He moved to the next set of windows and could see Tonya inside. Only the light from the bathroom was on and it cast a glow throughout her room. She was lying on the bed and looked to be tossing and turning. Checking the window, he found it unlocked and quietly slipped inside. Damn John for telling him to keep away. He would do want he wanted, no matter what Sheriff Pudgy said.

 

Faces in the wind surrounded Tonya. The dream tonight was stronger than it had ever been before. Even in her sleep, she knew it was a dream, but that did not offer her any comfort. The boy was there in the middle of a great room, squatting on his haunches with his hands over his head. She could hear him scream as some of voices around him rose to a deafening level, all wanting to be heard at once. To her surprise, a path cleared for her through the chaos and the volume of the screams diminished as she approached the scared child.

 

Hearing the difference in the air, the boy turned his face up to her, watching her approach. Tears streamed down his face and she felt her heart breaking. “I thought they were gone” he whispered as she knelt beside him. Suddenly, she was no longer herself, but a little girl. She looked down and saw that she was wearing her favorite outfit from her childhood: a tee shirt and a pair of bib overhauls. The boy reached out and took her hand in his. “Stay with me. Its safe now.”

 

“From what?” The voice she heard was small and delicate, befitting the physical image she presented.

 

“From them.” Pointing around them, the boy indicated the faces that became clearer as they approached. The faces were full of rage and utter hatred, but could not come close to them now. They sat their for a long time, watching as the faces whipped around them faster and faster, the looks of anger becoming more intense with each passing moment.

 

“Why are they so mad?” The boy looked around him with a look of wonder on his face. It was the closest that she had ever seen him come to a smile.

 

“Because I can’t hear them. Do you hear them?” She listened for a moment and then shook her head. “You’re different” he observed finally.

 

“I know…I don’t understand why.” The boy moved and wrapped her into a hug, easily covering her. “Can I stay here?” She felt him nod and hold her more tightly, as if he were afraid of letting her go.

 

Sid stood for a moment just inside the window and just watched her. She moaned in her sleep and looked pale in the artificial light. Scanning the room, he noticed the big first aid kit on the bedside table and was somewhat relieved. He didn’t want to think that she would have set him up and now he knew that something had really happened to her. Moving to the side of the bed, he slipped his jacket off and hung it over the bedpost.

 

She was clad only in a white ‘wife-beater’ shirt and a loose pair of boxers. The stirrings of desire rose in him, but he suppressed the feeling. He wanted to just lie down with her and…well, he didn’t know what, but he didn’t want anything more than to just hold her. He slipped out of the rest of his clothes, leaving only his silk boxers on, and into the bed. Tonya seemed to sense his presence and rolled towards him, resting her head on his chest. Wrapping his arms around her, he closed his eyes and just held her tight as her breathing slowed to the familiar rhythm of restful sleep. He felt good here. The loneliness that he felt, almost everyday, seemed like a distant dream.

 

John awoke when Tina shifted in her sleep, unconsciously pressing her elbow into his side. He slowly moved until he could stand up. Leaving her lying across the couch, stretching slowly as she realized that she had more room. Crossing the room silently, he eased the door open to check in on Tonya.

 

Glancing at the clock on the wall, he noted that over six hours had passed without hearing a noise from her. He looked inside and started shaking his head. Sid must have snuck back in after they had fallen asleep. Initially, he thought about going in and throwing the asshole out the window, but he decided against it when he looked at Tonya. She was curled up like a small child and Sid had literally wrapped himself around her. What he could see of her face was peaceful, undisturbed by pain or dreams. John stood there for a moment before he noticed that Sid was just staring at him, wide-awake.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sid whispered from the bed.

 

“I didn’t think it was a good idea.” John was confused by this whole situation. If he didn’t know better, he would say that Sid sounded like he was hurt. “There is nothing anyone can do except to wait for her to heal.”

 

“John…” Sid looked down at Tonya and brushed her bangs back off her forehead. “What exactly happened to her? I know she got hurt, but…”

 

“She fell down the stairs and has a concussion. Bud and Trisha found her.” John didn’t think that Sid would take it too well if he found out that Bud was the reason that she fell and left that out. Sliding into the room, John stood with his back to the wall. “Sid, is there something going on with you?”

 

Silence prevailed throughout the room as the two men just looked at each other for a few seconds. “I…she’s here for me.” Sid looked back at the sleeping form in his arms and looked at her with something akin to awe. John slowly nodded as he began to understand. At the tavern, on her first night here, she had said that she didn’t know who had drawn her here. Apparently, she had found out, but he needed to talk with her to make sure Sid wasn’t making this all up.

 

“Sid…” Tonya stirred and snuggled closer to him, still asleep. “What’s going on?”

 

“Nothing. Go back to sleep.” He shot a look at his brother that said ‘I told you so.’ “You need your rest.”

 

“Umm…rest for what?” The tone of her voice made John dip his head, looking down at the floor, suddenly feeling a bit like a voyeur.

 

Clearing his throat quietly, he looked to the bathroom and not the couple on the bed. “I’ll get going now. She’ll probably be dizzy for awhile, so she will need to have someone with her.” Sid only nodded as John backed out to the room, closing the door behind him.

 

“Is she okay?” John looked over to the couch where Tina was. “I heard you whispering.”

 

“She’s fine.” He crossed over to her and took her hand. “Let’s go. There is nothing for us to do here.”

 

Tina rose, but looked confused. “Doesn’t someone…”

 

“She’s fine.” Wrapping his arm around her shoulder, he led her to the door. He smiled to himself, thinking that maybe, now that Sid had someone for him, things would calm down. “I’ll tell you all about it later.”

 

Tonya awoke the next morning with quite a headache. The light in the room hurt her eyes when she tried to open them, so she rolled over and tried to bury her head in the pillows. It took her a minute to realize that she had rolled away from something large and warm. She turned to look over her shoulder and saw Sid lying on his side; his head propped up on one arm.

 

“Are you better now?” He asked as he moved closer to her again.

 

“No. My head is killing me.” Trying to bury her face in the pillows again, she finally started to remember some of what happened the night before. “I remember being told that I fell, but not much else. It’s all kinda blurry.”

 

“What exactly do you remember?” It was only a whisper into her ear, but she had chills run down her spine. God, did she forget…

 

Giggling just a little, she turned again to face him. “I hope I would have remembered that.”

 

“You would have, but we didn’t do anything last night.” Moving his hand across her stomach in little circles, he worked the shirt up, until he was touching her heated flesh. “We could make up for it now.”

 

Sid started nuzzling against her neck and she groaned, not from arousal, but from pain; she ached everywhere. “Sid, I don’t think that I’m up for anything right now. Tell me what happened.” He didn’t move away, but started kissing her shoulder.

 

“Umm…lets see. You fell down the stairs on your way back to me.” He lifted his head and captured her earlobe between his teeth, nipping lightly. “That’s it.” Sid felt odd lying to her, but rationalized that the truth would only hurt her. Pulling her close, he kissed her deeply hoping to distract her from her current line of questioning. Soon they were out of breath and just held each other.

 

Tonya noticed a worried look on Sid’s face when she opened her eyes. “What’s eating at you?”

 

“Nothing.” Lying to everyone else was easy, but he was having trouble maintaining his conviction. “You really need to brush your teeth, by the way.” She began to giggle as he made a repulsive face, grimacing at her. “A shower wouldn’t hurt you either.”

 

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

 

“Yes. You don’t smell very good at the moment.” He cracked a little smile and continued on. “That is something that I can help you with though.”

 

She looked at him warily for a second before responding. “What exactly do you have in mind?” Sid jumped out of the bed and pulled her up far too quickly. The room began to spin and she grabbed onto his arms to try and steady herself. “Whoa…”

 

“Dizzy?” He should have known better, but his libido was getting ahead of any rational thoughts.

 

“Oh shit, yeah.” Tonya held onto him for support as she closed her eyes, waiting for the room to stop spinning.

 

“Well, I guess that means that a shower is out.” Sid picked her up and carried her to the bathroom. “A bath sounds like more fun anyway.” Tonya closed her eyes, as she laid her head against his chest. “Tatiana?”

 

Reaching up without opening her eyes, she ran her hand along his jaw. “How about we just bathe? I don’t feel all that great.” Sid nodded and kissed the top of her head as he proceeded into the bathroom, all thoughts of a fun bath dashed from his mind.

 

For the next two days, Sid stayed by Tonya’s side, never letting her out of bed to do anything on her own. When she slept, he cleaned the sitting room trying to hide the evidence of the brawl with Bud, even going so far as retrieving another coffee table from storage to replace the one that was destroyed. She had spent such a short amount of time in her room, that she didn’t notice the difference when they lounged on the couch watching movies. Cleaning his blood out the carpet was a challenge in and of itself, but he was finally able to get it up. Tonya had no memories of that night after leaving to go to the Tavern. Sid had no intention of telling her about his fight with Bud, somewhat nervous of her reaction to the truth.

 

Knowing something was wrong; she bided her time until she could talk to someone else about the events of that evening. Whenever she tried to discuss it with him, he would change the subject or demand that she rest again. All he had told her was that Bud and Trisha had found her lying on the landing one floor below. John had been called to help, because, as Sid put it, the dullard sheriff had taken enough blows to the head, playing hockey, to actually be of assistance. John had stopped by a few times to check on her, but Sid never left the room so she couldn’t talk to him privately.

 

At no time during her recovery did Sid try to seduce her. Tonya was astonished by his restraint, because he had bathed her and slept with her the entire time. She was definitely feeling the effects of such close contact. She tried telling him once that she wasn’t dead from the neck down, she just felt dizzy. There was little time left to her here and soon she would have to head home to find a job. She didn’t want to spend her few remaining days in the platonic company of someone who could make her shiver with just a look.

 

Finally, she was able to convince him that she was better and demanded to go to the Tavern for some food. Sid argued that it had only been a couple of days since she was ‘damaged’ and she needed more time. Flinging a pillow at his head, she tried to explain the difference between ‘damaged’ and ‘injured’ and threatened to damage him if he didn’t let her go out.

 

Tonya dressed in dark gray sweat shorts and a tee shirt, while Sid changed into another of his suits. “Have you ever thought of wearing anything else?” He lifted an eyebrow as he fastened his cuffs. “Those Dockers you wore on the boat were, well… they looked really good on you.”

 

“I make everything look good.” She smiled as he grabbed for his jacket. /You certainly do. / “I just prefer to wear suits. I feel…debonair in a suit.”

 

“Debonair, huh?” She giggled and he crossed his arms.

 

“What’s so funny about that?”

 

“Just that the only other person that I’ve ever known to describe himself as ‘debonair’ was a paranoid schizophrenic.” She began laughing in earnest as he crossed over to her. “I worked with him for several years. He was ‘debonair’ whenever he remembered to put his clothes on right side out.”

 

“You knew this man?” Sid had never heard her discuss her work, apparently because it was still a very sore subject for her.

 

“Yeah. He lived in a group home where I worked for, oh God, it was six years.” She looked at him and saw the confusion that she always saw when she told people what she did for a living. “I work, or rather worked, with developmental disabled adults in small living situations. Some had other diagnosis, like schizophrenia, but primarily they just had developmental disabilities. The biggest home I worked in only had sixteen people. The smallest had three.” She giggled again at a memory. “Ya know, the first time I ever saw a man naked, as an adult, was when I went to work there.”

 

“Why would you choose to do that for a living?” He couldn’t picture her doing something so seemingly altruistic; the concept of helping others was foreign to him.

 

“You don’t necessarily choose to do it. It chooses you.”

 

“Why do you laugh about it? It doesn’t sound like fun to me.”

 

“If you don’t laugh, you burn out. Laughter helps make the little dramas in life a little easier to deal with, and that’s basically what I did. I helped people with daily life.” Her face dropped and suddenly she looked very sad. She grabbed his arm and pulled his head down, kissing him quickly. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I wanna go eat and socialize.”

 

“Are you sure that you feel okay?” Sid was nervous. He liked having her to himself and didn’t’ want to share her with anyone. He especially didn’t want to see what would happen when they were in ‘public’ together. It would be much better for them to hole up in her room for the next week.

 

“I’m fine, let’s go.” Tonya was out the door before he could try and distract her again. He jogged after her and caught up with just at the top of the stairs.

 

“Um, perhaps we should take the elevator for now.” Tonya stopped suddenly and looked down the stairs and giggled a little.

 

“That is probably the best idea that I have heard today.”

 

“Well, its still early. I can probably think up something even better by the end of the night.” Sid grabbed her arm and pulled her into the elevator. They made their way to the Tavern slowly. Tonya was so happy to be out of her room that she wandered around the grounds for awhile, smelling the freshly cut grass. Finally, she started to get tired and decided that it was time to eat.

 

Sid opened the front door to the tavern and immediately saw Jeff Mitchell standing behind the bar. Jeff’s easy-going manner was gone in a heartbeat, as he stared at Sid. Pulling the door open for Tonya, Sid locked eyes with Jeff, trying to look as threatening as possible. He couldn’t ask his brothers to leave him alone tonight, as he had never done anything to deserve their respect. All he could do was try to intimidate them into doing nothing for the time being.

 

The tavern lights were already dim in the early evening light and Tonya had to squint to see if she recognized anyone that she already knew. Of the few people there, she recognized only Jeff from his movie. The look that he had on his face at the moment belied his friendly demeanor that she had seen in his film. He was looking at Sid like he wanted to kill him. She looked up at Sid and nudged him when she saw the same look on his face. All she wanted to do was eat and not to deal with male posturing or testosterone poisoning tonight. “Go grab us a seat and I’ll place a drink order.”

 

Jeff appeared to calm some as Tonya approached, but still cast an evil eye towards Sid. “Hiya, you must be Jeff.”

 

“Yep. You’re Tonya.” Jeff looked at her for a moment and wondered if she too was insane. “What can I get ya?”

 

Tonya tried to look relaxed, but she was on the receiving end of a very cold shoulder. “Just iced tea for now, please. Do you have any orange slices?”

 

“What for?” Jeff looked at her like she had just asked him to crawl under a cow and retrieve a big pile of shit. She was pissed in an instant.

 

“It doesn’t really matter now, does it? Just get them.”

 

“Look here…”

 

“No, you look here. I just want some tea and some fucking oranges. Not a challenge for ya, so don’t give me anything I don’t deserve.”

 

“Don’t deserve anything?” Jeff ran his hands through his hair and spoke through clenched teeth, but kept his voice low. “That prick over there tried to rape my friend and you helped him. You may have got him away from NormaJean, but he still hurt her. He deserved a beating and you fucking well know it.”

 

Clenching her hands into fists under bar and out of his sight, she tried to breathe. She had been taunted and provoked on many occasions and knew that she needed to stay in control. “I got him out.” Her voice was calm, but did not betray any of her inner turmoil. “I made sure that Norma was okay before I left. I did those things. And, yes, I also got Sid the hell out of here. That I am guilty of, but I do not deserve to be subjected to your misplaced aggression.”

 

“As for a beating…” casting a glance over her shoulder, she watched Sid slide into one of the back booths, completely oblivious to her exchange with Jeff. “Is that how you deal with it when someone messes up? Is it an eye for an eye around here?” Jeff just stared at her as she continued on. “I helped her and, for some reason known only to God, I want to help him too. From what I gather, Norma is okay. Is that right?”

 

“Yeah.” Jeff softened slightly when she mentioned Norma.

 

“Good. Now I have to worry about Sid.” Jeff started to speak, but she jumped in quickly. “Believe it or not, Sid is capable of learning. What do you think you’re teaching him by trying to beat the shit out of him ever time he fucks up?”

 

Moments passed and Tonya held Jeff’s eyes with hers until he looked away to the floor. Reaching out for his hand, she held it until he looked back at her. “Can I have my tea now, please.”

 

“I…I’ll bring it to the table for ya.” Jeff couldn’t look at her. She was right and he had nothing to say in response. Everyone bitched about Sid and his outbursts and violent behavior. Thinking back, he realized that they had always responded in the same way: meeting violence with violence. “I’ll get some oranges for ya too.”

 

“Thanks Jeff.” Tonya pushed back from the bar; satisfied that she had made her point. She made her way to the booth, noticing along the way that the bar was practically deserted. That suited her just fine. The seat wrapped around the table and Sid had situated himself so that he was facing the rest of the tavern. She slid in beside him and leaned back against him, placing both her feet up in the seat. Jeff arrived a few minutes later, carrying a large tray. On it was a couple of glasses, a pitcher of tea and a giant bowl of sliced oranges. Tonya and Jeff exchanged knowing smiles as Sid glared at him. Tonya placed an order for some food and Jeff departed without a single word to Sid.

 

“What was that all about?” he asked after Jeff left.

 

“Nothing.” Tonya grabbed an orange slice and pulled it apart to get to the meat of the fruit. “I can’t believe how much better I feel.” She passed a section of fruit to Sid, which he ate from her fingers. He sucked the juices from her fingers as she closed her eyes, the sensations his tongue created by swirling around the tips went straight to her loins. Yes, she did feel better and she wanted nothing more than to be alone with him at the moment.

 

The meal came quickly and Tonya practically inhaled her cheeseburger and fries. “Hungry?” Sid just giggled watching her tear into the meal.

 

“Yep. I guess just being out of bed has worked wonders for my appetite.” She adjusted again in the seat and waited for Sid to finish before leaning back on him again. Grabbing another slice of orange, she fed him as she had earlier, enjoying the intimate setting. She didn’t notice as more and more people began filing in, ignoring the looks that were cast their direction.

 

“Why don’t you want to talk about your work?” Sid wrapped one arm around her after turning slightly in the booth. She shrugged against his chest and threw the empty peeling of the orange into the bowl. “I want to know about you.”

 

“Because I don’t. I appreciate the effort you are making, but I really don’t want to talk about it. It’s a little too painful right now.” She would have continued, but she felt him stiffen against her. Glancing up, she saw the source of his agitation. A large group of regulars entered through the front doors, including John, Tina, Alex, Bud, and several women that she didn’t recognize. One of the shorter women walked immediately to the bar and turned back calling for `Tio’ and `PoPo’.

 

“Look at them. Don’t they all look like a happy little family? All smiling and laughing.” Sid spoke through clenched teeth and Tonya moved to sit up.

 

“What’s wrong? Jealous?” Sid turned on her with a look on his face that would have been frightening a few days ago. “You are, aren’t you?”

 

“And if I am?” Turning to face the group once more, she watched as his jaw muscles twitched under the surface of his skin.

 

“If you are, then big deal. So what if they carry on and have a good time?” Tonya smiled as she realized that she had hit a nerve. “Are you upset because they never include you? Never let you play in any reindeer games?”

 

Sid said nothing for a few moments and then turned his gaze to her. “I don’t understand it all.” Suddenly, he sounded like a wounded little boy, hurt and angry at not being accepted. “I try…”

 

“What do you try to do? You try to fit in by intimidating people? By attacking women? By stirring up trouble?” She leaned closer to him and placed a kiss on his forehead. “You won’t ever get anything, but alienated by doing that.”

 

“I try to get people to notice me.” Sid leaned in so that their foreheads were pressing together. “I just want them to notice me.”

 

“Oh, I think that they do.” She said softly, as she pulled away. Sid looked away from her and out at the group again. Jeff was standing behind the bar talking with Stef, John and Bud, pointing in the direction of where he and Tonya were seated. He couldn’t tell what they were saying, but Bud and Stef looked extremely pissed.

 

“What now, Tin Man?” She turned to look at the bar and saw that the woman and Bud were just staring at them with anger in their eyes. Quickly looking at the table, she saw that the people there were turned and looking at them too. She suddenly felt like she was a kid again and she had just taken the `Cootie seat’ on the school bus.

 

“Now they are alienating you too.” Sid voice seethed with anger. “They can’t believe that someone actually wants to be with me, so they are going to push you away too. All because you are with me.”

 

“I can handle it.” She leaned back against the wall as he leaned forward on the table. “I can fight my own battles.” Sid was now locked in a stare down with Bud. She noticed what was going on between the two and tried to distract him.

 

“That prick thinks that he is the sole protector of everything righteous. I should go over there and pound that look off of his face.”

 

“You won’t though. How will that help anything?” Sid wasn’t listening anymore and started to get up. She had to do something and made her decision quickly. Just as he stood up, she jumped out of the other side of the booth and reached over to grab a handful of Sid’s hair.

 

“What the fu….”

 

“Shut up, Tin Man. I’m tired of all of this and I want it to stop before anything gets started.” He began to whine like a little kid who had just been told that he couldn’t go to recess for the next week and tried to pry her hand out of his hair. She moved in closer and stood on her tiptoes to speak into his ear. “Look, you’re going to stop this shit right now, cause I can yank on your hair all night long.” Sid stood still as she placed her mouth directly over his ear. “And if you don’t stop, I won’t. Get it?” She licked his earlobe to drive her point home.

 

Bud watched in utter fascination as the scene between Tonya and Sid played out before him. Sid backed down instantly and turned towards Tonya, still with a wild look in his eye. Bud moved forward, only to stop when Tonya lifted a hand and pointed a finger at him to stop him as he started towards them, never taking her eyes from Sid.

 

Tonya grabbed Sid’s hand and led him towards the stairs. “Where is your room?” Seemingly stunned, he only pointed up the stairs and began to climb faster as her words sunk in. She turned and faced him once they were at the top and out of the range of prying eyes. “Thank you.” She kissed him on the lips and smiled.

 

“What for?” Wrapping his arms around her, he held her close, nuzzling at her neck.

 

“For letting it go. For coming with me.” Tonya wound her arms around his neck and kissed him again.

 

“Coming with you, hmmm. Sounds like you have a plan. Feeling better?” She nodded as the look in his eyes caused chills to run down her spine. “Wanna play a game?” She felt herself go weak in the knees as he kissed her roughly. This time he took her mouth with a passion to equal his anger of a few moments ago. She fought for breath as he pushed her down the hall towards his room, Sid never removing his mouth from hers or his hands from her body. Tonya had the fleeting thought that perhaps confrontation was the best aphrodisiac for him.

 

Sid lifted her off the floor and pressed her against the hallway wall next to his door. Automatically, her legs wrapped around him, allowing him to grind his pelvis against hers. His mouth never stopped and the kiss became more demanding, more insistent. Tonya knew it had been too long, even though they had waited only a few days, as she tilted her hips until her clitoris was being stroked with every rhythmic circle Sid made with his hips.

 

Pulling her head back to rest against the wall, Sid started licking and biting lightly at her neck, moving upwards until he was nipping at one earlobe. “I am going to feel so good inside of you.” Tonya groaned deeply as he emphasized his point by grabbing her buttocks and pulling her even tighter against him.

 

Somehow, Sid managed to open the door and moved inside of his room, closing the door behind them by pressing Tonya back into it. Carefully, he moved across the dark room, still carrying Tonya and sitting her on the edge of his bed. She tried to pull him down with her, but he pulled away, moaning slightly from the lack of contact as he stepped back.

 

Flipping on the lights from across the room, Tonya saw a wicked smile cross Sid’s handsome face as he unbuttoned his shirt. “Take off your clothes.” She shivered at the low, menacing tone and moved to quickly remove her few garments. “No…Go slow. I want to watch.” Together they stripped for each other, each losing a piece as the other looked on. She couldn’t take her eyes off of him and the sensual grace with which he moved, every motion like that of a great cat, poised to strike without warning. Finally Tonya removed her panties and was not surprised to find that they were soaked through.

 

She lifted her hand to him, but he stayed where he was. “Stand up.” Never breaking eye contact, she rose from the bed, shaking everywhere and thought she might come without him ever touching her. Closing the distance between them, Tonya anticipated his touch and moaned quietly. He stopped just in front of her, still not touching her, and tilted his head to one side, studying her. Tonya silently struggled to slow her too rapid breathing and was visibly shaking with need.

 

When he did speak it was low and rumbled through her, caressing her with only his voice. “You should see yourself.” He walked around her in a small circle. “Your skin is flushed in anticipation. Your legs are trembling, wanting to have me in between them: tasting you, licking you, and…” he moved close to her ear from behind, “fucking you. Is that what you want, Tatiana? Do you want me to fuck you?”

 

Tonya closed her eyes as she felt another wave of moisture flood through her and onto her thighs. She couldn’t speak and only nodded her response. The heat from his body warmed her, but still he held back, not touching any part of her, driving her crazy. “You look like you want me to fuck you. Do you know how I can tell?”

 

“No.” Her voice cracked on the single word. The feel of his breath against her skin as he spoke made the hairs on her arms raise.

 

“Turn around and I’ll show you.” Slowly she turned around and opened her eyes to find herself looking into a mirror covering the entire wall next to Sid’s bed. He had moved as she had and stood behind her again, their eyes locking in the reflection.

 

“Everything in you is screaming to have me inside of you.” He lifted one hand and traced her parted lips with just the tips of his fingers. “Your lips are swollen from my kisses. Your chest is heaving as you catch your breath. And these…” He stepped closer to her, but not touching her with his hands, just letting them hover above her breasts. She felt branded when his hot cock pressed against her ass, resting there as he moved closer. “These are at full attention. I bet your nipples are as hard as they look. Should I find out?”

 

Tonya nodded and only mouthed the word ‘yes’ as he traced a line down her trembling arms before covering her breasts. He parted his fingers enough to let the taut nipples slip through, squeezing and rolling them lightly. Her head fell backwards onto his shoulder and she let out a whimper. The fire in her belly fueled by every movement of his fingers.

 

“Then there is the piece de resistance.” Once more a single hand made its way down her front, his fingers making lazy circles across her skin, caressing her like a fine piece of silk. “Open your eyes. I want you to watch. I want you to see everything.” Her eyes opened and she looked at herself though a cloud of lust. His hand barely brushed over the hairs at the apex of her legs and slowly covered her. One finger pressed against her lips, parting them with little effort and slipped inside of her. “You are so wet. I bet you could come if just kept talking to you, telling you what I want to do to you. Do you want to me to do that?” He slipped another finger inside of her and she unconsciously moved her legs apart to allow him better access. “Or do you want my cock?” To emphasis his point, he rubbed himself against her back, smearing a small amount of pre-cum on her.

 

Tonya was nearly beyond all rational thought at this point. She reached out and covered his hands with hers, increasing the pressure he was using for a few moments before answering. “I want your cock.” Watching what he was doing to her was almost too much for her. The erotic vision was driving her wild as she watched his hand move against her.

 

Sid kept his fingers inside of her, but never still, as he moved her to the side of the bed until she was almost touching the mirrored wall. He sat back and used his hands to guide her hips downward. “I want you to watch. I want you to see what I see.” Slowly, he pressed against her, entering her just a little at a time, pulling her legs far apart by opening his own. Tonya had a clear view of him penetrating her and tried to use her weight to impale herself on him, desperate to feel all of him. Sid held her hips firmly, not allowing her to move on her own. She leaned back against his chest and turned her head to capture his mouth with hers.

 

Suddenly, he filled her completely, dropping his hands from her waist and raising them to her breasts. Tonya writhed against him as her senses were assaulted from several different fronts. Sid broke off the kiss and used his head to turn her until she faced the mirror again. “Watch” was all he said as he lifted her off of him and let her slide back down. She had no choice but to do as he asked and he proceeded to fuck her slowly, commenting constantly on how she felt around him and how he enjoyed watching himself disappear into her.

 

Tonya struggled to keep still and let Sid move her, but she eventually leaned forward, resting her hands on his legs. She felt his hands leave her hips, only to travel upward to her breasts once more, kneading them roughly as she started to ride him furiously. The combination of his hands on her skin, the feeling of him filling her, the reflected image of his cock disappearing into her and his constant narrative, overwhelmed her. “Sid, I…I’m gonna…” Her breathing was out of control. He thrust his hips up as she came down on him, trying to push her over the edge.

 

“Do it.” His voice was strained, but his breaths were controlled. “I want you to see what you look like when you come.” He felt her tightening around him and lowered his hands to his hips, pressing her down hard with one and finding the small bundle of nerves at the top of her slit with the other. She stopped breathing for a second, holding her breath as her body was flooded with pleasure. Sid lifted her off, only to push her down again, as her body shook uncontrollably.

 

Her eyes had closed at the last second, unable to watch any longer. She had looked up to see his face, pursed tight in concentration and effort. That was it for her. The world had disintegrated down to the place where they were joined and pushed everything else out, as she came, whimpering as the orgasm washed over her. He let her rest for a moment; just sitting with him still buried deep in her quivering orifice. Tonya whimpered as he finally lifted her and he slipped out of her, turning her to sit on his lap. “Did you like that?”

 

“Un-huh.” She kissed him lightly on the lips and pulled back, only to have his mouth come crashing back down. He kissed her ravenously, lifting her off him to deposit her on the bed. His tongue dueled with hers as he laid his entire body on top of her smaller one.

 

“You know we’re not done yet.” As if to make his point, he moved to pull her legs up and placed his hands behind her knees, just holding her there as he resumed plundering her mouth, his erection rubbing against her highly sensitized clit. “You feel so good…”

 

Tonya started to close her eyes, but Sid gently tilted her head towards the mirror again. “Watch, Tatiana.”

 


Part Eleven

 

Sid collapsed onto Tonya after he spent himself. He lay there, resting his head on her shoulder, enjoying the feeling of complete euphoria that enveloped him and the feel of her skin against his. Her breathing began to slow to a normal rate and she wrapped her arms around him, holding him close. She smelled of sandalwood, patchouli and sex; the combination comforting him somehow. They were the diametric opposites of each other, but they fit together…well, they fit together when it counted.

 

He actually felt…content? No, that wasn’t quite right. Content did not fully explain his urge to smile. Content did not explain the pride that he felt when he made her come screaming his name. Tonya sighed and he looked up at her. She lay there smiling, her lips swollen from his rough kisses, cheeks flushed, eyes closed and hair everywhere, in a very just-been-laid fashion. A grin of his own emerged as he thought that he was responsible for the way she looked and the way she was feeling. He could find no words to describe what was happening to him or what he was feeling.

 

“Tatiana?” His only response was a drawn out ‘umm’ and the lifting of her eyebrows. He moved slightly over her and kissed her slowly, feeling her respond with her whole body. Relishing the taste of her, they kissed leisurely, tongues stroking against one another, in no hurry to do anything but to feel each other.

 

Pulling back finally to catch her breath, Tonya stroked Sid’s face with her fingertips. “You look very happy with yourself.” Sid smiled and shrugged, rolling off of her to lie at her side.

 

“I am.”

 

“Are you now?” She turned on her side to face him, running her fingers through the sparse hair covering his chest and stomach. At that moment, she could not remember ever feeling so wonderful. Before she only sought physical release with her partners, but there was more here with Sid. He presented a challenge, in that she had to know herself to know him. The worst in human nature was what he was constructed from and yet there was something more to him than the sum of all his parts.

 

She was falling in love and she knew it. Warning bells went off in her head at the mere thought of loving Sid; she ignored them. She had entered into this knowing the consequences and she had nothing to regret so far. He had promised her nothing except for sexual bliss and that he had delivered, keeping the promises that he made to her that day on the boat.

 

“I like how you play.” The words sounded strange to her, but she just ignored it for the time being. She continued to stroke his skin, still damp with his sweat, lost in her own thoughts until he spoke again. “No one has ever played like you.”

 

“Why are you talking about games again?” She looked at his face and her stomach dropped when she saw the smug smile on his face. Suddenly she had the sinking feeling that they weren’t on the same page. “Is this a game to you?”

 

“Isn’t everything…”

 

“You’ve said that before. Do you really think that what we are doing is a game?”

 

“Yes.” Sid answered honestly.

 

“I wasn’t playing.” She wrapped the sheet around her, to cover her, and sat up. “I was never playing.”

 

“Yes, you were.” Sid tugged at the edges of the sheet, still smiling. He didn’t want any barriers between them, at least physically. “You’ve enjoyed this and reaped the benefits of our game.”

 

“What exactly is ‘our’ game?” Tonya really didn’t want to know the answer to that question, but asked it anyway. His answer came when he cupped her breast in his hand, squeezing the nipple slightly. “Sid…”

 

“Shhh…don’t say anything else.” He moved to kiss the top of her breast, slowly moving downward. “Let’s not ruin this.”

 

Tonya let her head fall back on her shoulders as his warm mouth covered the tip of her breast and he flicked at the still sensitive nipple before sucking it gently into his mouth. She let the sensations overtake her for a few wonderful moments, but she couldn’t let the conversation go. “You seem to like distracting me,” she murmured.

 

“Um-hmm.” He didn’t release her as he hummed his reply, causing her to shiver. He moved to her other breast placing kisses on the soft skin in between. “Keeps you from asking too many questions.”

 

Tonya grabbed his head just before he reached his destination and looked him in the eye. “I seem to remember you distracting me before when we were talking about this.” Sid sighed and looked at her chest. “Why don’t you want to talk about it?”

 

“Because…well, its not important.” He reached a hand behind her back and tried to pull her to him, but she held fast.

 

“It is important.” She grabbed the sheet again and pulled it up to her chin. “What is it that you don’t want me to know?”

 

“Can’t we just fuck again?” Sid pleaded as he tried to reach for the sheet again, but Tonya slid away, pulling the sheet with her. She got up and crossed to a chair. In the past, he had felt things begin to slip away from him and he knew it was beginning again. He was not pleased with how this was going. After years of complaining that he had no one, having only brief encounters with some of the lurkers (who were drawn to him because he was the ultimate ‘bad boy’) to fill his time and, occasionally, his bed, his Tatiana had come to him. He had conned her into believing that he viewed this relationship as something more than a game by avoiding answering these very same questions. He had the haunting feeling that he was about to be called on it.

 

“No, we just can’t fuck again.” She sat in the chair and instantly regretted leaving the bed. He reclined on his side facing her, naked as the day is long. Her body responded to the sight of him, she could still feel the echoes of him moving inside of her. She tried to think rationally and not let her hormones lead her off-topic again. “Sid, I have to know what game you think we are playing?”

 

“You don’t want to know.” He slid over and patted the mattress next to him. “Come over here, I’ve got something for you.” The smile on his face was eerie as he switched tactics again, finding that one wasn’t working. Tonya finally started to understand.

 

“This has all been a lie, hasn’t it? Everything from minute one.” She spoke very quietly. “All of that shit that you told me on the boat…that it was only you.”

 

“That was true.” Sid protested. He cringed inwardly and knew he had to act fast to save this. “I need you, Tatiana. Please don’t do this.” His voice was as soft and as filled with hurt as he could make it sound, he even said ‘please’. It didn’t matter though. She wasn’t listening anymore as the pieces began to fall together.

 

“That you needed me. Every second of it was a game to you.”

 

“Tatiana.” Sliding to the floor, he knelt in front of her. “I told you the truth. I do need you.”

 

“You need me to play with you. That’s the only reason that you need me.” She couldn’t look at him. Berating herself for get too involved. God, just a few minutes ago she had been thinking that she was falling for him and now she is being reminded that she was merely a pawn…had always been a pawn. “I’m just someone to use to pass the time.”

 

“No, that isn’t…”

 

“What are you going to tell me? That you weren’t using me just for sex? That you didn’t lie to me?” He reached for her, but she pulled away. “Do you remember what you told me when we were on the boat? You said this wasn’t a game.” She was trying to deny what she knew to be true.

 

“No, I said that everything is a game.”

 

“I mean when I asked you very specifically if this,” using her finger to point to both of them, “if we were a game?”

 

“I said that I didn’t know.”

 

“Do you know now?” She pulled her legs up to her chest, dreading the answer, but needing to hear it.

 

“I knew then.”

 

“Well?”

 

Sid stood and crossed the room, not wanting to see her face, not wanting to see the moment of his defeat. The time had come for him to fess up. “You want to hear that I was playing, that it was and still is a game? Okay, yes…it’s always been a game.”

 

“But you said…”

 

“If I would have said anything else, would you have given in? Would you have fucked me? I don’t think so. I did what I had to do to get what I wanted.” He turned to look at her now. “And I wanted you.” Tonya curled up even tighter and began to rock in her seat. “You really wanna know the truth?” Tonya recoiled as he knelt before her again, pulling her face to his. The tone of his voice betrayed the anger that was rising within him for having to concede. For having to lay all his cards on the table and tell the truth. “I would have fucked Norma if you hadn’t been there and I would have pretended that she was you.” She squirmed against his grasp, but he refused to let go. “But you came for me, remember that…you came for me!”

 

“I…I…”

 

“What? Come on!” He waited the space of a heartbeat for her to respond. “Nothing to say?” She just sat and stared at him. “You wanted this so here it is. You left yourself wide open and gave me an in. When I asked you why you came to get me…you paused. I saw the opening that I needed and I took it.”

 

“I just thought…” Tonya was on the brink of tears. All she could think of was how gentle he was towards her when she was recovering, but she realized that he had only been biding his time until she was well enough to ‘play’ some more. Even on the boat, when she had told him all about her scars, he had only been waiting. She had made the ultimate mistake in dealing with him…she had begun to think of him as human.

 

“You thought what? You thought that this was going to have a fairy tale ending?” His fingers bit deeper into her skin and she winced. She watched as Sid’s face fell and he released her to move across the room. For an instant he looked as he had when he promised not to hurt her again, lost and fragile. “Not everything I said was a lie.”

 

“Enough of it was.” Tonya had the sudden urge to flee. She grabbed her shorts and T-shirt from the end of the bed without stopping to look for her undergarments. “I made the mistake of trusting you, of forgetting that you weren’t human and I can only blame myself for that. You probably made that up about the voices too!” Throwing on her clothes, she quickly headed for the door, tears threatening to spill. She wanted out of there, wanted away from the breathing reminder of her stupidity, of the weakness of her own heart, but he blocked her way.

 

“You can’t leave.” His voice was softer now.

 

“Why the hell not?” She screamed into his face.

 

“Because you want me too.” His hand reached up to brush a stray hair back into place, his voice soft and inviting again. “You need me. Admit it, you came here to find me because I am the only one who can give you what you want.”

 

“What I want is to be as far away from you as possible.” Opening the door, she looked back once more as a single tear slipped off her lashes. “What I want you can never give me.”

 

Sid stood there for a moment after she slipped out. His mind was racing with ideas and plots to keep her there, to prevent her from leaving him. After a few minutes he shook himself and raced around to find some clothes, realizing that plots and plans would do nothing if he didn’t catch her now.

 

Tonya quickly moved down the stairs, away from Sid. She wanted as much distance as she could get at the moment, just so that she could think about everything he had said. At the bottom of the stairs, two hands grasping her shoulders suddenly stopped her, slowing her enough not to slam into the body in front of her.

 

“Hey there.” She looked up and saw Bud smiling at her. “You should be more careful.”

 

“Thanks Bud, but I have to go.” She started to pull away, wanting to get as far away from Sid as she could, but he held her fast.

 

“What wrong?” A gentle hand swept at the tears falling down her cheek. “What did he do to you?” Anger rose suddenly in Bud and he quickly glanced over her, looking for any physical signs of abuse.

 

“Nothing…I have to get out of here.” She pulled away and headed for the door, Bud following right on her heels.

 

“Tonya stop!” He caught up with her just outside the doors of the tavern and pulled her to a stop. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing that I haven’t done to myself.” She allowed herself to be wrapped in his arms, letting him hold her when the floodgates opened. He rocked her, offering her true compassion for her pain. She let it all out, soaking a section of his shirt with her tears.

 

“Shhh. You’re alright.” Bud led her around to one of the swings around the side providing them with a modicum of privacy to talk. “Tell me what happened.”

 

“Nothing.” Wiping her nose on the sleeve of her tee shirt, she leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Nothing happened that I shouldn’t have already known was coming.” She looked up and saw Bud looking at the light coming from Sid’s room with a look of utter hatred on his face. “You don’t like him, I know, but I thought…well, I thought that we had a reason for being together.”

 

“I don’t understand why you would be with him. He has nothing to offer and is a royal pain in the ass.” He turned to her and his face changed to something softer. “He doesn’t deserve you.” His fingers lightly brushed away tears that continued to linger on her cheeks. “Why do you want him?” She could only shrug. Telling him the whole story seemed too painful. “The other night you looked as if you were dying when you saw him.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“The night you fell, you came into the room and…what exactly do you remember?” Bud hadn’t seen her since the incident in her room and couldn’t understand her confusion.

 

“Not much. All anyone would tell me is that you and Trisha found me.”

 

“That’s part of it.” Bud could no longer keep eye contact. He lifted off the swing and began pacing, his hands clenching into fists at his side as he went. “You really don’t remember?”

 

“I don’t remember anything after I left the bar. I know I fell. That’s it until the next morning.” That feeling of dread that had settled in the pit of her stomach earlier returned. She had known there was more to this, but now she wasn’t so sure that she wanted to know. /God, can this night get any worse?/

 

Sid managed to grab a shirt and a pair of trousers to one of his better suits, throwing the shirt on as he exited his room. He ran barefoot down the hall and the stairs, surveying the room quickly to see if she was still there. He only saw the ‘others’. Time was against him and he had to find Tonya before she had a chance do something. What that something could be he didn’t know, but he knew that he didn’t want her to leave.

 

John had moved to the bar to gather the next round of drinks and saw Sid bounding down the stairs. He had never seen Sid so out of sorts, hell, his shirt wasn’t even buttoned. First they had all watched with morbid fascination as Tonya had run out, each person theorizing on what shitty thing Sid had done this time. Now Sid was making an exit that was just as fast.

 

“Hey Sid?” John yelled as Sid headed towards him, but moved back to keep from getting bowled over as his bother headed for the door. “Shit, watch it will ya!”

 

“Stay out of my way.” Sid never looked at him as he practically ran past him.

 

“John?” Tina and Stef had jumped up from the table and approached as soon as Sid was past. “What is going on?”

 

“I don’t know, but I have the feeling that it isn’t going to be pretty.” He passed some of the drinks to ladies and they all headed back for the table. A few moments passed before John leapt to his feet.

 

“John?” This time it was Alex. “What’s up?”

 

John grabbed Alex and pulled him out of his seat by his shirt collar. “Shit…I totally forgot. Bud’s out there.” A moan rose from the table as all of them suddenly realized the trouble that was brewing.

 

Bud continued to pace, turning towards Tonya “Well, we ran into each other. I couldn’t grab you in time to stop you.” He stopped and knelt next to the swing still avoiding her eyes. “It was my fault.”

 

“Are you telling me that you think that me falling was your fault?” Tonya couldn’t believe that he was accepting all of the responsibility. “Bud, I fell. It happens. You know gravity works and, in this case, it worked too well.”

 

“It was my fault.” Bud continued to look at the ground until he felt her hand on his cheek. Looking up, he saw her smiling and felt even worse. “There is more to this than just your fall.”

 

“I wish you wouldn’t beat yourself up over this.” He barked a laugh and then stood, looking off at the beach. “What?”

 

“Funny you should mention that. I…” Bud started to speak, but was cut off by Sid’s condensing laughter.

 

“Well, well, well.” Tonya and Bud both turned to see Sid approaching, clad in only a shirt and pants. “I understand a little bit better now. Officer White, the protector of all women, actually was responsible for hurting one.” It seemed, at that moment, he cared more about getting a jibe in at Bud than for Tonya. “Sort of like smacking your girlfriend around, isn’t it?”

 

Bud instantly tensed and clenched his fists at his side. Tonya was up immediately, placing herself between the two men. “Don’t start this shit guys!”

 

“Oh my dearest, this is round two.” Sid continued to stare at Bud. “Go ahead and tell her White. Tell her all about what YOU did the other night.” Crossing his arms, Sid stood and cocked his head to the side with an evil smile on his face.

 

Looking to Bud, she watched as he visibly paled at Sid’s words. “Bud?”

 

“I thought he had hurt you.” His eyes met hers and he looked so remorseful. “I saw the bruises on your arms and thought he had hit you. I couldn’t have him doing that.”

 

“So your solution was to shut off that small little mind of yours and turn into the animal that you really are.” Bud stiffened once more and moved towards Sid. Tonya placed a hand on Bud’s chest, stopping him from attacking Sid for his words. “You see, White doesn’t have any self control when it comes to you women. He sees that someone is hurt and he reverts back into that little boy trying to protect mommy.” Tonya cringed as the barb struck home. There was nothing she could do to hold back Bud now and was roughly pushed aside as Bud advanced on Sid.

 

“YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” Bud’s voice echoed around them, but he never made it to his target. John and Alex had come running from around the corner and literally tackled him before he reached Sid. On the ground, it was much easier for the two men to keep Bud down. “LET ME AT HIM!”

 

“Stop it!” Raising her hands to cover her ears, Tonya suddenly felt like she was in the middle of a bad dream. “Stop yelling and someone tell me what the fuck is going on here!”

 

“Haven’t you figured that out?” Sid reached out to touch her, but she moved away from him. She didn’t see the look of disappointment on his face. “He nearly killed me.”

 

“What?” Looking to Bud, she saw he had stopped struggling. “Is that true?” The look of complete guilt on Bud’s face told her that it was.

 

“He took it upon himself to be judge, jury and executioner without knowing what really happened.” Sid was positive that she would turn on Bud and unleash her anger on him. He was wrong.

 

She turned on Sid. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Moving closer, she actually surprised him and pushed him backwards. “Why didn’t you fucking tell me?”

 

“I…I didn’t want to upset you.” He struggled to stand upright and managed to do so only by striking the wall with his back. “You were hurt.”

 

“You didn’t want to upset me? What do I look like, some 14-year-old? So you think I’m too fragile to handle the news that the guy I happen to be fucking got beat up?” All were speechless as Tonya yelled at Sid. “This was all part of your sick and twisted game! Something else to try and ply me with! To use against me somehow!” She began pacing in front of him and did so for several moments, running her hands through her hair as she thought. “All that I have really ever asked of you was for you to be honest with me.” Her voice was much quieter now. “Just to pretend that you could be honest.”

 

Sid nodded his head. “I was being honest and told you the truth. I just didn’t tell you this.” He wanted to hold her. Seeing her pain and knowing that both his truth and his lies were the cause of it. Nothing seemed to matter now. The web of manipulation that he had tried to spin was falling apart. He was losing her.

 

She had stopped and looked to her feet for a long silent moment. “That was too much to ask for.” Then Tonya began rummaging through her pockets, digging out two sets of key: one for the room and one for her personal set.

 

“John.” He looked up and caught the room key as she lofted it to him. “Tell Peaches to send my bag to my house. She already has the credit card info.”

 

“Tatiana, what are you doing?” Sid pushed away from the wall and tried once more to touch her arm.

 

“I’m leaving.” She began walking towards the parking lot and away from him. She could hear the footsteps of all four men behind her as she walked. “Don’t any of you try and stop me.”

 

Sid finally caught up with her and turned her to face him. The others all moved around them in a circle, alert for anything. “I need you, Tatiana.” He lifted her to face him, but she would not look at him.

 

“What for? You can find another fuck toy.” Her question struck a mark in him, whether from the venom in her words or in her voice, he did not know.

 

“I could if I wanted to, but I want you. I need you, remember?” She pulled away from him and just stared at him, her expression unreadable. “What?”

 

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Tonya shook her head and began to laugh. “Sid, you may need me, but I don’t need you.” Sid stood there as she started walking the final few feet to her truck. Bud stood there next to the driver’s door and started to speak, but she just shook her head silencing him.

 

“Tatiana, don’t go.”

 

“Why?” She never turned to look at him. “If fucking is a game, like you say, and that I wanted to play, then I guess it doesn’t really matter who I play with, does it?” Tonya turned to face Bud, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulled him into a heated kiss, slipping her tongue into his mouth before he knew to object. Sid stood in shock as Tonya kissed one of his biggest nemesis’, with her even going so far as to rub her palm over his crotch before disengaging. “If I can find another playmate,” her tone mocking and full of condescension. “Then so can you.”

 

All the men stood in stunned silence as she started the truck and pulled away.

 


Part Twelve

 

Gravel crunched under the tires of the truck as Tonya pulled into her driveway. She stopped and just sat there for a few moments before turning off the ignition. The sun was just rising over the eastern horizon. She felt odd knowing that in the space of a few hours that the sun would continue on its never-ending journey across the sky and set beyond the western horizon. After all she had seen in the last week or so, she would not be surprised to find out that Apollo himself was driving the chariot of the sun across the sky.

 

Nothing seemed the same anymore. She had witnessed firsthand the laws of physics defied and the imaginary gain life. Childhood fears invaded her sleep-deprived mind and she suddenly wondered if there really was a boogeyman, or a monster under her bed. Wind grabbed the door as she opened it and the cold fall air enveloped her like an icy fist. No, there were no leprechauns, no three-headed creature waiting in the shadows. The crisp air jolted her back to her own reality. Here the days were predictable; the world spun on its axis around the sun, the sun itself rose in the east and set in the west, and men did not come to life from movies to steal her heart.

 

The image of Sid had haunted her during the long hours of the night as she found her way home. Even through her anger, which she felt was justified at the time, she had longed for his touch. She could still feel his hands on her skin, his breath on her neck, his lips burning on her’s. The absence of that contact seemed to intensify as she wrapped her arms around herself to stave off the cold and ran for the door.

 

Heat blasted her in the face as soon as she entered the kitchen. Maggie had left the heat turned up again. The television was also on, blaring out music from one of the cable music stations. Maggie, however, was nowhere to be found. As a roommate Maggie was deplorable, but as a friend she had no equal. Tonya dropped her flight bag on the table and headed for her room. The bed was as she had left it, unmade, and she sunk into the pillows covering it, thanking God she was home.

 

All she wanted to do was to sleep for days. The big feather bed always seemed to be just the right size for her, allowing her the freedom to sleep however she wanted. Now, she felt lost and alone in it. She was acutely aware that Sid’s arms weren’t wrapped around her; the heat of his skin wasn’t against her back as she curled up into a ball, trying to remember every moment when she had those things. The words of a song floated into the room from the television in the other room, reminding her of what she had actually felt like when she was in his arms. She cried as the song continued and she mouthed the familiar lyrics, hoping that crying would help her move on with her life.

 

It doesn’t mean much

it doesn’t mean anything at all

the life I’ve left behind me is a cold room

I’ve crossed the last line from where I can’t return

where every step I took in faith betrayed me and led me from my home

and sweet, sweet surrender is all I have to give

you take me in

no questions asked

you strip away the ugliness that surrounds me

are you an angel

am I already gone

I only hope that I won’t disappoint you

when I’m down here on my knees

and sweet, sweet surrender is all that I have to give

and I don’t understand

by the touch of your hand

I would be the one to fall

I miss the little things

Oh I miss everything

it doesn’t mean much

it doesn’t mean anything at all

the life I left behind me is a cold room

 

He sat on the floor in front of the stereo in Tonya’s room. She had left hours ago and he had come here. Peaches had tried to come in to gather up her things, but Sid has bolted and barricaded the door against her. No one would disturb him. No one had even tried after the first hour or so. Apparently, they figured that he was out of the way and out of their hair, so they might as well leave him be. The lack of concern was overwhelming and he choked out a pained laugh. No one here really cared, but he didn’t need them. He didn’t need anyone, or so he kept telling himself.

 

you take me in

no questions asked

you strip away the ugliness that surrounds me

are you an angel

am I already gone

I only hope that I won’t disappoint you

when I’m down here on my knees

 

Hitting repeat on the remote, the song cued up again. The thought that he had disappointed her, hurt her, lost her, weighed heavily on his mind. He didn’t really need anyone, but he did need her. She had accepted him, tolerated him, and taken him in with only one condition: honesty. That is where he failed. He had lost at his own game.

 

and I don’t understand

by the touch of your hand

I would be the one to fall

 

Sid lay back on the carpet and stared at the ceiling, letting the feeling of loss wash over him. Everything that he said he wanted had been within his grasp. He had wanted someone who was there for him and him alone. That he had lost. He had wanted someone who he could talk to. That he had lost. He had wanted what his brothers, even Max, seemed to have found, someone who was there for them no matter what. That he had also lost. His desire to play and to manipulate had cost him that thing that had eluded him all of his years in existence: simple friendship.

 

Even now he struggled with the thought that he wanted that, needed that. There was that potential with his Tatiana. She had stood up to him and not let him make the excuses that he lived by day in and day out. She offered him her trust and he had used it against her. Lashing out, he smashed a hole in the entertainment center at his side. He could hear names being thrown at him: coward, wimp, simple, weak, worthless, and loser. All those names that he fought to silence, the echoes of past lives and the hidden fears of cowards.

 

The song repeated over and over. Sid just lay on the carpeted floor and let the melancholy music roll over him, reminding him of his Tatiana. The day passed him by that way, re-living the peace that he had found with her here and fighting off the voices, that hinted that she meant nothing.

 

Tonya found herself walking down a dark corridor. The silence was oppressive; her footfalls sounded muffled by the weight of it. This was nothing like she had ever dreamed before. Up ahead, she could see the corridor widen into a chamber of sorts. Passing through the opening, she could see the room was round and arched up into a rotunda. Along the sides of the room were statues, no, not really statues. She moved closer to one and realized that she was staring at the waxy image of Lizzy Borden.

 

It was a wax museum and it was filled with close to 200 figures, all molded from hard cold wax. She moved along the line noting how lifelike each was. It was as if these people were all frozen in time, all frozen in a moment from their lives. The towering figure of Edmund Kemper loomed over those surrounding him. In life, he would have seemed to be a giant, but the 6’9″ wax figure looked to be 10 feet tall. Images of young women being strangled appeared around her. It was as if she was seeing through his eyes as he committed his crimes. She dropped to one knee almost overcome with the urge to vomit when she saw the image of him on top of an older woman, using her lifeless body to satisfy a sick sexual need. ‘His mother’ she thought as the bile rose in her throat again.

 

Pulling herself away, she looked around the room. A soft buzzing sound, almost like a swarm of bees, was growing in the room. She could catch the words of hatred and pain as they flew around her. The museum was pulsing with life, but not alive. The memories of these people were a tangible force that began to fill the room. Memories of perversions best left to the realms of nightmares. This was the gallery of Sid’s mind. She had to get out.

 

She picked herself up and began to run for the door. The faster she ran, the less space she seemed to cover. The room began to glow with an ethereal light and the path that led her in here seemed to be gone. When she reached where the door had been, she found herself in front of the figure of John Haigh, the acid bath murderer. He looked quite chic for his time, decked out in a nicely tailored suit and hair styled perfectly. His blue eyes shining out at her, as if dissecting her for any weakness. Tonya thought of Sid immediately and wondered if the source of his vanity had anything to do with Haigh’s influence.

 

Looking over her shoulder, she saw that the entrance was now directly across the room from her. She had run the opposite way. A slender gloved hand reached out and grabbed her shoulder stopping her in her tracks. Her scream echoed through the chamber, wrapping around the room and slamming back into her ears. She had not moved.

 

Tonya jumped up from the bed, screaming and covered in sweat. Maggie came running in from the kitchen. “What was that?” She asked as she made her way to Tonya’s side.

 

“Just a nightmare.”

 

“Just a nightmare? The way you were screaming, I expected it to be the whole herd. God, what is going on?” Tonya sat up, pulled her knees to her chest and just sat there, hugging herself and rocking, completely disregarding the fact that her tee-shirt was plastered to her. “And while you’re at it, can you possibly tell me where you’ve been?”

 

Tonya tried to shake the dream from her mind, the fear, the helplessness that she felt in that place. It had been years since she had felt powerless and it was not a situation that she liked. She had taken great care to assure that she would never be soft or vulnerable again and that is exactly what she felt like when she dreamed.

 

“What! Goddamn it, tell me what is going on with you!” Tonya was pulled from her musings and realized for the first time just how worried Maggie had been. “First you run off without telling anyone where you are going. Then I start getting those phone calls from your boss, begging me to have you come back to work. Finally, after we figured out that you were out cooling off, we decided not to call the police and tell them that you had been the victim of some psycho serial killer.” Tonya grunted a laugh and Maggie hit her hard on the leg. “Don’t laugh, this has been really scary!”

 

“I’m sorry.” She rubbed her leg where Maggie had hit her. “I…This is going to sound totally nuts if I tell you everything.”

 

“Well, you had better come up with something, cause I have envisioned you dead, lying on the side of the road somewhere, for almost two weeks.” She pulled Tonya’s hand into hers. “At least tell me that you got laid.”

 

Tonya ignored the attempt at humor, not wanting to discuss the recent activity in her sex life and choose to just pretend, for the moment, that it wasn’t important to the overall tale. “I’ve been having these dreams for the past week or so,” she finally admitted. “When I got to the Nest I started having them. Not every night, just occasionally.”

 

“Hold on one second, let’s back up a bit, okay? What is the Nest?”

 

“Well, it’s kinda hard to explain.” She ran her fingers through her hair and looked at the confused, and slightly irritated, look on Maggie’s face. She would tell her all of it. The surreal quality of the days at the Nest. The way that the laws of nature seemed to be disregarded. That characters from movies lived their lives there and never really aged beyond their films. The magic that pulsed just below the surface of everything there, that pulled people in who were meant to find it. As crazy as it sounded, she told her of the place that she had too quickly grown to love.

 

Maggie sat and listened to it all, never questioning the existence of the place. Tonya was firmly rooted to terra firma as no one else she had ever known. The difference between fantasy and reality were like everything else in Tonya’s life – defined in terms of black and white. If her friend said that the place was there, then it was there. She sat and digested the tale that Tonya had told her before speaking, weighing the words carefully. “Sounds a bit like Oz, with the notable exception of the Wicked Witch of the West.”

 

The giggle started before Tonya even fully grasped the irony of Maggie’s assessment. Oz. How right she was. She had followed the yellow brick road to a land far away and met the most amazing characters. Hell, the Tin Man was even there. Who was the scarecrow that had no brain? Who was the cowardly lion with a hidden core of inner strength? And most importantly, who was the Wizard? It didn’t really matter. Tonya assured herself that she would never be going back there. Too much pain. Too much heartache.

 

“So, no more sex dreams?” Tonya looked up and saw Maggie laughing. “You, my dear friend, are not a quiet person.” Both women started laughing, both trying to forget the worry and pain both had been through. Then the tears began to flow and Maggie held Tonya as she cried. “Quiet now, you’re home. I’ve missed you.”

 

“I’ve missed you too.” Tonya murmured as she held onto Maggie for dear life. She was home.

 

She was home. The thought infuriated Sid. The cushion in his hands slowly ripped from the pressure of his grip, the contents spilling to the floor as all the others had. The suite, briefly occupied by his Tatiana, was in a shambles. ‘His Tatiana’ he laughed as he thought that; she had ever really been his. The music played on as it had for the past day, unheard by the other occupants of the hotel. No one seemed to notice, that he had locked himself away to re-live each minute that he had spent in pursuit of her and even longer on the time he had her.

 

Slowly Sid heard a noise, which was out of place in the routine noises of the past day. Only after a few minutes and an increase in the noise did he realize that someone was knocking. ‘They probably only want me to turn down the music’ he thought as he finally moved to the door. ‘I won’t do it. Fuck them.’ His anger increased with every step until he finally reached to door, swinging it so hard that the knob smashed a hole in the wall as it opened.

 

“Whoa there, Sid!” John stood in the hall, backing up a few steps and raising his arms in a stance of submission.

 

“What do you want?” The words were little more than a growl.

 

John continued to survey Sid and the room behind him to assess what kind of danger that he may have just stepped into. “Just wanted to see how you were. That’s it.” From the state of Sid’s appearance, John knew that he was skating on thin ice. The suit, that Sid valued above all else, was wrinkled. His hair was disheveled and it rose up into two little horns on either side of his head, looking like he had slept on it and done nothing with it in the morning. John suppressed the urge to laugh; knowing that laughing at this point could very well lead to the beating of his life.

 

“Just wanted to see how I was? Odd, don’t you think, that at this point you should be overly concerned about my well-being?” Sid’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

 

“I came here because I know how much it meant to you to have Tonya here.” John slowly lowered his arms, but kept on guard. “That scene the other night wasn’t pretty and you looked as if you had been kicked in the gut.”

 

“How nice of you to stop by to remind me of that. Thank you.” Sid moved back from the door and dropped to the floor in front of the stereo, a place that he had occupied when he first left the parking lot. He had surprised himself when he remembered that he had simply walked away. The lights of her truck had long burned away into the distance when he finally moved. He had no idea if either Bud or John had spoken. All he heard was the pain in her voice when she had left. He had hurt her. He hurt everyone. That was his nature and also his curse.

 

“Sid?” John carefully stepped into the room and watched Sid just sit on the floor. “I didn’t mean anything by it. You told me the other day that she was here for you.” He moved just inside the door and leaned against the wall, hands stuffed in his pockets. “I didn’t want to believe you at first.”

 

“Why not? I’m not human, so therefore I deserve to have nothing that anyone else has?” The words stung John. He had fought for Sid, told the others that his existence was just as important as the rest of theirs were. What he hadn’t realized, was that even though he thought Sid should co-exist with them, he never really thought of him as more than a machine. The fact that he was prejudiced in this disturbed John.

 

“Sort of.” Sid glanced up, but his fight was gone. “I didn’t ever think that anyone would come here for you. That’s bad, I know, but it’s the truth.”

 

“The truth.” The words rung in his brain like a bell. That was all that Tonya wanted from him and he had denied her that. His whole life was wrapped up in the lies and deceit, all in the pursuit of pleasure, for entertainment.

 

“I was more than a little shocked to find out that Tonya was here for you. Somehow, even though women come through here all the time, I never really thought that you would have a connection with one.”

 

“What you’re really saying is that no one would ever come here looking for me, right?” Sid looked so defeated sitting on the floor, letting the music wrap itself around him. John listened to the song for a bit and recognized it. It was about giving into a relationship, to a person.

 

“You’re torturing yourself just sitting here. Why don’t you come down to the Tavern?” John would have run if he knew what images were conjured up in Sid’s mind at the word ‘torture’. Images, flashes of memory from those inside of him, of victims; the screams of the innocents echoing through his ears. He tilted his head back and released himself to the onslaught. Too quickly though, he felt like he was falling, losing control over the pace and intensity of the voices that screamed inside his head. They all called for blood.

 

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!” John jumped back at the sudden outburst, hitting his head against the wall before getting to his feet. “LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” In stunned silence, John backed toward the door. Sid was on his feet and stalking toward the door. He could see John’s lips moving, but there was no sound. All he could hear were the voices inside, screaming at him to take a life, to gain control, to take back the power that was lost.

 

John crossed the threshold of the room just as Sid reached for the door, pulling it from the wall and slamming it shut with enough force to crack the frame. He stood outside the door and listened as Sid howled in anger from within, causing cold chills to run up his spine.

 

“What was that all about?” Colin edged his way around the corner and stood next to John. “I thought for sure I was gonna have to come in after ya.”

 

“I don’t think that you would have been able to help if he wanted to hurt me.” A loud crash sounded from within and both men realized that the television had just been destroyed. “He’s lost it.”

 

“So what do we do now?” Colin carefully felt the edges of the shattered doorframe, figuring that the door would probably need to be opened with a chainsaw.

 

“I have no idea.” Running his hand through his long auburn hair, John took a deep breath. They needed a plan and he had no idea where to even start. “For now all we can do is keep an eye on him.”

 

“Where are you going, my dear?” Haigh’s refined British accent confused her for a moment. “You finally came to visit us without the influence of our protégée.” Stepping down off of the pedestal on which he had stood, he took her hand in his and raised it to his mouth. “It is a pleasure to finally have you here.”

 

Tonya felt the revulsion return when his waxy lips touched the back of her hand. ‘It’s only a dream.’ She kept chanting that to herself, trying to will herself to wake up. This seemed too real. While at the Nest, she had been a little girl in her dreams and the boy had put himself between her and the violence that threatened her. Their ‘protégée’ was Sid and he had been protecting her from what he was really made of, monsters of the human kind.

 

“I have been interested to meet you, as have the others.” Tonya glanced around her. The figures seemed to breathe in the fear she felt building within her, gaining life from it. “For some reason our boy was trying to keep you from us. What we are interested in is how you kept him from us.”

 

“What do you want from me?” She had never heard her voice sound so shaky before and that only added to her terror. This was not like the other dreams. She was on her own and had little idea of what, or who, she was up against.

 

“We only want to show you what we show him.” He circled around her, looking from her to the other figures in the room. “Some of us are, well, crazy. Did you know that?” Tonya didn’t dare move or even acknowledge him. “Others of us are quite sane, like myself.” She quickly looked to the floor, unwilling to meet his eyes that would show her disbelief. “Oh, you don’t believe me. You think that I am as crazy as some of the others?”

 

“I didn’t say anything.”

 

“No, but you thought it.” He grabbed her by her arm and roughly pulled her across the gallery, towards a woman holding a mirror in her hands. “If you want someone to compare me too, then talk to the Countess here. If you survive it, then you can apologize for thinking me crazy.”

 

Tonya moved around the house in a daze. She had been home for nearly two days and had only managed to sleep for an hour or so at a time before the dreams started again. Unlike before, her dreams seemed to pick up where they had left off, with her in the same dire circumstances that she had tried to escape from earlier.

 

Outside the sun was setting and she slowly turned all the lights on one by one. Maggie would complain, but she didn’t care. The light helped push back the night and, she rationalized, kept the worst of the dreams away. She stopped in the bathroom and looked for the longest time at her reflection. Several minutes passed before she actually realized that the wane, pale shell of a person staring out at her was herself. “I have got to get some sleep,” she muttered and then jumped slightly at the sound of her own voice.

 

A car door slammed outside and Tonya sat on the sofa just as Maggie made her way through the back door. “Hey you. Get any sleep today?” Maggie’s voice was soft, but steady. She didn’t want Tonya to know exactly how worried she was about her. She looked like death warmed over.

 

“Not much.”

 

“I hate to say this, but you may consider going to the doctor soon.” Maggie sat on the chair opposite and waited for Tonya to process the statement. She had learned that as Tonya’s level of exhaustion rose, her response time diminished.

 

“No. I don’t want to see a doctor.”

 

“Something needs to happen and soon. You’re killing yourself like this.”

 

“I’ll be fine.” Maggie doubted this, but said nothing. “I’m going to try and nap for a bit.”

 

“Sounds like a good idea.” Maggie moved over to the sofa and placed a blanket over her friend as she curled up on the cushions. Sleep had taken her as soon as she placed her head on the pillow. She moved quickly and quietly to Tonya’s bag and found a card with the name of a hotel on it. She dialed the number and hoped to God that someone answered. Something had to have happened that Tonya wasn’t telling her and she was going to find out what it was.

 

Tonya was pulled in front of a regal, older looking woman with raven colored hair and amber eyes. She was mesmerized for a moment by the woman’s eyes, as they took in the image of herself in the mirror. Frown lines were present on the woman’s face and her brows wrinkled further as she examined the skin on her face. Fear and curiosity reigned in Tonya and she was quite surprised when she realized the woman was speaking to her.

 

“I asked your name!” The Countess’s hand flew back and struck Tonya across the cheek, drawing blood with the sharp edge of a ring. Too stunned by the sudden violence of such a demur looking creature, Tonya could only look down to her shirt to see the drops of blood that had landed there.

 

“Your name doesn’t matter to me, but I will not have you ignore me.” Some of her blood was on the woman’s hand and Tonya thought that she would demand that she clean the blood from her. Unfortunately, the woman stared at the blood, rubbing into the skin of one hand.

 

“Amazing things that blood can do.”

 

Tonya tried to move, but found herself rooted to the spot. It felt as if her feet were made of lead, as she tried in vain to lift them from the floor. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Haigh standing back, grinning at her plight. Suddenly she remembered an old wife’s tale that said if you died in your dream, then you would die for real. Panic struck her and the room seemed to pulse around her.

 

Sid ran down the darkened stairs, barely taking two at a time, as he tried to outrun the voices in his head. Since Tonya had left, each moment was agony, the voices gaining strength every minute, making up for the time he could not hear them. He was afraid that soon he would not be able to rise above the rest and he would be lost in the melee for control. The day had seen him fall further into the hands of madmen and the quiet of night only seemed to intensify the cacophony in his head.

 

Once he reached the bottom of the stairs, he ground to a stop and held his head in his hands, pressing as hard as he could against his temples. “Fucking stop! Shut up! I don’t want to hear you!” The silence had been bliss and now he understood why he had craved it. The voices that once defined him now tormented the man he had become.

 

Looking around for somewhere to go, something to do, he ran for the Tavern, remembering John’s suggestion from earlier. Maybe at this late hour he could drink as much alcohol as he could to drown out the voices. He had never really been drunk, but others had always dictated the amount he drank before he was even able to find out if it was possible. He had no one to stop him tonight. Everyone had long ago found their beds and for that he was grateful. There would be no one to see how far he had descended into self-hatred.

 

Entering the Tavern, he could smell the stale stench of cigarettes bar permeating the air. The memory of such a smell on Tonya, the morning after his rescue, knocked him a little off balance. He didn’t remember her smoking, but her hair had smelled of it as he held her that first morning on the boat. Why he didn’t remember it until now amazed him. The thought of her brought forth the bitter reality that she wasn’t here; he wasn’t holding her. She was gone and he wouldn’t hold her again. Others had come back for their partners, but he didn’t have the capability for hope.

 

The voices all seemed to scream at once, all wanting to be heard, all wanting Tonya to pay for alienating them from his attention. He screamed again trying to quiet them and ran around to the edge of the bar reaching for the nearest bottle he could find. In the process of literally draining an entire fifth, he accidentally knocked a bottle off the shelf as he blindly reached for a second sending it crashing to the ground. He stopped the instant that the sound of the glass shattering on the floor reached his ears. In that brief moment there was silence, as if all of those personalities in him stopped to admire the chaos of destruction.

 

Smiling, Sid reached out and leisurely fingered another bottle, picking it up and weighing it in his hands before releasing his fingers, one by one, letting the bottle fall to the floor. He laughed, clapping his hands, realizing at that moment what he needed to do to keep the voices at bay.

 

“Blood has the most amazing restorative properties.”

 

“Who are you?” Tonya had no idea who this woman was. Her dress indicated that she came from the 1600 or 1700’s, but she had never been that big of a history buff. She was able to identify some of the people here from the twentieth century and, of course, the most infamous of murderers from centuries past, but this woman was a complete mystery. The fact that the woman wasn’t even speaking English didn’t seem to faze her.

 

“Who am I?” A high pitched laugh rolled from her lips as she stepped off her dais. “I am your better. I come from regal bloodlines that date back through the centuries. I am descended from the best of European royalty!” She watched Tonya’s face and smiled when she saw the fear rising within her. “I am the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, descended from the line of the Dragon.” She stood straight and proud, as she waited for Tonya to absorb this information.

 

“The Dragon?” She used what knowledge of European history she had from the movies and tried to put the pieces together. This all sounded familiar…too familiar.

 

“You ignorant peasant! You should cower before me!” Elizabeth lifted her hand once more and slapped Tonya hard in the same place, causing more blood to pour from the jagged wound. “I am from the line of the Dracul!”

 

Terror suddenly gripped Tonya and she thought that she would scream, but no noise came from her. The Countess seemed quite happy that she had finally gotten through to her and circled her. “You know the name of my ancestors?”

 

“Y…y….yes.” Images from a bad Hammer film flickered through her mind. The movie had dealt with a woman fighting off aging using the blood of young woman to restore her youth and beauty. This is the only reference that Tonya had for the woman before her, but the film had failed to capture the pure evil that had been the Countess.

 

“Good, then you know that we are a proud people with a great heritage.” Facing Tonya once more, she touched the wound and coated her hand with the blood that was pouring forth. “Blood has always held a special place in our history. Some of my ancestors loved the sight of it so much, that they would strike down a peasant in the village to watch the life ebb from them. I have a much more educated stance on the subject.” She held her hands before her and seemed to admire the dark coloring of her normally pale flesh. “I can feel my skin tingling. Do you know what that means?”

 

Tonya tried to move away again, but failed. Her breathing was shallow and she felt dizzy. All she wanted to do was run and her body was prepared to do just that. Fight or flight. The Countess moved in on her, assessing her prey with a practiced eye. “It means that my skin is absorbing your blood, your energy, your fear.” God, she wanted away, but the paralysis seemed to have completely taken over. She couldn’t even pull her eyes away. “Your life will make me young and beautiful again.”

 

The scream tore from Tonya’s throat as she felt Haigh’s hands grab her arms to hold her still. The Countess smiled a feral smile and reached into her long skirts to pull out a jeweled dagger. She was going to die in her dream.

 

“Hold her for me, John. I don’t want to waste a drop.”

 


Part Thirteen

 

A scream tore Maggie from a deep sleep. Not just a brief scream of surprise, but one that curled her blood and raged on and on, echoing through the house. Bolting from her bed, she ran to find Tonya. She had sought her bed hours ago, only after speaking on the phone to someone named Michelle at the Nest, who’d, unfortunately, had little dealings with Tonya while she was there. She was able to tell her that Tonya had become involved with a man named Sid and that he was the most unstable person there.

 

Instability. That thought coursed through her mind as the screaming started again. Rounding the corner into the living room, Maggie had to cover her ears to block out the screams. Blood. There was blood on the pillow that Tonya had been using.

 

“Where are you?” Screaming herself to be heard, she could not see Tonya anywhere.

 

“DON’T LET HER TOUCH ME! SHE’S GOING TO KILL ME!” A hand rose from behind the sofa and Maggie cringed. The hand was covered with blood.

 

“What did you do?” Maggie jumped over the top of the couch and found Tonya curled into a ball on the floor, shaking uncontrollably. A quick glance at her face, revealed a nasty looking cut on her cheek that was bleeding profusely. “Jesus H. Christ. We have got to get you cleaned up.”

 

“DON’T LET HER TOUCH ME!”

 

“No one is here, but me.” Maggie tried to pull her up, but she darted away until she was backed into the corner. Her wild, fear-filled eyes told Maggie that she had to act and act now. Michelle had told her on the phone to bring Tonya back to the Nest if things got worse and they had definitely gotten worse, but she wasn’t so sure that taking her back was the best idea. “Honey, but we have got to get you to a hospital.”

 

“NO! I CAN’T GO TO THE HOSPITAL! SHE’LL FIND ME AND KILL ME!” Tonya ran her hands over her face, smearing the blood into her skin.

 

“Who is after you? There’s no one here!”

 

Tonya looked from side to side several times and even popped up to look over the top of the couch to survey the room. She then pulled Maggie by the shoulders until they were nose to nose. “The Countess. Oh dear God, the Countess wants to kill me. They all want to kill me!” Maggie looked down at her shoulders and the blood stains now on her. She could not hide the look of disbelief and fear in her eyes when she looked up again. “Maggie, she did this to me. She wants my blood.”

 

A crash sounded in the distance, quickly followed by another. Terry rubbed his hand across his eyes and tried to find sleep again. Another crash from downstairs brought him awake, instantly in battle mode. He had not been here long and was still trying to settle in, but there were even patterns to life here, that he had quickly picked up on and clung to as a lifeline during those first confusing days. Another crash. This was not part of the pattern.

 

The next few moments were filled with him quickly and silently jumping out of bed and pulling on a pair of jeans on to cover his nakedness. Finding his Glock, he padded silently to the door and opened it just an inch of so. Another crash from below, this time followed by a high-pitched laugh. Sliding out into the hall, he edged along the wall until he could crane his head slightly over the railing, to see down into the bar. The sound of breaking glass was louder the closer he got to the edge, but a sound from behind him made him turn and drop to one knee in a defensive stance.

 

“Terry, it’s only me.” Max held his hands up and out to the side, waiting for Terry to lower the gun that was pointed squarely at his chest.

 

“Jesus mate, I could have shot you.” Terry whispered as he slowly lowered the gun.

 

“What’s going on?” The only response Max got was a shrug of Terry’s shoulders and a finger pointing downward. Glass suddenly exploded on the landing in front of them and both men jumped back. The laughter again followed the shattering of a bottle and Max’s features twisted up. “Sid.” He grabbed Terry’s arm and pulled him back along the hall, just as another bottle hit the landing, sending shards of glass flying everywhere.

 

“We have got to stop him.” Terry looked down at his bare feet. “We’re gonna need help, aren’t we?”

 

“There is no way that just the two of us can take him.” Max regretted not slipping into his boots as he carefully picked his way back down the hall. “We will need everyone up and with us.” Terry nodded. He was used to being in charge, being the one to go in first and call the shots, but here, in this situation, he had no idea what they were really up against. The others had dealt with Sid before and knew what had to be done. From all that he had gathered about Sid, he was as mad as a hatter and as strong as ten or more men. They headed further back down the hall and began the task of quietly rousing the others.

 

“Why does she want your blood?”

 

“They do. They all do.” Tonya began shaking again and pulled her knees to her chest, hugging herself.

 

“Honey, answer me. Why does the Countess want your blood?” Ripping a long piece of material from the bottom of her tee shirt, Maggie tried to press it to Tonya’s cheek to stop the bleeding.

 

“She thinks it will make her young again.” She reached up to still Maggie’s hand and looked into her eyes, trying to make her understand. “She’s going to kill me.”

 

“No one is going to kill you. It was just a dream.”

 

Holding her blood-covered shirt away from her she asked, “Then how do you explain this!”

 

“You could have scratched yourself while you were….”

 

“She’s real! She’s real enough that she is killing me in my dreams! Don’t you see that?”

 

“Tonya, that’s….” she couldn’t finish the thought, but Tonya could.

 

“Crazy? Of course its crazy!” She hugged herself again and started rocking back and forth. “I have to think. There has to be a way out of this.” Maggie just sat and stared as Tonya continued muttering to herself. Plans were cast aside as soon as they were verbalized and soon Tonya began to cry. “I never should have left. I never should have left him.”

 

“Left who?” She already knew who, but she needed Tonya to say it.

 

“Sid. Oh Christ, I never should have left him.” She looked up at Maggie, tears now cutting a path of white along her stained cheeks. “I think I’m in love with the stupid son-of-a-bitch.”

 

She reached out for Tonya’s hand and pulled her into a hug. “Oh honey,” was all that she could find to say. She had no idea why the dreams had led her to think of Sid, but for Tonya there was a connection between the two. They sat like that for a long time, both crying; one out of fear of love and one just out of fear.

 

The men gathered quickly and quietly in Max’s room. Trisha, Laura, Michelle, Tina, and all the other women had joined them. The only ones who were not present where Mannie and Norma Jean; they had left days ago for the cabin and there was no time to reach them.

 

“I say we just tackle the mother fucker and rip out his module once and for all!” Bud spat the words out as he paced from one end of the room to the other.

 

“We just have to find a way to subdue him.” John looked to all of his gathered brethren and found no answers in their sleepy faces. “If we can get him down to the basement, then we can throw him into his quiet room until he gets past this.” He saw Laura cringe and lean against Tina for support. The “Quiet Room” was dubbed that, because that is where they had stashed Sid for a month, following his second attack on Laura.

 

Terry popped his head into the room from the hall and whistled softly for attention. “Whatever we are going to do, we had better do it quick. He’s almost through all of the bottles down there. The whole floor is covered with liquor.”

 

Suddenly Tina’s face drained of color. “Boys, I agree with Terry. You had better do something and fast.”

 

“Why darlin’?” John eased his way to her side and looked deep into her eyes.

 

“Because aren’t a lot of serial killers also fascinated with arson?”

 

Another sound of a crashing bottle rose from below and then the sound of the cash register being thrown against a wall. No one even breathed as Tina’s words sank in. Bud was the first to move to the door, calling for the others to follow. “We’ll tackle him first and then figure out what to do!” Everyone headed out, some grabbing fire extinguishers as they passed them in the hall.

 

“Maggie, what am I going to do?” Tonya was still clinging to her friend and roommate, as if she were the only thing holding her down on the earth. She clung to her as hard as she was trying to cling to her sanity.

 

“We need to get you some help.” Simple and to the point. That was Maggie. “You don’t want a hospital and you don’t want to see a doctor, although that is what I think you need. What kind of help will you accept at this point?” There was only silence. “Tonya, what do you want me to do?”

 

“I want to go back.” Maggie pulled away and looked at Tonya very quizzically for a long moment. “I want to go back, Mags. I feel that I have to.”

 

“What good will that do?”

 

“I don’t know, but…” Tonya pulled back and just shook her head for a moment before she started laughing.

 

“Tonya? What don’t you know?” The thought that Tonya had finally packed it all in and had just divorced herself from reality crossed Maggie’s mind. “What?”

 

“I didn’t dream there! I didn’t dream when I was with him.” A look of total confusion was Maggie’s response. “Don’t you get it? This is all about Sid! I didn’t dream of those people when I was with him.”

 

“But you told me that you had started having the nightmares while you were there.”

 

“Only when Sid and I weren’t together! I never put it together until now. Mags,” reaching out, she grabbed Maggie’s shoulders and held her tight. “You have to take me back!”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“I need him.” The soft tone of her voice and the conviction in it was all that Maggie needed to hear.

 

Bud reached the landing first and took two steps at a time as he flew down the stairs. The others were close on his heels, but he was the first to encounter Sid.

 

“Well, well, well. The cavalry has finally arrived.” As he stood facing away from them, all that anyone could see was his arm moving in front of him. Sid was literally soaked through with the contents of the bottles he had smashed, as if he had poured the contents onto himself before discarding the empties.

 

“Sid,” John circled around Bud and moved off to one side, until he could see Sid’s face. “What’s going on here?” His blood literally froze in his veins when he saw that Sid was repetitively opening and closing one of Colin’s Zippo lighters, that he kept behind the bar.

 

“What is going on here? I’m glad you asked.” Sid continued to open and close the lighter, all the while staring at the puddle of liquid that surrounded him. “I’m finding silence.”

 

The group had fanned out around, leaving Sid standing in the center of a circle of his brothers. Jeffery, Colin and Alex were armed with fire extinguishers, held at the ready. Terry, Cort and Bud drew their weapons, pointing them at the floor; each knowing that firing in this small space may endanger one of the other men. No one dared speak, save John, all amazed at the level of insanity that they were witnessing.

 

“What do you mean by ‘finding silence’?”

 

Only the clicking of the lighter could be heard for several long seconds. “I told you she was here for me.” John nodded, but did not answer. “Did I tell you that when she was here that there was silence?”

 

“No, no you didn’t.” He looked to the others and no one seemed to have any idea what Sid was on about. “What was silent, Sid? I’m afraid that I don’t understand.”

 

Sid stood and giggled for a moment. Lifting his head only slightly, he looked at John from under his brow, looking like the devil incarnate. “The voices are silent.” Each man looked around the circle for an explanation, but no one seemed to have any idea of what he was talking about. “The only times that they have all stopped yelling and screaming at me, were when she was here with me.” He lifted his head and looked around the circle. “And, of course, when there is something worth paying attention to…. like death and pain.” Each man steadied himself for whatever might happen. “They really like what I just did, but they want more.”

 

“More of what?” John had never heard his voice sound so unsteady in his whole life; but then again, Sid had never been so frightening before.

 

“The music of destruction.” His thumb rolled over the wheel of the lighter and the flame shot up from the wick. “I wonder how they would like the roar of fire coupled with your screams?”

 

Maggie had set off driving into the night, following the cryptic directions from Tonya. If they headed west on I-70 that cut through the heart of Illinois, they would eventually hit the turn off that they needed to take. Tonya had said she hadn’t passed St. Louis on her trip there, but Maggie could see the lights in the distance of the city. Something wasn’t right.

 

“Where are we now?” Tonya’s head rolled from side to side as she tried anything to keep herself awake.

 

“The turn-off should be coming up soon. Are you sure that you didn’t pass it?”

 

“I haven’t seen any signs that you described.” Maggie turned down the radio and flipped on the wipers. The rain was not going to help them find their way. “Are you sure that you came this way?”

 

“Yes, I’m sure.”

 

“Honey, you said before that only people who were called or pulled could get to the Nest. What if we can’t get there because of me?”

 

Tonya didn’t answer. She had thought the same thing earlier, but didn’t want to consider the possibility. She was seeing the images from her dreams around her now. A movement would catch her eye and she would turn and see Haigh or one of the others standing there. In a flash they would be gone. All she knew was that she had to get back, before they gained any more strength.

 

“Why don’t we stop and call?” Maggie nodded and took the next exit. They were close to St. Louis now and the bulletproof glass protecting the gas station attendants seemed rather alien to two women from a small midwestern town. Maggie stopped the truck and jumped out into the rain to call the hotel. Someone had to be around.

 

The beat of the rain increased on the roof of the truck and Tonya’s head dipped down, as her fatigue began to over take her. She snapped back up an instant later. Something was wrong. The door opened and the translucent image of a man with dark curly hair climbed behind the wheel.

 

“Nasty night, isn’t it?” Tonya could only stare at the man now beside her. She had seen him before in news footage; he was Bundy. “What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?”

 

“What are you doing?” The image shifted some before her, wavering in the dim light. “Where are we going?”

 

The response she got sounded as if two or more people were speaking at one time. “I am taking you back.”

 

Terry jumped into action first. Before the lighter even left Sid’s hand as he gingerly dropped it to the floor, he reached across Alex and pulled the fire extinguisher from his hand. The air before them filled with a white cloud, hiding both the lighter and Sid from view for the span of a second. John felt Sid rush past him in the haze, laughing maniacally. By the time the lighter clinked harmlessly to the floor, Sid had already reached the main door.

 

“He’s running!” Bud was yelling as he chased after Sid. In the blink of an eye, most of the men were in pursuit of their brother, who had officially lost it. Only Andy, Dr. Wigand and Arthur had stayed behind, still stunned that he had tried to kill them.

 

A full moon shone overhead, casting an eerie light over the ground. It also helped everyone see Sid running like mad for the hotel. Cort and Jeff Mitchell soon caught up with Bud and the three ran neck and neck, Jeff having to hurdle one of the bushes along the path. The ladies were quickly following behind, but staying back out of harms way.

 

Sid reached the doors of the hotel and pulled one of them off its hinges, as he quickly made his way to the stairs. He was in search of his sanctuary; that place that had become his refuge in the last days, that place where he could be alone with his memories.

 

The sound of the men following him sounded like a stampede, as they all made their way up the stairs, only one floor below. No one would even remember hearing the phone ringing at the desk as they passed.

 

Crossing the threshold of Tonya’s room, he grabbed a desk to barricade the door against invasion, but he, for once, was too slow. Bud was the first to breach the doorway and tackled Sid, as if he were in a football game, taking him by surprise. Sid fought to get up only to find himself quickly overtaken.

 

Maggie gripped the wheel of the truck for dear life. She hated driving in the city and she was smack dab in the middle of St. Louis. Seeing as it was the middle of the night, she had thought that the streets would be partially deserted, but traffic was heavy even now. Another semi-trailer roared past and she gripped the wheel even tighter, praying for the downpour to stop.

 

She had gotten back into the truck, to find Tonya totally overcome with fear. Even telling her that they were headed back to the Nest, had not consoled her and she eventually passed out. Things were getting worse by the minute. She had finally gotten a hold of Michelle again, after the phone had rang nearly 20 times. The sounds of screaming in the background told Maggie that this was far from over. All she had managed to get from the woman, was that she should get Tonya back as soon as possible. She laughed to herself. Like bringing her back was going to make any difference. This was all fucked.

 

Another truck roared passed her, blinding her for a moment with the spray from the tires. She felt for the control of the wipers, finding them on high already. Suddenly, she could see again as the water rolled off of the windshield. The rain had stopped. Worse than that, she was no longer in the city. They were now driving on a clear night, the moonlight shining brightly through the windows, on a two-lane highway….in the middle of nowhere.

 

Slamming on the brakes, Maggie skidded to a stop. For several moments she just sat and listened to the wipers scrape across the window. Turning her head, she could see the ocean in the distance, the smell of the salt permeating the air around her.

 

“This is fucked. This is so fucked.” Throwing the truck into drive, she slammed the accelerator to the floor, leaving black marks on the pavement. She had no idea what had just happened to her, but she didn’t like it. Lights shone in the distance and after passing over a small hill, she could make out several buildings and the end of the road. “This is so fucked.”

 

Tonya moved in the seat beside her, murmuring quietly at first and then seemed to become more and more agitated. “NO!” The scream tore from her throat, surprising Maggie enough that she swerved on the road, catching the tires on the edge of the pavement. Her scream of panic mingled with Tonya’s until she felt the road firmly under the wheels again. ‘We’re almost there,’ she thought to herself, ‘We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.’

 


Part Fourteen

 

Michelle was waiting at the entrance of the hotel watching as the lights of the truck sped towards them. She was tired and had a headache – the result of having to guide someone here with no prior notice. It was hard enough to do when one of the boys left, but this time she actually thought she might pass out. This type of physical pain was not something that she had experienced before.

 

“How ya doin’, luv?” Colin wrapped his arms around her and held her as she began to swoon. The worry that he felt was written on his face. “Its almost over. They’ll be here in a minute.” He held her quietly as they watched the gold pick-up roar into the parking lot and slide to a halt. Others joined them at the door and watched as the driver jumped from the vehicle.

 

“What the fuck happened back there? One minute I’m driving in downtown St. Louis and the next minute I’m cruising down a road in the middle of Bum Fuck Egypt!” Tina and Laura moved towards the truck, followed by Cort and Terry. All the others were still upstairs. “Hey, get away from her!”

 

Maggie rushed for the passenger side just as Cort opened the door, catching Tonya as she started to fall out of the truck. The three gasped at the same moment as they saw Tonya’s blood stained face in the cab’s light. All Maggie knew was that Tonya was unconscious and that these people were trying to get to her. The shock of the last few hours was beginning to take its toll and her rational thoughts were becoming fewer and fewer.

 

“Hey,” Maggie was pulled to a stop as she rounded the front of the pick-up; large male hands grabbed her shoulders. “Let us help her. You’ve done more than anyone should have to do.” Looking up, Maggie found herself quickly mesmerized by the blue-green eyes of the man holding her and the genuine concern she saw there.

 

“She wouldn’t go to the doctor.” Her voice sounded small and helpless. She stood and watched the other three people pull Tonya from the cab, to be cradled in the arms of the man there. “Who are you and where are we?”

 

“I’m Terry and, as for where you are, that is too long of a story to go into right now.” He pulled her to the side as Cort started by and held her tight as she moved to follow. “Why don’t you stay here while they take her upstairs?”

 

“No. I’m not leaving her.” She ran passed the couple standing at the entrance and quickly caught up to her friend. “Where are you taking her?”

 

Those around her looked to one another, as if to see who got the job of explaining this one, but Tonya chose that moment to regain consciousness. “Mags?”

 

“I’m here honey.” Cort held her for a moment, until she began to fight him. Terry had come along side him and the two of them lowered Tonya to her feet. In the light of the lobby, the blood that had dried on Tonya looked brown and ugly. Maggie looked her friend over and was amazed at how bad she looked. The cut on her cheek had stopped bleeding, but her face was turning black and blue around the ugly-looking laceration.

 

“Mags, are we there yet?” Tonya looked up and around, her eyes glazed and shining in the light. “I have to see him.”

 

“Honey, we’ll see him in a little bit.” She looked to the men holding her and noticed their apprehension. “These men are going to help us, aren’t you?”

 

They both spoke and Tonya looked to each one, studying their faces. “So familiar, but…no, not quite right.” It was only at that moment that Maggie noticed the similarities of the two men. One was obviously older and had filled out more than the other, but they could be brothers. Only later would she even consider how handsome they were.

 

“Lets get upstairs.” The one with longer hair spoke to her and then to the other women behind them. “You stay down here. It’s enough of a circus up there.” They only nodded and moved back towards the entrance and the couple there.

 

Tonya leaned on Cort and Terry as they led her to her room. She was so tired and had a hard time walking straight. Maggie walked beside them, pressing the elevator buttons when needed and trying to stay out to the way. The screaming could be heard from downstairs, but assaulted her senses when they got off of the elevator. Down the hall, she only briefly noted a large group of people milling about the entrance to what had been her room. She was so tired, but refused to succumb to unconsciousness again. She would see this through.

 

Passing through the gathered throng, the murmurs of comments were silenced. All had turned to the small group as they headed into the room. Discomfort and fear held an almost physical presence in those gathered and Maggie looked to the faces wondering if coming here was really a good idea after all. ‘I should have just taken her to the hospital and been done with it,’ she thought as another face turned down to the floor, the person unable to meet her eyes.

 

“You did the right thing.” Maggie turned abruptly, startled by the gentle voice. The man meeting her eyes was another version of those she had already seen, but again his short cropped hair, beard and physical bearing set him apart from the others. “Had you taken her elsewhere…” His voice broke a little, a sadness washing over him as he shifted his glance to Tonya. Maggie could only imagine the words he refused to say…that she would have been locked away or may have even died.

 

Tonya nearly fell to the floor when they carried her into the apartment. The room began to spin and she held onto the strong arms at her side for support. The noise in the room was almost deafening and she didn’t hear John when he came to speak with her.

 

“I said,” his voice sounded scratchy from having to yell to be heard, “you might not want to go in there. We had to…restrain him.” The screams increased in volume and Bud closed the door to the bedroom, trying to muffle the sound. “We were going to try and get him to the basement of the Tavern. There’s a room there that we built…”

 

“Is he hurt?” Tonya didn’t know if anyone had heard her. Looking at the men around her, she found uncertainty in their faces.

 

“I don’t think so.” John tilted his head to the door. “He’s only been in there for about an hour.”

 

“I want to see him.” She started to move, but found her escorts were standing steadfast. “I need to see him. I need to know that he is safe.”

 

John, after several tense moments, finally nodded and Tonya began her trip to the door. Maggie was hanging back, still trying to figure out what was going on. If she had the energy, Tonya would have made her sit down and have a strong shot of whiskey. As it was, she could do more than try to give her all to make it to the bedroom. The door was opened before her and she forgot to breathe when she finally got a look into the room.

 

Sid was tied to the bed, thrashing wildly against his bonds, screaming at his captors. His arms were open and bound to the headboard and cords were wrapped around his mid-section, keeping him in a sitting position. His feet were wrapped as if he were a horse that had been hobbled. She lifted her head to see the entire room. All that were needed was a couple of priests and the scene could have been straight from “The Exorcist”. She heard Maggie’s sharp inhalation, but couldn’t take her eyes off of Sid.

 

His thrashing abruptly stopped as he turned to scream in the direction of the intruders, but the protest died in his throat when he saw Tonya hanging weakly off of Cort and Terry. They stared at one another for long moments before he drew a shuttering breath. “Tatiana?” She nodded and tried to walk to the bed.

 

“Let me go.” Tonya tried to move away from them, but Terry held fast, not letting her move. “Come on…”

 

“LET HER GO!” Sid screamed at the interference. Terry looked to Tonya, who was slowly pulling away from him, and finally helped her walk to the side of the bed.

 

“Sid? What happened?” She just let herself drop onto the bed and forgot instantly that they were not alone. “Sid, I am so sorry.”

 

“Shh…don’t say anything.” He felt as if the cloud of hate that had encircled him and overpowered him had lifted, seeping away from him like the morning mist at dawn. “Just let me look at you.” She edged her way up the bed and he tried to reach for her, rattling the bed as he strained against the cords holding him. The men instantly reacted by starting towards the bed, but stopped when Tonya lifted her hand to them, never taking her eyes off of Sid.

 

“Just leave.” She reached her hand up to touch Sid’s arm, forgetting once more that they were not alone.

 

“Get the fuck out of here!” Sid yelled at them, only briefly taking his eyes off of Tonya. The others back out of the room, but refused to leave the suite. Hearing the soft click of the door, Sid softened his voice to speak to her. “What happened to you?” He tried to reach for her again, but his bonds held him tight.

 

She only shook her head and moaned. Sid was overwhelmed; she had come back to him. In the days since her hasty departure, he never thought she would return. When she looked up again, her eyes were full of tears that began to spill over her lashes. “I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t sleep without horrible…”

 

“What?” He asked although he already had an idea. The voices had been tormenting him with images of her death, with her torture. He did not know how to tell her that he had seen her face being slashed. That image had swirled in his head, followed by the memories of other young women being tortured and their blood drained from their bodies. He had seen the fate that awaited her outside of this world…his world.

 

“The nightmares were terrible.” She ran her finger along the line of his jaw distractedly, causing him to squirm against the ropes that held him tight. Just being here, in his presence, she felt slightly more energetic in days and thought that she might have the strength to make it a little while longer before sleep claimed her. Finally she asked the question that had preyed on her mind since she walked in. “Why did they do this to you?”

 

The urge to kiss her was nearly overwhelming as she leaned in close to him. “I lost control. I wanted you back.” A feeling of déjà vu swept over him and he felt just like that morning when he had awaken on the boat. “Why did you come back?”

 

He watched as she slowly lifted one hand to his elbow, following the lines of the rope that restrained him until her fingers met his. “I had a feeling that you needed me.”

 

“I do need you.” He wanted to feel her against him, to make sure she was really there and not some hallucination. He needed to feel her touch again. “I want you to know that I have always needed you…not to play with, but to be with. I knew from the moment that I saw you that I needed you.”

 

Shaking her head, she started to move away from him. “I don’t know…this is too surreal. I come here to get away from the stress of my life and I find you.” She stood now and walked to the window, staggering slightly as she went, staring out into the distance and silently watching clouds roll in from the ocean.

 

“Is it so bad that you found me?”

 

“Yes and no.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“Yes, it is bad because you’re not human. You have no concept of what it feels like to be human. To love with every ounce of your being. To cry when your heart gets broken. To laugh with true joy.” Turning to face him, he saw tears streaming down her cheeks. “You are learning what those emotions are, but only so that you can manipulate people. That is not real understanding.” She faced the window again. “I don’t think that you ever can.”

 

“So why the no?” She didn’t respond. Her shoulders shuddered and he knew she was truly crying now, as she had on the boat. The pain she was feeling was a palpable force that permeated the room.

 

“Because I think that I’m falling in love with you.”

 

“Tatiana…” She cut him off before he could continue.

 

“You can’t ever love me and that hurts. I will never be anything more than a playmate to you: someone who you would keep around only to bring out when you were bored.” She turned and walked to the bed, nearly falling over once, leaning down to rest her hands on the edge of the bed.

 

“I want to be with you, to be near you. That is what I need right now and that need is nearly overpowering. Do you need someone to love you for you to feel complete? Is that what you need?” Sid wanted so badly to touch her, but couldn’t move. Her eyes gleamed with the tears that were falling unabated down her cheeks and she stared at him for a few moments before speaking.

 

“I need you. God help me, but I need you.” The tears flowed even heavier then as she admitted her weakness and her desire, laying down on the edge of the bed. “I can’t go on like this…I am in love with you and nothing will ever come of this. You can’t love me.”

 

“Tatiana,” Sid tried to pull himself closer to her, rattling the bed once more, finally admitting defeat and waited for her crying to subside. “I can’t give things that I don’t possess. You’re right…I can’t love you, not in the way that you mean. Just give me a chance to show you how much I need you.” Tonya’s eyes met his and he was in awe of the level of emotion that she felt and that he could never truly understand. “You are the one thing that makes me wish I could change who I am.”

 

“What are you saying?”

 

“I am saying that I like who I am, but if I could change, you are the only person that I would change for.”

 

She sat up and for a few seconds just stared at him. Finally, she lifted her hand and placed in on his chest. “Do you know what the Tin Man asked the Wizard for at the end of the ‘Wizard of Oz’?”

 

Sid knew that movie back and forth, it was one of his favorites; a childhood horror story that dealt with the basic fears of humans. He wanted to her hear say what he knew she would. “Tell me.”

 

“The Tin Man asks the Wizard about his heart.” Tonya tapped his chest and pulled herself closer, lazily wiping her face on the sleeve of her shirt. “The Wizard couldn’t give him one, so he tells the Tin Man that it isn’t important who he loves, but who loves him.” She watched as Sid’s face softened. “I love you, Tin Man.”

 

“I…I don’t know what you expect me to say. I can’t give you the same in return, you know that.”

 

Tonya pulled herself closer and brought herself face to face with him. “Don’t tell me lies. Don’t tell me you love me if you can’t. When someone says ‘I love you’ only to satisfy someone else, it’s a weapon. Love said without real meaning only brings pain. Don’t ever tell me that.” Sid stared at her for a minute and slowly pulled his head closer to hers until his lips brushed against hers. “Just let me show you how much I love you.” Wrapping her arms around his neck, Tonya pulled herself up and let him kiss her.

 

He tasted the salt in her tears that lingered on her lips. Slowly, he ran his tongue along her lips, asking for permission that he knew he already had. She opened to him and whimpered as he kissed her deeply, running her tongue along his, greedy for the taste of him. Sid felt himself instantly harden; the contact was almost too much for him.

 

“Tatiana, I want to touch you.” He had pulled back and nuzzled her neck, evoking even more noises of pleasure from her. “Untie me. Let me touch you.”

 

Tonya moved her legs and placed herself over his lap, straddling him and holding him close. She could feel him under her, hard and ready. As tired as she was, she wanted him. She wanted to feel him inside of her, driving into her and pushing the darkness that she had been living in away with his touch. Sid groaned when her she dipped her head and kissed her way from his neck to the collar of his shirt. His plead to be released was repeated only to be answered with a mumbled ‘no’ against his skin.

 

With shaking fingers, Tonya worked the buttons free on his soft silk shirt and ran her tongue over the newly exposed flesh. She could feel his eyes boring into her as she moved downward at a leisurely pace. His breathing became more labored as she went, only to cease momentarily in long hiss when she pushed the shirt aside far enough to work one of his nipples with her mouth. She could feel him growing more and more aroused as he began to push his hips against her.

 

“Let me touch you!” The bed frame rattled as he pulled against the ropes that held him in place as he pleaded for release. “Tatiana please.”

 

Licking her lips she looked up at him. “I want to do this for you…for me.” Exhaustion decreased her patience and finally she simply pulled the shirt apart, sending the remaining buttons flying. Pulling herself off of his lap, she quickly removed his belt and slid the zipper down. She didn’t hear him cry out or notice when his head fell backward against the wall. The silk encased treasure, jutting out in front of her, captivated her and she ran her fingers over the length of it. Only when he moaned again did she look up to see the tension on his beautiful face. Never breaking eye contact, she leaned forward and placed a small kiss on the tip. Her hand wrapped lightly around him and moved over the silk, letting the fabric work its own kind of magic on him.

 

Tonya finally moved her hands to the waistband of his boxers and pulled them down as much as she could. He lifted his hips to speed the process along, but she took her time until she had pushed them down to the tops of his thighs. “What do you want?”

 

“I want you,” he replied breathlessly. His eyes closed briefly as she took him in her hand once more, this time it was her skin that tormented him.

 

“Do you want this?” Lowering her head, he watched as she placed the head of his cock in her mouth and sucked lightly. Words could not form into any coherent sentence in his mind as he watched her take all of him into her mouth. Her moan of desire vibrated through his cock and all along his spine. Soft grunts filled his ears that he soon realized were his as she pulled back slowly, teasing him with her tongue. She repeated this twice more before she let him slip out of her mouth. This was followed by a long groan of dissatisfaction from Sid. “Or do you want what’s behind door number two?”

 

The giggle he had at the image of himself on a game show that specialized in sexual titillation died in his throat as she gently rubbed him with her hand. Closing his eyes against the nearly overwhelming sensation to come, he swallowed hard before attempting to speak. “Do I get a hint at what’s behind number two before I make my choice?”

 

Sitting up, Tonya hooked her thumbs into the elastic band of the sweats that she wore and tugged enough so that the bony prominence of her hips came into full view. “No hints, but I figure that you know what it is anyway.” She pushed the pants down and somehow managed to kick off her shoes and slide out of her clothes without dislodging herself. Only the shirt remained to hide her entire body from his view.

 

“Come here.” It was neither a command nor a request, but she did his bidding and pulled herself up onto his lap. His lips captured hers with a hunger that she didn’t expect and he plundered her mouth until she was writhing against the hardened flesh that lay between them. “Take off your shirt.” Sid watched as she slipped the t-shirt up and was happy to see that she had worn no bra.

 

Pressing her breasts against his naked chest, she slid her arms under his shirt and kissed him while exploring the quivering muscles of his torso. Bucking his hips, he tried to press himself closer to her, to feel the warm of her desire and the solidity of her body. The bed rattled again as he pulled against the restraints. All he wanted right now was to be inside of her, making her moan, hearing his name on her lips. “Untie me.”

 

“Only if you swear to never say that you love me.” She pushed herself up and off of him enough so that she could feel the head of his cock at the entrance of her body. Holding herself still, she waited to hear the only words from him that she ever expected to hear.

 

“Tatiana…” He tried to push his hips upward so that he could be inside of her, knowing that he would find her warm, tight and wet. “Put me in you.” His voice was uncharacteristically shaky. He had never wanted anything more than to have her at that moment…he was even willing to beg.

 

Rubbing her body across him, Tonya literally shook from anticipation. “Swear to me that you’ll never say it.” She held his face in her hands and locked eyes with him. “Say it. Its all that I ask of you.”

 

His squirming stopped and he took several deep breaths before he spoke almost too softly for her to hear. “I’ll never say it.” Several long moments passed as she assessed his answer and then she lowered herself onto his straining body, melding the two of them into one. Both of them held their breath while she took him fully inside of her welcoming body, never closing their eyes.

 

Once completely joined, Tonya leaned forward and kissed him, sucking on his lips before venturing further. Lost in the heat of the kiss, knowing that she was finally his, Sid thought that he imagined the ropes loosening on his arms. She began to ride him with gently motions of her hips as they continued to explore each other’s mouths. His imagination proved to be reality when she lifted his hands from the bedposts and placed them over her breasts. Kneading her flesh with his hands, he began to giggle against her mouth. She was his!

 

Tonya lifted her body up, breaking off the kiss and held there. His hands slowly moved from her breasts to her hips, massaging her as he went. Their eyes met and held once more. The corner of his mouth lifted into a feral smile before his grip on her tightened and he pulled her roughly down onto him. Soon, she gave herself over to him and let him move her on him as he wished. Her breathing quickly became labored and, despite her efforts to breath somewhat normally, she was gasping for air every time he pulled her down.

 

Sid smiled at her reaction to him and pulled her forward to capture one of her hardened pink nipples between his teeth. She cried out at the action, but wrapped her hands into his hair, pulling him and holding him tightly to her as he assaulted her with his mouth. This was what she needed. No gentle sex, no worshipping of flesh, just the basic fulfillment of shared lust. This was honest and all that he could really give to her. No lovemaking, but straightforward fucking.

 

Without warning, Tonya was lifted from his lap and deposited on the bed. He lifted himself up and dropped his jacket and the remains of his shirt from his shoulders, while watching her struggle to catch her breath. Kicking off his pants and the remaining ropes that had bound him, he smiled as he got an idea of what to do. “Come here.” He stood beside the bed and crooked one finger at her, motioning her to join him.

 

Tonya felt overpowered by the look of barely controlled lust on his face as he motioned to her. He stood there and just waited for her. As wet as she already was, she felt a rush of moisture and knew that he was going to fuck her…really fuck her. Panting, she crossed the bed on her hands and knees until she could kneel on the bed just in front of him. To her surprise he merely looked at her. His eyes travelling over her body felt just as solid as if his hands were touching her. She felt more vulnerable and naked at that point than she ever had before. Maybe it was only the exhaustion that made her feel this way, but she doubted that.

 

She inhaled sharply as he roughly pushed her shoulders and she fell back onto the mattress. Within seconds, he had pulled her hips to the edge of the bed, rolled her onto her side and lifted her top leg, holding it in place against his chest. He straddled her lower leg and then slammed himself in to the hilt, before she even knew to react. Her cry of surprise filled the room and he smiled.

 

“This…is…what…I…can…give…you!” Each word was punctuated by a sharp thrust of his hips, driving the breath from Tonya’s lungs. Her hands clutched at the bedding around her and she moaned loudly. “Is…this…what…you…want?” She didn’t answer so he lowered his hand and found her clit, rubbing it with his thumb in time with the thrusting of his hips. IS… THIS… WHAT… YOU… WANT?” He could feel her tightening around him; her muscles involuntarily grabbing at him, trying to pull him in deeper as he sped up. When she still didn’t answer, he began to pound into her at a furious rate.

 

Maggie sat in the living room of the suite curled up like a little girl on one end of the sofa. One of the men, she thought his name was Terry, had briefly explained what had happened and where she was. Taking another swig of the flask that someone had handed her, she settled further into the remaining cushions. The room looked like a summer tornado had ripped through it. Stuffing from the sofa and glass were everywhere. Someone had brought in a small television, setting it on top of the entertainment center until the smashed one could be replaced. Just watching the familiar commercials flick across the small screen helped her feel a little more at ease.

 

People had begun to depart from their hallway vigil shortly after they had arrived. Once that horrible screaming had stopped, it seemed as if the level of anxiety in the place dropped off dramatically. There was no more show, no more danger, so people began to head off for their beds. She was left with those who had assigned themselves to a watch. Terry stayed, John and Bud with him, but she didn’t feel as comfortable with them as she did Terry. He was the first face that she had really seen and he seemed to be calm through it all. He became her rock now that Tonya was off with that…what did they call him…a psychopath?

 

Maggie took another draw from the flask and grimaced as the liquid heat coated her throat. The combination of shock, emotional exhaustion and alcohol were all starting to make her feel a little fuzzy. She couldn’t believe that she had brought Tonya back here, so that she could be with a full-fledged fucknut. For over an hour she waited for the screaming that she had become accustomed to over the last few days, but it hadn’t come. She didn’t dare go to sleep until she knew that Tonya was safe, even though she felt so very tired. Terry had been kind enough to bring her a blanket and a pillow when she made it clear that she would not take a room for herself.

 

She was pulled from her thoughts when she heard someone yelling in the bedroom. Leaping off of the couch, she didn’t see the embarrassed looks on the men’s faces as she ran for the door. The protectiveness that she had felt earlier had not waned, but grown stronger as she had waited. Hearing the voice again, but louder, only made her more determined to find out what was going on.

 

Reaching for the doorknob, Maggie was grabbed from behind and pulled backward against a strong male chest. “You don’t want to go in there.”

 

“I have to help her.” She struggled against the man (she didn’t know which… they all sort of sounded the same to her). Again to voice from within screamed louder and she renewed her efforts to get free. “Let me go!” Maggie gasped as the man leaned down to whisper in her ear to merely be quiet and listen to what was really happening. Then she heard it. Tonya’s voice filled with…something, calling out ‘yes’ over and over again as the male voice within grunted loudly. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks as reality hit home. “Oh Jesus,” she whispered as she felt the man pull her back from the door.

 

“She would have killed ya if you would have gone barging in there.” In a flash she realized that Terry had just saved her from the embarrassment of rescuing her roommate from, as far as she could tell, a world-class orgasm. “Maybe its time that we all left them alone for awhile.”

 

Shaking her head, she tried to hide her face from the other men as she backed slowly away from the door. Had Terry not been there, Maggie would have just run from the room and sought refuge in the truck. However, Terry offered to escort her to a room where she could get some sleep. She watched the other men head for the door and thought she saw one glance at the bedroom door with a pained expression. ‘To each their own,’ she thought as she left, vowing to get some rest and then come back to check on Tonya.

 

Tonya awoke slowly taking in the sights and sounds around her. Sunlight filtered through the long drapes washing the room in a simple, pure light. A television could be heard playing in the other room and voices speaking, but too softly to be understood. Her face hurt and she lifted her hand to feel a small line of butterfly bandages covering her cheek. Suddenly, the events and memories from the last few days bombarded her and she sat up with a scream stuck in her throat.

 

“Tatiana?” Sid reached out to grab her as she lifted suddenly from his arms. For hours she had slept quietly. So quietly that he had been wary about cleaning and dressing her wounded face, but she remained asleep through his gentle ministrations. Only memories of her nightmares and the shock of being back could have made her react so violently. “Its alright. You are safe.”

 

She turned to look at him and he unconsciously held his breath as she came to grips with reality. “Oh Sid.” She fell back onto the bed and wrapped her arms around him. He held her tightly as she shook until he felt the warmth of her tears on his chest.

 

“What is it?” The nightmares had passed and she was out of harm’s way…he couldn’t figure out why she was crying. “What’s wrong?” Her tears weren’t annoying him as the tears of women often did. Nor did he find them amusing. He was truly concerned about what was bothering her and that surprised him. She didn’t answer and he was content to hold her as she worked through the tears. All he wanted to do was make sure that she was safe and free from harm and that thought, that he would care about how someone felt, warmed him.

 

After long minutes, the sobs finally ceased and she lay there holding onto him as if her life depended on it. Tilting her head up, he smiled and gently wiped away the stray drops still clinging to her lashes. “Feel better?” She nodded and laid her head back on his chest. A comfortable silence fell between them and they relaxed in the safety of the others presence.

 

Finally, Tonya lifted her head up and kissed him lightly on the lips. He could taste the lingering salt on her lips as used his tongue to circle her soft mouth. “You’re safe now. Just lie here and rest.”

 

Even though she had just awakened, Tonya felt sleep taking over again. This time, she did not want to sleep because she was tired, she wanted to sleep because she did feel safe. Safe in the arms of a madman.

 

When Tonya awoke the second time, there was no confusion. She knew that she was back at the Nest and that the warm naked body next to her was Sid. Once her eyes fluttered open, she felt his arms tighten around her.

 

“Sleep well?”

 

“Yeah. I feel great.” She stretched out along side of him, not realizing that his eyes never left her body as she arched her back. “I needed to sleep.” Pulling herself back into the warmth of him, she watched as he absently played with his jacket in his opposite hand. After only a couple of seconds did she pull back with a grimace on her face. She grabbed an arm of the jacket and brought it to her face, only to push it away after a second. “Why do your clothes smell like you’ve been on a four day bender?”

 

“Because I…” Sid got that guilty look on his face that made him resemble a child who had been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. “I tried to do something to get the voices to stop.”

 

“Voices?” Pulling herself up so that she was resting her chin on his chest, she looked him in the eye waiting for further explanation.

 

“I…they were quiet when you were here, when you were with me.” He placed his hands on her shoulders and began to slowly run them down her arms. “When we are like this, together, I don’t hear them. You get only me.”

 

She thought for a minute, silently relishing the feel of his hands on her once more, before she spoke. “All of those people that they made you from…” She remembered that he had only mentioned them once before, but he hadn’t said anymore than that he heard them. At the time, she thought he was only feeding her a line, but in retrospect, it seemed like he had been telling her the truth.

 

“I don’t hear them when I’m with you. I can block them out.” Rolling onto his side, he moved his hand to her face. “When you got here, I didn’t understand it and I still don’t, but I do know that I don’t hear them anymore.” One finger traced the outline of her lips. “I like just being me.”

 

“So what does that have to do with why your clothes smell like a brewery?” Sleep definitely helped her humor and she smiled widely at her attempt to tease him. She needed to laugh, if only for a minute, to help counter this ‘Twilight Zone’ shit that seemed to happening.

 

“When you left, I couldn’t control them.” Her smile slowly fell as she began to understand. “It was like a dam breaking. The voices began to make themselves heard and I couldn’t stop it. They even…”

 

“They what?” Tonya started to feel that there was more to her nightmares than she may have imagined. That Sid had undergone the same sort of torment that she had experienced was simply mind-boggling.

 

“They wanted to hurt you.” His fingers brushed across the bandage on her cheek. “I saw this. I could close my eyes and see the things that they wanted to do to you.”

 

“You saw it?” She pulled his hand from her face. “You saw her?”

 

“No. I only saw what she wanted to do. I had no idea that it was really happening to you.” He looked down and away from her. “I tried screaming to keep them quiet, but that didn’t work. The only thing that worked was when I…”

 

“What?” He couldn’t look at her. Lifting his face, she forced him to look at her. “What did you do?” She had visions of him finding a hapless victim and torturing them to the point of death.

 

“I destroyed the bar.” Tonya could do nothing but stare at him. “I was getting ready to torch it when I was found.” No wonder that the others had tied him to her bed. Having Sid around when he’s complete off his nut must be a sight to see and a dangerous one at that. If he had got as far as trying arson, then there was no telling where his unchecked homicidal tendencies would go.

 

They didn’t say anything for a minute or two. Both were trying to process what was happening to them. Finally, Tonya moved to get out of the bed stopping only when Sid reached out for her. “Where are you going?”

 

“I’m going to get into the shower and try to process all of this.” Shaking her head she made her way to the adjacent bath. “I just need a little time to think.” For a moment she thought he would try and follow her, but he didn’t. When she emerged a short while later, feeling fresher than she had in days, he was still in the same spot on the bed. “Go take a shower, Sid. I’ll see if someone can’t get you some clothes to put on.” He didn’t move. He only turned his head to look at her as she began to rummage for something to wear in the drawers. Crossing back to the bed, she sat on the edge and leaned over to brush a stray lock of his beautiful hair from his face. “Trust me, you’ll feel better if you shower.”

 

A nod was his only response and he slowly got up and headed for the bathroom. Throwing on a tee shirt and shorts, Tonya edged the door open and was shocked to see that there were so many people still hanging around. John, Bud, Terry and Maggie were all still here. Silently, she prayed that they had at least left for a little while and not been here to hear…

 

“Tonya!” Maggie jumped off the sofa and nearly tripped over the blanket that had become tangled up in her feet.

 

“Maggie, what are you doing in here?” Crossing over to her friend, Tonya caught her as she started to fall. “God, you look like hell.”

 

“She refused to stay away.” Tonya turned her head to the sound of the soft Australian voice. Terry approached and helped steady Maggie before she started to fall again. “We found her here this morning. She did at least take one of the rooms for the night, but I don’t think she got any sleep.” Tonya had yet to meet Terry in person and found herself feeling slightly envious of Maggie. He was a caretaker though. It was his job to take care of difficult situations and she didn’t find it at all surprising that he was helping Maggie now. Nothing about this situation was easy.

 

“Honey, you need to rest now. I’m fine.” Pulling Maggie into a hug, they sat together rocking for a moment.

 

“Are you really okay?”

 

“I’m really okay.”

 

“I was so worried. You…” Maggie erupted into tears that she had been holding back since this ordeal began. Tonya pulled her tightly against her and murmured that she was fine. Whether she believed it or not, the verbal assurance seemed to calm Maggie. “I was so scared.”

 

“So was I, but everything is okay now.”

 

Wiping the tears from her eyes, she looked at Tonya skeptically for a moment. “Are you sure?”

 

“No, but its better than it was, so that’s at least an improvement.” Maggie tried not to smile, but failed as she tried to swallow her laughter. Both women just laughed and hugged again before Tonya was able to convince Maggie to go with Terry and get some sleep.

 

Once that was taken care of, Tonya asked John if he would bring some clothes for Sid and get some food. A quick kiss on the cheek was his answer as he headed off to fulfill her requests. Releasing a heavy sigh, she turned to find that she was still not alone.

 

“You came back for him.” Bud stood in the corner with his hands in his pockets, just staring at her. “Why?”

 

Shrugging her shoulders, she tried to brush off the depth of the connection that she felt with Sid. “I need him.”

 

“You need someone who is going to hurt you?” She lifted her eyes and met his. He looked so confused and…. “What are you going to do when he decides he wants more than you can give?” He was intentionally vague in his question, but the implication was clear. ‘What are you going to do when he hits you?’

 

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. For now I need to be here.” Crossing over to the window, she wrapped her arms over her stomach and watched the waves gently kiss the shoreline. “Something has happened to me and I need to be here to figure it out. Sid and I have a….”

 

“A connection?” This time there was a hint of anger in his voice. “Come on lady, do you really expect me to buy that?”

 

“Yes,” spinning to face him, she was surprised at the hurt and anger she saw in his tense pose. He had no right to worry about her and no right to question her decisions about anything. “I very much expect you to buy that, because it’s the truth. You don’t like Sid. You never have and I really doubt that you ever will. I, however, care about him.”

 

“Do you have a death wish or something?” He had crossed the space between them and now stood glaring down at her. “He is a maniac and he lives for trouble. Don’t you see that?”

 

“What I see is a man, yes, a man who is trying to come to grips with being expected to be something that he will never be. And if I did have a death wish I sure as hell wouldn’t be here! I would have stayed at home and slowly rotted away!” His eyes dropped away and he leaned against the wall by the window. She lowered his voice when she spoke to him again. “I would have died, Bud.”

 

“I know.” He still couldn’t look at her, so she couldn’t read his expression. “I was worried about you.”

 

“I was worried about me too.” She giggled slightly and he lifted his eyes to hers finally, one brow lifted in confusion. “I have never been more scared in my life and I knew that I had to get back here. For some reason Sid and I work together and we…we need each other.”

 

“You’re a strange lady, but I like you despite of it.” It was his turn to giggle and she reached out and hugged him. “Are we okay?”

 

“We?” She pulled back for a moment and just looked at him.

 

“Friends?” Bud smile was timid and she knew that she had a friend for life in him. He would be her protector and guardian angel if she ever needed him.

 

“Friends.” She smiled at Bud and then lead him to the door when she heard the shower stop in the other room. Nothing about this new chapter in her life would be easy, but she knew that she had to go through whatever happened. One day she may be able to leave the Nest, but she didn’t think that it would be any day soon.

 

Sid walked out of the bathroom clad only in a towel around his waist. Her breath stopped as she watched him drop the towel and stride confidently over to her. She felt like she had come home when he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her possessively. His hands slid up her abdomen to cup her breasts, tweaking the nipples into tight nubs. “Mine,” was all he said and he looked to her with a question in his eyes. She answered by lowering her hands to cup a firm, perfectly formed buttock in each and repeated the word.

 

`God, there’s no place like home,’ she thought as he lifted her and carried her back to the bed.