“I was wondering when you were going to come calling…”
Her brother sounded nonchalant, watching Lyra with those luminous eyes from across the way as she stepped into his room. He was standing, leaning with his back against the far wall beside the swinging door that led to the tiny bathroom beyond. His hair was wet, brushed back from his face carefully…whichever nurse had ‘helped’ him shower recently had obviously decided that he looked better that way.
Or at least neater.
“How’s life on the outside? Kill anyone new?” his lips quirked in amusement as she made her way towards his bed, grabbing his chart from the wall and looking it over. She smiled at his greeting, dismissing his questions.
“How are you feeling today, Nikolai?” she asked him, frowning at the notes before her.
“Decidedly lacking in sunshine…Claudia,” came his reply, a pout gracing rich lips as he eyed her like a hawk from his corner, “But my moon tan is coming along wonderfully!”
“Only type of tan you’ll get in here, behaving as erratically as you do,” Lyra smirked at him, looking him over from a distance, “Anything more helpful to report?” His eyes trailed her over in return, appraising her in the manner that she did him, though for obviously different reasons.
“Nothing you want to hear,” he told her with a bat of his lashes, “But then, I don’t know what kind of information you want…Doctor…” he grinned at the word as if he found it wholly entertaining, tilting his head again and studying her.
She shook her head, seizing a chair from against the wall and placing it beside the bed, looking to him and gesturing questioningly.
“Will you sit?” she asked, pulling a stethoscope from under her blouse, “I can start with your vitals and then we can move on to the things you can lie about.”
“You trust me with a chair after our last smackdown?” he seemed surprised. Lyra’s look was deadpan as she raised her brows. He blinked and regarded her for a moment longer.
He liked her. It was obvious in the way that his eyes shone with mirth whenever she spoke, as if everything she said were of the greatest amusement. Regarding the chair, he pushed off the wall and sauntered (as well as one could in a straightjacket) to sit as requested.
“Have you had palpitations? Shortness of breath?”
“Only when you’re here…” he responded with a wink, then frowned, “And…you know…every other hour.”
She smiled fondly, despite herself, then shook the accompanying feeling away. Reaching over, she loosened the jacket straps a little and slid the stethoscope against his back, trying not to smirk when he jumped at the cold steel against his skin.
“Deep breaths please…”
He glared at her briefly, then chuckled and obeyed, drawing in lungfuls of air, or trying to…a fine tremor hummed as a constant from within him, making each breath somewhat ragged. After a few more breaths he laughed and she couldn’t help but smile again.
“Trouble sleeping? Do you find yourself jittery or pacing?”
“Always,” he replied, “Baelian always paces, Baelian doesn’t sleep.”
“Not him,” she retorted, pulling the stethescope away and making some more notes, her hand shaking slightly, “I know his state. That is clearly documented. I asked you. One of many issues I have with you distracting my staff is that they aren’t making notes as completely as I ask. It turns out the only one I can trust with you is myself…”
She was overtired, and worried about the effects the new medications might be having. She was also lying…some doctors and security were fine and very thorough…but…she missed her brother and worried about him constantly.
-He’s playing you, Claudia-
He listened to her words, and to the tremor behind them, blinking thoughtfully and growing silent as he weighed up the information she shared. After a moment he nodded to himself, lifting cobalt hues to meet her gaze.
“Untie me,” he said flatly, squirming in his restraints pointedly, “And I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”
“After we got along so well last time?” Lyra raised an eyebrow, amused, clicking her tongue and weighing up her options.
Triggers working…security is just outside.
“Considering how most end up I’d say we did well,” Nikolai replied evenly, “Besides, you have that Little Boy Muffett mumbo jumbo to keep you safe, don’t you?” The charming smile he gave her didn’t reach his eyes, clearly it was a sore point…but he wasn’t stupid enough to brood about factors out of his control either.
-DON’T DO IT-
-It will be fine–
The truth was…she wanted to see what would happen. He fascinated her.
Sighing, she undid his straightjacket, folding it carefully and keeping an eye on him as she placed it to one side.
“Stretch while you can,” Lyra advised, picking up his chart again. He licked his lips, pressing them together and failing at hiding his smug smile, stretching his marred arms. “Now…you were saying?”
“Wait,” he replied, his arms shooting out suddenly as he sprang from his seat, knocking the folder from her grasp. One hand clamped firmly over her mouth, the other wrapping around her body and drawing it into him.
Niki threw himself against the bed, dragging Lyra along and laughing gaily as if it were a game. She’d tried to back away from his attack, but he’d caught her off guard and she was his captive before she could even think about defending herself.
“Say ‘Uncle Lucien!’ Niki giggled, climbing onto the mattress and hoisting Lyra up beside him, his legs wrapping around her tightly. He wriggled against her back until he was pressed completely against it, then took his hand from her mouth.
-Trigger. Now. Take him down-
She closed her eyes, taking a moment to recover from the shock of it all. His face rubbed against her shoulder, like a cat marking its territory, then he seemed to settle. Lyra was surprised when a sudden laugh fell from her lips. She tried not to, but somewhere deep inside of her she clearly missed their playful interactions.
“Niki…” she began slowly.
“I don’t get to sleep,” he said calmly, answering her earlier question, “If I let my guard down Baelian boulders in and starts with the histrionics.”
She paused and sighed.
-Fine, your way then-
“But you could? If you had to? I need to know…” she smiled faintly as he rubbed his face against her again, “I’m worried some of the medication is acting as a stimulant and causing you to be more….ansty.”
“Is that what we’re calling it now?” he sniggered, pressing his cheek to hers, breathing her in, “Sorry to disappoint you, but no. It’s all me baby…” Nikolai pressed harder against her back to push the point, as it were, “Or it’s whatever they made me. I dunno. It’s not the meds, I don’t think. I’m just young and vibrantly healthy.”
Lyra bit back a moan, gritting her teeth against her burning ache for company and distraction from her work…for connection to another person.
“I meant over-stimulated…anxious, irritable, twitchy…” she breathed, “Though it seems you are finding relief enough with my nurses…”
He chuckled, a low sound in her ear as he rubbed his nose against her face, almost unconsciously.
“I’m insulted that you think a transparent bit of medical gauze is enough to stem the bloody tide of my needs, Claudia…” he murmured, the hand that held her in place moving so that his fingers could absently trace up and down her side, his voice changing all at once as he perfected a deep Southern drawl, “Patient exhibits a constant and deep seated need for tactile stimulation. While not strictly sexual in nature, coitus is an inevitable by-product of subject’s instinctive desire for physical contact. If denied such contact for extended periods, subject becomes antisocial, angry…and exhibits psychotic violent tendencies. Prolonged denial of physical contact results in violent acts of sexual aggression and bloodshed…”
Turning off the ‘Professor,’ he sighed and burrowed deeper into her neck.
“Have you not reached that part yet?” he said, amused, “Apparently I need to touch stuff or I get…ansty.”
The mimicking of the Professor had made Lyra’s entire body tense in an instinctive flinch which faded to faint anger seconds later.
“I can read,” she said haughtily, pulling her face away from his, “And you clearly have no problem going behind my back to summon your harem…so save your touching for them and let me work.”
His arm tightened around her again, his lashes fluttering against her skin as he blinked in response.
“Are you angry with me, Doctor Monére?” he asked, his breath warm against her neck, “I’m very sorry to have upset you. You were asking me questions?”
-Smug little shit-
“You,” she muttered, wondering if it was professional to elbow a patient in the ribs, “Are a brat.”
Licking her lips, she relaxed her shoulders somewhat and sighed. “Yes, I was asking you questions…” she closed her eyes to tried to focus her mind, “How did you find Grigori’s visit? Did Baelian improve or decline afterwards?”
Nikolai sniggered, sighing and letting his eyes close. His hand rose absently to stroke her hair as he matched his breaths with her own.
“Grigori’s visit was satisfactory. Baelian neither improved nor declined. Next question.”
Lyra had notes all over her desk, but she didn’t want to agitate him or sound like a mother hen with her medical questions…and to be honest, many had slipped her mind.
“Do you have any requests for other visitors I should consider?” She tried to sit up, only managing to prop herself up on one arm, “And are you eating alright?”
He adjusted himself accordingly as she moved, burying his face in her hair and sniffing it before running his lips over her shoulder, pressing them there and making a ‘hmmm’ sound.
“Interesting that the word ‘visitors’ and the subject of food are so closely linked in your mind, Monėre,” he chuckled, “The food here is terrible, but I’m not dying…and as for visitors, I think it would be…polite…to let Baelian see his whore more often. Me? I have eyes only for you my sweet…and one other that I know you won’t give me, so I’ll not insult you by asking.”
She ignored the last part and allowed a faint and disarming smile to cross her features.
“You refer to my natural Monėre inclination to be a wonderful host, I presume?” she bit her lip, “I’ll speak with Asinoe, we have a little point to clear up first, but after that have at her…I am sure she misses him…”
Bucking her hips backwards suddenly, Lyra tried to throw him off, using her propped arm as leverage and turning to catch him by the shoulder before he smacked into the wall. She pushed him onto his back, pinning him.
“Ha!” he laughed. He let his body go where she led, his hands moving up to cradle his head as she established her dominance.
“Better,” she sighed, sitting up, “Forgive me, but I am having some trust issues at the moment.”
Gazing up at her, he gave her that dazzling smile, “Trust issues? With me? Outrageous,” he smirked, “You are forgiven.”
-You really are very charming, aren’t you brother dear?-
“Now,” she looked down at him, reaching out to ‘fix’ his hair, “If I ask questions about the past, will you be able to maintain composure?” His pupils had dilated at her touch, the inevitable tremor dancing through him as he’d blinked slowly and shifted against her, then settled again.
“If they involve our history and chocolate, I make no promises…” he replied solemnly, winking moments later, “Ask whatever you like, sweet cakes, I’m not a baby. Mostly.”
Lyra winced at the pet name, wrinkling her nose.
“Candy?” he blinked again and perked a brow, “Muffin…?” he paused, “Dark very expensive chocolate? Doesn’t have the same ring to it…”
“Doctor?” she suggested, with a smug look. His brows lofted again, his lips curving into a lascivious smile.
“Kinky…okay, Doctor,” he purred.
-Don’t do that-
“Do you have any memory of a boy named Simon? Brown hair, blue eyes, your age? I don’t, but the name has come up and you seem to have a more reliable memory than I…” she shifted awkwardly. He was distracting her more than usual like this. “Stop that,” she added uncomfortably.
His expression turned serious for a long moment and he considered her words, his eyes glazing and becoming distant.
“I don’t know…” he said slowly, “I think so. There was a pack of us…the wolves…during the Hunt…” he paused. “Yes,” he finished, “Simon with the crooked teeth. He lost one or two when he fell…knocked them clean out…figured he was dead.”
He wriggled his body against her, the movement completely natural and unconscious. ‘Stop that’ was apparently not an option.
Lyra blinked, looking almost fearful. His movement made her eyes flutter closed, her head tilted as she tried to refocus. She made a mental note to check Simon for dental work.
“Who brought him? To the Fundays, I mean…was he one of the Reverend’s collection, by any chance?”
Niki’s body froze briefly at the mention of the Reverend, blue eyes widening and something very cold sparking in their depths. An instant later it was gone, and he offered her another distracting smile, ‘adjusting’ his position on the bed and watching her reactions carefully.
“I don’t know. He was just there and then not there, like all of them. I never asked questions…it wasn’t the done thing and they never told you anyway…”
Lyra nodded, “I suppose not. The Professor always talked as he worked, but I didn’t know most of the kids that he talked about. Still, he would talk…except on the way to the White Room. Obviously…” she was babbling slightly, trying not to focus on the sharpness in his expression, or the shift of his body.
“Obviously…” he echoed, hands moving to rest lightly on her hips, his fingers curling against the fabric of her clothing.
“Always hated the Reverend…I wouldn’t be surprised if Simon was one of Dream’s little choir boys,” she mused softly, echoing her thoughts beneath her breath, “Wolves. Teeth. I wonder if there is something to that…” She glanced down at Nikolai.
His eye twitched when she said the Reverend’s name, every time in fact, that dark swirl pulsing in the depths of his gaze. He didn’t respond to her musing, he just watched her in silence, moving beneath her again, his lashes fluttering.
“Stop it,” she said again, sounding peevish.
-Focus Claudia. If you chase rabbits you’ll fall down the rabbit hole-
She grit her teeth. No one touched her here, every nerve in her body might as well have died off. No one spoke to her without fear anymore. Her mental challenges all had high stakes and no win situations. They weren’t fun.
The fear was…in small moments that she squashed quickly within herself.
-What does that make you?-
Lyra looked at him carefully. She desperately missed her clever brother by her side. She missed…
She looked away. “Stop it.”
He stopped, becoming mostly still – save for the constant tremor from within. His fingers uncurled, coming to rest on her thighs, his chest rising and falling as he breathed deeply and evenly. He was watching her, concentrating hard…as if he had to focus all his energy and attention to stop himself from moving.
“Whatever you like, Claudia…” he said softly, his jaw tightening, those blue eyes darkened with desire. He was aroused, sprawled beneath her as he was, but he seemed to be making a halfway valiant effort not to continue grinding against her, giving her a wide eyed stare and waiting.
“Thank you,” she said stiffly, ignoring that nagging part of her that instantly missed the sensation. Shaking her head in response to someone or something unseen, she shot a small glare towards the corner of the room and reluctantly got up off him, resigning herself back to her numb and solitary little world.
“I think you need something to occupy that brilliant mind of yours,” she said smoothly, “Do you play chess?”
“Strangely enough, no,” he replied, “Unless you count what I do with people…”
He remained where he was as she extricated herself, watching her go with a glance and staring at a point on the ceiling when she was gone. His fingers drummed on the metal bed frame in a steady rhythm, his breath matching it automatically as he lay there, “But I’m a fast learner.”
“Would you like to play with me, then?” Lyra smiled, then winced at the slight purr in her voice. The damage the two of them could do together flashed unbidden through her mind. Baelian had given up on the Children in the Towers…but perhaps now she had someone else who would hunt down demons with her.
“I will always play with you when you ask me,” he told her, his head tilting in her direction, his damp hair falling across his cheek and into his eyes, veiling his gaze. Her fingers twitched to fix it, but she restrained herself.
“Very well. I’ll have a set brought in. White or Black?” she smirked. Niki gave her a wry smile, a hand moving to rake back his hair.
“Is that a serious question?” he asked, “Because I feel like you’re mocking me.”
“Mocking you?” she feigned astonishment, “I would never mock my darling brother and patient in such a way. It was a genuine question….white always moves first…” She batted her eyes at him innocently, “I didn’t want to assume I had the advantage.”
That deep and dark shimmer danced in his eyes as he watched her, a smirk playing at his lips. He didn’t respond right away, though his expression spoke volumes, his body flexing on the bed as he stretched and turned on his side, propping his head up on one hand.
“And if I win?” he asked, raising a brow at her.
“Nothing that will compromise your treatment or the safety of security staff or your Family….” she replied carefully.
“I want my own room back. Out of this jacket,” he kicked it off the bed, “…and where I can see the sun. With a view. Of the lake…” he said flatly, “That suite they usually put our family in…” Giving her a measured stare, he smiled prettily, “And then we can discuss what I get when I win.”
Lyra raised an eyebrow in response, amused.
“If you win, you get the room, under armed guard. You can stay out of your jacket….how else will you play?” She smiled to herself, “If I win, you help me find someone.”
He studied her as if listening to the things she didn’t say, his keen mind assessing his options.
“If you insist” he said finally, “…though I wouldn’t be giving those guards too much power if I were you…” he smirked at her, “They’re not as attached to me as you are.”
“A taser, not a gun,” she laughed, “We can’t have the cops snooping around…and I don’t trust you not to get said gun off of them…”
She watched him fondly for a moment longer, then started to tidy up, leaning to collect her fallen folder. She had no further reason to stay, she told herself, aside from desperation for company and fascination with her brother’s alter.
“Well I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t trust me either…especially not with Bernard…” Niki replied casually, his eyes lowering for the first time since she’d arrived, his free hand moving to scratch at a notch on the metal frame of the bed absently. She pointed a finger at him.
“You leave Bernard alone. He is the only one I can even remotely rely on around here…stick to the nurses.”
When he looked up at her again the amusement and mirth had completely disappeared from his face, those blue eyes narrowing at her in calculated disapproval.
“I’m the only one you can trust in here, Doctor Monére…I suggest you learn that very quickly if you want to survive this game…” His body had tensed, as if he were readying himself to attack…or resisting the urge. Lyra showed no outward signs of concern, though inside she was torn between calming the situation, and provoking it just to feel something.
“Can I now?” she sniffed. “And why is that?”
The tension in the room had risen, the measure of control that he’d decided to maintain over his own nature winding tighter and tighter around them both, like a rubber band that would break at any moment.
“Because you’re still a haughty little girl inside, Claudia…staggering around in idiot shoes designed to keep you under control. You see what they want you to see…not what is…” his fingers tightened on the metal frame as he watched her intently, “Kick the fucking things off. Stop playing their games…there aren’t enough chairs at their tables when the music stops…there never is…”
Her jaw clenched and her fists clenched. He was provoking her.
“I don’t want to sit on their might-as-well-be-IKEA chairs anyway. I am haughty, but because I was bred to be, and so many of them are lucky that’s the only breeding I choose to let slip through…my shoes may be one of the few things keeping it that way. So you’ll excuse me if I leave them on, because no one will like what I am otherwise. I won’t be ‘useful’ to anyone’s damn ‘Family’ then…”
That light was back, that dark burning in his gaze that whispered he was one step away from devouring her whole. His knuckles had turned white on the metal frame, his breathing coming slightly faster.
“I like it,” Niki murmured to her, “I can taste it from here…” His eyes slid closed and he moaned lightly, tilting his head, a sudden laugh escaping him, “I can smell the blood on your hands…you beautiful horrible thing…” His head bowed, his teeth biting into his arm, blue eyes opening to gaze at her in awed appreciation.
Claudia looked at him, her green eyes vicious.
“You haven’t seen the half of it,” she promised, “You saw a child. You still see a child…” She blinked and mentally scolded herself for allowing him to bait her, but she was tired, numb and bombarded daily by documents that reminded her that they had all been hand crafted as monsters.
“Wrong again,” Nikolai replied, resting his cheek on his arm and blinking at her, “Unlike our parents, I have no interest in children, least of all uptight snooty Monére’s…” his wry smile returned and he seemed to calm somewhat, “But we’ll do it your way, if you insist…and for every piece you take, I’ll tell you a secret…whether you want to hear it or not…”
He paused, looking her up and down, his eyes sliding closed as he resisted the urge to do whatever it was that just occurred to him.
“And I promise I won’t fuck you again until you ask me to, Claudia.”
She laughed then, grateful that he was pushing her away, creating barriers. She was back where she belonged, with her unseen friends and tormentors.
“Snooty Monère’s,” she echoed, turning towards the door, “I’ll ask for the game to be set up. And I’ll remember where we leave off…so don’t even bother swapping the pieces around.”
“I wouldn’t dare…” he crooned, his eyes following her as she went, “Send that blonde bit of gauze in, if she’s around…your patient is suffering from sensory deprivation…”
She whirled on him, the words hitting a sore point, then laughed coldly.
“You could be,” she growled, her eyes softening after a moment as she sighed, “Rachel or Wendy?” she asked reluctantly.
Nikolai blinked at her, noting her reaction but choosing to let it pass, the edge in her voice piquing his interest. He shrugged, making a face that told her he couldn’t care less which bit of candy she threw at him.
“Whichever one you like the least…” he replied.
“Rachel then,” Claudia smirked, “Try not to make a mess.”
He bowed his head in acquiescence to her request, chuckling as she opened the door and walked out.
She had some chess skills to brush up on.
Written by Roslyn and Natalie.
All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016. Natalie Ristovski.