Nikolai sat across from her, his brow furrowed as he studied the black and white pieces between them, that forever-threatening smile playing over his lips as he leaned back against the wall in his chair.
“If you’re not careful you’ll lose your bishop,” he told her, gesturing with his chin, “Imagine what a tragedy that would be…”
Lyra grinned at him. She’d removed his straightjacket as promised, and so far give or take a stray caress or two her ‘brother’s’ destructive alter ego had behaved himself.
“Remind me again what I lose if you take my piece?”
She picked up her bishop and claimed a rook, “Oh never mind,” she teased, hoping he’d forgotten his threat of secrets revealed with each token won. She was sure she didn’t want to know anything he’d want to share.
There was of course that sick part of her that was happy to watch everything turn to dust. The part that he’d been feeding since the first moment they’d spoken.
“A secret,” Niki smirked at her win, completely unfazed. Blinking, he tilted his head at her, fixing her with a stare, “I get to tell you secrets…you get to ask me questions…so…one truth. Go…” he waited, glancing over the board as he weighed up his options.
“This involves you doing a lot of talking…what am I, your therapist?” she joked.
“Well we can up the stakes and you can tell me your secrets if you’d prefer…” he said casually, “But I doubt that’s your thing…you Monére’s generally like to stand to the side and sneer all superior, as I recall…”
Lyra grinned, then looked thoughtful.
“Okay, truth. How is Baelian going with Mike, his actual therapist?”
Blinking, Niki picked up a piece and knocked a white rook off the table, sending it clattering across the floor.
“Truth – Baelian hates Mike. Mike is bound by schooling and ignorant preconceptions and our childhood makes his head explode. It’s not a burning murderous hatred like we have for Bernard, but we’re not exactly having Mike over for Sunday brunch any time soon…”
Nodding, Lyra took his response on board. She’d expected as much, but the truth was that no one could understand their childhood. Collecting her piece from the floor, she placed it neatly to one side and braced herself for her ‘secret.’ Nikolai stared her right in the eyes, his face becoming very serious. After a moment he nodded solemnly.
“I lied about chess. Alexei taught me to play,” he said flatly. Lyra relaxed visibly.
“Why lie?” she asked, sliding a piece across the board. He shrugged, sidling his own piece alongside hers.
“Because if I’d told the truth I wouldn’t have gotten to sit and watch you try to teach me…” he admitted finally, smirking. Lyra looked at him carefully, then eyed the piece that he’d just offered up.
“Did it amuse you?” she asked, avoiding it carefully.
“It did,” he replied, “you’re pretty when you’re trying to be superior to me.” He’d smirked at her avoidance of his sacrifice, knocking another rook off the board with a tap.
“I must be very pretty then.”
He tilted his head in silent regard, appraising her for a good long moment before nodding.
“Yes, I would say Claudia Monére is right up there,” he gestured to the pieces that she was avoiding, “This is going to be a short game if you keep playing that way…I hope whoever you wanted me to help you find when you won wasn’t too important to you.”
Lyra smiled. She hadn’t been fishing for compliments, but he had a rather charming way about him nonetheless. Moving another piece, she took the pawn sitting near his queen and looked at him expectantly, waiting for his secret before she asked his truth.
Niki considered her for a moment longer before smirking.
“You look more and more like your mother every day…” he said, watching her for a reaction, though there seemed to be no outward malice in his words.
Her mind flicked over a memory of her mother, Constance…an elegant lady in a long robe, dancing with herself to old records in an empty ballroom as Spring sunshine streamed through the window. Saying nothing and keeping her expression neutral, Lyra shifted another piece, pushing a pawn into range of his knight. He eyed it, a brow lofting before he moved a different piece altogether.
“So…truth?” he asked, lips forming a pout at her strategy, a scowl painting his features briefly as he awaited her question.
“What else did Alexei Katorga teach you?” Lyra tilted her head, “Outside of what he did to you…”
For a long moment Niki seemed confused by her question, as if he wasn’t actually sure what she meant by her words. He frowned, his head tilting in that strange way he had of looking at everything askew, then blinked, wrinkling his nose.
“He taught me to hunt. And how to listen…to people…what they say, what they don’t say. What it means. How to use it.”
“Poker?” she asked, faintly curious.
“In a manner of speaking…though my face is too expressive, apparently…” he shrugged.
“I am terrible at cards. I kept making up stories about the royalty and Eden would tell me to just say ‘snap’ already…” she replied fondly, pushing her queen forward a few squares.
“Yes, well…the Iron Maiden wasn’t renowned for her imagination, as far as I recall…” he took a pawn, placing it delicately next to the board, “Some people are no fun…”
“Some people need more time to see the fun,” Lyra said, in defensive of her friend.
“Indeed,” he replied…”But since I’m sharing secrets, let’s just say that I’ve seen firsthand how much fun Eden could have when it was others that were suffering…”
Lyra blinked, her eyes lowering.
“Of course she could. She was a treasure…” she said carefully, pressing a pawn forward.
“Touché,” Niki replied, smirking and shaking his head at her pawn, “Are you really moving that one?”
Lyra feigned ignorance. “Yes, why?”
Making a face, he ignored it, moving an inconsequential piece on the opposite side of the board and shaking his head.
“It looks questionable…middle class,” he said, “Beneath your standing…if you must know.”
Lyra moved the piece once more, backing up her queen and taking a bishop.
“I am a bit defensive around you,” she said, looking up at him, her green eyes glittering, “But then, I’d be a fool not to be…” narrowing her gaze, she watched him carefully, “Why did you volunteer truths as a reward and secrets as a punishment for me?”
Nikolai met her gaze, his lips curving as he drank in her expression. Shifting in his seat, he pushed away from the wall and turned more fully to face her, resting his elbows on the small table she’d brought in for their game.
“I’m a narcissist,” he offered.
Lyra laughed, “No. You watch twice as much as you like being watched…which is a lot….but you are a natural hunter. What is it you want to see?”
Inclining his head in appreciation, Niki conceded the point before giving another nonchalant shrug.
“I’m sure you can appreciate the need for vigilance and awareness, growing up as we did. I make a point to know my enemies and rivals…and my equals, scarce as they may be…” he stopped, hesitating for a moment before pressing his lips together, his eyes lowering briefly, “Plus I’m trying to make you like me so you feel guilty about murdering me.”
“Technically, I’m not murdering you. But I see your point,” Lyra nodded, then nudged him gently with her foot, indicating it was his turn, “You’re doing a good job though. The others know me well enough by now to know that my weakness is simple, but they don’t use it.”
“Technically I cease to exist, so let’s not argue semantics,” came the reply, along with a kick in the shin beneath the table in retaliation to her nudge, “But I go to my death with the smug satisfaction that you’ll miss me more than the others…and hear my voice every time you fuck anyone from now on.” Eying the chess pieces, he shifted a knight, edging it closer to her queen.
“Check,” Lyra murmured, her fingers lingering over her queen, shifting it towards his king, “We haven’t fucked…not consensually,” she pointed out, knowing that it made no difference.
“Alas, only in my dreams, fair Claudia…but I could hardly expect the breeding mare of the great Monére lineage to fornicate willingly with a mere gypsy like myself. Such is the stuff of Harlequin romances…and our story is hardly that…I took my opportunities where I could.”
Pressing her lips together, Lyra tried her hardest not to smile.
“Doesn’t my knowing that you’re playing me not ruin this plan of yours?” she asked instead.
Pondering for a long moment, Niki reached over and moved his King out of harm’s way, offering her a charming grin.
“You presume that I’m playing. Just because I’m pressing my advantage, doesn’t mean that the feeling isn’t genuine.”
“All of you in there have an advantage, little Lyra has a soft heart…” she said with a self-mocking smile, “But I may be inclined to miss you. It’s been a long time since I had such an interesting…challenge. Oh…you aren’t going to take me?” she asked flirtingly before pointing out where he could have claimed a piece.
He gazed at her across the table, blue eyes darkening as he smirked at her.
“You didn’t ask me,” he replied, indicating the board with a tilt of his chin, “Your move.”
Raising an eyebrow, Lyra inclined her head as if she was innocently confused by his response, though she couldn’t hide the glimmer in her eyes.
“Were you at Paris?” she asked, taking another piece.
“Last I looked Baelian didn’t fuck people with broken bottles…” he replied, seeming almost bored with the topic, “He pretends like he does…but he never had the stomach for it…” His words trailed off as a grin spread across his face, “Yes I was there. Good times. Old Armand squealing like a girl. One for the grandkids.”
“To be fair, he sounded more like a rabbit being skinned alive…” Lyra commented, a wicked grin spreading across her face in spite of herself, “What with his vocal abilities so compromised…” She closed her eyes briefly, a small twitch flicking through her face.
Niki laughed, the rich and genuine sound of someone truly entertained. Shaking his head, he gave her an adoring nod of appreciation and a conspiratorial wink.
“I know right? Your mother didn’t even make that sound…hers was more of a low keening…she was actually pretty quiet, except for when she was calling your name and asking for your forgiveness…I mean…”
Still chuckling, he returned his attention to the board, making a ‘hmm’ sound.
-HE NEEDS TO GO-
Lyra’s grin faded. She felt like someone she once was would have been horrified by his statement…Jackal certainly didn’t like it…but to her it seemed just sad. Her mother had died thinking that she’d failed her daughter…and Lyra knew that she would die feeling the same way. Ironic that she and her mother shared a similar weakness.
“Well?” Gritting her teeth, Lyra indicated the board.
Perking a brow, Nikolai flicked a pawn from the table, moving one of his own into place.
“Well…you’re not very astute sometimes…or maybe you just don’t want to know some things and as such avoid certain topics…” he told her, “I’ve mentioned Bernard twice now.”
Lyra looked at him. She had been avoiding that particular topic like the plague. She swallowed and watched him, fear and anger dancing behind her eyes. He stared back at her, his expression somewhere between amusement and a deep seated rage that bubbled just beneath the surface.
“Unless you already know,” he went on, his head cocking, “Which would make things very, very interesting indeed…which is it Claudia?”
“Tell me,” her voice was tense, almost challenging as she shook her head, “I want you to tell me, to my face.”
Niki’s eyes glazed over somewhat, in that almost trancelike way they did when he was about to do or say something particularly unpleasant. He blinked it away, his hands moving to press palm down on the table either side of the board.
“He likes to visit sometimes…in the night…sweet Bernard does…” he leant forward, locking his gaze with hers, “He makes your brother cry…I can’t tell if he likes it or not, with Baelian you can never tell…but it doesn’t feel consensual to me…”
Lyra lowered her eyes to the board and stared.
‘Of course he does’ she thought, ‘This whole sick world is broken. All the people are just meat sacks surviving on heat and fear.’
Watching her, Niki sat in silence for the longest time, finally nudging her to make her move.
“It’s not so bad. I mean, all things considered it’s pretty lame…” he reached out a hand, pressing it against her arm, “And he’ll get what’s coming to him…just don’t get angry with me when he bleeds to death on account of me biting his cock off…I hope you’re not attached or anything…”
Lyra had jumped when he nudged her, pushing a piece across the board without looking, her eyes unfocused as she struggled to maintain a calm facade and even breathing.
Frowning, Niki nudged her again, seeming confused by her reaction. His eyes darted down to the board, then back to her, an unimpressed look fixing his features as he moved a piece.
“Check…” he murmured, then looked to her again, “Claudia.”
She held up a finger, silently asking him to wait, her hand shaking slightly. After a long moment she blinked and looked at him.
Niki said nothing, merely pointing to the board between them expectantly.
“Oh,” she analysed the situation as she reached into her pocket, pulling out a pill and pressing it between her lips. She moved out of check, taking a pawn, “They’re all Devils too, aren’t they?” she asked softly.
“Did I upset you?” Niki was staring with an expression somewhere between accusation and feigned concern. Lyra shook her head.
“No, darling. You didn’t upset me. The world upsets me. Lies upset me. Truth is…helpful.” Thinking for a moment, she looked at him in earnest, “Who should I put in charge of your case? Have any of my staff not hurt you, instantly caved, or made any progress at all?”
Again Niki seemed confused, her talk of Devils and darlings perplexing him, as if both the insinuation and the affectation were beyond his realm of understanding. And how not, when to him the matter of their childhood and his position in the food chain was completely black and white?
“You…” he said, tilting his head at her question about her staff, “No one else…just you.”
Lyra winced at his answer, wanting to question if it was truth or his whim that made him say that. But she knew, really, that he was right. Instantly her mind calculated the possibilities and steps to be taken…she could move into a spare room at Oakleaf, care for Simon and him exclusively, she could hand management over for a month or so…
“Your move,” she murmured.
Nikolai picked up a piece and put it down again without looking, keeping his gaze on Lyra the whole while. For the longest time he seemed to want to ask her something, his lips parting, then closing as he considered his approach. Finally he drew in a sharp breath, exhaling and shaking his head.
“What did you mean…they’re all Devils?” he asked.
She thought back over her words. “It’s a distinction I used to make. Monsters and Devils…and the children. I didn’t mind being a monster and doing terrible things because I thought there was a moral high ground, a difference. Monsters fought the Devils…” she sighed, “It was an ‘us and them‘ mentality that ultimately has left me with no ‘us,’ no ‘children’, and a world full of ‘them’.” She moved a piece slowly across the board.
Niki glanced down, nodding and waiting for her to complete her move before countering with a useful but ineffective one of his own.
“They were more powerful than us,” he told her, “The one’s with the power always win…the only way to beat them is to take that power…” he shook his head, waving a hand as if to dismiss a thought, “And when you have it, you do whatever it takes to keep it. It’s not about right and wrong…it’s about not being on the bottom of the food chain. The children grow up to be Devils either way…all we need to concern ourselves with is not letting them be greater than we are.”
“I am idealistic,” Lyra said, sounding bitter… “Was. I was idealistic. Now, I’m just obsessive.”
He brightened like a child whose favourite toy had just been presented, grinning at her.
“Oh me too!” he exclaimed, “Obsessions are fucking fantastic…you can go for days and days and weeks and months or even years on the right one!” A hand reached out excitedly to grip her own, his fingers entwining with hers as if they were sweethearts.
“The right balance of obsession and madness can make beautiful things…bloody things…crawling down burning hallways gushing from arterial wounds with broken kneecaps and ankles type things…”
Lyra looked baffled by his sudden change in mood, squeezing his hand gently.
“That does sound beautiful,” she said slowly. “There is a poetry to people when they are suffering. A trueness of self, perhaps…but then, an oddity to them as well…what with their insides no longer being on the inside…” she chuckled to herself.
“Like an orchestra,” he whispered to her, his eyes shining with that mad adoration again, “The crunch of bones…or teeth if your aim sucks with a chisel…”
She laughed, genuinely happy.
“I was drinking…I’m lucky with you pulling at me and nagging that I didn’t lose a finger and bleed all over you…then you’d remember how my…” she trailed off as he pulled her hand closer to his face, nuzzling into her skin and kissing her wrist.
“I could create a symphony with you, Claudia Monére…” his eyes had closed and he breathed in her scent, his tongue snaking out to lick her flesh. When he exhaled, it was shallow and shaky, his body shuddering.
And then one eye opened, brow rising as he smirked against her hand.
“Your move, Doctor.”
Lyra’s eyes fluttered closed and a long practiced reminder echoed in her mind.
“Remember this,” she said to herself under her breath, without realising she said it aloud. Opening her eyes again, she bat her lashes sweetly at him and moved a piece to block another.
He smiled a lazy smile at her words, those keen eyes remaining fixed on her as he rubbed his face against her hand. And then his eyes were closing again, a low moan sounding in his throat, his lips travelling a small way along her wrist and forearm, fingers remaining curled around hers as his free hand reached out and slid a pawn sideways.
“I never forget,” he murmured against her skin.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” she replied softly, “You are hardly sensory deprived….thanks to my nurses.”
She moved a piece and took his queen, almost without thinking. He shrugged, making a face as it was captured and biting her finger softly.
“Yes but there’s the meal you want and the cheap takeout you get because it’s the only thing available at the time…” he teased, “We gypsies gotta seize the moment as it arises…” Shifting his bishop, he took another pawn, sending it clattering with a flick of his hand, “Since you’re not offering an alternative…”
“Well, there are more than just nurses to fix those cravings…” Lyra’s chuckle cut off in a gasp at his bite, “Even if you are just a gypsy…” There was a teasing tone in her voice indicating that she didn’t think he was ‘just’ anything.
“Oh?” a brow lofted, his interest piqued, “Are you referring to anything or anyone in particular?” he prodded, his eyes flicking down to the board, “I owe you a truth…” he said, nibbling on her finger and grinning.
“Go on then. Truth.”
“Ask me,” he replied, “what do you want?”
Lyra tilted her head and looked at him hungrily.
She wanted to throw him at someone with a knife and watch him carve them apart, she wanted to teach him anatomy over a fresh corpse and feed his brilliant mind…she wanted to dance with him in a silent ballroom and finally plot with a mind that could match her.
“What do you want for your birthday?” she asked, “All of you, what do they want. I haven’t had time to shop and if I am to take on your case full time I won’t have a moment to myself with my other commitments…” she bit her lip, “Except Baelian, I know who he wants.”
Niki smiled as if he knew exactly what she’d been thinking, pulling her hand from his face and turning it over, his finger drawing little circles on her palm as if he were about to tell her fortune.
“Jasper wants to close the merger…” he said offhandedly, “And Belladonna is gone…” Tracing her lifeline, he tilted his head playfully, bowing to kiss her palm, “I just want you…” he said, “That wonderful intellect you have and your company…I want to…” he stopped, blinking and sitting up, his words trailing off.
“Nevermind, I’ll just upset you,” he finished.
“Tell me,” she insisted, grabbing his finger as it tickled her palm. He laughed, shaking his head.
“No way, you’ll just call me psychotic again…” Niki smiled that charming smile, twisting his finger and playing at trying to pull it away. Lyra smirked and tightened her grip.
“I never called you psychotic, just informed you of what your diagnosis was. You, however, implied that I was without any medical knowledge.”
“I did, didn’t I?” he sniggered, pulling harder to free himself from her grasp, “How horrid of me…how utterly deplorable and disrespectful of your esteemed person.”
Lyra gave him a flat, insistent look.
“Tell me,” she demanded, “We can swap secrets.”
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours, eh?” Nikolai’s eyes widened and he gave her a wink, nodding finally, “Fine…”
The hand still entwined with hers flexed, his fingers stroking her skin lightly.
“I want to burn this place to the ground…I want to go from to room with an axe and bury it in the skull of every fucker in here who will never see the sunshine…” he licked his lips, his pupils dilating…”I want to hold your hand and stalk the screaming nurses down the corridors, watch the little whores beg for your forgiveness and their lives as you cut their throats one by one…” His breath caught and an utterly blissful expression smeared across his features, “And I want to rip Bernard apart at your feet, drag you down and fuck you till you scream over his piece of shit corpse…licking the blood off your beautiful face…”
He kissed her fingertip, punctuating his declaration. Lyra realised she was holding her breath.
“Well, isn’t that something,” she breathed, “Can’t say I haven’t thought the same myself…” she admitted with a wicked grin, “I hear the nurses do scream so sweetly…”
Niki’s smile widened slightly as he regarded her. He should have laughed and called her bluff, mocking or berating her for lying to him…but something in his expression clearly said that he believed her.
“But Claudia,” he replied, giving her a feigned look of shock, “I thought Monére’s didn’t sleep with Katorgas…”
“We don’t. But the other parts sound acceptable,” she smirked at him and slid a piece across the board, “I could teach you a few fun things from medical school…if we ever got tired of chasing them…”
He let her hand go all at once, leaning back against the wall and studying the chess board.
“Oh I bet you could,” he crooned, “My Claudia could do all the things, if only she let go of her inane propensity for the self-flagellation of the greater good…” The piece he countered her move with was lazy, sloppy…almost an afterthought.
“Your Claudia…” she repeated thoughtfully, amused. She looked at the move he’d made, “You want to know who I need found, don’t you? You couldn’t be bored of this game already…”
Glancing at the table Niki grinned with something that almost resembled a blush.
“I’ll admit, I’m torn between hurling this board to the side and reneging on my promise not to rape you…or feeding my masochistic need to let you beat me…” he confessed, “But yeah, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least mildly curious about it…and why you need me and not Baelian…”
Lyra gave a sniff of derision.
“Baelian will not be happy until I have died for him and his precious Alina, which is fine and dandy, but I have things to do first.” She looked at him through her lashes, her green eyes shining gleefully, “Besides, I need my ‘Parisian’ friend for this particular task.”
A swirl of excitement danced through his gaze, tempered moments later with a feigned and playful nonchalance.
“Oh yes? And what’s in it for me?” he asked, his blue eyes shining with mischief.
“The game, Niki darling,” she replied sweetly, “It’s your turn.”
He glanced down and in three seconds had moved a piece with a resounding tap.
“Check,” he smirked.
Lyra moved a piece to block his check. He frowned and moved another piece, throwing her a pointed look.
“So who is it?” he asked finally, relenting to curiosity.
“One of the Reverend’s lackeys,” she said simply, moving a piece and watching his reaction carefully. His eye twitched involuntarily but he feigned indifference, brows rising as he slid his knight over.
“I see,” he said, “I wasn’t aware that there were lackeys.” His jaw tightened, his hand gripping the edge of the table unconsciously.
-Don’t rile him-
Lyra waved a hand dismissively.
“I’ll fix it,” she tilted her head at him, “Breathe, darling one. Don’t make me lower myself to distract you.”
He laughed, the sound cut short by a gasp as his body reacted to its trigger of its own accord. Shaking his head he released the table carefully, uncurling his fingers and placing his hand to once side.
“If that’s all it takes to spread your legs I think you should know that I’m prone to panic attacks and not above faking them…” he told her, chuckling, though something foreboding still danced behind his eyes.
“Oh no…” her expression darkened slightly, “I don’t have to spread my legs to distract you…I know many fun secrets.” Carefully she picked up his hand and turned it over, tracing the lines affectionately while a finger pressed lightly to his wrist, taking his pulse. He studied her, fascinated, his blue eyes wide and awed.
“Secrets..? What kind of secrets..?” he whispered, like a child watching something hypnotic flit about.
“Magic,” she whispered, looking thoughtful, her voice a soft purr, “Shall I show you?”
He blinked once, twice, three times…thoroughly enchanted in an instant, and nodded, biting his lip. Lyra ran her fingers over his skin, stroking his hand fondly.
“I love little pussy, her coat is so warm…” she began in a singsong voice, watching his face, “And if I don’t hurt her, she’ll do me no harm…”
He laughed, brows furrowing in confusion as he shook his head.
“What..?” he began, a giggle falling from his lips before it cut off sharply. His pupils dilated, his breath quickening as a soft ‘oh’ escaped him.
Lyra smiled gently, a knowing expression painted on pale features.
“So I’ll not pull her tail, nor drive her away…”
“…Claudia…” Niki whispered, her name trailing off into a low moan. His forehead creased in perplexion, his body hunching forward over the table, knocking the chessboard and making the pieces shudder.
She pulled the table from between them to a safe distance, reaching for him reassuringly. She considered stopping…for a moment.
‘One more line,’ she thought, delighted to see him confused. The triggers that she’d read about in the Professor’s journals had not all been about hurting them…and she’d been wanting to try this particular one for a while.
“But pussy and I will very gently play…”
Nikolai fell to his knees, his entire body shuddering, his free hands grasping for Lyra and pulling her closer.
“Jesus…” he breathed, his hair falling over his face. He was panting now, features contorted in a bewildered expression partway between surprise and sheer pleasure. Lyra let herself be drawn in, leaning to brush her lips against his neck.
-Don’t play this game. You’ve tried the sexual trigger. It works. Further agitation is not productive-
She couldn’t help it. Lifting his chin with a finger, she studied his expression.
“Should I stop?” she asked him.
He was quivering in her arms, his fingers digging hard into her, his mouth slack. His chest rose and fell at a rapid pace, wide blue eyes bleary with desire staring at her through the veil of his hair. He tried to speak, managing only another moan and a bewildered laugh before he shook his head vehemently.
Lyra grinned and moved to support him, pressing her cheek affectionately against his bowed head.
“She shall sit by my side…and I’ll give her some food…”
The delirious sound of pleasure that emanated from him was partly muffled as he fell forward, his face burying in her chest as she leaned over him in her chair. His hands dropped to her waist and he snaked them around her midsection, wriggling his way between her legs and drawing his body closer. Tilting his head up, he kissed her cheek, moaning against it as his body jolted, leaving him gasping. Lyra hugged him close and stroked his hair almost maternally.
“And pussy will love me…” she sing-songed, holding off on the last line as a playful grin alighted her face.
Niki was trembling uncontrollably, over and over, a deep guttural growl sounding in his throat. His breath came in short gasps now, a fine sheen of perspiration over his pale face as he pressed his cheek against her chest, bleary blue eyes wide and staring at her. His body had curled completely into hers where she sat, jerking and jolting of its own accord, his knees scraping on the linoleum floor.
“….What…don’t…” he panted when she stopped, a myriad of emotions dancing through those eyes, from lust to anger and fear to pleading, amusement and sheer adoration, “…ma…chienne…déesse…” he started to laugh through each gasp. A hand rose to tangle in her hair and he hissed her name.
“See? Everything sounds better in French,” she chuckled and gently moved his hand, leaning in closer to kiss his earlobe, “If I was a bitch, Nikolai, I wouldn’t finish it.”
He was moaning and laughing at her, clearly torn between tearing her to pieces and kissing her feet. Tears rose in his eyes and he chanted her name over and over between ragged breaths, his hand grasping for hers as she pulled it from her hair.
“Ne me…te tuer,” he whispered.
She smiled, delighted and refreshed to see him lost and happy, and pulled him close to whisper the last line.
“Because I am good.”
Niki’s features twisted at her words, his head falling into her lap as she finally gave him the release he craved. His body jerked violently, teeth clamping down onto her thigh as pleasure overtook him and he was drowned in it. He shuddered uncontrollably, whimpering and moaning heleplessly through induced orgasm as if he were a child. And then he was laughing again, almost hysterically, the mirthful and panting chuckles of a madman.
“Look Ma, no hands,” Lyra teased him softly, trying not to react to the fire that his bite had sent through her veins, “The perfect solution for the lady and the gypsy boy, no?”
‘Gypsy boy’ merely buried his face deeper into her thighs, his reply completely muffled. It took a while for his breathing to slow, his body trembling continuously as the laughter finally died away. Turning so that his cheek pressed against her, he knelt with his head in her lap, his hair sticking to his damp forehead. His lips pursed and he kissed her thigh where he’d bitten it, a shaking hand coming up to trace the spot with a finger.
Lyra twitched slightly at the kiss, then grimaced, fixing his hair and pulling a tissue from her pocket to wipe the sweat from his brow almost clinically.
-This was an experiment. Nothing more.-
Breathing deeply, Niki paused before kissing the spot again, his gaze becoming slightly more calculating as he gauged her response.
“Saying goodbye…is never an easy thing,” he crooned at her in a breathy voice, “…but you never said…that you’d stay foreverrrrr…” swallowing, he blinked to clear the haze of pleasure, making no attempt to move, “Will you miss me…when I’m gone a-wayyyy…”
“Don’t do that,” she chided, putting the tissue away, “It’s beneath you.” She tried to guide his hand away from her thigh, feeling the tingling distraction trying to fog her mind, “You aren’t going anywhere, you’ll just be your rightful self. Then you can play with Alina, Bella and anyone else you’d like. Everyone will be safe and happy…” she sounded like she was trying to convince herself.
Lifting his head and looking up at her, Niki’s gaze darkened and something akin to a petulant pout graced his rich lips.
“I’m already my rightful self, and I don’t want Alina, or Bella or to be lapdog to any of them,” he scowled, “And where do you fit into this plan, may I ask?”
Lyra looked at him, her gaze a little hollow. Her Jackal asked her the same question quite frequently. She didn’t have a good answer, then or now.
“I’ll be around. I’ll be godmother to Bethany and Grigori’s children, I’ll help with weddings and…things,” she waved her hand dismissively, though it was obvious she had no idea what would become of her when she was no longer needed by her ‘family.’
Niki tilted his head, smirking.
“They won’t be having any children,” he said, “And you…you’d relegate yourself to the sidelines and hide while your brother gets all the glory…for what? To be a wedding planner every time we decide to sell off another one of our children to strengthen the family line?” His hands shifted and slid up her thighs, under her coat, “You’re not a pawn Claudia…when will you stop acting like one..?”
She tensed at his touch.
“I… I don’t have a family anymore. Who else should I look after?” her eyes sharpened, “What do you mean they won’t be having any..?” she scowled and grit her teeth.
“Yourself, how about that?” Niki seemed to get angry now. He completely ignored the question about Grigori’s children, waving it away like an irritating fly and pushing back from her to sit on the floor, making a slight face of discomfort at the cold press of sticky and damp fabric against his thigh.
“All that brilliant knowledge…the lust for blood, that dangerous mind…the Monére THING…and you’re just gonna sit around playing nanny to everyone? Fuck you…” he crossed his arms in front of him, “The fuck is wrong with you all…didn’t you listen to anything our parents taught us?”
Lyra had sighed softly in relief as he backed away, she found it so much harder to say no to him when he was close.
-You’re stronger when you’re numb-
As much as she hated to admit it, his words hit home. She’d only ever been called a monster for all she longed to do…she’d squashed those desires down into a small corner of herself and tried as often as she could to forget they existed.
“I have challenges here,” she tried to protest, half to herself, “puzzles enough to…”
-To what? To tread water with until you die?-
“Oh yes I can see that…” he narrowed his eyes, shaking his head, “Hiding behind these walls and fucking with the minds of the abandoned in the name of science…how very introverted and martyrous of you…” Rising, he sneered at her, shaking his head and starting to pace back and forth.
“Seriously…all these years and this is what you’ve learnt? To be a fucking nursemaid? You’re gonna give him what he wants aren’t you? You’re gonna kill me…” he scowled, then paused, glancing down at the chessboard nearby. Reaching out, he moved a piece, slamming it down with a ‘thwack.’
“Check,” he spat, then resumed his pacing, shaking his head and muttering to himself.
“Are you arguing for your perceived ‘life’ or for me to burn the world to the ground?” Lyra asked testily, “Shall I fill the fountains of the Monére the estate with blood, hunt in the open again…?” her voice became husky as she remembered the beautiful fountains that Armand has once kept running red in Paris, “I have to stay numb. The damage I cause…” she brushed off the thought of the Professor’s triggers and her arms wrapped around a slowly choking lawyer’s throat.
Nikolai stopped in his tracks, staring at her in disgust.
“You cause damage like I cause damage…to hit out at those who would try to control us. Being someone’s puppet is not the same thing as being master of your own destiny…” he stalked forward suddenly, reaching her in two long strides and taking hold of her arms, dragging her up off the chair, “You know what I’m talking about, and you KNOW I’m right,” his grip tightened, “I am not arguing for my life…my life is my own and no one has ever been able to take it from me, not them, not this Family, not Baelian…until you…”
His hands moved up to her face, piercing blue eyes staring into her.
“…only you…and if killing me is what it takes to show you the beauty of what you are, if I’ve gotta fucking die for you to understand that nothing is gonna change until YOU do something about it, then I give it to you gladly,” he pressed his forehead against hers, “Do you hear me Claudia? It’s yours. Take it.”
She hadn’t expected that. She stared at him, this personality fracture who had once forced chocolate down her throat and told her she was real. No one in her life had ever spoken to her as he just had, even to manipulate her.
It took her a moment to swallow the lump in her throat.
“You woke me up,” she breathed softly, “You made me remember who I was, when everyone else was content with me playing tea parties to cheer them up.”
She closed her eyes, lifting her hands to push his fingers into her skin, giving a sigh as the sensation broke the fog. Her breathing became more intentional as her panic and anger rose.
-What have I done? What am I doing? Playing doctor to fix things that will just shatter apart again?-
-Your friends are broken.-
-The world is broken.-
Niki’s fingers dug into her soft flesh, his gasps matching Lyra’s as he kept his eyes on her. Their noses touched and he shuddered, sharing her breaths.
“Fuck them…” he whispered to her, one hand stroking her face, “Fuck them all for not seeing you…show them what you are…”
-Not even Bethany has come to speak with you in these long weeks. Grigori was a few feet from your door during his visit…and he never bothered.-
Her mind raced. She pulled away from him trying to regain her numbed perspective, the fingers of one shaking hand remaining entwined with his, as if he were a life line. She was breathing erratically, struggling to find her usual cheerful mask, or at the very least her professional veneer.
“Stop it…” she gasped.
He didn’t let her go. Following her as she retreated, he slid a hand about her waist, drawing her closer and into him, wrapping both arms around her as his lips pressed against her forehead, her temple, her cheek, his warm breath against her ear.
“Don’t,” he crooned at her, “You can’t shut me out…you’re like me…I see you…”
His arms tightened in case she tried to fight him, his mouth trailing her skin as he whispered words of adoration in her ear.
Lyra felt real and hot anger press at her temples and grip her lungs.
‘Stop playing me…’ she wanted to scold him…but instead a bitter laugh escaped her. She turned her head and caught his mouth in a fierce kiss, her teeth grazing his lip.
He growled, the deep primal sound of one instantly discarding the propriety of social niceties, melting into her and her kiss as if he would let her absorb him completely. Her little nursery rhyme trigger from moments before clearly had done nothing to douse his desire. Back he pushed her, against the wall where she couldn’t retreat, arms tightened about her waist possessively. Again her name fell from his lips, whispered in awe, amusement and…challenge.
‘What does it matter?’ Lyra thought bitterly, ‘Meat and chemicals, that’s all any of us are. Simon, Jasper, Bethany, me…you….just chaotic experiments in skin.’
She gripped him closer, snarling as her back hit the wall, her hips tilting to rub against him as her head fell back.
For a moment, she would have happily lit the match that burned the world to the ground. She hated them all so absolutely it made her shudder in delight and horror.
“We could make such a magnificent mess,” she purred. He laughed at her words and everything she left unspoken.
“We could burn the world baby…you and me…” he replied, hands moving to grasp her hips, fingers digging in roughly as he bit her neck.
She moaned softly, though whether it was his words or his movements that prompted it not even she could say. His bite felt more grounding and real than anything she’d tried in the past few months, and she bit him back gratefully, hungry for sensation.
“And dance in the ashes…” she sighed happily, touching his face as she mentally smeared soot on his cheek. Turning into her hand, he nibbled at her fingers.
Then suddenly he was dragging her from the wall, whirling her about and hoisting her into his arms.
“I’ll dance with you Clau-di-a,” he sing-songed to her, “I’ll dance with you into hell…”
She laughed as he spun her, then twirled away and held out a hand to him.
“You remember how to dance…don’t you, gypsy boy?” she asked, eyebrow raised, “Those parties, I loved the dancing…even with the shoes…” she looked almost wistful.
Niki grinned and nodded, bowing low and taking her hand.
“Oui Madame…” he replied with a charming wink, “I remember…”
He drew her in again, hard against him, the smallest of moans escaping him as he pressed his body into hers. And then he was spinning her, waltzing through the small room, his lips returning to her cheek, his warm breath in her ear.
“Malade danse avec vous pour toujours , si seulement tu me aimes…”
“Toujour” Lyra laughed, nestling her head against his shoulder, “Toujour, Mon Coeur….” she faltered.
-He’s not your brother, he’s a symptom, a fragment…and not the one you’re trying to fix…-
She sped up the pace of their waltz and bit his neck lightly. What harm could another moment do?
-I’ll think in a moment…just one more moment-
He’d flinched slightly at her bite, spinning her around, his hand wandering up her back and into her hair.
“Will you miss me…” he murmured against her cheek, chuckling darkly, “Will you miss me…when I’m gone…oh…when I’ve gone a-way…”
“Stop it,” Lyra said firmly, pushing slightly away. She was about to argue as to why she was trying to ‘fix’ him…but all at once she stopped, her expression flickering between slighted sibling and amused hunter.
Niki ceased moving as she did, halting their dance and staring at her, his blue eyes widening slightly.
“Will you miss me, Claudia?” he asked her simply.
There was no mocking or cunning in his expression, just solemn curiosity and that underlying desire that was ever present when he looked at her now.
-Don’t answer that-
Lyra nodded slowly, her expression earnest.
“Like nothing I’ve ever known before,” she breathed, her voice tight. She took a step towards him, then stopped and turned on her heel, stalking over to the chessboard and moving a piece.
“Checkmate,” she said quietly, without looking at him, “I’ll send in some photos and notes…I want everything you remember that may be associated with them. Any memories, names, symbols…anything.”
Nikolai inclined his head, tilting it as his lips curved into the tiniest smile. Ignoring him, Lyra walked to the door.
“Set the board up again. I’ll be back tomorrow. Let’s see if you can win that room of yours…”
“As you wish…Doctor,” he replied, watching her through veiled blue eyes as she avoided his gaze. He didn’t move to touch her as she passed, merely stood there with his hands behind his back.
Lyra turned to him then, her eyes not quite meeting his, though her ghost of a smirk was definitely for his benefit.
“You might want to clean yourself up too…you’re rather sticky…” she told him, shaking her head in amusement before turning and walking out, forcing the door handle down a little harder than required.
Nikolai watched her go, waiting for the door to click shut before moving to the chessboard and starting to rearrange it. He hummed to himself as he worked, retrieving the scattered pieces and lining them up carefully.
“She shall sit by my side and I’ll give her some food…” he murmured, a small smile alighting his lips. His fingers trailed over each piece, coming to rest on the queen as he chuckled.
“And pussy will love me…because I am good.”
Written by Natalie Ristovski and Roslyn.
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.