Truly helpless, p.44
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       Truly Helpless, p.44

         Part #10 of Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill

  He swallowed pride. "Okay. Thanks, man."

  Alex's gaze flickered at the laconic but sincere response. Rather than answering, he checked that the cuffs were secure. They were threaded over a bar so Marius could slide them up and down, but not pull his hands and wrists back into the cage. "I'll be watching. Any problems, just signal me."

  As he began to step away, Alex glanced over his shoulder at Marius, that cold look returning. "Are you playing Regina?"

  "No." Marius's lips tugged in a grim smile. "I couldn't even if I tried, and I did try at first. She's a big part of why I'm here tonight, trying to be better."

  Alex pursed his mouth. "She's one tough bitch, in all the right ways. You have a long way to go to deserve her."

  When the man moved away, Marius thought about how he would have reacted to such blunt words weeks ago. With sneering hostility. Now, he knew it to be simple truth. And sometimes, uncomfortably, he knew he needed to be doing more to fix his shit. But he was, and would. Regina had helped get him this far. He could make this relationship work.

  The protocol on the jail cell cage was anyone could reach in and touch if they wanted to do so. Only the sub's genitals were off limits to any but the Dom-in-command, so to speak, unless they were purposefully put on display in the way Marius had recalled. He was kind of glad she hadn't required that. He wasn't sure he really wanted some other Mistress's hands getting his cock worked up, particularly if his Mistress wasn't standing where he could see her, giving her stamp of approval to it. Maybe not even then.

  On a normal night, a sub in the cage got plenty of attention, some good-natured teasing from passing Doms and even some subs. Yet though the room had become more populated, more people using the different stations, he was starting to feel invisible. Except to the Mistress who now stood in the doorway to this public play room.

  He vaguely remembered her as a one-time scene. She'd gotten frustrated halfway through and simply cut him loose.

  When she met his gaze, it was automatic to paste on the mocking, charming grin. He caught himself a blink later, realizing it for the defensive mechanism it was. Regina had taught him that bullshit was no longer acceptable. He was too late to fix it, though, because the Mistress had pivoted and disappeared, though he'd caught a hostile look in her gaze before she did.

  Well, fuck it, what did it matter if he gave them his usual charm and fuck-you attitude? He wasn't here for them. He was here for Regina. She knew him, knew how to handle him, bring out the best in him.

  Did he know how to bring out the best in himself? The question was unexpected and unsettling. She'd asked him that in a couple different ways these past few weeks. He hadn't been sure of her meaning, but the jagged feeling in his gut now was starting to give him a clue. This whole set up was making him face the painful truth that, while he might be at his personal best with her, she was the why factor. He was still who he was on his own. Someone who didn't have the respect of a guy like Alex. He'd been a shit to too many people here, disrespected what this was all about, as well as the job Tyler had given him.

  Marius shifted. There was a spanking scene going on at a nearby station, a male Dom and female sub. Usually he'd enjoy watching the reddening of a pretty ass just as much as the next guy. But everything around him was turning gray.

  Gray. Fuck. He tried to push down the panic the realization brought. How could it be so close, just waiting to resurface, unless he really hadn't changed that much, if all the shit was still there, waiting to grab him by the throat?

  Had Regina arranged for this with Tyler? Maybe she'd anticipated him needing to do some reparation and suggested this as the best way to prove he could handle being here again. He wished she would show herself. He could handle most things if he could see her.

  A glance to the left made him realize why no one had approached the cage. A red ribbon had been tied to the hook holding the keys. That meant a sub was on display only, no touching.

  That should have made him feel better, but it didn't. Bad feelings continued to build, more uneasiness and a wrong sense of...helplessness. It underlined what he'd just realized. He was nothing without her. He was still that powerless kid, prey to the predator. Darkness started to rise, bringing fear.

  "Exactly where you need to be."

  He tuned in to see Siren standing in front of the cage, several other Mistresses arrayed in a semi-circle around him. He couldn't see Alex. Had he left the fucking room? He was there, Marius was sure of it. He wouldn't leave his post when sessions were ongoing, when he had been specifically charged to watch over a sub who couldn't get out of a cage without assistance.

  Siren's eyes were fixed on him, her mouth tight. She had her hair pulled up in a severe knot, increasing the strain of her features. She was a beautiful woman, but an inner ugliness had taken hold. He was responsible for that. All he had to do was look to see the shattered confidence, the anger at what he'd done to her. She was carrying a dense veneer of righteous anger, but the hunger for revenge still bled through.

  Withdrawing a folded paper from the bodice of her corset, she opened it, showing a printed news clip. She slapped it against the bars in front of his face, the writing on the page toward her so the other women could see it. Through the translucence of the paper, he got the gist of it, though.

  "Murderer of Clerk Put to Death."

  His stomach dropped.

  "Look at the picture, taken when his daddy was put in prison. He looks like him, doesn't he?"

  The women shifted, muttering and agitated. "You are him, aren't you?" Siren demanded. "Just a little psycho-in-training."

  Pivoting, she looked up toward the darkened executive offices. Their vacancy didn't stop her from pointing an accusatory finger toward the space. "He never should have been here. And the owners of this club knew it. They had to have known it. He was their employee. They let this bastard be here, fuck with our heads."

  "They didn't know," Marius said, fighting past a thickness in his throat. What the hell was happening? He felt like he was shrinking before their accusing eyes, shrinking back into that small boy, standing in a cold, desolate corner, watching, trying not to listen, not to hear... But he wasn't that boy. He was a man, and he wouldn't let Tyler get blamed for this. "None of them knew. I didn't tell anyone."

  She turned and stared at him. "There's no way to make you suffer," she said dully. "Pain doesn't bother you. I could electrocute you, cut you, beat you, and you'd just take it all. You're not human. They should have strapped you in with your father so you two demons could go straight to Hell together."

  "I'm not...him." He tried to summon the things Regina had said to him, how she'd touched him, what she'd made him feel. Siren was wrong about him and pain. He felt like he was being beaten the way his father had beaten him. His knees were weakening strangely, breath shortening, and the cell seemed three times smaller than it had a moment ago. "Alex. Fight Club." He wasn't sure how loudly he'd spoken, if the words had made it over the roaring in his ears.

  He should have been able to handle this, would have, only a few weeks before. He would have leaned indolently against the bars, stared her down, told her to fuck off. Regina had taken away his shields and defenses, those bulwarks against anyone reaching him. He'd let go of them in favor of pleasing his Mistress, learning how to truly love her. But a boy cowering in a corner couldn't fight back or love anyone.

  "Alex isn't here." Siren leaned in, her eyes glittering. "He had a problem he had to address in the other room. But if you scream like the little bitch you are, maybe he'll come. Eventually."

  She wants the demon? Give it to her.

  Those shields weren't as dormant as he'd feared. Siren had come too close. A short yelp was all she managed when he clamped his cuffed hands around her throat. The chain linking the cuffs to the bars made a harsh shriek as he yanked her against the steel. Fury and violence swamped him, despair clinging to the small sinking island of his consciousness that had hoped he could be something else.

her parts of his black soul were far louder. Regina had put them to sleep, but Siren woke them with nothing more than a clap of her hands, showing they were as strong as they had ever been.

  Just do it. Crush her throat. It doesn't matter. You'll always be connected to him, just as she said. Doesn't matter if you never did what he told you to do. He always knew you were the same. Regina wanted to believe differently, but she was as stupid as you were.

  He shoved all that aside. He didn't want to think about anything, now or ever again, and this was the way to do that. He constricted his fingers on Siren's throat, making it clear he was too strong to be dislodged, and bared his teeth, savagely satisfied at the sudden fear in her eyes. But it wasn't her. It was his father, both afraid and laughing at him. He'd stop the laughing forever.

  Some part of him was vaguely aware of someone trying to loosen his grip, but he wouldn't be budged. "This time we will go to hell together," he snarled.

  Electricity shocked through him, propelling him back, loosening his fingers. His father was yanked away, and then disappeared, replaced by a dazed and pale Siren, held in the hands of the other Mistresses, all out of range. His howl of rage and despair sent them skittering back even more. Unfriendly eyes, angry faces. He saw a male sub--one of Siren's regulars before Marius--holding the hot stick. The man looked as if he thought he should hit Marius with it again, despite his imprisoned state. Marius snarled at him, daring him to do it.

  He could hear sounds, that roaring, but words only distantly. Present kept disappearing into images of the past and returning, overlapping, making him feel dizzy and nauseous.

  "Who's responsible for him? Who's looking after him?"

  Alex was back, shouldering through a mob of shouting people, all of them too close. The inability to breathe, the sense of being buried alive, returned. He couldn't sit down, but he slumped against the cage side, grasping the bars.

  "Move, goddamn it."

  His Mistress. She sounded more pissed than he'd ever heard. But she also sounded frightened. He didn't like that. Why had she done this?

  "He tried to choke her... Tried to kill Siren..."

  "From what I picked up, she deserved it," Regina snapped. "I would have choked her myself, if I could have gotten here any faster."

  She plucked the keys off the hook and unlocked the cell. When Alex came closer, she shot him a searing look. "You fucking stay back," she said. "You've done enough. Clear this damn room."

  "Duncan," she said. "The door's open. Come here." She reached in, but it wasn't her again. It was his father, pulling him to the table, and it was Dot under his knife. He struck out, missed and hit the bars. The pain was welcome, bringing Regina and the present back into focus. He did it again, and wanted to keep doing it, just hammer his fists into blood and fragments of bone so the agony wouldn't let the past swallow him again.

  But Regina's hands rested on his fists, curved over them. She held his gaze, wouldn't let him go away. She wasn't restraining him, but she didn't need to do so. He wouldn't beat on the bars if her fragile fingers were between his fists and the unrelenting steel. His gaze clung to her, the one thing of color in a gray world.

  He still couldn't breathe. Regina eased him out of the cell and put him on his ass, using the outside of the cage to prop him up in a sitting position. She crouched next to him. She was still in her teaching clothes, her trim slacks and crisp blouse.

  "Easy," she murmured. "It's a panic attack. Nothing's wrong with you. Just slow everything down. Easy."

  He was gripping her too hard, though not as hard as he'd wanted to grip Siren's neck. "I tried to kill her," he rasped. "I tried..."

  "She cornered you and broke every rule there is about how to treat a sub. It's okay."

  "No, it's not. Why...why did you..."

  "No. Not me." She touched his face, bringing his gaze up to her worried eyes, her tense features. "Someone pretended to be me, had the staff send you that text. I was expecting to see you at dinner tomorrow, our usual routine."

  "So you didn't..."

  "Mother of God, no. No, sweet boy. Sssh." She tried to put her arms around him, but it was too soon. He pushed away. She let him go, respecting that, but as he struggled to his feet and gripped the bars of the cage to stay on them, the darkness kept closing in on him.

  "Not. I'm not that. I tried to kill her. Wanted to kill her."

  "Duncan." Regina stood before him, giving him space but staying in his direct line of vision, keeping his focus on her. At least externally.

  "You have triggers. You know that. She was so set on making you face what you did to her and taking her pound of flesh, she had no interest in why you did it or who you are. So she stomped on those triggers and set them off. You didn't want to kill her, Marius. You were protecting yourself."

  Protecting himself? Regina hadn't been in his head, hearing those voices, feeling the drive to take life from someone who was mocking him. He would have done it and felt nothing.

  He brought his gaze to Alex, who stood on their periphery. Though he was trying to maintain a professional DM facade, his unhappiness and unease suggested guilt. The sharp look Regina shot him said she'd also put it together.

  "Taught me a lesson, did you?" Marius said softly.

  He was aware of Regina moving closer, her tension increasing. She was worried he would launch himself at Alex, pound his self-righteous face into a wall. He could do it. Make him bleed. Make him beg.

  Alex met Marius's gaze squarely, despite the shame and regret suffusing his features. "She's been so off her game since it happened, and this seemed a way to help her get peace about it. You said you were wanting to understand, you said you're sorry. She said Regina had asked for a temporary pass and knew about it. She didn't tell me it was going to be like this. Or about your father. And...I thought I'd be here. There was a problem in the other room--"

  "A fucking distraction, you idiot," Regina snapped. "Which accomplished exactly what they intended. And the Mistress who knew I was working late tonight helps in The Zone administrative offices. She approved the fucking pass in my name. What got me here was Tina's text to confirm I knew about this, because she thought something was up. Apparently she has better instincts than the damn Dungeon Master watching the floor."

  Alex nodded, accepting that, looking miserable. The rage simmering in Marius had no target. He was weary. Too weary too care. "I'm going to go change," he said woodenly. Things felt very distant, as if Regina and Alex were tiny figures within a model version of The Zone, and he was floating somewhere around it, detached.

  "Good. We'll go home," Regina said. He backed away, shaking his head.

  "Not now." Not ever. The certainty of it was a rock in his chest where his heart should be. He stared at her, her beauty and strength, her glorious anger only exceeded by concern about him. It made everything inside him hurt. Abruptly, he dropped to one still quivering knee. "Thank you, Mistress. But we're done. I'm done. I don't belong here. Or with you."

  He rose and strode away. As he passed through the club, through the quiet knots of people with accusing or curious eyes, he didn't pay attention to anything or anyone. He kept going, knowing if he stopped too long the lava inside him would explode, overflow, too many emotions to manage. But he knew where to find an outlet for those. He just needed to get in his street clothes and get the hell out of here.

  As he went down the stairs to where the locker rooms were, he was brought up short by someone unexpected. Marguerite Winterman, dressed in white blouse and dark gold pencil-style skirt, her pale blue eyes focused on his face.

  "You need your Mistress," she said quietly. "Don't run away from her."

  He put his hands on her arms and bodily moved her out of his way. Albeit without malice or harm, it was still way outside of protocol for him to put his hands on her. But he was no longer bound by any of this. He'd proven once and for all it was something that couldn't keep him in check, no matter how much he had hoped for and craved the right to belong to a Mistress
. He had no rights when it came to Mistresses. Not now, or ever again.

  Marguerite reached out to hold his arm, but he pushed away, rougher this time, a warning. "You've always been just as fucked up as I am," he told her cuttingly. The pain of that truth swamped him. "You know I need to go."

  "I know that's what everything inside you is telling you that you need to do," she said neutrally. "But it's wrong. You won't fix it until you stand in front of a mirror and stay there, as long as needed to fix the problem. You learned to look in that mirror with a Mistress by your side, but to deserve her, you have to do the scary part. Look in that mirror by yourself and see what's not fucked-up. What's worth saving. You."

  She moved away, and he realized she'd bought Regina enough time to catch up with him. Stifling a curse, he marched into the locker room area, not at all surprised when his Mistress followed him.

  Regina sat down on a bench as he yanked open his locker and pulled out his clothes. She didn't say anything as he stripped off the thong and put on underwear, jeans and a T-shirt. He stuffed his feet into socks and shoes. But when he closed the locker, she rose and put her arm in front of him, blocking his exit.

  "What do you want from me?" he demanded. "I can't be it."

  "Yes, you can. You are. But the real question is what do you want for yourself?" She caught his face in both hands, forcing him to look at her. He should shove away from her as he had Marguerite, but he couldn't seem to make himself do that. He had to curl his hands into fists not to clutch her wrists, bruise, manacle her to him forever.

  "If you didn't want anything for yourself," she said, "if you weren't willing to fight through the demons to get it, then I would want nothing from you. But I know you're a formidable fighter. You've just always fought for and against the wrong things. And you're not going to go fight now. You're not in the right frame of mind. You could do yourself or others real harm."

  "You think?" he snapped.

  Her expression went hard and cold. She was going to get all badass Mistress on him, and he didn't want to feel the eagerness rise in him for that tough hand. It would fucking tear him apart, what he wanted eclipsed by what he didn't deserve.