2289: First Light

Posted: November 30, 2012 by Kelly in stories, the world

Irina wakes up to the smell of oranges. City lights flood the darkened bedroom. The glowing numbers on the alarm clock tell her it’s nearing 5 am.

Solchov is behind her in the bed; she can feel his body weight pressing down on the mattress; his warmth. He lying behind her, nuzzling her neck but not quite touching her. Not yet. He’ll know she’s awake, though. He always knows. “Good morning,” she offers quietly.

“Good morning my sweet. Have you missed me?” His speech is slurring. He’s drunk.

She turns around towards him anyway and now she can smell the alcohol as well. It’s not as strong, so it’s probably been vodka. The combination of the alcohol and oranges nearly makes her gag. “Always,” she lies unconvincingly. She is too sleepy to put much effort in it; she hit the sack just over two hours ago after her stimms crashed and she needs to sleep this off badly. “You’re late.”

“I wouldn’t have come home at all if not for you,” he confides with a leery grin that tells her volumes. His hand caresses over her hipbone, over old bruises, then travels to her ass and gropes.

“Lucky me.”

His hand freezes in its motion, then grips her bruised hip painfully.

She opens her eyes in shock. /Did I say that out loud?/

“Insolent much, are we?” The cheerfulness has instantly dropped from his voice and is replaced by something dangerous. An edge that she knows all too well.

/Shit, shit, shit…/ “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that…” In reflex she raises her hands to apologise, to tell him that of course she’s been waiting for him, she always does, and that it is /his/ bed, of course she’s in it just for him. “You know that-”

“Shut up,” he hisses and backhands her in the face. At least; he would have, if her hands hadn’t been already half-raised in apology. As it is, his hand crashes against her wrist and they both wince in pain. It doesn’t hurt /that/ much, but it is unexpected. He’s drunk, she’s sleepy, and this shouldn’t be fucking happening. “Look at you being all defensive,” he snarls. He sits up in the bed. The lights from the city set his skin aglow in yellow and white. “Hot-headed little Irina. When did you grow a spine again?”

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, sitting up and trying to create as much distance between them as she can without falling out of the bed. The blankets tangle around her legs as she scrambles.

“You already said that. God, I can’t stand to look at your fucking face right now. You ruined the mood. Get the fuck out.”

She doesn’t argue. When he’s in a mood like this, there’s no arguing. Just compliance. She gets up from the bed and pads toward the door. The marble floor is freezing to her bare feet. She doesn’t have any idea where she’ll sleep. Maybe just on the couch in the office or something. She should see about getting a blanket somewhere, she’s only dressed in a sheer lace top and matching panties. It will be cold-

Her thoughts are interrupted by his voice, coming from the bed. It is dripping with malice. “Who said anything about using that door?”

Irina drops dead in her tracks. “What?” The only other door is the one to the balcony.

Solchov gets up from the bed and confirms her worries by opening the door to the balcony. The curtains billow in the wind and a gust of cold wind flits through the room. Irina shivers and looks at him with pleading eyes. “Are you serious?”

“Am I ever not?” he retorts. The anger is gone. It’s just the malice now. The pettiness. Like a little boy breaking a toy, just because he can. “Now then, off you go.”

She walks over to him and allows the tears in her eyes to form while she hugs her near-naked body for any last minute warmth. He is serious, she knows he is. “Please, I-”

“I wasn’t kidding, Irina,” he says in a low voice. His body is outlined by the lights of the city. The stark shadows on his face make him look like a demon. “Count your blessings. I’m not tossing you /over/ the balcony, and it’s hardly even freezing. Be glad it’s October and not January. It’s just some wet snow.”

/That’s enough for hypothermia,/ she knows. She steps past him onto the balcony anyway. If she doesn’t, there will be consequences. She’s not sure what they will be, but they must be worse. And she’s slept outside before. When she was still on the streets with Niki they usually slept outside until it started freezing badly, and then they found shelter. Still, she’d weathered through cold nights before. She should be fine for a while, right…?

The door closes behind her and she finds herself on a balcony on the eighth floor, caught halfway between the earth and the sky. No way out, and no shelter. The cold winds are cutting straight through her top and the iciness of the concrete bites in her bare feet. And to make matters worse, there’s wet snow falling.

She turns to Solchov and the warm bedroom, but he just waves at her and closes the curtains. /Oh God he’s serious,/ she realises. This is real, it is deadly real and how long will he keep her there anyway? Does he want her to beg? Does he want her to cry?

She curls up in a ball to preserve body heat and tries to keep herself in the here and now by counting and listening to the city sounds, but before half an hour is out, she is banging on the heavy glass door and she is shouting and begging to be allowed inside again. It’s fucking cold and there is nothing here; just concrete. Nothing to seek shelter with. The balcony is empty; it is never used anyway. Not until now. She screams and pleads, but there is no answer. Nothing happens – and standing up exposes her to the elements, so eventually she gives up and curls back up in a ball again, sitting in the corner of the balcony, trying to stay warm.

She shivers uncontrollably in the wet sludgy rain and waits. Oh God, does she wait. The sludge rain/snow combination drenches her clothes (or what passes for it) and her hair and she knows she’s never been this cold before. She can’t stop shaking and her thoughts don’t make sense anymore. She’s very close to panicking and doing something stupid, like jumping off the balcony. Falling to her death seems almost like a better idea than freezing to death. She spends some time trying to find anything she can use to smash the window with, but there’s nothing. Just concrete, one block of concrete. The fact that Solchov will undoubtedly punish her for breaking the window doesn’t bother her much. At least when he fucks her and hurts her she will be warm. It seems like a great alternative. Yet he doesn’t respond to her pleas and her screaming. She shouts her throat raw and gives that up as well.

The skies light up with dawn. The balcony faces eastside so she can see the thick dark clouds tinge with orange at places. The darkness lifts somewhat, but the cold doesn’t. Neither does the wet snow, which turns to actual snow and she is crying now because this is apparently it. This is the end. Solchov has gotten sick of her and this is how he kills her. Not even directly, but exposure to snow and October temperatures in the Black City. It isn’t even /properly/ freezing, that’s the biggest insult. Just somewhere around freezing point. But with her wet hair and lack of clothing… it might just be enough.

Exhaustion gets the better of her and she must have dozed off at some point, because when she opens her eyes the sky is suddenly a lot lighter. This worries her, so she gets up and starts banging on the windows again. The glass is so thick, no way in hell she can get through. This glass is made to withstand bullets, surely it can withstand her 130lbs body.

She sways on legs she cannot feel anymore. She is numb and her thoughts are slipping; /she/ is slipping, and then the concrete is hugging her in its cold embrace and she loses consciousness.

***

She wakes up because of warmth around her. Warm, strong arms and a warm voice. “What the hell were you doing out there? Did you lock yourself out?”

The world is moving. Opening her eyes is hard, but she does it anyway. It is Gershan. He carries her off the balcony and into the bed. Solchov is not present; God alone knows where the man went. The blankets feel heavy and unbelievably warm. Suffocating, almost. “I got some disturbing signs from your sensors. Do you want me to call a doctor?” Gershan asks.

“No,” she rasps. “‘m so cold.”

“How long were you out there?” The world narrows down to the frown above the hazel eyes of her bodyguard. The first light of the day illuminates his features. Gershan is such a pretty boy.

“Dunno,” she sighs. She somehow retrieves the strength to shudder again.

Without saying anything, Gershan climbs next to her and wraps his arms around her. Despite the fact that his skin is hot, she jerks away from his touch in reflex. He is not offended. “Don’t worry. I’m just lending you some body warmth. Just go to sleep. I’ll keep you safe. That’s what Solchov pays me for.”

“Not from him,” she murmurs. Unconsciousness is burning at the edge of her mind. Everything seems to be burning hot, but she revels in the pain. It feels like healing and light.

“What do you mean?” his voice sounds behind her.

“Safe from him. Can’t keep me safe from him.”

“I’ll get you a doctor.”

She wants to protest, but floats away instead.

***

She wakes up not from the smell of oranges, but because Solchov yanks her upwards by her hair. Irina lets out a half scream, half yelp through a raw throat and tries to struggle, but he pulls her up in sitting position effortlessly. Her hands reach out to her hair, where Solchov’s hand is buried and yanks. His other hand slaps her in the face. “What are /you/ doing here?”

Her eyes fly open. “Gershan brought me in,” she pleads. She should cover for him, because apparently what he did was not authorised, but she feels like she has fever and she’s burning up, and she doesn’t have enough clarity of mind to lie. “I was unconscious,” she offers. “I guess his sensors told him.”

“I don’t care what the sensors said” Solchov snarls. He is dressed, she sees now. His hair is wet as if he’s just out of the shower and he’s dressed for business. “And why do I smell him all over you?”

“What?” Before her mind’s eye there are flashes of warmth, of Gershan’s scent and his presence. Arms wrapping around her reassuringly. Another human being, warm and /there/ and taking care of her. “He put me in bed,” she says. Her scalp is hurting so much as he yanks at her hair again. She sobs. Her body is hurting everywhere and he already tried to kill her once today. /Not again, not now…/ “Please, please let me go.”

He pulls her close. “Did he fuck you?” he whispers in her ear. “He did, didn’t he? I can smell him on you, clear as day. And I’ve seen the way he looks at you. Were you awake for it?”

For one horrifying moment she thinks he must be right, then, that Gershan has done something while she slept, but she’s on her period and there should be blood on the sheets somewhere then. There’s nothing, just Solchov’s fucking headgames.

“Did you like it?” He lets go of her hair, but his fingers are pushing on the bruises on her hips and twist at all the sensitive places and it’s hurting everywhere. He rips off her still-damp underwear and she can feel he’s hard at the thought of it, despite his anger. “You’re mine, Irina.”

She shakes her head in denial, but he won’t listen to any of it. Halfway through her struggles and the pain she realises that if /he/ would believe it, she would have been dead already. And so would Gershan be. He just wants a reason, and if there isn’t any, he’ll invent it. He always does. Using Gershan comes perilously close, though. It hits harder than she would care to admit and her tears are real while his words rattle through her mind. /I’ve seen the way he looks at you… were you awake for it?/

By the time the doctor shows up, he has more to treat than just hypothermia.

***

Solchov is gone for two days. She doesn’t see him. He doesn’t call her to check in on her, and she is glad for the reprieve. Her wounds and her bruises are nearly black and she is feverish. Her nightmares are the worst, she wakes up screaming twice. The second time she wakes up screaming, Gershan sits next to her on the bed, obviously uncomfortable on what he should do.

“Are you okay?” he asks worriedly.

Irina gasps for breath and looks at him. /Really/ looks at him. Just a boy. A pretty boy who could probably get all the girls, but with the body of an athlete and the mindset of a killer. But not to her. So far he’s been nothing but understanding to her. He saved her life on that balcony. He got her out when Solchov had forgotten her, or wanted to punish her more; she doesn’t care. But she sees him look at her, at her feverish face and the bruises everywhere and there is no pity, not quite. Just… some sort of tenderness and worry. He wouldn’t kill her.

“I don’t know,” she whispers hoarsely. “I kind of have a hard time disconnecting and telling myself that this too shall pass.”

“It will pass,” he says with a slight smile. Encouraging, almost. “Everything eventually does.”

“I don’t dare to sleep again, because there will be nightmares.” Irina knows deep in her bones that she’s not making much sense, but she can’t stop herself. She hasn’t talked, /really talked/ to anybody in almost a year. It was always dancing around subjects, evading subjects, not telling what is on her mind. And now at the first glimpse of kindness she just pounces on it. Between the kindness and the fever she feels like she’s drowning.

He nods in understanding. “The medic said you need your rest.”

“He says you used me while I was unconscious,” she says quietly, avoiding his gaze by staring at the blankets. She hears him gasp and curse softly, but she doesn’t look up at him. “It makes falling asleep a lot harder.”

“Do you believe him?” There’s an edge to his voice that she can’t quite place.

She shakes her head. “If you did you’d be dead. But I can’t shake the thought.”

Gershan shifts on the bed, sitting down crossed-legged next to her. He is close enough that she can smell him again. It’s just deodorant and shampoo. A clean smell. Healthy. No oranges. “It’s all headgames, Irina. He’s yanking your chain and reveling in it. You can’t let him get to you.”

“I know.”

“Do you really?” She can hear the smile in her face and looks up at him. He smiles back at her, a sad little half-smile. “I would never ‘use’ you as he calls it. I would never do anything against your will. I would make love to you, and it would be glorious.”

His words rattle her to her core. “Love doesn’t exist,” she challenges finally. “So making it is impossible.”

And he just smiles, but she can see the danger in him now. Something rebellious. “Try me, whenever you’re ready.”

**

A month later he makes love to her while Solchov is on a business trip to Shanghai. They are in Gershan’s quarters, and Gershan’s made sure that he’s disabled all of the camera and audio equipment first.

There is a lightning storm outside and white-purple flashes light up the room at irregular intervals while he kisses her tenderly, mapping her body with careful touches and kisses. He is so mindful not to hurt her that she could cry.

She offers to get him off as well, but he tells her it is all about her tonight. They’ll have other nights, other moments. And as she climaxes she wishes that there will be many more of them.

Her rebellion is sweet, so sweet. Solchov must never know – if this comes out they will be so very dead or tossed in a hole they will rot away in, but for now Irina does not care.

Gershan is sweet to her, he gives her attention and he takes care of her. Perhaps it would have been enough if her heart had not died with Nikolay two years ago. Maybe she would have fallen in love with him if she had been younger and more naive. It could have been so sweet. Young love in the face of adversity. It is a dream, a very sweet one. But dreams end and for now she takes what she gets from Pjotr Gershan and he enjoys giving it to her.

At times she worries if this is not another one of Solchov’s headgames; that one day Gershan will betray her. But as time goes by and they slip in a couple more trysts in the months that follow, nothing happens. It is not a headgame. This is just a little light in the darkness, and Irina basks in it gratefully while she can.

She takes her victories where she can.

———-

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