A Life Not Left

by Annie



Bartender was asking, but he shook his head. It was late. Later than it should be--later than he'd intended. He didn't much care, though, that Chris would be pissed. Didn't care about much about anything, actually. Whiskey could do that--and that, right now, was what he wanted the most.

Not to care. Not feel. Not remember. God, not remember.

Thing was, though, he was remembering. Couldn't seem to stop remembering...

The way Bishop's hands traced over him, soft, like a woman's hands, yet harsh, too. Clawing. The man's eyes, dark as night and filled with insidious intent. The things he stuck inside him, hurting him, delighting in the act, no matter Vin's protests. But Bishop hadn't raped him those nights, not with his own body, anyway. And that was something Vin clung to--he hadn't really been raped. Not really.

It disgusted him how his body had responded, though. He couldn’t help it--didn't want it...

"You do like this, don't you, Vincent? I knew you would after you realized just what our relationship together could become. You see, my boy, I get what I want. I didn't reach this position in life by letting that which interests me pass my by, oh no. And you, I wanted to possess you from the minute I hired you." He'd leaned down then, ever-present cologne sweeping over Vin. In the morning he'd still smell like that man.

"I have need for a confidant, if you will," Bishop had told him, all the while laying out his imported crystal 'toys' on the bed next to Vin's body, "in business and in pleasure. I have only my daughter, you see. And she is lovely in face and spirit, but alas, not of the intelligence my sort of business demands. And that son-in-law of mine, well, Anthony is only after his own interests--I should have forbid her to marry. But you, Vincent--in you, I find a man possessed of that which may help me to exceed even my already high expectations. You are like an uncut diamond, ready for me to shape and polish as I see fit." He'd leaned down then, Vin could feel the man's breath upon his face. "The rewards you will reap at my side are boundless--I can teach you so much. And I will, Vincent. I will."

He'd come close to blowing it right there--just a breath away from breaking his cover and letting all the work that had been done the past several months come crashing down on both their heads.

He couldn't keep doing this...

"Learn my business, Vincent. Be my partner in every way possible."

He almost laughed. Unbelievable a man in Bishop's position--that of wealth, power, all gained from illegal dealings--could be so played by just the lure of sex. And he thought how sweet it would be when he did bring this man down.

The whiskey burned like a fire in his belly, and he felt ill as those past days and nights filled his head. He hadn't got that chance to take Bishop down, fucking accountant rolled over on his own boss and everything Vin had suffered was for naught.

He felt sick. Spent. Used up.


Jesus, he was falling apart.

He nodded to the bartender and threw money on the bar while he stood and drained the last of his glass. One more drink and he'd have to take a cab home.

Light was fading, the hours having slipped away faster than he'd realized. Shit. Chris really was going to be angry. It was Friday, though. Maybe he could just avoid everyone until Monday morning, hash it out with Larabee then about why he never returned to work.

He headed to the parking lot.

And there it was.

That truck.

And there he was.


"Good lunch?"

He was wrong. Chris wasn't angry, he was near volatile.

"You've been drinking," Chris spat, lips barely moving in a jaw locked tight.

Even in the dimming light of the late afternoon sky, Vin could see, could almost touch the fury emanating from that man, his boss, as he stood coiled like a viper ready to strike.

Had he been thinking, he'd have kept his mouth shut. But a few too many whiskeys loosened his tongue before he could stop himself. "Jealous?" he replied, the slur of the word evident even to his own ears.

Mistake. Big mistake.

Chris was at his side in the blink of an eye. Vin barely had time to register the man's moving at all when he found strong hands roughly manhandling him into the passenger seat of the truck. He turned to strike out and found the door slammed in his face. In a heartbeat Chris was there, seated in the driver's seat beside him, his face hard.

That glare.

He placed a hand over the door handle...

"Don't you even fuckin' move a finger, Tanner," Chris snarled, slipping the key into the ignition and pulling the truck onto the road.

Minutes ticked by, a fiery silence.

"Taking me for a ride, here, Chris?" he asked. It was a joke. Surprised he could even feel like joking, not that it mattered. From the quick glance he gave to Chris and what little he could see of the man's face, he wasn't smiling.

Silent, smoldering rage seemed to fill the truck's cab.

"Take me home," he then demanded, anger beginning to fill him as well.


What the fuck? "No?" Where then? Chris was driving, but they seemed to be heading nowhere in particular. It had been a while--felt like forever--since he and Chris had even touched one another. And now, it was all Vin could do not to throw himself out the door of the moving truck. He knew what Chris wanted from him--wished he could give him something--but then he knew he'd pretty much ruined whatever chance he had to regain that sort of relationship. Ruined whatever part was inside him that wanted anyone anymore.

Chris pulled the truck over on the side of the street and sat staring out the window for a few long seconds as if to catch his breath. As if to pull himself together.

Vin waited. He exhaled as he realized he'd been holding his breath against this silence.

"We need to talk," Chris said, finally.

Vin shook his head. Talking wasn't going to do any good, it would just remind him of what all had happened, and that was the last thing he was going to deal with right now.

Chris was leaning against the door, half turned toward him.

The truck's engine idled, Vin could feel it through the floorboards. "I was late, so what?" he began, though knew full well his being absentee from work that afternoon wasn't the real problem here. "It's Friday--I figured it wasn't no big deal."

For a long moment Chris said nothing. In his eyes Vin could see the anger seem to dissipate some, and he supposed that was a good thing, but then, he was growing a bit ticked off himself. Angry at Chris for pressing him, angry at himself for not letting it all go...

"I don't care about this afternoon," Chris said, "though a phone call isn't too outrageous a request, is it?"

Vin shook his head.

"You've got to talk about this, Vin," Chris continued. "If not me, then--"

"Got nothin' to say."


He was getting a little ticked and a lot tired of everyone telling him what he should do. "No, Chris. I think I'd know if there was something I wanted t' talk about. There ain't."

"He's out, you know."

That had his attention. Vin's head snapped around, and for a split second he felt a sharp twinge of something akin to fear race down his spine. His stomach knotted. "When?"

"Last night. Made bail. Bishop's got a lot of money, guess that's all it takes."

"He might run--"

Chris nodded. "I thought the same. Guess he's got a damn good team of lawyers, though."

They sat for a while, Vin letting that information seep into his skin--under his skin. He watched the streetlights that lined the road suddenly switch on as the last of the sun dropped from sight. God, Bishop was somewhere out there.

"For long enough I've been watching you slowly disintegrate, Vin. You aren't eating--definitely drinking more than--"

"I'm fine, Chris."

That got a laugh out of him. Vin almost flinched from the tone. "You're anything but fine--I know. I've been where you're standing."

Drinking, Vin knew. Chris had told him long ago about sinking himself into his cups after the death of his wife and child. Hell, though, this situation was different. "I'm handling things," he said quietly. Not exactly true, but he wasn't going to discuss this. Was not going to relive it. Bad enough his mind insisted on interjecting snips of memory from those wretched nights--the last thing he wanted to do was discuss the details out loud. If he didn't talk about it, refused to think about it--it all would go away.

Had to go away.


He tried a change of subject. "You got a problem with the way I'm doing my job?"

"Vin." Chris was rubbing his eyes. "This isn't about work."

"No? Then what the hell you doin' here, Chris--cause last time I looked, I was an able adult--can make choices on m' own about where I wanna be and what I wanna be doin'."

"That what you were telling yourself when you were out there at Bishop's estate?"

Fuck this. "I'm outta here." He reached for the door, only the warm press from the hand now grabbing at his forearm stopping him for a brief moment. First time Chris had really laid hands on him in what seemed forever--and now it didn't matter. His heart was racing--but he couldn't look over at Chris, and so slid from the seat and out the door, half flinching at the sound of something hard slamming inside the cab. Chris's fist to the dashboard, he was pretty sure.

Stalking to the rear of the truck, he heard the driver's door open, and then Chris was there, face twisted into a mask of clear fury. "You're gonna walk away. Just like that. 'Don't give a damn Tanner', the man with no cares."

"What the hell you talkin' about?"

Chris all but spat at him, emotions high. "I'm talkin' about you not wanting help. Not caring you're on this road to self-destruction. Jesus, Vin, I'm not going to let you do this to yourself!"

"You're not going to let me?" He took a step forward, closing the already too close gap between them and jabbing his finger in the air. "Think you got somethin' confused here, Larabee, 'cause I sure as shit don't remember askin' you t' butt in t' my life!" He turned to leave...Chris's hand grabbed onto his shirt and he stared at those fingers, unsure if he wanted them to let go...or hold on to him forever.

A sigh from Chris then. "Wait, Vin. I'm sorry--I'm just worried about you. We all are."


"You can't mean that."

"Try me."

Chris let go of him then, and with that disconnect Vin felt suddenly, strangely empty. Lost.

"That's really the way you want it? To be left alone?"

God he didn't want to do this. He just needed some time is all--couldn't Chris see that? And then words came out of his mouth and he couldn't have stopped them if he'd tried. "Yeah. That's what I want. Leave me alone. Just...leave me alone." He did leave then, not looking back and only half-grateful Chris made no more move to prevent him.

The air was chilly, enough so he wished he had on a heavier jacket than the oversized flannel shirt he was wearing. Still, the walk back to the bar and his jeep, and then the short drive home after, seemed to clear enough of his head he thought maybe he could sleep this night without waking in night sweats.

He wanted to talk to Chris about it all, damn well knew that's what Chris was wanting, but was still unsure of how to go about purging himself of what had been done to him--of what he'd done to Chris. He wasn't ready...

His apartment was quiet. He never felt so alone

And in the next second, realized he wasn't.


The cologne hit him first. That smell. Unmistakable.

He whirled around, reaching for his weapon and not making it as he found himself facing the barrel of the biggest damned silencer he'd seen.

"We meet again, Vincent."

That voice that sent tiny cracks into his brain. Bishop. Panic rushed at him, he couldn't catch his breath.

"I suppose you're surprised to see me here," Bishop was saying as he flicked some unseen lint from his jacket and stepped forward until he was standing mere inches away, dark eyes throwing a smoldering, vile heat that cut Vin to his knees.

"I find myself quite unable to erase you from my mind, however." Bishop looked up at him and the slightest of grins flitted across his lips. "You should find that flattering."

Bile rose to his mouth, the whiskey churning inside his stomach. Oh, God, he was going to vomit.

"Do relax, Vincent. You look tense," Bishop was saying, one hand still holding the gun and the other wrapped around a glass of what looked to be the never opened bottle of brandy Ezra had, for some reason, given him last Christmas. Broadening his horizons, Ezra had explained. Bishop looked as though he was attending a cocktail party. "It is still Vincent, I assume?"

"Vin," he answered, barely thinking.

"I see. Well, I think I prefer Vincent. Has infinitely more savoir faire...don't you agree?"

"My name's Vin."

Bishop smiled and set the glass down. "So you just said. Vin Trainer, though somehow I doubt that's your true surname, not that it matters, I suppose." He inched closer, that vile grin ever-present. "You'll please give over your weapon."


"I asked nicely, Vincent. You don’t want me to ask again."

He collected himself... "I ain't givin' you shit."

Bishop flushed under his fake tan. "Don't anger me, Vincent, I've had a bad week. Now hand over your weapon or I'll be forced to shoot you--and that would be most regrettable."

Building anger mixed with lessening panic, and Vin stared at the man for a good long second as the flame of fury grew in the pit of his stomach. His eyes took in the position of the gun. He just needed a chance, then...

"You don’t really think I've arrived here by myself." The tone was condescending, grating, and with the words came Bishop's backup man from his bedroom. Muscle. Vin remembered seeing the guy ghosting around Bishop's estate--built like a brick wall and about as personable. Always hiding in Bishop's shadow. Never said a word that Vin could remember. The guy looked like that furry thing from the old Star Wars movie. "You do remember Ivan."

Ivan turned enough so Vin could catch a glimpse of the armor he was carrying under his coat. Impressive, though with the right circumstances, Vin was pretty sure he could take the guy--at least, he could when he didn't have a gun pointed straight at him held by a complete lunatic intent on...

Just what the hell was Bishop here for?


"Tie his hands behind him, Ivan," Bishop instructed the side of beef. "He likes that."

Vin threw himself to the right and pulled his weapon just as the big man moved between him and Bishop--a dumb move, probably, but he wasn't about to just give himself or his gun over to Bishop easily, and that brief moment out of the firing line might be his one chance...

He swung a high elbow at the same time diving forward--fleeting moment of satisfaction as he heard the crunch of bones, breaking Ivan's nose he was pretty sure--but then the rock of a man turned, catching Vin's arm at the last second and he felt a wave of despair as his gun wrenched away from him, skidding a quick path across the floor at the same time he was laid flat out, a massive pressure against his neck and back from Ivan's body. He couldn't move.

"You're smarter than that, Vincent," Bishop was clucking somewhere out of his immediate vision of the grain in his parquet floor. He could just see the polished toes of the man's shoes.

"Remove his weapon, and bind him tightly, Ivan. Then clean yourself up. You're a mess."

His arms were yanked roughly behind his back and then bound together. Velvet wrapped cord--Bishop's trademark.

Pressure on him eased and Bishop was speaking to Ivan again. "Leave us," he commanded and Ivan moved out into the hall somewhere, bloodied towel pressed to his face. Probably would bark like a dog if asked, Vin figured. Anything if the pay was right.

Bishop moved closer, stepping behind him. "I always knew you were an intelligent creature. That's why I took you under my wing--shared my confidences." Vin felt fingers flip through his hair. He closed his eyes against the ripples of loathing and repulsion that flowed through him with the touch. Bishop sighed. "You're an excellent actor, my boy. Excellent." In a flash, the hand moved.

Fingers twined into his hair, practically ripping handfuls out by the roots, and Vin choked as his head was pulled severely backward. He was forced up to his knees, Bishop's knee jamming into the middle of his back as the man pulled him higher, gun pressed tightly to his throat. "But I am not amused now, Vincent. Not amused whatsoever."

The hand eased a fraction, Vin felt seconds away from letting himself go completely ballistic, though the gun boring its way into his neck was enough of a deterrent.

"I missed you." Whispered words in his ear sent another chill of revulsion through his body.

This wasn't happening--couldn't be happening--not fucking again. Not again...

That cologne filled his senses, suffocating him. A hand snaked around him to brush over the front of his shirt, fingers drifting slowly up to grip around his chin. Even without turning he could imagine the lascivious grin stealing across Bishop's features. He'd seen that enough times in his nightmares.

"I just couldn't depart without saying my goodbyes, you see," Bishop began.

"Going somewhere?"

Bishop laughed and bent over him further, yanking Vin's chin up higher so they met eye to eye. "Fair question. I'd take you with me, but..." His words trailed but that grin was ever present. "Oh, I do like you in this subservient position--kneeling at my feet."

"You'll never get outta the country."

"Ah, Vincent; so naïve--so sweet. I love that about you. Strong and sure, and yet...you have that touch of complete innocence. It's endearing, really."

"You don’t know me."

"Oh, but I do. I do. I know what's important...I know what makes you shiver at night, don't I?" The words hissed into his ear, Bishop's hot breath against him, making his skin crawl. "We had some lovely hours together, my boy. And I do miss them." Bishop glanced toward the door then back again. "I have some time and thought perhaps we might have a last rekindling so to speak. Alone. You and me...as a farewell present."

"They'll find you."

"No. I don't think so--money can buy most anything these days. Silence, for one..."

"I'm not for sale."

"I wouldn't imagine you were, my dear. In fact, I'd be disappointed to think anyone could buy you. And I wasn't speaking of you, anyway. Now your associates within the federal government, however--"

Vin's eyes narrowed.

Bishop laughed. "Oh really, Vincent. You didn't think you could keep secrets, did you? I'll admit I was fooled for a time, like I said, you really are quite the actor--not that any of it matters now, though, does it?"

Vin shifted, the pressure in his back building, but as he moved, Bishop moved with him. The grip around him tightened.

"So, tell me how it feels to know you were merely a tiny, insignificant cog? Used by them, your employer--and in the end, realize it was all for nothing." Bishop scowled then, features drawn tight in disgust. His gun hand remained steadily trained, though. "You know, Vincent, they don't need you now they have that complete idiot accountant I trusted--singing out my affairs like the proverbial bird on a wire."

"They'll put you away for--"

The man smiled, lips stretching into a leer. "You really believe that, don't you? How perfectly charming!" He straightened up and shook his head as his hands loosed their hold a bit. "Ah, Vincent. All that time we shared, the business plans I discussed with you--and what did you gain? Hmm? I don't know which agency you're with, though that's rather a moot point, I suppose, and not too a concern, really--you see, all that matters now, is you and me."

"You'll get caught...ain't a place they won't look for me."

Bishop let loose a loud bark of a laugh. "My dear boy, I'm not taking you with me, pleasing an idea as that is to consider..." He moved in front of Vin, hauling him to his feet. "We are just going to have ourselves a lovely farewell party. Right here. Right now. Just the two of us."

He was inches away from Bishop, couldn't help but smell the man, and he pushed away that sense before he drowned under its cloying hold. This wasn't happening...wasn't going to happen again...

The buzz of a cell phone interrupted them--Vin's phone. Bishop's eyebrows raised. "Expecting a call?" He picked it up from the table, glanced at the number showing and looked sharply at Vin. "You know a Chris Larabee? Friend of yours?"

Vin shook his head, heart lodging in his throat at the mention of that name--God, Chris...please...

"No matter," Bishop said and dropped the phone to the floor, smashing it with the heel of his shoe. "Sorry, Mr. Larabee...our Vincent is tied up at the moment and cannot be taking any calls." He looked around the apartment and clucked his tongue. "I must say, this place doesn't become you--rather pathetic, really. I would think the government would pay you better."

Moving to Vin, he shoved the gun in his back, forcing him toward the bedroom. "Now let's see what's behind door number one, shall we?"


Vin kicked out with his legs as he was prodded toward his room, tripping up Bishop at the same time, he, too, began to fall to the floor, unbalanced. Bishop caught him and drove him into the wall, body pressed tightly to his back, words streaming out in a low hiss. "Not a smart move, Vincent, though the idea of rough play is intriguing to me, perhaps we can indulge in that a little later--I told you before I find you quite the challenge. Let's just say things are going to get a might interesting while I am visiting."

Bishop pulled out his own cell and flipped it open, all the while keeping Vin pinned to the wall, body weight driving him into the plaster, gun shoved tightly to his neck.

Hurt like hell.

"Raymond. This is going to take a bit longer than anticipated. Ivan is waiting outside. I'll notify him to signal you to bring the car around when I am ready--about 45 minutes, I'm predicting." With that, he closed the phone and leaned in, hot breath drifting over Vin's ear.

"You do sorely tempt me, Vincent--vex me, even...but I find your vivaciousness incredibly alluring. Now, let's move quietly to the bedroom without further mishap--yes? I'd hate to have to shoot out your kneecap--it's painful for you and makes things so messy." He shifted his stance, one hand grabbing hold of Vin's hair and pulling back harshly. "Do I have your attention?"

Vin nodded best he could without adding more strain to his already wrenched neck.

"Good boy. Let us proceed."

He hauled Vin from the wall, pushing him forward into the room.

God...oh God.

Where the hell was Chris now?

"Rather a spartan layout here as well," Bishop commented as they entered. "I'd ask you to disrobe, but, alas, that won't be happening as I won't be untying you--so I'll just have to do the honors..." He reached for Vin with one hand, fingers moving to the buttons on his shirt. "A little complacency on your part would go a long way, Vincent, though I assume from your current expression, that's perhaps unlikely."

"Fuck you."

A sneer. "No, my dear. As much as I find that an exciting option, that won't be happening tonight, but I do thank you for the offer." Bishop parted Vin's shirt and let his hands drift across the bared skin. "And as far as fucking you myself, I haven't been able to perform for years, as I'm sure you've come to realize--purely psychological, they say. Happened after the death of my wife and I haven't been able to regain even the tiniest bit of function since. Couldn’t look at another woman for years, though young men...well, hence my little hand spun creations."

"Can't get it up so you just get your kicks out of torturing--"

Backhanded. He fell across the bed, heat rising from the skin of his face.

"Don't be ugly, Vincent. It's not becoming." Bishop advanced and Vin quickly shot his legs up, catching the man hard in the stomach...

And then pain; white hot and searing... Jesus, fuck...

"See what you have done?" Bishop was seething, voice tight and filled with rage.

Blood soaked into the sheets--Vin's blood. White hot agony bore into his lower leg.

"You fuckin' shot me--"

"You're lucky my aim was deflected. Now let me see…" He pushed down Vin's jeans, denim turning dark from blood. "Nicked your calf--enough to slow you down, perhaps, but not enough to diminish our pleasure. Not such a bad thing, really..."

Panting, his leg afire, Vin felt nausea choking him as pain spiraled from his toes up into his hip.

Bishop had moved away, was examining the bed, retrieving the bullet from the thick oak post by digging it out with a key. He slipped it into his pocket. "I'd let you keep this, but...perhaps I can think of a better souvenir to leave you with. In fond remembrance, of course." He moved toward the bathroom.

Vin was writhing--had to get out of here--trying to maneuver enough leverage to haul himself up and off the bed. His leg throbbed--was killing him, filling him with hurt. Fuckin' sonofabitch--and then he was back.

"Be still and let me wrap this for you." Bishop's hands were on him, this time placing towels around his bleeding leg, and then the man sat down next to him. "Don't fight me, Vincent. I'm not here to hurt you."

"Already done that," Vin panted.

"No. You did that yourself."

"Not talkin' about this, you--"

A wave of a hand. "Oh nonsense. I never hurt you before--"

The ring of a phone--Bishop's phone--interrupted. "Damn these intrusions--what is it?"

Vin tried to roll away from the man, half listening to Bishop's words into the phone, half trying to form a plan in his head, but shards of agony were spearing him from everywhere--it was so hard to think--and then a staying hand jamming a gun to his neck held him firmly in place. At this point he didn't doubt Bishop would use it again.

The man's voice rang out into his apartment as he spoke to the caller. "Really. How very interesting. Might just complicate things, however, I'll let you deal with him for the moment. Now, don't interrupt me again unless it gets too out of control." He pocketed his phone and turned back to Vin. "Now, where were we?"

"Well," Vin panted, out of breath, "I was just thinkin' on how much I'd like to see your brains blown all over that wall over there an'--" Words stopped by the piercing grip of fingers biting into his lips. Nails dug into his chin and his head was forcibly turned to Bishop.

"Play nicely, Vin...or I shall be forced to put another hole in your body. This time it won't be your leg."

"I ain't gonna do shit--"

Bishop's eyes bore down on him. The gun never wavered. "Oh but you will--and you will willingly. I'm prepared to give you a little extra persuasion if it comes to that--you do remember my special cocktail, don’t you Vincent? But if at all possible, I'd prefer not--it would be so much more fun to have you aware and excited over all we do here."

Jesus. Here--in his own bedroom. This was insane. Bishop was insane...and it was happening again. All of it, and there was nothing he could do to stop it...

Bleeding like a stuck pig from a gunshot wound that hurt like holy hell, and hoping to God the man sitting next to him could somehow have a sudden heart attack and keel over dead so this could all just end. Just let it end...

Was that so much to ask?

It struck him almost funny and the urge to laugh bubbled up from nowhere. Lying here, shirt open, jeans bunched around his ankles--about to be raped by this lunatic...

and oh, Jesus...it was rape. Make no mistake, Tanner, 'cause that's what it's called when it is all said and done.

His head was spinning, visuals from the past several weeks rolling through in living color, unfolding like some poorly written movie of the week...

Jesus, God...where are you now, Chris?

His own words came back to him, words he'd said out loud. I want to be left alone. Pretty much cut off that avenue... Bad move, Tanner, you shithead. When're you gonna learn to shut the hell up or say what you really mean?

"I hope you fuckin' rot in jail," he said aloud to Bishop, a second later thinking when a man is holding a gun against your head just may not be the best of times to put the 'say what you mean' rule into effect.

Shock, Tanner. You're going into shock. Fraying at the edges. Unraveling.

Gonna get yourself killed...

"You ever been in a real jail?" Bishop asked as he fiddled with something out of sight. "Not pleasant, not pleasant at all. You wouldn't survive one hour there, the way you look." With a smirk he leaned forward. "And as much as I do love to gaze on that lovely face of yours…" He suddenly rolled Vin over onto his stomach. The only good thing about that was it took some pressure off his bound wrists. He groaned into the bedcovers as the fire in his leg flared hotly.

Bishop caressed his ass. "But this...this is a thing of beauty. I only wish I could partake without having to use my..."

"Get your fuckin' hands off me!"

That got a soft laugh and a hard slap across his buttocks. He could feel Bishop breathing down his neck as the man crawled atop him. "And humorous as well. I never saw that side of you. Oh, I do love a puzzle, Vincent, and you're quite the complicated one, to be sure."

Vin reared up, head butting the man at his back, his hands straining to be free from the cord that held them--and found himself tossed to the floor. Legs kicking, he scrambled for position--any position--rolling over just as Bishop was coming at him with the butt of the gun.

Pain then, in the side of his head, and the world wavered in and out in blurry ripples of mottled color. But he didn't black out--just lay the

e, half-stunned and hurting immensely. Bright bursts of red and orange flashed across his vision. He tasted blood...

"You aren't being very cooperative, Vincent," Bishop was saying, but the words sounded somewhat like they were underwater, and he was having a hard time concentrating on what they meant.

Hauled to his feet, he felt the soft mattress underneath his head once more as he was dropped to the bed. Sensed Bishop moving around him, but not sure where. He was seeing double, what he could see through the blood now soaking that side of his face. Shit...

Noises in the other room then and suddenly Bishop was gone. He registered several voices all speaking at once, volume rising in what sounded like frenzied tones. And then something heavy fell to the floor just outside the bedroom door.

Bishop was back. Fuming. Hands pulled his jeans up and he was helped to his feet. "You have a visitor. Isn't it just like company to call at the most inopportune time--honestly, Vincent, these constant interruptions are not pleasing me whatsoever."

Pulled forward, he tried to find his balance, but it was difficult. He was dizzy, unsteady and shaking, the floor seeming to undulate beneath his feet. Couldn't focus...

"Steady, my dear boy," Bishop whispered to him, leading him into the other room. "Let's put on a pleasant face for our guest..."

And then...oh, Jesus Christ. "Chris," he said on a breath.

Bishop picked right up on it and stared at him, then turned with a slow spreading smile to the man sprawled on the floor. "Well, now. You must be the caller. You must be of Chris Larabee fame."


Chris was on his back, his arms pulled behind him, most likely tied, Vin guessed. A gash had opened over his left eye, and Ivan the Terrible's giant foot was planted in the middle of his stomach, his hefty gun pointed straight at his crotch. God, no...

Chris's eyes lingered over Vin like he was going to say something, but then, without a word, he shifted his gaze to Bishop.

I'm sorry, Vin wanted to scream. I’m so sorry. It made him ill to see the blood running down the man's face, never occurring to him he might look even worse.

Bishop stood staring down at Chris, a half-smile still lingering as he cocked his head. "And who might you be? The white knight in shining armor, perhaps?" He moved to squat down beside Chris, his eyes studying him. "You have quite a way of barging into a room, rushing in here--not just a casual visit, I take it."

"Let him go," Chris ordered.

Bishop chuckled. "Surely you jest," he said, standing again. He grabbed Vin by his elbow, pulling him roughly over. "Like you, I've just come to visit with Vincent."

Chris nodded toward Vin. "Visit--then why's he tied like that?"

"I would think you'd be more concerned as to why you are tied."

Chris said nothing. Vin felt a wash of desperation--bad enough Bishop had hold of him, but now Chris as well...

"Your concern for Vincent is admirable, though it's more intriguing as to why you would rush Ivan the way you did after he told you Vincent was otherwise engaged. You left...and then came back. More than just a casual drop in, I'd say--so, who are you to Vincent, exactly?" Bishop asked again, staring down at Chris.

Vin was shaking his head, wanting and signaling Chris to just remain quiet, but Chris wasn't looking at him. Was staring at Bishop.

And Bishop was going on... "Concerned friend? Neighbor? Lover, perhaps?" Bishop nodded as though he'd made some profound discovery. "Ah, yes. Lover. That would fit, wouldn't it." Sharp turn of the heel had him facing Vin. "Why else would one risk becoming a study of blood splatter for the local forensics team unless..." He pulled Vin sharply to him, scolding as he indicated Chris. "You've not told me about this little aspect of your personal life."

"He's nobody," Vin stated flatly. God, he couldn't even look at Chris right now.

Bishop was silent, seeming to mull this over, and then he grinned widely. "Nobody. I think not. No. I said you were a good actor, my boy--but not, apparently, that proficient a liar. You do know you're blushing."

More like heat from rage, Vin was thinking. "Just let him go and I'll do whatever you--"

"No, Vin," Chris snapped, a strain to his voice Vin wasn't sure he'd heard before.

"He don't have a thing t' do with what's 'tween us," Vin told Bishop, cutting off Chris's protests and taking a step away from him in hopes Bishop would follow.

A tightened grip around his arm stayed his movement, and it, in a way, all that was holding him up. Pain from his leg was sending deep tremors into his legs. His head was killing him. He could feel himself weakening.

"Oh, I don't know, Vincent. I think Mr. Larabee," Bishop paused over the name, licking his lips and looking down again at Chris, "I think Mr. Larabee might be very interested in what has gone on between us." Bringing his gun up, he shoved it once again into the side of Vin's neck. "Isn't that right, Mr. Larabee--or may I call you Chris?"

"Let him go," Chris insisted again.

"Not until I am through with my business with Vincent--or shall I say more accurately, my pleasure." He shoved Vin forward, dropping him onto the sofa, then sat down next to him, one hand resting on his thigh. "You see, Vincent and I have some past together, brief thought it was. He is, or rather, was, an employee of mine--unfortunately, those cherished moments have been cut grossly short. And so now...now, I am merely cashing in on time that is rightfully mine." Now he looked at Chris, eyes glittering darkly. "I do not appreciate your interrupting us, you see. But…" with a lean, he grasped Vin around the neck and pulled his head down to his crotch. "I am willing to proceed--even with you as an audience."

Bishop's hold relaxed and Vin sat up, shifting his eyes to Chris, but Chris's eyes were glued to Bishop. It was hard to tell what he was thinking...where the hell had that connection gone that everyone was always talking about?

Bishop went on speaking, hand drifting protectively across Vin's back and up into his hair. He leered at Chris. "Are you much of a voyeur, Mr. Larabee? Do you like to watch?"

"Don't fuckin' touch him!"

That brought a laugh. "You are quite the snarling protector, aren't you? I wonder what would happen were I to do...this." With that, he struck out across the wound in Vin's leg.

Vin growled sharply with pain, faintly registering the roar of rage that followed. Had to be Chris, sure hadn't been his own voice because it was all he could to do to pull in air to breathe. He couldn't get past the explosive fire ignited inside his leg...and then hands were petting him, fondling him and he tried hard to gather himself back together.

Bishop was grinning at Chris, then nodded toward Ivan. "Get my case from the other room, then leave us."

Ivan did so, handing the black case to Bishop before letting himself out the door.

Chris's eyebrows raised. So did Vin's as he was hunched over, watching with increasing horror...

But Bishop wasn’t pulling out his handcrafted toys this time. Instead, he held up a small syringe and a bottle containing a clear fluid.

Vin's eyes rounded. Couldn't be...

"This, Mr. Larabee, is an incredible thing of beauty. Allows just the right amount of compliancy on whomever I choose to inject." With no warning, he turned and jammed it into Vin's shoulder, depressing the needle's plunger.

Vin barely suppressed the gasp that rose, that threatened to turn into a scream...Christ, the stuff burned like all hell...

"In just no time, our Vincent here will be more willing to receive--and more than able to give. I assume he's told you all about our previous encounters..."

"You fuckin' animal--" Chris was rolling to his feet. No Chris, Vin wanted to shout, but his tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth, already thickening...

"Oh for God's sake, Mr. Larabee, you need to calm down. Such insults you hurl at me, one whom you hardly even know."

Bishop's hands harsh and gripping around him, Vin was pulled down across the sofa, half sprawling as his legs refused to obey. His leg was throbbing, his head as well, and for a time he just lay there and let the room spin, his stomach insisting on taking the dizzying ride...he was going to be sick, he was...

Words drifted around him, he could hear the voices, hear what was spoken but having a hard time putting them all in any semblance of discernible order...

"There will be only a few disjointed minutes for him--then, if I have perfected this as precisely as I think I have, Vincent will be only too happy to offer himself up, isn't that right, Vincent?"

A hand lingered on his face...no...fuck no, don't touch him... and then something slipped around his neck. That cord--in a moment it was going to pull tight, choking him... Hands were at his still unbuttoned jeans, pulling at them...he couldn't even manage a protest...

Chris was shouting something...he could hear Bishop's heated response, but his eyes didn't want to remain open, they were rolling up into his head, and then he was rocketing away to the dark...

And then coming back and crashing down hard, the misery of impending nausea hovering just outside his control.

How long had it been--how long had he been out?

+ + + + + + +

A deep breath, then two, and he pried open eyelids that felt like leaden weights, relieved to find the world had stopped its sickening twirl as he peered through the haze lingering in front of him...

Chris was on his back on the floor, a new line of bright blood trickling slowly down from the corner of his mouth, an ugly-red welt covering one side of his face.

And Bishop was standing over him, the gun and its deathly silencer pointing to his head.

NO! Had he yelled that? He wasn't even sure...

And then hands were on him--Bishop's hands...

"Easy, Vincent. Relax. Sit back down--slow down. I cannot understand you--you're slurring, dear boy..."

"Don't shoot him," he managed, finally getting his tongue to form something in the way of intelligible word, "don't kill...him." He swallowed. "Please."

"How very touching," Bishop was saying, then pulled the cording around Vin's neck taut, Vin coming up with it, air quickly cut off and he was gasping...

"I'm not going to kill anyone, my boy." Fingers brushed against Vin's face, the cord relaxed and sweet air filled his lungs again. "Besides, Mr. Larabee and I were merely having a discussion--about you, about us--about what fun we had those luscious nights we spent together."

"No," he said, thought he'd said...

"I told Chris about how you'd near scream from the pleasure of it all. How sweetly you played under my hands...how eager you were to reciprocate..."

"No, Chris...I didn't..." he heard himself mumbling, couldn't clear the sand from his mouth...

"It's okay, Vin." Chris was mumbling, too, badly. His jaw looked odd...

"It's sweet, really, this drive you both have of protection," Bishop said. "I daresay Mr. Larabee all but tried to kill me a moment ago. Might have made a more valiant effort were his hands untied. You see, my Vincent, apparently he doesn't find the details of our time together to his liking..."

A phone rang, interrupting.

Bishop turned to Chris with a grimace of distaste. "Is that you?"

Chris nodded.

"Good Lord, do you people never take the night off?" He'd pulled Chris's phone from his belt, was staring at the read out. "Buck Wilmington it says. Buck. I cannot imagine what might induce anyone to name a child, Buck."

"They know 'm here, wonder if I don' answer..."

Bishop pulled Vin over, leading him by the dangling cord and smiling down at Chris as he held the phone to his ear. "By all means then answer it, Mr. Larabee." He wrapped his arm around Vin's neck, the gun now resting against the back of Vin's head. "But do tread very carefully."

Vin was nearly numb from whatever it was Bishop had given him, the one saving grace in that his leg and head were no longer the agony as before, but trying to keep sharp track of what was going on around him was frustrating. He knew Bishop held the gun to him, knew Chris was talking to someone--Buck, he thought--yet Chris's voice sounded strange, stilted--like he was trying not to move his mouth, like it wasn't attached quite right...

And oh, God, what were the details Bishop had told to Chris?

"Hey, Buck. Yeah...sorry--run' late. No, m' okay, just uhhh...'m over at Vincent's..." A pause then, Chris looked to be in incredible pain. "Call you 'morro', 'kay? Bye."

Bishop shut off the phone and then stared at it. "Vin," he said, the softly spoken word hanging heavy in the air. Even through the fog that surrounded him, Vin could sense the man's demeanor had changed. He was seething. "Vin. He said his name is Vin. It's Vin!" This he yelled at the same time yanking the cord in his hand tight. Vin couldn't breathe, it bit into his skin, cutting into his throat. Spots danced before him, he was going to pass out...

"His name is Vin!" Bishop screamed.

Silence, then. Vin could hear himself breathing...realized he was breathing. The garotte around his neck had loosened. Thankfully, loosened. And then Bishop was speaking.

"You're lucky I have the fondness I do for Vincent here, Mr. Larabee, otherwise he would be dead--and so would you." The cord lax, Vin felt like he was half-dead already as his body sagged on unsteady legs. Bishop's voice rang in his ears. "And so, Vincent, thanks to Mr. Larabee and his less than clever signal, this, unfortunately, shall have to conclude my little visit here--brief though it has been."

He was leaving...oh thank God, he was leaving...

Bishop headed toward the door, pulling Vin with him, his gun still glued to Vin's neck. "As a precaution, I have decided to take Vincent here with me...but don't worry. I won't keep him from you for long."

Pulled backward and stumbling, Bishop was shoving him along at breakneck speed, down the stairs and out the door, pulling him by the cord and oh, God, he was choking...

Couldn't catch a breath, his legs were jelly...and they were moving, still moving...stop...wait...

And then Ivan the giant appeared out of nowhere, grabbing him, pulling at him...striking the wound in his leg and oh fuck, what had been a tolerable numbness was now fuckin' agony...and he started to go down, bright spots dancing along the now darkening edges of his vision...holy God, he was going to pass out if he didn't get air...

He was gasping, head reeling...

"Parting is such sorrow," someone was saying in his ear...

And then he was let go and falling--down on the ground, rolling on rough ashpalt, the sound of screeching tires filling his ears...

Somebody was calling his name from very far away...at least he thought so...

And then the darkness came and swallowed him whole.


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