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Quality Time

by P L Nunn


Chapter Ten


Lex wouldn't beg. He held on to that shred of self-control, almost by some stubborn instinct, even when the rest of his rational mind ran shrieking to disconnect itself from the rest of his body. He screamed. Oh, he screamed a lot, voice hoarse and weak by the time they tired of the game. But he never gave them the satisfaction of hearing him beg them to end it the only way they'd allow.

He might have, if they'd put him in the ground again - - because that had damaged something inside him - - opened wounds he didn't know he'd had and seared the edges ajar. If they put him back in the earth, he wasn't sure what he'd be reduced to. But they couldn't lay hands on him if he was entombed in the dirt, they couldn't participate in his destruction, so they didn't use it as a threat against him. Maybe they simply didn't know how effective a tool it had been.

Lex wasn't about to enlighten them.

They loitered by the warehouse door, letting in a slice of afternoon sun, but the fresh air didn't reach far enough inside the cavernous warehouse to breach the stench of blood and sweat and pain that hung heavy in the air around Lex. There was blood on the floor at his feet. The hard packed dirt was soaked with it. It still flowed freely in places - - from the most recent cuts and down his arms from where the cuffs had lacerated the skin at his wrists. Most of the slices would have clotted abnormally quickly on their own, thanks to his enhanced healing - - even the deepest of them would heal at an accelerated rate and vanish completely from his skin if given the chance - - but they'd cauterized the nastiest cuts regardless, Rule meticulous in his art, and not prepared to have his canvas bleed out before he'd exhausted his creative energies. The lit ends of cigarettes or the flame from a lighter worked well enough to sear skin and stop unruly bleeding.

When they'd come back the first time, they brought with them a few six packs of beer. Rule had systematically reduced the number, but he only allowed the boy a few. The boy voiced no objection, content with the older man's authority. He followed Rule like a young dog at the heels of an alpha male, baring his throat when necessary and eager to please. Just as well, Lex thought, because Gordon Elliot was one of the most powerful mutants alive and without restraint his destructive potential was terrifying. Rule might be a twisted and sadistic killer, but he was disciplined and furtive in his habits. With Gordon under his control the casualties would be limited to single victims captured and toyed with, instead of the mass destruction the boy was capable of. There had been very little left of the small town he'd lived in, after he'd snapped and murdered his parents and he'd been all of fourteen then, his powers only newly active.

They wondered back and Lex shut his eyes, trying not to move, trying not to shudder, though his body betrayed him when Rule moved in close behind and laid a callused hand along his ribs.

"You catch you breath yet, Lex?" The man asked and Lex felt the scratch of stubble along the back of his head as Rule pressed close.

The big hand slid down and squeezed his genitals and pain lanced through him, bright and intense. They'd used the knife on him there too, and sealed the nicks with the hot end of a cigarette. Rule took a great deal of pleasure from inflicting pain in erogenous zones, though he never showed signs of physical arousal from his efforts. Oh, it shined in his eyes, the excitement over the infliction of hurt and degradation, but his body never reacted. Lex wasn't sure he was capable, for none of his multitude of victims had ever shown signs of rape. Oh, there had been sexual mutilation galore, and penetration with foreign objects, but no semen had ever been left behind. Impotence might be a symptom or a cause of his psychosis. Either way, it was one small bit of luck in an abysmally long string of bad.

The boy had no such problem. The boy's jeans tented off and on through the play, aroused by the blood and torture, but he had no interest in doing more than scrubbing a hand down the front of his pants, like he was scratching a curious itch.

"You wanna fuck him, boy?" Rule had asked once, while the boy stared bright eyed at the blood trailing down Lex's stomach, pooling in his navel and traveling lower.

"I ain't no fag," the boy had muttered, with the offended dignity of a youth unsure of just what he was. Lex imagined Clark responding in much the same tone to the same suggestion, when he'd been sixteen and trying desperately to convince himself he was unwaveringly heterosexual.

"It ain't about being a fag or not," Rule had said, like a teacher lecturing the basics of prison psychology. "It's about you being top dog and putting your bitch in its place. Sometimes all the pain in the world won't hurt a man as much as your dick up his ass - - or in his mouth. Don't much matter, it's the principle that counts."

The boy had considered, while Lex had hung, shuddering convulsively from pain and shock, not entirely capable at the time of wrapping his mind around the full impact of Rule's words. But Rule's disciple though he was, Gordon had declined, with a furrow in his brow and a hand idly scrubbing at his still tight jeans.

Lex tried to focus on the strip of light through the cracked warehouse door - - afternoon light? - - evening? How long had he been here? How many hours? Long summer days stretched on forever and it might be late into the evening - - he'd lost track - - passed out enough times that he had no concept of the passage of time.

Why hadn't Clark come? Clark always came. Even when they'd been at odds - - Clark had always come. Clark wasn't coming, because Clark was with Lana, licking her mental wounds, playing her savior like it was his salvation from all the rest of his astronomically abnormal existence. Like she was the normalcy that would make him closer to human.

Fuck Clark.

No. He wasn't being logical. It wasn't Clark's fault if Clark didn't know. It wasn't Clark's fault if Clark was practicing a bit of hard learned wisdom and was giving Lex a cool down period before he called. It wasn't Clark's fault that even if he did suspect foul play, he wouldn't know where to look.

So maybe Clark wasn't coming and maybe it had nothing whatsoever to do with Lana Lang. Maybe it was just bad timing. Bad luck. Bad karma.

Lex came out of the delirium of a half faint, gasping from the lingering pain of Rule's parting gift. The boy was staring at him, close enough to touch, but not. Rule was gone and the place seemed somehow lighter, the air easier to breath without his presence.

Beer. There had been a mention of going out and buying more beer. Enough to last the night. And something about jumper cables and a car battery and Lex didn't want to think about what they needed those for.

But the boy was staring, manic dark eyes flickering across the tell tale marks they'd left on his body. Tracking the undulating paths that blood had taken, staining his skin. Lex dropped his head, shivering involuntarily and tried to get his toes on the ground to take some of the pressure off the cuffs. Rule had cut the tape off from around his ankles - - a necessity to strip him down - - a necessity for better access to soft, vulnerable places.

The boy reached out a hand, fingers trailing the edges of a cut. Lex flinched and lifted his eyes. There was less reasoning with this child than there was with Rule and more chance of sparking a fit of madness that would send him into a frenzy.

"He said not to touch, when he was gone, didn't he?" The negotiator in Lex refused to bow to that wisdom. The agitator in him was compelled to plant the seeds of doubt, even if his voice trembled when he spoke. "You don't follow his rules, you think he'll be any more lenient with you than he is with anyone else that pisses him off?"

Gordon paused, the tip of a finger pressed between the open edges of a wound that was sending little sparks of pain into the spaces behind Lex's eyes.

"If you don't follow like a good dog, he'll either leave you behind or kill you outright."

"He's not like that," the boy said. "He's not like them. He cares."

Them. The deceased elder Elliot's, Lex assumed. Lex could almost understand the staunch loyalty from a boy who's home life had been shit even before his powers had manifested - - a boy who'd never had a support system would latch onto the first body who expressed a real interest and that loyalty might well be unshakable.

"Test the theory," Lex suggested - - likely the stupidest thing to ever come out of his mouth - - but desperation made for recklessness. "Draw unsanctioned blood and see what he does."

The boy's eyes narrowed, the only sign of uneasy possibilities dancing inside his head. He drew his hand back, idly sucked the blood off his fingertip and turned - - put his back to Lex, close enough to see the dirt behind the kid's unwashed ears - - and the chance was just there.

Adrenalin laced fear fed strength into watery limbs - - numbed the pain in his wrists he put his full weight on them, drawing his legs up and catching the boy unawares, crossing his legs and attempting to choke the breath out of him. The kid struggled, trying to get his hand under Lex's knee to loosen the grip. The ground quaked, weakening the foundations of a building beyond its prime, causing bits and pieces of loosened material to fall from the rafters. Maybe if Lex had been on the ground, it might have shaken his grip, no matter strength lent by the grace of desperation.

Then it just stopped, the boy going limp in his clasp, the weight of his body falling jerking him out of Lex's hold. Which left Lex hanging again, trembling and out of breath with a body at his feet that was red faced, but breathing shallowly and likely to come to at any moment. Or be found by Rule if the man came back unexpectedly.


He couldn't get a grip on the hook to lift himself up, but the boy's body lent him that extra height. He stepped on the kid's shoulder and caught the bottom link of the chain holding the hook, hauled himself up despite the screaming pain in his wrists and slipped the cuffs over the blood slick tongue of the hook. He hit the ground the moment the unwanted support was gone, legs crumpling as strength fled. He sprawled next to the boy, agony stealing his vision, dizziness threatening his consciousness, and tried to catch his breath and clear his head.

He had to clear his head, because if he passed out, he was lost.

Everything hurt. It felt like things were broken inside - - like he couldn't get enough air in his lungs. He made himself move, pushed up and saw the remnants of his clothing not far away. Pants were salvageable, but the shirt was a lost cause. Getting them on handcuffed was no easy task. He didn't bother with the belt, coiled innocently a few yards away - - Rule had made use of it - - had let the boy loose with it - - and Lex stood for a second, staring, the memory of the sounds it had made, more intense than the ones of the stinging pain.

He snarled, shaking off the spell and drew back his foot and kicked the boy. Again, in the head, feeling a surge of retaliatory viciousness that was like acid in his veins that warmed the chill of a body half gone to shock. It put him off his balance, and he stood there, wavering, while his vision spun and the notion that Rule would come back drained the moment of rage out of him and replaced it with the driving need to escape.

He made for the door, grasped the age pitted handle and put his weight into sliding it open enough to slip through. It was late evening outside, the sky the ashen purple of dusk. There were crickets battling for dominance in the overgrown weeds and the not so distant clatter of a train. There were the shapes of other grey warehouses that he hadn't noticed on the way in - - dilapidated structures, marred with graffiti and broken and boarded windows.

It was a wasteland, no cars, no people, no activity save the rustle of wind through the grasses. The sound of the train came from behind the building he'd been kept in. He headed that way, following the border of the warehouse and retreating around the corner, relieved to be out of easy sight of a car that might come down the old gravel road out front.

He saw the tracks almost immediately, an array of them spread out below - - an industrial yard that fed what seemed acres of warehouse spaces spread out beyond. It had to be the Grandville train yards, or the outskirts of it. LexCorp owned a section of storage facilities somewhere along the Grandville industrial transit mile - - but he honestly had no idea exactly where. It wasn't like he made a habit of visiting warehouse property. He'd bet though, they weren't located near the worn down hulks here.

He limped down the incline towards the tracks, each step a jarring impact that made lights dance behind his eyes. He didn't need to reach LexCorp property, he just needed to find someone with a phone. The closest track was empty but a slow moving train clanked along on the next one over. Boxcar after boxcar, a great deal of them the wooden slated sort used for the transport of livestock. It seemed to trail on forever, preventing passage across the tracks. Which meant walking along the tracks and hoping he came across something on this side.

There was a cry from behind him, distant and hoarse and he turned, saw a figure at the top of the same incline he'd staggered down to reach the tracks, nothing more than a shadowy silhouette against the evening sky, but he knew in his bones who it was.

Rule. Returned to find his prey fled and his pack of one down for the count. Lex stumbled into a run, blood thudding in panic. He tripped over a section of railway timber half hidden in summer dry grass and couldn't catch himself soon enough with cuffed hands to avoid the impact of a nasty fall. Vision went the sort of dark that was laced with red spots of pain.

He pushed himself up, a fresh stream of blood slicking his palms from the torn skin at his wrists, and ran. He looked back once, saw the dark shape loping down the incline towards the tracks in his wake. On a good day, Lex could outdistance the man with ease, he was certain. Today wasn't a good day. Today he thought his lungs were going to burst, his muscles fray and disintegrate from the effort. And then Rule would be on him and there would be no second chances.

There was nothing ahead but the incline with a chain link fence at the top to one side and the barrier of the a train that was picking up speed on the other and God knew how far ahead there might be anything else - - there might be nothing else but Kansas plain lands if they were at the east end of the train yards.

But there was something ahead that broke the monotony, a structure between the two sets of tracks, a dilapidated wooden ramp that might have been used to load cattle into boxcars.

He heard the labored gasp of breath and for one desperate moment, thought it was Rule, close on his heels, but a glance behind his shoulder showed the man a good distance away, but gaining. So the harsh breath was his own. He laughed at that, a little madly, and veered across the slats of the empty track towards the old loading ramp.

Scrambled up the incline and stared dizzily at the passing motif of boxcars panels, dotted with the occasional dark maw of an open door. If he missed, he'd be a spatter on the side of the train, or worse yet, tangled under the churning wheels. A messy death, but preferable to the one Rule wanted to give him. Lex was nothing if not a firm believer in high risk, high return ventures.

He glanced down the track, saw Rule a hundred yards away, saw the glint of the man's teeth in the fading light. Saw the approaching gap of an open cattle car and made the decision - -

He jumped, avoided being clipped by a hair's breadth and hit the floor of the cattle car in a sprawl of limbs. Rolled onto his back and lay there drawing in lungfuls of air tainted with the musty odor of moldy straw and dung.

It took a few moments before the pain of the landing sank in, before the rough texture of wood and old straw grinding into the abused skin of his back began to burn. He couldn't make himself move. It hurt, but realistically, it wasn't going to stop hurting just because he changed position and balanced against the simple fact that he'd escaped the clutches of a madman by the skin of his teeth - - lying there, simply breathing in relief, swaying with the subtle motion of the train and enduring a little bearable pain was a good trade.

He shut his eyes and dizziness swam in the darkness behind them. Like motion sickness, drenched in a cold sweat that made him think maybe he should make the effort to shift to his side, just in case his stomach decided to heave up its contents. He shuddered and made himself move, curled onto his side, drew his legs up and felt the icy kiss of cold. Which was unnatural on a balmy summer night. He shouldn't be sweating and freezing at the same time, unless he was succumbing to shock - - or blood loss. Both maybe.

He wondered how much blood the dirt floor under the hook had soaked up. A lot. He healed freakishly fast, but would his blood replenish at the same accelerated rate? He clenched his fists, drawing his arms tighter against his chest, feeling the metal of the cuff bit into flesh and not caring. The pain was exquisite - - born of his own will instead of the will of another and cherished because of it.

A dark veil drew down across his awareness, making thoughts unfocused. He felt himself begin to slip, and the pain dissolved with the fall until all that was left was the rhythmic clank of the train and then, even that went away.




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