This story is a bit of an experiment for me, based in a small part upon 'The Hyperion Cantos', by Dan Simmons. Fair warning for those more squeamish readers --it contains content which traverses some rather dark spaces. I hope this will not discourage you from reading, however, as I believe journeying into these dark places can help us both understand them better, and attain a greater appreciation for the light. As always, thanks to my proof readers, Guri, Cetacea, and Six.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Part 3 - The Virgin
Til Death Do Us Part
Fat droplets of sweat rolled down the mayor’s forehead, beading on the bridge of his nose, and trickling from his sagging jowls. I watched, unable to look away as his gaze flicked downward, filling with fresh terror at what lay below. The winch supporting the bound man whined, groaned. A strangled scream escaped his throat as he was lowered, kicking futilely, another few inches towards the seething tank of ravenous carvanha.
Footsteps clattered on the metal catwalk next to the tank. A crimson cloak was flourished, hiding, then revealing a second man, his features twisted and misshapen in a horrible combination of pokémon and human, his skin a dingy purple that looked near black in the dim light of the abandoned factory. His lips curled in a sneer, revealing fangs that had no place in a human mouth.
“The fish seem hungry, mr. mayor,” the man intoned. As if on cue, one of the red and blue fish jumped, jaws snapping at the politician’s foot, missing by mere inches. Another terrified wail from the hanging man, the chains around his chest and shoulders clattering as he struggled. “I wonder which is worth more; the information? Or your toes? Shall we find out?” The crimson cape swirled, signalling a henchman, and the winch shuddered into motion once more.
“No, no! Please!” cried the mayor. “I’ll tell you anything, I beg you!”
Thin lips skinned back, displaying those sharp fangs. The cloaked man held up his hand, halting the winch’s progress. “Most kind of you, mr. mayor. I must say, you have certainly proven me correct in voting for you. Now, the passcodes, if you please.”
“Not so fast, Nosferatu,” a rich, baritone voice proclaimed from the darkness. My heart leaped in my chest, even as the cloaked man whirled around, a snarl marring his face. Out of the shadows stepped a masked lucario, his body wrapped in a tight fitting black jumpsuit that hugged each chiseled muscle. His eyes were chips of blue ice behind his mask, locked on Nosferatu with grim determination.
“No,” I murmured, my heart pounding. “Don’t do it, it’s a setup!” I knew he couldn’t hear me, but part of me still needed to try.
“So, you show yourself at last, Orion! Followed the crumbs all the way home like a good little pidgey. Think you have everything figured out.”
Orion strode forward, closing the distance between himself and Nosferatu, his paws beginning to glow with ethereal blue light. “Harming that man will gain you nothing, Nosferatu. Release him safely, and you yourself may go unharmed.”
Nosferatu’s grin widened. He stepped back, giving a mocking bow and a swirl of his cloak. “Fine. You can have him.”
“Don’t do it,” I mouthed silently.
Orion eyed Nosferatu, approaching with more caution even as the villain backed away from the bound mayor. The lucario kept his eye on Nosferatu as he reached over the catwalk railing for the mayor, tugging on his bonds to pull him away from the tank.
“Oh, thank you, Orion! I knew you’d come to save the day,” the mayor gasped, grabbing hold of Orion’s arm. “In fact, you might even say, it was all according to plan!” With that last word, the mayor gave a mighty heave, yanking Orion off the catwalk, and tumbling him into the tank.
“No!” I reached out, wishing I could help, even though I was powerless to do so.
The surface of the water boiled, glittering shapes thrashing about in a frenzy. Nosferatu helped the mayor down, and the pair looked on; one with an expression of giddy glee, the other with a calm, satisfied smirk.
“Finally, thought he’d never be out of my hair,” the mayor said, chuckling and turning to go, clapping the taller figure on the back. “You’ve earned your taxpayer dollars today, Nosferatu.”
A quiet terror began to fill me as the water began to still. They couldn’t possibly get away with this, could they? Could it really be the end? Was he actually...
Both villains were beginning to walk away, without so much as a care for the fallen hero, already discussing their next foul scheme. That was when it happened. First, a blue glow from the tank, dim at first, then brightening into a nova. A shining form erupted from the water, vibrant with life and energy and power, landing upon his toes on the rim of the tank.
“Nice of you to tip your hand at last, mr. mayor,” said the lucario, water sluicing from his fur and sizzling to steam within the nimbus of power around him. “Shame you underestimated the strength of my aura and its protective ability. Especially when amongst ravenous creatures which are so easily soothed. Now, I am afraid it is time to face the consequences of your actions.” Seemingly without effort, he pushed off from his perch, flipping elegantly through the air, and landing in a combat stance on the catwalk facing the crooks, his paws burning even brighter than the rest of him.
Arceus, I wish I could do that.
The fight was brief, almost anti-climactic. Yet, it never failed to fill me with a sense of wonder, watching him dodge and kick, those toned muscles rippling. Every move was an exercise of violent grace, the epitome of physical ability. All the while, those soulful eyes pierced into you, asking why the fight was necessary, even while he dispensed justice to those the law couldn’t reach. Some people said he didn’t do his own stunts, but I refused to believe that. No mere stunt double could fake those eyes.
In the final moments of the episode, after the bad guys were safely stashed within a squad car, and the evidence Orion had collected put into the hands of the police chief, came the bit that was always my favourite. Time for the mask to go away, as Orion made his escape from the public eye, up, up to the lofty heights from where he kept watch by night. The camera zoomed in on his face, as he perched lightly on a stone buttress looking over the city. No matter how many times I heard it, his rich voice narrating the send-off always sent a shiver up my spine.
“The city sleeps in peace, as it should. But the eyes of justice and right are ever vigilant. I am Orion, the hunter, and so long as I stand, the wicked who prey upon the weak shall never know rest. Because I will be coming.”
The credits began to roll, and I blinked, that final heroic image still painted in my mind, as always. Part of me wanted to be him, yes. To do what he could, to be a hero. But, a bigger part of me wanted to be by his side. To be the loving arms he could come home to and rest. A fantasy, to be sure -after all, the real life Locklear was as likely to be similar to the character he played, as my master was to grow wings- but, a girl could dream, couldn’t she?
Grabbing the remote, I changed the channel before the credits finished. I had no desire to see the preview of next week’s episode. So much better for it to be a surprise.
Cooking show. Boring. Sports, ugh. Ads, ads, ads. Ooh, is that a new episode of ‘Challenge Island’? Oh, nope, just a rerun. I kept flipping, increasingly unimpressed with what even deluxe cable had to offer. I still had time left. There was no point in starting dinner this early, and the apartment was spotless. Not even Dom could find fault in it.
Without thinking, I scratched between my legs, and immediately regretted it. The mild itch that had been steadily growing over the past few days reared its ugly head with a vengeance, drawing a groan from my throat. Arceus, it felt like my tender regions were on fire! Lauryn, bless her departed soul, had explained it to me once -why my body experienced such things- but did it need to be so damned annoying?
Guiltily, I glanced at the door, biting my lip. Dom always yelled at me if I tried to scratch, or do anything else to relieve the itch. He never explained why I shouldn’t, but I’d once heard him mutter under his breath about, “Last thing he needed was a horny ‘mon,” or some such. I had time, he wouldn’t be back for a while, and he couldn’t possibly know if I scratched for a bit.
Grumbling, I adjusted the towel I was sitting on, making sure the easy chair was completely covered. I’d learned the first time, quite quickly, not to leave any wet spots on the furniture. Forcing my paws away from my thighs, I picked up the remote again, clicking with a bit more force than was necessary.
Sports again. Seriously, how many channels do we need for those? Movie, half finished. News, news. Ads. Oh, hello, what’s this? I paused with the channel button half pressed. The screen showed an aerial view of a lush landscape, the camera panning across trees that looked to be hundreds of feet tall.
“The old growth ‘White’ forest of Unova,” a narrator was explaining, “contains some of the world’s most ancient trees, some dating back centuries. This vivid ecosystem is home to-”
Some kind of travel program, I thought lazily, my eyes glued to the screen, the itch forgotten. Wow, that’s beautiful. Wonder what it would be like to walk through all those trees? Bet they’d make you feel so small. I let myself drift, barely listening to the soothing narration while I flew with the camera through the forest, swooped down low, catching soil, then soared upwards once more, gracing the swaying top boughs. I could all but feel my toes brushing the pine, the wind rustling my fur, the clean scent filling my nose.
Birds must have the greatest lives.
The journey didn’t end at the forest. I soared over rocky canyons and waterfalls, great cities teeming with life, frigid snowcaps, mysterious swamps, and bright, warm beaches. I quickly lost track of where in the world they -and myself- were. Not even the advertising breaks ruined the journey. I simply closed my eyes, holding the last image I’d seen within my mind. How wonderful it would be to visit these places in the flesh? To drop everything and leave, possibly never to return. Such natural wonders were priceless commodities, begging to be experienced in exquisite detail.
All too soon, however, the program came to an end -after a fantastic visit to a coral reef- and reality came crashing back in. I woke to the cold facts of the dingy apartment, the walls now seeming far smaller than they had before.
“Unova,” I murmured to myself. Even the name was exotic. My mind was a storm of possibilities. I’d never been on a plane before. How much were tickets? Somehow, perhaps I’d be able to find a way...
My eye caught the blinking time readout on the movie player.
Oh no, oh no. Already?
I sprang from the chair, nearly forgetting to grab the towel in my haste. I dropped it into the laundry hamper as I dashed to the kitchen. The TV droned on in the background -some ad for a miracle cleaning cloth- the enthusiastic advertiser seeming to spur me on.
What to make, what to make? Oh Arceus, please let me have enough time. First things first. I opened the fridge, fumbling for and nearly dropping (thankfully only ‘nearly’) a bottle of Dom’s import beer. I popped the cap with a bottle opener and set it on the table, bubbles of carbonation rising through the amber liquid. That task complete, I turned back to the fridge, scanning the contents feverishly for ideas.
Salad! Yes, that’s fast. I pulled out half a head of lettuce and tossed it into a strainer, along with a tomato. The tap hissed, cold water bathing the vegetables. Let’s see, what else do we have he- ooh! Bacon, yes! The package hit the counter with a meaty slap, ready for the frying pan. And tortillas! Perfect. Bacon lettuce wraps it is. Not bad for on the spot.
“But wait, there’s more!” raved the man on TV. I allowed myself a grin. This was going to work.
The apartment door swung open. Heavy footsteps in the entranceway. I froze, caught in the motion of opening the tortillas, a ball of ice forming in my belly.
Through the kitchen entrance strode Dom, his work clothes already shucked down to a white undershirt and grimy workman’s pants. Sweat stains marred the white fabric of his shirt, which strained to contain Dom's barrel chest and beer belly alike. Droplets of perspiration beaded on his bald head, gleaming in the kitchen's spotlighting. He caught sight of me, his hard blue eyes narrowing to slits above his wide, squashed nose.
"There you are, you lazy cunt," he growled, crossing his thick arms over his chest. "What have you got to say for yourself, huh?"
Even from where I stood, I could smell the sweet scent of alcohol on his breath. He must've stopped at the liquor store on the way home. Why, why, why couldn't it have been the bar?! That would have at least bought me the time I needed!
"And that's not all!" Said the TV.
"On second thought, shut it," Dom snapped, advancing across the tiny kitchen. "I don't wanna listen to that babbling nonsense of yours." He stabbed a sausage-like finger at the various ingredients I had out. "What's all this shit? Cuz it sure don't look like my dinner, ready and waiting for me like it's supposed to be!"
His face was turning redder as his voice rose in volume, spittle flying from his mouth. I backed up as he stalked closer, trying to look as small as possible. Yelling was a good sign. Sometimes, that would be the end of it. Hoping to distract him, I pointed at the table.
"Look, why not have a seat, Dom, and I'll have the food ready in a moment, promise!"
His gaze flicked momentarily in the direction I pointed, but immediately zeroed back in on me. He took another step.
"Yeah, you remembered to get my beer at least, dumb bitch. You think that's all a hard-working man deserves when he comes home after a long day? Huh?!"
He was looming over me now, the stink of sweat and spirits filling my nostrils. There were no avenues of escape. My back was against the counter, and I knew from experience there was no eluding those long, strong arms with surprisingly quick hands. My heart thudded in my chest.
I didn't even see the backhand blow coming. A vicious crack. White flashes blinding me. Stinging pain in my cheek, and an aching throb in my neck. My head swam dizzily, the world taking its sweet time to come back into focus.
"What a great deal!" shouted the TV.
"-old you about that lip of yours," Dom was snarling, his face inches away from mine. "Costs me good money to keep you fed and a roof over our heads. Least you can do is show a bit of respect." Spit was hitting my nose. I started to wipe it away with my paw, and froze, instantly realizing my error as Dom's eyes widened.
"You even listening, you ungrateful little slut?"
I nodded rapidly, a sinking feeling in my gut. It was too late, the damage was done.
“Call now! This offer won’t last long!”
“C’mere,” growled Dom. I yelped, desperately attempting to duck away from his reaching hands, but he already had me, one meaty palm circling around my throat. His fingers tightened like a vice, choking off my gasp, and my air. Dizziness swarmed through my head as my feet left the floor, kicking uselessly while Dom hoisted me up by my neck until we were eye-to-eye. Dom’s eyes were chips of ice, and didn’t contain a hint of mercy or compassion. They never did.
“Now, you listen good, you useless little cunt, cuz I’m only gonna say this once.”
My mouth worked, emitting no more than a high-pitched squeaking noise. I couldn’t breathe! Was this it? Was he going to kill me? I scrabbled at the arm holding me, trying without result to pry his fingers apart. I might as well have tried to bend a bar of steel with my paws. I stared back at him, pleading silently, begging for him not to do this.
“You’ve got one job. One fucking job. Keep the place clean, and make my dinner. Is it that hard? Huh? Even a stupid bitch like you oughta be able to handle it! Instead, I get home after a hard day, and I find you watching TV, slacking off, and don’t have dinner on the fucking table!”
His fingers dug in, the delicate flesh of my throat trembling from the strain. I gagged, my vision starting to grow fuzzy, spots swimming across my view of Dom’s red face, contorted with rage. He was still shouting, but I could barely understand the words now, despite them being loud enough to hurt my ears.
Guess this is how I die. The thought came from far away, as though it belonged to someone else. I’d long since stopped struggling. Maybe it was better this way. Going out to Dom’s tirade was hardly the way I’d envisioned it, but at least it would be the last one I ever had to endure. The blackness on the edge of my vision was starting to close in, ever so slowly�
In the background, something jangled, harsh and sharp. Dom’s litany of curses broke off. Again, the sound. He growled something unintelligible, and suddenly, the pressure on my throat was gone, and I was falling. I hit the floor with a crash, landing in a tangle of limbs and smacking my head on the counter as my knees immediately gave out. Dom stomped off, and I lay there, coughing and gasping in lungfuls of sweet, sweet air. Slowly, the world swam back into better focus, though everything still seemed to sway from side to side. With a supreme effort, I made it to my hands and knees, groaning at the pain in my head and neck. For the time being, the itch between my legs was the last thing on my mind.
“Yes, it’s okay, Mrs. Wrigley, nothing is wrong,” I overheard Dom say from the hall. The phone. The phone had saved me. A call from the elderly lady who lived in the apartment above us.
“No, just had the TV a little loud. I’ll turn it down. Sorry for disturbing you... Yes� Alright, I’ll be sure to let her know when I see her� Yes� Goodbye, Mrs. Wrigley.” He hung up, the receiver dropping into the cradle with enough force to surely crack the plastic. Heavy footsteps headed my way. Despite the dizziness, I forced myself to stand, wincing in pain or not. I didn’t want to meet Dom on all fours if I could help it.
Dom marched back into the kitchen, his features set in a frown. He glanced at me and grunted, then reached over to grab his beer from the table. His thick fingers wrapped around the neck of the bottle as he lifted it to his lips, his throat bobbing in a long, noisy gulp. Lowering the bottle, he fixed me with a cold glare, making a shooing motion with his free hand.
“Well? I hope we don’t have to have this little chat again. I expect my dinner in fifteen minutes. Clear?” With that, he spun about with all the grace of a tauros about to charge, and walked out into the living room. A moment later, I heard the TV change to a different channel -some sports game or other- and the volume drop slightly.
At first, I could only stand there, trembling. My vision was growing blurry again, but this time, from tears welling up. I wiped them away before they could fall, drawing in a deep breath to steady myself. That had been far too close. Arceus bless Mrs. Wrigley. If she hadn’t called�
On shaky legs, I began to throw together the dinner I’d started, tossing the bacon into a frying pan and flipping on the stove. Soon, the delicious scent of frying pork filled the kitchen, along with the sizzles and pops of the cooking meat. I went about the task mechanically, my mind wandering back to the program I’d seen. What would it take to get away from here? Away from the monster that Dom had become? It was far from the first time I’d entertained the thought, but, maybe with a bit of clever planning�
“Bitch! Is it ready?”
“Almost!” I called back, slapping the cooked bacon into a tortilla I’d warmed in the microwave. I hope you choke on it, you heartless bastard. It was still hard to breathe freely. One of these days, Dom would go too far.
I had to leave before that happened.
The next morning, I awoke earlier than usual. My head felt fuzzy, testament to the restless sleep I’d had. I could still hear Dom moving about, getting ready for work, so I remained huddled in my small bed, gradually shaking off the drowsiness and listening to his heavy footsteps and occasional mutters. He didn’t like to be disturbed during his morning routine, and I’d long since adopted the habit of not waking up until he’d already left for work. So long as I didn’t poke my head out of my room -the spare room, in truth, but it wasn’t as if Dom entertained visitors- I would be left alone.
Finally, I heard the sound of the front door opening and closing, followed by the key scraping in the lock. I waited a few more minutes to be sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, then swung myself out of bed and headed for the bathroom. The moment I stood, the burning between my thighs made itself known, but I squashed the uncomfortable urges. I needed a nice, hot shower. And a long one.
As usual, Dom had left his still-wet towel in a pile on the floor. Grimacing, I picked it up and threw it into the hamper, shaking my paws after disposing of it. The thought of where that towel might have touched was enough to trigger my ‘gross’ reaction, and the prospect of a hot shower for myself only grew brighter.
After setting out my own towel, I cranked the shower knob up to its hottest setting, allowing it to heat before stepping in. I glanced into the mirror, turning my head from side to side. As I’d expected, several dark bruises showed beneath the thin fur of my neck. Likely not enough to be noticeable to anyone else, but I knew from experience what I was looking for. Hesitantly, I touched one of them, wincing at the tenderness of my own flesh. Too close. Much too close.
Steam was beginning to fill the tiny bathroom, so I stepped into the shower stall and closed the glass door, sighing in pleasure when the heated spray began to massage my back. Sure, drying off took ages, but it was oh so worth it. I eyed the lone bottle of shampoo sitting on the shelf. Should I? Normally, I wouldn’t risk using something of Dom’s, but today� today was special. If all went according to plan, I wouldn’t need to worry about him finding out. Feeling bold, I grabbed the bottle and squeezed a liberal portion of white gel into my paws, then began to lather up. A grin crept onto my muzzle. It felt right to start the day out clean.
I’m not sure how long I spent in there, but the water was beginning to grow cold by the time I shut it off and stepped out. My stomach was also starting to make its needs known, so I didn’t invest too much time into grooming, merely drying off thoroughly and hanging my towel -neatly- before heading to the kitchen.
I took my leisure over breakfast, treating myself to the leftover bacon and some scrambled eggs. While I chewed on the salty, delicious meal, I considered my options. I’d need to go someplace I could disappear, and far enough away that Dom either would never find me, or wouldn’t bother spending the effort to try. The latter was preferred, but either would be acceptable.
There were certainly a lot of places in Kanto I could vanish into. Especially if I were to venture into the wild regions, such as around Mount Moon, or towards Viridian forest. But, those carried their own dangers; wild pokémon being chief among them, and trainers a close second. I was a house ‘mon, not a fighter. I had about as much chance of carving out a place for myself in the wilds as I did running for a regional senate office.
My mind flicked back to the program I’d seen last night. Unova� now that was a place with opportunities. The Unovan league operated much differently than Kanto’s. Battles weren’t the only place a pokémon could make a place for themselves. Unova had so many sprawling cities, I’d be swallowed up without a trace. Heck, I could even make my way to pokéstar studios. Maybe I’d get the chance to meet Orion!
The idea brewing, I left my empty plate on the table and rushed to the computer in Dom’s bedroom, flicking it on, and waiting impatiently while the old machine booted up. It had taken me awhile to figure out how to use it. Hours spent surreptitiously watching Dom whenever he left the door open, and more hours spent poking about on the machine when he was out. Lauryn had never had much use for it, and as such, had never taught me. Lucky for me I’d seen a few TV programs about computers, and between everything had picked up enough to fumble my way through. I’d always been careful to turn it off when I was done, and so far, he hadn’t caught me out.
The screen finally loaded up, displaying the familiar background picture of Lauryn, Dom’s deceased wife, and the one person we’d both loved. It was an excellent shot, with her in a red dress standing in a field of wildflowers, looking over her shoulder at the camera with a cheeky smile. No matter how many times I saw it, I always wanted to smile back at her.
Grabbing the mouse, I moved the pointer to the web browser and opened it. Typing was a clumsy process. The keys were never designed for paws, and hitting the right one tended to be an arduous process, one filled with many backspaces. At least I knew enough spelling to have few issues in that regard. That tutelage was completely thanks to Lauryn’s patience.
Eventually, I managed to dig up what I wanted through search engines, and began exploring various means of achieving my Unovan goal. Planes, I quickly discovered, were prohibitively expensive. Not to mention, you could only book a ticket with a credit card, which would be impossible for me, as Dom always kept his in his wallet. A train to the coast, on the other hand, followed by a ship�
The best I could do for the train was four in the afternoon. I’d be out of the house well before Dom came home, and on my way to Vermillion city before he knew I was gone. After a bit of thought, I booked a seat under the name ‘Luca Rio’. Odds were, there wouldn’t be any psychic type interpreters at the station, so I’d need to be able to communicate what I needed without help. I selected ‘Pay at ticket window’, and saved the booking.
Next came the berth on an eastbound vessel. This proved much more difficult than the train. It seemed that passenger ships for cross-ocean journeys were harder to come by than I’d thought. After a bit of research (costing me about an hour), I came across a shipping company that offered low-cost passenger service along with their freight runs. They had two vessels making the voyage from Vermillion to Castelia. One of which would be departing in an hour, impossible for me to make, and another which would be leaving early tomorrow morning. I chewed my lower lip, considering. It meant I’d have to wait overnight in Vermillion, essentially on the run from Dom.
It should be safe. If I’m careful. There weren’t many other options. At least, not ones that would let me book in advance without a credit card. Swallowing an icy lump of fear, I made the reservation.
I heaved a heavy sigh and leaned back in the swivelling computer chair, feeling slightly drained. This was it. I’d taken the first steps, and I didn’t plan to turn back. I had about three hours, give or take, before I’d need to leave for the train station, and there was still more to do. I printed off the copies of both travel bookings I’d saved, then made sure to erase the files before shutting off the computer. No need to make it easy for Dom to figure out where I’d gone.
Walking over to Dom’s closet, I rummaged around in the back until I came up with a small, battered pink suitcase. Lauryn’s naturally. I didn’t own a lot of possessions, and there was little that I would be taking with me from the apartment, but I also couldn’t leave empty pawed. Most importantly�
I ducked down, crawling under the bed. It was around here somewhere� aha! I seized hold of the small metal box and dragged it out, plopping it down on top of the bed. It had a simple latch instead of a lock, and with a bit of fumbling on the small mechanism, I managed to get it open and flip the lid.
I doubt Dom knew I knew about the box. It was only by chance I’d discovered it once, while cleaning the apartment. It had been a few weeks after Lauryn’s passing, and I’d wanted to distract myself, which ended up with me going all health inspection on parts of the place that hadn’t seen a vacuum or a sponge in years. At first, I’d thought it might be Lauryn’s jewelry chest, but the contents were clearly Dom’s. He wasn’t exactly the most trusting of souls, and had often ranted about banks and similar institutions.
I reached inside the box, reverently pulling out a wad of paper bills wrapped in a rubber band. Dom’s paranoia was my salvation. A quick count proved that everything was still there -in fact, the amount had increased by almost 1000. More than enough to cover my travel, plus several months of expenses. I placed the stack into my appropriated suitcase, planning to wrap it in a few of Lauryn’s old shirts for safety before adding in the rest of my things.
I suppose I should’ve felt guilty -I was essentially stealing from Dom, after all- but I couldn’t. Thief or not, this was what I needed to do, and there was no turning back. I looked down into the box, noticing more papers piled on the bottom, and pulled them out. Several dense documents; employment papers from Dom’s construction company, Lauryn’s will, and a few I didn’t understand. Below that lay photographs. Lauryn, blowing out the candles on a cake. Dom and Lauryn’s wedding. A profile shot that appeared to have been taken on a pier.
I stared at the pictures, wondering what Lauryn would say to me if she were still alive. If I knew her at all, she would want what was best for me, which meant getting as far away from Dom as possible. He was no longer the same man she’d married -not that he’d ever been the sort of man who deserved someone like her, in my opinion. But, ever since her death, he had grown surlier. Violent. More prone to drink himself into oblivion. Unbidden, my paw rose to my cheek, recalling the first time he’d hit me. Only a week after Lauryn’s funeral, and from there, things had deteriorated rapidly.
Slowly, I picked through the photographs, moisture welling in my eyes. I stubbornly blinked it away. I would not cry! I’d promised her that I wouldn’t!
That promise almost shattered when I found a shot of the two of us -me still a riolu, her cradling me to her chest with a brilliant smile on her face. I missed her smiles. She’d had the ability to light up a room with her presence like no one else I’d ever met.
Lauryn and Dom hadn’t been successful in having children, so, after much convincing on Lauryn’s part (from what I understood), they had adopted me from a breeding service. Fresh out of the egg, and barely old enough to be away from my biological mother, I’d quickly attached to Lauryn as a surrogate.
No more than a month after my addition to the family, Lauryn received the news about her cancer. The meaning of the word was beyond me at the time. All I’d known was that my mother was sick, and everyone, Dom included, was scared.
Another picture, one of Lauryn proudly embracing me as a newly evolved Lucario. That one had been taken without Dom, the camera set up on a timer.
“Pam, come here, honey, I have a present for you!”
I still remembered the feeling of it -the strange candy Lauryn had bought for me on her way back from one of her doctor’s appointments. My entire body had suffused with more strength in that moment than I’d ever imagined, bubbling over and changing me from inside out. Thanks to her, I’d evolved without fighting a single battle.
Unfortunately, Dom had been less than pleased about the change. Such things, it seemed, were expensive.
“How could you do that?! We can’t afford this! Everything we’ve got is going to the chemo, you understand? Everything! If you were working, it’d be different, but we don’t have room for luxuries!”
I’d never seen him hit Lauryn, but that night he’d come frighteningly close. She hadn’t bothered to argue back, merely letting him scream at her until he had nothing left to scream about. As always, she made herself the calm in the storm, bringing even Dom’s rage to peace. That night though, he’d shot me a glare that told me it was all my fault, and that he would remember.
In the days that followed, she’d grown steadily weaker, more tired. In my new form, I was better equipped to help her, taking care of household chores and allowing her to rest. It hadn’t been enough. Two weeks after my evolution, she didn’t wake from her afternoon nap. Dom had arrived home to find me sobbing over her still form. Something inside him had changed then. I recalled it clearly -the look in his eyes when he shoved me aside. A part of him had died with her. The part that contained any shred of gentleness and kindness. He blamed me, near as I could tell. My arrival, Lauryn’s illness� the two were inseparable in his mind.
I gulped down the lump in my throat, and began to carefully place some of the pictures in the suitcase with the money. In a way, these were more valuable. I think I also had my answer. Lauryn’s memory was the reason I’d stayed with Dom over the past tortuous year. She wouldn’t want me to stick around with the monster Dom had become either.
Having taken what I wanted from the box, I replaced the rest of its contents and shoved it back under the bed. Now, all I needed were the clothes and my few personal things -my teddiursa doll, brush, a few picture books, and of course, my pokéball.
My ears pricked at a sound that made my heart skip a beat. The front door opening.
Oh no. Nonononono�
He couldn’t be home already! My eyes flicked to the digital clock sitting on the nightstand. It was only half past twelve! Why in Arceus’s name was he home?!
Heavy footsteps in the hall. Frantically, I grabbed the suitcase, intending to shove it under the bed to hide my guilt. The bedroom door swung open, freezing me in place.
I dropped the suitcase on the bed and whirled, bracing myself for an outburst, my heart sinking into my belly. Why? I’d been so close!
Dom filled the doorway like a vengeful guardian. He’d stripped down to his undershirt, but he was still wearing his dirty work pants, his steel-toed boots held in one hand. Sweat beaded on his forehead, though it couldn’t have been all that warm outside. His features were pinched in concentration, his eyes narrowing as he regarded me like some insect that had landed on his arm. Even from here, I could smell the stench of liquor.
Arceus. Did he bathe in it?
“Whachu doin’, bitch?” His words were slurred as he stumbled forward, reaching for me. I squeaked, dodging aside, but I couldn’t escape his other arm. Even uncoordinated, he caught me with ease, his hand tightening on my elbow like a vice. “Plannin’ to go somewhere, are ya?”
Panic rising, I tried to pull away. “Dom, it’s really not like that. I-”
The brutal backhand blow would’ve sent me reeling, were I not held firmly in place by Dom’s iron grip. My ears rang, a steady throb of pain flowering in the back of my head.
“Shaddup, cunt. Think I don’t see my money sittin’ in that suitcase? Huh?” The reek of alcohol was nearly enough to make me gag. He shook me like a rag doll, my teeth clacking together and narrowly missing my tongue. “Ain’t enough that I get laid off by that jackoff Clayton, but I come home and find you-” this was punctuated by a particularly hard shake. “-stealin’ the bread out of my pocket!?”
A hard shove, and I was airborne, a squeal leaving my throat, until I hit the bed’s headboard with a solid thunk. At least from there, the landing was soft, even if I was lying in a heap. I had to get away, had to move, but I couldn’t. My senses were jumbled from the abuse, my stomach lurching.
Oh Arceus, why�
Blinking and panting, I looked up, fearing what I’d see, but, Dom was merely standing at the foot of the bed, staring at me. A slow smile began to creep to his lips. Somehow, that scared me far more than any shouting.
“I get it,” he said, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops. “Didn’t at first, but now I do. Yer one fine piece’o’work, y’know that? Stealin’ a man’s hard-earned cash, so you can run off to get yourself laid.” He advanced, strolling casually around the bed. That cruel smile didn’t come anywhere near his eyes. “Where were ya headed, huh? Goldenrod? Or, maybe off into Viridian, to spread your legs for the first poké to wander along?”
He was looming over me now, staring down at me with a strange gleam in his icy eyes. It was something ancient, predatory. I wanted to back away, to scream and run, but it was as if he held me there by sheer force of will.
“Know what I think?” He fumbled about his waist, thick fingers wrestling open the clasp on his belt and sliding it open. “I think it’s high time you started earning yer worthless keep around here, bitch. You ain’t good for much else. Least you can do is offer a hardworkin’ man the comforts of home, don’t ya think?” His pants dropped to the floor, exposing white, sweat-stained boxers. Their center held a conspicuous bulge. I stared, horror blackening my thoughts. Dom kicked out of his boots and pants and reached for me again, that awful grin widening. “Maybe if yer a good enough lay, I’ll even forget this little incident. C’mere. Don’t try to fight it, or it’s gonna hurt.”
With a cry of mixed terror and rage, I kicked out at him, my muscles suddenly unfreezing. He couldn’t. He couldn’t! Better that he kill me! My kicks glanced off one thick forearm protecting his face, connecting instead with the lamp on the bedside table. It flew away, smashing onto the floor. Lauryn had liked that lamp. It was pretty, made of heavy glass.
I felt thick fingers wrap around my ankle, tightening inexorably. I screamed, thrashing, grabbing for a weapon and finding only pillows. I threw those anyway, bouncing them off his bald head and yanking against his grip as hard as I could!
I might as well have laid still for all the good it did.
“Feisty little bitch,” Dom growled, clambering onto the bed and managing to grab my other leg, yanking my ankles savagely apart. “Shoulda put you in yer place long time ago. Mighta made things a bit easier.” Despite my wild struggles, he easily trapped my legs beneath his knees, pinning me and keeping my thighs spread. I squirmed, flailing at his stomach and arms. He swiped my wrists into one large hand, pinning them above my head as he hovered over me. He grinned, belching a cloud of beer-breath into my face. “Don’t be like that. It’s about time you became a real woman.”
I couldn’t move, confined to no more than fruitless arches of my back, powerless against his strength and weight. I let out a wordless shriek, crying out to Arceus or Lauryn or anyone. Dom shifted his bulk, grinding his crotch against mine, and let out an approving grunt. To my utter mortification, my body reacted, betraying me with a surge of fire through my loins. I screamed again, tried to pull back from his lecherous motions. It earned me a heartless chuckle from Dom.
“Keep squirmin’ like that, bitch. Feels real nice.”
He reached down with his free hand, fumbling between us. I felt something firm prod against the tender flesh between my legs. Once. Twice. It rested against my defenseless lower lips, aggravating my heat. My vision was beginning to blur with moisture. No� he couldn’t� His hand fell to my hip, fingers digging in.
“Please,” I breathed, trying to appeal to any shred of humanity left in this monster of a man.
He merely grunted, either unhearing or uncaring. A single, firm thrust of his hips, and he tore through that final, fragile barrier of protection within me.
Searing pain shot up my spine, a wail of agony flying from my throat. Arceus! It felt like he’d stabbed me! Despite my season, I could feel my walls struggling to contain the oversized invader, my body revolting against the abuse. Hot tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes as I squeezed them shut against the burning torment. Dom’s weight on top of me made my breath come in sobbing gasps, my bawling shuddering as his rapid, jerking thrusts shook my entire body.
Over the next moments, I barely registered what happened. All of my will to fight seeped away, leaving me staring up at the ceiling through blurred vision, limp and listless. My entire world was the sound of Dom’s bestial grunts and my own whimpers; the sharp scents of sweat, blood, and masculine arousal; and the sizzling pain lancing through me with each shove of Dom’s hips. It echoed the furious blaze of shame crackling inside me, disintegrating all that I was until no more than a hollow shell was left.
It didn’t take long for Dom to reach his peak, though for me, it was an eternal hell. His rutting increased in speed, hammering my tiny body until at last, he tensed, sighing in pleasure while his hot seed fouled my womb. I groaned, the sensation of liquid pooling inside me bringing to mind a stagnant pond. I wanted it out. I wanted him out. It felt like my very soul had been soiled, and it would never come completely clean.
Dom shoved himself up and off of me, cracking his neck with a sound like a gunshot in the otherwise silent room. He shot me one of those nasty smiles, working his hips. “There, ya see? Not so bad. Ain’t it better to have a real man to take care of you? Fuck, I needed that.” Chuckling, he released my wrists and sat back on his knees, his softening length pulling free of me with a lewd slurp. Sniffling and choking down further tears, I found the strength to curl into a ball, protecting my aching body from his eyes, at the very least. He laughed, the sound stinging what little pride I had left.
“What, don’t tell me ya didn’t enjoy that? Hell, girl, I figured you’d be willing to kill for a fuck by this time.”
I glanced up at him, wary for another attack, but he was merely relaxing, watching me with a leering smile. I was suddenly extremely conscious of the fluids leaking out of my bruised sex. I needed to get clean, but I wasn’t about to give Dom the satisfaction of watching me scrub frantically at myself. Maybe if I waited, he’d get up and leave, grab a beer or something.
After a moment or two of staring each-other down, Dom shrugged, stretching and rising to his feet. “Damn, guess you still ain’t convinced.” My stomach lurched as he tugged his shirt over his head, exposing his hairy torso. Most of him was covered in a layer of rolling fat, but all of it was built upon solid muscle. He reached for the waistband of his boxers, peeling them off, giving me an unwanted view of his dangling manhood. Turning around, he patted the edge of the bed, waving imperiously at me. “C’mon then. If ya need another round for proper servicin’, I ain’t the kind of man to leave a girl hanging.” One hand gripped his shaft, pumping it slowly back to attention. With the other, he reached for me again, casual, confident in his ability to subdue me with ease. “You’re a hornier bitch than I’d figured, but-”
All of my rage, all of my shame and anguish -it left me in a mighty rush. I uncoiled like a striking arbok, screaming as I slammed both feet into Dom’s unprotected jaw. He let out a satisfying grunt of pain, falling backwards, away from me. I saw his arms flailing for balance, a combination of shock and anger on his face. I rolled to the side, ready to leap to my feet and either press my advantage or run as fast as I could.
There was a sickening, wet-sounding thump. A gurgling scream. Finding my balance on the bed, I stood, looking down. My heart skipped a beat.
Dom lay on his back, twitching feebly. Blood gushed from a terrible wound in his throat, staining the carpet red around him. A glittering spear of glass impaled his neck, piercing his flesh straight through.
I could do no more than stare. Dom’s eyes met mine, his lips working soundlessly. His fingers twitched, as if he’d meant to reach out to me. I watched, feeling no more than cold detachment. This wasn’t a man, dying on the floor. This was a monster, executed by divine justice. The sordid act of abuse had confirmed what I’d long suspected -I was no more than a slab of meat to Dom, and he’d decided it was time for me to be consumed. He hadn’t killed me, but a small part of me had died the moment he stole my innocence.
His feeble twitches ceased. The light faded from those hard blue eyes. I stood, watching, breathing hard. A small irrational part of me kept whispering the fear that he would get back up.
My trance broke at the sound of someone pounding on the apartment door.
“Saffron police! Open up!”
Suddenly, my temporary strength was gone. I collapsed like a puppet with cut strings, tears flowing freely, a choked sob in my throat.
It was over. Dom was dead.
I was finally free of him, though... it shouldn’t have been like this. If only I’d been stronger. I could have fought him off, could have run. Much as I’d hated him, even wished him dead, I’d never seriously desired it to happen.
“Anyone who is inside, open the door now! We received a call about a domestic disturbance within this residence. If this door is not opened, we will be forced to break it down! Final warning!”
I curled up, weeping uncontrollably. For myself. For Lauryn. Perhaps even for Dom. For the man he’d once been, at least. From outside came the sound of splintering wood, followed by heavy footsteps. I didn’t move. I didn’t care what they would do to me.
I’d already lost everything.