For Her Own Amusement
Animal instinct takes over. She raises a hand to strike him, but he's too fast; catching at her wrist, his nails digging savagely into the skin. He smirks as she cries out.
"Don't be difficult, Jenny. I don't want to have to spill any more of that blood than is necessary. After all, it is of some worth to me."
Worthless. She looks down into the water that pools around her feet, illuminated by the light-that-is-unlight. Her reflection, blurred and wavering, stares back. A shadow darkens across the rippling surface and she stiffens. She raises her head.
Julian is looking at her curiously. "You are nothing to me," he murmurs. "Less than nothing. Yet I cannot deny there was a certain… pleasure in twisting you to my will. To think you were like darting fire, so brilliant and vivid, and then reduced to nothing but a ghost by the time I had finished with you." He breathes a soft laugh.
Hatred boils up inside Jenny. She wants to scream, hit him. Yet she remains mute and still, watching the absorbed, concentrated expression on his unreadable face.
"When you first came to me, you were just a tiresome, whining brat… but such potential. Such innocence." He smiles. A lock of white hair falls down to rest against his narrow cheekbone. "There is something so much more fascinating in corrupting an innocent soul than in weak-minded, easily swayed men seeking power. Don't you think?"
Jenny can't breathe. She is shaking with anger at everything he's ever done to her, of innocence lost that can never be regained, of shattered childhood optimism and blighted hopes. Her adolescence has been stained, and will never be clean again. She wants spotlessness, purity. Like the blank sheets of an unfilled diary.
His fingers tighten suddenly, locking around her wrist as he drags her towards him. Startled by the sharpness of the movement, she almost loses her balance, but he braces her effortlessly, his other hand coming to rest on the narrow curve of her hip. It feels like there is no barrier between his fingers and her bare skin, and in spite of how cold his hands are, his touch burns deeper than fire. It eats into her skin, and she feels herself curling up at the edges, like scorched paper. "I was wrong," he says softly. "I did leave your innocence intact in one respect…"
Bile rises in her throat as his full meaning hits her. Her heart is pounding so hard she fears she will choke on it. She can feel the lines and angles of his body where she's pressed against him, the sinuous grace and subtle tension in his lean frame. And she can smell that scent of him, of Julian. She closes her eyes, wondering if this, then, is how he will take his revenge.
He seems to read her thoughts. "You needn't worry," he sneers. "I wouldn't sully myself by touching you."
Her eyes sting with tears of humiliation.
"And yet why sullied?" he continues thoughtfully, almost to himself.
"Oh yes," she says mockingly, choking down a cruel laugh. "Because humanity is so very dirty. Unlike the touch of a Shadow Man."
"Shut up!" he hisses, shaking her savagely. Her hair flies wildly around her face and his fingers are bruising her thin shoulders, but she doesn't stop. If she can make him angry, then she has power over him. It's a rather intoxicating feeling.
He could kill you -
But he hasn't -
She looks up, laughing at his fury even as his assault has left her stunned and breathless. "I bet it kills you, doesn't it? Knowing about what you will become? How monstrous you will be-"
She cries out as he shoves her hard against the wall. Stars explode across her closed lids as the back of her head collides with the stone; she rocks from the impact of it. Nausea roars through her body. And through the blurring dizziness she can sense Julian in front of her, hear him breathing hard. She opens her eyes.
His handsome face is terrifyingly blank; only his eyes are blazing with fury.
"I told you," he says with chilling finality. "To be quiet."
Jenny swallows hard, but obeys. Julian steps easily towards her; and with the cold stone pressed against her back, she cannot retreat… and where would she run to anyway? She feels weak and sick, with barely the energy to remain upright. Gingerly, she reaches a hand to the back of her head. Something is sticky in the tangles of her hair and her fingers come away coated in blood.
She holds out a shaking hand. The crimson drops are the brightest thing in the dim chamber. There's a strange, hungry expression on his face as his eyes follow the movement.
"Is it worth it, Julian?" she whispers. "Is this worth it?"
He doesn't say anything, but in answer takes her fingers with his own and raises them to his lips. She shudders as his tongue darts out, kissing it, tasting it -
Her senses reel. He's consuming her whole. She draws a sharp intake of breath as he nips at her fingers, mouth stained with crimson. Her vision blurs. The eerie light on the walls flickers oddly, like the shimmering scales of a snake… Jenny sways slightly. Her head is pounding, throbbing, and the movement of his mouth against her skin sends ripples through her body down to her very toes -
Oh God, please stop… stop…
But she cannot summon breath, let alone words to speak.
When he finally releases her, she feels drained, sickened. Her entire body is paralysed, as though the venom of a poisonous snake flows through her veins.
Venom. Blood. Ink. Poison.
The blood rushes in her ears. She blinks through a haze of pain. Julian has retreated a few steps, the disturbed water eddying around his feet. There is something horrible about the sight of her own blood on his mouth, vivid as spilled wine.
"Your blood is mine, Jenny," he states calmly. "Just as everything of yours belongs to me. Your mind, your body, your soul. Where I end, you begin. A mere extension of myself."
"You're wrong," she says, tightly. "I'm nothing of you. I'm nothing like you."
He lifts a dark brow. "Oh really? Then I suppose you have nothing to fear if I take a closer look…"
The swift attack leaves her no time to summon any resistance. She doubles over as images teem through her head: herself giving a particularly cutting imitation of Dee; tripping Michael over and sending him sprawling in the mud; angrily taunting Audrey –
She opens her eyes to find Julian gazing at her; his eyes alight with faint amusement. "Singularly nasty behaviour, wouldn't you agree?"
Jenny swallows down a lump in her throat, feeling ill. Nasty… no… He has taken her actions completely out of context –
"That wasn't – it was just a laugh –"
"So you acted only for your own amusement?" His lip curls as he adds musingly, "It looks as though you injured those people quite badly."
"Injured?" Her voice is shrill with disbelief. "You killed people!"
"The stupid little girl I once knew would never have dreamed of doing anything so… malicious," he continues softly. "I wonder how your little friends would feel, knowing who you really are. Your champion, Tom, for instance? Does he know how you still dream of blood drenching your robes at night, the feel of bones snapping beneath your bare hands?" His voice drops to a whisper. "How sweet."
Deprived of any weapon, and unable to match his physical strength, Jenny does the only other thing she can; bracing herself, she tilts her head back and spits fully in his face.
For a moment, deathly silence falls between them. Julian's eyes blaze in his stark white face. His expression of stunned fury causes hysterical laughter to bubble up inside her chest even as his fingers grind against the bones in her shoulder. "You –"
Her shill laugh turns into a cry of pain as his nails break into skin, raking it cruelly. He looks briefly satisfied at that, although mingled with the fury in his eyes, it makes him look slightly crazed.
"You insolent brat," he hisses. "You dare –"
He shoves her away from him in disgust. Jenny hits the ground, hard, gritting her teeth against the pain of it, and glares up at him.
With the sleeve of his shirt cuff, he wipes at his face, staring down at her. She reflects that his elegant, long-fingered hand against the slightly ruffled lace looks almost effeminate, but it doesn't make her any less afraid of him. It just makes her all the more aware of the things he's capable of doing with those hands.
Painfully, Jenny picks herself up, dimly aware of the water seeping through her nightgown, mingling with the streaks of blood welling from the crescent shaped cuts on her shoulders. She's shivering uncontrollably, the damp nightdress clinging to her body providing no warmth. Her forehead is clammy, and she can still feel that dull, throbbing pain where she hit the wall… it would be almost a relief to faint, to find oblivion… or maybe she should just go to where the water is the deepest, to hold herself under, and obliterate him from her mind that way -
"Please stop hurting me." The words escape her before she can stop them.
His eyebrows raise in faint surprise. "You're actually begging? When have I ever listened to your appeals?"
Her white lips frame the answer, never. She can taste the bitter anger on her tongue.
"I hate you," she says, her voice shaking. "I hate you so much I want to die… I hate you, Julian –"
"I know," he says, and he's smiling. He's actually pleased. "I know you do. You've never hated anyone before, have you, Jenny? Oh, you used to complain about people at school teasing you, or the girls whispering in your class, but true hatred… no, it was only me that ever made you feel so strongly, so entirely. You're possessed by the mere thought of me."
"You're sick," she whispers, although he's right.
"Yes," he says lightly.
Humiliation floods her body. She wants to put her hands over her ears, to block out the words he's saying. But curiously, the mockery has gone from his expression. He tilts his head to one side, considering her. His voice is soft, contemplative.
"If I asked you to kill me now, what would you say?"
"Yes," Jenny says, because she hates him and everything ever he's done and going to do.
"If I asked if you wanted to kill me, what would you say?"
Her throat seems to have closed off. His mouth curls into a knowing smile.
"I thought as much."
She stares at that painfully familiar face, with its youthful lines and high cheekbones and eyes the colour of the sky… And she realises, with a rush of hopelessness, that even if she kills him, he still would have won.
Suddenly, she wants her friends. Zach's quiet control, Tom's frank strength, Audrey's loyalty, even Michael with his well-meaning bluster. But they won't come. They stopped caring a long time ago, just like everyone else. All too happy to dismiss her year in hell, to sweep it under the rug and believe in her forced enthusiasm and false smiles. They just think of her as their funny, fierce Jenny, not knowing that hair bright as the sun hides a soul dark as night. As dark as his eyes. If they had looked harder, they would have seen this blackness eating away at her, day by day, year by year. But it's easier for them to believe in her brittle words and glassy smiles.
In the end, Julian is the only one who ever cared, even if it was all a lie.
He's the only one who knows her at all.To be continued...