Mercy_ (Level 11)

Prom Queen, Miss America, in the back seat in a pair of cuffs.
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Boston 12:30 AM

The night air was chilled on her skin, the smell of the sea drifting in the wind. Mac had somehow made her way back to Boston, back to her favorite city in the world. She looks over her shoulder as she walks into a pub. The door opens and several sets of eyes go straight to her. Her outfit is inconspicuous, as always. A pair of supple leather boots, snug jeans, a band t-shirt and a loose leather jacket. There were weapons hidden all over her body. Wrist sheaths for daggers. A back of the pants holster for her gun. A second gun hidden in a boot and yet more knives in the other boot. This was Mackenzie O'Rourke and she never went anywhere unarmed.

They lose interest as she walks in, a nonchalant air about her. She looks like some of the other women in the bar, a girl tired after her day of shopping. She intentionally gives off an innocent feel. The last thing she wants is people taking note of her, of people remembering her and being able to describe her at a later point in time. A minute later a barmaid comes over to her, a bottle of beer in her hand, the Green Monster brew, her personal favorite and a hit amongst locals. "Courtesy of Gregory." She says as she gestures to a man across the bar, watching her as he languidly sipped his own drink. Already she had been noticed, that was most unfortunate.

"Give him my thanks." She picks the bottle up and twists the top off as she brings it up to her lips, pretending to take a sip. No alcohol for her, not out in public. Nothing that dulled the senses or altered awareness of her surroundings. That couldn't be afforded. The bell over the door bings as somebody else walks in. Somebody who looks out of place. Her eyes are immediately drawn to him and a scowl crosses her face as she makes him. It was Trey Calhoun, the agent who had been chasing her specifically for the past sixth months and her former handler. They'd been trying to bring her in for three years, ever since she'd gone off-mission.

Placing her bottle down on the table, she quietly gets up, knowing that he'll follow her. Following the signs, she makes her way back to the women's restroom, her boots padding softly on the hardwood floor as she goes. As expected, he follows several seconds after. Pushing open the door that leads to the women's restroom and stalls, she walks over to the side. It was clean, the smell of antiseptic in the air. Looking at the line of mirrors she does a quick check for feet to make sure nobody was there. The black tiled floor was clean, the green of the walls relatively unmarred. The sinks all had individual little soap dispensers, a homey touch showing that somebody tried to make the place inviting. Her back was against the wall and out of the line of sight of whoever would walk in next, she waits, knowing that he would come. The door opens and she waits to make sure it's a man's footsteps before launching into action. The second she has confirmation, she launches into action.

Slamming him up against the wall, she holds her arm up to his throat, cutting off his air. "Sixth months and this is the best you've got? Did you really think that I didn't lead you here? That I didn't know you were behind me the whole time?"

He smiles, his hands gently grasping her arm. "Can't...can't breathe."

"Good." Her purple eyes light up with anger, the words nearly a growl.

"Well. If you like it rough, I'll be sure to oblige." And with that he grabs her arm, turns her around and slams her against the tile wall. Leveraging against her with his right arm and the weight of his entire body, he reaches behind him to grab the cuffs that were hooked onto his belt.

She took his moment of slight distraction and used it to her advantage. Wrenching her arm out of his grasp, she slams her right elbow into his jaw, knocking him for a loop. Spinning away from the wall, she turns to face him. With an upward lunge, the top of her head connects with his jaw, knocking him even more out of sorts. She follows him as he falls backward down onto the floor, turning him onto his stomach. She yanks his right arm behind his back as she settles on his lower back, her knees on the ground on either side of him. Slipping a knife from her wrist sheath, she holds the edge of it to his carotid artery. "You were my handler for three years. I loved you. I like to think that you loved me back, that it wasn't all some damn charade. That love I once had for you, it's why I won't kill you. But rest assured with the knowledge that if you ever try to bring me in again, I will end your life and I will take down every support agent that you're stupid enough to bring with you." Applying just enough pressure to break the skin, she makes her point. "Am I making myself clear?"

"Crystal." He sputters the word, his voice hoarse.

"Good." She knew that her time was limited, that somebody was bound to have heard the commotion. So she delivers the coup de gras and slams his head against the tile floor, effectively knocking him out. Looking down to her leather jacket she pulls at the edge of it, tearing the seam of the shoulder. Next she runs her hands through her hair, making it appear even more disheveled. Quickly, she un-clips Trey's credentials and slips them into the back pocket of her jeans. In the next minute, the door opens to the sight of her sitting on the floor, appearing much worse for the wear. A line of tears slips down her cheeks as she looks up at the man who opens the door.

"Is everything okay in here, miss? What happened? Did this bastard...are you okay?" He appears quite worried, truly concerned as he comes into the bathroom, a look of fury in his eyes.

"I'm fine." She intentionally causes her voice to tremble. "I can take care of myself, it seems. I just...I need to go. I can't be here anymore." She slips an elastic off her wrist and pulls her hair back into a low ponytail. Walking quickly out the door, she makes her way out of the pub and onto the cobbled stone streets of the city, her breath fogging in the air. She pulls the credentials out of her back pocket and flips them open, staring nostalgically at the photo of the man she had loved so much.

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As some of you may know, I go by another name over on the Vine; Dark Huntress. For the past year or so, Sonata and Newdeath (who I both respect dearly and who it pains me to turn down), have been trying to get me to give RPGing over on the Vice a go. I've had to turn them down multiple times, simply because I don't have the time to commit to it and I refuse to start stuff up here and then abandon it.

So I figured (and yes, this is blatant self-promotion and ego-stroking, I'm a writer, we thrive on that stuff), that if I wasn't gonna RPG over here, I'd at least give y'all a taste of what I've got to work with, right? So here it does. The proceeding is a fan-fic/one-shot RPG that I wrote over on the Vine, It's about two Vine characters (Honor Woman and Honor Guard) and takes place about ten years in the past. It was written with the intent of further fleshing out her history and leading up to some current day events. I'm completely aware that it's a book (I swear I don't usually write this much), but it just wouldn't stop pouring out of my fingers.

So without further ado, I present do you:

Whatever Happened to Honor Woman?

Ten Years Ago

She sat in the corner of a crowded bar. Her back was to the wall, her eyes on every entrance into the room. The techno music was blaring and some idiot had thought that it would be a good idea to flash strobe lights throughout the place. Whoever had the misfortune of decorating the place had been unable to decide if they wanted it to be a club or a pub. The result was a mix of the two atmospheres. A dance floor lit with strobe lights on one side of the building, cordoned off by a wooden banister, on the other side of which was booths and a bar.

The manicured nails of her fingers tapped the wooden tabletop impatiently as she nursed a long neck bottle of beer, raising the top of the bottle to her mouth every fifteen seconds or so. It was only her third bottle within the hour, mild drinking for her. Bianca would be the first to admit that she had a problem with alcohol, but to her very last breath she would refuse any and all accusations that she was an alcoholic. She used it to self-medicate, that was all. The blackouts and unconsciousness that occasionally resulted from over the top drinking were a sweet release from the starkness of reality.

As hard as she tried, after all the years of tutelage under the hands of Honor Guard, Bianca felt herself to be a failed woman. At the ripe old age of 28, she couldn't help but become retrospective. Ten years ago to this very day, she had given up the child she'd secretly born. Ensuring that she would be safely cared for and would lack nothing, Bianca had covered all of her tracks, hiding the existence of that precious baby girl from everybody, even Honor Guard himself. She'd killed, both to protect and for vengeance. She'd lied. She'd threatened. And in her recent years, she'd drunken herself into a stupor more times than she could count, simply so that she could block out all of the other memories. The death of her parents as a child. The torture of wondering what happened to her own child, the dull throbbing ache of longing to feel her baby in her arms. It was all numbed by the splendid stupor of alcohol.

Her light brown eyes no longer showed the light of life, they no longer contained emotion. They said that eyes were the window to the soul and Bianca's were dead inside, as numb and lifeless as her soul. Bringing the bottle of beer up to her lips once again, she closed her eyes and tilted her head back, draining the potent remnants, the brew sliding down the back of her throat. As she returned her head to its upright position, she was surprised to find that a man had slid into the booth seat across from her.

He was well built; at a quick glance she'd estimate him to be about 6'2" to her 5'6". His physique was that of somebody who either worked out or had a job involving manual labor and there was an aura of confidence emanating from him. She raised a sculpted eyebrow in bemusement as she leaned forward a bit, propping her chin on her hand and allowing him a momentary glimpse of the black lace of her bra as her black v-neck t-shirt gaped away from her before she pulled it back down into place. "Is there anything I can help you with...?" There was a pause left at the end of the sentence where one would normally have addressed the other by name.

"Jeffrey. Jeffrey Howarth." There was a deep timbre to his voice, something that caused a small pool of warmth to form in the center of Bianca's stomach. She didn't know if it was the sexy growl to his voice, the attractive stubbly beard that graced his chiseled face, or that sexily predatory look that was in his eyes. What she did know was that she planned to have him in her bed by the end of the night.

Holding up a hand, she crooked her finger, beckoning him in closer. The corner of her mouth tilted upwards as a smirk graced her pleasant face and her eyes brightened up a bit as he leaned in nearer. But at the very last moment he pulled away, a robust chuckle escaping his lips as he called the waitress over and ordered another round of drinks for them. A whiskey straight for himself and a chocolate martini for her, with a dollop of whipped cream on the top. That should have immediately set her radar off, as she only drank it on very special occasions, despite it being a favorite of hers and only somebody who had been watching her closely or been privy to personal information should have or could have known that. But Bianca was in the heat of the moment and her senses were dulled by previous drinks. There were no red flags to be had.

The drinks arrived and they each took a sip, a small gasp of satisfaction left her mouth as the dessert-y liquid coating the back of her throat. There was nothing better than the delicious and somewhat potent mixture of chocolate and alcohol. She met his eyes as she tilted her head back, the last few slips sliding down her throat. The look in his eyes caught her slightly off guard. It wasn’t anticipatory or even rowdy; it was something different altogether, something predatory. He was a wolf lying in wait, for that one moment of weakness in order to take opportunity. The moment she realized it, it was already too late. She had just finished the drink and found her movements much more prohibited than they should have been. Bianca tried to move a finger, tried to stand up, and tried to do anything; all to no avail. It was as if she was frozen in place and unable to do anything about it. The man who had earlier called himself Jeffrey leaned forward and tenderly cupped her cheek in his palm, leaning in for a slow, soft kiss. To anybody who was watching, it would appear to be a couple getting on in drinks and loosening their inhibitions. To Bianca, it was a betrayal of everything she was.

Everything inside her screamed out to do something. Kick him in the nuts underneath the table. Bite his lip. Goddammit woman, do something! But her body, the one thing that had never failed her before, refused to listen now. A single tear slid down her cheek, taking a black line of the overly thick eyeliner that she had been wearing with it. It was then, by some grace of god that he pulled away, only to whisper in her ear “that is not what has been planned for you this evening. Were it, you would be getting off easy as opposed to what lays in store for you, mon amour.” He laid a single last kiss to her lips and all of a sudden, Bianca was absolutely unable to keep her eyes opened. It was as if some sort of extreme lethargy passed through her system rendering her unable to stay away for another moment. Her last sight was of Jeff’s surprisingly serene face.

An Undetermined Amount of Time Later

Bianca groggily awoke, currently not being able to remember the events that had transpired the previous evening. She automatically assumed that it was just the same as so many other evenings. She’d had too much to drink, gotten frisky with somebody and then blacked out; not always necessarily in that order. She was slouched in the corner of a booth, her head leaning against the corner. There was a small pounding in her head and she brought her fingertips up to massage her temples as she sat up, still not fully cognizant of her surroundings.

Swinging her legs over the side of the booth, Bianca set her feet on the floor, surprised as the cold wood hit the bare soles of her feet. That immediately led her to give her body a cursory glance, just to assure that she was adequately dressed, as it wouldn’t have been the first time (nor the last, she was sure) that she had awoken in a place she had no recollection of while scantily clad. She pinched part of the v-neck that she was wearing between two fingers and lightly pulled it away from her chest, looking down just to make sure that there were no hickies or signs of rough play, neither of which she was particularly opposed to. None of either. Running her fingers through her hair, she tousled it lightly, perfecting that sexy just rolled out of bed look, something she had gotten down to an art by the age of seventeen.

One look out the row of windows to her immediate right and Bianca ascertained that it was about 6 AM in the morning. The raindrops streaking down the windowpanes put her in a bit of a sour mood. “Ugh. Annoying and odd start to what seems to be a disgusting day. Just my luck.” But what that day had in store for her was far worse than anything that she ever could have deemed to imagine.

She took another step, her movements just a little stiff, and as she set her foot down, everything changed in the span of a second. The ball of her foot set down in something warm and sticky, her immediate assumption was that it was a bodily fluid of a…promiscuous nature. She was half right. Her eyes traveled down and the second that she caught sight of what it actually was, she went into panic mode. It was blood, the red viscous liquid seeping between her toes. “Oh god. Oh god. Sh!t, sh!t, sh!t.”

Her first instinct was to desperately rack her mind for what had happened the night before. Even after all the times that she’d blacked out, there was always some remnant of what had happened the night before, something akin to afterimages. But this…this was just a blank spot where anything pertaining to last night should be. Any person in their sane mind would run as fast and far as they could and call the cops as soon as possible. But one thing that could be said about Bianca was that she had never quite been in a normal state of mind, although the same could be said for most vigilantes. Because that’s what she was; a vigilante. The woman known as Honor Woman, part of the established First Family of Honor City, their protectors, their sentinels. But she had never quite fit into that lifestyle despite the tutelage and guiding hand of Honor Guard himself.

Still…her first instinct was not to run but to explore. If there was anybody hurt, it was her duty and responsibility to make sure that they were okay. However failed she was in her personal life and every single aspect of it; she was still a damn good vigilante hero. Not the best, perhaps not even approaching that top tier, but goddamn she was excellent at her little niche; dealing with brutal violence and unconventional methods. She was an expert marksman to boot, the crossbow being her favored weapon.

As she turned that corner though, her mind fell apart, she fell apart. There were four men, all slumped on the floor in sitting positions, their heads back against the wooden panel of the wall. Expressions of shock filled their faces as their dead and empty eyes stared straight ahead at her. What discerned these corpses from those of any other was their apparent cause of death: a single crossbow through the forehead of each and every one of them.

Bile began to rise in her throat. This was how she made her kills. “Oh fck. Oh dear God above, what I have I done?” She made the sign of the cross over herself; for all of Bianca’s faults, she still kept faith. Turning her body perpendicular to those four bodies, she saw even more. There had to be at least fifteen in the room, all dead, all sallow, and all just staring at her. A crossbow bolt in the forehead of every last one of them. It was then that she broke, that everything inside of her died. Falling down to her knees in the sheen of blood that covered the entire floor, she was down in a prostate position, her elbows resting in the blood and finally her forehead. She remained that way for a good minute, attempting to wrack her brain for information as to what the hell could have possibly transpired the night before and coming up blank each and every time.

Tears poured down her face, falling off her cheeks and down onto the hardwood floor to mix in with the blood. The palms of her hands and front of her jeans were covered in it. She brought her hands up to her eyes to wipe away the tears and ended up only leaving smudges of blood in their wake. She didn’t even know where to begin. What to do, what to say, Jesus, she wasn’t even sure of what had happened. All she knew was that she had absolutely no recollection of the night before and a bar full of dead bodies, all carrying her rare weapon of choice as their cause of death. “James.” The single word escaped her breath. He had always been there when she’d needed him with the exception of the birth of her child, although that was through no fault of his own. Both in his civilian guise and his capacity as Honor Guard, never had he failed her, even when she hadn’t wanted his help. She’d always loved him and never spoken of it and this event…it meant she never would.

He needed somebody good, somebody honest. Somebody who would do him and the entire Honor Family proud. Bianca was none of those things and now she was a murderer to boot. But he would help her, it wasn’t in him not to and that broke her heart just as much as knowing that they would never truly be together beyond the occasional night in each other’s arms. Pulling the specially encrypted phone from her pocket, the one that she kept on her at all times just for emergencies, Bianca dialed in the first number that was programmed into the speed dial.

One ring that seemed to last forever, and there was an answer. “Bianca, what is it? What’s happened?” There was that gruff and raspy tone to his quality, the one that caused legions of women, including Bianca herself, to go weak at the knees. But beneath that gruffness was an undertone of worry. Never before had she used this number, she was painfully prideful and he knew that. The fact that she was now was a momentous and worrisome occasion.

“James….” Her voice had a raspy quality from the drinking and smoking and it wavered now, the trembling of her body mirrored in the shaking of her voice. “I…I don’t know what happened. I can’t…I can’t remember anything. But they’re…oh God forgive me. Dear lord have mercy on my soul.”

“BIANCA, WHAT IS IT?!? WHAT’S HAPPENED?” He was out of patience at this point and more than ready to spring into action.

“Help me…” Her voice trailed off as she dropped the phone into the pool of blood that had amassed on the floor. Shock was starting to fully set in. James would have started tracking the call and her location from the first second that the phone rang. He had little locations hidden away throughout the city, it wouldn’t take him long to reach her. She was alone for now; she had contacted somebody who would make sure everything was okay. Now she could finally allow her mind the release to break down and go into shock, which is exactly what she did. Lying down in the blood, her body curling into the fetal position, Bianca started rocking back and forth, a movement that the body instinctually goes into in times of great trauma, as it was reminiscent of being rocked back and forth as a child.

Ten minutes went by before he arrived and from there on, everything all blurred together. He walked over to her and crouched down into a squatting position, not even looking at the dead bodies. His first priority was her. Not caring about the blood, he gently lifted her into his arms, brushing back a tendril of blood-soaked hair from her face. “What have you gotten yourself into this time, woman.” Less than a minute in his arms and she was out cold from the shock to her body and mind. Hunching over her slightly, his trench coat swooping around her somewhat, he brandished a small kiss on her forehead, knowing that she would never feel it. “You couldn’t make my life easier, could you, kit?” It was a nickname he had given her upon one of their earlier meetings, after the young of foxes, who she so often reminded him of.

After safely securing her in his car, he pulled out his mobile and made a quick call to the Commissioner, whom he had a working relationship with. “I understand that you can’t sit on this for long. I need you to give me a half hour to do my thing and ascertain some information and then the scene’s all yours. Consider yourself owed about seventeen favors.” After an irritated but obliging response, James got to work. He mentally mapped out the crime scene in his head, putting together what had happened using all the evidence around him.

It wasn’t good. By all appearances, somebody had just gone nuts and let loose on all these men without any warning. It had been a female matching the same height and weight of Bianca. A strand of hair caught his eye, one caught on the sweater of one of the men up against the wall. Pulling out a pair of tweezers, James nabbed it and slipped it into a small Ziploc bag for further evaluation. Unfortunately, at a glance it did appear to belong to Bianca herself. The thing that really put the nail in the coffin of circumstantial evidence however, was the weapon used. Not only were they crossbow bolts, but upon further evaluation, they were manufactured of the same incredibly rare wood and arrowheads that Bianca used, none of the materials for which were available on this content of even on the open market.

One Month Later

“I DIDN’T DO IT, JAMES! I swear on everything I know, on everything that I am, I did not do this. It isn’t in me!” They stood in his lush and ornate study, a heated exchange going on between them. They always burned hot towards each other except for those rare occasions when they could re-freeze the polar ice caps. “This WAS NOT me.” They had just seen out the latest group of lawyers, all of which had told them the same thing. There was no way to prove that she had not done this, especially when all evidence pointed to the fact that she had. The best anybody could manage was a plea of temporary insanity based on the claim that all of the years of heavy drinking, smoking and occasional drugs in her earlier years had screwed up her brain chemistry, leading to unchararcterisitc behavior.

“I can’t get anybody who can prove beyond reasonable doubt that you didn’t! Chrissakes, Bianca, not even I can prove it and I’m the goddamn Honor Guard. “He stood about a foot away from her and the tension between the two of them was thick enough that it could be cut with a knife. He brought his fingers up to his forehead and pinched the bridge of his nose, a gesture she knew he did only in great times of stress. “Do you even know beyond reasonable doubt that you didn’t?”

His doubt hurt her, it hurt both of them, but what hurt more was that no, she didn’t know for certain that she hadn’t. She wasn’t able to stand before the man she had secretly loved for the majority of her life and tell him that she was free and clear of all charges. She took a step forward, reaching out an arm to him and he instinctively took a step back. The hurt was pain and clear on her face and perhaps a bit better hidden on his. They were both in pain. He hadn’t been able to save her from this, he in his eyes, had failed her, part of his family, a woman under his guard. A woman that he had had feelings for since before it was decent for him to have feelings for her. And now, now all he wanted to do was hold her and tell her that everything was going to be okay. But that would be a lie and right now, it would do far more damage than the truth.

He turned his back on her as he covered his face with his hand, wanting to do nothing more than turn around and kiss her, knowing that this was the most inopportune time for uncontrollable emotions to manifest themselves. “Don’t…don’t do that. Don’t turn away from me, not now. Not when I need you.” She almost rolled her eyes at herself. She had officially become the world’s largest walking cliché, god save her soul. One step forward, and she rested her hand on his shoulder, her thumb rubbing back and forth against the flannel material of his black shirt. “James…”

“Goddammit, Bianca.” One step forward and his lips met hers, his hands cupping either side of her face, his brute strength dragging her body up and against his, forcing her up on tiptoe as he simultaneously leaned down to meet her. There was raw, animal passion and thousands of unspoken words, all transferred between the two of them in mere seconds, no more than thirty. A long kiss by most standards, but not a fraction of enough time for these two.

She was the first to pull away, slightly out of breath. Her hands arms wrapped around his neck, her fists balled in the neck of his shirt. Her body still leaned against his, the soft curve of her muscles in stark contrast to the solid steel of his chest. Bianca looked down for a moment before resting her forehead against his chest as he drew her into an all encompassing hug. Neither spoke of the emotion that had passed between them, they simply revered in the beauty and peace of the moment, knowing that in the next moment everything would go to absolute hell.

Still slightly out of breath, Bianca spoke, refusing to leave the strong embrace of his arms. “What are my choices, James? What do I do?”

He bent down slightly, placing a small kiss on the crown of her head. A small smile turned up the corner of his mouth as a strand of her hair got caught in the stubble on his chin. “You plead temporary insanity. They’ll give you time in the asylum, but you’re not a crazy person, Bianca. Your judgment isn’t always the best, but you’re of sound mind. You won’t be in there long and afterwards, I’ll see what I can do to have this expunged.”

Her hand drifted from the back of his neck to the front of his shirt and curled in it, holding on almost as a child would to a blanket, in need of security. “We’ll do that, then. I’ll recuse myself and we’ll make the deal with the DA.” It wasn’t even a question of if it would happen; James had already worked out all prior details. This was an incredibly sensitive matter considering the fact that they’d had to reveal her identity as Honor Woman in order to properly explain everything. However, the only person privy was the DA, a close friend of James’ and the judge, who just happened to be his sparring partner and an associate of the Honor Family. They were in safe hands, but nobody wanted to make a fuss out of this.

Reaching up to his face with her other hand, she gently brushed her thumb across his cheek, the slight growth of stubble sparking a sensation on the pad of her finger. “You’re too good for me and this can never become anything else. Do you understand?” It wasn’t fair to burden him with her own shattered self, not ever and not now. There was a painful exchange that didn’t need words. The one that said they were both aware of each other’s feelings, but knew that this could never be. But James didn’t know how to give up on anything.

“The moment you get out of there, which I don’t expect to be too long, we work on this, on us. Do you understand me, Bianca Santucci?” There was a small smile that kicked up the corner of his mouth and showed off the sexily distinguished crow’s feet at the corner of his blue eyes.

It broke her heart, a physical pain. Even when she did get out, they could never be. He was better than her on every level. He loved taking on projects, on fixing things and she had reached the point where it hurt her to be that for him. There was no fixing her anymore; she was far gone beyond that point. And he had others now, brand new additions to the Family that he needed to keep track of and watch as well as new arrivals to Honor City. There was no room for her, no time. Not now, not ever. Her only hope was that one day, somehow, that daughter that she had given up all those years ago would live up to her fullest potential and become everything that her mother wasn’t and everything that her father never knew she could be. It was Bianca’s greatest credit and perhaps her greatest mistake that that baby would never know her parentage. But the dice had been thrown and this was how they landed. Hopefully it wasn’t misery around the clock for everybody.

The Next Morning

She stood by the front window, forlornly staring out of it as she waited for the private armed car to come for her to take her to the sanitarium that sat atop the highest hill in the city. It would be her new home for the foreseeable future and would allow her both the pleasure and misery of seeing all that happened below in the locale of Honor City. There was nothing crueler than caging a bird and allowing it to see everything that it had once upon a time while it had been allowed to fly free.

James walked up behind her and she took a step forward before he could touch her. His footsteps had been silent as always, it was his cologne that gave him away this time. A kitten scurried underfoot, weaving in and out between her legs and rubbing against the black leggings that she was wearing beneath the purple tunic. Bending down, she grabbed the little kitten up, a stray that she had found the night after the incident, and cuddled it in her arms, resting her cheek against its head. “You’ll take care of her while I’m away.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. James had never been one for cats, always more for dogs, but he’d never turn away a stray, whether it was human or of the four-legged variety.

The purring that the tiny little orange creature emitted was quite audible and it resulted in her entire body shaking as Bianca held her. A small scratch between her ears and the as-yet-unnamed cat was in seventh heaven. Out of the edge of her range of hearing, Bianca caught the sound of gravel being crushed beneath a wheel, signaling that a vehicle was pulling up the obscured side lane to the manor. “It’s time.” She took a deep breath as she gently attempted to put the kitten down, to no avail due to her claws being stuck in the sleeve of her sweater. “Come now, darling, I’ll be back before you know it.” Somehow the words soothed the animal and she let go, only to hop on the leather couch and start furiously plumping it.

Bianca couldn’t control the small chuckle that escaped her lips as James restrained his frustration. Walking over to the edge of the couch, she hauled up the two suitcases that were packed with pre-approved supplies and clothing. They called it an asylum, but it was truly a state of the art ‘mental health facility’ and home to all the luxuries that one could need. This would not be a terrible ordeal for her, just an incredibly unfortunate one.

On her way out the door, she passed within a hairsbreadth of James, inhaling that smell of his cologne in one last time before she left for god knew how long. “Don’t wait up for me.” Five simple words with a very heavy undertone. And with that final sentence, she was out the door, off to start her sentence.

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