Episode 7.

CW: Mention of Self Harm Ideation, Nudity, Seizure Description, Drug Use, Fatmisia, Male Violence.

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His room dark as pitch but for a single candle flame, Kayn rakes a thumb knuckle hard over an eye socket, swallowing back the sob he denied himself. Deadened to his emotions, he will not spill any of the tears brimming his eyeline. He will not be heard. Tristin and Jed were only in the other room. If he broke, they'd pick up on it for sure. Tristin, without fail, would. They'd demand an explanation, or feel inclined to offer reassurance, which meant words, and words in his ears were not a thing he wanted right now. Unable to see a way out of the shit he’d stirred up this time, he didn't want their cheerful banality. It wasn't okay. It wouldn't be again.

Annoyed, constant reminders invoked feelings he wanted to leave behind. Everything around him, or the lack thereof, hinted at how he kept fucking things up for the group. Sight flicked to the bottle he is holding and the warm, friendly green of the glass in the candlelight caught his eye. Aggravating him even more, he is trying to drink to let go, not remember. He didn’t want to think of him here. Not while he was like this. Except, the thing in his hand was the exact colour of the leather jacket he wore. He'd picked out the bottles because of that. Frustrated, it is the fear of speaking aloud he resented most, bitter at the way it would turn into anger, preventing him from saying for real how he felt. His man had a tendency to run whenever too much trouble came for him, and misery seeped into every corner of his thought, knowing now that he was too much trouble, and that he would leave and never return if he ever told him – if he ever admitted to him all that was missing from his life.

It was obvious. He’d disappeared again while that bitch was locked away, and he was almost certain he was with her now. Stuck between saying it aloud and making him run forever, or keeping on the path he was on now, torn, he knew he was at risk of getting left behind by his comrades either way. They all had to be tired of this crap from him by now. Whatever the outcome, he'd end up alone, and it was that terror that scared the piss out of him most. He'd never admit it, but the beat of his sorrowful, pitiful heart was doing a horrible job of letting him ignore it.

As were the words in his mind. Not today. I won't. I promise. Not today.

Axel wasn't impressed when he brought back the bag of coin and was less pleased about the jailer. Jed would have got away with murder, but not him. He'd already fucked up with the girl in the camp. He couldn't find Sal, no matter what he tried. He'd been violent again. Fucked everything up, again. As was completely usual now – and in vanishing into thin air he’d made his intentions clear. He’d suffered enough of him breaking the rules. Breaking his promises. But he didn't, did he? He didn't break his word. It was going to be a fair fight between him and her, wasn't it? He was so certain it would be fair – how could he have got that wrong?

Wiping tears away, alone, drowning in fear, a cage of his own making held him under the surface. Angry at himself for crying in the end, angry he was practised enough that he wouldn't be detected, willing himself to stop, he drew his knees to his chest in the armchair. Fire crackled in the hearth, throwing light on him that was too radiant. Too warming. Too comforting. And so it came. For all the cold hardness tightening in him, raw grief poured out, soft, and as faint as he could manage. Placing the bottle on the table beside, careful not to break the glass, he resisted every urge to throw it. He knew that would be a mistake. He couldn't afford another mistake. It'd be his last.

Not today. It just hurts now. More pain won't help. It'll pass. I'll be better tomorrow... So, I'm not going to. I won't. Not today. He tried forcing himself to think of anything else, anything to relieve this ache in him. Resting his head on his knees, he ran his fingertips over the stubble of that comforting spot in his hairline, and appealed to his brain for better memories instead. Happier times.

Night passed, and he had trouble discerning how much, reality altered in the room, and unsure if he is dreaming he realised the thing in his mind is an actual recollection. Outside of his body, he knew he was watching himself. Looking in the mirror, long, dirty blonde hair fell about his shoulders and sapphire eyes stared back at him. He smiled at his reflection, surprised at it. This was from before. Way before.

Emerging from his room into the main part of their hideout, Kayn scanned the area, vigilant, unconscious in assessing its contents. Nothing changed. Everything the same. Good. Surprised, he found Reed was there still, too, readying some gear or other, preparing to leave for the day. “Alright? Morning. Any food still about?”

“You’re up late Kayn. It’s late afternoon. Out last night were you?”

“Nah. Had a wicked boner when I woke up. Food, though?”

Reed turned his nose up at his admission, and he had the grace to look apologetic. Satisfied he’d think twice about sharing such information next time, he gestured the table. “Whatever's left there. No need to keep any by, it's all yours. Me and Tris are going out in a bit to get some more. Probably be back late.”

“Good. I am starving as fuck.”

This earns him a well-natured sneer, while he observed him demolishing his makeshift meal. “I hope you washed your hands.”

“Axel back?” The question came through a mouthful of bread and cheese as he sat on the table.

“Nah.” He hefts his jacket on. “Not yet. Maybe by tonight?”

“Loooooong.” He complained.

He contemplated him for over a minute as Kayn nodded and chewed, busily stuffing an apple into his face, only Tristin's impatient voice wafting through the open door, demanding to know if they were leaving or not, broke his inability to look away from the spectacle in front of him.

Clearing up, and cleaning the cooking things for later, he watched himself run the water in the trough outside. At Jed's approach, he saw him lean against the wall, mindful of the dark-haired boy regarding him through narrowed eyes. Washing the big pots, diligent in scrubbing at them, he'd responded with a sly smile under his gaze. “Can I help you?”

“I reckon you can. Heard about your, ahem, problem this morning.” He used a teasing tone. The one which never failed. “Perhaps, it's more about what I can do for you.”

“Ahhh, Jed. This has got to stop!” Despite his words, he is playful. “I’ve taught you enough. Find someone else to mess with.”

“Yeah, but-” He gave him a coquettish look he knows no one can resist. At least, none had been able to so far. He knew how to pick his moment well.

Half agitated, wiping his hands on the arse of his trousers, he ran them through his hair. Scraping it up into a knot, he tied it out of his way as he worked. “Would you at least let me finish this first?”

“Mmmm... consent. Nice, nice, nice.”

“You're not supposed to say that out loud...” He eyeballed the ensuing coy smirk, Jed becoming sophisticated in getting his own way. That boy knew full well the effect he held over people whether they'd met before or not, slick in getting them to do what he wanted because of it. It was good that he'd been taught when to back off too. Because Kayn was increasingly becoming resistant to him. He knew Jed knew it wasn’t fair to keep on, but he’d only recently discovered this new itch he just had to scratch. Kayn was the only one he trusted enough to show him how to satisfy his need. He would back off. He said he would.

After this one last time.

“And then... When you go like this...”

Kayn's fingertips rested easy on Jed's hips as he put him exactly in the right spot. Spine arched, and head tipped back, the gasp that came out of him – and the look on his face – made him growl a self-satisfied chuckle in the back of his throat. That boy on top of him, in full view, riding him, was truly a sight to behold. He wondered if he would miss it...

Long black hair swished, as he snaked and slinked of his own accord in return. He leaned forward, and levelled himself with Kayn’s mouth. A palm at his neck, an intentional thumb in exactly the right place he liked behind his ear. Jed kissed him, and a gentle whine escaped him as he did. A kiss which almost turned Kayn into the one who'd keep running back for more. Blue eyes deepened, lustful, as he pushed him away.

“Enough of that, Little Shit. My turn...”

He smiled at the scene in his head, not quite half awake, not nearly half asleep, dozing. This was from long ago, before Sal, Before Coldwater Pond. Before...

Sunlight filled the clearing, green, lush and sweet. A breezy summer's day, the atmosphere filled with air while Axel and Reed trained together with swords. Clashing and yelling, it never failed to amaze Kayn how good Reed was with a sabre in spite of being a master with a bow. On top of that, he was adamant he hadn't even touched a single arrow until he'd crossed the water by ship and met Axel. He'd simply shrugged the first time Kayn had asked, and said he was good with his hands full stop, didn't matter what you put in them, and archery was just another super easy thing that people were fond of bragging about doing well.

He wished he could learn as fast. He fought well enough without a blade. Didn't need to practice. Or want to, but Axel was demanding, and this issue was something he refused to drop – which took the piss, since he hardly ever put down a book to train himself. Apart from today, the weather perfect for it, and so he’d given in on this occasion, since he’d bothered his own arse. He wanted to please him. Or shut him up. Either.

Waiting, he worked at the blade in his lap, sharpening with a whetstone. Cussing as he caught his hand on it again, he told himself for the nth time to concentrate while working with live steel. Although, it wasn’t only that he wasn’t looking at what he was doing, if he was honest, he hadn’t felt anywhere near good for a while.

His head pounded now, the sun too bright. The others seemed okay, full of life and high spirits, but the day was too, too hot for him. The chime of the blades as they hit together rang straight through him and made him dizzy. He hadn’t slept well or had much of an appetite at all recently. The last thing he needed was Jed hefting himself onto the fallen tree he was sitting on. And yet, here he was.

“Wotcha.” His manner was half again as extra as it usually was.

“My turn in a bit. Winner stays on.”

“Fancy giving my weapon a good going over?” He jeered, grinning.

“Jed. No...”

Before his friend could reply, 'Jed, yes!' he'd caught himself on the arm, a vivid red slash on his ever paling skin. Slow blinking at it, feeling nothing, he barely heard his concerned yell. Slipping down from his perch on the log, stumbling, knees buckled as his feet hit the ground and not knowing where to, or why, he made his way through the treeline and into the forest surrounding their latest camp.

The dappled light rippling through the trees flickered throughout his eyeline, too dazzling. Too brilliant. Birds screamed at him, urging him to run, his legs like lead. Whatever this was, it was happening in this instant. Whatever they are, they’re coming for you now. Don't be weak. Don’t let Axel see. In the dark of the canopy where the glare couldn't reach, a slight gust chilled the sweat on him and made him shiver. He felt his blood become rotten inside him. He wanted to throw up. He wanted to sleep. He wanted the screaming inside his head to stop...

Kayn is worsening the longer the girl is in the cell, his mind driven by an anxiety he can not escape. The longer he tried to avoid having them near, spectres from past years caught up with him during the day – more and more since his violence in the cell with her. Whatever he took from Reed, no matter how long he stayed awake, they were there, ever waiting. And he does indeed visit Issané, with an alarming regularity – since she could no longer garner the protection of the others, he cannot keep himself away. But while vicious, and raging, he is kept from killing her by some unseen force. Warning after warning, it was even in the cards to leave her alone. Something stopped him from ending this threat that the others either could not, or would not see – and the same scenes repeat and repeat every time he slept, starting with Jed in better days and ending in the emptiness that ate away at him now. He couldn't go through with it, and now, he was further incensed by someone relighting her torches and removing the dead turnkey.

Babbling, maniacal, his sentences incomplete, words came at her in rapid fire, not in order, not making sense. “WHO DID THIS?!” He hissed, spitting and cruel. “I told you NOT to eat- No, someone took him. Must have done. But... Ahh, you should be skin and bones by this time, and, you know, obviously you ain't. How did you manage the whole thing? Who? Who did this? Oh-” Something clicked. “Trisss...” He quietened, talking to himself. “Yeah. But no. He wouldn’t be able to go through with breaking his precious little pact with that little bitch Axel.” Sudden, louder, he is wagging a finger at her again. “You’ll never be more important to him than that. You know that don’t you? He doesn’t give a shit about you. If he did, he’d be here to stop... this...”

He paused, driving his point home, then breathless, a fist full of hair, he continued. “See? See? I can do whatever I want. You. Can't. Stop. Me. And he’s not going to stop me either. Owes me one in any case. That fat fucker wants me dead. Thinks I don't know it. Won't kill anyone? That's a fucking laugh. Won't, except for me. I wish he would try it – but he isn't gonna do anything about it, is he? Nah, see, as much as he hates all that I am, precious little Tristin won’t lift a finger against me. I'm only alive because he's a fucking pussy, that much is true, but if he actually gave a fuck he'd be here, no? Reed's smart enough not to get involved, and even the mighty Jed left you here. So you can use all your... your witchcraft on them all as much as you like, it won’t get you anywhere. I mean, look at the state of you now. Pretty fucked up without your personal guard, I’d say...”

Showing her a vial of liquid blackout he has, his voice quietened, threatening, pressing her against the wall, suffocating in his proximity. “You want this, don’t you? Yeah, you do. This would take all the pain away, make it all go away again, wouldn't it? Well unfortunately for you, you’re not getting it. You’re going to feel every rib crack, and loose tooth and I’m going to sell this to someone who can pay with more than their cunt for things. Don’t tell Reed I’ve got it though, eh?” His laugh is inhumane, well over the edge. “He wouldn’t like me having it. Not. One. Bit.”

He terrifies her, inane, outraged, pealing. When he enters the cell, he exhausts all speech and thought until he has worked himself up into a deathly lull, and she knows now that the silence is the signal things were going to get bad. Hushed, he would take a few seconds – as though time itself would stop – immersing himself in the feel of his ice taking over, before exploding, brutal in his fit of malice.

One thing alone keeps her going. The shining light stopping her from giving in, is that as Kayn unwittingly reveals more and more of his secret to her, she learns exactly which steps to take next. Not that it is a secret, more a deep, dark horror. Concealing more than a hundred voices vying for position in his mind, one is much louder than all the rest, and she'd heard this speech pattern before. Outside of his own control, his thoughts had given her an in, and she learns exactly what the thorn in his side is.

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