Chapter Four: The Gilded Cage

I wake up slowly, greeting the overly bright world with a groan. My eyes flit open, quick bursts of light attacking me at every millimetre of movement. I try to fight the groggy feeling and chemical taste in my mouth. I'm sprawled out on something soft. My feet curl, digging into the soft surface. My fingers run over the satin beneath me, the glorious feeling of luxury sparking my memory.

The beach. The running. The sand.

That bastard drugged me.

I sit up quickly, the world spinning as I try to figure out where the hell I am. Nausea overwhelms me, making me seriously question the point of getting up at all. A groan falls from my lips and my hands cup my aching forehead. I rub my temples in circles trying to soothe the pain away, unsuccessfully it appears. Where the hell am I? Every time I try to connect with my inner compass, I hit a mental wall. I gasp over the effort, trying to find that piece of me that has caused so much trouble.

I'm lost. I've never been lost before. It's a strange and unpleasant feeling, and wholly disconcerting. I've crossed every continent and known precisely where I was every damn moment of every damn day. It must be a side-effect of what that bastard hit me with. I growl slightly, thinking of my captor and his sadistic grin.

I want to curl up and cry. I want my Nana's warm embrace. I want to be surrounded by her lilac smell, its familiarity reminding me of home. Heck, I'd settle for my tiny apartment with slutzilla right now. I just want this nightmare to end. But wanting doesn't save you from the demons. Look. Process. Think. Save yourself. Nana's words run through my brain on loop, calming me. You can cry when you're dead.

Take stock of your circumstances. I run my hands over my clothes, feeling the familiar tank-top and shorts combination I had been wearing when I was captured. I sigh in relief. At least I still had a vague sense of dignity. Vague being the key word of course. Being unconscious tends to make everything vague. I further check out my limbs, noting ugly-looking bruises resplendent in purple on my knees and shins. There's a bandage on my upper arm, right where the tranq dart had hit me. I press down on the bump and it's accompanied by the dull ache of lingering pain. Looking out the window, all I can see is grass and trees. Useless.

I look around with a more discerning eye now that the blind panic has quelled. It looks like any luxury hotel room, nondescript but well-done. The beige walls and crisp white linens have all the personality of a goldfish. There's a nice cream-upholstered antique-style couch beneath the large window, a large mahogany wardrobe which perfectly matches the trim around the room and the two doors on the one wall. Doors are good, knowing where they go is better.

I slide my feet onto the beige carpet and pad as silently as possible towards door number one. I twist the knob slowly, pulling towards me and wincing at every squeak. A bathroom. Great. Just as impeccably decorated as my current prison, I push the door shut. I don't intend on staying here long enough to need it. Besides, they probably have cameras in there, too. I sidle over to door number two, quietly reaching for the knob. I move to twist it, but it won't budge. I'm locked in.

"Shit," I murmur softly to the empty room.

"How d'you like your room, Pumpkin?" A disembodied voice suddenly assaults my aching head. I yelp in shock, trying to find the source. I know it's blue-eyes, or Quint as he calls himself. The name suits him, unfortunately. No other voice in the world has this effect on me, anger and unwilling attraction. I frantically look around the room before I finally spot the intercom speaker, beside the locked door, painted to blend in with the wall. I continue looking until all five cameras, pointed at various angles covering the entire room have been accounted for.

"You fucking bastard! Where the fuck am I? What the hell was in that dart?" Questions spew out of my mouth as I yell into the speaker. My hands are clamped around the side of it, almost trying to strangle him by proxy. I can just imagine his stupid, attractive face smirking in nonchalance and it only makes me angrier.

"Now. Now." He laughs and my blood runs cold. "Is that language becoming of a young lady? I think not."

"You let me out of this cage and I'll show you how fucking ladylike I am." I threaten in a low voice. The image of a piano falling on his stupid head is starting to become a recurring theme in my head.

A couple beats pass before he replies, "You promise?"

I scream in frustration, throwing my fists against the wall. Stupid, perverted idiot. I turn around, my back pressing against the wall, sinking slowly to the ground. I wrap my arms around my legs, pressing my eyes against my bare knees. All my actions punctuated by heavy sobs. I let all that anger, all that pain caused by that man seep into my bones. When in doubt, act like the scared little girl they expect you to be.

I hear the distant sound of footsteps, followed shortly by the lock tumbling on my door. From my position, I can just see two large, boot-clad, feet come into view. This is it. I lash out quickly with my legs, sweeping the man off his feet to a resounding groan as he hits the ground, Mr. Miyagi would be so proud. I jump up, racing for the open doorway.

I manage two steps. Two measly steps to freedom before the shit soundly hits the fan.

Large arms wrap around me, inertia working against me as my body slams against them. I groan in pain as I'm hauled backward towards my cage. My hands grapple with my captor, before trying to find purchase on the cream-coloured wall. My legs flail, trying to prevent my impending voyage back within the doorframe. I manage to kick something made of flesh, and privately rejoice in the echo of pain accompanying my hit.

"We need to sedate the bitch!" I hear the loud voice of a man from my right and I snarl in turn. I've had enough of this spy crap. I feel the many rough hands of men made for war upon me, taking away my mobility with every newcomer. The needle slides into my arm, just a prick followed by the absolute darkness once more.

"Derek, what did we talk about earlier, when our guest joined us?" I hear the familiar tones of Quint's voice, guiding me back to consciousness. I keep my eyes shut, trying to remain as still as possible to not alert them to my wakening state.

"The bitch is wily, do not trust her." A male voice echoes around me, higher in pitch than Quint's bass tones. The statement, however, is pure psychotic man-beast.

"And what did you do?" Quint goads him on, dismay evident in the clipped emphasis on 'what'. I can almost picture him, standing intimidating over the man. It's hard to picture anyone capable of being larger in stature than him. His blank eyes and furrowed brow indicating his dismay. His dismay is easy to picture, I've caused it so frequently.

Derek, as my jailer is apparently named, anxiously replies, "Open the door."

"And this was?" Quint extends the last word, waiting for the right answer, leading his poor subordinate to the obvious conclusion.

"A poor decision, Cap." He says dejectedly, "But, she was crying and I know she's a captive and all, but she's still human."

"Questionable." Quint's voice says icily, sending a blast of anger into my veins. I've spent my entire life as a human being, thank you very much. I just have a strange genetic anomaly that has made my family targets of scrutiny since the Middle Ages. At least, I don't spend my days hunting down innocent people to lock in cages for shits and giggles. Who's the questionable human being now, Mister Hulk-light? A snort nearly escapes my nose before I catch it just in time. I force my breathing to become steady. I have to keep concentrating, or else I'm liable to alert them to my woken state.

"She's rather pretty, though. For a…whatever she is." A smile comes unbidden to my lips. At least some people in this shady world have morals. At the very least, this one thinks of me as a female, which is nice sometimes. "Don't you think, Cap?" He asks. I strain my ears to hear the response.

"It's irrelevant what I think." Quint says gruffly, dismissing me as nothing more than…well, a gourd. All those suggestive looks and innuendoes, I knew they were just for show. The rat bastard that he is, probably thought that would make me more pliant to his nefarious plans.

"That hair. That ass. If I'm living in a world where those are irrelevant, I might as well become a monk. I could shave off all of my fucking hair, live in the mountains. I've never tried fresh air, might do me some good."

"Monks don't get to become regulars at strip clubs." Quint replies with a sigh.

"How dare you?" Derek retorts, his voice rife with mock shame. Evidently, this is some sort of recurring banter between the two men. "Me and Sparkle Tits are getting married, the minute her green card comes through. Just you wait and see."

Quint chuckles, his low voice replying dryly, "I'll believe it when I see it, Derek."

"Yeah, you will. So, how long is sleeping beauty supposed to be out for?"

"Well, considering she's been conscious for at least the last five minutes…it was about six hours. Ain't that right, Pumpkin?"

Damn it. Double damn, even. My eyes fly open, to a familiar cream coloured curtains. I look over at Quint and Derek, narrowing my gaze in disdain. Quint smirks at me, his open collared white shirt matching the gleam of his teeth.

"Somebody should learn to be a bit more cooperative." He says to me, and I'm weary from being knocked out twice in the past twenty-four hours to do anything but snort. He picks up a radio set from the bedside table and clips it onto his belt, right beside his gun. I briefly see a hint of skin between his trademark white t-shirt and jeans and resist the female urge to swoon. "Derek, I'm going to talk to the boss man. Watch her carefully this time, and focus less on her ass and more on the escape attempts."

"Aye, aye Capitano." Derek salutes him while Quint stomps out the door, before turning back to me. "It's just you and me now."

"And at least five security cameras." I reply, pushing myself up into a sitting position. I finally get a good look at Derek. He's smaller than Quint, leaner but probably no less dangerous. He's dressed in an all black outfit, suitable for his shady corporation occupation. A mess of brown curls atop his head poke out under a black baseball cap. He looks at me with brown eyes, and I can see a five o'clock shadow. I point at the closest camera, right above the window. "Best be on your best behaviour."

"I will if you will." He looks me up and down in a cringe-worthy leer. It's obviously exaggerated and doesn't affect me as harshly as Quint's lingering gaze does. Still, my hand balls up into a fist, my finger nails dig into my palm. I focus the tension in my body into that single point.

"I mean, I have questions. If you feel like answering them, that would be great. It could be an excellent reason for me not to shove my knee up your balls."

"I'm sure you do, Miss. I'm sure they have answers." He's taken to leaning against the door to the hallway. His knees have shifted ever so slightly together and I smile.

"Answers that you know?" I probe further.

"Probably not. I'm just the hired help. I go where they tell me. I do what they tell me. Mostly, I just patrol the grounds. It's a good gig, though. Pays well enough."

I ask bluntly, "Who's the boss?"

"Well, I always thought it was Judith Light's character. I mean, Angela was the woman of the house. But, I was watching a re-run the other day, and it occurred to me that it was actually Tony Danza. Man, was I shocked."

I groan, narrowing my eyes at Derek. I bet he thinks that he's so funny. I'll show him some funny, when I get out of here of course. It'll be hilarious when I kick his ass. "I meant the boss, here." I gesture around my prison. "You know, the man with the plan for me?"

"Oh." He laughs darkly, "You'll see soon enough."

"But I don't want to see. I want to know and then not have to do." I reply sharply.

Derek laughs again, as if he's amused by my hatred of being locked in a cage. Was there a two-for-one special for psychotic idiots? "You can't always get what you want."

"Apparently, you want to marry a stripper named Sparkle Tits. I want to forgo this inevitable doom thing. We all have dreams."

"Yeah?" He looks at me with a quirk of his right eyebrow. "Right now, I'm dreaming of a silent captive."

I give him the one finger salute right as I hear the crackling of the intercom speaker again. I expect to hear Quint's bass voice barking at us but am surprised to hear a much older sounding male voice.

"Private, bring the captive down to the library. It's time."

A/N: So…when I said Monday, what I meant was over a year and a month later. Whoops.

But honestly, now that I'm not busy trying to write a thesis, buy a house, take care of sick cats, and many more excuses, I am going to try and write more. Really.

-Sleepless but not in Seattle