Author's Notes: I've got my muse back, or at least a temporary sub, so I wrote a bit more. With school back in session and my training for work over (digital photo lab, baby. Yay!), I'll hopefully get this chapter finished and then the story itself. And yeah, Maya's in pretty deep folks, and the rabbit who lives in this hole has big, pointy teeth.

Chapter 18

Maya felt tired, achy, and cold. Not exactly the best way to wake up when one had a hangover. She must be in Heaven, on one of the cots they had for the drunks who wouldn't make it home. It felt awfully soft though, and- She couldn't move! Her body stiffened as her eyes flew open, and she found herself staring at a dark stone wall, definitely not something Heaven had. "Oh look, our visitor is awake," a voice said from behind. Hands started sliding over Maya's body, and she struggled to get her arms up. It took only a moment before she realized that they were tied behind her back, and her legs were bound as well. However, her captors had forgotten to gag her, and Maya now used that to her advantage, sucking in a deep breath and screaming for all she was worth.

            "Holy shit! Shut her up!" another voice yelled. A moment later the feel of cold metal at her throat made the Cat freeze, and she stopped screaming. Opening her eyes, she saw a young girl staring at her, holding a pocketknife just below the pulsing vein in her neck. A smudge of dirt was streaked across one cheek, and she shook her tangled brown curls out of her face. Her red shirt was ripped in a few places, and the sleeves looked as though they'd been torn off. Black jeans rustled slightly as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. The look in the girl's dark-brown eyes was dangerous, but her hand never wavered.

            "Open your mouth again, and I'll cut your voice box out," she threatened, voice low and harsh. It didn't seem like the type of voice a girl like her should have. Maya placed her at no more than fifteen, a mere child when it came to the rest of the world. But on the streets, this girl was old beyond her years, and her eyes showed it. They were a darker version of Amber's icy stare, and Maya couldn't repress a slight shudder.

            "Maggie, put that away." Another girl stepped around the bed they were lying on, holding out her hands to the one she called Maggie. She was older, that Maya knew, but how old was another question. Twenty maybe, or even approaching twenty-five, she wasn't sure. The second girl carried herself with authority and pride, while Maggie seemed to have anger and frustration in her bearing. It was almost amusing to see that the calm one was a redhead. Her straight hair fell to her shoulders, and it appeared to be brushed and not as dirty. Had she wound up in some sort of whorehouse then? But who could have brought her here? The events of the night before were a fuzzy blur past when the Cats had reached Saints and Sinners.

            "Let her have some fun, Tina," another female voice argued. It was coming from behind Maya, and the hands once again started roaming her body. Maya wiggled and attempted to shift away, but the arms held her in place. It certainly seemed like a whorehouse, and the unseen girl probably was the type to swing both ways. Not a good situation to be in at the moment.

            "Corinne, knock it off. I don't think she plays this game." Tina, the girl at the side of the bed, seemed to be the "leader" here, if there was such a thing. Maya took a good look at her now, from the ripped khaki shorts to the blue halter-top that might've been an actual shirt at one point, and then to her thin body that was more starved then toned. In Tina's leaf-green eyes she saw compassion, something that momentarily startled the Cat. It was like this girl was sorry she'd been brought to this place, wherever it was. Thoughts of the underground street trade crossed Maya's mind for a moment. Those that still lived in the sewers would occasionally take street kids to be used as slaves, but it was a practice that was widely frowned upon even by the rich people. Police often caught the "slavers", though every so often one would slip through the cracks and continue the "business" "C'mon, both of you back down. Maggie, let her talk for God's sake."

            "He told us to keep her entertained until He got here," the disembodied voice of Corinne said.

            "He also said He was spending the night with Caroline, so I doubt He'll be back any time soon." Who was this Caroline? And now a man had been mentioned, with some respect it seemed.

            "I don't understand what He sees in that old bag."

            "Caroline is Jermaine's mother, and the first of all His girls. That, and I've seen her fight. She'd womp you in a second, Corinne." Jermaine? He was the Rats' second! Oh, this was much worse than any whorehouse or slave trade. Maya swallowed the lump in her throat as she realized she was dead in the middle of the Rats' base, deep beneath the city. Even if she managed to get past these girls, a hundred- No, a thousand Rats would be waiting just outside the door to turn her into vermin food.

'I am in such deep shit,' Maya thought to herself. A sudden snicker came from the unseen Corinne, and Maya saw Tina frown slightly. The two girls didn't seem to like each other. Maggie was looking back and forth like she was expecting some action.

            "Womp me? What the hell kinda word is "womp", Tina? You're such a priss."

            "Better than being a snob, Corinne," Maggie said flatly, putting her knife away. Now Maya felt the girl at her back stir, like she was sitting up.

            "Watch it, chickie. You might have that knife, but I've still got the skills. Tina can't protect you forever."

            "That a threat?" Maggie put both hands on the bed, looking over Maya and probably staring right at Corinne. The Cat swallowed and hoped they wouldn't start a fight with her still trussed up like a market pig.

            "Enough!" Tina shouted, pulling Maggie off the bed. Then she knelt by Maya and stared at her for a few moments. "If I untie you, do you promise not to try and get away?"

            "First chance I get, I'm outta here," the Cat answered. She knew she should've lied and said no, but she didn't trust the girls not to cut her apart. Between Maggie and the faceless Corinne, they were a few cards short of a full deck. Tina sighed and let her hands fall to her sides. She had known the Cat would probably try to escape anyway, but she hadn't expected such a blunt answer.

            "Well then, I guess you get to stay that way."

            "Good," Corinne said, crawling across the bed and into Maya's view. "That means I can play with her more." Now Maya could clearly see the girl who seemed to delight in making her uncomfortable. She looked a bit like a whore, with a short red skirt and two green cloth straps that barely held her large breasts. Her blonde hair was streaked with dirt, and the clothes she wore looked as though she'd fallen in a mud puddle recently. But her bare arms drew the most attention, and Maya's eyes widened when she saw the scars. Cocaine addicts were easy to tell, what with red lines and holes that looked like a demented map covering their arms and legs. From the look of the marks, Corinne had been an addict for a few years. She appeared to be as old as Tina, but drugs were known to warp a person so that they appeared older or younger than what they truly were. All Maya knew was that she didn't want this girl anywhere near her.

            "Like hell it does. I can still fight back, bitch." Corinne stopped moving and cocked her head to one side, like a dog trying to solve a puzzle. But the look in her light-blue eyes was not friendly, as Tina's had been, nor was it impartial, like Maggie's gaze. Corinne had what Maya liked to call the "without a doubt insane" look, and the Cat shivered in spite of herself. She'd coined the phrase after a former member of the Cats, who had definitely been a few bricks short of a building. One moment Kiri had been happy, and the next she would be trying to rip your head off. She had also been an addict, but of LSD. Her bad trips had been known to cause broken bones and a lot of blood, and even some of her good trips could turn violent. If Corinne was even a fraction like Kiri, Maya did not want to remain tied up. "Look, can you untie me? Even if I do manage to get out, I'm in the middle of the Rats' nest. How far will I get?" Tina and Maggie looked at each other for a moment, and Maggie began fingering her knife. Corinne was still not moving, but she kept tensing her muscles like she was going to pounce on Maya.

            "I'll untie you, but just remember: We aren't as defenseless as you think. One wrong move, and Maggie slits you from crotch to crown, or Corinne will take you as a playmate." The way Tina put emphasis on the last word made Maya wonder just what sort of "playing" Corinne did. A quick glance around the room made the blood freeze in her veins. She hadn't noticed it before she sat up, but off in a corner by the head of the bed was enough equipment to make even the staunchest S&Mers go pale. Handcuffs with blood on the inside, a few whips that looked well-used, rusted clamps in various sizes, and a contraption that looked like hard-leather underwear with something- Maya whipped her head back so fast she had a small neck spasm, and her face went beet-red.

            "Like what you see?" Corinne whispered in her ear, nibbling on it gently even as Maggie sliced through the ropes binding the Cat. The moment she was free, Maya leapt up and backed herself to the far wall, keeping Corinne in her sights.

            "Stay away from me!" she screamed, bracing herself in case of a fight.

            "She won't use any of those things on you," Tina tried to comfort the obviously distraught top-sider. Had she never seen devices of torture and dominance before? Judging by her reaction, and her still-red face, it was obvious she had lived a sheltered life. Or perhaps these "toys" had brought back some horrible memory? Whichever it was, Corinne seemed to be getting a charge out of it, because she smiled one of her homicidal maniac grins. She would get them whenever a new person seemed submissive, but Tina wasn't so sure this new girl was. Hell, she didn't even know what this girl was, but chances are she was not a new "girl". He hadn't mentioned anything about it, and Tina knew Caroline was already upset that He had three. Bringing in a fourth would have simply angered the First One all the more. "Corinne, back off."

            "Tina, if she's going to share a bed with us, shouldn't I "induct" her first?" Both Tina and Maggie shivered, and Maya's mind was screaming warning after warning about the situation. Whatever this "induction" was, she wanted no part of it.

            "I'm not some two-bit whore for your leader, Corinne. I'm Maya, of the Alley Cats. And I'm not defenseless either." She shifted into a fighting stance, thanking her lucky stars that Peter had shown all of them various martial arts techniques. She wasn't as skilled as her gangmate, but she could certainly hold off three girls who seemed no more than sex toys. Even Maggie's knife wouldn't be that big of a deal if Maya kept a level head. Tina's jaw nearly hit the floor in response, and Maggie brandished her knife with a tighter grip and anger in her eyes. Corinne just started laughing.

            "You're a Cat?" Tina asked, not bothering to hide the surprise in her voice. "But what are you doing here?"

            "That's what I'd like to know. Who brought me here?"

            "One of Jermaine's new friends. Blonde guy with a nice build and a cocky smile," Corinne replied, getting her giggles under control. Maya's already clenched fists tightened further as she ground her teeth in pure hate.

            "Alex. That bastard!" she said to herself, fighting the urge to scream in frustration. He had probably been at the club, waiting for her to get too drunk to care what happened. But had the other Cats just left her, or had there been a fight to try and help her? She couldn't clearly remember anything, but had people been injured or killed last night? Alex was going to pay for this, if she had to fight the entire Rats' gang herself. Suddenly, the door on the far wall creaked open, and Maya only increased her guard at the prospect of more Rats coming in. Though when she saw who it was striding into the room, it took every ounce of control not to leap at him. Alex met her heated gaze with cool eyes, folding his arms across his chest and leaning against the wall.

            "You're awake." His tone was flat, like he could've cared less. Maya dug her nails into her palm so hard she felt blood flow. How could he be so calm when he had just delivered her into the hands of their worst enemies?

            "You bastard!" she screamed, unable to control her temper any more. Her body moved on its own, legs charging forward and hands coming up like she was going to strangle him. "Traitor!" Alex stood still until she was almost in his face, and then reacted. He grabbed Maya's wrists and pivoted, slamming her against the stone wall and pinning her arms over her head.

            "I did actually pay attention to Peter a few times." She struggled, but he tightened his grip on her wrists until she quieted down. "Stay," he commanded, pressing his body against her to prevent any kicks.

            "Who untied our feisty kitten?" Jermaine demanded as he and his father walked into the room. His eyes narrowed at Corinne, but she laughed and turned away.

            "Don't look at me. Tina had Maggie cut the ropes."

            "Only because you were acting all dominatrix," the redhead argued.

            "Tina, did I warn you that this girl was dangerous?" Christopher asked, disappointment clear in his voice. Tina was usually the logical one, so what had prompted her to let the Cat loose?

            "She doesn't look it," Maggie pointed out, playing with her knife. "She saw Corinne's toys and freaked out." Alex began chuckling, whispering in Maya's ear:

            "All these years and still an innocent? Even Amy knows more than you."

            "Let me go and I'll show you just how innocent I am."

            "That a threat or a promise?"

            "So Alex," Jermaine interrupted their conversation. "What do you think we should do with little Maya?"

            "Give her to me," Corinne begged. "Let me break the kitty."

            "I say slit her throat," Maggie added.

            "What about you, Jermaine? She's technically your prisoner." Alex turned his head to stare at his friend. If either he or his father ordered it, Maya wouldn't leave the room alive. But she was no good to him dead, and he needed to convince the others.

            "I promised Alex he could have either this girl or the leader of the Cats. Maya isn't mine unless he hands her over."

            "What would you do, Jermaine?" the ex-Cat wondered. Maya shivered when Jermaine met her gaze. His were the eyes of a killer; a cold-blooded man who would take her out simply because she was in his way. Alex had a slightly softer version of that look, and she wasn't sure which scared her more.

            "I would send her home: Piece by bloody piece."

            "Killing me will only bring the Cats here faster." It didn't matter anymore if she lived. There was only so much "living" she could do anyway. Better to go out in a blaze of glory than like some forgotten trash.

            "She's right, Jermaine," Alex agreed. "She'll only be a martyr if you kill her, like Angel was last year."

            "Angel?" Jermaine sounded a bit confused.

            "Yeah, the one who snubbed me for a girl she'd found in the dumpster. She used to lead the Cats till one of your people shot her a year ago."

            "Aw, she sounded amusing," Corinne pouted.

            "Who killed her?" Tina asked, voice soft. She suddenly felt bad for Maya, even though she was technically the "enemy".

            "I don't know, didn't get a good look. Older man though, with a lean build. And he packed some odd-looking heat."

            "Like this?" Christopher asked, puling a gun from behind his back. Alex paled when he recognized the weapon that had killed Angel. Even through smoke and distance, he could distinguish guns like a bartender could tell drinks. It was small, polished till it gleamed under the dim electric lights, looking a bit out of place amid all the dirt and grime. The chamber only looked big enough for six bullets, maybe eight, the muzzle a little longer than most guns nowadays. "It's a Luger, from way back in the second war. My father gave it to me, and his father gave it to him. Supposedly someone in my family took it off a soldier all those years ago. And it still works like the day it was made."

            "Bastard!" Maya suddenly screamed, attempting to lunge at the Rats' leader. Alex and Jermaine held her against the wall as Chris merely smiled.

            "Silence!" Jermaine ordered, backhanding their prisoner. She stopped struggling, but continued to glare at all of them.

            "You'll be happy to know that I've decided what to do with you," Alex whispered in her ear.

            "So kill me and get it over with," she hissed back. He chuckled then, moving so that his eyes were level with hers.

            "What I have in mind is far worse that death, Maya." He knew she'd had this coming, had been planning a way to make Maya suffer for a while now. She was his first obstacle in dealing with Amber. If he got rid of the blonde's support group, there would be no one left for her to turn to when he got to her. Alex turned his head and locked eyes with one of the girls on the bed. "Corinne, right?"

            "I'm flattered. What'd you want?"

            "You can have Maya as a play toy, but on one condition: You can't kill her."

            "Other than that, anything goes?"

            "Whatever your little heart desires." Maya felt her knees give out as Corinne flashed her a wicked grin. She'd seen what bondage could do to people, had heard the horror stories from Ruby about some of the nastier patrons of Hell. But this girl would probably be far worse than anything she'd ever heard. Already she could see Corinne reaching for a whip and a needle, probably to shoot herself up. The Rats' leader brought over a pair of handcuffs, locking the Cat's arms behind her back. He leaned over and whispered in her ear:

            "My little demon will have fun breaking you, kitty-cat. And then, I'll find the rest of your friends and give all the girls to Corinne." The thought of any of the others enduring this made Maya nauseous. Surely Amber and even Ruby could handle it, but Amy… But Amy was safely above ground, and Maya was the one staring at a blood-encrusted whip and feeling the rusty handcuffs digging into her wrists. 

            "I hate you," she said to Alex, watching him and Jermaine leave. She was then thrown onto the bed, hands tearing at her clothes, pulling her arms until she winced in pain. "I'll see you dead for this."

            "Not if I kill you first," Corinne shot back, her hands roaming over Maya's body once more, pulling her clothes off and ripping them even more. Jermaine quickly shut the door, for he knew this part of the act, and didn't want to see any more. Alex practically fell into the wall, heart hammering in his ears as he pressed his head against the cool stone. He'd delivered Maya to the Rats, making their deal concrete. Staring at the metal door, he shook his head and turned to walk away, when he suddenly went pale. From behind the metal and stone wall came a ragged, pain-filled scream, followed by another. The screams were long and ragged, probably coming just as fast as Maya could draw breath. Alex dropped to his knees and beat his fist against the wall even as Jermaine pulled at his shirt. He'd made a deal with the devil to get exactly what he wanted, so why did he suddenly feel like he'd sold his soul to the wrong side?

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