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Closing the Distance

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Simone had always had trouble talking with the man who was so often away in her life and never really there when he wasn't, but the way the air around him seemed to vibrate now due to the psilocybin tea's effects made him all the less approachable. She blinked, unable to look away from her father as she stood in the dark hallway looking into the small bedroom he sat in, the moment extended like a long rope of taffy. She was about to turn back and try to rouse her passed out mother instead when she heard his rich, low voice softly say, "Come here, Simone."

She swallowed thickly, her already reactive heart rate ticking up as she crossed the threshold into the stuffy room, bare feet sinking into old musty carpeting. He was looking at a toy in his hands as he told her to sit down. Not seeing any chairs, she opted to sit on the twin bed with him. She was not used to being invited to do anything by him and regretted not being sober for the rare experience.

"This was my room... growing up," he told her, his gentle accent revealed in the too-careful diction of his deep voice, still not looking at her as he fidgeted with the toy in his hands. It looked like a plastic robot, but he was not necessarily focusing on it so she declined to fill the silence by commenting on it. He looked at her and she watched his gray eyes flit from her face to her chest to her folded hands in her lap and then back into the distance of his thoughts for a moment before he said, "You can sleep in this room while we're here. I'm not sure when we're going to be through sorting all this out. Your mother will be returning to the city tomorrow if you'd like to go with her, but I would like your help."

Simone was momentarily stunned by the wealth of words her normally silent father presented her with before she scrambled to interpret them. She cleared her throat to borrow a moment before replying, "Yeah, uh, I can stay here, I don't mind. Papa."

He turned his face to her, a slight smile softening his eyes and she smiled back, a blush warming her cheeks at this unexpected attention from the man. She was delighted that he wanted her around, actually asked for her to help him in something, and she entertained the hope that maybe there would be more moments like this if she stayed. She was snatched from her reverie when she felt the warmth of his hand descend upon her knee and suddenly he tilted her chin up toward him. She had only a brief moment to close her slacking mouth before his moist lips locked over her own and she almost made a small noise of surprise before choking it back. Her heart skipped in its rapid pace as she accepted the rare and strange affection from her father.

Despite his seeming aversion to touching, speaking, or in any way interacting with his daughter through her life, he had taken a new vigor in occasionally doling out a very forced and awkward physical affection to her in her teen years, no doubt due to her mother's insistence that Simone receive her father's love so she refrained from finding male affection elsewhere. She knew that backward reasoning for a fact when her mother had blamed her father's distance upon discovering Simone's sexual activity at age 12. Shortly after that fiasco, her father deigned to bestow a kiss upon her once every week or so, but he seemed to be unable to perform this task in a conventional way.

His mouth was always soft and wet against hers, his lips molded over hers to latch them together rather than the very simple brief surface contact that a familial peck should be. The suck and then drag of his lips onto hers as he would pull away indicated more seeking for sensation than a gesture, always lingering for just a half second too long, pulling away just a bit too slowly. She had always felt awkward and sorry that he tried and failed to fill a role he couldn't; he was just a man who didn't know how to be a dad, he could only kiss the way he knew how.

As she felt his mouth move against hers at this moment, the drug in her system causing time to extend every second and every sensation amplified, she tried to ignore the arousal stirring in her. Then he tilted his head to better fit their lips together and his hand squeezed her knee to accommodate the adjustment of his posture, causing her to make a small whimpering noise in her throat that - to her horror - gave her father brief pause before he pressed closer. In her mind, she had to cling to the idea that the drug was stretching this moment out inexorably, that he hadn't been kissing her for this long in reality, his lips flexing over hers in a slide of motion that derailed her thoughts into a scrambling mess and curled her toes. The wet center of his mouth opened just slightly, pushing her plush lips apart and igniting an unexpected spill of heat in her abdomen as she tasted a hint of his saliva. Scotch, the cigarettes he was supposed to quit months ago, the cashews he ate instead of going out to dinner with his wife and beneath those things was a taste she could attribute only as him.

Before she could stop herself, she shut her eyes and leaned into his kiss, her hand latched on top of his hand at her knee and gave it an encouraging tug upward. She nearly froze at her inexplicable behavior, but he was already kneading the soft flesh of her thigh under the hem of her skirt and she moaned into him, the frenzied rush of thought completely hazed out by euphoria. She felt more than heard the rough moan rumble from deep in his throat, a sound so thoroughly masculine that a primal fear mounted over her thrill and beckoned her to begin to pull back. His moan ended in a growl at this, his hand curled into claws at her thigh and her lips parted against his in an audible gasp at the sudden pain. He charged forward into her parted mouth with his own, his tongue intruding against hers and her racing thoughts returned all at once at the glide of that wet muscle stroking hers. A panic began to boil in her mind along with the realization of what was now happening, a panic furthered by the acknowledgment of what had in fact been happening this entire time in her drug haze. Her eyes snapped open in disbelief, but his eyes were closed and expression blissfully unbothered by the numerous taboos they were committing.

His hand slid up, thumb digging into the cleft between her thigh and crotch, searching out her cunt from over the cotton barrier of her panties as his kiss deepened. She jerked back but his other hand was quick to grab the back of her neck. He twisted his torso to face her so he was halfway off the bed and looming over her. Her distressed noise of protest was muffled by his mouth still locked over hers as he pushed her slowly backward, swinging his leg over her until he was straddling her hips. When her back hit the mattress and she felt him sit down on her thighs, she looked up at his face and saw him looking down at her with such a gentle expression. Her lips were tingling from his kiss, her skin electrified with a low current that hummed through her whole body and spiraled tightly at her wet cunt, and she was not quite able to tell herself it was just the drug as she held his storm gray gaze. Her fear, confusion, and shame were at odds with the pleasure coursing through her and it must have shown in her expression when he shushed her.

"Sshh, shh, let papa take care of his darling girl," he said in a husky whisper more heavily accented than she's ever heard him, hunching over her with one hand planted on the mattress next to her head and the other stroking her cheek soothingly.

"Papa..." she whimpered thinly, the word escaping her as a tiny plea but then the full meaning behind it slammed a harsh clarity onto her muddled state. No matter how abstract his distance had made his role in her mind or how twisted her starvation for his affection and approval had become, he was her father and she couldn't let this moment of confusion risk tarnishing their roles forever. She tried to scramble out from under him, but his weight on her legs prevented her from budging out even an inch and the hand that had been caressing her cheek slid down to wrap around her neck. The presence of his hand on her throat was enough to still her struggles, the threat clear and shocking as she looked back up at his face, closer now than it had been.

"My sweet Simone," he whispered, his other hand disappearing between them and fumbling with something briefly before the sound of a zipper alerted her. She couldn't look away from his face, but the gentleness in his eyes belied the sharp-toothed grin that spread across his face before his hand traveled up under her dress to glide over her abdomen. "I've waited so long for you to come to me..."

Her belly was exposed the further his hand traveled up until he slipped under her bra, then his hips tilted and she felt something smooth and hot slide over her bared thigh at the same time his hand closed over her breast. Simone gasped as her father's calloused hand kneaded in time with his hips rubbing what she knew must be his penis against the top of her thigh, her body now shaking from the sustained adrenaline. She was writhing under him now for a different reason, her dread once more overtaken by the drug fog and lust. She had not been this close to her father for such a length of time, never had felt this loved by him before and she was finding this attention as intoxicating as the hormones he was stoking. She knew she was making pathetic little breathy sounds, her face burning in mortification, but his hard cock smeared precum on her leg and his breath was hot with scotch against her temple so she shut her eyes and let herself moan for him. The effect was almost instant.

"God, Simone!" he gasped, his hands moving quickly to wrench the dress and bra off her body. She barely had time to recover from that sudden jostling before his weight was lifted from her legs and her soaked panties were catching at her ankle in his haste to get them off. Dizzy, she watched wide-eyed as he kneeled over her, his dick visible for the first time to her and she had to force herself not to stare. Such polite impulses missed him entirely as he blatantly took in every piece of her newly exposed flesh, the cruel smirk gone and she caught the glint of restrained madness in his eyes. A fresh wave of trepidation chilled the back of her skull and she moved to cover her breasts, but he grabbed her wrists and pushed them away from her body. She was suddenly aware of how quiet and bleak it was in that small unfamiliar room, how even the light overhead only seemed to highlight the shadows. He was outlined entirely in darkness above her, a silhouette that could have been any man but she was deeply ashamed that she couldn't imagine it to be anyone but her father. She tried to swallow past the knot of shame in her throat as her legs parted to show him her glistening cunt.

"Oh, darling girl..." he breathed upon seeing her pussy swollen with need and slick down her inner thighs. She was blushing almost as pink as her little cunt, unable to look at him as he bent closer to her, his hands holding her knees wide apart. She saw out of the corner of her eye that he had begun disrobing. The air moved cold on her molten cunt, but she waited on her back with her legs spread as wide as he had left her, her heartbeat loud in her own ears to fill the terrible silence between sounds of shuffling cloth.

She yelped in surprise when she felt a wetness press against her pussy, the yelp followed immediately by a loud moan as that wetness curled around her clit and she felt herself already on the verge of orgasm as he ate her out. She angled her hips up, offering him more of her cunt to lick and he obliged eagerly, his tongue dipping into her hole and dragging back up to her clit in slow rotations. She was barely aware of anything outside of how her father, her papa, had his face buried between her legs and made her see sparks. Her hands were running through his silvered hair, tightening their hold when she felt him pump two thick fingers into her vagina.

"Papa... oh, fuck, Dad..." she heard herself panting, the high voice almost unrecognizable to her own ears. She felt him curl his fingers inside her and rub against the front of her cunt, forcing an unexpected orgasm out of her. She tried to push his head away, her left leg kicking out in an uncoordinated attempt to scramble backward, heel skidding on the bedding, but his grip on her hip was strong enough to bruise and he lapped at her clit and nearly punched his fingers into her as she came. Her moans rose in a gasping crescendo, higher and higher in pitch as her spasming cunt clenched around his fingers. She panted as she came down, her skin glowing in a thin sheen of sweat despite only having taken no more than two minutes to cum, and she looked down through half-lidded eyes at the man responsible. He gazed up at her with an expression that made her heart ache with the love she found there, that glint of madness gone and his eyes now warm. She felt the urge to cry and just barely squashed it.

"Papa..." she said, voice wavering and tight with emotion. She reached down, grabbed his shoulder and pulled him up her body, all the while babbling, "Fuck me, please... I need you, Daddy... I need you so bad, I can't stand it, just please…”

She stopped only when she latched her mouth onto his, tasting herself on him and moaning into a desperate kiss. His hands roamed over her body as she assaulted his mouth with her lips and tongue, his body curled between her legs. She began grinding against his cock, sliding the long shaft between her slick labia, moaning into his mouth in both frustration and pleasure. His hips jerked in response to her efforts, the fat head of his cock dipping into her vagina before slipping back out and up against her clit, making her break her feverish kiss in a loud gasp.

"Please, Papa, please, please, please," she begged, each plead accentuated with a grind against that teasing cock. He growled out a low groan and tilted his hips, the tip of his dick twitching against her opening and he had to grab her neck once more to stop her from sliding down onto it. She was hardly aware of the fear, shame and despair that screamed from some distant space in her mind, but she heeded the threat of that large hand at her throat once more. He stared into her eyes, not letting her look away even if she tried as he slowly penetrated her. Inch by inch, he pumped into her cunt, the almost painful stretch making her utter small sounds of discomfort among the gasping pleasure of it.

"I love you, I love you, I love you..." she heard herself whispering, voice cracking and foreign to her, but she was unable stop herself. She flinched and released a sharp gasp when he was finally fully sheathed in her pussy, the tears that had been threatening finally spilling from her eyes. To her confusion, a sob wracked her frame, followed by another as he began to move. Through tear-blurred vision, she watched as his eyes conveyed surprise, almost as though he couldn't quite believe this situation even as he drove his cock back into her. The deep moan rumbling in his chest as he fucked her slowly made her clench around him.

"Oh Christ, you feel so fucking good, darling girl," he growled, his cheek nuzzling her tear-streaked face.

"Hurt me," she whispered, her voice ragged and close to his ear. At first, she wasn't sure if he had heard her, but then his nails dug into the pliant flesh of her hips and he started pushing into her hard. She cried out with each punishing thrust, his already too-large cock now feeling as though he was bruising her inside, but she met each thrust eagerly. She wasn't sure why, but she needed him to make this a punishment. She supposed she was a terrible daughter to have begged for her father's cock like she had. His nails scratched painfully at her hips, dragging swollen pink lines that spotted with blood and she hoped some of them went deep enough for a lasting scar. She thought of looking in the mirror later and admiring them as proof of his affection when she felt another orgasm building through the pain.

His mouth was at her neck when he began groaning out something in his native tongue that she couldn't understand, his rich baritone rough and dark. Her arms, not long enough to fully wrap around his powerful shoulders above her, pulled him more closely down onto her torso and she could feel his words vibrating through his hard chest. The voice that had so long enchanted her throughout her entire life was bewitching her into yet higher arousal now as his foreign words curled enticingly against her sensitive neck. His breathy grunting words were peppered with her name, no hint of the American pronunciation, and it stuck out in her mind that she had always felt like a slightly different person when he addressed her, this woman he calls See-mohn.

His thrusts became more quick and short, almost as though he didn't want to leave her cunt before he was driving back into her, staying deep and smashing against her cervix with each ram of his hips. This consistent closeness rocked his lower abdomen flush against her, rubbing her clit between them and she couldn't stop her orgasm against this onslaught of sensation. Her whole body drew taught like a bowstring ready to release, her cunt clenching down hard on his cock and this had him gasping and his hips stuttering hard into her. The twitch of his cock inside of her as he began to ejaculate, his deep voice roaring out his climax, sent her pussy fluttering around him and her voice keening as she joined him in orgasm. Her head swam as she felt him swell and spasm inside her, spilling hot semen that tingled her already sensitive flesh, and her vision whited out.

When she came back seconds later, he was heavily laid out on top of her, his arms wrapped around her in an almost crushing embrace as he panted into her neck. He was still buried inside of her, slowly softening and slippery with both of their fluids, her cunt erratically pulsating around him from aftershocks of her intense orgasm, her breath hitching and gasping softly at each. Her mind was clouded, thoughts distant and muted as they stayed holding each other for several minutes. Eventually, he slowly pulled away from her, looking down at her sweat-slicked body as he knelt on his heels between her legs. They stayed like that for a long silent moment, his expression unreadable as he looked at her and she watched his face carefully.

“I'm sorry,” he said quietly, then she watched him rise from the bed and walk out into the dark hallway, not even picking up his clothes as he left. She dropped her head onto the mattress, stared up at the yellowed ceiling and despite her scratched up hips and sore cunt, she felt completely numb.

Chapter Text

Leif quickly gathered the blades from his late father's house, 26 knives of various utilities and antiquities excluding the butter knives he decided to ignore, and wrapped them in a towel before hiding them in the top shelf of a closet. Deciding that the .45 handgun was safe enough remaining in the trick back of his father's nightstand, he then gathered any axes, bats, sizable wrenches, hammers, and anything he judged would make a decent makeshift weapon and locked them in the knife closet. Although he doubted the necessity to do any of this, he couldn't discount the possibility that his daughter might turn on him violently at any point.

The folding knife that was his old man’s constant companion, still waiting for him next to his wallet on his dresser, Leif took to the sharpening stone. He sat in his father's bedroom on a wooden chair, the bare mattress stained and reeking of decay from the four days it took before his body was discovered, and dragged the blade across the rough stone. The stillness this task required of him calmed him out of the purposeful frenzy of activity enough to think as he sat still naked, the sweat and fluids of both his and his daughter’s bodies now dry on his skin.

His thoughts were slow and heavy with guilt as he thought of her. His Simone, hopefully lost to the weight of their sin in the oblivion of sleep, laid out on his childhood bed downstairs. His Simone, the distant star of his life burning his soul with each moan beneath him. His cock twitched at the fresh echo of her voice in his mind and he curled his lips into a snarl at the greedy monster under his skin. The blade sung with each swipe over the sharpening stone as his pace unconsciously increased, frustration twisting in him at his lack of self-control. He turned the stone over and buffed the edge of the blade smooth while he glowered at his foolishness. Years of calculated ministrations dashed after one heady moment in a simple kiss. He dragged the razor thin edge of the knife lightly against his thumb, the blade easily slicing a thin line into the skin so fine he could scarcely detect it if it weren't for the red thread blooming open a moment after.

As he inspected the cut, he allowed a self-reassurance that he could manage the situation he now found himself in. He could direct this new dynamic between himself and his Simone. He rubbed his thumb along his lower lip absently in thought as he considered the many possibilities this event had opened to him, his blood smearing scarlet on him. As his tongue swiped at the warm liquid, his resolve to manage how things would progress hardened.

 

Simone wasn't sure if she ever fell asleep, but figured she must have as the next time she opened her eyes, it was to the gray light of predawn outside the box window. Her hair was still damp and her naked body still wrapped in the towel from the scalding shower she'd taken after lying on that small bed for hours, staring up at nothing and trying not to think. Now in the pale light of a different day, the previous night’s events lurked fresh in her mind and she felt the rise of dread at what she will have to think and feel about it. For now, fear overwhelmed any possibility of processing outside of that feeling.

She rolled stiffly out of the musty bed, the joints in her pelvis feeling oddly and painfully separated as she limped down the hallway to the bathroom, the green terrycloth clasped tightly over her shoulders against the morning chill. When she flipped on the light, it took her several dazed seconds before her eyes adjusted to the ghastly image of her reflection in the age-fogged mirror. Dark smudges of fingerprints formed patterns on her neck and chest in yellow and purple, her lips still swollen and dark, her skin a cast in a gray pallor that only highlighted the dark circles under her glassy eyes. Locking the door, she swallowed hesitantly before letting the towel drop and taking in further proof of her sin. Her hips and the sides of her thighs were scored in dozens of arching red lines, most of them inflamed and some beginning to scab where the skin was broken. The sight of her body so abused makes her blood run cold, but the memory of wanting this, of hoping for scars to wear as proof that her father loves her, makes her tremble.

In a fit of energy, she rifled through the medicine cabinet above the toilet until she pulled out a bottle half full of rubbing alcohol. Deciding that it's not too ancient, she soaked a wad of toilet paper in it until it's dripping then slapped it on the worst of her scars. Her hand gripped the counter and her shoulders tensed into a shaking hunch as the burning pain flared from her hip, but it was a real pain that she could control and the tears it brought made so much more sense than the situation she found herself in.

Now that she was able to shed a few tears from the physical pain, the fear and shame came rolling up from where she had buried them and she wept openly, crouching low on the tile floor and curling herself tightly as her mouth opened in a silent and shuddering sob.

 

When she padded out into the kitchen on slow and cautious bare feet, it was closer to noon than morning but her mother was sitting at the table with the remnants of breakfast still. Simone couldn't bring herself to look her in the eye, opting to sit on the opposite side of the small table and busy herself with eating an apple despite her lack of appetite.

“Leif told me you wanted to stay and help out,” her mother spoke, her voice haggard and head leaned back in her obvious hang over. Simone froze at the mention of her father having said anything about her to anyone. “Why you would want to stay out in this haunted house in the middle of nowhere is beyond me. You sure you don't want to come back home with me?”

With horror, she realized that she had indeed agreed to stay here alone with him, but that had been before. She cleared her voice and began, “Um, actually, mom, I uh-“

“Would love to stay in this haunted house,” her father's friendly baritone interrupted. Simone flinched at the sound, wide eyes watching as he approached the table with two mugs and a wide smile. She marveled at his appearance; he didn't look any different than he had any other morning.

He set one mug down in front of his wife who waved him off with a grumpy, “I told you, I don't want to eat any of your dead dad’s food. That's fucking creepy.”

He shifted the mug to his daughter instead, who stared at the it like it was the first time she'd ever seen coffee, and responded gamely, “Well, I'm sure Simone is hungry enough to eat haunted food. Would you like some eggs, darling girl?”

Simone's ears rang at the how Leif chose to address her; the same pet name he had used for her last night. An echo of those same words whispered in her mind, low and husky, and she held her breath in an unconscious effort to slow her rising heart rate. Her eyes snapped up to see him looking directly at her, for all appearances waiting for her reply but the way he held her gaze felt as oppressive as a challenge or command.

“Yes, Papa…” she answered lamely, the words falling from her tongue.

His smile widened, seeming all too happy to see the girl folding under his will. “Good girl.”

“You're in way too good of a mood. I'm leaving,” his wife groused, rising from the table with great consideration to her pounding headache. She looked at her daughter, who sat stiffly with a faraway look in her eye, and said, "Just remember when you're bored out of your skull: I did offer to save you. I'll see you in a week, sweetie.”

Simone could feel Leif staring at her, the weight of his gaze heavy with expectation, but she kept her eyes focused on the mug in front of her as she said, “Drive safe, mom.”

She listened to the sounds of her mother hugging her father goodbye, unable to look as the older woman left the kitchen and left her alone with him. Her throat tightened at the distant sound of the car starting and rolling out of the long dirt driveway until only her frantic heartbeat and her father's scraping around the stove remained. She flinched again when he placed a small steaming plate of scrambled eggs in front of her and sat down next to her with his own plate. The sight and smell of food made her nauseous, but he seemed to harbor no such difficulty eating. In fact, she considered, he seemed to harbor no difficulties at all. Simone tried to stop the tears from escaping, but each frustrated swipe of her hands at her eyes only seemed to invite more of them to trail down her face.

 

Leif watched her as he ate quickly. Those big tears wetting her cheeks reminded him of how she had cried underneath him last night and, with a twist of guilt, he felt his cock begin to fatten up when he heard her accompanying little hiccups of staunched sobs and sniffles. He'd never known quite what to do with himself when she cried, often just walked away until she finished or fetched her mother for her, but now the impulse to soothe came so naturally as his hands reached out and gently pulled her into a sideways embrace. To his delight, she nuzzled her face against his chest and clung to him, her acceptance of his touch encouraging him to pull her into his lap and wrap his arms around her properly. Her crying redoubled and she curled against him, her smaller body tucked under his chin and quaking from her sobbing.

“I… I'm so sorry,” she murmured wetly into his shirt. She sniffed again before she went on, her voice small and muffled against his chest. “I ruined everything, I'm such a fuck up. I'm so, so sorry.”

Leif stroked her back slowly, taking in this information and working out how best to use his daughter’s apparent self-blame before placing a kiss atop her head and softly saying, “What's done is done, pet. I’m sorry to say that there's no going back, but I'll never be sorry for taking care of my little girl. I want you to come to me when you're in need.”

She shuddered against him and he felt himself harden halfway, the material of his black jeans restricting his cock irritatingly. She felt so good against him, he didn't want her crying to stop. In the harsh light of day, without the buildup of arousal to soften reality, he was surprised she was affecting him this much and he became curious to see if he could coax a similar reaction from her. His hands slid lower on her back, rubbing in slow circles that dipped down to brush her tailbone and the top of her ass over the thin material of her summer dress. After a few languid strokes, her sobbing died down and he pressed on. His fingertips found the ridge of elastic of her panties and traced it, noting how her breathing deepened and she became very still. He realized, with a hesitant excitement, that she was waiting. His cock was now fully hard and leaking precum into his underwear, but from its position against his leg he figured it unlikely that she could detect it under her. His cock throbbed when she drew in a sharp gasp as his fingers splayed over the tops of her hips, her body tensing against him.

“Do they hurt?” he asked, his voice huskier now.

“What?” she choked out.

“From when… you asked me to hurt you,” he whispered. When she didn't respond, he pressed his hands into her hips and she gripped his shirt in a tight fist. When he spoke, he let his voice become stern and firm. “Stand up, Simone.”

Slowly, she slid off his lap and stood before him, tear-stained face hung low and arms hung limply at her side. Embarrassed. Submissive. His cock ached.

“Show me. Lift your skirt.”

She winced, drawing back from him and saying, “I-I can't, Papa. Please!”

All gentleness gone from his tone, he commanded, “Simone, lift your skirt.”

She flinched, but grasped her skirt and hesitantly bunched the material at the sides until, inch by inch, her thighs and then hips were exposed. He had to control his breathing as he took in the dozens of angry red scratch marks, his marks, marring her beautiful skin. He noticed that she kept her skirt hanging low in front, keeping her crotch covered, and he took a long moment deliberating before speaking.

“I said to lift your skirt,” he reminded her firmly. “I had meant all the way, Simone.”

“No! No, I really can't,” she said, voice and hands shaking in panic. She hung her head lower and whispered, “Please don't make me, Papa.”

“You can and you will, or I will do it for you,” he responded, his voice quiet with warning.

Slowly, she lifted her skirt until only the bottom of her pale pink panties were shown, but he could plainly see how they were darkened with damp and her inner thighs glistened with the fluid that overflowed from her drenched cunt. He couldn't look away, wishing to etch this picture into his mind forever of her standing before him, mortified, baring his marks and her cunt soaking from his touch. Silently, he slid down from his chair to his knees, his hands gingerly gliding over her scratch marks while she watched seemingly too terrified to move. He loved that prey instinct in her that made her freeze up. She yelped adorably when he pressed his mouth gently to the side of her right thigh, planting soft kisses to the abused flesh. He kissed upward and by the time he reached the top of her hip, she was nearly panting and her legs were shaking.

He looked up at her face, almost laughing at how she kept her eyes scrunched closed, and moved to level his mouth to her cunt before whispering, “Let papa take care of his darling girl.”

Chapter Text

Simone shuddered when she felt his tongue slide up her inner thigh, the warm muscle lapping up the wet skin in long strokes. She kept her eyes squeezed shut, trying not to panic or react to the fact that her father was tasting her for the second time, not sure how to react as her shame and confusion warred with her arousal. A surprised grunt escaped her and she jerked at the feel of his mouth pressing at the crotch of her panties but his hands were quick to hold her steady. His large hands kneaded her plush ass while his face wedged between her closed legs, trying to coax her open, and she began to pant in gulping breaths at the way his stubble scraped deliciously at her sensitive skin.

She was so ashamed of the way her body was responding, the way her pussy had flooded when he'd pulled her into his lap, that she was sure something was deep and fundamentally broken in her. She didn't want this, she assured herself even as she parted her thighs for this, she didn't want to commit this sin.

She gasped when he pushed aside her panties and put his open mouth on her, his tongue pressing on her clit and his pleased groan vibrating against her. She peeked and saw him staring up at her, his gray gaze dark and intense, causing her to close her eyes again from the inexplicable fear that spiked in her. Her hand gripped the table hard in an attempt to keep standing in case her wobbling knees gave out but his bruising grip on her ass was already mostly holding her up.

“Papa!” she gasped when his teeth scraped lightly on her clitoral hood, the contrasting pain and pleasure making her head toss back as the first ripples of orgasm approached. The groan he made in response pushed her over the edge and she bucked in his hands as she came, crying out in a thin high voice, “Oh god, Papa, fuck, fuck, oh fuck!”

He growled into her cunt as he sucked hard while she came, making her keen from the pain that only seemed to extend her orgasm. Her mind, having been overwhelmed with shame and denial, was a clouded blur of muted thought as she came down from her climax. Opening her eyes now, she looked down at him and saw that he was still watching her, his mouth and chin coated in her fluid and expression conveying only hunger and awe.

“You're so perfect,” he spoke softly, sliding his hands up her body as he rose to his feet. She leaned against the table, dazed and exhausted and immensely aroused as she tilted her head back to look at his face. They stayed like that for a long silent moment, her mind still buzzing in the afterglow that kept her worry and shame at bay, something warm growing in her chest as she stared into his eyes. His hands slid up her back slowly to cup the back of her neck, his head ducking down toward her face as he whispered in a languid singsong tone, “My sweet little Simone…”

The warmth in her chest seemed to bloom when his lips pressed into hers, the rich appreciative hum from his throat making her eyelids flutter shut and return his kiss. She found herself wanting to lean into this moment, forget about the wickedness and violation of her moral center and cling only to the way his attention made her feel so thoroughly wanted and special. As he tilted her further back against the table and slipped his tongue into her mouth, she shivered and forced her mind to be blank, existing only in the haze of arousal he stoked within her.

Never in her life had she had a lover that inspired such uncontrollable lust as he had in the past 18 hours. She could no longer blame the psilocybin tea she had drunken hours before their encounter last night. For whatever reason, he could cause her body to betray her own will, dragging out an animalistic urge to pleasure and be pleasured. Her mind started to wonder at this, at how she could be that sick, so she pushed all thought aside and wrapped her arms around her father to caress his back as she deepened the kiss.

This earned another appreciative hum from him, the rich sound of his approval tingling in her ears. She rose to stand on her tiptoes, leaning heavily against his body when she felt the hardened length of him between them. Her hand slid, slow with hesitation, to the front of him and down to press lightly on the bulge down the leg of his jeans. He sighed through his nose, breathing hard and not breaking the kiss as she traced it. When she felt him throb under her palm, she rode the impulse to unbutton his pants.

Still locked in their kiss, he helped her undo his pants and pull them down just enough to free his cock. She finally broke their kiss to look down at him, the hot and smooth column heavy and thick in her hand. Her ragged breathing stuttered at the size of him, easily the largest she'd had yet, and she recalled with a wince how her pelvis had ached from the rough pounding he'd given her. A clear drop of precum drooled from his tip and she pumped him in her grip until she watched, mesmerized, as it dribbled down the underside of him and over her knuckles.

She could feel him watching her and she wanted very badly to make him happy, to earn his approval, so she leaned down and lapped up that dribble of precum with a long swipe of her tongue. She felt him throb in her fist and heard his deep inhalation as she fit him into her mouth, swirling her tongue around the head before sliding him further in. He tasted clean and earthy, the saltiness of him pleasant on her tongue. Being thicker than she was accustomed, she stopped when he hit the back of her throat and used her hand to follow her motions as she slid him out of her mouth. She heard him sigh raggedly above her as she gave him a couple pumps with her hand alone, getting him slick with her spit, and then slid him back in between her lips.

His fingers wove into her hair tightly, giving little tugs that sent tingles up her spine as she bobbed her head and hand to a steady rhythm. His sighs and grunts above her filled her with an addictive desire to hear more, pushing him into her throat until tears pricked at the corners of her eyes. She pulled down his jeans further with her free hand and gently cupped his balls, feeling them tense with the frequent throb of his cock and accompanying groan from his parted mouth when she sucked him just right.

Usually she performed oral sex as a favor to her lover but in this instance she found herself actively enjoying the act to the point she found herself moaning softly around his cock, earning her rougher tugs on her hair and the sound of him muttering something that was half sighs and half curses in another language. The texture and heat of his dick gliding over her tongue felt gratifying, but the way his breath hitched whenever she rubbed the underside of his head felt powerful.

She lost track of how long she'd been sucking his dick, but eventually his grip in her hair tightened and his muttering devolved into rapid panting, his balls tensing and dick twitching. She moaned around him, readying herself for his ejaculate, and he groaned loudly as he pushed her head down on him and came in the back of her throat. She willed herself to relax and not cough at the salty fluid spurting down her esophagus, swallowing harshly to avoid accidental asphyxiation of his semen. Knowing that she brought this reaction out of him brought a fresh wave of euphoria that left her head swimming.

His fingers detangled from her hair and she looked up at him, his softening dick sliding out of her mouth with a string of saliva that clung to her swollen lips. They were both trying to catch their breath, the only sound in the kitchen was their panting as they stared at one another. She observed his satisfied, exhausted expression and distantly thought on how she'd always admired his angular features, but now saw his handsomeness as always having been sexually appealing to her as well. The stray thought led her back to thinking on just how sick this all was and she withered away from his eye contact, his semen suddenly sitting like lead in her belly. His hand gently cupped her chin and tipped her face back up to look at him, his thumb running over her plump lower lip. She glanced up at him, seeing his grin and a strange darkness in his eyes that resurrected that inexplicable fear in her gut.

He chuckled at her frightened stare, a low rumbling sound in his chest that made her cunt clench, and released her chin as he walked back to the stove. Confused at his abrupt change in demeanor, she licked her lips, surprised by the blood she tasted there.

Chapter Text

Simone spent the afternoon trying to ignore the tremor in her hands, telling herself that it was from a lack of food rather than the maelstrom of thoughts and emotions she willed herself to push down as she kept busy. She washed the bedding in the little room, the ancient washing machine remarkably straightforward in a way she distrusted, and dusted all around the large old house while carefully avoiding her father. The way he had suddenly behaved as though they hadn't just had each other's genitals in their mouths unsettled her. She couldn't handle her own confusion over what to think of their recent experiences, let alone guess at what he thought of them, so she shoved it all as far down as she could. She was taking a dampened rag to a sticky stain on the dining room mantle when she heard the faint sound of her phone chiming. Dropping the rag, she ran into the little bedroom in the back, scooping her cell up and answering without even checking the caller.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Sibone! How's the fuck is Vermont?”

Where she would usually be aggravated at the unfortunate nickname, she was too relieved to hear anyone else's voice.

“Ryan! Thank god, a real live human at last!” she exclaimed, masking her relief with sarcasm and sitting heavily on the fresh sheets. “I've been stuck in this haunted-ass house for three days and I think I'm cracking. Is there even anything left in the world but trees?”

“Hopefully not after the fucking apocalypse wipes us out,” her friend's voice crackled through the speaker, the less than desirable connection making him sound distant and tinny. “I thought you were coming back today? What happened, is there a big corn shuckin’ down at the barn tonight?”

“I thought I was, but Papa- uh, my dad wanted me to stay,” she winced at her slip up, continuing to talk in hope that Ryan didn't hear it, “Help with getting this place together for my grandfather’s funeral. Probably gonna sell it. This house is huge! It has a parlor. I don't even know what you do in a parlor.”

“You court bitches in em, Bones,” he said. “You tell Papa that you're needed in Brooklyn. I've got like twenty cannapsules and everyone's out of fucking town this week. How dare you leave me to get high on my own supply while you go enjoy wholesome family bonding time in fucking Vermont.”

“You're more than welcome to come save me,” she hated how hopeful she sounded, hated even more when her friend cackled as though she were joking.

“Fuck you, I'm not gonna get stuck in some backwoods Deliverance town,” he laughed. “Hey, let me know when you make it back. Don't go all Amish on me now. I need someone who's willing to do shrooms with me here.”

Her stomach twisted at the thought of being under that particular drug’s influence ever again. “Uh, sure, Ry. So, um, what's going on over in civilization?”

“Couldn't tell ya, nothing but fucked up savages here. I gotta be out, so I'll fuck with ya later, Bones.”

“Oh…” her voice cracked in disappointment and she winced again, wondering if she'd always been this obvious, “Call me back whenever, it's dead out here.”

“Hasta luego, fucker.”

The line cut off and she stared at her phone, thankful to have gotten out of her head for a moment. It was so refreshing to be reminded of her life outside of being a slave to overpoweringly sexual impulses for her own flesh and blood father, even if that life was one of an art college dropout with druggie friends. With a sigh, she dropped her phone at the foot of the bed and stood up, ready to get back to her nervous cleaning when she froze upon seeing her father's tall frame looming in the doorway. The cold expression hardened Leif’s features into something predatory and she instinctively cowered back a step from him.

“You shouldn't be so careless where other people can hear your conversations, Simone,” he said, his level tone belying the anger behind his veil of calm. He stepped into the room, keeping his stare on her even as he plucked her phone off the bed and pocketed it. “I don't think you'll be talking to anyone, at least until I decide what to do about your apparent recreational activities.”

Simone flinched, a burst of anger igniting her to respond. “You can't ground me like a child, Dad. I'm god damned 20 years old and I can make my own choices, regardless of you or mom's opinion.”

“Not anymore, you can't,” he muttered. She watched in mounting terror as he rolled up his shirtsleeves, revealing the thickly chorded muscles and dark blonde hair of his forearms. More than anything, a morbid curiosity kept her rooted to her spot and abated any demands that he explain his plans or stop, having never encountered him as the disciplinarian before. That role, along with any other parental duty beyond ensuring her basic survival, had always fallen on her mother who relied on stern talks and revoking privileges to tame any transgressions out of the girl. The scratch marks at the sides of her hips and thighs ached as she considered what he had been willing to do to her when he wasn't even upset, but seeing the cold anger turn his glare to steel had her mouth run dry in fearful anticipation. He sat on the edge of the bed and his voice was hard gravel when he ordered, “Come here and lay down on my lap.”

Her eyebrows shot up in realization of what was to be her punishment. “You're going to spank me?”

“I'll do worse than that if you disobey me, girl,” he ground out. The threat in his deep voice was palpable, snapping her into the moment and she wrung her hands nervously as she approached. He kept his stare on her and she found that she couldn't bring herself to look him in the face, instead focusing on his dusting of chest hair visible from the top two buttons of his shirt having been undone while he had been working. The sight made her realize that none of her previous lovers had had very much body hair and shame dampened her fear at how immediately she'd categorized him as a lover. With that shame refreshed in her mind, she found it much easier to accept punishment and bent over his lap in deep embarrassment. His hands roughly fixed her position, laying her so her chest and pelvis were on his legs and giving her less mobility.

Heat bloomed in both her face and her crotch at being touched by him even under this circumstance, the humiliation of being ordered into such a vulnerable stance making her cunt begin to drool much to her confusion. She was thankful he couldn't see how she bit her lip when he pulled her skirt up, hoped he thought her sigh when he yanked her panties down was from it roughly rubbing at her scratches. The air was cold against her pussy, making her worried at just how wet she could have gotten in such a short amount of time, but the loud clap and excruciating sting of his open palm striking her ass immediately derailed all thought.

“Oh fuck!” she yelped, immediately trying to launch herself off his lap, but his hand pinned her back down and held her squirming on him. She'd had lovers spank her before, but this was nothing like those slaps that only gave a brief sting and a little pink to her backside. Here, she had to pant with the effort it took to calm herself and wait for the pain to subside.

He leaned over to her ear and in that hard gravelly voice whispered, “That was one. If you're good, I will only administer fourteen more. For your sake, I recommend you be good for me, my Simone. Now, count them out to me and don't try to get away.”

Stars danced in front of her eyes when he delivered a bruising slap to her other asscheek, her every muscle tensing with the pain that radiated from there. She couldn't even think of disobeying him now and she squeaked out in a tight voice, “Two!”

The next slap landed right on where the first had been planted and she jerked and let out a disjointed cry, “Hyuhn! Three!”

Tears were flowing freely down her face and her body barely had time to be wracked by her first sob before his hand came down again, the crack booming in the small room and she didn't try to restrain her short scream before gasping out, “Four!”

She was curled over his legs now, whole body trembling, not caring how pathetic she looked or sounded as she began to sob. He didn't let up the force of his blow at all when the next strike came, making her grab the edge of the bed in a white knuckle grip as she forced out the word, “Five!”

“Do you like to fuck your little friends when you're fucked up?” he asked, his tone conversational as though they were discussing the weather. Bewildered at the contrast between his tone and topic, she tried to turn her head to look at him but was interrupted by him bringing his hand down again.

She yelped, jerking hard, and shuddered violently before sobbing out, “Si-ix…”

“Is that what they taught you in art school? How to do shrooms and suck dick? Maybe I should send them a donation for how talented your little mouth turned out though,” he said. She was momentarily shocked to hear such filthy and accusatory words from her normally reserved and respectable father, but wasn't given time to dwell on them or her bewilderment at how he knew about the drugs before her vision blacked out for a second at the next crack of his palm.

“Ha-AH! S-seven!”

“You must have made a lot of friends judging by how greedily you gulped down my cum this morning,” he mused. “How many cocks have you sucked, darling girl?”

Her legs kicked out from under her in a spasm when his hand cracked against the middle of her ass, her cry a broken grunt that was barely human. “Eight!”

He chuckled. “No, I think a lot more than that.”

His next hit came sooner than she expected and she screamed, gasping for breath until she managed to utter a hoarse, “Nine!”

She flinched when she felt him roughly palm her cunt, his voice sharp with disgust when he said, “God, you little minx, you're practically dripping from this. How many greedy little punks have made you call them ‘master’?”

“Wh-what?” she slurred confusedly, but was answered with another strike, this one somehow more painful than the rest and her mouth hang open in a silent scream. It was several seconds before she broke down with a sob, her body going slack across his lap as she cried, “Ten! Please, Papa, please no more! I'm sorry, so sorry, I can't take it!”

“Why shouldn't I continue? I promised you fifteen,” he said, and she could hear the cruel amusement in his deep voice. His hand caressed her tender backside, making her shudder from the pain of just his light touch.

“I'll be good, Papa,” she begged, sniffing wetly, “I won't ever do any drugs again, I won't even talk to Ryan, just please, please stop!”

His fingers drummed on her ass teasingly as he sighed and said, “That's not good enough, my sweet Simone. What else can you offer me?”

Her panicked mind raced, her panting breaths becoming rapid until he trailed his nails up and down the back of her thigh. Her stomach turned when she guessed at what he wanted, both hoping and dreading that she'd be correct.

Her voice hesitant and quiet, she said, “I'll be yours.”

Another chuckle from him, then she felt him lean over her to whisper in her ear, “Oh, my darling girl, you already are.”

She flinched when he hauled her around by her middle, a flurry of motion that ended with her on her belly on the bed, half of her body hanging off limply. Her mind was a blur of prayers for the spanking to be over, her arms locked and shaking over her head protectively when she felt him propping up her lower half to stand, ass raised in the air. A sharp gasp escaped her when she felt him grip low where her ass met her thigh, her fear paralyzing her from reacting to her revulsion and humiliation when he spread her pussy. She wanted so desperately for this all to be over so she can hide somewhere and cry, but when she heard the sound of his zipper coming down, an entirely new terror gripped her.

She started to turn her body and ask “Papa? What are you-” but yelped when he gripped her hair in a tight fist and pushed her head down onto the bed.

He grabbed her asscheek with his other hand, the pressure on her tenderized flesh making her gasp in pain, and said, “I had recommended that you be good during your punishment, Simone, now don't make me remind you again. Do you understand?”

“Y-y-yes, Papa!” she stammered, pain and panic making her voice shrill. When he let go of her, her scalp tingled from the abuse. Every instinct in her told her to submit and be still to this aggressive man, her fight or flight response giving way to the third option: freeze. Be good, she told herself, and survive. Her eyes screwed shut and teeth gritted against the fearful anticipation of pain, she stayed as still as her shivering form allowed.

Behind her, he hummed approvingly, the sound of moving cloth told her he was pulling his jeans off. Her knees had begun to shake at the sounds, her leg muscles burned in tension as she feared her joints might fail and earn his wrath, but there was only silence behind her for several agonizing minutes. Then a smooth, hot hardness slid against the outside of her cunt, slick from the wetness there she couldn't explain, and his hands came to rest on her hips as he sawed his cock between her labia all the way up into the cleft of her ass. She shivered at the contact, hesitant to react as she feared he would bring her pain at any moment, and waited as he continued to grind against her.

“God, you're fucking soaking,” he groaned, pushing the underside of his cock against her pussy, the pressure pleasurable to her even despite the horrible circumstances. The strange disconnection she felt between her mind and body shocked her as her cunt clenched in response to this stimulation while her mind spun in fear and confusion. That sick, sad feeling welled up inside her even as she felt herself grow wetter against him.

“Papa…” she whimpered, her voice cracking and hoarse from her crying. “Papa, I don't feel okay with this.”

“Too late for that,” he responded. He started to move her hips and grunted at the slide of their flesh with this increased pace, the wet sounds from her cunt and the creaks of the bed springs louder now. She squeezed her eyes shut tight against another wave of pleasure, a small mewl working out of her that he answered with a low and raspy, “Ahh, there we are, now. Let papa take care of his darling girl.”

One of his hands left her hip to reach between them and she felt the tip of his penis press against her pussy, the broad head spreading her open and she gasped at how she pulsed at the contact. Her cunt ached in anticipation of being fed that cock, her lust at odds with how terrified she was and she regretted not just running from him when she was still out of reach. She knew that she was in pain, that she didn't want this, that she had voiced her objection and went ignored, so the urge to push back on his dick and fuck herself on it bewildered her. Before she had time to gather her thoughts, her mind blanked out at the stretch of him pushing into her and she cried out in a strangled groan. She was still tender from the previous night, making this penetration more painful but not as painful as the aching sorrow expanding in her chest at her own helplessness.

“Daddy… please, please stop this…” she said in a small voice, muffled from how she pressed her face into the bed. She winced when she felt him hilt fully in her, his body pressing into the abused flesh of her ass. She shuddered at the overstuffed feeling pushing inside her with the difference in their size, the drag of his cock rearing back pulling at her inner walls with shocks of pleasure that had her panting once more.

“Hnngh, that's a good girl,” he groaned. She gasped sharply when he reached under her and pressed his fingers to her clit, the contact making the pleasure of him thrusting back in overtaking her. As he fucked her from behind, his fingers rubbed at her clit with consistent circular motions and soon her mind was foggy and all physical and emotional pain blurred together with lust.

“Please, Daddy, oh please… please…” she breathed, no longer sure what she had been asking for but the words bubbled out between her desperate breaths. The way he fucked her deep between her spread legs, the dutiful attention to her clit, and the knowledge that she was pleasing her father was enough to begin a slow ascent toward orgasm for her. He rocked into her at a steady pace, his cock twitching and his gravelly grunts the only response she could detect as her cunt clenched around him with her approaching orgasm. Sweat beaded on her forehead from the extended, slow fuck but she didn't try to increase the speed, the tempo lulling her into an ecstatic trance.

When at last she began to cum, her moans heightened in pitch until she was nearly wailing when she finally climaxed. He kept the same rhythmic pattern on her clit as she rode out her orgasm, her cunt spasming around his cock, even as he growled and pushed into her in a forceful final thrust as he joined her in release. She keened when she felt his cock throb and fill her with his hot semen, the feeling stirring a satisfaction she was finding to be unique to the moments when he had cum. A foggy, nonsensical notion of becoming addicted to having his cum inside her thrilled a primal part of her before all thought vanished from her mind once more when she felt him lean over her and place his open mouth on her neck. She sighed as he sucked the sensitive spot between the side of her neck and shoulder, his cock still buried in her sloppy cunt.

“You'll always be mine,” his whisper, so close that she felt his hot breath ghost over her ear, was soft and loving but his words resurrected a glimmer of the fear she had all but forgotten in her lust, “because I'm never going to let you go.”

Her eyes reopened as that fear spread, forming a tight pit in her chest. “Dad…” she whimpered, her voice barely audible.

“You,” he continued, making her squeak when he bucked his half hard cock up inside of her and pressed his fingers against her clit, “are exactly where you should be. Do you understand, darling girl?”

She swallowed around the knot in her fear before whispering, “Yes.”

“Good,” he said, straightening up and pulling out of her, the drag of his cock giving her one last shudder of pleasure. Slowly, mindful of the many ways she ached, she rose from her kowtowed position and smoothed her dress back down. Her hands and legs were still trembling, her shoulders hunched close as she kept her arms wrapped protectively around her body, and she hid her face from him as she felt their fluids begin to dribble out of her cunt. She stood still facing the bed, feeling his eyes on her in that strange way he always seemed to watch her when she wasn't looking, that feeling at once familiar and dangerous to her now.

“I…” she started to say, but then the words were lost behind that choking knot in her throat. She considered crying but didn't feel the tears come, just a deep hollowness beyond the fear and confusion now. She nearly jerked back when she felt his hands on her shoulders, turning her to face him, and he tucked her into a hug. She held her breath in terrified anticipation until she felt him gently press her head to rest on his chest, that hand petting her hair soothingly.

“It's normal for you to be unsure of how to think right now, Simone,” he said, his warm tone abating her fear that he would bring her more pain in this moment. She let herself relax into the hug, her tension rapidly relenting to the comfort of this compassionate affection. “Don't worry about that. I only want what you want, so just trust me and we'll both be happier for it. I had to do this for your own good, you must understand that. I love you too much.”

“I love you too, Papa,” she said. She felt so tired, she just wanted to sleep now, but his arms and soft words were so nice. Even though the fear was still there, she didn't feel as hurt now and her confusion seemed unimportant. She leaned more against him and he placed a chaste kiss atop her head.

“Don't make me hurt you like that again, dearest,” he said. She only nodded, closing her eyes and nuzzling against his chest.

Chapter Text

Leif looked in the pantry, sighing at the arrangement of canned sardines, saltines and other mundane fare he had found his father had been reduced to subsisting on in his final days. He ran a hand through his graying hair, considered his options and, deciding he didn't like any of them, went to the little room in the back of the house. The late spring sunset poured in through the western window, painting his lovely daughter's sleeping form in golds and oranges as she laid atop the bedding on her belly, no doubt to be her sleeping position for the next few days.

His heart swelled in pride as he thought back to the previous day and how well she had taken her punishment, how quickly she had adapted to submit under his influence. She was breaking beautifully, almost as though she had wanted this for herself all along. He stepped closer to her, feet silent on the old carpet of his childhood bedroom, and observed the peace of her sleeping face. She'd hidden in this room since yesterday, apparently reading through one of the books she'd brought with her since he had yet to reinstate her phone privileges. He considered perhaps letting her rest, but thought better than leaving her alone here quite yet.

“Simone,” he said, brushing her hair behind her ear with a gentle touch. When she didn't stir, he smiled in amusement and tangled her soft hair in his fingers, admiring her dark swoop of eyelashes that surely didn't come from his Scandinavian blond-haired genetics. Yet there is much of my genetic material inside you, he thought with a chuckle. Her brow furrowed at the noise and he watched as her gray eyes fluttered open blearily, looking at him blankly for a moment before recognition hit and alarm made her lift her head abruptly.

“Papa! What- uh, what- what is it?” she stammered, nervousness rolling off her in waves. He had to stifle his smile at how easily she scared; truly, his groundwork was already mostly laid by virtue of her very nature before he had ever even touched her.

“We are going into town for groceries,” he answered her, straightening his back from his crouched position. “Five minutes. Get moving.”

“But I could just-”

“Five minutes, Simone,” he interrupted sternly, walking out of the room. He allowed his smile to spread when he heard her shuffle around behind him and then pad off into the bathroom. Still smiling, he walked upstairs to the bedroom he'd decided to sleep in, the one that he had occupied during his adolescence when he'd outgrown the small room downstairs. The room still had the trappings of his teenage years; various sports and academic awards, group photos of faces mostly forgotten, shelves lined with academic textbooks, the odd personal item that he'd left behind. On the full sized bed was his duffle bag, nearly emptied as he'd hung most of his clothes in the closet already, but he pulled out a small silver pill box from under his folded socks and pocketed it.

Facing the floor mirror propped up in a corner, he buttoned his shirt and tucked it into his black jeans, grabbed a vest from the closet and put it on, ran his hands through his hair, and inspected his profile before sitting on the bed and pulling on his tan suede oxford shoes. He shoved his wallet into his back pocket and headed back downstairs, happy to find his daughter already waiting for him at the foot of it. She looked a bit worse for wear with dark circles under her troubled eyes and her wavy brown hair unruly from sweat, but she'd changed out of her rumpled dress and into a loose rose sweater that did nicely to bring out the pink in her cheeks, a flowing patterned skirt, and tan sandals. Not the style he planned to start dressing her in, but not unpleasant.

He watched her face as he approached her, noting how she watched him until he drew closer, dropping her gaze to her feet in a move that would have seemed demure if not for her obvious trepidation around him. He placed his hand deliberately on the small of her back, pleased to see his effect on her by the way her throat bobbed with a nervous swallow and her eyes blinked more rapidly. Walking together, he scooped up the keys from the accent table in the entryway and locked the door behind them as they stepped out onto the porch. When he opened the door to his late father's truck for her, she hesitated before stepping in and very gingerly contorting her body to sit on her hip, her cheeks blushing in embarrassment all the while. He kept the smirk off his face with some effort.

The old truck rumbled to life and they rolled down the dirt driveway to the road, every bump making her wince until he said, “Simone, why don't you lay on your side and put your head on my lap.”

“Oh, no, that's ok, I-”

“Do it,” he interrupted. From his peripheral, he watched her twist in the seat and carefully lay down across it, stiffly placing her head atop his thigh. While she was no longer wincing every other second, she was noticeably uncomfortable and yet did not speak on it or move away. He rewarded her obedience by gently placing his hand on the side of her head, his thumb slowly tracing her cheekbone. He felt her relax against him then, her responsiveness to his affection warming his heart dangerously. He sighed at this, not liking the lack of emotional control she inspired in him. He had dispelled the myth of any typical fatherly instincts in himself long ago, so this new trend of emotional impulses she'd been causing in him was troubling. It risked his method and made him soft, maybe too soft to go through conditioning her as necessary.

His negative train of thought was derailed when she nuzzled against his leg, moving her head to lay more properly in his lap. That urge to be loving and kind toward her seemed less threatening now, and even though he'd used it as a tool, he couldn't deny that it came from a place of sincerity. However, he also couldn't deny that his cruelty had come from a place of sincerity too. His cock twitched at the fresh memory of her bent over, her raised ass welted red and bruised, her voice wet from crying as she begged him to stop. His fingers carded through her hair, massaging her scalp, and she made a sweet little sound of appreciation. He looked down at her and, seeing her eyes serenely shut, allowed himself a moment of victory at how thoroughly he'd already possessed her. He supposed he could afford to indulge wastefully in his softer urges.

It didn't take more than twenty minutes to reach the town, but the sky was darkening rapidly by the time the truck pulled into the little shopping center. Leif took a moment to survey the area, noting the many new buildings and remodels to the once quite empty main street of the town he'd grown up near. It had expanded considerably even compared to the last time he came to visit his father six years prior. This evidence of passed time made him restless. Not waiting for Simone as she cautiously slid out of the truck, he fetched a cart and entered the grocery store.

As he quickly made his way through the brightly lit store, acquiring the various staples and spices the pantry had lacked, he couldn't keep his mind off the last trip he'd made to his father's house. He had been distracted by his career the entire time, barely taking the time to mind his wife and child or really reconnect with his father. He recalled it was actually around that time that he began to notice his little Simone despite her braces, bushy hair and late-blooming pubescent awkwardness. As he compared the cuts of pork in the butcher section, he was surprised to remember the initial moment that had sown the seeds of this forbidden attraction to his only progeny.

It was in fact during that past trip in the thick humidity of summer. He had been drinking a beer and working on his laptop in the kitchen when Simone had come bounding through the back door there, grabbing a popcicle from the freezer. She was wearing a loose tank top and, not yet seeing the point of a bra for her small bust, nothing underneath. She was also dripping wet from running through the sprinklers out on the lawn and her top clung to her like it was shrink wrapped on. His eyes had immediately attached to the gentle curves of her growing breasts, the clear outline of her hardened little nipples, and the slope of her defined waist before traveling up to see her looking right at him.

He was going to dismiss the moment as having been an accidental curiosity, just a casual observance of the changes in his child’s body, but the way she was watching him watch her struck a new chord in him. She had been waiting to see what he would do and in response he had wanted to do something. Time had seemed to slow in that moment. A drop of water had crawled down her neck until it disappeared into the low collar of her top. He had licked his lips unconsciously as his eyes followed it, wanting to trail its path with his tongue on her smooth skin. He saw her eyes draw to his mouth, that waiting look changing to one of wanting, and his cock had fattened up just from her reaction. He could almost feel a physical switch turn in his brain when he considered what having her might mean, the full implications of potentially ruining her emotional and psychological wellbeing forever versus molding her malleable young mind to suit the sexual cravings he had for so long ignored. When he had seen her little pink tongue slowly swipe the tip of her frozen treat without breaking her heated gaze from him, he was already formulating a method in how to transform her into his. Just as he was about to tell her to come to him, his wife's voice had carried from the backyard to call for Simone and the spell was broken. The girl had bounded away as suddenly as she had come, leaving him with a hard cock and heavy guilt. That guilt hadn't prevented him from jacking off that night while imagining her crying and bleeding beneath him though, nor did it prevent the myriad of little touches and calculated manipulations he'd begun to work into their dynamic for years after that. And now he was finally getting started on the life he had wanted for so long.

With the cart stacked to nearly overflowing, he looked around for the subject of his thoughts, snapping out of his wistful mood upon seeing her talking with some gangly bag boy who had her cornered against the front windows. Despite his immediate desire to snatch her away from this interloper, he hung back, observing her interaction with the boy. Her body language was closed, arms folded and body not facing him, eyes distracted by her surroundings, her responses all short and half shrugs. The boy carried on idiotically unaware of her obvious discomfort, all too eager to engage the attractive young woman in a one-sided conversation. When she spotted Leif, her entire demeanor transformed. Her back straightened and her body faced her father, ready to go to him should he beckon. Instead, he walked to her, the younger man backing off sheepishly when he put an arm around her waist and kissed her forehead affectionately.

“Making friends, princess?” he asked, not bothering to hide the blatant glare he threw to the boy even though his tone was friendly.

“Are we ready to go?” she asked instead, leaning into him.

“We just have to pay and then we'll be home in time to prepare a late supper,” he answered warmly, leading her away from the lad. He was aware that boy was watching as Leif squeezed her tender hip in a reckless display of possessiveness, but his jealousy over her was stronger than his logic in that moment and he gloated at the breathy little gasp she emitted.

 

When at last the final bag was brought into the kitchen, Simone asked her father, “Why are we buying so much food if we're going back home in a week?”

He didn't look at her as he reached into the pantry shelves, throwing out expired canned goods and opened cracker boxes to make room for their purchases, responding with a simple, “We are home, Simone. We're not going back to Brooklyn.”

She was silent for several minutes, until he heard her ask with a voice full of hesitant anger, “What do you mean we're not going back to Brooklyn?”

He smiled at her ire, glad she couldn't see his face in that moment before he wiped all expression and said in a level tone as he continued to organize the shelves, “Your mother and I discussed it and we decided it would be best if you stayed with me here.”

“With you? Mom's not going to be here?”

He sighed, having been anticipating this conversation under more favorable circumstances, but responded, “Your mother and I finalized our divorce while you were away at school. We had planned on waiting until after your graduation to tell you, but well... When we picked you up and saw the condition you were in, we decided to delay our separation. Then, my father passed and as I am to inherit this property, it seemed the best opportunity for all of us.”

Behind him, he heard her back hit the wall and slide down to the floor. He chanced a glance at her, saw her clutching her head in her hands, and he continued his task.

“And just what was I doing while you and mom were doing all this deciding?” she asked bitterly.

“You're still unstable, dearest,” he answered. “That's why we decided that you would be staying here in Vermont with me. Getting away from all the influences in the city would benefit your mind greatly.”

“How is…” she stammered, then nearly yelled, “How is any of this going to benefit my mind?”

“Simone,” he said, injecting stern warning into his tone as he straightened his back. He fished out the little silver pillbox from his pocket.

“Is getting fucked by my father supposed to make me any less insane?” she yelled, then barked out a mirthless laugh. “God, it's no wonder I'm ‘unstable’; I probably got it from you!”

He frowned at how she was behaving, at how that stubborn streak of rebelliousness in her refused to allow her to fully realize her role. He had, however, anticipated some resistance and had prepared for it to occur especially after the previous day’s severity. He approached her as she spoke and loomed over her with her hunched form under his shadow from the overhead light. He pinched the blue tablet between his thumb and forefinger as he said in a low and dangerous voice, “You’re being hysterical. We're just trying to help you, Simone. I think you need a dose to calm down.”

“No, no I don't!” she hissed, balling herself tighter. “What do you think is going to happen? I'm just going to let you fuck me whenever you feel like it? I'm not your fucking sex slave! I’m-”

She yelped when he dragged her up by her hair, her hands grasping onto his arm to try and lessen his pull, and he slammed her back to the wall with his body. She screamed as he pinned her there and he grabbed her chin, forcing her mouth open and shoving the tablet against her tongue. He covered her mouth and nose while she writhed, trying to dislodge his hand, but her need for air forced her throat to spasm until she swallowed the pill. He had done this with practiced ease; she was never a match against his size and strength even in the worst of her hysterics, but it was a relief to not have to fake regret since his wife wasn't around to watch. He let her face go and she caught her breath in gasping coughs, her small form shaking against him. After a few minutes, she laid her head on his chest and sobbed, so he wrapped his arms around her in a full embrace and moved her away from the wall. He patted her back and hushed her, feeling her body begin to relax and eventually go limp.

“I'm sorry, Daddy…” she slurred. “I didn't mean it. Please don't hate me…”

“It's all right, dearest, you can't help it,” he said softly. “I told you that I'm never going to let you go. That was a promise. I will always take care of you.”

She weakly wrapped her arms around his neck, having to stand on unsteady tiptoes to do so, and looked up at him with sleepy wet eyes that made his cock stir as she whispered, “I love you, Papa.”

“And I love you, my darling girl,” he whispered back, leaning down to press their lips together. She tilted her head and kissed him more purposefully, making a soft purring moan in her throat when he obliged. Her hands began to slip from his shoulders and her head fell back, the fast-acting sedative finally overtaking her. He gathered her unconscious body in his arms and carried her upstairs.

Chapter Text

The first thing Simone became aware of was the warmth pressing against her back. The second thing she became aware of was the urgent pressure of her full bladder, which accelerated her waking process and had her sitting up before she was fully conscious. Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, her bleary eyes frowned at the unfamiliar surroundings. This wasn't the small room she'd fallen asleep in. She rubbed her eyes, stumbling into the hallway on rubbery legs as the floor seemed to shift beneath her feet. Recognizing that she was somehow upstairs, she trudged to the bathroom and tried to pull down her panties only to find that she wasn't wearing any when her hands grabbed at her sides. After alleviating her bladder and drinking deeply from the sink faucet, she rinsed the bitterness from her mouth with the mouthwash on the counter, the sting of it waking her up further but her mind was just as foggy. There was something wrong or something she had forgotten, but she couldn't think of what it was. Not wanting to risk stairs with how woozy she still felt, she leaned heavily on the wall as she made it back to the room she'd awoken in. When she saw her father's sleeping form on the bed she'd just risen from, she stood blinking in the doorway for several minutes as she tried to make sense of it. Why did her father get into the bed while she was in the bathroom?

Slowly, she realized that they had shared the bed last night. She looked down at her body, seeing that she was wearing a men's dress shirt that hung down to her thighs, and her brow furrowed at how strange this all was. Then it came back to her. The shrooms, the kiss, the sex, his cock in her mouth, in her vagina, the pain, the fear, all of it hitting her at once and she stumbled away from the room. Her back hit the wall and she remembered him pinning her last night, his face so frightfully devoid of anger or compassion or any reaction as he forced the pill into her mouth. She repelled from the wall, sinking to her knees and trying to slow her racing heartbeat.

There was a noise at the other end of the hallway, a door creaking open. A cold spike of pure terror ached in her chest as she slowly raised her head towards the sound. There in the doorway at the end of the hall, she saw a man's entire upper body leaning out of a room watching her. She froze, unable to do anything but breathe in short rapid pants despite her brain yelling for her to flee.

The man waved his hand to her and whispered, “God morgen!”

 

 

Leif was out of bed the moment he woke to the sound of a shrill scream, his feet quick to hone in on his daughter's huddled form in the hallway. Seeing his younger brother Anders reeled back from shock and her crawling backward near-paralyzed in terror, he almost laughed at the situation if he didn't know she would bolt the second she figured out how to work her legs again. He didn't want to spend hours searching through wilderness for her before dawn. She was also displaying her bare crotch to Anders and Leif definitely didn't want that. He approached her from behind, giving him the advantage of surprise to clap his hand over her mouth and drag her up in his arms. She bucked and writhed, screaming against his palm, her panic breaking through her freeze response and she fought him vivaciously. Anders watched on, his face conveying concern and mild horror at what was happening in front of him.

She was much smaller and weaker than him by far, over a foot of difference in height, but her resistance was admirable in effort alone. He lamented not being alone with her at this moment, finding a potential for great amusement to be had while she was in this state of blind panic, not knowing who was restraining her. He pressed her front against the wall, preventing her from being able to do much but groan and try to kick feebly behind her. He leaned close to her ear, whispering low enough so his brother couldn't hear, "You're not going to get away from me, lovely. Keep fighting if you want to see how badly I could hurt you."

 She froze at the sound of his voice, all her fight draining instantly when recognition registered. He wanted to pull her close and suck at the racing pulse point on her neck for being so obedient, but he was mindful to their audience. He nodded to Anders, who still seemed shocked, and took half a step back from his panting daughter. The way she crumpled to the floor at his feet and sat in a trembling hunch brought a cool wave of satisfaction to him.

 "...'m sorry... I'm so-sorry..." she stammered in a choked whisper.

 Leif did laugh then, turning to the man and saying in his native Norwegian, "Well, brother, I see you get along with women just as well as I remember."

 "I didn't do anything!" Anders hissed defensively back in Norwegian. "Is she all right?"

 Simone shakily rose to her feet, bracing against the wall for support until Leif reached down and lifted her up by her arms. In a flurry of movement he found endearingly compulsive, she positioned herself behind him and clutched his shirt, keeping him between her and Anders. He felt a warm pride in how she clung to him, how quick she was to forget the torment he had brought to her when presented with an unknown threat.

 Leif reached behind him and petted Simone's head affectionately, a wry grin on his face as though he were telling a trade secret when he explained, "My Simone has post traumatic stress disorder. Makes her scare easily, as you can see. She usually isn't this bad, but even a change in environment could make her more susceptible to panic attacks. That's why I didn't want to rouse her when you, Henrik and Vidar arrived. I occasionally am forced to sedate her, as was the case last night."

 Anders ran a hand over his short-cropped blonde hair, his gaze heavy with concern as he said, "I'm sorry, Leif. Did I just make your life more difficult?"

 "What are you talking about?" she asked, her voice still shaking and timid.

 Leif's stroking hand curled into a tight fist in his daughter's hair, hidden from his brother's line of sight, and he chuckled at the way she whimpered from pain and yet pressed closer behind him. He always loved how pliant she became and he found himself wanting to get her alone as soon as possible. "Not at all. I know how to handle this little troublemaker," he said, crafting his sharp grin into a good-natured smile. "Let's all go back to bed. Don't worry about this, Anders, she'll apologize to you later."

 The other man seemed unsure and perhaps regretful, but relented with a nod and trudged back into the room at the end of the hall. Leif waited until the door latched before grasping the sleeve of her shirt and pulling her roughly behind him. Her shaky legs stumbled to keep up, but in a few long steps they were back in their room and he threw her onto the bed. The small cry she let out when she hit the mattress in a boneless heap made him almost laugh, but upon turning on the light and seeing the way his shirt she was wearing rode up and exposed her bruised ass made him impatient. She was backing away from him, her muscles as uncooperative as they were when he had first descended upon her in the hallway. He locked the door and began approaching her. The full sized bed didn't provide much space to retreat into before she was cowering against the wall, her gray eyes wide with the fear he found so endearing, but he could tell that she was no longer gripped in that feral panic. Now hers was the fear he had taught her: that knowing dread and helplessness.

 "Plea... p-please do-on't..." she stammered as he leaned toward her over the bed, flinching when he placed his knee  on the mattress. He let himself smirk, knowing how terrified of being touched she became after an episode, and crawled on his knees toward her further.

 "That was your uncle Anders," he said conversationally as he grabbed hold of her ankles and yanked her toward him. Her eyes were wide and her whole body was stiff with fear, some residual from her attack and the rest fresh. "My brothers arrived last night while you were resting. You're going to have to apologize to him later."

 He crawled over her body, pushing her back onto the bed as he loomed over her, and she managed to say, "Yes, Papa. I'm sorry."

 "I said to apologize to him, Simone. Pay attention," he scolded. He began unbuttoning her shirt, keeping his eyes trained on his task while she stared at him.

 "Papa... please don't-"

 "You've met them before, you know," he said, interrupting her plea. He spread her shirt open, baring her nudity to him, and she shuddered at being so exposed and vulnerable. He grabbed her breasts, giving the soft mounds a hard squeeze when she reflexively tried to jerk away from the touch, and continued talking amicably as she groaned under him. "When we visited Norway. You might not remember because you were quite young at the time, but they remember you. You were so friendly then. It's a shame what happened to you."

 "Please stop," she whispered. Her small hands came up to wrap around his wrists, but there was no real strength in her attempts to wrestle them away. He kneaded her breasts, rolling them under his palms and pressing his fingers against them roughly, making her gasp. He loved how sensitive and responsive she was, loved even more how he could give her both pain and pleasure whenever he wanted. He pinched her nipples and pulled on them, making her groan and shiver. Her cunt already glistened with her wetness, her skin was flushed, her voice was high and tight, and her body trembled all from a few minutes of attention to her breasts and he reveled in how he could bend her will so easily.

 "Does this feel good, Simone?" he asked, barely keeping the self-satisfied amusement from his tone. She bit her lip and turned her head to the side, humiliation darkening the blush in her cheeks. He lowered himself to be propped up on his elbows and caught one of her nipples in his mouth, making her gasp abruptly. He fit a good amount of her between his teeth and bit down, holding her still with firm hands on her shoulder and hip as her back arched and she writhed with a startled groan. When he lifted his head, she was huffing in controlled breaths to manage her pain and he rewarded her with a soft kiss to the breast he'd abused. His teeth marks were imprinted in dark pink indentations that framed her left nipple, not deep enough to bleed but sure enough to bruise. He stared at this new mark he'd bestowed on her body, his possessiveness both incensed and sated by this fresh sign of ownership.

 "Papa..." she breathed. "I can't... not with... we're not alone here."

 He lifted his head from his trance, seeing her eyes glimmering with tears, rimmed in red and utterly pathetic. "What's wrong? Don't want it getting out that your father's cock makes you scream when you cum?"

 She wilted in shame, muttering, "I just don't want anyone to hear..."

 He started trailing light kisses across her chest, feeling her stiffen when his mouth opened onto her other breast. When he began circling her tit with his tongue, she sighed and relaxed halfway. He let her enjoy his ministrations, at the moment satisfied with having marred the flesh nearest to her heart, and she leaned up into his mouth when he still hadn't bit down after a few minutes. She was moaning quietly, her head thrown back and squirming under his suckling, obvious in her attempts to repress her cries until his fingers brushed her soaked pussy. He hid his grin against her tit when her hand shot out and latched onto his wrist, trying to push him away as he circled her clit with his fingertips. She struggled in her attempts to mitigate the ecstatic moans and sighs he was forcing out of her, biting down on her knuckles and tossing her head in her efforts.

 "Papa..." she squeaked out, her urgency mounting, "I'm gonna- Ah!- ha, I'm gonna..."

 "Hush now," he chided her, his lips dragging over her nipple as he whispered, "Let papa take care of his darling girl."

 He shifted his weight to his knees, freeing his supportive hand to grab her throat and squeeze the sides of her larynx firmly. She jerked reflexively as he choked her, managing a shocked grunt before he squeezed harder and cut off her airway. Both her hands had wrapped around that arm in her frenzied attempt to escape his grip and her heels skid against the sheets impotently. No time to waste, he rubbed her clit in tight, quick clockwise motions and scraped his teeth over her sensitized breast. Her body spasmed stiffly from being choked as she came, her nails digging hard into his arm and her entire back arching off the bed, but no sound escaped her throat. When her full body tension began to wane, he let go of her throat and let her cough violently, her body shaking both from the effort of filling her lungs and the potent hormonal cocktail of orgasming through what her body had perceived as a near death experience.

 "... apa..." she rasped, throwing her into another coughing fit. He patted her chest, his other hand pulling the waistband of his shorts down to take out his hard cock and stroke it while he waited for her to recover. He smiled warmly upon seeing the little crescent marks she'd made on his forearm, red with the slight amount of blood they leaked out, and he wondered with a detached curiosity if his brothers would link these wounds with the bruises he'd just put on her elegant little neck. Nothing he couldn't defend as a consequence of having to wrangle his "insane" daughter, he concluded with a gloating grin. When he figured she'd replenished enough oxygen, he held her down and moved to straddle her shoulders.

 Admiring her bewildered wide-eyed expression, he tilted his cock down to poke at her slacked mouth and simply ordered, "Suck."

 She obeyed, her moist eyes still staring up at him in awe and fear as she opened her mouth and craned her neck up to take him in. He groaned low when he felt his dick become enveloped in her warm, wet mouth. Her soft tongue worked to stroke him and her lips were wrapped firmly around his shaft without her hand to guide him in and out as she bobbed. Most pleasing to him, however, was just watching her take his dick. He doubted that he would ever come to lose his fascination with finally possessing his beloved daughter in every capacity; he was her family, her lover, her master, and eventually she would come to trust him as her confidant. In truth, she really didn't need anyone else but him and he thrilled at the idea of having her entirely to himself soon enough. His cock throbbed as he thought on this, already close to the edge, and he breathed out a rumbling sigh as his sack tensed in expected release.

 He pulled out of her mouth and fisted his cock, his strained groan closer to a beast's growl even to his own ears as he shot rope after rope onto his daughter's stunned face. He watched intently as his semen coated her lips, the thick white load dribbling toward her chin and he marveled at how her little pink tongue scooped it into her mouth. That sight, combined with his post-orgasm high, made his heart swell with overwhelming affection for her.

 "Oh, my sweet Simone," he breathed, carding his fingers through her mussed hair as he moved to lay flush to her side. She watched him, eyes hazy in the warm effect from her earlier orgasm but still carrying that ever-present fear and curiosity, as he gathered her up in an intimate embrace. He kissed her forehead, her cheeks, and then an extended kiss on her mouth that she leaned into. He smirked into their kiss at how she was always so greedy for his love and affection, just as he had designed her to be.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The late spring chill that slipped through the foggy single pane windows and withered insulation of the old house made Simone gravitate towards the warmth her father’s sleeping body seemed to endlessly supply. She’d tried to remain awake long enough for him to slip into a deeper sleep so she could sneak away, but the sedative still lingered in her system and she had drifted off beside him, waking either minutes or hours later to find herself molded to his side with her arm and leg slung over his torso. Her thoughts trickled in muffled and sluggish, her mind too numb to feel the myriad of emotions that drifted through her rising consciousness like phantoms. She couldn’t think about how she shouldn’t be sleeping next to her father, so she thought about how the bed wasn’t big enough for two people. She couldn’t think about how degraded she felt to have been choked and forced to orgasm, so she thought about how sore her throat was. She couldn’t think about how disgusted she was with herself for being so desperate for his approval as to lick up his semen, so she thought about how much she wanted to go brush her teeth to get that taste out of her mouth.

After a while of her thoughts still not becoming any less muddled, she let herself drift away from her mind and instead focused on her immediate surroundings. The sun seemed very far from rising still, but the light from the digital clock on the nightstand was somehow enough to paint the room in varying degrees of shadows. The time read 4:25 but she didn’t trust that to be correct. The slightly scratchy quilt covering them was far too thin for the night temperature, making any area not near Leif’s warm skin feel bitten by the chill. She tucked her face into the crook of his neck and hugged her body closer to his, savoring this contact that she could control and determine for once. His body hair tickled her chin and she indulged her impulse to run her fingers through the short downy hairs that spanned his chest and narrowed to a trail leading into his shorts. She admired the swells and dips of well-developed muscle that carved out his form. She nearly thought about how she came to know just how powerful he was firsthand but quickly pushed the thought and creeping fear aside. Her fingers wandered over the ridges of his serratus at the side of his chest before sliding up the firm hill of his left pectoral, laying her palm flat in the valley over his sternum. She watched how her hand rose and fell with the steady pace of his breathing in sleep, training her mind to remain quiet as her thoughts threatened to surface.

Her bleary gaze drifted towards his face, her head tilting back on the pillow they shared as she examined his features. His wide mouth had a slight downturn as neutral in sleep as he kept it in consciousness, but the slight crows feet around his eyes had relaxed and given him a less severe appearance. Even before the night they first fucked, seeming so long ago despite only being four days since, she had considered him to be perhaps too handsome for a father, often comparing him to the soft-bodied and dowdy dads of her friends and wondering with some sadness at why he was nothing like those kind and outgoing normal fathers. To her, he was more like a Greek statue in a museum than a parent; a figure of imposing masculinity, an impressive and impassive representation so prominent in her life but not one she could really interact with. She could coax him only from the sidelines; waving him over with good marks in school and achievements in her art, but his approval was always too short-lived and uninvolved, his affection so token and cursory. Except for those awkward chaste kisses.

Her eyes sharpened as the memory of all those odd kisses seemed to twist with the knowledge of how eager his lust seemed to be for her now. Her skin seemed to crawl wherever they were touching as she couldn’t suppress her wondering at just how long he had burned for her. She was aware that this dynamic hadn’t popped out of nowhere, that they wouldn’t have indulged in that initial night if neither had been wanting it on some level, but she didn’t want to consider it and she still didn’t want to even broach the subject. Too late, as her mind replayed every chaste brush of his lips over hers in the new light of what she couldn’t deny now. The way his mouth would linger after a few drinks until she could taste the alcohol on her own lips when he pulled away, what she had assumed was just sluggishness now obviously was him pushing the boundaries of propriety. The sly glance around to ensure that they were alone each time he pulled her close, what she had once assumed was his own embarrassment at having to display fatherly affection now clearly was his protection against getting caught.


Worse, the thought extended and she wondered how long she’d been harboring these awful feelings she had for her own father. Every observance of his handsomeness now seemed far less objective, every wandering thought of him sexually less the fault of rampant hormones, every moment of subtly displaying herself in a risqué pose or outfit to see how he’d react now no longer a simple curiosity of the male gaze. She squeezed her eyes shut against the worst thought as it dredged up from the deepest grave in her mind: the times she would fuck her much older boyfriends, roleplaying out a daddy-daughter fantasy. She hadn’t wanted to examine her desires then and having experienced the real thing seemed to only make her feel worse and more confused as she resisted the horrible suspicion that she had wanted this. The idea made her cringe, her stomach twisting into knots over the notion that she was so easily seduced by him because she had wanted this incestuous relationship with him all along.
The guilt and self-hatred choked her, the tightening in her sore throat and chest disabling her from breathing deep enough and she felt another panic attack coming on. She squeezed her eyes shut and focused on drawing slower breaths, willing her mind blank once more until her thoughts were filled with the self-soothing mantra of I’m fine I’m here I’m fine. Her eyes snapped open at being torn out of her mantra from his fingers grasping her shaking hand that she’d still had pressed to his chest. Her breath stopped altogether, caught in a tangle in her throat as she looked at his face. His pronounced cheekbones and brow cast shadows over his eyes and face in the darkness of the room, casting a ghastly visage of a skull over his features. Her heart pounded in her ears, the whooshing clamor of her blood rushing through her veins drowning out all other sound as her panic spiked. He rolled over on top of her, his weight crushing her into the mattress as he peered down at her from his black sockets and she realized that she actually couldn’t draw breath now.


Sto-op...” she wheezed, her lungs aching with the effort to expel enough breath to vocalize her plea. She couldn’t move anything below her neck with her arms and torso pinned under his, but her muscles fought almost involuntarily in her panic as her lungs began to burn with need. The pain and terror rapidly became overwhelming and her mouth gaped open, her chest convulsed as it tried to force out the air that wasn’t there to scream. His hands grasped her jaw, fingers hooking into her open mouth to her confusion until she realized she couldn’t close it. Black spots danced and spread in the corners of her vision and her hearing had begun to muffle to the point that her own pounding pulse sounded distant.


She watched, unable to make a sound or move as his face descended closer, his own mouth parting over hers. He latched his lips over her mouth and lifted off of her chest just slightly. She reflexively inhaled right as he pushed his breath into her, the heat of it filling her lungs and she fought to keep from coughing; her ability to sense that it would displease him present even when coherent thought was absent. He took his breath back when she exhaled, pushing it back into her when she breathed in. They traded breath like that for several turns, her desperation for oxygen not allowing her to think on the strangeness of it, until that darkness receded from the edges of her vision and she was able to abate her eagerness enough to breathe through her nose. She felt his mouth shift over hers, not recognizing that he was kissing her until his wet tongue pressed against hers, but she still couldn’t think through the thick fog of her mind to interpret the action emotionally. It took several more breaths before any thought or feeling beyond the instinct to survive presented.


When higher brain function restored, she broke down in tears and tried to turn away from his kiss. His hands, still at her jawline, brought her face back and held her in place as he kissed her. Her unresponsiveness didn’t deter him, nor did her hiccuping sobs as he kissed and licked at her mouth. In fact, he seemed to pursue her with even more vigor. Her fear of him, her shame of herself, and her sorrow at receiving this strange abuse coalesced into an overwhelming despair and she found that she couldn’t stop her sobbing fit. She jumped when she felt his hands slide down to wrap around her neck, her whole body began to shake and she was overcome with the need to please him to protect herself. Eagerly, she began kissing him back, not even thinking twice about it with those strong hands at her throat. Her movements were jittery and stiff but he purred in approval against her kiss. But then his hands tightened around her neck, his fingertips digging directly onto her carotid arteries. Almost instantly, darkness once more encroached from the edges of her vision. She barely had time to panic again before that darkness overtook her.

 




She woke with a startled gasp, panting deeply for breath and scrambling out of the bed so violently that she landed harshly on the floor. Wildly, she looked around, bewildered at finding herself alone with sunshine pouring in through the opened window. Her heart was racing and her fear and despair invited hot tears to run down her face as though she were still suffocating under him. Shakily, acting only on instinct, she crawled under the bed and hid in case he or anyone came in as she let her sobs take their course. She didn’t remember passing out, just being under him with her vision blacking out and the next moment she was alone and it was suddenly daytime. Her head was buzzing and felt as though it were painfully stuffed full of fluff, making the dark little space she hid in more welcoming than the overly bright room.


She became aware that she was drenched and a wave of mortification passed over her until she checked to find she was dripping head to toe in sweat. Confirming that she hadn’t regressed to peeing the bed was a small comfort. Her brow furrowed as suspicion crawled over her mind, confusion confounding her hysteria to a terrible stillness as a new worry crept in. She wondered, with growing certainty, if she hadn’t hallucinated her father suffocating her. A shudder rolled over her as she recalled the skull-like image of his face in the shadows. Her hands gripped the sides of her head, the pounding headache increasing as she tried to determine the truth but neither option was better than the other.


“He’s either a monster or…” she muttered to herself above the clamor of thoughts crowding her mind, “I’ve lost my mind more than I thought I have.”


She sniffed and swiped at her running nose, frustrated at the tears that wouldn’t stop. Her father, for all his rough handling of her and violent methods of discipline, hadn’t enacted harm to her without reason even if she often had difficulty determining that reason. That logic stuck in her mind, leaving her with the difficulty of accepting that she had hallucinated a monstrous image of her father suffocating her in the night.


“God, this is… I’m getting so much worse,” she murmured into her hands, rubbing her face and trying to clear that cloud of confusion. “I can’t lose it here, I’ve gotta get help. I can’t let myself lose control.”


Swallowing painfully, her throat dry and sore, she then took a deep calming breath and slid out of the narrow space under the bed. The sunlight was clear and bright, nearly mid morning by her guess, and she found her bags by the writing desk next to the door. With hands that shook from residual fear and physical weakness of having been deprived of food and water for over twelve hours now, she rooted around in her luggage to find it mostly emptied. Frowning, she went to the closet and sighed in irritation when she found her clothes hanging next to his. Her irritation spiked when it occurred to her that he had set her up to cohabit this room with him without even asking her.


His control and dominance over her during sex was something that, while disturbing, she could for the most part accept. But his controlling tendencies had been spreading outside of that realm and she was quickly becoming resentful of his presumptions and authority. More than that, however, she was angry at herself for always kowtowing to his demands and compulsively seeking his approval. She grabbed a pair of dark jeans and a low cut loose t-shirt, roughly yanking them off the hangers with the irate conviction she felt as she vowed to start standing up to him. Finding her underwear neatly folded in a row next to his boxer briefs in the top dresser drawer, she considered messing the whole drawer up but decided against it when the memory of his large hand spanking her ass black and blue came nearly unbidden to her mind.


She hastily buttoned her father’s dress shirt she’d worn last night, the bottom of it nearly reaching her knees, and tucked her clothes under her arm before leaving the room. The sounds of her uncles speaking lively to one another in rapid Norwegian echoed up from the dining room, her father’s deep voice among them and it spurred her to rush into the bathroom and lock the door behind her. Her hands carded roughly through her hair, tugging at the roots as she remembered with heavy embarrassment the way she had panicked and screamed at her uncle Anders and how she would have to apologize to him some point soon.


God, I’m such a fuck up,” she groaned, shoving the moment down and brushing her teeth using a glob of toothpaste on her finger. The knobs creaked and the old plumbing shuddered and clanked as the shower heated up, but she wasted no time and stood under the freezing flow as it slowly warmed. The cold helped clear some of that sensation of fluff crowding her brain, so she grit her teeth and hurriedly lathered her body. The thought of using a dead man’s bar of soap was unpleasant to her, but not as much as the salty film of drying sweat that had covered her entire body. Her toiletries were still in the downstairs shower, so she selected what she recognized as her father’s shampoo bottle. The familiar spicy and herbal fragrance stirred a confusing mixture of fear and arousal in her and she felt melancholy descend on her mood. While she still felt that familial warmth and drive to achieve his affection and approval, fear and arousal now overshadowed the way she had once thought of him.
She tilted her head forward as she let the water rinse out the shampoo, the slide of those suds over her sore breasts awakening her body. Her shame rose in tandem with her arousal but the rush of hormones buffered the pain in both her body and her emotions, so she pushed aside her self-hatred and focused on the warmth that filled her as she palmed her breasts. She tried to think of past exploits, of old boyfriends, of anything but her father but each time she imagined a scenario, it shifted back to him. Her cunt throbbed, slippery under her probing fingers as she pumped them inside, and she stopped trying not to think of him as she rubbed her clit with her other hand. His strong arms lifting her onto him like she weighed nothing, his rich voice whispering and moaning filthy and foreign words so close to her ear, his cock stretching her painfully and unmercifully…


Uhn, oh, fuck!” she groaned, trying to keep her voice quiet. Her fingers thrust as deep as she could reach, but it wasn’t enough. She bit her lip hard as she thought it, her shame crashing down on her in waves of powerful self-loathing, but she realized that she wanted her father. The weak defense she’d held onto of just wanting a good fuck was crumbling as she was forced to admit that she didn’t want just anyone to give it to her, but specifically and exclusively her father. She squeezed her eyes shut, forcing back her revulsion as she imagined him thrusting into her from behind in that shower: his large hands gripping her hips painfully, the wet slap of their thighs, the deep taboo of it all. She barely stifled her cry as she climaxed, the fluttering release pale in comparison to the powerful orgasms that he’d been forcing out of her, but it calmed her. After washing off the slick fluid from her thighs and crotch, she turned off the taps and wrapped a raggedy towel around her. Regret and revulsion charged into her mind, making her struggle to come up with excuses.


“He’s just good at sex,” she muttered to herself as she toweled off. “Of course I might think of him. That just makes sense. It’s not like I think of him that way because he’s my papa.”


Even though you came while focusing on how dirty it is to commit that sin? her mind supplied.


She shook her head, rubbing the ragged terrycloth through her hair as she responded in an angry whisper, “I can’t fully control what I think when I’m cumming. It’s just weird random hormone stuff.”


Just because you’re hot for him doesn’t make him any less your father.


“I know that!” she grumbled. She uncapped the men’s deodorant that was on the counter, immediately recognizing from the scent that it belonged to Leif, and begrudgingly applied it to her armpits. “I know that, but I never wanted… this. Any of this. I just wanted to be closer to him. As a family. I never…”


But you didn’t stop this.


“I tried! I told him no but-”


But you never wanted him to stop.


Simone shook her head, trying hard to focus on working the knots out of her hair, but that voice kept echoing in her mind. At first, it sounded like her voice, her usual internal narrative, but another, deeper sound spoke under it.


You’ve been hoping he’d snap and fuck you for years. Always dangling yourself in front of him, teasing and testing with your body and your slutty antics.


Shut up,” she growled, her grip on the brush handle tightening until her knuckles turned white. The voice shifted, no longer hers at all but now the gravelly whisper of her father.


Now he’s finally fed up from almost a decade of your mixed signals and you’ve got the nerve to claim the moral high ground? You’re nothing but a sick, depraved slut.


“Shut UP!” she yelled, squeezing her eyes shut and throwing the hairbrush in a fit of anger. The loud clatter made her gasp in surprise, eyes popping open to see a long crack in the fogged mirror. Her stomach felt like it dropped out of her. “Oh shit…”


Then, the sound of footsteps thumping hurriedly up the stairs made her heart feel as though it jumped up her throat. She threw the towel around her body, panic making her motions jerky as the doorknob rattled against the lock.

“Simone, are you all right?” her father’s voice asked through the door. “Open up for me, darling.”

Her hand shot out to the knob before she hesitated, looking back to the cracked mirror and grimacing. She wanted to at least get dressed before he saw that.

“I’ll be out in just a moment, Papa,” she called, moving from the door and hurriedly pulling on her panties.

“No, you should open the door now,” he said. She could hear the command and waning patience in his tone, but ignored it as she tried to rush in pulling her jeans up. Her skin was still damp and snagged on the material, irritatingly delaying the process. “Did you hear me, young lady?”

“Yes, I’m coming,” she said, trying to keep her voice from wavering. Her shaking hands couldn’t hook her bra, so she threw it off and just shoved her shirt on. She pulled her wet hair from under the collar as she swung open the door, attempting a smile that dropped from her face when she saw him. His eyes were narrowed, sharpening his gray gaze into steel as he frowned down at her and crowded her backward into the bathroom. She flinched when he shut the door behind them, a cold feeling spiking in her gut when she heard the sound of the lock clinking into place.

“Why did you disobey me, Simone?” he asked, his voice level in a way that screamed danger to her.

“I, uh, I didn’t, I just-” she stammered.

“You did disobey me. Now you’ve lied to me, too,” he interrupted. Her gaze dropped down, unable to look at the cold anger in his face, but his hand grabbed her chin and jerked her back up. “You will look at me when I address you. Now answer me.”

“Answer you?” she squeaked, brow screwed up in confusion.

He sneered, his wide mouth curling up to reveal a sharp incisor as he repeated, “Why did you disobey me?”

“I wasn’t dressed, I didn’t want-”

“Listen carefully,” Leif whispered, the venom in his tone making his words sound half growled as he leaned close to her and held her chin up uncomfortably. She tried to stand on tiptoe to lessen the tightness of his hold, but he squeezed her jaw painfully regardless. “When I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it. No excuses, no delaying. If you disobey, then that tells me you want to be taught a lesson. Do you want a lesson?”

“No,” she croaked, her throat tight with fear.

“Good. And this…” he whispered, his free hand clutching her crotch through her jeans. She grunted in both surprise and a bit of pain at the pressure of his grip, holding herself very still. “… is mine to see whenever I want to, not whenever you want me to. Do you understand?”

Anger riled up a flash of rebellion in her, but the claw-like grip of his hands at her jaw and her groin combined with the callous scowl set in his face squashed it down.

“Yes,” she managed to say. His features relaxed into his usual detached neutrality, but he still held her in that uncomfortable position. She shuddered as the memory of the skull-faced hallucination superimposed over him now, the pounding of her heartbeat getting louder in her ears with each stretched out second.

“Good girl,” he muttered, releasing her. She staggered back a step, her fingers gingerly pressing against where her jaw ached. “Why did you break this mirror?”

She swallowed thickly, looking up from her dazed stupor to see him staring at the large crack in the glass. She considered lying to him, telling him it was an accident to avoid punishment, but a more pressing matter gave her the resolve to say in a carefully measured but shaken tone, “I’m not well, Papa.”

He turned to her then and she waited, watching his face for any indication of his thoughts but, like always, he remained unreadable.

“You’re never going to be well,” he stated matter-of-factly, his tone stern with finality. She blinked, dumbfounded by his response, and he smiled dotingly at her. When he spoke again, his tone was friendly and warm. “Finish getting ready and come downstairs. Put on a nice dress and cover up those bruises. You’ll find your makeup in the desk in our bedroom. Let me show my brothers what a beautiful young woman I’ve created.”

Chapter Text

Simone sat at the writing desk in the -their bedroom, the cosmetics kit her mother had gifted her for Christmas laid out on the wood surface and a small mirror propped up against the wall already. Sunlight poured in from the window behind her, making it difficult to gauge her reflection so she turned on the small table lamp and moved it close to her. The person in that bright square of glass blinked back at her, but she couldn’t see the collection of features as her face. The grey irises flecked with blue and brown were his, floating behind a mask she did not recognize. She glanced at her tools, opening the color correction palette that was still sealed in shrink wrap and looked back at that mask. She put her cut-short art schooling to use in applying opposing colors to the long bruises that smudged along the neck; yellow over the purple and blue, purple over the yellow and green. Blot over with concealer, mask the concealer with a powder, and the bruises were gone. She lightly applied concealer to the dark crescents under the eyes and almost instantly, a happier and healthier girl appeared in the mirror. She felt even more detached from that person she was working on; this girl looked so much younger than she was, so pretty and human. This girl on the other side of the glass didn’t have fangs in her mouth and insanity in her eyes. The dark brown pencil gave those eyebrows a more playful arch than the threatening snarl that always furrowed hers. That light dusting of blush on creamy olive cheeks would look terrible on her gaunt and sharp face. The sweet-smelling swipe of plum-rose lipstick could never cover up the blood smeared on her mouth, but made those full and shapely lips look delicious. When she was done, the girl who looked back at her seemed familiar, like someone she hadn’t seen in years. Like someone she still hates.

She put the mirror down flat on the desk and ran a boar bristle brush through her hair over and over again until her snags turned to gentle silky waves of dark brown. Her mother’s hair, when she didn’t straighten it into newscaster layers of perfection. Islander brown hair from a beach so far away from Norway or Vermont. She wished, for the first time in her life, that she had islander brown eyes. She wished her mother had never slathered her so diligently with sunblock and yelled at her to stay in the shade wherever they went, chiding her for “ruining” her “pretty light skin”. She wanted to go lie in the sunlight until every pale drop of her father was burned out of her flesh.

She went to the closet and leafed through the clothes draped on the hangers. Her shirts and hoodies and dresses looked so small next to his suit jackets and dress shirts and vests, like children’s clothes. Her hands stopped searching when she found her short violet cocktail dress. She hadn’t packed that when they left Brooklyn. In fact, she hadn’t packed even half of these clothes. Her throat constricted with the knowledge that he and her mother really had brought her here to stay, that they really weren’t going to let her go home. She breathed in measured, slow breaths, feeling another panic attack down that line of thought and she could not lose control again. Not when he was expecting her. Not when he would come and find her.

Ignoring the tremor in her hands, she yanked out a yellow sundress with a sweetheart neckline. She stepped into it; the bodice clinging to her body and narrow waist but the flared skirt left her shapely hips and round buttocks nebulous. For once, she was pleased with her modest bosom. The effect of the dress made her look younger, more innocent. Her thighs, often the subject of catcalls, peeked out an unfortunate amount but she simply had no long dresses. Standing in front of the floor mirror, she parted her hair into pigtails for good measure, but quickly took them out when she decided that it made her look like a fetishized mockery of childishness. Instead, she pulled the top layer of hair back into a clip and let it all fall down her shoulders and back. She assessed the reflection and was satisfied. Church-goer. Honor student. A young lady, not a young woman. Maybe even just a girl, she decided, after adding a cardigan and rubbing off the lipstick. She stepped into patent leather white flats and tied a quaint little gold heart pendant necklace on, but removed it when she thought it brought too much attention to her aggravatingly elegant décolletage. She grinned wryly at the notion that she had never recognized her womanly beauty until seeking to disguise it. Before this, she had considered herself a scrawny art nerd who was still more of a punk kid than a woman by any means. She snorted back a laugh when it occurred to her that her father was the first man to make her feel beautiful in the worst way. She had to laugh or the tears that burned in her eyes and choked at her throat would spill out.

Straightening her back, she stood in front of the floor mirror, the sunlight pouring over her as she breathed with deliberate slowness. She’d already broken one mirror and gotten away without punishment. Yet, at least. Her neck ached as she remembered how he could hurt her without letting her scream in a house full of people. She clenched her fist, nails digging painfully into her palm as she suppressed that line of thought, willing her heart to calm once more. Another wry smile curled her mouth as she considered that maybe she wasn’t so debilitated by her mental instability if she could manage herself like this all the time. All she would have to do is stay in empty rooms and never think. Another deep breath, hand on her chest, her mantra I’m fine I’m here I’m fine rolling to block out the noise in her mind, and she stepped out of the room.

The house was quiet. Slowly, silently, she walked downstairs and drifted through the long hallway. The living room to her right was empty as she surveyed the dingy decades-old maroon leather furniture and worn oriental rugs. She turned into the kitchen and her heart skipped when she found her father standing at the counter, large ceramic knife in his hand and shirtsleeves rolled up his muscular forearms. He turned to her, putting the knife down on the cutting board next to the sliced oranges and wiping his hands on a rag as he looked her up and down.

“Very nice,” he drawled, and her illusions of appearing innocent and girlish evaporated under his heavy gaze. She felt the heat of a blush work its way up from her chest to her face and she bit her cheek to try and stop it. He beckoned her to come to him with a crook of his finger and she stepped up to him before she knew what her feet were doing. His hands, the zesty and sweet scent of fresh citrus floating around them, gently moved her hair away from her neck and shoulders as he searched for bruises. He smiled at her handiwork and she glowed under his approval, her eyes lingering on that wide mouth and sharp jawline. Her mind clawed at her to remind her to stay away, to remember how much he has hurt her, but she never could resist the gravitational pull of his good moods. Those hands came to rest on her shoulders, sliding down her back as he slowly pulled her closer, and she could almost physically feel her mind fog over when she stepped into his body heat. He held her in a gentle embrace, his front so warm against her, and they just stood in the kitchen that way. His thumb rubbing slowly on her lower back where his fingers were interlaced, her cheek laid against his sternum, her mind a warm buzz of nothing but pleasantness. This was the father she’d wanted all her life, this kind affection and protection. A dangerous thought sprouted in her, a horrible whisper of price.

He stepped away from her, the loss of his hold almost making her groan disappointedly before his hand was cupping her chin and tilting her up as he leaned down. Her eyes widened when he locked their lips together, that pleasant fog of her mind dissipating into static, that gentle warmth growing into pulsing heat with the slide of his tongue begging entrance into her mouth.

“No!” she said, pushing herself away from him quickly. She stepped backwards, shoulders hunching defensively as she hugged her body, words spilling out of her when she saw his expression switch from mild surprise to cold sternness. “We shouldn’t! Shouldn’t do… any of that.” He tilted his head, watching her with that detached curiosity that filled her gut with indescribable dread. She could almost feel the adrenaline dump into her system, making her clench her hands into her cardigan and she couldn’t stop moving so she paced. “I can’t- We can’t do that anymore. Okay? I can pretend it never happened- none of this ever happened- and we can be normal. I’ll never talk about it, I’ll never tell anyone- Ha! How could I ever tell anyone that I… I…”

“You what, Simone?” he asked, all cool and sinister poise that further unwound her already tenuous composure. He began to walk toward her, steps excruciatingly slow. Her mouth opened and closed, words jammed in her throat, and she felt that panic begin to spill out of her. “You begged for me to fuck you? You asked for me to hurt you? You orgasmed by my hand, mouth, and cock?”

She stood, feet frozen to the floor, as he stopped a few inches from her. His fingers carded into her hair at the base of her head, making her skin crawl and erupt into waves of goosebumps, and he yanked her back by the roots. She yelped in both pain and shock, her head craning backward and she was stumbling in her struggle to keep up as he dragged her into the hallway. He shoved her front against the wall hard, knocking a huff of air from her lungs and he planted her hands up on either side of her head.

“Don’t move,” he growled next to her ear. She could only whine like a wounded dog in response, thoughts racing until they jumbled together like so many train cars crashing over each other, squeezing her eyes shut as he kneeled down behind her. She felt him reach under her skirt and yank her panties all the way down, her feet stepping out of them automatically in her eagerness to not incite his aggression. Her heart was racing as fear pumped more adrenaline into her system, the acute stress response making her tremble enough to have her worry that her knees would give out, but she managed to spread her legs into a wide stance when he pulled her ankles apart and lifted the back of her skirt. Her mind wasn’t connecting any dots, just focused on what was becoming her new self-soothing mantra of submit survive submit survive, so she gave a small shout of surprise when she felt the wet slide of his tongue dragging up the back of her right thigh. She gasped harshly when his lick ended in a bite on the supple flesh of her asscheek, his sharp teeth sinking in enough to hurt but not break skin.

“Papa! Papa, please stop! Oh, please-” she gasped, her words cutting off into a high keen as he slid his tongue down the cleft of her ass. He groaned lewdly, his hands spreading her cheeks and kneading them in a near bruising grip as he pressed his tongue against her tight ring of muscle before angling her hips back and sliding his mouth further down. She couldn’t stop her moans, some mixture of instinct that her life depended on pleasing him and the raw carnal pleasure of the act keeping her vocal.

“You’re so wet already,” he said, his voice husky and deep, the rumble of it shooting shocks of pleasure right to her cunt. He kissed her pussy affectionately. “Your body is always a few steps ahead of you, darling girl. Don’t think about it so much.”

She cried out when he licked into her hole, his tongue darting in and out as his mouth enveloped her cunt. Her mind was noisy with static and the sound of her own wonton moaning as he tongue-fucked her, that wide mouth of his making her almost drool with how good it felt. She was still distractedly aware of his sharp teeth, those almost inhuman incisors occasionally scraping her in a way that made her tense with both fear and excitement. That spot where he bit her on her ass ached and she sobered slightly with the horror of realizing a part of her wanted him to hurt her pussy with those teeth.

A worry wormed its way past her lust and she had to focus to say between panting breaths, “Papa…-ahn!- your brothers… won’t they-?”

He removed his mouth long enough to say, “Backyard.” before pressing his tongue against her clit and making her moan high and tight. Her back arched, her hips rocking just slightly against his mouth and that tongue held hard right on her clit, and she was only vaguely aware of the pathetic mewling pouring from her. She was just on the edge, her cunt bearing down and tightening, her whole body tensing when he suddenly stood up and clapped his hand over her mouth before slamming his cock into her from behind. She screamed into his palm, the painful stretch of his forceful entry pushing her into an intense orgasm and she kept screaming as he pumped inch after inch into her pulsing cunt. Her knees did give out then, but he held her up against the wall and pushed her harshly into it with his punishing thrusts. Her eyes were rolling back into her head when he filled her entirely, his cock bumping her cervix with each rock of their hips, and she could feel her wetness dribbling down her legs already.

“Do you understand yet?” he asked, his voice ragged and strained as he fucked her. She could only moan against his hand in response, unsure if she could manage coherent words at the moment anyway. “We’ve moved beyond sins and morals, yet you persist in trying to hold onto what you’ve been told is right and wrong. You can’t resist your desires any more than you can resist mine… and you know what happens when you disobey my will, don’t you, my darling girl?”

He thrust into her particularly hard then, punctuating his point by making her wail in the pain that translated so oddly into pleasure. Her cunt fluttered around him, quickly approaching another climax at this pace, and she was nearly sobbing in need. He removed his hand from her mouth, wrapped it in her hair and pulled, bending her backwards painfully. She did come then, forcing herself to stifle her scream into a choked moan as her cunt spasmed around his cock. He groaned rough and low, pushing into her deep and she felt him jerk and spurt hotly against her cervix. Her pussy felt overly full as his cock swelled in her while he came, the ache and tingling sensation of being pumped full of his semen making her whimper.

She felt all at once sick, numb, and euphoric once he slid out of her, a gob of his semen crawling down her thigh. Her limp body sunk to the floor weakly without his support, but he picked her back up again, maneuvering her like she weighed nothing. She followed his direction without resistance, hanging her head to the side to avoid looking directly at him as he helped her step back into her panties. Despite having just been manhandled by him, his hands now seemed to burn wherever they merely brushed her legs as he slid her underwear up to mold wetly against her sloppy cunt. She shuddered when the cold material made contact with her sore and throbbing vagina. The silence in the house rang in her ears, making the slight sounds of him tucking his dress shirt back into his slacks and zipping his fly seem deafening. She wanted to curl up in a small dark space and hide forever, but she had to wait for him to dismiss her or leave. He wrenched her cardigan off her shoulders, the garment already askew and stretched out from where he’d grabbed at it, and she grimaced in effort not to jump away as he kneeled in front of her and used it to wipe off the fluids on her legs. It was heavy when he dropped it on the hardwood floor.

His hands pushed her shoulders back, gripped her chin and tipped it up slightly, straightening her neck. She only realized he was adjusting her posture when she caught the critical crease in his brow that she’d seen him so often have as he would look over sheets of architectural diagrams in his office room back home. The same solemn slant of his mouth that she knew she also wore when she concentrated on her art projects, according to her mother’s sidelong smirked observation. You’re definitely your father’s daughter, her mother would say, a contempt in her tone that Simone couldn’t understand then and understood for the wrong reasons now. Her mother’s words echoed in her mind, repeating louder and louder as time seemed to slow, his (her) gray eyes following the gentle swipe of his thumb as he smoothed out the trails of her tears from her cheeks.

When he shifted his gaze to hers, a question in the quirk of his brow, she realized with a start that she had said aloud, “I am your daughter.”

“You are,” he responded, his guardedly neutral tone doing nothing to put her stammering thoughts at ease. He ran his fingers through her long hair, smoothing out the slight mess he’d made of it from pulling and dragging her, as he said, “You are mine; that is never going to change. I’ve made you and I will continue making you. That is my duty to you as your father and I’ve always taken that very seriously. I will always take care of you. You must always obey me.”

She stared at him as he spoke, her gut heavy with dread at knowing his words held dangerous meaning for her but not knowing exactly how or why. Tears had welled in her eyes again, blurring his sharp features, and she bit her lip with the effort of keeping them at bay. His hands came to rest on her bare shoulders and her eyes fluttered shut when she felt his lips press against her forehead, two solitary tears escaping down her cheeks as she let out a shuddering sigh. She recalled a fuzzy memory of lying in her old bedroom, two or three apartments ago in Los Angeles, the pink stars from her nightlight illuminated against a popcorn ceiling, and her father placing this same kiss on her forehead once he tucked her into bed. The memory fled from her mind when his lips moved over her mouth, hot and open and wet to suck in and nip her lower lip with those sharp teeth. Her aching cunt churned his semen inside of her, another hot glob leaking into the wet gusset of her cotton panties, and her whole body tingled. She could taste herself on his mouth and she sighed again, this time a breathless sound that dredged up through a shiver in her spine. She opened her eyes to see him watching her face and shame fell over her heavily, drowning out the warmth that had still smoldered in the cradle of her pelvis.

His thumbs smoothed away her tears again, a slight smile softening his features as he said, “That’s a good girl. Now then, go say hello to your uncles outside.”

“But, wait- I-” she stammered, but he was already pushing her along with him into the kitchen.

“You look ravishing, dearest,” he interrupted, one hand placed firmly on her lower back as he thrust a platter of fruit in her hands. The scent of fresh cut oranges made her stomach twist into knots, but she clutched the platter in her shaking hands. She tried to swallow her throbbing heart back down into her chest as he led her through the back door, her hips feeling disjointed and making her steps awkward and loose. The sunlight blinded her for a moment when they stepped onto the grass, causing her to blink tightly without her hands free to shield her eyes from the light. When her vision adjusted, she found her father leading her across the uncut grass to three blonde men, each sprawled out on dingy lawn furniture. The largest one, a rounded bear of a man with a full beard, spotted them first and her stride froze mid-step when she saw him rise from the plastic chair. A spike of fear hit her deep in her gut as she took in just how huge he was as he walked toward them, a wide grin peeking out from under that blonde beard.

Se hvem det er! Baby Simone!” he called out, arms opening in the universal invitation for a hug.

To her terror, her father gingerly lifted the platter from her clutched hands and whispered to her, “That’s Henrik. Go hug him.”

She wasn’t given the option to go to him as Henrik scooped her up, her much smaller frame lifted against his meaty chest. She yelped in surprise at the sudden bear hug and also the dribble of semen being squeezed out of her by the motion, the squelch of wetness warm and threatening to overflow out of her soaked panties. Alarm quickly processed into action and she patted his back reluctantly.

“It’s so nice to see you again, uncle Henrik!” she rasped out, forcing her face into a smile she hoped would pass for something more authentic than a rictus grin. She tried to angle her hips away from him, but this proved difficult with her feet dangling a good eighteen inches from the ground.

Se på henne! Not as baby,” a lankier but just as tall man said as he came up behind Henrik.

She glanced back to her father and he thankfully supplied, “That’s Vidar.”

Henrik let her back down on her shaky feet, allowing Vidar to wrap his arms around her shoulders in an embrace that felt conservative after the full body hug. He kissed her cheeks in that European greeting that she could never quite get used to despite having spent the last five years in New York City and being confronted with it near daily.

Du ser så nydelig ut,” he drawled appreciatively to her as he stepped back and looked her over intently. Despite not knowing what he said, her cheeks heated in a blush at the way he blatantly leered and she could vaguely interpret the meaning.  Her fingers tensed into claws and her breath quickened, a feral feeling welling inside her, but her mouth still held her smile. She blinked, confused at her racing heart and the oddly comforting emotion falling over her mind. A bubbling, hot hatred moved in her at that glint in his eye. Before she could sink any further into that tempting sensation, a hand grabbed her arm from behind and she turned her head to see her father looking at her with a frightening glare.

His eyes were still fixed on her even as he growled out to Vidar, “Ikke vær ekkelt, motherfucker.” 

A flurry of motion from the corner of her eye caught her attention and she turned back to see Anders laughing and pushing a smirking Vidar away. She winced as she recalled the scene she’d caused in front of him early that morning, embarrassment eating up that feral sensation buzzing from the back of her brain. He turned to her, smiling as he wrapped one arm around her in a sideways hug that was thankfully far from the overly familiar manner in which his brothers handled her.  

“Oh, uncle Anders! I’m so sorry about this morning! I was just spooked, you know, I didn’t mean anything personally. Not like that’s an excuse, but I apologize,” she said in a rush, her cheeks burning in mortification now. She barely even recalled the incident; it seemed so far away now and half of it was lost to the drug haze her mind had been in, but she wanted to get the apology over with as soon as she could. When she shut her mouth, she looked up to his boyish face to see him smiling awkwardly, obviously uncomfortable as he scratched the back of his head and glanced around. 

Hun er lei meg for denne morgenen,” her father said to him, to which Anders barked out a short laugh and nodded. 

Anders faced her again and patted her head, saying, “Jeg er lei meg for å skremme deg, pen jente.” 

Leif stepped up behind his daughter, wrapping his arms around her middle and resting his chin atop her head as he explained, “He says that he’s sorry to have startled you. None of my brothers are adept at English, so don’t bother speaking to them.” 

“Oh…” she murmured, her smile faltering. She was surprised at how disappointed she felt by that. She’d been unsuccessful in finding her phone anywhere in the house and the satellite television had been shut off since before they’d arrived. She had no connection to the outside world and no one to talk with aside from her father, but he was hardly an option as she could barely handle her fear whenever he approached her. She never knew which version of the man she would encounter and the risk was too high just to fill the silence. She realized now just how deeply lonely she’d become if the loss of talking with near complete strangers who for all she knew were worse than Leif could depress her so thoroughly.  

Simone was dragged out of her melancholy almost literally as her father moved her to lay nestled against his side while he reclined on a long plastic chaise lounge. She blushed anew in fresh embarrassment at the length of her legs showing and the close proximity of him, the narrow space requiring that she press herself to his side in a position horrifyingly similar to the one she’d found herself in during that horrible night terror or hallucination from that morning. The memory stirred a cold, hard fear in her that she pushed down, her hand tightening into a fist in her father’s shirt. There were many things desperately wrong with her to the point that it was becoming difficult to think at all without being reminded, so she nuzzled against his shoulder and ignored the heavy feeling in her head as his arm snaked under her to pull her closer.

Chapter Text

You look so beautiful,” he heard Vidar say, the curl of his words lecherous enough to cut through language barriers even if his lingering stare and body language hadn’t told him everything he meant. Leif was already close enough to reach Simone, but he held back, curious to see her reaction. He saw the exact moment Vidar’s intentions struck her in the stiffening of her fingers and the squaring of her shoulders. He glanced to his brothers, but their friendly smiles had not faltered; there was no recognition at the change occurring in his daughter. Her shoulder and back muscles bunched and flexed, the tension in her body running high in that split second she changed. He’d never seen it, never actually witnessed this part of her even though he had expected to have been the target of it with each sexual encounter. Seeing it provoked so easily by a display so minimal assured what he had suspected: he would never be her target. The closest he’d come was from restraining her in the dark hours of that morning, but the moment she realized it was him, all the fight had left her. She swayed slightly, her body assuming a lower and more even stance, yet still no one registered what was coming. He longed to see her face, to know what burned in her eyes with this intriguing phenomenon, but instead he steeled his gaze and gripped her upper arm. Her muscles almost instantly relaxed into her usual tension of discomfort, that strange reaction leaking out of her as she turned to look at him, but he caught an edge of something truly strange in the glint of her eye before it fell upon him.

Don’t be disgusting, motherfucker,” he warned Vidar, not deigning to even look at him as he let his irritation bleed into his tone. Anders and Vidar burst into laughter at having finally gotten a rise out of their older brother and Leif reconsidered the situation. He scoffed at how the fools assumed his grab was for her benefit and not theirs, but this was exactly the opportunity to display himself as the doting overprotective father he had hoped to project. As his mind worked on how to best perform this, his daughter turned to Anders, all adorable fluster and meekness.

“Oh, uncle Anders! I’m so sorry about this morning!” she said, voice girlishly high in her unabashed nervousness. He considered stopping her to tell her that Anders couldn’t understand a word of this heartfelt apology, but he enjoyed watching him squirm awkwardly. “I was just spooked, you know, I didn’t mean anything personally. Not like that’s an excuse, but I apologize.”

Anders glanced to him for help, obviously eager to interact with his pretty little niece, and Leif considered letting him rot if not for her discomfort. “She’s sorry for this morning,” he relented.

Anders broke into a sudden laughter, placing his hand on the crown of her head in patronizing affection as he said, “I’m sorry I scared you, pretty girl.”

The overly familiar touch and compliment his brother bestowed on her was his cue to perform, so he handed off the fruit platter to Henrik and embraced his daughter from behind, trying to feign subtlety in the way he pulled her out from under Anders’ hand.

“He says that he’s sorry to have startled you. None of my brothers are adept at English, so don’t bother speaking to them,” he told her as he glared coolly at Anders. He nestled his chin atop her hair and indulged in a small victory when Anders' smile vanished upon glancing up at his cold expression. This close to her, however, he could smell how she’d used his shampoo and deodorant. Knowing that she was covered in his scents thrilled some basic primitive piece of him and when he had caught on to her wearing them as he’d hugged her in the kitchen, he simply had to fuck her until she was filled with his seed. The drive to claim her, again and again, was addictive and gratifying and knowing that she stood still dripping with him felt powerful. It was sudden and reckless, but she often inspired him to defy his better judgment.

With greetings out of the way, the men sauntered back to their seats, so he took Simone to lay with him on a chaise lounge ten feet from their congregation of filthy lawn chairs around a cooler full of cheap beer. He felt it was still too chilly outside for beer, but tradition dictated that they spend the entire first day together throwing them back, preferably until they passed out. So, for the sake of tradition and making the rest of the afternoon more tolerable, he grabbed what was to be his sixth can on his way. He caught their eyes following her as she climbed into the reclined seat with him, her soft little body fitting against his side perfectly as he laid back. He pulled her closer against him, letting her short skirt ride up her shapely legs further, and saw them purposely face anywhere but in their direction, their glances quick and low. His Simone was a sexually appealing young woman but without full awareness of her distracting attributes; the perfect bait to orchestrate the scenarios he required.

When do I get a turn to lay down with her, Leif?” Vidar jeered.

You’ll sooner find yourself lying in a casket, dipshit,” Leif answered, cracking open the tab on his beer one-handed. His brothers erupted into laughter to which he sneered openly.

She must be, what? 155 centimeters tall? I would bet that 100 of those are all leg,” Henrik mused. “God damn, look at them! If I weren’t her uncle…”

You’d get your dick cut off,” Leif groused. He took a long draw of the beer as they whooped in laughter, the cheap domestic lacking any bite and allowing him to easily drink deeply.

“What are you talking about, Dad?” Simone whispered.

“Nothing important, sweetheart,” he smiled down at her.

You can’t find an ass like that in Norway,” Vidar observed, gesturing with his beer to Henrik who nodded in agreement.

Before Leif could quip back, Anders reached over and slapped the back of Vidar’s head, scolding, “That’s your niece, shit head.”

“Ow! Fuck, dickwad, it’s not like she can understand us,” Vidar complained, rubbing his head while Henrik laughed at him.

However, I can understand you,” Leif growled. “And I’d thank you not to eye-fuck my little girl.”

Little she may be, but girl? No. Those hips are all woman,” Henrik smirked, waggling his eyebrows for effect.

You want to go into the ground with father this weekend?” Leif asked. Henrik bellowed and slapped his knee.

You know what they say about the crazy ones?” Vidar grinned.

Rot with the devil,” Leif frowned, though he was glad that the subject of her mental instability was brought up. He reminded himself not to press the topic, not to seem too eager to paint her as debilitated.

Too far, you insensitive pig,” Anders scolded. Leif felt his brow twitch at how defensive his baby brother seemed toward Simone, his mind working on how he differed from the instigative crudeness of his brothers.

Vidar laughed, saying, “What? There might as well be some benefit to being insane!”

Keep saying that shit and I’ll make certain you’ll never experience that benefit with anyone,” Leif said coolly.

Sorry, sorry, just joking around, Leif,” he apologized, his hands thrown up in mock surrender, but then he grinned, “They say that they fuck like animals.”

Go fuck a meat grinder,” Anders snapped.

Weren’t you just describing her vagina, Anders?” Henrik asked, his voice bubbling with barely contained laughter.

What was that?” Leif growled, though he was quite aware of the full view his brother had gotten in the early hours of that morning when she was cowering on the floor in front of him. Still, he was curious to see how his baby brother would handle this. His hand unconsciously gripped her hip, but he didn’t miss the way she exhaled in a sharp huff.

Anders blushed furiously, his eyes wide and nervous as he ran a hand over his face and explained in a rushed voice, “It was an accident! When she got scared and fell over, her shirt, it just- I didn’t mean to look, but-

“Anders,” Leif interrupted, but his brother kept rambling. The younger man was too apologetic, too flustered by the incident in a way that rubbed Leif the wrong way. Leif needed to guide the conversation into more casual territory.

“- She was right in front of me and I just happened to see it. It was only for a moment! I didn’t even really get a good look-

“Anders!” Leif barked.

Anders finally stopped, looking at him and simply asking, “What?”

Leif frowned deeply at him, watching as his brother’s blue eyes stared in wide-eyed misery, waiting for his punishment. “How did you describe it?

What!” Anders shouted while Vidar and Henrik burst into raucous laughter.

Leif tuned them out as they traded insults, turning his attention to the girl who they both had and hadn’t identified as his weakness. He could feel that unbidden surge of affection well in him as he observed the tears that clumped her dark eyelashes damply and the slightly swollen redness of her lips from having been bitten and abused. The arm he had underneath her pulled her up and rolled her until she was laying halfway on top of him, the light pressure of her small form shivering when she settled against his chest and straddled his leg. Holding her to him with one arm wrapped around her waist and the other now stroking her thigh, he knew what it looked like. He wondered how much he could get away with in plain sight, how much he could defend touching her this intimately right in front of everyone with “just being that cuddly kind of dad”. Even better, knowing that the more he did it, the less anyone would question it. He needed feedback from this test audience though and being a few beers in provided him a decent enough escape should it fail.

“Dad…?” she whispered, her voice tight with uneasiness and worry about their position even as her breathing deepened.

“Hush, darling,” he cooed back, giving her thigh a brief squeeze and a chaste kiss atop her head. He could see in his peripheral the way his brothers were staring, the awkward silence that had stalled their obnoxious ribbing. “You can relax, I won’t hurt you. I know you crave positive physical contact, so don’t be shy; go on and touch me however you please.”

“But… they’re watching…” she whispered lower. There was a breathlessness in her voice that didn’t match her hesitance and he smirked at how insatiable she was. In reply, he took her hand and interlaced their fingers above his chest, felt her sharp little intake of breath as his thumb slowly circled her palm. He nearly chuckled at how responsive she was; she was always so easy to react, it was as though her mind and body were a switchboard he could play with endlessly. Her hunger for his attention and affection never failed and she began to caress his hand back, hesitant little exploring touches that traced his fingers and knuckles like she wanted to memorize them. He glanced at his brothers, seeing Vidar and Henrik trying not to look and forcing a light conversation between them, but Anders was staring right at Simone.

A tinge of jealousy sparked in Leif, a dark possessiveness that made him want to sink his teeth into her breast right in front of his youngest brother, and he identified his uneasiness of the younger man’s defense of the girl from earlier: Anders was uncomfortable with Simone as a sexual being. That discomfort was far more dangerous than the easy objectification their brothers insincerely participated in; that discomfort was a reaction to something internal. Judging by the way he watched her hand move, Leif felt a curl of disgust at what he knew that internal conflict might be.

The hypocrisy wasn’t lost on him. He was repulsed at the idea of Anders harboring incestuous impulses towards his own niece. Objectively, that was far less uncouth than what he himself was actually doing. He held no illusions to his sins; he was fucking his only child. In fact, he was reveling in the thrill of taking the purity and wholesomeness of family and twisting it into something depraved and wretched. The guilt he felt at first was minimal compared to the jubilation of coming to thoroughly own every part of his Simone. But that was him and Anders was someone else, someone who existed within the constraints and rules of society, so the thought of him getting hard over his own flesh and blood niece made Leif sick.

You want to just take a picture, Anders?” he asked flatly.

The young man startled, eyes snapping away and shoulders shrugging uncomfortably, but it was Henrik who spoke. “You’re full of shit, you know that?” he laughed, tilting back almost dangerously in his seat. “You only want to show off, like you always do.

Hey. Do you remember when Henrik got us kicked out of that bar in Paris?” Vidar’s slurred question popped seemingly out of nowhere.

I remember the look on the barkeep’s face when you took that sword off the wall,” Leif grinned, to which Henrik bellowed and finally tipped out of the flimsy lawn chair. The brothers erupted into another laughing fit and Leif couldn’t stop the chuckle that shook his chest, Simone looking up at him from her daze. She seemed astonished by his laughter and he wanted to kiss her awe-slackened mouth, barely stopping himself from sitting up to do so. He tilted his head back, resigning himself to the possibility that he was a bit tipsy and had to guard his inhibitions more.

That’s not as bad as when you got us kicked out of that brothel,” Anders laughed.

God, I thought we were going to get killed for that!” Vidar exclaimed. “What the devil did you even do to that whore, Leif?”

Leif chuckled, his voice husky in a way he hoped passed for either jokingly coquettish or drunk, "She offered to do anything I wanted and then she disagreed with what I wanted.”

Come off it, you sick bastard,” Henrik groused. “Not a lot was off the menu in there, so what did you do that got us yanked out?”

Leif shrugged, looked down at his daughter’s upturned face and smiled warmly at her as he said, “I made her bleed.”

You’re a fucking serial killer,” Henrik announced, his eyebrows raised high in astonishment.

Fuck, Leif, no wonder your wife divorced you,” Anders laughed.

Wait, Lisa’s not in some shallow grave around here, is she?” Vidar joked, looking around theatrically.

No, it’s just Simone and I from now on,” Leif smiled. His hand, free from her exploring fingers as she’d moved onto tracing his collarbone under the unbuttoned top of his shirt in ways that made his groin stir, patted her bare shoulder in a hearty fatherly gesture.

That’s pretty rough, brother,” Anders said, all laughter gone from him now. He took a deep drink from his can before continuing, “Do you think she’ll ever be normal again?”

She wasn’t exactly normal to begin with,” Leif answered, trying not to let his irritation of his younger brother’s sincerity show.

She’s got to go off on her own at some point, though,” Anders pressed. “She’s got her whole life ahead of her.

I’ll never let her go,” Leif said. “I don’t expect you to understand, but having my little girl need me is one of those things a father loves most, even if it means she’ll need me for the rest of my life.

He felt something tighten in his chest as he spoke, some derelict piece of him that ached with the truth of his words even as he said them just to enforce his image as a doting father. He shrugged it off, telling himself it was the alcohol making him sentimental, and reminded himself that she was full of his semen and sore from his cock as he had said that sappy bullshit. He reminded himself that it turned him on and that he would fuck her again that night in the bed they now shared, whether she wanted it or not. He told himself that he loved making her cry. He had no right to feel guilt at this point.

Well that’s just fucking precious, papa bear. I think I’m going to vomit,” Vidar sneered sarcastically, making the brothers laugh and the subject changed.

Chapter Text

Simone wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but at some point into what she guessed was the second hour, she knew that she could stay like this forever. The leaves from the canopy of branches above them seemed to glow green from the backlight of the bright early afternoon sun and they rustled in the breeze with a soothing sound reminiscent of the ocean’s waves. The temperature was a bit chilly, but it made the radiant warmth of her father’s skin all the more pleasant to feel. She was sprawled mostly on top of him, his large solid body comfortably positioned beneath her in tantalizing closeness. With her head resting on his chest, she listened to the steady beat of his heart and breathing and felt the deep rumble of his rough, rich voice whenever he would speak. She spent most of the time with her eyes closed, just listening to his body and enjoying the sensation of floating away into nothingness until there was just the sound of his heart pumping hot blood around her. Occasionally he would catch a can of beer one of his brothers would toss him or readjust their position, but otherwise she was allowed to just drift in the calm of his embrace. At first, she was so unaccustomed to his gentleness that she tensed at each stroke, anticipating that deceptive kindness to give way to pain at any moment, but the pain didn’t come. It was all sweetness without cost and, eventually coming to trust that, she relaxed and accepted this affection. After being encouraged to touch him back, she greedily indulged, running her hands wherever they wanted. She could hardly believe he was letting her just feel him and she quickly lost any self consciousness at her uncles’ stares. Every ridge of bone and swell of muscle felt like a fresh discovery under her wandering fingers. Her mouth had twitched in a desire to participate, to taste and feel with her sensitive lips in chaste and childlike curiosity, but he had not given her permission and she did not want to risk asking. She was worried that the spell would be broken by any intrusion, so she soon limited her sounds to sighs and soft moans whenever his strong hands smoothed over her tender areas.

Eventually, he moved under her and she groaned in disappointment as he sat up and asked his brothers something. Their Norwegian was just beautiful noise to her ears, but Vidar must have said something that rankled Leif as he spat out a short reply and moved to stand. He took her hand and she slid out of the chaise lounge, her body relaxed to the point that her joints felt like they were made out of jelly and rubber. Her feet seemed to float as they made their way through the overgrown lawn, the long stalks scratching at her calves, but she paid no mind to it as they intertwined their fingers and her heart swelled. He wavered as he stepped up onto the back porch; an affect of the multitude of beers he’d ingested, she figured. Her mind unclouded bit by bit with each step into the house but she clung to her dreamlike state as much as she could, her entire body feeling so light and tingly still. When they passed her cardigan rumpled into a ball on the floor in the hallway, she swallowed in her suddenly dry mouth, her throat scraping like sandpaper with the reflex. He seemed to still be in a relaxed, almost sleepy mood however, his pace languid as he walked more slowly to accommodate her shorter stride and the line of his broad shoulders slack without his usual confident posture. He seemed, she realized with an unnameable hollowness in her chest, older, nearly weakened. To her, he had always seemed outside of age, always the form of masculine vigor with a power in him that seemed eternally unaffected by the exhaustion and malcontent that affected men even half his age. But as he gently directed her to sit in the overstuffed leather sofa in the living room, one shaking hand on her shoulder, he seemed beyond his 42 years.

“Stay. I won’t be long,” he said, his words warped by the stronger presence of his accent. She could only nod in response, not trusting her sore throat to cooperate. She watched as he retreated back into the hall, his tall and muscular frame seeming too large in the confines of the old house. Simone pressed her palm to her sternum, brow furrowed in puzzlement as she tried to place this almost physical emotion. She recalled that the psychologist she’d visited after her incident had given her a checklist to go through whenever she couldn’t identify what she felt, but that list was most likely still in her nightstand in Brooklyn. The reminder of her lack of control over her own life brought an unpleasant mix of self pity and betrayal alongside that hollowness, funneling into the well of anxiety that constantly threatened to overflow. Breathing deeply, she forced her feelings back down, willing herself to calm before they overtook her.

“Don’t think about it. There’s nothing you can do right now,” she whispered to herself under her breath, digging the heels of her palms into her eyes and curling her legs to her chest. Her white shoes clattered to the oriental rug and she perched her bare feet on the plush leather of the sofa, letting her forehead rest on her knees as she focused on the sound of her slow breaths. When the clamor of emotions waned, she noticed a ticking sound and looked around the decorated room. Too quiet to be a clock, it took her a moment to hone in on the slight sound until she traced it to the fireplace mantel. Curious and looking for a distraction, she rose from the sofa and walked toward it. There, on the ornately molded stone surface, was a wristwatch. She picked it up, examining the tiny cogs on the face of it under the hands, the slight constant movement of it reminding her of a trapped insect’s flailing legs. The mental image of a bug-powered watch made her smile.

“That’s Bjørn’s watch,” Leif’s gravelly voice said from behind her. She cringed in surprise, clutching the watch to her chest defensively as she whirled around to find him looming behind her. The sudden thumping of her heart jammed in her throat and she swallowed hard to clear it, willing herself to calm once more as he spoke on, unperturbed by her usual jumpiness. “My uncle. He and my father came to this country to oversee the US branch of our architecture firm. They gave him that watch for working with them for 45 years.”

She nearly gaped at this wealth of information he volunteered, her curiosity making her fear more easily ignorable as she looked more intently at the watch. She turned it over, seeing an inscription written in Norwegian on the back. While she couldn’t read it, she was able to make out the number 45 and Bjørn Valstad.

He stepped closer to her and she could feel his body heat rolling off of him as he looked at the watch from over her shoulder, saying, “He was an odd man. Mostly kept to the drawings while Einar – my father – handled the social aspects of the business. He would have liked you.”

“Did grandpa get a watch too?” she asked.

“He did. I let Henrik have it,” he answered disinterestedly. He reached over her, his arms coming up on either side of her and she froze at the loose embrace, but he only took the watch and slipped it over her hand. He chuckled a bit when he latched it on her wrist, the click of the clasp sending a shiver up her spine. “Well look at that. A little big, but it fits. Bjørn was a very thin man.”

She examined the worn brown leather straps, feeling bashful at wearing something so personal to a man she’d never met. Leif’s cheek pressed against her temple and she felt her face flush as he gingerly turned her wrist to examine the watch himself.

His voice was quiet even as he spoke so close to her ear, “There’s a lot of similarities between you and him, you know. He had amazing artistic talent and kept to himself, but he wore his heart on his sleeve – even when he didn’t want to. Hmph. I guess that’s why he never liked people so much. Here, let me show you…” His fingers clutched the sides of the watch, his nail carefully pulling out a tiny knob at the side. She watched his hands work as he spoke. “You have to keep mechanical watches like this wound. So, every day, you pull out the crown and twist it like so… until it resists. Then, you just push the crown back in. There’s no battery in it; it depends on you to keep it working. This timepiece probably hadn’t ticked in six years but it started up again like always after I wound it.”

“No battery… it just works without any kind of power?” she asked, unable to mask her astonishment at the little machine on her arm.

“Only the power you give it,” he answered. She smiled, admiring the timepiece for a moment longer, then moved to take it off. He put his hand over hers, stopping her and said, “I want you to have it. You have to keep it wound though, understand?”

“Oh, I- uh… Yes,” she stammered. A bright happiness flooded her, making her blush deepen, and she said more firmly, “I understand. I’ll take care of it, Papa.”

“I know you will,” he whispered. She turned her head toward him, seeing him watching her with a warm smile she rarely ever witnessed on his face, and his hands slid from their light hold on her wrist to gently cup her cheek and shoulder. For a long moment, they just stood together, her torso and neck twisted to look up at him as he leaned down close behind her. Then, he bent down further, his lips pressing tenderly to hers.

Her heart fluttered at the contact, a curious electricity in the kiss that was new to her, and she found herself closing her eyes and leaning into it. The languid tilt of his head slid their lips over each other’s, his mouth soft on hers as he latched them together with an outward pout that parted both of them open slightly. The slow and gentle pace they set was so different from how he would usually force her mouth open and all but devour her; she was quickly rediscovering that tingly floating feeling from cuddling on him earlier. It struck her as extremely peculiar that his touch could be her greatest source of pain and fear and yet at times extract such comfort and elation. This reminder of the complex and overwhelming power he held over her gave her another feeling she wished she could consult her chart about, but for now she allowed herself to bask unthinkingly in the sweet warmth of the moment. When she felt him dip his tongue at the wet center of her pucker, she whimpered a bit at the chills racing pleasantly down her spine and slipped her own tongue past his. The low, gruff groan he hummed at this made her chest ache with pleasure, her head swimming in a rush that reminded her of being caught in an undertow. She let herself get dragged down into the depth of that sensation, chasing the taste of him just below the alcohol as they enjoyed the push and pull of their lips and the caresses of their tongues. His fingers slid into her hair, making her tense reflexively in fear he would grab and pull, her scalp still sore from his rough treatment not even four hours prior. However, his long fingers only massaged against her scalp, relaxing her and she let herself moan softly into his mouth at the sensual contact.

Slowly, he pulled away from her, the loss of his kiss making her open her eyes to see him just looking at her face. Her mind sluggish in its dreamy fog, she could only stare back, a mild curiosity sprouting in her at the strange furrow in his brow and almost pained look in his eyes. His nearly mournful expression also sprouted a dull, heavy ache around her heart that seemed to squeeze her lungs and flutter in her belly.

“Simone…” he murmured, his voice almost hoarse in how husky and low it was. Her eyes focused on his as they flitted distractedly about her face, the strange emotion boiling within her as she waited for him to continue. His lips parted as though he were thinking of how to phrase his thoughts and it took him a moment before he drew in a short breath and said, “People… experience neurological changes when they become parents. Humans are biologically triggered to react in certain ways from the moment our children take root in the womb. Not just mothers, but fathers experience a hormonal shift as well. I am no exception.”

Simone was used to his accent becoming much thicker and his voice becoming much more gravelly when he drank, so she couldn’t blame her bewilderment on mishearing him. He locked eyes with her, gray on gray, and held her gaze as he continued.

“I am still no exception. I’m not going to claim that I’ve ever been a good father to you; I know I haven’t been. But… I’ve always felt like your father. Always. Even now… No, especially now. So don’t pretend that you’re not my daughter. Do you understand?” he said, his fingers gripping the roots of her hair tighter as his tone became firmer with his words.

“Yes, Papa,” she answered, trying once more to physically swallow her rising nervousness down her sore throat. “I can’t pretend that we aren’t… who we are. But…” She couldn’t hold his stare as she continued, focusing her vision on the fringe of hair that hung over his temple, loosed from his usual combed back style in an uncharacteristic display of dishevelment. “I can’t understand, if you still want to be my father, how… how can you…” Her voice was shaking, instinct screaming for her to stop this line of questioning, but she’d been burning with the need to know since she’d slid out of her psilocybin haze that first night. “How can you fuck me and still consider yourself my father?”

The silence and stillness that followed her whispered question was deafening. She couldn’t look away from that lock of silver and dark blonde, too afraid of what she would see in his expression as she could feel his stare baring down on her. The skin on her scalp crawled where his hands were sunken into her thick hair, her breath catching as she tried to breathe calmly through her nose but the anticipation of pain had her on edge.

“Because you are mine,” he finally said. Her eyes snapped back to his then, seeing his familiar impassive mask in place but a constrained heat detectable in the sharpness of his gaze. She couldn’t help the tremor in her body that shook her deepening breaths, feeling suddenly like a mouse hypnotized into stillness by a serpent’s glare. He leaned down closer once more, his lips brushing against hers as he whispered, “In every way, you belong to me and I will use you as I see fit. There are no rules, no laws, no morals here to prevent me from taking what’s mine and I will never… ever… let you go.”

His lips sealed over hers in a wet, dominating kiss nothing like the sweet and gentle ones before, making her cry of surprise sound like a desperate whimper against his mouth. His teeth nipped at her lower lip as he pulled away, the sharp pain making her wince and grunt and he chuckled at her mirthlessly.

“You fill your role so well, darling girl,” he grinned, rubbing his nose against hers in a cruel mockery of fatherly affection. She kept her eyes scrunched shut, her body tense in preparation for whatever he might do to her as his hands slid down her neck and chest to roughly cup her breasts while he said, “You’ve been wondering how I could be so amorous to my own daughter, but what about you?” She gasped as he kneaded the sensitive flesh, rolling her hardened nipples under his palms. Every nerve in her body was electrified by this contact in both fear and arousal, those two feelings so closely linked in her now that she wasn’t sure which it was she was panting from. “You’re so sensitive, so reactive to my touch and so eager to please me. Think about it: you’ve always been mine.”

“That’s… It wasn’t like that…” she stammered, her voice tight. Her head ached, overwhelmed by a maelstrom of blurred thoughts and panic as he spoke, and she grit her teeth against it but he kept speaking and fondling her breasts almost painfully.

“When you strip away everything society has told you, everything you believe what we should be, what is it that you really feel?” he asked. There was a maniacal edge to his tone that frightened her more than the anticipation of agony, but her mind heeded his demand even as she railed against the suggestion. That insistent curiosity rose above her own self preservation, wondering at that horrible fluttering fullness that ached in her when they kissed.

“What I really feel?” she breathed, the answer just at the tip of her mind and she shuddered in terrible aversion to it.

“Yes,” he hissed, his breath hot against her mouth. When her mind hit the white hot truth to the question, she blanched, twisting away from him and taking a few stumbling steps before collapsing into a well-worn armchair. Her shaking hands pressed against her face as she curled into herself, a sob wrestling its way out of her despite her efforts to suppress them.

“I’m just confused! I… I don’t know what to feel, what to think and I…” she panted, groaning in frustration at her weakness and ineptitude at processing her own thoughts. “I can’t think right! I feel insane because I am insane, Papa. What I feel… it isn’t ever going to be right, so it doesn’t matter.”

His hands grabbed her shoulders and she startled, not having heard his approach. Her head shot up, seeing him kneeling in front of her, and she felt herself frozen under his glare once more.

“What is it in your heart that you revile so?” he asked, his softer tone mismatching the ferocity in his eyes. Her jaw clenched and unclenched, her words jamming together unspoken while hot tears spilled down her cheeks.

Her mouth opened, no sound coming out of her locked throat for a moment until she managed to whisper, “I am not well. I’m sick. There’s so much wrong and I’m just confused and so fucked up because I can’t be… can’t be… I’m not okay with this."

“Say it aloud, Simone,” he said as he jostled her a bit by her shoulders, her hair falling over her face in soft brown waves that obscured her view of him. She sniffed back her tears, shaking her head and wrapping her arms tight around her cramping stomach. He leaned in closer and commanded firmly, “Tell me what is in you that frightens you so.”

Her voice was high and tight, almost a squeak as she kept shaking her head and said, “Dad, don’t make me-”

“Say it!” he growled.

She hung her head, hiding her burning face behind her veil of hair as she whispered, “I just… I can’t help it, when we start… touching… I just need it. God, I need help, Papa. I don’t want to be like this. What we’ve been doing is fucking me up and I-I am so confused, I… It feels like I’m… in love with you, but…” She broke into a nervous laugh, her hands pausing their wringing to wipe her tears before she babbled on. “That’s impossible. We’re just having sex, right? The kissing, the touching, the… pain, it’s all just for fucking, right? We’re going through something really weird and we’re fucking it out of our systems or something because why not? Why not fuck each other? Isn’t that what this is? I’m just getting my wires crossed because I’m crazy and of course I love you, you’re my dad! But in love, heh, that’s… I-I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have even said it, it’s-”

“No,” he interrupted.

She paused, thrown off by his response, and hesitantly asked, “What… do you mean, ‘no’?”

“No, we are not ‘just having sex’,” he explained. She glanced up at him, confusion overriding her trepidation for now, and gaped as he went on. “We’ve taken our relationship to a level more befitting our natural dynamic; one which enables us access to our carnal urges, but our intimacy is not limited to merely the physical. The intercourse we share is also an expression and outlet for many things, including love. You’re in love with me because that is the nature of our relationship.”

Her stomach turned and the edges of her vision blurred. For a moment, she thought she was going to be sick, but once it passed she was left with a cold hollow in her belly that rapidly began to fill with shame and dread. Her eyes glanced around the room, not really seeing anything as she focused inward, trying to calm herself while also trying to process the full weight of his words. She quickly found that she could not do both at once.

Still, she couldn’t stop herself from asking, “And you… Are you… in love with me?”

Leif’s hands slid off her shoulders to wrap his arms around her in a hug, pressing her hunched and quaking form against his broad chest and laying his cheek upon her head. She squeezed her eyes shut once more, burrowing into the comfort his warmth and strength exuded. Every compassion he bestowed on her could be so fleeting, she couldn’t waste any kindness he might offer even as she still trembled in fear of his cruelty.

When he spoke, his voice was warm and rich in the deep rumble of his chest against her ear, “My sweet, darling girl, you have no idea what you do to me. No one will ever love you as much as I do. I promise.”

She pressed her face against his chest and allowed a quiet sob to shake its way out of her, helplessness and confusion overtaking any will to argue against how wrong she knew all of this was. The stress of the last four days was breaking her down and she hated how easily she crumbled, but she was merely too exhausted to confront her situation so she let herself weep in the arms of the man who had brought her so much anguish and confusion. His hands gently rubbed her back, his voice softly hushed and murmured meaningless words of comfort into her hair, and he let her weep against him until she found a stretch of numbness inside her to retreat into. The draw to feel nothing rather than the amorphous miasma of jumbled emotions and thoughts was so strong, but her mind churned with shame and anxiety even as she sunk from distress into a fog of depression. Once her sobs receded and she leaned boneless against him, he kissed the top of her head and gathered her limp body in his arms. She never felt smaller or weaker than that moment as he carried her upstairs, her arms hanging loosely around his neck and face buried in his shoulder.

There was no anticipation or regard in her for where he was taking her, no concern for the way he locked the door behind them in their bedroom, no thought to how he laid her down on the bed and peeled off her clothing. She stared up at the ceiling as she was aware of the wet pressure of his mouth on her breast, the sting of his saliva against the wounds there registering only as pain without the usual panic. She closed her eyes and breathed slowly, the sting fading into numbness. She could only feel the pressure of his teeth tearing into her, tugging her skin open with force that slid her prone body with his motions. There was no pain though she could feel her hot blood running down her side, pooling into the crook of her armpit and soaking the bedding below her. The sound of her ripping flesh seemed distant, the feel of his fingers crowding around her ribs and prying the bones apart only registering as an uncomfortable adjustment. The pressure in her chest when he fit his hands in through the hole he’d dug was unpleasant, making her open her eyes to look up at the mess of bright scarlet splattered all over his white dress shirt. His mouth was dripping with it as he bared his stained teeth in the effort and concentration he was putting into rooting around in her chest cavity. Her eyes trailed down his wet sleeves to where his hands were submerged in her up to his wrists and she noticed with curiosity that he was stuffing something inside. She craned her neck to try to see what it was but slammed it backwards hard into the mattress when all at once she was blinded by the immense pain that flooded her. Through the world that was her agony, she could hear someone screaming. Then, another voice floated into her awareness below those screams.

“-mone! Simone! Simone! Slutte å skrike!”

Her eyes popped open and she shot up, flailing against the figure who was shaking her by the shoulders. Her hands automatically gripped her chest to cover the hole and staunch the bleeding, only to clutch at the material of her dress and find the wound missing. Bewilderment now accompanied her mad panic as she looked down at herself to see no blood and find herself still clothed.

What- what- what-” she panted, her hands searching her body, feeding her assurance that she was so undeniably unwounded. She noticed then that, aside from the pounding of her heart and the burn of her throat, the pain was missing as well. Bafflement overtook her panic and she gained enough self control to look up and see her uncle Anders watching her, his blue eyes wide and shocked as he kneeled on the bed and watched her warily.

“You are… good?” he asked, his English coming out slow and stilted, barely discernible in his thick accent. She stared at him, still panting, but managed to nod. Her whole body was shivering and damp with sweat, her skin dripping with it and she wanted to get away from the feeling of wet bedsheets beneath her. She stumbled off the bed, knees hitting the floor hard but she flinched and rolled away when he reached out to help her, her residual panic spiking at the sight of his hands.

Hva i helvete skjer?”  

Both of them turned at the sound of that deep, growled question to see Leif standing in the doorway, an angry scowl darkening his sharp features into a predatory snarl and his shoulders squared in a manner that emphasized his powerful frame. Anders shot up off the bed, his hands splayed in front of him in a placating and defensive pose as he spoke in rapid Norwegian. Leif took one heavy step towards him, making the smaller man cringe and cower backwards, but he turned his heated glare to her. 

“Why were you screaming? Did he touch you? What was he doing to you?” he asked, his voice still darkened with anger. 

Simone swallowed, her throat raw as she rasped, “Nothing! He didn’t do anything, I… I was… seeing things.” 

His eyebrows twitched, his expression and posture deflating into pensiveness. He glanced to his brother and muttered, “Permisjon.” 

Anders quickly left the room, looking back at Simone worriedly before closing the door behind him. She scrambled to stand as he approached her, but sunk back down to sit on the floor as he pressed his hand to her shoulder and kneeled in front of her. She stared, fixated on how clean and white his shirt was.  

“Tell me what you saw,” he said. She winced, snapping out of her trance once she registered his words, and rubbed her face in her hands. Her head was throbbing to the loud beat of her heart, overcrowded with images of her father’s hands stuffing something into her chest, and she shuddered violently. 

“Simone, tell me what you saw,” he repeated more firmly. 

“I don’t remember,” she lied, the words burning as she forced them out. She could feel him staring at her, his disbelief palpable in the silence, but she felt too sick to care. 

“Can you stand?” he asked. 

“Why?” she croaked, her head pounding at the notion of moving at all. 

“You’re covered in sweat. You need to wash it off,” he said. “Let me help you up and get you into a bath.” 

“What! No! No, just- gimme a minute, I can…” she stammered, but he was already gathering her up. 

“Don’t be obstinate, dearest,” he chided her, adjusting her squirming body against his torso. She noticed that he smelled even more strongly of alcohol than before and that his speech was even slightly slurred and it occurred to her that the sun was much lower than it had been just five minutes ago.  

“Oh, god…” she whispered when it finally struck her that she had lost several hours.  

“I’m going to need to bathe anyway,” he chuckled, unaware or uncaring of her distress. “It’s been too long since we had a bath together. This’ll be fun.”

Chapter Text

“They know we’re in here… together,” he heard her say, her voice quiet and raspy from her prior screams. Leif turned to Simone, already smirking before he could stop himself; it was adorable how cautious and quick to embarrassment she was about their relationship.

“Is there a problem with a father bathing his own daughter in his house?” he asked. His deep voice reverberated off the green tiled walls of the bathroom and he caught her wincing. He quirked his brow at her pained expression and paused in unbuttoning his shirt to fish out a small plastic bag from his pocket. “Perhaps you would like something for that headache, dearest.”

“No, no pills,” she murmured, shaking her head. She winced again from the motion and pressed the heel of her palm to her forehead.

“No, no pills,” he repeated back to her, dangling the sandwich bag of a dozen long-stemmed brown-capped dried mushrooms. Her eyes widened when she recognized what he held, her mouth going slack before she slapped her hand over it. “Thought you lost this, did you?”

“H-how did you…” she breathed, her shoulders shrinking in a cowering hunch.

“Did you really think I wouldn’t notice your insistence on brewing a pot of tea the afternoon we arrived in this house? You never even had a taste for chamomile,” he grinned, trying not to laugh at how stricken she looked.

“Then you knew … that I was high…” she said. Her eyes seemed far away in thought for a moment and he realized his misstep, his mind racing to catch up with the implications of what he’d revealed to her. He schooled his expression to remain unaffected as he cursed himself internally for drinking himself this stupid. He watched her face carefully, seeing each thought play across her features until her eyes lowered to the floor and welled with tears. He could work with that.

“I did. It gave you a boldness that took me quite by surprise. You were so insistent,” he said, watching her deflate further with guilt. He stepped closer to her, letting his voice drop an octave as he whispered, “How could I say no when my little girl was begging me with such need? And now we’re free to explore our love fully. You owe a lot to this little fungus.” He was satisfied by the way she hid her face from him, so he straightened and cheerfully said, “Go ahead and run the bath to your preferred temperature. I’ll return shortly.”

She was silent, but moved toward the large claw footed tub and he waited until she turned the taps before exiting the bathroom. The relief he felt at maneuvering her predilection for internalizing blame and her increasing obedience gave him a giddy energy. The hallways were dark but a light spilled from the kitchen, so he wasn’t surprised to see Anders sitting at the table inside. The younger man’s eyes widened when he entered and Leif had to refrain from sneering as he rose from his seat.

Hey, she okay?” Anders slurred, wavering as he approached him.

In as much as she can ever be,” Leif responded coolly, filling the electric kettle in the porcelain sink. “No thanks to you.”

I didn’t do anything! She was already screaming before I even went in there!” he protested. “I’m not perverted like Vidar or Henrik. God, they’re disgusting.”

“Mm-hmm…” Leif hummed uninterestedly as he plugged the kettle in. He had roughly five minutes in which to avoid conversation with his brother. He busied himself with pulling a clear glass teakettle from the cupboards and rinsing the dust from it before depositing the full bag of dried mushrooms inside. “Where are those other two idiots?”

Passed out on the grass for the night, I think. Where is she now? I feel as though I should apologize. She looked so scared, I think I fucked up,” Anders groaned, leaning heavily against the counter next to him and squinting at the pot. “What’s this you’re up to? Broth?”

How can you apologize? Your English is terrible,” Leif grumbled.

“How are you? My… name Anders,” he said slowly.

Leif couldn’t stop the chuckle the bubbled out of him at that. “Awful. How did you ever survive summers here?”

Anders grinned up at him. “I used to be much better at English when I was a kid. We didn’t get much practice when we went back to the farm.

Well, go ahead and mumble your broken English at her tomorrow. I’m giving her a bath and then it’s straight to bed after that,” Leif said offhandedly, glancing at him in his peripheral as he tested the waters with that information.

Anders frowned, chewing on his thumbnail as he knit his eyebrow in thought until he asked, “You have to bathe her? Does she… try to drown herself or something like that?”

We’re just very close,” Leif answered simply, then at seeing his curious stare, continued, “When you have a child, you’ll bathe her too.”

“Ah…” the younger man trailed off, but turned to lean on his side to face him as he said, “But Simone isn’t a child and she looks… Well, doesn’t it feel weird?”

Leif fixed him with a firm stare, taking a smug satisfaction in how his brother looked away rather quickly, and said, “Normal people don’t experience arousal toward their close relatives, so no, it doesn’t feel weird to scrub her back and keep her company in the bath. Why? Does thinking of your niece in the bathtub make you feel weird?”

Steam erupted from the spout on the electric kettle and he turned away from him to pour the hot water over the mushrooms.

Anders pushed himself off the counter and paced, saying, “I’m not a pervert. You know, I think it’s great you’re that close. I just don’t know where you learned how to be close to your kid. Dad was never that caring to us.

I am not our father,” Leif replied. He grabbed a lemon from the fridge.

I saw you in the living room with her earlier,” his brother said.

Leif’s hand paused mid-slice into the lemon, the knuckles on his hand that gripped the knife turning white as he kept his voice level and asked, “Oh? And what did you see?”

She was crying and you were holding her,” Anders said. Leif squeezed lemon juice into the steaming pot, the mushrooms beginning to expand in the water. “It was just nice, the way you were comforting her like that. You’re the scariest person I know but you turned out to be the best father I know too. I just think that’s really… I don’t know. I’m really drunk.

Leif nearly laughed at that, either from his relief or the irony. He grabbed two mugs down from the cupboard, the tight coil of nervousness in him unwinding but his relief was stunted by his self-admonishment at his carelessness.

Well, I hope it hasn’t softened my image. I’d hate to become the second-scariest person,” he said dryly, placing the hot teakettle and the mugs on a tray. “Use the upstairs bathroom if you need to piss.”

Fuck off and die,” Anders grumbled in slow, heavily accented English as Leif carried the tray into the darkened hallway.

He saw Simone flinch when he opened the door to find the mirrors and window glass already fogged with steam. He placed the tray on the white marble counter, nudging his father’s complex shaving kit to make space and stirring the scent of sandalwood from it with the motion. The traces of bergamont and fir hitting Leif’s sensitive nose brought memories of the late man to his mind unbidden. Specifically, the violence he experienced by his fists before Leif outgrew him. He blinked back the stale childhood fear, a frown tugging his brow together while he searched the cabinets on either side of the fogged mirror until he found a remedy to his ailment: bath oil. The bottle was unsurprisingly unopened, no doubt a gift left forgotten as soon as it was placed on the shelf by his utilitarian father. He inhaled the scents of rose and blackberry musk to chase away the oppressive aftershave as he drizzled a liberal amount into the steaming bathwater. He unbuttoned his shirt the rest of the way, letting it fall to the white marble tile floor and his gray slacks and underthings joined it a moment after.

Aware of Simone’s nervousness rising as she adorably tried not to look at his nude form standing unabashedly in the center of the bathroom, he gestured to her with a flick of his hand, saying, “Hurry up, now. You’re not going to bathe with your clothes on.”

“But they’re going to know,” she whispered. He saw her hands clutch at her sides, fists bunching the yellow material of her thin dress. He turned his body to face her, indulging in the rush of power he felt when she stiffened in fear.

“Would you like some assistance then?” he offered. The widening of her eyes when she detected the underlying threat in his voice was endearing to him and she shook her head quickly, her fingers working the white buttons of her bodice in poorly concealed franticness. Her olive cheeks were tinged with pink while she wriggled out of the dress. Her thumbs hooked on her white panties as she dragged them both down the generous swell of her hips and thighs. She kicked her clothing to the side and wrapped her arms around her now bare torso, legs pressed together tightly. He admired her shapely form, his gaze lingering on the elegant bow of her collarbones and the inward slope of her waist, then turned his attention to the teapot. The mushrooms had become much plumper and the water had browned significantly within the ten or fifteen minutes of steeping.

As he poured the steaming concoction into the two mugs, she hesitantly whispered, “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“You didn’t think it was such a bad idea on Sunday,” he remarked, stepping into the hot bathtub and placing the mugs on the flat edge of the porcelain. He could see her biting her knuckles from the corner of his eye, the old nervous habit resurfacing from a time before her mother had disciplined that out of her. As he gingerly sunk into the scented bath, he grinned genially at her and said, “Come on in, the water’s fine.”

She obeyed, taking short, stiff steps and fixing her gaze on the mugs as she stepped into the tub. Standing knee-deep in the hot water, she deliberated how to fit in there with him for a moment before turning her back to him and sinking down between his legs.

He watched her submerge her curvaceous ass into the water, every movement slow with either hesitance or adjustment to the heat, and leered at the pink stripes of healing scratch marks and fading plum and red bruises that decorated her creamy brown skin. He gently pulled her backward by her upper arms until she was leaning back against his front. Her soft skin felt tantalizing against him and the dampened ends of her hair curled flat against his chest like the greedy arms of a brown octopus.

“There now…” he sighed, reaching for their mugs. “Doesn’t a hot bath feel so good on a cold night?”

He held a mug in front of her until she took it with both of her hands and he couldn’t resist looking down at her frightened expression as she just stared at the liquid. She turned halfway and met his stare as he sipped the steaming brew, the earthy bitterness of the mushrooms and the tart of the lemon not unpleasant on his tongue. He doubted he would ever tire of admiring the look of fear that widened her silvery eyes, slackened her pink little plush mouth, and furrowed the gentle arch of her brow. Tipping his mug to her in a silent cheer, she looked back to her tea and pursed her lips before sipping delicately at the hot liquid. He watched the slight bob of her throat, the oval bruises from his fingers visible on the smooth column of her neck since she’d sweated off any trace of concealer. He blessed his brother’s lack of observational skills for not noticing them when he’d barged into their room.

“Finish your tea, dear,” he chided her when she leaned forward to put her mug down. “Maybe you’ll feel like telling me about what made you scream upstairs once you relax a little.”

She paused, mid-reach, but leaned back as she whispered, “I haven’t eaten anything today, I shouldn’t… do it all.”

“Hm. I would have thought you’d want to keep up your strength around me,” he mused. He felt her muscles tense against him and he smiled. “Finish it.”

He joined her in downing the rest, the tea still too hot but she seemed not to care as she forced her throat to gulp it all. He plucked her now empty mug from her loose hold, depositing them both back on the edge of the tub before sliding down further into the water, forcing her to lay more heavily on him.

She glanced up at him, tilting her head backwards to view him upside-down, and bit her lip nervously before quietly asking, “Have you… done this before?”

“No,” he answered plainly. She sat up suddenly, the water splashing a bit over the rim and splattering on the tiles with the motion, and stared at him in wide-eyed astonishment.

“Why are you doing this?” she hissed.

His eyebrows quirked up, interested in how uncharacteristically direct she seemed at this moment, but he retained a casual tone as he said, “I wanted us both to be relaxed for a pleasant evening bath and a chat, dearest.”

She only stared at him, her gaze shifting from disbelief to dreadful acceptance as the long moments crawled by. Leif considered easing her trepidation by correcting her perception that he had no idea what he was getting them into, but he was being truthful by this being his first experience ingesting psilocybin and she was so enjoyable in her fearful states. After a few minutes, her shoulders began to slack and her gaze wandered down to the water. He sat up, reached over to the bar of soap on the rim of the tub and rubbed it vigorously between his hands until it worked up a hearty lather. She startled a bit when he began rubbing the lather on her chest, her little grunt of surprise stuttering into a full gasp when he twisted his hands down to slide over her breasts.

“What are you-”

“Hush your squealing, darling girl,” he teased her, pinching her nipples to make her groan and twist away from him. “You don’t want to make your uncles think I’m doing anything untoward to you in here, right? Now pull your hair up so I can wash you properly.”

Her jaw tensed, a flash of anger sparking in her eyes before dissipating in the calmness she forced over her features as she gathered up her wet hair and straightened her posture. He hummed in approval and began to scrub the suds over her wet skin, watching her calm crumble into that troubled worry she often wore when she was resisting her own pleasure. Her skin felt incredibly soft and smooth under his rubbing hands as he pulled her into his lap to reach behind her and scrub her shoulders and back. He glanced to her face, finding that uncertain pout of her mouth particularly irresistible, and he leaned forward to catch those full lips into his mouth. The small noise that she made as he kissed her sent a fission of pleasure straight to his groin.

“Stand up,” he rasped against her mouth, suddenly breathless. His plans of playing aloof were quickly giving way to his hunger for her. She obeyed, taking a moment to steady herself before rising, the rivulets of water running down her body as she stood. He found his mouth suddenly dry as he admired her standing wet and bare to him as though she had just emerged from seafoam wholly formed. His soapy hands travelled up her thighs, fingers digging into the pliant flesh as he ran up her quadriceps and around to grip her round ass before sliding down the backs of her thighs. She moaned softly as he lathered her up, her eyes scrunched shut and face pink in a fierce blush, his cock throbbing with each high feminine sound. Her little yelp and flinch when his fingers dipped into the crease between her thigh and crotch made him give a breathy chuckle, but she surprised him by parting her legs wider. Watching her face contort in her attempts to stay quiet, he gently rubbed his soapy fingers between her folds, her little cunt already slippery as he slowly and deliberately slid her clit between his fingers. Her head lulled back and she let out a long sigh as he did this, her skin erupting into goosebumps and thighs tensing.

“God, you’re beautiful,” he breathed. Her eyes slit open, her irises just a thin ring of silver from how blown her pupils were, and he chuckled at how quickly the tea had taken hold of her. She shivered at the low sound of his laughter but didn’t look away from him, even as her sighs spiked into a hitched groan when he slid his lathering fingers up the sensitive cleft of her ass.

“Da-ad,” she sighed while he pressed against the tight pucker of her asshole.

“Just being thorough, darling girl,” he grinned, his voice huskier than he thought it would be. “Go ahead and rinse off.”

She lowered herself back into the water and gripped the sides of the tub as she submerged entirely. He watched as her long brown hair swirled around her. The swirling motion spreading to the gray veins of the marble countertop and floor at the edges of his vision was his first realization that the tea was beginning to take effect. He reached into the water and hauled her out by her torso, watching as she blinked curiously at him and allowed him to maneuver her to once more straddle his lap while he stretched out beneath her. The slide of their skin seemed to buzz wherever they touched. A slightly queasy elation bubbled up in his belly as she slid her crotch more purposefully against the hardened length of him.

“Can you feel it?” she whispered.

“I think so,” he answered. His arms snaked around her middle and held her to him as she kissed at his throat, tongue and teeth dragging across his skin as though she were mapping his neck with her mouth. His own sensitivity caught him off guard and he groaned, feeling the water begin to pulse back to him in a feedback loop of sensation.

“What did you put in me?” he heard her ask. He was still caught in the loop, but her voice was clear and so very present.

“I haven’t put anything in you yet,” he chuckled.

“Why can’t you just tell me?” she whispered, her voice tight with frustration. The soft scraping of her breath against his ear sounded like ice cracking down his spine. He felt a strange sensation of being lifted at a disconcerting speed, the sensation stretching out into a brief eternity until he felt torn out of it suddenly. He only realized he’d had his eyes closed when he opened them.

“Well,” he sighed, loosening his grip and smiling down at her tingling form. “This is interesting.”

She didn’t seem to have heard him, apparently in the grips of her own world as she lapped at his chest with all the simple satisfaction in the task of a dog licking at a bone, if that bone shivered and stroked back. He knew she was lost to the psilocybin, her mind and her secrets too far out of reach by mere words. He gripped her face, thumbs hooking under her jawline, and she growled indignantly as he pulled her up into a searing kiss. The water and air moved around him, everything still swirling against the grain of him in an overstimulating shower of sparks. The cool oasis of her soft mouth beckoned him to search with his tongue inside her. His sweet Simone, the mad core of his own madness, his squirming little ouroboros. Eventually, she managed to squirm out of his grasp, her slick body sliding down him into the water and he whispered a string of filth when he felt her take his cock into her mouth. The floating tendrils of her hair tickled his legs as they wandered over his skin like her feather-light touches from when they were laid out in the backyard together mere hours ago. For a moment, he felt as though they were still there, almost touching the material of her dress until she wrenched him back with her nails dragging down his torso. He gasped as she worked him with her tongue under the water, every sensation spreading in waves throughout his entire body from wherever she touched him and being sent back almost as strong. Tactile echolocation, his mind supplied. That’s asinine, he supplied back.

All at once, he was worried by how long she had been underwater, worried that she was somehow damaging herself through oxygen deprivation. He pulled her off his cock in a frenzied motion that sent a splash of water spilling over the edge. She struggled against him as he sat up, holding her in a tight embrace, their splashing noisily bouncing off the smooth tiles that made up the floor and the walls. When at last his anxiety abated, he noticed that Simone was biting down on his bicep and he looked curiously at the thin trail of blood leaking down his arm and clouding the water. That would not do. He sighed heavily, resigned himself to the necessary task of disciplining his wild daughter, and gripped her throat with his other hand. The elation of his high was unaffected by the necessary violence he chose to bestow on his beloved child; she would love him despite his cruelty. That knowledge of how deep his conditioning of her already ran gave the drug’s effects an edge of his permanent rapture.

She released her bite almost immediately but that short moment of deliberation earned her an open-palmed slap across her jaw. Her head snapped sharply to the side with the force of his hand, a brief shout of surprise and pain echoing in the small room. When she turned her head back to him, her hair clinging to her face and her cheek beginning to redden, he was somewhat surprised at her raw expression of hunger. Her lips were smeared red and full, parted with her panting, and her pink tongue dragged across that pouted lower lip to pull his blood into her mouth. More blatant than that, however, was the darkness in her eyes as she stared up at him, the animalistic voracity and reckless challenge in them.

God damn,” he murmured. The strong connection he could feel to her through the network of water molecules was overwhelming despite his efforts to retain an appearance of control. He switched in and out of Norwegian and English as he ran his hands all over her irresistible skin and whispered, “A foolhardy thing to bite the arm of the man who feeds you. Trying to refresh your venom in me? You’ve already rotted my heart black without even needing to break skin.”

She writhed, growling and snarling at him in her nonverbal state, her movements less a struggle and more of a convulsive reaction to his overwhelming touch. He pushed her until she sunk down onto her back as he loomed over her between her spread thighs. She fought to keep her head above water and he laughed as she thrashed beneath him.

“Can you taste yourself in my blood?” he asked, his voice shaking with laughter and glee. “The part of me I gave to make you? I gave you my humanity and you’ve turned me into a demon for the favor. Hahaha! Well, that’s what I get for making a deal with Mephistopheles himself. I won’t squander my bounty, however.”

His cock rubbed the inside of her thigh, brushing against her slippery cunt, and they both flinched at the electric pulse when his tip slipped into her. Unknowing if he was pressing into her or if she was pushing up onto him, he became only aware of the softness of her cunt enveloping him. The slick molasses velvet of her snug cunt sucked him in until she was flush to his hilt. When he moved inside her, he could no longer tell where he ended and she began. The pulsing hot pleasure that connected their flesh urged him to fuck her, that electric current pulsing through them and growing with each thrust. Water bounced around him, lapping at his skin like a hundred hands trying to drag him down where he was submerged up to his waist as he drove into her.

The sensation of his climax was distorted through the sting of burning remorse and melded together with the psilocybin haze, leaving him gasping from the effort it took just to withstand the feelings crashing through him. Wave after wave of ecstasy and guilt wracked his body and mind as he pumped his semen into her. Flooding that forbidden core of his daughter, he was at last released from that crest and descended back into his own mind. It was at this moment when he was reeling back into himself that he opened his eyes and saw her submerged in the water, eyes shut and terrifyingly still while her long hair swirled around her. The panic that seized him had him pulling her up and shaking her before he made any conscious decision to act.

His mind racing, he acted before thinking once more. He held her to him to fit his mouth over the slope between her neck and shoulder and bit down hard. She jerked in his arms and her agonized grunt filled him with relief at last, the hot metallic tang of her blood filling his mouth. He sucked instinctually at it. He swallowed two mouthfuls of her blood, drawing it out of her along with her ragged gasps, before he was able to stop himself. His hand gripping the back of her head, he pulled away from her and stared into her pained and astounded face, certain he was mirroring the expression. With her blood still dripping from his lips, he pressed his mouth to hers in a needful, greedy kiss.

“You wretched bitch,” he rasped between ardent kisses, her teeth baring at him in an enraged snarl at him all the while, “God, I would drag you back from Hell if I must. I love you so much, Simone.”

He needed her close, to feel her moving and alive, so he held her while she struggled against him until the bathwater turned tepid. His mind looped on the same train of thought throughout those fraught minutes: his guilt for ruining her on purpose, his need to have her completely, and the necessity that he continue conditioning her to need him. A dream its way into his still conscious mind as he stroked her back and hushed her; a futile and dangerous question of what she would have been like now had he not done all he had to ensure her dependence on him. He could see a happy, well-adjusted Simone living her own life while he sat sidelined in his role as her father. A man she would regard with the same reserved affection he afforded her over holiday visits. She would allow him a condensed and tailored version of her life whenever he’d ask how she’d been. He didn’t even know what his life would look like without her. His passion, obsession, and purpose had been tied to possessing her for so long that everything seemed gray and meaningless without her. Now that he had her, he knew he couldn’t let her be anything but his.

Chapter Text

The jumble of noise struck Simone as particularly annoying at this late hour of night, even for living above a busy Brooklyn block. She scrunched her face in irritation and turned away from it, but startled when this motion alerted her that she wasn’t lying down. Her eyes blinked open in bewilderment, certain she was just asleep in her bed. She then recognized that not only was she standing, but she was in a dark hallway, looking through a doorway into her grandfather’s kitchen and the noise that had awoken her wasn’t traffic-- it was crickets. In nervous habit, she bit her lip but quickly released it when she found it sore. Her eyes trailed down her body, seeing that she was wearing one of her father’s shirts and nothing else. No wonder she was freezing.

“Simone?”

She turned her head toward the voice, finding a blonde man standing behind her. His hand was outstretched toward her as though he seemed unsure if he should touch her or not and his blue eyes were wide with concern. She stared at those sky-blue eyes as a tickle of recognition burst in her mind.

“Anders? What are- why am I…” she rasped, her throat so painfully dry that she couldn’t finish her baffled stammering.

Jeg beklager! Du var søvngjengeri og… ah…” Anders blurted out hurriedly, then stopped himself to close his eyes and take a deep breath before asking, “You are good?”

His words didn’t quite reach through the thick tangle of thoughts that raced in her fogged mind, but she found herself nodding slowly. Her eyes turned back toward the kitchen. Her mind worked on how she came to be standing there in the freezing dead of night but finding her last known memory was proving to be slippery. She recalled standing in the bathroom with her father, then being in the water, but then nothing. There was something important, something frighteningly important about the water but she just couldn’t remember. She gasped aloud when Anders’ hand touching her arm brought her out of her head and she whirled around at him.

He put his hand back up in that placating gesture he’d assumed with her father earlier. Slowly backing away a couple steps, he softly and haltingly said, “No problem. No problem… Want… help?”

 “Help-” she croaked, interrupted by a coughing fit. As she hunched over trying to recover, she noticed him slip hurriedly past her into the kitchen. He returned a quick moment later with a glass of water in his hand and she looked up to see him smiling, holding it out to her. Not trusting her throat, she nodded in thanks and took the glass, drinking deeply from it in careful gulps. He smiled on, apparently pleased with himself.

“You are good?” he asked again, taking the glass from her when it was emptied.

“I am good,” she whispered, nodding for good measure. Her arms wrapped around her body, the cold making itself more apparent now that her thirst had been slated. She smirked at how quickly her body transitioned its focus according to its hierarchy of needs, then quickly wiped that smirk off her face. That was a thought that belonged more in her father’s head than hers. Anders’ hand once more pulled her out of her head, but this time she let him gently grasp her wrist and lead her into the living room. Her feet felt numb but with his considerate slowness, she managed not to stumble. He led her to sit on the sofa, the same one she’d sat in with her father earlier that day. She fixed her stare to the floor with the shame that crawled up her neck as she recalled that afternoon in terrible clarity. Her fingers gingerly touched her sore mouth as the memory of how he’d bitten her lower lip in that abusive kiss replayed. Something about his teeth struck her as peculiar. A throbbing ache in her shoulder made itself apparent to her then and she remembered how he’d bitten her open and sucked her blood from her there. The shock of the memory made her mouth slack and eyes open wide. She jumped a bit when Anders draped a woven throw over her shoulders, snapping out of her disturbing thoughts once more at his touch. He smiled down at her, giving her shoulder a friendly pat that made her balk at the pain. He didn’t seem to notice as he took a seat next to her.

“You feel good?” he asked. She swallowed thickly, nervous at being alone with him so near and so late at night, but admonished herself for thinking that way. He was not her father.

“Yes, thank you,” she answered, attempting a smile. There was something genuinely comforting in his childish grin and eagerness to help. She felt a new kind of guilt for having assumed any possibility of danger from him even as a part of her warned her not to let her guard down. She saw how his gaze lowered from her face and his smile gave way to a look of uneasy curiosity. It wasn’t until his fingers gently pulled at the collar of her shirt that she realized he’d seen the bruises on her neck. Before she could consider how she should react, she wrapped the collar high around her neck and reeled back from him, heart stammering in dread. He stared at her, eyes wide in surprise at her sudden movement. She couldn’t bare those concerned blue eyes one moment longer. Still clutching the collar tightly around her neck, she stood up, the blanket falling off her as she hurriedly scampered away.

Vente! Jeg beklager!” he called after her, but she was already bounding up the stairs.

Bursting into the room she shared with Leif, she hurriedly locked the door behind her. She leaned her cheek against the smooth wood as she tried to calm her pounding heart. He had seen, without any doubt, and she had let him in her utter carelessness. Her hands wrapped lightly around her neck, caressing the mottled skin as though she could rub the damning bruises off. In the darkness of the room, everything was outlined in shadow with only the thin light of the alarm clock to reveal her father’s large form sprawled on the bed. After a few long, terrible minutes, her eyes adjusted to the low light and she walked toward their bed. Their bed. Her father, but their bed. She felt queasy.

It feels like… I’m in love with you, but…

Her hands threaded into the roots of her still damp hair, tugging on them roughly as she tried to burn the memory out of her mind.

No one will ever love you as much as I do.

God, I would drag you back from Hell if I must.

She growled against the sound of Leif’s rich voice echoing such sweet, sick sentiments in her mind. Her hands rubbed her face, jerking when she pressed against a fresh tenderness along her jaw. Memory sparked of the taste of his blood on her tongue and his strong slap across her face. The shrooms had hit her differently this time, had reduced her mind instead of expanded it, until she was little more than a snarling animal. Not far from her new normal, she considered bitterly.

Or maybe you’ve been a monster all along, Leif’s voice suggested. She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes, hunching until she curled up on the balls of her feet on the hardwood floor as she willed that intrusive voice to stop speaking, but to no avail. You’re no victim. You love that daddy is finally paying attention to you; paying the only kind of attention you’re good for.

“Stop it,” she muttered under her breath. She tried to conjure the sound of her own voice, tried to return her inner narrative to normal, but his deep gravelly chuckle rumbled clear and loud above her attempts.

Just give in like you always do. You’re never going to be a normal person. Hahahah! Not now that you’re papa’s little fuck puppet! Really, it’s going to either be this or finger painting in the psych ward for you. Take your pick: incest or incarceration.

“Shut up!” she hissed, then froze when she heard the real Leif stir.

Hva er klokka?” he murmured as he sat up and rubbed his face. He turned to the empty side of the bed, his hand reaching out for the other occupant and grabbing at nothing. All at once, he slung his feet off the side and stood. His rigid alarm slid into a fatigued slouch when he saw her huddled on the floor. She could only stare up at him, his silhouette huge and menacing in the dark. “What are you…”

“I’m still hallucinating. From the shrooms,” she interrupted quickly, her voice cracked and panicky. She winced at the sound and the level of truth to her words, clinging to that as the reason for the voice in her head and her sleepwalking.

Liar.

He wavered for a beat, then bent at the waist to pat her head and muttered, “G’back t’bed, sweetie. Be right back.”

While he walked past her and into the hallway, she crawled on her hands and knees into the bed. The warmth of where he’d lain soothed her like a balm on both her cold skin and fraught mind. She greedily soaked up that residual body heat under the blanket. However, as the numbing cold left her, the aches and pains of her body became more pronounced. The bite wound on her shoulder seared and throbbed especially, making her unbutton her shirt and pull it off that arm entirely to relieve it of even that slight pressure. Reluctantly, she left the warmth and crawled over to her side of the bed, the chill there telling her she’d been away from it for quite a while. A hard pit of fear warned her not to think about it. She buried her face in the flat pillow and held her breath until the urge to scream left her.

The sound of the old pipes clanking with rushing water alerted her that her father would be returning soon, so she curled up on her good side and tried to quiet her heart enough to feign sleep. She heard the door creak open and closed and felt the mattress dip where he lied down. Her traitorous heart still pumped hard and circulated unnecessary adrenaline despite her constant reassurance that nothing was happening. His hand brushed down the curve of her curled spine under the blanket. His freezing touch made it hard to resist a shiver but she was determined to feign sleep in hopes he would leave her in peace. No such luck. His hand continued its descent down the side of her thigh, his nails dragging across her bare skin as sharp as claws.

The sound of the door opening again made her jerk up. The dread of her father’s inevitable anger at being interrupted by one of his intruding brothers made her glance back to see which one would be the cause, but she recognized that tall silhouette stepping through the doorway as Leif. A shot of shock ran through her and she sat up to see who was in bed behind her, only to see no one at all. She stared, frozen and wide-eyed, as her anxiety and bewilderment yielded to the terrible proof that she was losing her mind in a new and horrible way.

“If you’re going to keep dreaming, you might as well sleep,” he whispered, his arm wrapping around her ribcage and dragging her down against his chest. She let herself lay with her back curled against him. The span of his powerful body tucked her into him possessively and, to her immense comfort, protectively.

“Dreaming…” she murmured, clutching onto the word and shutting her eyes. “I’m just dreaming…”

He stroked her hair away from her face soothingly, his fingers as warm and real as the rest of him. She grasped his hand and held it against her chest. His lips pressed to her still damp hair in a few chaste kisses, the gesture tingling on her scalp, and his thumb slowly rubbed back and forth over her knuckles. The soothing affection spread a peaceful salve over her fretful state that, in combination with her fatigue, allowed her to relax. That longing for him to always be a sweet and caring father ached in her chest, but the bittersweet desire was a vast improvement from her raw fear. Whatever man he might be outside of this moment, he was being a father to her right now, so she pushed any outside thoughts as far away as she could to enjoy this. His stroking thumb slowed to a stop as his breathing evened out in unconsciousness. She lied awake, feeling surrounded in his protection and warmth until sleep weighed too heavily on her eyelids to keep them blinking in the darkness.

Listening to the steady push and pull of his breath in sleep, Simone let her eyes rest for a moment and then opened them to the orange light of sunrise cast over the living room. Her breath caught in her throat. She resisted the impulse to jump off the sofa, steeling herself to remain still as she tried to determine what happened in that five seconds she’d shut her eyes. Dismay and helplessness crawled into where she needed her mind clear to think and she frowned at the intrusion. The sticky emotional reactions painted everything in thickening shades of fear and sadness. She tried harder to focus on observation and analysis of her surroundings.

The woven throw Anders had draped over her last night was wrapped around her curled body, further muddling the wavering certainty in her memories. She wondered what could have happened instead of her panicked flee that led her to wake up on the sofa. She came to two conclusions: the night had either progressed as she had remembered it and she’d simply gone into the living room at some point, or she had never left the living room and had conjured up a false memory of being in the bedroom. Either choice left gaping holes in her memory where anything could have happened. Anxiety seized her thoughts as she tried to recall anything that could have led her to here, drawing her mind again and again to the dreadfully vague possibilities of what could have happened in those holes. She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them repeatedly, trying to wake up in the bed she knew she was just in. All that met her open gaze was the heavily ornate dark woods and complicated oriental rugs of the living room.

She forced herself to stop that senseless impulse by sitting up and rubbing her face. The leather adhered to her bare skin from how long she supposed she’d been laid out on it. A sound alerted her to snap her bleary gaze to her right, finding Anders slumped in a faded armchair with his feet haphazardly sprawled over an ottoman and a quilt falling off him. She stared at his bare feet peeking out from that quilt, knowing it was unlikely he’d have chosen to sleep in an armchair if the sofa wasn’t already taken. It was thin but it was nonetheless evidence toward the theory that she’d stayed downstairs last night. Her hands continued rubbing small circles over her temples as she willed away the fear to think further back. She tried to fill in the hole of time between drinking the shroom tea and coming to in the hallway with Anders. The bite on her shoulder seemed real, much to her disappointment. She slipped a hand into the loose collar of her father’s shirt she wore to graze her fingers over the wound near her neck. She both wished and dreaded to assess it in a mirror as it burned from just that slight touch. Being able to feel evidence of that memory provided a cold comfort.

In her efforts to recall, she felt the vague impression of having experienced strong emotions during that time. Those emotions proved harder to define in the vacuum without any context. She recalled the slap he’d given her, but couldn’t place when it happened. Anger. Frustration, maybe. She could remember the feral state of her mind but it was like it happened to someone else in a dream. Her constant anxiety. Fear, so much fear, but amidst that was acceptance. Hope? She gnawed at her knuckles, brow knit tight in concentration as she tried to piece together what any of that could possibly mean, but was interrupted by the sound of Anders stirring.

She immediately looked over to see him watching her through hooded eyes, his sleepy countenance obviously not quite fully aware even as he whispered, “God morgen, kjære.”

“Anders! Anders, you gotta help me!” she blurted out, scrambling out of her blanket cocoon.

He straightened in his seat, his surprise at the girl stumbling toward him awakening him quickly, and asked, “Hva er det?”

She fell to her knees, her hands grasping his quilt in a white-knuckle grip. She attempted to slow her speech as she asked, “Anders, what… happened… last… night?”

He wrinkled his brow, his uncomfortable expression revealing her failure to communicate. She yanked at her hair in frustration and wracked her brain for a solution, but only came up with frustrated tears stinging her eyes. She flinched when she felt his hand pat her head, but his touch persisted.

Ikke gråt, pen jente,” he said softly.

His petting over the wild mess of her hair and his gentle tone only made her heart hurt. It didn’t take much to push her over the edge in the constant state distress that was her life lately, so she didn’t even try to fight the tears that fell down her face. He reached out with his other hand, making soft shushing sounds that broke her down completely. He was being so sweet, his calloused hands so gentle and offering such comfort and affection so freely without even knowing why she was crying. She felt overwhelmed with how badly she needed this. He smelled like stale beer and sour sweat but she laid her face against his chest and wept. After a moment, he awkwardly embraced her, holding her head against him as he continued to pet and hush her. There was no question of cost in her mind with him, no waiting for him to hurt her or force her arousal.

“Good girl,” he murmured warmly, his accent thick but his tone conveying more than the meaning of the words. “Good girl, good girl…”

“I’m sorry,” she croaked, even as she moved to sit on the edge of the chair and wrap her arms around his neck. He felt so safe, she couldn’t get enough. His arms wrapped more firmly around her middle and she trembled with the ache that felt nearly bursting in her chest at the comforting affection.

“I help you,” he whispered into her hair. The warm bloom of his breath against her scalp felt so soothing. She nuzzled her face into the crook of his shoulder and sighed when her weeping shuddered to a sudden stop.

“Thank you,” she breathed. She was afraid of closing her eyes and opening them to find that this was another dream, or hallucination, or anything other than warm and friendly human contact. She wondered if anything would ever feel real to her again, but this moment was real enough to matter.

“Very good girl,” his soothing tone whispered as she clung to him, but he didn’t move to disengage their awkward embrace.

She didn’t know what to do with her gratitude, so she just murmured, “Thank you… thank you, Uncle Anders…”

He only shushed her, his hands smoothly rubbing over the back of her shirt, never sliding down to touch her hips or ass. Just a chaste, familial touch that she needed to trust. She leaned into it, but quickly stopped herself when she remembered how little she actually knew him. Embarrassment wormed into her, making her slowly pull away. He seemed to hold no bashfulness in him as he let her disentangle, his blue gaze only holding concern. Her throat constricted at his compassion and she found herself wanting to weep again, barely holding herself together when he gently smoothed away her tears with his thumb.

They both startled at the sound of a loud snap behind them. They turned toward it, dread dropping her stomach right out of her upon seeing Leif’s leaning in the doorway. She couldn’t stop herself from cowering back when she saw his stern impassive mask in place. She noticed her uncle watch her questioningly as she fearfully backed away from him, but she couldn’t work to conceal her mounting terror.

Leif stepped toward them, muttering something gruff to his brother as he snatched her upper arm and dragged her to her feet in a less than gentle tug. Anders seemed to protest or give some correction in response, his Norwegian coming out in a rapid placating tone. Whatever it was he had said garnered no response from her father as he hauled her out of the room. She stumbled to keep up, looking back to see Anders watching her. Their eyes met right before she was turned past the doorway and her heart ached at the pity in his stare. She allowed herself one last indulgence in the warmth his kindness before fear overwhelmed it.

 

 

Leif shoved the girl into their room, locking the door behind them while she stumbled away from him skittishly. His anger boiled in him in an unruly maelstrom, yet it only sharpened his focus. He took a towel out of the hamper and stuffed the crack under the door with it to help contain the noise they were soon to make in the room. Then, along that vein of thought, he pulled out two long gauzy scarves from her drawer in the dresser. Pulling one taut in his hands and balling the other in his fist, he watched uncertainty mix with the fear in Simone’s expression as she stared at the length of fabric.

“I think it’s time for another lesson,” he said calmly, turning to face her.

“Wh-what are you…?” she stammered breathily as he stepped toward her. Her shocked grunt when he pressed the balled fabric to her mouth was cut short, erupting into a yelp as he gripped the back of her hair roughly and forced it past her lips. Her hands reflexively reached to pull out the intruding cloth and he backhanded her. The strike was more to shock than to hurt and it proved affective as her hands immediately dropped. The way she cowered, squeezing her eyes shut in expectation of further violence and whimpering like a dog, made for a pleasing picture but he wasted no time. He wrapped the other scarf over her mouth and tied it behind her head to secure the gag. With her oral airway cutoff, she was forced to breathe through her nose and she seemed to struggle with filling her lungs as quickly as fear demanded.

He moved behind her, locking her arms behind her back with one hand gripping her wrists, and reached around her front to pinch her nostrils closed. Immediately, she began to try to twist away, so he opened his hand to span the bottom of her chin and tilt her head back awkwardly until she was pressed to his chest. Holding her tightly against him, he shut her nostrils again. He dragged her to the floor mirror and watched as her struggles devolved into spasmodic jerking. The steadiness of the decline of her muscle control as she suffocated fascinated him, almost as though he could see her life drain out of her just from restricting such a small part of her. He wanted her to feel how easily he could end her, how he held her life between his thumb and forefinger in a simple pinch. When she began to sag in his hold, he released her face and she drew in as much air as she could before her breaths began to stutter into muffled sobs. He grabbed her chin again after letting her breathe for a moment and she groaned through her nose in fear, but he only forced her to face the mirror.

“Look,” he commanded. She obeyed, opening her eyes and he watched as she stared at her tear-streaked reflection. She grunted when he tore open her shirt, the buttons on the long garment popping open down to her navel.

“Do you see this?” he hissed as he shoved her forward by his hold on her wrists, jerking her whole body. “This belongs to me. You don’t have the authority to offer it for anyone to touch. Do you understand?”

When she didn’t respond, only blinking at her fearful reflection, he let go of her chin to grip her neck firmly and growled, “Understand?”

She whimpered, the sound barely audible beyond the gag, but nodded fervently. He let his grip linger on her neck a bit longer, enjoying the pleading look in her wet eyes as she met his gaze in the mirror while he tugged on her shirt until it unfastened entirely. Still holding her stare in the reflection, he parted the garment until it hung open, exposing her nude form standing in the mirror. She looked away from him as he gently dragged his fingertips down her middle, his touch lightly caressing from her neck to her cunt. He just barely grazed over her clit but it was enough to make her breath come out in a hitched huff.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he whispered, half lying between the thrill of wielding such power over her and the quiet echo of a guilt he knew he should feel. The way his hard cock ached at the sight of her wet tears glistening and clinging to her eyelashes helped clear his conflict for now. He pressed his fingers against her cunt gently, rubbing slow circles over the impossibly soft outer flesh and making her whimper and tense as he continued, “But you keep making me punish you. I just want to keep you safe, darling girl. How am I supposed to keep you safe when you run off while I’m asleep to cozy up to men you hardly know?”

She shivered, her hands giving a little involuntary jerk at the pleasure he was giving her, but he still held her wrists tightly. His circling fingertips dipped down to her opening and he couldn’t stop his slight gasp of delighted astonishment at finding her so wet. Her thighs flinched shut, her cheeks burning a deep blush and brow furrowed in shame, but he wedged his hand between her closed legs. He spread her fluid up her cunt and slicked her clit until his fingers could glide over it in a sawing motion that had her knees nearly buckling and her head hanging low in mortification at the unwilling pleasure.

“Do you want to come, Simone?” he asked in a hushed and husky tone. The broken, muffled whimper and shake of her head in decline made him grin. “Good.”

He sped up his languid ministrations, his rhythm more insistent against her as her cries became muffled groans through the gag. Her legs pressed together tightly, her body twisting in the limited range his restraint on her arms allowed, but he wouldn’t let her wriggle away. After just a few more strokes, her thighs tensed around his intruding hand and her cunt rocked against it even as fresh tears spilled down her face and her chest heaved in shaking sobs. The stifled sound of her muted scream when he rubbed her through her orgasm made his cock flex and drool precum onto his pajama pants. Her sobbing continued as she seemed to come down from her forced climax, her thighs trembling and wet against his fingers as he slid his hand to grope at her hip.

He leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Your punishment isn’t over yet.”

Chapter Text

Before Simone had a chance to react, Leif gripped the back of her hair and pushed her down. She crumpled easily under his pressure, lowering to her knees and then lying on the cold hardwood floor. Her joints were already weak and muscles were uncooperative from exhaustion, but more than that, she didn’t want to risk angering him with the promise of further punishment already known. He pulled her opened shirt off her shoulders, the material dragging painfully over the bite, and wrapped the material around her wrists. She tried to glance backward to see what he was doing, the material drawing taut over her skin as she saw him knotting it tightly to bind her hands behind her back. Trying not to draw attention, she tugged subtly at the bind and couldn’t get it to budge. She gave it a bolder jerk but the motion unfortunately succeeded in drawing his gaze. Squeezing her eyes shut, she prayed yet again to wake up to find this had been a bad dream, but the floor was still under her bare front and her father still loomed over her exposed back when she opened them.

She flinched when he brushed her unruly hair away from her face and said, “You’re doing so well, Simone. You know I’m only doing this because I love you. One day, you’ll thank me for it.”

The thick wad of cloth that filled her mouth had prevented her from telling him that she wasn’t offering anything to Anders and that he didn’t see her as anything but his troubled niece. But there was a growing doubt in her as well; she couldn’t trust her judgement anymore. As the punishment had drawn on, her drive to state her case grew stale.

“You’ve been hiding things from me,” he said as his cock brushed between her parted thighs. “I need you to learn what harboring secrets from me will get you.”

She winced as her cunt throbbed in aftershocks of her orgasm, shame flooding her again at having come against her will. Through her terror and pain, her body had betrayed her so thoroughly, getting so wet and needy for her tormentor. It made her feel sick and wretched. She had no control of both her body and mind. The temptation to give her father complete control over her if she couldn’t control her own self held an appeal she had never hoped to find. Horrified at that thought, a thought she knew didn’t belong to her mind, she shut her eyes and once more tried hard to wake up anywhere else.

He turned her to lie on her back. Her arms dug into her back uncomfortably, but she could more easily see what he was doing. She wasn’t sure if that was any better. He kept his stern stare on her face as he hooked his hands under her calves and brought her legs up to rest straightened against his torso with an ankle in each of his hands. Then, he leaned forward, stretching her flexible hamstrings to their limits until she had to groan audibly to make her discomfort apparent. Her tailbone was lifted off the floor to try to alleviate the burn on her hamstrings and she burned with fear and shame at how it presented her cunt as more accessible to him.

He let go of her right ankle to reach between them and she felt the head of his cock line up to her entrance as he whispered, “Don’t hold back your screams.”

The spike of apprehension that sparked in her was quickly set ablaze into panic when he drove his cock down into her in one powerful thrust. She did scream, the sound pathetically muted by the gag, as her cunt stretched painfully around him. He gave her no time to recover from the searing pain as he pulled back and slammed into her again, setting a brutal pace that kept her screams constant. His hair flopped over his eyes and his muscles rolled and flexed with the force he put into fucking her, his teeth bared with each low grunt he growled out. She writhed under him just trying to manage the bruising and burning impact of his thrusts. Her tears flowed freely from her grimacing eyes as she fixed her stare to the ceiling and tried to calm her panic. Her hyperventilation between screams demanded more oxygen than she could take in with those short rapid breaths and her horror increased as darkness crept in from the corners of her vision. He could reach much deeper in this position and each slam against her cervix sent a shock of blinding pain burning through her.

“Are you sorry yet?” he growled above her, not faltering in his rhythm. She nodded eagerly and moaned, desperate to appease him and end this onslaught. Her slight hope fizzled into dread when he grinned down at her and said, “No, I don’t think you are. You haven’t learned your lesson yet.”

He reached between them again, this time pressing the pad of his thumb against her clit and her eyes squinted shut in a grimace when she felt – Oh, god. Her mind echoed the lamentation her mouth couldn’t speak as she felt the sparks of pleasure begin to intermingle with the searing pain. Confusion rolled over in her panicked mind, complete bewilderment at the rising pleasure in her suffering cunt. With eyes wide in shock and bafflement, she gawked up at him to see the filthy smirk on his face. He knew what was happening with her even though she didn’t. Her cunt clenched. The tightening of her muscles around that already too-large cock sent a lightning strike of pain and pleasure that forced her head thrown back and a long, muffled groan ground out from deep in her. The power and advantage he held over her was never more obvious than in that moment and it made her feel so small and helpless. She wondered if she really had no will of her own at this point as he dragged whatever sensation he wanted out of her.

“Come for me, darling,” he commanded breathlessly, his thumb pressing harder against her clit. “Come on your father’s cock like a good girl.”

The increased friction on her clit made every nerve in her cunt come alive with pleasure that mounted over the pain as her hips involuntarily twitched up to meet his thrusts. Horror, shame, and a deep sadness flooded her mind as ecstasy flooded her body. Her broken, muffled cries sounded distant as that crest crashed onto her, dragging her through another forced orgasm that had her vision black out. She heard his low guttural groan and felt him push hard and deep into her, the head of his cock mashing agonizingly against her bruised cervix as he filled her cunt with semen. He stayed in her for several long, delirious minutes as he panted above her. His eyes were shut, freeing her to watch as his sweat dripped down from his furrowed brow and soaked his fitted white undershirt to the point it became nearly translucent. Her cunt throbbed, both in soreness and aftershocks, his semen stinging in her rubbed raw skin. He pulled out of her slowly, almost considerately, but she still gasped through her nose in how it pained her.

Fy faen…” he muttered. He delicately moved her legs back down to the floor on either side of his crouched form, his eyes locked in fascination on her aching crotch as she felt some of his semen dribble out. “Jeg elsker deg, dear girl. Stay there.”

She let her head fall back and eyes close when he rose to his feet and stepped away from her. She just wanted this to be over so she can go hide, maybe forever. Her brief relief from this horror was interrupted by a snap and flash of light. She looked up to see her father standing over her with her Polaroid camera, the white square of a photo held gingerly between his fingers as he watched it develop. Her strangled groan of humiliation brought his gaze once more to her.

“Oh, don’t worry,” he grinned. “I probably won’t be showing this to anyone. You just look so lovely, I had to capture this moment.”

Hot, fresh tears followed the wet trails of her previous weeping down her cheeks and her frustration at them doubled when he clicked his tongue at her chidingly. He placed the camera and photo on the desk behind him, then knelt down next to her. She flinched when he reached for her, but he only gently maneuvered her to sit up. His touch, even when gentle, felt corrosive on her bare skin and she rushed too quickly to stand just to get away from him. Her hip joints ached sharply before her legs gave out entirely, sending her crumbling to her knees before he caught her by her arms and hauled her up onto the bed.

“You were so well behaved this time,” he beamed, his pride sincere in his voice despite the grotesque context. His hands worked to untie the knot of the scarf at the back of her head, the slight tugs making her twitch involuntarily in nervousness. “I almost wish I didn’t have to unbind and ungag you. Isn’t life so much simpler when your abilities have been reduced?”

The scarf fell into her lap. She once loved the gray and purple leaf pattern of it, but now it repulsed her. His fingers pressing against her mouth made her rear back and he moved quickly to grab the back of her hair. Holding her still, he pulled out the wad of fabric that filled her mouth, the material heavily soaked through with saliva. Her eyes were scrunched shut against the strange sensation of the second scarf being pulled from her mouth, the thing having been there long enough to feel almost as though he were removing a piece of her. She swallowed the excess moisture in her mouth and flexed her freed tongue in relief when it was finally extracted. His hand released her hair and she leaned forward to clear her throat and make a slight sigh to test her voice. Vocalizing vibrated loudly in her skull without the gag to keep her noises low in her throat or high in her nose.

Her breath stopped when he tipped her chin up and turned her towards him, his eyes assessing her fearful face closely before whispering, “I did miss that soft little mouth, though.”

Her voice was hoarse when she abruptly rasped, “Can you untie me please?”

“In a minute,” he said dismissively as he leaned forward.

She kissed him back when he pressed his lips to hers, wanting to show him how good she could be for him so he would free her arms at last, and he hummed in approval at her eagerness. A shiver ran through her at the slide of his tongue against her tender lower lip, but he pulled away with a satisfied smile and reached around to her back. Having tightened due to her struggles, the knot took a few minutes for him to undo. Her eyes trained to the wet spot on the floor that marked where he fucked her so painfully and made her cum against her will for the second time that day. Seeing that trite and tiny evidence felt cruelly incongruent to the impact it had on her. She wanted to see this house ablaze in a torrent of flame or flood with a river of blood from what had happened, or at least something more out of place than a trivial dribble of fluid on hardwood. When he gave the shirt knot a final tug and her arms were given slack at last, she hugged them around her front.  They felt heavy and tingly from having been asleep, her shoulder joints aching like the joints in her hips and pelvis. It seems that my retribution would be yet ongoing. That thought entered her mind in Leif’s voice, unbidden and alien. She shook it off.

 

 

 

“… Marius Larsen, Arvid Halvorson, Fredrik Hauge, and Svein Myrhe made it to their hotel. Did you ever work with them?” Henrik asked over the screen of his laptop on the kitchen table.

Leif didn’t pause in his task of chopping parsley as he answered, “Just once. That was more than enough. I’m glad father’s generation of architects are finally retiring.”

One way or another,” Vidar smirked.

The herb’s sharp fragrance mingled with the pungency of the minced garlic next to it on the cutting board. Anders sat at the breakfast bar that separated the cooking area from the rest of the kitchen, his silence irking Leif even more than his usual talkativeness. Leif glanced at him and sighed when he saw that he was still sulking.

I thought you never got hungover,” he said as he bundled the bits of parsley together with the flat edge of the knife.

The youngest brother straightened from his slouch with a frown and muttered, “I just couldn’t get much sleep.”

Leif glanced at him again to accidentally meet his stare briefly before returning his attention to preparing the sauce. He schooled his features to not react to the probing look in those blue eyes, but his mind was turning over what could have sparked such a curious look. Suspicious, even.

I feel like I slept for days and I’m still exhausted,” Vidar groaned. “Thanks for letting me stay passed out in the backyard by the way, assholes.”

I thought it was a refreshing experience,” Henrik grinned.

Vidar put his phone down and tossed his older brother a sneering, “Not all of us are half gorilla, freak.”

If I’m half gorilla, then you’re also half gorilla, you dumb shit,” Henrik jeered, earning him a raised middle finger from the other man.

What kept you awake, Anders?” Leif asked, ignoring the brothers as they continued to trade insults at the kitchen table. He watched from the corner of his eye as Anders shifted in the barstool uncomfortably, his brow slightly furrowed and gaze downcast in consideration.

It was another minute before he turned his back to the bickering brothers and quietly said, “Can I… talk to you later? Alone?

Leif crafted an expression of mild concern as he answered, “Of course, brother.”

Anders gave a curt nod in response, then slipped out of the stool. Leif watched as he disappeared into the hallway and up the stairs, allowing his jaw to tense as he mulled over the possibilities for the younger man’s withdrawn solemnity and request for private inquiry. He worked backwards through his mental catalog of observations as he kept the garlic from burning in the pan of olive oil and scraped the zest from a lemon with small nicks of the knife. Anders had left after obtaining his answer, which explained part of his reserved attitude if he was biding his time until finally asking. But he was careful to hide, or at least attempt to hide, frequent glances at Leif that he did not bestow on his other brothers. He was not sheepish in his withdrawn pensiveness, instead seeming almost shrewd in a way that told Leif he was perhaps expecting to broach a sensitive subject that he did not feel in the wrong about. Perhaps even looking for a conflict, but that didn’t match up with the Anders he knew.

Leif whisked the zest and lemon juice into the pan as he planned how to direct the scheduled conversation away from his sexual relationship with his daughter. His reflexive defensiveness wanted him to outright deny any such thing could ever occur between him and Simone, but at this point it would be obtuse to suppose no one would ever wonder at their close physical contact and frequent seclusions in their shared bedroom with only one bed. He chose to hide in the sun, so he couldn’t resent it for occasionally burning him. His jealousy wanted him to blame Anders of projecting the perversion he harbored towards his niece by grounds of his envy of the close relationship he held with his daughter, but attacking his brother’s character directly would open him up to suspicion from their other brothers. He would need more time to lay the groundwork for that accusation to have any hope of sticking without having anyone examine the counterpoint. There was no time like the present.

Hey, has Anders been like that for a while, or just since he got here?” he asked the other two men in the room, interrupting their sneering quarrel.

That kid’s always been weird,” Henrik scoffed.

I think dad’s sperm had expired by the time he was conceived,” Vidar said speculatively.

Has he been having trouble getting a woman or something?” Leif asked.

He’s been having trouble getting other men’s wives, if that answers your question,” Vidar grinned slyly.

Henrik snickered into his hand, adding, “I think he’s better off staying in the states if she confesses to her husband.”

Fuck that. He’d be better off fleeing to Antarctica if Louis finds out,” Vidar said.

Leif orchestrated his next sentence with a passive hesitance in his voice that belied the impression of poorly concealed concern. “That sounds complicated. It’s just… I saw him with Simone this morning and—I’m not saying he was doing anything, but… You know, forget it.”

He caught the gravity of his implication descend over their jovial mood even as Henrik’s brow hitched incredulously while he asked, “What, you think Anders is the creepy uncle? Did you see Vidar with his ‘oohhh you’re sooo beautiful’ shit to her?”

What, I can’t compliment someone without wanting to put my penis inside them? She’s objectively attractive, shit head!” Vidar protested. He turned in his seat toward Leif and pointed accusingly at the bearded brother. “This from the guy who said she has, and I quote, ‘an ass fit for a feast’!”

Objectively fit for a feast,” Henrik remarked, tilting his head in mock propriety.

I should gut you both with this knife right now, but look,” Leif said, putting an edge in his tone that he dispelled with a weary sigh before continuing, “The way he was touching her… Just tell me I’m being a crazy, overprotective father, okay? I think I just need to hear it.”

Well, you are a crazy, overprotective father…” Henrik trailed off with a shrug.

I’m sure he was just being oafish Anders,” Vidar said, waving his hand dismissively. An awkward silence filled the room for a moment, then he asked, “What was he doing with her?”

Leif suppressed his smug smirk by pursing his lips in the image of a conflicted thought. He had hooked them successfully. “I’m sure I’m just overthinking it. It was nothing. I just saw her in father’s armchair with him when I went downstairs this morning.”

“Whoa, in the same chair? Like on his lap or what?” Henrik interjected, scrunching his face in distaste.

Do you think he was still drunk?” Vidar offered.

Leif ran a hand through his hair and shrugged, then said, “I don’t know. Just… I don’t want to accuse him of anything, but seeing how he held her on him… She’s very suggestible, understand?”

He watched as the two men frowned in the tense silence that followed. They had taken the bait, now he just needed to start reeling them in. A plan began to come together in his mind now.

Look, Leif, I’ll keep an eye on him just in case,” Henrik offered.

Yeah, Simone’s a pretty girl and he was probably still drunk,” Vidar said, then quickly followed it with a nervous, “Not like that’s an excuse, but it happens, right? I don’t think he would’ve done that sober, is what I mean.”

Henrik gaped at him in disgust and when Vidar responded with a shrug, said, “What the fuck kind of horse shit is that? Getting drunk doesn’t just magically turn you into a molester uncle!”

I said it wasn’t an excuse!” Vidar argued defensively. “It happens!”

Yeah, it happens if you’re a rapist, you mud-dicked bumpkin,” Henrik sneered.

You knew what I meant, butter-fucked,” Vidar sneered back.

Leif tuned out the chorus of their insults and returned to the task of cooking, satisfied at his success of stage one in his contingency plan.

 

 

Simone startled at the knock on the bedroom door, hurriedly pulling her jeans up before calling out, “Yes?”

“Lunch time! You want to come?” Henrik’s bright voice came muffled through the solid oak.

The idea of lunch made her stomach turn despite not having eaten anything since… she couldn’t recall, but her physical weakness and lightheadedness demanded sustenance. “Uh, okay! I’ll get it in a bit!”

While his heavy footsteps descended the stairs, she examined the wan-looking waif in the mirror. She’d worked out the snarls from her hair after having applied three palmfuls of conditioner in the shower and had painted over the bruises meticulously, dressed in her comfortable ripped jeans with the most art project stains on them and a t-shirt she’d purchased at the last concert she went to. She looked more like the art punk she used to be just less than a week ago. But putting on the trappings of normalcy didn’t quite bring about the feeling of it, even as she focused on the memory of every stain and recalled the ironic synth-pop sound of the band. She turned to check that the paper towel wrapped around flattened cotton balls she’d folded in her underwear hadn’t created any odd bumps in her jeans, but the abrasive material rubbed uncomfortably at her abused privates.

She sighed heavily and muttered, “Can’t arts-and-crafts your way out of this one, can you?”

Taking another deep breath, she steeled herself to step out of the relative safety of the bedroom. Her father had been almost sweet to her after her punishment, helping her to the bathroom and blessedly allowing her privacy once there, but he’d promised a talk would occur later. The weight of the word had struck her that this would be a conversation that she would most likely not want to have and she dreaded encountering him out there. Limping out into the hallway, she flinched at the sound of a door opening and turned to see Anders exiting the room he was staying in.

He smiled sheepishly at her, eyes glancing downward shyly as he walked toward her in three wide steps of his long legs, and said, “I am sorry. You… trouble in Leif?”

“Oh!” she blurted, closing the door behind her in consciousness of the wadded scarfs on the floor inside despite how little they would mean to anyone else. Her hands wrung nervously as she tried to find the simple words he might understand. “Yes, but it’s ok. No problem! Um, I am sorry for…” she trailed her fingers down her cheeks “… crying. On you. That must have made you, um, uncomfortable? Sorry, I’m sorry.”

He smiled that uncomfortable smile of not quite understanding, but squeezed her good shoulder in a friendly gesture and softly asked, “You are good?”

She hesitated, knowing she should say yes or just nod, but the tightness that pulled in her chest wouldn’t allow her to do either. Watching the growth of genuine concern wilt his nervous smile, she found that her answer wouldn’t leave her throat until she whispered, “No, I am not good.”

The hand at her shoulder gently pulled her into a slow hug as he stepped forward and embraced her with his other arm wrapping around her back. She felt that tightness in her chest draw taut and then release with a burst of relief at the delicate care he handled her with and the affection he gave so freely. The temptation to weep once more was coming on strongly, so she was forced to disengage the hug with a smile up at him she could only hope was reassuring. He looked down at her, mirroring that uncertain smile, and she flinched when she felt him swipe his fingertip along her neck. The shock and shiver from the unexpected contact on that sensitive spot instantly brought every accusation and warning her father had made about what Anders really wanted from her to mind. Betrayal and some strange, primal anger began to spread over that sorrow and gratitude he’d stirred in her before she noticed him examine the stripe of brown he’d dragged off her on his pale fingertip. Fear overrode her confusion when she interpreted the knowing glint in his eye as he rubbed the tacky texture between his thumb and forefinger. He’d seen the bruises and now knew she was covering them with makeup. Dread and a sliver of hope bubbled in her as she wondered if he knew why.

Det kommer til å bli bra, kjære,” he whispered.

Words couldn’t make it past the thick wall of dread, so she swallowed thickly and nodded in response. Trying and failing not to limp as she began to walk toward the stairs, she forced herself not to flinch when he came up behind her and intertwined their fingers. She tucked her mortified grimace away and smiled politely at his helpful grin. His willingness to seemingly always help made her feel both extremely grateful and so incredibly pathetic. She resented that little glimmer of hope in her that wanted to be rescued, knowing she didn’t deserve to be saved from this hell she helped make of her life.

Chapter Text

Gripping the railing to not so heavily rely on his hand for assistance, Simone walked with Anders down the stairs. Her insides ached with each step and she focused on the pain, letting herself feel every twinge and burn as her makeshift sanitary pad slowly dampened with the blood that oozed from the tear her father had made in her.

As they walked down the hall and passed the kitchen, she was beginning to suspect that she might have hallucinated the call for lunch but soon heard the clinking of utensils and baritone drone of male conversation from the dining room. Her mouth tugged into a frown, having anticipated being able to just grab a plate and retreat to the safety of seclusion to eat. Instead, she found herself stuck between Anders’ good intentions to see her safely to their destination and the expectant delight of Leif’s smile upon seeing her in the doorway of the dining room. Panic gripped her and she tried to disengage the handhold but her uncle seemed intent on leading her all the way to the end of the ridiculously long table the men had congregated at.

“So glad you could join us for a meal, dearest,” he beamed. She saw his eyes move toward the hand Anders held and then to the man himself, her dismay rising in the nearly imperceptible change in his expression. Numbly, she kept her gaze fixed on the sheen of the polished wood table as she cautiously sat in the chair her uncle pulled out for her. Terror chased away any slight appetite she had managed to garner.

“How are you today?” Vidar’s heavily accented tone asked her slowly. She snapped out of her dread of a second punishment session to see him and Henrik smiling across from her, her father to her left and Anders to her right. She didn’t remember anyone putting the plate of pasta and green salad before her and she hoped she hadn’t been checked out of reality long enough for them to notice.

“I’m fine,” she blurted out, forcing a smile and gripping the fork. The silverware dug into her white knuckle hold and she took a discreet breath to will calmness over her before asking, “How are you guys?”

Hvordan å si…” he murmured, pale blue eyes glancing toward the high ceiling before finally saying, “Ah! Drunk.”

The men laughed and Simone grinned along with them, proud at her imitation of lightheartedness and feeling a little more confident that she could fake her way through this. She twirled the thin strands of pasta around the fork and began the process of slowly pushing food around her plate to make it seem that she will have eaten more than she had.

“You like here?” Henrik asked as he speared his salad, his stilted English a little less clear than Vidar’s.

She glanced to her father, seeing him watching her with interest in his eyes and a mask of a smile on his face, before answering, “It’s beautiful. I’ve always wanted to live in the country.”

The moment before a reply came stretched longer than it otherwise would and she worried that she may have overestimated his English before he nodded and said, “It is peaceful.”

“These hooligans used to come every summer break and disturb that peace,” Leif said, placing a glass of white wine next to her plate. She looked at it dubiously, then at his smiling mask, and decided not to risk declining it. He didn’t look away from her until she sipped the cold fruity liquid, the alcohol stinging where her teeth had dug into her cheek from the slaps he had given her. Despite the feeling that he was testing her for reasons she hadn’t figured out yet, her desire to know more about her father’s mysterious past was still as strong as it had ever been and she couldn’t resist the rare chance to peer behind the curtain of his privacy.

“But you stayed here with grandpa all year?” she asked.

“I did,” he answered. When he didn’t expand on his response, she wilted a bit in disappointment, knowing any further prodding would be deflected.

“Father wanted Leif to learn uh…” Vidar said, gesturing at the air while he searched his mind for the words.

Simone turned her full attention to him and eagerly asked, “Grandpa wanted him to become an architect like him? Did he come to America with grandpa and Bjørn or did he come over later?”

Vidar furrowed his brow, his face screwed up in thought as she could practically see his mind working to translate, before Leif interjected to answer, “Einar had me come to the US once I turned thirteen, but yes, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps and I did.”

“So you went to high school here?” she asked. He never tolerated her questions and she could tell he was becoming annoyed, but she was in a room full of those who might be able to answer them and she brightened when Henrik picked up the question.

Ja, he played basketball,” Henrik said. He leaned forward with his elbows on the table and said to her in a stage whisper, “I show you pictures later.”

She smiled at him, a smile that she was surprised to find came from genuine happiness at the cheerful offer. “I would like that. I don’t think I’ve seen any pictures of Papa from when he was young.”

“Let’s keep it that way. Henrik, Ikke gjør det,” Leif said firmly, shooting the burly man a stern look that shot a familiar fear into Simone but Henrik merely scoffed at.

He shot back a surly response in Norwegian that Leif dismissed with a disdainful wave of his fork. Anders asked something now that the conversation was in his language and Vidar replied in a sarcastic tone that made Henrik spit something obviously insulting back at him. Simone returned her attention back to her lunch now that the discussion had shifted out of English. Her heart raced with a surprising amount of elation at simply having had a nice, lighthearted talk with another person after so many days without one. While she would have liked to ask further, the pressure of her father’s calculating stare gave her already shaky social anxiety a much unneeded edge so she settled on just being glad that it hadn’t gone badly. The jovial atmosphere that the brothers’ juvenile bickering created relaxed her enough for her to eat without feeling ill and she was able to take in a few bites before she was startled by Anders’ arm draping over her shoulders.

She flinched, dropping her fork thankfully quietly on the napkin next to the plate, and reflexively looked toward Leif to gauge his reaction before she could think to do it more discreetly. Strangely, he didn’t seem upset while his youngest brother leaned more intimately toward her. She quickly looked away, bewildered by the amused smirk he wore, until Anders drew her attention by gesturing toward her while he argued with his brothers. Her brow furrowed, wondering what they could possibly be arguing about regarding her.

“Simone,” her father’s voice brought her gaze back to him. He leaned toward her in his chair, a warm smile softening his features as he glanced toward the distracted brothers before whispering to her, “Nuzzle up on his chest like you did this morning.”

She blanched, certain this was a test. “I-I don’t want to, though…”

She stared, caught between the obvious order and the obvious test, confusion warring inside her until he reached under the table and gave her thigh a warning squeeze. The threat was clear even through the denim of her pants, so she swallowed her apprehension and leaned against Anders’ side. Face burning in mortification, she felt him tense as she pressed her cheek to his chest. His arm hesitantly wrapped around her as though he was unsure what to do with it suddenly.

The lively conversation in the room stopped until he said in a tone tight with nervous laughter, “Hun er veldig kjærlig…”

“She is quite loving,” Leif responded sternly. “Simone, clear the table, please.”

Only too glad to get away from her embarrassing display of forced affection, she uncurled herself from her uncle and kept her gaze fixed on her task as she quickly gathered the empty plates. Once she made it to the kitchen, she was able to place the dishes in the sink before she leaned heavily on the counter and panted through the throbbing pain in her pelvis and mind.

 

 

She really seems taken with you, Anders,” Leif said coolly, careful to hide his amusement at the tense frowns of his brothers as he took Simone’s half emptied wineglass in his hand. He leaned back in his chair and focused his impassive stare at his confused youngest brother.

I’m going to go see if baby Simone needs help with the dishes,” Vidar announced as he stood up from his seat.

Henrik rose immediately at that and said, “I’ll come with you.”

Anders gave the two an incredulous frown as they avoided looking at either of the seated men on their way out of the dining room. Leif was impressed by their quickness to judge Anders as suspicious from the moment he walked in with Simone, surprised at how eager the seeds of distrust he’d sown in them sprouted. They knew the young man more than he did, however, and that the familiarity did not work in Anders’ favor told Leif that his accusations might not be simple paranoia. He wondered, not for the first time, if underneath that outward cheer and magnanimity lurked the same darkness in Anders that guided him. He knew for a fact that the apple never seemed to fall far from the tree in their family and they’d both dropped from the same rotten branch.

Well, we have achieved privacy for the moment if you’d like to engage that conversation you’d requested,” he said.

Anders turned to him with a bewildered shock that melted into resigned recognition as he muttered, “Oh, yes, ah, well…” He cleared his throat and began again, an uncomfortable smile on his face as he navigated the words. “Before we get into that, I want to make something clear. I have no intentions to do anything… strange with your daughter. My niece. I don’t know what I did to cause them or you to think that I would, but it’s all been…” He gestured with his hand as he searched for the term before abandoning it and giving Leif a level look. “She’s a very lonely girl. It’s hard not to reach out to her. I can definitely see how you’ve become so… protective of her, because I feel it too. And like you, it comes from a place of familial love. I have no designs to uh… take advantage, or whatever.”

‘Familial love’…” Leif murmured, a wry smirk cracking through his façade at the irony. He downed the rest of the wine in one gulp in response to the aching twist in his gut, that twisting feeling wringing out something corrosive onto his mood and composure. The temptation of guilt surprised him, but he pushed it down and focused on the moment. He didn’t believe Anders’ cover, but watching him squirm uncomfortably with the topic was at least amusing.

Anders seemed to have not noticed the change in his state as he continued, “I think I speak for everyone when I say that we were not expecting you to become this good parent, no offense. You’ve given up your marriage and now you’re moving here to the countryside to take care of your daughter.” He pursed his lips for a moment in deliberation, gaze falling to the side as he went on in a quieter voice. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened? What made you choose to sacrifice so much?

Leif couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled out of him in a dry chuckle, devoid of humor. His throat felt like sandpaper as he couldn’t stop the truth coming forward. “What made me choose to do this? Hahah! I have no choice! I am driven to do whatever I can for my daughter; I am completely out of control.

So it’s like some fatherly instinct thing, huh? What, like, ‘you’ll understand it when you have kids’?” Anders asked.

Leif ran a hand roughly through his hair and sighed, trying to regain his composure, before he said, “I won’t bullshit you, I didn’t get it for a long time. There were aspects of fatherhood that I simply couldn’t sympathize with while Simone was growing up.” His gaze focused on the painting of a lake hanging behind his brother, his words more to himself than the other man. “It wasn’t until she started showing symptoms that I began to have these strong compulsions. Maybe because that’s when I actually started to feel like she needs me. Lisa was a great mother, but she just had no idea what to do with the girl once she stopped being a kid and started being a problem. It feels so natural to take care of her, even when she hates me for it. But that feeling… that she’s so undeniably mine and nothing could ever change that… It’s a terrifyingly powerful thing.”

It’s that strong just because she’s yours?” Anders asked, bringing his attention back to their conversation. Leif sat up straighter, blinking out of his thoughts and nodded. He then noticed how troubled his brother seemed and he worried that he may have revealed too much, given him enough information to connect the dots. He didn’t expect the confession he received in Anders’ whispered, “I… I think I can understand that… because I am about to become a father.”

Leif’s laugh came out as a harsh bark that tore through his throat before he could even cover his mouth to stifle it. Anders’ wide-eyed bewilderment at him only brought forth a torrent of more laughter until Leif was doubled over the table, hitting the smooth surface of it as he attempted to regain control of himself. He couldn’t believe the absurdity of their situation.

You’re asking me for advice? On being a father?” he asked, his voice high with restrained laughter. The confused nod he received in reply almost made him lose it again. He sat up, dragging his hand over his face and crossing his arms as he drawled, “Oh, God, if I’d known that’s all this was…”

It’s not that simple!” Anders protested. “She has no intention of letting me be part of my child’s life. I just didn’t expect to care this much. When I first heard…” Leif watched, barely able to suppress his grin at the anguish in the young man’s eyes. “I didn’t know what to think at first. But seeing her belly get bigger with my child and knowing that kid might never even know about me… I just can’t stand it.”

That sounds like less of an internal conflict and more of a court problem at this point, little brother,” Leif said, giving him a reassuring pat on the shoulder that brought a slight smile back to his face. “You’ve already accepted becoming a father. There’s no going back on that at this point. You’ve got a lot to work out, but that’s one thing you can count on as fact. For what it’s worth, I’m sure you’re going to be a much better father than I am.”

I doubt that,” Anders smiled. Leif could only shrug.

 

 

Leif could feel Simone flinch in pain when he pressed between her legs, the thickness of her jeans frustrating him as he sought out more contact with the soft skin beneath her clothes. His mouth searched for the sensitive spots along her collarbones as one of his hands stretched her shirt collar low enough to give him access and his other hand had disappeared beneath the hem of it to greedily wander along her torso. The sketchbook and pencil that were in her lap had tumbled to the rug when he had pushed her to lie on her back on the sofa. His erection had come on quickly and with such an incessant need when he had found her alone in the parlor that he couldn’t bother with words to convince her. He bit down wherever his tongue laved over a spot that made her whimper, driving her meek little sounds into gasps.

Papa, what are you-”

“I love you so much,” he nearly rasped from how ragged his voice came out, his wandering hand slipping under her bra and gripping her impossibly soft breast. The hardened pebble of her nipple dug into the center of his palm as he kneaded, dragging out a shivering sigh from the writhing girl beneath him. He watched, mesmerized, while she struggled between trying to push him away and weakening to his touch.

“W-Why are you- What are you doing?” she stammered. Her voice was rushed with nervousness and he brought his mouth to hers once more to stop her questions. His kiss was perhaps too hard as she winced and grunted into his mouth, but she obediently opened for his insistent tongue. His other hand was slipping under her shirt when he heard footsteps approaching down the long hallway.

“Fuck,” he muttered, moving off her quickly and pulling her to sit up next to him. He watched her as she attempted to recover from his rough and sudden attentions, running her shaking hands through her mussed hair and blinking blearily. Her full lips were even more plush and reddened from the rough treatment of his mouth and her cheeks were tinged in a pretty pink. He folded his hands over the bulge of his impatient erection before Henrik entered the parlor.

We were going to drive into town in the rental car, do you want to come along?” he asked.

No, you go on ahead,” Leif answered, hoping that they would leave soon so he could fuck his daughter. The thought of not having to gag or choke her this time made him even more eager.

But Henrik pointed to Simone and asked, “You want to come town with us?”

She answered a quick “Yes!” just as Leif said a firm “No.”

Henrik burst into a giggle as she turned to Leif and explained, “I have to… buy something in town.”

“I’ll ask them to pick it up for you,” he responded flatly.

She frowned in embarrassment and leaned against him to whisper, “I’m still bleeding… from earlier. I need to buy pads. Please, please don’t ask them to buy pads for me.”

That burning, twisting guilt contorted in him again when he realized what she was referring to but a flash of anger quickly rose ahead of that deep well of regret.

“Did I fail in teaching you to not hide things from me? Do you perhaps need a second lesson?” he asked sternly. She shook her head emphatically with her deer in the headlights look that he adored, so he sighed heavily and said to his brother, “Give us twenty minutes. We’ll come.”

“Awesome!” Henrik grinned, backing out of the room with both thumbs held up. Leif waited until he heard the man’s heavy footsteps fade into the hallway before he dragged his daughter onto his lap, smiling at her small yelp of surprise.

“Now then,” he whispered, tilting her chin up and leaning down to her nervous face. “Where were we?”

They both jerked when Anders’ voice asked behind them, “Have you seen my wallet?”

Leif closed his eyes and took a calming breath before standing, lifting the slight girl in his arms with him. He walked past an increasingly bewildered Anders, not deigning to look at the young man as he walked down the hallway and turned into the bathroom. He placed Simone on the counter next to the sink and locked the door. When he turned back to her, she was staring at the bathtub, a faraway look in her eyes that he’d seen before and hurried to break her out of.

Fucking hell,” he hissed as he grabbed her by her jaw and forced her to face him. Her half-lidded eyes looked at him but with the bleary unfocused stare of the unseeing. He kissed her unresponsive mouth in chaste affection, an unspoken apology passing through his lips onto hers, before taking a step back and raising his hand. He slapped her just enough to sting, the sound echoing off the tiled walls of the spacious bathroom. Her head was turned slightly to the side from the force of his strike, a reddening splotch blooming on her cheek, but she continued to simply stare in her daze. His jaw tensed in rising nervousness. Though he knew it would begin happening more frequently under such a duration of high stress, he couldn’t let her continue dissociating so sporadically. At least not while there were people around.

He leaned down and whispered close to her ear, “Simone, describe out loud what you are seeing.”

At first, she seemed still completely lost in the trance. After a moment, though, her mouth started to move and her blind stare darted around at seemingly nothing. He waited, patient with the process of her mind splitting between two worlds.

“Water… but… everything is so dark…” she murmured, breath barely scraping her vocal chords enough to make the words audible. Her eyes searched through nothing. “Someone in the water…”

“There’s no one in the water,” he whispered quickly. “Close your eyes.” Her eyelids drifted shut on her slack face, looking for all appearances to be completely asleep. He stepped between her spread knees and began unbuttoning her jeans. “I’m behind you. Don’t look. Step backward. Don’t look. Are you out of the water?”

“Out of the water,” she parroted back under her breath. He slowly pushed her backward, her shoulder blades and back of her head leaning against the large mirror behind her. He yanked down her jeans, lifting her slightly to get them out from under her and repositioning her when she slid off to the side limply. He examined the bloodstained paper towel wadded up in her underwear before tossing it into the wastebasket, a heady combination of worry and power wrinkling his brow in a frown.

“There was no water,” he said as he peeled her pants and panties all the way off. “Don’t look. Keep walking backward, I’m still behind you.”

Her rhythmic, calm breathing began to hitch and stutter but her eyes remained closed with her face and body still slack. He lifted and bent her knees until her heels were on the countertop, positioning her legs splayed wide and pelvis angled forward to provide him easier access to her vagina. It was still red and swollen from her punishment and smears of dried blood stained the bruised skin, a thin line of brighter red marking the slit of her entrance. He swallowed in his dry mouth, unable to tear his stare away from the sight of her bloodied and abused cunt.

“Keep walking. Don’t look. Go slow,” he commanded softly as he gently parted her labia with his thumbs. The skin inside was inflamed, making it difficult to pull open and see inside. Her rattling breaths were beginning to quicken as he slowly sunk his fingers into her snug cunt and pried her open. Though her small size didn’t allow for him to open her as widely as he truly needed, he was able to assess with great relief that she lacked any significant lacerations. His erection strained distractingly against the front of his slacks and he considered replacing his probing fingers with his cock, but he doubted he had the self-control at that moment to not cause her more significant damage. Sighing deeply, he pulled his hands away and washed them in the sink next to her splayed and slack body.

She exhaled a slight purr of pleasure as he gently wiped the blood from her with a washcloth dampened with hot water and he smiled at the sound. He adored how pure her subtle little reactions became while she was in this state; so free from the burden of knowledge and fear, completely unselfconscious and unfiltered. Seeing her like this again brought a wave of nostalgia to him as he recalled those shame-filled dark moments of first having indulged in taking advantage of her highly vulnerable state. Those first hesitant touches that had him so paranoid that she would wake up and scream or remember later seemed so silly to him now with the power he held over her. He nearly laughed aloud at the man he was, at how pathetically guilt-stricken he had been even as he had watched like a circling vulture for any opportunity to tip her into one of her catatonic episodes or administer a sedative. All the ridiculous rules he had set on himself only to break them over time: over her clothes became under her clothes became unclothed, just one kiss became countless, touching became tasting became fucking. Throughout all of it, the assurance that she would never know had satisfied his guilt until that too broke as she responded more and more strongly to his manipulation. Now that he’d finally had her so aware and awake and vivid, he knew he’d never be satisfied with just having her as his doll ever again.

“Simone,” he said more firmly, holding her lolling head up in his hands and leaning close to her. “It’s Papa. I’m here with you now. You can hear me. Can you feel me?”

He smoothed his thumbs over her cheeks and her brow twitched. “… Yes,” she breathed.

“Good girl. Simone, how old are you?” he asked.

She inhaled shakily, eyes moving under her lids for a moment before whispering, “Eighteen.”

“No, you are twenty. You haven’t been on campus for nineteen months. You’re in Vermont at your grandfather’s house and it’s 7 in the afternoon. Your uncles are here. Remember hugging your uncles?” he said, keeping his tone certain and even.

Her brow furrowed as she seemed to struggle in thought, the confusion a good sign of her rising consciousness. “Uncle Anders…” she muttered.

His lips pursed against the flash of undeniable jealousy and he swallowed the pointless reaction down before saying, “Yes, Anders. Where are you, Simone?”

“Grandpa’s house. He’s dead,” she answered.

“Very good, Simone. Grandpa is dead. You’re ready to open your eyes,” he said.

Her eyes blinked open, though he knew it could be anywhere between several minutes to several hours before she would fully emerge from her stupor. Having her conscious and moving would have to do. He pressed his lips to her mouth, smiling when she automatically puckered into his kiss. He was amused with how reactive she was to him, to his voice and to his conditioning, that she could adapt to such recent stimuli to the point where she could respond nearly unconsciously. Though she lacked any finesse, he was pleased with this unexpected sign of his power over her.

You ready yet?” Vidar’s voice called through the door. Leif grabbed Simone’s wrist and checked Bjørn’s watch, both surprised that twenty minutes had already passed and impressed that he was able to pull her out in such a short amount of time. Hurriedly, he slipped her feet through the leg holes of her panties and jeans.

Ready,” he called back as he pulled his daughter off the countertop. He steadied her for a moment, checking her dazed expression for any sign of change, and pulled her jeans up the rest of the way when she stood unwaveringly. Leif smiled politely at Vidar’s uncomfortable expression when he stepped out with Simone dragging her feet after him.

Is she well?” Vidar asked, looking at her drowsy face skeptically.

Leif took her hand, leading her toward the front door as he said, “Clearly not. Let’s grab our coats and go.”

Chapter Text

“…rer… dritt…”

Simone heard the distant voice in the darkness, but it was too far away to understand. All feeling seemed muted as she drifted through a foggy awakening, the world around her becoming more aggravatingly noisy even as she tried to dive back into the merciful oblivion of sleep. The sensation of movement made her cling to the firm bundle she was leaning against. Her palm smoothed over the warm fabric and the stimulation of those fibers running under her hand brought her further out of unconsciousness. A perplexity stirred in her sluggish mind, a thought that worked to unbury itself from that thick haze until it rang clear in her head.

I was not asleep.

She opened her eyes and the world crashed into her all at once, light and noise and smell overwhelming her. She sat up quickly and her head swam but she swallowed her initial panic and tried to catalog her surroundings. She found herself to be in the backseat of a moving car she didn’t recognize, surrounded by men. Unfortunately, these observations only served to fuel her rising terror. Familiarity tickled her brain until she connected the blur of their features as people she knew. Her father was driving with Henrik in the front passenger seat and she was sitting between Vidar and Anders in the back. Looking in Anders’ direction, she noticed that she had been gripping his thigh, the material of his slacks bunching under her tensed hand. She immediately jerked it away from him.

“I’m sorry…” she murmured, trying her best to not convey her horror and confusion as she attempted an awkward smile. He didn’t appear to have minded as he gave her a fond grin and ruffled her hair, his nonchalant good cheer helping to calm her racing heart and burning embarrassment. She only realized he had his arm slung around her shoulders when he pulled her to him and she flopped against his side, the position reminding her that she had likely been leaning against him while she was in her twilight trance. She swallowed nervously as she glanced to her father. The way he watched them in the rearview mirror made her blood run cold instantly.

“Welcome back to the land of the living, Simone,” he said, the creasing of his crow’s feet telling her he was smiling but that did nothing to ease her fear. Nothing was ever as it seemed with him. Her brow twitched in curiosity at his wording, wondering if she really had been asleep or at least seeming asleep in that block of time that was missing. She could only hope she wasn’t doing or saying anything odd and that worry left her anxious. She found that she couldn’t move away from the same embrace that had brought her such punishment just that morning, but not because of the temporary comfort Anders brought. He held her to him firmly, not responding to her slight budges and twists as she tried to signal that she wanted to sit up. The accusations and warnings her father had expressed to her about his brother’s intentions invoked a gut-twisting fear in her as the hold only tightened. She looked to her father, seeing his eyes set on the road, and then at Vidar to find him thoroughly distracted by his phone.

“Don’t tell papa,” Anders whispered, the rumble of his voice in his chest dark against her ear. His other hand reached out and grabbed her chin, tilting her face up forcibly. Seeing the friendly smile still on his face, she willed herself to calm and consider that she was overreacting. She didn’t know her breathing had become shallow and quick until she forced herself to take deep and slow breaths. He kept their eyes locked as his hand slid down the side of her neck, his nails dragging along the sensitive skin gently and sending chills down her spine and goosebumps across her skin. That hard-won calm in her dissolved as his hand dragged lower, her body trying to jerk away from him reflexively as he slid his fingers over her breast and caught his nail over the tiny bump of her nipple under her shirt.

“Please stop…” she mumbled through her tight throat, but his hand kept its slow descent. Tears welled in her eyes from the tremendous betrayal and disbelief and spilled over her cheek when he just continued smiling down at her like nothing at all was wrong.

“Ssh, kjære,” he whispered softly. She looked quickly to her father, both hoping and fearful that he would see, but he didn’t turn his attention away from driving and Vidar was still deep into his phone. Anders unbuttoned her jeans and she shuddered in revulsion as he slid his fingers under the waistband.

“No, no, no, please don’t do this,” she murmured as she felt him push under her panties. Her hands clenched into fists when she felt the first slow roll of his fingertips over her clitoral hood. Unable to stand that benevolent smile, she pressed her forehead against his chest. Her stifled sobs shook her when her body began to respond despite the pain of betrayal and loathing.

“You feel good?” she heard him ask. She shook her head and tried to squeeze her legs together, but that only pressed his hand closer and she flinched at the contact. To her horror, he sped up his pace and pressed harder, sending shocks of pleasure through her body while her mind reeled in panic and sorrow. She felt like such a fool to have considered trusting him instead of her father. She realized with a disturbing twist in her chest that with her dad, she had felt loved in some sick, strange way. With Anders, there was no love, no bond, just assault. She scrunched her eyes shut as she felt the tension of her orgasm approaching.

 

 

“STOP!” Simone shouted, making Leif jerk his hands away from the front of her jeans in surprise at the sudden outburst from the dazed girl. He watched warily as she looked around the grocery store’s restroom. Her breath came in short and rapid gasps and her eyes were wide in fear and bafflement at the gray tiles and dingy porcelain fixtures. When she lowered her stare to his kneeling form before her, her hyperventilating stopped altogether. He waited, ready to spring back or spring forward and restrain her if necessary, but the tears welling in her big eyes told him he needn’t do either. Letting out a shaking sob, she fell to her knees and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Papa! Thank god, oh thank god!” she sobbed against his shirt collar. His arms encircled her and held her to him gently, petting her back as she shook against him.

“Are you feeling all right, Simone?” he asked. She only burrowed her face further into the crook of his neck in response. He was relieved that she came to while he had her alone but she hadn’t recovered from an episode with such a dramatic reaction since her incident. The way her breaths hitched and shook her soft little body felt good against him and made it easy to slip into the role of caring father. He slid one hand up and cupped the back of her head as he schooled his voice into something gentle and warm to say,Tell me what’s happening with you, dearest. No more hiding. Let me help you.”

He could feel her body tensing as she suppressed her sobs, but it didn’t take more than a minute before she stammered, “I’ve been… seeing things again. Losing time and blacking out… I’m sorry. I thought I would get better, Dad, but I’m getting so much worse again. I don’t know what to do anymore…”

He squeezed her gently and pressed several small kisses into her hair as he said, “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be fine, sweetheart. I promised I would always take care of you.”

“I don’t think this has been good for me,” she whispered. “The… sex. I don’t think we should be that way with each other.”

He kept the same warm, caring tone even as his hand brushed her hair away from her neck. “I’m sorry that I had to hurt you today but look at the progress it’s already brought. You’re being more honest and letting me help you.”

“That’s not what I…” she whispered, trailing off when he pressed his open mouth right below her ear. Her hands gripped his shirt tight as she sighed and then tried to continue, “It’s… everything. We’re family, we shouldn’t… ah…”

He lightly nipped her earlobe and then dragged his tongue over the outer shell of her ear, making her gasp and hold him tighter, before he whispered, “Don’t you want me to love you as much as I do, my darling girl?”

She shivered and he kissed her temple, slowly leaning her back as he kissed his way to her mouth. She practically melted in his arms as he coaxed her tongue to caress his, her meager resistance disintegrating when he moaned into her and then she was soft and willing for him. He was almost giddy with how easy it was to bend her will with the promise of a little love and affection. Years of subtle conditioning and manipulation lead up to this exact dynamic and he allowed himself the satisfaction of gloating in the payoff. As he pulled away from her mouth, he watched her face and admired the effect his affection had on her. Her cheeks were pink with the flush of arousal under her drying tears of distress and her eyes glittered as she slowly opened them to look at him with such an expression of adoration and uncertainty.

“You don’t want to stop,” he whispered. He leaned forward again, smiling when she let her eyes fall shut once more and turned her head a bit to deepen the kiss. Her mouth was hot and open to him, her little huffs and sighs making his cock strain against his pants impatiently. Between the wet sounds of their kisses, he whispered, “I know you may be confused right now, but there’s nothing wrong with what we have. It’s this easy to give into it because this is the way it’s supposed to be; you were made to be mine. I could love you so much, Simone, if you just let me.”

Her hands caressed along his broad shoulders, nails dragging over the material of his shirt as she parted the kiss and looked up at him with shame and lust written all over her. He pressed the tips of their noses together, that mockery of parental affection bringing a cruel curl to his smile as he asked, “Don’t you love me, darling girl?”

“I love you, Papa,” she answered in a whispered voice cracking with sorrow.

“Good girl,” he smiled and hugged her to him, the sound of Bjørn’s watch ticking next to his ear counting the dozens of seconds while she held onto him tightly.

“Dad?” he heard her ask nervously.

“Hmm?”

“How did we get here? Where are we?”

He let out a breathy chuckle and then answered, “Henrik drove us in their rental, sweetheart. We’re at the market I took you to the other day.”

“Henrik drove… Did I sit next to Anders?” she asked tightly.

His brow quirked in curiosity and wariness at that and he asked, “Why are you asking such questions? Did Anders do something to you?”

“No, no, he didn’t…” she answered absently. She buried her face against his neck and muttered, “It’s getting hard to tell what’s real anymore.”

“Then let me hold the end of your thread as you wander the labyrinth of your mind. I will always guide you back to reality,” he said. He rubbed her back reassuringly and nuzzled her soft hair, the scent of his shampoo on her filling him with prideful ownership. “You trust me, don’t you?”

She flinched away at the sound of a rapping on the door and he gave her a quick squeeze before disengaging their embrace. He took hold of her arms and helped her up, kissing her mouth once more before grabbing the plastic shopping bag from the floor and leading her out of the restroom by her hand. The woman waiting outside the door looked at them and he smiled genially at her open disgust at seeing them exit the restroom together. It was refreshing to see someone assuming the worst of him after days of nearly rubbing his sexual relationship with his daughter in his brothers’ faces.

As they headed through the exit, Simone tugged on his hand and stuttered, “Wait, uh, c-can we get the, um… the pads?”

He lifted the plastic bag in response and continued walking as he offhandedly explained, “That’s why we were in the restroom, darling.”

“… Oh.”

The early evening sky was already pitch black with a smattering of stars across it that even in the lighting of the small parking lot seemed impressive compared to the murky skies of the city. There were no people wandering the main street of the sleepy little town, no movement of cars or sounds aside from their footsteps. It was easy for Leif to imagine that he and Simone could be the only living people in the world, a thought that made him yearn for his meddling brothers to return to Europe and let him transform his daughter in peace.

Almost as though she had read his thoughts, he heard her quietly ask, “Are they still in the store?”

“It would seem so,” he answered. He leaned his back against the side of the car, tilting his head to watch the stars and the steam of his breath bloom in the chill of the night. He was aware of Simone wandering off, the sound of her shoes crunching through the gravel becoming distant, but he figured she couldn’t find too much trouble with no one around. He ran his thumb over the antler handle of his dead father’s folding knife in his coat pocket and savored the cold air drawing into his heated lungs.

 

 

“Come here often?”

Simone whirled, feet scraping noisily across the gravel as she turned to the sound of the voice. In the shadow of the awning above the backdoor to the store, away from the orange glow from the bulb hanging from the roof, she noticed the red glow from a cigarette before the figure stepped out into the light. She also noticed, perhaps with more surprise, that she didn’t feel the panic that she’d come to expect when caught off guard by someone lately. This benign boy with his wiry frame and crooked grin was too far removed from the man she feared.

“Sorry, I didn’t know this was off-limits,” she said, turning on her heel and beginning to walk back.

“Hey, wait now, I remember you!” the boy said. Simone cringed as she heard him clear the distance between them and she turned back around in preparation for polite small town small talk. He tossed back the long sideways fringe of his hair and wore that crooked grin as he said, “You came in here the other day, right? You visiting around here?”

“Sort of,” she muttered, feeling awkward at this boy’s overt friendliness. But she was lonely and he wasn’t a threat. She straightened, giving him a smile as she spoke, “I’m staying at my grandpa’s place about twenty minutes out. He passed a little over a week ago.”

“Oh, shit, I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, grin faltering.

She shrugged. “It’s fine. I didn’t really know him. You work here, right?” He nodded, holding the straps of his apron exaggeratedly, and she breathed out a polite chuckle before extending her hand. “My name’s Simone. You’re probably going to be seeing me around pretty often, unless there’s anything else to do in this town.”

He shook her hand, laughing a bit as he did so and she wondered if that was perhaps she made a social misstep in offering a handshake. She wasn’t sure how people her age socialized and all her friends back home were either unfitting examples of normalcy by any standard or much older than her.

“No, I’m afraid Jay’s Grocer and General is pretty much the most entertaining place if you don’t count church,” he said. “Simone, huh? I like that. I’m Bryce. You smoke?”

“Not tobacco,” she half-murmured, glancing back to the corner she’d walked around from to make sure her father wasn’t nearby.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Oh, uh, I mean, no. I don’t smoke,” she smiled. She stuffed her hands into her hoodie pockets, the jacket not nearly thick enough for the chill that night. This was pleasant, she decided. Having a normal conversation with a normal boy was something that would have given her mild anxiety just a week ago, but normal seemed so comforting and safe to her now. Even if she couldn’t ever be normal again after what she’d been through, she wanted to soak up as much as she could where it presented itself. “So, Bryce, did you grow up around here?”

“Well, I wouldn’t move here by choice, so yeah,” he nodded. He took a drag off his cigarette, the smell abrasive to her sensitive nose. “Where are you visiting from?”

“Brooklyn. New York. It’s quite a culture shock,” she answered.

“Yeah, no shit,” he drawled. “Hey, that older guy you were with the other day, is he like your boyfriend or something?”

She tried not to examine the odd feeling that question brought up in her or let it show in her expression. Slowly, she shook her head and said, “No… no, he’s my dad.”

“Oh! Ok, cool, cool,” he said, nodding again and looking away as his grin widened. “So are you in high school?”

“No, I’m twenty,” she chuckled. “Why did you think that? How old do you think I look?”

He laughed and she giggled at the way he shifted on his feet in his embarrassment. “Ohh, no, no, I’m not falling for that one!” he joked.

“Are you in high school?” she asked.

“Hell no, I’m older than you are!” he said, mock-defensively.

That surprised her. She took a harder look at him, but his smooth skin and soft features only spoke of his youth to her. There were no crow’s feet, dark circles, or frown lines to measure age by. The absence of any of these features struck her as odd despite knowing that perception wasn’t normal considering she also lacked them and didn’t consider herself any other age than what she knew herself to be. The discrepancy in her logic struck her as another subtler sign of her deteriorating mental health and she suddenly felt very uncomfortable talking with this stranger. She needed to escape before she did or said anything that might reveal her insanity.

“I should get back to my father,” she said, hurriedly walking away from the boy.

“Oh, uh, okay. I’ll see you around!” he called after her.

She lifted one hand in a wave, not looking back as she rounded the corner and nearly collided with her father. He grabbed her upper arm and she stumbled as he pulled her towards the car, her shoes skidding at the gravel in her attempts to match his wide and rapid stride. Her mind raced, trying to figure out why he was hurrying her along so roughly, eyes scanning for any reason to rush but there seemed to be no immediate cause. She felt him shove her and she slammed against the side of the car, the realization of his anger knocked into her on impact. Confusion and fear swelled in her as she tried to gauge whether she should move to straighten herself or stay crouched against the vehicle, but he answered that by opening the back door and gesturing her to get in with a jerk of his wrist. She scrambled to oblige and he crowded in behind her, pushing her across the backseat impatiently.

When he closed the door, he shot her a disdainful look and hissed, “What do you think you’re doing?”

She balked, surprised at her own hot streak of anger at him. Figuring a punishment would be imminent at this point no matter what her subsequent actions, she gave that anger a voice.

“You know, I must have had a million conversations with a million strangers back home,” she began, her voice nearly shaking with restraint to keep from shouting. Her fists clenched in her lap and she couldn’t bring herself to look at Leif. “You didn’t give a shit about me until you started fucking me. Hell, you would barely ever speak to me unless I was having a fucking panic attack. I know you never wanted to be a father but you really can’t start now, not after what you’ve done. You can’t just lock me away from society because I’m… because of some ‘danger to myself and others’ crap! I was doing just fine without you before and I can handle-”

Her world flashed in black and white and reeled around her from the sharp crack of his hand across her face, the pain radiating from her cheek shortly thereafter. Her courage fled her along with the anger that had fueled it and left her shaking in the tremendous fear than remained. Somehow, past the pain and terror, there was only a deep numbness inside of her even as he gripped the roots of her hair and pulled her head back. Her eyes squeezed shut and mouth gaped in a silent groan as he loomed over her, his other hand coming to wrap around her neck and hold her against the seat.

“Would you say that having the cops call me to pick you up from the station multiple times was ‘just fine’? Or showing up at our door asking questions that I had to lie to explain?” he growled out, breath hot on her face. She grunted fearfully as his hand at her throat tightened. “You don’t know what ‘just fine’ is. You’re only not rotting in a prison cell because I protect you and yet you have the audacity to tell me what I can’t do. Is that ‘just fine’, Simone?”

Unable to speak past the tight grip of his hand and the fear lodged in her throat, she shook her head and prayed that would satisfy him. She wondered why she had even said those things to begin with, finding no reason to believe them now beyond further proof of her declining sanity. His hands released their agonizing holds on her neck and hair, one palm smoothing over her aching cheek with a gentleness that brought her eyes open in apprehension. His impassive mask betrayed nothing of his intentions, no clue as to whether he would punish or soothe her, and her breath rattled out of her trembling chest as she stared up at him in the secluded silence of the car. The hand that could so easily crush her cradled the side of her face while he slowly closed the short distance between them, a hint of his sharp teeth just barely grazing her lips as he kissed to remind her of the still painful bite on her shoulder. Her life had become a polarizing series of pain and pleasure, hurt and comfort, and affection and abuse that interchanged so rapidly the lines between them had blurred.

“I’m sorry, Papa,” she whispered when he parted from her mouth.

“Are you?” he asked, tone dripping with disbelief.

His thumb brushed down the bridge of her nose and she shut her eyes for a moment, gathering the will to voice the impulse that welled inside of her. “Please…” she breathed, then opened her hesitant gaze to watch as she whispered more firmly, “Punish me.”

His eyes snapped to lock with hers, surprise cracking through his mask briefly in the slight quirk of his brow and dilation of his pupils. “You believe you need to be punished?”

Her jaw tensed, mouthing the word before retrying through her fear and whispering a tight, “Yes.”

The fluttering nervousness in her gut practically vibrated as he simply continued to stare down at her. She watched the minor changes in his expression play across his face as his mind worked; an almost undetectable broadening of his nostrils as his breathing deepened, relaxation of his eyelids as they became slightly hooded, a twitch at the corners of his mouth. To any stranger, they might not have detected any expression on him at all. But through her lifetime of seeking any impression or reaction from the normally stoic man, he might as well have been grinning with glee. To see him so pleased brought that familiar swell of pleasure at obtaining his approval that she had always sought, a thing which made her surer of her own insanity in this context. The carnal thrill stirring in her at the darkening of his gaze certainly confirmed it, but something else stirred in her as well.

“It’s discipline, right?” she asked, quiet voice cracking through the struggle of her thoughts. She could hear the edge of desperation in her own tone. “Discipline is a necessary part of training… and my mind needs to be retrained. I think you said that to me once when I started to… to lose my mind. Isn’t that right? I was sixteen and the school called you because mom was on a business trip. And you came.” She could almost feel something unravel in her mind as a memory bubbled up from a dark piece of her. She pursed her lips, swallowing back the tears that crawled up the edges of her eyes and tightened her throat. “I don’t even remember what I did, but… I was so scared when it was you who picked me up. You never yelled me like mom did, but you were always the one I was afraid of. So, when we got home and you said that to me about discipline, I was terrified. But you only gave me a sedative and sent me to my room.”

She paused, unsure if she should continue, the memory dredging up a deep and long-buried mob of emotions that made her shiver as she brushed the denial off it. She thought she had completely forgotten it, shoved it so far down into the pit of her that it should never have resurfaced. She had in fact forgotten it for many years and the lack of explosive reaction somewhat surprised her when the memory came back to her cool and calm.

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes to shield them from his constant stare as she admitted, “I didn’t take that sedative, Dad.”

Another long and silent moment stretched on before she opened her moist eyes, looking to see the concealed astonishment in her father’s face. Slowly, he backed away from her, his hands retreating to rub at his face and then support his forehead as he rested his elbows on his knees. She sat up, observing his reaction and surprised to see the unabashed guilt etched into his posture and hidden face. Suddenly, she didn’t know what to do. She had expected anger, smugness, spite, but not guilt. In the stillness and silence, memories of that incident played unbidden in the theater of her mind, almost a flashback but it was as though she were watching it happen to someone else.

She saw herself lying down on top of her blankets, the afternoon sun filtering through her shut blinds in thin strips of light across her body as she tried to nap. Then her door slowly opened and her father, still wearing his full three-piece suit from being pulled out of the office, came in and stood over her bed for several minutes just watching her. She’d feigned sleep, not wanting to get in trouble for not taking the sedative, so certain that he’d only come in to make sure of just that. But then he took off his jacket, tossing it onto the bed next to her, followed by his vest and tie. When his hands slid up her bare thighs under her school uniform skirt, the pleated gray material bunching around her waist as he hooked his thumbs at the sides of her plain white panties, she began to feign sleep on instinct. That she had continued to feign sleep would haunt her later until she would manage to bury the memory altogether, but the shame and self-blame had begun from that moment. His hands had pressed down the sides of her legs as he pulled her panties down, so slow that it felt like solid minutes had passed as she felt him slide his palms across her skin. Laying there, her cunt so exposed to him and his touch so sensual, she was still somehow confused about what exactly was happening. A dozen nonsensical reasons had clashed in her mind for this predicament even as his hands had traveled up her inner thighs and parted her pussy.

It wasn’t until she felt him press his wet, hot tongue inside her that she knew what was happening. The betrayal and violation that had crashed down on her in that moment should have sent her kicking and screaming away from him, but her body wouldn’t obey her. An instinctual fear had locked her inside of her mind and only heeded the natural reaction to play dead under this large predator. She couldn’t peek an eye open to see what he was doing, but now she watched this memory play out from the side of the bed as her father had swirled his tongue inside her cunt with brazen hunger. Even her breathing had held the deep, calm rhythm of sleep until he had dragged a shuddering and terrifying orgasm out of her. Her mind had railed against the bafflement of how good he could make her feel physically while her world felt like it was crashing down around her, a sentiment she noted with a hollow feeling held true in present day for her as well.

The sound of him unbuckling his belt and unzipping his slacks had spurred her to panic, but her body wouldn’t move even as he leaned over her and kissed her slack and unresponsive mouth. The idea that she would spend the rest of her life knowing how her own father’s kiss felt was something that had struck a harsh chord deep in her for some reason. The care and tenderness he put into it felt worse than if it had simply been sexual. It had been intimate and so full of love that it had bruised her soul.

The width of his thickness spreading her with each saw of his hips made her throat clench in fear that he would tip his cock just slightly and slide into her, but he seemed to be set on satisfying himself without penetrating her. It had been a cold comfort to her then and an odd consideration to reflect on now. The slick sounds of him sliding his cock against her wet pussy had made her stomach twist. Internally, she had suffered the revulsion this breach of trust of his fatherhood brought against her, but she couldn’t make her cries external no matter how loudly they had echoed in her mind. She could only lie under him paralyzed until he had finished, but he took his time enjoying her vulnerable body. The heavy sound of his panting, the restrained power in the roll of his hips, the strength of his grip on her waist, and even the heady masculine scent of his sweat had stirred a carnal desire in her that she reviled even as it flooded her cunt.

When at last his thrusts became jerky and his ragged breaths became groans, he’d taken his cock in his hand and finished with his head pushed against her opening. That hot, gooey mess had spilling against her cunt made her flesh crawl. He had stayed there kneeling on his haunches, catching his breath and staring dazedly at her for several more minutes before redressing and leaving the room briefly to return with a dampened towel. After wiping her clean, he slid her panties back on and pressed an affectionate kiss to her forehead, a gesture that only made the entire scenario all the more depraved in the juxtaposition of sexual and fatherly sentiments. He had laid down alongside her in the small twin bed and cradled her limp body against him for hours after that as she drifted in and out of real and fake sleep, mind and body too numb to process what had just happened to her. By the time he had left her bedroom, she had managed to convince herself that it was just a dream. And like a dream, she eventually was able to forget it had happened at all.

Simone watched her younger self lie there in bed and slowly regain control of her body enough to tremble and curl in on itself, the memory warping in darkness until she realized she was sitting in the backseat of the car between Anders and Vidar. She felt something press into her palm and looked down to see Anders holding her hand, his thumb rubbing along her knuckles soothingly as he looked out the window into the pitch black night. The numbness around her heart weakened just enough for it to ache.

Chapter Text

What’s the most you’ve ever lost in a gamble?”

Leif sighed heavily, hoping to avoid the aggravatingly cheerful conversation between Vidar and Henrik as they spoke loudly between the back and front seat, but the burly bearded man was clearly asking him the latest annoying question. In truth, he was somewhat glad to be dragged out of his thoughts, but still considered his brothers annoying.

My status as an only child,” he answered, turning his attention back to driving through the inky darkness of the country road.

Henrik slapped his arm and scolded, “Come on, jackass, give a serious answer.”

Leif entertained the question for a moment, recalling the bluff he lost against three Japanese lackeys in a San Francisco basement and the molar they had collected from him with a wrench, but answered, “$6,000 at poker.”

How the fuck did you let yourself lose that much?” Vidar asked as Henrik guffawed and Anders whistled lowly.

“It won the company a 20 million-dollar contract with a sore loser of a client,” Leif answered. Vidar threw his hands up in disgust.

Braggart,” Henrik jeered, but then asked, “What’s the most you’ve ever won in a gamble?”

Leif didn’t have to think for an answer as he glanced through the rear-view mirror at the once-again dazed girl in the backseat. “A daughter.”

Vidar groaned in disgust as Henrik mockingly cooed and Anders repeated, “Braggart.”

Leif tuned them out once more, having apparently satisfied their game to provide the most aggravating responses to their aggravating questions, and returned to his heavy thoughts. He wasn’t sure where along the way he had pinned a moral obligation to protect Simone from the knowledge of how they had progressed through the nearly six years of his increasingly bolder actions with her unconscious body. Being confronted with his failure to spare her of that knowledge felt incongruently painful to the self-admittedly sick and cruel process he was willing and frankly eager to put her through currently. He wondered why he felt that he had committed such an offense by being caught in something that was comparably merciful to the girl.

He hadn’t even intended to begin her conditioning at the level they were now at until several months into their seclusion there in Vermont, but it had been her own lust that had advanced his plans. He reassured himself that, had he been a crueler and less patient man, he could have easily taken her while she was even younger and more malleable. That he had chosen to allow her an adolescence in innocence was by his own virtue. He had been so cautious to be subtle in his ministrations up until recently. Every escalation not by his design had been caused from a completely unexpected catalyst by Simone, in fact. The initial – and mutual, he reminded himself-- attraction in his father’s kitchen, the enticement in her struggles when he first wrenched the sedative out of her mother’s inept hands and forced it under his daughter’s writhing tongue, the blood smeared over her mouth when he had found her by the pond, all outside of his intentions and all leading to the worst of his deeds.

It occurred to him then, as he was reflecting on the maddening effect his daughter had on his self-control, that the source of his guilt was only partially a natural consequence of violating his own flesh and blood so carnally. The aspect that set it so apart from that grief was the shame in his own moral decline. His values and decency had been present and unsettled throughout the entire process, creating a deep chasm of cognitive dissonance in his psyche. The defilement of his daughter cut both ways. He grinned wryly at how pathetic and futile his guilt really was because he knew that when presented with any scenario between right and wrong, he would always choose the most interesting option. Simone, with her unique and fractured mind and her inherited traits that manifested so vividly, interested him irresistibly for better or worse of them both.

He glanced through the mirror at his youngest brother, seeing him biting his knuckle in much the same way Simone did when she was nervous, and wondered again at what traits that man had inherited from their father’s side of the family. Their shared interest in Simone might not present itself in the same manner, but he knew he could use it to influence and manipulate Anders if he could figure out how his interest functioned. Or perhaps it would be more efficient to manipulate how that interest functioned first. Slowing into the turn up the wooded driveway toward their father’s house, he surreptitiously glanced back to see Anders holding Simone’s small hand in the space between them with her bleary gaze fixed to that point of contact while his brother pretended to stare out the window in a ruse of nonchalance.

 

 

Simone picked up her sketchbook from under the coffee table and found the charcoal pencil under the sofa after a bit of searching over the intricate oriental rug. Leif and her uncles had congregated in the kitchen and immediately began the process of preparing some dish they had seemed excited over, so she figured she might have a while to finish her drawing in peace. Or relative peace as her mind randomly replayed scenes from that night four years ago, her thoughts crashing to a halt with each recalled pang of distress and violation under her father’s touch. Five minutes into making shoddy progress on the ocean waves she’d been sketching earlier, she tore the page out of the book in frustration and began a new drawing.

With broad, bold strokes curving and distorting to reveal the dimensions of the shapes underneath, she drew the long horizontal shadows that the blinds on the window in her bedroom had cast over the scene. Then, she spilled inky pools of shadow under those stripes and the musculature of her father’s broad back began to appear when she used her finger to blend the more diffused and softer shadows of skin. The texture of his skin ghosted under her fingertips as she swiped at the thick paper. Wavering between thin gray outlines and broad curves of dark puddles, the sweeping folds of bedding and clothing came into being around him. Her hands flitted over the page rapidly, the image blooming from her touches and the pencil as though she were merely excavating it from the paper. The cloud of her hair splayed over the bedding filled in with darkness and slits of the white paper underneath to become the texture and sheen to her soft waves.

She revealed her face with the shadow along her cheekbone first, then her eyes opened in a way they had not been in that afternoon. She wanted to replace her memory with what she put into the drawing, to rewrite the scene as anything but the painful truth. With lips parted in passion instead of paralyzed, with eyes gazing lovingly instead of blind, with hands pulling and caressing his bare skin instead of laying limply at her sides, with legs and back flexing to roll her hips instead of remaining unresponsive to her screaming mind. Anything but helpless. Anything but powerless.

Det er utrolig!”

She jumped at the voice beside her, scrambling off the sofa and nearly tripping over the coffee table as the sketchbook tumbled onto the floor once more. She was shocked to see Anders sitting on the sofa, wide-eyed in bewildered surprise at her outburst of motion, apparently having been seated next to her for a considerable but indeterminable amount of time.

“Sorry! I am sorry! Don’t be scare!” he exclaimed hurriedly, holding one hand out in that placating gesture he seemed to make often and leaning over to retrieve the fallen book. Her eyes darted down to the drawing, dread clouding over her shock as she examined it outside of her frenzied impulse to create it. Her eyes darted between the possibly incriminating erotic sketch and his face, searching for what his reactions could mean as he looked at it. While she could recognize the shape and muscle tone easily as her father’s, it was just his back, but the moaning girl underneath him was undoubtedly her.

“It’s… it’s not… um…” she stammered, still breathing hard from having been surprised. Her hand rubbed from the back of her neck to her chest in stress before she remembered the charcoal on her fingers and she groaned in frustration. “Fuck.”

He was still admiring the drawing, not paying any mind to her consternation as he gestured between her and it. “You?”

Her cheeks burned in mortification, but she nodded. “Uh… yeah. I guess I can’t deny that.”

He pointed to the man, glancing up at her with a mischievous smirk that she had to look away from. “Boyfriend?”

“Fuck…” she groaned again. She nearly covered her eyes with her filthy hands to ward off the stress headache she could feel crowding the front of her skull, but thankfully stopped herself. Her mouth twitched into a humorless grin as she said, “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t think I’m allowed.”

He laughed out loud at that and she stared at him as he said, “På grunn av Leif. Leif is papa bear, yes?”

“Can you… understand me?” she asked, voice hesitant in both hope and anxiety.

Her heart raced as he nodded and shrugged, taking a moment to think before he said, “I speak… a little. Understand, ah… okay.”

Her mind raced as she tried to remember if she’d said anything problematic to him while under the impression that he couldn’t understand English. Her head absently turned to the side and she found herself walking toward the writing desk in the corner, brain searching out any kind of distraction from the stressful scenario but only finding it piled high with junk mail.

“One moment!” he announced, but she didn’t want to acknowledge him as she pressed charcoal fingerprints into the envelopes she nervously rifled through. Credit card offer, bank statement, coupon book, cable bill, real estate offer, all too late to catch Einar Valstad before his exit. At the bottom of the stacks, however, she uncovered a photograph of a much younger Einar and a short thin man, each holding an antler of the dead buck being held up between them. She saw much of her father in Einar’s sharp cheekbones, hooded eyes, and strong jawline. Careful not to smudge the photo, she picked it up and examined him closer. She could scarcely recall her grandfather, but now she could remember the robust and tall Norwegian with the gameshow host grin and easy humor of a man who won people over for a living. She remembered liking him, at least, especially for the endless supply of popsicles he had offered her despite her mother’s disapproval. A little guilt tugged at her for not mourning him as much as she should, considering she’d been in his house and surrounded by what remained of his life for the nearly a whole week.

“Pappa and Bjørn,” Anders said from behind her.

She didn’t jump this time, apparently becoming accustomed to him sneaking up on her, but she did freeze as he pressed a cold and wet hand towel to her neck. The warning bells were loud in her head, but she let him turn her with one steadying hand on her shoulder as he cleaned the charcoal and her makeup along with it from her neck in small, circular wipes of the towel. Memories of her waking nightmare from earlier replayed in her mind as he held her shoulder tighter, but this Anders would surely let her go if she moved away. This Anders was sweet and kind and nothing like her father. She struggled to maintain calm, slow breaths as she forced herself to allow him to clean her off and see the bruises she hid, reminding herself that he’s seen them before and apparently had thought nothing of them. But as he cleaned off more of her neck, she could see concern forming in the furrow of his brow. Her heart skipped a beat as she considered the possibility that maybe he just hadn’t gotten a close enough look before.

“Simone…” he said, his tone quiet and more serious than she’d heard him yet. His eyes seemed unable to tear away from the clearly finger-shaped bruises that spanned her neck and she could feel panic rising in her. “Faen… What…?”

This was her opportunity to either cover for her father or reach out for help and she was surprised to find herself stuck with not knowing which to choose. She knew that she should say something, anything, even just her father’s name but her throat felt paralyzed. Suddenly, being confronted with an escape from the horror and pain terrified her. She deserved what was happening to her, had even wanted it at times. The drawing on the coffee table alone proved that she was just as sick as her father. Anders’ worried eyes lifted to her terrified ones and she could practically see her freedom in the open sky blue of them. Pushing all apprehension down, she rode the impulse to grab the hand that was holding her shoulder and opened his palm over her throat. She stared into his confused face as she pressed his hand to encircle her neck, the calloused and warm fingers rough against her sensitive flesh, and prayed for him to understand. A long moment stretched between them in tense silence as a flush bloomed up from his chest to his cheeks. He pursed his lips, brow furrowing further as his throat bobbed in a nervous swallow and his fingers flexed hesitantly on her neck. She could feel her jugular nudging against the pad of his thumb with her pounding heartbeat as she waited.

Er dette det du trenger?” he whispered, seemingly unable to look her in the eye as he spoke. She moved her hand from his, but he didn’t remove his loose hold on her neck. She tried not to let the claustrophobic feeling scare her off, needing him so badly to understand what she couldn’t say with her paralyzed voice, so she tipped her chin up and looked at him with all the confidence she could muster. She couldn’t do this without also biting her lip to keep it from quivering and she watched his unsure stare latch onto the habit. His tongue darted out to lick his lips before he looked away and nervously chuckled out, “Hva gjør vi? Dette er sinnsyk!”

“Please!” she managed to whisper, her desperation spilling into the plea.

He looked back to her face and she thought that maybe he finally got it in the solemn way he stared at her for a moment, an almost conflicted frown crossing his features before he sighed deeply. Her hope rose in that moment as he bowed his head, certain he understood that she was showing him evidence of the abuse his own brother was guilty of. Her hope crashed into confusion when his hand tightened more firmly around her neck.

“It’s okay?” he asked as he lightly squeezed her. She barely heard the question, blinking in complete bafflement at what was happening until she realized that he hadn’t gotten it at all. It was his unsure and uncomfortable expression, worriedly glancing between his hold on her neck and her face, that told her he thought she was trying to tell him to choke her. An odd feeling gripped her as she considered how this chronically helpful, well-meaning but perhaps dimwitted man would go so far as to try to choke her if she would ask him of it.

“How the fuck…” she muttered, staring up in utter disbelief at the blonde man. “… are you this kind?”

He smiled a bit embarrassedly, his grip wilting from her neck along with his gaze. He let out a short breathy chuckle and murmured, “Sorry… not good?”

She identified that odd feeling in her as frustration just as it rapidly boiled over the hopelessness in her situation. She began to believe he would never see his brother’s madness past hers even as she bared such condemning evidence to him. She thought of perhaps showing him the photo of her lying tied up and gagged on the floor with blood and semen leaking out of her cunt, but spitefully doubted he would see it as anything but a mad game that a mad girl would play. That anger in her brought her hands up to force his grip around her neck once more, this time crushing his fingers around her neck. He looked back to her in confused shock but his unassuming, compassionate eyes only made her angrier.

She bared her teeth as her words came out in a harsh whisper, unfiltered through her desperate fury, “Not good. You’re not good. I know the same awful, wicked thing is in all of you and I am sick of waiting for you to show me yours. Just do it! It’ll be easier this way!”

That tempting, hot anger filled her as he blinked at her and bit his lip while he squeezed her neck harder, but not nearly hard enough. He looked as though it hurt him to do this to her and she felt some strange satisfaction in the nearly painful conflict of his thoughts playing out in his deeply furrowed brow and frightened eyes. A funny thought pulled the corners of her mouth into a queer grin as her mind supplied something her psychologist once told her about how victims would often repeatedly attempt to recreate their trauma. The thought of this kind, compassionate man imitating the brutal things her father had done to her struck her as laughable even as she was certain that same cruelty lied in him somewhere. She actually wanted to draw it out of him. She felt as though something slithered in her brain as that anger drained out of her, leaving an entranced calmness in its wake as her hands slid off his grip. She watched his baffled eyes follow her fingers as they gave a reassuring caress to his wrist.

“Anders,” she whispered, voice as gentle and pleading as a prayer. His eyes met hers, fearful blue locked on imploring gray. “Please.”

Jeg burde ikke gjøre dette…” he muttered, his grip easing slightly. She lifted her hands and gently cupped the sides of his face, her small thumbs caressing his cheekbones in the same comforting gesture her father would occasionally bestow on her when he wanted something.

She could hear Leif’s voice speak through her own as she softly whispered, “Please, just a little bit. I need you to do this for me, Anders. Please?”

His troubled brow smoothed as she stroked his cheeks and he inhaled deeply before slowly and shakily sighing. He closed his eyes for a moment, then she gasped softly before her airway was restricted in his stronger grasp. The uncertainty etched into his features blurred as her vision quickly deteriorated, but she kept her gaze locked onto his reassuringly. Her head swam in a strange pleasant fog, something comforting and thrilling all at once in the building pressure.

“You okay?” she heard him ask, the sound muffled and distant.

Unable to easily speak, she gave a short nod and slid her hands into his hair, affectionately running her fingers through the sleek light blonde strands. She wasn’t sure where this courage to be so forward had come from. A dire pang stirred in her as she supposed that it had come from the same madness that had compelled her to make her uncle choke her. But at least this was something she had asked for. Something she had the power to ask for. To take. A wry smile parted her lips before they opened in a silent gasp at the pulling sensation in her diaphragm, her chest burning for air. He let go of her neck quickly and she gasped emphatically to fill her lungs, her hands slipping down to grip his shirt as she leaned against him while the room spun around her. His arms wrapped around her in a steadying hug and she could somewhat hear him asking her something she couldn’t make out, so she just clung to him and nodded as she panted. The endorphins and dopamine that flooded her system from the near-death simulation of being choked so well felt as good as any drug she’d done, but riding underneath that organic reaction was something darker. As she pressed into Anders’ comforting embrace, she felt what she supposed her father must have sometimes felt after he took from her unwilling body: a sense of control.

 

 

Leif carefully wrapped the fresh sprigs of thyme around a bay leaf and tied the bundle together in cooking twine before dropping it into the vegetables simmering in white wine. He checked to make sure the onions caramelizing in butter weren’t burning in the pan next to it, then turned the heat off the pot of boiling rice and salt.

Drain that rice in a minute, Henrik,” he told the broad man who was wringing the moisture out of the mushrooms at the breakfast bar counter.

Yes, chef!” Henrik barked sarcastically.

You find the food processor yet?” Leif called to Vidar.

Found it. In the process of excavating it from this fucking mountain of shit,” Vidar called out from the pantry closet. On cue, a loud metallic clang and a string of cuss words could be heard from within the pantry immediately afterward. Leif sighed heavily, moving to rinse his hands in the sink before grabbing a kitchen rag and walking out of the kitchen.

I’ll be back in a minute. Just make sure nothing burns,” he said before stepping into the hallway. He caught Henrik flipping him off but decided not to quip back at the man as he made his way toward the front of the house. It had been at least twenty minutes since he had sent Anders to check on his girl, a move which was met by somewhat confused stares from the other two brothers, and he figured he’d allowed enough time by now for something to have happened. On silent feet, he crept past the archway to the living room, finding the leather furniture empty of any occupants. Then the sound of Anders’ voice whispered from the room ahead. As Leif moved closer to the entryway of the parlor, his sensitive hearing picked up the frantic pace in his brother’s usually upbeat cadence.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, oh fuck! That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it? That was what you were asking for, I thought… I thought… God, I’m such an idiot! Why the fuck would you want that?” Anders muttered, nearly incoherent even in his native tongue.

Leif peered around the corner of the wood carved molded archway, seeing a frightened Anders holding up a gasping Simone. He held back the impulse to run over and see what was wrong with his daughter, suppressing the need to protect and secure his offspring for the sake of morbid curiosity at his brother’s words and predicament. He watched as Anders pet her hair in an attempt to soothe her, the troubled crease in his brow and posture not easing even as she reached up and pressed her hand to his cheek.

Her voice was a raspy whisper that Leif had difficulty picking up, but he was able to hear her say, “Thank you, Uncle Anders.”

God, just tell me I didn’t fuck you up any worse. Why did I fucking do that…?” he rambled, his breathing ragged in panic. Leif watched as her head lifted weakly from Anders’ chest but her back was turned to him so he couldn’t see her face. What he could see was Anders’ expression turn from frenzied to guilty as he looked down at the girl, her hand smoothing his hair in an intimate gesture that twisted Leif’s lip into a sneer. She let her hand drag down the back of his neck as she stood on tiptoe to press a kiss to his cheek, but the gesture did nothing to alleviate his guilt. Leif hid behind the wall when she turned and began walking toward the archway, but didn’t move away from it when he heard only her set of footsteps approaching. Once she turned the corner into the hallway, he slapped his hand over her mouth the staunch her gasp of surprise and gathered her in a harsh hold as he dragged her. She didn’t try to resist him as he brought them into the bathroom, shoving her against the door and locking it before letting go of her mouth.

“Mind explaining what was happening in there, darling?” he whispered with all the calm he could will into his tone. He hadn’t expected to feel as enraged as he did, his jealousy begging to overtake his control and thrash the man for daring to touch what was his, but he needed to secure his girl. She watched him with a strange, manic glint in her eye behind the predictable fear, something sharp and feral lurking in her dread.

She licked her lips slowly in consideration before whispering, “Uncle Anders really admires you, Dad.”

“Speak plainly, Simone,” he demanded firmly. He grabbed her chin and forced her to face him, her lip drawing back in a small snarl that caught him by surprise but he chose to let it go when she quickly corrected it. “We can’t have you start talking in riddles again or I’ll put you back on lithium. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“No, Papa,” she answered quickly. She glanced away, biting her lips for a moment before saying, “Um... I was about to go into a panic attack and Uncle Anders helped me out of it. Nothing was happening. I just… freaked him out, I guess.”

Leif stared at his daughter as she glanced around nervously. Her timid nature made it difficult to detect when her nervousness was due to fear in general or fear of something specific, but he could tell that she was hiding something. He knew he would have better luck getting it out of Anders at this point with how unhinged she seemed.

“Simone, go freshen up and put on a nice dress for dinner,” he said warmly, pulling her away from the door to open it. He smiled at her owl-eyed stare and kissed the top of her head before he walked out of the bathroom, his steps growing heavier as he headed back towards the parlor. He rolled his shoulders and composed himself before turning the corner into the room, finding Anders worriedly pacing while gnawing on his knuckle.

There you are,” Leif announced. Anders froze except to look at him with terror in his face. “Come back to the kitchen, we could use your help.”

Henrik had thankfully strained the rice in time and had taken the initiative to stir it into the onions and transfer it to a casserole dish into the oven. Vidar, however, seemed too cautious with sautéing the mushrooms and Leif quickly shooed him out of the way to increase the heat.

Just add the cream and stir until the mushrooms absorb it,” he told Vidar, handing him a wooden spoon and clapping a hand on Anders’ shoulder when he drifted into the kitchen. The young man jumped at the contact and Leif resisted the urge to crush the flesh under his grip as he said, “You can help make the sauce. I just need you to keep whisking while I add the ingredients.”

Yeah, you got it,” Anders said, giving a weak smile and letting Leif lead him to the stove. Leif kept his stare focused on his face as he placed a heavy saucepan on the lit burner in front of him, receiving a small joy in the discomfort of his youngest brother as Anders timidly looked to the side to avoid his eyes.

He cut butter into the hot pan as he said, “You know, I couldn’t help but notice you’ve developed quite a connection with my Simone.”

I’m going out for a cig,” Henrik announced as he headed towards the backdoor.

Can I join him, chef?” Vidar asked quickly.

Once the mushrooms have absorbed the milk, you can do whatever the fuck you want,” Leif said firmly, handing Anders a whisk before retrieving the bag of flour. While Anders nervously stirred the melted butter, Leif dusted the flour into the pot and continued saying, “I suppose it’s not so surprising. You’re only ten years older than her. That’s even less than the distance in age between you and I, now that I think about it. So, as her peer, you must have a very different perspective on my Simone. Tell me, if you would be so open, how do you see my little girl?

Anders swallowed, staring into the pot as he kept the same rigid rhythm with the whisk, and shrugged before saying, “She’s… She’s very… creative. Warm. Um, I don’t know. I like her.

I know you like her. You like her a lot. She likes you too,” Leif said, smiling mildly. He turned and pointed at a staring Vidar, nearly shouting, “Keep your fucking EYES on those mushrooms!” Both brothers flinched at Leif’s sudden outburst, turning their full attention to their pans with tensely level expressions and stiff shoulders. Leif continued speaking in his casual tone, “She’s a very loving girl, but maybe a bit too loving. Her mental illness can sort of… dissolve the usual boundaries one needs to function socially. Leaves her very, very vulnerable when she’s not so clear on right and wrong. I’ve had to be careful on maintaining boundaries with her because it can be so easy to do the wrong things.” He paused, leaning closer to his youngest brother, and asked, “Have you done any wrong things with Simone, Anders?”

Anders pursed his lips, inhaling deeply through his nose before sighing and then stammering, “I, um, I don’t know if I would really, uh, know if I… if we were doing anything…

Both Vidar and Anders tensed as Leif poured the veal drippings into the saucepan. He smiled at them as he then poured in the milk, eying it until he’d added about the right amount and then putting the carton in the fridge.

As he turned back and leaned against the counter next to Anders, he grinned, “Come on, Andy, you can be honest. She’s sexy, she lets you do whatever you want, and you’re not made of stone. What did you do to my daughter? Don’t lie to me this time.

Can I ask you something first?” Anders hesitantly requested.

Go ahead,” Leif offered.

Do you…” Anders began, then frowned. He took a breath and began again, “Does she ever, um… ask you to do anything… painful to her?”

For a long moment, the only sound was the whisk scraping the bottom of the saucepan as all three men stood silent. Then Vidar turned off his burner and quickly walked out the backdoor without looking at either of them, leaving them alone in the kitchen. When the backdoor slammed shut, Leif reduced the heat on the saucepan and pulled Anders away gently by his shoulder.

He turned him until they faced each other in the center of the cooking area and calmly said in a low voice, “Listen. You’re my brother, so I’m going to do you a favor and not sock you in the eye this very second. That means I need to make myself very clear and if I feel that I haven’t made myself clear enough, then I’ll have to convince you by other methods. Remember when I said that I would do anything for my child?”

I remember,” Anders nodded. “That’s why I wanted to-”

Leif stopped him before he could continue. “She’s mentally ill but she still has a right to privacy, so I’m not going to answer your question. I also hope you’ll respect her privacy by not divulging any this to anyone. What did she ask you to do?

Anders blinked rapidly, his hand roughly running through his hair as he said, “Nothing! Nothing… I saw the bruises on her neck and figured… because I don’t think you would do that kind of thing unless she wanted you to... But I don’t know why she would want you to choke her or-or why you would ever do that? Could you tell me why? I’m sorry. Am I making any sense?

Leif listened to him ramble with increasing dread and amazement. Dread that Anders knew, without question, that Leif had given Simone those bruises and amazement that his faith in him as a good father went so far as to not consider that it had been abuse. The mental gymnastics Anders was capable of frankly stunned Leif. As he surreptitiously looked around to ensure the windows to the backyard were shut, Leif considered his options for a moment. He could leave things as ambiguous as they’ve been, he could cover up the truth with a palatable lie, or he could fly even closer to the sun. Looking at the well-meaning younger man before him with a heavy stare, he knew what the most interesting option was.

There are some needs that, as her father, I can’t quite fulfill for Simone… But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything to help relieve those needs,” he began carefully with a slowness meant to impart double meaning. He waited for Anders to register that meaning in the slight tick of his brow before continuing, “I would do anything for my girl. If that means I must do some things that seem unacceptable to keep her from looking for it in men that could take advantage of her, then I am going to do whatever it takes to keep her safe. I hope you never have to go through that, but I’m sure you would do nothing less to care for your child.

It took him a minute, but Anders’ confused expression slowly melted into a heavy and disturbed comprehension and then outright appall. Leaving his brother to grasp the implications but have to imagine the details, Leif turned back to the saucepan and resumed whisking the liquid until it gained the proper viscosity.

Chapter Text

Within the next hour, the tense silence in the kitchen slowly progressed back to their usual boisterous chatter and agitation. Halfway through the process, Vidar had pulled out a bottle of scotch he’d found in the back of the pantry to speed along the recovery of their jovial mood. By the time Leif had pulled the dish from the oven, they were quite a way through the bottle and arguing about something none of them would concede on. Simone hovered near the doorway listening to all of this, her neck and shoulders bare but her bruises once more hidden under paint and powder. The bite mark was impossible to disguise, so she had done what she could to mask the bruises and simply left the punctures alone. It was obvious enough to her now that his brothers would never connect the two crescent rows of healing flesh to the man responsible. She had draped a wide gold collar necklace around her neck that hung low enough to cover about half of it, the cold metal rubbing painfully on the still sensitive wound. She once wore the off the shoulder lace dress to a wedding of her mother’s coworker, her mother having made a comment about how the color nearly blended into her skin and thus made her put on a cardigan. That cardigan was still in the laundry hamper covered in the stains her father had wiped off her legs after fucking her against the wall she currently leaned on, so she stood only in her lacey false nudity and gold. It didn’t matter. She could be wearing a full suit of armor and still feel naked under it.

She was pulled out of her bitter introspection by the kitchen door opening and spilling light into the dark hallway, the tall and broad silhouette of the bearlike Henrik trudging out of it. She looked up at him, unable to see his face through the shadows, her gray eyes catching the light before he shut the door behind him and stepped toward her. Apprehension slithered up the back of her skull when he took her hand, the scent of scotch heavy around him and filling her with the memory of her first taste of her father. Shameful heat poured into her at that, rattling her already shaky hold on reality at that moment. So, when Henrik tugged on her hand to follow, her bare feet began padded close behind him before she could consider why.

“Ssh, ssh,” he giggled, finger pressed close to his grinning lips as he pulled her into the dimly lit living room. He leaned close to her in clandestine excitement, the warmth of his excessive body heat brushing her bare shoulder in a way that made her tense, and whispered, “Don’t tell Leif!”

Simone looked to the side, a glint of light off a reflective surface having caught her eye as Henrik pulled her to sit in an overstuffed armchair. There, on the table next to the chair, was a short letter opener. As her uncle rifled through one of the heavy wooden bookshelves, she picked it up and examined the blade. A strange sensation fogged her mind as she ran her thumb over the surprisingly sharp edge of it and the pain brought her odd comfort. Henrik brought over a thick book and gingerly plopped it into her lap, a suppressed snicker escaping through his nose as she opened it to find it to be a photo album. The first photo was of a young Einar standing with his arm slung around the thin shoulders of a tall gangly boy and the short thin man she now knew to be Bjørn standing off to the side, the yellow leaves of autumn on the ground around them and the Vermont house in the background.

Henrik pointed a thick finger at the boy, whispering, “Det er Leif!”

“Oh…” she breathed, eyebrows raising in surprise as recognition clicked in the wide plains of the boy’s cheekbones and hooded gray eyes. He looked so much softer and smoother, still possessing the rounded edges of childhood with a thin chin and oversized ears. She flipped through the pages, watching the effects of time turn that scrawny boy into something sharper and stronger, something a little closer to the monster she knew. It was disconcerting to see evidence that he had once been a regular kid with squinting grins and awkward postures. Henrik pointed to a picture of Leif standing on a broad tree stump with three other blonde boys.

“Me,” he said, pointing to the short chubby boy, then, “Vidar,” the sneering one with thick glasses, and “Anders.” the one who couldn’t have been older than four and staring at the camera with a gaping mouth. Leif towered over them all, just a couple years older than Henrik but before the chubby boy’s apparently overenthusiastic growth spurt. She stared at each of them, fascinated at the way their babyish features had developed into the men they would become.

“Was Dad always tall?” she asked.

He laughed. “Ja, tall. I am more tall, haha! He needs careful.”

His hot hand squeezed her shoulder in a friendly gesture, but the cold metal of the blade pressing against her palm kept her calm enough not to flinch. She took a steadying breath and turned through the pages of rowdy boys running through woods and piled on top of each other in a more hideously decorated house. She stopped when she came to a picture of Leif standing in front of MIT, holding up his acceptance letter and looking quite a bit more filled out than the scrawny boy he’d been through high school. So close to her age but looking so much younger than she could have imagined still. This was the bright and ambitious boy her mother had fallen in love with only to fall out of love once he would become an intimidating and strong man. Her finger lightly traced over his open smile, closely examining the teeth that would sink into her skin a little more than twenty years from then. The same just slightly crooked sharpness. Unconsciously, she ran her tongue over her front teeth as her feral mind wanted to lick into her father’s mouth and tempt that bite. The impulse both shocked her and stoked that insistent heat in her abdomen and hips.

Kom til kveldsmat!” Vidar’s voice called from the dining room. She reflexively shut the book, Henrik taking it from her lap and helping her up with a wide mischievous grin on his face.

“That was fun, ja?” he smiled to her as he led them back down the dark hallway.

Ja,” she parroted back absently, feeling almost as though she’d seen a ghost.

 

 

Even with his back to the door, Leif could tell when Simone entered the dining room by Anders’ expression changing from the easy grin of a drunken stupor to the shy smile and glittering gaze of adoration as he fixed his stare on the girl. It would irritate Leif more if it weren’t so amusing to see how pathetically fond he had become of his niece in so short a time. However, when he turned to assess his daughter, he had to once again question exactly what flavor of adoration Anders held for her as he stared at her in that very fetching tight and short dress.

Henrik pushed her forward into the room, his large hand hooked around the side of her small waist as he announced, “I brought the meat! Let’s eat!

She shrank under the stares of the men, shoulders drawing inward and arms folding uncomfortably as Vidar leered from his chair, “Not a lot on her, but just enough where it counts.”

You’re a fucking creep, Vid,” Anders said, rising from his seat and walking around the table toward her. Leif watched intently at their interaction, seeing her eyes widen in uncertain apprehension as Anders walked toward her with placating open palms as though he were approaching a nervous dog. She remained very stiff until he gently touched her arm and smiled at her, at which point her whole demeanor changed and she stepped to him eagerly. Leif pushed aside his twinge of jealousy as she wrapped an arm around Anders’ middle and he walked her to the table with a hand on her bare shoulder.

They were far too friendly with one another for Leif’s tastes and he was a little glad when Vidar groused, “I can’t get a damn word out of her and fucking Anders of all people has her on his dick like he’s Bill Gates at a strip club.”

You should try treating her like a person,” Anders quipped coolly.

She’s not a person. She’s my daughter,” Leif corrected him, reaching out and grasping her wrist when she drew near enough. She yelped slightly when he tugged her down onto his lap, her short skirt riding up her thighs dangerously as he held her close to him. She tensed, obviously embarrassed as she tried to pull her skirt back down, but he grabbed her hand away before she could accomplish it and kissed her knuckles teasingly with a mischievous smile.

“Papa…” she grumbled uncomfortably, trying to squirm away from him.

He pressed his lips to the shell of her ear and grinned as she shivered when he whispered, “Sit. Stay. Good girl.”  She obeyed, adjusting on his lap until she sat across it more comfortably, and he traced her hip in a wide and slow sweep of his hand appreciatively. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen this dress.”

“Good dress!” Anders grinned as he took a seat directly across from them. Leif glanced up at him sharply, surprised that he’d understood the softly spoken comment, and had to refrain from squeezing her body any more tightly to him. Her shuddering intake of breath as his wandering hand slid down her bare thigh under the table drew both men’s gazes to her while Vidar and Henrik were distracted with dishing out the roast. Leif was endeared to her by the way her hand tightly clung to his vest, the material bunching in her fist and her face hidden in the collar of his dress shirt, then he noticed that his hand had come to wedge between thighs. He chuckled at his drunken absentmindedness, giving her thigh a squeeze that made her choke down a noise in her throat before pulling his hand out. He’d have to be more aware of himself, having gotten used to possessing such free access to her body. He glanced across the table to see Anders staring at her, that goofy grin absent in the presence of slack jawed awe and pinkened flush from his neck to his hairline.

Just doing what I can,” Leif smirked, shrugging as though it couldn’t be helped. The casual air he put on while drawing attention to the fact that they were both aware of her aroused state was imperative to conditioning Anders that this was all so very normal and yet still private between them. This new gamble on his brother’s gullibility depended on Anders’ ignorance on how to handle hypersexual behavior in mental illness, but ultimately it hinged on his faith that his brother was a good father. When Anders responded with an awkward smile and turned his attention to his plate, Leif was able to relax in his success.

 

She felt sick. The heat coursing through her body and the arousal tainting her mind with delirium felt like a fever. She hated being so out of control as her father held her on his lap, his erection pressing under her stoking that irritating urge to grind against it. The pantyliner that did what it could to protect her dress from her soaking cunt was a cold comfort to her as she crossed her ankles and squeezed her thighs together in attempts to stem the flow, but the clenching of her muscles only seemed to tease her desire for increased friction. Her mind felt painfully split between wanting to give into lust and obeying what she knew were her actual values and wants, but whenever she felt like she had a decent grip on the basics of her own identity, it was torn away from her in that mind-numbing need to fuck. She hated this. She needed so much more.

“Are you still bleeding, darling girl?” Leif asked.

She swallowed thickly, heart thumping in her throat as she timidly rasped, “I’m not sure… I think it stopped.”

She nearly winced at how pathetic she sounded to her own ears, but he hummed in approval. “Good, good.”

He said something to Vidar and the man placed a plate of the dish in front of them with a brief quip that Leif grinned smugly at. She tried to move off his lap to find her own seat, but he held her fast to him as he scooped up a forkful of the intricately layered roast. His hand squeezing at her waist nearly had her gasping, that ache between her legs throbbing at the pain. He presented the fork in front of her, smiling as her confusion became mortification in realization that he meant to feed it to her.

“Be a good little girl and eat your supper,” he chided her.

She was careful not to meet his intense stare as she reluctantly opened her mouth and accepted the morsel. The humiliating act of being fed unfortunately did not allay her arousal, seeming to only increase it in this opportunity to please the man. She hated herself for letting her lips drag slowly on the stem of the fork as she took in the next offered bite too eagerly, letting her eyes close in a show of trust and appreciation. Despite her deepening self-loathing, she felt a flutter in her heart when Leif pressed an affectionate kiss on her temple as a reward for good behavior. The chaste and patronizing gesture twisted her stomach in a jumble of polarizing emotions. Feeling the pressure of being watched, she turned her head and briefly met Anders’ eyes before he returned his stare to his plate in a jolt at having been caught staring. The fresh memory of his hands reluctantly squeezing at her neck in his breathless panic fed a darker hunger in her. She wanted to make him go further. Her father drew her attention back to her debasement by pressing the end of the empty fork to her cheek until she turned and faced him.

“Eyes on me, kiddo,” he warned, then smiled warmly. “Do you like the dish?”

She didn’t even recall the taste in her distraction and embarrassment, but nodded. “What is it?”

“Veal. A meat prized and vilified for the young age at which the animal is slaughtered,” he answered. He scooped up another forkful and held it to her. She tried not to frown as she accepted it into her mouth, this time paying attention to the rich assemblage of mushrooms, meat and onion in the creamy sauce. Her jaw tensed as she forced herself to swallow and watch him take a bite of the meat himself.

“You obviously don’t vilify it,” she stated.

“I view it as an act of mercy toward an animal bound for the slaughter anyway,” he responded. He locked his eyes with her as he fed her another bite. “Why should a few miserable years be significant when their destiny is the same?”

She chewed thoughtfully, weighing the double meaning of the topic, before forcing the rich food down her throat and saying, “Mom never let me eat veal. She thought it was unethical.”

“Your mother is no longer with you. I’m the only one watching over you now. Do you believe it’s unethical?” he asked.

A bitter coil pulled at her self-hatred as she quietly said, “I believe what you want me to believe.”

He stared at her face for a long, silent moment after she’d said that. She worried that she somehow had offended him, that he was considering how to punish her for some unknown transgression and her stomach tightened until her appetite had been replaced with dread. She nearly flinched in fear when he grabbed her chin and tilted her face. Her eyes widened when she tasted the scotch still heavy in his mouth as he pressed a sudden and intense kiss to her, the electric shock of unexpected pleasure stifled by the dreadful awareness of their audience. The kiss only lasted perhaps two seconds, a move reminiscent of those just slightly too-long kisses he used to bestow on her before she had come to know the full extent of his attraction, but the heat of it had dragged a small moan from her and heated her face in a fierce blush of arousal and humiliation. But the dinner conversation continued uninterrupted between Henrik and Vidar’s aggravated tones and her father pulled away from her with a nonchalance that made her wonder if she had only imagined the impropriety. Only the distinct silence across from them drew her attention away from her doubt and she glanced to see Anders once more staring at her, something in his face like worry and curiosity.

Er du okay?” Leif asked him. Anders kept staring at her, his fork forgotten in his hand as he held it above his plate, and she felt strangely shy under his intense blue eyes. Something was different in the way he was looking at her. That distant hope and dread that he might know the truth tickled in her once more, but there was something off about how he watched her. Something that drew her wonder.

At last, he blinked and snapped out of his reverie, glancing up at his brother and muttering, “Beklager. Jeg tror jeg er full.”

 

 

Leif excused himself from the table while his brothers were still eating, either the scotch having slowed them down or his own eagerness to retreat to seclusion with Simone expediting his eating. He noted with amusement and irritation at how Anders had watched him leave with the girl, noting the suspicious quirk in the younger man’s brow as his stare had lingered on where Leif’s hand had clung to her waist. He could see the confrontation approaching, knowing that Anders couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off her all throughout dinner and practically broadcasting his interest in her rather obvious need. Leif smirked as he thought on how his brother had resembled a dog catching the scent of a bitch in heat, all perked ears and pinpointed concentration. He had begun to doubt Anders was even aware of his own reactions in how blatantly he had been staring until Henrik had made a crass remark on it. As he pulled his daughter by her trembling hand up the stairs toward their bedroom, he tried to think of what lie he would craft to counter Anders’ approaching interrogation once his imagination had supplied enough condemning details on exactly how he relieved her. His inability to think of any solution past outright admitting to fucking her just to see the shock on his face spoke to him of his own level of intoxication. His stumbling up the steps confirmed that inkling.

“Papa, are you alright?” Simone asked, voice high in worry as she knelt next to his crouching form on the steps. He laughed at both how drunk he was and how sweet she still somehow managed to turn out despite his torture, a pang of stray guilt stabbing through his jovial haze at the reminder of all he had done to her. That guilt grew heavier as she pulled his arm over her shoulders, her small body struggling to help him up as she whispered encouragement to him. She was too warm and caring, too easy to love. He resented how those pieces of her had brought out the worst in him; the need to take when she was so giving and the need to corrupt her loving nature too tempting for him to have hoped to resist. He was overcome with the need to explain to her that he still loved her, that she was the most important part of his world, that he was sorry she had the rotten luck to end up with a man like him as her father.

Instead, when he opened his mouth, what came out was, “We don’t have to fuck tonight if you’re too sore, darling.”

He winced at his own tactless crass, at his complete failure to be kind to her for one unguarded moment, but she looked up at him in surprise and whispered, “Oh! I… um… thank you. I’m just a little scared of bleeding… again.”

The sheer gratefulness in her tone only made his guilt heavier. As he flicked on the desk lamp and sat on the edge of their bed, he helped her wriggle out of her tight dress, his hands lingering on her soft skin appreciatively. While there was a guarded hesitance in her movement and she avoided meeting his stare, she allowed him to touch her without shying away and he kept his hands gentle as they caressed her bare torso and thighs. He knew he shouldn’t be this kind to her, at least not until he’d instilled complete fear into her, but alcohol made him sentimental.

“You know I love you, Simone. That’s never changed and never will change,” he whispered, trying not to slur. She looked at him then, such fearful tenderness on her face, just waiting for the painful sting that usually accompanied his kindness. Looking at her standing there next to the bed in nothing but her panties and jewelry, her almond skin glowing in the dim lighting of the room and light eyes glittering with apprehension, he couldn’t deny that he wanted to sting her. He let that fleeting weakness in him recede as he said, “You’ve been separating from reality more often lately. Tell me what visions have tangled themselves to your madness.”

The purse of her lips and wringing of her hands told him that she was afraid of telling him, leading him to smile and say, “I won’t hold them against you, dearest. I just want your honesty. They have no consequence in reality, no matter how vivid, and you don’t have to worry about me bringing consequence here for them.”

She crossed her arms over her bare chest, her face turning away from him to look at nothing as her jaw clenched in consideration until she finally said, “I’ve been… seeing a lot more recently. I, um… don’t really remember but… I’ve been feeling things that don’t belong to me. That’s new and that’s, um… that really has me worried. I think I should see someone about it.”

“Perhaps,” Leif remarked, though he had no such intention of ever allowing her to do that. He drew her closer to stand between his spread knees, his mouth being drawn to feel her navel. He felt her abdominal muscles tense under the feather light touch of his lips dragging across her skin. “What are these feelings that aren’t yours?”

She frowned, her hands rubbing her upper arms as she seemed to search for the words. “That’s… difficult to say. Uh. Mostly anger. It comes and goes.”

As he spoke, he gently unfolded her arms and placed them over his shoulders. “Anger is very informative. It can lead us to parts of our lives that we may be trying to neglect. It’s also a very natural part of transition to experience emotional confusion. You don’t need to worry; I’ll always be there to guide you back to what’s real.”

Her hands grasped his shoulders and she drew in a sharp breath as he took her left nipple into his mouth and caressed her back as he drew her closer.

Unexpectedly, she asked, “How did you meet mom?”

He glanced up at her, seeing her eyes shut and mouth slack in the pleasure his touch was giving her, and didn’t move his mouth away from her skin as he spoke against her breast, “We met while we were both studying abroad in France. We were very different people back then.”

“I know,” she responded strangely. She gasped lightly as he pressed slow, wet kisses across her breasts and chest while he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his vest and shirt. He stood as he slid them from his shoulders and let them fall to the floor, keeping himself bent to suck on the side of her neck and wrap his arms around her bare body. Her softness never seemed to stop being so remarkable to him as he ran his hands over her greedily, her taste and sighs at once familiar and still forbidden. He might have lied when he had offered to spare her his sex. A sudden bout of vertigo hit him hard, the reminder of the scotch he’d drunken to excess forcing him back onto the bed and he pulled her down with him. As he held her to him, stretching them both out on top of the bedding, he kissed her mouth and found her hungrily returning it with a moan.

“You’re shaking, Simone,” he breathed against her part lips before delving his tongue back between them. She mewled as he gripped her thighs and spread apart them over his lower abdomen, his hands sliding up and kneading a tight squeeze on her ass that had her break the kiss to draw in a ragged gasp. Her soft, warm body writhed on top of him as the room spun around them. His sweet Simone ran her hands over his chest, her gentle touch soothing him into such a relaxed state that he let her hands wander as they wanted. He wasn’t aware of when he passed out.

 

 

She tried not to flinch when she heard the kitchen door open behind her, willing herself to swallow her gasp and simply breathe out slowly and calmly. The house had been dark and empty by the time she’d emerged from her shower, her nervous and possibly manic energy not allowing her to sleep even if she could bring herself to go back into the room that held her passed out father. Unfortunately, this had reduced her to stalking about in the dark and cold night clad only in a towel. After trying and failing to calm herself with any of the books lining the shelves in the living room, she had padded into the kitchen to attempt a warm milk solution. She’d been halfway through the glass of heated milk and honey, glaring angrily at her reflection in the window and resenting her vagina’s existence when she was interrupted. She kept her stare on the glass to see Anders step through the door, his surprise at finding her there rivaling her own. Her lips pursed in nervousness at being alone in a room with him again, memories from earlier threatening her shaky composure, so she swallowed them down and carefully avoided remembering. She watched him in the reflection of the glass as he wavered in the doorway, his eyes wide in surprise at finding his niece wearing only a towel in the kitchen at god knows what hour of the night. She watched, a curl of fear twisting in her gut, as his eyes lingered on various parts of her from behind.

“Good evening,” he whispered in the silence of the kitchen.

She gripped the towel around her tighter before turning and attempting a smile. “Hey, Uncle Anders.”

He smiled back and walked across the dated linoleum, empty glass in hand, and she moved to step to the side as he approached the sink. He put his hand on her shoulder to stop her from stepping away as he filled his glass from the faucet, the warmth of his gentle grip on her cold bare skin nearly burning and making her far too aware of her complete nudity beneath the blue terrycloth. She squirmed subtly to wrap it more tightly around her as that insistent heat in her spread to tingle in her breasts and bloom a pink blush high on her cheeks.

“Good dress,” he joked, a mischievous sparkle in his eye as he drank deeply from his glass to cover his self-amused grin.

“Uh huh…” she murmured, letting her sour mood show in her flat tone as she looked away from him. She regretted taking out her frustration on him, knowing he wasn’t the cause of her sexual perversion. However, as he stood close enough for her to feel his heat rolling off him in tempting waves, the appealing shape of his fit body outlined clearly by the way his thin nightclothes clung to him, she couldn’t deny that he was currently contributing to her frustration. She sighed heavily as she considered how the concept of incest had been distasteful to her just a week ago, yet here she stood getting wet over own father and now her uncle. Considering everything that’s happened, though, she found it difficult to care about societal propriety at that point. It was difficult to consider cultural norms when she was struggling to hold her reality together. She was brought out of her self-pitying introspection by Anders setting his glass down on the counter and turning to her.

He put his hands on her upper arms and bent down to her eye level, a concerned look on his face as he asked, “You okay? Not sleep?”

“Not okay. Not sleep,” she frowned, trying to scrub the apprehension from her face at his touch by rubbing the heel of her palm against her forehead. She reminded herself that she had no reason to be afraid of him. He was nothing like her father. A wicked thought followed that one, suggesting that she wouldn’t mind if he were just a little like him tonight. Enough to scratch that incessant itch inside her. She bit her lip as that warmth in the cradle of her pelvis throbbed at his nearness, the scent of scotch and man bringing back memories of the first night with her father. The memory made her feel so weak and stupid now, knowing how it was certainly far from the actual first time with that man. To her horrified embarrassment, tears pricked at the corner of her eyes and alerted Anders to her emotional distress.

Åh, gråt ikke, kjære!” he said warmly, pulling her to him in a hug. She stood stiffly as his arms wrapped around her, his chest feeling almost too warm through the thin material of his white t-shirt. That need in her throbbed as he pressed her firmly to him, her frustration boiling over her pitiful teary-eyed state.

“I-It’s fine, Uncle Anders, I’m just tired!” she stammered, trying to step away from him but he clung to her. One of his hands pressed her head to rest against his chest and began petting her hair as his other was wrapped around her and stroking the exposed skin of her upper back. All the while, he cooed soothing words to her in Norwegian, the foreign endearments doing little to soothe her rising apprehension at the arousal he was unwittingly stirring in her.

“You okay, myk liten jente. Fortell meg hva du trenger…” he whispered softly, the scent of scotch on his breath bringing her nearly to panic.

“You shouldn’t touch me like this, especially when you’re drunk,” she muttered, even as her arms unglued themselves from her sides and slid around his middle. He chuckled, apparently understanding enough of her words or just amused at how she warmed to him, and she felt a spark of resentment at him for it. She stepped closer to him, feeling a cool satisfaction by how he tensed when she pressed her body against the front of his pelvis and felt the bump of his genitals through his flimsy pajama pants. A fission of electricity and nervousness thrummed through her when he didn’t move away, but she assured herself it was because he was too drunk to notice.

“You want, ah… Vil du at jeg skal varme deg?” he asked, his voice a little raspy.

“I wish I understood you,” she murmured, nuzzling her cheek against his chest. His hands began to rub over her shoulders in slow, firm caresses, and she decided to let this happen. Whatever this was, it felt nice. She felt guilty for having been annoyed with him for not realizing what was happening with her and her father, knowing it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t see it. He’d been so kind to her, oddly kind at a level that made her uncomfortable, but she wanted to let herself accept him. Anders was, for all she could tell, safe in a world she had suddenly found little safety in. While a part of her wanted to indulge in that as much as she could, a darker part of her wanted to prove that his safety only went so far. A self-destructive need to push him until he showed that past that benevolent exterior, he was just as sadistic as her father.

Wanting to reciprocate his kind touch and also push his boundaries, she arched her back to press against him more firmly as she let her hands slide towards his front and then slowly glide down the sides of his abdomen, down ridges of his pelvic bones, down the sides of his thighs. With her ear against his chest, she listened as his breathing deepened and his heartbeat thumped louder and quicker. A nervous curiosity in how far she could go before he reacted blossomed in her. When her reach was spent, she let her nails lightly drag back up but much more inward. As her thumbs traced the crease between his pelvis and thighs, she finally got him to react when she felt his cock begin to fatten up against her and he flinched his hips backward quickly when he seemed to realize his body’s response. She hid her smirk against his chest as he exhaled nervously, feeling mischievous as she stepped closer to him again. Surprisingly, he grasped her hips and held her a few inches away, that rougher squeeze on her particularly sensitive hips making her breath hitch and a slight moan escape her. She froze immediately at hearing how undeniably erotic she’d sounded and he seemed to have the same reaction, but his hands didn’t move from her tender hips. Her heart thrummed in confusion and want, apprehension and nervous excitement keeping her locked in place as the seconds ticked by with only his noticeably ragged breathing keeping time. Although her muscles felt tight and rigid, she bent her head to look down and saw the evidence of his response clearly outlined in the bulge at the front of his pants. Her mouth felt dry when her throat reflexively swallowed in nervousness.

Beklager… Sorry… I’m sorry…” he whispered, his voice raspy and slurred from the alcohol.

“It’s okay…” she muttered absently. And it was, she reasoned. This was just a bodily reaction he couldn’t control, the same as the moisture that collected in her cunt and came dangerously close to dripping down her thigh. It was late and he was drunk and she was broken. It didn’t have to mean anything. “Can I touch it?”

“‘Touch’?” he repeated, barely audible in how tight his voice was. He still hadn’t moved away, still hadn’t removed his hold on her hips, still hadn’t stopped her from staring at the protrusion of his erection. She reasoned that was consent enough. Slowly, she reached down between them, her heart rate nearly humming in how quickly and loudly it beat in her ears.

 “Vente, vente, vente…” he muttered, suddenly grabbing her wrist as her fingertips brushed his blood-hot hardness. With one hand still squeezing her hip and the other not quite holding her wrist far enough away to stop her from touching him, she felt like he was teasing her. She knew he wasn’t, knew he was just drunk and uncoordinated, but she still felt that curl of resentment twist her thoughts at these mixed signals.

“Please?” she whispered. His hand on her wrist twitched at the plea and she recalled how he’d responded when she begged. That cruel impulse in her swelled at the knowledge that sweet, helpful Anders had a very hard time saying no. “Please, let me touch you a little. I’ll be gentle. I just want to feel you, don’t worry. Please?”

She wanted him to tell her no, to just say he was sorry and drunk and tired and didn’t want her like that. Even still, she felt that sense of control tingle up the back of her mind when he let out a long, ragged sigh and his hand returned to her hip. She pressed her palm to the underside of his cloth-covered cock, her knees feeling weak and her chest aching in the need to pant for breath, but she tried to not appear as terrified as she felt. The aching in her cunt throbbed in animalistic anticipation despite reassuring herself that he wouldn’t possibly let this go that far.

“Leif… ‘touch’ you?” he asked hesitantly.

Her slowly stroking hand twitched at the question, a spike of hope and fear shooting through her veins. Her voice cracked as she whispered, “Yes.”

His hands tightened on her hips, making her breath hitch again and her fingers tense around what she could grab of his cock through his pants. His breath was hot on the back of her neck as he loomed over her downturned head and asked, “Why?”

“Because…” she whispered, confused by the question. She found herself at a loss for the answer. Because he loved her? Because he wanted her? Because she was his? These were all answers he had supplied her, but didn’t seem appropriate to the question coming from Anders. A bitter coil of self-loathing tugged at her as she said, “Because I need it.”

“‘Need’…” he murmured. His accent was nearly unintelligibly thick and his drunkenness slurred the words, but she could understand him when he whispered, “You need touch now?”

“Yes,” she breathed.

“I go get Leif?” he asked.

“No,” she answered quickly.

She winced at his sharp and sudden intake of breath, his cock twitching under her slowly stroking hand as he let out that breath in a trembling sigh while he muttered, “Gud tilgi meg… Okay, kjære. Okay.”

He gently removed her hand from him, intertwining their fingers in a tender gesture that eased her anxiety. She felt guilty for having put him through that stress then, seeing how he was still so kind even after she was so wicked to him. He really was safe. He still held onto her hand, his thumb tracing the inside of her palm soothingly, as he tilted her chin up and she found she was unafraid to meet his warm gaze. Through his drunken haze and uncertainty, he still had that benevolence in his face that made it so tempting to trust him. He smiled at her, just a small uptick of his mouth that she tried to return, and leaned down to press their foreheads together in a sweet familial gesture that drained the tension from her body. The comfort he bestowed on her made her feel as though she might finally be able to sleep soon and she let her eyes fall shut in appreciation of that nice thought.

“Ready, kjære?” he whispered. Her eyes opened, brow furrowing slightly in confusion before she felt his hand slip under the bottom of her towel.

Chapter Text

Anders never got hangovers. As he rolled off the sticky leather sofa in the living room, his mouth dry and sour like he’d chewed on a dirty sock and his stomach roiling like he’d swallowed that sock, he reminded himself of that fact. His bare feet couldn’t carry him quick enough down the hallway to reach the toilet, but he managed to deposit roughly one fourth of mostly digested veal Orloff and about ten fingers of scotch in the sink before his body stopped heaving. He rinsed the foul mixture from his tongue with long drags from the faucet and then nearly vomited all that water while gargling mouthwash. Thankfully the gagging only left him coughing his lungs out for a solid five minutes before exhaustion alone eased the reflex. He splashed cold water on his aching face and risked looking at his reflection, almost resentful that he didn’t look as bad as he felt but he still looked roughly half dead. At least it wasn’t a hangover.

As he toweled his face off, he noticed a purplish smudge on his neck. He leaned closer to the mirror, squinting at the mark as he tried to recall how it had gotten there. Remembering, however, proved to be a bit too painful at that moment so he shelved it for later. The icy water of the shower that felt straight from the frozen pits of Hell helped clear his mind, or at least numb it as well as the rest of him, and he indulged in that refreshing habit of morning torture as he stood under the glacial stream while he waited for it to gradually warm. Thanks to the antique plumbing of his Pappa’s American house, the process had more emphasis on the gradual aspect and less so on the warm.

As he lathered himself with the bar of soap and tried not to think about how it had recently been used by his now dead father, he let his mind slowly begin to wander. There were a lot of places to wander lately, it seemed. The baby drama that awaited him back home, the very real possibility that he could end up stuffed and mounted next to his girlfriend’s husband’s fireplace, the reluctant acceptance that he had already been pushed out of both the baby drama and having a girlfriend altogether according to their last conversation. But that was all back in Norway. This trip back to the States to say his goodbyes to his Pappa and enjoy a break from the tire fire of his personal life had turned out to be a little different than the return to childhood memories he had expected. His thoughts turned, as they constantly seemed to now, to the lovely creature that everyone had kept telling him was his niece. He worked hard to believe it, but there was simply no way that his Satanic brother could have made something that soft and sweet. And sexy, his mind supplied before he could beat back the intrusive thought. He was glad that the shower was still frigid as his mind retaliated against his attempt to control it by recalling how it felt when she ran her hands through his hair as he choked her.

He winced and thumped his forehead against the tile wall of the shower, pulling back and lightly hitting the wall again as he reminded himself how stupid he was to have done that. He just couldn’t say no to those big, gorgeous silver eyes and sweet little plump pouting lip, even when she asked him to do something so dreadfully, terrifyingly, horribly strange. He knew she was a little crazy, he knew he should have known better, but he had to do something. Choking her, in hindsight, might not have been the wisest choice even if it was the one she had wanted. Thank God it was the one she had wanted. He wasn’t certain of much, but he was damn sure Leif would put him into the ground with Pappa if he had gotten that one wrong. Knowing that she had wanted to be choked was disturbing, but then Leif confirming in every way but directly stating that he would do it to relieve some sort of sexual frustration in her was approximately one hundred times more disturbing.

Even if he ignored the fact that sweet, young, innocent, adorable little Simone had a masochistic streak, knowing that his brother was interacting sexually with his own daughter on any level at all frankly freaked him out. The way Leif had discussed it, however, made it seem like some weird part of fatherhood that people just politely didn’t talk about. For all Anders knew, that was true. Or at least true for their case, given how it was framed as a completely pragmatic workaround to a consequence of her condition. Whatever her condition was. Leif was never exactly clear on what made his daughter so debilitated and Anders couldn’t tell if it was anything past her getting those space spells or oddly emotional at times. Something apparently had happened a year or two ago, but no one other than Leif seemed to know what it was. If there was one thing he could say about his biggest brother, it was that the man hated to be asked questions, so he gave up on ever finding out.

Unfortunately, that prickly privacy of his brother’s also meant that Anders was left to his imagination to fill in the big gaping blanks on what Leif had meant when he had said he helped “relieve her needs”. Since then, that statement had echoed in his head every time he watched them touch or interact. It was odd enough before to see Leif be physically affectionate and loving in the general sense, but now it was uncomfortable. Especially as Anders recalled the previous night’s supper. Without being able to see what was happening beneath the table, they had looked like they were basically fucking. Anders had no other context for the way she wriggled, sighed, and even moaned on Leif’s lap. Then that kiss… Anders groaned and rubbed his eyes harshly as his mind replayed it over and over. He’d been quite sufficiently drunk at that point, but he was sure that wasn’t just a little peck on the lips. That was a half-second away from making out and way past anything chaste. He could chalk everything else up to his own filthy mind, but that kiss seemed to be at least part of how Leif “relieved” her.

The entire concept seemed wrong to him, yet he couldn’t help but wonder if his problem accepting the necessity of it made him bad father material. He’d like to have thought he would do anything for his child, but that was before he knew that everything might also include fulfilling their sexual needs on any level. He’d found he had been imagining himself in Leif’s place with a needing, desperate, wild Simone who could get herself into all kinds of trouble with the wrong men. It was obvious to him, in that scenario, that he would resort to becoming her sexual stand-in. But that was also because he was undeniably attracted to her. He had tried not to be, he really did, and knowing he saw his own relative that way made him feel like the lowest beast in creation but he couldn’t help it. She was attractive, undoubtedly, but there was something about her personally that drew him. Something about her made his brain go completely numb and he didn’t need any help in that department. To make matters worse, he viewed her as a sort of surrogate offspring, an odd effect of rampant fatherly instincts latching onto this helpless girl. He was sure that somehow counted as double-incest and he was of the opinion that he should go to Hell twice for it.

The water had finally warmed up and regrettably so had his cock. He’d made a lot of dubious sexual decisions in his life, but this was the worst shame boner yet. He felt thoroughly disgusted with himself and decisively turned the shower taps off, forcing his body to calm down as he toweled himself off and ignored the bastardly beast in him. Looking at his reflection with a more functional brain, he noticed that purple smudge in the crook of his neck again. He knew that bruise hadn’t been there yesterday, but his memory had cut out a couple hours after dinner when he had managed to find another bottle of scotch hidden away in the kitchen cupboards. Curious, he examined his reflection more attentively. He saw a strange sort of half-circle of little dotted bruises around the smudge. He touched the tender, fresh wound as he stared at it. It looked almost as though a small mouth had bitten him. He tried to remember if maybe he had a run-in with an animal last night, but his memory was completely wiped. He also didn’t have any scratch marks, but had to correct that assumption when he turned to examine his back and saw the long pink marks down his shoulder blades. He began to feel nervous, seeing the wide splay and how they were made in groups of four. Unless a small bear had very gently mauled him, those could only have been made by human hands. Small human hands. Simone-sized hands.

“Oh fuck. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh FUCK!”

He threw the towel across the bathroom and snatched up his pajama pants from the floor, examining them and hoping to find no evidence of his horrible suspicion. He felt like he’d been punched in the gut when he saw the rusty smears of blood stains soaked into the cotton. He had feared to find sexual fluids, but now he wished that was all there was.

“What the hell did I do to her…”

 

 

“Oh…” Simone breathed, realizing what Anders thought she was asking for as his fingers brushed the inside of her thigh. Her body burned for it, her muscles humming in the low level electric current of arousal, setting her on fire as the callous pad of his thumb slowly traced the wedge between her thigh and crotch. But she hadn’t asked for it. She had told him that her father had been touching her and he had offered to go get him to touch her. She admitted to having a sick need for sex and touch and he had offered fetch the man who molested her in response. She had thought there was some miscommunication but she believed that he had understood her as he had finally stopped her from stroking his cock. He had given her such sweet, uncorrupted affection and had comforted her so tenderly that she was sure his offer was just bad English. But as his hand disappeared under her towel, she realized the only miscommunication was her misguided hope that he was there to help her escape her father.

Du er så våt… så myk…” he whispered. Her breath hitched into a tight gasp as his fingertips traced her slit, his roughened skin sending sparks through her even as her mind worked to finally connect the dots. All those moments when she had prayed and feared that he had suspected, that he had seen something, that he had become aware of what her father did, Anders had done nothing because he already knew and he didn’t disagree with it. Her father had warned her that her uncle wanted to fuck her and like a weak, stupid little girl, she wouldn’t listen to him. Now he was finally sampling what his brother had and she was going to let him because it was true: she needed it. She probably was going to ask for it, but he took that control from her. Just like her father so often did.

“You feel good?” he asked. Her legs shook as he circled her clit, her panting now high pitched in need for him. She had to lean against him for support from how weak her knees had become and he held her with his free arm in such a caring embrace. The way he handled her was so drastically different from her father’s overbearing touch. Leif would be restraining her, pushing her, using gentleness only to taunt and make the sting of his force more brutal. But Anders held her up, not down. That tight knot of betrayal in her twisted in confusion.

“Is that what you want? You want to make me to feel good?” she whispered bitterly, trying to push away that seductive desire to believe he cared. He pressed a soft kiss to the top of her head and a deep sadness pooled in her at the sweet gesture. Knowing he had used her trust was not enough to close that hole in her heart he had opened. She needed him to take what he wanted viciously from her body and hurt her to stop the pain his tenderness wrought on her emotions. She untwisted one hand from his shirt and reached down, pressing his slowly circling fingers to her opening and biting her lip against the sting of his calloused skin sliding against the tear her father had made in her.

Herregud…he groaned breathily, the arm holding her up tensing as he sunk a single finger into her. Her cheeks burned and hips bucked unconsciously at the sensual noise from him, making her gasp from the sting and the pleasure of penetration. He whispered to her as she fucked herself on his hand, his foreign words rolling delightfully to her ears even as she tried to imagine he was saying crueler, filthier things to her than he likely was. The loving encouragement and appreciation in his tone made her twist to rub his finger more firmly against that raw tear, but she needed more pain to cut back the aching in her heart. He hissed in a sharp breath as she pressed her palm to his erection.

“Please,” she whimpered through her terror. She could feel his whole body tense as she hooked her fingers at his waistband and pulled down. “Please, I need this… I need you, Anders.”

 

 

He needed Simone. He had to find her and make sure she was okay. Surely, she wasn’t, but he needed her to be. Panic had him run out of the bathroom still completely nude, his bare feet slapping along the hardwood as he frantically ran through the hall but he barely heard it over the rapid pounding of his heartbeat. The parlor, living room, and dining room were a blur of nothing as he scanned each room only for her. He burst through the kitchen door, startling Henrik and Vidar as they sat at the kitchen table with the leftovers of breakfast between them.

“HOLY SHIT!” Vidar yelled as Henrik roared between bellowing laughter, “What the FUCK are you doing naked, asshole?!”

Anders couldn’t find any attention to spare them as he looked around for his niece, but froze when he saw the blue towel crumpled on the floor. He scooped it up, eyes wide and eyebrows raised as something tickled in his brain, almost like déjà vu but even less clear. But he had no time for towels and thinking. He had to find her.

“Have either of you seen Simone?” he asked, his voice loud in his panic. Both brothers looked at him incredulously and he wanted to throttle them for taking so long to answer.

“Why the fuck do you want to know that?” Henrik asked flatly.

“Just tell me!” he demanded.

“She’s with Leif. They went into town hours ago,” Vidar answered. Both men eyed him suspiciously as he tangled his hands in his wet hair, tugging the blonde locks harshly by the roots as he tried to process that information.

“Was she okay? What did they go to town to do?” he asked quickly, leaving out the question Did Leif know?

“I don’t know. She looked pretty good to me,” Henrik shrugged.

Vidar leaned back in his seat and smirked, “Yeah, I’d say she looked good enough to eat. I bet she tastes like-”

“DON’T FUCKING TALK ABOUT HER THAT WAY!” Anders yelled. Both men stared at him, but he didn’t care to acknowledge them as he paced the kitchen, clenching the towel tightly in his fists and trying to figure out what to do with himself.

“God, being naked makes you rude, Anders,” Henrik frowned.

“What are you on? Is it cocaine? Shit, if you had cocaine on you in the airport I will actually beat you to death,” Vidar said grumpily. “And also steal your cocaine. Seriously, where is it?”

“I didn’t- I was just drunk, I didn’t know what I was doing and I can’t- I can’t remember!” Anders stammered, pausing in his anxious pacing to press his fingers to his throbbing temples. His nose filled with the sweet, earthy scent of her from bringing the towel nearer and he threw it from him as though it burned. The effect her scent had on him had always been strangely pleasant, but the yearning it had stirred in him then was alarming. It had to be from the adrenaline.

“Could you please put some fucking clothes on?” Vidar grumbled.

“What the hell are you going on about?” Henrik asked, his voice growing in volume and lowering in pitch as his patience waned. “You come in here nude and yelling like a loon about Simone and now you’re rambling about not remembering shit. What the hell is wrong with you? Did something happen between you and Simone?”

Anders buried his face in his hands and rubbed at his skin roughly, trying to ease a different panic that rose in him at his brother’s questioning. Vidar glanced between Henrik’s grave frown and Anders’ desperate coping, his eyebrows slowly raising in shock and understanding.

“Holy shit,” Vidar breathed. “Did you really fuck around with her?”

“No. No!” Anders quickly insisted. “Why do you guys keep thinking that!?”

“Do you want a short list or the long one?” Henrik groused, folding his arms over his broad chest.

“Yeah, you’ve been having a lot of ‘alone time’ with her and you obviously want to fuck her,” Vidar remarked.

“I want to fuck her? You two have been talking about her like she’s a piece of meat since you saw her!” Anders flared.

“Okay. We only say that shit because it’s funny and we both know we won’t fuck her anyway, so it doesn’t matter,” Henrik said. “But you creep around and get weirdly protective, like you always do with girls you eventually fuck.”

“And deflecting is something guilty people do,” Vidar added.

“So I’m the one who wants to fuck her because I’m the only one not talking about how I want to fuck her?” Anders asked, astonished at their logic.

“Yeah, basically. Also she wants you to fuck her and that has Leif freaked out,” Vidar shrugged.

“God, he’s so weird about her. You think he writes his name on her chastity belts?” Henrik joked.

“If I had a daughter who looked like that, I’d make her sleep in my bed too,” Vidar jeered.

Anders groaned angrily and quickly trudged out of the room, pointedly ignoring the strange looks from his brothers. He knew he seemed completely insane and suspicious, but he didn’t care. He could never hurt Simone so their suspicions could go to Hell. At least, he hoped he could never hurt her. Dread made each step heavy as he ascended the stairs and entered the guest room he’d claimed, the hard twin mattress creaking noisily under him as he collapsed onto it. None of it made any sense. He’d seen Leif drag her off to bed last night and that man rarely seemed to let her out of his sights. There was no way he’d let her wander out of bed in the dead of night alone, not for any significant period of time. But there was a lot that could happen in a heated moment. A lot he could do to make her claw his back like that. An unfamiliar memory of her moaning his name, her back flexing and arching under his hands, flashed in his mind.

“Fuck.”

It was just one second, maybe not even half a second, and the memory might not have been real, could have been a dream or something he imagined since allowing himself to think of her while he masturbated. He knew it was real though. The undeniable reality of it made him press the heels of his hands hard against his eyes, shame squeezing the breath from his lungs in the myriad of implications just from one fleeting moment. The evidence was stacked against him but he still couldn’t believe or accept it. He wasn’t such a monster as to fuck his own niece. But if she had wanted it, if the universe had aligned in such a way that she actually asked him to with those big eyes and sweet little pout, if his sick fantasies had somehow come into being… Fantasy was still across a wide chasm of terrifying factors before it ever touched reality, though. Even ignoring the immense guilt and damnation pressing down to his very soul for lusting after his own blood relative, no matter how exotic and appealing she was, there were still so many obstacles preventing that fantasy from ever being something he could allow to become real.

Each factor weighed on him like so many grand pianos falling directly on top of his chest. She was an entire decade younger than him, still basically just a kid, and especially naïve even for her age. He wasn’t even sure if she was able to consent in her madness; he had no idea how that worked, but Leif had called her vulnerable and suggestible and those words were not conductive to his concept of consent. Even if she were to beg him, even if she weren’t related to him, even if she were just a little older, the power imbalance between him and her broken mind made him feel sleazy and perverted for ever having wanted her. He found a small comfort in knowing he at least didn’t want her because of those factors. He couldn’t think of how he would be able to live with being that kind of monster. Leif would kill him if he had any idea. If his fears were confirmed, Anders might just insist on it.

He shot out of the bed, his fretful energy not at all abating as these thoughts crowded his mind, and roughly pulled on a blue fleece and whatever pair of jeans and underwear he reached first in his duffel bag. He had finished lacing up his boots by the time he realized he’d forgotten to put on an undershirt or even socks. He needed to slow down. He needed air.

 

 

Vente, vente! Ikke gjør det, kjære!” Anders exclaimed as he tried to yank his pants back up, but his efforts faltered as Simone gripped his cock in her hand. He released his waistband and shot out to grasp her wrist, her wetness on his fingers making his grip unsteady even if he had put any real force to stop her. His ragged gasp as she pumped him helped her to push down her fear and focus on that carnal need throbbing in her cunt. She squeezed her eyes shut and gathered her courage before pushing him against the kitchen counter, the ease with which he followed her lead emboldening her to slide down his body and open her mouth over his cock. When her tongue laved over his tip and scooped up the salty drop of precum forming there, she was abruptly yanked away and found herself suddenly staring into the equally shocked wide eyes of her uncle as he held her a foot away from him by her shoulders.

Ikke. Ikke gjør det,” he said firmly. She was surprised to see her same fear reflected in his eyes, the same confused conflict between body and mind as when her father would drag out her pleasure against her will. The thrill of power in knowing she could inspire this same effect in another helped ease that emotional turmoil and repelled her. This was different than just pushing his boundaries and prodding him for reaction. This was darker, uglier, and more soothing than that. She could shield her heart with this.

“You don’t want it?” she asked, her unsteady hands reaching out and caressing his chest. He licked his lips nervously, setting a more resolute furrow in his brow even as his eyes continued to reveal that same fearful conflict. She held his gaze as she dragged her nails over his thin shirt. “I’m good at it. Or do you want something else?”

She pulled her hands back and watched as his mouth parted in awe while she unwrapped the towel around her, putting every bit of willpower into letting it fall open and drop to the floor. She couldn’t stop the panicked little breaths of her panting as she watched him look at her naked body. His eyes roved over her exposed form, taking in every inch of her skin with a hunger that both electrified and terrified her.

Gud tilgi megDu er nydelig…” he muttered, seeming unable to tear his gaze away from her. She tried to let his lingering stare and blatant desire bolster her confidence, but she mostly felt vulnerable. It was her own incessant need for sex that gave her the will to take his hands and slide them down to her breasts. He sighed shakily as she pressed his palms to her, his uncertain gaze turning once more to her face with an expression so raw and conflicted that it shook her.

“Please… Please touch me however you want,” she whispered. She moaned when his hands lightly squeezed, the flame of her lust engulfing all other thought at the pleasure of those calloused palms rubbing her oversensitive nipples. Her body nearly collapsed against him, making him let out a deep grunt as her abdomen pressed against his erection, and she stood on her tiptoes to catch that gasping mouth with her own. He moaned into her kiss, his hands releasing her breasts to wrap his arms around her in a tight embrace, and she tilted her head to deepen it. The passion with which he returned her kiss made her head swim and heart ache, tempting her to lose herself in the dangerous amount of emotion she found in it. A pain twisted in her as she realized he kissed not in the devouring, seductive, manipulating way her father did, but with the expression of a lover. Tears threatened to well in her eyes as his hands slid into her hair and cradled her head, not to pull painfully or restrain her stillness, but to support and soothe.

When he pulled away from her mouth, he pressed his forehead to hers in that sweet, intimate gesture and she just barely heard him whisper, “I’m sorry, Simone… Jeg elsker deg. Jeg burde ikke, og jeg beklager. I love you.”

Her heart felt as though it shattered then. Her voice shook as she rubbed her body against his, her hands nearly clawing at him, and frantically said, “Please, just use me. Fuck me. Isn’t that what you’re after? You like it when I beg, right? Please, Anders. Please, please fuck me. I want you to fuck me hard, any way you want it, just please, please, I need it!”

His hands tried to still her, his voice saying something in a placating tone, and she wrapped her arms around his neck as she hoisted herself up by putting her other knee onto the counter’s edge beside his hip. He froze as she rolled her hips and slid his cock under her, her frustration climbing as she tried and failed to angle him to slip inside. His tip dipped into her only to slip out and he grunted as his hips twitched almost involuntarily from the brief penetration. His accidental motion adjusted him to line up to her entrance and they both watched, equally astounded, as she sank down onto his dick.

 

 

The sun was a hatefully bright thing to Anders’ aching head even through the filter of the full late springtime foliage, but being in the open outdoors did help clear his thoughts. He tried not to jump to conclusions, finding that each conclusion based on the current clues brought only panic and crushing guilt. Not that he didn’t deserve that crushing guilt, but he needed to be in a better state for Simone. Whatever had happened, he needed to be able to help her. He sighed heavily for perhaps the hundredth time that morning, tucking his cold-bitten hands into his pockets to try to get some feeling back in them. The memories would only come when he wasn’t seeking them, popping up completely unexpected in flashes of touch and sound. Simone’s skin sliding against his, her soft breasts filling his palms just perfectly, her sweet voice moaning about need and want and please, please, please. He had always thought of himself as a good person despite his many questionable deeds, but this one might change that permanently.

He’d been walking the grounds of the property for well over an hour at that point and he felt more or less together, no longer a jumbling mess of emotional turmoil. He supposed there was no sense in delaying the inevitable. The overgrown brush of maple saplings and weeds hid the pathways as he stepped through them, but he was confident that his sense of direction was taking him back towards the house. Before he judged he had even made it to the halfway point, however, he heard an odd rhythmic sound echoing through the woods. Curious or just looking for any distraction to postpone his destination, he headed towards it, eventually surprised to come upon his father’s old pickup truck. Stepping around it, he finally found the source of that sound to be Leif striking the ground with an old shovel in the process of digging a hole.

“Leif?” he asked. His oldest brother’s face shot up in a tense acknowledgement, his hard glare and strained downturned mouth making Anders stop his approach. He was painfully aware of how alone they were out there, far from the house to make any noise distant enough to go unnoticed. He glanced down at the long, narrow size of the hole and thought it was peculiarly person-sized. Almost his size, in fact.

“What are you doing out here?” Leif asked in an angry rasp.

Anders looked up from staring at his likely soon-to-be grave, regretting having taken his eyes off the obviously pissed off man with the shovel, and said, “Walking. I was just going for a walk. What are… Why are you out here?”

Leif turned back to the hole, taking a moment to re-roll up the sleeves of his black dress shirt, a distant gleam in his eye as he looked around at nothing in particular before he answered, “Digging.”

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s quite a hole you’ve got going. You want to tell me what it’s for?” Anders asked hesitantly, trying to maintain a casual tone and not tip off the man that he was currently fearing for his life.

“No,” Leif answered as he took hold of the shovel once more and resumed digging.

Anders stood and watched as Leif worked, feeling as though he should not feel as offended by the rude response as he found himself to be considering he was probably going to be murdered by the man shortly.

“If you’ve really got nothing better to do than stand around, you could help me out,” Leif groused out in huffing breaths from the effort of digging.

Anders most certainly did not want to help dig his own grave, but he couldn’t help observing aloud, “I don’t see another shovel, brother.”

“I was going to ask you to take Simone in and clean her up for me,” Leif clarified grumpily.

“Clean her up?”

Leif responded by gesturing with a tilt of his head and Anders followed the direction of it to see Simone standing about fifteen meters away, calmly watching them with her front covered in red from her mouth to her navel and smeared up her arms.

“Is that blood?” Anders heard himself ask. He felt like his stomach had fallen out of him.

“Don’t worry, it’s not hers,” Leif assured him, not even looking up from his task as he spoke as casually as if they were discussing the weather. Anders stared at the girl, remarkably relieved but no less alarmed. His feet were stuck to the ground until his brother snapped, “Get her cleaned up already. Don’t let them see her like that.”

He couldn’t help but run toward her, adrenaline making him jumpy once more as he trampled unfeelingly through the brush. His couldn’t figure out how to touch her once he reached her, every suitable option covered in red as his hands hovered over her while she just stared into the distance as though he wasn’t even there.

“You’re going to get covered in that when you wash her, so just leave if you’re too squeamish!” Leif called out.

Anders frowned at him and grasped her hand, the skin tacky with drying blood and ice cold. His concern for her quickly overrode his revulsion and he tugged her close as she followed unresistingly behind him. He’d seen her in this spacey state before, but the pliant way she obeyed his lead through the wooded area disconcerted him. Present only physically and completely hollow. Although Leif had assured him that these states were normal for her and transitory, Anders was always anxious to get Simone back into her body as soon as possible. Squeezing her hand firmly as they walked, he spoke to her despite knowing she wouldn’t be able to understand his Norwegian even when fully aware anyway.

“I’m sorry. Are you okay? I really, really hope you’re okay but even if you say you’re completely fine, I’m sorry. I don’t know what the hell happened and I don’t know what’s happening now, but God, please be okay. It’s not an excuse, but I don’t remember what we… what I did to you. I’m not asking for your forgiveness. From what I can tell, I might have done something unforgivable. Something that’s probably going to hurt you for a long time, maybe forever, even if it doesn’t hurt now. So don’t forgive me, just know that I’m sorry. It’s not fair that you should suffer from my mistake. I need to fix… I want to help fix this if you’ll let me. You might hate me now… and I think you should. You should hate me and stay away from me, but if you’ll allow me, I want to help you any way I can. You don’t have to keep this a secret. I won’t make you do that. I deserve to face whatever consequences will come. Tell me what you need and I’ll do anything, anything at all. If you never want to see me again, I’ll leave. I’ll leave this entire family so you’ll never even hear about me. Just… just tell me what I can do.”

He stopped and turned to look at her. She was staring at him, or rather through him, that serene absence in her silver stare so like the glass eyes of a doll. He hadn’t expected her to respond, but a hopeless desire for her to have somehow understand his intentions left him feeling pathetically powerless. Eager to do the one thing he could to help, he walked her to the house and slowed as he approached the backdoor. Peering through the window first, he led them through the empty kitchen, listening carefully for his brothers’ presence. Luckily, their bickering seemed to centralize from towards the front of the house, so he crept through to hallway slowly with Simone in tow. Her footsteps were completely silent, which although fortunate, struck him as creepy. Instead of trudging and stumbling after him like a zombie, she moved with efficiency and almost predatory grace in this state. Even while not in her body, the girl was still full of surprises. He pulled her into the bathroom and locked the door as quietly as he could manage before flipping on the light and turning to her. With his task now at hand, he was more than ready to dive into it and distract himself from his thoughts. If only he could figure out how to approach this mess. He soaked a hand towel from the hot faucet in the sink and began brushing the blood off her chin first, watching in odd fascination as she seemed to respond to the gentle little strokes with a subtle relaxation to her muscles. Her silence unnerved him and he soon found himself speaking just to fill the quiet and ease his self-consciousness at being so close and alone with the girl he had done so horribly wrong.

“This is stickier than I thought it was going to be. I guess I never really had to think about whether or not blood gets sticky, though,” he muttered to himself, scrubbing with the towel a little rougher. He stopped when he saw her upper lip curl back, her red-stained tooth revealed to him in a wince that looked strangely like a snarl. “Oh Christ, it’s in your mouth… Ohh, that can’t taste nice. Hold on, dear.”

He turned to search the cabinets for a cup to help with rinsing her mouth but heard her quiet, small voice mutter the Norwegian endearment he used for her. “Kjære…”

He looked back to her with a shot of hope that she was waking up. “Yes. Dear. Do you want some water, dear?”

She didn’t respond, that thousand-yard stare the same as it had been, and he sighed in both disappointment and a shameful relief. For all his need to find out what had happened between them last night and repent, he still dreaded having to face the truth when she woke. Finding a stack of paper cups in the linen closet, he filled one with warm water and held it to her lips. The water just dribbled down her chin when he tipped it.

“Great,” he grumbled. With unsure hands, he gripped her cheeks with his free hand and gently squeezed until her mouth opened. It felt oddly intrusive to manipulate her jaw like that. “Sorry...”

He tipped the cup into her mouth again, watching closely to make sure she wasn’t drinking it or asphyxiating it, and was rewarded with his face covered in bloody water when she reflexively spat it out. He scrunched his face in a half grimace, half wry grin as he wiped it off and tried not to be too impressed with the force she had put into that expectoration.

“Yeah, I should have guessed that might happen. My fault,” he smiled sardonically. He emptied the cup in the sink and refilled it with mouthwash. “Well, since you’re a spitter, let’s use something more effective to combat that nasty taste.”

He gripped her cheeks and retried the maneuver, standing cautiously to the side this time. He became curious when she didn’t spit as quickly that time, then panicked when he saw her throat bob as she swallowed down a big gulp of mouthwash.

“Oh, shit, no no no!” he frantically said, dropping the cup and patting her on the back hard to encourage her to spit it up. His beating hand was caught in a vicelike grip when her arm shot out and then twisted painfully before he yanked away. He stared at her, awestruck at her swift move, and shook off the slight ache in his arm as he muttered, “Okay, okay, you can keep that in your belly then. It’s probably fine. Jesus, you’re stronger than you look…”

Looking at her, he wouldn’t have been able to tell she’d even moved and he eyed her warily before picking up the damp towel and working at that sticky blood again. Ten minutes in and only achieving to reduce the red to pink on her face and completely stain the terrycloth to uselessness, he gained a fuller understanding of the old American adage he recalled by literally throwing in the towel. He let out an agitated huff and turned on the taps in the shower to begin warming the water.

“Okay, dear,” he sighed reluctantly, groaning as he knelt and began to unlace her blood-splattered high-top shoes. “We’re going to move onto plan B.”

He took off her shoes and socks one at a time, noting with wonder at how she didn’t even slightly waver as she balanced on one foot while he yanked, then stood and unbuttoned her jeans with a cautious hesitance. When he pulled open her fly and saw the pink lace of her panties with a tiny bow at the top, he paused. With a nervous lick of his lips, he rethought it and zipped up her jeans, moving on to grip the bottom of her thick knit sweater. He had to move her arms over her head as he peeled it off, then regretted having done it when he saw she hadn’t been wearing a bra. Gripping the sweater in a ball between his tense hands, he tried to keep his eyes above neck level while he gathered his resolve. He hastily pulled off his clothes and left them scattered on the floor, suddenly needing to get this over with quickly and not allow any moments for his horrible mind to wander. Down to his underwear, he very stiffly kept his hands on top of Simone’s shoulders as he guided her into the box shower, following in and shutting the glass door behind them.

“Okay, we are going to finally get that stuff off you, dear,” he announced, gently guiding her under the stream of warm water.

 “Kjære,” she repeated. His guilt twisted like a knife in his back as he worried she was awakening, but he didn’t let himself turn away from it this time. Gently gripping her by placing his hands on the sides of her head, he bent to level his face in front of her blank stare and swallowed his cowardice to look her in her empty eyes. It confused him how much it hurt to do this between the shame of what he did to her and his need for her presence, but he couldn’t let himself continue to abandon her in this passive way.

“Simone…” he whispered under his breath, then pursed his lip to gather his courage before more firmly whispering in the limited English he knew, “Simone. Please, come here. I am Anders, here.”

“Anders,” she whispered.

Yes,” he smiled, feeling like a slightly less horrible human being for not experiencing any regret at succeeding in slowly bringing her back. “Yes, dear. Come here.”

He watched as awareness rose in her eyes, fascinated that the process was so visual in the brightening of that silver stare. He knew he would have to face the reality of what he’d done when she finally came to and let him have it, but he couldn’t stand to see her like that any longer. An odd feeling of calm washed over him as he fully accepted the weight of his sin. That calm was abruptly derailed when she leaned forward and latched her lips onto his in a searing kiss, the taste of copper and mint filling his senses as her tongue delved into his shock-slackened mouth.

 

 

Simone made a strangled moan at the feeling of Anders stretching her wide as he panted and muttered, “Nei, nei, nei, vi burde ikke… no, no no no…”

Even as he protested, he bucked his hips, working his cock into her as she made breathy little whimpers through her panic. When he finally hilted in her, he let out a low groan that fogged her mind in the all-encompassing lust she needed. She was so full of him, aching to accommodate his girth in her injured cunt, but the pain seemed so distant to the pleasure as she began to roll her hips. His hands that were on her waist trying to pull her off him just a moment before soon slid down and gripped her ass to support her, kneading the soft globes as she tried to fuck herself on him. The nearly standing position as he leaned back on the counter made it difficult for her to obtain leverage, making the act slower and frighteningly sensual as he had more control of the pacing. His arms held her off the ground with an ease she found intimidating, holding her close and high enough for him to reach her mouth and pull her into another heartbreakingly tender, scotch-flavored kiss.

She tried to make it more carnal, tried to tempt him into biting with shy little nips on his lips, but she found herself nearly giving into the temptation of his simulation of love. It had to be a cruel mimicry of the emotion. Even if his behaviors made any sense for that to possibly be genuine, she was certain of the fact that no one could love a creature like her. When they pulled out of that sweet, cruel kiss, she risked opening her eyes and immediately regretted it when she saw him gazing at her with such open affection and warmth. Her confusion was nearly palpable. None of this was making sense.

“What do you want from me?” she asked, trying to speak as clear as she could but her voice still trembled and she could barely get the words out between panting breaths. His slow, rolling thrusts were meeting her in a gentle rhythm that kept her clit rubbing against him and she already felt dangerously close to orgasm.

“You,” he whispered. She found that wanting to believe him made it hurt worse. He pulled her closer and nuzzled her cheek, the sandpaper texture of his stubble not nearly rough enough to distract her from craving his lies. It felt almost real and so much warmer than the affection her father would reward her with. But he wasn’t her father. She didn’t have that compulsive, dire need for it like she needed it from Leif. A strange new wonder formed in her, asking what it would be like to experience whatever this man said he felt for her. It was certainly a lie, but it could be a beautiful one if only for a moment.

Oh…” she gasped, surprised by the vertigo-like sensation of being pulled into climax. She was caught off-guard as her body bared down and clenched around his cock, making him let out a shuddering groan and thrust with the deliberate single-minded rhythm she recognized as a man chasing his orgasm. The firmer, faster, shallower thrusts pushed her abruptly over the edge. Her nails dragged hard down his back and she sunk her teeth into the crook of his neck to keep from crying out as she rode out the intense climax. Her entire body trembled with the force of it until she started to come down, only to crash through another sudden and completely unexpected orgasm as he gave one final deep thrust. She was distantly aware that he had gasped her name as he came.

That molten, tingling sensation of being filled with his seed struck an instinctive chord in her, releasing a potent hormonal cocktail that left her feeling elated and emotional. As they panted and held onto each other, his head leaning affectionately against the side of hers with his chin resting on her shoulder, she felt that bond they had formed before knowing of his betrayal blossom into something deeper. Trying to resist the pull of hormones and perhaps even her true feelings, she reminded herself that he was likely tricking her and had outright stated his intention of delivering her to Leif, but knew it was too late. Whatever this was, she cared for Anders and she knew she was going to get hurt.

She tensed as he adjusted his hold on her and slipped out of her. He didn’t let go as he yanked his pants back up and carried her out of the kitchen. Nervously, she clung to him, apprehension creeping through the post-orgasmic haze as they headed into the living room. He breathed out a relaxed sigh as he sat down on the sofa, snuggling her close in his lap and kissing her cheek with a lighthearted fondness that seemed out of place with the grievous sin they’d just committed until she remembered that he was very, very drunk.

Jeg skal ta deg hjem med meg, kjære,” he whispered as he nuzzled her cheek. “Jeg kan gjøre deg veldig glad... Jeg lover.”

“I don’t understand,” she muttered, feeling silly for being embarrassed over that after all that had happened that night. Still, she didn’t resist the impulse to hide her burning face against his neck, glad he let her cower there for a long moment until she realized he’d fallen asleep under her. The sound of his steady breathing should have soothed her, but she felt uneasy at being in this position in the same room her father had found them so close together in before.

Her body shot up as she recalled her father, trepidation driving her to flee the living room and pad up the stairs as quietly as the creaky wooden floor allowed. Her full body tension didn’t ease until she slowly opened the door to their room to see him still passed out on the bed. A strong wave of exhaustion hit her as she sighed out her fear and she crept into bed, not having the energy to care that she was naked and freshly fucked. Tucking herself against his side, she pushed the myriad of thoughts crowding at the edges of her blank mind down and quickly slipped into a long, terrible nightmare of violence and pain that only calmed when she began to have a strange dream of being in the shower with Anders.

Chapter Text

The house, with its timber slatted rafters above high bone white walls and liquid-shine waxed floors, had reminded Leif of the hollowed-out corpse of a giant since he’d first arrived to begin his life as an immigrant. While he stepped through the central hall, the shadowed beams above suggesting the notches of vertebrae and the spanning of ribs, it was tempting to reminisce on his coming of age in this cavernous country house. The false back behind the line of winter coats hanging in the closet unlatched and drifted open with well-oiled silence before he stepped down into the musty darkness. The acidic and almost tangy scents of the photo developing chemicals soaked into the walls had muddled with mildew from such a long period of neglect. Nostalgia beckoned his mind to turn to his uncle Bjørn, 20 years dead and still such a present actor in the amphitheater of his mind, but Leif hadn’t time to waste on superfluous mourning. Not with the house so quiet and still in the darkness of the early morning hour.

Reaching the concrete floor of the darkroom, he groped along the wall until he flicked on all four switches. The exhaust fans stuttered to reluctant life and all but one of the red overhanging bulbs had been burnt out, but it would suffice. On the shelves lining the far wall, placed casually next to the plastic jugs of fixer, was the tin Christmas cookie box Leif had come for. The lid stuck, but with a little wriggling with his father’s folding knife, he managed to pry it off and began inspecting the collection of tiny bottles inside. He rifled through them until he found the lowest dose in the collection then replaced the lid and cookie tin to its dust-lined space. He allowed himself a smile as he knew how pleased his uncle would be that his tools were still being put to nefarious use so long after his death, but then wiped the silly thought from his mind. He could not permit himself to get into the habit of sentimentality.

Under the dim light of the desk lamp back in the bedroom, with his Simone still lost to the world in slumber, he dug out a syringe from his pack and filled it with a heftier dose than perhaps necessary of the morphine. He tapped the side of the syringe to loosen any bubbles and carefully pressed the plunger until just a drop slid down the thin needle, then rose from his chair and approached the sleeping girl.

Her quickened breaths had him worried that she might have been feigning sleep, but the rapid darting of her eyes under her tightly shut lids told him that she was merely caught in one of her frequent nightmares. He watched her for a moment, smoothing her wavy hair away from her face and gently caressing her sweat-dampened cheek as he reflected on how cruel the mind could be in its attempts to process the horrors of waking life by producing new and revisited horrors in sleep. Nonetheless, it was useful to him that she lacked that source of relief. After he’d taken away a few aspects of her life and identity, she had responded beautifully by clinging to him as her source of comfort and reassurance. He was once more aware of his eagerness for his brothers to leave so he could begin her final transformation in earnest. They had provided an unacceptable distraction to his girl, especially the affection Anders had seemed far too keen to spoil her with. Leif could let her have her comfort for now though. He did feel a surprising amount of sympathy and – at weakened moments – guilt for her time ahead. For all his desire, Anders had seemed too in denial of his darker side to act on it anyway. At least not without further prodding.

Leif gingerly lifted the quilt away from her, exposing her golden skin to the cold open air and causing her to stir. Knowing exactly how heavily she slept, he didn’t wait for her to calm before placing his steadying hand high on her hip. Pressing down on the well-developed ventrogluteal muscle there, he slid the needle into the flesh drawn tight between his splayed fingers and slowly pressed the plunger. Within minutes, the troubled little wrinkle at her brow smoothed into peaceful rest and her breath slowed and grew shallow as the drug took hold. Placing the syringe on the headboard, he stayed knelt over her and observed her sleeping form. Though hackneyed, he couldn’t help but ruminate on how angelic she looked. Through everything that he’d done to her and made her do, she still held an almost animal-like innocence at her core. His fingers traced the fading bruise of the bite mark he’d left on her breast. She was so soft and exotically lovely with an instinctive viciousness under that outward docility. Like a circus tiger. He delicately mouthed the crest of her shoulder, her chilled skin smooth and sweet under his warm tongue. The quiet little groan she made as she shifted under him, turning away from his stimulation in the natural pursuit of sleep, tugged at the tangled web of his heartstrings with yearning and fondness for her. Even as his arousal made him want to pin her down and watch her struggle with adorably drugged weakness under him, he indulged in the swell of parental pride that she was blossoming into such a fascinating and lovely young woman under his wing. He’d taken her sweetness and dependence on him and twisted it into such interesting forms, but fatherly bias produced relief instead of annoyance that she had retained her base personality.

She sighed in her sleep as he fondled her breast more firmly, but he was interrupted in his progress by the sound of a phone ringing. Damning to hell whichever brother had turned their ringer up that ungodly loud, he began to plot the exact vengeance he would enact on him when Simone stirred to groggy half-wakefulness. The sounds she made as she tried and failed to convince her brain to make coherent speech through the morphine were so cute.

“Ssh, shh, darling,” Leif whispered as he rose from the bed, his hand affectionately smoothing over her mop of hair. “I’ll see to that racket. Go back to sleep.”

“Frnrr… shnell…” she slurred before flopping back onto the pillow with her sleepy eyes rolling into her head before fluttering shut once more.

He grinned, absolutely charmed, but that phone continued its incessant ringing. Stepping into the hall, he was surprised to hear it was coming from his father’s bedroom. After their initial morbid curiosities had been quickly discarded by the lingering rank of death once venturing inside, his brothers had avoided the room entirely, so this was unexpected. He entered to find a corded landline phone plugged in under the nightstand. Why it had been hidden from sight and hadn’t rung to his knowledge until that inappropriately early morning hour engaged his wonder. With a hope that this might prove interesting, he lifted the handset to his ear and waited for the caller to speak first.

 

 

It felt so good to sleep. Simone could hear a voice speaking to her, trying to drag her out, but that blissful dreamland pulled her right back into such restful slumber that she couldn’t even consider waking. The branches of the trees above her were silhouetted by a sky backlit in the pinks and peaches of a beautiful sunrise. In taking a step forward, she noticed that she stood calf-deep in water. The crystal blue water surrounding her was calm enough to be as reflective as glass, but when she looked down into it, she was strangely unsurprised to see Bjørn’s image on the surface instead of her own. Once she realized that he was under the water, she bent down and pulled him up, his whitening blond beard hairs tickling her wrists as she grasped his head and lifted. He wasn’t heavy, just being a head and all, and he blinked up at her with wide gray eyes as she cradled him. His wrinkled skin was soft and loose, folding wherever there was pressure applied, and she hoped she wouldn’t drop him on accident as she waded through the water. He felt like an overripe cantaloupe wrapped in bread dough, but she resisted the urge to squish him. That would be terrible manners no matter how badly she wanted to do it. Plus, if she found the rest of him, he could tell them why they were here.

A stinging crack exploded against her cheek and she startled awake to find herself freezing on the cracked leather bench seat of the old pickup truck. She scrambled to sit up, pressing into the corner between the seat and the door when her wild eyes fell on Leif at the wheel. He was rubbing her shoulder and smiling at her, not a cruel smirk or a plastic grin, but an almost sheepish little upturn as the truck idled at a blinking stoplight.

“Sorry about that, darling, but I need you awake,” he said softly. She could only guess he was apologizing for having slapped her.

“Whe… whurruh we?” she slurred, her tongue too thick and heavy to form the words properly. Her whole body felt like it was floating in molasses, slow and only halfway responsive to her commands to move. Apprehension crept along the corners of her fogged mind. If she could barely remain sitting upright, there would be little hope she could run if needed. Not that she would do something as unwise as running from him, but it was discomfiting to be so disabled. The hand that was rubbing her shoulder moved to cup her cheek and he held her gaze as he spoke evenly.

“We’re in a Massachusetts town about eighty minutes away from home. It’s Saturday, 4:45 AM, and you have been in a drug-assisted sleep but, I assure you, you are awake now,” he explained. “We’re going to meet an associate of Einar’s. You won’t need to participate in the discussion but I was uncomfortable leaving you alone in that state. Do you have any further inquiries?”

Too many, but her mouth could only say, “Nuh.”

His hand drifted away from her numb cheek, the absence of his heat making her feel even colder than before, and she let her head fall backwards against the window as she willed the world to stop spinning. The effort was not helped by the movement of the vehicle turning through the town and she shut her eyes against the sight of passing trees and brick buildings. She could hear someone calling her again and the world shifted. She had lost Bjørn’s head, she needed to find him again, needed to find out why they were both there in that flooded forest. Leif was pulling her by the hand as he nearly dragged her deeper into those woods, her much smaller hold being completely engulfed in his grip. Whatever he was, she knew his position as her father had remained consistent through to the true core of him and her heart ached to draw out his parental approval. So, she smiled, finding it an easy and natural thing to do being so free from fear in this dreamland, and her heart soared at the squeeze from his hand in response. If only it was this easy.

“…nodding off again. Stay with me.”

She blinked, finding her head much less dizzy now that the truck was parked but quickly discovering that any slight movement brought that vertigo back. Her brain sloshed around in her skull as she clumsily wiped at the itch on her chin, disgust following that move as she discovered she’d been drooling all over herself. The sleeve of her sweater was fortunately absorbent enough to soak up the excess saliva, if not the embarrassment she felt when she noticed her father had been watching her with a quiet amusement written all over his stoic face before he got out. The excruciating slowness of her muscles to respond to her commands frustrated her as she batted at the approximate area of her mouth. Even that small effort left her exhausted and he seemed to realize this as he opened the passenger door and, to her increasing nervousness, gathered her up in his arms bridal-style. The way he could handle her, as though she weighed nothing more than a bag of flour, and the feeling of his muscles moving as he maneuvered her to shut the truck door reminded her of his sheer strength. It made her almost sick with hopelessness and vulnerability.

“Don’t be so worried, darling,” he said, his tone doing a poor impression of reassurance as he carried her. Although it caused her vertigo to go completely haywire, she rolled her head around to check the surroundings. No nearby neighbors, a dirt road leading off into just more trees, and what seemed to be junk littering the overgrown grass surrounding the little track house he carried her toward. She could see the image of a man silhouetted behind the screen door and he stepped out as they approached.

“By gosh, if you didn’t turn into the spittin’ image of Einar! I mean when he was young, ya know, heheh!” the funny little man grinned as he held the door open for them. Leif gave him a terse smile and a nod as he maneuvered past him into the dingy wood paneled house and she squinted in trying to keep her blurry vision focused on this stranger. He wore what seemed to be fishing gear and had an odd glint in his eyes as he looked at her. Unconsciously, her hand tightened on her father’s shirt and Leif glanced down at her before making his way into the cluttered living room.

“Don’t mind my daughter, Mr. Renfro, she’s just a little doped up,” Leif said, wearing his company smile and business call voice.

“Oh, you can lay her out on the sofa and we can talk in the back room, ya know,” Mr. Renfro offered in his singsong squeaky voice.

To her mild repulsion, Leif did just that, placing her weak body on the mildew-scented lumpy sofa. She stared up at him with uncertainty clear in her expression and, to her surprise, he kissed her mouth without any concern toward their audience. Her surprise transitioned into alarm when he kept kissing her far past any doubt that this was outside the realm of familial affection, his hands cupping her jaw to keep her from twisting away from him as he deepened it. That pleasant warmth bloomed in her treacherous body but she pushed feebly against his shoulders and grunted in protest under his passionate mouth. When at last he pulled away, he met her wide eyes with a pointed stare that conveyed something, some reason that he had done that. Her mind whirled with what that could mean as she frantically glanced back to Mr. Renfro to see that he had indeed seen, in fact had been staring with that odd glint, and she hurriedly looked away when a strange grin pulled at the corners of his thin mouth.

“Is that how it is, Leif?” he drawled.

Leif rose from his knelt position next to the sofa, leveling his cold stare and empty smile at the stranger as he said, “Let’s go have that talk.”

She recognized the tension in her father’s posture turn in that almost undetectable way he worked. Just a slight straightening of his shoulders and the tilt of his head told her that told her he was wary as they disappeared around the corner toward what she supposed would be the back room. The worry she’d had that they’d been exposed evolved into confusion at how he had purposely exposed their relationship to this stranger. Wooziness swirled her thoughts as she obeyed his unspoken command to figure out why. He had to have trusted this stranger if he let him in on such a volatile secret. After all, he was a friend of her grandfather’s. But that wariness in him, that pointed look… That display wasn’t spontaneous, that she knew. If only she weren’t so sleepy, if only this house wasn’t so soothingly warm, she could focus but the world was shifting again until she stood calf-deep in dark water.

She held her instant camera, ready to shoot the quartet of blond boys rough housing in front of her, and waited until the perfect moment when all their smiles could be captured to take the shot. Their laughter and splashing echoed through the trees, their mirth contagious enough to drag a chuckle out of her as she waited for the photo to develop. But instead of a gaggle of brothers, a lone thin man with a whitening blond beard and milky gray eyes stared back at her through the picture.

She startled awake, her heart thumping a quick tattoo and sweat dampening her hairline as she struggled to sit up on the old sofa. She wondered why it hadn’t occurred to her then or why it mattered so much now that Bjørn had taken all those photos in the album Henrik had shown her. It explained why he was only in a couple of them. But that wasn’t what she was supposed to be pondering. She dragged a shaking hand over her face as she tried to remember what she was supposed to figure out. The thought was gone. Sighing disappointedly, she fell back onto the sofa and let her eyes drift shut again. Fatigue quickly dragged her back into sleep, that sweet darkness enveloping her with blissful peace even as a different dream started up.

She stood in a wood paneled hallway, the musty green carpet muffling her footsteps as she approached the sound of a man speaking from a room at the end of it.

“He said it was an accident but we all knew that was a bald-faced lie. He didn’t have to kill my boy, god damn it...”

Worried the camera she held was malfunctioning, she turned it towards her and snapped a quick selfie, half paying attention to the rambling old man as she slowly walked down the hall and waited for it to develop.

“…Oh yeah. He did tell me a little something about his granddaughter. About what she did. Well, I guess you know all about cleaning up after someone crazy, too. Shame that it seems to run in the family…”

Disappointment dampened her spirits when this photo turned out wrong too. She didn’t have that lily in her mouth when she took the picture. Aggravatedly, she tossed the picture aside and looked past the old man standing with his back turned toward her in the doorway, seeing her father sitting on the edge of a bed with a strange expression on his face. Through all the masks he wore, she had never seen this one, so it took her a moment to piece together what that cold glint in his steady glare and tautly drawn mouth meant. Though this stranger did have a handgun aimed at him, it wasn’t fear or even hatred. Leif was not an emotional man to her understanding, so that didn’t surprise her.

“… I know ya didn’t have anything to do with what happened back then, but secrets like ours are worth a lot. Of course, if ya don’t wanna pay cash, I do accept an eye for an eye…”

Her father’s eyes glanced toward her for just a moment as the man continued to ramble, but that was all it took to finally click in her mind what his face had been saying. He simply wanted the man dead. She let her gaze drift to the wrinkled neck just a foot away from her, a familiar strangeness clouding over her state as she thought on how delicate human bodies were. She was reminded of the specialized anatomical drawing course she took in art school, seeing the wraps of red muscle and yellowed fat from those medical textbook illustrations now superimposed on this man’s neck. She could see those fragile soft tissues unfold like a blooming lily to reveal the map of arteries and veins beneath, each squirming and hot with the blood that pumped through them fast and hard from this man’s fear. He stunk of fear, a sour scent that served to pull her further into her entrancement. The carotid artery, a glistening and petal pink tube, sung to her with its percussive serenade and she swallowed the excess saliva that pooled in her mouth from her excitement. It would take a bit of work, but she could reach it. Daddy would be so impressed.

“It doesn’t look like ya wanna go that route though, so—huh?”

The gunshot was deafening as she bit down and his screams were loud and lasting while she locked onto that column of soft flesh and tore. Her gym teacher had drilled proper form into her, so she primarily engaged her shoulder and back muscles to drive her wrenching jaw. The neck was a delicate thing, after all, and she didn’t want to risk injuring hers by depending too heavily on her strength there. The man struggled and she was nearly bucked off, but thankfully Leif had already been distracting him in his task to wrestle the gun away so she was mostly unbothered by their horseplay. Under the skin, the hot flesh was tough and slippery with blood. The muscles and fat registered less as a person and more as uncooked meat while she ripped it apart in her search for that artery, not entirely unlike an unseasoned and warmed steak tartar. More like a ceviche if the dish were ever available in pork, she decided. Not good, but nothing she would snub if she were starving.

A second gunshot made the old man jerk under her and she sagged to the ground with him. His dancing veins decreased their quick tempo until they were weakly leaking around her lips and chin as she tried to dig out that carotid artery before the light faded from him entirely. But she was too late. Her father pried her off the man and she looked down at the deep hole she’d gnawed into that neck, a strange sense that something was wrong creeping into the fog of her mind before the dream shifted.

A dribble of saliva and blood crawled down the edge of her mouth as she laughed and she wiped it away on the sleeve of her favorite sweater. Seeing that she was wearing it struck her as the most perfect thing in the world. She loved this sweater. She followed the other sleeve and found Leif’s hand holding hers at the end of it, her much smaller hold being completely engulfed in his.

He looked at her as they walked through the peaceful woods toward the old truck, his gray eyes catching the light to glitter like silver and she glowed at the fondness he projected toward her. Whatever he was, she knew his position as her father had remained consistent through to the true core of him and her heart still yearned to draw out his parental approval. So, she smiled, finding it an easy and natural thing to do being so free from fear in this dreamland, and her heart soared at the squeeze from his hand in response. If only it was actually this easy.

 

 

Shock. It had to be shock that kept Anders from pushing Simone away, running out of the shower, packing his bags and fleeing back to Norway that very second. It wasn’t a lie, he was absolutely shocked at how something so simple as a kiss obliterated all shame and sense in him. Those full, sensual lips were softer than he had imagined as she pressed and flexed them against his, that deft little tongue bolder than he would have figured as it coaxed his own to return its caress, that needy moan more alluring than he could have been prepared to resist. He was caught completely off guard when she pushed him against the glass wall of the box shower and pressed her soft, wet torso against his nearly naked body. When she started to slide down, it was only reflexes that had him catch her in a nearly crushing embrace and hold her to him as she tilted her head and deepened the kiss. The jeans she wore were heavy with water and already sagging down halfway over the full rounded crest of her ass, so it just took a little push for her to convince them to slide down to her knees and let her press the front of her lacy little panties against his thigh. He could feel every bit of her through the thin, soaked to translucent material as it clung to her like a second skin and molded into every cleft and cranny. His knee acted completely on its own to wedge further between her legs and push up on her crotch and she moaned again into the kiss, that high needy sound shooting excitement right to his groin as his cock rapidly began to stiffen. This was all progressing too fast for him to react properly or even think as she rocked against his thigh and rubbed his cock between their pressed bodies with the motion.

Please,” she panted when their kiss broke for her to breathe. She didn’t pause in her motions, in fact rocked against him with an increased urgency that stirred an animal part of his brain. “Please, please, please… I need you, Anders, please fuck me again…

Out of his limited English, he understood every word of what she had said just then and what it had implied. Guilt doused some of the fevered response she had immolated his higher brain function with, returning enough control over himself to pull back when she went in for another kiss. Instead, she left a scorching trail of open, wet kisses along his jaw and neck that apparently short circuited that guilt.

“God damn, fuck, stop!” he gasped, his hands squeezing at her hips but unable to put any real force in stopping her rocking motions. She sucked at a spot under his ear that made his toes curl and it took him a moment of doglike panting before he could begin again in English, “Stop! You need stop!”

I can’t,” she whispered, the desperate edge of her voice so close to his ear that it sent shivers down his spine. He groaned as her teeth just lightly scraped down his neck and then latched onto the same bite marks she had made in him earlier, the strong suck she pulled at the skin making his hips buck against her. This was wrong, this was an unforgivable sin, this was disgustingly depraved, and it was the hottest thing he’d ever experienced.

“Fuck, baby, ah fuck…” he panted, his hands sliding from her shapely hips to fondle the soft and springy flesh of her ass. He had wanted to sink his fingers into those round globes from the moment he saw her, and that desire that had haunted his guilt-ridden fantasies was now fulfilled and left him only wanting more. He felt like the filthiest villain to be doing this to his own niece, but she needed it so bad. How could he deny her what she needed?

Please…” she breathed. He tensed when her hand pulled at the waistband of his boxers, the wettened material clinging to him so revealingly as to be useless as anything but a symbolic barrier between them. He needed that symbolic barrier to keep his sanity, however, and he quickly wrenched her hand away. What they were doing was bad enough, he couldn’t let them go further. Nothing below their underwear, he’d decided. He reasoned that incest didn’t count in some places unless it was penetrative sex, so that would be his line in the sand. He was just letting her get what she needed, after all. Leif had done something to that effect and he was her father, so Anders can do that much. It was comparably less sinful with him just being her uncle. Of course, he still didn’t know what Leif exactly did to relieve her. The thought of Leif doing this with Simone, of her straddling her father’s leg and sucking at his neck while he guided her rolling hips under the banner of taking care of his daughter, stirred an anger in him he knew was entirely hypocritical but there nonetheless.

“Does Leif do this for you?” he asked. She didn’t respond, most likely not understanding, but he had to know for his own conscience that he wasn’t taking her beyond whatever boundaries her father had set between them. There was also a darker, more primal drive that felt too close to jealousy and possessiveness that he didn’t want to think about. She gasped sharply as he rucked up his knee further, the sound feeding into that darker part of him. “Does he fuck you? Is that why you want me to do it?”

She arched her back to lean up and this time he met her in another deep kiss. The sensations it created in him were intoxicating him further and he started rocking into her motions, matching her rhythm until they were both grinding against each other in a chase for mutual release that he tried to mentally deny even as he throbbed against the heavenly slide of her soft body. He was supposed to just be helping her, but she felt so good and under that copper tang of blood and mouthwash mint she tasted so addictive. They’d already done much worse, even if he could only recall bits and pieces, so this was a comparably acceptable concession. Besides, she enjoyed this, rocking against him with a heightened fervor they both appreciated with heavy breaths and moans.

His shame rose over him like a breaking wave at the realization of where his mind had gone and he stopped his movements, much to her seeming disappointment as she made a needy little noise that nearly broke through his guilt. He shouldn’t be doing any of this, shouldn’t have let her kiss him, and definitely shouldn’t have kissed her back. He knew he was hurting her despite what she thought she wanted, but he was so weak and selfish. There was no blackout drunk excuse for his behavior this time. In the bright light of day after spending hours repenting and reflecting on the evil that he’d done, he had chosen to harm her further. They might not have been having sex, but they were simulating it. He was absolutely going to Hell.

“I’m sorry, dear, I’m so sorry,” he muttered, his hands moving away from her.

No, no! Please, please, please keep going!” she begged. Her little hands clenched at his shoulders and everything about her was full of desperation and need, but he couldn’t be weak. He had to stop this for her sake.

“Ssh, shh, it’s okay, dear,” he murmured softly, removing her hands from him and slowly easing her to sit on the tiled floor as her shaky legs buckled without the aid of her hold on him. The spot she had been rutting against above his knee was hot from her warmth and friction, burning him like a brand of sin. He ached for his own release but much worse than that, worse than even his shame at what he’d done, was the ache in him that he had to deny her what she needed. “We can’t do this, Simone. I know you can’t understand me, but try to understand that we simply can’t do this. I’ve probably already fucked you up for life and there’s nothing I can do to make that better, but I don’t have to make it worse.”

She stared up at him, confusion and pain welling tears in her eyes, and it almost broke him down. Almost. He couldn’t bring himself to just leave her there on the shower floor, though. He’d promised Leif he’d clean her up, so he pursed his lips and returned his attention to the task. Working up a hefty lather with the bar of his father’s soap, he tried to ignore the way she trembled and sighed as he worked it over her soft skin. She turned away from him but allowed him to touch her, hiding her face as he pushed down every thought that wasn’t strictly condemning what had passed between them. But her obvious shame weighed heavily on him. It frustrated him that he couldn’t make her understand that he had failed to enforce the boundaries Leif had warned him she was incapable of establishing herself. The shame was entirely his and he wished he could make her see that, but even if he said it to her in perfect English, he doubted she would agree. At least maybe not until she grew older and realized what a cad he was to take advantage of her like that. The suds were stained pink as they broke down the remaining blood on her, leaving her skin once more a creamy expanse of unblemished honey brown when they were rinsed away. As he stood above her huddled, shaking form, he felt a painful twinge of yearning and indulged in the impulse to kneel behind her and pull her into a hug. She tensed at first, then melted in his embrace, leaning back against his chest with a heavy sigh.

I am so sorry,” he said against her soaked hair, once more wishing he could make her understand why.

“Sorry for what, Anders?” Leif’s voice rose above the sound of the shower. Anders jumped away from the girl, wincing when he immediately realized how much guiltier that made him look, and whipped around to see his brother’s blurry form through the fogged glass.

Chapter Text

Leif was not prone to sentimental whims. He did not believe in such fantastic ideologies as an afterlife or souls. The world held enough magic and mystery to sustain him without having to turn to fiction. He believed this disposition had enabled him to obtain a higher appreciation for the value of life in knowing that all that was truly was and all unseen might not be, that everyone and everything is afforded their one chance and there are no refunds or prizes at the end for living a life diluted by that very thinking. Nature builds upon itself through replication and reproduction, and so had Leif in one of the most common and impactful of methods. But in passing on his genetic code, he couldn’t fully appreciate that he had passed on the code of others swimming in his blood until he had seen their uncanny appearances in his daughter. She had his eyes and his good bone structure in petite and feminine miniature with Lisa’s more rounded islander features to soften the angles into something more striking and less predatory. All the typical observations of parentage manifested physically in offspring were present and noted by him with all due joy, but it wasn’t until much later that he had become privy to just how principal genetics were in determining less obvious traits. He did not believe in resurrection or spiritual mysticism, but he had seen the dead come back to life in many small ways through Simone.

Sitting on the edge of the bed in that tacky wood paneled room with the outdated dark green carpet, he saw his long-departed uncle in the cool intrigue of her gaze as it drifted to Renfro. She looked at his neck like one would notice a picture hanging slightly crooked and corrected it with the same self-satisfied detachment when her teeth tore through his jugular. The gunshot filled the small quarters with a deafening pop and Leif may or may not have imagined the whoosh of air as a bullet zoomed past his temple, but it did leave his ears ringing and Renfro’s screams were distant and muffled now. Nonetheless, he had missed and sealed his fate. Leif did not allow him a second turn and pounced on the hand holding the well-worn pistol, adrenaline giving the older man an unfortunate edge as it took Leif a bit of struggling to disarm him.

All the while, rivulets of red poured copiously from the wound Simone had inflicted—no, was still inflicting with her bite. She held onto the man’s shoulder and craned his head to the side with a surprising strength Leif could only assume came from her dissociated mental state. As he wrestled the gun out of Renfro’s hand, he caught how she dislodged a great chunk of mangled flesh with a pull of her jaw, the stringy protein of muscle and elasticity of skin and veins stretching before snapping away. It fell at their feet, red and pink of flesh and yellow and white of fat and skin, before she dove back in to repeat the maneuver with a single-minded determination of searching for something she knew to be there. Leif fired the weapon once through the side of Renfro’s skull, not producing a clean kill as he had to mind his daughter’s proximity, and Simone sank with him to the floor as the man’s scrambled brains lost control of his body. What took Renfro’s life in the end was having great gouts of his blood pour into a growing pool around him while he stared in a vegetable state.

While he dropped the pistol and pulled his daughter bodily away from her task, he watched the light of life fade from the man in the closest Leif would ever concede to witnessing a spiritual event. After that fascinating moment, Simone wriggled from his arms like a petulant child and he numbly released her to let her wander back down the hall. Of all the scenarios he had predicted would take place after leaving her with only a kiss to warn her of possible danger, he had not envisioned anything as interesting as what had taken place.

Hours later, as he stood outside the downstairs bathroom door back at his father’s house, he began to doubt his predictive reasoning when he was met with a scenario he had not expected for the second time that day. He had expected to find his daughter already clean and Anders waiting with far too many questions, but he had found neither after searching the house. Instead, he was met with a tense no when he had asked Henrik and Vidar if either had seen them and the sound of the shower running behind the locked bathroom door. It hadn’t occurred to him until after Anders had left with the girl that she might murder him, but being confronted with the very real silence behind that door made his blood run cold. The importance of family was one of the few sentimental values he allowed himself and, despite his frequent annoyance with the intrusively helpful brat, he did have a certain measure of affection for his meddlesome baby brother. Silently, he worked the springs in the antique lock with a letter opener until the door unlatched with a quiet click, then he took a moment to prepare himself for the worst before stepping inside and relocking the door behind him.

More than anything, he was simply surprised at himself for having read his brother wrong. Instead of lying in a pool of blood, he seemed to have caught him in an intimate moment with his darling girl. Through the fogged glass shower wall, he could see Anders rubbing soap over the creamed coffee expanse of his daughter’s nude form as she knelt on the floor. Though his hands worked with the efficient diligence of a nurse, this was beyond inappropriate even for the ignorant bumpkin.

Though Leif didn’t consider himself a man of passion, as he placed the letter opener next to the sink and unfolded his father’s pocketknife, he supposed he could commit what would be known as a crime of passion. Standing mere inches away from his brother with only the glass door between him and the blade, he had a moment to let his rage fill him with the righteous bloodlust of the trespassed that had driven even good men to murder. Leif was not a good man. There was no moral threshold for him to cross, no panic of identity or values to overcome, nothing but a narrow list of options to choose from. Though acid pumped through his every vein and the antler handle of the knife seemed to squirm excitedly in his fist, his mind was clear. He could kill Anders now and very likely get away with it in defense of his daughter’s virtue, but there was a fresh corpse planted in the yard and a long record of his name peppering cold case files that, while mitigated due to his caution, would invite a second look when they run him. Murder was not a federal crime, but Leif had crossed state lines and Renfro had almost definitely kidnapped victims, bringing the potential for retrial or investigation on a federal level even if he lucked out with the local boys. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Besides, he was a family man. He supposed he should be generous enough to afford his baby brother the benefit of the doubt. After all, this might just be an innocent misunderstanding, though a part of him hoped for a reason to harm him. The muscles around the knife handle twisted and bunched as it begged for blood, but he folded it and placed it back into his pocket.

Slipping out with a practiced silence to his movement, he made a detour to the kitchen and addressed his other two brothers there, “It completely slipped my mind until now, but could you two make a town run and pick up a leg of lamb at the butcher block? I’ll sponsor a few beers at the counter there for you while you wait for them to dress it.”

He barely registered anything past their amused acquiescence and he left them with a wad of cash and a request to get moving soon if they wanted it cooked by that night. They were already shifting to stand from the table as he left them to fetch what he needed from his pack upstairs.

 

 

This was it. Anders knew he was going to die in the same house Einar had died in, in the same trip he’d flown over to say goodbye to the father who had been absent all his life. Anders didn’t know if it was poetic or ironic or anything at all, but he was sure it had some sort of cathartic ring to it. In any case, he knew he had failed the trial God had set upon him in the form of his tempting little niece and he had failed spectacularly. But despite knowing he was already a dead man, despite knowing he was a soulless sinner who had failed his own redemption, despite insisting he was a good person who would admit and repent his for his sins, he still didn’t want to die.

“I can explain,” he insisted, holding his hands up palm forward in his habitual placating gesture and attempted to keep the terrified tremble out of his throat. He flinched back a step when his brother opened the glass shower door and looked at him with a mirthless grin and a cold glint in his slate gray eyes.

“Sorry for what, Anders?” Leif repeated. The unperturbed calm in his oldest brother’s demeanor as he slowly turned his head to stare at Simone’s huddled form on the shower floor only heightened his terror. She was too naked, they were both too naked to be touching the way Leif had definitely seen. If he had been watching them just minutes prior, Anders was sure he would already have been murdered.

“I-I couldn’t get the blood… I couldn’t… You told me to get her clean, right?” he stammered rapidly. Leif’s glare shooting back up at him froze him as though his stare was a knife held to his throat.

“Sorry for what, Anders?” Leif repeated, this time anger bleeding into the raised volume of the question. Even in the warm steam from the hot shower pouring over him, Anders felt himself flash cold and every hair on his body raised at the slight growl in Leif’s voice. He’d never, not even at his most frighteningly mad, had heard him use that voice and it was effectively petrifying. He winced as Leif kept the shower door blocked and continued in a chillingly soft voice, “I warned you about maintaining boundaries with her. This doesn’t seem like very strong boundaries are in effect, does it?”

Anders’ throat wouldn’t respond to his command to speak at first, then he managed to croak, “I… I didn’t, um, think she would… wake up.”

He regretted the words the moment they left his numb mouth, wincing again as Leif let out a dry chuckle and shook his head in disbelief. “I know I say this a lot, but you are the dumbest man I know. Look, I don’t want to have to do this. You’re my brother, so I’m going to give you a gift. If you can give me one good reason why I shouldn’t bash your skull in on the floor right here, I’m giving you that opportunity.”

For a moment, Anders’ mind was horribly blank. He clawed at his thoughts, trying to pull out any coherent answer or thought but there was nothing except a scramble of static. Then, he became aware of Simone’s shallow panting at his feet and looked down at her defensively crouched form. She was rolled into a tight ball with her hands locked over the back of her head and he could see that her arms were trembling as though she were freezing. She was relaxed in his hold just a moment ago, but she was like a terrified animal since Leif had spoken. Something wasn’t right between them. He no longer felt as panicked when he focused on her.

“She needed help,” Anders finally responded, no stammer or placating lilt, just a statement of fact. Leif glared at him, that impassive mask of an expression betraying nothing of his thoughts, and Anders waited with every muscle in his body humming to move but his mind finally clear. Whatever her mental state, whatever relationship they had, something was so wrong between Simone and Leif that it had her cowering in fear of his anger even when it was not directed at her. Despite the unforgiveable things he’d done to her, he couldn’t leave her alone with that. Something about this girl drew him in and pulled a strong instinctive drive to protect and help her. He needed to figure out how to go about doing that.

After a long moment, Leif asked so quietly that his voice was nearly lost in the roar of the shower, “How did you clean off the blood?”

Anders blinked, not at all expecting the question, but answered evenly, “Warm wash cloth. It didn’t work so well, so I took her in here. That’s when she-”

“A warm wash cloth?” Leif repeated incredulously, his brow furrowed and lip curled in disgust. “You’re almost fucking thirty years old and you used a warm wash cloth on dried blood?”

“Was I… not supposed to?”

Leif stared at him like he had grown two heads, then scoffed, “Every idiot knows that hydrogen peroxide breaks down blood. That’s why Einar kept a jug of it in the laundry room, remember? There’s a bottle of it in this very fucking bathroom, in fact. Jesus, Anders, I didn’t think I’d have to give you written fucking instructions.”

Anders once again found himself more offended than he thought he should be capable of feeling when faced with his imminent destruction, but bit off his defensive reply with a short, “Sorry. Didn’t know that.”

“Thank you for pointing out the obvious, you insipid bumpkin,” Leif seethed. He leaned over and turned the rusted taps off, the squeal of the metal loud in the echo of the shower as the roar of the water dribbled into quiet. The only sound filling the room now was Simone’s panicked panting, her narrow ribcage expanding and contracting rapidly, reminding Anders of a rabbit caught in a snare. His palms itched to help her up and comfort her, but he had a hunch he’d get his teeth knocked out if he tried. The sound she made when Leif pulled her up by her arms was something between a whimper and a yelp, a noise of pure distress that yanked hard at that odd feeling in Anders.

“Do you want some help with her?” he asked despite his better judgment.

“I think you’ve done enough, don’t you?” Leif remarked dryly, not looking at him as he walked her out of the box shower. Her steps were clumsy and stunted by the jeans that hung around her calves. He pulled her to the rug, a dark green circle that matched the dark green tiles of the walls like an algae-filled pond in the center of the floor, and wrapped a white towel around her shoulders. Anders stepped out of the fogged glass box, watching in morbid fascination as Leif tended to her. Her frightened stare was fixed unseeingly to the floor, head bowed submissively while her father stood a little too close, a little too looming, his hands a little too slow as they rubbed the towel over her in a way that seemed a little too close to fondling. Anders couldn’t look away from the hands that rubbed the towel over her hips, up her back, around her front, her lip tucking under her front teeth in a bite as those hands slid slowly along the side of her breast. Does he fuck you? Anders’ breath came as harsh as hers seemed to.

He almost didn’t hear Leif say, “I want to be able to trust you.”

“I would never hurt her.” Liar.

Leif looked at him with a sharp smirk that made Anders wonder if he could read his thoughts, then said, “Sometimes you have to hurt to help.”

Leif’s hands fell from the narrow indentation of her waist, then they were in his pockets as he approached. Anders had to force himself to stay, feet bolted to the ground, ready to accept that punch in the face that was threatened the other day – was that just yesterday? Jesus—or that skull-bashing he had certainly earned, and shut his eyes when he saw that hand move out of his pocket. Instead of the boom of blunt force trauma he’d expected, he winced at the sharp piercing pain in the side of his neck and blinked in confusion. When his fingers brushed the syringe sticking out of his jugular, he didn’t have time to register his fear or sudden wooziness before the floor came up to meet him and enclosed him in darkness.

 

 

When Simone was still what people would later call high-functioning, she had wanted to become a surgeon by her mother’s encouragement. Steady hands, excellent hand-eye coordination and a clinical impartialness toward blood was a combination of traits not to be wasted. Taking advance placement STEM classes with students two grades ahead of her had stretched her math skills, but she was able to keep up and got to dissect a lot of frogs. Her mother had appointed herself as an authority in her social life, dictated who she should be friends with based on their likelihood of entering the medical field and especially if they had parents who were doctors, inviting them over for dinners and pushing Simone through her shyness to consult them about her future career. The pressure was as well-received as any young teenager was capable, occasionally met with screaming matches across the apartment and slammed doors, but Simone did want to become a surgeon and did not resent that her life had revolved around that expectation most of the time.

That was before she had lost the rest of her mind.

It had taken her six years of infrequent psychiatric visits, research, journaling, prodding and poking to figure out that it was all just guesswork and science so soft it often couldn’t hold its own shape. Her mother was waiting for a cure that didn’t exist and had left Simone alone to accept that a paintbrush was safer than a scalpel would ever be in her gifted and steady hands. She knew what kinds of crazy made up the patchwork of her mental illness, had found her triggers and kept vigilant awareness of her limited control over her own mind. She knew what types of crazy she wasn’t. She wasn’t a killer. She couldn’t be a killer, there was simply no prerequisite behavior in her. Even madness had a pattern.

She did not know what her father’s pattern was. He wore normalcy like a costume and she’d watched him fool even those who would consider him their close friend with his imitation of a career-driven man who is charming and attentive to others, if a little reserved. She was disturbed by how envy had snuck into where fear would usually rest while she pondered his ability to disguise himself as a normal human being so well that he had everyone – his wife, his friends, his brothers, herself – completely unaware of the thing that had stood right in front of them. He was able to craft and perform a personality so well that they only saw the Leif Valstad he’d wanted them to see, while she could barely hold onto her own identity. She’d seen him peel off that initial layer when they were alone even before things had changed between them. The man who he let himself be when it was just the two of them had a much more solemn demeanor, always watching and observing her with a quiet intensity that both drew out her desire to please and behave well for him and instinctively repelled her. She used to suspect, with deep sadness, that it was resentment or wariness that had given him such a grave regard for her. She didn’t know back then that it was simply closer to what he really was, didn’t know how much he had been holding back until he’d let it out, didn’t know just how close she was to his teeth until he sank them into her. Maybe uncle Anders had gotten too close to his teeth, too.

“How do you know when you’re not dreaming?” she asked. Leif tested the necktie he’d used to secure her wrists to the metal frame of the twin bed Anders had been sleeping in. He glanced down at her with that reptile intelligence behind his glass eyes.

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream,” he answered. She turned her head, saw Anders slumped against the wall, his chest still moving in steady breaths and his hair dripping water down his bare chest. Her mother used to read her Poe, made a funny voice whenever she quoth the raven, but she had always wanted Daddy to read to her with his nice rumbly voice that made her so sleepy and safe. He pressed his hand to her cheek and turned her head back to face him. “Pretend he isn’t there. It’s just you and me, darling girl.”

He’d brushed her teeth while Anders lied there on the bathroom floor with the needle still sticking out of his neck. Until she felt the plastic push awkwardly against her cheek, she’d forgotten how he used to have to do this when the meds the doctors were trying on her had left her completely inept. Her mother couldn’t even watch. Simone didn’t believe she was supposed to be able to remember that, but it came floating up out of the dark of her mind like a corpse finally bloated enough to surface. She was glad the taste of blood was finally out of her mouth. His lips pressed slow and sweet to hers and she parted for his tongue with a slight moan.

She needed to believe that it was just an awful waking nightmare in a line of waking nightmares. The itchy, horrible feeling of being so out of control of her own body needed to be chased away by something intense and real as touch. She needed to fuck to forget, needed that rush of physical sensation and dopamine to flood out the lingering horror. Anders could have given her that. The heady brain fog of lust was doing so well to cloud any outside thought as she fell into the single-minded pursuit of frenzied sex. It was the scent of freshly dug soil Leif had brought in with him that had brought the horror back. She used to help her mother’s mother garden during summer trips to her home on Aiea. The sound of a shovel scraping the dirt echoed through the trees in her mind as she tried hard to think of the lush tropical dark greens instead of sparser and more ashen maples.

Leif’s hands smelled like dish soap up to his elbows. She figured he must have washed them in the kitchen, taken the time to scrape the dirt out from under his nails before he touched her. That was the way he loved her. He drew back from kissing her and grabbed her chin with his soap-scented hand, craning her head back into the mattress as his teeth sunk in bruising bites down the side of her neck. She gasped, held her breath and then tried not to scream, didn’t want to alert Anders, didn’t want to think too hard on how her hips bucked and squirmed under the pressure of his pelvis with each bite. He was hard against her, both of them bare and her cunt was achingly wet, but he just held the underside of his cock flush along her slit. It felt good to feel him slide against her slick clit, but she needed him inside. She needed him to hurt her in ways that were real.

“Dad,” she whispered. He licked a stripe up her neck and scraped her earlobe with his teeth, making her shiver in waves down her spine. Her voice shook high and thin. “I need to go to a hospital.”

“I’m here to take care of you,” he assured her, all fatherly confidence and care. She flinched as his tongue passed over her ear canal, his breath loud and heavy. Her cunt throbbed.

“I can’t…” she whimpered, words breaking off as the urge to sob gripped her throat. She shut her eyes tight against the tears and he reached between them, angling the tip of his cock against her opening. As he pushed in, that tear he’d made in her stretched and threatened to undo the healing it had accomplished. Her gasps were high and sharp as he pumped into her, his mouth still close to her ear with his forehead pressed into the mattress.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered, breath ragged and so close. He fucked her slowly, inching into her bit by bit, taking his time and she could feel every throb and twitch of his cock in time with his pounding heart. “I’ll dissolve these barriers you’ve built to protect yourself.”

He growled against her neck, picked up his tempo, made her hurt but not enough to bleed again. She was too wet for the friction of his slow thrusts to drag that injury open quite yet, the sounds of him sliding in and out of her obscene in the small room.

“I’ll break you down and you will rise from the ashes of your mind born anew,” he whispered breathily into her wet hair, nuzzling against her and sealing his promise with a line of chaste kisses from her temple to the side of her panting mouth. His lips carried away the damp trail of her tears.

“Please just take me to a hospital…” she whispered. He hushed her and began thrusting hard enough to make the bedsprings groan and creak under them. Her body began to bear down in pursuit of its climax, that cock dragging against a ridge in her that made her gasps hitch high with each pass. Her thighs parted wider and her back bowed to drive him deeper; years of gymnastics class finally showing their worth. Beside them on the floor, Anders groaned. Leif came in her with a low, guttural growl as she writhed in pain beneath him, his cock mashed uncomfortably against her cervix as he pushed his weight down into her and held it there. She was so desperately close to coming, her body humming with the drive to fuck up against that painful cock, but he held her solidly down as he filled her.

When at last he let up his weight, still lingering inside her and pressing their sweat-dampened foreheads together affectionately, he whispered, “You’re my most precious legacy, Simone.”

“Daddy…” she breathed, voice cracking into a croak as he pulled out of her. She pulled her legs together and curled on her side as best she could when he dismounted the bed, savoring this now-familiar pain as it felt so much safer than what had plagued her before. The buzzing in her head, the sex and the sorrow, cut deep and drowned out so much. When the bed dipped next to her, she was so far gone that she couldn’t pay it much mind, but heavy and calloused hands fumbled to bring her attention back to whatever reality this was. Shock and bewilderment woke her from her stupor when she looked to see her father sitting a semi-conscious and now completely nude Anders next to her.

“Open your legs again, darling,” Leif instructed her. Simone couldn’t find the words to voice her confusion at first, only able to cry out a sharp yelp when her father took it upon himself to yank her ankles down and apart.

“What are you doing?!” she asked, her cracking voice making the question far too quiet for her level of panic.

“If you won’t cooperate, I’ll find rope for your legs too,” he warned. The threat seemed redundant considering how incapable she already was to move from the bed, but she knew he would make it more unpleasant than she was able to imagine.

“Please, please don’t do this,” she pleaded even as she let him push and position Anders between her legs. Her uncle seemed only conscious enough to stop himself from crushing her as he loomed over her body on his hands and knees, his half-lidded eyes blinking slowly and face drunkenly slack. She stared up at him, unable to look away, chest clenched in anxiety and bafflement. She’d never be able to see her father’s pattern. Leif pushed his brother’s hips down until he sat, his legs folded under him.

“Up, up,” he said, tapping her hip until she lifted her ass up onto her uncle’s lap. She swallowed thickly when his torso brushed up against her sloppy cunt, her eyes now seeking any clues from her father as he adjusted her hips until they were more flush against Anders.

“Papa?” she whispered uncertainly. He looked at them critically for a moment, judging their positioning with a contemplative stare, and then pushed his brother’s shoulders until he was folded over her. Anders’ hands pawed at her clumsily, his breaths labored and hot on her neck, and her body reminded her of her unfulfilled orgasm. She winced with shame.

Gi henne det hun trenger, Anders,” he said, smiling and patting him on the back encouragingly. Anders responded with a dull grunt, his hands gripping her ribcage right under her breasts more intently.

“Papa?!” she nearly exclaimed, that panic rising. Surely, Leif wouldn’t. This was depraved, even for him.

He leaned down near her ear and grinned, “Show him a good time, darling girl. He’ll be a lot more active in just a minute.”

The spike of dread that fell into her stomach nearly took her breath away as she watched him walk out of the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.

Chapter Text

Leif had learned a lot about anesthesiology in his experiments on his daughter and had worked out a few promising routines, this specific cocktail proving particularly interesting. While the potential for cardiac and pulmonary failure was too risky to be considered for long-term use, the propofol worked perfectly to render her quickly unconscious long enough for the low dose of temazepam to interact and really bring out the disinhibiting and suggestibility effects of both drugs by the time she had regained a semi-conscious state. Her memory loss during that semi-conscious state was too inconsistent and seemed to be a mechanism of her frequent psychological repression rather than an effect of the cocktail itself, so he couldn’t depend on it even without the health risks. However, the disinhibition and suggestibility was fascinating. His shy little Simone would pursue him avidly and did so with such lustful and forward zeal, not a hint of resistance or embarrassment in the debauched displays he was tempted to entreat her to. Though he had eventually trained her mind and body to adapt a dependency to sex, it was entertaining to see what he could unlock in an instant medicinally.

When he’d injected the milky substance into his brother’s jugular, he knew he was risking a certain amount of danger. Disinhibition is unpredictable in its very nature, after all, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Anders had manifested a violent hostility without the mental restraint to suppress it. So, when his brother began to rouse from the propofol, he worked quickly to set up a situation that would stimulate the effect he sought and removed himself from the room to mitigate any undesired hostility. He would have to depend on the euphoria of the propofol and the enticement of having sweet little Simone writhing under him for Anders to act accordingly.

“Please, please don’t… You can’t… This isn’t you, Anders.”

Wind them up and watch them go. Or at least hear them go, as he stood outside the door to the little guest room and listened in on his latest experiment. His rage was evaporating like sweat off his skin with this vengeance, leaving only a film of disappointment in the lad. Whatever sticky-fingered fumbling in the shower that rube had intended to enact upon his own dear little niece was undoubtedly toothless and fainthearted compared to the acts Leif had planned on driving him to commit, but it was a trespassing nonetheless. Leif could not tolerate anyone touching what was his without his permission. He had to teach the younger man the simple lesson: Simone was under his control and if Anders wanted to partake in her, it would not be by his own power to do as he wished. Leif was happy to generously teach him this lesson; he was his brother, after all. If he had guessed correctly – and he had, for good men did not lust after their vulnerable nieces-- at the dark mechanisms that worked under Anders’ façade, then this method would do well to both teach him that lesson and cut through that irritating delusion of benevolence to the bone.

“Please, just say something… Tell me this isn’t you. Please, please don’t- ah!”

He could hear the hitch of a sob in her pleas even through the thick oak. Et tu, Brute?

Leif leaned against the door, needing to be certain that Anders wasn’t physically damaging the girl, and distinguished the pain in her cries as emotional anguish and not life-threatening. Guilt and possessiveness sickened him in what he had to put her through, but the lesson was for both her and Anders. He reminded himself that she needed to see there was no inherent altruism in men, that every light cast a shadow and every kindness had a cost. She couldn’t see that Leif was burning these false ideals out of her, that the kindness she sought was in his seeming cruelty. One day, she would know and until then, she would continue to learn. He had seen the way she occasionally looked at his brother with such longing and hope, as though she really believed Anders could be any different. Leif knew what his brother really was even if Anders hadn’t yet fully realized it, but he would show them both soon enough. From the racket of bedsprings creaking and the impact of skin slapping against skin in there, at least Simone now knew the cruelty in his brother’s deception.

“No! You’ve gotta stop! Pleaase, please hear me, Anders!”

Leif resisted the urge to rush in and beat the man to death, but just barely. His hands shook as they rubbed at his face and the odd tremor confused him. But it was a long day; it was natural he’d be fatigued. Feeling strangely disturbed at the sound of her muffled sobbing through the door, he walked outside to have a cigarette.

 

 

She couldn’t look away from his eyes. Those sky-blue irises were just a thin lining eclipsed by widely blown pupils under sleepy, half-shut lids. There was no person behind them, no light of life or thought or feeling emanating from those eyes that once beamed with a steadfast compassion and almost melancholy tenderness at times. This husk of Anders stared back blearily, no longer the strange ally she had come to know but a creature of her father’s making. Like a marionette, his movements were disjointed and unnatural as his fingertips reached out and planted on her cheek. In a poor mimicry of his tender touch, that hand slid slowly down her face, down her neck, down her chest to cup her breast roughly but she couldn’t look away from those horrifyingly empty eyes even as he kneaded her sensitive flesh. His skin was cool from the chilled air where he was folded over her except for his blood-warm cock nestled hard and ready against her sore cunt. Although he pressed his pelvis harder between her spread legs and his breath rattled in and out of him deeper with his rocking motion, there was nothing of the emotional and passionate lover present in the robotic response to her body. Like her father had done to her god knows how many times before, he had chemically stripped Anders of his mind and created another doll to play with as he saw fit. Seeing what it did to someone else, Simone didn’t see how anyone could find enjoyment in something so horrifying.

“Please, please don’t,” she whispered. There was no acknowledgement in his blank expression that she had spoken at all, but she had to believe that Anders was in there somewhere. She had to reach him. “You can’t… This isn’t you, Anders.”

The calloused pad of his thumb rolled her nipple and she flinched at the sharp pain to the tortured skin, her father’s mark still tender. Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes. It was hard not to let them gather and fall, but she had to maintain composure. Although her body knew this man and burned for what he could give her, she couldn’t let herself be complacent in this twisted game her father had set up. It hurt to look at her kind, sweet uncle and see him used this way, but she couldn’t cry or she might not be able to stop enough to help him. Unexpectedly, he leaned down and pressed their mouths together in an odd slide of slack lips and tongue. Her chest clenched in a deep sadness as she realized he was kissing her when his bleary eyes fell shut and his thick tongue slid against her teeth. Desperate for him to return to normal, she squeezed her eyes shut against her tears and leaned up into his kiss. Her tongue sought his, smoothly and eagerly caressing along that sluggish muscle, trying to coax some recognition deep inside of him. His kiss that was always so full of expression and emotion, so different from the dominating and devouring ones of her father, felt so alien now in this absence of feeling. Even though he reacted to her zeal with a low moan into her mouth and a more insistent push of his pelvis, there simply was no feeling in this once intimate act except her own despair. She broke the kiss with a sob and fell heavily to the bed, bending her head backward into the mattress as another tight sob clenched her throat. He took this offering of her neck to drag his tongue down the front of it, that basic drive to seek touch and taste the only motivations she could detect in the artless motion. Staring up at the silver and blue paisley pattern of her makeshift bindings, she felt so horribly impotent to stop this from happening.

“Please, just say something,” she said, voice high and tight through her useless tears. “Tell me this isn’t you. Please, please don’t- ah!”

She yelped as he pulled his hips further back and let his tip line up to her opening, the feeling of his glans penetrating her briefly the only warning she got before he slammed into her fully. Her back arched off the bed, every muscle drawn taut at this sudden and painful invasion, and her mouth fell open in a silent scream. He didn’t give her a moment to adjust before rearing back and slamming into her again. He fucked her at a brutal pace so unlike the gentle lovemaking he’d insisted on before. There was nothing of Anders in this animalistic taking. Even as he tore open that partially healed wound inside her with a burning stretch and a hot gush of blood, she didn’t feel anything but pity and sorrow for him. She couldn’t hate him for being as much a victim as she was in this.

“No! You’ve gotta stop! Pleaase, please hear me, Anders!” she cried. Her heels dragged frantically over the bedsheets as she kicked and tried to squirm away, but he grabbed her hips in a bruising grip and began fucking her even deeper. The snap of his powerful hips drove his tip to hit her cervix with each thrust and knocked out a high-pitched grunt from her with each painful contact. The sounds of the bedsprings creaking and his pelvis slapping against her ass and thighs set the rapid tempo of his sex. Her entire body was jarred with each thrust and she yanked hard at her bindings, the steel headboard clattering noisily against the wall with their combined motions. Below all this terrible sound and fury, she could hear his heavy breaths growled out above her like some hellish beast huffing with effort and mindless purpose.

Through the pain and the panic, she heard herself crying out and sobbing, “Stop! ANDERS! Oh, god, please stop you have to stop don’t… don’t do this, ple-ease stop! DAD! DAD, PLEASE, END THIS! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’ll be good just please PLEASE DAD! Ah! Ah, god, god no, please…”

The skin under the tie was rubbed raw and sore but she kept yanking on it until at last, with a painful skid across her hands, she slid out of the bindings. Her hands felt crushed and possibly injured, but she wasted no time in trying to push Anders off her. He wouldn’t budge, didn’t even seem to notice that she was trying to get away, and she forced herself to look at him again for the first time since he’d penetrated her. That same terrifying absence met her as he panted and groaned above her. There was a glimmer of relief in the horror of seeing him this way as he effectively raped them both. She knew, with sudden and clear certainty, that Anders would never do this to her. He would never violate or hurt her on purpose. He was always so kind even through her crude and cruel attempts to test that compassion in him. She’d tried to push him away and tear through that façade of compassion only to find that his benevolence for her was bone-deep. She realized now, with a profound ache, that he had been sincere when he’d drunkenly confessed his love for her. Looking up into his unseeing stare as his mindless body raped her at her father’s suggestion, she was horrified at finding that same love echoed in her heart.

“No…” she breathed between her pained panting.

Surely, it was her diseased mind latching onto his kindness or some trick of her starved heart seeking something less harmful than the twisted love of her father, but it ached for Anders just the same. She knew she cared for him, but finding that scorching devotion to him was different from affection or even infatuation. This was dangerous and painful. Her lip quivered as hot tears fell in streams across her temples to soak into her hairline, drawing his attention. He leaned down once more to press his slack lips to hers, but she turned her head and he mouthed at her cheek instead. She couldn’t bare another mechanical and absent kiss like that, not with the horrible revelation of love swirling despair in her thoughts. She didn’t want this feeling. It was so much simpler when it was just a forbidden lust.

“I’m sorry, Anders,” she whispered.

Though it agonized her to do so, she bared down on his dick and fought against the pain to roll her hips in time with his movements. She had to bite her lip to keep from crying, but that could only muffle her shuddering sobs as she fucked past the pain. Even with how awful it felt to do this, both physically and emotionally, her body still responded to getting fucked with that treacherous climbing pleasure and fog descending over her thoughts. It was tempting to give into that familiar high just to escape, but this wasn’t for her. She needed to get Anders off and out of this hell he unwittingly entered before whatever her father had given him wore off.

His crushing grip let up and he groaned as she began to rock against him, the sound lighting a warmth that felt only depraved in her. Despite her horror, a small but undeniable part of her wanted him to enjoy seeing her helplessly fucked beneath him. If the circumstances were different, if they had come into a similar situation on their own terms and not as pieces in a cruel game, she was intensely curious to experience whatever darkness lurked in this kind man. She wanted him to claim ownership over her like her father had. That creeping curiosity and depravity at a time like this sickened her. She wasn’t like this before, even at her most sexually deviant. It was an awful thing to encounter the evidence of her father’s influence inside her.

He leaned more forward, bracing himself with one hand next to her head and gripping her wavy long locks of hair strewn over the bed there. She could feel his body tensing in approaching orgasm and she reached up with her bruised hands and bloodied wrists to gently cup his face. His bleary eyes blinked and she thought she saw a glimmer of presence in them, at once giving her hope and dread that the drug was wearing off. His thrusts began to stutter and she could feel his cock throb in her.

Åh helvete…” he groaned, thrusting deep into her and mashing against her cervix as he spilled his seed in her, far too like how her father had come in her.

She shook beneath him, milking his cock as best she could while he held her down and jerked with each throb. That treacherous warmth in her swelled at being filled with his cum and she moaned his name as he pumped into her, the sound of her voice wanton even to her. He responded with a hitched gasp and nearly collapsed on top of her when his orgasm was spent, rolling to his side and narrowly avoiding crushing her under his much larger body. His cock hurt her one last time as he slid out of her, a gush of bloody cum leaking onto the bed and her thighs and ass with the motion. With aching hands, she pushed him to roll over and his unresisting body fell heavily to lay on his back, seemingly asleep from the sedation without the drive to fuck keeping him conscious.

The euphoric cocktail of hormones from such a savage fucking were quickly fading from her and she could feel panic and madness eating away the corners of her mind. She had to get away. She couldn’t do anything further to help Anders and the absence of that purpose left her raw to the fear of her situation. Before this nightmare changed, she had to find somewhere safe to hide. The temptation to slip into that other world was strong enough that she could feel the phantom rush of water up to her calves when she swung her legs over the side of the bed, but she couldn’t give into that weakness. Not now. Not when her father was feeling so cruel. The solidness of the wall as she braced one hand along it her kept her grounded enough in reality to not completely dissociate. She swallowed thickly, eyes trained forward as she stepped with numb feet into the hall and avoided looking into the dark forest forming in her peripheral. Get dressed, get out, get away. The instructions mixed into her familiar I’m here I’m fine mantra until the words blended together in a jumble of urgent intention.

She grimaced as she pushed her way into the bedroom she shared with Leif, relief easing some fraction of the immense tension out of her to see it unoccupied before she set to hurriedly dressing. Sturdy jeans, not the ones with holes in them, thick socks, a few pairs of underwear with a handful of pantyliners for the blood in her pockets, no time to search for her purse, shirt, thick red sweater, red, red, red to be visible if she fell in the woods, red like the hole in his neck. She tore off the red sweater and replaced it with a yellow one. Pulling on her jacket, an unfortunately black leather, black as the shadows but maybe it was good to blend, good to go unseen, unseen and gone, she carried her boots with her as she crept as quietly as she could manage downstairs.

The sunlight poured in through the glass windows on the front door, disconnectedly cheery for this terrifying day, and freedom was just twenty feet down the wide hall. She took one step toward it and froze when she saw the shadow of her father approaching the glass. Panic gripped her but she couldn’t freeze up. She couldn’t be his prey again, so she dodged into the nearest door and found herself in a coat closet. Good. Safe. No reason for anyone to come in here, but she hid behind the line of heavy winter jackets just the same. She held her breath as she heard him walk past, shaking as she saw the shadow of his feet pass under the light that poured into the dark closet in the space under the door. Her whole body was trembling as his steps thumped up the stairs above her head in that little closet and she tried to keep her breathing even and slow, tried not to hyperventilate as she heard him go into a room upstairs and then quickly move about. He was looking for her now. He knew she was hiding. He would punish her when he found her.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up,” she whispered frantically to herself under her breath as her heart pounded far too loudly. Her breath hitched to a stop as a draft brushed against her from behind like a sigh. Dread cramped her stomach, but she turned her stiff neck to see a line of pure darkness in the shadowy corner of the closet. A door ajar behind the coats in the closet. “What the-”

Her bewilderment was cut off abruptly by the swelling of panic as her father’s angry baritone roared out her name and she didn’t think twice before pushing through that mysterious door. Her foot dipped down unexpectedly onto a step and she followed the stairs into that inky darkness, sure that whatever horrors the dark held were preferable to the ones awaiting her in the light.

 

 

“No, that should be fine. I think the visitors from Norway can appreciate smörgåsbord, at least,” Leif spoke into his phone, taking a drag off his third cigarette while the event planner rattled on about the caterer for the funeral reception. He dreaded these annoying calls, but being the oldest son had dictated that he handled the entirety of the funeral arrangements. He was more than happy to let the event planner make every decision with a blank check, but the woman seemed reluctant to accept full responsibility for his hands-off approach. His patience was worn dangerously thin, especially as she rambled on about flower arrangements. He cut her off at the third mention of hyacinth, “Look, I trust that you will make this an elegant or whatever reception, so again, do as you feel best. I really must get back to my family.”

In an uncharacteristic move of rudeness, he ended the call abruptly and stuffed the damned device back into his pocket only to have it vibrate with another incoming call right after. He almost let it go to voicemail, taking a deep drag on the tobacco in irritation, but glanced at the caller ID to see his ex-wife’s name glow on the screen. She’d called him a handful of times since the divorce was finalized, all strictly business and usually unpleasant, so he picked up in time just to sate his curiosity.

“Hello, Lisa,” he answered, assuming neutral friendliness over his irritation as easily as slipping on an old coat.

“Would you be terribly offended if I didn’t come for your father’s funeral tomorrow?” her haggard tone came through tinny and muffled, as though she were walking outside. The sound of traffic in the background confirmed this.

“Of course not. You’ve got your own life,” he said, trying not to sound too hopeful.

“Yeah, I wish I had time for a life. This client is driving me bonkers, I think I need to take some of Simmy’s Xanax,” she groused.

“Is that what you would like me to tell her?” he asked. “She misses you, you know. She’s still upset with you, but she does miss you.”

“Don’t,” she said flatly. “Don’t fucking guilt me. I didn’t abandon her. Does she still think that? Should I talk to her?”

“She’s not ready to start talking to you yet,” he lied. It was an amusing and useful lie, brightening his mood a bit, so he indulged in rubbing it in a little. “She just needs space. I’ll let you know when she’s ready.”

“Do. Not. Leave. Me. Out,” she warned, menace building in her irate tone. He smiled, admiring the beautiful trees of his father’s property as she went on, “I hate this, you know? I didn’t abandon her. Shit. She just turned twenty. Twenty. She’s not some… fucking child anymore, she should be out on her own and making it in the world by now. I never asked for her to get sick. I don’t care if you gotta pump that fucking clean country air into her, just fix her. Shit. Will you tell her I love her?”

“Of course, Lisa,” he lied. “She knows that. Just give her time.”

“Thanks, Leif,” she said, all cheer after getting that vitriol out. He was going to miss her underlying resentment that Simone had clung to him and not her throughout her mental illness; it was always so fun watching his ex-wife struggle with envy while paving it over with gratitude. The combination of shame of her internalized failings as a mother concerning her daughter’s illness was always interesting to manipulate her with, but having their daughter finally all to himself was well worth going through the divorce and delayed separation. “Well, you’re probably busy with funeral shit, so I’ll let ya go.”

The line cut abruptly and Leif could imagine Lisa, jaw set in irritation at him, herself, their daughter, the world as she struggled to reign in her impotent frustration. It was almost too easy to alienate her from Simone after she completely fumbled that first panic attack, requiring him to step in and pull that sedative from her inept fingers. Recalling that fond memory, he let himself reminisce at how sweetly young little 14-year-old Simone had succumbed to the dissolvable pill. Her violent struggles slowly going slack in his grappling hold had felt like love at first sight and he knew exactly how to make her all his from that moment on. With just a few techniques, the right chemicals, and time, he had crafted her simple anxiety disorder into a full-blown schizophrenia-fueled psychosis that only he knew how to handle. After that, Lisa couldn’t relate to the broken girl at all and the guilt over being unable to help her daughter while Leif adapted so well to it ate away at her until there was only shame and resentment left. Towards the end, the only thing keeping them together as a family unit was her embarrassment at what she could only suppose was her own failure. It was all so easy to manufacture. He wondered briefly if she’d even told her family about the divorce, but he could guess that she had not.

He was pulled from his happy thoughts at the realization that more than enough time had probably passed for Anders to have completed his function. With his palate cleansed of his pessimism from the pleasant reminder of his larger goals, he no longer felt so guilty for having to put Simone through such experimental torment. With the right aftercare, she would cling to him with renewed devotion and shun any such childish ideas as finding kind refuge in his meddlesome brother. The house was quiet as he stepped lightly up the stairs, a good sign that they had indeed finished. Taking a moment to brace himself against the upsetting sight of another man all over his darling girl, he pushed open the door to the small guestroom and was confused to find her curiously absent.

His brother was laid out next to the bloodstain that marked his successful punishment, but no girl was bound to the tie knotted in the headboard. He walked to the bedside and examined the restraint, seeing the loops where her wrists were held stained with a bit of blood. Knowing that Anders was both too in denial and too drugged to have appreciated such a show, a twinge of excitement and jealousy bloomed in him at the mental image of how frantically she must have struggled to have wriggled out of her bindings. He looked over Anders’ unconscious form, his pale skin stained vibrant red around his spent cock and his mouth slack in the utter oblivion of drugged sleep. Too much temazepam, it would seem. Hopefully he would retain memory of this event or Leif would have to get more creative.

Leif returned his full attention to the aggravating problem of finding the girl. A slight amusement overcame his grief when he noticed the drops of blood on the carpet leading out of the room. He took his time in fondly examining each splatter as they led him down the hall and into his room. This little game took an unfortunate twist as he discovered her sweater thrown inside out on the floor in there and her boots were missing from their place in the closet. Concluding her intent to perhaps find her way to that hospital she seemed so insistent on going, he allowed his anger to bleed into his mind and fuel the punishment he would bestow on her for such insolence. But first, he had to find her. She was obviously too in pain and afraid to have gone very far, so he decided to check around the house first.

To increase her panic, he roared out her name before embarking on this new game of hide and seek. For her sake, he hoped this would not take long.

Chapter Text

The darkness was absolute and the air was mildewed and acrid, but it was safety. In the way the body knows when it’s away from danger, Simone’s flight response began to give way to exhaustion and her resolve to stave off another reality shift quickly deteriorated. There in the complete blackness, her legs buckled until she crumpled into that ankle-deep phantom water, now as dense and undeniable as the shadowy outline of trees surrounding her. The noise of the water splashing as she collapsed to her knees into it struck her as hazardous, but she couldn’t remember why she had to be so quiet. There wasn’t anyone here but Bjørn’s squishy, heavy head in her arms. It was awkward trying to cradle him with her injured hands, requiring her to balance him against her chest with her shaking forearms. She was nervous about dropping him. It only takes a couple inches of water to drown someone, after all. With just a couple inches and a couple minutes, a person can become so still and quiet. But Bjørn could not speak or move except to blink, which she could tell he was doing rapidly in the thin moonlight. He certainly seemed like he had a lot to say though.

“Okay, big guy,” she said softly, groaning as she stood up, the water dripping heavily from her jeans. “Hold your horses. We’ll find the rest of you, I promise.”

She was glad for the thick sweater and jacket she happened to be wearing as she held him tucked between her breast and elbows, needing to keep her throbbing hands elevated. She must have really screwed something up for them to hurt this much, but there wasn’t much she could do about it at the moment. No use crying over spilled milk, but an ice pack would be nice for the swelling in her left thumb at least. Trudging through the dark waterlogged forest, she dragged her feet to minimize the noise of her steps, the unnatural movement engaging her quadriceps to bear the work and building up a nice steady burn she could tell would hurt a lot more tomorrow. There were probably bigger things to worry about in the world, but when alone in the woods with nothing but a mute head to keep her company, it was too easy to not think on it.

 

 

She wasn’t anywhere. Not hiding under any bed, tucked into any closet, crouched behind pantry shelves, balled up in any cabinet, buried under any blanket, nowhere in this cavernous house could Leif find sign of his girl. His anger at her childish insolence deteriorated into an uneasy tension infecting a rashness to his search, flipping over bedding and knocking coats off hangers as that uneasiness grew into anxiety. His girl was gone, carrying with her a stalwart madness and the evidence of his unorthodox punishment. He ran outside and surveyed the land from the back porch, peering for movement between the thick white oaks and the leaner sugar maples. The land surrounding his father’s property meshed seamlessly into the surrounding forest, separated only by an unmaintained split rail fence through which wildlife and people could walk through unwittingly. He could at least limit her wandering to the back half of the property, knowing he would not have missed her staggering about while he was on the front porch.

The wooded land beyond the grassy clearing of the backyard was a blur of green and gray-brown bark as he ran through it, turning his head almost wildly to scan for any sign of his girl. Seconds passed like minutes in his race, knowing the value of every moment he’d wasted in his search through the house amounted to several more paces for Simone to have wandered deeper, and he had to distract his mind from panicking. He allowed his thoughts to wander outside of his situation to facilitate that distraction, his mind naturally turning to similar events in his distant past. His first hunt was in this very section of the property, bringing an interesting parallel between past and present that, were he a sentimental man, Leif would register as a synchronicity across time.

Strangely, a different memory flashed through his mind as he searched the surrounding flora. He engaged the same helpful piece of advice his dearly departed uncle had bestowed on him already nearly three decades past. It was his first Independence Day in the US and he’d gone with his uncle to a county picnic in the town square. Bjørn was taking photographs of the event for the local paper at Einar’s behest to make good relations with the mayor in that roundabout pandering manner small town folk had so heartily appreciated. Bjørn, of course, pursued his own interests after a few quick shots of the crowd and led him into the nearby woods. There, they seemed to walk in their customary silence for nearly an hour with Bjørn occasionally bending to check a snapped branch or a skid in the dirt before the man spoke.

Leif could hear Bjørn’s oddly soft-spoken voice slowly and carefully explain, “Human silhouettes are particularly distinctive among nature. When in pursuit, don’t just look for a person, look for the human shape with its odd upright bipedal gait and flat shoulders. It will make sighting your target that much faster.”

He had then quickly uncapped his lens cover and snapped a photo of something through the low foliage. Leif had peered through the leaves to see what Bjørn had been so quick to spot: two teenage girls hiding away from the picnic to share a cigarette between them. He was impressed with his uncle to have seen them at all and made sure to remember his words verbatim, and so he had. He didn’t know it at the time, but that was his first hunting lesson. This brought him to recall the follow-up lesson in the first rule of camouflage: easily and quickly break up your human shape and blend into your surroundings by tying surrounding vegetation to yourself. Thankfully, he had yet to relay that lesson to Simone. Clever as she was, there was still much to teach her. However, like his uncle, he had made sure to secretly pass such wisdom into her without revealing the true purpose of his lessons.

His urgency was renewed as his thoughts were once more led to his daughter, the troublesome girl possibly up to a mile out by now even if she were injured. He ran at a pace just slow enough to keep an eye out for any snapped branches or skids in the dirt as he scanned for human shapes.

 

 

The sound of someone calling his name over and over brought Anders out of the inexplicable darkness, but it was his own screaming mind that had him upright in an instant. Before he knew what was happening around him, he was already on his numb feet backing away from the bed until his hip hit the corner of the dresser in a pain he did not notice. There was a jumble of emotion and thought so powerful in him that he felt like they were too big for his body, as though they would eviscerate every tightly tensed muscle fiber that currently shook to contain them. Seeing the condemning dark stain on the blue bedsheets, he would welcome that painful death without hesitation. His hands splayed over his gaping mouth, trying to silence the rapid panting of his own breaths. There were so many people speaking, all so loud, but all he could make out was the memory of Simone’s sobbing cries as he… as he…

“My God, what-”

A hot liquid charged up his esophagus and he quickly grabbed the plastic wastebasket from under the nightstand to vomit in.

“-ders, do you need an ambulance?” he heard Henrik asking him.

“Did you try to circumcise yourself? What the fuck happened to your penis?” Vidar nearly yelled. Anders spat the bitter remnants of fluid from his mouth and managed to glance down at the dark red covering his groin before gagging into the wastebasket again. The smears of dried blood burned in his vision even as he squeezed his eyes shut.

“Do they even have ambulances in this part of this buttfucking country?” Vidar wondered aloud. “Oh hell, is he going into shock?”

“I don’t know!” Henrik scoffed.

“Aren’t you a nurse? What the fuck do you do all day, hand out lollipops and suck doctor cock?”

“Go shove a horse cock up your huge ass and ride it out of here, Vid. He’s probably just coked up and nicked his dick in his sleep, which wouldn’t have happened if he ever learned how to fucking share his dope like a decent person with basic fucking politeness.”

Anders could barely register their words, all just noise under the overwhelming pounding in his ears. The world reeled around him and that darkness nearly sucked him back into unconsciousness but he fought it off in his frantic need to know that she was okay. He opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t get a sound out before another wave of nausea had him retching into the bin again. The spinning, the draining darkness, the struggle, and then the gagging continued in a rapid cycle until he began to suspect that this was the eternal Hell he had earned. Riding under the crushing wave of guilt and horror was the bewilderment of why. Spitting a pathetic dribble of thick yellow bitterness into the plastic bin, he asked himself and whatever god had been watching why he had hurt her like that. He wished he could say he had no control, that it was some out of body experience or that it was like some distant nightmare, but he was aware of what he was doing. The ugliest, worst truth that howled from his damned soul was that he could have stopped at any point, but it hadn’t even occurred to him to want to cease. Like some unthinking automation, he had hurt her and had kept hurting her without any feeling or drive but to finish the task. He was certainly feeling now, though.

“Wh-ere…” he coughed, then choked out into the wastebasket, “Where is she?”

“What? This again?” Henrik groaned exasperatedly.

“Simone’s probably with Leif,” Vidar answered. “I think they must’ve taken a walk around out back or something.”

Anders endured a powerful shudder, a cold sweat renewing over his skin as he rasped, “No. No, she can’t be with him after what he did… what… we did.”

His abdomen clenched, the muscles sore from the effort of gagging, and he worried he’d be thrown into another vomiting fit but a different eruption puffed out of his mouth instead. After the second shaking gasp, he realized he was sobbing and pushed the wastebasket away to press his hands to his face. He couldn’t believe how stupid he’d been not to see what was right in front of him until he literally saw it happen. His brother, his biggest brother who had given him piggyback rides and had bullied him for liking muppets when he was six, was fucking his own daughter.

“Oh God, oh fucking Christ…” he sobbed into his palms at suddenly remembering how he’d drunkenly touched her the previous night, believing he was doing some sort of favor to relieve her when he was really just molesting her. There were no boundaries, no rules, no special circumstances that had allowed Leif to touch her like that. The level of fool he was to have believed that, the sheer denial that his brother could simply have been molesting her, would be astounding to Anders if it weren’t so disgusting. But he’d done it to her and he’d wasted no time in taking her at the first opportunity. Of course she’d have sex with him; it all made so much sense that she would only do as Leif had trained her. With a twist of his gut that wrung out another shuddering sob, he recalled how sad she’d looked before he’d choked her in the parlor. The revelation that she had been reaching out to him for help and he’d turned it into some perverted game made him feel filthy down to his core. He was glad that the mother of his child wanted nothing to do with him; he could never trust himself to be a father. He was not the person he’d thought he was at all.

“Hey… Anders…” Henrik’s awkward tone came soft and careful as he patted his back reassuringly. “Don’t worry, you’re gonna be fine. Just… put on some pants and we’ll take you to a hospital.”

Hospital… hospital…

Anders shot up from his crouched sobbing and grabbed Henrik by his shirt collar, knowing full well what a madman he seemed as he shouted, “We have to get her to a hospital!”

Henrik swatted his hands away and quickly staggered back from him, but his tone was still placating as he said, “Sure, sure. We’ll take her too, but you’re the one covered in blood, sooo… put your pants on and we’ll-”

Anders’ shaking hands curled into fists and he had to clench his jaw to keep from screaming in frustration. “This isn’t my…”

Don’t worry, it’s not hers. Get her cleaned up already. Don’t let them see her like that.

Leif’s words echoed in his mind, the image of Simone standing there but not there covered in blood. Not her blood. Anders pressed the heel of his hands into his eyes until colors danced among the black behind his lids, muttering over the loudness of his tangled thoughts, “Christ, what did he mix her up in?”

He could hear his brothers saying something, pushing a pair of dark slacks into the crux of his elbow, but he didn’t have any attention to spare them. The drug was still swirling in his system and made thinking a slow and distorted process, like trying to speak underwater. Nothing made enough sense to latch onto, but the facts were all cleanly laid out to interpret. If Leif had dug that grave for him, he would have never woken up from that injection. If Leif had wanted him dead for what he did to Simone, he would not have drugged him to make him do even worse things to her.

Anders staggered at the temptation to put this all on having been drugged. He wanted to believe that he wouldn’t have ever done that sober. There was no part of him that wanted to see her in pain, no morbid curiosity in him at the taboo of it especially now that he knew how repulsive it really was. He’d never fucked like that before, like some rutting beast with no thought beyond domination and insemination, and he never wanted to again. He couldn’t tolerate anything less than full responsibility for his actions. Drugged or not, he’d hurt her. Raped, he corrected himself, the ugly word stabbing through his mind like a dull kitchen knife. He’d raped her. His hands pressed up into his hair, tugging roughly at his roots until it hurt more appropriately as he forced himself to adapt that title. Rapist.

“Snap out of it! Are you there, brother?” Henrik asked slowly and loudly, his hands once more shaking his shoulders.

Anders shook him off roughly, the touch of another person making his flesh crawl. As unforgiveable as he was, Leif was so much worse and he had to make sure he would never get near Simone again. It was difficult to connect the man he knew as his brother with the monster he knew had done those horrible things to his own daughter, but Anders had to force himself to accept it. For her. He had to protect her. He had to find her. The image of her struggling out of her bonds and touching his face with such undeserved and heartbreaking tenderness made him cringe in a flood of shame deeper than he had thought himself capable of feeling, but it told him that she had freed herself before her father had found her.

“She’s hiding,” he muttered, certain of it. Tucked in some dark space, like a wounded animal waiting out the hounds, she wouldn’t be hiding far. Leif couldn’t have gotten to her first, he couldn’t even consider that horrible possibility. With an urgency that renewed his adrenaline, Anders hurriedly stepped into his pants and yanked on whatever jacket was hanging on the back of the chair as he threw open the closet and looked for any sign of her. No shivering, sobbing girl there. Only so many hiding spaces left to check.

“Whoa, whoa, you gotta slow down!” Vidar warned, grabbing his arm as he rushed towards the door.

Anders jerked out of his brother’s grasp and stumbled out into the hall, growling, “Either help me find her or get out of my way!”

 

 

When Simone had still possessed the ability to concentrate for more than ten-minute intervals, she had made it a point to be seen reading medical encyclopedias when around her mother for any extended time. Not only did this ease the woman’s temperament toward her, it had also taught Simone a lot about diseases and conditions. Slogging through the ankle-deep water for what may have been anywhere between the first and third hour, the specific condition that kept popping up in her mind was trench foot. It was not the most pleasant thought, but not very much else was happening inside her mind. She was sure there was something she was forgetting, but she just had to hope that Bjørn would have the answers when she found the rest of him in that wetland. She had up to ten more hours or so to find him before she actually had to worry about the onset of trench foot, though.

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” she whispered. She looked down at the bundle of squishy wrinkles and scratchy beard hairs in her arms, seeing the wet glimmer of Bjørn’s eyes flash and twinkle as he blinked in the dim moonlight. She smiled at him, feeling a strange companionship to the head after walking in silent dark for this long. “Have you ever had okolehao? It’s like a Hawaiian moonshine. I’ve only had it mixed in cocktails, but it’s disgusting. Puna—my grandma—would make me drink it just to see the faces I’d make. Not in a mean way, though.”

He blinked three times, which she took as a reply. It was the only way he could reply, anyway, so she decided to keep speaking to pass the time. However, she had already forgotten what she was saying, so she plucked another thought from her mind.

“Have you ever had okolehao?” she asked. He blinked. “It’s like a Hawaiian moonshine. I’ve only had it mixed in cocktails, but it’s disgusting.” She stuck her tongue out to demonstrate just how much she disliked it. “Puna—my grandma—would make me drink it just to see the faces I’d make. Not in a mean way, though.”

She smiled down at Bjørn, barely able to make out his blank stare. He was always just staring. She found it unnerving that he was so quiet, so she decided to finally speak. She wasn’t sure what to say, so she just said the first think that came to her mind.

“Have you ever had okolehao? It’s like a… uh, Hawaiian moonshine,” she said. Checking to make sure he was interested, or as interested as an expressionless severed head could seem, she continued, “I’ve only had it mixed in cocktails, but it’s disgusting. Puna—my grandma—would make me drink it just to see the faces I’d make.” She readjusted him in her arms, mindful not to jostle her aching hands, before hurriedly explaining, “Not in a mean way, though.”

She wished he could speak. It didn’t matter at this point what he would say, she just wished for any conversation at all. It felt like it had been so long since she’d really talked with anybody. She didn’t consider herself a necessarily social person, in fact she supposed she might be a bit antisocial, but being a human required a certain amount of personal contact. She recalled a study on how prisoners in solitary confinement for too long had often experienced harrowing psychological and emotional breakdowns. Not wanting to lose any more marbles than she already had, she decided to speak just to hear a human voice. Without paying any mind to what she said, she spoke at random.

“Have you ever had okolehao? It’s like…”

Her steps and voice stopped before she knew why, her conscious mind catching onto the sound of breathing somewhere nearby a moment after. Holding her own breath and knowing Bjørn presently lacked lungs, she listened for where it was coming from. The slow, rattling breaths sent a chill up her spine that locked her muscles still, the hairs on her entire body standing on end as an animal part of her brain screamed danger. She held Bjørn closer, only mindful enough not to squish him as she latched her good hand over his mushy mouth just in case. Her feet were stuck in the soggy forest floor as though the mud had suctioned her bare heels to it, but she didn’t dare move even if she could. That rattling, awful breathing grew slowly but steadily closer even though she could not hear any movement among the trees or in the water. Her own heartbeat pounded loudly in her ears and she wished it would shut up so she could hear where that thing was coming from.

Then, the world began to shift. The moonlight, as thin as it was, dimmed into complete darkness. The water receded soundlessly, taking with it the stale smell of still water and wet trees. She felt Bjørn vanish from her arms like mist, leaving her clutching herself in fear with nothing to hold onto. A pressure filled the acrid, musty air to tell her she was no longer in the open outdoors. Unconscious thought suggested that she was underground, judging by the heaviness of that pressure, and her intuition agreed with that as fact. The memory of that watery forest was disappearing with these new yet familiar surroundings, leaving only the sense that she had been walking for hours and that sound of breathing. That horrible sound, now so much closer in this confined space. Simone found herself slowly, silently backing up with her hands outstretched in the darkness until her fingers brushed a cold concrete wall. Pressing herself to it, she walked in small, shaky steps and felt along the wall for a light switch. Her lungs burned to take in great gulps of air to fuel her fear-pumped muscles, but she had to be careful to take silent breaths through her nose and not make any sound to alert whatever was in the darkness with her. At least not until she could see what it was.

After a few minutes that felt like a dozen, her hand brushed over the plastic nubs of switches and she took a moment to steel herself before carefully flicking the first one. No reaction. Her fingers slid to the second switch and repeated the slow and controlled motion. Nothing. She swallowed the hopeless whimper building in her throat. Sweating, praying, trying not to cry, she pressed the third switch up. Suddenly, a dim blood red light filled the far side of the basement room, bright enough to paint the entire space in shadows of scarlet. Her wide eyes quickly found the source of that breathing: a person sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the room with a sheet thrown over them. Simone stared at that person, watching the cloth cover billow out and then press in with each rattling breath for several turns until she determined that they had not reacted to the dim light. She could see no part of them that was uncovered by that sheet, only the back legs of the chair.

Looking around the room, she determined this to be a darkroom not unlike the one she had access to in her high school film photography class. That realization made the red light seem slightly less hellish, but was too small of a comfort to lessen the horror emanating from the person under the sheet. Simone was aware of two choices: she could hope that this person would remain unaware of her presence long enough for her to know when it was safe enough to leave the basement, or she could see if this person needed help. Her chest clenched with the knowledge of what she now knew her father was capable of. There was only one option.

Still not wanting to alert this person to her presence, she crept toward them on rounded steps to keep any part of her feet from slapping the smooth concrete floor. Her eyes were trained on the billowing of the sheet over the mouth. In and out. Step by painstaking step. That chill wracked over her again, tensing her like nails on a chalkboard as she drew closer, and every instinct was telling her to run, run up the stairs, damn whoever was up there and just run. But this person might need her help. That rattle in their breaths, that asthmatic wheeze with each inhalation followed by a dry and almost whistling exhalation, grew dreadfully louder with each step. A corner of the sheet was nearly touching her toe now and she kept her eyes on this figure as she knelt and gingerly bunched it in her fist. This person did not stir as she picked up the corner as she rose, did not change that squeaking horrible breathing as she gathered her courage with a clench of her jaw and a prayer. In one strong, flourishing twist of her torso, she flung the sheet away and saw that under it sat nothing. The chair was empty. The breathing was gone. Simone screamed.

 

 

Anders searched his father’s room next. He wasn’t sure why. The pungent rot of death was still lingering in that room, so maybe she went in there because she knew no one would want to go in it. Nothing in the closet except his meticulously arranged suits and shoes and nothing under the bed except storage boxes. His brothers watched in mild horror from the doorway, neither seemingly willing to enter that room. Anders removed himself from the room as soon as he determined that she had not been in there, shoving the useless men aside as he slammed the door shut behind him and bolted down the hall to the room she’d been sleeping in. His feet were stumbling and his head still spun, both undoubtedly caused by whatever the hell Leif had drugged him with, but he couldn’t let a bit of drowsiness and disorientation get in his way. He had no idea how much time they had before Leif reappeared. He had to get to her first, had to make sure she was safe.

“Anders, what the fuck are you doing?” Vidar asked as Anders threw open the closet door in that room where Leif had probably violated his daughter countless times.

He was tempted to toss the blankets off the bed and examine the sheets for evidence of this suspicion, but he couldn’t bring himself to be confronted with the proof that would undoubtedly be there. He made a strange noise as he panted when he saw that she was not hiding in there, something between a lamenting moan and a frustrated growl. She was in the house still, he just knew she had to be. Leif couldn’t have taken her anywhere without the truck, not with the condition she was in. The condition Anders had put her in. He punched his fist against the closet door after he slammed it shut, the wood cracking under his blow, but he barely felt it. He knelt at the foot of the bed, giving the underside a quick glance before huffing in frustration at finding nothing, but paused as he moved to stand. Next to him was Leif’s large duffle bag, mostly empty of its contents, and he began rifling through it anyway. He wasn’t sure what he was searching for, but he didn’t question the impulse. Rage made his movements jerky and rough as he pushed through the mundane items. Various cords, devices, a deck of cards, useless mundane clutter in every pocket and then he found a zippered case tucked under some socks. His hands shook as he yanked it out and pulled at the zipper, his teeth bared and clenched in impatience at his drug-clumsy fingers until he pulled apart the folded pack. Several tiny vials were held in loops along the inside of the case with a torn open plastic bag of syringes and little squares of alcohol wipes. His eyes quickly scanned over the unfamiliar and complicated words on some of the vials. Tetrahydrocannabinol, pentazocine, butorphanol, scopolamine, atropine, lysergic acid diethylamide, mescaline, phencyclidine. Some were liquid, some were pills, some were powder. He knew none of them.

“Henrik!” he yelled. The large bearded man hesitantly stepped forward and Anders thrust the case towards him as he pushed himself to his feet. He met his brother’s eyes with a grave regard, trying to put every clear thought into his request as he asked, “What the hell is all of this?”

Henrik broke their stare to look at the collection of bottles, then his brow furrowed as he held it closer to his face.

“What is it?” Vidar asked, stepping up beside his brothers.

Holy shit…” Henrik breathed, running his fingers gingerly under the complicated words.

Anders did not have the ability to stand and wait for Henrik to decide what to say. His whole body buzzed with the need to move, the need to seek, and he bolted from the room. Neither man followed him as he bounded down the hall to the room Henrik and Vidar were sharing, then the bathroom, then downstairs to check every closet. There were five closets in all and he’d tried every one until he got to one that was locked. His hope rose like a balloon as he knocked on the door and called her name, not surprised when she didn’t answer. A wave of nausea returned as he knew why she wouldn’t, but he knew she’d be frightened of him after what he did to her. She would be insane not to fear him now. He braced his foot against the doorframe and the lock broke after the second pull, but there was no Simone. Instead, there was a collection of knives and tools on the shelf inside, adding an explanation as to why it was impossible to find a cutting knife in the house but raising other questions. He had no time for other questions.

He staggered away from the closet, his body trembling and exhausted, but he couldn’t rest. He needed a drink, he needed an entire bottle, he needed to walk into the ocean and drown, he needed to fry in Hell, he needed to drag Leif there with him, get him away from her, away from ever hurting her again. He needed to think. He needed his anger at himself and his rage at Leif to stop muddling his thoughts with violence. He needed to stop thinking about himself and what he had done and focus on her. She needed him to do better.

He stumbled into the main hall, grasping his head as he tried to force clarity over his mind, and sat at the bottom of the stairs as he muttered, “Please, please, Simone. Where did you go? I can help you, I have to, just please tell me where you are.”

He couldn’t ever make this right, but he was determined to do everything he could to make it less horrible for her. He owed her so much more than that, but safety was all he could give her. He’d wanted to give her so much before. Secret fantasies of being around her, having her visit Norway, learning more English just to talk to her, get to know her better, explain how he felt and learn how she felt, then maybe, maybe, just maybe taking it further with her… All of it dashed. He could never be around her after what he’d done to her. That idea of loving her despite their relation was a sick, perverted fantasy belonging to a filthy rapist. He was her uncle. He had no right to see her as anything but his niece but he did anyway. He had no right to touch, to kiss, to make love to her but he did anyway. He had no right to make her cry and bleed under him, but he did anyway. Intention didn’t matter. He was sick. She needed to be as far away from him as she needed to be far away from her father. He was the same breed of beast as Leif.

His eyes blurred with tears that he didn’t deserve to shed, but he couldn’t stop the ache in his heart as he buried his face in his hands and muttered aloud, “God, Simone, I’m so sorry, so sorry. I love you and this is what it’s gotten you. I’m so sorry…”

His head shot up as a muffled scream came through the walls, so nearby it was almost right under his nose. He leapt to the door to the closet under the stairs, throwing it open and searching but she wasn’t there. He was sure it came from in there, but she was missing. He tossed out the coats, the boxes, the old stacks of magazines and newspapers, everything out into the hallway but no sign of the girl until his hands pulled out two small black lace-up boots. Her boots. She had been there. A small sound, so quiet he must have missed it in his feverish purging of the closet, reached his ears and he strained to find where it was coming from. He stepped fully into the closet, pressing his ear to the wall inside, then following that sound until he pressed to the back wall. With his gut twisting in familiarity, he recognized the sound of Simone’s distressed sobbing.

He couldn’t think, his body in a panic to act as he pounded on that back wall and heard the reverberation of hollowness behind it. His fingers scrambled for a latch or a knob or any sort of mechanism to move this fake wall but his hands groped around at nothing but smoothness. He stumbled out of the closet and ran to the collection of tools, grabbing the first one that made sense. The ax was heavy but he couldn’t give into his exhaustion now, not when he’d finally found her. Henrik and Vidar were standing outside the closet now and backed away hurriedly when they spotted him running towards them with an ax. He didn’t care. They yelled something at him as he swung and struck that wallpapered wood. He didn’t hear. He yanked the blade out of the wall and swung again, putting everything he had into the strike. It bent and splintered, but not nearly enough. He reared back, readied himself for a third swing, then froze at the sound of Leif’s voice behind him.

“Just what the hell are you doing?”

The ax suddenly felt light as a feather as rage deafened all else in him.

Chapter Text

Standing there in the hallway with Henrik and Vidar, both men stunned to silence at the spectacle of seeing Anders hacking the wall of a closet down and then turning to them with an inexplicable rage, Leif regretted not thinking to check that secret room. Of course, she had found it. She was always surprising him with how like his uncle she was; she was probably born with the knowledge of the darkroom. The flash of light reflecting off the blade brought his full attention back to Anders, finding him standing squarely in the doorway of the closet with the ax held towards him with both hands. Leif had seen similar expressions before, oftentimes finding it in his own reflection. The eyes wide and alarmed not with fear but with a grim resignation, a righteous hatred boiling behind them. He was not surprised that this man hated him; it was thankless work to reveal the worst of someone to themselves. He was, however, surprised to find that his baby brother was just as quick to murder as any of the killers in their bloodline, though he supposed he really shouldn’t be. The apple never fell far from the tree in their family. As much as he would like to push him further along that course, he couldn’t condone anyone threatening him, brother or not.

You need to think about what you’re getting into, brother,” Leif suggested, the false concern in his tone only stoking that hot hatred in the younger man’s glare.

I’m giving you a choice,” Anders seethed. “Either leave and don’t come back…” His fists twisted around the smoothed wood handle, knuckles white and wrists bunching with muscle. “… or I’ll ensure you never hurt her or anyone else ever again.”

The thrill of being faced with murderous intent was dampened by their slack-jawed audience. Neither Vidar nor Henrik could appreciate the beauty of this moment; their vices were of the simpler sort. But Anders was proving to be more and more interesting the further they peeled back the layers of humanity he’d wrapped around the true core of him. It was regrettable that this moment of revelation hadn’t been met by more favorable circumstance. Leif was still catching his breath from his marathon through the woods, his muscles stiffening and burning with lactic acid, and Anders was very obviously still affected by the benzodiazepine dragging through his sluggish blood. But Leif had come to expect that violent interaction was rarely encountered under optimal conditions, by the value of desperation so often required to inspire it. Anders, with a tremor in his elbows and an animal fright sparking along that churning hatred, was not accustomed to violence nor to the whimsy of it. The uninitiated always wanted more buildup and meaning, for it to be a last resort even past the last moment, but was no revelation or meaningful shift in violence itself. Even if they were both in top condition with no distractions, it would be the familiarity with taking a life that guaranteed victory each time as it had before. Anders may have the passion and emotion Leif had always lacked, but Leif had experience that harbored a steadfast readiness.

You’re not in your right mind, Anders. You should drop that before you hurt someone,” he said, shifting his weight to the balls of his feet and aligning his hands and wrists. That electrifying tension vaporized all soreness and fatigue from him, pulling at his mouth to grin in what he knew would be interpreted as nervousness by their two spectators. Receiving the provocation as intended, Anders’ anger flared but he still didn’t budge from the doorway. Leif had to get him to make the first move if he wanted to manipulate his family to the optimal effect, but his commitment to his act was waning with the delightful temptation before him.

Get out!” Anders shouted, raising the ax higher.

Leif kept their eyes locked as he weighed his options, their mutual glaring so focused that he almost didn’t notice the trick door drift open. Anders did not notice the yawning darkness behind him, nor the bright apparition in a yellow sweater step from the inky shadows. He had to resist shifting his gaze to Simone, her small frame nearly entirely eclipsed by Anders’ lean athletic mass. This day was proving to be quite an interesting day indeed. From his peripheral, he could see her wide eyes shift between them, that same calm smoothness to her silent movement as she drifted closer as a repeat of her maneuver in Renfro’s filthy doorway. Anticipation quickened his pulse and distracted him, making him slower to react to Anders’ sudden lunge toward him. Leif sidestepped the downwards strike as his hands shot out and gripped the handle of the ax, but what had saved his life was not his quick reflexes, but his daughter grasping the back of Anders’ jacket.

“Stop!” she cried out as she held onto him, the younger man staggering forward in shock. She buried her face against his back as she yelled, “Stop this!”

While not the assistance he had excitedly anticipated, Leif was able to twist the ax from his grip and throw it a safe distance away. He couldn’t risk another unwieldy swing of the blade from either of them with her this close, a regrettable but fortunate change of the playing field considering the witnesses. Before he could recover his stance from the throw, Leif’s vision flashed black and white and then the world tilted. Anders had surprised him with an unforeseen swiftness and Leif wasn’t aware of the right hook he took to his jaw until after the blow had connected. The elated swell of adrenaline bloomed in him finally at the comprehension of physical confrontation, staving off the pain for the moment and giving him an urgency to respond in kind. The lure of his father’s folding knife buzzed hot in his pocket, but he would need to create some distance between them before considering the rush of warm blood waiting to burst from the younger man around that blade. Before his head had even righted itself, Leif’s hands grasped the sleeves of Anders’ coat and his knee surged up high into his solar plexus.

The deep, low grunt accompanying the whoosh of his breath getting knocked out of him was satisfying, but Leif must have accidentally gone in too hard as Anders collapsed in a heap. All too soon, Leif recognized the boneless sway of unconsciousness before his brother even hit the floor. Damn. He should have gone for a less effective blow, but his temper and instinct had gotten the better of him. The bounty of catecholamines demanded blood and as the younger man’s knees hit the hardwood, Leif’s fingers itched to reach into his mouth and carve his tongue out. Unaffected by his better reasoning, his hand slipped into pocked and curled around that knife, but a flurry of movement over his target drew him out of the impulse. Simone crouched over the downed man, her torso flung over him defensively.

This was not how she was supposed to behave. She was supposed to fear and loathe Anders after experiencing his savage, basic desires. Leif had seen the blood and had heard her crying and begging his brother to stop. He thought she would repeat her previous murder, but she had merely prevented Anders from committing one. He thought she would run into the familiar arms of her father, not protect the man who had mercilessly raped her. She was confused, hysterical, her mind dumb on fear and twisted in aggravated madness. He should not have left her alone to cope with what Anders had inflicted upon her. She was prone to delusions; he should have been there to influence them to his favor instead of letting them infest freely.

“Simone,” Leif warned, his voice gruff from aggression. Her eyes only narrowed at him, her shoulders hunched lower. His lapse in attentiveness had certainly afforded him quite the correction to make in her. “Move away from him now.”

The insanity burning in her eyes was untouched by his command. If she had wanted to receive a rough punishment, she couldn’t have chosen a riper moment. He grabbed her by the back of her coat collar and yanked her up, intending to throw her against the wall and subdue this rebellion in her by pinning her, when she suddenly shot up and lunged for him. She was too small and lightweight to even stagger him, but he was surprised when she attempted to shove him. Trained impulse had him spin and pull her to redirect her force and she careened against the wall in a loud thump. She wasn’t even fazed, rebounding and letting out a savage cry as she lunged for him again. He wanted to keep this up, to run her down until she was exhausted before striking back and returning her hostility in a myriad of fun and brutal methods, but Vidar snapped out of his bystander effect and grabbed her around her middle. Leif almost charged at him for interfering but held back as Vidar dragged her kicking and writhing further down the hall. He watched for a moment as his brother held her arms locked behind her back and apologized over and over to the snarling girl.

“Henrik,” Leif said, wiping his chin as the first tickle of discomfort and swelling started from that sock to his jaw. The bearded brother turned from the captivating sight of the feral Simone, his eyes nearly bulging. Leif gestured to the still unconscious Anders and said between panting breaths, “Take him up to his room. Don’t let him out of bed, he’s obviously on something.”

The large man nodded numbly, moving towards their youngest brother as Leif walked unhurriedly down the hall toward where his daughter was fighting the arm lock Vidar held her with. Vidar looked up at him, uncertainty and worry beyond his shock, as Leif grabbed her chin and forced her head up to look at him. That wild fury still glimmered in her light eyes, the unabashed hostility of her furrowed glare conveying a deep hatred toward everything it focused on. As he stared back into that glare, her tears welled and fell over his clenching fingers. Defeat replaced that hostility after only a few seconds of facing her master.

“There’s my good girl,” he cooed warmly. She sniffed, tried to twist her jaw out of his grasp and he tightened it painfully. He could see the growing discomfort in Vidar out of the corner of his eye, but it didn’t deter him. “Are you going to behave now?”

Her lips pursed and her eyes drifted down before she whispered, “Don’t hurt him.”

The wide hallway echoed with the sound of the back of his hand clapping across her cheek, perhaps a bit too hard as her head snapped to the side with the force and her high yelp echoed with it. It was scarcely within his control that he stopped at one strike; his girl had a way of driving him mad. Vidar gaped at him, his hold on her loosening and his eyes bugging out even wider as though he couldn’t accept his position as accomplice to this punishment. Typical. Those without children of their own seldom understood the disciplinary efforts of parents.

What the FUCK, Leif! You can’t hit her like that!” he whispered viciously.

She’s not throwing a fit anymore, is she?” Leif retorted simply. “If you don’t have the stomach to watch, then go upstairs and help keep Anders subdued.”

Vidar was a quick-witted man and recovered with his hand held out placatingly, switching gears to say, “Look. We’re all upset right now, but you really should cool off before trying to talk with Simone, okay? This has been a really weird day and I think we should just try to relax.”

Leif smirked, his temper ripping through his outward persona dangerously at this meddling asshole touching his girl and trying to tell him what to do with her. His voice dropped the friendly inflection and fell into his actual speaking voice, a thing that sounded very different from the man he was around others. “The methods of which I choose to engage in correcting my daughter’s behavior is not your business. If I want to slap her, whip her, choke her, and bleed her so she learns her lesson, I don’t need your approval to do so. If you ever try to dictate how I interact with her again, I will find out how to make you learn your lesson as well. Go upstairs. Now.”

He was aware that he should be more concerned about the pale look of fright in Vidar’s countenance as the man stiffly released his hold on Simone and quickly walked towards and up the stairs, but all he felt was satisfaction. He watched her, her scared little face still downturned and hidden from him, her hand cradling her sore cheek, her hair mussed from all the day’s activity, and wondered where he had gone wrong. Perhaps it was too much pressure for her to have both committed murder and been brutally raped in one day. She was such a delicate thing under all that untamed viciousness. He decided he would go easier on her for a while, at least while his brothers shared the house with them. But first he had to punish her while her misbehavior was still fresh.

She gasped as he pushed her down, his hand pressing between her shoulders until she bent over her kneeling thighs with her forehead touching the floor, but she didn’t resist him. She was too smart for that by now. Her fearful panting while he yanked her jacket and sweater off was endearing. Not enough to lessen the severity of this punishment, however. All plaintiveness and submission now that she was caught, she remained curled up on the floor as he brushed her long unruly hair off her back and shoulders and loomed over her to admire the smooth expanse of her bare olive skin. She really had such beautiful skin, it was a pity he’d have to mar it out of punishment instead of ownership this time. He decided to treat her to ointment and bandages if needed afterward, maybe even skip the sting of the rubbing alcohol if she were good. As he pulled his belt off his waist, he hoped she wouldn’t be good.

 

 

Henrik and Vidar sat in chairs five feet from the bed Anders was laid out atop, both men staring in tense silence as they began their watch for any change to their unconscious brother. Neither of them wanted to be there when he woke up, but neither were comfortable leaving him alone. Vidar rubbed his left temple in slow clockwise motions to ward off a headache and give his shaking hand something to do. He was still affected by seeing Leif turn into someone he didn’t recognize at all.

“Do you think it’s meth? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone that violent even on a coke rage,” Henrik whispered, tugging on his beard as he usually did when nervous.

Vidar shrugged, “Do you think Leif is also on whatever he’s got?”

Henrik let out a long, deep sigh before replying, “I don’t know what’s going on with Leif. Anders has always been the wild one, but Leif? He’s different now. Like he’s hiding something.”

“Like all that medicine he was hiding in his room? What was that?”

“That… that was some really weird stuff. Most of it they don’t even make for medical use because it’s too dangerous.”

“Do you think it’s stuff Simone has to take? You know, for her crazy?”

Henrik shook his head. “All of that stuff would just make someone crazy. Like cuckoo-clock-tin-foil-hat-talking-to-Mother-Mary-and-the-little-green-men kind of crazy.”

They both sat in silence for a moment. Henrik had stopped tugging on his beard. Vidar’s hand was frozen at his temple. Neither of them wanted to say aloud the horrible thing they both thought. Then, they both flinched at the sound of a distant snap and a high-pitched cry from downstairs, followed by another of the same snap and cry after a moment. They looked at each other, their terrible unspoken question as to what that was confirmed in the horror they saw in each other’s faces at the third snap and cry. Vidar leaned forward in his chair and buried his face in his hands. Henrik pinched at the bridge of his nose to stave off the sting of tears in his eyes.

“What do we do?” Vidar asked, his quiet question muffled through his hands.

“I don’t know,” Henrik whispered. His voice cracked. He was going to cry and there was no stopping that now that their thoughts were brought out into the open. “What can we do?”

They both fidgeted at the fourth snap, another pained yelp from downstairs.

“Should we call someone? The police?” Vidar proposed.

“And tell them what?” Henrik asked. A fifth turn echoed from below. His voice was high and tight as he held back the sobbing he knew was imminent. “Tell them we think our big brother is poisoning his adult daughter to keep her sick? Does this country even convict for that kind of abuse before the victim dies? Who would believe us?”

“I think Anders would believe us,” Vidar whispered, but his response was despondent as he stared at the prone younger man. The sixth snap was noticeably louder, the cry closer to a scream and shaking with a sob. Vidar screwed his eyes shut and grit his teeth. “He said Leif was hurting her. He was going to kill him for it. Anders was going to kill him. He doesn’t have the heart to gut a fish, but he was going to murder Leif with a shit-fucking ax. What did he find out?”

Henrik took a shuddering breath and wiped his wet cheeks, but at the sound of the seventh snap and cry, he broke down into a choked sob. Vidar stood up from his chair and paced the small room, his hands clenching and flexing in high stress.

“Why? What makes a man do that to his own child?” Henrik frowned.

An eighth snap then Simone’s muffled wail of “Papa!” made both men cringe. Neither man wanted to, but each silently counted to a total of twenty lashes before the sound of her weeping accompanied Leif’s heavy footsteps up the stairs. The walls were thick and nothing was heard after the shutting and locking of the door to the room the father and daughter had shared.

 

 

“FUHUH!” Anders gasped, sitting upright in a jerk. He looked around wildly, sweat already beading on his face and he panted and scrambled to get up. The room was spinning, the colors blending together and trailing nauseatingly, but he was able to recognize that his was back in his guestroom somehow. Henrik and Vidar watched him with wide and wet eyes. It was as though his nightmare was repeating.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Vidar hissed urgently, pressing him back to sit on the bed. Anders pushed against him, but he was too physically weak and woozy to do anything but lean against those hands on his shoulders. His entire being felt like a beast had shook him in its jaws like a dead rat, but that haste to find her made staying still agonizing.

“I have to get to her,” he slurred, trying to shove Vidar away. “Get her away from him!”

Henrik stood and moved closer to them, keeping his voice down as he said, “We know. We know! Anders, we know what Leif has been doing!”

“You know… You know that he’s…” Anders slurred. He wasn’t sure if it was from the drugs or from whatever Leif had hit him with to knock him out like that, but he felt even more out of it than before. He wondered, with a worry that was lost in the immense expanse of his current worries, if he had a concussion. “How long have I been out?”

“About an hour,” Vidar answered, then lowered his voice, “He went downstairs a while ago, but I don’t think he’s left. Anders, I think he hurt her pretty bad. She’s in their room and it’s been real quiet in there.”

Anders’ chest clenched in a breath-stealing squeeze and the skin on the back of his neck crawled as though something cold had splashed down it. At least it washed away some of the mud covering his brain. He moved once more to stand and succeeded, the room and his eyes vibrating at different frequencies as he stepped past Vidar’s reaching hands and towards the door. As his mind brushed over the murder he had been mere centimeters from committing, his stomach churned but had nothing left to give; its last dregs of fluid were in the plastic wastebasket. He wondered if he would have to make another attempt on his brother’s life and found it too easy to accept as a simple probability. He could ponder his moral decline later. He didn’t have enough room in his overstuffed and aching skull for more troubles.

He braced his hand along the wall to keep the floor from swaying under him, his brothers irritatingly peering from the guestroom doorway but no longer impeding him. He had to stop thinking of them as nuisances; they now knew the truth. He winced as he considered them finding out the whole truth of his part in hurting her and quickly pushed that business aside. His hand hit the dark oak of the doorframe before he was aware he’d already come upon his destination. He’d anticipated having to kick the door in, he had not anticipated that it was wide open. Simone, laying on her belly on the bed, saw him before he had a chance to prepare himself, her eyes lined in pink from recently crying and tight with sadness and shame as she lifted her head and looked at him. For a moment, he felt the world narrow until it was just the two of them alone watching one another, and he understood why insanity and love were often compared as interchangeable in how they operated completely independently from the will of the inflicted.

You have to leave,” she whispered. She had the fake resolve that desperation supplied, her voice quivering as she tried to speak firmly. “Go back to Norway. Forget about all of this.”

Anders gathered his brain for the proper English, hoping she understood his intent when all he could come up with was, “Together.”

Whether the torment that furrowed her brow was of comprehension or bewilderment, he could not tell, though he regretted being the cause of her pain all the same. Another drop in the ocean of agonies he had already supplied her. He could not dare ask for forgiveness or even should hope for it secretly, but he was greedy for any small measure of redemption nevertheless. When she moved to sit up, the blanket fell from her shoulders and bared to him her nudity. She seemed to either not notice or care about his discomfort as she rose from the bed, his eyes darting down and seeing that she was now cleaned of blood and semen. He blushed at having even looked, his shame doubling with the knowledge that he still wore her blood under his clothes. Alarm shook him out of his grim distraction when she beckoned him to come to her and his feet obeyed before he could consider it, his hand slow and careful as it silently shut the door behind him. Let his brothers think what they will; he would do anything she wanted of him without hesitance. She stepped towards him before he could make his way to her, her quiet feet swift to close the distance and he panicked as she brought her arms around him in a tight hug.

He couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t even breathe as she pressed her bare front to him and whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for what he did. You have to leave before this gets any worse. Please, please leave!

He had to amend his fealty to her demands; he would do anything she wanted of him except abandon her. Despite his better judgment, his arms drifted over the hot skin of her back to cling her to him just as tightly as she held him. She shuddered and stiffened against him, her cheek nuzzling his chest over his coat and he sighed at the brief feeling of absolution in her affection. He was so weak.

“I love you,” he whispered, a cowardly boldness in knowing she couldn’t understand him.

I love you too,” she responded, the English phrase well enough known to him to not require a moment of translation to churn in his mind. Instead, a calamity of emotion churned there and whether it was the drugs or the stress or the terror, he felt a powerful constriction in his chest and he allowed her warm little hands to cup his face as she stood on tiptoe to press their lips together. The heat and delirium of her kiss drained all reason from him and he found himself gathering her up in an intimate embrace to deepen it.

The stirring in his groin startled him out of his fervor. If there could ever be a time or place for them, this was not it. In both reluctance and urgency, he untangled them to hold her at arm’s length away with his hands firmly set on her shoulders. Her silver eyes and full lips were darkened appealingly, further igniting that urge to just allow their lust to dictate their actions, but he was too aware of the danger lurking nearby and the harm he’d already done in sex. He had to ignore the softness of her skin and the intoxicating scent of her this close, had to forcibly remove the memory of her small pink cleft from his damning glance. It took considerable effort to resist the heavy pull he felt towards Simone, a pull not dampened by shame or swayed by logic.

At times, especially at this time, he felt as though his attraction to this niece he had barely known a week ago was a living thing inside him. He had been too ashamed to even wonder what that living thing would do if he unleashed it, having been able to assume that it would amount to nothing outside of his expected romantic impulses despite the unusual conditions, but it nearly frightened him at how it lurched at his restraint in even these circumstances. A gnawing suspicion had dogged him since the first brush of guilty pleasure at the scent of her that there was something alarming at the root of this attraction. For the first time, he considered that what had distressed him in this attraction was maybe not limited to the aspects of it being incest or a grievous power imbalance, but expanded from something in him that he could not or did not want to understand. But there were more pressing issues at hand.

Where is Leif?” he whispered.

Simone’s eyes shut and her brow knitted as though a physical pain discomforted her, then she stayed caught in that pained expression for a long moment. Anders wondered if she had perhaps went away again to wherever her mind goes when she enters into that absent trance, but she spoke before he could think of what to do to bring her out of it.

“‘Secrets like ours are worth a lot’,” she said, her eyes still closed and voice odd and spoken in a singsong as though she were mimicking someone. When she looked at him and spoke again, her voice was barely above a whisper. “He’s trying to change you like he changed me, but you can’t let him. Don’t let him.”

Anders translated her words as best he could, but most of his English was isolated to nouns and some verbs and phrases. He didn’t understand. Something about a difference, something not about a job? He tried not to frown too much in frustration as he churned the words over and over, not wanting her to worry.

Please,” she said. He let her step closer to him, let her lean her forehead against his chest as she mumbled, “Please just don’t get killed…”

While she slumped against him, some of her long brown hair fell away from her creamy back and exposed dark blue and purple between her wavy locks. The bursts of color caught his attention and jerked a fretful reaction from him. She flinched away when he swept her hair to the side and caught a glimpse of the bruises, her arms clutched around her body defensively as she stepped back. Before he could think to handle this more delicately, he grabbed her and spun her by the shoulders, her foot catching on the edge of the rug and sending her tripping. She fell with a grunt face down on the edge of the bed and, knowing she was unhurt, he followed the compulsion to lean over her bent form to hold her down and keep her from turning. He had to see what was done to her. With his free hand, he brushed her voluminous hair from her back and shoulders, his face grimly set as he took in the damage. A terrible feeling welled in him as he saw the colorful stripes of bruises along her back, the unmistakable marks of a belting far more severe than he’d ever seen or experienced in his childhood punishments.

“My God…” he muttered in a rasp.

Even though it was horrible to see, he couldn’t look away. A rage was building beyond that heavy and cold awfulness in him, but it was like an approaching storm on the horizon yet. He knew his brother was a monster. He’d seen plenty of evidence of that, but it seemed like each new one still carried shock with it. This must have been what Vidar had referred to when he’d said Leif had hurt her pretty bad. He lightly ran his fingertips along the edge of one of those broad stripes. She must have screamed and wailed from the pain…

Ahn…” she gasped softly, her back arching and flexing as she fisted the quilt beneath her front.

He pulled his hand away, afraid he’d touched a tender spot, but that was not a sound of pain. With sudden awareness, he looked down at their position. He saw how she was bent over the bed with her legs standing straight, how he was nearly pressed against her raised ass and loomed over her. He flushed at his brutish behavior, at how he’d pushed her down in this position beneath him, at how bare she was and how she had stayed in this lewd pose while he just stared at her. He’d only been concerned, only wanted to check her injuries, he assured himself. He wondered why he wasn’t moving, why she wasn’t moving, but then she did. She pressed her ass, her round and voluptuous ass and warm center back into him. The quivering little huff of a sigh she made when he felt her heat against him made his groin tense in a shiver. He couldn’t tear his eyes away again, though this time his focus was on the deep indentation of her narrow waist leading outwards to the generous flare of her hips. His hands moved on their own accord to grip those soft feminine parts. He wanted to grind his dick in the cleft of her ass, he cock rapidly hardening to do so as he took in this sweet sight. His eyes ghosted over her bruises, just looking at the womanly shape of Simone as she raised hind end on her tiptoes to better press back against his crotch. His hands squeezed and pulled her hips to him more firmly, his own hips rolling to grind his clothed erection against her bare ass. She smelled so good, that unique and indescribable scent that first made him aware that his attraction for her was not just the acknowledgment of her visual beauty, but something more primally linked. His hands ran up and down the curve of her hips and his cock throbbed at how wide they were on her otherwise delicate frame. Good hips, good thighs, good ass were good for pregnancy. His breath came warm and quick at the thought of breeding her. He’d ejaculated in her twice already over the past two days and he wanted to increase the frequency. He wanted to make sure it was his, too. Take her, keep her and breed her. He salivated at the prospect, finding it ringing truer than a mere fantasy in him. He would do this. He would steal her and make a new family with her, where they could live as they should instead of as they did. Husband and wife and child, not uncle and niece and nothing. Uncle and niece. Filthy, rapist uncle and insane, victimized niece.

Anders staggered away from her, the spell broken as suddenly as it had come over him, and a panic fell in its place. He didn’t know where that twisted thought had come from. He was horrified at himself. He shouldn’t have gone into that room, should have left when he saw she was undressed, should have removed himself from her hug, should have just searched out and confronted Leif. He almost ran from the room, his surroundings a blur until he found himself back in his guest room, Henrik and Vidar asking him questions he couldn’t listen to as his mind screamed. It might have been the drugs, but a growing and terrified part of him knew that it wasn’t. There was something wrong, something very, very wrong in him.

Chapter Text

Leif could slice the root vegetables at a consistent 1.5-millimeter thickness with an adequately sharpened chef’s knife, though he did regret not having the mandoline he had left at the Brooklyn apartment. Finding no more kitchen twine, he had to trust the butcher had done well enough in trimming the fat from the lamb and left it tied as it had come. His mental list of items to acquire was growing more extensive with each passing day, speaking to the dissimilarity in lifestyle between him and Einar. How a man could have in his possession a complete set of Miyabi Birchwood knives and yet lack a simple immersion blender was beyond him, though he did suppose it matched with his late father’s utilitarian yet exquisite taste. For all the man’s appreciation for practicality, it was often paradoxically inconvenient. He was placing the potato slices in a layered spiral on the bottom of the roasting pan, taking a simple enjoyment in the arrangement, when a feeling of being watched alerted him to the presence of another.

He waited for the person to step out from hiding and when they didn’t, he spoke, “If you’re not busy, you could give me a hand in here.”

Henrik stepped in from the darkened hallway into the kitchen, the late afternoon sunlight pouring in from the west facing windows and making his weathered face scrunch in a squint. Leif regarded him with an expectant glance, not pausing from his task as he doled out the slices like playing cards in the pan.

I trust that Vidar is keeping an eye on poor Anders,” he said. “May I ask you to peel three onions while I do this?”

We have to talk about what you’re doing,” Henrik said.

Leif set aside the potato and gave him his undivided attention as he wiped his starchy hands with a rag. He was too eager to find out how much they knew with a distraught and vengeful Anders alone with them for so long.

I’m going to roast the lamb on a bed of potatoes and vegetable slices, then I’m going to make a balsamic and berry reduction. I was thinking about wilting some kale and collards to go with it, but if-”

You’re poisoning Simone,” Henrik interrupted.

Leif raised his brow at him. “I know we should limit red meat intake, but I hardly think-”

Leif!” his brother growled, completing his bearlike visage in a manner that nearly made Leif grin. Henrik stepped forward and placed his large hands flat on the surface of the island where Leif was working, directly across from him. Leif looked up at him then, his face a careful arrangement of attentive concern. Intriguingly, Henrik had the look of a man in the throes of a tumultuous mourning rather than the righteous indignation over a disturbing injustice. “What are you doing with those drugs? What possible use could you have for atropine? Propofol? Leif, tell me you haven’t been… Just tell me why you have these. Please.

Leif frowned, ran his tongue over his sharp teeth and then adjusted his posture to put some annoyance into it. “You snooped through my bags, didn’t you? Then you jumped to some awful conclusion and came to me to confirm it. This is unacceptable behavior even among brothers, Henrik.”

Unacceptable? You know what’s unacceptable? Carrying around a sampler platter of psychoactives! What is going on with you, Leif? What are you up to? These drugs are being used and not by you. Can you explain that?

He was close to what had happened, probably had most of the pieces and perhaps suspected it already, and Leif weighed whether to mislead him or bait him closer. He decided to go with the more interesting prospect. “We’ve done drugs together, so what’s so mysterious about this?”

We’ve done coke and MDMA, Leif. Party drugs at parties. A control freak like you would never self-administer scopolamine, for fuck’s sake! What is it for? Do not give me some bullshit!”

What are you asking? You’ve already formed an answer in your mind, so why not just say it?

Because I don’t want it to be true!” Henrik nearly yelled. His eyes were wet and face reddened like he often used to get when they were schoolchildren. Leif felt a bit uncomfortable seeing this muscular mountain of a man react so emotionally, but then again, emotional reactions had always struck him as odd. This dramatic fanfare for his seemingly harsh methods of raising his daughter was gratifying, however. It entertained his ego to see someone else appreciate just how far he’d been willing to go for her, even if that appreciation was measured in horror.

Want what to be true? Just spit it out.”

Henrik’s mouth opened and then closed. His hands curled into fists and he looked down at the smoothed wood surface of the island countertop as he quietly asked, “How long have you been inducing Simone’s altered mental status?”

Leif hadn’t expected his brother, even with his medical knowledge, to have come to that conclusion on his own. Perhaps he had given himself too much credit in coming off as a man of conventional vices, or perhaps Anders had indeed been unwise enough to divulge the dirty details of what had happened between them and Simone that morning. However, the first principal in nursing – derived of the Hippocratic oath to do no harm—assured that the order of operations would have Henrik pursuing the more immediate danger of Leif’s sexual activity with girl. The chemical manipulation was debatably more harmful but less urgent. Not to mention that it would have led to Anders having to reveal his own participation. No, Henrik did not know yet and Anders was too ashamed to risk exposing himself, exactly as Leif had predicted. While not quite how he had wanted to achieve that stalemate, the result was as he had planned. Now to handle this development.

He arranged his features to a mask of shock and hurt as he said, “You think I’ve been… I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. How could you think I’d hurt my daughter that way? I’ve done everything I can to try to make life better for her. I love her!”

I know!” Henrik spat. “I know that! I also know she has some pretty fucking fresh needle marks in her arms and neck and half the time her pupils are the size of fucking dinner plates! I know what those drugs can do to someone and it’s matching up with what I’ve seen in her.” He brought his hand over his leaky eyes, his mouth drawn in a grimace as he seemed to be crying. Leif watched, fascinated at this emotional display and impressive disclosure of both betrayal and sympathy. “I just… I need to hear it from you. I need to know why, why you would do this. Leif, you can’t lie your way out of this. Tell me. Please.”

Leif considered the knife on the cutting board in front of him impulsively, but eschewed the need for such a drastic measure yet. This was far too interesting to cut so abruptly. He looked at his brother as he worked up the correct emotional response to such accusations, which not an easy task without reference. The risk was exhilarating.

He relaxed his defensive posture and spread his stance a little wider, opening his body language and lowering his voice as he calmly spoke, “Simone was such a bright and motivated young girl. She was always trying so hard to get ahead. It was almost like she knew, you know… like she knew it would happen and she wanted to do as much as possible before that. When she started to slip, we took her to several specialists. Since my work was flexible, I was the one who took her to every appointment. I learned a lot. A lot of different ways a mind can break. After months of scans and tests, trials and observations, and through it all she just got worse.”

He licked his sharp incisor, the pointed end scraping over his tongue with a minor pain that helped distract him from gloating. He noticed the quiet horror on his brother’s tense face and decided to steer away from the familial approach and redirect his attention to his medical professional side. “One doctor would say it was this, one psychiatrist would say it was that, but no one really knew. They couldn’t take care of her… so I did. Those drugs I’ve been administering to Simone help prevent her mania from taking over. There are moments where I need a more powerful sedative than diazepam to keep her from hurting herself, but doctors won’t prescribe them for home use. I’m not going to let her go neglected in some state-run ward or go into debt to have a private facility do what I can do for her.”

At first, Henrik did not respond. Then, with an anger that reassured Leif, he said, “Do you know how fucking stupid that is? Do you know what these drugs can do to her? You’ve probably done irreparable damage! If you didn’t think the specialists you were going to were any good, then get referrals! Find someone that fits! You can’t play doctor, especially with someone else’s life!”

I’m not experimenting on her, this is all scientifically proven and she’s much more functional than she was,” Leif retorted. This was going very well. If he could continue directing this into an argument about how to care for his daughter instead of a confrontation of what he’d been doing, then he might not need to even threaten him. Playing dumb was cheap and usually transparent, but playing just dumb enough was proving fruitful.

You’re excessively controlling. I’m serious, this has to stop. It’s too dangerous,” Henrik pressed. “Not just for her, but what’ll happen when they find these drugs in her system? I’m not too familiar with the laws in this country, but as her caregiver, you’re legally on the line for what’s in her body.”

Leif had to stop himself from laughing at the crude joke his brother had unwittingly made. The man really had no idea how right he was. A rape kit was enough to put in him jail for a minimum of five years in New York, but Vermont was much more lenient. All things considered, incest was towards the bottom of his list of possible charges, but he would never allow himself to get pulled into the court system.

He levelled a firm but unheated stare at Henrik as he said, “I’m not going to stop. You’re not going to report me. I’ve been there for her when she had no one and I’ve brought her back from the brink more times than anyone knows. With all due respect to your professional advice, I’m managing her illness just fine.”

This isn’t your responsibility to assume. You have no idea what you’re doing to her in the long run.”

I know better than the psychiatrist who recommended shock therapy and my method is certainly more effective than the specialist who only wanted to cut gluten out of her diet,” Leif was getting irritated. He had gotten accustomed to no longer being questioned since pushing Simone’s mother out of her role. He had to end this topic quickly. “Believe me, I’ve tried to work with them all. I know my child. I know what she needs.”

She needs a professional!” Henrik yelled, stamping a pointed finger on the countertop to emphasis each word.

She’s been fine without them meddling around in her head!” Leif’s tone was dipping down into his actual voice. He was aware of his mask slipping, but it even more than that, he was aware of the temptation to let it slip. The knife was right there in lovely Damascus-patterned steel, shining brightly enough to illuminate how unmoored he was becoming. It should have been more disconcerting than it was.

Do you honestly believe you’re qualified to be the one meddling around in her head, then? You’re so arrogant, it’s ridiculous! She needs-

I’m what she needs!” Leif snapped. “She doesn’t need anyone else, understand? She belongs to me!

It took him less than a second to realize what he’d said and when it hit, he inwardly recoiled. Henrik stared at him, eyes wide and face frozen in astonishment as those words rang in the silence between them, and Leif knew he reflected that same shock. He hadn’t meant to say that. He’d meant to guide him away from that trail, lead him toward less volatile conclusions. Henrik had gotten a reaction out of him. Leif was not supposed to react; he was supposed to orchestrate. It must be the fatigue.

I’m sorry for snapping,” Leif said, smiling as he looked down at the roasting pan. He picked up the thin yellow discs of potatoes and resumed the arrangement as his mind whirled in what he could not admit to himself was panic. “Let’s talk about this another time.”

Sure, Leif. Sure,” Henrik said softly, nodding his head as he withdrew his hands from the countertop.

Is Anders feeling any better?”

He’s, um, sleeping it off. I’d better go check on him, actually.”

Of course. Supper is in three hours. I hope he’ll feel up to joining us,” Leif smiled.

Henrik nodded, his blue eyes lingering on Leif warily before he turned and left the kitchen. Leif picked up the knife and began those thin, precise cuts into four cloves of garlic on the board, his steady hands not wavering as he wondered how much longer he could let them teeter on the edge of the truth. He could plainly see that he had not succeeded in dissuading his brother from suspecting that he’d been poisoning Simone, as he’d put it. He had done quite well in reinforcing that impression, in fact. It was odd to feel himself slipping. He had expected to rail against it, to be violently seized by the need to maintain control, but there was an inexplicable absence of that past the reflexive anxiety in acknowledging a mistake. As he inserted sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and slivered garlic into the pockets he’d speared into the meat, he contemplated what harm there really was in letting his ownership of Simone become known. It was unconventional, but if he smudged certain details, there was really nothing they could do to deter him. Keeping up this friendly family man act in a time when he was finally able to be open with his Simone about their true relationship was proving too restrictive, like a too-small suit coming apart at the seams. Perhaps it was time to create a new image for himself, one that better reflects yet obfuscates this new era for him and his darling girl.

 

 

Simone watched as Henrik trudged from the kitchen back towards the stairs, her crouched position from the shaded dining room allowing her to go unnoticed as she observed his wide and muscular frame deflate with melancholy once out of view of her father. Revisiting this childhood habit of observing from a hidden space brought good and safe memories of laying under her bed for hours or reading books with a flashlight in the attic crawl space while her mother stomped around calling for her. But the darkened spaces in this cavernous old house were not as safe. Even alone in the empty dining room with all the opulent curtains drawn, she felt seen. Movement at the kitchen doorway caught her eye and she watched as her father’s shadow emerged from the door, the knife held in his fist like a pointed extension of his arm. He straddled the doorway as he stared down the hall, that knife hand pointing the direction of his gaze toward the staircase, and she could see the same murderous intent emanating from him as when he stood over Anders’ unconscious body. A cold chill ran down her spine, but she forced herself to act. She had to remain vigilant.

“Papa,” she spoke, her voice small and thin but carrying through the silence like a bell.

He turned to her, his wide mouth already pulled into a smile. “What are you doing down here? You should be resting.”

She stood from her hiding spot behind a tall potted plant and smoothed her pale gauzy nightgown as she stepped into the hallway. Her hair was finally brushed of the nest of snarls it had been and she’d braided it in one long plait down her back, not wanting to risk having it tangled so much again with the trend of activity as of late. All in all, she felt like she looked ready to pose for some chintzy Christmas card involving feathers and brass halos, but it worked to endear Leif to her as his smile widened into something that reached his eyes as he looked at her. Look at me, don’t look at them.

“I can’t sleep,” she said softly, padding her way toward him on stockinged feet. “Would you mind if I helped you with dinner?”

She resisted flinching as his hand gently touched the same cheek he’d slapped a few hours earlier, the scents of herbs and garlic strong on his fingers. “You really should be resting, darling girl. You’ve had quite a busy day and I want you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the memorial service tomorrow. Perhaps you need a sedative?”

She reached up and caressed his hand, nuzzling against it and inhaling the fresh rosemary and thyme before grinning up at him and tucking the side of his index finger between her teeth. She made a show of growling and giving a little shake with her gentle bite, wrinkling her nose to add to the pantomime of a dog shaking a dead thing apart in its jaws. When he huffed out a brief chuckle, his eyes crinkling with the laugh, she felt an old familiar happiness spring in her. It was always a victory to get a laugh out of either of her serious parents, but more importantly, it was one of her key tactics of distracting them from their anger.

“You’re tasty, Dad,” she grinned, her words muffled around the flesh between her lips.

 She ran her tongue up the appendage, observing how his eyes watched her mouth with curiosity and amusement. She had never tried distracting her parents with sex in the past, of course, but the steadfast and predatory leer in his gaze told her that it might be more effective than humor. Tentatively, she encircled the tip of his finger between her puckered lips, keeping her eyes locked on his face in a bravado she certainly did not feel with her knees shaking under her nightgown. That amusement in his gaze turned to heated interest as she slowly slid his finger into her mouth, the trimmed stub of his nail hard against soft flesh as it scraped the back of her throat when she reached his third knuckle. Then, just as slowly, she pressed her tongue to his finger as she slid it out, releasing the tip with an audible pop from the suction she’d applied. Her cheeks were burning in a fierce blush and her mouth salivated at both the taste of herbs and the texture of skin. With a guilty twinge, she acknowledged that she didn’t just want to distract him from his violent impulse. That constant need to please him thrilled at the opportunity, even after the horror he’d put her through that day. The notion that she would never be free of him rippled with a terrible truth in her.

“Can I help you in the kitchen, Daddy?” she whispered, her voice pathetically small and tight despite the brave front she tried to simulate.

He didn’t answer, making her nervous as he instead rubbed his wet fingertip over her full lips, pressing the plump flesh back to show her teeth while he watched with that same heated fascination. The knife in his other hand moved and she tried not to let her apprehension show, failing in that when she winced and gasped as the cold steel ghosted over her chest. The hand at her mouth gripped her chin, holding her from looking down when she felt the blade tugging at her front accompanied by a ripping sound. Flashbacks to her vision of him tearing her torso open played vividly in the theater of her mind, fueling the fear that made her shut her eyes and whimper as that knife tore downward. The phantom feeling of hot blood pouring down her belly fed her terror, but no pain came along with that tugging. He didn’t release his hold on her jaw as he walked them into the kitchen, shutting the door behind them as she stumbled to match his wider stride without being able to quite see where they stepped. He slammed her against the door, stars swimming in her vision when the back of her head hit the solid oak, and then her knees buckled easily as he pushed her down. Before she could recover, she heard him fumbling with his clothes and then felt something warm and smooth press against her cheek. Startled, her eyes finally snapped open to see him looming over her, that dangerous stern mask over his features as he looked down at her and held his erection to her face. He didn’t give her a chance to react, grabbing her hair by the roots and yanking her up. When her mouth fell open in a pained cry, she felt him shove the tip of his cock between her parted lips and she fought the impulse to pull away, her instinct to submit to this violent male overtaking any resistance.

“Good girl,” his deep voice rumbled when she opened wider.

The slide of his cock gliding over her tongue and crowding into her throat nearly had her gag at the suddenness of it and she struggled to control her panicked breaths through her nostrils. She forced herself to relax, to allow him into her throat, but she wasn’t ready and choked around the intrusion as he drove deeper. Spit dribbled down her chin as she sputtered and coughed when he pulled out and then her throat constricted around him again as he shoved back in. Her head quickly began to swim from oxygen deprivation, darkness closing in at the edges of her vision each time he blocked her airway and retreated with each spastic breath she managed between coughs as he slid out. It took several turns before she could get her coughing reaction somewhat under control, but his pace remained unaffected by her struggle as he fucked her mouth and throat against the door. Her face was wet with tears and saliva and her throat already sore from trying to accommodate his girth. To prevent her head from being knocked back with his thrusts, she held it pressed against the door and just remained still as he took his pleasure. From the sounds of his low, guttural grunting above her, he seemed to be taking plenty. The chill of a draft brushed over her breasts and she realized that he had cut a deep tear down the center of her nightgown from her collar to the end of her sternum.

“Look at me,” he whispered and she obeyed.

He stared down at her, his mouth slightly parted from panting and his gaze burning with an intensity she could see even through tear-blurred eyes. Beyond her terror and violation, she wondered why he chose to have her this way. She was obviously willing and wanting, but he’d assaulted her to make her afraid and turned this into a forced encounter. As his cock throbbed with each whimper she managed to make when it wasn’t jammed into her throat, she tried to understand his hunger for her fear. She couldn’t, but she understood her own body’s shameful reaction to his dominance. It made her sick with how wet she got from any of this, but the damp heat sopping her pantyliner wasn’t just the slow trickle of blood from her injury. It had to be her madness or some desperate measure to hold onto any semblance of control, but there was something fulfilling in the pain, something almost comforting in how thoroughly he took that control from her. No. She couldn’t let herself enjoy being his, especially not when she had others to protect from his violence.

Helvete, Simone…” he muttered. Those fingers tugging at her hair loosened and caressed down her cheek as he held her gaze and fucked her mouth slower. “Such a talented little mouth.”

She blushed at the praise, then at her shame with the rush of arousal that came with it. This was hopeless. His thrusts began to knock into her throat with a bruising brutality, making her pitiable grunts raise into muffled cries broken up by the plug of his swelling tip. She broke their stare, the pain overwhelming her obedience, and she began to sob in earnest. This was enough to push him over the edge as he abruptly pulled out of her mouth and grasped her hair to hold her head back as she hacked and coughed. She heard him stroking himself rapidly as his hot semen shot across her bared chest, dribbling down her breasts in thick trails. The humiliation was secondary to her relief that the assault on her sore throat was over. Covered in sweat, saliva, semen, tears, and with her own arousal leaking onto her thighs, she felt filthy both mentally and physically. She allowed herself one shivering sob before biting her lip against that urge to weep.

“Always such a little trooper,” Leif said warmly, his fingers disentangling from her hair with an affectionate rub and allowing her head to fall forward. “Thank you for helping me in the kitchen, darling. Now wash up and go tell your uncles that I expect them all down for supper at seven sharp.”

“They-” she rasped, then pressed her hands to her neck and mouth as a coughing fit overtook her.

Her throat was raw and uncooperative, sorer than after the first time he’d fucked it. At least, more than the first time she’d been aware that he’d fucked it. Suddenly every sore throat she’d experienced in her life made her wonder with an awful feeling. She didn’t want to know. He knelt next to her, one hand supportively cupping her shoulder and the other gently patting her back, and she nearly recoiled reflexively at his touch.

“Save your words for your uncles, dearest,” he whispered softly.  

She wanted to tell him to leave them out of whatever was happening and just let it be between the two of them, but she couldn’t speak. Perhaps that was his goal all along; another joke to play at her expense. She laughed, a queer sound that bubbled up from her without her bidding and tore through her throat painfully. That she couldn’t even laugh at his joke without agony was even more hilarious. She coughed, choking around her laughter as it poured out of her only to jam at her throat. This was far funnier than any of the clever little observations and quips he’d made with his stuffy friends from work or the amusing charm he’d put on to impress guests.

“Don’t cry so hard, sweetheart, the worst is over now,” he soothed, his reassuring and fatherly tone so filthy to hear while his come was cooling on her bared tits.

Though tears ran down her cheeks and her face was scrunched in pain as her body trembled, she wasn’t crying. She wished she could tell him she wasn’t crying. She was laughing; it really was all so very funny and the worst was far, far from over. She couldn’t tell him that though, so she just shook and coughed while he mimicked fatherhood in the gentle pats on her back.

 

 

“I think we should do it tonight,” Vidar said, careful to keep his voice low.

Henrik looked at him doubtfully, his heavy brow casting a shadow over his eyes and furrowing to deepen the weathered lines along his forehead as he said, “With what proof? We don’t even know if she’s willing to go along with this.”

“You weren’t there when he hit her. He did it without even hesitating, and you heard her hollering down there when he… you know,” Vidar frowned. “She’d be crazy not to want to get away from him!”

“Well, she is crazy, you prick. And women defend their abusers all the time, you should know that.”

“Adult women will lie to protect their abusive shithead husbands and boyfriends, not their weirdo fathers. It’s a totally different dynamic.”

They were interrupted by an abrupt bark of laughter from Anders and they both turned to see him unexpectedly awake on the bed. He held one hand over his eyes as his mouth was pulled into a mournful grin, something halfway between laughter and weeping that was entirely distress.

Henrik crouched by his side, his medical bag open and ready as he said, “Anders, how are you feeling? You’ve been weaving in and out of consciousness for hours, brother. Can you tell me what you took?”

“A needle full of nightmares,” he murmured, his voice raspy.

“Okaaay…” Henrik frowned, looking back at Vidar with an incredulous shrug. “How about you drink some water and try to sit up?”

Without waiting for an answer, Henrik pulled him up with one hand while the other accepted the water bottle Vidar passed him. Anders’ head felt no better than it had before, but his thoughts were clearer. Whether that was any better or not was undecided as the horrible highlights of the day replayed on a constant loop in his mind. He shooed away Henrik’s fussing hands when the man tried to tip the bottle into his mouth and he took it from him as he sat up with a groan. That feeling of having been hit by a truck was still very present in every inch of his body despite the bouts of unconsciousness that had pulled him unwillingly in and out of naps for what had felt like days. To find that it was just hours was not quite believable to him yet.

“Where is she?” he slurred, shutting his eyes against the brightness that leaked through the curtains.

“Are you going to go running around like a maniac and chop down a wall again if we don’t tell you?” Vidar asked flatly.

Anders glared at him. “Where is she?”

“She’s fine,” Henrik said, frowning at both men. “She stopped by a couple hours ago. She’s probably in her room or something.”

“You went into their room earlier and then came running back here and freaked out until you fainted,” Vidar said dryly. He leaned forward in his chair and looked levelly at Anders. “You wouldn’t tell us shit about what happened in there, or any other time you’ve been with her. Do you think you could clear that up now?”

Anders could feel his blood pressure rising just at the implication in his brother’s tone. He was very aware of the bloodstain under the blanket, right next to his knee. “I just… had to make sure she was okay.”

“How long did you know he was administering her hallucinogens and barbiturates? Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” Henrik whispered.

While grateful for the topic change, Anders wondered if he heard him correctly. “What?”

“That pack of drugs in his duffel bag,” Vidar reminded him. When Anders stared at him blankly, he huffed in frustration. “You showed it to us, remember? It was chock full of crazy shit. Come on, why didn’t you say anything sooner?”

Anders blinked and rubbed his aching head. “I didn’t… I don’t really remember that clearly. I just found it and thought it was weird, I think.”

A heavy silence fell over them, broken by Henrik’s harsh whisper, “Are you fucking telling me that you didn’t know Leif’s been drugging her to make her insane? You found that on accident?! You have got to be fucking kidding me.”

Anders could hear the words spoken to him and understand them on a surface level, but there was something odd about them. It took him several tries to piece them together in a way that made sense, like how he had to take a moment to translate English before understanding. He didn’t know… that Leif had been drugging Simone… to make her insane. His mouth felt very dry and his hands felt numb. He didn’t know, but now he knew. Leif, his biggest brother, had been drugging Simone, his… something. He could ponder his hesitance in defining what she was to him later. He ran the sentence through his mind again. Leif had been drugging Simone to make her insane. There was a painful twinge in his brain followed by a profoundly deep rage as it began to make sense to him. With his own too-recent experience in feeling out of control of his own mind and body from whatever Leif had dosed him with, he understood with a terrible complexity just how grievous of a violation he’d enacted on his own daughter. He also knew why. It was so easy for Leif to make him do what he wanted. Leif had staged the entire rape. Leif had fucked his own daughter and then turned him on her for fun. His nails dug into his palms, the pain going unnoticed as he struggled with the fury and outrage burning his mind. That terrible lack of control was something she had to live with for God knows how long while Leif could do every awful thing he’d wanted to her.

“Wait, wait, if you didn’t know that…” Vidar frowned. “… then why were you so god damned insistent on getting her away from him?”

“He’s doing whatever he wants with her,” Anders said, more to himself than to his brother. His voice was clear and calm, carefully measured to prevent himself from screaming. “He’s getting away with it because she’s too fucked up to even think to resist him… and no one would believe her anyway because she’s insane. It’s sick. It’s so sick. But he’s not going to get away with it anymore.”

“Anders… what exactly are you talking about?” Henrik whispered haltingly.

All three men jumped at the sound of knocking at the door. Vidar glanced at them with a warning look before rising from his chair and cracking open the door. Anders couldn’t see who it was, but the downward cast of his brother’s eyes told him it was Simone’s short countenance.

“Simone?” Anders called, keeping his voice just loud enough to be heard. Vidar waved for him to stop, but he ignored him and gathered his best English, “Simone, welcome in.”

Vidar sighed in irritation, but stepped aside and opened the door wider for her. As she hesitantly stepped inside the crowded room, Anders wished he could say he didn’t feel anything but repentant shame and righteous protection for the girl. Those urges were both present, but as he looked at her walking towards him in that short black dress with her hair pulled up and away from her sweet face, he felt those feelings he had no right to have again. It was easier to be contrite and promise to atone for his sins when she wasn’t around to make his heart race and his palms sweat. When she looked at him with that sorrowful and pained expression, he saw none of the blame and fear he’d deserved. Her bare feet stopped just a few centimeters from the bed, close enough to bring her scent to him. That earthy and slightly sweet scent brought that urge to touch and taste to the forefront of his thoughts, startling him that the urge was this strong even in this circumstance. Even more startling, however, was how she climbed onto the bed and began to move over him.

“Uh… hm… w-wait, ah,” he stammered, scooting away from her but she was already in his lap and wrapping her arms around his shoulders.

His eyes darted to his brothers nervously, seeing them watching this happen with alarm rivaling his own. Despite all this, her softness and warmth were too good to resist returning her embrace and he carefully made sure to accomplish this as non-sexually as possible. He had to try not to look too nervous or too relaxed, not too excited or too eager, and certainly not at all aroused. He was very aware of how disgusting he was to want her even with the news of her unspeakable abuse still fresh in his mind, but by now he wasn’t surprised at his savagery. If anything, it only made him want to claim her more. His hands paused in their comforting and familial pats on her back, a private horror at his own thoughts seizing his attention. She wasn’t a thing to claim.

It’s time to eat,” she whispered, her voice raspy and thin, nearly inaudible if her lips weren’t so tantalizingly close to his ear. His hands unconsciously pulled her closer to him as they slid down to her lower back. She felt so good, so right, but he needed her closer.

“What did she tell you?” Henrik asked.

Anders snapped out of his daze and scrambled to process the question. “Oh! Uh, she said there’s something to eat, I think?”

“I guess our time here is up, then,” Vidar said, then whispered in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Would you like us to shut the door on our way out so you can have some special snuggle time with your niece in privacy?”

“Vid, would you like to shut the fuck up?” Henrik glared. He turned to Anders with an apologetic expression. “We’re all expected to show up for supper in the dining room. This is going to be an awkward meal, but I think we should try to talk this all out together.”

“What? What do you mean, ‘talk this out together’?” Anders frowned. He couldn’t imagine having to sit down across from the man responsible for all of this. His arms tightened around Simone. “There’s nothing to discuss. You said it yourself, the man has been drugging his own daughter.”

“Anders,” Henrik grumbled exasperatedly. “It’s not that simple.”

“Fuck you, it couldn’t be simpler!”

“I agree with Anders, for once,” Vidar interrupted.

Henrik scowled at them, then said, “Listen, we’re going to have a civil discussion with our brother and make him see that what he’s been doing is harmful. We’re going to sit down, like the adults we are, and have an intervention with our obviously misguided sibling. We’re going to work on a solution together as a family. This isn’t some psychotic maniac, this is Leif!”

“I’m not going to let anyone hurt Simone just to maintain politeness,” Anders nearly growled. She stirred in his lap, bringing his attention to how tightly he’d been holding her and he relaxed with a self-conscious glance to his brothers.

She leaned up, pressing her body close to his as her lips nearly brushed his neck when she whispered, “Please. Don’t do anything to anger him. Don’t give him a reason.”

“What in the hell is she telling you?” Vidar sneered.

Anders ignored him, too focused on the way her back arched under his hand and the movement of her chest against him as she breathed. He was aware of the incriminating blush that warmed its way up his neck as her strange foreign words caressed his ear, sending a chill through him that tickled down his spine.

Please, Anders, don’t do anything stupid. I can’t protect you from him. I can’t even protect myself, so please, please…”

He understood maybe half the words she used, but making sense of them was an afterthought with how she embraced him and begged… something from him. Just hearing how she pleaded filled him with memories of the way she’d pressed herself to him that morning in the shower, her body writhing eagerly against him and her sweet voice high with need. It felt like days had passed since he’d last touched her and holding her now both slaked and incited that need for contact with her.

“… Please, don’t worry about me and just lay low. It’s too late for me, but you don’t have to get dragged into this any further. I don’t think I could take it if anything happened to you. Oh god, this is all so fucked up, but I love you, I love you and I need you, so please…”

Her whispers became breathy and desperate and he began to panic as he felt himself harden despite their audience. This was not good. He tried to focus on translating and deciphering what she’d said, but the phrases “I love you” and “I need you” echoed too loudly for him to understand much past that. He bit his lip, trying to stave off those very unchaste thoughts. If only she didn’t feel so delightful on his lap, if only she didn’t cling to him so closely, if only she didn’t smell like something he wanted to take home and keep all to himself, he might be able to think.

Please, don’t die.”

Chapter Text

The sun was well hidden behind the maples and oaks surrounding the house, blanketing the grounds in shadow as it began to set. What light there was coming into the dining room was pale and dim, so Leif chose to brighten the room by lighting a candelabra, which had not seen flame in perhaps half a decade since Einar’s decline in health had ceased his once elaborate dinner parties. The gold-rimmed china and silver flatware gleamed in the candlelight. The limited illumination did not extend much past the end of the table where five places were set, giving the illusion of cozy intimacy on a table designed to comfortably seat twenty. Leif took the liberty of pouring a Bordeaux at each setting, the red as deep as blood suspended in the wide bowls above the slender stems of the wine glasses. In a large deep tray under a silver dome that reflected the room in a distorted and curving image hid the sacrificial lamb, standing to seal in its juices as it awaited the serrated edge of the carving knife placed next to it on a cream damask napkin. A simple family meal of one main dish and three sides, with a singular course and no overelaborate distractions, a nod to the late patriarch’s preference. Leif smiled in satisfaction at the elegant arrangement. The stage was set, the props were in place, and all that was needed now were the actors and audience. Having sent his Simone to fetch the others, Leif was seated at the head of the table in waiting when he heard their shuffling arrival.

Henrik’s muscular bulk was the first to enter through the ornately molded archway, his face sporting a smile that was nearly sincere as he regarded the table. “Wow, Leif, this is just like Sunday supper with Pappa!”

We all dreaded those long, stuffy suppers,” Leif remarked amicably. He smiled at Simone as she came around from behind the hulking Henrik, extending his hand to his girl. “Come sit with me a moment, darling.”

She bit her lip in that endearing nervous habit of hers but did well to quickly obey, the sleek little black dress he’d picked out for her clinging to her curves and lightening her creamy skin appealingly as he looked her up and down for any bruises she may not have hid. He placed his hands on her hips when she stepped within range, pulling her close and sliding down to the hem of her dress before slowly fondling the sides of her thighs under the material. Nothing expressly sexual, but certainly not familial either. Her increasingly nervous glances in Henrik’s direction encouraged Leif to torment her more boldly. He leaned back in his chair and patted his knee, pulling her close when she obeyed to sit in his lap. None of this was unprecedented behavior for them in front of his brothers, not yet. His smile curled into a sneer when he detected Anders’ scent on her, an unfortunate harm of having sent her to his room. On impulse, he nuzzled her neck to mask some of that invasive scent with his aftershave, taking an unexpected delight in how she gasped softly at this unintended affection. Out of view from their onlooker, his hand squeezed the top of her ass, pressing her dress into the cleft with his finger and drawing out a flustered huff from her. It had only been a couple hours since he’d fucked her throat, but he found himself hardening again like a hormonal adolescent.

Uh… so, um… they should be down soon, but I wanted to ask you something before they get here,” Henrik said quietly, taking a seat to Leif’s right and exuding nervousness.

Leif sawed his finger into the cloth-covered cleft of his daughter’s ass as he looked at Henrik and said, “Surely, anything you have to say could be said in their presence. I think it’s time we stop harboring so many secrets in this family, don’t you?”

Henrik smiled, a small genuine smile of relief. “I’m glad you think so. But, they’re a little, um… upset. I just want to ask you to be patient with them, you know, don’t let them get to you. We’ll work this all out as a family, right?”

Of course,” Leif nodded. Both men looked at Simone when she flinched and stifled a yelp as Leif worked his hand under her and pressed at her asshole. He let his mouth pull into a sly grin at how entertainingly sensitive his girl was. “Oh, darling, are you feeling alright?”

She started to say something, but quickly ducked her face away to cough into her elbow before she could manage to croak out a single word. He rubbed against her hole more gently, holding her squirming body closer to him in the guise of concern as she tried to get her silent coughing under control. The desperate little breaths she managed to take between the shaking fits were laced with the high grunts of stifled moans, indiscernible from either pleasure or pain, and he wanted to slide his other hand over her cunt just to see if this stimulation was getting her wet.

That seems like an awful sore throat. May I take a look at her?” Henrik offered, forehead wrinkled in practiced professional concern as he rose from his seat.

Leif turned to him and slid his hand out from under her. “No, you may not.”

She ceased her shaking and coughing, panting heavily to recover her breath while the two men stared at one another. There was nothing in Leif’s tone that threatened or betrayed any ill will with his refusal, but Henrik seemed disturbed at his response.

I should at least determine if it’s an infection,” Henrik persisted.

It’s not.”

You don’t know that.”

I do.”

Henrik scowled and let out an aggravated sigh, but sank down in his seat. Leif stroked Simone’s thigh as he turned her toward him again, leaning her against his chest and kissing the top of her head affectionately. She relaxed into him when it became clear he wasn’t going to do anything more than that, her cheek resting heavily on the ridge of his collarbone. There was a fatigue in how she melted against him that he could relate to, but he could not yet allow himself to reflect.

“Just a bit longer, darling girl,” he whispered into her hair, one hand still slowly stroking her thigh as his other arm was slung tightly around her waist.

She did not stir or react except to snuggle into him further in the simple pursuit of rest, almost as though he had sedated her. Encountering the markers of natural exhaustion in his girl held a novel appeal, but he much preferred the utter oblivion of induced sleep for the purposes of his interests. He grinned in private amusement at how he still thought in those terms out of pure habit; he’d never need to hide their love from her ever again. That freedom was still so fresh and exhilarating. He chuckled and kissed the top of her head again, ignoring how Henrik openly stared in curiosity at his seemingly unprovoked good cheer. Not even the entrance of their other two brothers could dampen his mood in the slightest. In fact, the baleful glint in Anders’ glare did well to remind him of all that was so worth protecting in his life.

“Anders, you’ve recovered nicely,” he smiled.

Did you drug her? Recently, I mean. I really have to clarify that question, don’t I?” Anders asked.

Not recently, no,” Leif answered amicably, then looked at him as he said, “She’s just had a rough day. Really rough. You know that, though.”

Anders paused in his approach towards the table, his eyes widening slightly as though he were surprised at his own rage. Leif watched, amused at the range of emotion the younger man could display in his features, and wondered—as he often did— at how difficult life must be to broadcast every thought so plainly. Anders took a few heavy steps toward him and Leif brightened with the expectation of violence, but they were interrupted by Henrik’s booming voice.

Hey, hey, hey! Civil discussion, remember?” Henrik warned, pointing a stern finger at their youngest brother.

Leif had vague memories of their mother using that gesture on them, but the memories of any time before moving to the US was very muddled. Either way, Anders chose to sit down at the table and Simone seemed to have snapped to attention at the scolding. He tapped his daughter’s flank to signal her to get up and she sluggishly rose from his lap, her movements indeed as slow and arthritic as if he’d really drugged her. As Vidar had taken his usual spot next to Henrik, this left only the seat between Leif and Anders open for Simone. Anders’ stare moved to her, softening from cold anger to a grave uneasiness as she shuffled sleepily to curl up in the chair to his left.

Leif took a moment to observe his brothers before beginning. They were all fine specimens of Scandinavian men, all sturdy and tall like their father, each of them possessing the blond-haired, blue-eyed, strong-jawed and sharp-cheeked aesthetic that had afforded them privileges in life they most likely never cared to notice were not doled out to their less attractive peers. They each lived their own lives, lacking obligation to any wives or children, as they pursued their interests and careers without any greater purpose than to themselves. It struck Leif as somewhat ironic that he, the one who had suffered an upbringing at the violent hands of their father, was the one who had chosen the family track while they, having been spared of that by being thousands of kilometers away on their mother’s ranch in the northern mountainside, had thus far eschewed it. Well, aside from Anders by recent accident, but that barely even counted as a technicality. They were, as far as he could tell, complete wastes of potential. He rose from his seat and picked up the carving knife, the lovely patterned steel a good weight in his hand as he lifted the cover off the lamb.

So, no point in beating around the bush, as they say around here,” he began cordially, spearing the meat with a long-tonged fork and driving the blade through it with practiced efficiency. Cooked meat was far easier to work with than raw flesh that had already been set in with rigor mortis. “Shall we discuss how Anders had attempted to murder me first or shall we lead with the objections to how I manage my daughter’s illness?”

A tense silence followed before Anders bitterly proposed, “How about we discuss what is going to happen to Simone when she’s taken away from you?”

That’s simple,” Leif answered, serving his youngest brother the first slice and smiling in his face as he deposited the meat on his plate. “It won’t happen.”

I think beating her is good enough grounds to have your caretaker status stripped,” Vidar said. He gestured vaguely with his wineglass, the contents of which were half gone already. “I mean, not to mention regularly drugging her with illegally obtained substances. That seems like a royally fucked up thing to do to your kid, if you want my opinion.”

Leif plopped down the second slice on Vidar’s plate, maintaining his genial tone as he asked, “How would the authorities ever find out about any of that?”

“Leif…” Henrik frowned. “You’re not even denying it. Come on, how could you expect us not to do anything?

I expect you to do nothing. If you do, you would be damning your poor niece to a worse fate than I could ever construct for her,” Leif answered as he gently slid a thick slab of lamb onto Henrik’s plate. He glanced up from his work and regarded him with a sincere, “Thank you for your politeness, Henrik. That lack of antagonism is refreshing to encounter.”

You don’t deserve it,” Anders seethed. “I don’t see how things could possibly be worse for Simone. We should have already called the police.”

Do you know what a hospital for the criminally insane is like in the United States?” Leif asked as he placed a sliver of meat on his daughter’s plate. He did not wait for an answer. “They keep them tied up in tiny rooms with no social contact, or they let them wander amongst themselves. She’ll either waste away in a box or the inmates will use her for sex, trade her around like currency, knock out her teeth when she attempts to defend herself, all very common occurrences.”

She wouldn’t end up in a place like that,” Henrik argued. “She’s not a criminal.”

I’m afraid she would,” Leif admitted regretfully, dishing himself a bloody center cut of the roast. “You see, my role isn’t limited to father or caregiver; I’m also her warden. If anything should happen where I could no longer prevent her from acting on her violent inspirations, it would only be responsible of me to divulge certain events that prove her to be too dangerous to live among society. Gentlemen, you may help yourselves to the side dishes, if you please.

What the fuck are you saying? Simone’s like forty kilos, how could she be a danger to anyone?” Vidar scoffed as he reached for the tureen of wilted greens.

Believe me, I was surprised myself the first time it happened,” Leif said. He smiled warmly at how her fear warred with her fatigue before he took a bite of the meat. She had that trapped animal look he found so charming, almost as though she could sense what was coming. “She’s capable of such… exquisite violence.”

So your angle is, what? Blackmailing her and us with supposed proof that would get both of you arrested?” Vidar asked flatly. “The lamb is excellent, by the way. Any other reasons why we shouldn’t make it your last meal in freedom?”

Like I said before, it won’t happen,” Leif answered.

Don’t be so fucking sure. You’re going to have to do better than that flimsy defense,” Vidar sneered, a slight slur in his words.

Leif ignored his brother’s rudeness and turned to his daughter, placing his hand on hers dotingly as he asked, “Are you unable to swallow solid food, darling? You should at least drink your wine. It’ll make you feel better.”

“Yes, Papa,” she whispered, her bruised throat making the words almost inaudible as they rasped out of her.

He smiled at her when she tipped the glass to her lips, watching how she pressed her fingers gingerly to her throat and winced as she swallowed. He glanced at the other wineglasses on the table, seeing that they’d all been drunken from except for his, and then caught Anders’ eye as he stared at him with a paleness to his complexion and a telling stiffness in his face.

Ah, I believe Anders might have a thought in his head for once,” Leif grinned. “Care to share it, little brother?”

At first, Anders only opened his mouth and then closed it, drawing the attention of the table as he seemed unable to form the words, then uttered, “What did you make her do?”

Leif took his time chewing the bloody meat, savoring the naturally gamey taste of the flesh mingling with the herbs and honeyed glaze, before casually answering, “I did nothing. She simply has a habit of murdering those who threaten the lives of her or of her beloved.

Murder?!” Henrik exclaimed.

Leif glanced at Anders, seeing him staring blankly into his plate, then at Vidar who seemed curiously unaffected by this news. “Do you really find that so unbelievable, Vid?”

Vidar sat up straighter in his seat, or at least tried to when his hand slipped on the armrest and he slapped the table to brace himself. He righted with a nervous laugh that was too loud and leaned far back in his chair, almost sinking into it. His other brothers didn’t seem to have any attention to spare him, but Leif noticed that Simone stared at Vidar with increasing alarm. Ever the observant one, his girl.

Quit joking, Leif, we really mean it when we say that you have got to stop this!” Henrik scolded and then sipped the wine cocktail. Simone’s eyes shot to the tipped glass at his mouth, her lips slightly parted and chest heaving in panicked breaths.

“Sto-!” she cried, cut off by an eruption of a choking and coughing fit that had her doubled over with her face buried in her arms. Anders broke out of his spell to turn to her and rub her back, his hands on her irritating Leif.

Let her be, Anders,” Leif frowned. “I don’t think your touch is all that comforting to her anymore.”

The younger man looked up at him with a burning hatred steeling his glare as he hissed, “Shut up. I won’t let that happen to her again, not by you or through anyone else.”

Leif tutted him with a shake of his head. “I didn’t make you do anything. That was all you. Take some responsibility for once in your selfish life, Anders, and face that you’re not the person you think you are. It’s in you, you know it is, I only gave you the key but you are the one who let it out. Trust me: there’s no stuffing that back down once it’s out.”

You drugged me!” Anders protested, his lip curling back in a snarl from his teeth and showing off the same sharply pointed incisor Leif recognized in himself.

He ignored their bewildered bystanders and leaned towards his youngest brother, sliding his hand possessively over his daughter’s shoulders as he said, “It’s in you. Instead of facing and accepting it, you stuff it down and build a wall of ideals to protect you from it. You believe in your contributions to an undeserving world and ungrateful people because that means it’s good for goodness’ sake. But you’re not good and you’re never going to be good because it’s in you and it’s not withering, it’s not retreating, it’s not going change no matter how thick you build that wall around it. You can only ignore it, but it’s never, ever going to ignore you.

You’re insane,” Anders growled lowly, not moving his hand from Simone’s trembling back.

You want to do it again, don’t you?” Leif asked, then in a whisper too quiet for their audience, “You’ve thought about fucking her, your own niece, since you got here. Did it thrill you when she cried and begged for you to stop? It must have, by the way you tore her with that brutal rutting. Can’t deny that, can you?”

Burn in Hell, you sick son of a whore!” Anders yelled, seizing the hand Leif had laid across Simone’s shoulders.

With a lightning quickness, Leif twisted his hand away and lunged out of his seat to wrap it around his brother’s throat. Henrik shot out of his chair with a shout only to stagger and collapse to the floor in a clatter of dishes as he tried and failed to grasp for anything to stop his fall. Vidar stared in wide-eyed wooziness. Anders’ grimace was more of rage and pain than terror, but Leif resolved to adjust that balance accordingly. He knew his grip strength was more than enough to completely compress a man’s trachea one-handed, but he refrained just outside of accomplishing that.

Tell me, baby brother,” Leif grinned, squeezing the pale column of throat each time Anders attempted to move. “Which did you enjoy more: hurting your niece or trying to murder me? You did both with such zest! Have you been kept up at night, your blood pumping hot and your palms slick in your eagerness to kill me? Hmm? Or did you come up with that idea while you were making her bleed? I admire your ambition, but your heroic savior act only works if you’re not intent on repeating the same crimes as your enemy.”

He felt something slide up his torso and could see in his peripheral that Simone had recovered from her fit and was sitting up in the narrow space between him and Anders, her hand pulling on his sleeve. He kept his eyes on Anders, knowing the danger in glancing away in situations such as these, but he could see the sheen of tears on her cheeks as she leaned up towards him. He began to pet her hair with his free hand, the long gentle strokes of his fingers running through her soft locks drawing Anders’ fevered attention.

“Sto-op… Dad… please…” she rasped, her meager strength not enough to make his choking arm budge as she yanked hard on his suit.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?” Leif asked. Ander’s eyes shot back to him, rage burning in his glare. “That something so sweet, so submissive as my darling girl could be capable of that violence. But you know it’s true; even you could interpret the evidence.”

“Papa… Papa, don’t do this!” she whispered, trying to push him away from Anders with all her bodily force against his torso.

Let me tell you a little secret, Anders, one that you may have suspected in that empty head of yours,” Leif grinned, leaning in closer and pushing Simone back down into her seat as he moved towards Anders. The younger man’s grip on his arm trembled. “She got it from her father’s side of the family.

He hauled him up by his throat, enjoying the astonishment and unbridled fear overwhelming his brother’s reddening face as he stepped around Simone to drag him away from the table. Vidar was gripping the armrests of his chair, terrified of what Leif could only imagine he might be seeing from the potent hallucinogen seizing his mind while Henrik was still squirming on the floor. Anders kicked at Leif, his hands now pulling himself up on that strong hand at his throat to try to lessen the weight of his body pulling at his neck as he was dragged out of his seat. Leif growled out a low grunt with the force of his push as he all but threw him out into the hallway in a flurry of limbs rolling across the floor. As Anders struggled to replenish oxygen in great coughing gulps of air, Leif removed his jacket and vest. This was one of his favorite Kiton suits and he’d hate to rip it.

“Leif! LEIF! What the hell are you doing?!” Henrik shouted, his voice muddled and slurring as he tried and failed to get his muscles to cooperate enough to move. “No, no, stop, STOP!”

Anders had rolled onto his hands and knees, about to struggle with getting up when Leif came upon him in three wide steps to grab him by his shirt and throw him onto his back. Anders surprised him with his swift reaction to lean into the turn with a right hook, his fist connecting with Leif’s jaw in the same strike he’d gotten in on him from earlier. Now familiar with it, however, Leif returned the blow with a straight punch. The connection of his knuckles to his brother’s face provided a satisfying crack, enough force in it to draw blood but probably not enough to fracture the orbital bones. He could hear Henrik still shouting, his words now unintelligible bellowing. He pulled his fist back to repeat it while Anders reeled, but that unexpected swiftness caught him again when Anders lunged up and headbutted him. Leif staggered, blinking away the darkness that spotted his vision and the pain blooming from the bridge of his nose, and repaid him with a solid kick to his ribs that sent the younger man bowling onto his side. While Anders tried to recover the wind that was knocked out of him, Leif rolled up his sleeves and then leaned his weight into two rapid kidney punches, expelling choked grunts on each impact from his already emptied lungs.

Let me tell you all how this is going to work!” Leif announced loudly, his real voice echoing deeply through the cavernous house and ceasing Henrik’s howling. He pressed Anders down to the floor with the heel of his Italian leather monk strap shoe, the pressure limiting the younger man’s range of breath as he struggled to fill his lungs. “No allusions, no hints, no anonymous tips, not one god damn word! Should I find reason to suspect any level of indiscretion has occurred, I will obtain recompense as I deem suitable! However, I should assure you now, you will not find the reparation to be agreeable! Have I made myself understood?

Leif listened for a response, hearing only the strangled breaths Anders wheezed and the ticking of the grandfather clock in the hallway until he heard the patter of little bare feet on hardwood. He turned to see Simone rushing toward him from behind, the ten-centimeter-long blade of a steak knife raised high and pointed forward. While he was impressed at how she’d snuck in his blind spot without him noticing, he’d have to teach her more about adjusting her approach once the element of surprise had been lost. He waited the half second it took for her to come within range before lashing out and grasping the arm that held the knife. He twisted her wrist until her body followed and pulled her backwards towards him, grabbing the knife and holding it to her throat in one fluid motion. She wrenched out of his grasp, no concern for the blade that slid along her neck before he could move it away, and rounded on him with an elbow reared upwards into his solar plexus. Leif grunted in the precise blow, not strong enough to wind him but enough to stagger him off Anders and give her an opportunity to uppercut his nose with the heel of her hand. Trained reflex had him grab her offending hand, pull her in and bring his knee up into her torso, knocking a choked grunt from her and bringing her down easy when he backhanded her to the floor. He glimpsed the flash of red on her as she collapsed to the floor and panic gripped him.

Shit!” he hissed, dropping to his knees and pulling her squirming body towards him to examine her cut.

Blood gushed from the thin line separating her flesh, flowing in a troublingly broad trail down her chest like a bright red necktie before disappearing under her black dress. The knife was still clutched in his fist as he began applying pressure to the wound with both hands, the slick steel showing him an approximation of how deeply it had gouged her from the centimeter of blood along the edge. From the corner of his eye, he saw Anders rise unsteadily to his feet, clutching his ribs as he turned toward them. Simone’s scrambling to get out from under his hands became frantic when she saw the glimmer of the blade turn as he adjusted it.

“Stay away!” she croaked out of her abused throat, her hands clutching his wrists.

Thankfully, her warning went unheeded as Leif heard his brother’s trudging steps towards him. He waited as he stumbled closer, his eyes locked with his daughter’s wild stare. He could see the knowing dread in them, the fury of failure to stop what was to happen, the instinctual alarm that came with bleeding, but most of all, she watched his face with the stalwart rebellion of the hopelessly defeated. Like a mortally wounded beast strikes out with vengeful claws at her approaching executor, she bared her teeth and struggled under his hands. Her nails dug bleeding trails into his forearms where she desperately held them in a futile attempt to restrain him despite surely knowing she was no match at all for his strength. She was his fiercely savage and beautiful creature. He bent down and kissed her snarling lips, licking over the teeth that had killed a man that very day, and swung his arm behind him to stab Anders in the side of his thigh.

 

 

Anders could see the blade sticking out of his leg, but there was an odd disconnect where he didn’t quite feel the pain. Though he fell backward and landed hard on the floor, clutching the area around the knife to keep it still, the thought I have been stabbed should have had more terror accompanying it. Instead, all terror was focused on the image he glimpsed over his brother’s shoulder. Simone shaking on the ground, blood pooling under Leif’s hands at her neck, her face as ashen as her milky tea complexion could allow. She met his eyes in that second before the knife came and he knew that image of her would be among the few in his life that would occasionally jump out at him from the dark of his mind to pull him to this moment. It seemed like he had collected more snapshot memories of extreme horrors and vivid delights during this trip than at any other point in his life. Looking down at the knife embedded in his thigh, it struck him with a resounding clarity that he had changed in ways both apparent and unseen from the person he had been just a week ago. As surely as this wound would leave a lifelong scar, so had the events of the last few days. Then the pain came.

He groaned loudly, growling out each breath with every throb. Instinct called for the removal of the violating intrusion to his flesh and, despite being knowledgably aware of it being the wrong choice, he yanked the blade out in one swift jerk. The scream that tore out of his throat was an animal sound. There was a static sensation around the excruciating burning that seemed to take hold of his entire thigh, pulsing like a someone was feeding that flame with a bellows. A dark stain quickly grew around the slit in his gray slacks and he kept a steady pressure on it in spite of the pain it caused. There didn’t seem to be any way he could handle the wound that would both make the pain bearable and staunch the bleeding. His alarm shifted from a base of fear to anger as he saw Simone fight against her father. He couldn’t see past Leif’s back to determine what he was doing to her, but he could see how her legs kicked against the floor in a struggle. Anders did not have the luxury of wallowing in agony.

Murderer! You murderer!” she rasped, her heaving gasps hoarse and her words choked out in shrill whispers.

“Simone! Stop this behavior at once!” Leif warned sternly.

Kill me! Go on, kill me!”

Anders flinched at the loud snap of Leif’s hand striking her, unable to see how or where his hit landed but seeing her little bare feet stop their frantic jig and slowly curl closer to her body. The broken groan that followed brought him away from his own pain, filling him with the need to protect the girl. He grabbed onto that impulse, riding it further away from fear and thought, taking it deeper than he’d allowed himself previously. His head was swimming and his ears rang from the punishing brawl, but his thoughts were clearer than they’d been in days. A voice spoke in his mind soundlessly, telling him what he needed to do.

Sorry, darling, but I need you to be still,” Leif murmured, his bent form focused on the curled shape of the girl under him.

Anders listened to the voice. Silently, he leaned on his good leg and pushed himself up, the ornate silver handle of the knife tight in his fist.

Don’t shut your eyes. Stay awake, stay present.”

Anders listened to the voice. He would take away Simone’s suffering; starting with this beast and then by taking his place. He would become the father she deserved. He would become the lover she needed. He stepped forward, slow in stealth, approaching Leif’s broad back from directly behind him.

You’re going into shock.

Anders listened to the voice. She would make him a good man again. She would give him the child he was due. They would be so happy together after she learned to forgive him.

Stay with me, darling girl.”

Anders loomed over Leif, looking down over his shoulder once more to see Simone lying in a pool of blood. It extended around her serene face like a dark nimbus, her half-shut eyes like the Madonna hanging in his mother’s bedroom. She looked up at him drowsily, her paled lips parting to draw in a slow breath. He raised the knife, the tip of the blade pointing downward, and her eyes widened. When he swung down, aiming for his neck, he saw everything as though it moved in slow motion as she lunged up and shoved her father. Wet beads of red flew from her hair with her sudden motion, hitting his face like the first few drops of a warm summer rain. The knife grazed Leif’s shoulder and her forearm, a brilliant scarlet line being drawn on her lovely skin as it kissed the serrated edge of the blade. He pulled away as quickly as he could manage, as though if he moved fast enough that it would somehow mitigate the damage he’d done, but that red line grew with the blood it began to ooze.

He stumbled sideways, the knife clattering somewhere down the wide hallway, and hit the wall heavily before sliding down to the floor. He waited for Leif to descend upon him with fury, for him to come bash his skull open on the floor like he’d threatened to do before, but there was no brutal death approaching from his brother’s honed fists. His senses were muffled, but through hazy and blurred vision, he looked up and saw Leif gathering a distressingly limp Simone. The world tilted, the soft sources of lights blooming blearily in the dim of the house, and then Anders found that he couldn’t move as he felt unconsciousness pull at his mind. Unable to look away, he watched as Leif cradled her in his arms, his hand brushing her hair from her face as he looked down into it with a tenderness he didn’t believe a monster should be capable of. Anders blinked and saw himself standing in his brother’s place, every bit the monster Leif was, before the darkness closed in.

Chapter Text

Simone could feel something tugging oddly at the skin on her neck, over and over, as she floated in that twilight space between sleeping and waking. Her nightmares and reality had bled into each other and she welcomed any opportunity to disconnect from either at this point, praying to sink back into the oblivion of dreamlessness. But that tugging was irritating and troublingly familiar. She lifted her hand to bat away whatever was yanking at her skin to find that something pulled at her wrist before she could raise it only a few inches. Annoyance opened her eyes, the world painted in splashes of colors like a dreary Monet as she tried and failed to blink the blurriness away.

Someone was leaning above her, the figure cloaked in shadow from the overhead light, but she recognized her father’s deep voice when he said, “Don’t move. This will only take a moment.”

Fear ran cold in her veins at the sound, her mind supplying what her vision couldn’t of his long fingers stitching the cut in her neck. That’s what was so familiar. She’d watched an ER doctor sew a long cut on her wrist shut when she was seventeen, the numbing agent they had injected around the wound enabling her to only feel the pressure of the needle and the tug of the string with each pull. Leif’s vehement insistence on keeping her out of suicide watch back then made more sense now that she had all these other pieces of the puzzle her father had turned out to be. He couldn’t tolerate the idea of anyone getting close enough to help her.

“We are going to have a talk about your irresponsible attitude, young lady,” he said, his tone heavy with stern disappointment.

She swallowed, or at least tried to, the reflex burning her bruised and dry throat before she whispered, “Did you kill them?”

“Don’t be vague, darling,” he teased.

Her stomach twisted at how he toyed with her even now. “Are they alive? Henrik, Vidar and… Anders?”

A terrible dread weighed heavily on her bones, a tight knot forming in her chest as Leif took his time before answering, “They’re alive. For now.”

“I want to see them,” she rasped.

“Why should I let you do that?” he mused. His hands never stopped or slowed their rhythmic work at her neck as he spoke with a deadly calm. “You’ve been very naughty, my darling girl. Why should I let you have anything you want when you’ve misbehaved so badly? Coming at me with a knife when I was only protecting your future… I didn’t raise you to be so ungrateful. What do you have to say for yourself?”

The restraints that held her to the bed were at each wrist and made of metal, each providing only a few inches of slack and tightened almost uncomfortably snug. There would be no easy way to wriggle out of these even if her thumbs weren’t still swollen from her previous success. She stared past his shadowed face to the ceiling, warding off the fear of physical torture by reminding herself that he’d numbed her before sewing her skin. He was angry at her, but he had shown her mercy in that action. She blinked, searching for why.

“Speak up, Simone Liliʻuokalani!”

She shut her eyes against the sting of tears that wouldn’t come as memories of that hopelessly othered middle name echoed from the thousands of times her mother had scolded her with it. She wanted to snatch it from the air and tear it apart so no else one could use it.

“I’m sorry, Papa,” she whispered.

“Sorry doesn’t cover trying to stab me. Try again.”

Her hands curled into fists, digging her nails into her palms until her thoughts aligned back to the present reality. If he wanted her to beg for forgiveness, he could make her do that with pain. Apologizing didn’t pass. If he wanted restitution in sex, he would have taken it from her, the more painful the better. The edge of the scissors was cold on her skin where she still had feeling as he snipped the end of the thread. She opened her eyes, trying to focus on the blurry shape of him as she tried to piece it together. Perhaps he wanted her truth.

“I didn’t want to,” she whispered. “I just wanted you to stop.”

“Do you think of me as evil?”

“I think of you as dangerous. A wolf is evil to a sheep.”

“Am I a wolf, then?”

She breathed in the scents surrounding her. The sour smells of fear and antiseptic were stale on her skin, mingling with the sharp note of the blood that she breathed from her raw throat, but he still smelled like herbs and meat above his natural vetiver and thunderstorm scent. It was as if he never even broke a sweat, but there was something in the air between them that caught her attention. Her nails curled further into her palm. She had to stop her mind from wandering outside how reality functioned. It was something she so clearly recognized in herself, it was almost embarrassing that she had nearly missed it in him. Her father was lonesome for her like she had constantly been lonesome for him.

Her mouth spread into a weak smile as she whispered, “I’m not a sheep.”

“What are you?” he asked, his rich voice no longer holding that edge of malice.

She had to be brave. There was nothing else she could do. “I’m yours.”

He hovered above her, her vision still too weak to discern his expression and his silence could mean anything. When he bent forward and pressed a slow kiss to her forehead, she waited until his lips began moving down the side of her face before accepting that he might not have violent intentions. She was still all too wary of the sharp teeth just behind his kiss. His tongue flicked out along her ear, making her tense from the staticky tingling it induced from the top of her skull down through her spine. How well he knew all her weak points, physically and emotionally, made her insides flutter uneasily. It seemed that he would always know exactly how to manipulate the desired reaction out of her while she struggled – and often failed -- just to keep herself safe around him.

“You belong to me,” he whispered into her ear, each syllable and brush of breath making her want to squirm from the chills that hummed through her vertebrae. He bit her gently and she shivered.

“Y-yes, Papa… I love you.”

“I know you do, darling. Are you going to behave?”

“I’ll try, Papa.”

With a small metallic ping that vibrated the small bones in her wrist, he removed the handcuff that was closest to him and helped her to sit up against a pillow propped along the headboard.

“Drink,” he commanded simply, holding a small plastic cup to her face.

With a shaking hand barely strong enough to tip the cup to her lips, she sipped the slightly sweetened water, careful not to asphyxiate it in her eagerness to wet her dry tongue. The moisture was heavenly. He gently assisted her in holding the cup up when her arm began to sink down from sheer lack of strength and she felt a gratefulness for him well in her alongside the fear of him. The man possessed keen observational skills and such attentiveness to detail, making him both a dangerous manipulator and a proficient caregiver. She wanted to lament what a good father he could have been if he’d had the desire, but that was a pain far older than the troubles that occupied her now.

“Do you remember reading about permissive hypotension?” he asked.

There was a conversational lightness to his tone that threw her off. “Yes, I do… it’s a lot easier to read about than to experience.”

He chuckled. She wondered which one of them had been flippant. She heard him unwrapping something sealed in plastic, but couldn’t quite see what he was laying out on the bed next to her. Some sort of looped tube, a black plastic pouch of fluid, and a larger bag of clear liquid.

While he arranged the various components of his kit, he spoke with a noticeable and troubling cheer. “Well, fortune has smiled upon you tonight, for you narrowly avoided severing your external jugular and your trachea was not breached. You just bleed like a stuck pig. However, in continuation of your good fortune, I keep a stock of my blood wherever I stay.”

He unwrapped a tiny white square from a paper package and wiped the inside of her elbow with it, the cool damp evaporating quickly from her skin. When he tied a thick blue rubber ribbon around her upper arm, she understood the connection between his words and actions.

“You’re going to put your blood in me?” she asked, her breathless whisper breaking nervously at the end.

Without warning, he pierced her fattened vein with the intravenous catheter, the especially thick gauge making her breath hitch in the sharp sting.

“We are both A positive and free of harmful pathogens. I checked Renfro’s history to make certain of that,” he explained as he attached the looping tubes to the dark pouch.

“Renfro?”

“Never mind that for now. Darling, I need you to relax. I’ve done this dozens of times.”

Vertigo made the room tilt dangerously sideways. “Why?”

The saline and the blood were both hooked into the forked tube and he lifted the bags in one hand to feed the liquids into the clear line as he explained with an exasperated patience, “Because sometimes things don’t go as planned, but that’s why you prepare. Accidents happen. Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit. This has worked in my favor as well, of course. I’ve been the target of plans that had obviously gone awry, either by my own design or luck, oftentimes both.”

She was more confused than before his explanation, a queasy uneasiness lurking behind the many questions that followed it. He tucked the line into the catheter and she tried not to pay attention to the discomfort of the needle fidgeting in her vein, but winced when it clicked sharply into place. He watched as the catheter filled with red and then hung the bags from a hook on the wall she’d previously assumed was once used for a plant, but now doubted it was for anything except this exclusive purpose. The mysteries surrounding her father were unraveling only to show that they ran deeper than she could have imagined.

“I’m going to tend to my brothers, but I’ll be back to check on you. You’re out of the woods now if you’d like to sleep… not that it seems your exhaustion will give you much choice in the matter,” he said airily, fussing over the IV and laying another blanket over her.

Simone felt her lungs tighten at the idea of Leif doing whatever he considered tending to them might entail, knowing firsthand how capricious his definition of care could be. But she could barely lift her arm and he was quickly setting up to leave. She had to do something.

“Dad,” she rasped. He turned to her from the threshold and she licked her dry lips, trying to think of anything at all. “The funeral is tomorrow. Everyone is expecting them to be there. Are they going to be alright enough to make it?”

He stood there watching her until she wondered if he perhaps couldn’t hear her whispery voice, then answered, “I’ll make sure that they will be.”

Then he was gone, his steps quieter down the creaky staircase than she had ever managed while being an easy one hundred pounds lighter than him. She watched the drip chamber, her vision focusing and then blurring in a slow rhythm as she tried to see the red fall from the bags into the tube. Leif’s blood shoved its way into her, feeling more like he was consuming her life than filling her with it. She laid her head back on the pillow and thought of the birds asleep outside, high and safe in their nests while the nocturnal beasts roamed the ground below, each just doing what they must to live another day. Animals chewed through their bones to escape traps, sacrificing limb for life on the chance that they would survive the effort, and Simone considered the wrist still handcuffed. Her jaw flexed restlessly, but she was tired of the taste of blood and she’d lost so much of herself already.

 

 

“Vid…” Henrik whispered, gently shaking his sleeping brother’s shoulder.

Vidar made a cracked sound between and whimper and a groan as he pressed his face further into the blankets. He’d refused to wake for an hour after Henrik had startled out of bed and now he simply refused to open his eyes or speak.

“Vid, you have to get up,” Henrik pressed, tugging the blanket off of him.

They were both in the same clothes they had worn yesterday, their shoes placed neatly at the foot of their twin beds and their coats hung with care in the closet. Henrik couldn’t recall the last time he’d ever felt vulnerable. It had taken him some time to process the feeling of raw fear and indignity before he could give it that name. Vulnerable. He could bench 150 kilograms, but he couldn’t lift himself after he went down last night. He wondered, had he’d gone in with his fists instead of his words, if all that had happened might have been avoided. He tested the weight of that blame, held it under the memory of Anders stomped into the floor and Vidar lost to whatever drug had silenced his sharp tongue. The guilt was heavy. He had no idea what Leif had become, but he wasn’t their brother any longer. What he’d done to them wasn’t even human.

“Vidar…” he nearly growled, angry at what had happened, angry at his own fear.

“He’s going to kill us,” Vidar whispered in a frantic hiss that was muffled into the pillow. “He’s not going to let us escape and he’s going to kill us because we know, we know.”

Henrik resisted the panic this stirred in him. At least one of them had to remain calm. “If he was going to kill us, he would have done it while we were unconscious.”

“No. No!” Vidar protested. He turned his face from the pillow, his eye wide and rolling with alarm before it locked onto Henrik. “Don’t you see? Don’t you get it? He was having fun! It’s all amusement! It isn’t just about getting away with the drugs or- or anything, it’s- He was toying with us, he’s been toying with us, and he’s going to break his toys when he’s done playing. Lei.. Le… He’s a sociopath!”

The hysteria rising in his brother made it easier for Henrik to polarize and ground himself in the trained response to deescalate, his brain slipping into the more comfortable space of his profession as he said, “Listen, none of that matters. We aren’t going to play his game. He’s just going to have to find his fun somewhere else because we’re getting the hell out of here.”

“You think he’s going to let you walk after showing you that? He put a target on our backs before we even sat down to supper. We’re dead. We’re dead! We’re DEAD!”

Henrik was shaking Vidar by his shoulders, telling him to quiet down as his voice rose to a shrill yelling pitch, when they both froze as the subject of their fear walked through the door.

“Good morning,” Leif said casually, then gestured with the dark clothes slung over his arm before continuing, “We need to be at the funeral home ahead of schedule to speak with the director, so I’ve pressed your suits for you.” As Leif hooked the hangers in the closet, Henrik realized that Vidar was trembling under his fists clenched tightly at his shirt. When Henrik looked back to their oldest brother, he saw the pistol strapped flat to his side. “Go clean yourselves up and get dressed. Come, come, don’t dally!”

Just as suddenly and nonchalantly as he’d come, Leif left, shutting the door behind him and sealing them both in the silence of the guest room. Henrik let go of Vidar and stepped towards the door, his body moving automatically as his mind whirled with fear. Vidar was right. Leif was having fun.

It took fifteen minutes for Henrik to work up the nerve to go outside the room, then another ten to shower. Vidar made him promise to wait outside the bathroom door while he showered, a process that sounded like he was badly juggling bowling balls in there as Henrik stood wet and cold in the hallway. He’d always been proud of being nonviolent despite his size and strength, thinking himself a good poster boy for pacifism for those very reasons, but now he felt regret at his lack of violent will. There was no use in being powerful if he couldn’t even use it to defend his family. Words and empathy did not breach this madness. He stared at the door to Anders’ guest room, feeling something like a ball expanding in his chest until he tried the knob. It was unlocked.

“Anders?” he whispered through the cracked door.

No response. That ball in him expanded. He stepped inside. There was a serving tray with several bloodied and wadded cotton pads and some tools on the nightstand. Forceps, an irrigation syringe, nitrile gloves, rolls of gauze and tape, long cotton swabs, a large half-empty bottle of saline, all of it smudged with dried blood. The presence of blood did not affect him except to reassure him that someone had used all of these to hurriedly help his little brother. The bedding was thrown back, a towel folded over the mattress with a large dark stain on it, but no Anders laid in the bed.

He’s downstairs.”

Henrik jumped at the small voice, his heart hammering in his throat even as he saw it was just his niece. With a chill, he noticed that she wore a light scarf tied snug around her neck. His recall was spotty, but he had a vivid memory of her hitting the floor with a laceration that spilled gouts of blood from the front of her neck. She didn’t face him as she stood in the doorway, though she clearly spoke to him. Her voice was still quiet and raspy, but she managed above a whisper.

I left your breakfast in your room. For Uncle Vidar, too.”

Before he could respond, she turned and hurried down the stairs. It was alarming how normal she seemed. As normal as she ever could seem, anyway. A suspicion sprouted in him at that, an awful mold spore of a thought that multiplied without him wanting it to, but it gathered and latched onto reason until suspicion became a theory. Simone was a victim of abuse, but after long enough, he’d seen some victims become accomplices. He shook it off, reminding himself that she had done more to try to stop Leif from hurting anyone else than either he or Vidar had. He felt guilty for having even wondered if they were too late to save her, but the doubt was still there.

 

 

The breeze carried a thickness to it that promised rain, a heavy one judging by the darkness of the clouds along the horizon. Leif disliked the openness of these wide spaces, feeling uneasy under the sheer amount of sky visible. He felt much more secure with trees or buildings blocking out that blaring exposure. He stamped out his cigarette and watched the big open sky until he could imagine his heels tipping off the ground to fall face-forward into it, then turned back to the shambling crowd some distance behind him. There were perhaps ninety to one hundred twenty people who showed up for the graveside service, an easy double of that had sent notice they’d attend the reception. The funeral home had done what they could to accommodate as far as the mass of folding chairs and pop up canopies they had propped up over the flat tombstones, but most people had to stand through the lengthy eulogies for the much beloved Einar.

There were many familiar faces among the crowd, but Leif had been careful to keep an eye on his brothers as he mingled and greeted. Vidar was preoccupied with staring fixedly at his folded hands, not reacting to any offers of condolences or contact. Henrik had responded to those around him with a tight courtesy. Anders was exceptionally well behaved from the diazepam and alprazolam calming his mind, seeming more preoccupied with staring dazedly at Simone than talking with anyone else. Leif wondered if Anders was even aware he was at the funeral. Overall, Leif had never seen his brothers more cooperative or mannerly than they were now in their fear of him. He was pleased.

He saw his daughter walking towards him from the crowd, her head ducked low to avoid any possible eye contact with the mourners and only raising her gaze to him when she was a good many paces away. He remained standing on the cement curb of the narrow road that curved through the cemetery and waited for her to come to him. She’d been especially affectionate and clingy all day, prompting many to assume her to be his romantic companion despite the disparity of their age. He had not disputed those assumptions. She pressed herself to his front like a cat wanting a scratch behind the ears and he obliged her with his arms loosely wrapped around her middle. He supposed she didn’t know he was aware that she was trying to keep his attention away from his brothers, but he wasn’t inclined to let her in on that knowledge. It was working to a degree; her doting had vastly improved his mood overall.

“How are you feeling, darling?” he asked.

The scratchy wool of her pea coat made him want to peel it off her to touch the softness beneath her concealing funeral clothes like he would skin a kiwi. A daydream of taking her into the brush beyond the graves and ripping her black tights off had played over in his mind throughout the service as men who had never known the real Einar had rambled on about his accomplishments. He wanted to push her compliance until she broke.

“Just a bit tired,” she answered.

Leif bent closer to her and buried his nose in the top of her hair, giving her two kisses to her scalp and letting his words come out muffled against her. “We could get a room if you want to lie down for a few hours. The reception is at a decent hotel. Better than the hotels you’re used to, anyway.”

“Dad…”

“That was a very reckless habit. Honestly, did you even think about what you were doing, going anywhere alone with strangers? You were a very young-looking teenager, at that. What was it about those pedophiles that got you so hot?”

“What are you… How did you-”

“Did they make you feel mature? Hm? Or was it because they were all tall, blond, and so much older? Honestly, you could have saved yourself a lot of heartache if you’d just asked me to fuck you sooner.”

She pushed away from him, staggering back a few steps and nearly tripping over a headstone. Finally, there was the fire of indignity. He let his empty arms fall at his sides as she glared at him.

Her battered throat didn’t allow her to raise her voice, but the venom was obvious as she sneered, “Don’t. Don’t. You don’t get to shame me when you’re the one who fucked me up.”

He stepped forward and she reflexively took a step back, her hands curling into fists briefly. His grim frown broke into a smirk with a breathy chuckle and he ran his tongue over his pointed incisor as he savored the moment fear flushed that anger from her. She paled, her golden brown skin going ashen with terror.

Her voice shook. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean that. I-I’m so sorry.”

He shook his head and tutted her with a click of his tongue, then leaned forward and spoke softly as though confiding a secret, “That’s no way to talk to your father.”

At last, her arms hugged tightly around her body and she bowed her head low as tears left hot trails down her cheeks. Baiting her while she was in the delicate self-appointed position of protector to her uncles was an easy game. He closed the space between them in two wide strides and gathered her trembling form in an embrace, maintaining the appearance he was merely comforting this mourning girl to any onlookers. He noticed his brothers all staring at them from their seats in front of the lowered casket, a dreadful tension in their posture and faces evident even at this distance.

He rubbed her back soothingly and rested his chin atop her head as he said, “There, there, darling girl. You can make it up to me later. Now then, let’s head back to the car. We don’t want to delay the reception.”

 

 

“We should just head to the airport. Even if he noticed us leaving, there are too many people here for him to do anything about it.”

Anders turned his dazed stare from the plate of scalloped potatoes and cold cuts to Henrik’s bearded face, trying to listen over the din of raucous conversations around them in the overfilled venue. He was accustomed to loud events, but it was hard to concentrate anything with those pills making him uncomfortably high. He smiled at the idea of anyone being both high and uncomfortable, the contradiction striking him a peculiarly amusing, but remembered they were trying to escape a hostile madman with a gun. He took another bite of the potatoes. The cold cuts were too painful to chew and frowning made his face ache even more.

Vidar didn’t move his glare from his clenched fists on the table as he said, “He has the keys. And our passports.”

Henrik was on his third plate of American funeral food, his old habit of stress eating in full effect as he said around a mouthful of baked ziti, “We’re better off hitchhiking through this bumfuck backwater countryside than waiting around for Leif to snap.”

“Anders can’t even figure out how to walk with crutches. We won’t make it far before he finds us.”

“We could get one of these people to give us a ride, I’m sure. At least someone here has to be taking a redeye back for work tomorrow.”

Vidar paused, his rapidly blinking eyes the only sign he’d heard him at all. Anders glanced from him to Henrik, a sour feeling cutting through his high.

“But he’s got her,” he slurred, putting his effort into articulating without making his face hurt more.

“We can call the police before we get on the plane,” Henrik whispered loud enough to be heard, which wasn’t that much quieter than his previous speaking volume. Anders frowned, then winced, and Henrik shook his head in exasperation. “Look, even if we managed to get her away from him and take her with us, that’s only going to look like kidnapping to the police.”

“But we’re rescuing her,” Anders protested.

“What if she doesn’t want to be rescued?” Vidar scowled. Both men turned to him with their brows furrowed incredulously, but he didn’t look up from his hands to acknowledge them as he continued. “You’ve seen how she is around him. He cut her up last night and in the morning she’s giving him kisses and doe eyes. He’s the only person he’s allowed her to love, so why would she want to be taken away from him?”

“That’s not true,” Anders said.

“How?” Vidar asked flatly.

Anders’ anger was slow to filter through the drugs. “Simone is in love with me.”

For the first time all day, Vidar slowly looked up from his hands, his glassy eyes wide and his eyebrows raised high. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“She’s in love with me. You know… She wants to be with me. I’ll take her back to my house and she will live there with me,” Anders explained. When both men just stared at him owlishly, he felt the beginnings of frustration stir.  “It’ll work!”

“Are you hearing yourself right now?” Vidar scowled. “She has a weird, silly little crush on you, she’s not ‘in love’! She doesn’t ‘want to be with’ you. You can’t just say that shit like you believe it.”

“But it’s true! She told me herself.”

Henrik broke his stare with a nervous grin, saying, “Oh, that’s an easy misunderstanding. English doesn’t differentiate familial love and romantic love. She just meant that she loves you, not in love with you.”

Anders was about to disagree, then stopped as he realized that what he’d said had indeed sounded very suspicious. He needed to watch how and what came out of his mouth while on these drugs.

Vidar’s stare furrowed into a glare and his tone became acidic as he pressed on, “No, no, no, don’t give him the answers, Henrik. Anders, I want you to explain what the hell has been happening. He drugged you yesterday, we get that, but what else happened that you didn’t tell us about? He said something about you making her bleed. Give us a real answer this time; I can tell when you’re bullshitting and you have been consistently tossing it to us instead of answering. What did you do and how much does he know?”

Anders’ felt as though he should be a lot more concerned at having his sharp-minded brother’s perception aimed at him, but the worry was curiously absent. Instead, there was a logical awareness of the necessity to keep his relationship secret. They just wouldn’t understand. But Vidar had scented the trail and he was zeroing in on the truth. He had to give him something.

“I… I don’t really remember, I was so doped up, but…” Anders paused to swallow, found his mouth still dry, sipped his cup of ice water. Vidar’s unflinching stare fixed on him like a snake on a field mouse. Henrik was looking at him from behind his stony discomfort, disbelief in his downturned mouth beneath his sloping mustache. It was easier to talk about than he’d thought it would be. “But I kind of remember, maybe, during that time I did something terrible.”

“Did Leif make you do something?” Henrik asked lowly. Vidar shot him a dirty look, which went ignored.

“Kind of… I’d never want to hurt her, you have to believe me, but I… I did.” He couldn’t look at them. “I hurt Simone… in a, um, a sexual manner while under the influence of… something he injected me with.”

“What else?” Vidar asked.

Anders almost didn’t hear him over the ringing in his ears from having said that out loud. “Huh?”

“What else did you do?” Vidar’s voice rose. “Before that, before yesterday, what did you do that got his attention? Paralyzing Henrik, making me lose my fucking mind, goading you into violence… That son of a bitch loves irony. It’s not just random that he made a game out of using you to hurt her. What did you do to inspire that?”

“Vid, what the fuck, it’s not Anders’ fault that Leif is crazy!” Henrik scolded.

“Crazy doesn’t exclude the obvious,” Vidar said, his accusatory stare never leaving their younger brother. Anders was confused as to why he wasn’t sweating bullets. “And it’s been obvious. I want to hear it in your words. Did you, in any way, do anything sexual with Simone?”

That urge to confess mounted in him, warring with self-preservation. They would surely ostracize him from the family, but he couldn’t deny that he would deserve that. He felt so strangely numb though, none of that panicked repentance rushing him to beg for forgiveness for having been so weak. He loved Simone. Simone loved him. All that really mattered was protecting that love.

“No,” he lied. He wasn’t offended by the accusation, wasn’t reacting defensively, wasn’t bewildered that anyone would ask him such a thing. He was able to look Vidar straight in his eye as he said, “She just has a silly little crush. It’s… flattering, but she’s my niece. Maybe I’m guilty of not doing enough to discourage her. I think Leif only used me to punish her for her feelings.”

Henrik pinched the bridge of his nose in the way he always did before he’d start to cry, his voice already going froggy as he mumbled, “God, that’s too fucked up. Jesus Christ, Anders, I’m so sorry that happened to you. To her. Oh God, it’s sick…”

Vidar broke off his stare, his severe expression melting into regret as he returned to looking down at his folded hands. Anders wanted to feel more alarmed at his lack of feelings, but every emotion he’d anticipated for this moment had been numb and distant. There was an acknowledgment in him that Leif could no longer use the rape to blackmail him as well as a disappointment in himself that he’d divulged her violation without her permission. His eyes scanned the crowd for Simone, eventually spotting her being offered a cup of punch from some gangly boy about her age. He watched, an odd jealousy itching at the back of his mind as this boy regarded her too familiarly. Then he saw Leif sidle up to her, unbutton his jacket and put his arm high around her shoulders as he grinned unpleasantly at the boy. His jacket bowed open with the stretch of his arm and the boy noticeably paled before quickly excusing himself. Anders realized that Leif had shown the kid his sidearm in a not-so-subtle threat to back off Simone. Anders smirked at this and, before he could replace it with the horror he knew he was supposed to react with, Leif met his eye from across the crowded room and returned his smirk knowingly. A slimy chill ran down Anders’ spine at the unspoken and unwelcome camaraderie between them in that fleeting moment.

 

Chapter Text

Of all the injuries that ached on and in her body, what currently brought Simone the greatest discomfort were the four-inch Jimmy Choo stilettos digging railroad spikes into her heels. The banquet hall that had been rented out was not large enough to seat all the guests, leaving the chairs primarily for the elderly and the selfish as the crowd swarmed and clumped in a cacophony of voices droning under the string quartet. In her expensive shoes and expensive dress that she had neither worn or seen before her father had zipped her up that morning, she felt like an expensive decoration. Leif touted her around and greeted a seemingly endless parade of his long-unseen faces and old acquaintances. The crowd was disorienting and she had to fight the rising panic of being surrounded by droves of people so upfront and intrusively close. His hand was constantly at her waist, his long fingers splayed down and over her hip bone possessively as he pulled her along. She found herself tucking close to his side, wanting to press her face into his suit like a shy toddler, and felt ridiculous. She was used to subway rides where grumpy strangers were packed close enough to sway as one unit with each stop. Surely, she was in more danger there than in this polite milquetoast society where people still had room to carry around heaping plates of casserole and shrimp cocktails, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that each of them had daggers under their skin and acid in their spit. She forced another smile as she was introduced to some ex-mayor or district attorney or damn elephant trainer, she couldn’t remember already, when something brushed firmly up her side.

“Ow, ow-ow-ow!” a nasal voice yelped behind her.

Simone turned and found her hand crushing the wrist of a petite middle-aged man, her nails drawing blood from where his skin had been exposed by his rolled-up sleeves. Instantly, she jerked away, her mouth tasting like ash as she stared bewilderedly at her hand. The still-healing thumb only began to ache when she looked at it.

“Hey, sorry, buddy,” Leif said, releasing her hip to reach into his jacket. She tensed, fearing the gun, but he only pulled out his wallet. He shoved some indiscriminate number of folded bills into the man’s shirt pocket and clapped him on the shoulder as he grinned, “Forget about that.”

She swallowed the ash to form a knot in her throat as Leif pulled her away from the bustling hall and down the corridor where the crowd-averse had gravitated. Her stilted shoes clacked with each painful step as she stumbled to keep up until he walked past the line for the women’s restroom and took her into the men’s. A young man at the urinal startled when he saw Simone, but Leif didn’t even glance at him as he hurriedly zipped and walked out of there red-faced.

“Wash your hands, darling, and use lots of soap,” Leif gently commanded, still using his friendly personable voice.

“I didn’t mean to-” she started to mumble, but he stopped her by reaching over and turning the tap on. Withering under his commanding stare, she eagerly lathered the sticky pink liquid soap under her nails. Her mind raced with how to process what had happened. She raised her voice painfully over the sound of the rushing water, “He slid his hand over me, I couldn’t help it. It was… automatic, compulsive, I don’t know. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

Leif waited until she had turned off the tap. “That was Gregory Bartek, a tailor and fashion consultant. You’re wearing a tailored Chiara Boni. His was only a professional interest, I assure you.”

“I attacked him without thinking,” she muttered mostly to herself as she dried her hands.

He turned her by her shoulders and looked at her face closely. She thought he would make some remark to remind her of her lack of control or maybe even slap her and she braced herself as subtly as she could for either, but he only licked his thumb and wiped off a smudge near her mouth. She watched as he lingered on that wettened stripe, seeing the costume of his outer self slip in the darkening of his eyes before he leaned down and licked her. Her heart jumped at the low growl from his throat as he moved his mouth over hers, his kiss mostly teeth and tongue and urgent. That sick, warm, poisonous feeling coated her when he stepped closer, his hands holding her hips in a nearly bruising grip to keep her still. They’d been touching all day, nice and friendly touches except for his cruelty in the cemetery, but this was the first time his touch had become that heated demand for sex her body couldn’t help reacting to. It hollowed out a bitter self-loathing in her as she melted against him, all pain in her body twisting into a muted sort of stimulation with arousal rewiring her perception. She hated this. She needed this. Just as her mind was finally starting to quiet, he stepped away from her. Confused, she opened her eyes to see him looking down at her with an amused smirk, his tongue slowly swiping over his lower lip to draw in the moisture there.

“I just couldn’t resist having a taste,” he smiled. She felt her cheeks redden in humiliation, her breath hot as she tried to calm the needful ache in her. He smoothed her flowing curls with soothing strokes and spoke softly, “I’d love for nothing more than to damn this entire charade and take you back home for some quality time together, but there are people here I am required to meet first. Oh, that reminds me…” To her surprise, he dug out Bjørn’s watch from his pocket and fastened it to her wrist. “There we are. I see you’ve remembered to wind it even with all the recent excitement, my good girl. I know it doesn’t quite match your ensemble, but it adds a sort of intriguing and unexpected charm, wouldn’t you say? Just like the wearer.”

The watch hung a little more loosely on her than it had the first time, telling her just how little food she had been able to keep down in the past week. No wonder she was constantly feeling faint. The metal and leather held Leif’s body heat and she unconsciously held it to the exposed skin of her chest between her scarf and neckline as she bit down nervously on her knuckle, her thoughts moving too fast and distant to catch onto any particular one.

He was looking at her, a warmth lightening the dark from his gray eyes, and she pulled out of her mind to reflect that warmth. Despite all the damage he’d wreaked and her life he had stolen, it was still too easy to reach in and find that spring of need and love for him. His caring side was too precious and fleeting for her to forgo, even in fear. Telling herself that she was only doing it to keep him happy, she pressed herself closer to him and leaned up on the unsteady forefeet of her high heeled shoes. Her lips brushed his in a shy kiss just a barely over the line of chaste, something far too sweet and innocent after the aggressive assault he’d just applied to her mouth. The creases at the corners of his eyes deepened as he chuckled, his arms wrapping around her waist to hold her up on her tiptoes as he imitated her shy kiss back on her.

“Silly little creature,” he grinned, nuzzling his cheek to hers with an affection that made her heart swell dizzyingly. Traces of authentic fatherhood sparked at the edges of this gesture and she chased them with avid rapture, closing her eyes to focus on this precious feeling. All too soon, he lowered her down to her feet and led her back into the crowded banquet hall.

Hesitantly, she slowed her step once they crossed through the open doors and asked, “Is it okay if I rest here a moment?”

“Just don’t let any scrawny frat boys bring you spiked punch,” he smirked, giving her hand a squeeze before letting her go and disappearing into the throng.

A week ago, she would have scoffed at that comment. Now, she only nodded and leaned against the wall to ease the pressure off her aching feet. She wanted very badly to take off these ridiculous shoes, but she didn’t want to embarrass her father with that uncivilized behavior at this formal event. It was imperative that she do as little as possible to upset him. She wondered how much longer her uncles could remain safe around the fluctuating temper of this dangerous man her father had turned out to be. She wondered briefly if she was safe, but that wasn’t important. This was her station in life. Her own safety was a constantly shifting concept tethered to the sliding scale of his tastes and whims. Her mind was already broken and he valued her body far too much to disable or disfigure her in any severe way. In that horrible and strange way, she felt a border of safety with him that she was unsure if her uncles also shared. She shifted her weight against the wall and longed for paint-splattered sneakers and simple life.

Bonsoir, mon Coeur. Might I ask how you knew Einar Valstad?”

Simone startled out of her dire thoughts, blinking back to reality to find the owner of that heavy French accent was a stout old man who was definitely talking to her. “Um, I, uh… I’m his granddaughter.”

His hazel eyes widened, his full white brows ascending to deepen the lines in his forehead as he said, “Je n’y crois pas! Impossible. You do not appear as a Viking.”

She chuckled at his over-exaggerated expression of shock and felt as though she might be able to handle a conversation. “I’m only half-Viking. Mama poured a little flavor in their gene pool.”

“Ah, I see! Allow me to guess what you are,” he said, stepping closer in a chummy way. She had to resist rolling her eyes at the rudeness she knew was coming. “Colombian?”

“No. I get that a lot, though.”

“Hmm… Brazilian?”

“Nope.” She turned her face from him, not wanting him to see the irritation that was knitting her brow. She wished people were more aware of how impolite it was to ask what she was. She didn’t like being a what, especially now that she was so unsure of who she was. “Are you done?”

“One more guess, I promise!” he grinned, holding up his index finger.

She pursed her lips against the scowl that fought its way to her face, her patience surprisingly thin. He wore a white linen suit that seemed to only make his broad shoulders wider, an odd choice for a funeral. He stuck out from the flock of black like an albino crow. The thought ‘have to cut you open just to see some color, haole’ flashed in her mind like a fish leaping from murky water before she could scatter the words.

“One more,” she agreed.

“Pure Scandinavian on your father’s side of course,” he began, squinting and making a rolling gesture with his hand as though trying to place a flavor. “But your mother… was the product of a torrid romance between a Hawaiian native and an Afro-Caribbean naval officer from Philadelphia.”

The walls of her guard came up like the steel shutters slamming in her mind. Her head whipped to face him, finding him grinning at her amusedly, but she did not find this amusing at all. Her voice was gruff and scraped painfully in her throat as she asked, “Who are you?”

“Mr. Marceau, what a surprise!” Leif’s voice called from beyond this stranger. Marceau extended his arm to her father, both men clapping their free hand on the other’s forearm as they shook hands. Leif glanced to her and she sucked in a short breath at the hint of wariness he shot her. “And I see you’ve met my daughter.”

“My apologies, Valstad, but I simply could not wait to be introduced to this devastating young beauty,” Marceau beamed cheerfully. He turned back to her and placed a brief touch to her shoulder that she put effort into not dodging. “You must bring her to Neuilly; I insist you both stay at my house.”

Leif’s smile turned wooden. He moved to the other side of Marceau, putting himself between her and the Frenchman as he held her to him with a possessiveness that had her blushing. “Not yet.”

The Frenchman laughed, a high trilling sound, and waved a hand dismissively as he said. “Non, no, of course not! Just for a holiday, no business. Comment est la progression?”

Leif relaxed. So did she, exhaling a breath she didn’t know she’d held. Her father’s French was surprisingly swift and easy from what she could tell without understanding a word of it. “Elle est naturelle. Trois tueries confirmes, tout dissociatif, sans armes.

C’est fascinant, Docteur Frankenstein!”

They both laughed with a cheer that touched neither of their eyes, making Simone feel even more tense. Whoever this man was, he was not her father’s friend though they obviously knew each other well. Her mind tickled with the thought of a different man her father was familiar but unfriendly with, but she recoiled from that corner of her mind with reflexive speed. A cold sweat dampened the back of her neck just from brushing that nightmare. Marceau stepped around to face her fully once more and she noticed how Leif kept his eyes trained on him.

“Your father is one of the most talented in our field,” Marceau said, his smile showing short flat teeth. “A man of truly great vision and technical skill. He tells me you’re an artist. Have you thought of following in his footsteps?”

She glanced to Leif to see what she should do, but he didn’t spare her a look. “Oh, uh, no,” she stammered, then began again more naturally. “No, I would make a lousy architect. I can barely get myself together let alone an entire building.”

“Good. I’d weep if you limited yourself to that miserable job. I would love to see your artwork in person soon,” he said, winking at her before turning to Leif. “Valstad, do you have some time for me? I would like for us to have a private discussion in my room.”

Her father was tense, but his tone betrayed nothing of that as he said, “Of course. Simone…” He faced her, bent down to her eye level and smoothed her silk scarf, his fingers purposefully brushing over her bandaged sutures. There was a threat in that gesture. “Be good while I’m gone.”

À bientôt, mon Coeur,” Marceau smiled to her with an odd wag of his hand.

Simone did not watch as the two men left together, finding an uneasy restlessness in knowing that she was not with Leif as he stepped through the doorway. There was something in that knowledge that made her teeth itch. She fixed her stare to the nearest centerpiece instead. White lilies with long stems twisted in a tall cylinder of glass, their ends hidden in a pile of smooth dark stones at the bottom. The flowers looked like snakes coiling around each other, their long necks raised up in search for a way out of the vases. Each table held similar centerpieces, all the flowers just imperfect enough to show that they weren’t fake, and she envisioned the snakes slithering in circles while the guests at that nearest table fidgeted nervously under her unwavering stare. A brightness beyond the glass caught her attention and she refocused her vision to the distance, seeing Anders leaning back in his chair a few tables beyond. His charcoal dress shirt was unbuttoned a third of the way down and his necktie hung in two long strips of black silk from his shoulders, exposing the pale length of his throat and some of his chest as his head hung over the back of his seat.

The snakes still swirling in her peripheral, she stepped across the room and sat down in the chair next to him. With his eyes closed and his body relaxed as though in sleep, the vulnerability of his blatantly exposed neck tempted her to lick it, but that would be rude. Instead, she examined him as he sat unaware of her proximity, taking advantage of this opportunity to memorize his features and visualize them outlined in pencil and given dimension with layers of watercolor. She was too engrossed in picking apart the different hues of blue that made up his irises to know that he was watching her until he spoke.

“Hello.”

She flinched away, her arms jerking up to shield her face in an automatic defense before she caught herself and lowered them with a powerful shudder. “Sorry! Sorry, I, um, oh fuck…” she stammered, then stopped by biting down on her lip before beginning again calmly, “I’ve been wanting to apologize. For everything. I should have stayed away from you, but I didn’t… and now everyone is in danger.”

She couldn’t look at him, her eyes focusing on his collarbone instead as she uttered a small percentage of the apology she’d rehearsed in her head since coming to last night. There was too much she needed to warn him about, but much of it was still disjointed and undefined. It was difficult to warn him against dangers that she knew were present and at work but too illusory to identify. She supposed that having been stabbed was enough warning for Anders to protect himself against Leif’s more subtle ministrations. For as much as she knew her father could revel in violence and sadism, it was ultimately another tool for him to break people enough for him to rebuild them to his design. She could only hope that her suspicion was wrong and Leif was only using her uncle to further break her. It was a chilling best-case scenario and not one she could easily explain to him even with perfect translation. She was brought out of her dreary introspection by Anders touching her knee, comforting her immediately with the familiar roughness of his palm.

“It’s okay,” he said.

The quiet assurance in his tone beckoned her stare to raise to his face and, briefly, she believed him. There was a melancholy confidence in his slight smile and steadfast gaze fixed on her, that same tender expression he had often shown her. She’d misjudged it as compassion before finding out it was far more than that. She blushed in shame at how aware she was of her attraction to him. Love in their circumstance seemed inappropriate for reasons beyond the sin and risk of it. She wanted to hide it away to keep it from being dirtied.

“It’s not okay,” she said, but she placed her hand on top of his and let him interlace their fingers. She was weak. “We shouldn’t… Why are you still here? You need to get away. Go home. Go to Norway.”

“Together,” he smiled like it was the most obvious response.

“I can’t go.” Her throat burned.

Vi kan gå.”

They both startled at the booming cheer of Henrik’s voice and looked to see him standing with a morose Vidar and a very old, very small Asian man. Simone tried to slide her hand away from Anders’ intimate hold, but he tightened her fingers between his and there was a resolve in his set jaw that translated a willfulness she thought seemed foreign on him.

Vi skal flykte sammen. You will come,” he said, gently but firmly, and she stared with widening eyes as she pieced together what it was she found so disconcerting in his expression.

She’d seen that same look in her father’s face each time he’d told her she belonged to him.

 

 

It took ten minutes of riding in Mr. Kyun’s SUV through the pouring rain for Anders to accept that they were actually getting away from Leif. There were no headlights chasing behind them, no gun-wielding madman popping up from the trunk, nobody but Vidar and Simone in the backseat with him and Henrik in the front with Mr. Kyun. They were free. He held Simone pressed to his less injured side, feeling her tremble as he tried to soothe her with whispers and touches. With her much slighter form swimming under his jacket and her face tucked halfway under the collar, she more resembled a shy little kid than a young woman and it brought out a paternal protectiveness as well as a long-lingering shame in him. He shouldn’t think of her in so many mismatched terms. He pushed down that paternal reaction, letting his touches deviate just slightly into indecency as his arm that hugged around her shoulders pulled her closer and his free hand reached over and began stroking up and down the top of her thigh. He wished he had the English to explain to her that everything was going to be okay, that she was finally going to be safe from her father, but he didn’t.

“You shouldn’t be so physical with her after what happened,” Vidar said, his voice quiet but nonetheless disapproving.

Anders felt a flash of anger flare up. Leif had insinuated something similar, but they were both wrong. She needed his support especially after what had happened.

“I’m not hurting her,” he said defensively.

“Then why is she crying?”

He looked down, surprised to see her trembling was all in her chest and shoulders as she hung her head tucked low. Guilt doused that reactive anger in him and he stopped his stroking hand, but didn’t move it from her thigh.

“She’s just scared,” he said.

Vidar glared at him suspiciously. “She did agree to come, didn’t she?”

“Why would she not want to get away from that monster?”

Vidar’s brow furrowed further and his eyes widened in astonished rage just barely restrained. “Anders, tell me we did not actually just abduct this girl.”

“Of course, we didn’t,” he answered, bewilderment clouding his drug-muddled feelings further. “We’re rescuing her.”

The hand Vidar laid on his arm was crushing, his words as hot and hard as coals as he growled out, “You can’t possibly be that fucking ignorant.”

“What’s wrong?” Henrik asked, turning to look at them from the front passenger seat.

Before Anders could reply, Vidar answered vehemently, “This fucker took Simone against her will.”

“Shit, Vid, that wasn’t his fault!” Henrik scolded.

“No, you idiot, not that!” Vidar groused, then hissed, “She didn’t agree to leave.”

“What?!”

Anders glanced between the worried and angry faces of his brothers, his confusion and irritation only growing at their reactions. Simone’s hands grasped his shirt tighter and she leaned into him more heavily at their gruff tones.

“Why don’t either of you just ask her?” Anders proposed. “I’m god damned certain she doesn’t want to be around that abusive madman.”

Henrik and Vidar shared a look that communicated something that went completely over his head. He was used to their near-telepathic looks, as much as they still irritated him. Eventually, it was Vidar who leaned closer to her.

“Simone,” he said with a gentleness one would use on a frightened animal. “You want come with us?”

When she didn’t answer, Anders suggested, “Tell her I’ll take care of her, that she can stay with me and be safe.”

Vidar shot him a withering look, but said to her, “Simone, Anders have you in his house. He… ah… he have you… hm…”

Safe,” Henrik supplied. “Anders have safe. Understand?”

She wiped her face with the back of her hand, the wetness coming away on her fingers confirming with an additional pang of guilt to Anders that she had been crying, and rasped, “I can’t leave.”

You can leave,” Anders insisted.

A vague desperation in him needed her to say it. She had to be with him. He had to keep her. His hand tightened on her thigh unconsciously and she looked up at him with her gray eyes so full of tears and misery, he wanted to kiss it away. His stare darted down to her full lips, swollen from her biting them to keep herself quiet, and he almost leaned in.

Why not leave?” Vidar asked, pulling Anders out of his longing.

Papa… Leif is going to come after all of you if you try to take me away from him,” she answered just above a whisper.

It was loud enough for Kyun to hear as he broke his long silence from the driver’s seat with a friendly, “How is Leif doing lately?”

Simone’s back tensed ramrod straight and she slowly turned to look at their generous driver, her eyes wide and lips slightly parted in fear. Her words came out breathless and small. “You know my father?

Kyun adjusted his thick spectacles and smiled, “I met him once on a hunt. I was more familiar with Bjørn. I see you’re wearing his watch, is that correct?”

Anders watched as she slowly, stealthily unbuckled her seatbelt and slid away from him. There was a hard glint in her stare behind the strange terror and the muscles of her thigh under his hand were drawn taut. He adjusted his posture to block the door in case she tried to bolt from the moving vehicle, casting a warning glance to Vidar. His brother looked between him and Simone warily and mirrored his posture.

A hunt… What… What were you hunting? Deer?” she asked hesitantly.

No,” Kyun smiled, shaking his head. He chuckled. “Bjørn would have loved to photograph you. He liked pretty girls. Does Leif ever take your picture?

Simone’s breathing was noticeably faster. Her jaw flexed as she swallowed before she answered, “Yes. Recently. What kinds of pictures did Bjørn like to take?”

Oh, all kinds. He liked to catch them by surprise, he liked posing them, all sorts of interesting portraits,” Kyun said, reminiscing fondly. He sighed forlornly, then continued. “The Lord has forgiven him, though. Have you been Saved, sweetheart?

What?”

Kyun opened the middle console and pulled out a thick hardbound book, the sides of the pages dingy and the leather worn at the corners. Anders recognized from the faded gold text on the front that this was a bible as the driver handed it to Simone.

Have you accepted Jesus Christ, pretty girl?” Kyun asked. Simone opened the book and Anders peered over her shoulder at the odd jagged symbols drawn over the text in thick red marker. She flipped through it with trembling fingers, her frown deepening as she scanned the drawings and words scrawled over each page. Anders wondered what the man was saying to her that made her so on edge, but the drawings alone were disturbing. He shifted his gaze to the stranger, suspicious now of his generous offer to drive them out of the middle of the reception. “Welcoming faith into my heart was my salvation. I’ve been Saved and shown the right path. It’s all in His plan that we are here together. It has been shown to me that I must bring you to that path.

Simone came upon a photograph tucked into the pages and Anders leaned closer to see what it was, but she hurriedly shut the book. Her face was a mask of horror at what she’d seen and he glanced to Vidar questioningly, but his brother shook his head. Neither of them had caught what frightened her so thoroughly. Anders looked once more to this stranger, seeing no obvious threat in the side view of his smiling face that explained the uneasiness of everyone else in the car.

The Lord forgives,” Kyun went on, reaching once more into the center console and pulling out a paper bag weighted down with something heavy in it. “Even murderers can be Saved in his holy compassion.”

Anders barely caught glimpse of the gun being pulled out of that bag before Simone lunged out of the middle seat.

Chapter Text

I hate to be so forward, old friend, but I must ask,” Marceau said, his French more palatalized than the common Parisian by the bourgeois influence of much time spent in Neuilly. Leif had adjusted his pronunciation to mirror his, though it was with some difficulty as French was his third language. Marceau lifted the bottle of wine and refilled Leif’s glass with a lean across the small table in the spacious hotel suite as he asked, “Did you kill Renfro?”

Leif tasted the wine, an aged verdejo, before answering, “No, but I did shoot him.”

Marceau unbuttoned his white linen jacket, the cream vest underneath sporting no telltale bulge of a gun anywhere Leif could see, but he didn’t discount the possibility.

We took an oath not to hunt each other.”

We also took an oath not to extort each other,” Leif said, easing back in his chair and admiring the trees swaying in the wind and rain outside the large windows. “Renfro nullified himself to the protection of that contract when he breached it.

It’s more complicated than that,” Marceau frowned, his wide jaw tensing in distaste with his words, “Renfro was feeding information to the FBI.”

Leif took a deeper sip, pursing his lips as he swallowed the especially acidic white before placing the glass down and saying, “I suspected that since he was extorting me for hush money, specifically. I helped to hush him.”

And yet you chose to speak with me in a public setting, in front of scores of witnesses,” Marceau said, crossing his legs. “Did you believe that I am too big a fish for him to have fed me to anyone?”

Renfro was a lonely hoarder and he kept the ring fingers of his quarry. It would not have served his fragile ego to have given up his biggest secrets early on,” Leif explained.

I can’t help you if you’re wrong, Valstad.”

I would never ask you to. Whether I am pursued or caught, you would never hear from me unless you sent for me. I don’t break my promises, not with Renfro, not with you.

Where will you go when they come for you?”

They won’t. Not yet, at least. I have great faith in the good boys and girls at the Federal Bureau of Investigation to at least be aware of me as an entity. I may not collect trophies, but there is an expression of vanity indelible to my work just the same. They will know me by my mark on the world and by my legacy. Simone would enjoy a tropical climate, to answer your question.”

Ah, Cuba,” Marceau grinned. “Beautiful country.”

I’m aware.”

Four generations. Far too considerable a feat to break at this point. There was a time when there were six Valstads in the network once; we are now but down to one.”

My predecessors didn’t have the forensic technology of today to contend with,” Leif said dryly. “We all have to adapt, Mr. Marceau.

Your pet project seems in direct contention to this concern. Where in the modern world is there a place for a monster?

The only place for Simone in any world is at my side. I am close to ensuring that,” Leif answered, letting a fraction of defensiveness into his manner. He knew Marceau was greedy and curious like him, which made Leif wary each time Simone was brought up. “Is that all you had to discuss with me?”

Marceau picked up his glass, the chilled liquid having formed a layer of condensation that dripped down the stem and onto his stark white shirt. “I’m afraid you have invited chaos into your life with the killing of Renfro. The knowledge of his betrayal is not widely known, but yours is. I came here today as a deterrence for retaliation, but that cannot guarantee no one intends personal revenge.”

Renfro had friends?” Leif smirked, though he was inwardly startled. He managed to mask his need to know how large the threat was, but he knew Marceau could smell desperation a mile away. The Frenchman eyed him like a hog catching scent of a buried truffle. Leif tried not to imagine carving the nose out of that wide face.

Maybe not, but there are those who would seek to undo you out of principle.”

I’m quite used to that.”

Marceau laughed his trilling chuckle and Leif repressed an irritated sigh. Every second he was without his daughter made him increasingly restless and this information of it being widely known he was implicated in Renfro’s murder made him intolerably impatient for her. There were at least ten others in their midst that evening and, although only Marceau and a few others were aware of Simone as his unconventional apprentice, just being Leif’s daughter made her a viable target for revenge. As though the universe responded to his worry, the burner phone for the private security team to contact him on buzzed in his coat pocket. Either Simone was experiencing a lapse in sanity, his brothers were attempting escape, or vengeance had been implemented.

Pardon me a moment,” Leif said, rising from his seat as he answered the call.

His blood ran hot at discovering that all three of his suspicions were correct. He didn’t remember what departing comment he made to Marceau as he excused himself from the room, his mind racing with the need to run to the car and find the white Mercedes SUV that had made off with his daughter and brothers. The timing was too deliberate for it to have been a coincidental offering by an outsider. Whoever had taken her had the unbelievable gall to take his entire family while he was with Marceau, telling him this was not for the honor of the oath. Had he been aware that his involvement in Renfro’s death was known, he wouldn’t have employed conventional security. These rent-a-cops could only observe and report and they had waited until his family was off the premises before reporting that observation to him. He could deal with them later.

Heavy sheets of rain soaked his suit and ran into his shoes as he sprinted through the parking lot. He could have stuffed a pick of local bangers into suits and one of them would have at least sucked a bullet before they let a man carry off his girl. He peeled out of the parking lot in his brothers’ rental car, the tires dragging over the deepening puddles as he cursed aloud in an endless string of the four languages he knew well and the three others he didn’t. Simone had a strong intuition and physical sense for attack, but he hadn’t yet even begun her physical training. He could only hope he got to her before whoever had her reached their destination. The engine roared as he punched it through the rain towards the airport, cursing over the sound of his thoughts telling him he wasn’t even sure if that was the right direction. Fear was an unfamiliar guest in his skull, interrupting his planning and throwing him out of his element. There were no plans without Simone. He had contingencies and an entire alphabet of plans A through Z for countless scenarios that checked through the flowcharts constantly expanding in his mind, but all of them had counted on Simone being alive. Each thought leading up to the very likely possibility of her death simply ended. It was an unnerving revelation.

 

 

Simone’s mind was on fire with a singular command: Don’t think. As she lunged out of her seat and grasped this stranger’s arm, she had to let her muscles work before she could think to command her body. Thinking took time she knew she didn’t have. The car was swerving on the wet road, the squeal of the tires backdropped to human screams. Hers might have been among them, she could not wonder that yet. The force drove her left and she held onto that arm as she caught the center console awkwardly between her legs. They were all going to die. She needed muscle.

“Henrik!” she yelled.

The car spun and screamed like a carnival ride. The man had let go of the wheel to try to push her away and everything lurched to the right. She pulled on that arm as hard as she could, leaning into the force of their direction, and the gun fired into the ceiling. The thunderous boom clapped deafeningly into her ears. She was not strong enough to get the weapon out of his grip, but she couldn’t allow him to lower it. The vehicle trembled and bounced, tossing her as she rode the center console like a mechanical bull. She was aware that he was striking her, but with all the violent jostling, it was hard to tell where exactly his blows landed on her adrenaline-numbed body and she could not afford to care. Under the ringing, she heard herself scream for Henrik again and this time she saw his thick meaty hands fumble over hers.

The gun was wrenched out of the stranger’s hands. The vehicle and the man battered her as she twisted and snatched the revolver from Henrik. Her stiff thumb didn’t falter in pulling back the hammer. Gunpowder and blood - her blood this time- filled her nose and evoked images of red seeping into filthy green carpeting. Don’t think. She leveled the barrel between his brown eyes, noticing the yellowing in the sclera from elevated bilirubin levels. Old Mr. Kyun had found salvation in a bottle as well as with his lord. Don’t think. Simone squeezed the trigger.

The revolver bucked in her hand like a living thing as thick red exploded out of the back of his head and onto the now splintered side window. His head was yanked back from the force of the bullet careening through his skull and his limbs jerked in a rigid spasm before he went completely limp. The transition between a living Mr. Kyun and a deceased Mr. Kyun was abrupt. The car was still rumbling on. She stumbled around the center console and kicked at his feet until she could stretch far enough to press on the brake and put the car in park. The SUV lurched to a jerky stop. It was over.

She could only hear the high-pitched whine of acute tinnitus ringing her ears, but the movement of Vidar struggling with the car door caught her attention away from the wide splatter on the spiderwebbed window in front of her. Muted thoughts trickled in through the thick barrier of her mind, telling her that the child locks in the backseat were preventing Vidar from opening the door. Her joints were rubber as she swung her leg around and pushed a sobbing Henrik until he got the hint and stumbled out of the car. The heavy rain soaked her through as she yanked open the car doors, her stiletto heels sinking into the soppy earth and challenging her shaky balance as she made her way around the vehicle. Operating on automatic, she opened all four doors despite Vidar scrambling after Anders through his side of the car. Mr. Kyun fell partway out of the driver side door, suspended by his seatbelt. His head lolled all the way back and chunks of blood-pinked gray matter fell in the long grass below through the fist-sized exit wound. His yellow and brown eyes were fixed on the sky. Simone looked up to where he stared and didn’t see anything but dark clouds and a million silver needles of rain. There were no angels that came for him, not then and not while she had pressed the still hot barrel above the bridge of his spectacles before firing. The path his lord had sent him on had ended abruptly in the middle of a field.

“Simone?”

She didn’t know her hearing had already recovered, but she couldn’t say how long she’d been standing there. She turned away from the lonely sky and Mr. Kyun to see Anders standing on his crutches a few feet behind her. The sight of him woke her mind out of its haze and an overwhelming relief flooded her. His brothers huddled together several feet away. Somehow, they were all alive. She had protected them. She could not protect them from how she had accomplished that.

“I’m sorry,” she croaked.

“You are good?” he asked.

Her heels had firmly rooted in the earth, so she stepped completely out of the shoes when she walked away from the gore. Her body and mind were a static hum. She would never be able to doubt she was a murderer. Who she was melted into insignificance next to what she had become. The field was wide and she faced away from the distant road, the vehicle, the men, the gore to look out at the trees and hills stretching into the distance. An ugly tar-like feeling coated her inside and she wanted to sink into it, breathe it deep into her lungs and drown. Killing didn’t feel at all like she had imagined. There was no fulfillment, no spiritual response, no epiphany or greater meaning to be found in the death she had brought. There was nothing she had experienced before to compare this weight to. She could only accept this reality for what it was and, for the first time in a very long time, she felt dreadfully certain this was real.

 

 

Neither Henrik or Vidar wanted to be the first to speak. They would then have to speak on what the hell they were supposed to do next, so they sat under a sprawling oak with nothing but the sound of the rain between them for a long while. Anders sat away from them in the open downpour, his shoulders and head visible above the long grass with Simone’s smaller form completely hidden in his embrace. Henrik could not see where or how Anders kissed the girl each time he bent under that cover of grass, so he could pretend it was with the chasteness of an overly-affectionate uncle and not the desperate passion of a man in fear and in love. But he had seen the way Anders had watched her evolve from curiosity to heart-wrenched longing throughout this god-forsaken vacation, so he could only pretend not to have pieced it together by now. Maybe this was what they needed to do to cope with what Leif had made him do to her. Maybe that was all a smokescreen Anders had fabricated to obfuscate suspicion. Henrik knew he should feel something, some sense of injustice or repulsion, but it didn’t seem to matter nearly as much as it should. He glanced to Vidar, but he was not watching them. His eyes were burning coals of hatred fixed on the grotesque Halloween decoration leaning out of the car twenty meters away, his hands clenched on his folded knees hard enough to whiten his knuckles. They were both going to need therapy when they made it back home.

“We have to get out of this fucking country,” Henrik said, finally breaking the stalemate.

“He did this,” Vidar muttered. “He was testing us. Baited us with an escape and I fell for it without thinking. How many psycho friends does the crazy motherfucker have? How the fuck am I supposed to live when everyone I meet might have been sent to play jump rope with my small intestine? Are we even going to be safe in Norway? Hell. I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe again.”

Henrik couldn’t argue or lie. “We should get the police out here.”

“We’re not going to the cops with any of this,” Vidar scowled bitterly. Henrik waited as he clawed at the soaked material of his slacks and rocked slightly. “The fucking legal system of this shit hole... They’ll keep us here for months if we do that.” Vidar sneered at the corpse. “Right between the eyes. Didn’t give him a fucking second chance. God damn. And you gave her the gun.”

Henrik winced. “No, I didn’t. I had the gun, I should have held onto it, but I… I don’t know. I didn’t think. She didn’t have to kill him. I had the gun.”

Vidar barked out a breathy chuckle. “Heh! Letting her blow that motherfucker’s brains out was the smartest thing you’ve ever done!”

Henrik felt the warmth of vomit rising into his esophagus and quickly changed topic. “What are we going to do?”

Vidar stopped rocking and shot up to his feet, a manic energy making his movements jerky as he trudged through the field. When he yanked the corpse out of the car and proceeded to repeatedly stomp on it, Henrik resisted that urge to vomit and ran over to pull his brother away.

 

 

A severe weather warning had grounded all flights even if there was room for all of them on the planes bound for Northern Europe. A string of bad weather had compounded the issue further, making their original departure date in three days the best option according to the handling agent at the airline counter. The coup de grâce of bad news was that even though they could fly without their passports, Simone would not be able to fly out of the country without hers. Anders was not proud of having yelled at the clerk. He was not proud of a lot of his behavior lately and it worried him. They sat on a bench far from that counter, trying not to shiver in their wet clothes or pay attention to the odd stares from passersby. Everyone except Vidar, who stared daggers at anyone who looked for too long and spat curses occasionally with the hostility of the truly deranged, which he very well may have been. Anders couldn’t blame the onlookers. Bloodied and battered, their nice formal clothes dripping wet, their faces stuck in a haunted daze, he was sure they were quite something to gawk at. Simone’s nose still slowly leaked blood that he would gently wipe away with the wad of tissues someone had kindly gotten for her when they walked into the tiny international airport. She didn’t seem to care enough to clean it up herself. He wished he had done more to protect her, but he had once again proved useless. In their grim space in the busy airport, he reached over to dab at the blood that had oozed down to her chin when she reached into her jacket and pulled out a wallet. Without looking at him, she dropped it into his lap.

She leaned into his side, still not facing him as she whispered, “745 dollars. Need a no-tell hotel. No Hyatts or Holiday Inns; they want credit cards and identification. There was a place on the way- Golden Key Motel. Try that first.”

His stomach dropped, weighted down with lead when he opened the wallet and saw Edward Kyun’s Maryland driver’s license photo staring back at him before folding it shut in a snap.

“When did you- ah,” he started, then began again in English, “When you do this?”

She took the wallet back and stuffed it back into the jacket he’d lent her, whispering, “When no one was watching. Let’s go soon. Need to clean your wound, get some rest, think.”

“What’s she saying to you?” Henrik asked.

“She’s telling us to get our asses to a place called Golden Key Motel,” Vidar answered gruffly. He stopped his aggravated pacing and pivoted on his heels, a twisted grin marring his frown in a strange amalgamation of bitter anger and glee as he said, “And she looted the corpse of the man she shot to death. Anders, today I have come to understand what you find so enrapturing about our dear little niece.”

Anders and Henrik both gawked at their brother’s bizarre inappropriateness before sharing a meaningful glance. There was something wrong with Vidar. There was surely a lot wrong with all of them now, but Anders had to accept that he would have to watch him more carefully. Vidar seemed to catch their shared glance and they tensed as he giggled.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that,” Vidar grinned, crossing his wiry arms and stepping toward him. Anders placed a reassuring hand on Simone’s thigh. He wasn’t sure which one of them he was reassuring. Vidar bent at the waist to lean to eye-level with him as he whispered, “You’re not fooling anyone, not even yourself.”

Anders felt a cold sweat break out on the already cold and damp back of his neck at those words, their ambiguous meaning sticking to the one thing that was constantly plaguing him. That snapshot memory of the hallucination of Leif holding a limp and bloodied Simone, morphing and rippling until it was himself in Leif’s stead, popped to the forefront of his mind unbidden. Vidar was watching closely for his reaction and he had to be careful not to give him one, knowing how well the razor-witted man could read people. Any outward sign of hostility, defensiveness, nervousness, any reaction at all could reveal where those words stung. Unfortunately, posing no reaction at all was also a reaction and Vidar pulled away with narrowing eyes beading on him in blatant suspicion.

“Vid, why the fuck do you keep doing that?” Henrik asked, exasperation and irritation clear. “Anders has gotten the shit kicked out of him twice – no offense, Anders- so just ease the fuck off him already. Fuck.”

Vidar sneered at Henrik, then broke once more into a grin. “Sorry, you’re right. I’ve been an asshole. I mean, who really cares about what he’s been manipulating our niece into doing? She’ll be fine as long as we don’t acknowledge it.”

The words hit Anders like a punch to his head and left him just as dizzy. He could hear Henrik chewing out Vidar and feel Simone’s hand gripping his own over her thigh, but he was reeling in his own thoughts too far to pay any notice to either. There was no way he was like that. He’d been kind to her, maybe a little too kind, a little too affectionate, but he wasn’t doing that to get anything out of her. Was he? He was vaguely certain that she had come onto him first, but he had responded to and escalated it instead of stopping it. There was bound to be a small amount of unconscious effort on his part to entice her, but he swore that wasn’t his intent. Not at first, at least. Lustful feelings and filthy thoughts didn’t mean he’d approached her with an agenda. He wasn’t a manipulator. He wasn’t like Leif.

 

 

The SUV dredged through the high winds and heavy rain with the busted window rolled all the way down and covered with a torn corner of one of the clear plastic sheets and strips of duct tape that were in the trunk. They’d also found zip ties, a hand saw, nylon rope, and a pack of cheap towels there. Simone did not remark on the obvious intended use for these items or the irony that they were using them for their benefit. Wind batted the plastic as they drove past the recognizable chain hotels. Simone leaned forward from the backseat, pointing out the exit to the Golden Key Motel and savoring the warm flow from the car heater. She was still shaking, but it was hard to tell if it was from the chill or the trauma.

The motel was three rows of ground level, long ugly buildings where you could park your car a few feet in front of your door and look out at it from the single pane window. The stone-faced middle-aged man at the front desk didn’t even ask for identification when she requested two rooms with double queens, nonsmoking if available. They were available with cash upfront and cheap. She took the two keys on plastic yellow tags that read “GOLDEN” on one side and the room numbers on the other. The keys themselves were not even golden in hue. Simone took it as a good sign of healing that she was able to chuckle at that.

Ay chihuahua…” she muttered appreciatively at how dreary the rooms were when she opened the door.

Pulling open the thick vinyl blackout curtain did not much improve the severely outdated and worn interior. But it was out of the open, had a solid deadbolt, and had two beds. The men followed in after her, none of them sparing a second glance around the room as they sat on the edges of the beds, weariness dragging sighs out of them as they settled. It was too early in the day for them to separate into the second room and their usual chattiness quickly resumed in the quiet and privacy. Simone had long since given up the polite act of seeming to pay attention to a conversation she couldn’t understand, so she ducked into the tiny bathroom in the back and peeled off her clothes. Standing nude in the dimly lit linoleum and fiberglass bathroom with the motor of the fan drowning out her uncles’ deep voices, she washed the expensive dress and panties in the sink and tried not to look at herself too long in the mirror. Her lip was split, the bridge of her nose had an impact laceration and bruising, there was a coffee ring stain of a bruise darkening the outline of her left orbital bone, and her body was loosely littered in baseball-sized patches of blues and reddish purples that added to the ones her father had crafted. The physical onslaught couldn’t have taken more than eight seconds, but Mr. Kyun was obviously a practiced hand. The bruises helped remind her of what she had prevented by taking his life, though it did little to alleviate that awful feeling of having done it.

“Sweetheart!” Vidar’s voice came through the thin door as he rapped on it. “We going to store. You have need?”

There was a general store they passed by off the exit, the catchall kind she knew small towns depended on. She wrapped a towel around her middle as she mumbled, “Um… Just a sec…”

A beat of silence. “You come?”

She looked at the skin-tight dress drying on the towel rack. There was no way she’d be able to shimmy into that thing wet with how much it fought her just to come off. Sick of having a non-conversation through the door, she opened it and noticed how Vidar turned away from her. At first, she was saddened that he might fear her now that he knew she was a killer, then she noticed the stiff silence in the room as she stepped into it. With her brow furrowed in suspicion, she peered at Vidar’s turned face and saw that he was blushing. It occurred to her then that they had never had wives, sisters, daughters, or perhaps even a consistent female presence in their home lives if they were so unsettled by her in a towel. For some reason, the burden of their gaze and sensibilities pissed her off. She’d bled and wept in front of these men, but bared shoulders and a bit of thigh was just too much.

“I’m going to go get ice,” she said. She needed to get away from them for just a moment before she did something impulsive.

She slipped on Anders’ drenched jacket over the towel and began to walk toward the door when Henrik shot out of his seat, his hands raised in front of her to cease her steps as he stammered, “Ah, I go, uh, get ice. You… sit.”

“‘Sit’?” she repeated, her mouth twisted in a humorless grin.

Henrik eyed her anxiously, a growing nervousness knitting his brow as she glared up at him. She knew that it was puerile to get upset over this after all that had happened. She bit the uninjured side of her lip, trying to stave off that rising anger. These men weren’t her father but they were all tall, strong, and on edge. Fear told her not to test them, but this was an anger that was all her own. She did not want to use the calming techniques the psychologist had taught her. Attempting to walk past Henrik, she was halted by his hand coming across her front and gripping her shoulder. Fear shot through her at the sight of the thickly corded muscles visibly framed by the shirt plastered to his skin in rainwater. When she looked up at him again, part of her expected to see Leif’s slow and cruel smile. Her heart fluttered like a hummingbird in the cage of her ribs even as she met Henrik’s sad and reluctant eyes. He did not remove his gentle hand. That aggression fizzled out as she shrugged out of the overlarge jacket. A week ago, she would have just shoulder checked him and forced her way out of the room. Now, she sat down on the end of the bed, obedient like a good dog. The anger turned itself inward to feed her self-loathing. She could kill a man for them, but she couldn’t stand up to them to go outside when she wanted to.

“Just drop it,” she mumbled, looking down at the thin dingy carpet.

She dug out the stolen wallet and put it next to her on the bed; a white flag of surrender. It became obvious to her then that her uncles terrified her and, with a vicious twist in her gut, she knew that she couldn’t have hoped to do anything but submit to them. Henrik patted her head, his English too weak or his nervousness too strong to convey the proper admission or admonishment, and she shut her eyes against the sting of recognition. The pattern of behavior had been drilled into her. Affection as reward for submission in response to a physical threat. The threat didn’t even have to be real now. Her father had successfully broken and trained her in less than a week.

She lowered her back onto the hard motel mattress, the metal springs creaking with every slight movement, and looked up at the popcorn texture of the ceiling. The same type of ceiling as her childhood home in hot and sunny Los Angeles. She wondered what had happened to her father to have made him the way he was and supposed she could ask him after her uncles were safely away. He didn’t like being asked questions, especially about his past, but it wasn’t like she had anything left to lose.

Chapter Text

“Oh, no, Sheriff Boden, this isn’t a ghost,” Leif chuckled into the landline phone in his late father’s bedroom.

He sat on the floor with his back leaned against the bedframe and a joint dangling loosely between his fingers. Beside him was Einar’s black book of names, personal information, and codes detailing what blackmail he had on them handwritten in his neat angular lettering. It was surprisingly up to date, considering how the cancer had ravaged him to nearly bedridden over the past couple of years. Leif thumbed the codes spelling out Boden’s dirty little secret as he spoke.

“Yes, thank you for coming to the service earlier today, it was nice to catch up. Glad to know you made it home alright... Yes, well, you were sitting next to Jackie Olson, so I couldn’t blame you for that. Hey, I was wondering if I could perhaps call in a favor… Yes, that kind of favor… I need your boys to be on the alert for a recent model white Mercedes sport utility vehicle. My daughter went off on a bender with a few tall blond assholes and I just want your men to shake her up a little, put the fear in her and call me when they bring her in… You’re a good man, sheriff. I’ll text you a picture of her in a bit… Yes, you too.”

There was a certain finality in the physicality of hanging up a corded phone that was absent in the modern cellular variety and he dropped the handset on the switch with gusto. He’d called in similar favors from local newspaper publishers, an alcohol merchandising district manager, a statewide hotel laundry service company executive, and now the local law enforcement to aid in his search. All of them commanded many workers who made an honest living driving out to widespread locations and making frequent stops. He may have disagreed with his father’s style on many things, but he had to hand it to the dead man: he knew the absolute worst of the right people. Leif flicked open his Zippo and held it to the halfway finished joint tucked between his lips, taking a long drag off it and holding the smoke in his lungs before exhaling heavily as he rose to his feet. As fit as he kept himself, he had started to feel all the recent activities in his joints. Forty-two years in the mortal coil would also do that, he reasoned.

He made his way through the unlit and silent house; his usual formal attire stripped down to a bathrobe and socks in the absence of other humans to perform before. Standing in the darkened kitchen with only the light from the open refrigerator spilling into it, he briefly forgot why he was there until he saw the bottle of Armand de Brignac in the door. A gift airmailed from someone who had reluctantly been unable to attend the funeral. He took out a glass from the freezer and brought both items into the living room, where flicked on a lamp and sat in the short range of its illumination as he poured the sparkling wine into the frosted cup.

“To the dad of the year,” Leif toasted to both himself and his deceased father with equal insincerity, holding the glass up to the lamp and watching the light catch on the tiny bubbles.

His elbow still occasionally ached from the time Einar had bent it backwards between the stair bannisters, so he brought his arm down and drank deeply. The house was full of unpleasant memories that whispered to him in the emptiness, but he was now the only one alive to hear them anymore. Throughout his hellish transformation in this house, he didn’t believe he’d survive either Einar or Bjørn, yet here he was. Nearly all in one piece, at that. Simone may not have been so lucky. Desperation rallied in him to go back out into that rainstorm and continue the search, but he was exhausted and it was already dark. A fatherly piece of him hoped she was somewhere dry and alive as he heard the rumble of thunder.

Being forced to consider her ending, he turned instead to memories of her beginning. He had been tainting his girlfriend’s birth control pills for months and had received news of Bjørn’s death the same day she had found out she was pregnant. Grief had not allowed him gratification in that acquisition, nor in his subsequent rushed wedding and then the birth of his offspring. But that was all duty; the joy of fatherhood was never necessary or expected of him. Simone was not just his seed; she was a garden through which all in his line would carry on after death and he tended to that garden with only a practical interest for so long. He’d spent her whole life cultivating her, priming her to activate the genetic memories of her ancestors and reap the full benefits of their bloodline. She had shown such promise, he had never deemed it necessary to sire more candidates. The hunter in her just waiting for him to pull it out and they were on the verge of her glorious actualization. They were meant to bring so much art and inspiration into this world. It couldn’t all have been for nothing.

Three-fourths into the bottle had him feeling the despair of her absence harshly and he devolved into pining. He had not expected the lust that had so unexpectedly sparked between predecessor and progeny. He ached for her soft body and the funny things she would say. God, she could make him laugh, really laugh. He put his feet up on the coffee table as he flipped through the curated selection of photos on his cell phone that depicted a normal life. Luncheons with friends, selfies at landmarks, posed family portraits, pets that didn’t belong to him, and a few of Simone he’d copied from his ex-wife’s social media. There was one in particular he searched for.

The Christmas party two years prior, he was quite drunk towards the end of it and most of the guests had left. He’d spiked Simone’s eggnog with something that made her euphoric and did a decent job to cut up her ability to form memories of that night. Lisa had banished Simone to her room after the girl had brought up a great pile of snow from the sidewalk in an IKEA bag and had attempted to build a snowman in the living room. He was sitting on Simone’s bed with her in his lap, doing the whole mall Santa routine, and she had just whispered what she wanted for Christmas to him. They were both laughing and holding onto each other, both merrily drunk and delirious, when Lisa had stealthily snapped the photo from the doorway. He could feel the phantom of Simone’s rum-sweet breath tickling his ear, though he couldn’t remember her joke.

That was how he wanted to think of her then. Not as an aching absence or a corpse, or even as his definitive legacy, but as the warm and loving girl laughing in his arms. He succumbed to the exhaustion and alcohol while still sitting in the chair, the promise to hold her like that again soon repeating in his thoughts. He always kept his promises.

 

 

The store didn’t have everything they needed, but it had enough to make do. Instead of forceps, cotton-tipped applicators, and silicone foam elastomer, Henrik picked out tweezers, Q-tips, and sterile gauze to redress Anders’ wound. He’d have to make do with eight hundred milligrams of ibuprofen for the pain, unfortunately. Henrik was deciphering the English on a bottle of saline solution that turned out to be for nasal irrigation when Vidar approached him holding two different packs of women’s underwear.

“Which ones do you think will fit?” he asked.

Henrik stared at him before deadpanning, “I think you can fit into the smaller ones.”

“Good news! I’ve decided to drown you in a public toilet,” Vidar grinned.

The plastic-wrapped pack hit Henrik in the face, but it was fortunately soft enough not to hurt and bounced off him to land in the shopping cart. Vidar followed his throw with a bulk of dull yellow fabric, but Henrik was ready and slapped them into the cart before they also collided into his face. He saw that they were eight of the same oversized t-shirts with the words “VERMONT MAPLE SYRUP” and a drawing of pancakes on the front.

“Oh, souvenir shirts to remember this lovely trip,” Henrik smirked.

“Better than staying in your wet clothes,” Vidar groused. As he walked towards the personal care section, Henrik heard him mutter, “Smart ass scum-fuck.”

Henrik watched his younger brother’s lean form retreat, hopeful that he was returning to the prickly jerk he knew instead of sinking further into the deranged stranger he’d seen all day. He couldn’t blame him. He hadn’t been able to feel quite like himself either. Even after seeing how trauma psychologically affected people nearly every day in his nursing career, it hadn’t been enough to prepare him for the first-hand experience of feeling as though reality had been displaced. He reminded himself frequently that they were hidden away as safe as they could manage in the middle of nowhere, but that creeping feeling they were still trapped by a violent madman squirmed in him despite the relief of having escaped relatively unharmed. Anders and Simone were not so lucky. He grabbed another box of non-adhesive gauze pads and tossed it on top of the shirts. They all had to move on and start healing quickly before the damage set in too deep.

He was running through a mental checklist of all the things they should have on hand until their flight when he heard angry voices raising in an argument. He shook his head at the noisy Americans and tried not to seem as though he paid any attention to the aggravated tones until he recognized Vidar’s voice. He could see his brother’s wind-strewn mess of hair over the rows of shelves, the strands that were hand-combed back now flopping forward with the jerking of his head. Henrik walked hurriedly toward him, the aisles blurring in his peripheral, as the back of his neck strained from the tension that ran through his body. The fear that quickened his pace was of having been found by either Leif or another maniac he’d sicced on them, but when he found his brother ranting alone in the back of the store, his fears shifted to an uneasy bewilderment.

“Stop it. Don’t! Stop it! Fucking stop! Christ, I can’t!” Vidar hissed as he swiped at the side of his head with the edge of his arm in stiff, jerky movements.

Henrik watched until he couldn’t take it anymore, lasting about three seconds before grabbing him by the shoulders and saying, “Vid! What the fuck is it?”

Vidar’s ocean blue eyes, the same shade as his, looked right through him and before he grimaced in anguish and snapped to attention. He jerked out of Henrik’s hold, adjusted his coat and sneered, “Nothing. Don’t touch me, asshole.”

Vidar grabbed a hairbrush from the rack at random and headed toward the cart without looking at him, leaving Henrik once more watching his back as he walked away. Henrik attempted to distract himself from the sickly feeling of worry by focusing on the fact that Vidar had the added detriment of having experienced the previous night’s ordeal through the lens of a hallucinogen. The man must have felt terrors beyond the distress of being helpless while Leif had reveled in violence on their brother and niece. Henrik had succumbed to unconsciousness from the drugged wine as Leif had kneeled over Simone’s prone and bleeding body, so he did not know when Vidar had passed out. If he’d passed out. He simply did not know what or how much Vidar had seen and the consideration was chilling.

“God help us,” Henrik whispered.

 

 

Simone heard the clink of his belt buckle and then the slide of the leather against cloth, making her chest clench in anxiety. The several stripes of bruises and impact lacerations along her upper back throbbed all at once as the fresh memory of her lashing replayed in tactile recall. When she heard the belt thump to the floor, she let out of breath she didn’t know she was holding, but the sound of his zipper coming down and the soft sounds of him shuffling out of his clothing brought her right back to that tight core of fear. The coarse motel sheets burned her back and she turned on her side. The vulnerability it made her feel to face away from the source of those sounds made her curl under the comforter, but she couldn’t bring herself to risk seeing him despite logically knowing he wasn’t there. She hated being this sick. Even away from her father, she knew she would never be free of these flashbacks no matter how hard she clung to what she told herself repeatedly was reality. Her father’s rage and disappointment was written in red and purple across her back and shoulders. The punishment she could look forward to for having run away was a morbid concept she found herself incapable of even considering without risk of a panic attack. The whoosh and crack of leather sounded just as loud and clear in her mind as it had echoed in that wide hallway, making her cringe and whimper with each phantom strike.

Kjære?”

Simone could hear Anders’ gentle tone outside of the memory. She could feel the mattress dip down and the blanket shift behind her where he laid down in her bed. She could even smell the stale fear in his sweat as he scooted closer and felt the warmth and softness of skin to skin contact on her bare body when he molded himself to her. However, she was still on her knees with her father towering over her in her mind.

Det er greit, kjære… You are okay… ssh…”

His whispers against her neck helped soothe her away from that memory and she leaned back into him, needing more to keep her grounded in reality.

“Anders… Anders, I can’t see… oh god…” she whimpered, fear trembling through her as memories clawed the frayed edges and cracks of her mind.

His kisses on her neck made her tremble for a very different reason and she clung to her arousal like a lifeboat tossed around in a storm, the familiar distraction welcomed despite the memories of her body being violated threatening to overtake her mind. But this was Anders. He wouldn’t hurt her like that again; she had to believe that. She turned and faced him, trying to see him but it was like looking through fogged glass with her father on the other side. She shut her eyes, clearing the fog and seeing only Leif lying before her, his gray eyes and slight smile holding an interested amusement to her plight. Anders’ lips pressed sweetly to hers and she leaned into the kiss desperately, but it was still Leif she saw. His hands caressed and pulled her closer, the callouses on his palms and fingers identifiably her uncle’s, helping to diffuse that specter of her father. She needed more. Her arms slid down from his shoulders to his side, caressing down the muscle covering the ridges of his hip bones and slipping her fingers under the elastic band of his underwear. He inhaled sharply when she gently gripped his hardened length, the slide of his foreskin making him growl slightly as he drove forward and locked her into a searing kiss that made the split in her lip sting. She focused on the passion and not the pain; pain belonging in the sexual realm of her father and not the gentle lovemaking of her uncle. It was hard not to let the hurt infect and heighten her arousal. That ghost of Leif was a heavy presence in her mind.

Kjære!” Anders gasped as she pushed him onto his back and sat up to tug his underwear down.

“Please just… get these off,” she whispered, her aching fingers clumsy with the elastic. He looked at her, uncertainty and arousal conflicting in his pale and haggard face, but obliged by lifting his hips and helping her slide off his remaining article of clothing.

“You are okay?” he asked, his voice husky and his sky-blue eyes darkened to a shade of early twilight while still somehow holding room for such caring concern.

Her heart ached at the love she saw there, a love she couldn’t help but echo. She knew this was all so messed up, but so was the world they lived in. She didn’t have the will to dismiss this beautiful, horrid thing they shared because of a taboo that spanned both of their cultures. This was never meant to happen in normal life, like so many other things that had happened around her, but this was one of the few oddities that brought her some joy along with the torment. Mindful of his wounds, she carefully straddled him, holding onto the bed frame he leaned back against. His eyes followed her in reverent adoration with a fondness so deep, it made her shiver with want for him. She could never feel ashamed enough to ever reject him.

“Help me feel okay again,” she whispered, reaching between them and lining up his cock.

He leaned forward and caught her mouth in an open kiss as she slowly sunk down on him, his girth stretching her delightfully and pulling at that tear in her just a little painfully. His hands grasped her hips and kept her from forcing him inside, pulling her up each time she tried to sink down too quickly. That ache in her heart expanded at how careful and patient he was with her. By the time he was fully seated inside her, they were both panting raggedly with want, but he didn’t let her move yet. He gently gripped the sides of her face and leaned in once more, his tongue sliding into her mouth and stroking hers in another dizzying kiss. Her hips rocked against him almost unconsciously, grinding his cock deep enough to mash against her bruised cervix in a pain that had her already dangerously close to orgasm just from that minimal motion. He moaned into her mouth, his cock throbbing and making her break their kiss to gasp as her pelvic muscles tensed around him in response. He pulled her back into the kiss and the bedsprings began to creak as her hips rocked more insistently, the slow and deep pace making them hyperaware of each slight sensation. His hands slid down her body to grip her ass and pressed her against him hard as he pushed up, driving him even deeper. The added pressure on her clit and cervix brought a powerful clash of pleasure and pain and her back arched as she rocked into it. She was so close, mewling and moaning in a girlish pitch that she was too far gone to be embarrassed by, but he wouldn’t let her do anything but slowly rock against him.

“Oh god, that’s so good, so good…” she moaned, nearly weeping from this much stimulation and affection as he kneaded her ass and kissed her neck. Her cunt was clenching around him, edging both of them on the precipice of climax but he denied them both with the powerful control of his grip and his darkened stare locking their eyes. If it was anyone else, she would feel intimidated by that forced eye contact, but with Anders it felt like safety and reassurance. The edging felt heavenly, they could do this for hours, but they did not have hours. Her other uncles could come through the door any moment, a possibility that both frightened and thrilled her. “Please, Anders, please let me come, let me come, ah-hn…”

Vil du at jeg skal gjøre det inni? Vil du at jeg skal fylle deg?” he asked, his voice breathless and low as he rolled her hips with just a little more vigor. “Du vil gjøre meg til en far, kjæreste?”

It was enough to push her over the edge, making her see sparks at the corners of her vision as he held her gaze intensely. Her voice rose even higher in a crescendo with each stronger spasm of her orgasm as she cried out for him. At the height of her climax, she felt him throb and twitch as came in her with a strained moan. His hands pushed her down in a bruising grip as he mashed his cock deeper, as though he were trying to fit his semen directly into her womb. The perverse idea of Anders impregnating her filled her with a delirious excitement she knew her sober mind would revile, but made her bear down on him harder as he filled her with come. The scent of him, full of pheromones and familiarity, made that fantasy of being bred so appealing and she kissed his panting mouth to stop herself from mindlessly begging for it. He sucked on her tongue and wrapped his arms around her possessively, an animalistic manner overtaking him as they both came down, and she melted in his hold submissively. Her body hummed in elation, her mind floated far away from the fear that ruled her, and she leaned into the depth of love she had for him until she felt almost lost in it. This was perfect. She was careful not to think about how much she was going to miss him when he was far away and safe.

“Thank you,” she whispered, dragging her nails gently over his sweat-dampened scalp through his blond hair. He hummed in appreciation, maybe not ready to process speech quite yet, and ran his hands over her back as he coaxed her tongue back in his mouth.

They both jerked away when they heard a car pull up near the door.

 

 

Anders felt like he had been yanked down from Heaven straight into Hell as Henrik carefully slid the steel tweezers into his stab wound and pulled out long wet ribbons of gauze. After the bearlike man barred Vidar from entering and sent Simone with his snarling brother to the other room a couple doors down, Anders knew this was going to be an unpleasant ordeal. Henrik was very compelling when he was in nurse mode, but Anders managed to refuse his help while he showered. He might have stayed in that little box shower for longer than necessary as he dreaded the coming agony. When he felt the antiseptic sting just near the wound, he wished he’d never come out at all.

“Quit squirming, trash maggot!” Henrik snapped, following it with a mild, “I’m being as careful as I can. I know it hurts, but please try to be still.”

“Is it all out?” Anders croaked, his knuckles taut white as he gripped the bedsheets. He had to lay on his side with his leg propped up on a towel-covered pillow to help relax the muscle, but it took nearly all his concentration to just breathe deeply and try not to tense up.

“It’s not as deep as it feels,” Henrik said instead of answering. Anders pressed his sweaty forehead into the bedding as another ribbon was pulled out of him.

“Can’t you just stitch it closed?”

“No, that would likely heal improperly and form an abscess. Packing the wound was the right choice.”

A delirious chuckle escaped Anders. “Wow, I guess Leif really does care about me.”

“You were obviously his favorite brother,” Henrik deadpanned. A heavy silence fell between them. It was too soon to joke about, but they were both eager to move on from it too quickly. Anders could only hope that one day they would be able to look back and not cringe. His brother’s bright baritone was gruff in that false way he spoke when he didn’t want his concern to be apparent as he asked, “So, how are you dealing with the shell shock?”

Anders tried to think of something witty enough to throw off the scent of trauma, but he was too affected to make up anything that would make any sense. “I worry about later. Nightmares and stuff.”

“Flashbacks?”

He shuddered. “Simone had one of those while you were out. I didn’t really know how to help, I just kind of panicked and… held her. It was scary to even watch.” A sick hatred churned his stomach. “That son of a whore is going to fry in Hell for what he’s put her through.”

“Deep breath,” Henrik ordered. Anders resisted tensing, then resisted groaning as fire seared outward from his wound. He couldn’t watch as Henrik stuffed the moistened clean gauze into that deceptively small slit in his thigh. “That’s it. I just have to cover it and we’re done for today. You won’t catch infection as long as you don’t get it wet or be a bigger idiot than normal.”

He didn’t feel like it was over. His wound throbbed and burned, making him unable to cuss his brother out for his insult. Find a happy place. He thought of his dogs back home, his pack of rascals with their noisy claws dancing on the kitchen tiles whenever he opened the fridge door. He could see Simone running her fingers through their furry coats like she ran her fingers through his hair earlier. That was it. After a bandage was taped over the wound, the pain began to subside into something less than excruciating.

“You do that a lot,” Henrik muttered as he stood from the bed, the springs groaning almost in relief when he lifted his heavy weight off them.

“What?”

“Hold her.”

Anders felt a flash of fear before it plunged into irritation and defensiveness. “She likes to be touched. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Henrik avoided looking at him while he picked up the tools and supplies for dressing the wound and his tone was cold as he said, “She likes to be touched – by you. I’m sure she likes a lot of things you two do together. Doesn’t mean it’s right or healthy. She’s had a fucked-up life, she probably has a lot of fucked-up coping mechanisms. Don’t be one of them.”

Anders could feel his anger rising as his brother spoke, but his words stung with the truth he’d been avoiding. What they were doing was wrong. He was supposed to address her sexual responsiveness to him as a problem, not as an opportunity, but he didn’t. The sex, no matter how right or amazing it felt, was an unthinkable sin and a violation of trust. He couldn’t stop himself, though. He really wasn’t trying to do anything but comfort her, things just got out of hand. Not that Henrik would know anything about that.

“I’m not hurting her.”

“Grow up,” Henrik groused. “You want me to explain how psychologically damaging it is that someone she’s supposed to trust, someone with every advantage and authority over her, is using her as a sexual outlet? That’s real basic shit, Anders. Even you have to know it.”

“I’m not using her for anything, she’s-!” Anders yelled, snapping his mouth shut before he finished that statement. Sweat beaded his aching temples and his mouth was dry as ash. He messed up, he knew he messed up, and Henrik was glowering at him like he was going to shout him into the ground at any moment.

But Henrik’s voice was deadly calm. “She’s what? What is she? Hm? She came onto you, is that it? She likes it? She’s too good of a fuck to pass up? What?”

“Don’t say that,” Anders muttered. His head was pounding. He couldn’t think. He needed to see her, make sure she was okay. “She’s not just a sexual outlet.”

“Not ‘just’ a sexual outlet? Anders, have you lost your goddamn mind?”

Most likely. “No. Look, I can’t take this shit right now. I want to see her.”

“She’s in the other room. Safe. Away from undesirable influences. I’m going to stay in this room with you tonight and Vidar’s going to keep an eye on her.”

A black, thick feeling coated him. “What? No! She needs me. What if she has another attack or, or starts crying? Vidar’s an asshole, he won’t know how to comfort her!”

“Just tell us how you do it, since your methods are so effective.”

Anders’ jaw clenched and it was all he could do to keep from baring his teeth at Henrik. He hated him in that moment with a corrosive, violent anger. Simone could be hurt or in danger and he’d be none the wiser. They were taking her away from him. The snapshot image flashed in his mind of Leif smirking at him from across the crowded room after chasing off that annoying fly of a boy from Simone. That shared camaraderie in his sharp-toothed grin. His gravelly voice rumbling low You can only ignore it, but it’s never, ever going to ignore you at the dining table. He wasn’t like Leif. He couldn’t be. But he felt, for the first time, a horrible understanding of him.

“That’s not how this is going to work,” he said, that darkness pumping acid into his veins. “She needs me to be there for her. I’m not going to let you or anyone get in the way of that.”

“What she needs is real help, not some guy who thinks he can fix her with his dick.”

“I’m all she’s got.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Hide her all to yourself so you’re the only person she can love. Just like her father. I really didn’t…”

Anders could see Henrik’s mouth move as though he were speaking, but he couldn’t hear the rest of what he’d said as those words repeated. Just like her father. This time, there was no guilt or shame that resounded in him, just a cold acknowledgement that bubbled up from an ugly place in his mind. Maybe he should stop fighting it if everyone already expected it.

“You’re right,” Anders said, interrupting whatever diatribe Henrik was on.

The burly man looked at him crossly and grumbled, “I know I am. About what, though?”

“I would like it if I hid her away so I was the only person in her world,” he answered easily. “But that’s because she wants it to be that way. Why wouldn’t she? The rest of the world hasn’t been kind to her like I have. She’s much happier when it’s just the two of us.”

“Anders… what the actual fuck are you saying?” Henrik asked haltingly, his eyes wide and heavy brow furrowed in alarm.

The words felt like smoke billowing out of Anders’ lungs as he said, “Simone belongs to me now. I’m going to treat her right and keep her happy, so don’t get in my way.”

Chapter Text

Hello, Mr. Marceau,” Leif spoke into his phone, his French clear and unaffected by having been woken on the first ring or the headache throbbing like ice picks trying to escape his skull. The empty bottle of sparkling wine clinked and rolled on the floor when he nudged it with his foot.


Valstad, sorry to hear that you have not yet found your monster,” Marceau’s cheerful voice came through tinny over the subpar connection is in the remote area Einar’s property lied in. Leif’s property, he had to remind himself. This cursed land was now solely in his name, as well as the burden of his bloodline. He leaned forward in the chair he’d fallen asleep in, noticing that it was still dark out, inferring that Marceau was willing to appear eager by calling him so soon after the abduction. The man was too often eager with Leif; it wore quickly on both of them.


The night is still young,” Leif said, cradling his aching temples in the wide span of his hand.


Even through the haze of a stale drunk, he could hear the subtle condescension in the Frenchman’s polite, “Oh, yes, yes. That it is, old friend. I wanted to personally assure you that you have our full support. All misunderstandings about your implicated breach of conduct have been purged, save for the usual rumor mills and gossip hounding, of course. Have you had any news regarding the whereabouts of your family?


Leif’s mind clicked rapidly to dissect the motivations behind this call, the alarms ringing in his head before he could piece any of it together. Marceau was more than willing to appear eager, he was wanting to appear eager. He rarely spoke so directly, preferring to play with each topic and preen pedantically with allusions and branch off onto irrelevant subjects before addressing the real issues, but he just delivered three pieces of pertinent information in immediate succession. He was fishing and was careless enough to have laid out his full bait upfront, thinking that Leif wouldn’t be aware the trade was occurring. The clicking was nearly audible in his mind, snapping memory to context to speculation rapidly. The abductor hadn’t been waiting for Leif to be distracted as much as he was waiting specifically for Marceau to pull him away. Marceau, the braggart, had even spoken of Simone as he was having her kidnapped. Where in the modern world is there a place for a monster? Leif needed a motivation and could not find one. He needed to buy time, pull a wager of his own.


Einar was generous with his friends,” he said, his thoughts still clicking. He ran through the dialogue of his private conversation with Marceau. “His reputation precedes him even in death. I have inherited many pairs of eyes to search for me.”


The late Valstad indeed had wealth in all things, if not health,” Marceau said.


The last thing he’d said in that distraction: There are those who would seek to undo you out of principle. Principle was a chief motivator to many in their field, enough to have made the threat on the surface of that statement obvious, obfuscating the true threat below it. This was a personal mission to Marceau, one that required as few actors as possible, perhaps too few from the sounds of things. The man had clout, but not enough to have had the patience or resources to avoid whatever desperation had led to this call. Marceau had failed somewhere. Leif’s heart soared with hope that his daughter may truly have avoided death, but he left his rejoicing behind a shut door in his mind while there was still work to be done. He had to figure out what the game was before he created his role in it. There was a time when there were six Valstads in the network once; we are now but down to one. The entire direct bloodline had been stolen save for him. Had Marceau wanted to eradicate them, he would have absconded the oath and done that as an assassin. No, this was deliberately done to isolate and divide. Undo. Marceau needed Leif to believe he was the last remaining Valstad. This was no coincidence that this had occurred at the funeral of the only other Valstad; it fit Marceau’s taste for poetic theatrics. Something to do with Einar, then. Leif could only imagine what that sly, sadistic man had done to earn a blood grudge of this magnitude with the Marceaus.

"I trust you will keep me informed should anything of interest be picked up by your gossip hounds in the rumor mills?” Leif asked, careful to recite the banal phrasing Marceau had used and to say it with a thin trace of desperation.


You’ll be the first to know if I hear something.


Thank you, Mr. Marceau. I hope the night finds you well.


Good luck, old friend. We shall speak again soon.


Leif waited for Marceau to end the call before pulling the phone away from his ear. He had several texts, all of them superfluous reassurances from the men and women he’d contracted except for one. The security footage from the hotel finally had a picture of the man who had abducted them and a possible license plate number. Leif forwarded them both to Sheriff Boden before taking a longer look at the grainy image of the slight Asian man in his sixties, trying to place the familiarity. He had never met this man but he had seen that skull structure and sloping posture before. Ignoring his aching head and roiling stomach, Leif went into the tiny room upstairs that was his father’s and uncle’s home office, the draft tables and tall filing cabinets covered with dusty sheets and cobwebs decorating like streamers between them. He yanked up the trick floorboard and pulled out one of the earliest photo albums from the cache hidden there. He flipped through the successions of scenic panoramas, figures caught frozen in motion, sharp focus of panic over blurred backgrounds, all of them invoking the intent of both subject and photographer. While never shown, he could see Bjørn in each shot. However, Leif was not glancing through these photos to reminisce. There, caught purposefully unaware in the woods, rifle slung over his slouching shoulders, was the abductor. Carefully, he pulled back the protective plastic covering and turned the photograph over to read the name written in his uncle’s neat angular penmanship. Edward Kyun, dated thirty years ago, a young man with considerably more hair who would never recover from whatever trauma had turned him into a killer that slouches self-consciously. Leif leaned back in the creaky drafting chair and tapped a corner of the photograph against his long teeth, thinking.


First Renfro, then Kyun. Both men Bjørn had hunted with at least once, now having come after his family at Marceau’s bidding. Marceau had not counted on Renfro going rogue and getting killed because of it, but that’s what the contingency in Kyun was for. Now the contingency had failed as well, perhaps also due to his savage daughter’s contribution. Leif grinned with delighted malice at the big fat nothing Marceau had in his hand now. The game was set, it was Leif’s turn to play. It was both too late and too early to tap the proper sources for information; he should replenish his stamina. He brushed the sour taste of alcohol from his mouth and laid in the bed he’d shared with his Simone, her scent surrounding him as he drifted off into a blissfully dreamless sleep, reassured that he would have her in that bed again soon enough.

 

 


“You are hungry,” Vidar stated, placing the half-eaten box of pizza on what Simone supposed was her bed for the night.


She turned her head from staring at the ceiling, looked at the box and felt her stomach lurch again. “No, no I really am not hungry.”


He breathed out a loud and frustrated sigh, his arms folded over the drawing of a stack of pancakes on his shirt. They were all wearing the same ridiculous matching shirts and gray sweatpants to varying degrees of fit, looking like the sore losers of some brutal contact sport team. The Flattened Pancakes, she thought with chuckle that came out of her trembling chest like a spasm. At least, she assumed they all had the same clothes. She hadn’t seen her other uncles since Henrik shooed her and Vidar to this room hours ago. The look on the strongman’s face when he came through the door and saw her and Anders lying stiffly in their separate beds with the blankets hiding their bare bodies reminded her too clearly of the times her mother had caught her with a boy in her bedroom. Henrik knew, without a doubt, and Vidar had at least suspected. Neither, of course, approved. She felt awful for causing contention between the brothers. It seemed she brought discord wherever she went lately.


“You eat,” Vidar insisted, pointing to the box and giving her a stern look. Her stomach should have been completely emptied after her previous vomiting, but she had to swallow whatever dregs slowly crept up her throat at the thought of eating and shook her aching head. He huffed again, his hands on his narrow hips and his sharp jaw jutting out in annoyance. “You do not eat. Now you are sick. Eat.”


“I wish I could,” she offered with a weak smile that didn’t last more than a flicker.

“I help you,” he announced, rising from his bed.


She watched him, blurred vision and the dim lighting of the bedside lamps not helping her avoid seeing the phantom image of her father in him. At least it was not a hallucination this time, just a simple likeness in appearance between close family members. It was almost comforting to have her eyes play more conventional tricks on her. He sat down on the edge of her bed and she wanted to sink into the mattress and disappear to where he couldn’t reach her; a childish fantasy for safety. Instead, she could only let him pull her arms to sit her up, an action that made her head swim as though her brain rattled loosely in her skull. His hands, the long thin fingers of the long thin man, felt alien on her skin. It had been so long since anyone besides Leif or Anders had touched her that this platonic touch felt inherently sexual just by being skin-to-skin contact. She jerked out of his hold reflexively when that ridiculous notion became too much. She did not want to think of Vidar in that context. The thought disgusted her like incest always should have and it made her suddenly curious as to why her father or Anders seemed exempt from that natural repulsion. She didn’t have long to ponder on the discrepancy as Vidar slung his lanky arm around her shoulders, his flesh all tautly compact muscle and deceptively strong. All these men were horrifyingly strong. That primal fear gripped her and made her cower as the sharp scent of him filled her with recognition. They all smelled distinctive but identifiably similar, tapping into that most ancient method of identification and sparking through her synapses more directly than any other sense, but they all provoked the same immediate response: this man is related to her father and therefore dangerous. She was so sick of being afraid. She was so sick of everything.


“Now you eat,” he said firmly, shoving a slice of pepperoni pizza to her parted mouth, the pointed tip pressing against her teeth.


She was too exhausted to fight him even if instinct wasn’t screaming for her to submit. The greasy subpar pizza felt heavy in her mouth as she bit off that tip to appease him, the back and roof of her mouth aching painfully as she chewed. Swallowing was a process that made her wince even when it was just liquid, but solid food brought tears to her eyes. It was all she could do not to choke. He watched her with resolve that wilted into remorse, but she couldn’t bring herself to look at him in her shame and embarrassment.


“What is wrong? Why you are cry?” he asked.


“I hurt my mouth and throat, makes eating hard,” she whispered, hoping that would deter him in persisting with this task of hand-feeding her like a baby.


It did something worse. It made him curious. His hand firmly tipped her head up to look at him as he commanded, “Open. Let me see.”


“N-no?” she squeaked.


Her shaking muscles tensed in anticipation of having to physically resist him. His sharp features hardened just slightly, but it was enough to send a frisson of fear through her. This man lacked the jolly manner of Henrik or the gentle compassion of Anders, possessing an asperity and intensity too similar to Leif but without his finesse of deception. She was coming to understand that there was a quality to Vidar that was as open and reactive as a raw nerve beneath that hard intelligence.


“Open.”


She obeyed. Keeping her eyes fixed to the side, she opened her jaw cradled in his hands and let him tilt her head back to shine the dim lamp light into her mouth. Humiliation flooded her at the way he’d handled her all evening. It seemed like whenever he wasn’t ignoring her, he was invading her boundaries and pushing her through these demeaning acts. Far too similar to her father. In their own ways, they were all too similar to one another, like some genetically motivated behavior.


Fy faen!” he hissed.


She winced at the harsh tone but resisted pulling away or closing her mouth. She could tell he was glaring at the bruises discoloring the soft and delicate flesh inside, her face burning in a deep flush from the memory of how she got them, not wanting to think about that while he touched her. If she ignored the context, this was not unlike being at the dentist’s office. She latched onto that interpretation, much preferring a clinical detachment as opposed to whatever this was.


“Who did this?” he asked, his voice low in anger, almost growling out, “Anders?”


She took this as an opportunity to close her mouth, but he didn’t let go of her jaw despite no longer even looking at her. His glare was fixed on the air behind her, unfocused as the gears of rage turned in his mind. Seeing that raw anger churning behind his face, she didn’t dare try to squirm out of his grasp.


Her voice was as gentle and submissive as she could manage from her sore throat. “I don’t understand what you’re asking, uncle Vidar.”


“You… fucked,” he said hesitantly. The discomfort she felt at hearing that word used as a verb while he held her face made her want to shrink into nothing. “Who fucked here make this bruises?”


Simone’s blood ran cold at the question. She didn’t think he’d guess the cause so correctly. She wanted him to suppose it was due to illness or anything but the truth.


“Leif, yes?” he asked. That hand at her jaw tightened and his glare sharpened, this time focusing right at her. “Tell the truth.”


She worried that she was going to vomit again, but fear kept her throat from spasming as much as it kept her from doing anything else. Submit and survive. She nodded almost imperceptibly.


His lip twitched once, a quick tick that she would have missed if she blinked. His next question was whispered, “Did you like it?”


Warning alarms were blaring in her mind for her to run, get away, do anything to get out of whatever was happening. His arm around her shoulders and his hand cradling her jaw prevented any hope of escape. His serpentine glare prevented any hope of deceit. She hesitated, then shook her head. His brow furrowed as his head tilted in thought.


“No, maybe not,” he murmured almost to himself, then said, “Tell me all things Leif did.”


A cold sweat broke out on her scalp and neck. This couldn’t be happening. It was too late.


“Why now?” she whimpered. Her ears rang. He watched her, calculating, analyzing, holding back some horrible reaction as he waited for her to answer. “Why didn’t you see before? Where was this… this insight when…”


“He fucked,” he finished for her.


It was awful to hear that knowledge outside of herself. She wanted to stuff it back inside her and hide it away from this thief.


“I did not look,” he said, maintaining that same thin veneer of calmness while anger built within him. She flinched when she felt his hand at her jaw slide down and wrap around her neck, panic making her pant to draw in breath while she could. His eyes, the ocean blue of them appearing almost black in the low lighting, never wavered from hers. “I did not look bruises here…” His hand slid further, pulling at the loose collar of the oversized shirt she wore, poking the still painful bite mark at the crook of her neck. “I did not look here…” He moved his hand away from her finally, her wide eyes following it in both relief and remaining terror. “You… help Leif. Why?”


“I…” she whispered. Her jaw clenched shut. The truth was too sick to say out loud. She was still panting, that panic sticking in her and growing like a rapid fungus, and a terrible feeling of dread coated her mind. She couldn’t let herself succumb to an anxiety attack while alone with this angry, vengeful man. “I need some air. May I be excused?”


Vidar watched her, his piercing eyes boring into her, before his arm pulled back with a friendly pat and he nodded. Stepping out of the cramped room and into the cold night air felt like leaving a hot and noisy kitchen, the relief almost instantaneous as she took a deep shaking breath and let the door shut behind her. Before she walked even three steps, she heard Vidar’s muffled yell and a loud bang of something hitting a wall. She wrapped her trembling arms around her aching body and walked away faster. It seemed as though they both needed space. The smooth concrete of the walkway was cold enough to make the bones in her bare feet ache, but not enough to numb them completely. The quiet and solitude allowed her to focus and she found herself being drawn to the stolen SUV parked in front of the other room as she thought on her status as a murderer. She wondered when the police would find Edward Kyun. They’d broken through a fence off a main road and left deep tire tracks through the mud and the grass, leading right up to where he laid crumpled in that field. Maybe she belonged in a hospital for the criminally insane. She was certainly insane and a criminal, after all. Or maybe she could swallow a bullet.


“But I have to watch Dad,” she told the rain. “He needs me. And I need him not to kill my uncles.”


“There’s no one here. You’re safe now.”


Simone startled at the voice and looked around, but there was no one else there. The front desk was closed. The smattering of other motel dwellers were locked away in their rooms, fast asleep or kept company by the blue green light of their televisions. That dread coating her mind thickened and her chest started to hurt.


“Who’s there?” she called as loudly as her throat allowed. Nothing but the rain answered.


“The water is cool and calm. You’re relaxed. There’s someone in the water with you.”


The man’s voice was close, too close to be hiding. She tried to run back to the room, stumbling with rubbery knees and half-numb feet, but froze when she heard a her own terrified voice from within her own skull.


“Stop it! Stop it! Run!”


“Fuck, oh fuck, fuck!” she panted, the edges of the world curling in and shifting around her. She had to hold onto this reality. No more hallucinations, no more flashbacks. She pounded on the door, barely feeling it against her hand.


“Let the water make him still. Let the water make him quiet.”


The door opened and she fell through it, stumbling into a startled Henrik. When her face planted into the pancake shirt on his muscular chest, darkness swallowed her whole.

 

 


Anders was receiving many lessons in how long a minute could possibly feel lately. At Henrik’s insistence, they waited as Simone laid stiffly on her side on the floor, her entire body tensing and then relaxing repeatedly in a seizure. The impulse to grab her and shake her out of it was strong, but beyond rolling her onto her side and putting a pillow under her head, Henrik had said they just had to wait it out. Anders could not do this. He stood up, sat down, gnawed at his knuckle until it nearly broke skin, stood up again, then broke the awful silence.


“Why is this happening?” he asked. "What’s wrong with her? Is this normal? This isn’t normal.”


Henrik shook his head, not taking his eyes off the prone girl. “There’s a lot of reasons this could happen, but I’m pretty sure it’s withdrawals.”


“Withdrawals? Withdrawals from what?”


“Barbiturates, benzodiazepines, take your pick. Leif had plenty of each in his medicine bag. Nothing that was explicitly anticonvulsant, though. I don’t think he was using phenobarbital or diazepam to do anything but render unconsciousness,” Henrik theorized, stroking his beard with his thick hand. Anders wanted to scream; he couldn’t understand how his brother could be so stoic about this.


“Could you explain that in Norwegian now? Or just what the fuck that has to do with why Simone is having a seizure?”


Henrik huffed out of his nose and frowned back at him. “There were a lot of medicines in Leif’s collection that, if you stop taking them suddenly after having been on them a while, could cause this.”


Anders waited for him to continue and when he didn’t, he tried not to scream, “What else can happen?”


“Well, she has a lot of other symptoms already,” Henrik answered. “Fever, tremor, perspiration, hallucinations… hard to say what will happen. Seizing indicates possible excitotoxicity or neurotoxicity. We should take her to a hospital… maybe.”


“‘Maybe’?”


“Well… Hospitals here aren’t really equipped to help people withdraw,” Henrik explained carefully. “I looked into coming out here and working at an American medical facility when Pappa was getting worse. It’s bleak, especially for addicts. There’s not a lot of help available to them without it costing an arm and a leg at a private rehab. If we take Simone in, especially without being able to tell them much or bring proof of insurance, there’s a good chance they’ll just put her on an IV and leave her to dry out while they write up the bill. Most addicts don’t even try to seek help. It’s safer just to keep using.”


Anders’ tasted blood and looked down at his knuckle. He’d finally bitten through the skin. “What the fuck is this country?”


Simone’s body stopped tensing, seeming to almost deflate in exhaustion as the seizing receded, and she lied there panting and still. Henrik leaned over Simone and pressed his hand to her forehead. Anders ignored the insane feeling of protectiveness that urged him to push his brother away as he touched her. He needed to let him work. Henrik lifted her hand and checked her pulse, using the men’s watch she wore on that wrist to count the beats per minute, his heavy brow furrowed in concentration and worry.


“Get Vid, his English is better,” Henrik said.


Anders didn’t want to leave her. He hesitated a moment, letting the weight of logic overthrow these base reactions before bolting to the other room. When Vidar finally opened the door, Anders saw that he’d been crying.


“Simone’s had a seizure. We need you to talk to her.”


“Simone’s as good as dead,” Vidar said dismissively, walking back into the room.

Anders caught the door before it shut in his face and stepped through it. Before he could shout his brother down, he saw that the room was in chaotic disarray. An armchair laid on its side, gutted and broken, its stuffing torn out from it like a disemboweled beast. Bedding had been thrown all over the room and a mattress had been flipped onto a wall. Anders swallowed the sour dread and anger at having let them put Simone in a room with this broken man. He could lambaste his brothers later; he needed them to help her first. He looked back to Vidar’s miserable and red-rimmed eyes, conviction hardening his voice.


“She’s sick, Vid. She’s withdrawing from whatever shit Leif had her fucked up on for so long. Just help us talk to her.”


Vidar smiled without humor and turned to the wall. His voice was slightly hoarse as he said, “She’s going to go back to him, you know. She loves him, or at least she thinks she does. He made sure of that.”


At first Anders didn’t understand what he was saying, but when recognition hit, it hit him hard. He couldn’t stop himself from yelling, “Would you please just fucking come with me and help?!”


Vidar shook his head and calmly said, “She’s probably going to die, if she’s lucky. Let’s not waste her good fortune.”


That simmering rage and frustration boiled over in Anders in a flash of motion. He didn’t know he’d moved on Vidar until he saw him stumble backward with his hand raised defensively in front of him. His older brother stared at him in the wide-eyed shock they both shared and Anders shook his fists loose. He hadn’t intended to hit Vidar, but he also hadn’t intended to close in on him like that either. It just happened. He pressed his bleeding hand into his hair, tugging at the roots nervously as he assured himself that it was just stress. He wasn’t a violent man unless it was necessary. Beating Vidar wouldn’t have been necessary, even after the terrible things he’d said about Simone. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t anything.


“Listen, just… just come and talk to her,” Anders said, unable to even look at him.


“Sure, okay…” Vidar muttered.


Anders tried to think of something substantial to say to excuse his behavior, but he couldn’t. He left ahead of Vidar, eager to get back to Simone. These hours without her had him on edge believing something terrible would happen to her without him there, but it was still surprising to be proven right. He shouldn’t have ever let them separate her from his sight. It was a terrible, awful thought, but there was a part of him that felt validated that something had happened. She needed him.


“How is she?” he asked as he propped open the door for Vidar to squeeze into the cramped room after him.


“I don’t know,” Henrik answered, rubbing his face. “Maybe we should call an ambulance.”


“We might as well shoot up a flare for the freaks to come after us if we do that,” Vidar quickly interjected, his irritated tone fully recovered from being shaken by Anders’ sudden aggression. “No cops, no hospitals, no institutions where we can be identified. Fuck, going to the airport was probably a mistake. Don’t Americans just throw drug addicts in a box to dry out anyway? Hell, we could do that here.”


“Vidar, just get down here and ask her some simple questions,” Henrik grumbled, then said, “Actually, Anders, you get down here. Vid, tell him what to say.”


Vidar crossed his arms, seeming to take personal offense to this as Anders carefully lowered himself to sit on the floor above her head. His wound pulled painfully at the maneuver, reminding him that he’d been walking around without the aid of crutches, high and stupid on adrenaline. Simone’s eyes were blinking slowly, her sweat-drenched forehead furrowed in pain as she panted heavily through her paled lips. He took her shaking hand and held it between his to try to warm it.


“Ask her if she knows where she is, if she knows what happened, the last thing she remembers, that kind of shit,” Henrik said as he sat heavily on his bed, running his fingers through his beard.


“Okay, ah…” Vidar began. “Say, Where are you.”


Anders leaned over her face, bending close enough to whisper, “Simone… Simone, where are you?”


At first, she could only groan slightly, her blinking eyes unseeing even as they looked through half-lids up at him. Then, in a tiny whisper, “Water… but… everything is so dark… There’s someone in the water…


“Now ask, You know what has happened,” Vidar instructed above him, not having heard her bizarre response.


Anders didn’t know what else to do, so he whispered, “You know what has happened?”


Her eyes darted around, still unfocused and bleary, as though she was dreaming. Her whispers between panting breaths were stronger, more fretful, “I know what.. has happened… I… he… he said to… so I made him still and… so quiet with the water.”


Henrik handed him a towel and he used it to wipe away some of the sweat from her brow, her skin hot to the touch even through the material. She kept whispering the strange nonsense, her words becoming more disjointed as she kept repeating something about water. Anders sighed as he accepted what he had to do.


“I’m going to go back to my room if that’s all,” Vidar said.


Anders quickly lifted his head, stopping Vidar’s retreat by asking, “Could you actually help me tell her one more thing?” Vidar shrugged, but stayed.
Anders touched her face, his thumb smoothing over her soft fever-heated cheek as he worked up the nerve to let his brothers hear this. She was far more important to him than his fear. “I want to know how to tell her that she’s with me from now on. That I’ll take her in and take care of her. Forever.”


“She can’t even leave the country, dumbfuck, how are you going to tell her all that and just leave her in a couple days?” Vidar groused sourly.


Anders accepted the disposable plastic cup of water Henrik brought him with a small smile as the large man watched him warily. He lifted and cradled her boneless form against him as he said, “I’m not leaving without her. We’ll figure it out.”


“That’s insane, Anders. We’ll be lucky to make it to that flight. What do you think Leif is going to do when he catches you? It’s suicide!” Vidar sneered.


“Leif isn’t going to catch me,” Anders corrected him. “I’m not running from him anymore.”


“What the hell are you talking about?” Henrik asked grimly.


Anders held Simone’s head up as he tipped the cup into her mouth and she automatically accepted the drink. The memory of trying this and being rewarded with a face full of bloody water when she spat it out at him seemed so funny and distant now. It was actually far from either, but he chuckled anyway. His brothers stared at him as though he’d gone completely insane. Maybe he was.
He hugged her to him more tightly, feeling her soft hair under his cheek and breathing in her fevered scent as he said, “I’m going to go to him.”


S-stop… stop… stop…” Simone whimpered, her body trembling and curling into him. Her hand tightened into a fist over his chest, twisting the pancake drawing on his shirt.

Chapter Text

When Leif next awoke, it was to the golden light of sunrise trickling between the blinds. In that space between sleeping and waking, he was devoid of memory or identity, existing only to see the light shimmer and feel the warmth of the bedding. The scent of his absent daughter was the catalyst that birthed his mind, ushering in the terrible reality of his existence and unfurling the tangled web of his thoughts. It was with practiced ease that he pushed down his emotional reaction to living, focusing past it in meditative technique, letting it dissipate into vaporous nothing until he was empty again. Only once he had made himself hollow did he allow carefully controlled thoughts and feelings to trickle back in. First the acknowledgement that he was still somehow alive, then what that meant for him. Today, his still being alive meant finding his daughter and vengeance. Without rising from the bed, he took his cell phone from the nightstand and checked for any messages. None. Disappointment was a feeling too close to failure. He wanted blood, but he could settle for coffee for now.

Walking through the empty house in the daylight, he toyed with the idea of burning it to the ground, contracting one of the mafia-based construction companies he had good relations with, and turning this graveyard into a proper home for him and his daughter. No more bodies to keep him prisoner to these grounds. No more memories that go bump in the night. The coffee in the pantry was stale, but it was a beautiful morning for a drive.

Jay’s Grocer and General was just opening when he pulled up in Einar’s old truck. Leif’s work boots crunched over the loose gravel that made up the parking lot, the noise alarming a small flock of chickens to take their pecking elsewhere, but for all this country kitsch, Jay’s had gone from a pit stop to a supplier of gourmet foods and fine wines to suit the rapid gentrification of this rural community. Unfortunate for Einar’s original neighbors who were now on the fixed incomes of retirement benefits, but fortunate for Leif to get a decent bag of fair trade, ethically-sourced coffee. The brand he chose touted its support of a small village in Ethiopia and he figured it balanced out the destruction he helped wreak on this village of retirees by feeding that gentrification. Irony was its own reward.

“How ya doin’ this morning, Mr. Valstad?”

Leif turned to the young man who addressed him and, seeing him in the apron that marked him as an employee, relaxed. He recalled that this was the same gangly boy that was all over his daughter during their first supply run and, inexplicably, at the funeral reception. He glanced at his name tag and returned his greeting with a warm and neighborly, “Good morning, Bryce! You know, I didn’t get a chance to ask you how you knew Einar.”

Bryce’s body language was loose and oddly unworried for someone who was on the receiving end of an unspoken threat just the previous day, no matter how covertly implied. Leif wondered at this as the boy turned to him more fully as he spoke.

“We knew him as Ernie,” the boy said, his tone the respectful narration that the genteel took on when speaking of the dead, “He was pretty well known to just about everybody. Well, half the town was there yesterday, so that’s kinda obvious. I’d, uh, take him his groceries on the bad days he couldn’t make it on his own. We got to be sort of friends.”

Leif was accustomed to his father being sort of friends with hundreds of people, but those people were usually useful to him to further his agenda or as potential resources. It wasn’t the man’s modus operandi to chum it up with the local bag boys.

“Well, I owe you my thanks,” Leif smiled.

“Oh, that reminds me…” the boy said, digging into his pants pockets and coming up empty with an apologetic shrug. “I should give you the key, I guess, but I, uh, forgot it today. Sorry.”

Leif’s surprise was enough to engage his interest. He wasn’t aware that his father had grown so pathetically decrepit that he had to resort to allowing near strangers access to the property. The old man had been aggressively private for as long as Leif had known him, but sickness can weaken more than the body. It was a shame he’d been too committed to life to take his own before the cancer had reduced him. Leif would have gladly done it for him, but etiquette required he wait to be asked. The disappointment that came with the call letting him know Einar had died by natural causes was a thing that still stung, now all the worse with this scenario before him.

“You know, I’ll just drop it by on-”

“No, that won’t be necessary,” Leif interrupted. It was troublesome enough that Einar had been handing out keys to two - no, three- generations worth of evidence without having to worry about anyone dropping by. “We’re having the locks replaced today.”

“Oh, well then,” Bryce smiled, adjusting the broomstick in his hands. “It was nice seeing you both yesterday. How is Simone? I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye before she left with Eddie.”

Leif felt his façade collapse under the weight of all this boy had implied with such breezily-delivered small talk. His relaxed brow and easy smile fell into his natural impassiveness, his hostility displayed only in the eager glint of his steel-gray eyes and the straightening of his posture. Whether the boy knew the full meaning his words carried or not was difficult to say, but Leif was hopeful that he could find out through pain. He was not a cruel man, though, so he would give him the chance to avoid that method.

“Is Eddie a friend, Bryce?” Leif asked. The friendly tone he retained was a disconcerting contrast to the cold anger behind his thin veneer of control.

The boy was already nervous, which was always gratifying but not helpful to either of them. Not yet, at least. “Um. Eddie was, uh, he, um, he and Ernie used to work together, I guess? Right?”

“Is that so? Please, tell me more about Eddie,” Leif said, stepping closer to him, the package of coffee still clutched in both hands at his front.

Bryce glanced around, too automatically to be surreptitious about it, but they were alone in the back of the store. “Well, uh… I don’t know much. A quiet guy. He just came in with Ernie sometimes and, um, later… he was there sometimes. At the house. Not a lot.”

“What was he doing there?”

“Um… they were friends? Look, I really didn’t know him that well,” Bryce said, stepping backwards as Leif moved closer.

Leif took that as his cue to put a hand in his pocket, the antler handle of the folding knife fitting pleasantly in his palm. “You know more than that, Bryce.”

The boy seemed as baffled as he was frightened, which was disappointing. He probably didn’t actually know anything. It seemed as though both of them were victims of bad luck and inadequate information, but Leif was quickly coming to lean towards the idea of making this boy’s luck a lot worse than his. It would only be prudent to be thorough. He pulled the knife out of his pocket, watching the boy’s widening eyes follow it as he slowly slid the blade out with his thumb.

“Mr. Valstad…?”

Leif’s phone vibrated in his other pocket. He sighed, disappointed yet again as he traded the knife for the phone. “Excuse me, Bryce, I have to take this.”

The boy nodded and stiffly walked away, his face as pasty as it was when he had seen the gun tucked at Leif’s side during the reception. The impression that young man must have of him by now didn’t matter, but it did illuminate to Leif that his social graces may have atrophied after having had a taste of the carrot that had been dangling in front of him for so long. He was chasing that carrot all over again and was more impatient the second time around.

“Good morning, Sheriff Boden,” he spoke into his phone, placing the bag of coffee back on the shelf as he walked towards the exit.

“It sure is morning, but I don’t know if it’s a good one, Mr. Valstad,” Boden said. He didn’t wait a beat before continuing; a forwardness that Leif appreciated more and more lately. “Kyun, the driver you had us on the lookout for? Turned up dead in the mud with a hole punched straight through his head. Property owner found him at the asscrack of dawn when his goats got out into the road from the fence he – or whoever- broke through. You wanna tell me what the hell kind of a bender your daughter is on or are we just gonna dance around that one?”

“Family dispute,” Leif responded. “Send me the location. I’m on my way now.”

“The feds took this one, so I can’t permit you a tour of the scene.”

Leif didn’t pause on his way to his vehicle, though he wasn’t entirely aware of getting in it until he was sitting in the driver’s seat. The FBI must have been following Kyun closely to have descended upon his corpse with such immediacy. Perhaps Renfro had fed him to the Bureau, perhaps they had long been in pursuit of him, but between two links to the FBI even with Marceau’s knowledge, it was madness for Marceau to have used them in this scheme. Unless that was his intent. Where will you go when they come for you?

 Marceau knew he was capable of slipping the Bureau but he wouldn’t leave without taking Simone. He would be pinned and vulnerable the longer he stayed looking for her. Even if he ran, Marceau had power over him for as long as he held Simone hostage. But Marceau did not have Simone.

“… you there? Mr. Valstad?”

“The vehicle had been driven through a fence. Was that intended?” he asked, his mind still clicking rapidly.

“Skid on the road indicates they lost control of the vehicle. We only got a glimpse of the scene before it was swept up from under us. Musta been ‘bout a baker’s dozen of them feds come swarmin up on us like locusts just twenty minutes after we got the…”

Leif placed the phone down next to him on the cracked leather bench seat of his father’s truck, Boden’s tinny voice still rambling through the weak reception, and pressed his fingertips to his grinning mouth. His daughter had killed her captor, he was certain of that. He wasn’t familiar with Kyun, but a seasoned hunter wouldn’t have entertained the natural hesitance to violence present in his brothers. The level of threat required for his darling girl to make such a reckless move implied that the weapon was made visible to her, a mistake on Kyun’s part that turned out to be fatal. His savage girl had attacked while Kyun was driving. Leif leaned his head back and closed his eyes, listening to the overtures of pride and relief lifting in the symphony of his mind. Beneath that music, the clicking metronome of thought processed a plan. He decided to search out Marceau to do breakfast with him.

 

 

Light brought Simone out from a fever dream of dozens of hands pulling her down deep into the earth, but the engine hum and swaying of the car in motion lulled her back into that fitful rest until the light pulled her out again. This repeated, waking to the light and then being pulled down into dense darkness by those hands again and again, making her delirious mind forget there had ever been anything else to existence until one of those hands curled over her face. The gentle caress of its calloused fingertips on her cheek sparked memory and grounded her to the light this time. She blinked blearily in the golden sunshine of the morning to see Anders watching her, his beleaguered and ashen face close.

“Are you okay?” she whispered, the short question half-wheezed out of her dry and cracked throat.

The edges of his mouth twitched into a sad smile. “I am okay. You are… How are you?”

She nodded then started to feel the pull of those hands again before her eyes even shut, but he was pulling her away from them and muttering Norwegian at her as he propped her to sit up with her back leaning against something cold and leather. It was then that she was able to comprehend her surroundings. She was in the trunk space of the SUV, the motel comforter wrapped around and under her. She looked into his eyes, noticing they were the exact shade of the open sky behind him as though it shown straight through him. He was bruised and exhausted and beautiful.

“Is it time for you to leave?” she whispered. She’d never noticed the lines in his forehead or at the edges of his eyes so pronounced before, the slight shift in his expression deepening them in something between contentment and sadness. Her heart wrenched at the likeness he held to her father in that concealed emotion and age but she couldn’t tell if she ached with longing or apprehension. Recent experience had taught her it was likely both.

“No,” he answered, that sad smile tugging wider.

He held a glass of water out to her and she had to use the meager strength in both of her arms to lift it to her mouth. Everything hurt but thirst was a powerful drive. She had to go slow with it, her battered throat threatening to choke with each swallow, and tried to ignore how he watched her with that intense stare. He was always so patient with her, but there was a heat in his eyes even while she was in this deathly condition. Being the focus of such heavy attention made her nervous, especially when she was this vulnerable, but this was Anders. He only ever wanted to help.

“Thank you,” she said more clearly now that her throat had been wetted.

Her head was clearer as well, though still throbbed with the fluff overstuffing her skull. A thin ringing sound whined in her ears and her body was shaking and weak. It occurred to her that she must have slipped further into sickness, shame following that knowledge at how burdensome and weak she was. It was an old shame, as old as the disappointment hidden in her mother’s gaze, motivating her to push herself harder to at least seem less sick than she felt. He caught her shoulders when she tried to push herself up, his unpracticed help at assisting the debilitated doing more harm by throwing off her already reeling center of balance. She had to work up the nerve to lean up and wrap her arms around his shoulders, encouraging his hold to go lower. When his hands went to her waist, his attempt at assistance crumbled under his seemingly endless impulse toward affection and he pulled her to him in an almost desperate embrace. Under the soft materials of their t-shirts and sweatpants, she could feel the hardened tension in the lean musculature of his body pressed against her. Danger burned in the back of her mind. Something was wrong. These trees were familiar, the dirt road under them was the same as… She turned her head and saw her grandfather’s house, the wide oak front door open to the darkness within like a gaping maw. A cold chill ran through her fevered body.

“Anders… Anders, what have you done?” she asked, her voice shaking with the renewed trembling in her.

“Sshh, ssh, kjære,” he whispered. He reached behind her and she caught a glimpse of the revolver in his hand before he was hauling her up. Understanding what he intended was worse than the mindless fear of not knowing.

“No… no, no, no…” she panted as he carried her, limping with his bad leg up the steps. She began to weep as she pleaded, “Please, please don’t- You can’t go back, you were away from him! You’re supposed to go home! You’re supposed to leave!”

“Together,” he smiled, a grave expression that wasn’t at all comforting as it was intended.

“I can’t- I can’t protect you from him, I can’t! You have to turn back! He’s going to- to… Oh, God…”

She gagged on a sob, the cold of the water crawling up her esophagus but she kept it down just barely. The shadows beyond the doorway were thick with the curtains drawn, growing only darker as he carried her through the wide hallway. Each uneven step grew more muffled in her ringing ears as consciousness began to wane dangerously, but she had to stay lucid even in this mad fever dream. He laid her out on a couch in the parlor, nearly dropping her with how bending pained him, and sat heavily on the edge next to her. He set the gun on the coffee table and gripped the area above his wound, holding it tightly as he breathed heavily in pain, sweat glistening along his temple. She tried to sit up, tried not to look like she was going to snatch the weapon, but he pressed her back down with one wide hand on her chest.

“Rest,” he insisted, his voice as ragged and tired as he looked. He didn’t stop pressing her down, his fingers cold where the collar of her shirt dipped low to bare the skin below her collarbones. She felt sicker at the comfort his touch brought her even now.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked.

He looked at her, his weary expression hardening with resolve. She didn’t want his resolve. Resolve was for people attempting to accept a terrible decision they think is right. Whatever he thought he was doing by bringing them back to this house, back to her father, with a gun and steeled resolve, it was only a terrible decision.

“I love you,” he answered. His hand sat like a stone upon her chest.

Simone bit her lip until the sting of the split there throbbed in time with the ache in her chest. Ghosts stood in the archway behind Anders, but she couldn’t look at the headless woman or the blood-soaked man in fishing gear. Only this living, breathing man mattered and she had to prevent him from joining the death this family had wrought.

Her voice shook as she spoke. “I don’t… I don’t love you. Not like that. You’re my uncle, there’s just no… it’s impossible for me to feel that way about you. I can’t be with you. Ever.”

That terrible resolve didn’t falter, but his warmth did. “Stop.”

Her tears hit the dark blue velvet of the tufted couch with an audible sound, assuring her that the asthmatic wheezing echoing up from the basement darkroom was only in her mind. In that same space, the pop of an old manual camera made her flinch.

“No,” she said, focusing on the bruise her father created along his cheekbone. “I don’t want to be with you; it’s sickening. What we’ve been doing is wrong, Anders.”

Stop,” he growled through clenched teeth, twisting his body to lean over her and grasp the sides of her face.

She couldn’t look at how it pained him to hear this, so she shut her eyes and pretended her throat wasn’t closing around the sobs that threatened to wrack her as she spoke, “It’s been hurting us both and I can’t do it anymore. You need to leave. Get out. Get-!”

His mouth settling over hers cut her off in a kiss that felt too gentle for the forcefulness behind the intent. She grunted in effort to turn away from it, but he held her head still and tilted to offer her mouth more easily to him. He’d never done anything like this with her before. She pushed up against his chest, at first only to signal for him to stop, and then in earnest to push him away. Her pulse pounded in her ears and her panic began to rise. This wasn’t like him, but those were his thumbs stroking her cheeks and his lips pressing hers shut. Her breaths became short and quick through her nose, the pounding in her head worsening from rising fear stealing her oxygen. Guilt clenched her gut and drained her resistance. His hands moved to cradle her head after she stopped trying to twist away and his mouth slid more sensually over hers. She needed him to escape, but she wasn’t strong enough to lie to him. She leaned up into his kiss and slid her hands down his body, giving into this weakness for just a moment before jabbing her fingers into his stab wound.

He broke away, grimacing and gasping in pain, and she pushed him as she lunged for the gun. Her body was weak and disjointed like a newborn fawn and she stumbled away as fast as her rubbery legs could carry her, making it only a few paces before he slammed into her back. She shrieked as they both fell in a tumble, the revolver clattering and sliding away from them into the hallway. He pinned her down when she struggled to get out from under him, restraining her arms behind her and straddling over her ass.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” he muttered, squeezing her jerking wrists together with one hand. Her hip bones ached where his weight mashed them into the oriental rug.

The gun laid between the gray feet of the decapitated woman as she stood over it. Water flooded into the house, tepid and slow as oil, rising quickly over Simone’s nose and mouth. This was all a hallucination, she reminded herself even as she held her breath. She wanted so badly to wake up in a motel room hours away from there with all her uncles bickering in Norwegian. Her lungs burned for air but she couldn’t bring herself to breathe in that water, phantom or not. Her struggles became jerky and convulsive, static humming loud in her mind and darkness narrowing her vision. They had to get out. She had to find a way. She heard Anders calling her name and felt him turning her body as unconsciousness took her again, those many hands coming up out of the water to drag her down into the dense earth.

 

 

There were dozens of different capsules and tablets, liquids and powders, syrups and blotter papers in that pack. Anders didn’t know which would help pull Simone out of withdrawal, but he couldn’t wait for Leif to show up and administer it. She had seized again, her body jerking and shivering in his arms as he cradled her to keep her from knocking against the floor, and she was now burning to the touch. The pack was open on the coffee table and she laid on the couch once more, wavering between unconsciousness and something near it, sweating and muttering incoherently. She was only getting worse. He had to decide.

“God help me,” he murmured, picking three of the most plentiful pills.

He propped up her head in his lap and prayed, his eyes squeezed shut and the pills pressed between his clasped hands. This was foolish, he knew he could very likely hurt her even more, but he couldn’t let her go on like this. He had to do something. So, he prayed, willing them to help her. His fingers shook as they pried her mouth open and placed them on her tongue. When she didn’t swallow, he pursed his lips together to gather his resolve before putting his hand over her mouth and pinching her nostrils closed. If it worked on his dogs, it might get her to swallow reflexively. He waited, holding his breath with her, watching for her throat to bob. Her eyes moved rapidly under her closed lids. His own lungs began to ache. She twitched. He burned. Her head began to jerk and then, thankfully, she began to swallow. He released her face and she drew in a rattling breath as he gasped to catch his.

“Work,” he whispered, putting all his will and hope into the command.

He ran his fingers through her hair as he waited. There was no working phone in this house he could use to call an ambulance if he had chosen incorrectly. As her breaths relaxed from the ragged panting and her shaking reduced, he dared to be hopeful. Minutes dragged by. He watched, checking the pulse point at her neck and the steady rhythm of her breaths under her shirt perhaps too frequently, but he needed the reassurance. He glanced to the pistol, trying not to wonder what he would do if she slipped away. If he’d killed her. She had to get better.

The watch on her wrist let him know that a half hour had passed by the time she seemed to relax into a more natural sleep. The next time he looked at her watch, it had stopped. Frowning, he took it off her wrist and wound it. There was something odd in the construction of the timepiece. Carefully, he pried his fingernail into a slight notch under the face and the back of the watch popped off. It landed on her neck, right over the line of stitches holding her skin together, and he gingerly picked it up. There were three sets of numbers and a strange symbol written in neat, angular pen. He stared at that symbol, trying to remember where he had seen it before. A knock on the front door tore him out of his pondering and he popped the back onto the watch and set it on the table before maneuvering off the couch. Whoever it was knocked again as he limped the short distance to the door, the revolver ready in his hand with the hammer pulled back. Peering through the peephole, he didn’t recognize the two men in suits standing on the patio. He waited for them to leave.

“Leif Valstad, this is FBI special agent Thompson, I have some questions for you!” one of them yelled, pounding again on the thick oak.

Anders considered letting them in. If they were really who they said they were, they might help protect him and Simone from Leif. Watching them through the peephole, he was about to ask them to show their badges when he flinched at a loud bang from outside and saw one of the men go down in a splash of blood from his neck. Anders’ pounding heart leaped into his throat when another shot rang out and the other agent’s forehead cracked open in a splatter of gore before he could react to his partner’s death. Anders stumbled back from the door, rushing back into the parlor, but Simone was gone.

“Fuck,” he breathed, backing away from the empty couch. The watch was missing from the coffee table as well. “Fuck. Fuck! Simone!”

He stumbled quickly down the hall, adrenaline numbing the pain in his leg, as he called for her. He’d seen three men shot to death in the last two days. He’d been beaten, drugged, and forced to do an unspeakable act. This had to stop. They had to get out of this country. He had wanted to threaten Leif into giving him Simone’s passport and papers at gunpoint before leaving, but seeing those men shot dead fled any intention of that in him. Whoever was out there didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger, swiftly and accurately, on two federal agents. Anders had never fired a gun in his life. A sound caught his attention and he nearly ran to it, finding the door to the bathroom locked as the noise of pouring water echoed inside.

“Simone?” he called, trying the knob and knocking. He could hear the faint sound of her voice within and knocked again. “Simone, open please!”

Bracing himself, he slammed his shoulder into the door, the antique lock breaking on the first blow and sending him tripping into the bathroom. He caught himself on the counter, righting to see Simone bathing in the tub as it filled with steaming water. She had her bare back to him, not seeming to be aware of his intrusion into the room as she soaped her body and sang softly to herself.

“Simone, what… we have need to leave!” he grimaced, limping towards her.

He tried to grab her shoulder but she jerked out of his grasp, sinking her lathered body under the rising water. He sat on the edge of the tub to take his weight off his injury, still not feeling as much pain as he should yet knowing it would be much worse later, and reached into the water. When his hands grabbed her narrow rib cage, she shot out and pulled him in. He slipped off the edge and landed in the tub, splashing as he failed to escape her surprisingly strong hold.

“Agh, fuck, what the fuck! No, we have to- need to go! Simone, let me go!” he said, trying to clutch the sides of the tub to pull himself out.

Be quiet and still,” she muttered as she flipped over to straddle his front and pushed him down.

The water rushed over his face, hot and smelling of berries and rose, and he began to desperately push at her. She held him down by his throat and he looked up at her blurry image through the water, wondering why she was doing this and why he was unable push her off him. The strength with which she held him under wasn’t natural. With a shock of horror, it occurred to him that she might drown him. His hands pressed up onto her slippery skin wherever they could grab as desperation filled him. The panic and fruitless exertion depleted his oxygen within seconds, the burn in his lungs expanding through his muscles and tingling in his mind unpleasantly. He clawed at her, not wanting to hurt her but needing her to stop as spots danced behind his eyes and a disconcerting heaviness began to drain his strength. Just before those spots completely overtook his vision, she vanished off him and he pushed himself up to gasp in gouts of air. His lungs ached as he panted, his body exhausted and buzzing, and it took several breaths before he was able see Leif clearly as he stood clutching a naked and sopping wet Simone in a tight embrace. Mortal panic returned to Anders in a heated flash, but Leif didn’t even seem to notice him as he hugged Simone. When his brother finally glanced at him, Leif smiled.

“You have my gratitude for bringing me back my darling girl,” Leif said, moving his arm from the embrace and leveling the barrel of a gun at him.

Chapter Text

Henrik shouldn’t have been surprised that his now apparently insane baby brother had somehow sneaked out in the early morning with their niece, the gun, the car, and half the cash. He shouldn’t have been surprised at that after walking into the motel room yesterday to find them both bare but for the sweat of their sin. He shouldn’t have been surprised after Anders had said that he was going to go to Leif, a prospect so clearly insane that neither he nor Vidar had assumed it might have been meant literally. But he was surprised that the lunatic had actually done it. He was also furious at himself for not kicking his ass for perving on their vulnerable niece. Life had been trying so hard to teach Henrik that words and decency were just smoke and shadows in the face of all this madness, but he had refused to learn.

“I’m calling the cops,” Henrik announced.

Vidar jerked out of his pensive and angry silence at that. “Fuck all, you’re not! You want to be stuck in this country forever?”

“Anders is going back to Leif, specifically to do something impossibly stupid,” Henrik frowned. “He’s endangering himself and Simone. I can’t let that happen.”

“We don’t know that,” Vidar countered. “Maybe they’re headed towards Las Vegas to get married by an Elvis impersonator.”

Henrik slowly turned his incredulous stare toward him, unable to comprehend how the man could be so flippant while their baby brother and only niece were in danger. “Didn’t you hear him last night?”

“Sure, I heard him, dick meat. I just think he’s earned the right to kill that psycho son of a whore. Someone has to do it. Neither of us wants to get close enough and Simone won’t ever say no to daddy dearest, so it’s down to sweet baby Anders.”

“Are you listening to yourself right now? You’ve fucking lost it, Vid. I didn’t want to say anything, but you’re out of your mind.”

Vidar shrugged in response. Henrik picked up the corded phone from the nightstand and dialed 911, only to be met with dead air. He tried again, then tried dialing an extra 9, then gave up with a huff as he slammed the receiver down. Vidar watched him in blatant amusement from where he sat cross-legged on the bed Anders was supposed to be in.

“You’re better off not interfering!” Vidar grinned at him as Henrik marched toward the door.

Henrik ignored his deranged brother’s patronizing tone with a sneer. If he had to be the only sane one in the family, then so be it. He swung open the door to find two men standing just outside it. Henrik flinched back, fear gripping him immediately and freezing him in place.

Well, good morning,” the brown-haired man smiled at him. Henrik grit his teeth at the motion of him reaching into his coat, grimacing in the inevitability of being shot. When the bullet didn’t come, he looked at the badge the man held up to him. FBI. “I’m special agent Carter Thompson and this is detective Murphy. We were hoping to ask you a few questions. Do you mind stepping outside for just a moment of your time, or would you like to invite us inside?”

Henrik’s mind worked to unscramble the English, but his panic was not subsiding. His throat wouldn’t cooperate until he yelled, “Vidar, talk to them!”

“Hmm… No, I think not,” his younger brother responded lazily.

“Could you just fucking do it, you sack of dog shit!” Henrik growled.

Do you speak English?” Agent Thompson asked.

“YES! Ah, yes, a little,” Henrik stammered loudly. He took a deep calming breath, trying to shake off the anxiety that refused to leave him. It did not. “How… how I can help you today?”

“Uh… well, we were looking for a white Mercedes SUV with Maryland plates. Have you seen one parked around here lately?”

Henrik stared blankly at the Americans. He should have been able to understand that, he knew the English, but his scrambled mind couldn’t translate anything. He turned and gave his brother a pleading look. Vidar waved at him and smiled.

We could have an interpreter call you,” Thompson offered.

No! No, I can speak,” Henrik hurriedly said. He could. He could do this. He focused on the American and slowly said, “We are seeing car, yes.

And was this man the driver?” the agent asked, pulling a photo of Edward Kyun out from his pocket.

Henrik looked away from the photo quickly, nausea twisting his gut as the image of Kyun’s body leaning out the car door with his brains leaking into the grass flashed in his mind. “No.”

Leif Valstad did yesterday take us here in the car, go away, and today retrieve of the car,” Vidar said. Henrik nearly leaped out of his skin at how his brother had sneaked up beside him, but he was immediately thankful. “Edward did give us ride from funeral. He is with Leif now. You are wanting address of Leif?

The two Americans turned to each other and shared a smile before the quiet Murphy said, “Yes, yes, we would.”

Henrik shared a smile with his brother, as well. He recognized that Vidar, the quick-witted fox, had both given reasonable doubt to their involvement in the murder of Kyun as well as shifted both the blame and police interest to Leif in just a few short statements. They just might be safe from the madman and Anders might be rescued from whatever violence he had foolheartedly charged towards. Henrik clapped his large hand on Vidar’s narrow shoulder and relaxed with the hope that this was going to work out.

 

 

Leif shut the door to the Kyun’s SUV with the fed and the cop in the backseat, their slack-jawed heads lulled backward and staining the leather headrests of the luxury vehicle. He wiped his hands on his slacks as he walked back toward the house, his soaring spirits putting a spring in his step and a smile on his blood-splattered face. His hands still ached from Marceau’s face crunching under his knuckles and then digging up Renfro’s corpse, but it was the good pain of a hard day’s work. For the first time in a while, Leif found a heightened gratification in this necessary violence, nearly fulfilling his bloodlust for now. This glorious day might sustain him for months. Walking down the hall, he caught the scent of his daughter nearby and the sweet bath oil wafting from further down. Instantly, the tension in his muscles relaxed in a wave of relief. She was here. The symphony inside him swelled in victorious fanfare; a playful and uplifting Schubert to enhance his likewise mood.

The sound of splashing from the bathroom announced her presence to him before he turned to the open door and saw his Simone bathing in the tub, but he wasn’t prepared for the unexpected rush of emotion upon seeing her. There was no meditative technique that could have dulled the impact of finding his precious child alive, her body bared to him so whole and beautiful. He stepped toward her without thinking, his body compelled by the need to touch her, and he didn’t notice that she was pressing down on Anders beneath her until he was nearly upon her. He paused, observing the familiar way she held Anders under the rising water with such intense focus as he pushed and clawed at her with increasing frenzy. Fate had not so much bestowed him the privilege of witnessing this pivotal event as it had brought him here to correct it. She was only recreating a previous kill, caught in a flashback of a memory he had buried deep in her subconscious, and she would not remember this moment for the splendor that it was. She had consciously and willingly taken a life; there was no use or place for these dissociative states now that she was a hunter with her own willpower and agency. It was time to begin teaching her to embrace her nature now that it had bloomed.

He reached out to her, tracing the trembling and flexing muscles along her bruised back, feeling the life he had created and cultivated. His plans had gone so awry but here they were: father and daughter, progenitor and progeny, master and disciple, more prepared than he had thought to begin the next phase in their life together. The needle sunk into her neck and fed the sedative into her jugular just in case, but his darling girl didn’t even flinch from the sting. She did not resist him as he pulled her out of the bathtub either and her body easily followed his prompts to embrace him as he drew her dripping form close. He indulged in the feel of her shaking form pressed to him, the scented bathwater soaking through his slacks and shirt as she wrapped her arms tightly around his middle beneath his jacket. Ignoring the coughing and gasping from Anders as his lungs fought to recover lost oxygen, he dipped low and tilted her chin up to kiss her. The inside of her mouth was hot and tasted of fever; his daughter was sick. An unusual fatherly instinct commanded him to comfort and protect her and he enticed her tongue into reciprocating his kiss, soothing them both through this familiar affection. She relaxed in his arms, that murderous intent draining out of her tensed muscles as he coaxed her from of that flashback and into the void of the mild sedative. When he heard Anders’ panting shift from necessity to panic, he took the gun out from under his jacket and gave his daughter one more squeeze before aiming it at him.

You have my gratitude for bringing me back my darling girl,” he said, meaning every word.

His brother stared at him, frozen in wide-eyed terror, as Simone nuzzled his chest in animalistic affection. He stroked the inward curve of her waist to calm her but that only seemed to rile her further as she brought her hands to his sides and lethargically clawed at his torso. He glanced at her, seeing the adoration and need she practically radiated as she stared up at him with bleary and widely-dilated pupils, and reengaged the safety on his father’s old Glock 21. They had some time before anyone would come looking for the fed or the cop; there was no need to rush this. They could have some fun before they had to work. He leaned over and closed the taps on the faucet, pretending not to notice when Anders flinched away from his approach.

So, you have survived Edward Kyun. Were our other brothers so lucky?” he asked. His brother only nodded, confusion mixing into his fear at this line of questioning. Leif smiled. “I see they did not come with you. Were you intending to kill me alone, spare them the horror in this good deed to an undeserving world?

I’m not a murderer like you,” Anders spat.

A murderer like Simone, you mean?” Leif smirked at how his brother’s brow twitched at that. There’s the rub. He lowered his weapon, not needing to keep it aimed on him with how quickly he’d be able to draw it if need be, and his brother was well-behaved enough not to move at this first opportunity. “Did you watch as your dear niece murdered a man at pointblank? Tell me, did she look him in the eyes as she took his life?

Anders glanced at Simone and Leif observed his reactions carefully. Sorrow. Pity. Regret. Longing. His brother looked away from her before nodding. Denial. That’s not unexpected; most people refuse to see what they don’t want to see in those they love. Leif could make use of him with that. He tapped the revolver on the floor with his foot and tilted his head curiously.

If not to kill me, then why did you come back here with a gun?

Simone needed medicine.

She looked at Anders when she heard her name. Leif placed his hand on her cheek and turned her to face him again as he said, “How selfless and noble of you. Did you fuck her before or after she committed murder yesterday?” Anders’ lip twitched, wanting to curl into a snarl, and Leif nearly laughed at his transparency. He didn’t need full use of his observational skills to dissect this man’s simple desires. “It doesn’t bother you as much as you want it to. None of this does. You’ve been ashamed at your lack of shame since this started, made all the worse by how present your morals are each time they are confronted and remain far too unbothered. You don’t have to regard it in any way than you already do, you know. How immoral is incest if it’s out of love? How criminal is murder if it means protecting those you care about? It’s not so black and white now, is it? I hate to say this, but we’re quite alike. The only difference is that I’ve been forced to embrace what I am while you have been allowed to deny it your whole life. Tell me the truth: Do you find nourishment in the idea of taking a life?

“No,” Simone answered.

Both Leif and Anders looked at her in surprise. She couldn’t have responded to him. She didn’t understand Norwegian and even if she did, her ability to comprehend anything beyond a simple command was severely limited if she was at all present in these dissociative states. He kissed her burning forehead and pinched her cheek lovingly before turning his attention once more to his youngest brother, changing tactics.

If you wish to protect Simone from the fatal consequences of her crimes, then there is something we will need your cooperation with,” he said, then added, “Aside from not attempting to murder me quite yet.”

Anders’ wary tension twisted into a suspicious frown. “What is it?”

Leave. Don’t say anything to anyone about what has happened here. Nothing unusual occurred, everyone was normal. You had no idea about any murderers within the family and, should it ever be brought up, you will deny any questions that I was ever anything but fatherly toward Simone. Tell our brothers to do the same and I will not come for any of you.

Leif, you murdered an FBI agent. You’re not going to get away with this.”

No, I’m not.”

Anders watched him, his brow creasing further the only tell that he was thinking on how to interpret that before his expression darkened. “She’s not going with you.

The rental car is still parked outside, the keys are in the ignition,” Leif continued, ignoring his brother’s rudeness. He picked up the revolver from the wet floor, tucking it under his belt as he spoke. “Your things are already packed upstairs. Take them, as well as Henrik and Vidar’s suitcases.

I’m not leaving without her!”

Leif leveled a doubtful frown at him. “She doesn’t belong to you, Anders. You’re not her master. If you want a new pet, pick up another dog.” He unholstered the Glock for emphasis, knowing how stubborn his brothers all were. “Now, if you would be so kind...

 

 

The sound of wind rustling through the trees woke Simone with a short gasp and she opened her eyes to find herself facing the sky. Lighter branches swayed and leaves quivered in the cold breeze. She knew the exact scrape of the brush to create those cirrus clouds drifting slowly in the blue, blending out the bottom to leave the sun-tipped whites crisp and bright. Taint the white with just a little red to diffuse it, changing into degrees of lavender and gray to give the impression of shadow and dimension as it buffers out into the blue. Her fingers twitched with the motion of the brush, feeling the drag of the bristles across the canvas before her nails scraped the fibers of cloth. Blankets were spread out both above and beneath her, protecting her from the chill and the long green grasses beneath, but a solid presence beside her provided warmth to the pocket of fabric she laid in. The apparition of the canvas and brush vanished when she turned her head and was met with her father’s face, so near that he filled her field of vision and she could see the cracks of amber and blue behind the shattered effect of his irises.

“Is this a dream?” she whispered.

The arm he’d laid across her slid up her body from under the blanket to cup her cheek before he answered, “Not anymore.”

That rough, dark pitch of his voice alone made him seem so different from the man she’d grown up with. He watched her without any mask; his layers of disguise fully peeled away to reveal this stranger she was just beginning to know. It felt dangerous to be so close to him while he was this raw, as though they risked blending together without anything separating them, but she wasn’t afraid. Her sense of self had all but dissolved, anyway. A bleak sort of freedom came with that acceptance, making it easier to feel the obsessive love in that raw core of him. It was a thing that burned and consumed, but she had craved nothing more fervently than love from him her whole life. As he pressed his lips to hers, it felt as though she was trying to swallow the sun through his kiss. She tasted his heat and his heady essence as he moved to loom over her and delved his thick tongue into her mouth. He didn’t close his eyes as he kissed, opting to watch her as her body began to warm and tingle in response to his hunger. She shivered from how vulnerable that made her feel.

His fingers curled and his nails dragged lightly down her face as he pulled away and smiled, “I’d thought I had lost you, but you came back to me.”

“I can’t leave you,” she responded.

His smile grew into a grin and he leaned down to kiss her again. She didn’t want to correct his interpretation of that statement. Thinking of her uncles’ safety, her heart clenched in the first wave of fear she’d felt since waking. She couldn’t remember when it was she’d last seen them. She couldn’t remember how she’d gotten here. Leif moaned into her mouth as though he could taste her fear and found carnal enjoyment in it while his hands fondled her bare thighs to spread them open. His caresses along her thighs as he maneuvered his much larger body between them stirred that encompassing lust in her and muddled her thoughts as she scrambled to remember. She was in the motel room with Anders. No, she was sharing a room with Vidar. She’d gone outside to get some air and then there was a wide hole in her memory, filled with terrible nightmares.

Leif’s mouth traveled down her jaw and neck, nipping at her and making her want to squirm with each spike of exhilarating desire the gentle scrape of teeth provoked in her. When his head disappeared under the blanket and she felt his wet mouth and sharp teeth open over the still-healing bruise around her nipple, her back arched and she gasped at the shock of pleasure melding with the pain. His thumbs just barely brushed her vagina as he kneaded her inner thighs, making her wriggle just to increase that brief contact. His dark chuckle at her eagerness brought her out of her fervor and she winced in remorse at how quickly her need consumed her. There wasn’t anything she could do to fight it, but the shame hung heavy over her just the same. His tongue trailed down her abdomen, erupting goosebumps across her crawling flesh at the slick sensation of it gliding wetly along that vulnerable plain of her belly. Her breath caught in a hitch and then exhaled in a trembling moan when that tongue slid lightly over her clit and dipped into her. He swirled his tongue in her slowly, as though savoring it, and the deep rumble of his groan made her mouth fall open in a chorus of breathy gasps as her hands ran through his sleek hair. How often he’d violated her body and the violence he’d wreaked upon his family were far from her mind as his tongue stroked her towards orgasm, a betrayal of her biology that she could now only expect he’d make use of whenever he’d see fit.

“Papa…” she whimpered. Her legs were shaking and her muscles tensed in the effort of chasing her climax, but she needed more. He was being far too gentle on purpose. “Papa, please…”

“Hmm?” he hummed, the sound vibrating against her and making her toes curl.

The blue sky stretched on bright and wide above her, those feathery clouds rippling across it like the foamy crests of waves as the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves mimicked the sound of the sea. The slide of his lips languidly curling around her clit tilted her mind in a frenzy of tormented pleasure and she believed in madness that she would fall into that ocean above her. The impression of drowning as orgasm crashed down on her body and mind was met without fear of dying, but only anticipation of it. She couldn’t let herself die yet. He held her trembling thighs in a bruising grip as she cried out and tried to twist away from him, the suddenness of his effort focused on that sensitive concentration of nerves lifting her too high too quickly. Her cries cracked into a sob and she tried to squirm away but his grip on her only tightened. She tried to kick and he growled, his teeth rubbing against her and making her freeze at the threat of being bitten. The blanket was thrown off her when he sat up and pulled her beneath him as he unbuckled his belt one-handed, the other gripped around her neck. He squeezed and her stitches pulled dangerously when she tried to look down to see what he was doing, so she had no choice but to continue directing her panicked stare towards that terrifying sea. She winced as he slid into her, his rough entry burning the injury inside her as he pumped into her slickened cunt and she whimpered from the overwhelming sensation of being filled with him. He leaned forward, covering her view of that sea above her, and she felt as though a rip current dragged her deep under the waves as he kissed her and fucked her to the hilt. She was drowning in her father’s warped love as he invaded her body.

“We’re leaving soon,” he said, his voice husky and strained as his hips drove his cock deep and hard into her. “To where we can be together as we should be. AhhFuck, darling girl…”

“What are you…” she started to ask, but she was cut off in a gasp when his hand left her neck to grab her ankles and pull her legs open wider. The angle allowed him in deeper and she nearly yelped with each thrust mashing his tip against her abused cervix.

“Marceau attempted to have you kidnapped by Kyun as leverage,” he explained, not faltering in his rhythm even as sweat began to bead and drip down his face. She was struggling just to keep from falling apart, barely able to listen above the turmoil and delirium his sex submerged her into. His hands greedily fondled and groped her body as he continued, “He wanted to take the network out of the shadows, the fool. I don’t value the world enough to want to change it, but you, oh, I would burn the world to ash for you. You did so well against him, my sweet little monster…”

Her head swam with this barely intelligible information that stitched thought together in her clouded mind. The man she’d killed wasn’t her father’s friend or hire, he was his enemy. A strange sort of comfort came with this revelation that she carefully identified as relief that Leif wasn’t actively trying to murder his family. She would not allow herself to feel gratification in taking a life even if it was one that had threatened her and her loved ones. She searched herself and found that well of tar marked as murder to be still as black and bitter within her, as it should always be. But vengeance and protection carried much more honeyed connotations than murder.

“I took a life,” she reminded herself aloud, her voice tight and high with tears and breathless with sex. “I killed him. I’m a murderer.”

Leif’s hands slid up to cup her cheeks and he pulled her up into a kiss that nearly felt reassuring until he whispered, “Yes. And we have so many more to kill.”

Despair burst past that thin dam of nihilism that had kept her emotions at bay and she threw her arms around his neck as she sobbed. He held her to him tightly, pulling her into his lap and fucking into her as she wept. His hands grasping her hips rocked her to a steady rhythm, pulling shivering sighs and gasps from her along with her sobs and he whispered a stream of both comforting words and filth into her ear. She pressed her face into the crook of his neck, her tears soaking into his shirt collar, and focused on the soothing tone of his voice and the warmth of his body. She couldn’t ignore the pleasure that thrummed through her with each slide of his cock into her throbbing cunt, but she could pretend this was normal. This could be a way fathers comforted their daughters.

“Daddy…” she moaned, rocking against him more fervently as her pleasure climbed. The pressure on her clit in this sitting position was coaxing another climax for her, helped along by the deep stretch of his cock filling her almost painfully even in these gentler thrusts.

“It’s all right, darling, I’ve got you,” he whispered. He groaned low, his cock twitching in her and making her hips stutter with the sensation. “Hmm… You feel so good, sweetheart… You’re going to come again, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Papa,” she breathed.

“Good girl… Such a good girl…”

He kissed her cheek, a gesture so chaste and sweet that it caused a hollow ache in her chest. The way he was fucking her, while still exerting his power and dominance, felt almost caring. With a deep revulsion, she realized this was a reward for murder. This soothing tenderness, this focus on her pleasure, all for a job well done in killing that man. This couldn’t be what her life would become. He could train her to his will, he’d been doing that her entire life without her awareness until recently, but she had to stop this. She moved to get away from Leif, but his hold on her kept her anchored firmly on his cock and he thrusted into her harshly as she tried harder to escape. The pure power in his muscular frame made her quiver in the drive to submit to him, but she couldn’t let him think he could condition her this way.

“I’m not a killer,” she said, trying to be firm but it came out weak and shaking. She was dangerously close to orgasm and she could feel him holding his back in the way he panted against her.

“You can’t resist your nature,” he nearly growled out. His intense stare was focused on her face, his tense mouth pulled back into a halfway snarl to show sharp teeth as he spoke and fucked her harder. “You were given a gift and it compels you to use it. Embrace it or let it consume you, but it will not be reduced by your denial. Come for me, darling.”

“No, I-”

Her words jammed in her throat when he pressed her hips down on him hard and growled out his climax, the sensation of his cock swelling and throbbing deep inside her throwing her forcibly into her own orgasm. Whatever she was thinking was blanked out completely by the white light that flashed across her vision and whatever she was saying came out in a wordless moan nearing a scream as her climax seemed to only climb with each throb. That animalistic fog she’d been fighting off this entire time descended over her mind fully and she clutched to him with fingers curled into claws. His teeth sunk into those same grooves they’d made between her neck and shoulder, reopening and deepening them as he bit her savagely. She howled in pain but her hips still rocked against him, drawing out her pleasure from her father’s cock. Wet lines of blood dripped down her chest and back from what he missed as he sucked from the wound. This was his raw self, tearing through and devouring her. As she came down from her high, panting and whimpering in both agony and ecstasy as she leaned limply against him, a vivid image of Goya’s deranged depiction of Saturn stuck in her mind. Isolating the painting from the myth, she wondered if it was madness that drove the figure in that painting to devour his child or if it was the devouring that drove him further into madness. Considering the myth, she wondered if it was her role to overthrow him.

Chapter Text

Anders drove the rental car aimlessly for what felt like days, but the clock on the console had told him it had only been two hours by the time he parked the rental car behind some bushes several yards away from the end of the driveway. It wasn’t the best camouflage, but he didn’t want the car too far away in case he needed to run for it. Both the truck and the SUV were gone, making him wonder how they were driven off the property when he hadn’t seen either on the driveway or the road at any point. Regardless, he approached the house from the side that had fewer windows just in case, wishing he had worn something less noticeable than a stupid yellow shirt that was wet and freezing. He should have taken the time to change in the car. He didn’t seem capable of thinking very far ahead when he knew Simone was once more in the possession of that psychopath. Considering the bulk of his recent actions, he seemed plainly incapable of thinking as much as he should and he wondered if perhaps he had sustained a concussion or if he really was this stupid all along. He’d delivered her right to him, pumped up on frantic desperation. Any harm that madman brought her, he may as well have dealt to her himself. The key to the backdoor was still beneath a loose brick under the patio, just as his hazy memory had recalled from childhood summers. At least some of his brain was still functioning.

The house was deathly still and quiet, but he still stepped carefully, checking every room and listening for any sign of either Leif or Simone. The pack of medicines was still open on the coffee table in the parlor and he picked up a small brown bottle clearly marked as morphine sulfate. He held the bottle to the light, looking at the remaining liquid and wondering with a sick twist of his gut how many times Leif had used it to turn Simone into his drugged up little plaything. Even after having been on the receiving end of his violent madness and having seen him murder in cold blood, Anders still couldn’t fathom how a man could purposefully engineer insanity in his own daughter. He couldn’t understand the level of inhumanity that went into carrying that out on anyone, but to his own child was something that went beyond horrible.

Anders had to push down the rage that quickened his breath and trembled in his hands. If she was his, if Simone would accept him as her father, he would do everything in his power to enable her to feel safe and happy again. It should have been strange to consider her in that familial role, but he had found that limiting their dynamic to just one facet was unfitting. It wasn’t immoral if it was out of love. He wasn’t like Leif. She simply belonged with him and he was going to do whatever it took to ensure that would happen. He filled one of the thin syringes to the top with morphine and capped the needle to take with him.

Finding the first level to be completely unoccupied, he ascended the stairs slowly, grimacing with the pain in his leg and the noise of every creak at each step. He pulled out the needle to be ready after the third step groaned loud enough to echo down the wide hallway, but made it all the way to the second floor without incident. Leif very well may have carried her off elsewhere, a prospect that Anders couldn’t decide was lucky or not. The presence of his drug collection still there helped allay the fear that the maniac had already fled, though. Leif would return and this time, Anders would have the benefit of surprise. It was his only hope against him.

He was about to walk into Leif’s room to wait for him when he noticed the door to Einar’s home office open. That door had been locked for as far back as he could recall. Keeping alert for any sounds of his brother’s return, he gave into his curiosity and stepped inside. The room was small and narrow, everything inside covered in dust-grayed white sheets and the tall window at the end had been taped over with paper. He flicked on the light only to have the bulb burst in a flash.

“Shit,” he murmured.

There was a flashlight in Einar’s bedroom. He’d always kept one in his nightstand, frequently retrieving it to lend to Anders until he’d got over his childhood fear of the dark. The bedroom still had a faint odor of rot, only detectable thanks to the family curse of an overactive olfactory sense, but the lingering presence of death made him want to retrieve the light quickly. In his haste, he dropped the flashlight and muttered another curse when it rolled under the nightstand. With a considerable pain to his wounded thigh, he knelt to the floor and felt around for it, but his hand blindly groped something larger and oddly shaped. Curious, he slid out a corded phone and when he picked up the receiver, he was shocked that it had a dial tone. He should call the police, tell them everything and let them take over hunting for the madman, but a morbid curiosity overcame him first. Before he lost his nerve, he hit the redial button and held his breath as the other line rang and a tinny, honking voice came through.

Mr. Valstad, I was about to call your cell. We just got some good news and some pretty fuckin’ bad news. Good news is we found that Mercedes. Bad news is it was lit up like the fourth of fuckin’ July with three stiffs and some poor sonovabitch unlucky enough to survive the fire. Still no sign of your kid but that’s probably in the good news category from the looks of things right now. Look, I don’t know what the hell you folks got yourselves mixed up in, but the F B fuckin I are getting pretty squirrely about why I’ve had my boys lookin’ out for that fuckin’ car. I don’t know how much longer I can keep them feds off your trail, sir, so you better start tellin’ me what the hell you brought into my town.”

Anders held the phone away from his ear as he worked to sift out the unfamiliar American colloquialisms from the words he knew. His rusty English had improved vastly over the past few days. He nearly dropped the phone when it clicked in his mind. He couldn’t fathom why Leif would taunt the FBI, especially in such a startlingly provocative and brazen way, but he couldn’t understand much of what his insane brother did.

“… Valstad? You there? Hello?

Anders gently hung up the phone, feeling all at once sick with this information. Adding this to the list of horrors he knew Leif to be capable of and, worse, knowing that he had people other than Kyun to aid him in those horrible acts was too disturbing for him to fully comprehend at that moment. The terrors that had surrounded him without him knowing seemed ceaseless; the world was a far darker place than he had known it to be just a week prior. The syringe in the pocket of his sweatpants reminded him of how far he had fallen from his previous view of himself as well, but this would be different than the murders Leif had committed. He wasn’t like Leif. Anders was only protecting his beloved. He hesitated as his hand rested on the phone, reconsidering the choice to call the police. If Leif suspected the cops were anywhere around, he wouldn’t return to the house. He intuitively knew that when Leif ran, no one would find him or Simone again. Anders couldn’t risk losing her. He slid the phone back under the nightstand and left the flashlight, entirely forgetting his previous curiosity of the office.

 

 

If Leif were the type of hunter who collected trophies, he would have liked to have kept Marceau’s garish signet ring that bore his family’s crest. He would have collected them from each of the remaining Marceaus as he hunted them down one by one and then fashioned them into napkin rings to set out at dinner parties. Carrying his nude daughter over the threshold of his father’s house like a bride or a fresh slaughter, he grinned at the amusing idea. However, the authorities were probably still carving Marceau’s melted fat from the upholstery of the charred Mercedes he’d left burning in front of the morgue Kyun currently resided in, removing the temptation to retrieve that ring. Now that he had burned him, Leif knew he had been added to the network’s burn list, but he was glad to be finally free of their demands. The enterprising and artful Marceau was certainly not the only one who believed the Valstad bloodline was too tainted with insanity to be left to their liberty, after all. They were not exactly wrong. Leif had been entertaining the idea of going rogue since his initiation and to have finally absconded their restrictions was indeed as freeing as he’d often fantasized. He’d long since known they needed him far more than he needed their resources or protection, anyway. He stroked his daughter’s back and sighed in the bliss of vengeance and victory, looking forward to dismantling the order he and his ancestors had helped uphold for well over two hundred years. The world felt fresh and ripe for him and his precious disciple.

He placed Simone on her unsteady feet and held her to him in a tighter embrace, wiping her tears away as he asked, “Where would you like to go, Simone?”

“Home,” she answered, her voice thick and cracked with sorrow.

“Your home is with me, darling girl,” he smiled. It felt so easy to be open and natural with her now. There was no reason to hold back or disguise himself anymore. Every expectation that he should produce an heir suitable to their standards had been vanquished and he was now free to condition her only to his desires. “We can go anywhere you’d like that we won’t be recognized. Fiji and Tahiti have lovely beaches. I would love to watch you lose yourself in the Louvre and the Uffizi. We’ll go to them all, just tell me where you’d like to go first.”

“I want to go back to LA,” she said, her words muffled as she buried her face into his chest through his unbuttoned shirt. “I want things to be like how they were before.”

He loved how she sought comfort in him even when he was the cause of her pain. He’d seen the same behavior in infant mammals whose mothers had rejected them, reaching and crying out to them even as their need was rebuked with fatal aggression. Usually seeing something so helpless inspired an impulse in him to crush such a creature, but that aspect in his daughter was a thing he’d crafted in her early on and adored in her now. He nuzzled her lovingly, closing his eyes to indulge in her devotion as he reinforced this behavior. No matter how much he hurt her or how hard he drove her, she would never turn that hereditary instinct to kill on him. She loved him as indefinitely as he’d designed her to.

“There’s a boat on the coast of Maine that can take us anywhere you’d like, but we can’t go to where we’ve been before, not for a while,” he explained, then in a more somber tone, “They’re going to be looking for you. They’ve found Kyun’s body and they know you murdered him. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to hide this one, but it was only a matter of time before someone found out.”

Her shaking sniffs grew into panicked panting and her rapid little hyperventilated breaths rustled through his chest hair pleasantly as he could almost feel her process this information in the tensing of her body against him.

“How many lives have I ended?”

“Don’t think of it in those terms, darling,” he whispered. “Those were lives that left such a miniscule mark on existence that they might as well not have existed at all, or their influence was a poison you’ve only cured. The world is better for their absence. We are the wolves that thin the herd and make the sheep step a little quicker. That’s part of what we do.”

He allowed her to move away from him, her bare feet making it a few steps before she sunk slowly to her knees and wrapped her arms around her shivering body as she whispered, “Please, please, this… none of this, it can’t be real...”

He sympathized with her pain. It was a hard truth to bear when the knowledge of his purpose in life had been revealed to him, as well. He placed his hand on her bowed head, her hair still damp and heavy with the scents of black berries and roses, before retrieving the woven throw from the living room and draping it around her shoulders. They were both embarking on uncharted territory, their dynamic having been far outside the realm of the typical master and disciple since he’d decided to alter her mind without her awareness, but he had seen what she was capable of in her subconscious and unadulterated form. They’d unlocked so much of her genetic potential through those methods. He’d been merciful in allowing her an entire childhood and adolescence to remain unknowing of her ultimate role, but the time had come for her to accept who they really were.

He knelt before her, his hands gently rubbing the blanket over her trembling arms folded over her middle as he explained with all the patience he was capable, “Your work will inspire many to value the preciousness of life by taking it. That’s why I couldn’t let Marceau strip the art and meaning of what we do. Valstads are not consumable, we do not operate based on our place among lords and serfs, nor are we motivated by such mundane matters as politics or power. We are artists, and art is a response that can be felt even through centuries by the conductivity of human connection. Do you understand?”

“I don’t!” she spat, shaking her downturned head aggressively. “I don’t understand any of this! I’ve… I’ve killed someone, that isn’t art! There’s no ‘meaning’ to it, just… ugliness. I’m not a murderer. I’m not a murderer.” Her trembling abruptly ceased, her stillness like the sudden silence in the woods when a predator stalks nearby. “Papa… how many people have you killed?”

“Some would consider it to be many, though my accomplishments pale in comparison to others,” he answered. He didn’t know. He’d lost count long ago. “It doesn’t matter. Once you’ve taken down your first quarry, you are a hunter ever after.”

Her arms jerked away from his gentle hold and lashed out at him, her hands grasping his forearms in a clawed grip as she snapped, “God damn it, I’m not talking to you about quarry or art or wolves and sheep! Just please, please talk to me like a normal person and not a…” Her grip loosened, her anger withering from her face and tone as she finished with a muttered, “… a serial killer.”

“A rather distastefully clinical term, but apt enough,” he conceded.

She flinched away when his phone buzzed in his pocket, falling backward onto her haunches and gripping the blanket tightly around her in alarm. He frowned at the interruption, but that was the prepaid uncontracted cell phone he used and replaced monthly to be contacted by the order. He hadn’t expected a call from them so soon after disposing of Marceau. Curiosity alone drove him to rise to his feet and answer it.

“Speak,” he commanded into the phone.

At first, the line was crackling silence, then a whispery and distantly familiar voice spoke, “They’re coming for you. They’re all coming for you now. Move.”

The line cut out abruptly. Leif tried to place the voice, but couldn’t over the urgency the warning spurred in him. Leaving his bewildered daughter huddled on the floor of the hallway, he bounded upstairs to grab his go bag. The FBI or the network assassins could have whatever they wanted of the house, it didn’t matter anymore. The caches of horror, the photo albums, the keepsakes, the weapons, all of it could either end up in some collector’s personal museum or in an FBI evidence warehouse to rot for decades. He would have liked to have watched it all light up in flame, but that was a pleasure he’d traded for one last good fuck on state soil with his daughter. A fair trade, he considered with a smirk. He was almost giddy with how quickly things had progressed in such unexpected but ultimately beneficial ways. It was almost divine influence how so many unfortunate interferences had derailed his plans and set him on a better path for it. Had he believed in any god or spirituality, he would have been thankful for such glorious blessings in disguise.

In his bedroom, he pulled the desk back and reached to grab the backpack stuffed into the hole carved out of the wall when he caught the scent of roses and blackberries. He hadn’t heard his daughter follow him. He moved to turn to her when the blur of a fist came at him from his peripheral. Reflexes and hard-wired training were all that swung his arm and deflected that blow, his body twisting to follow the motion with a hook that connected with his assailant’s abdomen before he could recognize him. He nearly lowered his defensive stance when he saw it was his baby brother hunched over from the blow.

“Anders?!” he yelled, disbelief piercing through his anger. “I was hoping you weren’t dumb enough to come back, but you’ve exceeded even my lowest expectations.

Rot in Hell,” Anders snarled, glaring at him with a searing hatred Leif found frankly amusing, but not as amusing as the syringe clutched in his fist.

Trying to pay me back for sticking you, I see,” he smirked. “Do you even know what you put in that thing?

Anders charged at him, his free hand opened towards him to grab while he reared the syringe back, and Leif slapped it away while he dodged the offending hand. The plastic syringe clattered and slid along the floor, freeing his brother to attack him with both fists. Leif cut through his offense by dodging his strikes while unfolding Einar’s pocket knife before lunging forward and grabbing his throat, dragging him bodily over the desk with the blade held in his line of vision over his heart. The younger man grabbed his wrist, trying to push the knife away from him and grunting with the effort, but Leif had been in this position many times before and he had both leverage and brute strength on him.

This is the last time we’re doing this, brother,” Leif grinned, pushing the blade down to just barely pierce the skin. Anders grunted as blood spotted up around the tip, his hands shaking around Leif’s wrists. “But before I kill you, I think I should tell you something.”

Fuck off!”

Leif let the knife sink in a little more, blood now forming a circle of red on that stupid shirt. “No, not that. I just wanted to let you know that I’m proud of you, Anders. For the longest time, I’d believed you were a toothless, weak sap, but you’ve proven me quite wrong. You want to know why you can’t seem to keep out of your sweet little niece’s body?

Anders roared as he tried to kick him away, an attempt Leif reproved by pushing the blade in a few more millimeters. He reveled in the anger and denial in his youngest brother’s grimacing face as he tore the truth out and forced him to hear it.

It’s because her distress, her submissiveness, her vulnerability excites you. You saw how I fostered her dependence on me and you wanted that for yourself. You don’t want to help, you only want to be the one who wields her distress and controls her,” Leif grinned, then whispered, “I know exactly what you are. You and I share the same appetites. It’s a shame you won’t be able to fulfill them.

Anders groaned and his arms trembled in strain as Leif began to sink the blade slowly into his muscle. This was the part Leif had often enjoyed most. That instinct to survive crashing against the inevitability of death. The terror in the realization that this was their final moment and the disbelief in that knowledge even as their life leaked out of them. Not many people were able to comprehend death, let alone their own, but Anders refused it with burning fury. Forcing his father’s steel into his brother’s flesh millimeter by millimeter, he watched as Anders’ rage frenzied ahead of his fear and pain. He would not go gentle into that good night. No Valstad ever had. That yellow shirt was staining a dark red as his blood spilled generously from the deepening hole, leaking to pool under him on the surface where Simone had worked so dutifully to hide her scars and bruises. It really was too bad that Anders had disobeyed his will. The Valstad legacy would now be entirely Leif and his daughter’s responsibility to carry out and carry on with this final farewell to his family. He bore down harder into his brother’s chest, the antler handle hot in his hand, and felt something sting in the side of his turned neck. He ignored it, thinking it a spasm, but a cold sensation spilled into his veins along with the sting. He glanced to the side and, seeing the glint of sunlight reflecting off the syringe, turned to find Simone with her thumb pressed on the now fully descended plunger as she pulled the needle from his jugular.

Time seemed to slow. Leif could feel the poison pulling him under like a shadowed hand enclosing around his brain. His daughter watched him with eyes wide with fear and a deep sorrow, her honey brown skin cast in a gray pallor, and she drew in a shaking breath through her parted mouth. She’d held her breath to sneak up on him, he realized. How quietly she’d entered and found the syringe impressed him even through his shock. His vision blurred and darkened, his awareness flickering like a candle in a storm, and he forgave her as soon as he realized her betrayal. This was ultimately how it was supposed to end, but not this soon. There was so much she didn’t know, so much he had to tell her and teach her. They were supposed to have years before she fulfilled her vengeance against him. The knife clattered to the desk as he sunk, the floor seeming to float up and pull him toward it.

Her small hands were easing his descent until her whole body was pressed under his chest and she collapsed to her knees as he heard her frantically gasp out from afar, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”

Leif’s breath rattled out a faint chuckle at that. His softhearted daughter had killed him with her mercy toward a man she would undoubtedly slaughter later for his hand in her transformation. There would be no sating the beast of vengeance in her when it came to fully bloom in her psyche. She could hunt down every last one of them and still scream for blood. He had built a shrine of illness in her very essence that would stand long after he’d gone and he felt as victorious in that achievement as he was repentant of that crime. The darkness enveloped his mind and the sensation of a rapid descent gripped him while he was vaguely aware that she held him cradled to her. He could still feel her warmth and her love. He felt himself slip into the garden of her being, finding his own self planted there among the innumerable dead that had coalesced into the impossible Eden of her life. He slipped further. Nothingness devoured everything that he was, but he would still be there inside her and every life afterward. No peace or rapture came to him in that depth of absence. There was a spark of knowing and then there was nothing.

 

 

There was something wrong with her father’s face. The wrongness struck Simone almost physically, leaving her disoriented and confused, but it was like there was a block preventing her from knowing exactly how or why. She held his face toward her, staring at him in bafflement, and she had to remind herself repeatedly that this man was the same Leif Valstad she knew. There was a veil of unfamiliarity or absence of the man, leaving something her brain refused to recognize. He was standing as her father one moment and in the next, there was a heavy prop in her arms wearing a mask of her father.

The grays and blues at the edges of his paling features reminded Simone of the Saint Sebastian depicted by Nicolas Régnier, a painting she had once stared at for hours when she was having trouble depicting the translucency of white skin using oil on canvas. However, his discoloration was due to cyanosis, not paint. Her mind fidgeted uncomfortably between art and medical knowledge, the two modes of thought clashing and converging in ways that she knew made little sense. Sitting on the floor, cradling his head in the crook of her arm and holding his body to her as best she could manage with her much smaller size, she saw him as two separate beings occupying the same space. A collection of color, shapes and dimension, the late morning sunlight offering his features unmoving and fixed to be transferred onto canvas. A body exhibiting signs of respiratory depression, requiring mouth-to-mouth and possibly cardiopulmonary resuscitation to raise insufficient oxygen levels before damage occurs to the brain. She touched the blue-tinted lips, feeling no breath brush over her fingertips, and tried to reconcile her split mind.

“Yellow ochre, cadmium red light, ultramarine blue…” she whispered as she carefully lowered him to lie flat on the floor. “Prussian blue, titanium white…”

She pressed her fingers over his cheeks, testing the depth of his well-defined zygomatic bones as she constructed the shape of his skull in her mind’s eye before trailing her fingers down to check his pulse at his neck. The absence of a heartbeat helped shove her thoughts towards medical procedure.

“Simone…”

She heard her uncle Ander’s voice, tight with pain and stress, and glanced up to see him clutching his blood-covered chest. Penetrative trauma to the chest cavity risked pneumothorax or hemothorax, hemorrhage of a major systemic or pulmonary vessel. He was alert and upright, no difficulty breathing yet, no apparent jugular vein distension. It was possible that his rather thickly developed pectoral muscles were not fully breached by the time she’d interrupted Leif’s progress in stabbing him.

“Maintain a sealed and constant pressure on the wound,” she told him mechanically, turning to the more urgent needs of the man on the floor. The man who had been her father a few minutes prior, she reminded herself again.

Anders limped to stand over her as she did this and said in his halted English, “Simone, you have… you need stop.”

On her knees, leaning high over the prone body, she placed her left hand flat against his sternum and interlaced the fingers of her right hand over it. With her elbows locked straight, she pushed down into the heel of her hand, his sternum springing up again under hands to repeat the compressions to a rapid tempo. Hard and fast. She had to be his heart to keep his blood flowing to his brain.

“Stop.”

After thirty compressions, she gingerly cradled the base of his neck and his mandible, lifting both to tilt his head back slightly. Working quickly, she pinched his nose shut and sealed her mouth over his parted lips. He tasted like her father.

“Simone, stop.”

She watched to ensure his chest rose with the two breaths she exhaled into his lungs before locking her arms over his chest and beginning compressions once more. Deep, hard, fast. Anders placed his hand on her bare shoulder. She was aware but uncaring of her nudity, the woven blanket strewn on the floor under her and the prone man after she’d dropped it when her father had collapsed on her.

“Leif is… ah… død…”

It was so strange. Just a few minutes ago, she was trying to save Anders by stopping her father from killing him, but somehow this was now happening. Anders was alive, so she must have succeeded, but something had changed. The world had shifted. The space this body occupied was where her father should be. Her father was in there, she had to bring him back. Anders’ hand on her shoulder jerked her away and she looked up at him in shock for impeding her attempts to resuscitate this man.

“Anders, what are you doing?!” she snapped, shoving his hand off her and reassuming her previous position. “His heart has stopped!”

“Yes!” he nearly shouted. “Leif is… is dead!”

That didn’t make any sense. She’d just seen her father and he was alive. She’d just seen him, with the curve of his neck so available to the needle, take the full dose of whatever sedative was in that syringe. No one had to get hurt. He would just pass out and by the time he awoke, Anders would be safely far away.

Between her labored breaths, she said, “You have to get out of here before he comes back.”

She yelped when Anders grabbed her and pulled her backward, forcefully this time, as he said in a loud and stern voice she’d never heard him use before, “Leif is dead! La ham bli død! He is not come back! Stop it!”

Simone’s ears rang at the volume and fury in her sweet uncle’s tone, his words pressing on her mind until something snapped in her brain with a painful twinge. Her hands gripped her forehead where a pounding agony resounded. Leif lied unbreathing, his heart silent and still, for all the definition of the word to be dead. She had killed her father.

Pain spread throughout her body, her muscles cramping and clenching, reducing her scream to a whispered, “No… No, I… I didn’t mean to… Please, don’t…”

She rushed back to the prone body, her father’s body, and locked her shaking hands over his sternum once more. Her movements were jerky, but they were hard and fast and deep as she’d been taught in CPR class back before any of this had happened. Before her mental illness had swallowed her whole. Before her mother had abandoned her. Before her father had violated her. Before she had been twisted into this monster. She breathed into his lungs, watching his chest rise, praying for it to begin rising on its own but it did not. Her face was hot and wet with tears and sweat, her arms and back trembled with exhaustion as she continued chest compressions, trying to trick that heart into beating again.

“Come on,” she panted, pressing blood through his body. “Wake up. Wake up, Papa!”

She had to keep his brain alive. If she could just continue to deliver enough oxygen to his brain, he wasn’t dead. He was still there, he had to be. He couldn’t have left her after everything he’d done to her. It wasn’t fair that she should have to live alone with this curse.

“Please, Papa!” she whimpered, her voice cracking in a sob.

She could hear and feel movement and voices nearby, but her world had narrowed to just her and her father. Angry, loud voices and heavy, stomping footsteps. She breathed air into his lungs, moved back to continue compressions, and was slammed to the floor by black-gloved hands that yanked her arms viciously behind her. Booming voices commanded her to stay down, put her arms behind her back, all things she was already being forced to do as she watched black boots rush around her limited field of vision. She couldn’t see Anders from her position or hear him over the din and action, her worry going to his open wound being stretched by this restraining method. She could see the muzzle of an assault rifle poised above her father’s face while someone reached for him. She had to get to him. She had to keep him alive.

“STAY DOWN! STAY DOWN OR YOU WILL BE PUT DOWN!” someone barked above her, yanking her arms back until she could feel a burning pain sear through her sockets.

Someone was patting her father down, taking out his cell phone, wallet and keys before announcing, “We got a warm one! Stretcher, stretcher!”

She could taste blood from her teeth cutting into her cheek from being slammed, the numb swelling and her panic making her words come out slurred as she yelled, “NALOXONE! Give him naloxone! He’s overdosed!”

“Shut UP!” she heard before her temple took the brunt of the force when the man above her grabbed her hair and slammed her to the floor again.

Her vision flashed white before the ringing in her ears drowned out the cacophony of stomping and shouting, but she breathed as calmly and evenly as she could manage in her harshly restrained position to stave off the threat of unconsciousness. Seconds ticked by like minutes, the heavy knee pressed into the small of her back and the gloved hand holding her face to the floor not letting up the entire time. Only when she saw them place a bag valve mask over Leif’s mouth and lift him onto the thin plastic stretcher did she let her eyes fall shut. Unconsciousness did not come, but reality didn’t matter as much for now. With practiced ease, she submitted to the aggressive male above her, letting her muscles go slack and accepting that she was to finally pay for her crimes.

Chapter Text

The paper lining on the medical exam table crinkled as Simone shifted on it, trying to make her lap more level to place the clipboard on. Her hands shook as she tried to sign the consent forms, the pen jerking out a rough approximation of her signature on the line under the words “admissible as evidence in court”. She tried not to read it.

When she began to slowly fill in the date and time below, the nurse practitioner reached over and turned the sheet to the next form as she spoke up in a polite and vaguely Fijian drawl, “I’ll fill that in for you, honey, you don’t need to do anything more than sign.”

Simone didn’t look at her as she nodded and signed where it was marked. She reasoned that it must be the cold that numbed her fingers and chattered her teeth. The hospital gown wasn’t much protection against the air conditioning in the building. The feeling of vulnerability was far worse than the chill. When she’d seen a different nurse stop in to place a bundle of folded clothing on the counter, the nurse practitioner had to stop her from immediately dressing. Simone hugged the billowy gown around her tighter when the clipboard was taken back.

“Is my dad alive?” she asked. It was the first time she had spoken since arriving at the hospital. She had asked this question to every new person who approached her and was met with varying degrees of non-answers. There was no longer dread in anticipating the response at this point, only the increasing willingness to hear it.

“I’m sorry, dear, I haven’t been told anything about that. Is he being seen here too?” the nurse responded, her deep matronly voice soothing the sting of disappointment in Simone.

The slight contact of her gloved hands touching her as she wrapped the blood pressure cuff around her arm made Simone want to flinch. She observed that the nurse was curiously silent about her vitals, a schooled stiffness to her features as she jotted them down. Simone wondered at that briefly, but it was difficult to maintain a sense of significance in anything for more than a flickering moment with the chorus of shame drowning it out.

“When did you get these sutures put in?” the nurse asked conversationally.

Her chest tightened at the memory of Leif meticulously sewing the cut across her neck, the small and exact stitches providing a neat line at her throat. It would heal nicely. She blinked away the sting of tears at that token of his affection.

“My dad did it the other night.”

The nurse hummed in approval. “Does he work in the medical field?”

The police officer that had stood silent and uncomfortable in front of the closed door got the nurse’s attention with a stern and slow shake of his head. Simone observed as the woman raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips in annoyance at the quiet command to not continue that topic. They both resented his presence. Simone decided that she liked this nurse.

“What we’re going to do here is called a sexual assault forensic examination. I’m going to ask you questions about the incident. If you don’t want to or can’t answer them, we can skip them for now and come back to them. After that, we are going to photograph your injuries and then I am going to swab for evidence, okay? We can skip whatever you want to skip, but I want you to know that every part of this exam is important to collect evidence. Did you ingest any drugs or alcohol during or prior to the incident?”

“What… I’m sorry, which incident?” Simone asked, slightly flabbergasted.

“Whichever incident that brought you here today,” the nurse answered plainly, but not uncaringly. She adjusted her bifocals with a push from both of index fingers along the stems, a habit that Simone identified as a peculiar and very personal tick. It was remarkably soothing to be around a woman again after this past week of being inundated with male sexuality and aggression. A woman of color, too. It was enough to make her suspect that the staff had assigned this nurse to her for that reason. Nonetheless, it did comfort her and she found herself relishing the glimpses of personality behind the professionalism of this nurse.

“This examination isn’t to interpret the evidence, just to collect it. Understand?” Simone could only nod numbly in response. “Okay, honey. Remember, these are all voluntary but important. Let’s get through this so I can do my job and get you healing, all right? All right. So, drugs or alcohol?”

“I… I think so, when he, um…” Simone muttered. She took a deep breath and focused. It was harder to identify a moment when she wasn’t in some form of chemically altered state. She might as well tell the truth. “Yes. I was involuntarily drugged today.”

The nurse flipped to the third sheet on her clipboard and wrote something as she asked, “Can you briefly describe the assault?”

“I don’t think I was assaulted today…”

The woman repeated that double-handed adjustment of her glasses. “Then can you tell me when and what was happening when you got bitten?”

Now that the time had come to start giving voice to those details, a cold sweat broke out all along her body and her tongue felt like lead. She looked down at her feet dangling above the floor, aware of both the cop’s and the nurse’s attention as she tried not to mumble, “It was… late this morning. I don’t remember how I got there but I was out under the sky when I woke up and… he was there.”

“Aside from the bite, did he put his mouth on you anywhere else?”

“Yes.” She could feel the cop’s pity like a moist breath on the back of her neck and she rubbed the sweat-dampened skin there nervously. She hated him for hearing any of this. It didn’t belong to him. It didn’t belong to anyone. She wanted to see her father badly. “My face, neck… breasts… um… genitals…”

“Did he put his genitals anywhere in or on you?”

Simone’s mouth was dry; she was too nervous and ashamed to ask for water. She reminded herself that this was a medical professional who didn’t seem aware of the incestuous context and she tried to ignore the cop who seemed to have at least guessed it. His straight-ahead stare did a poor imitation of politely pretending not to hear from four feet away. These details would be in the case regardless; she supposed she would eventually have to get used to saying them all out loud. “Yes...”

More jotting down on the clipboard, checking boxes and crossing out sections. Her sweat-slicked hand at the back of her neck slid around her unbitten side to rub at the ache in her chest. This wasn’t what she had been expecting. She’d imagined herself in handcuffs, locked in a small room with a one-way mirror and two stone-faced cops interrogating her for the hard truths her memory couldn’t supply. Instead, she’d been given a cozy ride to the emergency room in a normal SUV almost immediately after the SWAT team had cleared for the cops and EMTs to enter. Everyone aside from this nurse had been, if anything, avoidant of her when they weren’t gently asking her questions or reassuring her with sympathetic eyes. In a way, she preferred being slammed into the floor by the SWAT officer over that vague pity from law enforcement. She didn’t want or deserve pity. They would see that from the evidence on the men she had murdered.

“Did he use a condom?”

“No.”

“At any point, did you notice him bleeding from anywhere, like a cut?”

“No.”

“Have you showered or bathed since the incident?”

“No.”

“Any other form of penetrative intercourse with his genitals via oral or anal?”

“No.”

“Have you had consensual intercourse within the last five days?”

“Yes.”

“How many hours prior to the incident was your last consensual intercourse?”

The memory of Anders’ rough and callused hands gripping her hips and rocking her on his cock as he panted in Norwegian flashed in her mind, bringing the heat of a flush from her chest to her forehead. But the sex with her father had been consensual too, in as much as consent hadn’t occurred to her as a factor anymore. Recalling how Anders had told her to stop even as he had enthusiastically reciprocated, she wondered when the role of consent had left her sexual lexicon, but couldn’t pinpoint the moment. It left an odd, hollow pit in her to be able to objectively see this subtlety of the insidious change her father had wrought and not know how it functioned. This wasn’t the blaring outrage to her values and sense of self that had come with committing murder, but something that had occurred entirely outside of her detection until this moment. A foreboding guarantee that this was far from the limit of his redesign to her psyche resounded in that hollow pit like a drum. She could almost hear him whispering from the dark of her mind, too quiet to be much more than just a presence. A horrible whisper of the price she had paid for his love.

“I don’t think I can answer that,” she said. She didn’t know she had been breathing hard until she spoke and she pressed her hand down onto her sternum to calm her heaving gasps. “I don’t want to answer any more questions. Can we just skip to the next step?”

The nurse nodded, but frowned. “I know it’s hard, honey, but every part of this is important to collect evidence. I can ask the officer to step into the hall if that would make you more comfortable.”

The cop broke his fly on the wall act and finally spoke in a hushed but authoritative tone, “No, you can’t. My orders are to protect her and I can’t do that if I can’t see her.”

The nurse’s face pinched into a frown and she swiveled in her stool to shoot him a withering look. “What’s the difference of you just standing on the other side of that door? There’s already another two of you in the hallway. Ain’t like anyone gonna come busting in here past them!”

Simone’s ears perked up at their wording. A mad spark of hope caught fire to her fevered brain. “Why would I need protection? Did something happen?”

She saw the cop’s expression twist into the discomfort of being caught out as he stiffly said, “You don’t have to worry, you’re safe with us now.”

“But is it him? Is it my father? Did he live?” She knew her tone was manic. It was an impossible hope but she couldn’t stop it from filling her heart. “Did he escape?”

“That’s not information I can divulge to you at this time,” the cop responded tensely.

A wide grin pulled at the cut on her lip. She didn’t care how it revealed her insanity to them. “It is him, isn’t it? That’s why there are so many cops here, right? Are you hoping he’ll come for me? Please, please just tell me if he’s alive.”

“Listen, everything is going to be just fine,” he assured her, misunderstanding her elation as panic.

She would take a thousand lashes from her father’s belt if only to see him alive to do it. If he was alive, then she hadn’t committed a senseless murder. Kyun and the nightmarish memory of the old man in the filthy wood paneled house were lives she would forever carry the guilt of having taken, but they weren’t senseless murders. She was a monster for being able to do it at all, but there were people she had to protect from those men. She wasn’t a killer unless it was the only option left. If Leif had lived, then she could really believe that. But if Leif was alive and out there, that also meant he was a danger once more. That heated hope in her was doused with the cold reminder of her duty.

“Where’s my uncle Anders? The other tall, blond man that was there? In the house. He’s being guarded too?” she asked, that giddy energy transferring into real dread now. “And Vidar and Henrik. He might go after them. Where are they?”

“Baby, don’t you worry about anyone but yourself right now, all right?” the nurse interjected with a resolute but mollifying tone.

Simone didn’t have time to be placated. Her family didn’t have time for her to bow to the insistence of law. So long as her father was free, her prison was at his side. She turned to the nurse and, though she hated to leave her soothing reminder of a life outside of this madness, said, “I revoke my consent to this examination and I refuse medical treatment until I see that my family is safe.”

“Calm down, baby. Ain’t nothing bad is going to happen to your family. We are all here to help get the evidence they need to protect you in the long run.”

Simone slid away from the table in a tearing of paper and a flourish of blue checkered hospital gown. She was sick of other people dictating the purpose of her body. Monster though she may be, she was not a murder weapon, she was not a sex slave, she was not a crime scene, she was not property. For the first time in what must have been ages, a fog lifted within her mind and she was solid again. It was an overwhelming sensation, like the first steps on land after being at sea for too long. She swayed on the lost foundation of her identity and when it didn’t crumble beneath her, she stood taller than she was before.

With deliberate and careful words, Simone spoke evenly, “I know my rights as a patient and a citizen. I know who I am and where I am. I’m aware and alert. I’m of sound body and mind and I am revoking my consent.” She held her arms around her torso tightly, hugging the thin gown to her as she collected the courage to look the policeman in his eye. She settled for his cheek. “If you force me to undergo examination, I will sue the fuck out of your department and this hospital. Keep me in the dark, you’ll get nothing from me on Leif, and trust me, he’s shown me more than he thinks. So please, enlighten me. On everything.”

The cop’s lips thinned into an uncertain frown, but he reached for his shoulder radio.

 

 

Bolle’s paws weighed down in four points on the bed, shifting the blankets as she stepped around Anders’ feet until she pressed a heavy paw directly on his thigh. He turned away from the dog with a pained groan and shoved a pillow over his head to block out the chorus of expectant breathing from the other three as they watched him from the floor.

“No, too early… let me sleep,” he grumbled from under the pillow, only exciting them further.

The eruption of clicking as their claws danced over the floor officially pulled him out of any hope to return to unconsciousness, but he lied in stillness out of spite. His gang never could grasp the concept of a lazy Sunday morning. He cracked open a groggy eye and was greeted with Balder’s long muzzle resting on the edge of the bed as the hound gazed at him with doting affection. Balder’s tongue peeked out to run over his snout as evidence of his excitement for breakfast came leaking out the edges of his mouth. Anders gently pushed the drooling face away from the bed and turned onto his other side, only to engage the playfulness of Bolle when she saw movement under the blankets. She slammed her front legs rather painfully over his turning torso, her fluffy tail wagging fiercely as she tried to bury her nose in the comforter.

“Okay, okay! I’m up!” Anders surrendered.

“Hey, dipshit. Are you really waking up this time?”

He gasped at the unexpected voice, squeezing his eyes shut in a grimace when that deep inhalation sparked a tight agony in his chest. When he opened them again, his room and his dogs were gone, replaced by a dimly lit hospital room and a very irritated Vidar looming over him. For a moment, his mind was blank, his confusion the only thing existing in the blank fog of his thoughts before memory tumbled over him. The knife slowly sinking into him, his blood hot on his skin, Leif’s words like poison on his mind. Simone pressed into the floor, a masked and armored demon shoving her down with a rifle to her head. Her distress, her submissiveness, her vulnerability excites you.

“No, I- I- what-” he stammered, trying to sit up in his panic until that harsh reminder of his wound sent him throwing himself back onto the mattress.

“Looks like you’re awake enough to me,” Vidar remarked offhandedly. Anders turned his head and stared at his brother in a wide-eyed plea for something, he wasn’t even sure what, but Vidar glared coldly at him as he leaned close and whispered, “Listen, here’s what you’re going to say when they ask you what happened: Kyun gave us a ride to the airport from the funeral reception yesterday, but when we couldn’t get an earlier flight, he was nice enough to take us to a motel. Then Leif showed up and drove off with Kyun in Einar’s truck. That’s why the Mercedes was at the motel overnight and that’s when Leif ends Kyun, got it? You don’t know that yet, so act surprised, just not too surprised, if they let you know that Kyun is worm food. Because we all knew Leif was crazy, right? Those details don’t change. This morning, instead of your dumb ass driving out there, waving around a gun you don’t even know how to shoot like you’re John fucking Wayne, you’re going to tell them Leif drove you and Simone in the Mercedes back to the house to kill you. Got it?”

“What are you talking about?” Anders rasped, bewilderment running chaos in his already hazed mind.

“I’m talking about the police interrogation,” Vidar hissed through gritted teeth. The raw and barely constrained hostility in his sharp features alarmed Anders, reminding him too closely to Leif’s predatory focus. He looked away, seeing the door ajar and the shadow of a man standing in the hallway. It came back to him then that he had been in an ambulance before waking up in this room. The image of the cop staring at his gushing chest wound as the EMT dressed it floated into his mind like a memory of a dream and he was thankfully able to push it away as easily. None of that mattered. He had survived. He had to forget.

“You want me to lie to the police?”

“Not just the police. I want that to be the only story you care to tell anyone. If you fuck this up, you fuck us all. This is our chance to get that psycho sack of shit locked up for life.”

Anders couldn’t bring himself to examine his brother’s face to see if he was simply ignorant or absolutely insane. As nightmarish as this day had been, there was one fact from it he was certain of.

“Don’t you know?” he whispered, his voice thin through his dry throat. “It’s over. Leif’s dead.”

Vidar stared at him, then moved his stare to the dusk-darkened sky out the window as he thought. Anders risked a glance at him, relieved to see that his face had gone back to the irritable skeptic he’d grown up with. “No. No, that can’t be it. They wouldn’t be doing all of this if they weren’t still looking for him. Their line of questioning was too specific. These circle-jerkers are spooked, Anders. Fucking spooked.”

“I… I saw him,” Anders started, swallowing to try to wet his tongue as the images played out before his eyes in horrible detail. He’d never seen a man die before this week. He’d seen time stop in the eyes of four men now. “On the floor. Simone had… I don’t think she knew. Oh god…” He brought his hand up to his hairline, his fingers tugging at the roots as a dire realization wracked him. “She didn’t know that it would kill him.”

“What happened at the house, Anders? I need to know,” Vidar insisted firmly. Anders could feel his intense, demanding stare but his mind was back in that room, watching Simone desperately labor over her father’s body. “Tell me what happened and I can tell you what to say to keep us all out of trouble.”

“I was supposed to do it,” Anders whispered. His mouth twitched as he spoke, his anger at himself drawing his lips into a snarl while he fought back the tears of guilt and shame. “I… I was the one who filled that god damned syringe. I was the one who was supposed to stop him. But I was too slow, too weak… I let him win. And she… she picked it up and she did it.” He bit down on his quivering lip, trying to stabilize his emotions but there was no getting a handle on this. Vidar waited, his steady stare heavy and focused, a sharp contrast to the disorder inside Anders. He continued in a shaking whisper, needing to confess his part in this sin. “She didn’t know. She’d gone into it expecting what the needle had always done to her, but when he stopped breathing… When he died… I couldn’t do it. After all that, I still couldn’t kill him. And now she has to bear that weight because I was too weak. I’m the one who did that to her.” He slid his hand down over his face, holding back his pain. “She still loved him. I was so blinded by rage, I couldn’t see that. And when she tried to breathe life back into him, I… I tried to stop her. I made her kill her own father, Vid. I did that. You don’t come back from something like that. I did that to her and I was glad when it happened. I’m not…”

He couldn’t speak. His throat was tight and clogged with grief, so he just gnashed his teeth and held down that heavy flood of emotion until he felt as though he might drown in it. It was a terrible thing to see what he was becoming and not be able to stop it.

“You didn’t see any of that. You didn’t know anything about any syringe. When they find your prints on it, you tell them you went through his bag before and they’ll see that you did,” Vidar whispered, his decisive tone brooking no argument, then more quietly, “Did she know it was you who filled that syringe?” Anders couldn’t do more than shake his head in response. “Good. Keep it that way. Don’t ever tell anyone, especially her, about that.”

“No, no, I have to tell her!” Anders nearly shouted. “I’m the one who she should blame, not herself!”

“Keep it down, asshole!” Vidar hissed, but the shadow in the hall was already approaching.

He up?” a gruff voice came from the doorway.

Vidar pressed his hand to his forehead and sighed deeply, the edge of his breath carrying an irritated growl, but he responded with a calm, “He is awake, yes.

We’ve got some questions for you, Anders Valstad. We have a translator present should we find it necessary, but we’re going to need to question you alone. Vidar Valstad, please step into the hall. Officer Brody will escort you out.

Anders could feel Vidar’s warning glare as he stood up and left the room, but he couldn’t meet his eyes. He knew he had to tell the version of events his brothers had committed to for the sake of protecting them and Simone from the consequences of Kyun’s murder, but Vidar’s story about the syringe was something he couldn’t bear the distaste of telling. That wasn’t supposed to be her sin. Looking up at the uniformed police officer, he made his decision. He couldn’t change the past, but he could start taking responsibility for it.

 

 

Henrik nearly screamed when the door to the hotel room opened, making his relief to see it was only Vidar returning from the hospital all the greater. Every moment he wasn’t with his family, he was plagued with the certainty that Leif had caught up with them and had begun picking them off. As safe as these cops had assured him they were, he couldn’t feel it. He doubted he would ever feel fully safe again. He didn’t know how much he had taken that base level of safety for granted until it was torn from his life.

“How is he?” Henrik asked.

Vidar threw his coat on the table, the vehemence in the action and the clear frustration in his face making Henrik edgy. “He’s fine.”

He closed the curtains with a rough jerk of his arms and sat down heavily on the other bed. When he didn’t elaborate, Henrik nervously asked, “But is he going to be okay? How did the surgery go?”

“He’s fine. The surgery was fine,” Vidar answered tersely, yanking the buttons open on his shirt.

The police had brought them clothes and had put them up in a nicer hotel, all courtesy of some nonprofit set up to help victims of violent crimes. It was odd to consider himself a victim in comparison to what Leif had put Anders and Simone through, but Henrik wasn’t about to refuse the assistance based on such a ludicrous imposter syndrome as that. He scooted to the edge of his bed and faced his younger brother, observing the hardened lines of anger in his features that he had always tried to hide his troubles behind.

“You’re not fine, though,” Henrik said, trying to keep any excess gentleness out of his tone. He knew sympathy was not a thing his brother received gracefully.

“Mind your own fucking business.”

“What is it? What’s bothering you?”

Vidar pried off his too-small sneakers, then leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and his forehead resting in his hands. His voice was raspy with weariness as he said, “I slept under the same roof with a serial killer. I ate dinner and laughed with a rapist. I had no idea. None. He had me completely fooled for years. That’s what’s bothering me. Now leave me alone.”

Henrik pursed his lips and nodded, but he continued to press him. “Did you get him to tell the story? What did he think?”

“I don’t know and I don’t know.”

“Did he tell you anything about what happened in there?”

“He was out of his damn mind. Probably the anesthetic. Or he’s really lost it.” Vidar rubbed his shoulder, winced at the ache in it. “Now, could you shut the fuck up?”

He couldn’t. He had to get Vidar to talk about whatever it was before it hardened in him like a kidney stone. “Well, what did he say that was so crazy?”

Vidar groaned in annoyance and stood up, shooting him a heated glare that would have phased anyone who hadn’t grown up with the short-tempered man. “He was talking some nonsense about Simone killing Leif. As if that weren’t complete bullshit enough, he said that he’d set her up to do it. I don’t know what the hell happened there, but dead men don’t escape police custody. There’s just something about all this that stinks. They’re not telling us the whole story.”

“Sure, but why would they? Doesn’t a police investigation require a certain amount of discretion? They’re still mostly undecided if we’re suspects or victims, too.”

“Discretion, yes. But they’re going beyond just withholding details for the sake of investigation. They’re obfuscating the truth.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean we can’t trust them,” Vidar answered in a low whisper. He sat down on the edge of the bed and faced Henrik, his brows furrowed in grave regard as he whispered, “They didn’t just fuck up in letting Leif get away. They asked me if he had any friends in law enforcement. That’s been bugging me all day. Why would they ask me that? The answer is because he did. That’s how he escaped. Now these motherfuckers are scrambling because they know they’ve been infiltrated.”

“Like a terrorist thing?”

“Maybe. Terrorist murder cult. You notice how all the cops who are guarding us have been old fuckers?”

“I guess?”

“They don’t know who they can trust. They’re using everyone who has enough of a reputation in their departments to staff this case, especially around us.”

Henrik looked toward the door, knowing a white-mustached cop was standing just outside of it, and started to believe this insane conspiracy theory his brother was ranting on about.

Vidar slapped his knee, grinning like he’d just won a prize as he perked up. “That’s why they’ve been keeping us separate from Simone! They think she knows about it! That she’s part of it!”

Henrik usually hated it when his brother went into crazy Sherlock mode, especially when it all started to make too much sense. His gut twisted as he waited for Vidar to point at him and laugh about how gullible he was to have believed something like that, as he usually did when he got going like this, but when Vidar only continued to grin and glance around at the thoughts bubbling behind his mind, he became nervous.

“You don’t think she’s part of it, do you?” Henrik asked. “A terrorist?”

Vidar almost didn’t seem to have heard him, lost in his own thoughts, but muttered out an absent, “Hm? Oh, no, of course not. Leif was still grooming her.”

Henrik watched as his brother continued to grin and silently postulate like a maniac. The entire thing should have seemed impossibly bizarre, but these past few days had moved the bar of what he’d considered too bizarre. The distant dots Vidar was able to connect started to form a disturbing picture that came into focus the more he looked at it. That slim grasp of safety he’d managed to take hold of with the police protection crumbled. They had to get out of this God forsaken country.

Chapter Text

Simone spread her hands open on the narrow table separating her from Special Agents Maier and Gladwell, letting the cool of the smooth laminate surface fund her composure. It had been nearly one hour of her trading answers to their questions for information they had about her father and she did not have the social stamina for this even on her best days. There was no time for the delicacy required of her to properly navigate this give and take and it was showing in her rapidly decreasing patience with these men.

Gladwell took off his glasses and rubbed at the pink imprints the nose pads left on his white skin. “Simone Valstad, although we do sympathize with what you’ve been through, we need your full cooperation. If you’re not helping, then you are obstructing. Do you understand the seriousness of that charge?”

Simone met his weary gaze with the false poise of indignance. When she spoke to them, the only thing subduing her tone was the physical pain in her bruised throat. “Refusing to answer questions is not an obstruction of justice, sir. If I’m wrong on that, go ahead and arrest me so I can invoke my right to remain silent.”

Both Gladwell and Maier shot her the same brand of exasperated glare and she met it spitefully. In her experience with lawmen of any stripe, there seemed fewer things they despised more than having to interact with someone well-versed in their rights. Not that citing such knowledge had always protected her; she had a scar hidden on the back of her scalp to remind her of that, courtesy of the NYPD. For all the destructive force afforded to them by the power of law and biology, these weren’t men she had to fear. Their threat was toward a freedom that had already been taken and a body already bled and bruised.

“We have no obligation to provide you any information,” Maier said, his gentler tone playing the good cop to Gladwell’s bad cop. The cup of coffee Maier had set down in front of her at the beginning of the interview sat cold and untouched. As dehydrated as she was, she understood these little power plays and gestures too well. Being in her father’s company for so long had made her hyperaware of manipulation and resentful of it. “We’re willing to extend you the goodwill of considering your questions, but only if you answer ours. Fully.”

“Goodwill is only as good as it gives. So far, your goodwill has given me bullshit,” she responded dryly. “I can’t abide bullshit. Why aren’t you telling me anything? He escaped, so he’s alive, right?”

“Why is that so important to you?” Maier asked with genuine curiosity in the lilt of the query. “After everything he’s done, you’re still so concerned for his wellbeing. Why is that?”

“I’m concerned for the wellbeing of my uncles,” she answered, careful to steer away from the topic of her feelings about her father. “As long as he’s out there, they’re in danger.”

“Yeah, well, them and everyone else in this town,” Maier added. “Except not everyone else is under police protection. Your father killed a lot of people, Ms. Valstad. We think you know that.”

“I don’t know that,” she insisted. “You keep saying he’s some kind of prolific murderer, but present nothing further to support that accusation. What are the crimes he’s been accused of? What evidence do you have? If you’re building your entire case against him on a witness statement from me, you might be fucked.”

“You’re getting awfully defensive of a man who beat you black and blue,” Gladwell interjected. “Maybe you’re not his victim at all. Maybe you’re his accomplice.”

Simone’s chest tightened with the memory of bloody muscle ghosting over her teeth and tongue as she clenched her jaw and swallowed her nervousness. “I’m not like him.”

“But he wanted you to be, didn’t he?” Maier asked. “His obsession with you demanded intimacy but his sociopathy prevented him from ever truly achieving that. What better way to simulate emotional intimacy than having you become something he felt he could relate to?”

“He had no trouble achieving intimacy with me,” she muttered sardonically, trying to shield herself from the effect of those words but pain drained the blood from her face and pooled nausea in her gut. She withdrew her hands from the table in the need to wrap them around her body. They didn’t know the details about what Leif had done with her, let alone why. They only knew him as a murderer. This framing of his psychological dysfunction was something she found distasteful; even she, in all she had managed to gather about the guarded man, wouldn’t assume anything about his motivations. But they weren’t seeking information only on Leif. They were pricking her to see where she bled and she tried not to show it, but emotional control was far from her strongest skill. Her neck was tense and disgust rose to the surface of her features before she could compose herself. Gladwell misread her distaste and poked her somewhere she didn’t expect.

“Smart, creative, clever daughter. So much potential. You know, we talked to his ex-wife- your mother- and she mentioned that you were interested in a career in surgery,” Gladwell said. He fixed his gaze on her as he smiled, “Did you know that surgeon is in the top ten preferred professions of psychopaths?”

A bead of sweat dripped down her temple. Throughout all of this, she somehow hadn’t even considered that her mother would be questioned. She couldn’t imagine what she might be going through in knowing that Leif had a secret life as a serial killer for who knows how long. A wave of nausea passed over her in a shudder as she wondered how much her mother now knew about what he did. What they did. She wanted to both speak with her immediately and never face her again. She wondered which option her mother would prefer of her and found that she couldn’t guess.

Shoving down that line of thought, she lifted her face determinedly to Gladwell and said, “I went to art school instead. Did you know that artist is in the top ten careers with the lowest rates of psychopathy?”

That wiped the smug grin off his face.

“How long have you known Leif Valstad was a murderer?” Maier asked, quickly changing the topic as his partner’s face reddened. “Did you ever suspect or have a feeling he could be a murderer before he began threatening them?”

“I’ve suspected that my father might be a murderer since catching him attempting to murder my uncle this morning,” she lied. Even as a child, she’d had a funny feeling that there was something off about him, something dangerous and fascinating. Her mother had often touted the value of intuition, but intuition felt too close to delusion to Simone for her to trust it. To her, intuition often felt as though there were a dozen ghosts reaching for her through peoples’ eyes and whispering from innocuous pieces of her surroundings. Now that she had come to distrust even her own experiences, anything less than fact backed by more credible sources than herself seemed as illusory as a daydream.

“Has anyone aside from Leif Valstad assaulted you?”

Her hands clenched at the scratchy wool of the sweater the hospital had given her. “Care to unload that question a bit?”

“Don’t do that,” Gladwell frowned. “It’s obvious Valstad had assaulted you in at least one way. You’d do well to remember that the accounts of events from your uncles will point out any ‘discrepancies’ in your story. Don’t go telling us you fell down the stairs or some shit.”

Simone’s tenuous will to retain a cohesive appearance of normalcy disintegrated. She tried to hold her breath to keep herself from hissing out the acidic response burning in her lungs, but her hands clutching at her sides shook with the transferred energy. These weren’t men she had to fear, so she was finally free to hate. Hatred crawled out of that well of tar she had buried her murder in, coating her with that thick blackness wherever it writhed. The seams at the sides of her sweater began to rip.

“You think you have any power over me?” she sneered. The warning bells in her mind were muffled under the din of the hatred that buzzed loudly in her ears. Her whispered pitch was frantically rapid. “You don’t have anything. How… the fuck did you manage to lose him? You have nothing. Nothing to offer, nothing to take. Nothing to take, not him, not me. No, not me, not me anymore. You lost him, you don’t get to have me. It was a mistake to believe you could help us.”

She knocked over the flimsy plastic chair when she abruptly shot up and Gladwell rose with her, a hostile slant to his stance that she met gleefully. At last, the blossoming of violence. A venomous grin pulled at her mouth.

“George,” Maier warned. Gladwell didn’t back down, but he didn’t move either.

“Better make it count, George,” Simone taunted, her grin pulling wider. He was almost as tall as her father, but not as in good of shape. Her bones seemed to resonate in the anticipation of pain that buzzed audibly through her. She wanted to take his violence and devour it.

“George!” Maier repeated, raising his calm and level voice for the first time throughout this interview. “Go get a cup of coffee.”

Simone’s bones still hummed even through the disappointment that loosened her aching fingers when Gladwell left with a fuming huff. Her eyes were fixed to the closed door after he’d slammed it, but the click of the audio recorder being shut off drew her gaze to Maier. He rose from the table, his slight frame moving with the stiffness of calculated calmness that betrayed some sort of nervousness or excitement. She turned to him fully as he stepped around the table and approached her, that hunger for punishment abating in her to be replaced by curiosity.

“I apologize for that, Miss Valstad,” he said, stopping just a foot from her. She looked down at his brown leather shoes on the thin gray carpet, his even stance and proximity tickling that treacherous intuition in her. The thrum of danger bled into her curiosity as he continued in his sterile clinical tone. “Everything said and done here for the moment is off the record. We both have objectives here we would like to resolve, so let me propose an agreement to trade. Information on Leif Valstad for your full cooperation. Once my partner returns, we will both continue on as though this moment never happened, understand?”

Simone’s flesh crawled in a wave of goosebumps with the realization at how close she stood to the knowledge of her father. Her stare raised in alarm to search his patrician features, glancing over the eyes that screamed too much at once. This was surely a trick. Turning off the recording device didn’t change anything.

Her desperation divided into a scatter of opposing urgencies, but the need for her father swept her focus away from the threat that lied in proceeding. “I understand.”

Maier lifted his hand tentatively over her shoulder, pausing to ask, “First, may I see it?”

Her brow creased in nervousness, unsure of what he was asking, but she nodded. His hand brushed her hair back from her neck and she watched in mounting uncertainty while he pulled the loose collar of the sweater to the side. She held herself from flinching away when he peeled back the gauze taped over her bite wound. There was a fascination that gleamed in his dead shark-like eyes while he looked at the bite, a detached but very interested curiosity that reminded her of a child pulling off a butterfly’s wings. A slight smile curved his thin lips. She felt naked before him despite being finally fully clothed. Her stare attached to his neck, to the writhing pulse under his skin, and she flushed hot at the memory of blood this time.

“Do you know how long he’s been killing?” Maier asked, his voice lowered to accommodate his proximity as he leaned closer to examine the bruised and pierced flesh.

Simone licked her lips nervously, trying to remember if he’d ever told her. “No.”

“He took his first life at age fourteen,” he said. “Coincidentally, or perhaps not, you were fourteen when he began testing sexual interaction with your unconscious body. Although, he did not fully consummate that interaction until you were seventeen, the night before you began college.”

His words shoveled coal into the furnace of her madness and made her want to scream from the searing knowledge, but she had to focus. She forced herself to look in the direction of his face, not really seeing him even as she stared right at him, his features wavering like heat off a paved road. She swallowed her mounting terror. “How do you know that?”

Instead of answering her, he slowly began to peel the bandage the rest of the way off, the tugging at her wound making her pant in agony while he continued to calmly speak. “I was looking into your family history and saw a pattern. Of course, everyone has patterns, that is often highlighted and manifested in our line of work. But the Valstads, as far as the documents show, all had the same pattern. That’s not just noteworthy, it’s troublingly odd. Each Valstad, regardless of their personality, their place, their time, did not hunt to exert some vengeance into the world or to make up for their own lacking. Despite the horrors they were capable of or the number of hunts they executed with any varying level of professional detachment or artistic revelry, it all boiled down to nature.”

She watched in revulsion as he held up the bloody bandage to the light before placing it in his pocket. The buzzing became a hundred voices humming in unison, a sound she felt might rip her flesh from her bones as the humming crescendoed, but resounding clearly above that was a rapid clicking and then a pop. Panting through her discomfort, she lifted her head towards the sound and felt her stomach drop when she saw a thin man holding up an old camera behind Maier. He seemed unaware of the photographer even as the camera loudly popped and whirred with each photo he took, the flash making her blink and squint, but she’d recognized him in that split second before being blinded. She knew those gaunt features, that blond beard, those silver eyes that glittered with madness. Bjørn, carrying with him the sour smell of the darkroom, slowly glided towards them as Maier continued to speak.

“Generation after generation derived the same purpose, lasting through cultural and social changes. We could never make you do anything unless it was within your own interest. We could never give you orders so much as try to direct and coincide our requests with your nature. You’re like wild animals, never completely to be trained or trusted. Leif Valstad had his humanity chipped away until all that was left were jagged pieces that cut into him when he tries to be anything other than what he has become. That’s why we need you, Miss Valstad.”

She tried to calm down and focus away from both the hallucination and Maier’s terrifying words, but was met with a horrid pain that shocked through her brain when she resisted the pull of Bjørn’s haunting image. This wasn’t supposed to happen when she was stable. Despite all the emotional turmoil, this was the most whole she had felt in months, possibly years. But there he was, as real as the agent still admiring her wound but entirely within her broken mind.

“Tick tock, darling girl. You have to keep it wound though, understand?” Bjørn said in Leif’s voice, grinning to reveal a mouth full of pointed and jagged teeth just inches behind the agent.

“You… w-what d… d… you want?” she sputtered, her mouth struggling to form the words.

“We need you to be why he must obey,” Maier answered instead.

Bjørn fell to the floor in a hiss of ash that instantly dispelled that intense humming. The silence in the room now felt solid, like she could feel it enclosing the air around her, pressing tighter and tighter. Her fear transmuted into rage in an instant, the meaning and implication of his knowledge igniting an instinctive wrath in her like a spark in gasoline. Leif hadn’t escaped, he had been taken. Simone grabbed Maier’s shirtsleeves and slammed him into the wall, her muscles tensed and bunching with an adrenaline-fueled strength that took them both by surprise. Her words tore painfully from her throat in a snarled, “Tell me where he is!”

Maier didn’t resist her as she pressed him to the wall, his crooked smile seemingly amused at this escalation. “You’ll see.”

The click of the door opening made her stagger quickly away from him, backing into a corner where she could see both men and give neither the opportunity to sneak up on her. Her body thrummed in the need for vengeance, a viciousness running through her that she was unaccustomed to but carried with it such seductive certainty that these men must pay for what they’ve done. Gladwell entered the room with a weary bewilderment at what he’d walked into, seeing her crouched in the corner with a death glare and his partner leaning nonchalantly against the wall.

“What the fuck is her problem now?” he groused.

“I believe Miss Valstad is too thoroughly fatigued to continue this interview toward any useful end,” Maier explained. “I’ll have one of the officers escort her to the hotel and we may resume once she has recovered in the morning.”

"Give me back my watch first," she demanded. "I need to wind it."

 

 

Anders was prepared to face whatever consequences came with confessing to the murder of Leif. He’d had no idea what this country’s courts would consider it, but from what he had seen of the justice system of the United States in movies and television, he’d anticipated a long haul of costly legal fees and inevitable jail time. Whatever came would be what he’d deserved for tarnishing Simone’s soul, first with the sin of their love and then with the unimaginable burden of patricide. Anything he could have done to ease her pain would have been worth the cost and it was rightfully his crime to bear. She didn’t fill that needle with a lethal dose, he did. It was self-defense as much as it was premeditated murder. He was ready to give his life to protect her from that, but when he’d confessed to the officer and said he’d been the one to inject Leif, the cop didn’t even write it down.

Anders sat looking out the hotel window into the night, the little two-bed room a far upgrade from the motel they’d been in and not at all the holding cell he’d expected to be thrown into. The painkillers they’d given him swam pleasantly in his bloodstream, numbing the minor aches and pains he didn’t even notice had collected in his body as well as the agony he was careful not to aggravate in his stab wounds, but the pills also clouded his mind and made him feel off. He was irrationally insulted that his life-altering confession had gone ignored. The officer had the nerve to nod along with his entire confession as reiterated through the translator only to thank him for his time and take him to the hotel directly afterward. Anders was certain that he was going to be taken to the station and was still shocked at having ended up in this cozy room instead. It didn’t make any sense. He had been glowering at the window for the better part of an hour by the time a knock at the door startled him out of his consternation.

Come in,” he called out in English, hoping he wouldn’t have to limp over to answer it. Thankfully, the door cracked open, the white-mustached police officer having unlocked the door for Henrik to squeeze his hulking mass past him. Anders immediately brightened at seeing his brother still alive and well. “Henrik! When did they pick you up? Is Vidar here too?”

“Yeah, uh,” Henrik began, waiting for the door to shut and latch behind him before walking over to one of the beds and sitting nervously on the edge of it. “Way earlier. We’ve been stuck here all day. Did you give them Vidar’s story?”

Anders wrinkled his nose in distaste at having done it, but nodded. “What choice did I have? Not that it mattered. I don’t think the cop even paid attention to a word I’d said.” Henrik let out a huff of relief and Anders waited a beat before continuing. “I told him I killed Leif.”

Henrik’s heavy brow fell. “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you nuts? Leif isn’t even dead!”

“Bullshit,” Anders spat. “I watched him die. I had a syringe filled all the way up with morphine; there’s no way he could have lived through that.”

“Then why are we getting the whole witness protection treatment if he’s no longer a threat, stupid?”

“Maybe because he’s not the only threat. Remember Kyun? For all anyone knows, there could be a whole squad of killers ready to avenge Leif.”

Henrik paused, his glare growing distant as he considered this. “That’s… That’s surprisingly astute of you, Anders.”

“Would it kill you to admit that I’m smart?” Anders smirked. His brother returned his smirk, neither of them feeling the lighthearted teasing they feigned but needing the reassurance that beyond this hell, they could return to normal. Neither of them quite believed that either. A heavy silence fell between them and their smiles waned under the weight of it. When Anders spoke, he couldn’t fake his way past the haunted edge of his tone. “I killed him, though. It doesn’t matter who injected him, I’m the one who murdered him. He was our brother, Henrik.”

Henrik slouched over his folded hands in his lap, his head hung silently for a moment. “Leif stopped being our brother a long time ago. You did what you had to do.”

“No. No, I didn’t. That’s the problem,” Anders muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Have you seen Simone yet? Is she here at the same hotel as us?”

Henrik lifted his head to frown at him, his lips pursed into a thin line before he sighed heavily and said, “I don’t think you should consider seeing her.”

Anders sat up straighter, his concern roused at the wording. “Why? What’s wrong? Did something happen to her?”

Henrik’s frown shifted to discomfort, the wide plane of his forehead wrinkling deeply as he stood up and walked to the desk in the opposite corner of the room. He tapped the surface of it in thought and didn’t turn to Anders as he spoke in a carefully guarded tone. “I just don’t think it’s healthy for you to be around her. For either of you. You haven’t been thinking straight. I’m not blaming you for anything that’s happened, but you… You took her back to Leif, for Christ’s sake. You were almost killed because of that. I mean, can you explain that?”

“And what was your plan again? Wait around and see if she dies?” Anders asked bitterly. “Oh, wait, you weren’t even going to do that much. You’re just going to run home and leave her here. Don’t talk to me about what’s healthy for other people when you don’t give a fuck about anyone but yourself.”

He could tell he’d hurt his brother with his words, but it felt good to wound him. Anders was sick of them assuming the worst of his intentions with his niece when he only wanted to make her happy and keep her safe. He was the only one who really cared for her and that much was made all the more evident in how his brothers would rather just leave her to die rather than accept his relationship with her. They could never understand. Simone was more than just his niece, she was his, and they could either get used to that or stop interfering. He hadn’t yet let anything get in the way of what he had with her, not Leif, not them, not anyone. He was now glad that the officer hadn’t taken his confession seriously. A new plan for their future began to hatch in his mind, one where they could both be free to be with each other as they should.

“I’m sorry, Henrik,” he began, adapting a subdued tone to make this more convincing. “You’re not the one I should be angry at. You’re a victim in all of this, too. And you’re right; I haven’t been thinking straight. It’s hard to stay sane when it feels like the whole world’s gone mad. We’re going to need a lot of time and therapy before we can go back to being who we are, right?”

Henrik smiled sadly and nodded. Anders took three calming breaths to suspend his withered patience before his appeal bore fruit in his softhearted brother.

“Well… I think I heard her just a little earlier,” Henrik conceded, rubbing the back of his head in the awkwardness of accepting an apology.

“You heard her? What was she saying?” Anders asked.

Henrik diverted his attention once more to the desk in his discomfort, shuffling the scant items the hotel had provided courteously. He pretended to be very interested in a box of tissues while he spoke, “Well, we couldn’t hear much through the wall… but she’s not in a hospital, so I’m sure she’s as okay as she can be. Just promise me you won’t go searching her out, alright? Not without me or Vid.”

“Alright,” Anders lied. If they were hearing her through a wall, then she was in one of the rooms next to them. Anders would need to bring her back to his room if he wanted any privacy with her. He was suddenly impatient for his brother to leave. “I should try to get some sleep. Don’t think it’ll happen, but… Oh, what’s your room number? I might want to try to stretch my good leg and come visit.”

“Yeah, come over anytime,” Henrik smiled. “We’re in room 217. Just ask Officer Grady in the hall. He won’t let us even go to the fucking vending machines without him.”

“Goodnight, Henrik,” Anders smiled back, trying not to appear to eager for him to leave.

The large man turned toward the door and paused, his voice just above a whisper as he looked back and said, “Oh, and, about the police…”

“Yes?”

He blinked at Anders, hesitating before shaking his head and resuming his exit. “Never mind. Goodnight, littlest brother.”

Anders stood up once the heavy door latched closed, using the cane from the hospital to walk into the bathroom to clean the blood and antiseptic off his body. He barely noticed the wound in his thigh, but he had to remember that was due to the painkillers and he constantly reminded himself not to overdo it. As he quickly rinsed off the remnants of his surgery, he wondered if he should have felt guilty for deceiving his brothers. He didn’t and that struck him as odd. Perhaps he just didn’t have enough room to feel much of anything else or maybe it was the drugs. As he toweled himself dry in front of the mirror, he nearly didn’t recognize his reflection. The skin over his eye sockets had darkened to a violet hue, giving him a gaunt appearance, and the lines in his face seemed to have advanced several years. That was aside from the mottled bruises adorning his jaw, cheekbone, and encircling his right eye. Looking down at his body, he took note of the large patches of blue and purple standing out prominently against his pale white skin. He hadn’t pissed blood again since the first time after the fight in the dining room, so he didn’t feel too concerned with the damage. The knuckles on his hands were purple where they weren’t red from the skin splitting. The bruises would vanish and the stab wounds would close into puckered pink lines with time. He’d go back to being himself eventually, then he would be able to make up for these mistakes and strange behaviors. They just had to make it through this. He tugged on the softer clothes from the box that had been left on the desk and limped out into the hallway with the cane.

Officer Grady?” he addressed the cop sitting with a newspaper spread in his lap. The old man looked up at him with a weary regard, his thick mustache giving him the appearance of a permanent frown. “You take me to Simone, yes?

Grady’s bushy brows screwed up in confusion before raising in recognition. “Oh! The little mulatto girl! Yeah, no, she’s sleepin’ by now I imagine.” He turned his attention back to the newspaper. “Soundin’ like someone givin’ birth in that room since she got in, all the blubberin’ she been doin’. Finally got some peace and quiet goin’ on, can’t have you goin’ and stirrin’ ‘er up again.

Anders looked down the hallway, the patterned carpet and wallpaper giving him a headache after only five seconds of staring while he gathered his English. “I need sleep with her.” When this was met with a dubiously raised eyebrow and a cockeyed glare, he followed it with, “She sleep… not so good. Mare, ah… bad sleep. Bad dream.

Is that some kinda thing they do in Europe? Like a touchy-feely family bed thing?

Anders smiled and nodded. Whatever the old man thought was fine, so long as it got him Simone. Grady folded the paper and hissed out a strained breath through his teeth as he rose to his feet, muttering something Anders could guess he wouldn’t be able to understand even with a perfect grasp of English as he led him to the end of the long hall. He gave two raps of his gnarled knuckles on the door before inserting the keycard and turning the knob.

Well, good luck with that,” Grady nodded, shuffling back toward his chair and muttering all the way.

Anders walked into the dark room and depended on the layout to be the same as his until he blindly stepped his way past the bathroom that made up a short hall. Strangely, the only source of light was coming from under the bed. After a moment, his eyes adjusted enough for him to see that the room was empty. The bed was still made. He thought that perhaps Grady had taken him to the wrong room until his ears picked up the faint sound of breathing. His wounds ached with the effort as he knelt to the floor alongside the bed, bending further to peer into the narrow space beneath. Simone laid on her front, her sleeping face turned toward him and illuminated by the glow of the flashlight that had rolled out of her outstretched hand. He stared in wonder at why she would be doing something as ridiculous as sleeping under the bed, then stared in shock at how young she looked.

He’d seen her asleep before when he was too drunk to recall it clearly and he’d seen her in a drug- or illness-induced unconsciousness, but he’d never seen her in a natural sleep. She looked far younger than her barely 20 years of age, making him feel all at once paternal and guilty. Without the illusion of maturity in her sensual poise or the haunted burden of experience in her gaze, she looked more like a lost little girl than a very young woman. To add to his guilt, he still felt that familiar stab of hunger for her even as he realized this. His stare settled on the slight part of her full lips, the knowledge of just how soft and plush they felt against his mouth stirring the beginnings of an erection, and he knew it was far too late to stop this forbidden lust even in light of this new shame. He had vowed to replace her father, so there was already the knowledge that she was much younger than him. He just hadn’t fully appreciated how much was much younger beyond a simple number. He lightly brushed her outstretched hand, embarrassingly hard for her already. It had to have been the drugs or the trauma. They said being around death often made people want for sex, to feel as alive as possible by indulging in the act that created it. But he didn’t come here for that.

“Simone,” he whispered.

Her silver eyes slit open, the haze of sleep still heavily clouding her awareness until she blinked it away and mumbled in a cracked and raspy voice, “Anders? What… what are you doing here?

He gently squeezed her hand, smiling in adoration of her sweet confusion, and softly said, “Come. Sleep in bed with me.

Chapter Text

The aging cop stood in the center of Anders’ suite, his sagging bloodhound eyes glistening in wet fatigue from under the folds of skin that hung over them as he delivered a rehearsed lecture on parameters and protection Simone struggled not to sneer through. Nothing he said mattered. He wasn’t there to protect them, no matter how many times that word hit and sizzled away in the heat of her hatred. Anders sat on the edge of the bed, waiting with considerably more patience for this man to finish lecturing them on why it was important for them to remain in their assigned rooms while also contradicting himself in saying they were free to move about this secured floor. She watched her uncle, her eyes automatically scanning for signs of injury or distress as he nodded along with the cop, and she wondered if she would ever look at him normally again or if she would always be wary of his wellbeing first. It reminded her of the way her mother started looking at her after she picked her up from that first psychiatric appointment with a printout detailing the antipsychotic medication she was to begin. She didn’t want to make anyone feel the way that look made her feel, but the discomfort displayed in his rigid posture and the nervousness in the way his thumb rubbed rhythmically over his tightly folded hands agitated that responsibility to his wellbeing. At the moment, this stranger was impacting his wellbeing and she responded to it with mounting hostility.

“… safety is our primary objective. In the midst of a chaotic situation, we can’t be-”

“You can cut the crap, Officer Friendly,” Simone interrupted his third recitation of that point. He stopped with a sputter and, sensing his immediate offense, she responded to it like a shark smelling blood in the water. That it might be her blood in the immediate future did not matter to her. The taste of her own venom spilling into her words was hot and sweet on her tongue. “You have no legal or constitutional obligation to protect us from the sick fucks you’re attracting with all the cop cars parked at this hotel. We’d be better off not being used as bait in this trap, so you’re fucking welcome we aren’t lawyering the fuck out of this fucked up game your bosses are playing with our lives.”

Grady’s complexion reddened with an anger she had no patience for as he stammered, “Now, see here, young lady, I will not be talked to-”

“If you want it so bad, I’ll fucking give you a reason to force my compliance!” she snapped abruptly, her teeth baring in that snarl finally unleashed in her hunger for conflict.

“Did you just threaten an officer of the law, little lady?” Grady seethed as his posture straightened into the practiced authority of a seasoned beat cop. She grinned at the way the officer’s eyes bulged out from under his sagged lids before she was suddenly pushed back by a hand grabbing her shoulder.

A shocked and panicked Anders shot out between them, one hand placatingly held up to Grady as he stammered, “Sorry! Sorry! Simone, she-she not okay, yeah? She is not understand, she is a, ah, sick, yes? Yes.”

“You mind her, then!” Grady bellowed, poking a gnarled finger