Come home with him. With my pretty Raven.
I must stay here.
I must wait for my Master’s orders. Which reminds me. He’s all quiet. Why is he quiet? Why isn’t he telling me what to do? Did he forget about me?
I hope he isn’t hurt.
“Missy.” He stood and held his hand out to her. “Come with me.”
She twiddled with the cotton ties on her oversized hospital gown. I don’t know if I can.
“Start by taking my hand and we’ll build upon that one small action. Let’s see where it takes us, Missy.”
She looked up at him.
He smiled. “There’s a bathtub at home waiting for you.”
A real bathtub.
A bathtub that I can sit in?
“For as long as you want.”
For as long as I want.
“I will keep Mr. Smith and Mr. uh…”
“Hastings.” Robin ushered Antioch into the room. “Last name’s Hastings.”
Missy transformed back into XQ and fled to her corner.
Master is going to be mad at me he’s going to yell at me he’s going to he’s going to he’s going to…
Antioch looked at her. “XQ.”
Her flames rippled at the sound of his voice. She flattened her ears.
Missy slunk back to the three men. She sat before Antioch with bowed head and hunched shoulders.
Raven came in between them. He unsheathed his claws. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, sir, give me one good reason why I should not eviscerate you.”
“I can do better than that. I can give you two good reasons. Reason #1: If you kill me, XQ loses all chances of regaining what I took from her. Reason #2: If you kill me, XQ will be handed down to my subordinates. They will not be so kind to her as I have been.”
“Those are legitimately good reasons, sir.” His claws retracted.
“Can I kill him?” asked Robin.
“I will refrain from killing you, sir, if you will release Missy from all of your bonds and let her leave with me.”
Antioch burst out laughing.
“Can I gouge his eyes out?”
“You don’t seem to realize what XQ is. She is more than a pretty little thing. She is a weaponized human. A very precious commodity. People and countries will pay The Institute for her services. I will give her the command to obey whoever her chosen master will be and she will obey them. She will never disobey them. She will never betray them. Even if it means her own torture and death.” He smiled fondly at her. “She is finally perfect.”
“Come on. Let me maul him, at least.”
“Darn, darn, darn stupid you.”
“So. You refuse to release her.”
“Oh, my. That is a shame.” He encroached into Antioch’s personal space. “My. My. My. Such a shame. Robin. Take hold of his arms.”
Robin obeyed with way too much enthusiasm.
Raven removed Antioch’s mirrored sunglasses and threw them out the door. “There. Now, isn’t that so much better?”
Antioch struggled and squirmed.
Robin tightened his grip.
“Shhh. Calm down.” Raven spread his hands on Antioch’s chest. “Calm.”
“Your vampiric powers of suggestion won’t work on me.”
“Of course.” He slid his hands up to Antioch’s throat. “That is why I am not suggesting anything, sir. I am merely going to tell you what I want and you will give it to me. Hardly a suggestion. Wouldn’t you agree, sir?”
“Intelligent answer. I highly approve. Now that we have established that I am not being suggestive, you will ask me what do I want?”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to release Missy from—”
Antioch shook his head. “I can’t release her. I—”
“But you can. It’s all right.”
Antioch shook his head again.
“Shhh.” Raven pressed his body up against Antioch, making him gasp. “It’s all right.” He put his lips close to Antioch’s ear and whispered. His hands trailed up the other man’s face.
Robin fidgeted and looked like he wanted to call everything in the world “stupid”.
Missy transformed back into her human form. She stood carefully.
Master’s going to wake up and snap orders at me and I’ll have to obey him and…
Her breath caught in her throat as she noticed how close they were.
For the first time in ever, I wish I were Antioch.