The Binding Tie
Disclaimers: This is an Alt/Uber story that is for people over 18 as it contains violence and sexual violence.
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"Darla honey, why are you sitting out here?" Salvatore leaned down and kissed his wife on the cheek as he lowered himself into the swing beside her.
"I'm so worried about her." The slight woman sighed and laid her head against her husbands broad shoulder.
"I know." He kissed the top of her head as he drew her closer. "When they moved in I couldn't believe how depressed she seemed. I know that all of the phone calls and the threats have been dragging her down, but she seemed happy, for a while. Was I just imagining that." He locked his eyes with his wife.
"No, Sal, I saw it too."
"Maybe I should talk to Douglas." At these words Darla shot up and turned stunned eyes on her partner. "Or not."
"You can't be serious, Sal. Our daughters marriage is falling apart right in front of you and you want to talk to Douglas?" She was incredulous.
"Look, I know that they don't sleep together, but lots of couples do that. Douglas loves the children..." He was cut of by an icy glare from his wife.
"You think that's enough for your Princess, a loveless marriage just as long as he loves the children?"
"Who said it was loveless?"
"Our daughters on the verge of a nervous breakdown at the very least and you can ask that?"
"Don't even think that I don't love my little girl." His anger was rising.
"That's not what I mean and you know it!"
"Good, because I try to protect her. I love her and I give her everything she needs. What have you done for this situation?"
"That's the problem! You buy her things, you surround her with protection, you do what you think she needs. You smother her, you always did, but I don't think that's what she needs from you anymore. I listen to her, Sal. You need to talk to her more, I try to help her with her problems."
"Such as?" The man's eyes were cool.
"Sal, sweetheart, don't get defensive. I don't really think we need this side of the house to explode along with your head. We only have so much money." The attempt at levity was tempered by it's serious implication. Two sets of eye's scanned towards the ruins of their home. Even in his agitated state, Salvatore pulled Darla close to him and held her tight, keeping her safe in his arms.
"We should have done something, shouldn't we?"
"Like what? She's a grown woman. Short of finding him beating her...which is unlikely."
"Yeah, he's not that sort of boy, thank god."
"She's only ever done what she wants to do. We just need to stand behind whatever she decides." Darla looked at her husband. "We need to watch her now, I think that she is tipping over the edge. I don't think that she and Doug have talked at all in the last week, not even when Becca came home yesterday." She took a deep breath and looked wearily towards Salvatore. "Lets go to bed." She took his hand and led him through the balcony doors.
"Thank God we only had one daughter," breathed the tall man as he pulled the French-style doors closed behind him.
Darla heard the sound of a hand impacting flesh and hurried towards it. What she found, round the bend in the hallway, left her motionless. In front of her stood a clearly furious Francesca glaring at her slave. Hunter's face clearly showed a mixture of sorrow and disgust, directed at who the older woman could not be certain. What she could be certain of was the growing redness on the slaves cheek caused by the slap. As her daughter began to tremble, Darla stepped into the fray.
"Hunter, please leave." As the slave was about to interject she was silenced by a shushing motion. "I know your duty is to protect my daughter, but I think she will be quite safe with her father and myself. Go and watch over the children. I don't doubt that either Wolf or Phoenix could use a break and the children would like to see you." Hunter looked chastened and turned away. She was almost out of earshot before Darla called out, "Get some ice for your face." The blue head bowed further as she trudged away.
Darla spun towards her daughter who seemed to have regained some composure. To a casual observer she seemed to be in control of her emotions, but her mother could see straight through her facade. Of all her children, Francesca was most like her father and Darla could read him like a book. Without a word she reached for her child's larger hand and lead her towards her father's study. When the younger woman turned pleading eyes on her petite mother all she received was a glare in response. Letting out a noisy breath she allowed herself to be lead.
Francesca's mind was still in too much turmoil for her to put up any resist against her mother. She let herself be towed like a wayward child as she tried to come to terms with what had happened only moments before. She had hoped for answers from the warrior, but her own temper had flared. Now, walking behind her mother, it looked like those answers were very far away.
Hunter found herself in the stables with an icepack pressed against her reddened cheek. She wasn't entirely sure how she got there, a thought that shook her to the core. She was aware of her surroundings at all times, it was part of her training, of who she was. How could she so totally lose focus? God, this was hardly a life threatening injury, and she had definitely had worse but nothing had affected her like this.
She rested her elbow on the table and propped her head against it, her mind going over the other woman's words. How had Francesca figured it out? She had been so careful to keep her distance, not wanting to get too close. She never got close, it put people in danger and just made her more vulnerable. She had learnt her lesson after they used Jordan's life against her. The other slaves weren't really her friends, they were her brothers in arms. The only one she trusted and thought of as something close to a friend was Shep and only because he could almost best her in combat.
She ran her hand through her hair and let out a weary sigh. Everything would change now, Francesca's respect and trust had certainly been lost. Back to being treated like an animal, at best, at worst she was probably looking at being sold on. Back to a life that she had thought she enjoyed. A life filled with pain and destruction, the give and take of violence.
"What have I become?" She whispered to the emptiness. "I'm afraid of going back! They've ruined me, just like before!" Her hand tightened on the cold bag before she threw it across the room. As it impacted the wall shards of ice flew out as the bag split.
She pushed herself up from the table and turned to the door, surveying the mess she had made on the way. A wry smile spread across her face, that just about summed up her day.
"It wasn't what it looked like." Francesca's tone was pleading.
"I should bloody well hope not!" Darla wanted answers.
"Excuse me, ladies, but could you fill me in?" Salvatore sat behind his desk looking at the two women opposite. He was a picture of confusion.
Darla turned to her husband. "I found our daughter outside her room, hitting Hunter."
"Excuse me?" Salvatore was incredulous.
"Papa, it wasn't like that. Mama, please sit down and I'll try to explain what you saw." The young woman held back a sob. "I thought you knew me better than that."
Her parents exchanged a glance, thinking back to their conversation only days before on the balcony. Salvatore locked eyes with his youngest child and could see the depth of sorrow in them. He tried to give her a reassuring smile, but she turned her face away, studying the carpet.
"Just tell us the truth, Princess."
"I've never lied to you," it was almost a whisper. "Can you say the same."
The couple looked startled. "I think you better tell us exactly what's going on."
"What's going on, Hunter?" Wolf was looking intently at the other warrior. He had noticed her reddened cheek almost immediately but had waited for the children to go to dinner with Morgan before confronting her.
"What do you think of the name Rhani?" Was the reply he received. He watched as his companion reclined on the floor.
"It's nice, pretty. What has that got to do with your face?" The sound of his deep voice hung in the air for several heartbeats before the woman answered.
"That was my name once, Rhani Campbell. I was born free and raised right here, in this very house." She turned to survey the impact of her words on the other slave, smiling wearily as she noted his slack jaw. "Francesca, it seems, has worked out my identity. She seemed a little pissed." She rubbed her cheek self consciously.
"Why didn't you tell her who you were? Surely they would have set you free. Hell, why didn't you tell me?" He didn't know whether to be angry or just hurt at the revelation.
"I can't ever be that child again, Shep. I didn't want to care, I've done that and it broke me." She suddenly let out a bitter laugh. "Why do you think they'd set me free? They let my father sell me when I was five! I stayed living here till I was nine years old, all that time I would be sent off to be trained. Why would they give a shit who I was now?"
"I really can't know everything about you, can I?"
"Tell me something, did Jordan know?"
"Of course. She knew it all, I told her everything."
"I think you need to talk to your owner. Before you go mad, just listen. The two of you have got over a rocky start and you were hitting it off. Maybe the distance was a part of your plans not to get involved, but it's too late for that now. The children like you and they need their mother to be stable. Fighting with you and doing whatever she is with the master is not doing that." Hunter still looked defiant. "Look you don't have to explain the story of your life, just your reason for hiding the truth. Tell her what you told me."
The short woman let out a gusty sigh and collapsed completely onto her back. "Fine, When Morgan gets back I'll go and face the music."
Still waters certainly do run deep, thought Wolf smiling at the old cliche, as Hunter stared at the ceiling.
"You never really told me what happened to Rhani, did you? I mean, you said that she'd gone away and wasn't coming back, but I thought that was a euphemism. I thought that meant that she was dead! It was what you told me when my kitten died, for God's sake!"
With their daughter becoming so agitated in front of them, Darla felt pity wash through her. She knew she shouldn't have been so harsh earlier, but she detested violence. To see her daughter abusing another living creature had shaken her badly. "Sweetheart, what are you talking about? What has Rhani got to do with Hunter?"
"You lied to me! All of you lied to me, you and Papa, the boys, Rhani's parents. Why didn't you tell me!" At the puzzled looks form her parents Francesca took in a gulping breath. "Hunter is Rhani!"
"What?" Both parents sad in unison.
"What happened? Was she snatched?"
"Now listen here young lady, we had no idea she was alive. Mark told us that he was having her trained to use computers, that's where she went al the time. One day she didn't come back and Mark told us there had been a car accident. Why shouldn't we believe him? He and Liz had worked here for years, we raised you girls together. You know how the big computer corps are, recruiting children to learn how to interface with the AI's. Rhani was so bright we never had a reason to doubt." Salvatore looked appalled. "How do you know it's her anyway? You haven't seen her nineteen years!"
"I figured it out from things she said. I confronted her and she admitted it!" Francesca was trembling again.
Darla looked at her husband and he nodded for her to take the lead. She stood up from her chair and knelt in front of the dark woman. She took her little girl's trembling hands and pulled her forward, bringing her into a warm hug. Francesca let her head rest on her mothers shoulder as she tried not to cry.
"I think we should find Hunter and find out what is going on."
"Why did you lie to me?"
Hunter found herself alone in Salvatore's study with her owner. She could see the stress etched on the face of the other woman as she threw out her accussation. Having not been in this position before Hunter was unsure how to react. All she could be sure of was anger would only make things worse. She took a deep breath, ready to attempt an explanation. She hoped that this would prevent her from being sold on, as much as she hated to admit it, she liked it here.
"I didn't lie to you. I haven't been Rhani for almost twenty years. I wasn't trying to hurt you, but I didn't want to be hurt either. I keep my distance from everybody."
"But you were my best friend!" The pleading in the other woman's voice was clear. "Everybody is trying to control me, even you!"
"I don't know what you want me to say!" Hunter felt like she was drowning.
"You hold all the cards, can't you see that? You have power over me!" The dark woman's voice was rising.
"WHAT! How can I possibly have power over you! I'm a slave!" The warrior's anger was starting to flare.
"You know everything about me. About my entire childhood and the space in between, I know you read the magazines!"
Something clicked for Hunter. "You want to know where I used to go when we were children, don't you?"
Francesca nodded wordlessly.
"I need to know one thing first...Did your parents know what was happening to me?" She held her breath in anticipation.
"No, they really didn't."
"Alright. Um...When I was five dad needed money so he sold me to a slaver. I guess he knew that I couldn't just vanish, you'd be too upset, so he made a bargain with the buyer. Dad could keep me here but I had to be trained offsite until I was ten. You'd be old enough to not care if I disappeared. The first time they took me away..."
"...I think I should leave now. I'll just be outside now."
The large wooden door closed softly leaving Francesca in total silence. She hadn't looked up as the other woman left, still caught up in the warriors story. In two hours Hunter had laid bare her childhood and it didn't match her own. Francesca remembered a time of fun and total happiness, Hunter remembered pain and brutality. She talked of dance lessons followed by beatings, rape and gymnastic practice going hand in hand. She had been taught to be a concubine, a seducer with trips home as her reward. It seemed that the young Chess had been her reason to be good, to take it.
Francesca raised her head to look at the closed door, picturing the woman behind it. Silent tears tracked down her face while she considered how much she still didn't know. The years being a gladiator and the killing of one of her owners all lay after that violent infancy. She suddenly needed to comfort the other woman in some way. She wiped her eyes and made her way to the door.
Before she was halfway across the room the door burst open, admitting a smirking Douglas. She stood in front of him, totally stunned. Why hadn't Hunter stopped him coming in? She couldn't handle a confrontation right now. She tried to walk past him, but he grabbed her arm and jerked her to him.
"What, no hello?" He leered at her and crushed his mouth down on hers. She struggled to free herself, but Douglas just held her arms tighter.
"Listen to me Princess, I've decided that I want more control over our money. I should be able to protect the children, you obviously can't, so I need access to everything. I also think you should step back with your record label, let me resume my role."
"Doug, please let me go!" She could see the intent in his eyes. "We talked about this, you said you didn't mind me working with the record label." She was too tired for this.
Douglas wasn't in the mood to be disobeyed. "Maybe you're forgetting who abandoned the children when the house exploded? Don't you feel any remorse!" He knew it was a low blow and he relished the wince of pain on face.
"You can't blame me for that..." The slap to her face whipped her head back.
As Douglas drew his hand back for another blow the door flew open, admitting Salvatore. He had been talking to Hunter around the corner, apologising for what her father had done. They had been on their way back to the study when he had heard the struggle from within. The sight of his daughter being restrained by Douglas, his hand raised to her brought out his rage.
"Get out of my house! Nobody touches my daughter." Douglas opened his mouth to respond but was stopped when he felt a powerful hand on his neck. "Get rid of him Hunter!"
Hunter nodded and dragged the tall man out of the room. Salvatore rushed to his child's side, rapping his arms around her as she collapsed, sobbing. He cooed soft words to her, stroking her hair. He wanted answers, but he could wait. He could do anything for her.
To be continued in Part 9
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