Disclaimer: Most of the characters in this story are the property of Disney and are only used for fan related purposes. Any original characters featured are the intellectual property of their creators.
Warnings: This chapter depicts a non-consensual situation. Trigger warnings for sexual assault, mild violence and implied rape. Much of the scene is left to the reader's imagination, but I want to give fair warning. Nothing graphic is depicted; however, please use your own judgement before continuing.
Obsession: Cuts like a Knife
The alley was darker than it first appeared; it wasn't a side street so much as a dead end. Something blocked the exit at the far reach of the narrow tunnel, leaving nothing but shadows and the faint wisps of a dying sunset to break up the gloom.
Jess entered tentatively, peering down at the ground as she looked for the cat. Glass crackled underfoot and she held her breath, pausing if only to make sure that she was the one who made that noise. The air was still and quiet. There was no sign of the alley cat. It was if she was entirely alone. She shivered.
But that didn't stop her. She knew that the poor thing had gone this way and couldn't see how it could have escaped out through the opposite end. It had to be hiding scared somewhere and, stubbornly, Jess decided she hadn't followed it all this way to turn back now.
"Here puss," she cooed, hoping it would be soothed by her soft voice and coaxed out into the open. "Here kitty, kitty. I'm not gonna hurt you—"
Jess jumped, startled.
"It's okay, Jessa." Jase-a. "I have him here."
Apart from the cat, the alley was supposed to be empty. The yowl she could explain but a voice... but that voice... was more than enough to spook her when she thought she was by herself. A shriek of fright escaped without warning; it didn't last long. Jess clamped her mouth shut when she recognized the strange lilt and the sure manner of who had spoken.
"Rip?" she asked, probably louder than she meant to. Though her heart was beating a mile a minute, she took a deep breath and whispered, "Is that you? Where... I'm not seein' you."
She squinted and could barely make out a shadow separating itself from the blackness at the end of the alley. As he walked towards her, indescribable features became a sharp jaw and a cocky smile and a pair of icy blue eyes that chilled her to the bone. In his arms he held a trembling ball of fleas and fur who didn't seem too pleased with the arrangement, but sensed that it was better not to do anything about it.
The cat let out a plaintive mew, its eyes wide and nearly all black in fright. Jess ached to help it but she didn't know what she should do. And, somewhere deep down, she worried that she might be the one who really needed the help.
"What a good cat, yes?" Rip scratched the underside of the cat's chin and, to Jess's amazement, managed to do so without the alley cat fighting back. "I'd say he's earned a little treat."
Holding tightly to the animal, Rip reached into the back pocket of his trousers and pulled out a damp, wrinkled piece of old newsprint. He shook his hand and, like magic, the scrap fell away, fluttering to the dirt, leaving the mangled hunk of a fish head clasped loosely in his free hand.
In one quick movement, Rip threw the fish just past Jess and tossed the cat after it. It hissed and spat, even swatting angrily at the hem of Jess's skirt twice, before grabbing the fish head between its fangs and dashing back out onto the main road.
Jess watched it go, still strangely paralyzed. Her heart was pounding, her fear of confrontation and being alone with Spindle's Rip all-consuming, and she wondered if she should follow the cat's lead and turn back the way she came.
And then Rip spoke again, and there was just something so hypnotic about his soft voice, it positively ensnared her—
"Mm, Jessa... tell me, do you believe in fate?"
It took her a moment to find her voice again. When she did, it came out as little more than a squeak:
He nodded. "Sì...yes. Fate. That certain things were meant to happen, meant to be."
Wiping his hands against the side of his pants, he moved towards Jess. Rip offered her his hand but she clasped hers in front of her belly, a clear refusal. He let it slide.
"Let's sit down, Jessa. Stretch out your legs. Rest with me while we talk. You look tired."
Rip tried to ignore the truth that she looked absolutely terrified. Not wanting to spook her any more than he had, he stopped moving closer to her; instead, he tried to encourage him to come to him. His hand was still outstretched so he gestured at the dirt-packed floor.
Jess simply shook her head.
"No, thank you." The squeak was gone, replaced by a polite trill that would have made Mrs. O'Connor proud. "I think I'll stay standin'."
Rip's certainty that she'd fall prey to his charms so easily faded away. He pursed his lips, suddenly pensive.
"Standing… yes." His voice went soft. A murmur. It took a second for her to realize that Rip wasn't quite speaking to her when he said that. "Yes, it can be done on the feet. If it must."
She didn't know what he meant and decided that she didn't want to. Clearing her throat, she took one slow step backwards, shifting her weight carefully so that it wasn't so obvious that she was retreating. Rip was watching her curiously, a hunger in his eyes that frightened her more than the darkness.
"I should be going. I just wanted to check on the cat and it seems to be fine, so... good night, Rip."
"Aspetta." He realized that he'd let slip an Italian command and quickly covered it up with an inviting laugh. "Look, it's past suppertime. You're already late... you can spend a few more minutes with me."
Rip had a lazy, mocking smile that did a good enough job masking his intensity and his desire. His chuckle had a depth to it that made her stomach quiver nervously. Jess had all of his attention again; she could feel herself quailing underneath the weight of it. He liked the way she wore her emotions right on her face for him to see. That way he knew when he guessed correctly.
Like he did just then.
"What's the matter?" he teased. Edging a few steps nearer to her, he purposely kept his tone light. "Afraid you might enjoy yourself?"
"It's not that."
"Then what is it? I like you." He brushed the side of his hand against hers, taking heart when all Jess did was unclasp her hands and let them rest against her thighs. "I like your company," he added. Rip leaned in closer. She didn't move away from him. "Don't you like me?"
Jess lowered her gaze to her feet. The front of her shoes were coated with the same dust that covered the ground but Rip's shoes—old and worn but strangely well-cared for—were polished and clean.
He was waiting for her answer.
"We've just met," she mumbled.
"So you've said. That's tough for me to believe. It seems like I've known you my entire life."
She lifted her head, surprised to find that he was staring at her unblinkingly.
"I bet you never expected to see me here," Rip said when he caught her eye.
"It's good…" Jess faltered, then stopped speaking. His stare was making so uncomfortable that she was speaking without thinking. But then she remembered where she was and who she was with and what she promised herself last night while sitting in the O'Connor's kitchen.
She tried again. "I mean, it's nice to see you. I was hoping I might—"
"Mm?" Rip placed his hand on her cheek. A faint stink of day-old fish clung to his skin. The remains of that alley cat's latest meal. "Looking for me, were you? The truth comes out, yes? And what luck… here I am. Now, stay. Stay with me."
"No, that's not what I…" He had a way with words that left her flustered. It didn't help that he laid his hands on her as if they were familiar, rather than strangers who had only met the day before. She slipped her hand under his, preventing him from touching her skin again. "Spindle really likes you."
"Yes. I'm a very likeable fella, Jessa."
"Aye, and she's warned all of us to… well, she wants her girls to stay away from you."
Rip nodded solemnly and took Jess's hand away from her face, intertwining her fingers with his, twisting them together until Jess didn't know where his hand ended and hers began. The stench faded the further his hand was from her face though Jess suspected now she would carry it.
"I'm sure she did. She doesn't want me to have any friends."
"Then you understand?"
"That I shouldn't even have said this much." Jess tried to pull her hand out of his, slowly at first and, when his hold refused to slacken, with a little more force. "That I have to go—ow!"
Rip's grip had tightened. Jess stopped pulling because, all of a sudden, she knew that if she didn't, she was going to end up with a broken hand before he decided to let go.
"I understand more than you think I do. I understand you're scared, but you don't have to be. Not of me."
Lying through her teeth, Jess started to say, "I'm not afraid," but Rip wasn't done..
"I understand you're alone. So alone, Jessa. You've been waiting for me, even if you don't know it. Fate, yes? Because I also I understand that you need me as much as I want you—"
Feeling desperate, Jess gave another fruitless tug on her hand. His grip increased and she bit back a squeal of pain as her fingers mashed together. "Rip, I really have to go."
Rip's ice-cold eyes gleamed despite their dim surrounding. "I can't let you go. Not yet. Listen to me… no," he said, as Jessa looked behind her in a vain attempt to see if there was anyone passing by. With his other hand, he gripped her chin lightly and guided her head back so that she had to look back at him. "Listen to me, mio cuore. Haven't you started to understand that I already know you better than anyone else?"
She fought the urge to close her eyes. Anything to escape his curious stare. "That's impossible. You don't know anything about me"
"Don't I?" he asked lightly. "Then tell me how we both came to be here tonight."
Jess bit down on her bottom lip; her nerves came through and she bit down too hard. She could taste blood as her the middle of her lip split open. Her stomach flip-flopped again. Rip squeezed her hand. The queasy feeling intensified.
"I don't…" She swallowed, licking the blood away and wincing at its tang. "Rip, I don't know what you're sayin'."
"Yesterday was chance. Pure luck, and I don't admit that lightly. But today..."
Rip massaged the inside of her palm with his thumb. He didn't seem to be content unless he was constantly holding her, touching her, feeling her. Jess just hoped she was wrong. That this was just Rip coming on far too strong, and that she was managing to misinterpret everything that had happened since she followed the cat into the dark.
And then Rip sighed and said simply: "I knew I'd find you here."
"How?" Jess asked. She hadn't known she was taking a different shortcut than her usual one until the minute the church bells started to toll and she said goodbye to Spindle. And the only reason she did go the long way around was because—
Because she was—
Because she was trying to avoid him.
She gulped. "How did you know?"
His only response was a light laugh and a sudden tug. Taken off guard, there was nothing she could do to stop him.
When Rip took her hand and wouldn't let go, that's when she first suspected that running after the mangy alley cat this way was a mistake. But as he used his hold on her hand to yank on her arm and pull her towards him, catching her in his embrace with her back pressed against him, she had to admit that she had made a very big mistake—and that there was no going back just yet.
Jess tried to pull away but his hold was absolute. Like the night before, she was all but trapped: the most she could do was turn her head slightly in an attempt to look at him in the face again. It wasn't much, but Rip helped her by lowered his head and resting the point of his chin in the hollow of her shoulder. As he breathed her in, Jess felt her stomach lurch.
Her words were shaky and high-pitched as she repeated: "How did you know I'd come this way?"
"You told me you'd be here."
"I... but I didn't... how—"
"You did," Rip insisted. His lips brushed against her neck. "Four nights ago, you came to me."
"I never saw you before yesterday," argued Jess.
He didn't seem to hear her. "In an opium daze I spoke to my Maria and it was everything I hoped it would be. She... you told me we'd meet again if only I left Harlem. I did, and here we are."
Opium... that partly explained is strange behavior. She had never met a user before but heard about them through Grace. His forward actions and worrying insistences, it made sense if he was on the drug. She didn't like it—she didn't have to—but at least she knew that this infatuation would last only as long as his high.
She just had to keep his interest long enough before he did something she couldn't prevent. Despite his grip, she lengthened her neck in a big to move a little further away from him. It was difficult, but Jess kept her voice as conversational as possible as she said, "I don't know any Maria. Who is she?"
It was the worst question she could ask.
Rip's short intake of air was harsh and quick, drawing a strand of her wild curls away from her face. She couldn't see his expression, but she heard the hard edge of his reply.
"She is you, Jessa. And you are her."
"But... but I'm not. I can't be." In that moment, Jess wasn't thinking about Spindle or papers or even what tomorrow would bring. All she wanted was to get away, to escape from this stranger and the strange things he was saying. Her tremors returned. "Rip, please…" Her voice cracked but she didn't stop. "I… I think you're confused. I'll help you if I can. Do you want me to help you find Maria?"
"Don't you see, Jessa? I already have." He pressed his right hand tight to her belly. "Maybe, deep down, mi cuore, maybe you are just as eager for this as I am. We've waited for too long. It's finally time we were reunited again."
"You're right. I do see," lied Jess. Maybe this was the only way to do it. To agree and maybe then he would stop all of this. "And it would be nice to meet again, maybe after Spindle—"
"Forget about Spindle," ordered Rip. "She is nothing to me and simply another newsgirl to you."
And he meant it, too.
There was a time when Rip thought he and Spindle were meant to be. Both too damaged, too dangerous to love anyone else—Spindle's attack on the whore Aisling in his name to reclaim his favor was even worse than his sins, in his mind—he had started to believe that she was all he could ever have. But now, with Jessa, with his Maria reborn... his time with Spindle, with her murderous rages and her wounded, sad eyes, it would just be another bad dream.
"Think only of me, Jessa," he murmured into her ear. "Solo a me."
"I'll do me best," she fibbed. "But I really should be leavin' now. I've stayed too long."
"Not yet. Soon."
Something changed. Emotions were running high. She wasn't the only one desperate as Rip began to caress the front of her skirt, lifting the hem and the folds up off of the dirt floor, higher and higher with each quickened stroke. Her breathing matched his motions until Jess was almost choking on her panic. Fear came off her in waves, so thick you could cut it with a knife.
He stopped hiding his desire. It was now or never.
"Rip," Jess grunted, trying to get away from where she felt something hard poking into her back, "what are you—please, you're hurting me!"
"I'd never hurt you. I just want to show you how much I love you." He moved her hair away from her skin, resting the wild mane over her right shoulder, before placing a gentle kiss against the back of her neck. "How much I've always needed you."
He wanted to know the touch of a someone whole, someone pure; a virgin's touch that would cure his guilt and wipe clean the blood from his hands. It had been more than two years since his first accidental killing and no amount of remorse or prayers had saved him—or stopped him from killing again.
The yearning he felt for his sister since she was taken from him had only grown until now, here with Jessa, he could take her innocence for himself. Only then would he be free of the ghosts that haunted him and the demons that plagued him.
She was his reason and his everything and, while she didn't see that now, she would understand in time. He would make sure of it. Jessa would understand that everything he did, he did for his heart—for her.
Jess heard the snick over her feverish breathing. The sound registered but for one quick moment she was confused until she felt the chill of his steel blade as he pressed it against her thigh. She stopped thinking, breathing, moving as if the slightest motion would mean Rip stuck her with the knife's point.
Despite only having one free hand, Rip was quick and efficient; too stunned to actually realize what he was doing, Jess was paralyzed. In a matter of seconds, her stockings were nothing but tattered remains. He lowered the blade back into position against her skin, an unsaid threat.
"I don't want to hurt you, but if you pretend you don't want me, if you try to resist—relax, amore. Let me in."
The tears that came were hot and blinding but her panic kept them from falling. She gasped loudly, drawing in great big lungfuls of air in preparation to scream at last, but Rip was ready for it. He yanked her as close as he could, her back thudding into his chest. His blade slipped—whether on purpose or not, she never knew—and she felt the white-hot sear of pain as it left a slice along the side of her thigh.
Rip bowed his head down so that there was no space between them at all.
"Don't yell out, Jessa. Don't scream, don't cry… don't breathe a word of this, yes?" The sharp edge of his jaw cut into her cheek, his breath hot on her ear as he whispered one last warning, "It'll be our little secret."
It seemed like hours but could only have been minutes; his excitement and her inexperience meant it wasn't any longer. When it was over, Rip forced her down to her knees and together they both prayed: one for remorse and one for salvation.
He wouldn't let her move any further away from him than he could reach. She flinched any time he drew too close but, too utterly terrified, confused and defeated, Jess didn't have the strength to get too far. She stayed where he placed her, too stunned to do anything but remember to gasp in great lungfuls of air whenever unconsciousness threatened to overtake her.
Rip murmured one name, "Maria", under his breath as he lifted Jess onto his lap. The girl was more like a rag doll, heavy and lifeless and awkward to hold. She had given up the fight once his blade made it impossible to continue but, in her despair, she wasn't going to make it any easier for him. "I leave you to your rest, amore."
The world was an ugly place now, one she had no desire to see. Jess kept her eyes closed through it all so, when Rip raised his hand and pressed two fingers against her eyelids to close them himself, all she knew was another of his unwanted touches.
"Siete il mio cuore... ah, Jessa."
solo a me: only of me
siete il mio cuore: you are my heart
Author's Note: This has always been the roughest scene for me to do, in every incarnation of this story (the original, the rewrite and now this, the revisal). CLAK was the second fic I ever wrote (many, many years ago) and that was before I learned what an unfortunately overused trope rape is, especially in this fandom. However, this is the relationship I always envisioned between Rip and Jess - and that was one thing I wouldn't change when I revised this story in my head. What I did want to do was push it. It's not just about this initial attack but exactly how he will use this to cement his hold over a young girl who did nothing but have the bad luck to resemble someone else.
(And if none of that made sense, you really should go back and read a) the first couple of chapters of this story and b) A Virgin's Touch - especially with the call back to his motives in this scene).
- stress, 04.07.14