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.
Obsession: Cuts like a Knife
Rip's last command was for her to rest. With the exception of her treasured silver chain, Jess would have given everything she owned to be able to let unconsciousness steal her away from this terrible nightmare. If she couldn't wake up from it, sleeping away the shock and humiliation and pain was the next best thing.
Except she couldn't.
Jess couldn't fall asleep, but she took great care not to let Rip know that. Her eyes never fluttered. She took short, shallow breaths in order to match his blissful exhales and soft sighs.
She sensed he was slumbering himself and tested him just the once. Slowly wiggling her battered body in an attempt to slide off of his lap, Rip's hold tightened immediately and she stiffened, her heart pounding so loud that she didn't understand how he couldn't hear it. After that she was unwilling to try again in case he realized she was awake.
Jess didn't know what he would do. She didn't think he could do any worse than he had already done—but he could do it again. And the fear, the absolute terror that he would climb on top of her once more and bend her... break her to his will was more than enough to keep Jess feigning her rest.
With her eyes closed, she couldn't tell how much darker it had gotten outside. It was well past curfew, that much was obvious, and she ached to think of Mr. and Mrs. O'Connor going to bed again, wondering what had become of their young ward.
What would they say if they ever found out that she had been sullied in such a way?
Nothing, that's what. Because they would never know. Jess would never tell them. She would never tell anyone. Rip's whispered warnings echoed in her ears, no matter how hard she tried to drown them out. She didn't need the horrible reminder. She would take this night to her grave.
Which, if Spindle ever found out what happened, was exactly where she'd be...
Despite the humid night and the heat of Rip's body as he wrapped his arms around her, Jess shivered and inwardly cursed herself for it in the seconds that followed. Rip made a soft noise, a questioning sort of sound, and she suddenly knew that there was no way he thought she was still sleeping.
She was right.
Jess felt the gentle shake of her shoulder but didn't respond to it; she hoped he would leave her alone. She wanted him to fall into such a deep sleep that she could escape and run, run far away to a place where he could never get to her again. But then Rip started placing soft, feathery kisses against her back, then her neck, and she had no choice but to pull away.
"Mm, Jessa," he murmured and she found the lilt of his voice made her sick. "È ancora un sogno?"
Her throat was sore from all the screams she had been forced to swallow. She tried to find her voice, but it took a few seconds. When she did, it came out scratchy and hoarse but as insistent as she meant it.
"Please… I have to go home."
"Yeah… yes, of course," he agreed, the Italian lilt fading with every word as he roused himself out of his peaceful sleep.
But he didn't move. He didn't let go.
And she panicked.
"Call me Luke," he interrupted. He licked his lips. "I want to hear you say it."
Her first instinct was to refuse him anything he wanted. But if it meant she could go—
"Luke, please," she pleaded. "They'll be waitin' for me. My guardians. I… I told you about 'em."
Rip had started to shift her off of his lap at the sound of his Christian name, but froze just as suddenly.
"That you did," he admitted, his voice taking on a queer quality. He settled her on the ground beside a stack of balanced crates before he grabbed her wrist loosely, tethering her to him for a moment more just in case she tried to jump and run. "But you won't tell them about me? About us?"
"No." His words ran through her mind again. Jess couldn't stop them. She gulped. "Our little secret."
Rip got to his feet and immediately held his hand out to her, a silent offer to help her. Something told her that it would be a very big mistake to refuse him so she took it as she gingerly stood up. She ached all over; it felt as if she had been hit by a cart but she tried to hide it, stepping gently as she tried to make sure her weak legs would support her weight.
She was so surprised that he was finally willing to let her leave that she didn't want to spend another second in his company. Without another look at Rip, Jess turned to escape the accursed alleyway.
Hating herself for obeying, she stopped dead in her tracks.
A flash of metal, cold steel against her skin. The threat lingered. Biting down on her bottom lip, the girl did what she was told.
Rip was right there. He lifted up her skirt, purposefully pretending not to notice how she cringed and whimpered when he did. The cut on her thigh had clotted over. It wasn't as bad now as it had appeared when it was freshly bleeding, but the smudged trail of dried blood mixed with dirt made it look worse. Licking his thumb, he wiped away the trail before lowering himself to his knees again and planting a soft kiss against the cut.
Jess shivered but just managed to keep from bolting. As if she had forgotten about the cut or his blade. Her skin burned from where his lips touched her. All she wanted to do was pour a cupful of witch hazel on it and wash the sting away.
"Go straight home," he told her as he stood back up. "Get some more sleep. Tomorrow you must arrive at the distribution gates as if nothing has changed between us. We lie—we are strangers, yes? And when Spindle speaks to you… and she will, mio cuore… you smile in her face. Because you have something she wants but she'll never know."
Rip reached out and straightened her skirt, lightly brushing away the dust that had turned the black fabric a faded grey. When she didn't say anything, he took her clammy hand and simply held it. "And you know what that is, don't you?"
Jess couldn't bring herself to answer. She shook her head.
"You have me." He squeezed her hand. "Don't forget it."
A single tear leaked out of the corner of her eye. Rip witnessed its fall. He let go of her hand before drawing closer to her.
For one wild moment, Jess thought he was going to strike her, but Rip was feeling generous. Using the same finger he had used to wash away the blood he spilled, he wiped away her tear. His icy blue eyes thawed enough to show her that he cared, even if she couldn't understand why—or how, if he could do something to her like he had just done.
"Go," he repeated. "Don't stop until you get home. We'll meet again soon."
Whether it was a threat or a promise, Jess couldn't tell. But she didn't think she'd be able to stand in his presence one second longer. And while going back to the O'Connors made her think her heart was going to leap out through her throat, she couldn't stay.
Hugging herself around the middle, feeling strangely cold and unattached, Jess started away from him. She never once turned to look behind her. She wasn't afraid any more, either, of what she might encounter on her journey back to the O'Connors. What did she have left to fear?
Rip followed after her, stopping at the mouth of the alley. He watched as Jessa slowly walked away from him. It took every bit of self control he had not to run after her and hold her close; she was still in his sight, but he already felt a chill as if she was taking all of his warmth with her.
Rip was glad to see that they were alone now. The cloaked hag with the book from that afternoon was gone, he noted. For having only been in Far Rockaway for a handful of days, it seemed as if he made a good choice for his hiding place. He would have use for it again. Soon, too.
And Spindle, damn her, would never know.
Arching his back, Rip stretched like a cat, trying to relieve some of the sudden tension that came with the thought of that name. His faded blue shirt was flapping open as he moved. Tucking Maria's golden chain beneath it, he straightened his short and did up the buttons perfectly. He had yanked his trousers back on when he was finished but readjusted them again before pulling a squashed cigarette and a box of matches from his pockets.
After lighting his cigarette, he put the matches away. He didn't have his comb with him so he made do with his fingers, following his part on the left. Then, feeling more like himself, he blew out a long stream of smoke through his nose.
As much as he wanted to bask in his time with Jessa, his instinct for survival was kicking in. Now that he had her to protect, it was even more important that he thought his next actions through.
And that meant dealing with Spindle Scott.
He still had to take care of her, one way or another. Keeping her happy was probably the best option, if not the one he would rather delight in. Being with Jessa was like a baptism; now that he was cleansed and whole, he didn't want to get blood on his hands again.
Pretending he loved Spindle didn't seem so distasteful with Jessa's innocence still clinging to every inch of him. Rip breathed in deep, relaxing. A small smile crossed his handsome face.
What he had with Maria—no, Jessa… that was real love. He could fake it with Spindle. Isn't that what he had been doing all along? A couple of murmured apologies and some dishonest kisses and Spindle was easily appeased.
Rip had done it before and he knew that, until he got Spindle out of his life for good, there would be plenty cause for him to do it again. Remembering the scene in the bunkroom from the night before, he suspected that her jealousy would be terrible tomorrow morning. She would assume that he had been with someone else. She'd be right, of course, but that's why it was so important that Jessa go straight home instead of staying with him, and why Rip would wait until facing Spindle again until the next morning. He'd be ready for her then.
He felt reinvigorated and alive. The virgin's touch had made him whole. Rip almost wanted to laugh out loud, but settled on taking a satisfying drag on his cigarette instead. The entire night lay before him for plans and schemes.
But, for now—
Wrapped around his smoldering cigarette, Rip's lazy grin turned both predatory and feral as he purposefully started off in the direction Jessa had just gone.
It was hard for Spindle not to react the way she wanted to; her fingers were itchy and twitched to grab her blade and flick it open. She was angry, she was furious, but Rip wasn't denying the fact that he left her waiting for the second night in a row. The honesty was just a little disarming and she decided she would allow him tell his story before she got violent.
And then all bet's were off.
"So, Rip," she said through grit teeth, "let me get this straight: while I was sittin' on my ass all night waitin' for you to show up, you were on the fuckin' beach?"
Rip bit back his sigh of annoyance. He had been expecting this, but that didn't make her inquisition any less intolerable as she demanded him to repeat his story again and again.
"I would have much preferred to be fucking you than sleeping out on the beach because I missed curfew, but, yes, you're right."
"I don't believe you," she said flatly.
"I didn't expect you to. It was stupid of me, and I regret it. Sleeping on the sand is nothing like being with you." It hurt less, he thought to himself wryly, but in the end gave him no satisfaction. At least she was good for one thing. "I thought I knew this part of Queens better than I did. I got lost. I'm here now, though. I'm right where you are. Caity."
Spindle pulled a face at her name but his words hit home. For the first time since he arrived in Far Rockaway, he was waiting at the distribution gates when she arrived. He was waiting for her.
Rip watched her intently, watching her reaction. He had to be delicate when he called her Caity. Sometimes it worked, and she was like wax in his hand. Sometimes she snapped. He had to be careful.
He knew what to say next:
"Look, I got this for you. To show how sorry I am."
She crossed her arms over her chest, tossing her mane of long red hair over her shoulder. "Yeah? What?"
Rip held out something between two fingers. It was roughly larger than a quarter piece, ridged and the color of sand. Spindle snatched it from him, then held it up to her face.
She wrinkled her nose. "What the hell is it?"
"It's a gift."
"Huh. It's a rock."
"No, no, no." He lowered her hand and pressed the backside of the shell against her palm. "It's a seashell. Hard, unyielding, yes. But on the inside," he said, pointing to the smooth, pink inner layer of the shell, "on the inside, it's beautiful. Like you. When I realized that I—" What was a good word for how he would have felt if he cared what she thought? Ah… "—disappointed you, I spent the whole morning looking for something worthy of you."
Spindle's tough facade and angry veneer started to splinter and crack. She pursed her lips, almost unable to believe a word he was saying—though she desperately wanted to. "You did? For sure?"
The truth was that this shell was the first one his hand found when he sifted through the sand. It's edge was sharp, razor-thin, and it sliced his forefinger right open. Pretty and dangerous, even Rip had to admit that it was a perfect fit for her.
"It's mine?" she asked cautiously. When was the last time anyone had given her a gift?
Rip leaned towards her with the intent of giving her a quick kiss, something that would end this conversation for now. She accepted the seashell a lot easier than she swallowed his story at first, and while she initially demanded he admit that he wasn't alone, he was pleased to notice that she didn't mention Jessa by name at all. If it kept the girl safe from Spindle's irrational ire, it was worth any amount of thoughtless presents and false adoration.
Except, as he moved towards Spindle, he tensed and straightened up. His back was to the crowd gathered just inside of the distribution center, but he didn't have to turn around to know that someone was watching him.
He could feel their gaze on the back of his neck, direct and intense and burning him like the afternoon sun. Rip thought of Jessa again and had to work to keep the smallest of twitches from pulling against his lips. She had come, just like he told her to—and just like he had really spent all morning worrying she wouldn't.
Spindle was polishing the smooth underside of the pale pink shell with her thumb, checking it for imperfections, weighing this token as every bit of affection from Rip himself; lost in her perceived victory, she was currently oblivious to everything else going around them. Rip knew it was crucial that he kept her that way, but his will was weak. He wanted nothing more than to turn around, to look at his prize if only for a heartbeat.
Not right now. He trembled with temptation but he knew better. Not with Spindle so close.
Drawing two quarter pieces from his pockets, Rip pressed them against the palm of Spindle's free hand.
"It's getting late, no? Get the papers for me and then I'll let you take me around your city." A hint of desperation made him take her chin between his thumb and his forefinger before he added, "Our city. If I got lost so easily, maybe it's time for that tour."
Spindle opened her mouth to say something but stopped when Rip gave her skin a gentle squeeze. She nodded, all signs of her earlier fury gone at the smallest sign of his affection.
"I'll be right back," she promised. "Don't go nowhere."
"As you wish, Spindle."
He knew Spindle. Like with Jessa, he knew Spindle Scott better than she knew herself. That's why, when Spindle stalked towards the line, he waited before he didn't anything else. She didn't just turn back once, but three times, a jealous hostility melting away when he was where she left him each time she peeked. But after the third time, when he saw the smug smile of satisfaction tug at her lips, he left her to storm her way to the window while he finally gave in and looked over his shoulder.
Someone was glaring daggers at his back.
It wasn't Jessa.
Disappointment flared up within him, only to be replaced with annoyance. Who was this girl? She was gawky and thin with a nose like a beak and piercing dark eyes. Thick, dark curls hung limply around her narrow face, framing an expression that was a mix of hesitation, curiosity and the desire not to be noticed. A flash of recognition was like an itch he couldn't scratch: he'd seen that same look before and recently, too. But where?
And why was she looking at him that way?
He had to know.
She wasn't alone. A girl maybe a year or two older and nearly a head taller stood next to her, speaking without half a clue that the dark-haired girl was barely listening. This girl was colored more like Jessa: sandy-colored hair that she wore pinned back, wide green eyes that seemed vibrant and alive, plus a smattering of freckles that reached from her cheek to chin. She was loud, her voice carrying over to Rip as he walked towards them both-and sputtering to a quick close when she realized that Rip really was heading for them.
"Morning," he said.
The taller girl recovered first. Whether or not it was a mocking gesture or not, she curtsied. Rip noticed, remembered it, and chose to ignore it. For now.
"Dia duit," she greeted with the smallest of smirks. If she suspected that he didn't understand her language, she didn't show it.
The one who had been staring at Rip lowered her gaze. She kept quiet.
He zeroed in on her. His charming smile slid easily onto his face though his eyes remained hard and searching as he tried to gather the reason behind her attention. "Now, please, don't think me forward… but have we met before? You seem familiar to me."
"That sure ain't likely!" burst out the other girl in English. Her accent reminded him of Jessa but he felt she had none of her charm. He disliked her immediately.
"How could you 'a met Wren," she teased. "I mean, unless you get it in your head to hide outside of abandoned buildings just to stick your nose in some book."
Wren grabbed her friend by the arm. The motion was quick. She looked alarmed and that made Rip curious.
"What?" Irish laughed out loud. Rip fought to keep a slight grimace from coming to his face. "At least I didn't mention your queer cloak. Makes you look like an old lady. How you 'spectin' to get a fella like this to look at ya in that ratty ol' thing?"
Rip raised his eyebrows as Wren's whole face turned bright red. She wouldn't meet his eyes. And for good reason, too.
"Beggin' your pardon, Rip. Yeah," added Irish lightly, "we knows ya. Got the advantage on ya, seein' as how your Spindle's lad. I'm Irish Murphy, this is my pal, Wren. It's nice to meet ya."
"Likewise," Rip said, before ignoring Irish again in favor of the blushing Wren. "Are you sure we haven't met before? I swear, it seems we have."
Wren shook her head. "We come to the distribution center every day," she said, visibly relieved that Rip hadn't realized she was wearing her cloak and reading her book while he secretly met with Jess last night. If he didn't recognize her, she wasn't about to admit where he might have seen her. Not when she had decided she hadn't seen or heard nothing… especially nothing that she would have been honor bound to tell Spindle about. "Maybe you've seen us here."
Just as Rip was deciding how to go about getting Wren to confess what she might have stumbled upon while hiding with her book, a tiny, dirty, blonde girl appeared out of nowhere. Bounding over on a pair of stained bare feet, she addressed Wren and her friend while ignoring Rip as if he wasn't even standing there.
"Irish! Wren! I've been lookin' for you gals. Listen, have you'se seen Jess runnin' 'round anywhere?" She bit down on her bottom lip, already chapped and raw from the elements; it looked like she wore lip stains. "I can't find her nowhere."
Wren seemed grateful for the opportunity to change the subject. She turned to face the newcomer, her brow furrowed and her dark eyes concerned. Rip was watching for it and wasn't the least bit surprised when she glanced back his way once as if putting two and two together. Jess and Rip.
So, he thought to himself, she did know something.
"I haven't seen her myself. Not for days," Wren lied. "You, Irish?"
Irish shook her head. "Not since Spindle took her out for her run. I thought she let her in."
"That's what Snappa told me," the blonde girl said. "But I ain't seen her. And that ain't like the Jess I know."
Rip's hands clenched into fists at the girl's words. He couldn't help himself. They tightened and flexed and he felt a tic in his jaw as he clamped his teeth together. Forcing himself to calm down, he exhaled softly through his nose and relaxed, but that didn't stop him from feeling like a fool.
And that ain't like the Jess I know…
Momentarily stunned, it hit him like a shooter to the chest. These girls were talking about his Jessa. He wasn't the only one searching for her, looking for her, expecting her. He wasn't the only one with a claim to her. Family, friends… Jessa had a life in Far Rockaway before he got there. A life without him.
Well, he decided darkly, that would have to change.
But, for now, he had to side with this girl. Where was his Jessa? He gave her exact directions. Go straight home. Rest. Show up at the distribution center as if nothing had happened, because if Spindle found out… he didn't like to think what he would have to do if she discovered the truth. Or how he would have to convince Jessa that she was to do what she was told because he was looking out for her.
What was she—
"Wait," announced Irish. Rip felt his breath catch in his throat as she pointed at a lone figure walking hesitantly through the gates behind him. She jerked her head that way. "Ain't that Jess now?"
Grace whipped her head to look. So did Wren. Rip, not even caring that Spindle could be back any moment now, followed their lead. And felt a mixture of adoration and pride when he saw Jessa walk gingerly to the back of the line, purposefully looking anywhere and everywhere apart from the corner where he stood with Grace, Wren and Irish.
He exhaled softly. Ah, Jessa.
Without wasting another second, Rip turned back to Wren as if he didn't care at all about some friend of theirs, or as if he hadn't noticed that Spindle was heading towards them with a murderous glint in her eyes. He counted to three, offered Wren and only Wren a rakish grin and took her hand before anyone could stop him—or he could think better of his sudden plan.
His action took Wren by surprise. She didn't think to take her hand back right away so when Spindle came storming over to the trio, that was the first thing—the only thing—she saw.
"What's goin' on here?"
"Just making another friend, Spindle." Then, because it was important that she figured out what he wanted her to, he made sure to add, "Friends, I mean. Of course. My friends."
Rip's smile was so charming, so sincere, that Spindle felt her heart start to pound. Or maybe that was because, out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Rip held onto Wren's hand for far longer than was necessary.
Spindle slammed the stack of papers against Rip's chest before grabbing his hand and Wren's hand and yanking them apart. Her obvious jealousy made her cheeks nearly as red as her hair. She spun on Wren, her finger pointed and her mouth open as she started to toss out another threat, another warning, another rant that some other girl dared talk to her Rip.
But Rip, who chose not to say anything when she shoved the papers at him or grabbed him so roughly, laid his hand calmly on her shoulder and all words evaporated at once.
"Come, Spindle. Let us go now together." His eyes sparkled innocently, though deep down he purred in pleasure at just how easy it was to manipulate her. To manipulate everyone. "Today is for me and you."
And then, without saying another word, he let his hand slip down and rest at his side. She jerked when he moved away from her, suddenly torn between having her say with Wren or keeping Rip as close to her as possible.
The choice was an easy one.
Spindle threw one last searching look back at Wren Monroe before trotting after Rip, her fists clenched and her eyes burning in sudden suspicion.
È ancora un sogno - Is this still a dream?
dia duit - hello (literally: God be with you)
Author's Note: All I have to add is that, in all the incarnations of this fic, I've never shown the aftermath of what Rip did to Jess the first time. I just hope I didn't mess it up too much. But, this time, I thought taking a look at this side of the story would be interesting before taking a more broad look at what's going to happen next in order to move along the pacing.
Thanks for reading!
- stress, 04.15.14