Author’s Note: The following chapter contains aspects of drug use, violence, graphic depictions of molestation and antagonistic non-consensual/forced sexual encounters. If you prefer not to partake of such content I ask that you please read no further… all scenes depicted are entirely fictional and penned for purely the purpose of entertainment.
The sun had just begun to set the following day, when she finally began to stir. Each time Dog reached out to brush his fingertips against her forehead he found his worries renewed. She was cool to the touch, still, clammy even. Dark, thick lashes fluttered as Charlie tried to drag herself back to the world of the living, her lips dry and cracked as she murmured fitfully in the mostly drug induced sleep, inspiring Dog to breathe just a little softer as he stood watch over her…
He wanted to take her up to her room. When she woke, she’d be comforted by the familiar space… she’d feel safer there far more than anywhere else, but Diablo had advised him against moving her too much, and the fight the day before had left him mentally and physically exhausted.
He was sporting an ugly bruise on the right side of his jaw where Slash had sucker punched him. He’d fucked up a knee at some point during the scuffle, as well. He wouldn’t be carrying her anywhere without help… and he didn’t dare leave the room for one instant to seek it, still all but covered in her dried blood, his brow knit together harshly as he brooded from the corner of the suite. He leaned forward, the lights of the room purposely dimmed, long digits interlaced and resting just beneath his chin as he watched, and waited.
A firm knock resounded in the room, and Dog’s eyes shifted slowly toward the door, unsurprised at all to see that Oz had come at last.
“…how’s she holding up?” Dog stared at him absently for a moment before his eyes dropped back to Charlotte. He had made her as comfortable as he could resting on her good side in the queen sized bed, tucking the fluffy white comforter around her. The sound of Oz’s voice caused another stir… and her eyes finally fluttered open as she jerked back to the waking world, struggling to rise from the bed to sit.
“Fuck…sss!–” She cursed bitterly as a rush of sharp pain prevented her from getting very far. She had tried to bring her right hand to her head, her temples pounded viciously, and regretted it immediately. Dog moved to stand, closing the distance between them to sit beside her. He placed a hand gently against her collar, toward the left shoulder, guiding her back upon the feather down pillows. Her voice was soft, and hoarse, her visible confusion very much understood. “Danny? Ugh… fucking… hell–what… what the fuck happened? Where are we…?”
“Easy there Charlie… it’s alright…” the older man’s voice held a calm, reassuring tone, but Charlie’s swollen and reddened gaze shifted away from Dog, focusing hard on the slightly older man who paused near the door. His arms crossed gently over his chest, brow furrowed in concern. Dog drew the blanket up over her, knowing she was bare to the waist beneath, before offering her a full cup of water. She blinked slowly, her eyes focusing upon Oz, who kept his distance most understandably.
“You’re going to be okay…” Oz’s calm reassurance only went so far before she found herself glaring, her slender digits closing weakly around the cup, and as Dog guided it to her lips she drank deeply. Water had never tasted so good. She felt as if she’d gotten run over by a train, or something akin to that, her muscles twisted into tight coils and aches in every bit of her body. A burning, pranging sensation pulsated from the cauterized knife wound she’d sustained in the frantic chaos the day before, and for this Charlie didn’t dare move any more than she needed to.
“…What do you want, Oz?” There was no reason for pleasantries at this point. She didn’t have the patience for it. She was injured, and livid, rightfully so. She hadn’t any reason to trust anything he said… and so he frowned gently, and stood right where he was.
“I know you’re angry… you’ve got every right to be. I sent Slash to retrieve you and Dog last week, out of fear that you’d get caught up by the rotters in the area… the last thing I expected was for him to hurt you–either of you. Best believe he’s going to be dealt with severely.”
She let her eyes lull closed for a moment, and drew in a slow, aching breath, her hands balling into weak little fists. If he wasn’t gonna stab that asshole in the back for her, she really didn’t want to hear empty promises. Charlie gritted her teeth. She had never wanted revenge before in her life, but in this instance she felt such a sinful urge could almost be forgiven…
“I just wanted to check on you… see if you needed anything–anything at all…”
“No. I don’t need or want anything from you… any of you… as far as I’m concerned Daniel is the only one or you who isn’t totally fucked in the head…”
Oz frowned thoughtfully, but he had no argument for her logic. She’d been bullied and mistreated since they arrived… she hadn’t even gotten to know them to question the content of their characters, trying her damndest not only to hide herself, but to escape them. As the threads holding the group together began to unravel, he couldn’t hold it against her for even a moment. He nodded, firmly, scratching the salt and pepper scruff of a gaunt cheek.
“Listen… Charlie…” he started slowly, taking a chair from the small table in the suite, near the door, sitting to be seen as no threat in the moment.
He came unarmed, with only hopes of putting the poor girl’s mind at ease, despite how utterly distrusting and weary she was in the moment, “I know how things look… and we’re going to talk through it, tonight–the entire group. There’s no place among us for scumbags, sadists, or predators–I know, I know, you’re afraid, and you’ve been mistreated… I can’t apologize enough for it…”
She averted her gaze, not wanting to listen, but not much given a choice in the matter. “I want you to know that going forward, you’ll be safe here. You’ll have respect, and be treated fairly. My men will keep to themselves and as soon as our vehicle is operational, we’ll take our leave… If you want to stay, or leave before then, or travel with us, that’s entirely your choice to make–“
“I don’t believe you. You told me I was safe, before… that was a load of shit. You told me I was free to go, before… you can’t control your people…”
“I didn’t know, Charlie. Whatever the hell my brother and Slash have been playing at, it ends tonight… I give you my word. You’ll have no trouble out of any one of my men ever again.”
Some part of her wanted to believe that.
Oz seemed so determined, so protective, so sympathetic. He spoke to her as a father might speak to his daughter. She wanted to believe that she would be alright here, but certainly enough as flickers of the last forty-eight hours replayed in her mind, she didn’t dare be so foolish as to trust the group’s kind and gentle leader at his word–or any of his men, any longer.
The cat was out of the bag… there was nowhere left to run or hide. She felt Dog reach out and curl his fingers around a tightly balled first, tearing her eyes away from Oz to focus on the younger man, a small smile tugging the corners of her lips as he sought to reassure her.
“I’ll leave you to rest… Dog’s insisted on standing by, should you need anything. As long as you’re comfortable with him here, he’s been given orders to notify me of any discrepancies from my group.”
Oz had stood and turned to exit the room on that final note, giving her back her space to recover and relieving some of the tension in the air. Dog squeezed her hand, his expression something akin to absolute dread as he brought her hand up to brush his lips against.
“…I’ll be okay…I feel like absolute shit… but… I’ll be alright.”
He looked devastated. She could see the tears welling in his eyes as he delicately placed her hand down upon her lap, and moved to press the cup of water against her bottom lip. She drank, unable to help but let her fingers shift to the bandage at her right shoulder where the tip of Dog’s knife had torn through… to move the arm at all caused prickles of discomfort to stem from the still very raw wound.
“… it isn’t your fault, Danny…” her voice was soft, and sweet, and she reached out to brush his cheek gently with her left hand, “Help me up? I need to get this blood off… it feels like it’s glued to my skin–it’s so uncomfortable…”
As he stood and turned to offer his arm for her, ever so slowly she dragged herself to her feet. It could’ve been worse. She could’ve been shot… or stabbed in the leg. She could be dead right now, and she might have been if Dog and Slash hadn’t acted as quickly as they did.
She didn’t pay much mind to the fact that she was shirtless, and she was certain she felt much worse than she looked beyond the blood stains and rips in the knees of her jeans. He helped her carefully to the bathroom, because she hadn’t the strength right now to stand alone… once she had been seated inside he loosened several bulbs from the bathroom mirror to cast the space into calm dim lighting.
Dog pulled open the glass door of the shower, starting it for her before moving back to stand behind her, tenderly undoing the braid of her hair. He’d stay here with her, as long as he could… some part of him wanted to ignore the men of his group entirely from here on out, but a reckoning was on the horizon.
Oz would call them together later and, well… he was certain he’d be on Oz’s shit list right along with Slash, and Skully–he didn’t doubt for a moment Skully was gonna kick his ass the second they were alone together… but for now, his focus was on her, and only her.
He helped her up and into the shower once she had undressed completely, surprised quite certainly that once they made it there she gestured for him to peel free from his own blood-stained clothing and join her beneath the steaming stream.
The water ran the color of rust as they rinsed away the nightmarish last few days in silence, supporting one another with gentle affection… he did his best to keep her the wound dry while she cleansed herself of both the grit and grime, and negative energy they’d compiled, his heart heavy with how everything had panned out.
It was only gonna get worse from here… and so for the night, Dog was silent as the grave. He lead her back to the bed and helped her rest upon her left side, facing the now locked door. He opened the balcony doors so that the sound of the ocean waves swept into the room, and crawled into bed behind her, gently stroking his fingers through her damp locks as she slipped off into a restless sleep, uncertain that he would ever be able to be in this position again.
The men gathered in the well lit lobby of the southern tower once again, the hour late, and rain picking up once more as it had for the entire week outside. Just down the hall on the first floor Charlotte rested uneasily, sedated by some concoction or another provided to Diablo by Slash the day prior. They waited in solemn silence for the final member of their group to make his appearance…
Dog didn’t want to leave her, but it was time to face the music. Diablo had come just ten minutes prior to administer a syringe into her left arm that would ensure she would rest well and wake with minimal pain… he’d done the youngster a favor by bringing him a fresh change of clothing, while he was at it, making idle awkward conversation and informing him that everyone was ready.
They formed a loose circle around the lobby, with Ruthless standing just before the door to prevent any hotheaded storm outs, the AR-15 held loosely in his large hands. Slash and Skully had posted up on the lounge chairs, and Diablo had hopped up to sit at the front desk as Dog appeared silently from the hall. The black jeans he wore now were snug fit and fashionably distressed, his pistol in its holster at his hip. He sported a thick black hoodie with the hood drawn up over his head, his dark hair still slightly damp and unruly as ever. Charlie’s goggles were looped about his neck, and his expression coldly unreadable as he leaned against the wall nearest the walkway of the hall.
Oz drew the long sword. The sound of the well-tended blade scraping the edges of the sheath almost sang as he drew the blade, and rested the tip against the plush carpeted floor, casting an weary gaze among his men.
“Well… here we are. We’ve managed to terrorize the lone survivor in this hotel to the farthest degree imaginable–so much in fact that she doesn’t care to hear that we are not fucking monsters. She thought to disguise herself out of fear of how we might behave toward her from the moment we came upon the premises… anything to say for yourselves?”
Diablo’s eyes ventured to Skully, who had drawn the skull print bandanna up over his mouth, his cold blue eyes bearing harshly into Oz’s gaze. Slash smothered down a wicked grin with all the mirth of a bad ass teenager being scolded for the millionth time, crossing his arms coyly over his chest. Ruthless stood, stoic and statuesque… and Dog slid his hands into the pocket of his hoodie.
“Skully? Slash? Do I even want to know what disturbing fucking nonsense you two have really been up to?”
Slash couldn’t help but to chortle gleefully, throwing his hands up and shaking his head.
“Aw boss, c’mon now–shit was all just an unfortunate slip up!–“
“You stabbed a girl in the back, Slash–“
“I ain’t know she was a fuckin’ female ’til after the fact–not ‘scusin’ a damn thing… but the lil’ shit been askin’ for it since we got here. She wrecked the hummer and set fire to half the fuckin’ supplies in the kitchen when she tried to take off for the third time–shit, she looped Dog in on her lil’ schemes even! Stole my damn truck! I known this boy for six years and not once did he ever come for me like he did yesterday… and for what? Some girl he barely knows? Tch.”
Tensions seemed to flare. Dog glared harshly at Slash, itching to draw the gun at his side and take a shot at the mechanic, who rolled his eyes bitterly and shrugged off the supposed offense.
“Yeah, I knifed the bitch… if I hadn’t, Dog would’ve lit my ass up, and you’d have three fuckin’ corpses on your hands instead of one lil’ injured bird–I brought her ass back here, too, and put up over half my fuckin’ stash to make sure she’s good and comfy while she’s on the mend. Far as I’m concerned… we’re even.”
“The group will be the judge of that.” Oz’s stern tone inspired Slash to fall quiet, leaning his head back against the cushiony padding of the sofa, not bothering to mention that he had been acting on the younger Callaghan’s orders.
If there was anything Skully did, he paid his dues… he might have to sit on the lookout shift a bit longer and go hungry for a while, but Skully would see to it he came out on top, regardless. The second-in-command remained still and silent beside him, toying lazily with his hunting knife as Oz set his sights on Dog.
“How long have you known about her? Where were you taking her?”
Dog huffed, crossing the room to the front desk to snatch a pen and sheet of paper, scribbling rapid statements which Diablo read aloud as they came.
“Since we got here… she wanted to go north… cabin in mountains. Searching husband.“
“…Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Skully questioned him coolly, and Dog stared at him with deadpan annoyance before shrugging his shoulders dismissively, averting his gaze. He knew that look… the pointed, pensive stare Skully gave when deciding just how he wanted to hurt someone. He grasped the pen, the next sentence coming rapidly.
“She is afraid of us.“
“No fuckin’ shit–as she should be.”
“Enough.” Oz snapped. He placed both hands on the hilt of the broad sword and dug the sharpened tip into the ground, setting his eyes on his brother in a deadly leer, “I’m gonna say this once, and only once… no one is to go anywhere near her. We’re packing it up and heading north before the temperature drops any lower. If she wants company, she’ll make it known. Have I made myself clear?”
“What about Diablo? He’s treating her, isn’t he? …what about Dog, hn? Guessing she’s made him her little boyfriend in the last three weeks–“
“Colt.” The warning in his tone was accompanied by a venomous leer, and Skully could only laugh, sliding his hunting knife back into its holster. “If anyone disturbs that girl… if you so much as look at her the wrong way, I’ll see to it personally you’ve got your shit packed and you’re taking a hike to North Carolina, alone. Am I fucking clear?“
“Heard.” Diablo nodded.
“Aye, fuckin’ crystal clear, boss!” Slash saluted with a cheeky grin.
Ruthless gave a solid nod, his semi-automatic weapon angled to the floor. Dog said nothing, lowering his head so that his obvious discomfort couldn’t be seen.
“Yeah, yeah… whatever you fuckin’ say, Oscar.”
Skully waved a hand absently, almost dismissively. He came to stand as Oz carefully returned the long blade to its sheath, with a pointed leer at the younger man.
“Before we disband, those in favor of Slash facing judgment?”
Hands went up… that of Ruthless, and Dog. Oscar nodded his head, his eyes turning to Diablo, Skully and Slash. The deviant pair remained still… and to his surprise, as did Diablo, who couldn’t argue against the mechanic’s logic.
If he believed Slash the way he told it, a two on one fight wasn’t anything close to fair when all he’d been sent to do was bring the youngster’s back. He knew the trigger happy mechanic just as well as any of them. Slash could have easily put that blade in her heart if he wanted her gone, but he hadn’t. He brought her back… he helped patch her up.
“I’m calling for judgment. Which leaves us at a tie. Charlie’s word will be tiebreaker.” Skully rolled his eyes, and Slash cursed beneath his breath before laughing almost excitedly.
“Well fuck, might as well give her a fuckin’ knife right now and let her take a swipe, ahahahaha! An eye for an eye yeah?”
“Those in favor of Dog facing judgment?”
The tables had turned. Dog and Ruthless remained motionless… Slash shot a hand into the air. Diablo shifted uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck with a groan.
“Man, what’s he even accused of?”
“Ya fuckin’ stupid? He hotwired the F-150 and was well ready to take the fuck off with lil’ Charlie… we been here for weeks and he ain’t mention who she was or what she been up to, not to any one of us, which was his fuckin’ job!–I’ll bet he got her the keys to the fuckin’ Humvee even, shit, prolly set the fuckin’ fire too–“
Dog was still, and silent, watching as Skully raised a set of fingers into the air briskly. Ruthless was next to signal, and finally, with some reluctance… Diablo. Dog took a deep breath, and focused on Oz, who frowned thoughtfully.
“…Daniel. You’re accused of aiding and abetting… theft and malice. Your plea?”
There was silence. All eyes trained on Dog in some way or fashion… and he stared at the ground for a long few moments before looking up to Oz. With his head high, he brought a hand from his hoodie pocket, middle finger brandished in the oh-so-trademark signal he was so fond of, flicking Oz off… much to the amusement of Slash, and Skully. The older man sighed, and shook his head in disappointment.
“House arrest, two weeks. Quarter rations… turn over your weapons. Those in favor?”