It wasn’t as simple for Toshi, he glanced over his shoulder and fell into the crisp sense of beautiful winter that was Mick. That was what he needed, that sharp sense that had grown to mean so much to him and that smirked half smile Mick always offered when he needed it the most. He followed his uncle’s echoing footsteps without another second’s hesitation because he knew Mick was right beside him.
“So, what’s on this level?” Yasun asked, glancing down the corridors, uncertain of which direction to head.
“Kitchens, bar storage room, locker room, some holding and work rooms.” Mick pointed in the proper direction for each.
“You’ve that memorized?” Yasun asked with a grin, ignoring how pale Toshi looked.
“I like to know floor plans.”
“Well, lead on, I shall follow.”
When Toshi didn’t protest, Mick did just that. He took them to the kitchens and storerooms first; the harmless rooms that he was pretty sure would trigger few memories, good or ill, in either man. If he’d had his way, that was as far as Toshi would go until he’d had a chance to bring a crew in and gut the levels to the bare walls. Neither Toshi nor Yasun had wanted that, both wanted to see the lower levels just as they’d been when the building above had collapsed down upon them.
He wished he’d been a little firmer with his protests when they turned a corner and found themselves in a poorly lit, long, locker room. The work crews had braced the ceiling liberally and strung lines of lights but still the lower levels held shadows, they just seemed darker and deeper in the long, empty, room. That darkness jumped from the unlit corners to Toshi’s eyes the moment he glanced into the echoing, low ceiling space.
“So many.” Yasun found himself whispering as they stepped into the room. Rows and lines of lockers covered every free space, long slender metal spaces each baring a metal plate with a number.
“One for every worker.” Toshi answered but he was drawn into the room, down past U shaped rows and the low wood benches that were bolted to the floor between them. He went down, past the large open shower, the clinging smell of the industrial soap still lingered. One of the dispensers on the shower wall was still coated in the thick, cheap blue soap and the sight and smell made him a little nauseous.
“Toshi?” Mick questioned as he followed a couple of paces behind.
“I’m fine.” But even to his own ears, his voice didn’t sound fine. “Just, ghosts.” He turned down a row and stopped at one locker, almost in the middle. There were no locks on the lockers, none of the workers were given even that level of privacy and Toshi lifted the latch on the metal door. It swung open with only a little rusty whined protest.
Mick moved a little closer. “Yours?”
Toshi only nodded. Yasun’s return to punish the men that had tortured him and allied to his traitorous brother had been violent and sudden. It had frozen that day in time, the rubble had locked it all away and nothing had been touched since. He reached into the locker and up high on one of the welded ledges and his fingers slid across the small plastic pouch. His hand was shaking when he brought out the hit of shine.
It sat there, in the palm of his hand, just as if it had been waiting for him. The pink powder wasn’t even clumped up or been damaged from the wet or heat. He could almost smell it, as if the plastic wasn’t even there. That sweet, teasing smell that made his heart beat faster and his stomach clench up, that set off all the deep cravings of want and need and all the memories of how good it could feel.
Until Mick’s hand closed over his own, covering the shaking fingers and hit of the drug that he was again struggling to withdrawal from. When Mick’s hand slid away, Toshi felt the plastic bag go with it. He knew he should thank Mick but he wanted to demand that he give it back.
“I had that hidden.” He licked his lips and cleared his throat a little. “A client was drunk, hits were all over the table, I stole one. Thought if I tucked one aside, when they punished me by not letting me shine, I could sneak some to keep the pain away. It was comforting to know it was waiting there, if I needed it.”
“Do you want it back?” Mick asked carefully, knowing there was nothing Toshi could do to make him give it back but also knowing that the otherwise silent man needed to face some of the truths he’d rather not.
“No, not really but yes, I do, I… god.” He stepped to the side and pressed his forehead to the cool metal of a near by locker. “This is just so difficult.”
Carefully, Mick slipped the hit of Shine to Yasun before he moved to drape an arm across Toshi’s shoulders. “Shhh, baby, shhh, I know. You’ve made your point, we should get you out of here.”
Toshi shook his head and concentrated on the feel of Mick so close by and his own breathing. That was all he could do until the cravings retreated a little and he knew he could move without begging for the drug that he hated.
“We need…” He had to swallow hard to keep from becoming ill. “We need to have Alec bring in some drug dogs. I want every inch of these levels swept for drugs before any of the workers start clearing out down here.”
“Will do.” Mick rubbed little circles on Toshi’s back but he could feel the half breed’s breathing starting to steady and slow and knew yet again another rough wave had been ridden out. “Better?”
“Getting there.” Toshi sighed and pulled his head from where it was propped on the cool metal.
“I didn’t know you were still having such strong cravings.” Yasun’s voice was flat but he knew that Toshi didn’t want sympathy.
“They’re getting better.” Toshi sighed out but he knew his uncle would look to Mick to confirm the words as truth. “But still, they hit sometimes, it’s the smell down here.” Leather and soap, lube and shine, mingled with smoke and fire, death and mold; it was almost too much. He drew a slow breath and sat down on the wood bench. “That hit harder than I’d expected.”
“When’s it supposed to get easier?” In a full blooded I/S it was virtually impossible to get clean and stay clean, the first six months became one long struggle against the physical need to use. After six months, the cravings reduced, became manageable, acceptable as the bodies addiction was slowly leeched out of their system over the next few years. Toshi was a half breed, a freak that shouldn’t exist, and his biology often acted like neither I/S or human.
When Toshi didn’t answer, Mick petted a hand across his hair. “They think the first year will continue to see spikes of really rough cravings with diminished lesser cravings as the months pass but there should be a faster tapering off period. Papa Mike says that his body already knows how to flush the toxins out so it should move pretty quickly after that.”
“It’s getting better.” Toshi admitted but didn’t say that those first weeks had him facing bad cravings a dozen or more times a day and he hadn’t been really sure he’d make it through. It took several slow, steady breaths for him to stand again and face his old locker. This time when he reached into the locker he found the fabric he’d hidden up inside.
“A sock?” Mick asked and was surprised at how small the sock was. It wasn’t easy to think about what had been done to Toshi, but it was even more difficult to remember how young he’d been.
The sock was simple, nothing at all fancy and dirt scuffed the sole of it and blood stained the cuff. Toshi clenched a hand around it. “The only thing left on me when they were done with me that first night. I kept it because it smelled like home.” He raised it tentatively to his nose but it didn’t have to get too close to tell it didn’t smell like home any more. “Smells like smoke now.” He placed the sock on the bench. “Don’t think I could get my toes in that now.”
“You were a scrawny thing, like most of the men in our family. Didn’t fill out until you were in your twenties.” Yasun smiled gently. “Luckier than me, I still looked seventeen when I was thirty.”
“Anything else in there?” Mick wanted to get Toshi moving, away from this spot at least.
Toshi just shook his head. “No, nothing I want.” He shut the metal door and locked inside the leather head harness he’d worn; the bit a leather covered rod that fit in the space where a set of his molars had been pulled. He shut the metal door on the butt plug that he’d been forced to wear that had the streaming pony tail attached and the gloves that made his hands useless and trapped them inside leather mittens. They hadn’t been allowed personal clothing, outfits were assigned and showed up in their lockers, at the end of the day they all had almost industrial standard issue simple cotton pants and shirts and sandals to wear to sleep. Since he’d been wearing that night’s outfit when the raid had occurred, there was little else in the locker. “I don’t even want that.” He waved to the abandoned and sad looking sock before he drifted, empty handed, from the row of lockers.
Mick exchanged a look with Yasun and the powerful Incubus carefully secreted the sock away into his own pockets. It earned him a grateful nod from Mick, both men knew that Toshi might not want that reminder today, or next year, but one day he might and it was a small enough thing to preserve for him.
“That’s about it for this level, next one down is mostly offices.” Offices and a few specific hard-core dungeon rooms where even the sound of screams couldn’t escape.
They moved quickly across the next level. The offices did hold some interest but it was mostly files and records which Alec was going to shift through and nothing that Toshi or Yasun had ever seen before. The few dungeon rooms were clustered together down one hallway but while Toshi paused in front of one or two doors, he didn’t enter any of them.
The lowest level was smaller, a few narrow corridors and a dozen or so rooms, all had heavy doors that latched firmly from the outside but none had locks. Which wasn’t entirely true, Mick had made sure the locks were removed and the bodies found inside as well. Yasun wasn’t the only one held captive so far below ground.
The older man was silent as he walked down the corridors finding with as much certainty the room that he’d been locked away in as surely as Toshi had found his old locker. He pushed the heavy door open and stood in the doorway of the small room.
“It’s smaller than I expected.” Toshi spoke gently but the room was tiny. Not even wide enough to lay down in, a small square of a room that was dark and cold. One corner had a stainless steel industrial toilet and that was it. There was less smell of smoke and fire so far below ground but the dank musk of mold did nothing to cover the smell of his uncle’s blood that still lingered in the tiny space.
Yasun just stared into the small dark space that still haunted his memories and nightmares. “The only saving factor was that Shine would have muddled my mind too much and they’d never gotten the information they required from me.” He squared his shoulders. “What were you planning on doing with these rooms?”
“Tearing them apart.” Mick answered instantly. When they were done, there would be little more than memories of the old Pony Club.
“Keep this one as it is.” He glanced over to where the human stood, looking so set and stubborn. “For me.”
“Of course.” Mick nodded his head slightly and knew better than to argue. It was like the little scraps of rubble Toshi had wandered around and collected and while he didn’t agree, he could understand.
“They’d haul me out, down the hall, to the interrogation room.” Yasun turned and walked with steady feet down the hallway and to the left. He’d always tried to make that walk on his own feet, a small sign of stubborn defiance that he was often too weak or injured to manage. It took a tight breath to push open the next door and a force of will to step inside.
Nothing much had changed. The room was bare walled and tiled, a drain placed in the center of the floor. Strong metal shackles were deeply secured to the wall and ceiling in several places and a pair of spigots sprouted from the wall. Pressed into a corner was a shiny red metal toolbox that looked harmless but Yasun knew differently. Each section continued a new horror, a new means of inflicting pain from simple to complex, and he glanced away from the memories stored there.
The room was large enough to work on several people at once, and he’d been shown some of the more gruesome skills his captors possessed as a means of frightening him into telling all the secrets his father had placed in him. He crossed the barren space to a set of shackles that hung almost over the drain, his fingers traced them just to solidify that they were real and as cold as he remembered. The things that haunted him weren’t mere shadowy figments but solid and had simply remained hidden.
“I killed him too quickly.” Yasun whispered but the room echoed the sound. He turned and placed a hand on Toshi’s shoulder. “Sadly, the dead can not be woken just to be killed again so his death will have to suffice as justice.” He glanced to the human that had lingered by the doorway. “Tear this room apart, Mick, tear the tiles from the walls.”
“Yes, sir.” Mick answered softly and hoped the pair had prodded at their wounds enough for one day. He was grateful when Yasun turned from the room and moved with single-minded steps back up from the sublevels to the bright sunshine of the day outside.
Alec hovered outside, clutching his clipboard like a shield and trying too hard to not look nervous. The tight line of his forced pleasant expression softened into relief when they emerged back up into the daylight. He hurried over not to Toshi but Mick and left the nephew and uncle have a few moments alone together.
“Well?” He demanded. It had been his idea to limit who went down into the basements with Toshi and Yasun, knowing quite well how private both men were, but it about killed him to stay behind.
Mick nodded. “Better than we’d feared. We’re going to have run some drug dogs down there though, get it secured before any more work is done. Structurally, it’s way better than we’d feared. Even with the reinforcements, the work should stay on plan.”
“Will do, good….” He made notes on his board. “And everything is okay?” He asked and knew that Mick was well aware he wasn’t asking about the foundations.
“As close to okay as can be expected. Yasun wants the room he was held in saved.” He kept his comments to himself. “I’m going to take Toshi home, some of it hit pretty hard. Don’t forget your date tonight.”
That made Alec grin. “I won’t. Not much more to be done here today anyway.”
“Take her flowers, women love flowers.”
“What do you know about women?” Alec laughed.
“I’ve sisters.” He grinned. It did take an effort not to tease Alec more. The man was so quiet about his love life that Mick wasn’t even entirely sure it was the same woman he saw every time. He moved away to drift closer to where Toshi stood to the side with Yasun.
“I appreciate the offer, uncle, but some of Mick’s family is in town. They’re supposed to come by for a visit.”
“Hmm?” Mick questioned.
“I just invited you over for dinner.”
Which hadn’t been all that uncommon in the last weeks and Mick had really liked seeing Toshi spending more time with his family. “Thank you, actually, if we could get a rain check? My Papa Mike is nagging me to introduce him to you.”
Yasun quirked an eyebrow. “The father of yours that treated Toshi so well?”
“He’s a good man.” Toshi agreed.
“I’d be honored to have your family as a guest in my home Mick, say, tomorrow night?”
Mick blushed and hated to push, so he kept his mouth shut.
“He’s too worried about being rude. His Mama Ruth and Grandmother Rose are in town as well.”
“Of course they should come.”
“Thank you. They can be a bit… near sighted, but they honestly want to learn more of your people.” In fact, Papa Mike had been simply giddy when it became clear that Mick’s relationship with Toshi wasn’t just a passing fling. “Tomorrow night, then.”
Yasun put a hand on his nephew’s shoulder. “Go home and get some rest.”
He nodded. “I will, Uncle. Thank you for coming out.”
“Welcome.” He inclined his head a little and moved away. Within a few paces his guard had gathered to follow and keep watch around him and a few moments more had the powerful man leaving as suddenly as he’d arrived.
It didn’t take much prodding to get Toshi to agree to go home and the guise of getting ready for Mick’s family to come over allowed him to agree without worrying about it making him look weak. Not that Mick or anyone else would have thought that but Toshi could be oddly stiff necked about pride over the silliest of things.
Home wasn’t the fancy penthouse apartment, not any more, and there was little of the sleek apartment’s elegance in their new place. It didn’t matter to the Containment Committee that Toshi was half human, the half Incubus side out weighed that and forced him to live by the same strict and unfair rules of every I/S. It had been fine so long as he was willing to be controlled by their invasive restrictions and wear the inhibitor that disrupted his nervous system enough to shut off the low level I/S empathy that was his birthright. The day he rejected all of that he was tossed from the human city, even with all his father’s power and money.
That had begun Toshi’s plan to tear apart the discriminatory laws that had caused so much pain and suffering for generations. His first step was to enforce the stand down order that had been placed on the Committee. Their authority to occupy the borderland between the camp and the city had been dismissed, as well as their right to simply kidnap and use I/S at will. While the random murders and experimentations may have ended, the continued presence of their occupation didn’t and there was always the quiet worry in the back of every whisper of the old days returning.
So Toshi tossed them out and took control and authority over the disputed buffer zones, the wall, the warehouses and barracks around the Camp. He’d given them a deadline and the last Committee member was walking away as the deadline expired. It saved Toshi from having to let a small riot swarm in and drive them away like unwanted rats. It left him with four barrack buildings set partially into the containing wall that circled the Camp and it was into one of them that Toshi had moved his household.
Which sounded really impressive but was, in actuality Mick, Alec and a couple of weeks ago Andy, so it was a small household. Even though Yasun had gifted Toshi with body guards and support staff, they lived on the lower floor and it really hadn’t sunk in yet to Toshi that they were part of his home. In truth, they weren’t, just on loan to keep an eye on the train yards and the buffer zones. They still reported to Yasun too and took orders from them both but one day, sooner than later, Toshi would have to fully claim them as his own and take full responsibility for the wild, chaos of the area he was trying to govern. An idea easier to accept when he was angry and distracted and now churned his stomach with worry.
At least, for the time being, he didn’t have to worry about it. The loaned guards stayed in the bottom two thirds of one of the barracks and Toshi, Mick, Alec and Andy had the top floor. Alec received reports from them, which was mostly observations with no real policing of the yards yet, and Alec passed them on to him. They were there, mostly, to make sure that the less secure area of the train yards wouldn’t turn into a death trap for Toshi and because no man of his rank and position was supposed to move about without some form of guard.
Luckily for him, Mick had spent days, weeks even, convincing the I/S guards that he was more than capable of keeping Toshi safe. It earned them a little leeway and meant that so long as a pair of guards was at the construction site, they stayed out of the way and let Mick do his job. They also had learned to follow them home at a discreet distance so Toshi barely noticed it when the pair broke off and moved toward the bikes while he was pulling on his own helmet.
Mick noticed the worry in Toshi’s large ice blue eyes and was glad they were going home. “Want me to drive?”
“Thanks.” He didn’t want to have to think that much. The craving had left him with a headache and the memories had left him shaky. All Toshi wanted to do was get home and behind a quiet closed door. He just felt awful but he had to admit, as he climbed on the back of the motorcycle, it felt pretty good to wrap his arms around Mick’s waist.