Saturday, February 6, 2010

Brat Attack



Title: Brat Attack
Authors: Rolf and Ranger

The phone rang before Luke was half way around the arena. He straightened up, leaving the two policemen and the security guards to continue sweeping the huge hall, and snapped open his cell phone with a sinking feeling.

"McNeil. What?"
         
"Boss..." Clark sounded somewhere between chagrined and apprehensive. "I'm sorry, he's done it again-"

"ALREADY!" Luke swore, quietly and extensively. "For Pete's sake, how hard is it to hang on to one SMALL TWENTY YEAR OLD IN A DAMN HOTEL ROOM! There are TWO of you for crying out loud!"

Silence. Luke took a few deep breaths and dropped his voice by a few tones.          
         
"Okay. What did he do this time? Do you have ANY idea where he is?"
         
"He ordered room service. When they knocked, we got the door and talked with the caterers- Val walked out. And no, NO idea where he is Boss. We've already searched the pool, club and restaurants, there's no sign of him."

"What's it going to take for that boy to learn the meaning of security?" Luke wondered out loud.

Without thinking, Clark said, "Someone to scare him good."         

"What someone needs to do is FIND HIM." Luke said acidly.
         
"I'm on it." Clark hung up.
         
Luke went back to sweeping the arena, certain Val would reappear shortly.

He was in deep discussion with the arena staff when the phone rang for the second time. Clark sounded still less certain.
        
"Boss.. "
        
"WHAT?" Luke said irascibly, turning his back on the arena manager, who was trying hard not to eavesdrop. Clark cleared his throat.

"You're, er, not going to like this."
        
"What? Where is he?"
        
"He er, rang a minute or two ago, left a message with me-"
        
"LEFT a message- Clark, you're currently supposed to be on duty guarding him! Where the HELL is he?"
        
"I don't know exactly sir, but he wants you to meet him for dinner. He's at the White Horse somewhere in Aylesbury."

Luke broke the connection before he deafened Clark with his response. Val could not only ditch two experienced and extremely wary bodyguards, he could also charm them into delivering his phone messages.

Luke apologised to the manager, withdrew some way off and dialed a number rapidly into his phone. It was answered at once.

"Luke?"
        
"Quentin where the HELL are you?"
        
"You just would NOT be-"
        
"QUENTIN! You have exactly thirty minutes to get your butt back to that hotel room, is that clear?"

"Luuuuuuke, it-"
        
"Thirty minutes young man, I'm NOT kidding." Luke snapped the phone shut.

The arena manager was a little wild eyed. Luke gave him a polite nod and a tight smile.
    
"My partner. Rather on the temperamental side."
       
And shortly to be on the toasted side.
       
 *****
         
Clark and Howard had been dismissed with a flea in their ears that left their heads ringing. Both of them had taken refuge in the hotel bar.

Luke was now addressing himself clearly and frankly to the country's favourite and idolized teen pop star, who was parked unwillingly on the sofa and under the diatribe.

Luke was pacing, full of annoyance. "Security! Clark and Howard are here for a reason! YOUR SAFETY AND SECURITY! And you ditch them as if they didn't have a job to do! You have NO idea what or who is out there that could harm you!"

"I can take care of myself."
       
"You may think you can, but you cannot! You know how some fans react when they see you. Some fan standing next to you, wanting an autograph could turn psycho in a split second and you could be lying dead from a knife wound! Haven't you ever thought of that?
              
Val winced. "Do you have to be so graphic?"
      
"Val, it could happen. I've SEEN it happen! I'm pretty damned determined it's not going to happen to you, but when you consistently ditch your security team, there isn't much I or any of them can do about it!"
      
"I'm sorry." Val said sincerely. Luke shook his head, taking that at its face value.
      
"No, you're not. You're sorry I'm mad, that's about it."
      
"But you go on and on and on about this!" The sincerity slipped and Val's lip slid out into the familiar pout. "Nothing ever happens!"
      
"That's because you're damned lucky! One of these days you won't be and there won't be a damned thing I can do about it then! So I'm going to do the only thing I CAN do, and that is impress upon you the seriousness of the matter. Drop those jeans, NOW."

Luke stopped pacing and took a seat on the couch.

Val started to protest, but he found himself speaking to the carpet which didn't care in the least. Luke stripped the pants and shorts down and proceeded to spank Val thoroughly. Val made numerous promises to not ditch the security team if only Luke would stop, but Luke paid no attention, knowing the only thing that seemed to get through to the young was a burning backside.

When he was certain that Val would at least think twice before ditching again this week, he stood him up, dressed him and sent him to the corner to collect himself.
      
As Luke listened to the sobbing growing quieter, he reflected on the fact that he and Val had had this exact same discussion only 10 short days ago. And it clearly hadn't made any difference. The whole issue was a constant battle of wills between them- the natural clash of a young and rather naiive kid with no real idea of the danger he lived with, and a man who had seen plenty of violence and knew just how quickly it could strike.

Val worried him sick with his constant carelessness. If he saw something he wanted to do, at the slightest of cross purposes, he thought nothing of giving any of the security team the slip and then taking the consequences with Luke afterwards if he couldn't charm his way around him. Luke was getting increasingly worried that Val was going to learn the hard way about the risks he was taking. But short of keeping his partner handcuffed to him, he couldn't see a way around it. He went back over the afternoon in detail, trying to figure out a better way to handle Val when he remembered Clark's off the cuff comment.

"Someone needs to scare him."

The comment hadn't registered in the heat of the moment, but now it sounded rather… reasonable. Spanking, grounding, yelling, none of that was working. It was a deterrent but the accumulation was too slow for safety. What Val needed was a reality check. It should be rather simple to set up a safe 'sting' operation, show Val how easily something like that could happen. As Val continued to quieten down in the corner, Luke went into the bedroom and made a few phone calls.

He hung up the phone on enthusiastic approval from Clark and Howard who headed the security team and suffered the most at Val's hands. Val heard Luke emerge from the bedroom and did his best to straighten up, looking appealingly penitent. Or what he hoped looked appealingly penitent. Luke's voice was once more gentle.

"Allright Kitten. Come here."

Val abandoned the corner with alacrity and buried himself in Luke's arms. Luke hugged him tight.

"Get yourself to bed. And before you make starvation noises at me, I'll order a meal from room service. WHICH you'll eat in bed."

"Luuuuuke-" Val started. Luke kissed him firmly.

"Bed. Now. Go on."

A swat on an already tender backside convinced Val to do as he was told. Luke rang downstairs for food in sufficient quantity to keep a sulking brat occupied for a while and waited for his staff to appear for an emergency meeting.

Within thirty minutes, food had been delivered and Val was happily eating his way through it. The security team arrived and Luke set them up in the living room, far enough away from Val that he wouldn't overhear. He was also certain Val wouldn't leave the bed, knowing company might be party to his shame.

"I wanted to discuss an operation with you." he said when he had the full team sitting around the hotel room. "You all know how difficult it is sometimes to keep up with Val."

The security team started showing smirks and making comments but the look on Luke's face stopped them quickly.

"He is young and comes complete with the young's view of the world that 'nothing bad can happen to me'. We all know how wrong that attitude can be."

"What he needs is a scare." Clark muttered. Luke gave him a grim nod.

"You're right. And it's probably better it comes from us in a controlled way than from people who won't care whether or not he gets hurt. We need to plan a few 'exercises'- drills even- to impress on Mr Quentin just how many risks he's taking, and what can happen when he takes them."

There were slow smiles starting to come from most of the team. Luke perched on the desk.

"The first one I'll lead. And I intend we're going to scare the hell out of him. After that, once he's wise to us, we schedule one attempt a day to make him think a little about his own security. Just enough to make him realise if we can catch him alone and take him out, then other people can too."

They discussed specifics with 'attack' one coming on Saturday afternoon. They were moving to a new venue, one which Luke knew from experience Val liked to play games in. It was an older arena with multiple tunnels and hallways behind and under it. Val always enjoyed giving the team the slip and wandering alone through the maze.

Saturday arrived.

Luke was well aware of his team wandering about with more than slightly self satisfied smiles that morning, and was torn between protective exasperation on Val's behalf and wry acknowledgement that they'd more than earned a little revenge. Most of them had suffered at Val's hands at least once. It never took more than ten minutes of the initial preparation for Val to get bored and start to wander. Luke, who was used to it, was used to keeping a sharp eye out for him and either following or cueing someone to follow him, knowing how pointless it was to try to order him to stay put. Val had a hundred and one excuses for wandering off. This morning, Luke just let him go, waited until he was out of sight, then radioed to Clark to give the signal. From here on, he was playing for the other side.

Val took off through the tunnels, thankful Luke wasn't following him. He enjoyed these private jaunts and always thought Luke was over reacting when he talked about people hiding back here, waiting for him. Just no good reason for it, no one wanted to do him hard or would attempt it this close to the action.

Clark was talking with the team, one eye on Val. He was heading towards a tunnel where two burly gentlemen waited with a sack at the ready.

Val wandered down a hallway that had a door at the end. He pushed it open and was blinded by the sunlight that streamed in. The door opened into the general parking area, unprotected by gates or fences. Just as Val thought his eyes were going to adjust, they jumped him.

His heart went through the roof of his mouth as he sprawled on the concrete, someone heavy on his back. Before he could summon the breath to yell, a hand clamped over his mouth and another over his eyes, he felt his hands being roughly tied behind his back. He was wrestled to his feet, gasping with terror, and felt the yank of something tied over his face, a gag between his teeth that stifled his screams. Then the slither of a sack over his face before he was spun around and slung over a shoulder. He struggled fiercely and uselessly. In this position with Luke he never felt more safe. Suddenly Val was so scared he was in serious danger of throwing up. He fought and kicked but was carried rapidly- he wasn't sure of the direction.

Kidnappers- terrorists- maniac fans- Val shook, mind full of the dangers Luke had gently tried to tell him about for months. The gag wouldn't let a word through his mouth, never mind the scream that was struggling to emerge. Luke. Luke would not allow this to happen. Except Luke was where he had been ditched- back stage, some way away, out of sight and out of earshot. Along with Clark and Howard and Brad and every other friendly face.

Val choked on the gag, too frightened to move or do anything other than breathe around involuntary sobbing as he heard a van door slam, then fell on an uneven surface. Another slam, then an engine started and he felt movement.

Luke was watching a short distance away when the guys came out carrying Val. He felt a twinge of regret, knowing how scared Val probably was, but he knew nothing else had seemed to work.

Val was trying not to panic. He tried going through what Luke had told him again and again- pay attention to sounds around him. Try to get some idea of which way they were going. He fought rising hysteria for as long as he could, but he felt totally alone, lost, and just gave in to the long, gulping sobs. The gag made it hard to breathe and before too long he was starting to have problems.

"He's trying to hyperventilate."

"Better get that gag out, don't want to injure him."

"Sure you want to listen?"

"I don't think we have a choice."

Brad went back to Val. "Hey, will you stop it?"

Val tried to stop his rising hysteria, but once Brad started talking to him, he got really scared. He started to choke and thrash about.

Brad ended up having to practically sit on him before he could get under the bag and get the gag off, without Val being able to see him.

As soon as the gag was removed, Val immediately tried to stop crying and talk. "Please, let me go. Pleeeeeeeeeeease!"

"Shut up!" Brad said, none too gently.

"Please oh please oh please, I -"

"SHUT UP, or this gag will be replaced!" Brad ordered, loud enough to grab and keep Val's attention.

Val swallowed and tried to quieten down. Co operate, Luke had said many times. Don't provoke them, don't upset them, if you can then get into conversation with them, DON'T try to look at them or find out any details.

He had no idea of where the van was going. Sprawled on the floor as he was, within a few minutes he was feeling unbearably sick and very, very frightened.

"You'll be worth a lot of money to them." Luke's voice came back to Val again. He hadn't been aware he'd been listening so closely. "It's very unlikely they'll hurt you unless you provoke them or put them at risk in some way."

That was if they were after money and not just raving maniacs... Val curled up tighter, too scared to be able to think about it. He was numbed with terror now, frozen, helpless and unable to stop the steady crying that was choking him.

Brad glanced at Clark and winced. This had been fun at first, but it was rapidly losing all attraction. Clark picked up the R/T in response to that look and clicked it.

"Hey." Under cover of the engine in the driver's seat, his voice wouldn't reach Val. "Boss, he's pretty upset, I think he's got the idea."

Luke didn't hesitate on the other end. "No. Stick to the plan. Bring him back to the hotel and don't go soft on me, if we don't do this properly now we'll end up having to do it again and worse. Or someone else will who won't care how upset he gets."

The hotel was a half hour drive away. Val heard the engine shudder to a stop, by which point he was so sick he could barely move. The gag was roughly tied over his mouth again, he felt the brush of the sack over him and claustrophobia and terror together nearly made him pass out. He was heaved over someone's shoulder and carried up some stairs that echoed and rang to footfall- two or three people's- then heard a heavy door slam. He was put down on carpet and abruptly abandoned. Left standing, tied, blind and silenced, Val shook, with no idea of where he was, who was in the room or what was happening.

Several minutes passed, Val not hearing a sound. Slowly he calmed down as no immediate threat was perceived. He stood where he had been placed, his hands tied behind his back, the gag and hood still on. Once he had his breathing under control, he started to listen to his surroundings. He could hear some truck movements somewhere outside, which meant he was near a window or on a lower floor. But he heard no movement or breathing from the room he was in. He surprised himself as he was following Luke's instructions almost against his will, instructions he pretended to brush off.

He finally decided to try some movement, hoping that if someone were around, they'd speak. As he started to test the bonds on his hands, he listened, but heard nothing. He got bolder. He bent slowly at the waist, finding nothing in front of him blocking his movement, so he shook as hard as he could and managed to sling the sack on his head off. He swung so hard he lost his balance and landed on his side, knocking the breath temporarily from him. He looked slowly around, finding himself in some sort of supply room.

"Big mistake." Luke's voice said behind him. "NEVER take the blindfold off. Never."

Val flung himself around, emotion knocking the breath out of him at the sound of his lover's voice. He found Luke with his arms folded, back against the wall, watching him. He stared at Luke, relief starting to melt into shock, then deeply hurt outrage. Luke pulled himself up off the wall and came to untie him. Val's kick nearly dislocated his knee.

"You BASTARD!" Val exploded, close to tears again with shock and rage, "You SWINE-"

Luke grabbed his ankles before he was maimed and captured Val's upper half before Val resorted to head butting him.

"Now you listen to me. Val listen."

"I HATE you-"

That was an understandable response right now. Luke pinned Val in his arms as the quickest and safest way of restraining him, and held on, immobilizing him.

"Listen. It could have been ANYONE who took you out of those tunnels. You could be in the hands of any terrorist, rapist or kidnapper at this moment, we took the same opportunity they could have done."

Val struggled as hard as he could against Luke, his emotions in complete turmoil. Not being able to move an inch, he burst into tears of frustration mixed with relief.

Luke relaxed his grip and felt safe in untying Val's hands. Big mistake.

The instant his hands were free, Val started hitting Luke in the chest. He got in a couple of good shots, nearly knocking the breath from Luke before his hands were captured and placed on the ground next to him, Luke sitting astride his body.

This time he said nothing, just held onto him and waited. Eventually Val went limp and turned his face away. Luke got off him, untied the last of his bonds and would have rubbed the marks off his wrists, except Val pulled away from him, rolled over and buried his face in his arms. Luke sighed. He hadn't expected this part to be easy. He stayed where he was on the floor and waited, rubbing Val's rigid shoulders. He could only guess at how terrified Val must have been and how angry he must be now Eventually Val yanked away from him and scrambled upright. He was tearstained and Luke's heart turned over. It took a great deal not to grab Val and start apologising.

"We're in the hotel." he said gently. "Your room's just upstairs, why don't we go up? You probably need a drink."

"Go fuck yourself McNeil." Val spat before heading out of the room and up the stairs.

Luke jumped up to follow, but seeing that Val was going upstairs, he decided he was best left alone for a little while. He keyed the RT at his waist and stationed someone in the hallway just to make sure that Val stayed put. Luke would head up in a few minutes.

Val climbed the five flights of stairs, almost breathless at the top. The fear, hurt, and anger he felt left him unbearably tired. He went into his room, slamming the door behind him and headed straight for the bar. Without a thought for the consequences, he quickly downed two shots of something, it didn't matter what, and passed out on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor.

*******

Luke went up to the room half an hour later, hoping Val was more prepared to talk. His heart nearly stopped when he found the room empty. Val was more than capable of heading out of the nearest window if sufficiently upset. Rapidly searching the apartment, Luke was already making plans to search the local area too- until he found his brat curled up on the bathroom floor. The smell of alcohol was unmistakable. Luke crouched for a minute, looking at his face with mingled exasperation and sympathy. Such a young face. So distractingly beautiful. So deceptively innocent.

He couldn't blame Val for drinking. As far as Val had been concerned, the kidnap attempt had been real. He was as frightened and as shocky as if his life had truly been in danger. He felt a pang of guilt for having done that, but he still truly believed it was the only way to get the young man to realize exactly how easily something like that could happen for real. Luke picked his brat up and carried him to bed. He undressed him and slid in behind him, curling up against his back.

Val awoke with a massive headache the next morning. His moaning woke Luke up as well.

"Kitten, how are you?"

A low groan was all he got in response.

Luke rolled over and picked up the aspirin and water he'd left beside the bed last night. The aspirin he pushed into Val's mouth, ignoring the moans.

"Swallow."

"I'm dying."

"You're hung over." Luke made him finish the water and switched the light on to look at him. "I'll get you a mug of tea, you'll be fine."

Val curled up in a ball and pulled the covers over his head. Luke rang down to room service and ordered the tea. The answerphone was flashing and he listened to two messages, one a change in Val's schedule for the day, another from Clark regarding the security shift. It was actually a superfluous inquiry and Luke recognised it for what it was: concern to know that Val was okay.

He returned the call to Howard, assuring him that Val was fine, if a bit hung over. By that time the tea had arrived. He took it into Val, finding him still curled in a ball under the covers. "Here's the tea. Drink some, it'll help the aspirin work."

Val stirred, but the covers didn't move. Finally Luke pulled them off and helped Val to sit.

Every movement was painful to Val. He hadn't drunk like that in a long time, and other than the gorilla and his warnings, Val didn't like to overdo it too often for just this reason, the splitting headache the day after. He managed to take the tea and sip a few times before handing it back to Luke and collapsing into Luke's arms, moaning in sheer misery.

Luke held him, stroking his back and hair and eventually felt him fall asleep again. He had to disentangle Val from him when the phone rang.

"Hey boss." Howard said tentatively. "How's he doing?"

"Leave it with me." Luke glanced down at his sleeping partner. "I think it's going to take a while to sink in."

"Want to call off phase two?"

"Absolutely not." Luke ran a hand gently over Val's hair. "He'd be in a far worse state if he'd been picked up by terrorists yesterday. And it would have been just as easy for them to get him as us."

"Okay boss. We're waiting on your signal."

Val woke up an hour later, still in pain, but at least feeling like he could get out of bed. He sat up slowly and just as slowly stood, moaning silently as he tried to quiet the pounding headache. As soon as the immediate pain stopped, he shuffled into the living area, not finding Luke anywhere in sight. He wandered over to the bar area, and got a large bottle of water out and started downing that. Then he found some leftover donuts from the day before and started in on those. After his breakfast, he felt relatively better and decided a shower was the next thing he needed.

Luke met him emerging from the shower and received a flat glare from bloodshot eyes.

"Where were you? You were supposed to be body guarding aren't you?"

"You were in a locked room, fully checked and with me down the hall." Luke said calmly. "Your body is perfectly safe. And I checked that pretty thoroughly before I left. How are you feeling?"

"Lousy." Val said without hesitation. "And shut up. I'm not sure I'm talking to you."

"Why don't you get dressed and have a think about it?" Luke said mildly.

Val snorted in contempt as he headed into the bedroom to get dressed. And he did start to think about it. The immediate terror of yesterday had worn off quickly, at least knowing he had been safe the entire time. He was still very angry, but the anger was becoming mixed with anger at himself for leaving himself open for such an attack BY Luke and his team. He was feeling too lousy to continue thinking coherent thoughts, and instead focused on what was on the schedule today.

"Are you ready to talk about it?" Luke invited when Val made it back to the sitting room. He was propped against the window in his usual posture, arms folded, shoulders against the glass. Val perched on the end of the sofa and wrapped his arms around his knees.

"What do you want to say?"

"Do you know why we staged that jump on you yesterday?"

Yes, to scare the hell out of me, Val wanted to say. Then sighed.

"To make me realise I was taking risks."

"Exactly. We can't protect you unless you co-operate with us. And you don't, most of the time. You don't realise the dangers Val."

"So I do now."

"Good." Luke said mildly. "This is something we're going to work on, you and my team. They are going to stage an attack a day on you- at any time, in any place."

"WHAT?" Val demanded in outrage. Luke raised his hands.

"I'm on your side- as your body guard. If it happens under my protection, nothing's going to happen to you. The team however are going to exploit whatever chances you give them. Just the same as any other attackers would."

Val was completely outraged. "You cannot DO that to me!"

"It's obviously got you thinking, which is the entire purpose behind the exercise. You're not going to be harmed. Just treat this as an exercise, a drill if you will."

"I AM NOT IN YOUR GOD DAMNED ARMY PLATOON!" That screech brought the leftover headache screaming back into Val's head. He dropped his head into his hands and willed the pain to go away.

"Nothing I've said previously has helped you to realize the danger you put yourself in. I think yesterday's exercise DID get you thinking. If it takes a couple hours out of your daily routine to help teach you to be more careful, then that's what we'll do."

Val's head was hurting too much to reply.

Not uncaring, Luke gently caressed Val's temples and neck, until he calmed down and allowed the vise of pain to be lifted.

"The aspirin'll kick in a minute. Come downstairs, I'll get the hotel to clear the pool and you can swim for an hour or so. Get you straightened out before your meeting."

"WHAT meeting?" Val demanded. Luke nodded at the files on the table.

"Orion. Diane and the press manager. And the publicity agent."

"Oh God." Val said miserably. Luke reached past him for the phone.

"Change."

Wailing did no good. Complaints and arguments, pleas and threats of dropping dead didn't help either. Val found himself dragged brutally downstairs to the huge, marbled and heated swimming pool where the doors were locked behind them, Luke took towel and robe away from him and made him get in.

The hot water helped. A lot. Val drifted, gradually feeling the ache and nausea subside. Finally, reviving, he rolled over in the water and fixed Luke with his best, wide eyed expression.

"Luuuuuke...."

"Mmn?" Luke, propping up the wall, gave him a faint smile. Val leaned on the wall of the pool and propped his chin on his arms.

"Why don't you swim with me? Come on, the door's locked, no one's looking."

Luke looked at him. Val put all the appeal into his eyes that he was capable of.

"Pllleeeeease.....?"

Luke shook his head, smiling. And undressed rapidly. Val moved back to let Luke into the water.

Luke slipped into the water silently, and together, the two enjoyed the next hour alone. It was rare that Luke let his guard down in more public places, but the pool area, being locked, held no danger in his eyes. The hot water relaxed them both, and soothed the worries of the previous day away. All too soon it was time to leave.

"Val wait for me..." Luke said firmly when Val grabbed up his robe, revived. Val turned, about to say something flippant and race up the stairs, leaving his bodyguard dripping. Then he hesitated and scowled.

"This is where your henchmen jump me, isn't it?"

"Possibly." Luke conceded. Val moved away from the door and folded his arms, brows lowered. Luke got dressed, carefully not letting the smile reach his mouth.

"Kitten, if someone did jump you here, what would you do?"

Val rolled his eyes skywards, chanting in a monotone of dead boredom. "Get down on the floor, stay put, don't yell unless I'm hurt, don't move until you tell me."

"That's if I'm there. What if I wasn't?"

Val looked at him, startled. "You've always said fighting back gets amateurs hurt."

"In a situation like this, delaying tactics would give you a chance for help to arrive." Luke slung a towel around his neck. "Noise helps. As much as you can manage. Look for the nearest objects to you. Overturn them, push them, knock things over, throw them."

"I'm not allowed to throw." Val said, sticking his tongue out.

"Are you trying to tell me you'd actually THINK about following the rules at a time like that, yet you normally don't at any other time?"

Val's only response to that comment was his sandal, thrown directly at Luke's head.

Luke laughed as he caught the missile and returned it to Val. "Come on. Keep an eye out, because they could be out there." Luke opened the door and looked both ways down the hall before allowing Val to precede him towards the staircase.

They made it without incident to the room. Val got a shower and changed, Luke followed. Val got a shower and changed, Luke followed, and they headed down to the carpark, collected the truck and left for the meeting.

"This is going to be SO boring." Val said as they left greater London. Luke cast him an amused glance.

"Why?"

"They always are. I like the SINGING, not the going on about it!"

"You'll survive. What shall we do afterwards? We've got the evening free."

"I'm being jumped on by your minions, remember?" Val said sourly. Luke grinned.

"Only if you're taking risks. Stick with me, and I'll fight 'em off for you in hordes."

"My hero." Val rolled his eyes and Luke laughed. "How about a movie? We could sneak in quietly and hide in the back, necking like teenagers."

"Where can we go for a movie without me getting jumped on. By the general public as well as your mafia?"

"One of the older theatres, and you can put on a hat. As long as we arrive late, the people in the actual theatre won't have time to recognize you. We'll just slip quietly in. As long as you're with me, the "mafia" won't attack."

"That sounds like rather a good time. Now if I can just get though the meeting...." Val rode the rest of the way in silence, really not wanting to attend the meeting at all. He was busy thinking of ways to get out of the meeting early.

Luke glanced at the petrol dial as they reached the signs for a service station and glanced at his watch.

"Kitten, I'm going to have to stop here or we'll be running on vapour."

"No problem." Val flopped back in his seat, not at all averse to being late. Luke pulled up to the pumps and got out. Val slid out on his own side and stretched, leaning on the car roof.

"Can I go and get some chocolate?"

"In a minute." Luke said, frowning at the pump dials. The pump was clearly taking hours. Val dug his hands in his pockets and headed for the shop.

Luke was too busy working with the pump and didn't see that Val had wandered away.

Val was careful to look around the general area. He didn't see any strange people or vehicles in the vicinity, so he walked on into the store and chose the chocolate that he wanted. He paid for it, only being recognized by one girl for whom Val signed one of the magazines on the rack that had his picture on it, paying for it himself. He also had a coke, and was intent on opening it. He looked out the door, seeing the coast was clear and opened the door. He took a swig from his drink and the next thing he knew hands had grabbed him from an open van door that had suddenly materialized. Before he could say a word a cloth was placed over his mouth and he fainted.

"Game, set and match to the mafia." Howard said, picking his employer up off the concrete. Luke was sprinting across from the pumps towards them, looking far from happy. Clark winced and got out of the way.

"You know I get the impression his heart isn't in this."

"MINE is." Howard said cheerfully. "I'm going to do this every day for the whole month and enjoy it- hey boss. Score to us."

Luke took Val from Howard. He was starting to stir, gradually coming to. Luke carried him across to the truck and sat him down, supporting him until his eyes opened.

"Wh..what happened?" Val asked uncertainly.

"You left yourself open for attack again. And they got you." Luke said, a little sterner than he intended.

Val closed his eyes and willed the world to right itself. He opened them again, anger clearing his vision. "Who did that?" he spat as he looked around.

The van had driven off so Val wouldn't have a certain individual to direct his anger at.

"They've gone. Why didn't you wait for me like I asked?"

"It's a simple 20 feet to the door! I looked around like you taught me, I didn't see anything! I looked again when I left the store, and it's like they just materialized. HOW can I prevent that from happening?!?"

"Did you look out the door BEFORE you opened it, or did you look both ways before you stepped out?"

"I looked before I opened the door, so I wouldn't open myself for attack without seeing the danger first!"

"You made a tactical error by not looking AGAIN, after opening the door. You look first for immediate danger before you step out. Once that is clear, you take a step out and look both ways, so you can see down both sides of the building. Had you done that you would have seen the van coming from the left hand side."

"YOU should have been watching!"

"I was busy Val. I told you to wait. Had you waited, they wouldn't have gotten you. Get buckled in, we're already late for the meeting."

"Either you protect me or you don't!" Val said furiously. Luke swatted him, sharply and discreetly.

"I do when you stay where I ask you to, and within my line of vision. Move out of that, you slow me RIGHT up. Now move."

"I just got jumped on and-" Val started to protest. Luke pushed him gently towards the passenger seat.

"They'll try again tomorrow. Work on not getting jumped."

Val growled and slammed his fists down on the roof of the truck.

"Do that again and my hand will slam down in a way that you'll find VERY uncomfortable." Luke said sternly.

Val huffed angrily and plopped down in the seat as Luke shut the door. Not only did he get jumped, he STILL had to attend the blasted meeting. He remained icily silent as Luke manoeuvered them thought traffic to the site of the meeting.

It was tedious. Meetings always were. Val slumped back in a chair, surveyed the top of Luke's head and reflected very sullenly on this new and infuriating idea of Luke's. If he intended to keep this up over the next few days, Val could see he was going to get heartily sick of being jumped on, knocked out and knocked over. And he was well aware of the satisfaction behind the 'for your own good' attitude of the security team. He determined he was NOT going to be caught again. At all.

*****

The following night was a concert. Val got to the arena early and completed all the sound and light checks, musician checks, and all the other checks that seemed to be needed for each event. He was wary of everyone and everything, keeping a sharp eye out for anything suspicious. Instead of doing his usual wandering behind the scenes or around the arena, he stayed in the backstage area and walked off some of his nervous energy there. He never let Luke out of his sight. Within a few hours he was on stage, inciting the crowd nearly to riot with his usual dexterity. When the singing ended he spent his usual half hour with the fan clubs, the VIPs that were allowed backstage. He charmed them all with his wit and good humor.  At last it was time to head home.

Val waved to Luke that he was ready, then clung to him as they made their way to the truck in the car park. Val was constantly surveying his surroundings. He remained vigilant when they returned to the hotel, up until the lock clicked home on the door.

"I made it! Ha ha! Your minions missed me today!"

Luke was very pleased with the increased vigilance on Val's part, and told him so. "You did everything right today. I'm proud of you." he said, hugging Val tightly. "Now if you could only continue that, you'd remain a lot safer."

Val wasn't going to be denied his good mood. "Chalk one up for the home team!" He said loudly as he headed for a hot shower.

They jumped him in the bedroom. Val heard the door slam and felt someone hit him in the back, slamming him to the floor. His immediate response was to shout at the top of his lungs, struggling for the nearest object to hand.

"LUKE! LUUUUUUKE!"

The door slammed as Luke impacted against it, flew open and Val felt the weight on his back lift as Luke grabbed and hauled. He rolled over to find Howard panting and disheveled in Luke's grip.

"You're right." Luke said cheerfully. "One to us. OUT Howard. We win this round."

Howard left, upset that he'd been so easily subdued, but happy that he had at least gotten his hands on Val for the day.

Val got up slowly. "Is not my bedroom a sacred place?!? I mean, he HAS a key, at least give me SOME place to feel comfortable in!"

"Terrorists or kidnappers are not going to come to this hotel and say 'Oh, it's his bedroom, that's a safe zone.' Howard was just doing his job."

"Well he can stuff it as far as I'm concerned!" Val stormed off to take his shower, slamming and then locking the door behind him. He absolutely, positively *refused* to be caught again.

*******

"Kitten? Come on, it's nearly eight." Luke shook Val again, dragging him awake. Val moaned and struggled to get the covers back.

"Where we going?"

"Got to look at the stage at the new venue. Come on, up and at 'em."

One day, Val swore to himself, struggling upright, he was going to work out how Luke got himself so cheerful in the morning and fix him. He was extra careful going into the bathroom, but the apartment contained only Luke. Val was determined, NO ONE was going to jump on him today. In the shower, he inspected the bruises Howard had inflicted only the night before.

"Look at this!" He demanded, advancing on Luke in the living area of the hotel suite. "LOOK- I'm black and blue from this game of yours!"

"You'll live." Luke said soothingly. "Put some clothes on."

No sympathy for him. Val stormed into the bedroom and put on jeans and a t shirt, something comfortable for trudging around the arena. He knew the team would be more than ready to get him today, and there would be a lot of opportunities. Val was determined to play the game well today, and win. He followed Luke out of the suite and down to the carpark, watching his back carefully. Once in the truck he relaxed a little. "What type of venue is it tonight? How far is the dressing area from the stage?"

"Underneath the stage- just a flight of stairs." Luke glanced at him, amused. "It'll be okay, just don't wander off and I'll deal with any trouble makers."

"Like you did last night." Val muttered, glancing again at his bruises.

The arena was crawling with people setting up for the concert tomorrow night. Val trailed Luke, staying close and keeping a sharp eye out, ready to yell blue murder if anyone came too close.

Luke was amused at Val's overkill, but also thrilled that he was at least doing the right things. If he continued, it might become second nature.

Val stuck like glue to Luke's back, watching for any member of Luke's team. No one made an appearance. After about an hour of it, Val quickly became bored. "How much longer?" he whined.

"I need to check all the entrances and exits. You can follow along with me, or I can set you up with Howard or Clark."

Val snorted. "Like Howard or Clark are on my side. I guess that means I'll be following you around."

"Alright, but make sure stay with me, this is where people can jump you."  Luke gave that warning, but didn't feel like it was actually true. The team had already done their sweep of the arena, and no one not on the lists that were kept would have been allowed in. The only real danger lie if Val decided to open the doors to someone, or simply wanted to get a breathe of  fresh air, or so he thought.

Val kept up with Luke for the first half of the run through, but quickly became bored and tired of the endless hallways and tiny stairs they were climbing. Luke strode off down the hall and up yet another set of rickety stairs while Val stood and admired a drawing on the wall.

This time he actually heard the footsteps behind him.

Howard. Or Clark. With ghoulish satisfaction. Val tipped back his head, not even bothering to turn. Pathetic. What was the point of them trying right under Luke's nose?

"L-"

Something very pungent and very unpleasant was on the cloth that was jammed over his face. Any ability to shout died instantly.

Luke waited at the top of the stairs for a couple minutes, then yelled.  "Val? Come on!" He waited for about 10 seconds before he bolted downstairs. "Val?! Where are you?" He looked around quickly, not seeing anyone or anything out of place. He went over to the area where Val had been standing and what he saw irritated him. Scuff marks, as if someone had been dragged away. He KNEW he should have pulled Val directly along! He keyed his radio.

"Clark? Howard? Where did you take him?"

There was a second's pause, then Clark said blankly,

"We're waiting around the dressing room, he hasn't come up yet-"

"YOU HAVEN'T JUMPED HIM?"

"No Boss, it was my turn today and I planned to get him when he-"

"Seal off the exits, get down to the front NOW, stop anyone you see, Val's gone. MOVE!"

"Shit." Clark said passionately. Luke keyed the radio to hit every RT in the building, his entire team and the stage crew, already running for the stairs.

"All security alert, code red, this is NOT a drill!"

He slipped a hand under his jacket and drew his Kalashnikov as he reached the top of the stairs.

*******

Val was barely on the edge of consciousness, aware of movement of a vehicle, but not awake enough to determine if he were sitting up or lying down, and whether or not his hands were tied. He simply felt as if he were in the midsts of a dream, before he got a whiff of something horrible and he passed out again.

The entire security team was frantically checking the arena. Doors were checked, names of the individuals inside were checked against their lists. Outside exits were checked. No one had seen anything.

By the time the police were called, Luke was white and wearing a trench in the arena car park. Howard and Clark were still hunting through the security camera videos, trying to find any clue they could follow up.

Luke's RT buzzed and he had the button pressed nearly before the buzz ended.

"Find him?"

"No, but we found the camera on that side of the arena damaged. We know-"

"Damaged? Someone knew to disable that camera?" Luke was thinking aloud.

"Yes, sir. We're searching the films from the gates now. Thought you'd like a heads up about that one camera."

Luke offered up a distracted "Yeah, thanks." as he took off at a trot to where he had last seen Val. The police had followed.

"Here, the door is opened." Luke said as he looked around for more clues.

"Don't touch it, there may be fingerprints there. Get a team in here to dust it."

"Yes, sir." the officer left to gather the necessary personnel and supplies.

Luke went out another door and started casing the area, looking for any clues that might lead him to Val.

******

This time when Val reached the brink of consciousness, he remembered to keep his eyes closed and continue looking unconscious. The first thing that he felt was anger at being dragged by Luke's goons out the arena....again. He concentrated for five minutes and decided that there were only two people in the vehicle with him. Clark and Howard of course. He heard which ever one was next to him move to the front, so he stole a quick glance around.....it was a van. There were only windows in the back and they were darkened, so no one felt a need to cover his head. There was a load of junk sitting off to his right, and he was able to see the two men up front in a reflection of a piece of  glass. Both of them were wearing balaclavas. They were getting carried away with this whole game thing. Val kept his eye on the glass as he slowly tried to move his hands.  He found they were tied, but very loosely. It took ten minutes, but he was able to get the hands freed. He was thoroughly angry now, fed to the back teeth of this entire idea, and the brat force was turning on full. If Luke thought he was going to co operate tamely with yet another set of bruises- he saw either Clark or Howard in the left seat get up to check on him. He closed his eyes with effort and completely relaxed his body, hoping that the guy would go back up front. He could smell the rancid breath of his employee as he leaned in close to check on him. Thankfully, whichever it was returned up front without doing anything. Val opened his eyes, and again keeping his eye on the reflection, slowly looked around, looking for a weapon of some kind. THERE! A toy gun lay not too far out of his reach. Val made a mental note to have a word with Luke about playacting. His entire security team were no better than a gang of boys playing soldiers. They guys up front were too engrossed in their conversation to be paying much attention to their bound and unconscious passenger, and Val was going to make sure they paid dearly for it. He ever so slowly moved his body down until he could grab the gun. Once that was in his hand, he slid back to where he had been, and put his hand with the gun right alongside his body.  He screwed up his anger at being treated like this, and playing the game, moaned. Val kept his eye on the reflection, and watched as the guy quickly rose to check on him. As soon as the guy was again leaning over him, Val brought the gun up with lightening speed and cold cocked Howard, who slumped to the floor in a heap. He then immediately jumped up, aiming the gun at Clark's head.

"Turn this piece of shit around and take me BACK to the arena." Val barked, the gun pressed directly to the head of Clark.

Ha. By the rules of the game, he'd got them over a barrel. Val was too annoyed to be celebrating. Still holding the gun, he slumped down into the passenger seat, not giving a damn that Howard was still curled up on the van floor and moaning.

"You know I am SO pissed off with you two goons jumping all over me? And do you want to know how truly stupid you look in those masks? If that was Luke's idea, you can tell him from me, it doesn't do you any favours." Val glanced at the signpost and waved the gun, exasperated.  "Left. Left you moron!"

The van swerved and picked up speed. Val snorted. Clark was always easily intimidated.

"Do you know how much rehearsal time I'm missing?" he went on hotly, glowering at the still moaning Howard in the mirror. "If either of you had a sense of direction you might have SOME clue of where we are now- and maybe you hadn't noticed, but your breath? Tarzan of the Apes. Try a little mouthwash. I'm sure the Orion budget can run to a bottle. I refuse to be jumped all over by someone with the dental hygiene techniques of a shark. That way. THAT WAY!!"

Val banged the gun on the dashboard. Clark jumped a mile and swung the van wildly across two lanes. The arena fencing came up along side them and Clark's swerve didn't end in time. The bang wasn't severe, but didn't improve Val's temper in the slightest. He kicked the door open and jumped down to the pavement, too angry now to care who heard him shouting.

"YOU ARE SUCH A MORON!!! Jesus, Luke would do better with a troop of performing penguins than you lot! Incompetents! Where the HELL is the entrance? Do you expect me to walk after you just involved me in a crash?  DOYOU KNOW HOW MUCH THEY PAY ME TO GET OUT OF BED IN THE MORNINGS???"

A group of people were rushing towards them from the far side of the arena carpark, Luke at the head at a flat sprint. Val snorted. McNeil could run all he wanted, it wasn't going to save his precious team.

"You," he informed Clark, "Are a total PRAT..."

Clark grabbed at him. Obviously taking a last ditch chance of convincing Luke he and Howard hadn't foiled the jump. Infuriated now, Val whirled on him and kicked him hard in the shins. Luke was watching, but who the hell cared? Clark's wrist passed his face so he bit it for good measure, heard Clark's howl of anguish and hit him over the back of the head with the barrel of the toy gun as he doubled over.

Clark collapsed onto the tarmac. Val stormed across the street to Luke who was sprinting towards him, grim faced.

"And its NO good you looking indignant," Val said angrily before Luke could start shouting, " I ONLY did what I'd do to any prat who yanked me about like he did, YOU tell me to protect myself-"

Luke hooked an arm around him and his free hand took the gun out of Val's hand, passing it back to someone behind him. The arm around his waist was surprisingly tight. Val looked up, startled. Police thundered past them to the fallen Clark and Howard still sprawled in the back of the van.

"What? I didn't HURT anyone- I may have lost my temper SLIGHTLY, but it was completely justified-"

"It's okay." Luke said very calmly, "It's fine, come back this way and we'll talk about it-"

"You can discuss it with the fairies, McNeil, I ONLY did what you told me to do-" Val prised himself out of Luke's grasp and stared as the police hauled Clark to his feet.

"Clark? I didn't hit you THAT hard-"

The police pulled the mask off. Another, total stranger was pulled out of the back of the van and Val caught sight of Clark, white faced among the policemen.

"Oh." Val said faintly. "Ah. I see."

"Boss."

Howard was standing behind them, the toy gun in his hand, the chamber clicked open to reveal the loaded ammunition. Luke started to swear, then broke off and grabbed Val in time to break his fall.

********

Val awoke in the comfort of his hotel room. He moaned, and immediately two sets of hands were working on him.

"Hey, wait a minute -"

"Settle down Val, let the doctor finish checking you over." Luke held onto Val's hand while the doctor finished up.

Val allowed Luke to hold his hand, and he kept silent and serene until the door clicked closed on the doctor. As soon as the lock banged home, Val sat up, furious. "HOW COULD YOU?!?"

Luke quickly took a seat next to Val, trying to ward this off. "How could I what?" He asked calmly, reaching for Val's hand.

"How could you allow me to be taken like that?!" Val jumped up, outraged. "Your team is supposed to be watching me! The arena was supposed to be safe! And I'm taken out like that?" Val was pacing, fury radiating from every pore.

"What kind of a bodyguard are you? You TOLD me I was safe! Your team had decided I was safe down there for Godsakes!"

"It was an inside job.." Luke sounded less than happy about it. "Two people who were cleared and on our secure list- they disabled a camera, we couldn't have KNOWN-"

"It's your JOB to know!" Val said furiously. "God knows I can understand we all make mistakes, but you TOLD me that particular zone was safe!"

Luke was feeling increasing unhappy. "I thought it was, otherwise I would have dragged you with me every step of the way. I'm sorry."

Val was just furious enough at the entire treatment he'd received to feel invincible. "Sit your sorry ass down and listen to me!"

Luke was shocked but did as requested, the guilt causing him to sit without arguing.

Val continued pacing, stopping every once in a while in front of Luke, staring directly at him, waiting for answers. "Your JOB is to protect me.  Something you failed at miserably with today. I could have been injured. Maimed. Tortured...KILLED! WHAT were you thinking?"

Luke's huge, grey eyes widened with distress as the truth of the horrible matter began to dawn on him. Val folded his arms, fixing him with the Look.

"Think what you could have done, Luke. Me. The hero of millions. The role model of teenagers everywhere. What would you have done to the future of this country if you let anything happen to me? Am I replaceable? Can anyone else sing my songs?"

"No.." Luke said, dropping his head. Val tapped his foot.

"LOOK at me when I'm talking to you young man!"

Luke looked up, startled by the tone and forcefulness with which Val spoke.

"Sooooooooooo?" Val continued tapping his foot, his eyebrows raised.

"I'm sorry." Luke hazarded.

"I'd say you were. But that doesn't change the facts, now does it?" Val demanded.

Luke tried to drop his eyes yet again, but was pulled up short by Val's hand catching his chin.

"What do I need to do to get it across to you how BADLY you handled things today?"

Luke could only shrug his shoulders, he was at a complete loss for words.

"I see you don't have a satisfactory answer. I know exactly what should help you to remember." Val raised his one arm up and pointed commandingly  "The corner. NOW."

Slowly, scuffing at the carpet, Luke went. Val leaned against the windowsill and folded his arms, looking with satisfaction at the bent, dark head in the corner. The gorilla caught on sooooo slowly. Never mind. It was time he realised superstars were not people to be submitted to this kind of cavalier treatment. Starting to get tired of the stalemate, he glanced at his watch.

"All right. It's only been forty seconds but I'm bored to death with you standing there. Go and get the paddle."

Huge grey eyes looked at him, pleadingly.

"Please Val-"

"One...." Val was taking great satisfaction in using the same warning tones that he'd heard many times before.

"You can't d-"

"Two...... I'd suggest you hurry, you know what happens when I reach three."

Luke blushed furiously and quickly found the paddle, returning slowly to Val. When Val held his hand out, Luke obediently handed the dreaded instrument over.

"Drop them."

"Val, please, let me at least keep -"

"NOW." Val demanded, the stern tone brooking no argument.

Luke slowly undid his belt, the long forgotten feelings rushing back as if it were yesterday. When his jeans had pooled at his ankles, and his underwear were somewhere between buttocks and jeans, Val pulled him face down across his lap. Luke looked at the carpet, every muscle in his body tense, waiting for the first crack of the paddle.

Val raised the paddle high, intent on turning the milky white flesh presented to him a scalding red. The paddle fell with amazing speed, and the crack that landed was clearly audible.......

"Val? Val! Wake up." Luke gently slapped Val's face again, trying to bring life back into the pale and drawn face of his lover.

"Wh-" Val grabbed at the hands over his. "Luke?"

"It's me. It's okay, I've got you, you're fine." Luke helped him sit up and put a glass of water into his hand. The room was emptying- looking around, Val saw members of the security team, Diane and the arena first aider. Luke pushed his hair off his forehead.

"How are you feeling? There's a doctor on his way over- did they hurt you?"

"No more than Clark and Howard did on the other times." Val stretched himself cautiously. "WHO were they?"

"A couple of small time hoods looking for a quick buck. Are you sure you're all right? They didn't stick you with anything, give you pills or liquid did they?"

Val slowly shook his head, clearing the cobwebs. "Not that I remember. Awful smell over the nose, then I passed out." The realization just hit him of what Luke was implying. "You...you don't think they drugged me....do you?" He started to panic a bit and began checking his arms for needle marks.

Luke grabbed Val by the shoulders. "It's okay, I don't think they would have done anything like that, it would do them no good."

Coherent thought started to come back. Val sat up, with growing fury,.

"YOU SAID I WAS SAFE!!"

"You didn't stay with me." Luke pointed out with perfect truth. Val scowled.

"Nit picker."

"Occasionally, things slip through the net." Luke said gently. "I thought you handled it- well, very well actually."

Val slipped his legs over the side of the sofa. They were in his dressing room, and there was NO alcohol around. Which was not what a recovering brat needed. Luke put a hand on his shoulder.

"I don't think you're going anywhere until the doctor's seen you. And I'm not sure you'll be going anywhere then. You were chloroformed and you must be shocky."

"No shit, Sherlock. You could figure that one out, but you couldn't keep the loonies out?" Val had broken free of Luke's grip and was in the process of trying to leave when Luke's hand landed on his shoulder again.

"What do you need?" Luke asked, not wanting to argue.

"A drink. Strong."

"Sit down, I'll get a stagehand. You're not fit to be wandering alone."

Val sat down on the sofa gratefully, though kept up his pretense of being ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Luke returned to Val's side, taking his hands in his. "You're still pale."

"Wouldn't you be if every step of every day, you had to watch behind your back, not only for sworn enemies, but for friendlies as well?"

Luke glanced away, long enough for Val to know his remark hit home. He softened his voice, not angry with Luke anymore. The past teachings, and the recent "exercises" had given him the tools he needed to survive, and he was grateful. He bit back a smile, tugged on Luke's hands until he turned to face him, then patted him gently on the head. "I don't think the exercises need to continue. I'll keep you safe from any terrorists, I promise.

~The End~

Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010

1 comment:

Sierra said...

I was kinda mad at Luke in this one, then kinda glad he was getting his just desserts then sad that it was a dream. :)

Most of the artwork on the blog is by Canadian artist Steve Walker.

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