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Daniel Grimes was reclined back in his lazy boy, taking another sip of his now empty beer. He scowled at the brown bottle, quite inconvenienced that it was, in fact, not bottomless. Disgusted by such an inconceivable offense, he tossed it on the floor with the rest of the empty beer bottles that were scattered about. “ALEX! BEER!” He demanded.

Ten year old Alex Grimes sighed, rolling his green eyes. He closed the book he was reading and quickly jumped off his bed.

He ran into the kitchen knowing his father was in another one of his moods, which would swiftly lead to another beating if Alex didn’t comply with his requests fast enough. Swiping one of the many beers from the otherwise empty refrigerator, he flipped the lid off with the bottle opener. Alex allowed it to fall into the small pile of bottle caps that accumulated on the countertop beside the appliance. His eyes did a quick scan of the pile, estimating this particular bottle to be number twelve in the last hour and a half. He frowned, his father had been drinking quite a bit more than normal in the last five days or so and it made him anxious. It did not bode well for Alex. The man he called ′father’ had never been known as a happy drunk.

Alex took a second to close his eyes and compose himself. If he did exactly what his father required of him, he would be spared the fury of his fists—Alex was certain of it. Taking in a large amount of air to fill his lungs and calm his nerves, he followed the sound of college football from the television. His bare feet kicked a couple of bottles strewn across the floor as he entered the living room.

He silently cursed his father.

They didn’t have enough money for food but somehow that man always found enough cash somewhere to keep a never ending stock of his addicting liquid diet.

Daniel snatched the bottle from his son. He greedily gulped down half the bitter nectar before turning his attention to Alex.

Deadened green eyes assessed the puny kid. Swallowing a mouthful of beer, he lifted his top lip in disgust, “You’re weak. You will never be a threat to anyone if you don’t get your head out of those damn books, boy.” Alex silently nodded in response. It was the same nightly declaration and he had learned very quickly not to argue or defend his favorite pastime. His father would never understand Alex’s desire for knowledge—it was just beyond such a brute.

Daniel snickered, “You disgust me. Now that I’m looking at you, I’m surer than ever that you aren’t really mine,” he took another swig of his beer, eyes narrowed in loathing, “Just another secret your whore of a mother was keeping from me.”

With clenched jaws and a thumping pain inside his head, Alex took his father’s verbal abuse. He hated how his dad spoke of his mother and he hated more that the spiteful words spewing from his mouth were true. A drug addict who only loved the thought of her next fix, Alex couldn’t argue. She had never been a doting or kind woman. Honestly, Alex didn’t know who she even was. At the age where he could recall their interactions, she had either been comatose or damn near it—slurring her words, unable to keep her eyes open, and rarely leaving the couch, even to relieve herself. Nine months ago was the last straw as she had injected more than normal into her weak, blown out veins.

She never returned from that trip.

So, here he was, an abusive drunkard for a father and a dead junkie for a mother. The only solace he found was in books where he could momentarily forget his burdens. He had brief glimpses into other worlds and lives, far away from the one he was currently fated to. However, even now, his father was attempting to take that away from him as well. He assumed it would not be long before all the pages were rounded up and lit aflame in the backyard. If his father could find a small space somewhere amongst all the trash that covered the dying grass.

Alex turned to head back to his room, thinking it was possible that he could get a single page read before his dad called for him once more. But when his sight settled upon two huge men standing menacingly in the doorway, he knew he wasn’t getting back to his room anytime soon.

He stood frozen in his spot, his eyes scanning the duo in front of him. Both men reached the same height, though what that was exactly, Alex didn’t know and he didn’t care... The cold, hard truth was that they towered over his obscenely small frame, regardless of numeric figures. If their faces had not looked totally different, he would have guessed them to be twins as their build was the same—broad and muscular. Their arms had to be larger than both of Alex’s thighs put together. They sported the same haircut; clipped close at the sides and longer on top.

The brown haired man had a clean shaven face and big, brown eyes that reminded Alex of the milk chocolate candy bar that currently hid unopened in his nightstand drawer.

The second male had blonde hair and a thick beard. His head was cocked to the side as hazel eyes assessed Alex warily from afar.

Dressed alike in tight fitting black shirts and blue jeans, his eyes couldn’t help but take note of their defined pectorals and tightly sculpted abdominals. They were beasts. Alex couldn’t help but wonder if he could ever achieve such a dominant physique but instinct finally kicked in and he was suddenly filled with an undeniable urge to run away.

“Dad?” Alex whimpered, sickened by an instant wave of fear even his angry, abusive father had never instilled in him. He slowly backed away from the two strangers, his heels hitting empty bottles on their way towards the nearest wall.

Daniel’s head slowly turned towards the archway to determine what had caused his wimpy son’s terrified demeanor. He appeared disinterested at the sight of the two men. Returning his attention to the television, he took another drink of his beer. Dismissively, he waved the men off, “I told Luis I would have his money by the end of the week.” Alex glanced between the men and his father. Who the hell was Luis and why did they owe him money?

They had no money.

A wicked grin appeared upon the face of the beardless one as he spoke first, “Aw, I’m pained,” He placed a hand over his heart, feigning hurtful disappointment. “Don’t recognize me, Dan?”

Alex could feel tears start to well up in his eyes, blurring his vision as red lights flashing inside his brain screamed at him to recognize and accept the danger that now wafted thickly through the air of the small room. He was scared, without evidence of why other than a feeling deep in the darkest, unexplored parts of his soul.

He did not want to be here but the duo blocked his only exit.

Not that he would be able to run if he could. He was frozen in fear. He was ashamed to acknowledge the unexplainable terror that ripped his conscientious control away from his body and cursed himself for being so weak. His father was right. He was pathetic. But Alex did understand, though reluctantly, that whatever the cause of this visit, it was not a friendly one and wouldn’t have a good outcome.

The one with the beard scanned the state of the living room and Alex couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. The man’s hard, hazel gaze fell on his father, with a scrunched nose in apparent repugnance. “You’re a sick fuck, you know that?” He growled out.

The man had literally growled.

“You can’t even take care of yourself, better yet an eight year old kid,” Beard spat.

“Ten,” Alex whispered in correction, not entirely sure where this tiny amount of bravery had come from, but proud of himself nonetheless. His dad may call him weak and pathetic but he refused to give ammunition to strangers to do the same. Not that it mattered, but he understood he looked younger than he was due to malnutrition and abuse. However, his urge to specify his age was an internal and automatic response after years of questioning adults.

Beard’s brows rose and his eyes widened. He appeared taken aback, “Ten, huh?” He gave a puzzling look to No Beard. As they took a moment to stare at each other in some sort of unspoken conversation, Alex’s body betrayed him as little, yet violent, tremors took over. How the man had heard him over the football game playing loudly in the background, Alex couldn’t fathom.

“ENOUGH!” His father exclaimed, shooting up from his chair, “Get out of my house before I call the cops!” The two men snapped their heads back to Daniel and his unexpected outburst. They studied him for half a second before bursting out in hearty laughter. Alex didn’t know what was so funny, but give credit to instinct once more as he recognized that this was not a normal reaction in such a tense situation... and that scared him more.

“Oh, no! He’s going to call the cops, T,” Beard teased, “Well, then, maybe we should just be on our way... I mean, we wouldn’t want the cops involved!” They chuckled now at some inside joke that Alex could just not comprehend. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand at attention at the odd reaction from the weird men. No Beard smiled fakely, “Oh, we would definitely not want that.” He waved a hand in front of him nonchalantly, “However, I did come here for a reason, Dan. As hurt as I am that you had forgotten me so soon, I still can’t leave without delivering a message.”

Daniel raised his chin in defiance, his ego getting the better of him. “I never forget a face,” he sneered. No Beard blinked, “Really? Impressive.” He tapped his chin thoughtfully, “I guess I should give you a hint then, yeah?” He looked towards his compadre for advice but Beard only shrugged in disinterested assurance. No Beard exhaled in boredom, his eyes flashed black and his teeth elongated into large and deadly rippers. He snarled viciously, “How about now?”

Startled, Daniel fell on his ass and scurried backward towards the wall. The two men stalked towards him, a smug smile on Beard’s face, “I think he remembers, T.” No Beard, aka “T” cocked his head, his black eyes scanning the frightened drunk on the floor.

Alex stood motionless, beside his father. He feared the slightest movement would cause the men to pounce on him and he would like to avoid that if possible. His heartbeat wildly within his chest and his palms became sweaty.

No Beard suddenly raised his head, his nose sniffing the air in front of him and slowly turning its curiosity towards Alex and his traitorous heart. Silently, he glared at him. Seconds felt like hours as Alex watched No Beard’s eyes flash from black to a swirling mix of red, yellow, brown, and blue in a mesmerizing dance of flurried colors... unfortunately, it was very short-lived as the black returned quickly.

“RUN,” He snarled, apathetically.

All concern instantly lost for his horrible excuse of a father, Alex ran as fast as his thin legs would carry him.

He never looked back.


The human before Theron cowered.

He could hear the man’s heart thumping erratically as he trembled in terror. “Sigh,” Theron looked at DeLoren in fake forlorn, “Sounds like his heart may give out before we have any fun.” DeLoren patted Theron’s back sympathetically, “It’s no big thing, man, we can play with him even after.”

But Theron didn’t want to dismember Daniel after he died. That was just not his style. He craved the screams and pleas and squirting blood with every beat of that heart muscle which was currently under distress. Nope. This fucker would not get the easy way out. He would have taken the kid too if it had not been for the fact that Lina’s face chose that exact moment to pop inside his head. The boy owed his life to her for it was the only reason he was still breathing. Theron would have given the kid a quick, painless death though. He wasn’t really thrilled with the idea of torturing children but death upon association was not below him.

Theron gave Daniel’s face a few gentle slaps, “Hey, get your shit together and man up, Dan! I don’t have all day, Dan!” Well... that was a lie. Theron did have all day. Actually, he had a lifetime...

Daniel’s cries turned to whimpers as he cringed under the heated gaze of the lycan. “Good boy,” Theron cooed, stroking the top of the man’s hair tauntingly.

DeLoren pulled the recliner into the center of the room and the two beasts hauled Daniel to his feet, dropping him unceremoniously into the torn leather.

“What’s your poison?” DeLoren asked Theron, referring to either the duct tape in his right hand or the rope in his left hand. Theron silently gave a single nod to the rope as it restricted less of the splatter and deliciously slow and thick crimson blood flow than that wretched duct tape. Duct tape was good for fixing things and Theron did not desire a fix.

He craved only to break.

He and DeLoren hastily wrapped the rope tight around Daniel’s sniveling body. As Theron was tying the knot to the back of the chair, DeLoren gasped, “Dude.” Theron peeked around the chair at his brother who was staring down at Daniel in feigned sadness. “What?” Theron asked, curious. DeLoren pointed to Daniel’s crotch, then met his friend’s eyes, “Someone can’t hold their alcohol.” Theron glanced at the man’s lap, his pants now soiled in an ever-growing wet spot that reeked of urine. The Ancient sighed, “Oh for crying out loud, Dan, pull yourself together! You’re embarrassing us!”

Daniel sobbed, “I’m so, so sorry, I didn’t know—”

“—Didn’t know what, exactly, Dan?” Theron cut him off. “You didn’t know how much pain you put my body through each time you shocked me? Punched me? Kicked me? Spit on me? You didn’t know that I would survive your nasty experiments? Or...” He got right in Daniel’s face, gripping the man’s hair unmercifully, “Was it that you didn’t know I would come back for retribution? Huh?” Daniel cried out in pain as Theron tore a patch of hair from his scalp, “Well? Which one is it, Dan?!”

Yes, Theron was well aware of how much he called the man by name but gosh, it was just so satisfying to spit out—like the old days, when you could slam the phone down on its receiver when you got pissed and hung up on someone. Kids today will never know that type of gratification with their fancy touch screen cell phones.

Daniel stuttered, “I-I—”

“—Oh shut the fuck up already!” Theron roared as his fingernails extended, shifting into sharpened claws, swiftly and effortlessly slicing into the tip of the man’s ear... halfway. Daniel screamed as the top section of his ear hung off by a tiny piece of cartilage.

Theron’s breathing increased along with his bloodlust. His chest rose and fell as he attempted to gain back control of his emotions. DeLoren snickered and shook his head in amusement, instantly calming Theron’s anger by inconveniently lightening the mood. “What?” he asked innocently, “He was getting on my nerves.”

“What doesn’t get on your nerves,” his brother deadpanned.

Theron titled his head back and forth in mirth, “Eh.”

His eyes immediately hardened when they fell back upon the bloodied Daniel, “Quick history lesson, Dan: the Ming Dynasty, circa 1368 to... mmm, 1644, I believe? Excuse my memory, it’s been a little while since I was there...” Theron’s lycan nail scraped slowly from Daniel’s bleeding ear, down his cheek around his chin, and back up the opposite ear. He let his finger hover there. You know, for added dramatics. “They were the trailblazers of their time, really. They figured out that torturing an individual did not require such a large amount of bloodshed.” Theron stepped back and pouted, “Shame really, takes all the excitement out of it, don’t you think? Not my style but it’s still genius.”

Their method was to inflict very small cuts all over the body—papercuts to be exact.” Theron flew forward, shoving his face only inches from the blubbering mess of a man before him. He spoke quietly, his black eyes flickering back and forth between Daniel’s, “Did you know you can survive 3,000 tiny, deceptively insignificant, paper cuts before your body gives out from all the pain?” Theron gave an exaggerated whole body shiver, “Oooh, hits me right in the feels, Dan!”

The man choked back a sob, coughing and spewing his spittle across the Ancients. “Gross,” DeLoren wrinkled his nose. Theron grabbed Daniel’s chin harshly, forcing him to meet his eyes. Calmly and soothingly he mocked, “Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan... chill man. It’ll all be over soon.”

Daniel must have found hope somewhere deep inside him. Or maybe it was bravery. Or possibly stupidity, as either was probable when it came to a human facing their inevitable mortality. “I can help you!” He offered, his eyes wide and his voice eager, “Ask me anything! I’ll tell you!”

The Ancients shared a puzzling look at each other. “Damn T,” DeLoren whistled, “apparently centuries in solitude did wonders for your persuasion skills! It usually takes at least 10 more minutes before they start squawkin’.”

“Maybe. But I’m more inclined to think that our little buddy here is just a pussy." Theron gave Daniel a light pinch on the nose, “ain’t that right, Dan?”

No argument came from the human as he gulped loudly.

Theron crouched before him, narrowing his eyes in thought. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers and pointed at the younger Grimes, “You know what? I think I will take you up on that offer.” Standing up, Theron crossed his arms over his massive chest, “So let’s not fuck this up, aye? I hear paper cuts are a real bitch, Dan.”


Marius raised his head from the papers in front of him as DeLoren and Theron ambled through the door of their small Kentucky sanctuary. “How did it go?” He asked, not out of duty, but pure intrigue. The fact that Theron was involved in a mess such as this to the deep extent he was, had become most bewildering to his eldest brother.

“Fine,” Theron responded unconcerned and indifferent.

DeLoren, on the other hand, was a different story.

“Fine? FINE?!” DeLoren turned to Theron accusingly, his eyes narrowed in slits, “He asked, ′how did it go,′ Theron?!”

Theron’s only response was to roll his eyes and sigh.

DeLoren stalked over to Marius, a furious expression on his face. The wiser Ancient let loose a warning growl, making it crystal clear he did not appreciate DeLoren’s crazed behavior.

DeLoren ignored him entirely.

Marius was not surprised as DeLoren tended to disregard his brothers’ actions, opinions, and threats quite frequently like the thought he was untouchable or, better yet, found emptiness in all their comminations.

In one sweeping motion of his arm from the opposite side of the table, he slid Marius’s papers off as if they were distasteful to him in some unexplainable way. DeLoren placed a flat palm on each side of the imaginary workspace and glared at his friend, “Trust me, after what I just witnessed, I am not scared of you. But that son of a bitch right there,” he raised one hand and pointed an accusatory finger at Theron, “is psychotic! That’s how it went!”

Marius raised a confused brow and pursed his lips glancing between a very disgruntled DeLoren and an extremely guiltless-looking Theron. “You’ve been on these types of missions with Theron before. You know how he is,” he frowned. DeLoren’s exclamations were uncharacteristic for the snarky Ancient. DeLoren wasn’t innocent. Not by a long shot. And after knowing and seeing Theron in action for years, nothing he did should really surprise or upset any of them.

“No, no, no, no, no, Mar—this was different!” DeLoren insisted.

Theron shook his head and headed to the refrigerator to pull out a bottle of water. Marius often wondered how such an always handsome and innocent-looking man held so much ferocity inside him. He was, by definition, a devil in disguise. Of course, he did hold onto a grudge tighter than the rest of them.

DeLoren’s booming voice yanked Marius attention back to him, “So this crazy motherfucker starts spoutin’ on about the Mine Dynas—”

“Ming,” Theron interjected.

“Whatever,” Deloren huffed, ” Talkin’ ’bout torture by paper cuts and shit—”

Marius cackled, his eyes wide in amusement and awe, “You went all Ming Dynasty on his ass?” He remembered the viciousness of the Ming Dynasty quite well as Marius had lived through that period in time, once residing within their territory and assisting in their “justice” techniques occasionally when called upon.

Theron, in return, smirked mischievously confirming the story as true. Marius suddenly wished very much to have tagged along. The methods of the Ming Dynasty were fascinating, to say the least.

“I’m not done yet!” DeLoren slammed a meaty fist into the table, sending a lightning bolt crack through the wood. The eldest Ancient scowled at him, “I distinctly remember this table doing you no harm, DeLoren.” It was solid oak and a pretty pricey one of a kind piece.

“Pft.” His tone was dripping in angry sarcasm he continued to explain, “Well, let me enlighten you, oh Wise One, on the slight variation to the Ming Dynasty’s wonderous strategies our dear brother here decided to go with.”

Marius turned his whole body to Theron, “So, no paper cuts then?” Theron grinned wickedly, “Oh there were paper cuts alright.”

“Yeah! There were paper cuts! Four hundred and ninety-eight paper cuts to be exact! Now, I know what you’re wondering,” DeLoren proceeded to imitate Marius in a deep, gruff voice, ”Why on earth would you count them, DeLoren?" DeLoren was right, of course. That had been what Marius was wondering... DeLoren threw his hands up in the air in disgusted exacerbation, and answered himself, “Because every single one of them was solely inflicted upon his dick!”

Marius choked on his spit.

Whirling around to face Theron, he asked, incredulously, “You didn’t?” Marius had once been all for dismemberment and the occasional murder, but a man’s penis was strictly off limits. In fact, it was downright blasphemous.

“Oh, he did! He very much did!” DeLoren exclaimed. “I cannot unsee that, Marius!” He ran a hand through his hair and down his face, “My own dick hurts. It’s like sympathy dick pains or some fucked up shit! I’ll have nightmares about it for the rest of my life!”

“Don’t be so dramatic, D,” Theron chuckled before taking a swig of his water. As always, he appeared unaffected by his actions.

DeLoren’s face darkened. His arms laid casually by his sides but his fingers were busy popping his knuckles in irritation, “I am not being dramatic. You are fucking SICK!”

All amusement upon Theron’s face disappeared in a flash. His eyes turned black as he chucked his half-empty water bottle across the room. It hit the wall with immense force, splattering pellets of water across the kitchen. Theron was instantly in front of DeLoren. His hand clenched tightly around DeLoren’s throat as he raised him off the ground. They stared at each other in fiery contempt.

Theron seethed, “YOU weren’t there, brother! You haven’t a clue how relentlessly I was tortured and tormented twenty-four hours a day! You can’t imagine the numerous times I wished for death! An end to the pain! A release from their taunting laughter! You cannot even begin to fathom what that does to a man! What it did to me! So do not judge me so quickly without stepping a single foot inside my shoes, DeLoren!” Theron removed his hand, allowing his brother to drop to the floor.

“Where are you going?” Marius asked as he watched a fuming Theron stomp towards the front door. An angry Theron let loose upon the outside world was a catastrophe of epic proportions.

“OUT,” he snarled, “I need to kill something!” He slammed the door shut behind him, busting a hinge loose and rattling the whole building.

DeLoren and Marius shared a knowing look. DeLoren finally relented, sighing in defeat. “I’ll apologize,” he grumbled, begrudgingly.

Marius hummed in response.

What a pleasure to finally be together under one roof.

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