The door to the classy, very up-front mob cover of a restaurant is barely open when Jason says, “Your boss is expecting me. I’m the ten o’clock.”
The man blinks at him, then does a sweeping check of his gaze from throat to boots, taking in the incongruity of the well-tailored, white dress shirt and black pants with the black leather jacket pulled over the top. By the little twist of the man’s mouth, he doesn’t much approve of the mix of styles. Or maybe it’s just the lack of a tie, or the shirt not being tucked in. Not that Jason or his master care at all whether these morons think that he’s low-class.
“Come in,” is the only thing Jason really bothers to hear from the man who greets him at the door, as he idly watches his mouth move. There’s more, but he really doesn’t give a shit.
“You’re too kind,” he says in mocking answer, through a smile too full of teeth to be mistaken as sincere.
The man’s expression tightens, but Jason shoulders past him without regard for it. There’s a second one waiting, that steps up to start patting him down as the door shuts behind him. He rolls his eyes but obligingly lifts his arms. It’s thorough, and if he did have anything on him Jason can admit they probably would have found it. Unlucky for them that he doesn’t need anything in the way of weapons.
When they finish, Jason can’t quite help giving a wink and a smirk, and a drawling, “You missed a spot.” He swivels his hips a little to make it particularly obvious. Gets a sneer for it.
There are a few people in the restaurant, paying no mind to the show of his arrival. Classy suits and cocktail dresses, with more than a bit of glitter from jewels, and the sort of cool cast to their expressions that Jason’s learned to associate with old money and a general lack of care for anyone not on their perceived level of living. Pathetic, all of them. Just waiting to be toppled from their little thrones by someone who actually understands the world they live in. And what lives in it with them.
He’s escorted towards the back of the room, out of it. Beyond there’s a corridor, which leads to a door guarded by two more suited, hulking pieces of muscle. Even a little taller than Jason is, both of them, and probably half again his weight. Both stare down at him with narrowed eyes and guns resting openly in their resting hands, held too close to their crotches for Jason not to make a joke out of it. He doesn’t say it, this time, only snorts to himself and raises an eyebrow. One of them moves just enough to open the door.
Inside is a private room, with a chair at the opposite end raised just high enough to draw parallels to a throne, and a suited man with a wine glass in his hand sitting in it. Guards line the edges of the room, with everything from shotguns to assault rifles held as openly as the guns outside; an obvious show of force that Jason thinks is probably for his benefit, even if he is just the supposed talking piece of his master. You don’t get into bed with someone like Roman Sionis, after all, unless you’re sure that he respects the threat you represent.
Jason approaches at the direction of his escorting guard, and is brought to a halt about a dozen feet away. He glances around the room, picking out the servant at the boss’ side, and the small scattering of men and women around the room that look like… other servants, probably. Not in name, but in practice. Accountants, lawyers, or maybe heads of operations around the city. A gathering of power to discuss the idea of a new partner. Not all of them fit in with the suit-and-tie dress code of the rest.
“I was expecting your master,” the mob boss says after a beat of silence, maybe expecting some sort of bow or submission from him. “Where is he?”
Jason takes another glance around at the open weaponry. “He wasn’t fond of the idea of walking into the middle of the arsenal you’ve got in here. You get that, right? Little too much chance of a pow!” He grins, lowering the fake-gun shape of his hands. “Accident.”
The way the boss’ expression closes down, unfriendly and offended, is everything Roman predicted. He even stands, like he thinks trying to tower over him is going to make Jason feel intimidated.
“Partnership,” the man starts, voice ringing high and clear like it’s some sort of sermon, “is based on a mutual trust, and respect. If your gutter-born master doesn’t understand that, he’s got no place in our business. I don’t appreciate my time being wasted.” A flick of the man’s hand towards the door. “Escort Sionis’ dog out and put a bullet in him, but let him limp back to his owner; he’s got a message to deliver.”
Maybe it’s common practice and just misstated, or maybe one of the guards misunderstands the order, but the crack of a gun follows just a couple moments after the last word.
The impact to his calf knocks it out from under him, dropping Jason to one knee with a grunt as he catches himself on his other hand. It stings, a little. High caliber, apparently.
He gets back to his feet, shaking his leg a bit to get the flattened bullet to drop to the floor. Everything in the room has gone stiff and tense, and Jason takes a moment to roll his shoulders back and shed his jacket, tossing it to the floor behind him. Roman’s going to get sick of dry-cleaning it, eventually, and he’s not fond of having bullet holes patched. Why not save it if he can?
“Here’s the thing,” he says, as he rolls the cuffs of his sleeves up, turn by turn. “My master really doesn’t give a shit about your traditions, or what you think of him. Because in a minute here? You’re going to be dead, and your whole operation is going right underneath his.” He lifts his head, letting a little bit of his real appearance leak through to sharpen his teeth and nails, and he grins. “Take your best shot, dead man.”
Jason’s moving before the last syllables leave the man’s throat. Faster than anyone in the room, he turns on the escort still standing far too close to be safe from him and lunges, getting in under his guard with ease. A twist to one hand breaks a wrist and earns him the gun held in it, and Jason grabs the man by the collar with his other hand and drags him down over his back as a shield as he drops to a crouch and the room erupts with gunfire.
Some that make it past sting as they hit his skin and rebound, and those that tear through his shield he only feels as dull impacts across his back, along with the distinct wetness of blood soaking through his shirt. Well, it was a lost cause anyway.
He turns and tosses the body across the room, so it slams into the bottom of the door. Inwards-opening, no one’s getting out that way without moving the dead weight of a two-hundred-pound man first. That takes care of the main exit, now he just has to stop the mob boss before he reaches that little side-exit door nearly hidden behind a decorative curtain, right at the very back of the room.
Bursting upwards is as easy as breathing, finding the figure he’s looking for sheltered by other, bigger humans and aiming himself at them. And his gun.
He’s not a perfect shot, but his vision’s better than most people and it doesn’t take much to take them down, even if he doesn’t kill them instantly. By the time he’s crossed the distance, spinning around the ‘throne’ and chasing them down, his clip’s empty and the boss doesn’t have any more bodies ready to block his way.
The rest of his little army is panicking, trying to take Jason down, trying to get enough in the way to let their leader escape, but their shouts are little more than white noise to him.
Only Roman’s words (an order, burning right at the back of his mind) matter, and Roman cares about these fleas about as much as he does. Exactly enough to enjoy watching their blood spray out across a nice hardwood floor.
No one’s there to stop him closing the distance, reaching out and grabbing the boss’ suit jacket at the back of his neck to jerk him back in. He’d love to have a moment, slit his throat and watch him bleed out, do a little mocking, but the guards at his back aren’t going to let him. It’ll have to wait.
“I’ll be back for you,” Jason promises, and brings his knee up hard.
The snap of a spine is as satisfying a sound as ever, and he lets the human crumple to the floor as he turns back to the rest of his attackers. There’s horror there, fear. He bares his teeth in a grin.
A combination of his nails, strength, and their own guns lets him wipe out the rest of the room within a minute or so. Blood coats his forearms and stands out bright against the former whiteness of his shirt; more than one spray of it’s caught his face, and he can feel a couple trails dripping off his chin.
When he lifts his head from the last guard, turning to scan for any others still alive, only one real piece of movement catches his eyes. There are a few humans still twitching on the floor, or holding desperately onto very fatal wounds to prolong their lives just a few more pointless minutes, but there’s one man getting to his feet over against one of the walls. Small for this room, in a sweater and with glasses that say he was one of those miscellaneous accompanying servants, not a guard.
Jason pushes to his feet, gaze fixing on that last man as he leans against the wall, head turning to look at the room. His mouth curves into a crooked smile as he looks at the glasses, the more delicate features. Why not enjoy one small hunt before he finishes his mission?
”Well hello there,” Jason calls, stepping over a body as he approaches the man.
Blue eyes snap over to look at him. Watch him with sharp focus as he steps over another body in his way, coming to stand only about ten feet away with nothing between them but open floor. The man’s still, like a rabbit before a predator, watching and waiting and praying that stillness will make it unseen.
Jason tilts his head and grins. “Why don’t you run for me?” he says, quiet enough to be intimate, to be a suggestion.
The man doesn’t move.
“I said, run!” he shouts, and lunges with a snarl and a snap of his teeth.
Blue turns to ice.
The word cracks like thunder into Jason’s ears, and his legs go out from under him, his back slamming to the floor with enough force to knock the wind from his lungs. It makes him choke, stuns him like almost nothing has since he was brought to this world.
The man steps away from the wall, and Jason drags in a breath that actually hurts and pushes at the floor, starting to rise before there’s a snapped, “Stay.”
His every muscle locks. The words stay ringing in his ears, stronger than the branded order in his mind, stronger than his own ability to move. Demonic language, his own tongue said back to him but in this world, by a human.
“Silence.” Jason chokes again, words shoved down his throat, as the man steps closer to him, over him. Then, in the human tongue, “You’ll speak and move when I allow it, demon, no matter how strong you think you are.”
Jason can only breathe in short, sharp inhalations and glare, snarling soundlessly up at the man standing over him. Who sighs, lips pursing in irritation as he lifts a hand and takes off the glasses, leaving them dangling from a hand as he takes in the room with one long, slow sweep. He doesn’t seem much affected by the blood or brutality of it all, except to narrow his eyes a bit.
“Well, this is inconvenient. Do you know how much effort I put into these people? How much time?” The man looks down at him, then sinks into a crouch beside him.
If he could just— just lift his hand. The man’s throat is right there, and then he couldn’t speak any more of his commands, he’d just die.
“Maybe I can still get something out of this mess.” A hand — warm, undeniably human by the thrum of life he can feel in the connection — touches his cheek, thumb smearing what must be one of the blood sprays further over his skin. “You’ll answer what I ask with honesty, understood?”
And, “Yes,” bursts from his throat before he can stop it.
The hand pats his cheek. “Good. Now you came here to deal for Roman Sionis; is he the one that controls your binding?”
“Yeah that makes sense. Sharp rise to power, lots of violence in it. Easy thing to do when you’ve got a demon taking the hits for you.” The man rubs the fingers of his other hand together, looking momentarily distracted, preoccupied by whatever’s in his head. Then pulls the hand away from his cheek and pats one shoulder. Doesn’t seem to care that it gets more blood on his hand. “Kneel.”
Jason jerks up, feeling distinctly like a puppet on strings as he all but sways onto his knees, and finds he still can’t lift his head, or his hands from his sides. What is this? Yeah, humans have power when they speak his tongue, but most know… a sentence, or the true name of what they’ve summoned, nothing more. And it’s weak, suggestion more than command as they speak words they don’t really understand. Not this control. Fluency.
The man’s hand tangles in his hair, pulling his head to one side and leaning close, till the words are almost breathed in his ear. “Tell me your name.”
The syllables spill from his mouth without pause, despite the horror that takes him at that question. His being laid bare, his true name in its entirety dropped before a stranger. Even Roman doesn’t know that, and Jason would never tell. He only knows one part, enough to control him, enough to bind him. A human knowing all of it? They could… Anything.
The man repeats his name with perfect accuracy, every harsh or rolling syllable in a language he shouldn’t know, should barely even be able to pronounce except that he does. Jason shudders and feels it in his bones, his core… Deeper than the binding’s power has ever reached. He feels vulnerable.
“I’ll remember that. What do they call you here?”
The man pulls back, far enough to look him in the eye. The hand in his hair stays tight, and the other raises to touch his jaw, tracing the line of it and then lifting to his cheekbone, his brow. It pauses there, framing his face.
“I think that suits you. You can call me Tim, Jason.” A smirk, as Jason narrows his eyes. “No, it’s not my true name. So, you’re Roman’s pet. Alright, then let’s see how good his work is.”
A flick and tap of Tim’s hand to the side of his throat, and Jason groans as power flares under his skin, chasing the lines of his bindings and dragging them to the surface. He can feel the burn as they rematerialize on his skin, glowing dark red power in every line; his power, turned against him. It hurts as badly as if he were fighting them, and a sharp part of his mind latches onto the idea that it might be exactly what Tim’s done to him. Faked a struggle against his bindings so they react, appear.
No one but his master should be able to summon them like this.
Tim’s hands leave him, and then take his shirt and rip it off with a couple hard pulls. It was in shreds anyway, from the bullets that did hit him. Jason’s too distracted to be annoyed the way he should, especially with Tim’s hands lifting to trace the jagged words etched into his skin.
They trace the circle at his throat first, easily finding the symbols at the back of his neck that spell out what Roman knew of his name; the crux of the entire binding. Then they trace the words outwards along his back, spiraling around each arm to end at his wrist. Back to his neck, to follow the line that extends straight down his spine and then splits at the small of it, to run smaller words around to the front of his waist and down. Tim’s fingers pause at the barrier of his slacks; significantly less damaged than his shirt was.
His hands withdraw.
“Show me the rest.”
Jason jerks, panting softly, but has no choice but to obey. His hands undo the belt and button on his slacks, and shove them down over his hips, then his legs. He comes back to kneeling at the end of it, pants shoved down over his boots, to bare every last inch of the binding still glowing, still burning at him.
Tim’s fingers return to his waist, continuing their interrupted path by following the marks down his pelvis and to his thighs, where they spiral just like his arms. Each of his legs is lifted, carefully, to look at the bits of the spiral obscured on his shins, and then finally Tim shifts back.
A second tap to the side of his throat and Jason breathes out in relief as the bindings fade, leaving only a lingering ache under his skin. He looks up to meet Tim’s gaze, finding it thoughtful, as distracted as earlier. He feels the urge, oddly, to get his pants back on. He’s never cared before, but suddenly he does. Suddenly he wants just one small shield between him and this stranger that’s yanked all his power out from under him. Turned it on him. He’s… Nervous. Uncomfortable.
That’s new. Strange. Almost sort of thrilling. He hasn’t been disadvantaged since he was summoned to this reality, not really. There were other demons back in his ‘home,’ ones stronger than him, but here? Roman may be his master, but Jason’s never thought of him as better, or stronger. Only… lucky, to come across a demon trapped like he was. Jason respects him, but that’s all.
“It’s a decent binding,” Tim finally says, almost conversationally. “Someone did the base — your neck and your spine — and secured you to this world, but a different person finished it. Your master, Roman, I’d guess. Good work, individually, but the inconsistency makes it weaker. There’s no safety net either, in case someone else wants to usurp it, and of course only being linked to that one part of your name means it’s not nearly as powerful as it could be. And could be making you.” He scoffs. “I could do better in my sleep.”
Jason blinks, and that strange, uncomfortable twist in his stomach flattens out to something more familiar. Want. His gaze flicks over Tim, really looking at him as more than a piece of prey, or a threat.
Black hair to his jaw, paired with ice-blue eyes, in a face with long eyelashes but still a sharp jawline. Male, but edging towards the feminine, if Jason stopped to care about human genders. The glasses softened his expression out, but without them it’s like cut glass; smooth and cold and sharp at all the edges. Hard to tell what kind of a build he has, beneath the brown sweater, but his hands have long fingers and carefully trimmed nails. Just long enough to draw blood, if they wanted to. Jason kind of wants them too.
Small, shorter, but not prey. Definitely not prey.
Tim’s smile only makes the sharp edges to his face more apparent. A hand lifts, tracing the very edge of nails along his hairline, then back along his scalp. He swallows as they slide down his neck and to his chest, not minding or apparently caring about the blood on his skin. They lift then, sliding over his bottom lip and painting it red, pressing just far enough in for him to feel the barest bit of pressure against his teeth.
“Tempting,” Tim murmurs, leaned close enough that it would be the work of a moment to close the distance, if he could only move, “but I wouldn’t be interested unless I knew you were utterly mine. Even if I tore that binding apart and put mine in its place, you’d only ever be playing at being owned. I don’t do half measures.”
Jason wants to chase the fingers as they drop away from his mouth, and Tim gets to his feet. That he can’t frustrates him, and he bares his teeth, staring upwards in forcibly mute focus. He nearly trembles with the desire to get up and just— just have. Whether or not Tim can stop him, whether he’s held in check with that power or can just devour it.
Tim’s hand goes into his pocket, chin lifting as he looks out over the room. Jason eyes the pale column of his throat. “It’s not how I wanted to do things, but since you’ve wiped out pretty much everyone in power here, I might as well just move on to the next stages of my plan.” A moment, and then he looks back down at Jason, free hand coming to slide underneath his chin and tilt it up. “I’m going to take all of this for myself, and you’re going to go back to your master. When he’s ready to deal, or you’re ready for a hand that’s a little more skilled, you can come back to me.”
Jason shivers when nails scrape up the side of his jaw, and Tim smiles.
“I’ll see you soon, Jason.” Tim pauses, then adds his true name in a rolling purr that makes Jason shake and suck in a sharp breath. “You’ll be free soon enough. Don’t forget your jacket.”
He wants to protest, but Tim flicks his face to the side and walks off. Leaving him there, frozen and silent and staring after him with nothing but frustrated anticipation. He has to content himself with watching Tim’s back and ass as he strides across the room, dodging bodies and blood sprays with easy grace and a quick step. A couple are still shifting, turn or reach towards him as he passes, but Tim ignores all of them.
Until he comes close to the back exit, and the broken form of the previous mob boss lying there. Then he crouches, fingers coming to the man’s neck. Even from across the room, Jason can just hear the whispered rasp of the man pleading for help.
“Well,” Tim says, significantly louder than that whisper, “not quite dead after all, hm? Why don’t we put you out of your misery, sir?”
Jason watches as Tim leans off to one side, finding the fallen form of a bodyguard not far away and pulling the gun from his loose hand. He stands, aims, and fires without a shred of hesitation.
The compulsion at the back of Jason’s head fades, Roman’s order satisfied by the death of the man he was sent after. It’s almost odd; he’d practically forgotten that he had an actual job here. He was only interested in the kill before but now he finds himself not caring that the final shot’s been taken from him. The only part he’s really interested in is how desire curls in his chest at the proof that Tim has the bite to back up his commands, gun comfortable in his hands and not even a hint of guilt at the murder, as he drops the weapon back onto the guard’s body.
Tim heads for the door, and then turns at the threshold to look back across the room at him.
“Jason?” he calls, and smiles. “Make sure you don’t leave any of them breathing. For me. You don’t need that to be an order, do you?”
“No,” he answers, before he’s even thought about it. But it’s true.
He’s going to kill everyone still alive in this room, and his motivation doesn’t have all that much to do with Roman preferring a lack of witnesses in his brutalities. It’s not even mostly about his own survival; making sure that no one survives that can identify him and maybe point him out to some self-styled exorcist. No, the motivation is all in that knife-edged smile, and the pleased tint of Tim’s voice as he speaks through it.
“No, I didn’t think so.”
The door shuts behind him, and Jason stares at it as if he could burn right through and chase Tim down. He’s not going to, but he wants to.
He has to get back to Roman.
A sound draws his attention and he looks over. His head actually turns.
With a grin, Jason gets to his feet.
Roman’s waiting in the car, enough blocks away to be deniable. The driver opens the limo’s door for Jason, and he slides in onto the seats. Opposite Roman, lounging back in one corner with a drink in his hand.
“It’s done?” he asks, as the door clicks shut. Privacy, with the screen up between the driver and them.
Jason flicks his hands up to show off the stain of blood. He thinks about Tim, about getting pinned to the floor and being on his knees, about a hand in his hair and the roll of his real name through a sharp smile. About, finally, ice-blue eyes and the slide of fingers over his lip.
“Done,” is the only thing he says.
Roman smiles, and extends the hand that isn’t holding the drink. “Come here.”
Jason moves forward, taking Roman’s hand and letting himself be pulled in to the seat beside him. It’s a tickle along his spine, the compulsion to obey. For a moment, he compares it to the inescapable pressure of Tim’s words, and finds himself disappointed. It’s just… lacking. A question, not a demand.
Jason leans into the arm that comes around his back, dropping his head to rest on Roman’s shoulder and not particularly minding the way Roman’s fingers slide up the arch of his throat. They graze up his jaw, and from the corner of his eye he sees Roman take a drink from his glass. Something alcoholic, dark.
The car starts, and Jason flicks his gaze up to find one of the dark windows and look through it. Not that he can see much, but he finds himself staring off in the direction of the restaurant.
“Take the jacket off, pet.”
It’s a familiar little fission of irritation that strikes him as that name reaches his ears, but his hands move to obey. Why not? (Making it clear to Roman that he didn’t like the little names only resulted in more of them; no point in complaining about it now.)
He comes off the seat briefly to roll it off his shoulders, tossing it over to one of the other seats. Roman’s hand slides down over his bared shoulder.
“Shirt was a lost cause,” he explains preemptively, leaning back again. His gaze flickers back to the scenery outside the window as he remembers the rip of fabric being torn from his back.
Roman hums acknowledgement. “Did he scream?”
Jason shrugs, tilting his head a little more to the side as the wandering hand comes down to his chest and the blood there. “No; ran. I snapped his spine. He didn’t last long after that.”
It firms a little more in his head that he’s not going to tell Roman about Tim. Not unless some command forces him to, anyway. He can play that he actually was the one who killed his target, and that everything went according to plan. No anomalies, nothing strange. Certainly not a demon-tongue-speaking accountant that put him on the ground and then declared an intent to take over the entire operation.
It’s just self preservation, Jason rationalizes. Roman knows bindings, sure, but he’s never spoken a word of the demon-tongue as far as Jason’s known him. Probably doesn’t know that it exists, and he can’t imagine Roman not wanting to learn it if he did. Jason’s not real interested in being used to teach someone the power to have even greater control over him.
It’s not about anything else.
Roman lifts the drink to him, and he takes an idle swallow when it’s tipped into his mouth. He doesn’t feel the ‘burn’ humans talk about, but it tastes alright. Whiskey; now he knows.
“You’re usually in a better mood when you’ve had some fun,” Roman comments, taking a drink himself.
“Not that exciting.” There’s nothing in his binding that stops him lying to Roman, if he wants to. Jason usually doesn’t, but he can.
The thought slips into his mind that Tim wouldn’t let him get away with that. He’d be firmly in hand.
Roman’s fingers skate up his chest, brushing the side of his throat, and Jason jerks as a sharp shock of pain flashes along his bindings. His gaze snaps up to Roman, hand bracing against the seat as he twists away to face him.
“What the hell?” he demands, rolling his shoulders to shake off the last tingling skitters of pain sliding out under his skin. “Ow.”
Roman’s eyes are a little narrowed. “Paying attention now?”
“I was paying attention.”
Roman’s hand comes up to his face, thumb swiping along his jaw. “Some of it. You know I like your full attention, Jason. Whatever’s on your mind, get rid of it; I want you here.”
Jason flashes his teeth, letting them grow out for just a second into sharper points. “I don’t see me anywhere else. You don’t have to shock me just because I’m not fawning over you; that’s not part of our deal, Roman.”
Another flash of pain, and he hisses and pulls further away from Roman.
“Come back,” comes the sharp order, but it’s a fraction of the power that came with Tim’s and this Jason can fight.
He bares his teeth a little more obviously, staying at the opposite row of seats in direct defiance of the order. It makes his bindings itch first, then hurt a second later as he denies the compulsion. Obedience is written into his bindings, but not with enough control that he can’t fight it, if he wants to. For a time. A half dozen seconds is enough to bring the markings up against his skin, power flickering along them.
It’s enough to make his point, before he lets himself move back to Roman’s side.
Roman’s hand comes to his neck, wrapping around the back of it and tugging him in closer. “You know I don’t hurt you unless you deserve it, baby.”
“Well that’s bullshit,” Jason scoffs, but he also follows the tug of Roman’s hand to swing a leg over his lap and straddle it.
A smile, and Roman’s nails dig into his neck. Not a threat, just Roman enjoying the feel of it. That, Jason doesn’t care about. Roman really can’t hurt him in any meaningful way without using the bindings against him.
“So, anything you want to tell me, pet?”
Jason shifts to get more comfortable as he considers an answer, then meets and holds Roman’s gaze, lifting his arms to rest on Roman’s shoulders and leaning close. “Just wasn’t as fulfilling as I wanted,” he says, skirting the edges of a lie. “Only one person of interest and I didn’t get to do much with him. Left me a little frustrated.”
“Yeah, baby?” Roman sets the drink aside; hooks fingertips into the hem of his slacks. “Well, I can certainly fix that.”