7 am, Day 1; Kyle/Lia

"Son, if they've seen your face, they know who you are and they'll come find you," Agent Carroll said. Kyle threw his hands up in frustration.

"Well how the hell was I supposed to know that? It's not like any of you bothered to tell me!" he said. Mrs. Stanley put her hand on his shoulder and he shrugged her off. She was probably the last person Kyle wanted touching him at that point.

He broke down the old wooden door using some of those martial arts lessons his mother had made him take last year and rushed inside. There was a girl sitting in the middle of the floor blindfolded and gagged and tied up. Kyle looked at her and hesitated. She looked terrified, sitting there shaking. He looked around the room, trying to figure out where everyone else was. He'd heard voices in the room moments before. There was no way they all had time to hide. Kyle bit his lip, trying to decide what to do. If he spent time looking around the hotel room, they might get away and take Lia with them. If he took care of the girl in front of him, like he ought to do, he would definitely lose Lia. But on the other hand, if he left the girl here and went looking for Lia, they could come back and take her away again. And it really wasn't right to leave her there alone and terrified, not knowing who was in the room with her and what they were going to do to her.

"I'll be right back," Kyle said. "Don't worry, it's going to be okay. I'm just…going to get help." He climbed the ladder sticking up through the roof and emerged just in time to catch sight of Lia being carried across a rooftop and down into another building. The man who carried her ducked his head down so that Kyle couldn't see his features. Kyle started to run towards them, but it was as though they'd disappeared.

"Help! Help me!" he heard Lia scream. The sound of her voice calling for help…the fact that she was actually calling for help made his heart rate accelerate.

"Lia!" he screamed after her, but there was no reply. He waited for a full minute, hopeful that she would answer, that she would escape from this man and come running back across the maze of building tops to him. But after a moment, he realized that she would never be able to escape them without help, so he turned back to the hotel room to go help the other girl. He pulled out his cell phone and called the police station and they sent Agent Carroll and about thirty other men up to the suite. They found Kyle and the other girl, who was too petrified to talk to anyone, sitting on the floor. Kyle held her in his arms until help arrived. She hadn't seemed injured, just scared half to death. She'd refused to come anywhere near him after he untied her until she remembered that she'd seen him give his speech in the General Assembly the previous day. Then she'd stumbled over and fallen into his arms. He sat down and she followed and he just kept rubbing her back as she pressed her face into his shoulder.

When the officers and FBI people arrived on the scene, they'd led her away somewhere to be medically examined and then questioned and Agent Carroll took Kyle aside and started questioning him.

"We can't let you go back home now," Agent Carroll told Kyle, breaking him out of his memories.

"Like hell you can't," Kyle said.

"Kyle! That is no way to talk to this man! You are misrepresenting both yourself and your school and I will not…" Mrs. Stanley started.

"Yeah, you goddamn will stand for it. I'm fairly positive that the entire universe is watching our school be disgraced already because none of you will bother to do anything to get Lia back. My back-sassing some half-assed police officer won't do anything to hurt the school even more," Kyle said.

"Young man, I would strongly suggest you watch your words right now. I could place you under arrest for hindering a federal investigation or I could have you arrested on suspicion of cooperating with a terrorist organization. Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. You choose," Agent Carroll said, smirking. Kyle clenched his fists at his sides to keep from punching the man in the face, but he didn't say anything. How dare he accuse Kyle of being in league with these sick men?

"Good. Now, I need to ask you a few questions. We're also going to have to ask that you come down to the station with us," Agent Carroll said, taking Kyle's arm. Mrs. Stanley followed behind as they walked down the hall, passing the area where the girl Kyle had found was sitting.

"Wait, please?" she said, seeing the group pass by. Agent Carroll paused.

"Yes?" he asked, clearly impatient and wanting to get down to the station as fast as he could.

"I…um, I don't know if, like, you think this guy did something or not, but, um, he wasn't one of them. Those guys, I mean. The ones who kidnapped us. He wasn't one," she said. Agent Carroll narrowed his eyes.

"What's your name, miss?" he asked. His tone was falsely polite and Kyle felt like maybe he should be nice to the girl who had been through hell and back in the past eight hours.

"Caroline Archer," she said. "Like, this guy was the one who found me. He didn't, like, do anything with those other ones. I don't recognize his face."

"I see. Miss Archer, I'm going to have to ask you to please tell Officer Parker here everything you know. When you feel up to it, tell Officer Parker and he'll escort you down to the station where I'll have a few more questions for you," Agent Carroll said, taking Kyle's arm again and leading him down the stairs.

"Kyle, I'll have you know that I'm very disappointed in you right now," Mrs. Stanley said as they walked.

"Why is that, Mrs. Stanley? Because I rescued a girl? Or because I'm not a part of a terrorist organization?" Kyle said dryly. Agent Carroll intervened before he could say anymore.

"Mrs. Stanley, I'm going to ask you to go be with the rest of your students now. I can handle this, if you don't mind," he said. Kyle thought that perhaps that was the only good thing Agent Carroll had done since he'd been there. Mrs. Stanley looked put out, but she did as Agent Carroll asked, leaving the two alone and going to find where the rest of her students were.

"Son, I need you to tell me what exactly you saw up there," Agent Carroll said. Kyle took a deep breath.

"Sit there and don't make a sound," Demetry said, pointing to the bed and letting go of Lia. He went to the ever-present laptop on the desk and brought up a screen and started typing some sort of code onto it. Lia looked with curiosity at the screen, but she couldn't see anything, so she took the medical kit off of the nightstand beside her and dabbed with the gauze inside at her bleeding nose. Demetry muttered a curse under his breath.

"What?" Lia asked.

"Nothing. Don't worry about it," he said abruptly. Lia shrugged and went back to cleaning her face up some. They sat in silence broken only by the sounds of Demetry tapping away at his keyboard and Lia's hisses as she accidentally pressed too hard on her sore nose. Finally, it got to be too much and Lia felt like she had to break the silence somehow.

"Can I ask you a question?" she asked hesitantly, looking over at where Demetry sat, staring intensely at the screen.

"I don't know, can you?" he replied tersely. Lia pursed her lips.

"You know what I meant," she said. When he didn't respond, Lia asked anyway. "What got you into this line of work? I mean, you seem like a decent human being sometimes. And decent human beings typically don't kidnap people and hold them for ransom or whatever it is you're doing right now." Lia waited for his answer as he tapped away at his computer. Demetry was silent and a long moment stretched between the pair. Just as Lia opened her mouth to ask once more, he spoke.

"I heard you the first time. I'll answer your question when you answer mine," he said, annoyed. Lia wrinkled her brow, confused. What question had he asked? Lia distinctly remembered not being allowed to not answer one of his questions.

"When did I not answer a question of yours?" she asked.

"Think about it, sweetheart. You're a bright girl," he replied enigmatically. Maybe he was still angry with her for fighting Alyssa, but she didn't know for sure. It could have just been his natural irritation that Lia was sensing. Either way, it made her angry. She thought back to their previous conversations and her mouth dropped open when she realized the question he wanted an answer to. It was the question he'd never actually spoken.

"My scars?" she asked, shocked.

"Yup," Demetry said, turning around to look at her face. She stared at him with a mixture of shock and embarrassment, finding it hard to believe that he would make her answer a question so personal and so private. Her brain wasn't processing the fact that she'd asked an almost equally personal question. He could have a past that would put any mother in the grave if she found out and Lia had gone ahead and asked the question without thinking.

"Absolutely not!" Lia said. Demetry just shrugged and turned around again, going back to his computer. He'd angled it so that she couldn't see anything on the screen.

"What are you doing?" she asked after a while. When Demetry didn't answer her, she sighed in frustration. If he was going to force her to go back to that night…Lia didn't know if she could come back again. She'd never told anyone and it was the single experience that she'd successfully managed to block from her memory. Not even her therapist had heard the full story. He only knew the bare basics and all of the gory details were locked up in a part of Lia's mind that she didn't even access except once a year on the anniversary.

"I was only fifteen," Lia said. Demetry turned around to face her, but that seemed to make it worse. Her words got stuck in her throat. It was harder to talk when she knew someone was listening. She'd rehearsed the story for hours in front of her mirror in the year after it happened, trying to figure out what she'd tell her parents when they inevitably asked, what she'd tell the kids at school who saw her changing in the locker room for gym class, what she'd tell the people at the pool over summer when she was in her bathing suit. But no one had ever asked, so she'd never had the practice.

"I was only fifteen," she repeated. Somehow it was easier to talk to him because she didn't really know him at all. He was just some strange man who'd come and kidnapped her in the middle of some stupid conference she'd never wanted to go to in the first place. Lia shut her eyes tight as she remembered back to that day, that awful, worst day of her entire life, including her present circumstances. They couldn't even compare to that day.

She walked along the street, swinging her backpack along behind her. She was in a bad part of town. There weren't any really good parts of town, to be honest, but this part was particularly bad. Her parents couldn't be bothered to pick her up from school, so she'd had to walk the three miles home. Angelina was moving into the new college dorm in New York and they were up there helping her get settled. They wouldn't even going to be back for another three days and they'd been gone for the entire week before that. They'd missed her first day of school so that they could be with Angelina for her first day of college and Lia was bitter about that. They'd always liked Angelina better. She was prettier and smarter and more willing to do whatever they asked her to do than Lia was.

So Lia was forced to choose: walk five miles through downtown or three miles through the worst part of town in order to get home. She chose the shorter way. It had been a hard day at school and she had homework in five different classes that was all due the next day and she just wanted to go home and take a nap. She watched her shoes drag along the ground in front of her as she walked down the streets. No one made eye contact in that part of town. It could get a person killed. So when a man started following her, she never even batted an eyelash.

She never heard him coming. She didn't even know what was going on at first. One minute, she was rushing home, clutching her bag to her chest so that no one could steal it from her and the next, she was lying flat on her face and there was a strange man in a dark tan trench coat crouching over her. He slapped her face a little, trying to tell if he'd knocked her out or just disoriented. Lia couldn't even tell what he looked like and the next thing she knew, she was being dragged by her ankles into a dark alleyway and he was unbuckling his pants and…

Lia stopped, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening to spill over. She opened her eyes to find Demetry staring at her with an intensity she'd never seen on his face before. He looked…human. Like he cared about what was done to her and what she'd had to live through that day.

"I think you get the point," she mumbled. That wasn't even the worst part. What came next…that was the worst part.

He finished with her and ripped the shirt off of Lia's back, using it to clean himself off. He took a knife out of his pocket and began carving his name into her back, making cuts not so deep that she would bleed out and die, but not so shallow so that they would heal up and not scar. He wanted to make a lasting impression on her. He wanted to inflict the mental pain that seeing those scars every day for the rest of her life would bring. Throughout it all, all Lia could think of was that her parents would be so angry at her for losing her new bag. She barely even felt the pain through the haze in her mind. She didn't even have the energy to fight.

About half way through the ordeal, the man stopped for some reason. Lia lifted her head slightly and found that he'd been lifted away from her broken body and was running away. She barely even realized that there was another, new man in the alley with her. She just put her head down on her arm and tried to go to sleep, convinced that if she could just go to sleep, she'd wake up and it would all be over and she'd never have to remember the awful dream she'd had. But no, the new man wouldn't let her sleep. He helped her up and into the apartment and he gave her a men's shirt that was three sizes too big for her and a pair of sweatpants, saying something about how he couldn't call the police or an ambulance for her because if he did, they'd take him away to jail. Lia thought this was very logical at the time. Why would she send this man to jail for helping her? It made no sense. So she picked herself up and walked home, feeling the blood from her back seep into the man's sweatpants. When she got home, she had to let herself in with the spare key in the garage and she went to take a shower immediately. The drain got clogged with something and she looked down to see the swirling red water around her ankles and didn't understand where it was all coming from.

She got out of the shower and looked at her back in the mirror. It shone bright red and she could see the angry welts already beginning to form. They hadn't stopped bleeding. She tried to take care of them as best she could, smearing antibiotic cream all over her back. There was so much blood that she couldn't even put band-aids on them. She lay down on a bed of rags and went to sleep without a shirt on. The next day, she called herself off of school, saying that she'd thrown up the previous night. It wasn't a lie. When she saw the amount of blood in the bathtub, she'd thrown up so much that there wasn't anything left to throw up. The school didn't even care. Lia was just another number to them. She was just a number to everyone. She spent the day lying on her stomach without a shirt and swallowing Advil like it was candy. She thought through the haze in her mind that with the amount of meds she was pouring into her system, she might overdose, but she didn't even care. Anything would be better than the searing fire of pain in her back.

Lia looked in her mom's medicine cabinets for a morning-after pill and swallowed three, just in case. Her parents came home later that week and never said anything to her. The bloody clothes had been thrown out and the rags she'd used to lay on had been burned. The cuts on her back had scabbed over enough to be able to wear a shirt again. They never knew a thing, just that their youngest daughter was slightly more subdued than normal.

"What about the scars on the backs of your thighs?" Demetry asked, interrupting the flow of words from Lia's mouth. She jumped, having forgotten that he was there listening to her every word. She drew in a shaky breath.

"I have more than physical scars," she said, smiling wanly. "I felt useless and unwanted, especially because my so-called parents never noticed a thing. Cutting myself helped, but I had to do it somewhere no one would notice. It was for my own personal pleasure and not for anyone else to ever see. So I cut the backs of my thighs. It was good because it hurt when I did it and then sitting down made the cuts reopen and it hurt again. I told my therapist about that. He prescribed some anti-depressants that never worked, but I stopped cutting, so he told me I made progress. Really, it just felt weird that someone knew about it." She stopped talking, having said everything she wanted to say. It wasn't enough. It wasn't nearly enough. But it was a start and Lia already felt like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. It was the first time she'd been completely vulnerable around anyone like that since the day it happened and under the circumstances, it felt good.

Lia looked up to find Demetry's eyes on hers, the bright blue showing, of all things, concern for her. She looked around the room, anywhere but him. She didn't want his pity. She didn't need to see how bad he felt for her because her past was something personal and private and she didn't want it to affect how other people saw her. It was for that exact reason that she'd held off telling everyone for so long. She didn't want it to affect Demetry's personal opinion of her. She looked back into his eyes, closing herself off from him. The feeling of being so bare in front of him was uncomfortable and she was done with it.

"Your turn," she said.

"Mine isn't quite as good as yours," he said dryly. Lia smiled bitterly.

"No, I would expect that it wouldn't be."

"Well…I'm not the head of this organization. I'm not a major part of it. I'm just the…the…whatchamacallit between the grunt workers like those guys out there and the people coordinating the entire operation," he said.

"Liaison," Lia corrected. Demetry looked at her, confused. "You're the liaison between the grunt workers and bosses or whatever."

"Whatever. The short version of my life is that I was the only child of a single mom who worked at Wal-Mart to keep me in thrift store clothes with McDonald's in my stomach. My dad didn't stick around after I was born but he sent fucking child-support checks every month that kept us in our shithole trailer. Mom did what she could, I guess, but she dropped out of school when I was born and she didn't even have her GED. I was fine until high school when I got into trouble like any self-respecting brat does. Fell in with the "wrong crowd" and all that. Freshman year, I got into so many fights that they sent me to an alternate learning center, which was just a fancy name for Bad Boy School. I got caught with weed in my locker there and they sent me to a juvenile delinquent center, where I chose not to be the jailhouse bitch and I started working out and got tougher in there than I ever would have if I'd never gone. I didn't bother going back to school when I got out so I got a job at this restaurant that my buddy had referred me to. I fixed up the computers and stuff there as well, which was something I was always really good at before the detention center and the boss noticed and I guess the place doubled as some sort of headquarters for a major terrorist organization.

"They wanted tech-support so they recruited me and once I started working for tem, there was no way out of it unless I felt like going back to jail and being tried as an adult. So I did what I could, working my way up through the ranks until the bosses trusted me enough to start sending me out on missions and whatever. The way they have me working now, the entire government is after me. FBI, CIA, DOA, Homeland Security, all of them are after me without actually knowing who I am. If I wanted to, I could split off from this group and run my own and I'd be the most wanted man in the entire world. But it's too much work to do that and I have no desire to ruin the world, so I stick with these guys. It's just not worth it to leave."

Lia stared at him. Demetry leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms.

"That's it?" she asked. He nodded, his face relaxing back into the familiar emotional mask that Lia was coming to hate. "That's all you have to say, after everything I told you?"

"That's it," he said. Lia just looked at him, irritated and annoyed and completely and totally hating the man for what he'd made her do and then not offering himself up to repay her.

"I don't understand why you think you're so dangerous," Lia said after a moment.

"I have enough knowledge of computers and the way the internet works to bring down the entire system of operations in the United States government. I studied government in the alternative facility and spent pretty much the entire time I was in the detention facility building and designing my own computer system that's completely untraceable and undetectable. No one else in the world knows how it works and if I wanted to, I could break the internet. If I felt like it, I could get through to the White House computer system and crash every single computer in the area with the press of a button. And besides that, I've killed or seriously hurt enough people that they have a file on me in every section of the government that says that if I'm ever detected, they should kill me if they have even the slightest opportunity. I'm not one to let people who see my face get off free so the most they know about me is a very vague drawing that could be any of those men out there," he said.

"Oh," Lia replied, not impressed. Demetry saw that and a look of irritation flickered across his face.

"I don't think you understand. There are people who have paid millions of dollars to bounty hunters to even attempt to capture or kill me. Some of the top bounty hunters in the world are dead now by my hands," he said, stressing the last part as if he wanted Lia to know that he was capable of killing important people. She eyed his hands carefully.

"So what about my other question?" she asked hesitantly. She wasn't entirely sure he would answer her considering she'd only answered one of his.

"I suppose since you answered so honestly, I'll let you get away with asking another one," he said. "I'm looking to make sure Kyle isn't following us again or ratting on us to his policeman buddy." Lia's breath caught in her chest.

"Kyle wouldn't do anything like that," she insisted. Kyle was anything but a rat.

"Sure," he said, looking back at her. "Of course he wouldn't. Lia, he's clearly worried about you. If he thinks there's even the slightest chance of getting you back, he'll do whatever it takes."

"But…you don't…you're not going to…"Lia stuttered. If Demetry killed Kyle, she would kill Demetry, world's greatest hitman or not.

"I don't know. It depends," he said. "We need to get you cleaned up now." Lia followed him into the bathroom numbly, desperately trying to block the image of him killing Kyle from her mind. Demetry tossed her a new shirt and jeans and she changed without a word, not caring that he could see her body. After what she'd told him, what was the point? All of the important parts were covered, but even if they weren't, she was sure he wouldn't care. She was damaged goods. No one wanted to deal with that. But Demetry still averted his eyes, and it didn't escape Lia's notice. She wished he hadn't. Obviously he didn't have any respect for her body, what with all the abuse he put it through. She wanted him to see the pain he'd caused her. She was bruised and battered front and back. Her face was smeared with blood, just as she'd suspected. Lia used a washcloth to gently clean it off, but it was still bruised and swollen. Demetry handed her some heavy concealer, which she pasted onto her face without a word. She couldn't recognize herself when she looked in the mirror when it was all on.

"Good enough," Demetry said, looking at her and nodding. "You're going to have to hold my hand and if you let go for even a second, bad things will happen to your friend." Lia flinched. He'd noticed how much she cared for Kyle. It was a weakness and he was going to exploit it. "We're going down to the hotel lobby and although I personally think it's a bad plan, we're going to meet someone down there. If you talk to anyone and tell them anything even remotely relevant to what's going on up here, I will shoot you and everyone else in the lobby, understand me?" Lia nodded and they left the room and he de-electrified the doorknob before turning around to address the room.

"Nick…no, Darryl, you're in charge here until I get back. If something happens and we don't return before 10, take the girls and go to the third location. If there's an emergency, text the fourth number, understand?" he said. Darryl nodded and one of the girls stood up.

"Why does she get to leave? Why can't we leave?" she whined. Lia rolled her eyes. She was definitely not in the mood to deal with this kind of thing.

"Because I'm special," Lia snapped. Demetry smirked and pushed her out into the hall before she had a chance to say something to make the other girls angry. They took the penthouse elevator all the way to the lobby and Demetry slipped his hand into Lia's half-way down. His hand was warm and slightly clammy, but she didn't mind. It was nice to get out of the penthouse. The constant travelling between bedrooms and living room was boring.

They paced the length of the lobby twice before the concierge asked them if they were looking for something. Demetry nudged her discretely and she told the man that they were just looking for a friend who was late. He nodded and left them alone and Demetry took her to the Starbucks to wait for God only knew what. It couldn't get much worse than it already was, Lia thought.

So I don't really like this chapter. I feel like the flashbacks are obvious and obnoxious and I'd love a way to make them a little less conspicuous, if anyone has any suggestions...

Also, I realize that this chapter has been veeeery late and I apologize. I'm going to attempt to speed up my updates again. I lost a little of my creativity there for a while, but I think I have it back. As always, I'd love to hear constructive criticism, especially about those flashbacks. They're an integral part of the story, so I can't take them out completely, but I really think they're annoying the way they are right now. Thanks!