Each stroke of the paintbrush was another reminder of how powerless he was. It was magic he’d never seen before; with the art coming right off the page and wrapping around his neck as tightly as possible.
His feet kicked frantically, fingers scratching at the colorful ribbons around his neck as he struggled to tug them free. It wasn’t working – he was merely clawing at skin, as the ribbons had turned right back into paint. His blurry vision remained focused on the culprit, the painter, who was humming some French tune that was hard to place. Hard to focus.
“P-lea-,” he choked out, trying not to heave up saliva and bile. “I c–”
“No, you are dying, I expect.” The painter turned around to stare at him. “I told you before to stay out of my way. You had to play the hero, didn’t you?” The painter’s eyes narrowed in hatred. “This is what’s wrong with the rest of you: you can’t leave well enough alone. Now it’s just you, and me…” he trailed off as he turned back to his easel, dipping his brush in paint again.
“–and my art.” Another slow stroke across the paper, another ribbon wrapping around his captive’s neck. He turned around once more, blankly staring at the captive ego falling onto his back.
“—pl-” the captive whispered, tears streaming down his cheeks. He was losing this fight, unable to even gasp out for breath. His vision was spotty, and he was aware he was going to collapse into unconsciousness at any moment. “L-let….” His eyelids were fluttering now. “…m–”
Help me, someone, please…
No matter how hard he struggled, he couldn’t get his hands free. It was real, ordinary rope that kept his hands bound, and not that stupid magical paint he hated and feared so much.
Chase didn’t know why he was propped in front of an easel, and he had no idea where the painter even was. Chase barely knew him, other than he was some other ego, or claimed to be. He'd seemed so nice at first, but now? Chase didn’t much like the look of him; that painter had a troubled look in his eyes that made the vlogger feel uneasy.
Chase could barely remember how he’d even come to be tied to a chair in the first place. It probably wasn’t even that important; what was important that he find a way out of here so he could go home.
He didn’t get to struggle for too much longer, a door somewhere behind him creaked open, and he could hear heavy footsteps moving closer, and finally around so Chase could see the painter again.
He was covered in paint already, and Chase glared in suspicion. If the man had paint on his hands and arms, he’d been up to no good, and Chase didn’t want to think about what kind of trouble his magical abilities could cause.
“You won’t make it,” the painter said, waving at Chase’s still moving arms. “My knots are very good, if I may say so.”
“Where were you?” Chase asked pointedly. He ceased his struggles only to avoid tiring himself out. “What are you up to, what do you want with me?”
“I was taking care of company,” the painter replied with a small shrug as he turned toward the easel. “It is no matter, he won’t be bothering us again.” He pulled out a paintbrush from a drawer next to the easel, along with a palette. He fell silent as he applied paint to his tools, using the brightest colors of paint he had available.
“Who was here?” Chase was trying not to sound too urgent, but he had a feeling he couldn’t shake off, and it wasn’t a happy feeling. “Who?”
“No one important,” the painter replied. “You won’t care soon enough for it to matter.” He turned to grin at Chase, showing his teeth. “I want you to do something for me,” he continued. “I want you to stare at the center of this paper.”
He dipped his paintbrush into the yellow before taking it to the easel, drawing a small dot right in the center. That dot already seemed to be coming off the page, yet, it wasn’t moving. Frowning, Chase blinked, struggling to understand what the painter was talking about. The color choice was barely visible against the white paper, but the painter wasn’t done.
He was drawing a spiral.
Chase wanted to laugh at the cheesiness of it all. The painter was drawing loops, with paint that seemed to never run out, and they were spinning, weaving, jumping off the paper and floating, dancing in mid-air.
Chase felt himself leaning back, completely in awe of this magic. What had terrified him mere hours ago was now beautiful. He could learn to like yellow.
“That’s it,” the painter murmured, voice barely registering in Chase’s ears. “Just keep watching, keep relaxing.” the man paused only long enough to choose a different color: blue, this time. The spiral was now blue and yellow, with was turning into green, and Chase was almost smiling at the simplicity of it all.
“Just enjoy the colors,” the painter continued. “Watch them dance for you. Nothing else matters, really. No more thoughts of escape, no more thoughts of being rescued. Just you and me.”
“-and my art.”
Chase was dizzy, mind spiraling away with the colors. Everything the painter was saying made sense. Why should he worry about going home? He was comfortable right here! If the painter wanted to be alone, he had every right to take care of any intruders.
“Just keep relaxing, just keep staring.” The painter’s voice was now coming from very far away, though Chase didn’t have to strain too much to hear him. “Just keep sinking, just keep floating.”
Chase could feel his body trying to list off to the side. It wasn’t uncomfortable, he was quite relaxed. If only his hands weren’t actually bound! That probably didn’t matter either, his vision was filled with spiraling, bright colors that danced around the room and he was happy to watch the show.
When he felt fingers running through his hair, his eyelids fluttered, with him letting out a soft sigh at the caress. “That’s it, my beautiful man. You’re mine now, okay?”
Chase mumbled something, probably a yes, in a slurred attempt to agree with the painter. This was the man who’d given him a peace he hadn’t felt in forever. Everything else felt too far away and distant for him to worry about.
“Sleep,” the painter whispered, lips pressed right against his ear. Chase could almost hear a giggle in that word, but within a split second, that didn’t matter either.
By the time Jackie finally found the apartment, he felt a cold sense of dread. Something was wrong. It had taken him almost the entire day to find this location, and Marvin and Chase had already been missing for longer.
Marvin’s phone had been off for half the day, which had only lent to Jackie’s increasing panic. His mind had automatically imagined the worst, that Jacques had somehow gotten his hands on the magician and done something to him. Jackie didn’t want to even think about what the painter was doing with Chase.
The smell of paint was wafting out in strong, nausea-inducing waves that made Jackie’s stomach churn painfully, bringing him back to the present. He couldn’t worry about getting his revenge; there’d be plenty of time to kick ass later. Right now, Jackie wanted to make sure that the other two were okay, and safe from Jacques.
Swallowing back the lump in his throat, he tried the door. He wasn’t at all surprised to find it locked. Had it been anyone else’s home, Jackie would have knocked, or tried to find a nicer way inside. This time, Jackie snapped the handle right off the door before using his shoulder to shove the door open.
Upon first glance, nothing seemed out of place. There was a bit of a mess, but that wasn’t unusual for any home. There were some clothes strewn about, he could see dishes lying around. Most importantly, it looked empty.
Jackie was no idiot though. He could see paint strewn about, though it looked as if someone had tried to clean it up before leaving. Jackie’s lip curled back when he realized he’d arrived too late to catch Jacques.
There was definitely a sign of battle here. Not just with the spilled paint, but Jackie could see that some dishes were broken, and a couple of kitchen chairs had been knocked over. There was nothing else out here that indicated anything more, so Jackie moved to the rooms. Throwing open the first door, he saw an easel planted int he middle of the room, next to a chair. A mess of colors was on the easel; a grotesque mix of yellow, blue, green and red in some bizarre circle. Jackie had no idea what the significance of this was, but he didn’t want to hang around in the room long enough to find out.
It was the second -and last- bedroom that had Jackie panicking.
It was clearly the room Jacques had set up as his ‘bedroom’. There was a small bed, a dresser, and a several huge drawers and boxes filled with pants, paintings, and various paint tools. Paint splattered the walls, but what attracted Jackie’s attention the most was Marvin on the bed.
Immediately, Jackie was by his side. Marvin was positioned as if he was merely napping, but Jackie’s stomach lurched when he grabbed Marvin’s hand.
His skin was cold.
He wasn’t breathing, either. “No, no, Marvin, wake up!” Jackie shook him roughly, hoping that Marvin was just unconscious. “Marvin, please!”
Forget trying to bring Jacques to justice, Jackie wanted to hurt him! He started rubbing at Marvin’s arms, chest, anywhere really, to see if the blood would start pumping through Marvin’s body again. Jackie wasn’t sure if he was doing much good, but he could hear Marvin’s heart just barely, and even with his super hearing, he had to really strain to listen. He moved his hands up to tilt Marvin’s head back, but as he did so, he noticed ringlets of color around Marvin’s neck.
Why would Jacques paint Marvin’s neck? Jackie was confused by the action, wondering just what sort of bizarre, twisted version of fun the painter delved into.
It didn’t really matter right then. Jackie needed to get Marvin breathing again. Jackie had to struggle to keep the rhythm, but he wasn’t straining so hard to hear a heartbeat anymore. Marvin’s heart was speeding up, and his skin was starting to feel warmer. Still, Jackie was frantic: trembling, confused, scared and angry. Nothing was making sense to him anymore, except for Marvin.
“Come on!” He snapped angrily, beating a fist down on Marvin’s chest. “Wake up! Come on, you’re supposed to protect us!” He could ignore the tears streaming down his cheeks, or the way he felt like he was going to choke on his own emotions. “Marvin! Come BACK!” He his fist again to beat Marvin’s chest, when Marvin’s hand came up to grab at him.
For a long time, Jackie remained frozen. Marvin was still lying there with closed eyes, but his arm was raised, fingers wrapped tightly around Jackie’s wrist to hold him in place. Jackie couldn’t tell if the quick, wheezing gasps were coming from Marvin or him.
Finally, slowly, Marvin’s other hand came up to scratch at the paint around his neck, parting his lips just slightly. “…ca–” Marvin wheezed, barely able to make a sound. “…br…e…” His eyelids fluttered, flashes of blue barely showing in brief flashes as his eyes struggled to open.
Yanking his arm back, Jackie bent forward, using his fingertips to scrub furiously at the paint at the front of Marvin’s neck. Jackie had no idea what the paint was, or what it was doing to Marvin. He had a feeling that this wasn’t anything good; it made him hate Jacques even more.
He was never more satisfied when Marvin finally shuddered, writhing on the bed as he gasped for air. The magician curled into Jackie, breaking into sobs of his own as he clutched his neck. Jackie wrapped his arms around Marvin, gathering him up tightly just to hold him, letting himself freely cry too.
Chase was still missing, Jacques was gone again, but Jackie could worry about that later. Right now, Marvin was alive, and that was what Jackie needed.
For awhile, he’d been riding in a car: a taxi, half slumped against Jacques. Jacques had spent the entire time playing with Chase’s hair and murmuring to him about how it was so nice to just be at peace, without a care in the world. Chase had agreed wholeheartedly; it had been forever since he felt this relaxed. It felt nice to let someone take care of him with such a loving embrace.
He couldn’t remember why he’d been so afraid of Jacques at first.
Somewhere along the way, Chase had drifted off, slipping away into some sort of oblivion where he couldn’t see or hear anything. He might’ve fallen asleep, but he honestly couldn’t be sure, especially with the power Jacques had over him.
When reality came swimming back into place, he was lying on a bed, staring idly at a ceiling. Chase got the impression he was in a hotel room, it looked like one. After looking around the room, it was more plain that’s where he was, except with one double bed instead of two. Chase admittedly wasn’t surprised to know there was just one bed, or that he wasn’t alone. He could hear Jacques moving around the room.
‘Are you awake?” Jacques came into focus then, which had Chase rolling over onto his side to stretch. “Ah, yes, good, good.” He sat down on the edge of the bed, grinning down at the vlogger. “You’re a sleepy man. You were asleep for a few hours now. You looked very peaceful.”
“What did you do to me?” Chase asked, propping himself up on his elbows. He didn’t feel much of the fear or anger from before; it was settled deep in the back of his mind where he couldn’t quite access. Dimly, he was aware that Jacques had something to do with it. It didn’t stop Chase from trying to feel those emotions. “Why am I not afraid of you? What was that trick with the paint?”
“I did nothing to you that you didn’t agree to,” Jacques said simply. He reached forward to trace a finger down Chase’s cheek in a tender caress. Now that Chase was awake and starting to feel like himself again, he flinched away from the touch.
“I don’t understand,” he said, sitting upright. “What about the others?” He had a feeling that one of them was the person Jacques had disposed of. Chase hoped that wasn’t the case.
“Do not worry so hard.” Jacques went right back to caressing, undeterred by the random act of defiance. “You don’t remember, but you did agree to be with me. You agreed that only I could help you.” He smiled, moving his hand to brush along Chase’s hairline.
It was such a simple touch, but Chase’s body was relaxing into it. He could feel that same distant haze starting to creep up into his mind again, but he wanted to fight it. Or rather, he felt like he should. “How can you help?” He asked. “Jackie and Marvin were already helping, and Marvin’s got magic to protect me.”
“Because, I can make you feel true peace,” Jacques explained. His voice was keeping with that soft cadence, and Chase was starting to realize that maybe he was trying to lull Chase back under. “Think about it, my friend. You have stress, do you not?”
“Well, yeah.” He was no longer feeling the need to fight so much. His headache was gone now, and that was something Marvin hadn’t even been able to help with. Maybe Jacques had a point. Chase wasn’t trying so hard anymore to access the locked-up emotions. It was simpler to let Jacques help. He was here, after all. He let himself lie back down, deciding it would be easier to just listen. Just listen.
Jacques’ fingers moved idly through Chase’s hair as he spoke. “I can keep you from stress. No more headaches, no more having to worry about the others. You just focus on me, okay?” He was smiling down at Chase, with a smile that made Chase feel almost warm.
“I want to trust you,” Chase said, voice barely any louder than Jacques’. “I don’t know if I can though. I want to go home.”
“Mon amour, you are home. It may not feel like it now, but you will soon see.” Jacques was continuing the caress, starting at the hairline, and moving fingers through to the back of Chase’s head. It was a small, rhythmic motion that sent chills down his entire body. It was so gentle.
“Shhh, you are still sleepy. I see you blinking. You need your rest, Chase Brody.” Jacques laughed softly at that. “I promise, you are safe with me. I won’t let anything happen to you. In the meantime, all you need is just to trust me and rest.”
“….I….” Chase furrowed his brows as he stared up at Jacques, unable to figure out what the man was doing to him. For the second time, his thoughts were already starting to spiral away from him, letting him feel like he was sinking right into the bed. “What are you doing to me?” He managed to ask, forcing his eyes to stay open.
“You don’t worry about that.” Jacques’ voice was almost smug. “I have your best interests at heart. I am the only one you need anymore, and you will come to realize it. The others failed you, Mon amour. You’ll see.”
The fight was almost completely gone. Every point Chase tried to bring up, Jacques had a reasonable counter to it. He had even been right in that he hadn’t done anything to Chase – Chase had slept pretty well for the first time in a long time. He couldn’t really fault Jacques for that.
As far as the others? Well, he disagreed. He was aware that they’d probably try to look for him, but he was also too tired right now to argue the point or think about how they were feeling. He had more important things to think about right now.
For the second time, Chase let himself drift off. His last thoughts of those fingers in his hair, and the gentle whispering from the man who was so loving toward him.
It felt nice.
Sorry for not updating sooner! I've been wrestling with a nasty bout of insomnia, and it's knocked me down. I'm working on recovering though, I just need to take it easy. <3
Sorry for the long delay!
A lot of stuff happened within several months. A lot. I'm doing okay, and getting my writing muse back though! I'd already posted the last two chapters on tumblr, but because of said personal issues, I never got around to moving them here. With that, I am updating the story! Stay tuned for more chapters!
Stacy was still holding her phone as she pulled the door open, laughing at the man who stood on the other side. She didn’t even mind the morning glare that caused her to squint. “You know Chase, when I sent you an email begging for help, I didn’t think you’d actually show.”
“Usually help means you need someone to take the kids off your hands.” Chase pulled his sunglasses off as Stacy beckoned him inside. “So, I’m offering.” He placed his sunglasses on top of his hat before shoving hands into his pockets. “You’ve been working harder lately, haven’t you?”
Stacy rolled her eyes. “You have no idea. Between work, them, their homework, my sister, I feel like I could use a day off. I hate the idea that my day off means I have to play mom too.” She pressed a hand to her forehead. “I’ll pay you.”
“Stacy, I’m their father. You don’t have to pay me anything.” Chase laughed. “Hell, I’ll give you money to treat yourself to a manicure or something.”
Stacy sighed. “You have no idea how nice that sounds. I just wish you had a phone so I could call.” She ushered Chase inside, closing the door and blocking out the bright sunlight. Instant relief flooded her face at the dimness of the house. “Why don’t you have your phone, Chase? What if I needed you for any reason?”
“Call Trey’s phone.” Chase shrugged. “I told you over email I had to get out of the house for awhile.”
“Okay, but where are you staying? Don’t tell me with a friend again.” The grin faded from Stacy’s face. This was Chase, but had something happened to make him not want to talk to his housemates? Chase had been vague over email, only telling her that he was staying with a friend and that he was fine. She didn’t trust it.
“Yes, with a friend,” Chase repeated firmly. “I got into a fight with Marvin and Jackie, and Jacques has been helping me through it. I might go back soon, I just need to clear my head.”
“I don’t know anything about Jacques.” Stacy crossed her arms, staring up at Chase with suspicion. “He’s not going to join you today, is he? He’s just a friend, nothing more?” Chase stared blankly at her before his eyes widened when he realized what she was insinuating.
“Oh gods no, Stacy! No, I’m not sleeping with him! No, I’m here to help you out, okay? This is between you and me, no one else.”
“I don’t want them around anyone inappropriate. We had a deal, Chase.” She had nothing to go on other than his word, and he seemed genuine enough. Still, Stacy couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off with him. “Why are you fighting with your housemates?”
“It’s so stupid.” Chase rolled his eyes. “They’ve been babying me, so I left. I’m a grown man, Stace.”
She threw her hands up in defense. “Okay, okay. I trust you. I’m sorry I’m such a nag.” She offered an apologetic smile. “You know how I can get, what with everything that goes on in that house of yours. I don’t want our kids to get hurt.”
“No, don’t worry. I’ll take them to the waterpark today. I’ll hang onto Trey’s phone too, so we can text each other. I’ll even show you what you’re missing out on while the kids and I go down every waterslide.”
“Chase, it’s October.”
“Indoor waterparks exist!”
Stacy laughed. “I know, I know. Wait here, I’ll go get them.” Stacy disappeared upstairs to wrangle the children. It took longer than Stacy wanted to, with Lydia immediately grabbing at Chase’s legs and clinging onto him, and Trey trying to impress his dad by showing off all his latest toys. Chase seemed to be encouraging the delay too, as if he knew it was driving Stacy mad.
Finally, after almost forty-five minutes, Stacy closed the door behind the group, ears almost ringing in the silence. Chase had left her with some money, enough that she could go pamper herself twice over. She really needed this.
She started to head upstairs when her phone rang. Looking down at the caller ID, she let out a frustrated groan before answering. “Marvin, you have to stop calling me.”
“I’ve been trying to reach you all week. Stacey you can hang up later, but this is important: Have you heard from Chase? He’s been missing for a week now.”
“Missing?” Stacy snorted. “I know you’re known for your theatrics, but you can’t call me up with a sob story. He just left with the kids.”
“….what?” Marvin’s voice sounded as if he was struggling to speak now, it was far more scratchy than it was just seconds ago. “Stacy you shouldn’t have.”
“Marvin, whatever you’re fighting about, it’s between you two to work out. He’s allowed to see his kids.”
“Stacy, he’s been missing. Someone kid-fighting? He said we were fighting?” Marvin’s voice was rising with panic. “Stacy what else did he say?”
Those feelings of unease were coming back, stronger than ever. “Nothing, Marvin. He just said he was staying with a friend. Jack..no…it was French. Jacques? I guess Jacques was helping Chase out while you were fighting….”
“Stacy, no. Jacques is the one who kidnapped him. Oh god, Chase has the kids!”
“Marvin, I really don’t want to believe you.” Stacy’s own breathing was shaky now. “For all I know, this is just some elaborate hoax, some way to give me hell for….something. I don’t know.”
Marvin barked out a harsh laugh. “Stacy, we don’t want to drag you into anything. Jacques tried to fucking kill me to keep Chase, and you just let Chase walk out your front door, with Trey and Lydia.”
The floor could have opened up beneath her feet, and Stacy could have plummeted to her death. An earthquake could have hit her house and destroyed everything, and she would have been okay with either scenario. The idea of some madman and Chase walking away with her kids rendered her frozen in place, staring blankly at the wall. Had Chase gone evil? He loved his kids, he always doted on them when he could. How had he gotten away from Jacques? Was Marvin even telling the truth?
“Stacy, are you there? Hello?”
“…I’m here, Marv,” she whispered. “Chase seemed so normal. I don’t think-”
“We think Jacques did something to him. Hey, listen. Can I come over? I don’t think you should be alone right now. Or…get in your car and drive over here. I’ll send Jackie out to make sure you’re not being followed. We’re going to figure this out, okay?”
“We’ll get them back, I promise. Nothing’s going to happen to them. Stacy, listen to me. We’ll get them and Chase back. Please come over here, we’ll talk.”
Stacy hung up without saying anything. There was no reason to get dressed up now. Grabbing at her purse, she shoved the money, and her phone, instead before grabbing her keys and running to her car. If Chase and her kids were in trouble, she wasn’t going to ignore Marvin’s calls anymore.
She just hoped nothing happened to them.
Stacy nervously tapped her fingers against the steering wheel as she watched traffic inch slowly forward. She wasn’t too far away from the manor now. She knew the turn onto their private drive was just a few blocks away, but that didn’t stop her from feeling any less impatient.
Traffic was inching forward too slowly, even as the light turned green. She felt as if she’d been sitting here for hours, so impatiently, she laid on her horn, trying to get the vehicle in front of her to move faster.
She had already tried calling Trey’s cellphone, but neither Trey nor Chase had picked up. Her imagination was going wild with paranoia, imagining this Jacques plotting to take her children out of the country. She was pissed at Chase all over again, unable to believe that he had kidnapped her children right from under her nose! She knew she should have trusted her instincts.
She was started out of her thoughts when a horn honked back at her, alerting Stacy to the fact that it was her turn to move forward. Swearing at herself, she pressed the gas, zipping forward. At that moment, her cellphone rang.
Without looking away from the road, Stacy fumbled to answer it, blindly fumbling to hit the speaker phone. “Talk to me,” she demanded. She hadn’t seen who the caller was, but she hoped it was Chase or Trey.
“Stacy?” It was Marvin’s voice. “You need to relax.” He still sounded weary and like he was struggling to speak. While she was disappointed that it wasn’t her son, she was still relieved to hear another human voice.
“I can’t relax Marvin,” she said, trying to focus on him instead of her wild thoughts. “I should’ve trusted my instincts.”
“You’re close enough that I can hear your emotions.” Marvin let out a sigh. “Jackie said you weren’t being followed either, so you’re in the clear.”
Her lip quivered. “I want to know what happened to you.”
“I’ll answer everything the second you get here. Jackie’s already back. Just drive carefully, Stace. We’re going to figure it out, I promise.” With that, Marvin hung up the phone. Stacy let out a shaky breath as her gaze flicked up, still hoping to see Jackie above her, but there was no red dot in the background. If he really was gone, it meant she was in the clear.
Turning down the private drive, Stacy shifted nervously in her seat as looked at the familiar manor just at the end of the road. A blink later and she was parking her car, with Jackie coming outside to greet her. He didn’t look too thrilled to see her, but given the circumstances, Stacy supposed even Jackie could put aside his grudge toward her.
“Hey,” she greeted nervously as she climbed out of the car. “Have you heard-”
“No. If they haven’t called you, they’re sure as hell not going to call us.” Jackie let out a sigh. “You’re staying with us for awhile.” He led her inside. “Don’t argue with me either, I’d rather not have to worry about you going off and doing something stupid on top of the others missing.”
“Yeah, you are, Stacy. You’re impulsive.” He closed and locked the front door behind them. “Anyway, I’m going to go pack for you. If Jacques and Chase are working together, then Chase gave Jacques full access to your house.”
It was then that Stacy let out the sob she’d been holding back. Awkwardly, Jackie patted her back and ushered her to the living room, where Marvin was already waiting, looking exhausted. She collapsed on the couch, burying her face in her hands.
“He has magic powers,” Marvin said softly. Stacy’s head snapped up to stare at him. She wanted to ask, but Marvin was already a step ahead of her. “He’s an artist,” Marvin continued. “Or something. He did something with his paint. It flew right off the page, wrapped around my neck.” He tilted his head back, revealing a red splotch that was still faintly visible, looking more like a bruise than something else.
“H-how did you….?”
“I found him,” Jackie piped up. “Jacques entered the scene, trying to play nice. Turns out, he and Marvin had history.” He shot Marvin a dirty look, which Stacy ignored. This wasn’t relevant to her interests. “Marvin, in all his arrogant wisdom, decided Jacques wasn’t worth our time, and shunned him.”
“He’s a violent and twisted man,” Marvin grumbled. “You even agreed he was.”
“I agree now. Anyway. So he came in and wormed his way into Chase’s life, and then made off with him. Marvin also decided to try and break into Jacques’ apartment to find Chase, and Jacques used his magic to strangle Marvin.”
“Was Chase there?” Stacy asked.
“Yeah,” Marvin said, looking angry. “I’m convinced he did something to Chase. I don’t know what, but when they left, Chase was willingly following him. You know Chase, he’d never turn his back on me or Jackie. So the fact he told you that we’re fighting...”
“What, you think he has Chase on drugs or something?” Stacy asked. She was still new to all this, magic was still a foreign concept to her. It was too abnormal, and something she was reluctant to bring her children around. But Marvin was too important to Chase, she had allowed an exception for Marvin.
“No, not drugs.” Marvin let out a sigh. “Jackie and I think some sort of spell, or brainwashing.”
Stacy jumped to her feet. “I want my children, right now. I’m going to the police.” It was the logical conclusion in her mind, and she was so convinced, she took a step back toward the front door.
“Sit down!” Jackie snapped, pushing her back down onto the couch. “What are you going to tell them? That some man who can control paint brainwashed your ex husband?”
“They’d do something about my kids!” She clenched her hands into fists as she shoved angrily back at Jackie.
“Stacy.” Marvin waved a hand in her direction, taking a more gentle approach. “Sometimes ego stuff needs to stay a secret. You agreed to it when you married Chase.” He shifted uncomfortably, idly rubbing at his throat. “We can’t automatically run to the cops. There’s not a chance they’d believe us. Jackie and I can handle the heroics. We want you to stay here with Henrik.”
“You can’t go out,” Stacy protested, staring at his throat. “You look like hell.”
“I’m well enough to kick Jacques’ ass,” Marvin snapped. “No one tries to kill me and gets away with it.” He let his hands drop into his lap. “Where did you say Chase took them?”
“The water park,” came her muted response. She was beginning to accept that they had a point: Jackie and Marvin were far stronger than she was. They’d been at this kind of superhero stuff for years, while she was just a panicked single mother.
“Jackie?” Marvin’s voice cut into her thoughts, already snapping into action.
“Already on it,” Jackie said. He pressed a hand to Stacy’s shoulder, the only comfort he could offer. “I’ll call you with an update. I’ll go pack for her too.” With those words, he was gone.
“Now,” Marvin said, fixing his gaze back on Stacy. “I’m going to go to my room, use my magic to aid Jackie. Henrik’s in his lab. Please go talk to him, because you’re going to need someone to talk to.”
“Why can’t I talk to you?”
“Because I have to help Jackie.” He got to his feet. “Don’t worry about me.” He offered her a small, weak smile. “I’m stronger than I look, alright? Nothing keeps me down for long. We’re all going to be okay, your family included. Just sit tight for now.” He stood there for a moment, staring at her, before turning and heading out of sight, leaving Stacy alone.
Stacy remained on the couch for several minutes after Marvin left. All she could think about was some madman doing unspeakable acts with her young, impressionable children. She wished she had the strength to go out right now. Even with everyone already at work to figure things out, Stacy still felt helpless.
Sitting in Henrik’s lab felt awkward. He hadn’t spoken to her in a couple of hours, and Stacy couldn’t tell if it was because he was anxious over the situation or also mad at her. She wanted to go back upstairs and at least watch television to distract herself, but she didn’t want to sit in isolation either.
“Stacy,” Henrik finally spoke up. He was sorting through glass vials, beakers, and generally cleaning up his lab, only to reorganize everything all over again.
“What?” She forced herself to look up from her phone, hating that it was silent. She hadn’t heard from the others in hours, and the silence was unnerving.
“You’re shaking,” Henrik pointed out. “Do you want anything?” He was looking at her now, a syringe in hand. Maybe it was her anxiety speaking, but Henrik with a syringe had Stacy feeling paranoid and ready to bolt.
“I’m good.” Her tone was sharp. Turning away, she looked back at her phone, erasing yet another text to Trey. She hoped Chase and even Jacques had the good sense to not do anything to the children, she was ,i>praying that Chase had kept his word, and that the kids were really just having a good time.
“I’m not your enemy,” Henrik said softly. Stacy looked back at him, this time seeing a man who was just as anxious as she was. She chastised herself silently; this was no time to start seeing enemies everywhere. Henrik was cleaning up, he wasn’t going to drug her against her will! “I’m not so good at words,” he continued, storing the syringe with other syringes in a drawer.
“You’re worried too?” She asked, wondering if maybe she should take Marvin up on his word. “I don’t want anything to happen to the kids.”
“I don’t want anything to happen to Chase,” Henrik said firmly. “You speak like he’s a lost cause. He is not, he is still alive, is he not?”
“Yeah, but he’s under some lunatic’s spell!” She argued. “He could do anything that man wanted and Chase wouldn’t bat an eye! How do we know it’s not permanent?”
“How are you so sure it is?” Henrik inched closer, reaching over to take her phone from her.
“No, don’t!” Stacy grabbed for it, but he held it out of her reach.
“Stacy, you need tea,” Henrik lectured gently. “You cannot sit here and torment yourself by staring at your phone, it is not healthy for you. What you also need is to talk.”
“Talk about what?” She asked, nearing hysterics. She rubbed her arms frantically, sinking back into her seat and staring at the floor with increasingly blurring vision. “Talk about how my ex husband is a puppet? I don’t even understand how this works, and I’m expected to be okay with it! I still lo-” She cut herself off at that, clamping her lips together and shaking her head rapidly.
“Oh.” Henrik deflated, setting her phone back in her lap carefully. “We don’t know these things about you or him. Neither of you speak to the other, it is just about passing the children back and forth and money. We don’t know how either of you feel.”
“I can’t stand seeing him like this,” she whispered. “I hate even more that the kids were dragged into it. And I…I hate the waiting.”
“We all do.” Henrik sighed. “Let’s go upstairs and prepare tea.” He reached for her hand, tugging her off the chair. “You don’t have to be our enemy.”
“I thought everyone hated me,” she admitted, letting Henrik pull her upstairs to the kitchen. “I don’t want to be in an environment where I think I’m going to be attacked, and I don’t want to put my kids in that same position.”
“No one hates you,” Henrik said, sounding confused.
“Jackie does,” she said quietly. “He’s made it clear he does.”
“Not even him,” Henrik corrected. “Jackie is protective of Chase, you must understand. The two of them act like brothers; they are inseparable. To hurt one is to hurt the other. He is looking out for Chase the best way he sees how.”
“He’s so mean to me though, all the time. I can’t stand it anymore.”
“You made a mistake,” Henrik reminded gently, filling the kettle. “It was a bad one, but if Chase and you can reconcile, why can’t I? Or Marvin? Jackie will come around too, you know.”
“I miss him.”
“He is a stubborn one, but right now he is just as worried, and petty grudges are going to take a backseat. Perhaps after we get Chase back, you and Jackie can speak, yes?”
“I hope so.” She sat down at the table and started playing with her phone again. There were still no calls or texts, and she was losing her mind all over again.
They must’ve sat there for an hour, sipping on tea before Marvin came thudding downstairs. He looked like he’d just bolted, since he was clearly out of breath. “Guys!” Marvin panted, bending over to try and gasp for air. “Jackie found the kids, he just called me.”
Stacy jumped to her feet, knocking her chair backwards. “Are they okay? Where are they? Where’s Chase?”
“Chase didn’t lie to you,” Marvin said, clutching his chest as he straightened back up. “They’re at the water park, but that’s not all.”
Stacy had a sinking feeling then. She didn’t want to hear the rest of this, she wanted to go home, to call up Chase and demand he return the children to her, now.
“Jacques is there too,” Marvin continued, brows furrowing in worry. His gaze was locked onto Stacy’s now. “Jackie said he’s got art supplies on him.”
Stacy barely heard her name being called as the ground rushed up to meet her. Her worst fears? They’d just been confirmed.
It’d taken him a few minutes to find a way inside the park without having to pay, and by sheer luck, Jackie had managed to snake his way in by blending into a large crowd. He stops to scan the large area in front of him, trying to keep track of where Chase and his kids are. He can see the kids in line for a slide, which means they’re okay. Chase has to be nearby too, but he’s not the one Jackie wants to talk to. He doesn’t actually want Chase seeing him right now. Jackie knows that if he were spotted, it’d raise a lot of flags, and Jackie’s sure Chase would even cry for help from security.
No, the person he wants to talk to isn’t out here. Jackie can’t be sure exactly where he is, but Jackie knows Jacques wouldn’t dare leave Chase completely unattended.
He ducks back into a crowd, keeping his head lowered as he continues to pace around, scanning the park and looking for anyone with green hair. There are several people with dyed hair, but not the shade of green he’s actually looking for. Jackie wanders around, looking at each individual person, steadily moving closer to the locker rooms. It’s then that Jackie blinks at the bright green head of hair, nearly covered by the baret resting casually up top.
It’s almost as if Jacques is waiting for him, because Jackie can see a trace of a smirk before the man is disappearing behind the door. There’s a moment of hesitation: Jackie’s very well aware this could be a trap. He needs to be cautious if he wants to avoid the same fate as Chase, which means he needs to be mentally prepared for any magic paint springing up out of nowhere. He could walk in there with his eyes closed. He should walk in there with his eyes closed.
Jackie takes a deep breath as he pushes his way into the room, peering around first to make sure it’s empty before closing his eyes. He kicks the door shut behind him with a bang and starts shuffling around, listening out for Jacques’ location. Too bad there’s no lock to guarantee extra privacy for this. He’s certain it could get ugly.
“Jackieboy Man, it is so wonderful to see you, in person.” Jacques’ voice is a sing-song, sounding entirely too amused. Jackie doesn’t respond, but he can hear the sound of a paintbrush brushing along paper. He instinctively tenses up, certain his fears had come true. “I’m disappointed that you came prepared. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for you to open your eyes?”
“I’m not falling for your games,” Jackie responds coolly. “I want to take the kids home. What do you want with them?”
“Oh, not me. I would never do anything so heinous with an innocent child. Chase simply asked me for a day with them. We have a very trusting friendship, he and I.” There’s the sound of laughter, accompanied by the sound of the paintbrush clattering to the tiled floor.
“I want the kids. They need their mother,” Jackie says through clenched teeth. He reaches out, blindly feeling for Jacques. He knows he’s close to the man, but Jacques is smaller than him, and evidently far more nimble. Jackie still doesn’t want to risk opening his eyes to see where exactly Jacques is dodging to.
“Tsk, you come in ready to fight, and you won’t even face me, you coward.” Jacques no longer sounds so amused. “You cannot have the children. They are with their father for the day. Chase did give Stacy his word, did he not?”
“I don’t trust you. I know you’re planning on doing something with them.”
“Jackieboy, I find something odd, so please answer an honest question here, man to man, or ego to ego, if you’d prefer.” Jacques sighs lightly. “Why is it you come to me asking for the children, and not for your supposed friend? Perhaps what he says is true, and that you really do not care for him. After all, I am not the one who told him to tell others you were fighting.”
Jackie growls. “You did something to him, and I’m not about to risk getting security called because he doesn’t recognize me. I’m also not stupid enough to let you pull that on me either.”
“Please.” Jacques snorts. “I don’t want you. You’re…well. You’re not my type.”
“And I’m done with this conversation.” The tone in Jacques’ voice is now cold, dismissive. “The children stay here, with me. They want to be with their father, who wants to be with me. I suggest you leave, before Chase sees you. After all, you wouldn’t want security called, would you?”
“I’m going to murder you,” Jackie snaps. “You’re not going to keep him forever.”
“I’m sure you’re aware of what I did to your pathetic magic man,” Jacques says. “Given by the way you’re not shedding tears of grief, he survived my little trick. I may be a thin man, Jackie, but my powers are stronger than his. Do not think I won’t be able to kill someone next time. Maybe it will be you. I hope it’s you.”
Jackie grabs at his throat, daring to open his eyes just a crack. There’s no paint floating in the air, just the stark, brightly lit locker room, and the two of them alone. Jackie’s not surprised to see that he’d missed; Jacques had dodged him again and is pressing himself against a locker. Jacques isn’t smiling, but wearing a grimace with clenched teeth.
“Go,” Jacques snaps. “Or I will summon Chase myself. I hear it’s true he could take you in a fight, if that’s what you’re after. I’d say you don’t want either of us as your enemy, but I’d love to see Chase take you down for me.”
“Fuck you,” Jackie snaps. “You’re every bit the loser Marvin said you were. Have fun with your paint now, but I promise I’m going to personally hurt you for this.” He turns to leave, ready to just take the kids on his way out. He slows when he grabs the door handle. There’s no way he can carry them both all the way back home, he doesn’t have his car.
He has no choice but to leave empty handed.
What’s worse, Jacques seems to realize this.
“You jumped across the city, didn’t you?” He’s wheezing now with stifled laughter. You cannot even take what you came here for. You’re pathetic, Hero.”
Jackie storms out of the locker room, trying to shut out the mocking laughter. It’s still ringing in his ears, even after he leaves the park entirely. He’s dreading going back home and having to tell Stacy that he couldn’t rescue the children.
He really is pathetic.
“Okay, bye dad…” Trey gets out of the car, then turns to help his sister out of the car as well. Chase shoots them a grin, but Trey’s uncomfortable with how his dad looks. “Thanks for the. Um. Good day!” He manages to shoot back a small grin of his own. He’s not sure why his own dad makes him uneasy, but Trey wants to get himself and Lydia back inside as soon as possible. Their Mam will make it better, he knows it.
“I’ll see you soon, kiddos,” Chase responds with a cute wave. “I’ll try to take you out again more often, give your poor Mam a break. I gotta go though, love you both, bye!”
As soon as the car doors are closed, Chase is already taking off down the street, turning a corner, and disappearing. Trey doesn’t move until the car is completely gone before turning to head up to the front door. Lydia’s tired, he can tell, but she’s not saying anything either. At least, not until Trey tries to open the door, and finds it locked.
“…Where’s Mam?” Lydia finally asks. She rubs her eyes and pulls away from Trey. “I’m cold.”
“I don’t know,” Trey mumbles. He pulls out his cellphone and dials a number, hoping Mam will answer. The phone rings a couple of times, and Trey is about to start crying out of frustration, when the other end picks up.
“Trey?” It’s Marvin.
“Uncle Marvin?” Trey breathes a sigh of relief, leaning against the front door. “Where’s Mam?”
“Are you and your sister alright?” Why does Uncle Marvin sound off? Trey doesn’t like anything that’s going on anymore. His dad had been acting off all day, he didn’t trust anything about his dad’s friend, and now they’re locked outside, and Marvin sounds angry. “Where are you both?”
“We’re at home, geeze!” Trey snaps. “Where’s Mam? It’s cold outside and we wanna go inside. Why did she lock us out?”
“Stay right there,” Marvin orders. “I’ll be right there to pick you up. Just hang on for ten minutes.” He hangs up without saying goodbye. Trey stares down at the phone with a shocked expression. Why is everyone acting so weird today?
Lydia starts crying. “I wanna go home,” she whines, leaning against Trey. “Are we in trouble? I’m hungry…”
“Me too.” Trey leans against the door, pulling his jacket tighter around him. He drops his backpack to the ground, wrapping his arms around his sister in the process. She’s wearing a jacket as well, but Trey knows how cold it is, she’s probably going to need the extra heat.
He spends the next several minutes watching cars go by as it grows increasingly dark. He’d pull his phone out to check the time, but he doesn’t want to let go of Lydia yet. It’s hard for him to hold back tears himself, but he’s trying to be strong for her sake, even if he’s also scared and confused. Every car that goes by is another disappointing reminder that Marvin hadn’t arrived yet, and Trey is ready to call back.
When a car finally pulls into the driveway, Trey looses the control he had over himself and starts crying. Grabbing his things, he ushers Lydia toward the car, but Marvin is already getting out and grabbing them both in a hug. He’s warm, strong, and the very source of comfort both children desperately needed.
“I’m sorry,” Marvin mutters, kissing both crying children on the head. “I’m sorry you had to wait like this in the cold. I’m sorry I wasn’t here to pick you up right away. You’re safe now, I’ve got you. Let’s go back to my place, I’ve got your mam, and we’ll have hot cocoa for you.”
He helps both children into his car before getting back behind the wheel, looking back at both of them. “Are you both okay? Did your dad hurt you?”
“No.” Trey sniffles. “What’s going on? Why was Dad acting weird? Who was the weird guy staring at us the whole time?”
“I wanna go home,” Lydia cries. “I want mammy.”
“We’re on our way to her right now,” Marvin reassures her. “Your dad’s sick, Trey. We don’t know what’s going on, but he’s with a bad man who wants to hurt him. He did bad things to Chase, so we had to make sure your daddy didn’t hurt you either.” Marvin keeps the heat cranked up as he drives back home. “Tell me about your day though. Did you two have fun at the water park?”
“Yeah,” Lydia says softly. “I went on the big slide with daddy. He splashed me a few times, so I splashed back.” She seems to relax a little more now that the heat is working, and she’s in the care of someone trustworthy. “Daddy didn’t buy us food though. He got us snacks, but he said Mammy will have food for us.”
Marvin laughs a little. “I’m glad you had fun, little princess. Right you are though, we’ll have plenty of food for you when we get back home. Mam and uncle Jackie are making your beds for you right now. You’ll be safe with us for a few days.”
“Will the bad man come after us?” Trey asks uncertainly. “I don’t wanna be in trouble.”
“No.” Marvin’s tone is almost too sharp. “Jackie and I won’t let anything happen to either of you. Neither will your Mam, I promise. You trust me, okay? I’ll protect you.”
“Will you protect dad too?”
“Yes, we’ll save your daddy.”
When they finally pull up to the manor, Stacy’s running outside, tears flowing freely down her face. She doesn’t wait for the car to shut off as he pulls the car doors open, hauling her children out so she can hug them fiercely. They both cling to her tightly. “Mam!” Lydia cries. “Mammy I’m hungry.”
“I know baby, I know,” Stacy whimpers. “Let’s go inside. You two can sleep in my bed tonight. Mm, I was so worried about you both.” Without letting go of them, she waddles her way back inside. She ignores Jackie, who’s hovering by the doorway. He steps aside to let the family pass, but his gaze is on Marvin, who’s slower to enter the manor.
“You need to tell me again what exactly Jacques said to you,” Marvin says quietly. “I know you hedged because of Stacy, but it’s just the two of us now. I need to know details.”
“He threatened to kill me,” Jackie says, face void of any emotion. “Said he could easily take us out any time he wanted.”
“You’re still not telling me something,” Marvin growls. “What else did he say?”
Jackie looks over his shoulder, closing the front door before stepping closer to Marvin. “If we don’t act fast, I don’t think he’ll just keep Chase permanently brainwashed, I think he’s going to use Chase against us. He already doesn’t recognize us, what do you think’s going to happen if Chase acts out under Jacques’ control? You know how strong Chase is, he could take me on in a fight and last awhile. I’d rather not see what happens if he somehow wins.”
“Shit.” Marvin rubs his face. “Do you think Jacques knows about the pistol Chase owns?”
“I guarantee you, Chase would tell him anything at this point,” Jackie replies. “I have no idea how to break his hold over Chase, and I’m pretty fucking sure you don’t either.”
“You’re right, I don’t. It’s not straight up magic, so…” Marvin’s shoulders slump. “We gotta figure something out.”
“We can’t let him take the kid again either,” Jackie says. “Not while Jacques is running free. Even if that means we get Stacy to file a restraining order.”
“You’re heartless!” Marvin snaps. “Those are-”
“We’re all in danger as long as Chase isn’t thinking straight,” Jackie responds flatly. “You want to trust me to make the calls for all us egos? This is my call. Chase can’t have the kids until he’s back to normal. Stacy is going to file a restraining order for herself and them if it comes down to it. I’m not repeating today, ever again, and this is the only way I can ensure everyone’s safety.” With that said, he marches back inside.
Marvin watches as the door closes on him. “How did this get so fucked up?” He whispers to himself. Everything now feels hopeless.