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[personal profile] sara_wolf
Title: My Heart Nearer to Thee
Rating: PG
Warnings: character death
Summary: When Phoebe's husband and son are abducted to a dangerous alternate universe, the sisters must travel across reality to save them.

*****

Josh stared grimly at the doorway that had been guarded by demons nearly every moment since his capture a week ago. Nearly every moment, because there'd been a few seconds after he'd first been left alone in the cavern when both guards had left their posts to deal with something that wasn't him, and Josh had taken advantage of their absence to make a break for it. He'd gotten almost a hundred yards down the corridor before he'd been caught, again, and dragged kicking and screaming back to his makeshift prison.

His guards had warned him not to try making another escape, had knocked him around and left bruises to show just how serious they were. And Josh had gotten the message. He'd stuck to the small cavern and hadn't tried again to get out the door. Instead, he'd sat, and waited, and bided his time until they slipped up again. Because they would; he was sure of it. He just had to be ready when it happened.

During the last week, the guards had kept him from escaping the cavern, but other than that, and delivering him food three times a day, they'd left him to his own devices. There was some kind of magical shield around the cavern, a force that kept him from using his magic; it hadn't stopped the demons from using their powers, although they certainly hadn't needed them to keep him in line. But, they'd trusted that the force field had been all that was needed to keep him docile. It apparently hadn't occurred to anyone that they were leaving him in a cavern filled with very sharp shards of rock, as well as other potential weapons.

'Probably, they just don't see me as a threat,' Josh thought, idly, as he toyed with one of the rocks that he'd gathered.

Not that he really blamed them. For all his planning, he honestly had no idea what he was going to do if any kind of opportunity for escape actually presented itself. What little he knew of fighting was nothing compared to the combined centuries of experience possessed by his guards. And, even if by some miracle, he managed to get away from his guards, he still had no way of getting out of the Underworld. Even if he'd inherited some kind of teleporting ability from his father when he'd been possessed by the Source of All Evil, he had yet to manifest it.

'No wonder they don't have to work very hard to guard me,' he thought, hunching miserably in on himself. 'I'm trapped here, no matter what.'

A sound near the entrance to the cavern jolted him suddenly out of his thoughts, and he could hear voices from the entrance. That wasn't unusual; his guards passed the time talking to each other, although rarely to him. What was unusual was that one of the voices was new – and sounded like a young girl.

Abandoning his rock, Josh crept forward toward the entrance to the cavern. He could see the hulking forms of his guards blocking the way, and then just beyond them, a third pair of legs, smaller and slimmer than the other two. Josh moved until he could see past one of the guards, to a short figure with long dark hair facing the demons.

"I want to go in there," the girl was saying, an imperious tone in her voice.

One of the demons laughed, a dark, rumbling sound that sent chills through Josh. "What makes you think that we're going to let you go anywhere, little girl?" he asked, derisively.

"I want to go in there," the girl repeated, insistently, "and you can't stop me."

"Listen to the brat," the second demon sneered. "Thinks she's so tough. Maybe we should toss her in with the other one, a little present for the Source."

"You could," the girl said, the sing-song tone in her voice indicating that she wasn't the least bit daunted by their threats. "Of course, if you lay a hand on me, my father and my grandmother are going to come down here and rip you into very tiny pieces. You do know my grandmother, don't you? The only demon that your precious Source still fears."

"You dare-" the first demon snarled, furiously, but the girl just laughed.

"Move out of my way, and my grandmother will never hear of your disrespect," she said, quietly, and this time the demons moved aside to let her enter the cavern. She was smiling as she came inside.

Josh scrambled backward, trying to get back to his usual spot before the demon saw him. The girl saw, though, but her smile only got bigger when she saw him moving. She smirked at him as she placed a finger exaggeratedly on her lips, a soft giggle escaping as she dropped down onto the ground in front of him.

"Stupid lackeys," she confided in him, rolling her eyes back at the guards, who had stationed themselves back in front of the entrance. "They don't have any brains of their own, only what the Source grants them. When I take over the Underworld, their kind will be the first vanquished."

"Who-" Josh started, but his voice cracked, painfully dry with fear. "Who are you?" he managed to force out in a whisper.

"I'm Paxton," the girl introduced herself, holding out her hand for him to shake, an oddly formal gesture that was at odds with the smile on her face. "And you are?"

"Josh," he whispered. "My name is Josh."

"What are you doing down here?" Paxton asked, looking around the cavern in confusion. "You're a kid. What's the Source want with you?"

"She – she wants-" Josh started, but then he trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.

His hands were shaking as he thought about what the Source had threatened to do to him, what the Seer had planned for his parents. He wanted to crawl into a corner and be violently sick, but he'd done too much of that in the beginning of his captivity, and he wasn't getting enough food to waste any of it on throwing up. Drawing his knees up to his chest, he started rocking in place, the Source's deadly threats running through his head, over and over.

"Hey," Paxton said, and he jerked wildly when she placed a hand hesitantly on his shoulder. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"

"She wants to kill me," Josh whispered, risking a quick glance over at the girl before going back and staring at the ground. "She wants to kill my family."

"Why?" Paxton demanded, and Josh shook his head, tears springing to his eyes.

"They think that my dad killed someone," he told her, "but he didn't! My dad wouldn't kill anyone!"

"I believe you," Paxton said, after a moment, and Josh looked up at her, hope filling his chest.

"You do?" he asked, softly. When she nodded, he went on, "Can – can you help me get out of here? I want to go home. Can you help me?"

The brief flare of hope died when Paxton quickly shook her head, a fearful expression crossing her face. "Cross the Source? No – no, I can't-"

"But, you said that the Source is afraid of your family," Josh pressed, insistently. "That they would rip anyone apart who tried to hurt you."

Paxton shook her head, again, letting out a bitter laugh. "My grandmother would only act because of the insult to our family's honor," she told him, quietly. "She doesn't care about me. She only cares about her legacy."

"But, you said-" Josh insisted, drawing another bitter laugh from the girl.

"I do that, sometimes," she told him twisting her hands together, nervously. "I use their fear of my family to get what I want. My father and grandmother don't care, so long as I don't actually insult anyone, or start something I can't finish. They hate having to clean up my messes."

"They don't love you?" Josh asked, barely able to comprehend the idea. "What about your mom? Doesn't she love you?"

Something dark flashed quickly across Paxton's face, so fast that he almost thought that he'd imagined it. "My mother abandoned us," she said, her voice trembling slightly as she spoke, even though she tried to hide it. "She was weak, and she left us. Would she do that if she loved me?"

"I'm sorry," Josh said, sympathetically. Risking a quick glance at the still guards, just outside the cavern, he added, "Come with me. My family would take you in. And they really would rip apart anyone who tried to hurt us." Paxton shook her head, but Josh pressed on. "I come from a better world than this one. You can come with me."

"I can't," Paxton whispered, shaking her head, and Josh could see tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry. I can't-"

Breaking off, she bolted to her feet and fled from the cavern, pushing past the demons guarding the entrance. Josh watched her go, his heart sinking in his chest.

"Please come back," he whispered, too quietly for the demons to hear him. "Paxton, I'm sorry. Don't leave me here, alone."

But, there was no answer. The other girl was gone, and he was all alone.

Continued here
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