By Sunrazor

Classification: Drama, angst.
Rating: PG. Some language.
Spoilers: Inga Fossa.
Archiving: Anywhere as long as you ask me first.
Email: sunnyds at gmail dot com.
Feedback: Wanty.
Disclaimer: Harsh Realm and all characters and situations belong to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, and the rat bastards at 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
Notes: Had the series continued, we might very well have gotten more insight into Pinocchio's backstory, and into how he was expelled from Santiago's world and came to meet Florence. However, that's not likely, so it's anyone's guess at this point. Here is one vision; quick, angsty, Pinocchio-centric. Just the way I like 'em. Have a very Harsh Realm Christmas, all.


Don't be deceived, no land in sight
We're all adrift in this dark night
We float on seas of disbelief
While singing songs of pain relief

Shake my body - release my soul
Punish my senses - lose control
This body's young but my spirit's old
Scatter my ashes and let these feelings go

-James, Lose Control


This first thing that really hits him, strikes him in the chest like a fist, is the way people look at him.

That strange, three-part look; he's looked that way at other people before, he realizes now with hot shame. That quick glance, the flash of shock and realization, the eyes suddenly darting away to focus on something else, anything else, and then the return, cautious and carefully composed, all discomfort and distaste carefully hidden away. Disconnection.

The whole world looks at him that way now, and he looks back at it, flat and distant out of his one good eye.

For a while he tries to move on in spite of it. He is fitted for a prosthesis; it works well enough, but he cannot seem to accept it, to make it part of him. In the military hospital he looks down at it, strange and plastic in the cold sunlight, and it means nothing to him. It is nothing. He lifts it in his hands and discovers that he finds the idea of holding his own severed leg more palatable than the fact of holding this dead, fleshless thing. He throws it to the floor, feeling suddenly tainted, soiled. A nurse hears the crash and comes in. She picks up the prosthesis without a word and sets it on a table across the room. He lies back in bed, stares at the ceiling, and tries desperately to cry. After about an hour he gives up in disgust.

The next day he is allowed to go for a short walk.

He is using the prosthesis, but is still unsteady on it, and so a nurse goes with him, offering her arm to lean on. He pushes it away at first, and after the first few shaky steps accepts it with silent frustration.

She does not seem to notice his face. He supposes that she has seen her share of gruesome injuries. He is unsure whether or not he should feel grateful for her attitude. It is good not to be looked at in that horrible, careful way, but there is something almost insulting about it; he half wants her eyes to widen in shock, half wants to see her fighting the urge to look away. Look at me; see what's happened? It's terrible, I see by your eyes that you agree. Look at me. Justify my horror with your own.

The sun is warm on half his face. The other half feels nothing.

Through the fence that surrounds the grounds and across the street is a park, and in the park is a group of children, the oldest not more than ten. They are running, screaming in the way that children scream when they are happy, a way which has always irritated him. One trips and falls, cries. A young woman runs over to him, picking him up and dusting wood chips off of his knees. She is blond and pretty, and when she raises her head, perhaps feeling someone's gaze on her, he looks away, burning.

Part of him is gone. The thing that has defined him is now a closed door. He will never again feel the weight of a gun in his hands as his back presses a wall or dune or pile of sandbags. He will never again feel the comfortable warmth of his friends around him, friends made in the tight, intimate way that only soldiers truly understand. He will never feel the icy thrill of seeing enemies, towers, defenses fall before him and his men.

He is not a soldier anymore. He will never be a soldier again.

He went into that world, in what seems like a lifetime ago, because the world he had lived in was not his own. He had felt it. Even then there had been something amiss, something missing. He had gone through school, done a few jobs, and all the time there had been a sense of wrongness, of nothing fitting quite the way it should. When he had entered the army, all that had vanished. He belonged. He became. It was enough, and it was all that he wanted.

And now he was thrown violently out of that world, hurled from it by a traitor blast that had ripped his belonging from him just as it ripped the leg from his body. He is floating in a limbo, looking back at the world he's come from and cannot return to, looking ahead at a world he's intentionally put away from him years ago, years too late. He could not go back now; he would not know how to do so. And if he tried…

That little boy and his mother (or sister or nanny or whatever she was) would run screaming from him.

He is not a vain man, but disfigurement is not about vanity, at its heart. It is about separation.

"Mr. Pinocchio?" The nurse is looking up him with mild concern.

The scars on his face feel tight and hot. "Take me back in," he says, and something in his voice sends faint alarm flashing in her eyes. "I'm okay." He tries to smile reassuringly and gives it up as impossible. His feelings are not part of it; he can act when he has to. His mouth simply won't stretch.

Still looking up at him doubtfully, she takes his arm and helps him back up to his room. The screaming laughter of the children is like acid in his ears.


"Are you sure about this, Mr. Pinocchio?"

"I said I was." The squeak of leather as he shifts in his chair. "You say I'll have it all back again. Just like before it happened."

"That's correct, sir. What happened to you wasn't written into the original code." The scratch of a match. The glow of a cigar. "We plug you in, you're just like new."

"And I find this man—Santiago—and kill him. And that's all?"

"That's all." Inhale. Exhale. Smoke across a shaft of sunlight. "Sergeant-Major Santiago is resourceful. Cunning. The odds will against you, Corporal. And you can count on no support from us once you enter the game."

A pause. Then, "I don't want any." Chair legs against wood, moving back. "Just get me in."


There is no flash, no sound. There is no feeling of falling into blackness, or spinning through a wormhole. He closes his eye and opens them and—

Them. He blinks. Them. He stands on his own two legs. He stands and walks a few steps and falls to his knees and touches his face and it seems so unreal. It is unreal.

He doesn't care.

They have given him supplies. A weapon. He takes them and leaves the shed.

As he walks towards the trees, a light snow begins to fall. He looks up, the flakes catching in his eyelashes and spreading tiny pinpricks of cold over his cheeks, and he realizes that it is December the twenty-fourth. Night has fallen.

Merry fucking Christmas to me, he thinks. Laughing, crying, he melts into the darkness.


She is waiting for him when he reaches the fence. He whistles softly, and she emerges from the shadows, moving in that strange, tightly controlled, almost birdlike way of hers. She cocks her head, questioning, and he hefts his bag for her to see.

"I brought everything."

She nods. He finds her silence refreshing, rather than disquieting. He thinks it might be something he could get used to.

He finds the glitch and steps through without a glance back. He is leaving the lights, leaving the warmth and the safety, and leaving Inga, oh, her more than anything. Inga, soft and hot in the darkness. Inga, whispering her plans and exaltations in his eager ears. Inga, the snake, the betrayer. She knows too much about him. He has only allowed her to live because he could not bear to take her life. If they ever meet again, he knows he cannot guarantee the same will be true.

The woman before him should be dead, dead by his hand. But when he fell, bleeding from a wild man's knife, she came forward, laying her hands on him, and he had felt life flowing back into him. He had looked up into her face, her eyes, and had known then that this world, too, was not his place.

He had been ordered to kill her. Had refused. Because of him she is free. Because of her he is alive.

The air around them is bitterly cold, and a wind is kicking up. He wraps his parka closer around him, feeling the comforting weight of the pack on his back.

"Let's get out of here."

Only just as they are passing out of sight does he turn, looking back. The towers sparkle against the black sky like Christmas trees. The whole city glows like a fabulous jewel, or a child's toy. It is lovely. It is inviting. He knows all too well the ways in which it is seductive.

You could go back. You could kill her, go back, kneel at Santiago's feet and beg forgiveness for your sins. You could let him welcome you, let him enfold you in his arms like a prodigal son. You could belong again.

I don't belong there. I don't belong anywhere. I know that now.

You could change that. You have a choice. You always have a choice.

Yes, I do.

"Fuck you."

It is barely a whisper, but it is a vicious whisper, full of hate and fire. Full of life. The woman looks sharply at him, her eyes suddenly worried. He does not notice her. He is alone, lost, spinning through a void. He does not belong. He does not fit. It has never until now occurred to him that this is a perfectly legitimate way to feel.

It is snowing. It is December the twenty-fourth, and night has fallen. He has two good legs, he has two good eyes, and there is no place for him in this world or in any other. And for the first time since he lay bleeding far from home, suddenly and hideously incomplete, he is happy.

He turns to the strange, silent woman. He takes her hand. Together they melt into the darkness.