Notes: The characters aren't mine
(except Dr. Portman and her lackeys, and Chardonnay and Sake), and the story is! SN and Rae must both be
credited for giving me the idea for this one. I haven't used my Dr.
Portman character in a while, and I decided that now would be a good
time. This is going to be a very difficult story for me to write, but
I'm willing to give it a good try. Thanks to Breaking Benjamin for the title of the story and of the chapters.
The room was dark, with only the light from the doorway entering it. Vodka surveyed the interior grimly, not surprised at the sight of the various instruments on tables and the blood on the floor and walls. On the surface it just looked like any other interrogation room---with "interrogation" being used lightly. But it had been someone quite different than any of the Black Organization's operatives who had used this place. It had been someone who had wanted to learn the secrets of the human mind, Vodka had been told, and she and her lackeys had taken it to extremes. When the Black Organization had raided the base, they had found several people who had been missing for weeks and months in varying states of health and sanity. Now Vodka had gone on ahead, wanting to finish the examination on his own and to see if there were any others. Some people were still missing, and he still wondered if it was at all possible . . .
He abandoned that thought and came to attention, hearing wild breathing somewhere in the room. Someone was there, but he could not see anyone around. Keeping his gun drawn, and turning on the small flashlight he had with him, he silently and stealthily entered. Many of the victims that had been found had been driven mad to the point of violence. There could be another such person here, ready and waiting to lunge at Vodka if he was not careful.
The area still looked deserted as he cast his gaze about. If he could not hear the frantic breathing, he would be certain that there was not anyone there. He checked under the tables, not wanting a hand to suddenly reach out and grab hold of him as he went past. But the tables were empty underneath, save for other splashes of blood.
As he advanced further into the room, he determined that the other occupant was in the far corner. Holding his gun and the flashlight out in front of him, he walked forward until he reached the part of the room least affected by the light. Yes, the breathing was louder here. As he shined the beam around, it suddenly landed on deep blonde hair and wild, alarmed green eyes. He fell back in stunned shock.
Gin was sitting on the floor in the corner, his knees drawn up to his chest as he tightly clutched a knife in his left hand. The clothing he was wearing---a pair of black pants---was torn in places, and his skin was raw and red. Blood was running down his left arm, and as Vodka stared at him in disbelief, he wondered if Gin had been cutting himself. But he dismissed that idea when he noticed part of a welt on the other's shoulder, and another on his chest. Gin had been taken and tortured. That was what had happened to him when he had vanished several weeks earlier.
Suddenly not certain how to handle this, Vodka bent down in front of Gin and swallowed hard. He knew he needed to say something, but his mind was a blank. Gin was looking at him, or was it more that Gin was looking through him? Vodka did not know if the blonde could actually see him at all. "Bro? . . ." he said finally, barely above a whisper.
Gin gripped the knife tighter, his hand shaking. He did not speak or give any indication that he had heard the other. His gaze darted about the room, as if he expected something to abruptly and magically appear to challenge him.
Taking a chance, Vodka set the flashlight aside and reached out, laying a hand on Gin's uninjured shoulder in an attempt to get him to come to attention. "Bro!" he exclaimed louder, unintentionally giving his voice an edge. He wanted Gin to look at him and recognize him and to be normal. He did not know how to handle the green-eyed man in his current state.
Instantly Gin came to life at the contact and lashed out, slashing Vodka's arm with the knife. The heavyset man cried out in pain, jerking away from him and dropping the gun as he clapped his right hand over the injury. Blood oozed between his fingers and he watched it as he tried to comprehend what had just happened. When he looked back at Gin, he saw that the blonde had slumped back against the wall with the blade, not seeming to care as crimson trails dripped from it onto the floor.
His mind racing wildly, Vodka tried to think how to solve this. It did not even appear possible to get through to Gin. Whatever he had gone through had made him overly paranoid and detached from reality. Vodka knew that Gin would have clung to sanity as long as he could, and he hated to think of what would have had to happen to cause Gin to finally snap.
"Bro . . . don't you recognize me? Just put the knife down," he pleaded, searching through the green eyes for any sign that Gin had not completely lost his mind. Vodka was not a socially skilled person, and even though he felt more relaxed around Gin than anyone else he knew, he did not know what to say or how to react to Gin's shellshocked behavior. Perhaps, since Vodka had known Gin for so many years, it was more difficult to handle this situation than it would be if someone else, whom Vodka did not know, was the victim. He could detach himself from the problem if that were the case. But when it was Gin he could not do that even if he tried. He kept thinking of how the blonde usually was and then comparing it to the tormented man in front of him. It did not seem possible that this was the same person he had worked with for close to ten years now.
Gin looked at him wildly, not letting go of the weapon and apparently not planning to do so. But at least now Vodka had the feeling that Gin did see him. That was an improvement . . . though he was not certain at all whether Gin remembered him. His eyes did not hold any recollection of the other.
Vodka mulled it over in his mind again, trying to think of something to say that might get through to the crazed blonde. "You can get out of here now," he tried at last. "Just set down the knife and we'll go." If Gin had not been holding the knife, Vodka would have simply attempted to help him stand. But as long as he had the weapon, Vodka felt that it was hopeless. Gin would only attack him again.
Gin watched him, his emerald eyes piercing through the unruly bangs, and looked ready to jab the blade at him again. He moved as if to do so, and Vodka moved further away, not wanting to be stabbed a second time. The shorter man's heart raced wildly, and he was tempted to grab his gun again, but he knew that would only make Gin all the more excitable. So instead they just stared at each other for an unknown length of time.
Then Gin blinked, as if trying to focus. The frenzied look vanished from his eyes, being replaced by the emotionless mask Vodka knew so well. His deathgrip on the weapon loosened and he lowered the hand that held it. "Vodka . . ." he muttered, letting the knife clatter to the floor. "They told me you were dead."
Vodka was startled, but he pushed back the questions he wanted to ask. "Well . . . I'm not," he answered lamely. "Let's get out of here, bro. . . ." Slowly he took hold of his gun and replaced it in its holster, then reached to help Gin up.
Gin ignored him and grabbed the wall, using it to balance himself as he struggled to get his footing. Instead he ended up stumbling forward and crashing into Vodka, and he cursed in frustration, feeling his vision swim. He was not well enough to stand after what he had been through, and he knew it, though he did not want to acknowledge it.
Feeling uncomfortable, Vodka tried to steady his comrade. Without meaning to, he touched several of the welts on Gin's back, and he felt the blonde stiffen in pain. He flushed, angry at himself for not being more careful. "Sorry, bro. . . . What happened to you?" he murmured as he moved his hand, not realizing at first that he had spoken aloud.
Gin grunted in reply, not intending or wanting to answer. Instead he moved forward shakily, determined to get out of this room without Vodka's help. He nearly lost his balance several times and was caught by the other, much to his mortification. But Vodka was patient and did not say anything about it, and Gin was grateful.
Vodka idly watched as the doctor finished stitching and bandaging his arm, but his mind was elsewhere. He was concerned about Gin, who had been quiet all the way back to the base, save for once when he had asked if Vodka's arm had been badly cut. He seemed to have no remembrance of being the one who had actually inflicted the injury, and Vodka had told him that it was nothing, that it would quickly heal. And Gin had slipped back into an eerie silence, gazing off into the distance at nothing that was visible to his partner.
Gin's injuries would not quickly heal, Vodka knew that much. He had been damaged physically, but more so emotionally and mentally, and that was much worse. Vodka had hated to leave Gin to go with some of the other medics, but they had been insistent that Vodka get his arm taken care of before coming back to be with Gin. Vodka just hoped that Gin would not suddenly fall into another fit of madness. He was not even sure if Gin really realized what was happening. He had been so extremely taciturn and withdrawn by the time Vodka had left him. . . .
"You could have knocked me over with a feather when you came in with your partner," the doctor remarked, dragging Vodka back to the current situation. "Most of us thought he was dead, but you never seemed to give up hope. I guess it paid off." He cut off the gauze and taped it down, indicating that he was through.
Vodka pushed himself off the counter and to the floor with a sigh. "But you saw, didn't you?" he said quietly. "You saw what they did to him. . . ." He shuddered inadvertently as he thought of it again---the deep welts in the blonde's back, the blood running down his arm, the way he could hardly stand. . . . And his eyes, his haunted, glassy eyes. By the time they had gotten to the infirmary wing, Gin's eyes had clouded over with a blank apathy, not the same as how they had looked when he had finally recognized Vodka, and also not the same as the panic-stricken and wild eyes from when Vodka had first found him.
"Yes . . ." the doctor nodded grimly. "I'm very concerned. His physical wounds will heal easily enough. He's young and strong, and notorious for his endurance, as you well know. But . . ." Here he sighed, and Vodka tensed. "Mentally, he's been crippled. I could see it in his eyes, and I'm sure you could, too. It's going to be a long struggle, to get him back to how he was before." He gave the heavyset man a firm and serious look. "He's going to need you, more than he'll ever admit." Of course, Gin would never admit to needing anyone at all. He was too proud.
Vodka swallowed hard, staring at the physician as if he had sprouted wings. He did not know how to help Gin. The blonde would never ask for help, and he would refuse it if it was offered. He was building an even tighter wall around himself than he had been before. Vodka had sensed that ever since they had headed for the infirmary.
The doctor smiled gently, seeing all of this in Vodka's expression. He was an older man, and wise, and though he hated being involved in the Black Organization, he had become fond of many of the agents. They were not all bad, as he had observed many a time. Vodka was one of his personal favorites. He was easy to talk to, because he was actually willing to listen. So many of the operatives, Gin included, were very cold and stubborn, believing that they knew everything. Vodka was more willing than some to consider that the doctors knew what they were talking about at least some of the time.
"It's true," he spoke now, "Gin is withdrawing into himself. He's been very badly shaken. He's going to have to learn to trust again." He held up a finger when he saw Vodka about to protest. "I know, you're trained to not trust. But we both know that a certain amount of trust is necessary between partners. Otherwise, how they can possibly function without disorder? Each has to be willing to believe that the other will catch them if they fall, literally and figuratively." He laid a hand on Vodka's shoulder. "Gin's falling now, into a tangled thornbush of confusion and madness. There are only two living people who are capable of saving him. One is the woman he loves, his childhood friend. The other is his partner, the one he has been close to for nearly ten years, the one he has trusted with his life." He paused. "And the first of those people is no longer a possibility, which leaves you."
Vodka nodded slowly, feeling dazed. He turned to go, pushing open the door. He would go find Gin now. But he dreaded the state the blonde would be in when he arrived. And he still did not know how anything he did would be able to help. If Gin could not pull himself out of his inner turmoil, by himself, then Vodka honestly wondered if it could be done at all.
Gin was sitting on the bed when Vodka found his room and went inside. He was leaning forward, his outrageously long hair sweeping around his face and hanging down in front of him. A nurse was tending to the welts on his back, shaking her head grimly as she dabbed on some sort of ointment. Gin barely paid any heed, though the substance was supposed to sting.
"I can't believe what they've done to him," the nurse remarked quietly as she looked up and saw Vodka coming in. "Just look at this!" She indicated his raw flesh, and Vodka soon had to look away. He could watch lots of gruesome scenes and it did not bother him, but this was his partner. That was much different from observing a stranger or a traitor being injured. He could not bear to see Gin in such a condition. It made him too uncomfortable, and it almost seemed surreal.
"It would've taken a lot to even subdue him enough to do this," she said, still in a low tone. "There must have been so many men. . . ."
Vodka did not want to think about it. He bent down, trying to look into Gin's eyes, but they were completely hidden by his bangs again. "How are you feeling, bro?" he asked, hesitantly.
Gin grunted, but did not answer. After a moment he looked up, the blonde locks falling away from his eyes just enough for Vodka to see that they still looked apathetic and listless. "Are you even here this time?" he mumbled.
Vodka started, feeling bewildered. "Of course, bro," he exclaimed.
Gin gave a half-hearted shrug. "You've talked to me before," he answered flatly. "But usually it's after I've been left bleeding on the floor." He looked down at his hand, and in his mind, he saw blood dripping from it to pool on the floor. He clenched his fist and let it drop. He was speaking so candidly because he believed that once again he was conversing with something that was not there. Now his tone turned world-weary. "This is probably all in my mind, just like all the other times. You'll leave me where I am, just as you've been doing." And then he would soon come back to reality and find himself with the unwelcome Dr. Portman once again, and she would smile and laugh and find it all very amusing, while he would glower at her with hatred over what she was doing to him.
Vodka stared at him, aghast. "Bro . . ." He sat down next to him in a chair, trying to figure out how to respond to that. Gin had been tortured to the point that he did not even believe this was really happening. Perhaps for a moment he had allowed himself to hope, but then he had slipped back into his catatonic state, deciding that it was a hallucination and that he should not even try to pretend it was real. "I'm not going to leave you," Vodka said finally, feeling all the more helpless.
Gin allowed himself a half-smirk. "Heh . . . you've said that before, too. Every time it's the same thing---you come, you talk to me . . . sometimes you say that you'll help me get out of here, but then we never go anywhere. We can't, since you're not here in the first place. And I'm too weak to even be able to get out. It's pathetic." He leaned back, studying Vodka again now. "This time, though, we actually did get out, so I started to wonder . . ."
Vodka could not stand it. "Stop it, bro!" he cried, grabbing at Gin's shoulder. "Stop it! I'm really here. You're really here. You're safe now! Don't you understand? You're not with Portman now. You're safe. . . ." He trailed off, swallowing hard.
Gin blinked at him for a moment, as if trying to digest what was being said. Then, to Vodka's utter astonishment, the blonde started to chuckle. It was a deep, low sound, and it was eerie coming from Gin under these circumstances. But he soon stopped, regarding Vodka with a look of dark amusement. "You know . . . I could almost believe that this time it is for real," he mused, his expression turning serious again.
Vodka slumped back. "What did they do to you?" he uttered quietly, horror in his hidden eyes. "What did they do to you, Gin?"
If Gin heard him, he did not give any heed of it.