So this is the first fanfic that I've written in a year, probably more than that, and the first NCIS fic that I have ever written. That said, I know that this sort of story is becoming a nasty cliche within the NCIS fandom, but come on, they're still fun to read...right?
This is a two-parter, and the second part will be posted later. Please review! Please? It makes me a happy and swift writer.
The Lances Unlifted
Eyes of the Sleepers
"You are not broken," he says, twisting her hair up in his fist and pulling until her head lolls back, her throat exposed. "We have not cut your tongue out, not yet. And you can breathe."
She swallows hard and for a moment her throat expands. The flesh rises and falls, pulled taut between her chin and her breastbone, two beads of sweat following the curve and pooling down at the center of her clavicle as she struggles to draw in a single breath in such an awkward position. He laughs, but the sound is sharp and brief.
"Well, perhaps you cannot breathe right now, but we've kept you breathing, yes? We've been kind enough not to cut your throat."
He lowers his voice, lowers his face so that she can feel his breath hot against her scalp.
"So why do you not speak?"
She closes her eyes.
"It is a simple question. If you answer me, it might not be too late for us to free you. You might not have to die here like a worthless coward."
He's lying. She knows that he will kill her, even if she tells him everything; even if she cooperates and answers every question without hesitating and calls him sir and treats him like a God, in the end he will drag her out behind the cell and cut her throat. She feels Death lingering like a shadow just beyond the doorway, in the corners of her cell, behind her back, licking at her neck when she fights to find solace in sleep.
He changes tactics; she's not surprised.
"Or we can end this here. Now." He draws one hand up along the side of her strained neck and croons, clicks his tongue in an act of sympathy. "You're in so much pain now. If you answer my question I can end it, make it quick. You won't feel a thing. I promise."
She wonders if ever a sentence leaves his lips that isn't a lie, and she thinks probably not. She still isn't sure if he has any humanity left inside of him. Part of her wants very badly to take his knife away, to turn the blade in upon his belly and slice him open and see for herself if there's anything but blackness and rotted things inside him; part of her is convinced that there's only wet, bloody sand packed in beneath his ribcage, and one well-aimed slash might make him burst like a sack of rice, might spill the garbage and the rot and the festering fleshly excuse for human being out across her feet.
She puts these spiteful images in her head and the idea feeds the fire that has rapidly sprung about in her heart, makes her hope that maybe she will someday find her leverage and kill him, and tear him apart.
It keeps her focused, but it drives her mad.
It rains hard one morning. The sound actually jolts her from her sleep. She flexes her broken fingers, wrists bound tightly with a plastic cord behind her back, and turns weary, swollen eyes up into the darkness. Raindrops hit the roof above her cell, make a careful, booming sort of rhythm that slowly starts to resonate within her chest. She clings to the cadence of the rain, finds momentary solace there. Because it does not remind her of the desert, of Israel or Somalia or war or tortures or promises of death – it reminds her of DC. She takes it as a single, subtle window back into a world that had welcomed her with a charming sort of ease that made her heart stagger. She listens and tries not to think about the chair that she's been strapped to for too long or the bones that have been broken too many times, and for a fleeting moment, it works.
It starts to rain early one morning and stops before noon, abruptly as the late spring rains often are, and when the sound has faded she wonders where that piece of time went, and why every other moment of her captivity thereafter feels like an eternity.
The night, he crawls into her cell like a rattlesnake and rapes her against one wall and she decides that no, there is nothing human inside him, nothing salvageable inside a beast such as this, and when he's finished he drags her back into her chair and straps her down and asks her again. She spits in his face.
And when he's finished beating her, when he slinks back out to confer with Death on the other side of the door, and leaves her there, she cries for the first time. She does not cry out of sorrow or despair or self-pity – she cries because the anger and the outrage that have become her are threatening to singe her from the inside out, and the feeling is physically painful. Her wrists have been bound for too long and the need to lash out, to throttle something or to pound someone's skull against the stone walls is building up beneath her skin. She cries out her frustration and she swears that as soon as she is free, as soon as the ropes have been cut, she will draw blood.
And Death hovers at her shoulders all night.
They leave no avenue unexplored when they torture her.
She wracks her brain for possibilities at each day's end, rethinking her own techniques and the techniques of her fellow agents, at first as a way of consoling herself in the knowledge that it could have been worse, but eventually, she runs out of ideas and so do they.
There are burns beneath her arms and on her thighs and lower back, the flesh swollen up and puckered, black in some places where they got a little carried away and left the embers on too long; her scalp throbs from the constant yanking of hair, and at the base of her skull, the skin is punctured, rough and bleeding where whole locks have been torn away; her wrists, cut by rope and swollen and bruised, begin to turn green, and she suspects that the infection might actually end up killing her before anything else does; one broken wrist has already healed at an angle; she can feel the splinters of her ribs scraping dangerously close to her lungs, her heart, and tries in vain not too squirm too much when they hurt her because she is afraid that the broken ribs, rattling in her chest like shards of glass, might puncture a lung if she isn't careful; scratches, some deep and scarred or scabbed and bleeding, scissoring all across her throat where blades have been, a threat to assure her that their knives are sharp enough to slice straight through into her cervical vertebrae if she fails to cooperate or, perhaps, cooperates too much; her thighs are mottled in bruises and scratches and bite marks.
And her back is a mess of slices, burns, lashes, bruises, a bit of everything. She can't feel her face but she figures that the blood gummy in her hair and her eyelashes is some indication that the flesh, there, has been mangled as well.
They strangle her and press their hard, stale lips against hers and she wants so badly to claw at them. When they lift her from her chair and toss her gracelessly upon the filthy ground, pressing boots into the soft flesh of her belly and snapping her ankles, she wishes that she had her gun.
Sometimes, when the blows become too much, and blood begins to pool beneath the skin and she becomes disoriented, confused, she imagines that there is a gun in her palm. The feeling is so real that she clutches her fingers around the empty air, the coolness of the barrel drawing goose-pimples up along her battered arms, the smoothness making her dizzy with elation because maybe she can get a shot in and burst somebody's brains open like a melon across the sand with the gun that isn't really there.
Darkness always claims her before she has the chance.
They've covered all their bases, physically and mentally, and eventually their visits become less frequent. Saleem is the only one who bothers to see her on a regular basis, and he seems always on-edge, frustrated and annoyed by her obstinacy. He shuffles the sand with his boots and flexes his fingers, pacing around her. She can't decide if he's trying to intimidate her or if he's really just wracking his brain for anything that he can do to her to make her talk.
She hasn't spoken a word since they brought her in.
Maybe he thinks that they've broken her too much; that the words are simply gone from her, clotted in the soil with her blood and sweat and tears.
Maybe that is more dangerous to her than anything else, because suddenly he turns on her often and his hands on her throat are tighter, when he kicks her he aims for her heart because he knows her ribs are broken and maybe he just wants to get rid of this silent, loyal soldier who refuses to have the words beaten from her. She becomes disposable.
But a month passes and she is still alive.
She catalogs her injuries, every method of torture used on her, and she swears that she will survive this and find at least one of them, if she can't have Saleem himself, to corner and to hurt as much as they have hurt her.
This oath and the oath to remain silent are all that matter, eventually.
He throws a canvas bag over her head and lifts her, pushing her angrily out from the room for the first time in weeks and she thinks, Oh God, he's going to kill me, he is going to take me outside behind the cell and cut my throat, and there's a man marching smoothly on her left. She is certain that this man is Death, following her along to take her into the blackness.
But as they shuffle from the hallway into a new room that feel disconcertingly similar to the room they've just left, and she's shoved down into another chair, she thinks that maybe he's got something up his sleeve, some new, unheard of tactic.
Crazily, she thinks that they'll be starting all over again from square one, every avenue of torture, and she doesn't know if she can handle that.
But then the bag is gone and the cool, dusty air hits her face. The brightness takes her by surprise for a moment and her breath catches – and then abruptly settles.
He sits across from her, looking pained and uncomfortable, but she thinks that the look in his eyes is unbroken. He has not been in Hell very long, not long enough.
She wonders if her eyes are the same, if they hold that same stubborn will, and thinks probably not. The only thing that burns behind her eyes these days is quiet rage.
So when he asks her,
"Can you fight?"
She can't help but feel the wave of despair and long-forgotten hope and all that Goddamn conviction bubbling up from the pit of her belly; hatred that fuelled her and now has filled her up, boiling in every pore and every crevice with the need to spill blood and to make them suffer, to cut them away from this world and to burn every piece of them like filth.
She can fight.
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