If Ja'far was a woman, the biggest insult, the biggest revenge he could take upon Sinbad, would be to take his woman.

But he isn't a woman, no matter how Judal's whispers into his ear, telling him of the knowledge he has of their relationship, suggests something similar. It doesn't matter to Kouen. Either way, the clerk bound at the foot of his throne is far from simply a clerk—his robes now tattered from battle prove it, as does the blood of the dozens of his men Ja'far has singlehandedly slain. Unexpected, but alluring, as is the glare that fixes upon him, sharp and dark and unyielding no matter how exhausted he must be.

His life's blood leaks slowly from the corners of his eyes, a slow, methodical drip over a marred, freckled cheek that blatantly states how spent the not-clerk, more-assassin is, and Kouen thinks he might have smiled.

Not a woman, not just a clerk, more than assassin, and certainly someone precious to King Sinbad. A spoil of war, to be certain.

"Your king is dead."

The reaction is immediate, and Kouen is surprised at how the man can stillmove, lurching to his feet with his teeth bared. It takes a good three of his strongest guardsmen to haul Ja'far back to his knees, a hard kick to the stomach doing much of the damage, and the man crumples, wheezing, coughing no matter how he keeps one eye open, wild and glazed. Kouen doesn't move from the casual slouch back into his throne, his chin propped gingerly into one hand as he watches. "Regardless of how you have wrecked havoc here today, your talents are immeasurable. I would offer you a place within my empire, if you—"

So he's a spitting cobra, Kouen thinks, cut off by the splatter of saliva that hits his face with startling accuracy. He gingerly lifts a hand, wiping his cheek clean, and oh, he knows his smirk is less than kind now. "That's a no, then?"

Ja'far doesn't answer—his jaw tight, his limbs quivering with unspent tension, but Kouen has captured enough enemy generals to know when the answer is 'no', and an adamant one at that.

It would be wise, of course, to just kill him, but there's little example in that.

Ja'far wishes Kouen would just kill him.

He's known for awhile, of course. He's felt the absence of power, that warmth that creeps through his bones because Sinbad is simply alive and the strength of Baal pumps through him and into the wires wrapped about Ja'far's arms. He knows Sinbad is dead. He knows, even now, with his wires and blades stripped away and his arms bound behind his back with rope that's deliberately rough-hewn.

There's simply nothing, and he can feel that, even when everything else is numb.

Kouen's offer is the greatest of insults, and Ja'far takes some measure of satisfaction in spitting in his face. He doesn't regret it, even when Kouen's smile turns dark, and the door to the throne room abruptly slams open.

"Aa~hh, you've kept him alive?"

The voice is painfully, gratingly familiar, and Ja'far is hard pressed not to flinch when Judal leans close to him, the sway of his braid over one shoulder nearly knocking him in the face. "Does this mean I get to play with him?" he breathes, and he lifts his head to look over at Kouen, the king he's chosen no matter how many offers he extended to Sinbad. Ja'far wishes, bitterly, that he had advised Sinbad differently now—take that Magi's offer, try to fix him like you've always wanted to—because maybe, maybe Judal would be less mad, less unhinged, and maybe Sinbad would still be alive.

That reminder, that Sinbad is dead, twists in his chest, rises a tight, hot ball to his throat, and for a moment, Ja'far can't breathe.

"No, Judal. Come here."

There's a pout on the Magi's lips, but he heels like an obedient dog, dropping himself into Kouen's lap and wriggling close. Ja'far shuts his eyes, unable to watch, and wishing for all the world that he could get his hands on something sharp, anything sharp, to slit his own throat.

I'm sorry, Sin. I'm so sorry, I made a mistake, I made a dozen mistakes—

Kouen must have said something, because his world suddenly spins, his eyes snapping open as a hand in his hair suddenly wrenches him backward and tosses him onto his back. A yelp wrenches from his throat before he can stifle it, and he's certain he hears Judal laugh, a thing that pulls an angry flush to his face faster than anything. Ja'far isn't sure what makes him angrier—the fact that Judal is there in Kouen's lap, whispering suggestions for his continued torture, or the fact that Kouen's guards can so easily manhandle him, shoving him to the ground and holding him there, laughing as he hisses and kicks and squirms. Normally, he'd have them all dead within seconds. They're nothing, he can tell by the way they move, and if he just had his hands free—

Even that's not good enough, he knows, because he's so tired that his world spins, and it would be easy to just shut his eyes and never wake up.

He's far too observant, though, of the hands suddenly on his ankles, yanking his legs apart, and it's with an increasingly sharp awareness that Ja'far realizes what is happening. Something horrible settles in the pit of his stomach—something like terror, primal and sharp, twists there until the panic rises to his lungs, and he kicks and struggles, his breath too-fast and his eyes wild as a knife flashes, slicing through the ropes binding his arms because they take pleasure in holding him down like that, too, in one of them crouching behind him, grabbing him by the wrists and watching him pathetically thrash.

The hands shoving up the tatters of his robes are rough and calloused—nothing like Sin's, which were always big and warm and surprisingly soft, for all the years he's held a sword in his grasp. They grab at his thighs, hard and bruising, and Ja'far shakes, wishing his mind would shut off, wishing for once that he knew some other touch than Sinbad, Sinbad, Sinbad, because maybe this wouldn't be so awful, maybe it wouldn't make bile rise in his throat and maybe it wouldn't make him want to retch.

Maybe. He doubts it.

He fights all the same—squirms and kicks and they laugh at him, twisting an ankle cruelly until he gasps and cringes, another kicking him in the ribs when he manages to free an arm and claws at one of their faces. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Judal all but squirming in Kouen's lap, and that urge to vomit rises even sharper and faster.

"—'s not screaming yet. Make them hurt him more."

Kouen sighs, long-suffering, and Ja'far braces for another flash of their knives, the prick of them into his skin, drawing blood as its peeled away. It never happens. Instead, those hands are there, shoving his thighs further apart, and he flushes hot at being so exposed, the urge to curl in on himself that much stronger by the moment, but he doesn't get the chance. The man between his legs pulls out his cock, and there's that panic again, so desperate that Ja'far thinks he might have sobbed, then knows it by how they laugh, how much rougher their grasp turns, and the man barely spits on his hand before Ja'far can feel the head of it pressed against him.

It hurts. It's not even for any lack of careful preparation, though there's that in spades, leaving little but burning, agonizing friction behind that makes his vision black out and leaves him gasping like a fish out of water. More than anything, it's the fact that it isn't Sin, it's someone else between his legs that he doesn't want and never, ever would, hissing through his teeth and panting hot, ragged breaths into his shoulder, the scent of him vile and the rutting of his hips more akin to an animal than anything else. "Tight," the guard pants out, laughingly, and his hands slide to Ja'far's hips, yanking him down and god, it takes everything in his power not to scream, the sound strangled into his throat as he bites into his lip so hard that it bleeds. "Didn't think anyone in Sindria was a virgin knowing Sinbad, but this one—"

"He's such a frigid bitch, Sinbad probably couldn't get close enough without his balls freezing!"

The raucous laughter would make his face burn if he didn't hurt so much. They're wrong, all of them. Fewer times had Sinbad looked more alive than wrapped in his arms, nestled between his thighs, and the thought of that makes him shudder hard, the sob that wells in his throat impossible to suppress when his head is suddenly yanked to the side, too-rough fingers pressing into his jaw to force it open, and another man's cock shoves its way between his lips, sliding hard and dripping over his tongue and making him gag.

"This is worse. Just look at his face, Judal."

Ja'far knows the kind of man that Kouen is now. Analyzing him is the only thing that keeps him focused less on what is being done to him, and he knows, above all else, it's the power that Kouen likes. For Judal, it's different—there's a reason why he's writhing his way against Kouen's thigh, breathy and excited and pleased at what he's seeing, and that all boils down to having one of his enemies, his perceived rivals violated in such a disgustingly intimate way. Kouen, though—Kouen likes the power trip, the ability to command someone to hurt another and strip them bare in all senses of the phrase, all without his own hands being dirty. He's cold, he's calculating about all of it, a foil to Judal's mindless, hideous obsession with simply seeing him hurt.

Kouen has a goal in mind, and it's to break him, to convince him.

It won't work.

Ja'far wishes his mind would turn off already, would make him feel less the way he's held down and used, hear less of how he's called a bitch and how he's almost pretty when he's crying and his face is twisted in pain. He gags and retches when the one man spills over his tongue, shudders and bites his tongue until his mouth tastes of nothing but copper when the other one comes in his ass, and he thinks he's too weak to even shudder when another turns him over, shoves his face into the floor of the Kou Empire's palace throne room, and fucks him like a dog.

He's yanked up by his hair at one point, all to have another come on his face and leave him sputtering, but he can still see, out of the corner of his eye, Judal nuzzling up between Kouen's legs. He can see the disgust on the other Kou brothers' faces—Kouha, turning away with a shake of his head, and Koumei, half-hidden behind his fan. Fantastic. Now I have their pity.

His world reduces to little but pain, to the tears he can't stop from leaking down his face, mixing with blood and streaking ugly and wet over his skin. His vision is black now, anyway, and he's so grateful for that, so sure that he's done and that he can just lie here and die, that he almost doesn't hear Kouen's breathy words to that horrible wretch that calls himself Magi.

"Don't let him die, Judal."

It's the last thing Ja'far ever wants to hear, but the last thing that he does before his world dissolves into darkness.