AN - Here is the second half of the last chapter. I don't think it worked quite so well on its own, actually. Seems more filler than anything else, and the damn block is returning so it was a struggle to get out! But, the story starts picking up from here so hopefully it should get a little easier! As always, thank you to everyone who reviewed - they always keep me smiling.
Chapter Four - Bad Dreams
March 3, 2009.
It was not the soft touch of the pillow that she felt against her cheek. When Jill was uncomfortably roused from her sleep, that was the first oddity that she noticed. The second was that she was not in fact in her bed, but on a smooth surface that she recognised after a moment or two as porcelain tile.
Blinking, she pushed herself upright, joints protesting the position she had found herself in. She groaned along with them, but stopped as soon as she was comfortably (though that was debatable) on her backside.
The walls around her were white, with even less decoration than her sparsely-furnished room. There was a mirror along one wall - a two-way mirror if she ever knew one - and a plain wooden door on the perpendicular, shorter, wall. In the centre of the room stood a table, upon which rested only a strange metal panel, with wires that ran from one side and into the wall that housed the mirror. It hummed gently, almost soothingly.
"What the-?" she muttered.
A sharp crackle of static brought her attention to a small speaker above the mirror.
"Good evening, Miss Valentine," greeted a monotonous voice.
"'Evening," she muttered, humouring it if only for her own amusement.
"To open the door, please press your hand on the panel before you."
A pressure panel? A strangely high-tech replacement for a simple door handle. But she shrugged it off. The sooner she got back into her own bed, the better.
Without much thought or consideration, she approached the panel, lay her palm flat against the surface.
Her shriek echoed around the room, arm jolting as pain rain from her fingertips to her shoulder. A shock, travelling up each finger, seeming to jitter along the bone. It was as sharp as it was sudden.
The door did not budge, not even a millimetre.
"Try again," the voice suggested. Jill opened her mouth, prepared to tell it what she thought of that suggestion, but she found that her hand moved quite swiftly to the panel, and once again she found herself jumping back in shock.
"What the hell?" she hissed through clenched teeth. Her ears were ringing now, arm twitching spasmodically.
"Touch the panel one more time," the voice commanded. "Do not remove your hand until instructed."
Though there was not a fibre of her being that wanted to obey, her hand moved, slower this time, but towards the panel nonetheless. Even her free hand did not move, though she willed it to reach out, to stop the other before...
But it was too late. She did not even flinch as every nerve was set aflame, the current not seeming to stop at her shoulder this time. It filled every part of her, sawed its way into the bone of her skull, seemed to work it apart piece by piece. She did not even blink, though inside her soul was screaming.
'What are you doing?' she seemed to scream at herself. 'Stop!'
Her thoughts were disorganised, reacting to the pain as her body did not. But somewhere in the chaos, a crack of light... She ran towards it, focused as she could be. She pulled, with all her might, hacked through the fog upon her mind. It was as though she ran through a forest, one whose every branch tried to ensnare her.
But this forest... These branches... She had been there before.
The road ahead became clear, and suddenly...
Pain hit her backside, though on the whole it subsided. She was perhaps a foot away from the table, clutching her right hand. Her body twitched, saliva dripping from the corner of her mouth.
She was vaguely aware of the snap of a lock, and of footsteps that approached her.
"Miss Valentine," that voice said, no longer disembodied. "Follow us."
"F-fuck you," she spat. The spasms shuddered to a stop, but she was left breathless and reeling from echoes of fear.
They did not even allow her to rise to her feet. A boot connected with her stomach, knocking the wind out of her. Before she could organise her thoughts to respond, hands were on her, pinning her to the ground. A sharp, sudden prick of pain in her arm, and...everything was wonderfully quiet.
Arms swung around; she was upright within a breath, heart pounding furiously, body ready to fight. But she was alone, and the surroundings were familiar. It was not the place she felt most comfortable, but it was a room she had come to know well, and just about the closest place she had to home these days.
"Oh God," she gasped, head sinking into her hands as knees rose to her chest.
It was a dream. A fucking horrible one, but a dream nonetheless.
Or was it a memory? Was it an echo of a time past, perhaps a fear of repeat?
Whatever it was, it left her shaking long after the alarm finally beeped at her bedside.
The beginning of sobriety welcomed Chris with a cheerful wakeup call. His mouth was dry, as though he had seen fit to chew on a sponge as he slept. His stomach felt no better; he may as well have swallowed said sponge after soaking it in dirty dishwater, so happy was his stomach with him.
Memories returned, taunting him. So many beers, so little work. And a kiss...
A sense of guilt the likes of which he had not felt in so long descended upon him. In just how many ways was he going to betray her before this was all over?
But there was no betrayal. Of course. Jill was not his. She was not even sane, was locked up in some psychiatric institution after violently assaulting his sister.
How sure was he that this was not some nightmare, was not some sick, twisted dream.
He pushed himself to an upright position, unsteady and unsettled.
'You're an asshole,' his conscience leered. Jill had told him enough times, and sure she may have been joking at least half of them, but it was the truth beneath it all. Because maybe she was not sane, but that did not make her any less of a person, or his friend. And she was not 'locked up' in a 'psychiatric institution', she was receiving specialist care for a debilitating illness, brought on by trauma, in a residential healthcare facility. And where was he? Wallowing in his own self-pity, taking advantage of the comfort and company of a friend.
He was afraid. Still.
He was a fucking coward.
A shower saw him well enough to stop by the office, though the reflection he caught many glimpses of on the way was not a healthy one. It was as though inner turmoil had taken its toll on his body. Guilt had drawn lines upon his face and bags beneath his eyes.
Sheva was alone in his office, sorting through the files they were supposed to have processed the night before. She did not look up as he entered, seemed to distract herself with the work rather than immerse herself in it.
"Hey," he called; the act of making his presence known in a way that she could not ignore.
There was a sad tone to her voice, one that pulled him down several notches and did nothing for the pain in his chest.
"Listen, I'm sorry about what happened last night," he said, hangover reminding him that it was there and it wasn't going to let him get off easily with this one. "I was drunk, and..."
"It's okay." She raised her head, smiled at him. And it was as genuine a smile as he had ever seen upon her lips.
But it did not reach her eyes.
A sigh rocked her body, attention falling back to the papers. She leafed through them absently, blinking a little too often.
"They found Davis." There was something frighteningly serious in her voice.
Chris waited for her to continue, did not press. He had done enough damage as it was.
"Is he okay?"
The gentle shake of her head sent chills down his spine.
"His body was found in a field several miles out of town," she said, voice devoid of any hint of emotion. She may as well have been reading from a Teleprompter. "They... The coroner's report has not come back yet, but they said..."
A deep breath slowed her speech. Still, he waited.
"They said he was tortured to death. At least...that's what it looks like. And now Hicks and Murton are missing too."
A question lingered on curve of his lips, but he knew the answer already; they would not have found the data that went missing with him. It was perhaps a small mercy that it was not a particularly important set of data. There would be repercussions, though. They would not be allowed to remove anything from the office now, and he knew that the Tech guys would be working overtime on a new set of encryptions.
But one harrowing realisation chilled him to the pit of his stomach: Hicks and Murton were on the same team. The same team that he and Sheva were part of, the same team that Davis had once been a member of.
"They are giving the media free reign," Sheva explained. "They think it will cause Tricell to tighten their leashes, given the negative impact it will have on their standing in the trial."
And for once, he had nothing to say. Lord knew he was no good at comforting these days. And when your name was on the list the only thing left to wonder was 'where?'.
Jill rose too late for breakfast that day. Her mind and body were exhausted, echoes of a nightmare ensuring that she did not sleep soundly.
"You look like hell," Lisa told her as she approached, finding comfort in the cushions in the TV room. Staff already seemed settled into their roles behind the station, no sign of the doctors, likely all deep into sessions at this time.
Fiona elbowed their friend amicably, not once tearing her eyes away from a news report on the flat screen. Veronica sat beside her, seemingly disinterested in all that surrounded her. She was eerily quiet these days, rarely speaking unless spoken to.
"Bad dreams." It was an all-too-common excuse. But the voice of the newsreader stole away any thought of elaboration. It was not often that she heard her old team's name within these walls.
"-Senior BSAA Member Gregory Davis was found this morning. No further details have been released into the circumstances surrounding the discovery, but the cause of death has been declared 'suspicious'."
Davis. She knew him, if not closely. He had joined the BSAA shortly after the restructuring that had followed the Il Veltro Incident, had worked with herself and Chris on several cases since then. He was tall, with a closely-shaven head, skin almost as pale as hers, and eyes that reminded her of her father's.
Why was she remembering these details? Why now?
"Did you know him?" Lisa was sitting forward now, eyebrows raised. It was a posture rarely seen; one that signalled great interest. Lisa was indifferent to so much, it was noticeable when she did sit up and pay attention, so to speak. Jill had begun to find it frustrating how this was seemingly always in relation to her.
"Yes," she said, knowing that more details would be requested if she did not provide them. "He...I used to work with him."
Fiona chuckled to herself.
"You, with the BSAA?" It was said incredulously. Enough that Jill was slightly offended.
"You think we all wandered in here straight from the crib?" she said. "Yes, I used to work for the BSAA, as an SOA. That man, he..."
He was working on the Kijuju case, she just knew it. Before her episodes had become too severe, before people stopped trusting her - not that all of them had every truly started to again - she had backed his application to join the team. His deduction was flawless, his skills with a computer rivalled only by Cetcham; they would have been crazier than she had they turned him away.
Suddenly, Leon's words returned to her. She would be safer here. Had they expected this? Were the others at risk too? Surely even Tricell with all their blind ambition would not be so reckless?
"What happened?" asked Lisa. Perhaps she was simply humouring her.
"I was kidnapped," Jill replied, without thinking. The words fell from her tongue with very little conscious effort. That happened a lot these days. It took very little effort to do what others asked, to reveal what was requested. Dr. Hendricks was amazed with her progress, but she was not so sure that was what it was. Maybe it was simply lack of caring, finally giving up.
Lisa's eyebrows raised again, disbelief in her expression but horror within her eyes.
"My old boss...wasn't the nicest man. He went from someone we looked up to - a qualified leader - to the world's most dangerous bioterrorist. My partner and I stumbled across him on an assignment, and...we fought. We lost. I was gravely injured and when I woke up, I was in his 'care'...and I remained there for the next two and a half years. They say the things he did to me are why I am here."
Despair fell upon her, a dull pain winding its way through her nerves. They would think her crazy. So why had she spoken? Why had she told them that which she had barely found the strength to tell her psychiatrist?
She tried to hide her tremors, but that only made them more pronounced.
"He..." Lisa seemed to struggle to find words. Jill really wished that she wouldn't. It would be so much better if she just remained silent, if she shrugged it off and didn't care. But it seemed that she had begun to value their friendship, perhaps a little too much.
"He enslaved me," Jill said. These times the words felt like her own, took a little more effort to spit out. And her voice was not so monotonous, sounded a little more human. "He drugged me with a chemical that made me do whatever the hell he wanted me to. And maybe they're right, maybe that was what brought me here. I'm still fucking dreaming about it! Only this time it's white walls and-"
It was Veronica who spoke, barely a mumble above the din of her own thoughts. Even the others did not seem to hear her. Life seemed to return to the girl's eyes, and they met with hers for but a brief moment before they snapped away again. She breathed heavily, pushed herself to her feet with shaking arms. And then she left, not seeming to bother the others with her departure.
Jill followed, lest Lisa find more questions for her.
Veronica stopped a little way down the hall, once she realised that she was being followed.
"They are just dreams, right?" she muttered. "Like...when friends spend a lot of time together their bodies can sync. Having periods at the same time and all... That's what it is, right? Like...like a group hallucination?"
Jill knew better.
There was a beer waiting for him when he returned home, open and warm. He really needed to stop leaving shit around the apartment; Jill may not have been there to yell at him but Claire was, and she was visiting a lot lately.
Chris knocked back the beverage as he dumped his keys on the dining table, and his coat on the chair. Something uncomfortable settled into his skin.
Jill... It was the first time since her departure that her absence had been so startling.
Part of her was still there, as it always had been. The part that resided in photographs on the bookshelf, in the jacket that still hung next to his door. The part that still rested in the box in the back of his closet, the one filled with memories of her. It had never been intended to be a box full of Jill. It was a simple box of memories, of the little things that meant the most to him. It was not until he found it shortly after she had defenestrated their former Captain (and herself along with him) that he realised that they were all things that reminded him of her. Everything from photographs to mementos from their S.T.A.R.S. days. Because she had been everything good in his life since those days ended.
Why did this have to happen to her? Had she not suffered enough?
A little more beer, and he sank into the sofa.
He missed her like crazy, but he had for a long time. He could live without her. Perhaps not happily, but if he knew that she was okay and she was happy, then he could let go. But she was not okay, and she sure as hell was not happy. And she never could be in that place.
'I need to see her,' he decided. 'I need to tell her that it's gonna be okay.'
He could not promise her that, but he could promise her that he would try to make it so. He owed her so much more for the times she had been there for him (more often than not to slap him upside the head and tell him to get his act together...which, it always transpired, was exactly what he needed to do).
The last few drops of beer, and he rose to his feet. They were a little less steady than he had expected.
He would call in sick tomorrow, would visit her like he should have done every day since her committal.
A hand shot out, grabbed the back of the sofa. His legs were more than unsteady; they seemed unwilling to co-operate.
A shadow caught his eye, moving behind the door to his bedroom. The glass slipped from his hand; he had not left it out - he had been sure to clear everything away before he left that morning. The empty bottles beside the sink, all rinsed out, were evidence enough of that.
How could have have been so fucking stupid?
The shadow stepped into the light, but it had not expected him to lunge. It stumbled as he pushed it into the wall, landing a blow that was returned savagely. His vision swam, brain attempting to shut down and lull him to sleep. But he fought the urge, and he fought the hands of the intruder as they pushed him back into the open space behind the sofa. Pain erupted in his side; it could not have been bare hands that hit him. With a well-placed kick to the knees he was on the floor. Blood warmed his face, concerning him as he had no recollection of an inflicting blow. The room spun, but he lunged blindly, unsure if closed fists connected with the intruder or with an unfortunate item of furniture.
There was respite at last, and he succeeded in hauling himself a little closer to the table; close enough to pluck his cellphone from the pocket. Fingers barely seemed to possess the strength to dial. Maybe they did not dial at all. Maybe it was a hallucination, maybe he was already unconscious. Because the blackness was unforgiving when it consumed him, and his own blood against the carpet was the last thing he saw.
AN - Please review :)