Chapter 62: Numb

Snake Eyes sat quietly for long moments in the silent conference room.

He'd been numb since they'd found Shana, numb since they'd left the island. He'd been feeling bits and pieces of her ordeal with her—and now, there was evidence in front of him that proved he had indeed been with her through some of her ordeal; the crucifixion was only the most recent of her tortures. But he'd felt the drugs, the anguish, the pain that Shana had experienced.

It still didn't prepare him for the sight of Shana nailed to a cross. He'd been looking forward to finding Shana again, to seeing her again, and not once had he wondered what condition she'd be when he got her back. He hadn't been prepared—there was no way he could have been prepared—to see the terrifying blankness in her eyes, to look into those familiar green eyes and not see Shana looking out at him.

He'd cursed his lack of a voice as he crouched beside her on the floor, leaving it up to Duke and Allie and Lifeline to figure out how to get her off. With her eyes glazed and unseeing, he might have been able to bring her 'back' to him if he'd still had a voice and could call her. As it was, the only thing he could do was hold her, cradle her in his arms and reassure himself that she was still alive, that she would bounce back from this.

Charlie, unlike him, did have a voice. Cam had seemed to cling to that, cling to the sound of his words, right before Stretcher had sedated her for the trip home. Neither of the men had left their significant other's side until they were back at base, thirty-six hours after their rescue. As soon as they got off the plane, Doc had rushed them into emergency surgery.

Snake Eyes had been absolutely firm on wanting to stay in the infirmary until Shana woke up, but Allie had just as firmly nixed that idea for both him and Charlie. "No," she said when she'd seen both men making themselves comfortable on a couple of chairs usually reserved for those waiting for friends coming out of surgery. "Both of you are going to get out. Go shower, change, get some sleep; this isn't going to be fast or easy." Charlie had gotten up, without a word, and gone back to the quarters he shared with Cam, with the evident intention of following Allie's advice.

Snake Eyes had left the infirmary on Allie's command, but had been unable to concentrate on anything. With Shana now safe in the infirmary, he was focused now on when he would be able to see her next. When would she wake up? Would she wake up? Again and again his mind played images of her rescue; he kept seeing her hanging there on the cross, her eyes glazed and unseeing, her mind broken to the point where she could no longer even recognize him beside her. Her agonized whimpering had calmed slightly when he was touching her, when he was near her, but he didn't know if that was just her reacting to his presence.

He wandered the corridors aimlessly, barely acknowledging the subdued but jubilant greetings everyone sent his way. Why celebrate, he thought irritably, we don't know for sure whether she's really going to be okay or not? But in the face of their happiness he couldn't be the one to tell them that, couldn't be the one who burst their bubble and told them just because they had gotten her back and she was alive didn't necessarily mean she was going to be all right. He didn't know if they would believe him; they hadn't, after all, seen her the way he'd seen her; hadn't been there to see that it was Shana's body but Shana herself was no longer 'home', no longer 'there'. They hadn't seen that blank fog in her green eyes. Hadn't seen the emptiness behind her gaze.

When he finally found himself back in the infirmary hours later, with the base's lights dimmed while on 'night' shift, he caught Doc just getting out of surgery.

He hesitated a moment in the infirmary door, remembering Allie chasing himself and Charlie out of there earlier, but Doc smiled wearily as he beckoned Snake Eyes in. "Come in. I told Allie it was useless chasing you off, that you wouldn't be sleeping and showering until you had news, but she insisted. However, at least now I have news to give you." He hefted a medical folder in his hands, levity gone. "I understand you brought back the man who was responsible for having done these things to Cam and Shana, and with that in mind I'm pretty sure this is going to come out in some court at some point somewhere. So a lot of this is going to be written in a very clinical, detached way to paint a picture for the court, and while rules normally restrict viewing of confidential medical files to relatives, I'm going to let you take a look at her file. Purely confidential, of course, and if anyone asks how you got it I will disavow knowledge of the act." A wry smile, quickly gone. "But I still feel it's important that you know what happened to her, so you can handle some of the issues that might arise." He led Snake Eyes into a small conference room, deposited the medical report on the table, and closed the door.

Snake Eyes had forced himself to read the whole thing, front to back. Then he sat quietly in the conference room as the numbness he'd felt since he'd first seen Shana on the island wore off and emotions took over.

Shock first; some of the things that had been done were beyond cruel. Barbaric was closer but still didn't even begin to describe what she'd endured, what that sick son of a bitch had done to her. Evil was the only word that came to mind to describe the mind that had had Shana whipped, that had carefully and deliberately applied bees to various sensitive parts of her anatomy, that had nailed her to a cross and left her to die.

When he'd come up from the basement with the stretcher that held Shana's unconscious body and he saw the well-dressed man he'd seen on the drone's video facing down Allie and Duke, he'd been momentarily snapped out of his numb shock to dark fury. He'd spent a long moment looking the man over, fixing each detail of face and figure into Snake Eyes' mind permanently. Someday…Snake Eyes didn't know when, but he was going to face that man again over what he'd done and the day he did one of them was not going to walk away from that confrontation.

Doc had listed in careful detail the types and amounts of drugs he'd found in Shana's system. The barbiturates Snake Eyes was aware of; had been expecting since Sandra's laboratory in the Congo had been well-equipped with those drugs; sodium pentothal, barbital, and other similar drugs. Other drugs were also expected; GHB, meth, roofies; Snake Eyes had been expecting those because Shana would have to be drugged before someone could rape her, she would never willingly submit to something like that.

But at the bottom of the list Doc had written in different colored ink that he'd found staggeringly high levels of a drug called Oxytocin, and an even more obscure drug called Anafranil. Snake Eyes felt his heart twist in his chest as he read Doc's analysis:

Oxytocin is a hormone the human female body produces naturally to encourage receptiveness to a human male during efforts at procreation. However, when massive doses were injected into the patient's body they caused the patient to enter into a state of 'hypersexual excitation'. The anti-depressant drug Anafranil has, as one of its side effects, the ability to block the human body's perception of sexual fulfillment, and it is the opinion of this physician that these two drugs, when administered in such massive doses, were used to psychosexually torture the victim. As the victim also had birth-control implants that were conflicting with the drugs used, I have withdrawn the implants for now so that there will be no more conflicting hormones and the patient's body will be able to eventually stabilize the amounts of these hormones to no further ill effects.

Snake Eyes closed the folder, realized his hand was trembling, and closed his fist carefully to stop the involuntary movement as cold rage flooded him. He understood that dream now, understood why Shana had been so frustrated, and why Cam had done what she did. He'd deduced at the time that it was because of the drugs, but had no idea of the extent. They wanted her to want them, wanted her willing, but she would never have done so deliberately so they drugged her.

He got up from the table, anger a dark mask on his face as he stepped out into the corridor. And then the need for physical movement took over, and he barely noticed as he increased his pace until he was running, his feet pounding out a steady rhythm as he traveled the corridors. Although they did have a gym, some of the Joes preferred old-fashioned-scenery-speeding-past, and so the corridors had been divided into a walking and a running lane, and it wasn't an unusual sight to see one of them jogging the corridors. Usually it was Snake Eyes, with Shana beside him, as they pounded up and down the exactly five miles of corridors here in their underground base; often it was Hawk and Flint, catching up on base business while they jogged; or Shana and Allie, and, more recently, Cam; they all knew by now that when Cam woke in the middle of the night with nightmares she'd either get up and go on a run to wear off the rest of the nervous energy before she went back to sleep, or she would take her swords to the dojo for practice until she was exhausted and then she went back to sleep.

Snake Eyes ran the five miles of base corridor once, then, still seething with rage, he ran it again. As he was in the middle of his third repetition, he heard voices in the corridor—Allie and Courtney—and he ducked into the dojo just so he wouldn't run into them, so they wouldn't see his sweat-soaked clothes and his shaking legs and decide he'd had enough. Not that they could order him to stop—but they were both perfectly capable of finding someone who could.

The rooms on base were all on motion sensors; the lights in individual rooms came on when someone entered the room, and turned off when there was no motion present. Snake Eyes paused for a moment, breathing hard, next to the door; then he saw his swords, his blades, sitting forgotten in a corner. He grabbed them and attacked one of the nearby target practice dummies in fury.

Again and again. No style, no forms, no grace, no control. Just sheer unbridled fury. When his swords went dull, when they lost their edge and couldn't do any more damage to the target dummy, he snatched a sword off the wall and attacked with that.

His body gave out before his fury did. The entire time she'd been gone, he'd barely eaten, barely slept; spent most of his time in a meditative trance trying to reach her, to somehow make her ordeal somehow better. All of that caught up with him now as his legs gave out under him, dumping him to his knees on the floor, staring dully at the carnage; target dummies hacked to pieces, wooden practice swords snapped and splintered, the swords that had been hanging on the wall snatched down, used, dulled, tossed aside.

He stared…and couldn't bring himself to care. As he slumped to the floor, anger drained out of him as suddenly as it had taken hold, and suddenly all he wanted was to see her. See her, touch her, feel her, know she was alive. But as he struggled to his feet, a wave of exhaustion hit him, and he staggered…and realized he'd be of no use to her until he'd showered and gotten some sleep.

He trudged off to Shana's quarters, stumbled blindly into the shower to quickly wash the sweat off, then just collapsed into bed. Sleep beckoned, and he gave into it, reassured that Shana would be there when he woke, and they'd handle her recovery…together. And since it was okay for Charlie to see Cam's medical, but Doc had to sneak around to give Snake Eyes a look at Shana's…well, there was a very easy fix to that too.

Charlie headed for his quarters, stripped off his uniform and got into the showers gratefully. He wanted to wash the stink of that place off him, wanted to wash it out of his hair, his clothes, off his skin.

Out of his mind was going to be harder. As he stood in the shower, the numbness of the trip wore off and slowly his emotions were coming back to him. The anguish he'd felt when he saw her, hanging by grotesquely dislocated shoulders; when he'd touched her, and she'd opened her eyes and seen him, and the way she'd cried his name had broken his heart. Her cries, the helpless exhausted sobbing of someone who had been in a lot of pain for far too long, had inspired a protective fury in him that he'd never known existed until he'd met her, and the memory of which brought tears to his own eyes.

Had he only met her half a year ago? Had it really only been August when the hurricane had ripped through the SERE training at Camp Mackall and he'd been part of the team that went to find Hawk? When he'd first seen her, barely conscious on the makeshift stretcher, half-nude and battered, he'd been appalled. When subsequent events showed her strength and resilience, her determination to keep going even when life kept knocking her over, his respect for her had grown. Allie and Shana coming to him and asking him to spend time with her, to break her out of her isolation and loneliness, had, for him, simply been a way to assuage his curiosity about their newest member—but curiosity turned to respect, respect turned to liking and then love, and while he couldn't pinpoint the exact moment when he realized he was in love with her, it was an undeniable fact that he was completely head over heels for her. It amused Frank Talltree to no end; Charlie had never been one to pay much attention to women, and Frank had predicted over the years that when Charlie did eventually fall, he'd fall hard. And his prediction had proved true.

Those few weeks up at Cam's New York cabin had been the happiest he could ever recall being. While he loved the Army, loved the military and believed in the goals and ideals it stood for, it had been the only thing that touched him that deeply, and he'd had no idea what he'd do if he wasn't in the military. No idea what direction his life would take if he ever mustered out. After having met Cam, his life had suddenly acquired direction, purpose, meaning; she was his reason for living, the one thing that made his life worthwhile. The one person—the only person—he could see spending the rest of his life with.

As he lay in bed, hair still damp from his shower, face wet with tears as he cried for her, at the thought of what she'd endured and would still endure through her recovery and the cleaning-up part of the mess that followed, he decided to himself that when it was all over, after Kennedy's trial and Yu's trial in the New York courts, he was going to talk her into leaving the military. She was content here, had told him she was happy, but on her reservation upstate he'd seen her truly happy, and he knew that she would never get that here. Not anymore. The majority of the people on base had been able to treat her as just another soldier until Shana had disappeared, but now their impressions of her were forever going to be tainted and she would never be 'ordinary'—even less so once her ordeal as Kennedy's slave became public knowledge—and it would, because both Cam and Shana would want justice served not only for themselves but for every victim Kennedy had ever enslaved and tortured and possibly killed. But in doing so, Cam would sacrifice every last hope she had for a normal life for herself in order to get justice for others, and it wasn't fair that the only thing she'd ever wanted, the only thing she'd ever asked for, would be denied her because of her own selfless nature.

Would he miss the military? Not really. Yes, he'd made friends here, but he had very few close friends. He'd always been a little aloof, not opening up to others easily, and out of everyone here, the only people he could really call close friends was Snake Eyes, who was even more aloof and unapproachable than Charlie himself; and Frank, his fellow Navajo brother. And if that was his choice, between Cam and his friends, Cam would be his choice. Now and forever.

Recovery was going to be hard; the trial was going to be harder. But after that, even if she got mad at him, no matter what he had to do, he would make sure she got that quiet ordinary life she so desperately wanted. And as if his mind just wanted him to come to that conclusion before it slept, the resolution was quickly followed by darkness.