Word count: 1400
Notes: This one ain't pretty, folks. Warning for torture, violence, and psychological manipulation, although most of it happens off screen. Many, many thanks to flawlessglitch for reading this through while I paced anxiously around her living room. Now we're off to swim in an ocean of sangria.
Summary: Things are starting to come back to Jared. Things like blinding grit in his eyes and collateral damage.
It takes six months for a human fingernail to completely grow back. He remembers reading that somewhere. Jared shifts, wriggles and squirms until he can get his hand close to his face and sticks his middle finger into his mouth, traces his tongue along the thin, warped edge of his fingernail. Six months. Good to know.
The music has been nonstop for hours. Perhaps days. It builds and builds, grows louder and in the moment right before Jared's sure his eardrums are about to shatter someone reels it back and that's how Jared knows he's not alone. Then the lights turn on, harsh and bright and reflecting off of the walls of this metal box and maybe Jared's eyes are closed or maybe they're not. Everything's red.
Jared sleeps in between the beats. Timing is crucial. Somewhere way far back, in that very small pocket hidden deep, deep inside, the place that's safe and secure and not in pain, the passage of time is very important.
Somebody yanks him out of his cell and drags him into the room with the hooks driven into the cement walls and the drain in the center of the floor. He's tied up, hosed off, manages to get some water into his mouth this time, so today is a good day.
The spray is freezing, pounds into his bruised, raw skin, his balls try to crawl into his body and the water is pale pink as it swirls around the drain. Jared wonders if he's got any blood left on the inside, and if so, then why.
There's nothing left, only animated flesh stuck to bones. It's been four days since he slept. Or maybe seven. Could be seven.
When everything else has been stripped away, he still remembers the numbers. There are six of them. Their order is crucial. Six simple numbers.
Jared lays in his box, feels the muscles in his legs cramp and tries to draw his shoulders together so that they'll fit more easily and repeats the numbers in his head, concentrates until they burn like an afterimage against the black of his closed eyelids, warps the lines of them until they take on a different shape. Curved, like a smile. A very specific smile.
There had been a boy. Of course there was a boy, there was always gonna be a boy, and there were always gonna be secrets. A beautiful, untouchable boy. Eyes so green they could hardly be real. A laugh that made Jared's heart twist. Straight back, bowed legs and rough hands that used to keep Jared up at night just thinking about them, wondering what they would feel like against his ribs, his hips, wrapped around his wrists.
That boy is gone. Has been for a long time now. Blown to bits and pieces and now Jared will never, ever know.
Arms and legs cuffed to the chair. The chair bolted to the floor. A thick bundle of wires stuck together with black tape is attached to the back of the chair and a low-grade electrical current runs through it, buzzes underneath Jared's skin.
"Just one," someone says. It's too bright in here and Jared can't see his face. The voice is muffled, might be disguised or Jared's ears might be full of blood. Anyone's guess.
Jared lets his chin fall to his chest. His lips crack under his tongue.
"I'll trade you one for some water. One simple number. It's not giving up. We'll call it a business transaction."
"No," Jared says and waits for the pain.
Everybody's only doing their job. Jared doesn't hate them.
He keeps his teeth jammed together, doesn't scream. It's a point of pride, not screaming. He concentrates on the numbers, remembers a face.
A tube jammed down his throat delivers food, another attached to his arm hydrates him. Jared's tongue feels swollen and he believes he might have bitten it clean through in a spot the other day.
A glass of water sits barely out of reach, clear and gorgeous and beaded with condensation. Jared's arms are tied down but if he moves very slowly and twists very carefully he can brush it with his fingertips.
He's been beaten, starved, looks down at his skinny arms, sunken stomach and jutting hipbones and doesn't recognize his own body, but this might be the worst they've done to him yet.
Someone steps behind him and Jared looks up, gets only a flash of pale skin before a hood is shoved down over his eyes. Hands find his shoulders for a moment, then damp fingers run across his lips, disappear and return even wetter the second time. They slip inside and dampen his gums, make his teeth feel slick again.
Pulling them out, the guy pats Jared on the cheek. "I kinda thought you might bite."
The voice is familiar somehow.
Things are coming back. Half-formed memories, like a dream from years ago.
Jared's in a bed, stretched out on his side, a thin sheet pulled up to his chest. Someone's behind him, snugged in tight all along his back, palm fitted over Jared's hip. It's the first time he's woken up next to someone since he outgrew bunk beds.
"I think I loved you once, or I could have." A nose pressed to the back of Jared's neck, a prickly scrape of unshaven jaw.
The man has freckles on the backs of the fingers and Jared's heart starts to beat again, or at least he thinks it does. His throat closes down and he's having trouble breathing. The room seems too big.
"You died. I saw it," Jared says. That was the beginning. That's what started all of this.
"Don't believe everything you see."
"It's you. Jensen," Jared says, and thinks about the last time he saw him, thinks about blinding grit in his eyes and collateral damage.
Jensen hums, scrapes his teeth on Jared's shoulder and holds on tighter. The room is still too big but now it's caving in on him. Jared's at the center of a black hole, face to face with the singularity.
Behind him, Jensen starts to move, sluggish pushes of his hips against Jared's ass, slow and deliberate, and perhaps Jared's still dead, maybe that wasn't his heart after all.
Jensen reaches down and finds Jared's cock, wraps his fingers around it. Jared's body is too wrecked to respond. It's comforting, though. A cool, dry hand on a hot forehead.
Reaching around, Jared scuffs at Jensen's hair and it's longer than last time, long enough that his fingers get snagged so he pulls Jensen closer and twists his spine to look at him. Jensen's eyes are the same bright and unlikely color, his mouth still soft, his smile for Jared still too sweet. He might be a ghost. They might all be ghosts.
Still rocking against him, deliberate and measured, Jensen says, "What's the last number, Jared? I know all the others, but no one told me the last one." To prove it, he repeats the other five. Even gets the order correct.
"No," Jared says, and weakly starts to move with Jensen. He can't give Jensen what he wants, but he can give him this much.
"They'll kill me. They like you better." Jensen sounds keyed up, desperation bleeding through. "Do you want me to die?"
Jared's voice sounds hollow in his own ears. Scooped out like the rest of him. "Do you think it'll be easier the second time?"
Immediately, Jensen rolls to his feet, reaches under the mattress and throws Jared a pair of shorts.
"Get up. Put 'em on." Without a hint of self-consciousness, Jensen adjusts his hard-on, runs his fingers through his hair.
Jared tries to sit up, head swimming, starts to struggle to his feet and only manages it when Jensen gets an arm around his waist. Jensen leads him to the door, punches a code into the keypad and it automatically opens.
The sun is bright, renders Jared painfully blind. Jensen holds him up, keeps him steady as he blinks into the light and begins to pick out hazy figures in desert fatigues.
"Welcome to the team."