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(CN: nonconsensual medical research, mention of suicidal ideation.)

Dramatis Personae

Flicker, Number One


"Once upon a time, I was very cooperative." (Some time after Flicker's solo raid; part of Prometheus TP.)


Lassiter Research Facility - Midland, Ohio

It's quiet, in here. Flicker's breathing is louder than it ought to be, oddly distorted through the mask of the nebulizer that is strapped on his face. Outside of the plastic apparatus he looks fine, if overly pale. His breathing had for a while been more wheezy, more labored, but it's evened out a while back. Where it was deeper and steadier now it's quickening again, though. Rapid, hitching -- this time, though, only until his eyes open. His hand flies to his face, fumbles at the mask. Snatches it off jerkily. After this he does not move -- only lies in the bed, staring up at the ceiling with his fingers clenching and unclenching against the front of his shirt.

Jamie sits at the foot of the bed, hugging his knees to his chest and staring at the door. When Flicker wakes he turns, a hunted look in his eyes. He unfolds himself, though his shoulders remain tightly hunched, and scoots up into the other man's field of vision. "Are you -- can you --" He breaks off, reaching for Flicker's hand and then hesitating. Very, very quietly, "I'm so sorry."

Flicker's eyes widen. His breaths speed up, a little raspier, a little more ragged, his fingers gripping tightly at his shirt. His right side twitches, though there's no limb there currently to complete whatever gesture he was attempting. Eventually he relaxes his grip. Stretches his hand out towards Jamie's.

Jamie takes Flicker's hand -- gently, this time, though the twitch of his muscles suggests he just conquered the impulse to squeeze harder. The tension in his shoulders relaxes, just a little. "I think I blacked out for awhile. You came to my room -- I had a panic attack? And then we were on the floor in the hallway. You couldn't breathe..." His own breathing quickens. "Dr. Messer says the other researchers want to kill you but she won't let them. I begged her to let me stay with you. I don't know what's going to happen now."

"I'm sorry. If I'd just been quicker, I -- I'm sorry. I just wanted to get you out of here." Flicker swallows hard, his breaths still coming too fast, too harsh. After a pause he squeezes back at Jamie's hand. Squeezes his eyes shut. "You should have let them." It's just quiet, level, not particularly accusatory or bitter.

"It's not your fault. You're --" Jamie struggles for a moment, mouth open but no words forthcoming. When they do come, they're soft and faintly awed. "You came back for me. Again." He shakes his head. "I don't know why it's so hard to want to leave. I know this is terrible. So many others would do anything to get out." His eyes search Flicker's face, then drop to their hands. "You -- would rather be dead?" Careful, tentative.

"How long have you been here? This place does things to your head. They do things to your head." Flicker's hand is trembling, slightly. "But it isn't true. What they feed you. I wanted you to have an actual chance to see that. You're worth more than --" His head shakes hard, his eyes still closed tight. He bites at the inside of his cheek. Forces himself to draw a slower breath. "I don't know that it's really going to be a choice. Prometheus has probably wanted me dead for a while."

Jamie looks away, brows furrowing. "Eight years? I guess almost nine, now." His hand grips Flicker's harder -- not painful, but steady. "It was so much worse, before Dr. Messer found me. I think I tried to escape, but...I can't remember. There's parts of me that are just. Gone." His gaze drifts to Flicker's right shoulder, the sleeve beneath it empty and flat. "You and your friends...your team? They're scared of you. Probably even she is." He tries to smile, but falters. "She won't let them kill you. I --" There's a flash of anger on his face, there and gone. His eyes start to stray toward the camera in the corner, but he schools them back to Flicker, hollow and despondent. "I don't know what to do."

Flicker opens his eyes. Studies Jamie's face. His thumb brushes slowly against the back of the other man's knuckles, his breaths coming a little easier. "They carve bits of you away. But you can build them back." He blinks, looks up toward the ceiling. "-- could have built them back. In here, I don't know. I'm sorry. I don't -- I don't know either. I don't know this place, I don't know -- how to get. Back out. Why --" He chews briefly at the inside of his cheek. "Why is she doing this? Why did she stop them?"

Jamie's breath comes out in a shiver, his hand pressing back into Flicker's touch, his shoulders relaxing further. "How could I ever do that if I don't even know what I lost? Don't know how much of what's left is actually /me/?" He wets his lips, wincing at where it's still swollen from his fall earlier. "I know this place -- parts of it, anyway." He stiffens again, his voice dropping very low. "This is a high-security isolation ward, for extremely destructive powers, serial escapees, and just old fashion solitary confinement. It's underground, and there are suppression grids along the hallways, not just the cells." He shakes his head, gritting his teeth. "I can ask Dr. Messer to move me back to my cell block. The guards there.../trust/ me. To a point."

"No, please --" Flicker's reply comes immediate, his voice sharpening with a sting of panic as his hand clenches Jamie's tighter. He bites down hard, deliberately relaxes his grip. Fixes his gaze on the wall. His voice has lowered to a bare whisper when he speaks again. "You're right. That's better. If you're up there, we could -- that would be. A better chance."

Jamie sucks in a quick breath, his eyes going wide. "I don't want to leave you, either. I'm terrified and I don't know what I'm doing and it's been so long since anyone's --" He tucks himself a little closer and wraps both of his hands around Flicker's. "What if they hurt you -- again?" He looks at the breathing apparatus, his head shaking hard. "It's not like I could stop them." That anger again, stronger this time.

"They might. That's what they do here. I knew that was a risk when I came here. That was my decision, Jamie, okay?" Flicker follows Jamie's gaze, his cheeks flushing darker as he looks at the nebulizer. "It's just asthma. I've lived through a lot worse." He sits up slowly, kind of ponderous and unsteady with the motion as he leans back against the wall. Pulls Jamie's hands along with him as he moves, not releasing his grip when he rests his hand back in his lap. "But you could. Maybe. Stop them. Not by yourself, but -- this is a big facility. There's a lot of us."

Jamie's eyes snap back to Flicker, even wider now. He nods emphatically. "Most people in minimum security either have really harmless powers, or are...very cooperative. But I -- I'll try." He follows Flicker's tug easily, fitting himself against the other man's side. He's shivering, and doesn't quite meet Flicker's eyes when he says, in a small voice. "Say my name again? Please? I can't remember the last time anyone's called me that, except -- her."

"Once upon a time, I was very cooperative. A model guinea pig, too. A lot of people want to get out. They just stop thinking it's an option." Flicker's breath catches when Jamie leans up against him. Shaky again even when it resumes. He tips his head to the side, resting his scarred cheek against the other man's short hair. "I'm sorry, Jamie. You deserve better."

"Yeah. I did," Jamie says quietly, "until you. Everyone else at the last place -- the researchers, the guards, even the other subjects -- always called me 'Number One.'" He leans harder into Flicker, then tenses. "Is this -- okay? I don't -- I mean -- sorry, I should have asked..." He looks down at their entwined hands, blushing, but he does not pull away.

"Jamie fits you much better." Flicker is quiet for a long while after this. His eyes close slowly. He pulls his cheek between his teeth, biting down harder. His head turns slowly, a small shiver passing through him as his cheek brushes against Jamie's buzzed-dark fuzz. He lets his head thump back against the wall after this, pulling his knee toward his chest and squeezing at the other man's hand. "This is fine. This is good."