CN: Non-graphic discussion of rape and murder.
"It's easier when people are just shooting at me." (Set in the Blackburn Prometheus facility.)
Blackburn Research Facility - Flicker and Jamie's Cell
The staff calls them "rooms", but this is like any of the other cells here. It is small, though not claustrophobic, and the door with its single reinforced glass window locks from the outside. The walls are off-white and the floor is the same pea-green linoleum that plagues the rest of the facility. The two cheap cots are permanently attached to the floor, as is the stainless steel sink/toilet combo in the center of the far wall. The inset overhead lights are institutional fluorescent tubes, their light sickly, sometimes flickery, and liable to emit a certain high-pitched hum. The air conditioning is always set too high and the heat set too low.
It's past dinnertime but well before lights out, and most of the subjects will be returned to their cells shortly if they haven't already. The general din of a dozen conversations fills the cellblock, drifting through vents and under doors. A few incautious voices rise high enough to carry occasional discernible words before being quieted by batons slamming on their doors. Jamie's been sitting on his bunk with his blanket wrapped around him, leafing through a crisp new paperback. He's visibly lost weight in the last two weeks, which is no small matter on his already thin frame. The marks of exhaustion in his eyes and posture make him look all the more gaunt and unwell.
The door opens just long enough to admit Flicker before closing again, its locks sliding heavily into place. Flicker looks not much better rested than Jamie, although he's had little to take up his time here, the researchers for the moment leaving him largely alone. Still, he's pale, too, thinner, eyes shadowed. Kind of stiff as he moves over to set a napkin-wrapped bundle on Jamie's bed. Then head over to his own, to lower himself slowly to the mattress. He studies the cover of Jamie's book for a while, then lies down, tugging the blanket half-heartedly over himself.
Jamie looks up when Flicker enters, setting the book -- Angelfall, by Susan Ee -- down to take up the bundle. He unwraps it to find a bread roll, a little tub of grape jelly, and an apple. He devours half the roll before slowing down just enough to smear some jelly on it, then finishes the rest with his previous alacrity. "Thank you," he says, his voice is even softer than usual. He stares down at the apple, rolling slowly it between his hands. "Has it been the same guard? Or mostly the same one?"
Flicker's eyes stay trained overhead, locked up onto the ceiling. His fingers clench against the blanket. "Mostly just the one." He grips tighter, his body tensed even though his voice is oddly calm and casual. "Sorry. I wanted to bring more but a lot of the stuff isn't very -- portable."
"It's okay. I could have gone myself, even if I would have been late." Jamie places the apple on top of the book and gets up, relocating to sit on the edge of Flicker's bed. Though he didn't so much as glance at the camera in the corner of the ceiling, he's managed to put himself precisely in its way, the back of his head blocking Flicker's face from view. "Who is it?" Then, "You don't have to talk about it. But I'm worried it'll keep getting worse."
Flicker clenches the blanket harder, pressing his eyes closed for a few slow breaths. "It might." When he shakes his head it's just one very small twitch of motion. "It's just one guard. It doesn't matter."
"I'm sorry." Jamie is quiet for a moment. He reaches for Flicker's hand, then hesitates. "Can I touch you? I -- get it if you don't want that right now but..." His shoulders give a minute shrug under the blanket. "Just. I get it."
There's a long stretch of silence. Flicker squeezes his eyes tighter, fingers digging into the thin blanket. Eventually he lets go of the fabric, stretches his hand out towards Jamie. "I'm sorry."
Jamie waits patiently, and when Flicker reaches he clasps their hands together tight. "It matters. I know -- /everything/ they do to us here is awful. But there's different /kinds/ of awful." He searches Flicker's face. "It's okay to be more messed up about some than others." His voice has dropped lower, and he struggles to keep it even. "If he raped you -- that matters. To me."
Flicker's breath hitches, and his head turns sharply aside as Jamie speaks. He doesn't let go, though. His jaw tightens; he squeezes Jamie's hand harder. "They're going to kill me in here." When he finally does speak it's dull, heavy. "It doesn't matter."
"No!" The word is not loud, but it spills from Jamie abruptly as he clasps Flicker's hand against his chest. "No." More level, now, though his heart is still racing. "We'll get out. And..." He closes his eyes for a moment. "You're alive now. You're hurting now."
"You'll get out." Flicker sounds determined on this point. "They don't have any use for me here, they're just waiting to --" He swallows again. His fingers uncurl, hand splaying against Jamie's chest. "It doesn't matter, okay? C'mon, look at me. This dude is hardly the worst thing that Prometheus has ever done to me. Right now I just need -- need to stay focus on getting -- on getting you all --" He breaks off with a small hitch of breath, his fingers curling in against Jamie's shirt.
Jamie opens his eyes and looks steadily at Flicker, at his scars and his missing arm. "I see you," he says very quietly. "But it's not a contest for the worst thing they've done to you. What he did is hurting you. You don't have to deal with that right now, but if you don't at some point -- that can kill you, too." He wrap his hand around Flicker's and squeezes again, making no attempt to loosen his grasp. "I want you to live. I want to get out of here, with you. If...if that means asking for her help? To -- find some 'use' for you, to keep you alive?" His heart speeds up again, and his other hand settles on Flicker's left shoulder. "I can do that."
"No!" This time it spills out of Flicker, fierce but not loud. "No, you don't have to -- you shouldn't have to -- she's already --" His grip tightens, and he tugs Jamie closer. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said -- I'll be fine. Right? I'll be fine. I haven't even been back here a month and I'm already losing it, I just need to. To." He falters again, blinking harder. "...I don't know how to deal with something like this." His voice is lower, now. "It's easier when people are just shooting at me."
Jamie does not resist when tugged, and fits himself neatly against Flicker's side. "You're used to being shot at, right?" he murmurs. "That's awful, too. I'd probably lose it if I were getting shot at, I don't know how you walk into the crossfire like that, again and again." He slips his fingers into Flicker's grasp -- still not attempting to pry himself free, only to grip back, tight. "But when someone forces you and you know that fighting back will get you hurt even worse, it can make you feel kinda like you're...complicit. Like it wasn't so bad, and you chose it, so you don't get to be angry or upset or whatever." He shakes his head. "But that's not true."
"I don't really think about much. There's people who need me to get them out of these cages, I don't -- have time to worry about being shot at. Not until afterwards, anyway." Flicker tucks himself closer to Jamie, the tremble in his body easy to feel. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be -- I mean, I know you've been here so long and probably -- have probably --" He presses Jamie's hand close to his own chest. Tips his head down, cheek resting against the other man's hair. "I'm sorry." His voice is shakier, now, his breathing less steady as well. "I don't know what I'm. Saying, I don't know how to -- I just want this over. I'm sorry I couldn't get you out."
Jamie turns slightly so he can gaze look up at Flicker, wide-eyed. "I already knew, but...you're amazing." He blushes, looking away, and partially unwraps his blanket-cape to cover them both. "You shouldn't -- what? It doesn't matter how many times it's happened to me. That doesn't have anything to do with your pain." The motion of his shrug is so slight that it might not have been noticeable without such close contact. "I just want to be here for you, now. You don't have to know what to say. I mostly don't, either." He tucks his head into the crook of Flicker's neck. "This isn't a good place for dealing with -- anything. But sometimes we have to make do to survive."