"You came back for me." (Set in the Blackburn Prometheus facility.)
<PRO> Cell - Blackburn Research Facility
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 dinnertime, but Flicker's door has been locked tight for some while now. He hasn't been out with the others, though there is an untouched tray of mediocre cafeteria food sitting on the floor to the right of the door. Flicker himself is sitting cross-legged on his cot, the thin pillow propped between his back and the wall. Under the harsh fluorescent lighting he looks paler, the shadows beneath his eyes more stark; his rumpled scrubs and freshly shaven head is not helping him look any healthier, just contributing to his haggard hospital-ward aesthetic. In his lap there's a hardcover copy of The Book of Mormon; he has it open to the book of Mosiah, one finger slowly tracing down the page as he reads.
There's a heavy tromp of boots outside; the door opens just far enough to shove Jamie through before closing again. Paler and more worried-looking than usual, he seems not at first to even notice Flicker. He almost trips on the tray, stares at it blankly for a moment, then slowly looks up. His eyes go wide. "Oh! Flicker!" He starts toward his cellmate, hesitates, then re-routes to sit down on his own cot, legs pulled up against his chest. "You -- are you -- did they -- hurt you?"
Flicker looks up slowly from his book, his hand resting on the page. He sits a little bit straighter when Jamie starts toward him -- but sags back with a slump of shoulder, a heavy think of his head against the wall, once the other man moves away. "You were there. You don't remember?" He gives his head a very small shake. "I'm fine. You don't look so good."
Jamie bites his lower lip hard. "I remember the beginning of the experiment and not being able to throw the ball, then..." He looks away, breath coming faster. "I -- I had flashbacks...to awful things. She said that your refusal to comply triggered my PTSD, but it was her, wasn't it?" There's a kind of weary resignation in this question. "I'm sorry I fucked up. Did she make me do anything..." His eyes search Flicker frantically.
"Part of me just wanted to put that thing straight in one of them. But that wouldn't have been --" Flicker chews on the inside of his cheek, his head shaking slowly. His eyes drop to the page he's been reading, though his expression looks a little too blank to suggest he's still paying the words on the page much attention. "You didn't mess up. I'm really sorry that you went through that. I didn't want to make it worse for you. I just --" His finger traces restlessly against the page. "They don't stop, you know? If she thought hurting you would make me do what they want, she'd just bring you in to hurt you more every time they wanted something."
Jamie starts to scoot toward the edge of his cot, but then only curls in on himself more tightly. "No, I -- I was supposed to do as they asked and I didn't --" He frowns at the floor, shaking his head. "-- didn't know how. But they might not believe that." His breathing is only growing faster and more shallow. "She wants me to blame you. But I know it was her. Using me to..." He looks up at Flicker abruptly, his voice hoarse and quiet. "Coyote told me the same thing. And they killed him."
"You did the best you could. What they were asking was ludicrous." Flicker's arm tenses as Jamie's breathing speeds. He lifts his hand -- partially outstretched toward the other cot -- then drops it back. His book falls closed as his legs pull up toward his chest. "I'm so sorry. I wish I could tell you that won't happen again, but I don't -- know what they'll do." His voice is softer, his eyes lifting back to Jamie. Studying his paler face and ragged breaths. "Do you want to talk about him, or -- think about something else right now?"
"But -- but, what if they get suspicious?" Jamie's fingers dig into his arms as he grips tighter. "She talked to me -- took me to her office and --" He rocks back and forth gently. "I used to live for the days she'd do that." His tears, when they come, are not particularly dramatic. Perhaps he has some practice weeping unobtrusively. "I don't know how to talk about him." He clutches his head, blunt nails scraping scalp. "After we were taken. There's so much that's just -- gone."
"I guess we just have to make sure we're not here long enough for it to matter." Flicker lowers his chin to his knees, his eyes fixed on Jamie. "Talked to you about what?" His shoulder curls inward as Jamie's tears begin to fall. His fingers clench against his shin, and the small twitch that passes through him is just brief, a quick shudder of motion that leads to nothing. "I'm sorry," comes again, softer and uncertain. "She's taken so much from you. When we get out of here --" But this falters. He swallows hard, squeezing tighter at his leg.
"You." Jamie sniffles, trying to blink his eyes clear, though the tears keep coming. "She kept talking about you, and how you've disrupted my recovery and you don't really care about me and only want to use my --" He breaks off, lips pressing together tight. "-- use me. To escape." He shakes his head vehemently. "She lies. I know she lies. And -- even if it were true..." He shrugs. "We still have to get out of here. So you can go back to Hive. So everyone can go back to their families and their lives." His gaze drops to the floor again.
"I do want to get out of here. I guess it would be a terrible lie if she just made up something completely untrue. I feel a little more like dying every day I stay here." Flicker's fingers scrunch at his scrubs. Grip them hard. "But I wouldn't -- leave without you, I couldn't -- I want you to have a chance to --" He blinks, tears his eyes from Jamie to lower his head, forehead pressing to the back of his knees. He takes a slow breath, and another -- when he looks back up the tension in his grip is easing, some. "What would you want to do? If you were out there again, and not here?"
Jamie looses a soft noise of distress and starts to get up again -- catches himself, and turns the movement into rocking. "I know that," he says firmly. "You came back for me. Twice. She said...it was because of Hive. But I'm not Hive. You came back for me." His shoulders hunch together tighter at the question. "Can you...come over here, please? I want --" He rocks harder. Swallows. "If she's watching -- I shouldn't go to you. After the conversation we just had -- it's better if she thinks some of it stuck."
Flicker lets out a quick and ragged breath at this request. He unfolds himself from his cot almost immediately, the book tumbling from his lap to the floor as he crosses to settle at Jamie's side. "My experience with Hive made it easier for me, maybe, than for some of my teammates, to see the ways Prometheus messes with you. But I came back for you. Because you deserve better than this." His hand rests tentatively at Jamie's back, rubbing slowly. "I love you, I'm not going to leave you to -- to --" His next breath is shakier. "Was there much penstemon down in Sedona? My mom used to have so much of it around the garden. It'd probably be just. An explosion of color this time of year."
Jamie watches Flicker with wide eyes, tears still trickling down his cheeks. He presses into the hand at his back, some of the tension easing from him from the mere contact. He opens his mouth, but no words come out at first. It takes a few more seconds of breathing before he manages, "I love you, too." The words are deliberate and careful, as if he's worried about saying them wrong somehow.
He does not uncurl himself, but does lean against Flicker, pillowing his cheek on other other man's shoulder. "Yeah, we had those. My favorite was the red kind -- 'firecrackers', we called them. Not sure if that was the proper name. I'd always just ask --" His breath hitches in his throat. "Down by the creek especially, it was just a world of wildflowers in spring and summer -- lupines and primroses and indian paintbrush. But I can't see myself going back." He pauses, and adds, even softer, "Can't see myself out there at all."
Flicker's eyes widen, a faint flush creeping up his neck. His hand slows, stills between Jamie's shoulders. He takes a slow breath before rubbing again, a little more firmly this time. Very quietly: "Where do you see yourself?"
Slowly relaxing still, Jamie finally does let go of his own shins, turning slightly to fit himself against the Flicker's side. "I don't know." Then, at a delay, muffled from burying his face in Flicker's shoulder, "I want to see myself at your side. But even just thinking about being free -- it's so unreal and terrifying." He chuckles, suddenly. "I had a roommate, first time at Lassiter, who would sing 'There is no Arizona' every time I mentioned home." He lays his hand on Flicker's chest and looks up at him.
"My side -- doesn't seem like the safest place for anyone to be." Beneath Jamie's hand, Flicker's heart is racing. His eyes meet Jamie's, his breathing hitching a little less steadily. His hand comes mostly to a stop again, this time resting against the other man's shoulder -- the brush of his thumb against the side of Jamie's neck, the line of his collarbone, is very light and just a little shaky. "Oh --" It's barely much of a sound, just a quiet breath that slips involuntarily from Flicker's lips. The flush in his cheeks deepens. "... I don't think I know that song."
"I feel safer with you than I ever remember being." Jamie blushes faintly, but does not look away. "Though maybe that doesn't say much, since I've spent so much of my life in Prometheus." He lets out a long, shivery breath at the brush of Flicker's thumb, his eyes fluttering almost shut for a moment. "I barely know it, myself. He only ever sang the chorus, and I never bothered asking for the rest." Despite this, he draws breath and sings, his tenor soft and melodic, "There is no Arizona -- no Painted Desert, no Sedona; if there was a Grand Canyon, she could fill it up with the lies he told her; but they don't exist, those dreams he sold her, she'll wake up and find there is no Arizona."
Flicker does look away, his eyes lowering -- only a half second before his hand does, falling to curl against the mattress. His arm tenses, muscles tightening as his weight leans against it. His eyes close while Jamie sings, fingers gripping hard at the bedsheets. Only after does he look up, stand up, pausing to scoop his book back off the floor on his way back to his own cot. The smile he gives Jamie is small. Quick, a little diffident, as he settles back down, resting his book in his lap again. "You have a really nice voice."
Jamie touches Flicker's hand lightly where it clutches the sheets, but does not try to prevent him from pulling away. "Thank you," he says, his smile warm if slightly wistful, a rare expression on him. "I took choir really seriously, when I did choir." He tugs his sheet and blanket loose and shimmies under them, still facing Flicker. "You didn't hurt me," he murmurs, pulling the sheet up to hide his blush. He closes his eyes and for a moment it's possible to suspect he's just going to sleep, but then he adds, very quietly, "I wouldn't leave without you, either."