Jim's face was devoid of all colour, eyes two black, despairing pools. He stared endlessly into nowhere, seeing nothing as Megan stitched up the hole in Simon's leg, winding a bandage over the wound.
With Joel dead and Simon gone, the nazis had cut their losses and left with what they had.
"Blair." He moaned the name out loud, feeling his soul tear in two, feeling as if a heavy knife had torn his stomach open, entrails raw and exposed, only holding himself together by the most delicate of touches, one push and there would be nothing left.
They were in a little town somewhere, he didn't know, didn't care, his body was the only thing really present, heart and soul dying, screaming, crying with Blair in a cold, cold cell somewhere.
"I have to find him." The words slipped almost silently out of a throat tight with pain. He had to find Blair. Find him, he had to...
"I'm coming with you." Simon struggled to sit up, swinging his good leg to the floor.
Megan pushed him back down. "You can't Simon,"
"Dammit, I'm not leaving him to those bastards!"
"If you go, you'll slow them down." There was no trace of emotion in her voice as she re-tightened the bandage on his leg. "And it could be that time lag that kills Blair." Harsh words, but no harsher than the reality they lived with every day.
"Jim." Simon reached out, his hand clawing around the other man's arm. "You get Blair out of there. Or if you can't - kill him. You hear me?" His fingers dug into the other man's like claws. "Not for us, he won't tell them anything, but for him you hear me? for him!" He shook Jim fiercely. "Promise me. PROMISE!"
Jim nodded his head dully, his soul trapped elsewhere, body jerking like a dancing marionette. Making the moves, going through the motions, not really in charge, just a puppet.
And the reality of what he was saying, what he was promising burned through him and the nod turned into a shake, the movement so vicious it jolted his tenuous hold on reality. "No." He wouldn't kill Blair. Couldn't wouldn't would NEVER.
Because he was going to bring him back alive. He hadn't spent this long in torment, waiting, to give up at the first hurdle. He was going to bring Blair back alive.
He had to.
"What is your name? What is your group? How many in your group? Where are they? What are your plans? Weapons? The Americans, the English, what will they do?" They snapped back and forth, a machine gun rattle, never ending, never allowing him to speak, even if he thought he could form the words.
Something burned the tender flesh on the inside of his arm, making him howl and scream, trying spasmodically to convulse away from the pain, the harsh metal cuffs at his wrists and ankles holding him immobile, cutting deeper into already bruised and bleeding flesh.
Words were power, he remembered reading that somewhere...was it him? Someone somewhere had read those words, a light-speckled library, watching each mote of dust turned golden by the warm sun before it drifted from the light. Someone had seen those, someone had watched the dust in a time before the pain...was there a time before the pain? It didn't matter. Words were power, words were comfort, accompanied by tender touches, forming soothing sounds.
The noises started again and his brow creased in confusion. These weren't the gentle words he was used to, these were harsh shouted questions and demands, not the soothing promises he was used to receiving from J-
He couldn't say the name. Not even in his mind. If he did, they would hear, they would know because they had the words, the power of words, not him, he couldn't...
...but if he could, then maybe, if he had the words, if he had the power, they couldn't tell. They couldn't know, and maybe he could say that name in his mind, see that face in his heart. He tried desperately to moisten terribly parched lips, moved his mouth, but nothing came out of his dry, cracked throat.
"Wasser!" another word, more power. If he only knew what they meant. If only he wasn't so tired...
Blair felt something cool at his lips and gulped greedily, feeling the liquid flow down his throat, cooling, soothing. He mewled weakly as it was taken away, fingers twitching uselessly inside the cuffs as he strained to bring it back.
The water roiled and spasmed in his abused stomach, forcing its way up his throat and back out his mouth, bringing the meagre contents of his stomach up with it, and he gagged, desperately trying to force cramped and tired muscles to work. He finally lifted his head a little, and felt the bile coat his chin and neck, small spatters landing on the top of his chest. He wept in frustration, his throat drier than ever as he heard the noises above him again.
Something ice-cold dashed across his body, washing the vomit away before it and he lapped desperately as it crossed his lips, trying to suck some of it in, ignoring the shivers the coldness brought in the chilly room. He had to make the words now, the words had power, the power to make it stop, make it all stop, grant him dissolution, peace, grant him nothingness. All he had to do was say them. He opened his mouth to stop the pain, determined now, and that face flashed before him like a bolt of lightening.
And he knew who he was.
And he knew where he was.
And he knew what he was going to say.
"I -I..." the words were halting and weak, each syllable requiring a mountain of effort, but they were there, he could say them now. "I don't kn-know anyth-thing..."
And it was like an epiphany. Blair realised he had the POWER now, he had the WORDS, and they couldn't take that away from him and he laughed, the sound spiralling higher and higher, sounding crazed and insane to his own ears, and he knew he was mad, but that was ok, madmen tell no truths, that was more WORDS he knew.
"I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING YOU BASTARDS!!" And he kept laughing and laughing, the joyful sounds turning into choked sobs as they unchained his feet, letting his legs drop heavily to the cold table, sensation returning to the cold white flesh, cramping, terrible agonising pain, then his hands were free and they were dragging him away, chaining him again, more metal biting into his abused flesh. He felt himself being lifted higher and higher, his arms protesting, but still he couldn't stop laughing. He laughed at the Germans, he laughed at their stupid uniforms, he laughed at their pathetic plans for world domination because he could SEE now, he was up high, he could see everything, they were wrong all wrong, it was all for NOTHING they were going to lose, it was going to happen, he could see it...
He was still laughing when the first blow struck.
Megan stopped beside him, then hand him the battered valise he had taken from Cassie. Another loss, another dead. They had found her body crumpled and twisted by the side of the road, guts torn open, eyes staring and mouth twisted around a final scream in a grim reminder of the agony she had died in. And Alec. A single shot to the head.
Jim took the case, gently, reverently, barely registering it when Megan pressed a slim hand to his shoulder in comfort. He slipped the precious item into his battered pack, checked his Beretta, slipped it into his waistband and shouldered the pack. Each movement smooth, economical, no sign of the interior struggle, the fact that deep inside he wanted to run and hide, stripped of all defenses, naked as a newborn baby.
A shadow stepped over him, then two dark hands were spreading a map out in front of his dull, sightless eyes. "They've probably taken him here." Brown circled an area with a dirty nail. "They've got a garrison, they wouldn't want to wait too long until they could-" he choke on the words, unnecessarily. Jim already knew what they would do, could do, were doing. It was a sickness, inbred, stamped into young, fresh faces soldiers from the moment they enlisted into the SS. As deep as the tattoo under the arm marking their blood type, their special status over normal soldiers, growing deeper and deeper, spreading the sickness until they were more likely to be aroused by whipping a naked woman rather than the thought of making love to her. Whips, electrodes, presses that crushed tender skin into mangled clumps of flesh, all of those horrible little party favours would be brought into play until they had what they wanted. And after.
"Lets go." Jim looked up and saw that Brown and Rafe were decked out, ready to follow him. To their deaths maybe. It shouldn't be like that. It was his fault, he had let them be separated, it was his duty to rescue his friend, his death a penance for his own utter stupidity. It was an ancient covenant, burned down to the bone, part of him and outside, part of a greater whole he barely understood. He couldn't wear any more blood on his hands, couldn't face the chance of more deaths on his soul.
"Stay here." Even to his own ears his voice was flat, dead. Like he was, deep inside.
Turning, he headed off, to where the map indicated, to his death.
Or a chance at renewal. He didn't know.
Brown and Rafe followed him, and he remained silent, feeling Megan's eyes bore into his back, her whispered prayer as they disappeared from sight.
"I don't know anything..."
And finally they realised, that was all they were going to get. After the torture. After the rapes. After everything they had done, they discovered that somewhere in the seemingly frail, easily broken young body there burned a spirit and a love so strong, that Blair Sandburg was perfectly willing to die before he told them anything they could use.
Or perhaps they were afraid. Afraid of the mad laughter he couldn't stop pouring from his throat. Afraid they had snapped his mind, broken his link to the real world and now his secrets were forever locked in his head, beyond their reach.
It didn't matter.
Only after they had thrown the torn, naked, bleeding body onto the filth-smeared straw in an ice-cold cell did the laughter die and the tears begin, one last word sobbed through broken lips.
Tearing a motor bike he had liberated from the Germans by the simple act of blowing the SS Sturmbannfuhrer riding it clean out of the saddle with a single shot up the twisting winding road leading to what was once a proud castle. Mind gone, quite probably insane, intent on taking on an entire SS garrison.
But maybe, just maybe, insane enough to survive after the fact.