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Ghosts II

Spoilers: None, really. But you might want to read this story's predecessor, unless you want a serious case of "what the ... huh?"
Disclaimer: Not mine. Sad but true. No money is gained or intended to be gained.
Timeline: A good ways before the beginning of the current season, probably more towards half a year after Sydney's disappearance. Sark is still in custody.
Feedback: Is deeply appreciated and longed-for. You'll find the necessary address in the "about" section.
Thank you: To Rez, Auburn, MC, Amy and murron, my personal cheering and beta-ing brigade. To Amy, a special thanks. Know you why. Awkward or gramatically wrong sounding sentences were added after Rez's wonderful beta and are thus completely and utterly my fault.
Love to: Jo. This one's for you, sweetheart.



 


The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression. It is possible to lie, and even murder with the truth.


-- Alfred Adler



Last time they came, they brought fresh water. This time, maybe a day since then or longer, there is even a slice of dry toast. Exactly one.

He tries to savour it like a royal meal, tries to control himself but ends up wolfing it down anyway. It’s not enough, but he doesn’t care at the moment. It appeases the gnawing, painful hunger for a little while. He washes it down with a mouthful of water. He’s more careful with that. He’s already endured one seemingly endless period without water, his tongue sticking to the top of his mouth, barely any saliva left, his lips cracked and bleeding. He’s disciplined about water.

He still dreams of wine sometimes. Of that pungent, dry, ruby liquid coating the inside of his mouth, of the warmth trickling down his throat like a tentative caress, of the fine aftertaste on his tongue and the burst of flavour in his head.

He can smell it when he concentrates enough, but the smell becomes weaker every time he tries to conjure it. He has learned only to invoke it in times of need.

"Chateau Petrus, wasn’t it? 1982?"

He goes utterly still on his bunk. Only now does he realise that there was a strange taste to that water. More drugs, probably new ones. But why the need to hide them?

"Wasn’t that your favorite?"

After Allison, he had spent hours fighting the drugs, until finally, exhausted, he’d fallen asleep. He had felt better when he woke up, elated to see a sliver of light in the cell highlighting concrete floor and shining pail and the cold metal of his bunk. It had hurt his light sensitive eyes, though, so he had screwed them shut again, giving them time to adjust.

When he opens them again, warily, Irina is sitting on the dirty floor - that aura of perfect beauty laced with lethal authority never failing to impress him. She smiles at him, dazzlingly.

He closes his eyes, then opens them again after a few moments.

She’s still there, waiting for an answer. Cross-legged on bare, soiled concrete, the light pooling around her, giving her a strange halo.

He wonders if he’s still asleep after all.

But what if he isn’t?

What, then, is he waking up to?


***


He circles her, guardedly.

Hunter and prey.

He doesn’t know which one he is.

"Are you afraid, Sark?"

Such a gentle question. Almost maternal. But he isn’t fooled. He knows the cold steel lying beneath those words, the precision. It’s a test. Nothing Irina Derevko has done for him has ever been maternal.

He stops, crouches in front of her. "Should I be?"

She laughs, touches her bottom lip as though in thought. "What do you think?"

And that’s the way it’s always been between them. No giving in. She never, never gives in. She voices questions and makes him find the answers, but never confirms if his answer was what she was looking for.

He’s been working for, under and next to her for so long, but he still doesn’t know even a quarter of her true self. He only knows that where Irina Derevko is concerned, there’s always a plan involved. He hates it that the plan concerning himself is the one he isn’t privy to.

She waits him out, a familiar competition between the two of them. He has yet to be the last to give in. It’s a game she knows too well.

"Why am I still here?"

She inclines her head, and something that looks oddly like fondness passes over her features, lightning-quick.

"What’s the plan, Irina?"

She laughs, and her radiant beauty becomes more prominent. "You still believe in plans too much, Sark."

"I think --"

"You think that there was a plan behind burning you to the CIA. A plan covering everything - the failure of your mission, the interrogations, the imprisonment."

He nods, the barest movement. It’s all he’s had to cling to for the past months in this cell.

"You wouldn’t have sent me in here without a plan."

Her smile fades, changes into a contemplative expression.

"Sent ..." The way she tries the word on her tongue, as though she has never considered it before, makes something odd settle in his stomach, hot and heavy, numbing his limbs and spreading out like poison, slowly, steadily.

Her eyes never leave him - brown and deceptively gentle, like her daughter’s. But there’s something lurking in those eyes, wistfulness, maybe, or pain.

"I should be the last person you trust." Her voice is tinged with sadness.

He stares at her, expressionless, needing to digest her words. It can’t be.

She leans forward, cups her hand - strong, cruel, tender, warm - along his cheek.

He allows himself the momentary weakness, feels himself leaning into that hand, his eyes slipping closed.

The truth is right there, he knows it. Irina never is this gentle unless there’s something that concerns him closely, something that’ll cost him more than he thinks he’s willing to give. But in the end, he always gives, no matter what she asks of him. He trusts her with the foolishness of the child she had picked up all those years ago. With the folly of a lover. With the devotion of a son. No matter how many times she’s told him not to. It’s the one lesson he’s never learned.

He knows that this trust will be his downfall sooner or later. He assumes this is the moment, but keeps his eyes closed and revels in the familiar touch, not wanting to see her face when she delivers the final twist of the knife. Hopes against hope that what he expects to hear won’t be true.

She runs her thumb over his cheek. "There never was a plan, Sark."

The bottom of his stomach drops out. He sways, dangerously light-headed. For a moment, he’s paralysed, his limbs cold and not part of his body anymore. The information sinks in slowly, searing his mind in the process.

Long minutes and there’s nothing but the sound of his own, ragged breathing. It’s an effort to remember how to.

The poison she delivered works quickly, then. He feels himself being violently sick, reaches for the pail with one last ounce of strength, scraping metal over stone.

Irina runs her hand quietly over his shorn scalp as he retches into the bucket and he feels tears - for the first time in years - burn in his eyes. He’s too unaccustomed to the sensation to let them fall.

As the touch of Irina’s hand slowly fades away, he thinks about the toast he just threw up.

"What a fucking waste." His voice echoes in the cell, thin and coarse.

She doesn’t respond - gone, just like Allison before her, leaving him to deal with the devastation alone.

There never was a plan.

He’s a casualty. Collateral damage at best.

All this time he’s held out - he knows now has been for nothing but his own pride.

His thoughts should be quicksilver, but they’re molten rock. He can’t control them any longer, can’t see clearly enough.

Bites his lips until he tastes blood, at least in control of this.

Stumbles back to the bunk, curling into a tight ball. He knows they’re watching, always watching. He doesn’t care. There’s no reason to fight them any longer, is there?

Nothing could make this any worse - the betrayal, the shock, the ... pain. It’s physical, every fibre in his body screaming.

"Look at this. Has the little prince fallen into disgrace?"

He’s been wrong. It can get worse.

He wonders briefly, in a flicker of cynicism, if this would be a good time to succumb to the drugs, to go insane.

What stops the wild laughter from bubbling up is the thought that, upon seeing the third apparition, he might not need that last, cognisant step anymore.

 

 

Finis (?)

 

 
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