Pairing: none. ._. they're in freaking captivity. no sex.

Summary: Thorne wanted to see Hojo use Zack to hurt Cloud. :O Here is the first part, from Cloud's perspective; the second part, from Zack's, was started but I'll finish it after I sleep because I don't have the wit to finish it before I go to bed.


By Lena ban Obsidian


I wish I could turn into somebody far, far away
I wish I could make myself satisfactory in every way
I wish I could know whether you really know what you need
if I could only be somebody else, I wouldn't be myself

-Wish, Semisonic


It was a library. It was a lab.

It smelled of formaldehyde and the thick, wooden bounce of well-cured paper, hard-bound books. The air was always stale, and near the laboratory equipment and the metal operating table it stung and burned unprotected eyes and nostrils with the acrid heat-cold of mako. The whole mansion was rank with bad memories for too many people, the old ghosts of pain and the newer, still-echoing shrieks rotting the stone walls of its ancient, evil basement. The stones were always slimy, but there was nothing the naked eye could see on them. There were always unspoken words hanging in the corridors; there were always things that drew one's attention as one walked down the halls, that raised questions that would never be answered.

At night, late at night, that time that they call the dead, if one listened hard enough, there was a horrible sound of screaming. Old screaming, hoarse and raw, like a throat that had broken itself open and seared and burned in the open air until it was like dry paper was stretching and scratching, trying to make sound.

They could both hear it, but neither of them ever really knew who it was that was making those sounds. It was one of the things that they used to judge their sanity; Cloud would look over at Zack, out of the corners of his eyes, bound up in the mako tank at his side, panicking, his expression masked by the tube that was strapped over his face, shoved down his throat and sealed tight over his mouth to keep the mako from going in and to allow him to breathe, he'd look at Zack with eyes that were blurred by green formlessness with an expression that said 'oh god, do you hear that? please tell me I'm not the only one who hears that', and Zack would look back with a worried expression that said 'yeah, I do, but I don't have a fucking clue what it is'.

And that was what kept them both sane, was being able to verify that it was really happening to both of them, that they were, at least, still here, still together.

That was what kept Cloud sane, even in those dark, dark hours when he thought he'd reached the end of what he could take and there would be no more and he was simply going to shatter into a hundred shimmering pieces that Hojo would turn over and examine and label and then file away. It was Zack's eyes. It was just a suggestion of blue, but that was everything.

It was like they'd been put in a special kind of hell, though. Every day, see, every day was lived in fear because it was all a matter of stripping things away from them. Control was a big one; and Zack suffered most without control, because Cloud had never really felt like he was in control of anything in his life except maybe his dick when he was choosing where to piss. For Zack it was like being drugged and hung from a wall and beat half to death; it hurt him.

But for Cloud it had started before he ever woke up with that awful smile in his eyes; for Cloud, having everything pulled out of his hands in spite of his protests had begun when Zack had told him they were going to Nibelheim, and it was like a rock rolling down a fucking mountain.

It just got worse, it just got worse, it was never, ever going to get better.

Now he was on a table and searingly aware of cold; he felt the burning sting of open wounds with mako residue dripping into them, his skin disturbingly fragile after continued, constant exposure to the stuff. His wrists, his throat, his waist and his thighs, all bleeding, all because of those damned shackles that even Zack didn't have the strength to break anymore. It was weird, to get used to waking up from complete awareness and finding himself somewhere else, a gap of who knew how much time in his memory. He was becoming extraordinarily good at tuning out himself, just existing like a receptive ball of meat and bone, willing to do whatever he was told to do, resisting nothing. This was frightening.

But yeah, he was on the table and it was beginning to get old, really. Table, examination. Torture. Then there would be time for him to cry to himself while they refilled the tank around him, and then those first few choking moments when he didn't want the mako there because it was killing him. And then he'd be in the tank again, and he'd look at Zack, and Zack would be just there and just...just there. Zack's eyes had that hint of humor even though it wasn't, was not funny that they were here.

Still, when he saw them, he could remember how Zack was, and he could think about it, endlessly, obsessively, until he could believe that they were back in the dorms and Zack was about to pull a prank and Cloud was trying to talk him out of it, even though he thought that whoever Zack was going to screw with totally deserved it. That was good. That was enough. He was okay. This was getting familiar.

They'd already taken everything away from him anyway, he thought. They hadn't even needed to do much work. Once Sephiroth had destroyed Nibelheim, once Sephiroth had gored Zack, Tifa, and Cloud on Masamune, it hadn't mattered any more, there hadn't been anything for Cloud to lose. Except his sanity.

He was set on clinging to that until the bitter end, though, so he didn't want to think about it much. No, better to escape. Hide in those other memories, of Zack leaning waaaay back and getting ready to pull the string to activate some stupid, complicated trap that was as harmless as a squirt gun. Yeah. That was all he really needed to think about, and he'd come out okay, somehow. Cloud had never been an optimist, but he'd learned that much from Zack. That phrase, the one you have to keep telling yourself if you don't want to break down:

it'll be all right.

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