Face was pulled slowly from the depths of his exhausted sleep by the sound of soft voices talking somewhere nearby. He wasn’t best pleased; it felt as if only minutes had passed since he’d fallen into bed after just getting back from a nightmarish deployment for the team, which was supposed to have only been for six weeks but had ended up lasting more than four long months.
If it’s the guys, for whatever reason, I’m gonna kill them. Slowly and painfully.
“I can still hardly believe we’ve found a perfect genetic match,” a deep masculine voice said, sounding almost excited, somewhere too close by Face’s left side. “I’d almost given up hope.”
“Same here,” a woman replied, her voice placing her a little further away. “And a Ranger, too. Our luck is really in.”
What the hell?
He didn’t recognise either of the voices, and alarm bells started ringing loudly in the back of his mind. Face had woken in strange and potentially dangerous situations before, usually after being captured. They’d all had training, naturally, and sadly he’d had enough experience to put that training into practise now instinctively – he knew to keep his breathing carefully moderated, his muscles relaxed, and his eyes closed.
Lie still, Face. Listen. Plan.
Mind racing, he swiftly started to assess his situation, using all the senses available to him. He knew immediately that he was no longer in the bedroom he shared with Hannibal, and his heart rate picked up slightly as adrenaline flooded his system. Instead of their soft yet supportive mattress, he was lying on something cold and hard, a metal table or platform. Instead of warm blankets, he could feel nothing but cool, sterile air on his skin.
Through his closed eyelids he was still aware of a bright white light, focussed on where he lay; a spotlight, maybe, or something similar. There was the faint hissing sound of an air filter running, and the strong, almost overpowering scent of antiseptic and disinfectant.
No pillows, no sheets, no Hannibal.
And Face was also utterly naked, exposed, stripped of the loose t-shirt and comfortable boxer shorts he’d fallen asleep in.
“Thank goodness the military do so many blood tests when they get them back from overseas,” the man commented casually, and Face picked up a slight echo as he spoke, suggesting they were in a large, open room. “I don’t think we would’ve found him otherwise. Not in time for this procedure to still be a viable option, at least.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” The woman was closer now, on Face’s right somewhere near his feet, and there was a slight rustling sound, followed by a distinctive clink of metal on metal. “Shall we get started? We’ve only got a couple of hours at best before he’s missed.”
Face decided he’d heard enough, and he had no intention of staying there any longer, playing dead. He tensed, ready to spring into action –
But to his horror, his body refused point blank to respond in any way. His muscles stayed limp and lifeless, and he couldn’t even lift his eyelids, let alone make a single sound when he finally tried to speak.
Dear god, what have they done to me?
More importantly, what were they going to do next?
“Heart rate’s picking up a bit,” the woman said, though there was no hint of true concern in her voice. Face could feel something already clipped to the middle finger on his left hand, a heart monitor possibly, and in the next moment he felt a familiar tightening around his upper left arm, pinching painfully tight for just a second. “Blood pressure’s a little higher than I would like, as well.”
The man tutted, dismissively. “That’s to be expected at this stage. I imagine his BP will start dropping soon enough when we really get things underway. Check the restraints for me, please, just in case?”
For the first time Face became aware of the series of measures holding him pinned in place, a thick strap tight across his thighs and another across his chest. There was a smaller one across his forehead, and some sort of padded cuffs around both wrists and ankles, though his midsection felt ominously free and unprotected. Even if he did have some control over his body, it seemed there would be no way for him to escape the cold metal table.
Steady and clinical hands, sheathed in what felt like latex gloves, smoothed over and around each restraint, tugging slightly. “All secure,” the woman said after a few moments, then those gloved fingers came to rest low on Face’s abdomen, just below his navel, one finger tracing a light line from side to side that tickled ever so slightly. Her deliberate touch somehow felt like the worst kind of violation Face could imagine, and he wanted to twitch away from her hands, though he couldn’t move even an inch. “Are you ready to make the first incision?”
Face was awake, and aware, and for a moment terror threatened to overwhelm him completely, though he fought to stay calm. What the hell was happening to him? He was clearly in surgery of some kind, but had he truly been snatched from his bed, or was Hannibal outside, pacing anxiously in the waiting room? Had Face been in an accident, or fallen ill? Something had gone wrong with the anaesthetic, obviously, but they’d notice, surely? Whoever this man and woman were, they’d have to notice Face was awake.
They had to notice. They had to.
Notice me, please!
Another set of gloved hands joined the woman’s on Face’s belly briefly, probing gently as if testing the elasticity of his skin, then all the hands were gone, and something freezing cold was being spread liberally over his lower abdomen instead. The harsh smell of antiseptic flooded the room and Face felt a slight tingling sensation, before that clink of metal on metal rang in the air again.
“Making the first incision now,” the man confirmed, and in the next second something sharp started to cut into the skin just below Face’s belly button, dragging steadily and deliberately from left to right. “Six inches, transverse, as planned. We can extend the incision if it becomes necessary.”
It was sheer agony, and every inch of Face’s body immediately felt as if it was on fire, every nerve alight with pain. He wanted nothing more than to flinch away from that pain, but all he could do was lie there helplessly and feel everything as the scalpel parted the skin of his abdomen as easily as a hot knife slicing through butter. It felt deep, far too deep to be anything less than surgical, and the smell of copper soon mingled sickeningly with the smell of antiseptic as Face felt his blood gushing from the incision and running hot down his sides to pool beneath his lower back.
He longed to scream. He tried to scream, repeatedly, but not a single sound escaped his throat. He couldn’t blink, couldn’t move, couldn’t even summon a whimper.
“Swab, please,” Face heard the man ask calmly, and something patted over his flanks as the scalpel continued to slice agonisingly through his skin before finally, finally being lifted away. “And the retractor, please.”
It felt to Face as if he had been sliced cleanly in half, his abdomen split completely open from side to side, though the man had said he’d only cut six inches. The wound burned and throbbed constantly, and Face felt sick to his stomach, his head spinning and his chest tight with shock as he fought to push the pain down somehow. He screamed over and over again, though of course his screams were only inside his head.
This wasn’t a true torture situation, where, if he could speak, he could rely on name, rank and serial number, but it was torture nonetheless. There were obviously no questions to be asked – this was simply his body, his fortress god damn it, that they were slicing into so casually without his permission.
Help me Hannibal, please! Help me, anyone! Make them stop!
Something cold and metallic was suddenly being pressed into the wound, something blunt rather than sharp, and as it pressed deeper and deeper there was the sickening sound of tissues tearing, and the wet sounds of more precious blood bubbling up. “Opening him up now,” the woman’s voice said, sounding a thousand miles away as the blood rushed loudly through Face’s ears, before there was a sudden wrenching sensation in his gut.
The retractor, obviously, spreading his flesh wide, and Face was now more exposed than he’d ever been in his life. The pain was a white-hot flame behind the darkness of his closed eyes, indescribable and unbearable and all-encompassing, yet somehow Face was forced to bear it, still conscious against all the odds.
“Beautiful,” the man commented, and the woman actually hummed in agreement. “We couldn’t have hoped for a better specimen. He’s in perfect condition.”
Gloved fingers stroked unexpectedly over Face’s chest, raising goosebumps on his skin, tracing the shape of his pectoral muscles before coming to rest over his abdominals, only an inch or two above his now-unprotected internal organs. The woman hummed again, sounding more thoughtful, then she spoke as if thinking aloud, “I actually wonder if he’s a little too muscled for this to be successful.”
A grunt from the man. “You’re concerned the embryo won’t have sufficient room to grow?” he asked, amusement in his voice, and Face’s brain skittered to a sudden stop. “Might I remind you that we firstly have to make sure the implantation is successful and that he recovers well from the procedure. Secondly, we’ll have to ensure that his body doesn’t reject it, and also that he doesn’t have any adverse reactions to either the immuno-suppressant drugs or the hormone implant. From his medical records, we know he’s suffered unexpected reactions to medication in the past, so nothing is certain.”
“Yes, I am fully aware.” The gloved hand was gone, in fact all the hands were gone, leaving Face exposed and drifting in a sea of pain and confusion, blood still streaming down his flanks and collecting at his groin, though the flow felt mercifully slower now. “And of course I am also aware that female abdominal muscles do part naturally when they reach a certain stage.”
A scraping sound, metal on plastic this time, then a popping sound almost like a sealed jar was being opened, accompanied by a sudden briny scent. “We can always open him up again at a later date if we need to, and help things along with a little snip or two to these impressive muscles,” the man mused out loud. “Though I personally think he’ll pop quite nicely and naturally when he reaches that stage. I can hardly wait to see it for myself.”
Face was finally starting to feel numb both physically and mentally, the fire in his abdomen dying away, though the feeling of cool air on delicate tissues was no less nauseating as the retractor kept him open and vulnerable. Nothing they were saying made any sense and so he chose to block their words out. Instead, he found himself praying to a God he thought he’d stopped believing in, begging to just lose consciousness, or to wake up. This couldn’t be real, surely, it had to be the most twisted nightmare his sick mind had ever come up with.
Yes, that was it. This was all just one hell of a nightmare. All he had to do was wake up.
Wake up, Face!
“Have some patience.” The woman’s voice dragged Face back into the room just as he started to drift away into true darkness at long last, and in the next heartbeat the pain was back with a vengeance as something was plunged deeply into his spread incision. “Making space for the implant now.”
Fingers, he realised with a sickening lurch, it was someone’s fingers, poking into his internal organs and spreading him wider still. Then a whole hand, stretching him to breaking point and beyond. He didn’t know whose hand it was, or how much space they were attempting to make, though the thought made him feel incredibly ill. Would they remove or tear something vital? How much more of this could his body possibly take, and how much irreparable damage were they doing?
Wake up, Face. Wake the fuck up, right now!
There was a sudden pressure deep inside Face’s lower belly, familiar yet utterly unexpected, then the man commented thoughtfully, “Bladder is feeling quite full. Perhaps we should have considered a catheter.”
“Will we have sufficient space for the implantation without voiding it first?” the woman asked, a hint of concern in her voice for the very first time since Face had woken, and the man increased the pressure steadily until Face felt sure he would be forced to release there and then.
“I think we should be fine,” he announced after what felt to Face like an eternity probing his bladder and the space around it, finally pulling his fingers back enough to allow Face some relief from that particular agony, though not removing the invading hand from his abdominal cavity entirely. Those fingers actually wriggled, feeling as if they were swirling Face’s internals around like limp spaghetti, and little explosions of hurt seemed to go off brightly behind Face’s closed eyelids. “In fact, I think that’s probably more than enough space now for us to begin. Check his vitals again, please?”
Face wanted to sob and scream. He reallywanted to wake up now, to find himself safely in Hannibal’s arms in their huge bed, or he wanted his heart to simply give up instead. Death would be preferable to enduring whatever was coming next, but, as the blood pressure cuff tightened once more around his bicep and those fingers continued to poke and probe deep in his abdomen, he knew in his heart that his body was strong enough to survive this hell. Already the endless agony was becoming strangely normal, his body adjusting where no adjustment should ever be possible.
The thought made him want to scream even louder.
“Pulse is a little thready but strong enough for now,” the woman declared after a moment. “And his blood pressure is down as expected but not dangerously low yet. He’s strong, just as we hoped.” A pause, then, “We may have to push a unit of blood before we release him.”
“Let’s get this finished quickly, then, just in case he goes into shock. He’s tolerating this very well so far.” The sound of something being lifted from a liquid, tiny drips echoing loudly in the room, and the tension in the air seemed to reach a peak. “I’ll need your hands as well, I think, to ensure correct positioning on the first attempt.”
Christ, no, please – Face barely had a chance to register what they were doing before the one set of fingers in his body became four sets, stretching his incision almost to breaking point and ripping muscles and tissue as they forced in… something.
Pushing, and tucking, and more stretching and tearing, and the drumming of Face’s pulse rushing in his ears completely drowned out the muttered conversation happening over him and around him. It felt as if all his internal organs were being forced out of position, the pressure on his bladder returning briefly before, to his horror, there was a sudden spark of pleasure piercing the agony and he felt himself starting to harden against his will.
Tiny pinpricks then, a different kind of agony altogether, and it amazed Face that he could actually distinguish between the pain of the scalpel, the pain of being split open with fingers and retractor, and the pain of something being sewn into place where it really shouldn’t be, deep under his skin beneath his parted muscles.
The retractor was removed then, with more care than Face might have expected, and the skin of his lower abdomen tugged and smoothed back into place. But it felt too tight now, as if it was being stretched more than it could possibly handle to accommodate the invading object. More pinpricks, more stitches, this pain all the worse for being so slow and methodical.
After what felt like hours Face’s hearing returned slowly, as if he was surfacing from a deep underwater dive, just in time to hear the man comment mildly, “He’s still showing signs of arousal. Perhaps the implant is still putting pressure on the prostate, though I thought we’d successfully corrected that. I really don’t want to have to open him back up again, not when the incision site is perfectly located for his eventual caesarean, assuming it all goes well.”
“Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary. I suspect everything will settle down for him as the internal swelling eases and the tissues start to adjust to their new positions.” The woman sounded a little dismissive, though in the next moment one gloved hand came to rest high on Face’s inner right thigh, close to his semi-arousal and just above the restraints. “Doesn’t seem fair to leave him like this, though. Maybe we should… ease some of the pressure?”
After the violations Face had already suffered he barely even registered her implication, and the man snorted what was almost certainly a laugh. “I think it would be kinder to let him wake up with a little bit of morning wood. He’s certainly going to be confused enough about what’s happened to him, so a touch of pleasure won’t hurt.”
“True,” the woman agreed easily, lifting her hand away with one final teasing stroke to Face’s hip. “And I’m really not into anything non-consensual. I much prefer a willing body.”
Face could only continue to lie there helplessly and listen as the snapping sound of latex gloves being removed and replaced filled the air. Then there was more cool liquid being poured over his abdomen, stinging as it washed over his newly-stitched incision, followed by a soft cloth patting gently at his tortured skin in a clear attempt to wash him clean. The mixture of antiseptic and blood pooled uncomfortably beneath Face’s lower back once more, before dripping down to land in a steady tick-tick-tick against the floor.
The cuff tightened around his upper arm yet again, a sharp point of pain against Face’s generalised agony, and the woman reported, “No real change from before, his pulse is still steady enough and blood pressure is low but holding. I don’t think he’ll need a transfusion after all, though I’m sure he’ll be quite lightheaded when he wakes.”
“I think that’ll be the least of his concerns.” A gloved hand palpated Face’s abdomen from side to side then top to bottom, reawakening the burning pain that hadn’t completely died away, before the man made a satisfied sound. “Everything looks good here too. And we’ve successfully included both of the slow-release implants as planned, one hormonal and one containing all the anti-rejection medication he’ll need.”
Another gloved hand stroked over Face’s forehead and smoothed his hair back in a parody of tender care, before the woman spoke again, sounding very close to Face’s head now. “Alterations to his medical records have been uploaded as well, including an order for twice-weekly blood tests and directing all of his future medical care to you exclusively, and – ” A latex-covered finger paused by Face’s right eye, wiping away the tears he didn’t know had escaped. “Oh. Look.”
Rustling, and movement, very close by. “An instinctive reaction only, I’m sure.” The man sounded quite flippant, though there was an undercurrent of something approaching concern as he quickly added, “Perhaps another two millilitres of the sedative, to be on the safe side. Then we can continue with the post-operative checklist and return him to his bed before anyone knows he’s even been gone.”
An icy sensation immediately started to spread up Face’s left arm, and finally, blessedly, mercifully, awareness slipped away from him entirely.
* * *
Face woke with a gasp and a choked scream, flailing as he tried to claw his way out from underneath the blankets and heavy duvet. It took him a long moment to realise where he was: he was safe, and he was at home, in the bedroom he shared with Hannibal when they were in the States between missions. The space beside him was empty but the bed was still warm, suggesting Hannibal had risen not long ago, and sure enough as Face listened he could make out the sound of the en-suite shower running.
Hannibal must have decided to let Face sleep in a little after the hell of their last deployment, and Face’s racing heart started to calm as his sense of his surroundings solidified. He forced himself to relax into the mountain of soft pillows, stretching his arms and legs carefully beneath the cool sheets, taking a few deep breaths in an attempt to shake off the lingering feeling of horror from his dream.
No, dream wasn’t a strong enough word for what Face remembered. A dream was something pleasant, normally, or at least not something quite so disturbing. What Face remembered was a nightmare, nothing more and nothing less, dragged from the true depths of hell.
Face slid one hand free from the blankets with a soft sigh, wiping the sleep from his eyes and brushing his hair back before scratching at his itchy post-deployment beard. He was still very tired, and a little dizzy, which was perhaps to be expected: he needed a shower and a shave, then a huge breakfast, preferably fried, before he climbed back into bed with Hannibal for at least another few hours’ sleep. He was also pretty horny, and in need of some post-deployment relaxation of the more physical kind – they’d both been too exhausted last night for anything more than falling asleep in each other’s arms, so they had some serious ‘making up for lost time’ to do.
With a smile and a small yawn, Face decided to join Hannibal in the shower, and he started to sit up, only to collapse back onto the bed with a gasp as his stomach muscles gave a sharp warning twinge of pain and his head started to spin a little faster.
No. It couldn’t be, surely. It was just a dream. It was just a nightmare.
Wake up, Face. Oh God, wake up now!
Frantically, he pushed the blankets down and away, lifting his faded t-shirt with hands that were suddenly shaking badly, only to find a neat line of tiny black stiches over a thin red incision on his lower belly, six inches long from side to side, and a tiny bump which definitely did not belong there.
And this time when Face tried to scream, his terrified cries echoed loudly around the entire house.