5 months ago
Noll snapped into awareness, suddenly hyper-aware of the fine grains of dirt scraping his cheek. He groaned blinking in the darkness. No longer was he in the brightly lit torture rooms upstairs. The musky smell and the faint sound of the groaning pipes assured him he was back in the prison basement. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't remember how he'd gotten there. He remembered Mai and the image of tears streaming down her face… the feeling of a calming warmth racing through him ー over and over.
"да. Welcome back, Olivier."
Noll jackknifed, moving so fast his head throbbed. Silhouetted in the dim doorway was the man Noll now knew as Belikov. If it had been two days ago, Noll would have let it go. He would have simply turned his perfectly blank face to the floor and ignored the man's gross mispronunciation, seeing it for what it was.
But today he was tired, hungry, and thoroughly irritated. He leaned backward against the wall, irritated by the slight stab of the nail embedded there. "It's Oliver, you prat."
Belikov chuckled, his outline rising to his feet and leaving Noll feeling regrettable. "I see you're well enough, then," his figure disappeared to the left, no longer visible in the dim light. But, without Belikov's hulking figure to distract him, Noll realized there was a second person in the room. A thin figure sat just a few feet away.
Then a light flickered to life from the corner of the room, and Noll's hopes fell. The girlish figure wasn't Mai.
If it weren't for the piercing blue of her eyes, he wouldn't have recognized her at all. Her face was all bruises and dried blood, her blonde hair more of a dirty brownish sheen.
He wanted to call out to her but thought better of it. She was staring blankly at the floor, blue eyes hazy.
"Let's get to business, Oliver. About your… bond," he said casually as if he were talking about the weather, "three times. Three times your heart stopped, and three times a simple kiss from your 'lady friend' brought you back to life. This is, as you say, interesting."
Three times? Noll felt the blood rush from his face. He didn't remember, but past experience told him that was bad. Gene had only ever been able to recover once from an energy pull. Any more after that and Gene suffered from severe dehydration and muscle atrophy. But three times…
"Where's Mai?" His voice came out stronger than he had felt since this all started. He glared daggers at the Russian man. "Where is she?"
Belikov shrugged. "That's not what we're here to discuss," he took a step forward, eyes on Annalise. "After the third time, I became aware that there are limitations to your services. That's when I thought 'why not create another?'"
Noll remained silent, following his abductor with careful eyes. The bond between Mai and himself had been forged by accident and they were lucky that it didn't kill either of them. He couldn't ー and wouldn't ー forge another bond, even if he knew how.
Belikov knelt down beside him and Noll leaned away, "Ana here is also a psychic. She possesses psychometry, like yourself. She's lost all value to me, but… for you? I think she'd make a wonderful bond partner."
"Not on your life," he hissed.
"So predictable," Again, Belikov chuckled. "You will bond will this girl, Olivier. Even if it takes a little… coercion."
There was the feel of something cold sliding over the skin of his cheek. He flinched away, but it was too late. The pain registered as the thin cut started to burn. Belikov pulled away, brandished a small silver knife and watching the blood dribble down Noll's cheek with interest. Noll didn't let the pain show. After everything he'd gone through already, this was nothing.
"I know much about you, Oliver. You're not the type to show your pain. You'll put on a brave face, pretend it doesn't hurt. It's true that torturing you had proved more than pointless." Belikov moved slowly over to Annalise, watching Noll's face as he turned the knife to her cheek. "You respond better to the suffering of others."
Noll recoiled as a stream of blood ran freely down her face, soaking into her shirt. Annalise didn't respond. "Stop."
Belikov pulled on a strand of her hair, tipping her head backward. He trailed the knife down across her face, and down over her lips where blood instantly coated them.
"Please," Noll swallowed hard, unable to look, "stop."
Belikov grinned, placing the tip of the knife in the center of her throat. "You can stop this."
Noll shook his head, "A bond…" he mumbled, thinking fast, "it-it could kill her." He was too afraid to deny that it would work at all. Afraid what Belikov would do.
He nodded, "That's alright, isn't it, Ana?" He jostled the young, battered girls shoulder.
Without a moment of hesitation, Noll heard the girl speak for the first time since her scream in his vision. "Yes, sir." Her voice was flat, monotonous. As if she were in a trance.
Noll pinched his lips together, hesitant. If he didn't act fast, he firmly believed Belikov wouldn't hesitate to kill Annalise. He'd already more than proved his willingness to injure her without a second thought. Her face was bathed in blood and dirt, her overgrown bangs sticking to her forehead.
"Choose quickly, my boy," Belikov jerked her head back again, sliding the knife over the underside of her chin, "or she might die before you get the chance."
He let her go and the expression on Ana's face mirrored pain. Her blue eyes were glistening with tears and Noll wondered how many people he was going to hurt before this was over.
What would happen after they realized the bond didn't work? Would they kill her anyway? Annalise's face was starting to pale beneath the crimson.
It wasn't like he had a choice.
Noll reached out, suddenly aware he was unchained, free to move as he pleased. But this thought was far from comforting.
The skin of her palm was cold and riddled with puckered scars from a torture he didn't want to think about. As he watched, a spark of fear ignited in her eyes, then faded into resignations. He felt the gentle pull of psychometry and wondered if she was seeing scenes from his life flash in her mind as he was seeing hers.
The only child in a loving family, never without a smile. There was soccer practice and flashes of championship trophies. A boy with red hair and stolen glances when no one's looking. Then there was loneliness. Returning home from practice to a mother who ignored her, and a father that saw right through her. As if she were invisible.
"Why won't you guys look at me!?"
Then a tall, sly figure appears from the darkness and places his hands hard on her shoulders. "That's because they no longer know you exist." The scene changes for the last time and Noll was once again on his knees in the brightly lit torture room, screaming in pain. He feels her hope of rescue slipping away with every tear until she no longer feels anything.
Just as soon as it started, the visions end and Noll is back in his own mind, but he keeps a firm hold on her hand. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Belikov watching them carefully, hovering just over her shoulder.
Noll stares at their interlocked hand, feeling his warmth slowly seeping into her frigid fingers.
"I'm sorry," he whispered as he summed just enough energy that the air crackled with electricity. He was going to have to put on a show to satisfy their captor, but that didn't mean it wouldn't hurt.
He tried to remember what he had been thinking about before he had bonded with Mai but all he could remember was the feeling of rocking in the gentle waves of the lake where he had seen Gene. Gene. So that was it. All this time he had been searching for the catalyst that had bonded him and Mai, but all along it had been his own meddlesome twin. Noll could vaguely recall the icy feeling creeping down his hand and into his fingers where it had dissipated almost instantly. And Mai's startled face as she held her own hand so close to her chest.
Her hands were shaking. No Mai's; Annalise's. Noll opened his eyes, momentarily blinded by the white wisps of energy that swirled around them, emanating from that hand that held hers. Her entire body was convulsing, eye wide ー in fear or pain, he couldn't tell.
He tried to pull his hand away but her fingers had locked onto him in a death grip that he couldn't escape. And so he reigned in his energy. It hurt, searing the skin of his palm in his haste to help Anna, but slowly the wisps vanished.
The whine and click of the heavy barred door peaked Noll's curiosity. He stood from his perch on the edge of the small cot, legs shaking. It felt like hours since he had been escorted to the 8x6 holding cell and told to wait. He had expected someone to come; Luella, Mrs. Klein… Mai… But no one came. An officer patrolled by the cell door every ill determined amount of time, but no one spoke. Noll had been ready to give up hope.
He was a murderer. He may have liked to think he was better than James and Belikov, but was he really?
Noll tried not to build up hope as he craned to see down the brightly lit hallway. A loud buzzer sounded and then the opening of another heavy door.
Mrs. Klein appeared beside another uniformed officer and another woman.
"Dr. Arainn?" Noll took a half step back in surprise as they came to a stop just outside the cell.
The doctor gave him a disarming smile. "How are you, Oliver?"
"I'm… fine…" he said slowly, volleying between the prosecutor and the therapist, confused. Why would they send his therapist down… unless…? He paled. "Why are you here?"
Dr. Arainn answered first. "I just wanted to make sure you were alright. Your parents are so worried."
Mrs. Klein laughed. "You should have seen Mai arguing with the guards when they wouldn't let her see you."
"…Mai wanted to see me?" Noll breathed.
"Judge Mathis has stayed his ruling, Oliver." Mrs. Klein didn't exactly smile, but she wasn't frowning either. "He's requested your testimony. Please open the door, officer."
"I'm sorry, Prosecutor," the uniformed man inclined his head, "but all inmates must be handcuffed upon release. Protocol."
Noll couldn't hide the flinch that jerked him back at the sound of the clanging metal. His face felt flush and breathing became difficult. Suddenly he could feel the thick, heavy chains encircling his wrists again and the ghost of pain in his stiff shoulders.
"Oliver?" Dr. Arainn was gazing concernedly at him, "are you alright?"
He shook his head, knees buckling. He fell backward onto the cot. He held his head in his hands, panting. What was wrong with him?
There was the distant sound of the door rolling open and someone prying his hands from his face, Dr. Arainn was there, kneeling in front of him, worry creasing her face. "Oliver, I need you to calm down okay? I know you're scared and you shouldn't have to go through this again but I really need you to calm down."
Noll stared at her, the memories slowly fading from his mind. He hadn't noticed the sharp electrical charge that thickened the air inside the small room or that the metal bars had begun to shake. He swallowed hard, "I'm sorry but… I can't." Tears threatened to well in his eyes, but he held them back. He wouldn't cry because of this.
"It's okay. We will find another way." They both looked back to the cell door where Mrs. Klein was in the midst of an argument with the guilty looking officer.
Noll sucked down a deep breath. "No, it's-it's fine. I'm fine." He wasn't sure if that last part was more for her or himself.
He stood on shaky legs, Dr. Arainn following his lead. The officer opened the door once again and Dr. Arainn slipped out, but Noll paused in archway, offering his scarred wrists. The officer took great care in making sure the cuffs were not tight at all and were practically falling off when he allowed him to go on, following behind the prosecutor and Dr. Arainn. They led him through the security doors and down a quiet hallway to a big mahogany door. The name plate posted beside the door read 'Judge Mathis' in big, gold lettering.
Mrs. Klein knocked once and then entered. Noll reluctantly trailed in behind her.
The judge was sullen, drumming his fingertips impatiently on the large desk. His frown deepened when his eyes landed on Noll but he didn't speak.
It was the defense attorney, hovering near the bookcases on the other side of the room that spoke first. "Your Honor, I still don't see the necessity ofー"
"I have heard enough of your complaints, Mr. Crowell." The judge sounded irritated, on the verge of shouting. His tapping ceased as he leveled his blue gaze on Noll who looked away. "I see no point in wasting time so I will be blunt with you, Mr. Davis. Did you kill Annalise Foster?"
Noll nodded, unable to speak over the rolling nausea in his stomach. She had been so small... So pale… the second the trembling had stopped, she had crumpled like a ragdoll into his chest. He remembered wrapping his arms around her shoulders to hide her broken form from Belikov's view. He hadn't realized she was already dead, then. Not untilー
"Please verbalize your answer for the record, Mr. Davis."
"Yes," he breathed, a heavy weight settling on his shoulders. It wasn't the first time he had admitted it out loud, but it seemed the weight of her death only got heavier. "I killed Anna."
"Judge Mathis," he winced at the sound of the prosecutor's crisp, confident tone. "Mr. Davis did not willingly play a part in the death of Annalise Foster ー he was forced. Tortured into complianceー"
"Do not interrupt, Mrs. Klein," Judge Mathis leaned forward on the desk.
The Prosecutor bristled with contempt, straightened her jacket, and brushed a stray hair behind her ear, "Your Honor, the evidence isー"
"Mrs. Klein!" The judge shouted, slamming his fist, "If either of you speak again I will have you removed from my office. Is that clear?"
The chamber was completely silent for a moment before the Judge nodded, satisfied, "Mr. Davis, please continue."
His stomach did another flip. He didn't want to speak anymore. Noll wanted to disappear, to fold in on himself and put this all behind him… but this wasn't about him anymore. I was about the life he had taken. He swallowed hard, summoning the memory of her bloody face as he pressed his fists into his eyes, trying desperately to hide the tears welling there. "She was bleeding from-from everywhere."
It had felt like hours before Belikov had finally pulled Annalise's lifeless form from his arms. Noll hadn't the chance to see her face or call out her name as he dragged her backward, out of reach. Noll could have gone to her if he had wanted to, but for some reason his legs wouldn't respond. Belikov pressed a finger to her wrist, swearing in Russian. "What a shame," he had said, letting her arm fall hard to the ground. He'd turned then, disappearing through the doorway as he shouted to the guard there. "Get rid of the body."
It wasn't until much later that he even noticed the blood stain on his shirt.
When he finished his story, Judge Mathis remained silent for a long time. He watched Noll struggle to wipe the tears from his cheeks, then calmly stood from his chair. "Officer, remove those handcuffs."
The officer lurking silently in the back of the room obediently stepped forward and released Noll. Though they didn't really hurt, he couldn't help but rub his newly freed wrists. "T-thank you, sir."
"I want to thank you for your honesty, Mr. Davis. However, I will need more time to think on this new information." He glanced back down at his desk, sounding resigned, "You will have my answer by tomorrow's court date. But, until that time I'm afraid you will have to remain in the courts custody."
Noll nodded. "I understand."
"Officer Reilly will escort you back to your cell. Mrs. Klein, Mr. Crowell; I ask that you please remain here. There are still some things we must discuss."
Noll was more than relieved when the officer didn't make to re-cuff him in their trek back to the holding cell.
Once outside the hulking oak doors, he allowed himself a deep breath.
Dr. Arainn had waited for him outside and he quickly explained the situation. The officer waited patiently behind them as Dr. Arainn nodded in understanding, "I should update your family on the situation. They are just about as anxious as you are."
"Yeah…" Noll frowned, fear rising with the thought of having to spend hours alone in that small space. He wasn't sure why he had thought the doctor would have kept him company.
"Oliver…" Arainn padded his arm, "Are you sure you're okay?"
It only took a second to school his face into the familiar blank expression. He didn't want to make anyone worry over him anymore. "Do I not look okay?"
"You look like you're trying your best to be strong," she said with a knowing smile. "Everything will be okay."
He almost smiled back. "Yeah, I know."
She gave him a full smile, taking a step backward, "Is there anything you'd like me to relay to your parents? Or Mai?"
He paused. There were a million things he wanted to say to all of them, especially the short Japanese girl. But he just shook his head, "Nothing they don't already know."
"I'll tell them you said that!" Dr. Arainn said, laughing. "I'll visit you as soon as I get any new information. Get some sleep, Oliver. You look like you need it."
He nodded his reply and the officer motioned him forward as Dr. Arainn disappeared down the opposite hallway.
Noll trudged two steps behind the uniformed officer, prolonging his return to solitude if only by a few precious seconds. The officer didn't check to make sure he was following, he just continued down the hall toward what Noll assumed was the Holding area. But this hall wasn't the one they had traveled down before. It was completely devoid of people who had been bustling in and out of offices only minutes before.
"Um, excuse me?" he called out, but the officer didn't respond. Anxiety pinched his chest. Something just didn't seem right.
Noll was just about to call out again, reaching to tap the officer's arm when he saw him. A lanky man with short blond hair leaning nonchalantly against the doorway into the next hall. At first, he almost felt relieved to see another person, but the closer they got, the more he recognized the man.
Noll came to an immediate halt, staggering backward in a clumsy attempt to flee. Before he could get far, someone seized him by the shoulders, locking his arms behind his back. He was trapped.
"Hey!" He shouted, praying someone would hear, "Let me go!" He struggled, but whoever was holding him proved too strong to fight.
"Quiet, Davis." James kicked off from the wall, weary as he meandered over to the scene. "You'll ruin the moment."
Noll growled but gave up shouting. "It's over, Dumont. This isn't your little hideout. Someone's going to find us hereー"
"I know very well what will happen," James pushed past the officer who remained completely impassive, pulling a long baton from his belt. Noll thought it looked eerily similar to the cattle prod. James gave a cynical cackle, "Life in a prison cell. Though, my lawyer tells me I should be happy they don't have the death penalty here."
Noll stayed silent, half listening as he tried desperately to find a way out. But his options were quickly dwindling as James crept forward.
When he was just a few feet away, he shrugged, "But all I could think of was how... irritating it would be if I had to spend all that time knowing you were the one that got away." Noll hadn't even seen him raise the baton before it struck the side of his knee. He shouted in pain, jerking forward, but the hands kept him from falling.
"So I devised this elaborate plan just for you, Oliver." He spit his name, landing another hard blow to his ribs. Noll could feel the searing pain from his old wounds springing back to life. "But I'm afraid Officer Reilly took too long in bringing you to me, so I'll have to cut out time together short." There was a dull thud as James tossed the heavy stick away. He backtracked to where the officer stood and reached into his belt.
It only took a moment for Noll to realize where this was going. He wanted to scream and shout until his throat was raw, but what good would it do? He wanted to thrash and curse at the man who had ruined so many lives and almost ended Mai's, but it wouldn't change anything. The strangers hands were still holding fast to his arms. There was not escape. Yelling wouldn't save him now. It was too late for help.
James pulled the hulking black gun from Officer Reilly's utility belt, expertly clicking off the safety.
Noll hung his head, feeling the fight leave his body as he sagged into the strangers hold. Was this how Annalise had felt? This... emptiness? Hopelessness? Had she welcomed the inevitable as he was doing now? Somewhere in front of him he heard the click of the gun as the bullet entered the chamber.
He hadn't realized he'd closed his eyes until they snapped open at the sound of the foreign shout.
James was staring at something just behind Noll, the gun still aimed at his forehead. "Get out of here," his said, voice languid and sooth; almost hypnotizing.
"Put the gun down!" The voice shouted again. Then Noll could hear him mumbling and the faint sound of a radio chirp. Something life hope blossomed in his chest.
James' hypnotism had failed.
In spite of the pain gripping his ribs and his (most likely broken) knee, Noll laughed. He raised his head, standing as tall as he could on one leg, absolutely giddy. He couldn't stop himself as he said, "Not exactly how you imagined it would end, is it?"
James sneered at him, a look of total disgust twisting his face as he snarled, "Shut up, Davis."
There was a loud bang and Noll's world faded to black.