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Of These Chains

Chapter Text

Tseng looked over the report before him frowning. He wanted to just slip it to the bottom of his ‘to do’ list, not give it any time that he felt was better spent on current cases and the ever growing pile of paperwork sitting on one corner of his desk. His instincts told him to read it thoroughly though, focus and examine with all of his attention. There was too much riding on every detail pertaining to his prisoner. Too much risk of disaster, from so many different angles. It was frustrating, and aggravating… but much of his work was, if he was completely honest with himself.

The beep of his intercom was a welcome interruption, but he still let a minute pass before he answered it. Habit of appearances. A busy leader was bothered less, after all. Finally pressing the button, he murmured a disinterested greeting to Elena.

“Sir, Reno is here with his report.”

Tseng took a few deep, calming breaths as he slipped the report into one of his desk draws, locking it away for now.

“Send him in.”

***.***

Elena carried the tray carefully, keycard in her mouth as she watched the floors count down in the elevator’s display. The car wouldn’t stop until it reached her destination, the keycard she’s used to access the locked down sub-basement floor ensuring it would only stop once. Still, every lurch and jolt made her fear it would pause at an earlier floor, letting in someone who would ask questions she couldn’t answer. Her heartbeat was erratic as it sped in anxiety, then slowed as the lift continued downwards without interruption.

Finally she reached her destination, walking out of the lift into the dark and silent hallway. It took a moment for the lights to turn on in reaction to her arrival, but she could see that one light in the distance from here, although there was no noise coming from her charge’s cell.

One by one the lights flickered on down the hall, and she started forward, walking slowly from habit, so she didn’t get ahead of the illumination. Down here always gave her the creeps, so empty and dark, the hall way too long and silent, with only one cell of the many here, being occupied.

“My lady.”

The voice reached her before she was in sight, and she exhaled in relief that at least he was still talking, even if she never quite knew what to say back to him.

“Ah, I see it is dinner time.”

Elena took the time to pause at the small table in the hall across from his cell, putting down the tray to remove the keycard from her mouth and tuck it into the inner breast pocket of her jacket. Only then did she turn and look at her charge, smile in place, even if the earnestness of the expression had long since dissipated.

“How are you this evening?” she asked, sticking to the usual script.

“I am well, thank you,” the dark haired man responded, but his eyes were on the tray, not on her. “Was my request considered yet?”

Elena turned away, picking up the tray and walking over to the bars of the cell. Her charge stayed on his bed, more than familiar with the procedure by now, and as cooperative as always.

“It is being considered,” she replied, reaching into another pocket for the keys that unlocked the small door at floor level. Crouching down, she put the tray on the floor before unlocking the small door and pushing the tray through. Once she’d locked it again, she stood and moved back over to the table, sitting down on the single chair left next to it. “I’m sure there will be an answer soon.”

Her charge nodded, waiting until she was settled in her chair before moving to take the tray and sitting back on his bed. She watched as he slowly consumed his meal, not rushing, but thorough in his slow consummation of every last crumb. It still bothered her that he was only fed once a day, and every line of his too thin form seemed to taunt her conscience and make every doubt that she tried to hide grow that little bit more.

To try and distract herself, she looked at which book he was reading today, seeing it lying closed next to him on the bed. It was familiar to her, a favourite of his, and she was cheered a little to see him reading it once more.

“It’s still your favourite.”

He seemed a little surprised by the question, glancing at the book before smiling at her. She hated the expression, as there was never any warmth in his smiles .

“Yes. I’m afraid I am a creature of melancholy and habit, even now.”

His words stole away her cheer, and she spent the rest of her visit silently watching him eat, then arrange everything on the tray neatly before putting it back in place before the little door. His movements were so practiced and formal, the same as every other day she came to feed him. It made a part of her want to cry, but she showed none of these things as she watched him sit back on his bed.

“Thank you, my lady. I will look forward to your visit tomorrow.”

With a nod, she stood up and knelt down to unlock the little door again, pulling the tray through before locking it once more. Standing up, she paused, giving him one last look.

“I should have news on your request tomorrow. Sleep well.”

He didn’t answer her or even indicate he had heard, her diversion from the normal structure of the visit seemingly ignored as he picked up his book and began to read. Elena couldn’t hold back the sigh as she walked away, the lights of the hall going out behind her, one by one, until only the single light inside the cell remained.

***.***

“Arashi.”

Vincent woke with a jerk, memories and reality mixed into a blur inside his sleep muddled mind. Rubbing a hand over his face, he panted into the darkness, thankful that at least this time, he was alone.

The room felt too hot, even though the thermostat showed it was cool. Exhaling in frustration, Vincent threw off the sheets, cursing his mind and it’s insistence on torturing him with mistakes he could do nothing to rectify.

“Tamotsu, why do you haunt me still?” he whispered, silence his only answer. “I would have saved you… if only I could.”

The night was too quiet, giving Vincent nothing in response to his words. Tseng’s face appeared in his mind, reminding him of what he should be focused on, instead of these useless memories of what was already long lost.

Still he couldn’t just let it go. Tamotsu was a constant phantom that invaded every dream, every night he tried to find some peace in. His heart clenched, the familiar confusion only making him feel tired and worn through now. He had no energy left for the pain that kept trying to surface.

“I’m sorry… I love you but you’re gone, so just go,” Vincent muttered into the darkness, hand fisting in his hair and pulling in frustration. “Will driving me crazy through sleep deprevation bring you back?”

There was no answer, only silence and darkness. Hissing in annoyance, Vincent reached for his phone and dialed Tseng’s number. The voicemail message only added to the ice trying to terraform his emotional landscape.

“You bastard. Why can’t you, just for once, be there when I need you?”

Hanging up, Vincent cursed his own stupidity. Another mistake he would pay for. Another crack Tseng would frown at. What the fuck was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he just let this shit go?

He was dialing the number again before he was even conscious of just what he was doing.

“Sorry. Bad dream. Just ignore me.”

He hung up, throwing his phone across the room. The thump of it hitting the carpeted floor was completely unsatisfactory.

“Just ignore me,” he hissed into the silence, mimicking himself as anger curled inside of him with no prey to strike. “Fuck all of this,” he finally sighed out, heading for the liquor cabinet without further pause.

***.***

They were there again, just watching.

In the shadows, not making a sound or moving at all. The presence was undeniable though, the air heavy with the weight of their regard.

He’d long ago stopped wondering how he knew when there was someone there, outside the bars. It was a feeling, nothing more… or maybe it was simply that his mind was starting to fracture. He didn’t feel crazy, but then again, if he was, he wouldn’t know, would he?

Pushing aside such thoughts, he stared out into the darkened hall and waited to see if this time it would be different. Just one little discrepancy of noise or movement… something to break up the monotony of what his existence had become.

The heaviness of the moment lifted, emptiness all that remained.

Frowning, he returned to sit on his bed, picking up the book he’d left there and opening to the marked page to read again.

Half an hour later, he still hadn’t turned a page.

***.***