The Facility, in all its mystery, is silent. Maybe people are behind closed doors. Maybe a rush of people have all just "awoken" from other lives, and struggle to come to terms. Maybe the others are merely asleep. Whatever the reason, things are eerily quiet. Quiet enough, in fact, to believe there isn't anyone else there at all.
Until it isn't. That first sound is abrupt without being extremely loud. Distinct, too. The sound of a glass hitting floor, shattering, and spreading in a thousand directions. The short period of time in which the largest piece can be heard sliding to a halt is an eternity after that silence.
For some, waking in the Facility is jarring, but oddly familiar. Granted, no one remembers the Facility when they're navigating through some alternate life that's been outlined for them by some unknown powers that be. But once that story comes to an end, those individuals who've been through this before undoubtedly experience some communal sense of 'Oh, this place again.'
She's not one of those individuals. When she blinks open her eyes, she expects to see the interior of her quarters on the Heph. Instead, she finds herself in a completely alien environment, surrounded by walls and decor that strangely suit her, but she didn't choose them. She's never seen them before.
Sitting bolt upright, she flails a hand out to her side to grab hold of... sheets. There's a blink, her head jerks that way to visually confirm that the bed next to her is utterly vacant.
Then her scream pierces the air.
Several seconds of silence follow that scream...
...before the sounds of footsteps can be heard in the hallway. Unhurried. Neither loud nor quiet. Casual. Neutral. Terrifyingly neutral as they approach...
...and then stop.
There is a knock at her door. 'DUDUDUD! It is a knock one might expect from unriled police. Clear, firm, and leaving absolutely no question that anyone is at the door, and that the person is big enough to have rapped knuckles against the top of the only portal keeping her safe.
There is absolutely no way for her to know who's outside that door. Best guess, though? Whoever abducted her. Out of a secure ship. In the middle of fucking deep space. The fact that they managed to pull that off makes them a threat on the same level as those aliens over on the Noc.
Which should just be a short flight away, but somehow.. she's starting to doubt that that's the case. For one thing, the almost imperceptible but ever-present hum of the engines can't be felt, or heard.
Holy fuck, where is she?!
Throwing aside the covers and launching out of bed, she tries her damnedest to keep her heart and breath rates under control, though it's growing increasingly difficult with each moment that passes. A quick scan of her immediate surroundings, and she grabs up the first reasonably heavy object she can find: an antique brass nautical spyglass, about sixteen inches in length. And she's wielding it like a bat, when she throws open the door to confront whoever's standing outside.
The moment that door is opened, she is rushed. Her makeshift bat is ripped out of her hands as easily as a petal is ripped from a flower. Her neck is seized by a hand large enough to get more than one-hundred eighty degrees around it. Her weight is lightened as the man rushing in seems able to lift her up with a single limb... but she isn't lifted.
She's rushed. Backwards. Against a wall. It's a blur of motion. Anger. Danger. Only once she's hit that wall hard enough to knock the air right out of her lungs is she able to see who has her.
Rod. Rod Fucking Chevalier-Colby III. In the flesh. Alive. Safe. Murdering her any moment.
But this isn't her Rod. There are differences even time would struggle to explain. The corded muscles that bulge and ripple beneath the skin of his murder arm as he pins her to the wall? Time can explain that. The extra hair and shaped beard, too, can be explained by time. Even the fact that it is more brown and less grey than the last time she kissed his wonderfully alive and smelly form can be explained by time. Somehow. Reasons.
He's younger. At least five years younger than the last time she saw him. Impossibly. Surgery leaves its marks. Treatments have their signs. But his tissue is thick. Healthy. His body is slick with sweat to the point it has parts of his white tank top damp.
A wedding. A honeymoon. A life together. Children? Happiness? Fighting? Did they really share all those things that happened after they escaped? It all seems to be in his eyes... buried under layers of murder.
Murder. She can't inhale, and he's got that spyglass hefted up in his other hand like he's about to bash her until he reaches the backside of her brain. "Who the fuck are you?" he asks through clenched teeth and shaking, peeled-back lips.
Relief. Joy. Both are visible, flaring through her familiar green eyes as she recognizes him through the chaos of physical shock at being rushed this way. For all of an instant, she's nakedly happy to see him.
And then the physical shock expands, snaking its electrified tendrils into her mind, her heart. Those eyes that've so often gazed up at him with tenderness, with passion, with love... they widen. They crackle with soul-wrenching confusion.
Then confusion turns to panic. Fear. This isn't her Rod. The man she fell headlong into inexplicably and undeniably ferocious love with. It can't be. Her Rod wouldn't look at her this way, wouldn't pin her to a wall by her throat, wouldn't...
She can't breathe. Her lips begin to take on a blue tinge as she opens and closes them, trying to form words, a million and one questions, a plea. For understanding. For help. Christ, for her life. Her left hand darts up, slender fingers wrapping around his wrist, digging nails in, trying to pry it from her throat. And in so doing, brings into his line of sight a marred, sweat- and blood-stained paper ring on one of those fingers.
Sweat is an embarrassment to most people. It smells. It pollutes. It shows signs of weakness and discomfort. But to this man murdering her? That slickness is the difference between her hands gripping him firmly and struggle. It is the difference between her nails leaving gaping wounds in his wrist and the superficial scratches he receives. It is the difference between this possibly being an act and a fully revealed emotional event.
All that sweat, and not the slightest sign that she will slip from his fingers. It isn't fair. Life isn't fair. Sweat isn't fair. Murder isn't fair.
And then his eyes (How can eyes be completely filled with death and pain at the same time? How can they be super saturated with both?) fall to that ring. The confusion. The anger. The squeeze on her neck that threatens to break it.
And floor. She's released by everything but gravity.
The spyglass hitting the floor seems so much more real than her own absorption by it.
"What the fuck?" the man asks no one. Everyone. Everything. Anything. Tears have become one with sweat on his face. A mixture of insanity. A mixture that buys her such valuable moments to begin to recover from being so close to unconsciousness.
...Moments that don't last before he is reaching down towards her head to grab a handful of hair.
Maya, or so he knows her -- hell, so she still believes herself to be -- is blind to the turbulent storm of emotions raging through his expression. She doesn't see the tears. Truth told, she's not seeing much of anything at the moment, given that her vision had started to go progressively dark as unconsciousness grew nearer and nearer.
And then she's free. Crumpling to the floor, she wheezes out that last breath she'd managed to draw what seems like forever ago. The one she'd taken just before his hand clamped around her throat. The next one she drags into her lungs is an agony, and she nearly chokes on it. Abject terror still claims every corner of her mind, but it takes several dazed moments before she can gather her wits enough to start trying to crawl away from him.
Which is when his hand buries itself in her hair, and dashes that slim hope of escape.
Can one escape Purgatory? Can one escape a nightmare? Can one escape her own scalp as a man that seems to be an embodiment of a myriad of emotions claims her hair? He pulls her along with him as he moves to the bed she was laying on when she woke up. He sits down on the side of it, and he brings his hand - and her hair with it - to his thigh.
When he sees that this isn't enough to make her look at him, he lifts his hand until she is puppeted before him on her knees. Those bloodshot eyes. The color of them is like a vat of chocolate mixed with a pint of blood. The expression in them is as multifaceted as a mosaic. The sanity in them isn't. There is no sanity here. There is only the clarity that can only exist once sanity is swept away.
"Who are you?" He asks again, but this time it seems less rhetorical and more like he wants an actual answer. "Why are you doing this to me?"
That sense he's been drowning in, that the whole world has flipped on its head and everything he thought he knew isn't real; that overwhelming sense of loss, and the shattering grief and white-hot rage that boils through his veins as a result; the crippling confusion and the panic and the bone-chilling fear?
He sees all of it mirrored in her eyes, when he drags her gaze up to his own again by her hair.
Color, at least, has begun to return to her lips. But when they part to answer him, all that emerges initially is a rasped, croaking little sound. Her throat is still suffering the after-effects of that enraged throttling he gave her, alas. Wincing, she grasps at his knee, swallows convulsively, and tries again. "Mm--" The sound is choked off briefly. "--Aya... Fuh..fucking Col.."
That's as far as she can get, before she has to abandon the attempt and submit to a bout of coughing.
Even though she speaks choked nonsense, he seems to understand exactly what she is trying to say. His lips and the skin over his cheeks trembles as he shakes his head. "No. NO." It is good that she can't see his right hand from where he holds her head. The way it clenches into a fist. The way his fingers twitch when he forces it open. There are worse things than murder that hand is capable of delivering. There are worse things than Hell in the Purgatory that is the unstable man holding her.
There is too much emotion for him to be still, so there is a finger shaking in her face and threatening to put out an eye as he tells her, "You are not Maya. I am not Rod!" His teeth make the smallest noise in his mouth as his jaw clenches. "I can remember this entire bullshit life that we lived together, and it's not even a god DAMN THING!" He stands; dragging her towards her feet by the hair, but twisting before she can reach them. He shoves her down towards the bed; bending her over the side of it.
Maya cries out, despite the raw agony that lances through her throat as a result. Shaking hands scrabble for purchase on the rumpled bedding. Whether she hopes to drag herself forward across the mattress to escape him, or try to shove herself upright again is unclear. Hell, she might not even have a cohesive plan in mind. Desperation provokes action without forethought, at times. "Rod..." Still, she calls him that. To her, that's who he is. He has to be. The alternative is too reality-breaking to even begin to fathom, right now. "Rod, please, I don... don't know what's hap..pening either.."
The hand on her back might as well be a building. There is enough force there to keep her from doing anything more than forcing his handprint into her no matter how hard she pushes up against it. "You don't? You don't know?" He sounds almost sympathetic, but there is a trace of bitter, twisted mockery to it. "A man that doesn't even know who the actual fuck he is is about to cut you up with a piece of broken glass until you tell him what the fuck is going on." He lowers his face down beside her head as he slides onto her back, "'cause I don't know who the fuck I am or how the fuck I got here or-" His scream into her ear is sudden and merciless, "WHY THE FUCK there isn't an EXIT!"
His lower lip drags over the back of her ear as he croons to her, "But I know that I have no qualms. When I think about hurting someone... killing someone... anything. I feel like there's not even a touch of the conscience that should be there. There's no angel on these shoulders, cap'n. There's just a lot of questions, an axe to grind, and a whole lotta..."
His breath is heavy on her face. "Anger. A lot of anger. Why would you make some fake, broken version of me fall in love with you? With... the other you? How is that any less fucked up than me cutting you into little morsels with a piece of broken glass? Explain that to me, sweetheart."
So much. So much fury being blasted down at her by the man who holds her pinned to the bed. So much confusion swelling as he gives voice to some of the questions that she hasn't even had time to begin searching for answers to, and raises several of his own that hadn't yet occurred to her. So much resurgent terror, as he once again threatens her life -- and, once again, makes her question whether he could actually be the man she loved.
Something inside her snaps, at that moment. All that anger he's feeling pours into the roaring maelstrom of her own chaotic emotions, and she just...snaps. "Why would YOU?!" she screeches, launching into sudden action in that moment, struggling like a wild cat beneath him -- all claws, teeth and lashing, desperate attacks. "Who the fuck are YOU?! This wasn't me, you goddamn lying piece of shit, it was you! You put me through hell, made me fall for you so it would hurt that much more when I finally realized it was all a fucking lie, and when I finally managed to break free and wake up from whatever drugs you'd been keeping me under with, you walk in here and try to kill me before I can escape and tell the world what a sadistic, evil fuck you are!"
The struggle isn't just real. It's reality. It's a physical release for too much emotional shit. And there is struggle. It's everything he can do to keep her there without getting his nose bashed in or his hand bit. It keeps him from doing worse harm to her even as it makes him want to. But he's good at this. Strangely good. Better than Rod ever was. He's the kind of man you'd want to have around when killing machine aliens, parasites, and mutants were closing in. So when her fury dies down, he's still there. On her. Holding her. Pinning her.
"You think I'm going to fall for that boiler room bullshit? I fucking loved you, you heartless bitch. I-"
The only sound for a moment is the sound of her heartbeat. Her movement. He doesn't even breathe. He is so still it might not seem as if he is even human. The silence stretches. Lingers. It begins to settle in; get comfortable, and the moment she attempts to break it, she earns a soft, "Shh."
A moment becomes seconds. Seconds become minutes. Minutes slowly dogpile. Her legs grow numb. His hand slips off her head...
His weight lifts off her back...
His legs slowly shift and allow him to stand up to completely free her...
And he asks the question that less emotional people might have assumed from the start as he takes his time scanning the walls of the room.
"What if... someone else... is doing this... to us?"
Wise, really, that he waited so very long before finally lifting himself up off of her -- by the time he does, she's grown sedate enough that she doesn't immediately launch into another attack. Perhaps that was his intent. Perhaps it was simply an agreeable side-effect of his actual, unknowable intent.
Either way, she remains just as he left her for a time, regardless of how uncomfortable or ungainly the face-down position atop rumpled bedding may be. Motionless. At least, until her right hand slides slowly up and underneath the tousled wash of her hair, presumably to where her face still lies hidden. It lingers there for half a dozen moments, give or take, before she finally begins to shift upright -- but she does so in such a way as to keep her back turned to him, her head bowed in such a way as to curtain her features.
When she speaks, it's barely above a whisper. And it's only two words. Neither separately nor in concert do they offer any sort of explanation or answer to his voiced hypothetical. All they do is convey a request.
"If only I could," he replies to her as he finishes his useless examination of her walls. If she looks his way, she can see the length of glass he pulls out of his pocket. It's not as big as it was when he entered; a few pieces probably broken off in there.
Rather than walk out her door, he slumps back against it and slides until he is sitting. He looks down at that glass and at his hands. He turns both over as an accusation leaves his lips, or at least that is the tone of it shaping the words. "It was too damn real. Way too fuckin' real." He trails his pinky finger down over the artery of his left wrist. "Think it'll piss someone off if I bleed out rather than play these games, or do you think that's exactly what they want?" He smirks. "Fuck it."
The room is furnished in a way that suits her, that's for certain. The walls are draped with myriad silks in varying hues, lending a sense reminiscent of being somewhere exotic. Middle-Eastern, perhaps. Off to one side, there's a desk that looks as though its design was inspired by the steamer trunks of a bygone era, with an antique brass lamp atop -- but it's empty. No papers, no computer, no knick-knacks or framed photographs of the brunette before him with loved ones. Nothing that identifies specifically with her. The same is true of the rest of the decor - star charts and nautical maps, books in a stately shelf that vary from travel memoirs to fantasy adventure novels to biographies of Amelia Earhart or Sir Francis Drake or a score of others. But everything looks new. Unused. And while they seem like things that she would certainly like, what they don't seem like.. is 'hers.'
The young - yes, she's definitely a bit younger than he'd recalled, as well - woman seated on the bed draws in a swift, sharp breath through her nostrils. She'd flinched, subtly but visibly, when he pointed out how real it had all been. Still not looking his way, she doesn't see the glass in his hands. "Please... just go away, Rod." Still so quiet. Her voice isn't steady.
"Or whoever you are."
"Fuck you," he states as he lifts his eyes up to stare at her. "I'm not Rod." He sucks in a breath that continues until his lungs reach capacity. "I'm not Rod. You're not Maya. This place is nowhere. It makes no sense." He looks from her to his wrist and back. "And I'm not going to play these silly fucking games."
The glass becomes far more visible as a red, translucent liquid spreads across the bottom of it. It's too light to be blood. Too thin. Too see-through... at least until the first drop hits his sweats. That is when it looks real. Blood on glass seems so superficial. Blood on cloth is a stark contrast.
He shows no signs of pain as he begins to slide that piece down the inside of his forearm.
The act of slicing through one's skin doesn't generally create any sound. Nothing to alert her as to what he's actually up to, at least -- not with her back turned, her face concealed behind a riotous cascade of tangled caramel brown hair. But then the scent of it hits the air. That bright, coppery smell, like an old penny.
Her head jerks up. Twisting around, she shoves her hair back out of a face streaked with tears she'd been trying to keep hidden from him. Reddened eyes seek him out through the blur, blinking to clear her vision... and then widening sharply as she sees. The contrast drags her gaze right to that growing splotch of blood, so deep red it almost looks black. "No..." She barely breathes the word.
Lunging off of the bed, she rushes to him, all but throwing herself down atop him where he sits crumpled against the door. The shard of glass is wrested from his hand, eliciting a hiss as her own ferocity causes its edge to bite into her own palm. It's flung away, viciously, and her hands move instead to wrap around his wrist, pressing, squeezing, trying to stem the flow. "God damn you, don't you leave me.."
Christ. What is she even saying? He just tried to kill her! Her shoulders begin to shake with a fresh onslaught of tears, shed for a man she doesn't even know. Shed for a man she...
"I love you. Please. Don't make me go through this alone.."
The sweat that slicked her hands earlier has become blood. The parallel between the two is visceral. Now it is her panic and that copper-scented and terrifyingly hot, real liquid that is making her grip less than effective.
He doesn't fight her. It might almost seem strange how he didn't fight her. How he didn't stop her from yanking that glass away. How he didn't shove her away as she tries to staunch his bloodshed. None of it makes sense until he catches her eyes. Until that insanity meets her own. Until that moment where things go clear on one level as his words make it clear on another. "Maya would never let Rod die, would she? Just like I couldn't kill you. I couldn't." He shakes his head, and the signs of shock are swiftly altering his coloration. It is alarming how swiftly his skin goes white. Even his lips are all but washed out. "I tried." His eyes squeeze shut and tears of rage spill from them. "I was so fucking angry when you answered that door. I knew you weren't her. I knew I wasn't him. But here you are."
A sound that is almost a laugh spills from him. "Trying to save my life. I was sure you'd not care. Or laugh. Or mock me as I slipped away. I was going to wait for you to come rub it in, and then I was gonna fuckin' gut you. It was a glorious plan. Maya would've loved it. She had a vindictive streak, you know. She was my- No. Rod's. Rod's fiery bitch."
She can feel him fading. Slipping down the treacherous path toward oblivion as surely as her hands slip against his blood-slicked skin. Deep in the logical reasoning center of her mind, alarms are pealing maddeningly, trying to tell her that this is a battle she cannot win. She simply isn't willing to listen to them. Not yet. Not ever.
"Yours," she chokes out, her head falling forward, feverish brow coming to rest against his increasingly pale, chill one. "I don't care what your name is. It doesn't matter. It was real. It was real, damn it -- it had to be. There's no other explanation for the way I... I feel..."
Silence descends like a smothering blanket, rustled only by the sounds of her strangled sobs as she finally, with agonized reluctance, surrenders to reality and releases his wrist. "I loved you. I lived for you. I would have died for you. And somehow, across the vastness of space to wherever we are now, whoever we are now, we managed to find each other again."
Her newly-freed left hand closes into a fist, with which she promptly punches him in the shoulder. By this point, he's far enough gone that he may not even feel it. "We found each other. And now you're leaving me. God damn you... why couldn't you live for me, too?"
"This place isn't right. Didn't we... they-" Focus is getting difficult, but he still seems to be firm on identity that they are not the people they were. "They got old together. He got sick. He died... and I woke up here. I have a symbol on my door that keeps changing. None of the others change. Just mine. And what happened to Maya? Did she stick around for the kids? Grandkids? Did she make it another twenty years? Did she ever finish that book she was writing?" He wipes the blood from his right palm onto the chest of his white tank top. It's a red smear in a growing collection. It's pooling beneath him now. That wound is as deep and jagged as it is horrible. Even at two inches long rather than the six he intended, it's turning them both into a mess. "I think it's kinda sad and beautiful," he says with his eyes shut and his head rolling against the door.
"I'm her, you idiot." It's whispered, and carries none of the fury of her diatribe earlier. It's almost... tender, in a way. Teasing. Just as she'd teased him so many times, in their many years together, in that other life. He's almost gone. The time for accusations and anger is past. And so, just as she had when Rod grew old, and sick, and lay dying with his gnarled and wrinkled hand clutched gently in both of her own, she does the only thing she can do.
She eases his passing.
"I finished the book. Brie helped." Their daughter. Who in the universe besides Rod Fucking Chevalier-Colby III would insist on naming their daughter 'Brie Colby'? "I dedicated it to you. To the man who won my heart with a paper ring, from his applesauce belly. Christmas was hard, that first year without you. There were still presents under the tree with your name on the tags. I couldn't bear to give them to anyone else -- I couldn't even move them. They sat there until the tree had turned brown, and Rhys," their son, named for the man whose heroism had ensured their escape from the Noc, "Came and took it away. He and Claire came to stay with me after that, and brought the children. They were so beautiful, my love. So much like you..."
And on it goes, until he fades completely.