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[personal profile] ladderax
Summary: A torturer falls in love with his victim.
Warnings: torture, pain, violence, discussions of character death. But things may not be what they seem.

This was supposed to be a 200-word ficlet, but that didn't happen.

Written in response to [ profile] sparrow_hubris's prompt, to write a fic in response to the lyrics of "The Electrician" by The Walker Brothers.

If I jerk the handle
You'll die in your dreams
If I jerk the handle
Jerk the handle
You'll thrill me and thrill me and thrill me

-"The Electrician"

The room detected life. It lit up, a retina-bleaching cube of neon ultrawhiteness, and the light’s revealing was so thick and so extreme it felt like another form of covering. He heard the windowless door click behind him.

His pointed black shoes moved forward. Like clock arrows, guided by electricity and inevitability. With his streamlined suit, his shoes, and the mask he wore, he was the only dark thing in the room. The dentist-style chair was pale silver. The man stretched out over it, bound at the wrists and ankles, was the color of pale skin. Drained of all color as if his blood had fled and knotted in a crawl space somewhere in a hidden part of his limp body.

He circled the chair, rested his fingertips lightly on the box next to it.

“No,” the bloody, cracked lips struggled feebly to say. “I can’t take anymore. I’m—I’m dying, Arthur.”

Arthur peeled off his mask and shoved it in his pocket, and gazed down at the wan, trembling face, the big rivulets of sweat that knocked the fine new drops out of the way. The neck that couldn’t support the weight of a head, even lying down. He rested his hand in the man’s saturated hair. He could smell his sweat, like steel and standing water.

“I promise,” he soothed, bending down to touch his lips to the man’s forehead. “I promise I won’t use it again.”

“If I talk.”

“Of course. That will never change,” Arthur nodded sadly.

“And if I don’t talk, you’ll use it,” he said, weakly aiming for defiance.

Arthur cradled the man’s head in both of his hands. Rubbed his temples with his thumbs, trying to make the man close his dry red eyes and rest for a moment, and relax. He hesitated. His mouth was feeling rubbery, crumpled, like a collapsing pool raft.

“I will. But I’ll be with you.”

Eames’s mouth was wide open, and he was sucking in gravelly, wrecked breaths. And it hit him that this really could be the end. He wanted to run his hands over all of his skin while it still had the faintest current of life running through it. And Eames wasn’t going anywhere. He could take his time. Arthur ran a finger through the sweat pooled in the dip between his pectoral muscles, over his heart.

“Then I guess you have no other choice, Arthur,” Eames whispered, turning his face to fix Arthur with wide, unblinking, lampbright gray eyes. He looked like what Arthur had always heard that death looked like, a moment of lucidity, of rallied will. “I guess we know what’s coming next.”

Arthur pivoted away from him, reached for one of the wires attached to the box. In less than seconds he’d have it hooked up to one of the electrodes on Eames’s chest that made him look like a high-tech Saint Sebastian, and the current would pierce his flesh, merge with his flesh, animate him so fiercely that his own lifeforce would no longer be able to compete. He would start out by groaning, then screw his eyes shut and scream. Arthur would wish he could hold him through it. But electricity was contagious.

He held the wire’s clip over the electrode on Eames’s collarbone. Eames’s eyes were pinned open with fear, his nostrils flaring, his breath coming in interrupted pants. He looked like he wanted desperately to say something.

Arthur felt his serene expression wilt like a clipped tendon.

“I’m sorry, Eames,” he pleaded. “I’m so sorry I have to do this.”

And, looking at Eames one more time, he turned around and placed the wire back on top of the machine.

He took a deep breath. He was fully prepared.

Expecting the cold knife, held in a hand attached to Eames’s long, hidden third arm, as it snaked around and unzipped his throat crisply.


“Arthur. Again?” Eames shook his head as they sat opposite each other, perched on the edges of the chaises. “You know we can’t use you if you don’t pass this stage. You know this, right?”

“I know.” He hung his head, eyes tracing down the pleats of his gray trousers—not exactly the pants of a torturer, he thought, maybe that’s my problem. “Can I try again?”

“Do you want to try again?”

Arthur pondered for a moment. He stood up and walked over to Eames, nudging his legs open so he could crouch between them. He reached up and cupped Eames’s face in his hands, rejoicing in the ruddy full coolness of his cheeks. “No.”

Eames grasped Arthur’s hands away from his face, held them out between them, clenching around the fingers almost painfully. He held them like that a moment. It seemed somewhere between restraint and frustration.

“Are you disappointed?” Arthur implored. “Do you think I’m weak?”

Eames sighed, then drew Arthur in by his elbows. Arthur settled tentatively on Eames’s thigh, and Eames wrapped his arms around him, face pressed deep into his shoulder. Arthur rested his chin on Eames’s shoulder and watched the corrugated doors of the storage facility smooth out like strokes of orange icing.

“No, darling,” he said firmly, kissing the collar of Arthur’s shirt as tenderly if it were some intimate region of his flesh. “No.”

He tightened his hold around Arthur’s back. And Arthur, wiping his chin with a discreet fingertip, careful to keep his eyes or cheeks from coming into contact with the light-colored fabric of Eames’s shirt, returned the embrace.


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la pellegrina

May 2012

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