January 8th, 4:43 a.m.
Johnny didn't give in. He'd wanted to, but he hadn't. They'd asked for something that would ordinarily have seemed so small. Just a signature. But he'd done the job that was expected of him. He'd held out.
He didn't cry either, and he'd sure as hell wanted to. There'd been tears. A lot of tears. Trails and trails but no sounds of the sobs that he could have let loose. The pain had been breath-stealing and gut-wrenching. It had literally knocked the piss out of him. But he hadn't cried. He hadn't begged for it to stop, not aloud anyway. He supposed he should feel proud of himself in a way but he didn't. He only wondered what was going to happen.
His ankles were untied while he was lying panting and shaking against the table. The pain seemed to be disappearing from his feet in a strange rushing cold feeling, but he knew the relief had to be temporary. He was pulled off of the table then and when his bare feet hit the floor he found the pain that he was sure had to still be there. He looked at his feet, expecting them to be bloody. He was shocked to see they weren't.
He was pushed a few steps toward the nearby wall and the rebel who'd pushed him toward it stepped out of the way as a bucket of what felt like ice cold water was thrown toward him. The force of the water hitting him was enough to push him off balance. He grabbed for the wall ahead of him with his bound hands to keep from falling to the floor.
A voice told him to turn around and slowly he forced himself to, though he didn't want to. He could see the second bucket full of water being swung forward and for some reason his instinct was to raise his hands and arms in front of his face, to block it. Most of the water seemed to hit his torso and below. Instantly, he was shivering, the water was so cold. And he was dizzy. He felt nauseous. He sank to his knees on the wet floor but only for a moment before he was being forced to stand again.
He found his gaze fixed on the water that was flowing down to a drain under the table. He watched it a few seconds as he was being pulled toward the doorway. He was led out of the room by the two men who'd been holding him on the table. His feet were burning as he put his weight on them. He was brought back to the room he'd been kept in over the preceding hours, only he wasn't blindfolded this time.
When the door was opened, he could see that Gary and Roger had been taken somewhere else. He wished that was all he could see. Preena had been right when he'd said he didn't need to see his surroundings. That he didn't want to see them. It wasn't the room itself, which was generally what he expected from the smell. Dirty, damp, and smelling of mildew and urine. It was what was in the room as well. Gill and Preena. They really had been killed, and their naked bloody bodies were lying lifeless on the floor.
He found himself freezing in the entrance to the room, pushing back against the men who were trying to force him inside. He thought he was about to be led in to be shot, to lie with the fallen sergeants. But that would have been merciful. He realized that when instead of what he had feared, he was left inside the room, alive and locked up with the bodies of the two men he'd spent almost every day with since his deployment began. The light never went out in the small room and for some reason he couldn't stop looking at the horror in front of him.
The smell of blood was overwhelming. Large puddles of it were gathered on the floor around the bodies. Preena's eyes were closed but Gill's seemed wide and staring from where his upper body was still slumped against the one wall. They both looked as though they'd been beaten severely before they'd been killed. There were cut's on Preena's arms that looked deliberate. Parallel lines. Both of their faces seemed so swollen. Gill's feet…it almost looked as though they'd been crushed, like something heavy had been dropped on them, or like they'd been hit hard with something like a hammer.
He hadn't eaten anything since around ten the previous morning, but when he found himself vomiting he thought it seemed as though his body hadn't digested any of it at all. The smell of it added to the lingering putridity around him.
He found himself crying then. He sat as far from the carnage near him as possible, wet and cold, with his feet stinging and aching and cried as he held onto his ID tags that were on the chain around his neck. The rebels hadn't asked for them. He didn't know if they would have had they not been hidden from view under his t-shirt.
Hanging from the chain with his tags was the small gold loop earring he used to wear before joining the army. It matched the one that had belonged to his twin brother, Jamie, who'd passed away relatively recently from cancer. Having the earring on him had always made him feel close to his brother even when they were away from each other and he desperately wanted to feel close to him now.
As he sat with his sergeants, he wondered why the rebels had left him in the room with his dead squad members. Was it to show him what they were capable of, or was it simply meant to torture him? To warn him that if he didn't do what they wanted he would end up just like them?
For the first time since their initial firefight with the rebels at the cargo truck he let himself really think about the fact that Gosden, Bennett and Liston were all dead. The guys he'd been essentially living with day in and day out for months. Training with, doing supply runs with, shooting the shit with…They'd been like something of a family. As close as you were going to get when deployed.
He found himself thinking in that moment not of each of them alive, but of their bodies. About what would have happened to them. He hoped that when the squad hadn't made their checkpoints and hadn't shown up back at base that a team had been sent out and located their remains. Somehow, he cared about that more in that moment than himself. He thought about Gary and Roger then and wondered if they were even still alive. What if they'd been killed too? What if he was the only one of his squad left?
Thinking about his lost squad members and his own perilous situation should have made him helpless and terrified. He supposed he was, but that wasn't all he felt, and those feelings were overshadowed by something much stronger and prominent. Anger.