A/N: Been a long time, I know. But I'm still around; real life and roleplay has eaten up my writing time and I'm only just getting back into it. Either way, here's a project I've been working on for a while and has been chugging along at a decent enough rate that I feel I can start posting it. It's set in the same universe as 'The Good Fight' and those other fics of mine, which means it's gameverse-based. Thanks go to IC Ghost for betaing.
Please note that this fic will be R-RATED. In later chapters it will contain explicit torture and some sexual references. For now, it is PG-13, but earlier chapters still contain implications of torture, definite severe injury, brainwashing/mental manipulation and swearing (hardest swear being multiple uses of the 'the f-word').
'Tabula rasa' is 'blank slate'; it indicates the mind before it has been conditioned and changed by experience or implies the necessity of beginning anew.
Prologue: Lost in the darkness, hoping for a sign
Chapter 1: I'm terrified of these four walls
Chapter 2: These iron bars can't hold my soul
Chapter 3: Sometimes I feel like I'm a bird with broken wings
Chapter 4: At times I dread my now and envy where I've been
Chapter 5: The world seems not the same
Chapter 6: Though I know nothing has changed
Chapter 7: Breathe life into this feeble heart
Wataru = Lance
Sakaki = Giovanni
Lost in the darkness, hoping for a sign
The darkness lured him, soft and cloying, and he strove to remain there. It was safe there. There were flashes, but even when they let him see things they were dangerous because they hurt; he couldn’t control them and they always always swallowed him when he tried.
He was yanked toward one and pulled into light and sound and ohgodspain—
“How long does it take to break one man?!”
There was a pressure in his head and he fought, steel cutting into his wrists, his arms, his chest. It felt as though his mind was exploding but he just couldn’t get away.
“I’m trying, Sir.”
Then he wasn’t there anymore he was home, talking to his sister, and for a moment he was happy. Abruptly she vanished and he cried out because she was gone—
He ran and ran, but there were people after him, black shadows. They couldn’t catch him, he couldn’t let them catch him. He ran through a door and they were waiting, but so was he, and then they all were surrounded by fire and ice and sheer white-hot rage—
Something pricked his arm.
He felt so heavy. He could hardly move, but the darkness was nice, and he didn’t really want to move, because to move was to invite pain. He tried to think, but the darkness was foggy as well as black, and it was so very thick. He couldn’t seem to grasp the flashes in the fog even if he tried or wanted to, and when he did try it seemed as though some great force stole them out from under his fingertips and then sent them back at him.
Something was ticking over, beeping, and something else was covering his mouth and nose. He tried to move his hands but couldn’t, first because he was tied down and then because he was just too tired.
“How much longer?”
“It’s hard to say—he’s so weak. How many tranqs did they have to use?”
“Do something about it!”
The fog seemed to lighten and the flashes seemed clearer, but—what was that?!
There was something in there with him.
Flames roared and he ignored the shouts and screams. His limbs didn’t seem to want to work properly, but there was light ahead, light and maybe freedom and he threw himself into it as though his life depended on it. It did.
He wasn’t anticipating the flare of pain which came from the side, something which knocked his world into spinning wildly. A shape hesitated, one that was big and angular and hard.
“Go … go!”
They went, and he and another—someone warm and strong, if battered, and very, very large—they rose to meet the shadows with lightning and flame.
He clawed in the darkness, but it did nothing. Even if he gripped the Other it seemed to slide out from under his fingers just as the flashes sometimes did, and it hurt him. It made the darkness around him radiate pain. He fled from it, but he couldn’t escape it and—
His head pounded, pain stabbing into his eyes, but there was nothing but darkness. No sights, just sounds, far too loud, voices coming over his heartbeat.
“I’m sorry, Sir, I—”
“He’s no good to us blind, you fool!”
Sometimes he saw things, people, and heard sounds. Sometimes they answered him, but they always faded or went transparent when he tried to touch them. Sometimes he was sure they were supposed to be people he knew—should know—people who knew him. And yet the Other came and swept them all away, and there was pain and darkness. Then there was only darkness.
And then there wasn’t.
Everything was heavy. I heard sounds coming from all around me, sounds which seemed like they should have been quiet and yet weren’t. Ticking. Footsteps. People talking.
I could smell … something. Something sterile. It burned my nose when I tried to breathe too hard, but something burned in my chest as well when I did and I only just kept from coughing. I was resting on something soft, and even though the heaviness pushing me into it was keeping some of the pain back it was also receding fast. My head hurt. My chest. My arms … everywhere hurt. I tried to move and whimpered instead at the pain.
There seemed to be a pause in the sounds, but I was just trying to breathe without moving too much or, well, doing anything too much. Opening my eyes seemed like a good idea at that point, only they were one of the things that hurt most. They burned, but there also seemed to be something across them which was coolish and a little soothing—
“You’re awake, Sir?”
The voice sounded like it came right next to my ear and far too loudly, and I jerked.
Not good. Pain stabbed into my head and sparked down my arms, and I was pretty sure I whimpered again but really honestly couldn’t care because fuck that hurt!
“Sorry,” said the voice more quietly, and dimly I realised the light weights shifting down my limbs and across my chest were hands. “I thought you would have heard me coming.”
I’d have answered, but my mouth was so dry my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth. I tried anyway, if only to ask for water, but apparently only pain could force a sound from me because my voice sure as hell wasn’t working, even though I’m sure my lips moved. The man behind the voice seemed to understand anyway; the hands lifted and a moment later there was a straw poking at my lips, and oh gods yes, water!
The straw was pulled away too soon for my liking, but I don’t know if I made some noise of protest or if he’d just done it too many times, because the man said, “Not too fast; you’re a little dehydrated.”
I wondered whose fault that was and turned my head in the direction the voice was coming from. Come to think of it, I didn’t know at all what had happened to land me here … I wasn’t even sure where ‘here’ was.
“Whe—where?” Gods, was that my voice? I sounded like a chainsaw dragging over gravel.
“You’re in the medical wing,” said the voice, a little briskly, and I tried to frown.
“What—where?” A hospital? Where? Was that supposed to mean something to me?
A beat of silence. “How … how much do you remember?”
Uh … I thought. And thought. And my heart seemed to try to burst out of my chest through my throat, because I couldn’t remember a godsdamned thing—
Another voice, another one I didn’t recognise, barely audible over the rush of my blood in my ears.
Breathe. It was hard, harder than it should have been, why was it so hard—?
A hand landed on my arm and I jerked, and the new voice sounded again, familiar this time.
They were talking to me, I realised, and the weight on my arm was somehow comforting. I took a semi-steady breath, and then another. “Is—that me?”
“You don’t remember?” The voice sounded slightly wary, just the slightest bit uncertain; I guess he wasn’t expecting that reply. Who does expect to have a patient wake up and not know who he is, anyway?
“N—no … no.”
The hand squeezed briefly, and it seemed to tremble with the voice as the man answered. “Yes. Yes, Wataru is your name. You’re an … agent under my command.”
An agent? An agent for what?
I had a vague idea I should’ve been able to answer that question, but blackness apparently has weight and all of a sudden it was suffocating me.
“You’re at our headquarters, in the medical ward. I’m afraid you were injured rather badly.”
Injured? Well yeah, I could tell that myself, thanks, what with the pain thing, and my eyes—
“M—my eyes …”
“Were damaged, yes. However, chances are they’ll heal fully given time.” That was the doctor—Kitano. Did he realise how detached he sounded? Almost frightened, even.
“How—did it happen?”
A sigh, from my right this time—the man who wasn’t a doctor, then. My employer?
“I’m sure I shouldn’t go into details at this point in time, but suffice to say that something happened which was rather … traumatising for you. Doctor Kitano says you are recovering, however, and that is all you should allow yourself to be doing.”
There was a noise of agreement from Kitano, but it was the tone of command in the other man’s voice which had me wondering, the familiarity clearer than ever now, and if I strained I thought maybe I could remember hearing him shouting.
“I know you. Don’t I?”
There was a pause, and then the man spoke again, his voice slightly tighter with fissions of—excitement? “Oh? Do you remember me, then?”
“I … don’t know.” What had he been shouting about? I couldn’t seem to call the words to mind, and the disconnected nature of the memory made me think that maybe I’d already been injured at the time. “I think … I remember hearing you shouting—about me being hurt?”
A heavy sigh. “Yes, I was rather emotional, I’ll admit.” He said it carefully and he didn’t really sound like the kind of person who’d lose control easily, so he was probably ashamed of whatever outburst that had been. And I had been the subject of it.
I swallowed hard. “I—sorry. For worrying you … I guess.”
The man, when he replied, sounded both surprised and gratified, and a hand squeezed my arm. “Why, thank you, my boy, though it wasn’t precisely your fault.” Someone cleared their throat. “Ah, yes; I do believe it’s time for you to rest now, isn’t that right, Doctor?”
The hand was removed and my stomach fluttered with panic. “Wait—I—who are you? I don’t know your name!”
“Sakaki,” the man said, and he sounded pleased. “My name is Sakaki.”