When I come to, the pounding in my head has returned. What the hell was that? A dream? A vision? A hallucination? I slowly open my eyes. My vision is still blurry, but I am sure the terrorists that surround me in the back of this dark cave in the middle of the desert still have their guns aimed at me. I close my eyes again. Fucking Webb, he got us into this mess. No, this part wasn't his mission, but his mission brought us over to Iraq. His mission put us in touch with the current situation. And, Mac and I being the people we are, we couldn't walk away. But fuck Webb for even dragging us over here. I need to be angry with someone and Webb is it right now. Anger will keep me conscious. And I need to stay conscious so I'll be ready when Mac comes for me.
I have faith in her. I know she is coming. She won't let me down.
I reopen my eyes. The room is still spinning and I'm still feeling nauseous. I wish I could get off this merry-go-round, or that they'd at least slow it down because it's getting pretty annoying. I know I won't vomit again. There's nothing left in me to come out. Not that way, anyway. Unfortunately for me, my bladder is pretty full. These guys have been "kind" enough to give me water, just enough to keep me alive and my organs functioning. But they aren't nice enough to even let me get up and piss in a corner. Nope, I just have to let that go all over myself. At least it's warm, for a minute, and does fight off the chill. Then I'm just cold and wet. God, this is fucking humiliating. I close my eyes and decide to hold it. Maybe Mac will come soon and I can relieve myself in a corner. A man can hope, can't he?
It's so tempting to slip back into darkness. My eyelids are heavy and begin to droop. No! I have to be ready for Mac. She's coming. I jerk my eyes open and look around the room. While my vision isn't a hundred percent, I can make out the figures around the room. As I suspected, they've still got their guns on me, not that it matters much. Even if I could move, I couldn't move very quickly or go very far. And even if I weren't bound to this stupid chair, I'm not sure I'd have the strength to move at all.
The one closest to me approaches me, almost like he can read my mind. "Comfortable?" he asks.
"Never been more comfortable in my life," I grin at him. Shit, that was a mistake. My head is hurting worse now, just from the slight movement and the sound of my own voice. They can take my life, but they'll never take my pride.
He jabs me in the side, hard, with the butt of his gun. "Hope this helps," he smiles back smugly.
He probably cracked a rib or two. Add that to the blows I've taken to my head, one on the back and one in jaw, and my broken arm. That doesn't even hurt anymore. In fact, my whole body, save my head, is numb, either from pain or the cold. "Much better," I nod. As smart as these guys were, they bought my lie about telling them what they wanted to know. Oh, I told them things all right, not what they wanted to know, but they thought it was. I suppose that's why I'm still alive. Or maybe I'm just a bargaining chip. I don't know anymore. I decide to let my bladder go and just maybe, he'll back off for a little while.
It works. He glares at me and looks disgusted. I'm not so sure about the pride thing anymore. You spend enough time vomiting and pissing on yourself, you kind of lose that, too. But I could still act like I was proud. I didn't have to let them know how much they were hurting me. They can take my life, they can try to take my pride, but they will never take my spirit.
And I'd much rather go through this than have them do this to Mac. Or worse. God help me, but I love her. I always have.
I watch him back away. Okay, they're human enough to be disgusted by these things. I have to give them credit for that. They aren't complete monsters.
I close my eyes again. I am so tired. All I want to do is lie down and go to sleep. I'll even settle for the dirt floor right now, anything, other than this fucking chair. But, I'd much prefer my bed, so soft, warm, and comfortable. I got a new one a while back. I don't know why, I just felt it was time for a change. A pillow-top. It's like sleeping in the clouds. Maybe that's why I fell in love with it when I gave it a try at the store in the mall that day. Sleeping in the clouds. If I can't fly all the time, then sleeping in a cloud is the next best thing. I wish I were there now, wrapped up in my thick comforter and smooth sheets. It would be so warm and soft and comfortable…
I'm surrounded by darkness.
I'm in the desert again, by the fire, looking up at the stars. I look for Mac, but she isn't here, but she was. I can almost smell her. I can definitely see her footprints in the sand, where she walked away from me. Was she coming back?
I sit up and move close to the fire. It is so warm. I hadn't realized I was so cold. I shiver as I feel the heat radiating from the fire. It feels so good. I scan the horizon for any sign of Mac, but there is none. If she isn't here, then why am I?
I know I need to go back, back to the cold, the pain, and the humiliation. But it is so nice here; knowing Mac was here, here and safe. I look up at the moon, so far away and watching over me. Can it see Mac from up there, too?
Please, God, wherever she is, keep her safe.
I lie down by the fire, letting it warm me, and drift off to sleep.
I come to and feel the wetness against my lips, more water, but still no food. How long can a person go on like this? What was it they said to us, a person could live for a week without food, but only two days without water? Something like that. How long have I been here? Only a day? A week? It seems like an eternity.
Eternity. How long ago was it that Mac and I were on that ferry under the bridge? The stars were beautiful that night, but they couldn't hold a candle to Mac. She was radiant. I'll never understand why she confronted me, even if she sat me down and explained it to me in plain English. And I'll never understand my response to her, even if I lived that night over again. No, I wasn't in the best place at the time, but is there ever a "right time?" As I've grown older, I've begun to wonder if there is ever a "right time." Maybe we have to make it the right time. Maybe that's what she was trying to do that night. But could I say that to her? No. Truth was, I was scared. Still am. If I give in and go to Mac, live a life with her like I want, I'll have to give up JAG, because I couldn't ask her to. I'd probably quit flying, for the Navy anyway, since I couldn't bear the thought of making her a widow. And I'd risk losing her. Because if it didn't work, I don't think we could be friends. Not like we are now, at any rate. And I couldn't bear not to have her in my life. At least as a friend, she's there. But I think I could spend eternity with her.
Am I already dead? Is this hell?