My Cup Runneth Over
The whisper was in English, American accent though short and clipped. Quatre opened his eyes, his ears were straining to hear. A faint rustle of displaced soil and he inched his head to the left. Shadow appeared in the far corner of his eye; he froze, waiting for what this new threat would bring.
"Winner," the whisper came again and it was then he smelled it.
He opened his mouth, inarticulate sound push up from his throat, and he strained against the band around his neck, tried to work his legs farther back to easy the thong’s grip. He was able to tilt his head just enough and a hand shot through the bamboo bars, squeezed a fist around a scrap of cloth. Moisture splattered on his lips, hit tongue and teeth, felt as razors sliding down his throat, but he lapped at it, tongue stretching to reach for more. And when the rag was milked dry, he whimpered softly. It was never enough.
The hand disappeared but the shadow remained. "Listen up." Another rustle, and fingers were touching the back of his skull, near the base and Quatre hissed softly. "I have sulfa, and it will sting. You cannot make a sound. Got that?"
Quatre made a slight motion, unwilling to choke himself into agreement. He now knew who his nightingale was, and almost smile at the incongruity of it.
"...cannot, I will use this rag to stifle you. Do you understand?" the downed pilot was whispering.
His motion still slight, Quatre held his breath as the fingers probed, and he was shuddering, biting his tongue when the chemical was applied. Explosions pinged and ricocheted off the inside of his eyelids, his mouth tasted of blood and the odor of near fetid flesh rose to briefly overshadow his unwashed filth. Grey to black and suddenly he was jerking himself upright, mouth gaping and gasping for breath.
"Easy," the whispered voice demanded. "You must have passed out." The hand was back through the bars again, and the still damp cloth was placed at his lips. "Suck on it slowly, and listen," he was told. "You will escape from here. You will carry the message back when you do. You will not fail."
Quatre didn’t answer, but savored the wetness of the rag. He shifted his shoulders without moving his hands, and tightened and released post and anterior leg muscles, squeezing them taut without moving. Not difficult, but muscles bound too long, held in the same position for days weeks? months? were shrill in protest. Even as he flexed, shifted minutely to ease the thong about his neck, he listened. This was the second visit from the Lieutenant, the downed pilot who’d been in this hell-hole for over a year.
When the whispering stopped and the cloth removed, Quatre began to speak, rasping and slow. A list of names. Orders. Partial plans. The hand reached through the bars one last time, squeezed his shoulder, withdrew and the shadow was gone.
Sun-up was still hours away, and Quatre closed his eyes, dreamed of base camp and the mess hall. He was hearing Duo complain and the sergeant barking orders.