Notes: I am writing Aftermath during a very dark time in my life, so it follows that it's going to be a very dark story. The chapters will be very short, as it's sort of intended to be little glimpses into the lives of the two main characters as they deal with the way their lives have turned out. THIS STORY HAS TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR DEATH, GORE, TORTURE, AND RAPE.



He's screaming.

He's screaming and I can't make him stop, I can't help him, I can't take his pain away. And not just pain; he's screaming in fear, in terror of what's being done to him. I want to close my eyes, to cover my ears, but even if the two soldiers flanking me weren't holding my arms behind my back, I couldn't do that to him. I've brought him here. I've caused this to happen to him. The least I can do is witness what I've done.

They're holding him spread-eagle on a splintery wooden table that very recently held the body of another one of my men, one whose blood and offal still dampens the porous wood. They're holding him, beautiful Lehona, his tanned skin, his sun-kissed blond hair, they're winding cords around his wrists and ankles and using a long, dirty knife to cut his clothes from him. I watch his stomach tense as the blade nears it- will they stab him there, carve him open and pull out his entrails? But it moves on, lower. Lehona's chin tilts back, his jaw clenches. My breath catches in my throat. But no, not there, either. For now, besides the scrapes he took in the initial battle and his capture, he remains whole, beautifully whole.

Somehow that's worse, watching him struggle, knowing that the promised pain is coming, that they're only taking the time to think of the best way to administer it. His muscles flex; his back arches. His golden hair tangles and then swings down to hang off of the edge of the table.

And all I can do is watch.

I think they're speaking to me, now. I hear my name called, but I can't tear my eyes from Lehona's splayed form. They're taunting me, asking me if I'm looking forward to my own time on the table, to my own slow pain, to my own execution. My mouth is too dry to give my answer: I would take my scout's place in less time than it takes to say it. Hurt me. Kill me instead. Cut me to pieces, from the feet upwards. I'll scream for you, I want to say. I'll scream, I'll beg, I'll curse, I'll sob. Only don't hurt him. Don't hurt him. Please. Please.

The knife is taken away. Lehona lets out the breath he's been holding; I can see his shoulders relax a little, only to begin to tremble. No, please. His mouth, pink lips I'm so used to seeing in a smile, is pressed tightly shut. I see his throat move as he swallows. I see the silver track of a tear spilling from the corner of one blue eye.

He can't see the latest tool they've selected for him, but I can. I try not to let the horror of its simple barbarism show on my face. He turns his head to look at me, pleading. I keep my eyes on his, willing him not to be strong, nor brave, but to feel nothing. To go into shock and die a quick, merciful death. To slip out of their clutches in the only way available to him.

They lay the tip of the chisel against his knee cap and Lehona's body goes rigid, the blood leaving his face. His wide eyes are on mine. His tongue moistens his lips. His eyes squeeze shut.

The hammer comes down to strike the butt of the chisel with a simple and terrible sound that is immediately drowned out by Lehona's animal shriek of pain.