I'll Take You There
Summary: He remembers clutching her hand and not letting go. Until they came for her.
Characters: Lorca, Cornwell
Codes: Lorca & Cornwell
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Discovery universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: I saw a prompt some time ago – “They only realised they were holding hands the entire time, the moment they had to let go” – and intended to write something cute and fluffy to it. But then I thought, what if I went dark? Add in a tumblr prompt about Lorca watching Cornwell being tortured and … you can’t get much darker than that.
Sometimes he thinks about the stories they whispered to each other in the long hours of darkness, but mostly he remembers purgatory. The screams of the other prisoners, the bellows of alien laughter, Katrina’s palm clammy in his own. The way his gut twisted in terror whenever the pounding of boots grew louder; would they take him this time? Take her?
He remembers waking for the first time – cold, head sick and aching, disoriented – to the sound of metal scratching at stone. It was dark as pitch and all he could smell was dirt and sweat and blood. He remembers the way his heart stuttered and clutched like the rusted old generator on his great-grandfather’s farm, the way every sense strained, alert and ready to fight or flee.
There was nowhere to go.
He remembers whispering so his voice wouldn’t quaver: who’s there? And the blessed sound of indrawn breath, the brush of her hand on his arm, her soft reply: It’s me, Gabriel. It’s Kat.
He remembers clutching her hand and not letting go.
Until they came for her.
Now, he wonders whose hand she’s holding, or if she’s all alone. Is she terrified? Is she wishing she was already dead?
Is she wishing she had someone to be strong for? Because she was always the strong one.
Sometimes she would tell him stories about her childhood, about the mountain where her family camped every spring. There was a stream near the campsite, she told him, the water clear and cold, and wildflowers grew on its banks. Every morning they ate fish her mother caught in the stream, and sometimes squirrels came right into the tents begging for food.
Someday, she promised, I’ll take you there.
Seventeen days, they’d been in that cell. Seventeen lines etched in stone with a metal hairpin, seventeen nights of whispered stories, seventeen pitchers of water they carefully rationed between them. Seventeen days and nights they spent curled up and clutching one another against the bone-deep chill. On the eighteenth day when the guard came he wasn’t bearing water. He was carrying chains.
He remembers thrusting her behind him in a moment of brave panic, pleading take me. Don’t hurt her.
Sometimes, when the years have been darker than usual, he’s wondered: was he really so desperate to save her? Or did he just want to be first to die?
But she was the senior officer. He was never sure if they knew that, or if they preferred to torture women, or if they just liked the idea of sending him insane as he listened to them breaking her.
It didn’t matter. They took her.
When they tossed her back into the cell after hours upon hours of hearing her scream, he almost hoped she was dead. He was afraid to touch her – blood, bone and broken – but she moaned his name, and he used their precious water to clean the worst of her wounds. He arranged his body around hers, trying to keep her from the wracking cold of the stone floor, and for a while she slept.
They came for her again hours later, but this time they came for him too.
They made him watch.
He watched as they stripped her and flayed the skin from her back. He listened as she screamed until her voice cracked and her cries dwindled into sobs. He screamed himself then, arms wrenching from shoulder sockets as they held him and laughed at his fruitless struggles. He watched as her eyes rolled back in her head and her body went limp.
That was when they lost interest.
When they finally cut her down, when they let him go so he could run to her, he was almost too afraid to touch her. But she opened her eyes and her fingers twitched, so he held her hand. One of the aliens hooked his hands under Katrina’s armpits and hauled her, feet dragging and head hanging, down the corridor to the cell. Gabriel followed, calling her name, desperate for an answer she couldn’t give him.
In their dark and stinking cell he cradled her head in his lap. She drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes groaning in pain. Once or twice she coughed, red foam staining her lips. He talked to her for hours, told her tales from his childhood, of the summers he spent on a Hawaiian beach with black volcanic sands. For a while, he sang to her.
Throughout the long night, he held her hand.
On the nineteenth day they were rescued. Sound and light played a thunderstorm around them, the shouts of aliens and booted feet running as Gabriel held her, half-conscious and bleeding, her pale fingers in his.
When all was quiet – when all their captors were dead, and the Starfleet soldiers had opened their cage and the medical team had taken over – Katrina opened her eyes.
“Gabriel,” she whispered.
He bent close to hear her.
“That beach,” she said, “it sounds beautiful.”
“I’ll take you there,” he promised, “as soon as you’re better.”
And then the medic asked him to move, and he realised that his fingers, which had been holding hers the whole time, felt cold from her absence.
He wonders, now, if there’s anyone holding her hand as she suffers in that Klingon prison.
And he wishes he’d kept his promise.