Also, I first saw the idea of Grantaire as a spy infiltrating the Amis from Vee and TC. I think this ended up being pretty different from what they did (very different, eventually), but they still get credit for giving me this mental track to follow.
As mentioned above, there is torture below the cut, though I don't do anything graphically.
He finds the rebel who calls himself Enjolras after two years of searching.
It's the longest he's ever spent working a single case. Not that he didn't do other things in the meantime—there never seems to be a shortage of traitors to the Star Empire, no matter how many males he sees crippled, females he sees murdered, children he sees destroyed—but still, to spend two years searching for this one male before finding him speaks volumes for the rebel's intelligence.
The rebel's real name isn't Enjolras. How could it be? That name is a foreign one, a Human one, another nail in the rebel's coffin. D'tan doesn't know what the rebel's actual name is, though, because even though he's managed to find him, even though he's managed to capture him, he hasn't actually tracked him down to his home yet. The place that D'tan found was somewhere the rebels used for weapons storage and media production, and it had taken D'tan two weeks of careful surveillance to finally capture one of them.
The one he has captured is the most important one, though, the leader of the rebels, and D'tan smiles grimly as he studies the male bound to the table before him.
"Are we going to be starting soon?" Enjolras meets his eyes evenly. The male has beautiful eyes, a liquid blue that gleams in the artificial light of D'tan's interrogation room, his pale blond hair shining almost silver.
"We will start when I wish to start." Moving to the edge of the table, D'tan reaches out to turn Enjolras' head first one way and then the other, as far as the collar fixed around his neck and tied tightly to the metal grating of the table-top will allow. Such a gorgeous creature. Such a shame. "Do you know what I am?"
"Not who. Never who, not from you, not from the Black Reaper." Enjolras speaks softly, his face turning as soon as D'tan releases it so that he can face D'tan squarely again. "I know that you are Tal Shiar. I know that you have been looking for me for a very long time."
"And you know that you have been declared a traitor, a conspirator against the rightful rule and law of the Star Empire." D'tan trails his hand down Enjolras' body, over the lean muscles of his bare chest and stomach. He will not rape the male, though some in the Tal Shiar would not hesitate to do so, but planting the possibility of sexual abuse in Enjolras' mind will help to breed fear, panic, a sense of honor already lost.
"I accept your charge of conspiracy against the Senate and the Praetor." Enjolras doesn't flinch even as D'tan's hand continues to explore his body, though his muscles do tighten noticeably at certain spots, near his navel, around his nipples, on the sides of his ribs.
Sensitive spots, good places to inflict painful damage without doing anything life-threatening, and D'tan has to keep himself from frowning in disgust and dismay.
This is his job. This is his life, his duty, his purpose, to root out those unworthy of being a part of the Star Empire and see them punished for their actions. The fact that he is good at it, the fact that he has been doing it since he was twelve, should be cause for joy, not disgust.
"I do not, however, accept your charge of being a traitor." Enjolras continues to speak quietly.
"To betray the Empire is to be a traitor. You cannot both accept and reject your crimes." D'tan studies the man before him curiously. Despite his calm exterior, there is something fierce and wild burning in Enjolras' eyes. Coupled with the contradiction in his words and his lack of response to being captured, bound, stripped, and prepared for torture, D'tan begins to wonder if the young rebel is mad rather than stupid, foolish, and dangerous. Or in addition to being stupid, foolish, and dangerous.
He hopes not. He hates having to touch the minds of madmen. More than anything else that he does for this job, it leaves him feeling unclean and dishonorable.
"I can accept the one and reject the other if I do not feel they are connected." Enjolras smiles. "I love our people, deeply and dearly, from the bottom of my soul. To love Romulans is not to love the Senate and the Praetor, though. The Senate turns Romulan against Romulan, brother against sister, to say nothing of their crimes against those who are not of Romulan blood—or those who are deemed not to have sufficient Romulan blood."
"And this is why you argue and plot against the Empire? Because you love her people so much?" D'tan smiles, in return, though his is a cold, sad expression. He has heard every permutation and justification for treason that can be made over the last fourteen years. He very much doubts that Enjolras will be able to say anything to startle him.
Enjolras is silent for a moment, his expression speculative. "I know that you've been tracking me for over a year. Have you been listening to my videos? Have you been reading my work, the work of my Amis?"
Another borrowed word, another tainted foreign phrase, and D'tan waves a hand, brushing aside the question and the strange syllables. "They are all on file. Your guilt is clear. Now we simply require a name to go with your body, and the names of those whose corpses will lie beside yours."
"You know my name." Enjolras smiles once more, a quick flash of teeth, almost predatory. "I am Enjolras."
"You would be buried with a Human name." Shaking his head, D'tan turns from the table where Enjolras is restrained to his small workbench. "How did you come to hate yourself and your culture so much? Tell me what I need to know, and we will end this swiftly. The Senate can be merciful, if given reason to be. If given reason not to be merciful… the longest I have kept a prisoner alive was five weeks. I think he loved me, a bit, by the end of it. Do you think you will love me, when I slit your throat?"
"I think I will pity you." Enjolras doesn't flinch at the sight of the small blade in D'tan's hand. "But I do not think you will slit my throat."
"We shall see." D'tan's voice is as grim as his face as he places the blade over one of the places where Enjolras had reacted, over his ninth rib on his right side. A slow press of the blade, and green blood wells up, spills over, begins to drip down through the slats in the table. Pressing down slowly, D'tan gives time for the small barbs on the edge of the knife blade to dig into the flesh before drawing the blade millimeter by millimeter down Enjolras' body. "You may speak any time you wish."
Enjolras' lips are pale, all the blood pushed from them, but his eyes are steady as he continues to watch D'tan. "You may ask me questions I can answer any time you wish."
Knowing that it will be futile to ask anything else until they've gotten further, D'tan turns away from those too-direct blue eyes, focusing on the body of his prisoner.
When the body is broken enough, the mind will quickly follow.
He works on Enjolras for over four hours before putting his blades away, trying not to notice how his hand shakes.
There is something wrong with Enjolras. He is absolutely certain of that, now, after spending four hour questioning and torturing the man. He doesn't react as he should. He doesn't seem to know fear as he should. He doesn't seem to feel pain as he should, to know doubt, though in this place, in the hands of the Tal Shiar, doubt should be the only thing playing through his mind.
Was it worth it, the things he did?
Was speaking his mind worth the cost?
"Are we done for the night?" Enjolras' voice is soft, still, too calm by far, though at least there is an edge of pain and tiredness to it now.
"We're done when I say we're done." Turning back to the table, D'tan grabs one of Enjolras' now-nail-less fingers and bends it back, ignoring the smears of dark green blood his fingers leave on the male's pale skin. "What is your name?"
"You know it already." Enjolras closes his eyes. "My name, my true name, my fourth name, is Enjolras."
Sheer shock causes D'tan's hold on Enjolras' finger to loosen. "You dare call that your true name? You dare call that your soul name?"
"It is my soul name." Blue eyes open slowly, pierce D'tan, hold him in place. "It is my true name. You call me rebel; I embrace it. You ask me for my real name; you have it."
"It's a Human name." D'tan reaches up slowly, cups the cheek of the young rebel. He can't be much more than two decades old. How did he come to be so twisted? "They are not like us. They are vermin, cattle, too powerful for us to move against right now but worth nothing in comparison to a Romulan. Do not say that your soul name is from them."
"And if I said that my soul is from them?" Enjolras leans into the touch rather than flinching away from it, despite the last four hours. "If I said that they are our brothers, that I love Romulus and her people but I also have been taught to love Remus—"
"A world of slaves and barbarians."
Enjolras smiles. "And Humans—"
"Weaklings and hypocrites, good to use but worth nothing else."
"At least that movement has some misguided support among our populace. We have the same genetic heritage."
"They are our brothers." Enjolras turns his face, slowly, and presses blood-smeared green lips against D'tan's palm. "They are all our brothers. It took me a while to see that, and the help of some of the other Amis, but we are all cut from the same cloth, our souls all bleed the same color, and I have been missing you for a long while, Grantaire."
"Grantaire?" D'tan frowns, pulling back from Enjolras. "Another of your Human names. If you think pleading insanity is going to assist your cause, you're wrong. I am Tal Shiar; you are a traitor, dead and damned."
"If I am damned, the name I am damned under makes no difference." There is a hunger in Enjolras' eyes, now, a breaking of the serene calm that had held him throughout the interrogation session. The creature that D'tan had tortured was strange, not Romulan, too human in his silence and his tranquility and his soft grunts of pain; the creature staring at him from those blue eyes now is all Romulan, driving needs and burning energy, and D'tan finds his breath catching in his throat.
Bound hand and foot and neck, naked, helpless, smeared with his own blood, Enjolras still somehow manages to look frightening.
Beautiful and frightening, and D'tan doesn't understand what's happening as he takes a step back and freezes.
What is he doing? Why is he retreating from his prisoner? Why is he afraid of this man that he holds entirely within his power?
"Will you run from me, then?" Enjolras' words cut deep, venom in his voice. "Will you torture me and then run from me? Will you retreat from me without trying all that you can?"
"I am not running. I am not afraid of you." D'tan surges forward, grips Enjolras' chin between two fingers and meets his eyes evenly. "I pity you. I pity those who love you. I pity those who follow you. And I will kill you all."
"Pity." Enjolras' tongue slides along his lips, and there is still hunger in his eyes, an almost desperate yearning that D'tan doesn't understand. "Not hate, pity. Why do you pity us, Grantaire?"
"D'tan." He snarls out the word, leaning closer to Enjolras. "I am not Grantaire. I am not one of yours. My given name is D'tan, and there is nothing you can do to sway my mind."
"Show me." Enjolras pulls on his bonds, for the first time, levering himself toward D'tan. "Show me why I can never change you. Show me why you're lost to me. If I believe you, I will let you go. I will be silent as you torture me, kill me, whatever else you wish to do."
Anger flares hot in D'tan's mind. How dare this male challenge him? How dare he act as though he is in control? How dare he make demands, when his life and death are all in D'tan's hands now?
"You want me to show you?" D'tan's fingers reach out, brush tentatively, gently against Enjolras' face, middle finger above that bright blue eye, index finger below, thumb on Enjolras' chin, and as soon as the contact is made he sees him.
He sees fire.
He sees faith.
He sees desire, rich and deep, a need to explain, to reach, and his breath catches in his throat as Enjolras' mind crashes into and envelopes his.
This is not how it's supposed to go. This is not what's supposed to happen. He is supposed to be the one digging through Enjolras' mind, not the other way around.
"Show me, melder." Enjolras' words are a panting whisper, driven, urgent. "Show me what they did to you."
They did nothing to him.
He did it himself.
He listened, when they taught children of betrayal, of traitorous words and thoughts, and he listened when he was at home, and he knew that the things his parents said were not proper things.
They should not be saying the things they are saying. They should not be saying that there is wisdom in the Humans' words. They should not be talking of the Klingons as honorable. They should not be pondering exactly how closely Vulcan and Romulan societies could come, how much their shared ancestry could help to unite their people.
Their words are treasonous. He doesn't understand why they would speak treason, but he has been told, repeatedly, ever since he started schooling, that he should report treason.
The female Tal Shiar agent strokes his hair, tells him he is a good child, lays her hand against his head in a gesture that will become intimately familiar to him in the years to come.
He never sees his parents again.
"Ah, Grantaire." Enjolras' mind is filled with fury, the agony of betrayal and confusion and loss that a young D'tan felt melting away under that heat. "They used you. They used you and they molded you, but they cannot claim you."
They did claim him. They trained him, and he learned well. With nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to, he was given to the Tal Shiar, and they loved him.
They loved him because he was large, strong, good with his fists and quick with his tongue, able to blend into a crowd and be friendly with any group but never actually becoming a part of any group.
They loved him because his telepathic ability was strong, because they could touch his mind and he could touch theirs and they could teach him easily how to rip secrets from other's minds.
They loved him because he was theirs. He made his choice when he turned in his own parents, and there was no going back for him.
"No." Enjolras' negation rips through old wounds, leaves them raw and bleeding. "They used you, as they use all our children, and then they continued to use you, to twist you, but you are not meant to be this."
"And what am I meant to be?" The question is at the core of his being, the center of his soul. D'tan may scoff at Enjolras' use of a Human soul-name, but at least Enjolras has one, at least he can name himself to friends and lovers.
At least he has friends and lovers.
D'tan has the Tal Shiar, and he would never give them his soul-name even if he were to find it, by some miracle.
"Yes. I do have friends, and I am certain of my name. It's why you don't frighten me." Enjolras' mind reaches out again, gentler this time but still insistent. "See them. See what they are. See what we do for each other, and why the Tal Shiar are not frightening."
They are all telepaths. The Reman, Feuilly, the ex-slave, is the strongest of them, but all of them have managed to find a scrap of the ability somewhere in themselves, and they use it. They touch each other's minds, mold each other, teach each other, the exercises a game that none of them wish to lose.
Combeferre, a beautiful female, and she is too straightforward, too clinical and logical in her defenses, but Enjolras shows her how to build with fire, and together they soar.
Bahorel, another creature of flame, a hammer-force, but subtlety is sometimes the better part of a defense, and Courfeyrac teaches her that as Enjolras tests them both.
D'tan pulls back, realizing that he has gone too deeply into Enjolras' mind. He has slid too far, is allowing himself to be pulled and guided when he is supposed to be the one in control of this meld.
As soon as he tries to regain control, though, he finds himself lost. There are walls within walls, tunnels and doors and secrets, pain and torture and hidden passages that sprawl open in front of him within Enjolras' mind, coded to every word and emotion of Enjolras' but beyond D'tan's comprehension. He could wander for days, weeks, months in Enjolras' mind, lose himself in that maze until they both starved to death, their bodies unable to survive without their trapped minds.
"Yes. We could." D'tan doesn't know if Enjolras still speaks, or if it's simply a transfer of thoughts across the mind meld. "They helped me build my defenses. They tested them for me, as they tested my mettle against whatever physical tortures you might bring against me."
He sees it, briefly, the large female whose soul-name is Bahorel, knife in hand, words of hatred spewing from her lips, though her mind as she repeatedly lays her hand against Enjolras' face to see how he is faring is filled with nothing but sorrow and frustration.
He sees Combeferre, the female treating Enjolras' injuries, questioning if he truly wants to go through with this.
He sees Feuilly, pressed against Enjolras in a fierce embrace, demanding that Enjolras return to them, with or without Grantaire.
Wrenching his hand away from Enjolras' face, breaking the meld that Enjolras is in full control of, D'tan backs away from his prisoner.
"Please don't. Don't run from me." Enjolras strains against the bonds around his wrists, all of his muscles taut. "Why did you do it? Why did you go to the Tal Shiar as a child?"
"Because I serve the Romulan Star Empire." D'tan whispers the words, rubbing at his stinging fingers. "Because that is my duty."
"Because you believed in them. Because they were the thing that was most consistent, most constant, and you are a believer in belief. Because you trusted to their word." Enjolras draws a deep breath. "And have they been true to their word?"
D'tan looks away. "They are loyal to the Empire."
All the Tal Shiar prove their loyalty to the Empire, undergoing a meld with one of the highest-ranking members of their sect at least once a year. It took D'tan only four years of service to learn to hide his doubts, to learn to show them only what they wanted to see and to ignore the petty intrigues and alliances and personal politics that he always seems to see in their minds.
"I am loyal to Romulus." Enjolras whispers the soft phrase. "Read my mind again; see the truth in it."
"I…" He will not say that he is afraid to touch this male's mind again. He will not say that Enjolras has shaken him, in a way that no other individual has shaken him in the last fourteen years.
"Please." Again that hunger is in Enjolras' eyes, calling to and drowning D'tan. "Look. Let me show you what I am."
If he is to continue as he has, if he is to continue as Tal Shiar, he shouldn't.
His hand moves, his fingers sliding their way up Enjolras' face to take their position over the nerves that give him access to the rebel's thoughts.
Enjolras' voice is a quiet whisper, his thoughts all tightly bound energy. "We are change. We are progress."
The others are there, images pushing into D'tan's mind, fragments of thought-patterns, voices that he's heard in holovids suddenly given new life, and he knows them, in those few seconds, as clearly and dearly as Enjolras knows them.
"We are not bound to one place, to one time, to one people, though we always love our homeland dearly."
Blood runs down streets, and the streets are paved with bricks, are mud, are asphalt, are granite, are crystal, are things he does not have words for, but always there are nine who stand together.
Nine, not eight, though he has only seen seven others in Enjolras' memory so far.
"What are your names?" It is the question he is supposed to ask. It is the question he is supposed to want an answer to. It is a way to try to regain control of this interrogation.
"You know our names—our true names. We give them freely. Enjolras. Combeferre. Courfeyrac. Bahorel. Prouvaire. Feuilly. Joly. Lesgle. You know our names, but we are missing one." Enjolras' tongue slides against D'tan's hand, a physical stimulus that helps him focus away from Enjolras' thoughts. "I do not like missing one. I do not like that they have tried to twist you away from us, to claim you as theirs."
"I am not a thing to be claimed." The words are strangled, barely comprehensible, but they don't need to be understandable. Enjolras can see his mind.
"No. You are not a thing." Enjolras is happy to see his insistence on identity, welcomes it, does not mind that there is more to him than blind service but less to him than power-hungry grasping. "You are not a politician, and you are not a tool. You are a soul. You are the one who loves belief, who loves hope, who will do all that he can to see hope survive even if he does not feel it himself. And you have been our friend for a very long time. Please, Grantaire. Remember."
He doesn't know where the images come from. They could be false. They could be a trick designed by Enjolras to fool him.
How could he have been a Human, standing against a wall, facing weapons that are beyond ancient but still recognizable as guns?
How could he have been a Klingon, standing amidst the rubble of an insurrection that he helped to lead, struggling to reach his commander's side?
How could he have been an Arcturian, fighting for the right to self-identity alongside the eight other members of his clone group?
How could any of the fragments that swamp his mind be true?
They cannot be. It must be a trick. It must be a trap and a falsehood.
It doesn't feel that way, though. It feels… real. It feels right, the idea of others around him, others he trusts, others he loves.
"You see no other way. Because they have left you no other way." Enjolras reaches toward him with one bound hand. "I have another way."
D'tan shakes his head. "A way of traitors. A way of rebels."
"A way of friendship. A way of family. A way of revolution, but revolution for the people, for progress." Enjolras smiles, and there is fire in his eyes, desire in his panting breaths, a hunger and need in his thoughts, but no compunction, no compelling, and D'tan pulls his hand away slowly, reluctantly.
"What would you do?" Taking a deep breath, he meets Enjolras' blue eyes evenly. "What would you have me do?"
Enjolras' smile widens. "What are you offering me, Grantaire?"
For almost ten minutes he doesn't say anything.
Then Grantaire moves, releases the bindings that hold Enjolras to the table, and in those few seconds his whole universe changes.