Close your eyes and tap your heels together three times.
Stef couldn’t stop the tears.
There’s no place like home.

The men dragging her to torture and execution turned a corner.
There’s no place like home.
She sobbed from somewhere deep within herself, a wracking thing that made her vomit again.
There’s no place like home.
She had a home now. It wasn’t just her and Frankie and Alexandria anymore. She had home, she had family, she had a narc who wanted to be her dad.
She had something to live for, and she was going to die because some asshole didn’t understand the word “no”.
They entered a room, and she couldn’t help herself from looking around – trying to spot the rack, the iron maiden, the-
There was something that looked like a shitty dentist’s chair, and a few cupboards.
It looked a lot more like the infirmary than a torture chamber.
Curt walked in front of her, and nodded to the men holding her. They let go of her, and she fell forward, unable to hold her own weight anymore, but Curt caught her, spun her, and slammed her into the dentist’s chair.
All of the cushioning and any remains of softness or comfort had been removed.
‘It would be in your best interest not to move,’ he said as he pushed her head back, and wrapped a thick leather restraint around her neck. ‘If you choke yourself out, I’ll be having fun all by myself.’
She didn’t move. She couldn’t move. She had no limbs to move. She wasn’t there. This wasn’t happening.
She barely noticed when he removed the cuffs.
This isn’t happening. Please. God. This isn’t happening.
He bound her wrists to the chair, and tied straps around her upper arms. He whistled as he fastened the straps around her ankles and thighs. He toyed for a moment with placing straps across her chest, then seemed to decide against it.
Curt stepped back, folded his hands in front of him, and calmly stared, seemingly unaffected by the fact that he’d just threatened to-
She swallowed.
He stared unaffected by the fact that he had just strapped her into the dentist chair from hell, intending to torture and/or murder her.
‘I am Lieutenant O’Connor. You are going to answer questions, and then you are going to pay for your crimes against humanity.’ He turned his head to the side. ‘This is being done in accordance to Solstice protocol, and in the presence of these witnesses.’ He took a step closer. ‘Do you have anything to say before we begin?’
‘I-’ she stammered.
He backhanded her across the face. ‘Sorry,’ he said, his face a twisted mask, ‘I’m not interested in hearing from you right now.’
Two of the other Solstice rolled in trays of implements filled with gleaming, sharp instruments of causing massive amounts of pain. Some of them were obviously surgical implements, some were cooking utensils, others she couldn’t identify.
I’m an agent, I can take pain.
You aren’t doing a stellar job of it right now.
Fucking blackout zones.
He slipped on a pair of brass knuckles. ‘This will do for a warm-up.’ Curt stepped back, wound his arm like he was pitching a baseball, and hit her in the stomach. ‘Get used to that,’ he said with a sneer.
He hit her, again and again, cold metal quickly turning warm.
Come in here, Spyder.
She closed her eyes, focussed on good memories, and tried in vain to ignore the pain.
After a few minutes, he stopped hitting her. She tried to brace herself for whatever was next, but as the seconds without new pain went on, she opened her eyes.
He was busying himself with the tray of implements, a short knife in his hand.
The little knife was familiar, and already had blood on it – it was the same one that had gotten them into trouble in the first place, the same one Grigori had used to stab her in the heart.
He was running his fingers up and down the place, as light as someone might touch a rare collectible.
Please be looking for mirror, please find some, please get us out of here.
He finally turned to her, the knife in one hand, a paper cup in the other.
‘Interrogation protocol two,’ he said, as bored as someone reading an instruction manual. He smiled at her, the expression so without warmth or mirth it was hard to even see the closet Trekkie who had been excited about the prospect of shouting “Khaaaaaaan” in a theatre of nerds. ‘Any idea what we’re going to do now, recruit?’
‘You’re- You’re thirsty?’
He shook his head. ‘Now, Recruit, we find out what you’re made of.’ He spun the knife with a disturbingly easy movement. ‘This is protocol. We have to make sure you aren’t a proxy,’ he said, ‘ineffective as they are, they have tricked lesser men on occasion.’
He put the cup down, and walked to the side of her chair. He laid the knife flat against her temple for a moment. ‘It would be so easy to punch through your skull with this.’ He lifted the knife away until just the tip was making contact – a pinprick of pain that pulled her attention away from her pummelled midsection. ‘You go from alive,’ he said, the point digging in, puncturing her skin, ‘from dead, with barely a second to realise what’s happening.’
Curt leaned closer, close enough to feel the warmth from his breath. ‘But that would be far, far too easy.’
She let out a rattling wail as the knifepoint dug further into her skin. He grunted, and then dragged it down her face, leaving a deep bloody groove in its wake.
He kept his hand in place around her chin, but twisted away, dumping the knife the with implements, and picking up the paper cup. He scrapped the cup along her chin, and held it, presumably catching the blood.
‘Blood is so important,’ he said, finally lifting the cup away, holding it like it was Horatio’s skull, ‘it is the base level of what we are, it shows if you’re human…or not.’
He took the cup of blood, walked a few feet, and poured it over a white sheet hanging over a table. ‘Though with the number of times you’ve been in bed with your proxy, half your blood might be ash anyway.’ He tossed the cup over his shoulder. ‘We’ll know for sure in two hours anyway.’
She stared at the bloodstained sheet. Her countdown. Her death sentence.
Agent blood might take two hours to flake away as ash, but it showed all the signs well before that. Slowly turning black, becoming thicker, then slowly losing substance, becoming ash, then nothing at all.
He could call her recruit all he wanted, he could keep up the act, but her blood would betray her, or betray them both.
This. Is. Insane. We now have less than two hours, and that’s if he isn’t fucking with me just to give me false hope.
Two hours is better than two minutes.
And your bright idea for getting us out of here is? You’ve got no idea, do you?
To be fair, you don’t either.
But you’re supposed to be the competent half!
Yes, Spyder, because insulting me is a really good idea right now. Let me think. You’re going to have to be strong. You can’t be…you.
But that’s why I have you!
This is going to get a whole hell of a lot worse before it’s over. Brave face, ok?
How brave?
As brave as you can, Spyder.
Curt took a long moment to wipe his hands clean on a rag, it was…careful, almost ritualistic, and hopefully a play for time before he had to start hurting her again.
The peace lasted only seconds before he dropped the rag and picked up pliers. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘I’ve got some questions for you.’