Monday, August 29, 2011

Unknown (2006): Not a Criminal

Fandom: Unknown (2006)
Summary: A 'missing scene' fic, exploring why Rancher Shirt felt like he could trust Jean Jacket.
Rated: General
Word Count: 625
Disclaimer: Unknown and related characters do not belong to me, etc etc.
Warnings: Un-beta'd. Spoilers = Yes. Go see this movie first. Don't worry, I'll wait.

"I am not a criminal!"

"Stop acting like one, then."

He sits on one of the overturned barrels, leans his head back against the chain-link wall and takes in a deep, shaking breath. The air is cold, acrid with the remnants of that chemical, with undertones of dust and sweat and metal and something that he can't quite place. It makes him think of fresh air and green trees and golden sunlight, and it's like the memory is just out of reach, if only he could--

But he can't, and it slips out of his grasp. All he knows of himself is what he saw in the mirror: the close-cropped hair, the dark eyes, the black rancher shirt and jeans. He may as well have been looking at a stranger.

He opens his eyes and glances at the strangers around him, five men without names or pasts. The man with the broken nose said he remembered, said he was McCain and that Rancher Shirt was Coles, but it's obvious now that he was saying that to have an ally, to have help in getting the gun from the third man, the one in the jean jacket. The one who stands by the stairs now, gaze affixed to the gleaming silver lighter in his hand.

Not two minutes ago, that same hand was on Rancher Shirt's throat, squeezing just enough to trigger an instinctual panic. Not two minutes ago, that man had the gun trained on him and Broken Nose, the muzzle shaking so badly that the shot could have gone anywhere.

"I am not a criminal!" the man had insisted, eyes wide and white-rimmed like a cornered animal -- and he was, backed into a corner by Broken Nose's supposed memories, made a kidnapper by process of elimination.

The lighter flicks open, closed, open again continually, the click already fading into background noise. Jean Jacket doesn't even seem to see it, but he still stares at it, like it's his only anchor to reality. Rancher Shirt watches him watch the lighter, and wonders what he sees.

They're all acting on self-preservation, here, Rancher Shirt won't deny that. It's self-preservation that lead Broken Nose to lie about children Rancher Shirt is almost sure he doesn't have. It's self-preservation that lead him to ripping the phone jack out of the wall. It's self-preservation that makes the Bound Man so desperate to get out, to get at the gun, to somehow get out of his severely disadvantaged position.

But there's something more, he thinks, to the way Jean Jacket acts. It's not that the man isn't just as selfish or distrusting as the rest of them are, but there is something -- and the words to articulate it are just as much out of his grasp as his memories.

Then Broken Nose calls their attention to light coming through the covered upper windows, and his attention returns to more immediate concerns.

The thought stays with him, though, the idea that there's that something more to Jean Jacket. When the man falls, his mind makes the next leap, tells him that that something is worth protecting. It's Broken Nose's own accusations that give him the word trust to put to it. Jean Jacket asks him what could have brought them here that would possibly be worth remembering, and the feeling swells.

It's not until the kid in the handcuffs has died, though, that Rancher Shirt -- that Coles, for he is Coles after all -- finally finds the words, finally figures out what it is about the man in the jean jacket that lets Coles trust him. In the end, it's ludicrously simple.

"I am not a criminal," he'd said. It wasn't a protest. It was a plea.

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