Title: Of Fevers and Ghosts
Pairing: Johnny Hale/John Proctor
Rating: PG so far
Disclaimer: I don’t own.
Summary: Hale attempts to coerse Proctor into a confession, and failing that, sets him free.
Author’s Note: Have been lurking on this com for awhile… maybe a month. Disappointed with the rarity of Hale slash. Very disappointed with the complete and total lack of Hale/Proctor slash as it is my OTP. ^.^
Still chained to the wall of the dungeon, Proctor laughed.
“Have I heard you right, Hale? Has that bitch’s devil finally possessed you too?”
“You and I both know there is no devil here.” The look on Hale’s face was nothing short of painful.
“Then tell them that.” Proctor snapped. “Tell them to set me loose!”
“I cannot. I’ve tried. But it has gone too far. Hawthorn claims age with wisdom and will not admit to any mistake.”
The bound man sighed and rattled at his chains.
“I will not lie, Hale.”
“Are you mad? You must!” The reverend crouched beside him, close enough to touch. “They’ll hang you come dawn, John. Think about your children.”
Proctor glared daggers. Had it been any other man before him, he would have spat in his face.
“You call me selfish?”
“I call you a fool! Don’t throw your life away, John. What will your children learn from your death?”
“That despite their father’s sins, he was an honest man.”
“This should not be a choice between honesty and death, John!”
“Then tell me what it is!” He snapped. “Tell me how I may keep both my honor and my life.”
Hale sighed and stood, turning to pace the room, leaving John to fight with his bondage.
“Quiet.” He said at length. “You rattle those chains much more and the guard will come.”
Proctor fell silent and turned his head away. After a moment, Hale stopped his pacing and sat down next to him, completely ignoring the state of the floor.
“John.” A brush of hands, a turn of the head. “John, please. Keep your life at least.”
“What is it worth if the world calls me liar?”
“It cannot be held against you if you do it to save yourself.”
Proctor looked at him, head cocked to one side, eyes blank.
“So if I were to kill you, reverend, and lie about the cause to save myself, you’re telling me it would be just?”
Hale growled in frustration and turned his head away.
“You know that’s nothing close to what I meant.”
But Proctor only shook his head.
“You are a broken minister.”
“You think I do not know that?” He glared and moved so that Proctor would have no choice but to look him in the eye. “I have been taught that god damns all liars and so must I. And yet I come to Salem and find I must turn my flock to liars or else leave them to be damned by the law for an impossible crime!”
“There has only ever been one witch in Salem.” Proctor said, so low his voice was barely heard. “What a pity she won’t hang.”
“Abigail, you mean?” The fire had gone out of his voice. Hale slumped against the wall, close enough so that their shoulders touched above the chains. “She’s left, John. Stole Parris’ money and fled. We haven’t the faintest idea where she’s gone.”
That drew some shattered semblance of a laugh.
“And could you find her, what would you do?”
Hale looked up.
“The law? Or myself personally?”
“You, reverend. What would you do if you saw the lying bitch that broke you, that turned you to a murderer? Given the chance, what would you say then?”
Hale was silent and the moments stretched between them.
“I expected as much.” Proctor said at length, glaring through the opposite wall.
“No.” Hale’s voice was soft but laced with bitter poison. “You know nothing of what I would do.”
“So tell me then.” He turned and Hale could feel the man’s breath hot on against his cheek. “I doubt after this circus she’s made of Salem, god will damn you for a wish, Hale. Lord knows I’d wring her neck as soon as look at her again.” He snorted. “And it’s not like I’ll have the chance to tell the world your intent, will I? I’ll be dead within the hour.”
Hale closed his eyes, pinching at the bridge of his nose.
“I expect I would kill her.”
“Really?” The disbelief in Proctor’s voice nettled him and he turned, glaring.
“You are not the only one she’s hurt, John. Near one hundred people dead and most by my signature. Mark me; I will burn in hell for her. My only consolation is that I may drag her under first.”
A smile twitched at the corners of Proctor’s lips and he leaned closer, just an inch, just enough to whisper into Hale’s ear, as if there was anyone to hear.
“If you find her,” he murmured. “Kill her slowly, a hundred times over. She deserves that much for accusing Rebecca.”
The smile that crossed Hale’s face was slow and sad.
“I may yet do it.” He paused, seeing a chance. “But she has shattered you, John. Will you not live long enough to seek your own revenge?”
“I will not lie.”
“You stubborn ass!” Hale snapped. “What do you expect me to do if you will not at least attempt to save yourself? I will not sit here and counsel you to prance off proudly to your death, a stupid, honest man.”
John Proctor glared at him for a long moment.
“I’d knock your teeth out if I wasn’t chained, Hale.”
He sighed and pinched at the bridge of his nose.
“I imagine you would. And at this point, I’d be happy, if only to see you free.”
Proctor shrugged, setting his chains to rattling.
“Go council someone else, reverend. Obviously, I am a lost cause.”
Hale glared and crossed his arms.
“You know better than to believe I will give up on you that easily.”
A slim twist of the lips and a spark of light in Proctor’s eyes.
“You’re not as stubborn as I am, Hale. I guarantee you will not break me.”
“Then I will not stop trying.” He glared at the door, hearing footsteps in the hall. “Please, John. Don’t hold out for pride.”
“I hold out for honesty.”
“If you just sign their damned confession—”
“They mean to hang it somewhere.”
“Then I will write another proclaiming your innocence and nail it over every copy.”
Proctor smiled an honest to god twist of the lips.
“A lot of work over a simple farmer. Let me die in peace, Hale.”
“This isn’t even about your honor anymore, is it?” He glared. “You’re only fighting now to hold out longer than me, you spiteful beast.”
That drew a laugh that fell dead at the sight of a shadow before the door. Hale was up and on his feet in an instant.
“It’s not yet dawn!” He bellowed, staring down the guard. “Get out!”
Cheever hiccupped and backed a step off, flask still in hand.
“Look, Mister Hale, I was sent down to fetch him. Somethin’ about his wife.”
Hale sighed, relieved, the anger leaving him as he wiped a hand over his face.
“They have taken my suggestion then?”
“I don’t know but what I’ve been told, sir. Told me t’ bring up Proctor, and that’s what I’m set to do.”
“Give me the key.” Hale held out a hand. “I’ll bring him up myself.”
“You’re not—” Hiccup. “Deputized for that sort of thing.”
“I’m a reverend, Mr. Cheever. What is it you expect me to do?”
“Not what I expect, really. Only that he may overpower you.”
Hale took the keys then, without waiting for the other man’s agreement.
“I haven’t finished with him yet. It’ll take a moment more. Wait in the hall outside.”
“Reverend, I told you, you’re not—”
“Right then.” He blinked and backed off. Before today he’d never seen mild-mannered Hale quite so hostile. Manic, maybe, but never hostile. “I’ll just wait in the hall.”
Hale glared, watching him leave before he turned back to Proctor.
“You’d make my life so much easier if you’d actually speak before others, you know.”
Proctor shrugged and kept his voice low.
“They chained me here. What love have I for them?” He jerked his left hand free as soon as the key clicked in the lock. “What is this idea of yours about my wife?”
“I suggested that perhaps she may be able to bend you to reason.” Hale smiled but there was no humor in it. “Confess your imagined sins, Proctor. For god’s sake, live.”
But Proctor only rubbed at his wrists, standing free for the first time in days.
“I could over power you, you know.” He said softly, looking up at Hale. “And that drunk outside as well. Run off before anyone could stop me.”
Hale smiled at him and handed him the ring of keys before digging in his pocket.
“I’m surprised it took you this long to realize it, honestly.” He grinned to see Proctor’s wide-eyed look, and pulled another key from his pocket. “My house key. In the wine cellar beneath a barrel of ale, you’ll find a trap door. Stay there until I return.”
Proctor grinned like a mad man, and gripping Hale’s face in both hands, kissed him hard. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, knocked him cold.