He didn't have to be cogniscent to know what was happening or what was going to happen – he didn't have to be fully aware to feel what was going on. The drugs they had pumped into him kept everything distant; kept everything surreal. They didn't numb all of the pain – he doubted there was anything in the world now that would leave him aware and pain free – but they made it so he was almost...separate from his body. They separated him – kept him safe.

Part of him was greatly thankful for the drugs.

He struggled lethargically against the restraints that tied him down. They were too tight – they were cutting into him themselves. He could feel his heart pounding inside his chest, and his eyes were wide as they tried to focus on anything. The bright lights above him burned his eyes, and did nothing to make the forms leaning over him and working on him clear.

He knew what they were doing – he hardly need to see to know that – but part of him wanted to be aware. Part of him wanted to see the men killing him. He couldn't tell if it was the drugs or his lack of glasses that rendered everything as travellers in another dimension.

Someone would get here. Agent Gibbs and his team would get here. They knew he was missing. They were finding him. They would be here.

...wouldn't they?

He was sick, and his stomach heaved. Suffocating on one's own vomit might be disgraceful, but he thought he would rather go out that way now. If the shock didn't kill him first...

There were facts in his head, lessons, examples, experience... He had excelled in his studies – learnt well. Even if he couldn't lift his head he could tell it was the familiar y-cut spreading open his chest; and sometimes he thought he knew too much.

The skin was pealed back from the bones, muscles carefully cut to separate it. This was what they would probably do when he was dead – this was how they would set about cutting him open, how they would begin to pull him apart to check for cause of death.

But he wasn't dead yet.

This was a violation. This was torture.

He had no idea what he had done – what he could possibly know that would have brought this upon him. He tried to think, but he couldn't come up with anythin. And what about when his mother heard how he died? What about when she heard how her son was cut apart and disssected while alive? He knew it would destroy her, knew that she would come up with countless ways he could have avoided his fate. None of them would help, confined to her own imagination as he was buried, but she would still dream. She would still hold onto false fantasies to comfort herself.

He tried not to think about it – tried not to think about the choices he could have made, the other jobs he could have gotten to avoid this. He couldn't doubt himself now. It would be no use and would only make it worse. But could it really be any worse than what was happening to him now? This was a waste of life - but had he already wasted his life? Of course, doubting his choices now was a waste of what little time he had left. He had made his decisions and there was nothing he could do about them.

His name mean 'he who supplants', or 'he who replaces'. Supplanter. Replacer. He had come to take Gerald's place – he was just a replacement. Replacements were good – they allowed things to keep working. But who wanted the replacement? They were so often less than the original piece. They were less trustworthy, less dependable. They never worked as well as the first – they didn't fit right.

He was pulled out of his thoughts as they hooked him up to a respirator. There was a great pressure on his ribcage then and then a horrible cracking sound. He instantly knew what it was. He instantly wished he didn't. The pruners moved up his chest, easily snapping through the bones one by one. He was being taken apart, piece by piece. The replacement would soon need to be replaced.

His breathing was strained – it didn't sound right. It rasped in his ears along with the frantic beating of his heart.

Dr. Mallard told him once that 'Palmer' came from a nickname once given to those that had travelled to the Holy Land and brought back a palm branch as proof that they had actually made the journey. He hadn't believe the man – but Ducky always had the most information and stories on anything and everything. But he wouldn't be bringing any pal frond back from the Afterlife to prove he had been there – he wasn't coming back at all from this. It would be more merciful to just let him die now.

A rough tug pulled him out of his thoughts and memories, and he cried out as the sudden pain completely overwhelmed the drugs they had him on. Still drowning in lethargy, his scream was tired and confused – strangled.

Whoever stood above him reached into his thoracic cavity – and Palmer noticed that his rib cage had been taken out at some point – and started clamping off veins and arteries.

Even so, the man's hands were covered in the pooling blood when he pulled out.

He wished Dr. Mallard was here to at least talk him through it. To go on some sort of barely connect tangent. To explain everything to him – ever the calming voice of reason; ever a comforting prescence. But he was here alone.

When he was younger, it was never the dark that scared him. He didn't mind the dark at all. He feared being alone. Even in the brightest day, he hated being alone. He hadn't cared much about monsters or death or his own eventual death because everyone died. Eventually death came to all and all became the same and all faded to dust. In the end, death ws the only equality achieved. Everyone is meant to end up the same way. Why did people have to treat each others like monsters in life? Why did they have to treat everything as being replaceable? As being useless, or heartless?

He choked, his eyes rolling back into his head. He wished Dr. Mallard was here. The older man never judged anyone for the pain they felt, even when the world said it was either too severe or too miniscule to acknowledge.

He didn't want to die, but he didn't want to die alone more.

He woke without air, his apartment suddenly seeming crushing, too small. He made a quiet, distressed sound, fingers gripping the blankets.

It was another nightmare. Just a nightmare. He was safe. And alive.

He curled up in his bed, squeezing his eyes shut.

Everyone had nightmares.

AN: This was written by a friend but as she didn't want to post it and couldn't post it, i got permission to do so myself. It's not like i've got anything to lose... This was, however, edited by me before posting, so the style is...more mine. Although it already basically was... Anyway! Irrelevant.