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12 January 2007 @ 10:46 pm
After the Hospital  
Place: Koneko no Sumu Ie
Date: Monday August 14, 2006

Omi hadn't had much to say then, ("That's.... unexpected." And a pause. "We're going to talk about this. Later.") probably shouldn't have said anything else there. Might seem like nobody was listening, but there were ears everywhere (and who told you that, seem to remember it being someone tall--someone with red hair.) People always listened. And people were always more than willing to misunderstand and hate. No--public wasn't the place to whisper things about telepaths and telekinetics and the possibilities that maybe Schwarz had gotten back together somewhere and decided that Aya ought to be used as a sacrifice after all.

Chaos on earth.

But not there, not in the waiting room, not with the people waiting for their own bits of bad news--pretending not to hear a thing, but straining every second nonetheless. (Or maybe you're just bitter.)

So he said nothing there, kept his distance, close enough to hear what was said, far enough away that nobody took notice of him. Not that anyone--especially not some doctor trying to lie about the fact that he had no idea what was wrong (Nagi didn't know much about medicine but he did know about liars--they all did, and this man here wasn't that great of a liar)--would notice anything after Ken got his sheer amazing brilliance involved in a conversation.

The whole conversation was a terrifying trainwreck. From the moment the doctor took one look at Omi (who was, according to the hospital's information, Aya's brother from a different father but same mother) and decided in his mind that this little boy was clearly not going to understand anything. It showed on his face, and the reaction to it--Omi's reaction, even from where Nagi was standing, seeing only the other boy's back--was nothing pleasant.

Don't fuck with that one, Nagi might have told him. Not unless you (have telepathy?) have some nearly suicidal wish. Condescension in every syllable of the doctor's voice as he looked down at Omi (not even by that great a height difference, but he tried to make it seem like all the space in the universe) and used the kind of language he would have used with a three year old. Made it all seem like Omi was too feeble minded to understand a thing. And naturally, that shit was not going to fly.

That, Omi's chilled and perfectly polite response (couldn't hear it, but saw it on the doctor's face that he had just been informed who he was dealing with and that his behavior had better improve drastically) and then Ken's startling realization that head injuries had the very real potential to relapse and lead to comas or somesuch idiocy.

Loud enough to hear everywhere, that boy's reaction. Didn't bother to remember the exact words but they were the equivalent of: 'wait, what? Does this happen a lot? Nobody told me this.' And the man might have really turned tail and run down the hallway at full speed, to seek out his own neurologist and demand to know if he was going to relapse into a coma--but
Yohji was there, and Yohji reached his hand out and put it on Ken's shoulder. (Instant valium, that was. Never failed, really. Not in the three years Nagi had been around.)

But that was the hospital and in the end, there had been nothing said more glorious than: Aya is in an unresponsive state--with her prior history of head injury and coma--we believe it might be a relapse. We're going to do more tests. (Not likely, Nagi thought with something that might have been a grin, not now that you've pissed off Omi. Aya would be removed from your highly
incomptent care soon enough.) They left the hospital (almost had to drag Ken, what with Aya having to stay and his sudden realization that he had a head injury that could lead to a startling large amount of future complications) and were back here.

Back to where the truth was: this was a relapse, but it wasn't something so nice and perfectly commonplace as head injury. This was something that doctor wouldn't have understood if Nagi had explained it to him--And now Yohji and Ken had to be told.

Nagi near the wall, hands by his sides, watching them--watching Omi--waiting. Waiting for the talking to start and the truth to be said.


Omi kept up a creative stream of cursing on the subject, mentally, while driving back to the Koneko. Pushing the moped a bit faster than it was strictly supposed to go. One of these days, really, he was going to pull some of that money out of his expense account, drag Ken down to the Kawasaki dealership, and buy a proper bike. One that he could properly speed with.

Inside wasn't much better. His textbooks had spent enough time banging against his hip to leave a bruise. He'd forgotten about his riding gloves entirely, which had been in his helmet, which meant they were probably being driven over in the university parking lot if someone hadn't picked them up already. And now--

"Sit." He pushed Ken into a chair at the kitchen table, still wound too tightly over all this. "You're not going to die." Tossed his bag in the general direction of the coatrack and heard it thunk against the wall. Noted Nagi and Yohji's positions before hoisting himself up to sit on the counter. Rubbing gingerly at his hip.

"Aya isn't relapsing." Some things should be sugar-coated. Some things should be said gently and tactfully with the kind of care reserved for handling fine glass. Some things were too real to do either. "She was never in a proper coma to begin with, apparently."

Paused there to let it sink in, pulled the phone out of his pocket and flipped it open, punching in a standard Please Contact message to Kritiker. That was going to get even stickier. "I'm going to petition to have her transfered to Kritiker's urgent care unit for that reason. And others, but primarily that. Birman isn't going to be thrilled with that idea, so you can all anticipate her coming down hard on us. Unless there are any objections."

Send. Got the ball rolling now, just waiting for the paperwork and the inevitable phone call to bitch his ear off for involving a non-combatant. She'd lecture him, of course, at length, about how he should know better, that they had trained him better than that, and what would Persia think of him now? Threaten to find Manx and have her shove her spike heels somewhere inappropriate.

She liked him, though. Omi knew it. He'd win, eventually.

Looked up to trade a glance with Nagi--that was his focus, now. A shake in Nagi's loyalties, if it turned out Schwarz, in whole or in part, had survived after all, presented a more immediate danger. Aya Fujimiya, for all her importance, was not going anywhere at the moment.

Displacement activity; Ken, without bothering to offer or waiting to be asked, had made tea, simply for the sake of having something to do to fill the silence while they waited for whatever it was that was about to happen to happen. At least it gave him something to do with his hands though, distracted, he scalded his hands on the steam, slopped water from the kettle across the counter as he poured it into the cups, dropped a teaspoon onto the floor. He didn't bother picking it up: simply placed the cups down on the table and sat down. Stared into the mug as if it contained something fascinating.

Youji, sighing, lit a cigarette and murmured that he would have preferred coffee. (And Ken pushed an ashtray toward him with the tips of his fingers.)

Nobody else even seemed to notice.

He got the feeling he was missing something. The look on Youji's face suggested that much. Youji had noticed - something, something he couldn't put his finger on or didn't feel comfortable sharing with Ken, for whatever reason. Something, therefore, he wasn't even sure on himself. But something there all the same. Even Ken had picked up on that one: call him a conspiracy theorist if you liked, but he was getting the distinct impression that Omi was holding out on him - on both of them. Or Nagi was likewise, or both. Something about this, ken thought, simply didn't feel right. Healthy people didn't just collapse for no reason and their doctors certainly shouldn't respond by shrugging and saying 'oh yeah, thought something like that would happen, sorry, thanks for playing'. The more he thought about it the more he suspected that neurologist had been bullshitting them. He hadn't had a clue either.

But what about Omi?

"Wait. What?" Ken blinked. "You're not gonna tell me she was just having a nap and got carried away? Of course she was in a coma, she was out for two years."

Bitterness there - or something very like it. Youji, watching the young man out of the corner of one eye, frowned slightly as Ken dropped his head, just slightly, pressing two fingers to the bridge of his nose. A new mannerism, that, something Aya, their Aya that was, wouldn't have recognized. Ken had never used to do that. Never used to have any need - and he'd just suffer through it, wait for it to pass. Probably retreat to his room the minute the conversation was over. Idiot, Youji thought ruefully. If the good Lord had intended us to live with pain, he'd never have given us Tylenol...

Took a drag on the cigarette and raised his head just in time to see Omi shoot a glance at Nagi. Kid was raising his eyes heavenward, in classic 'oh brother' mode. Youji furrowed his brows, felt himself frown.

"No," he said, tapping the ash from the end of his cigarette, "he's got a point, Nagi. If it looks like a coma and lays you out like a coma, I think we'd all be forgiven for assuming it *was* a coma. So, Omi - if it wasn't what it looks like, what was it? Care to share?"

"Schuldig." Omi wanted to soften that one--really. Particularly as Ken had his head bent down in a pose that was becoming too familiar and Yohji was starting to look unfriendly. He leaned back against the cupboards, pushed the phone back into his pocket and sighed momentarily, moved forwards again to rest his hands on his knees in a more placating pose. "Nagi told me, at the hospital." Specified when so no one thought he'd been sitting on this rather important bit of information for three years or so, had to vilify Nagi a bit in the process, but--well, that wasn't saying much.

There was no way to make this go easy. "We all know what that means, right?" Said it and caught himself immediately looking at Nagi instead of his old teammates, throwing the glance like a shuriken, or a duelist's glove.

Where are you going to go with this, you who were once our enemy?

Just having a nap and got carried away--perfect, really. Twinge of amusement, but a roll of Nagi's eyes. Really, the things that came out of Ken's mouth were made of solid gold some days. It should have annoyed him--and it still did at times--but somewhere in the past three years he'd stopped grinding his teeth at the stupidity and settled into just rolling his eyes at it, thinking to himself that in some odd way, Ken really pointed out more than he probably thought he did.

Not that Ken was going to win any awards for his observation skills or quick intellect. Omi then, doing his bit as the leader. Saying Schuldig's name and wasn't it weird, that name being repeated so many times now in just one day. Spent three years without saying it once and just like that--

Missed him now.

Kept his gaze even with Omi's. Saw doubt there, or questioning or concern. Something--

He didn't say anything, couldn't think of anything to say, since Omi had just said it. There were specifics, whos and hows and whys. But the inner planning of Schwarz five years ago wasn't really applicable or relevant to this. This was about the implication--this (and that look Omi gave him) was about the thought that somewhere out there, more of Schwarz had survived.

"No," Ken said - typical of him, really, Youji thought. "No, I don't know what that means."

Because he didn't understand how it was possible in the first place. Schuldich had been (and by the sounds of it probably still *was* - wait a minute Schuldich is still alive?) a telepath. Sure, you could expect a little bit of mind-fucking to come as standard with that, but knocking people out and keeping them comatose, or so near to it no amount of second opinion doctors would have come to any other conclusions, for two years? Surely there was a pretty fucking big difference between I know what you're thinking and hi, want to be in a coma?

Besides, Schuldich was dead. Must have been. Guy hadn't ended up in hospital, they'd have heard about it if he had, and you couldn't get a thousand tons of building dropped on you and dumped in the ocean without getting a few bruises at the very least. (Not that you're bitter or anything, Hidaka.)

Youji glanced over at him, raised his eyeborws in an exaggerated pastiche of extreme suprise. "Apart from it's starting to look like Schuldich is still alive?"

"That's stupid." Not the most sparkling of ripostes, no, but he had a headache. (He was also Ken Hidaka; a malady for which there was no obvious cure.) What else did Youji want? "Someone dropped a museum on his head!"

"Someone," Youji murmured, "dropped a museum on all our heads, and we were all still breathing last thing I'd heard."

But that was a conversation he wasn't eager to continue. Turned back to Omi and Nagi; hoped Ken ("Hey, Youji!") would get the hint. Let his gaze drift from Omi: smart though the young man was, if this was about schwarz it made far more sense to leave him out of this - at least for now. Met Nagi's eyes and held them, for all the unnerving... call it the sheer *directness* of the teenager's gaze. You'd better appreciate this, Ken: maintaining eye contact with Nagi was like trying to outstare a basilisk.

Said, quite simply, "Schuldich can do that?

Nagi thought--Stop being a baby--At Ken, maybe, at all of them maybe. But it was different on the other side. On that side, he had looked down on these three men right here. He had been one of the aggressors, and they had been the victims. More than that, with that last question left in the open air, they had no true concept of the power they could very well be up against.

Can Schuldig do that?

"Yes," Nagi said flatly, thought with the looks he was getting he was supposed to say more than that. "Consider Schuldig to be a threat that you cannot put limits on," he said. Quietly, almost like reciting what Crawford had explained to him once, saw in his memories the things that Schuldig had done, and the endlessness of the possibilites of what he could still do. "Humans function based on the health of their minds--and Schuldig has control over that." Pause here. Didn't know what else to say.

"Normally, people have some innate shield over their thoughts that put up a resistance to telepathic tampering--especially at that high of a level. The sight of her home exploding and the implication that her family was dead--the shock of that left Aya's mind completely open. Schuldig turned her mind off, keeping it off was just a matter of maintaining the control." Which is why, when Nagi woke up at the hospital and found out Aya was walking around just as bright as sunshine, he had assumed Schuldig was dead. No other reason to let this girl wake up--even if he didn't want her anymore, he wouldn't have wanted to let her go.

Save her up, maybe, for a rainy day, in case his plans changed.

This wasn't going smoothly. Omi hadn't expected it to, ideally would have to presume anything but, but he could hope. Hope that maybe it would all blow over and he could get back to campus before his programming class started. Which, unlike Physics, he would actually be happy to attend.

"Anything else?" Omi addressed the room at large, having long since taken to staring down at the floor tiles in contemplation. Needed more time. More flowers to arrange and more road to drive on and *think*.

But this, now, couldn't go on much longer. The store was closed and they were losing money, missing another class could land him on academic probation--again--and the longer they sat in this kitchen and stared each other down the higher the tension would build.

The silence was deafening.

"Go open the shop." It sounded almost like a bark, when he said it; maybe his voice had just broken the quiet too sharply. "I have to get back to school." Omi slid off the counter, made a show of collecting his helmet and bookbag from the coatrack, all the while pinning Nagi to the wall with a stare. Waiting for Ken and Yohji to clear out, waiting for them to get back to their normal day and let the tension drain off. Ken looked like he could use an icepack and a nap.

When the room was clear and the silence had sat long enough to calm itself Omi shrugged the bag over his shoulder, not even crossing the room to address Nagi face to face, like he might have once. Used to be he needed to see those eyes up close, examine the face, watch for twitches or dialating pupils or the slightest flicker of an eyelash. Watch to see if he was lying.

And after all that, Omi was still pretty sure that if Nagi ever did tell him a lie, and he probably would at some point if he hadn't already--he'd never know. Ever.

"So," Omi asked in a neutral tone, like asking if he'd prefer tofu or noodles for dinner. Wasn't even looking at Nagi anymore. "If it turns out they're alive, what are you going to do?"

Nagi looked back at him. Watched him for a moment, considered the words--not for what they meant for the loyalty. Loyalty was always questionable, humans were hardly noble creatures. Enough of an incentive and anyone could be bought. (And who told you that again?) It had been proven, more than once, proved through and through everyday with these three men right here--and himself too.

His loyalty had been bought with food to eat and a place to stay and somewhere where they told him he could belong. Didn't believe it when they said to him, didn't like any of them when he started--stayed because of what Crawford had said to him all those years ago, about taking advantage of a position. A weakness, a chance to infiltrate the enemy.

Three years--Crawford never so much as attempted a contact, Schuldig hadn't either. Three years and nothing.

Three years and here he stood in their kitchen, faced with a question of loyalties and the only thing he could think of, right there on the forefront of his mind so bright and clear--

Schuldig's voice, sneering at him as he watched Tot walk away. "Why bother with her? You might have to kill her." Schuldig's grin, Schuldig amusement, and the way he'd looked when he got up off the floor with those bruises on his face, nothing but absolute murder in his eyes as Takatori turned his back.

Oh fuck that man if he had even tried to touch Schuldig again--

What would he do? If he had to go against Crawford? Against *Schuldig*?

"If they are alive, their silence has made it clear that they no longer want me."

That wasn't exactly an answer, but was probably the best Omi would get--probably the closest to reassuring Nagi would ever be. "We'll see." Gave him one last look and strapped on the helmet, pausing in the arc of light that spilled inside when he opened the back door. "Go help Yohji. Ken's going to take a nap."

Left it at that.

The moped still didn't go as fast as he wanted it to. He still wasn't wearing a jacket or gloves and the traffic was getting steadily worse as the day progressed. All these things piling up, and how the hell, for all this, were they going to deal with Schwartz? Assuming one or all of them had survived, barring a full scour of the city (which even Kritiker didn't have the manpower for and might not work regardless) there was nothing for it but to wait for them to come to Weiss.

And they would, if history was any indication, and Weiss would be in the same position as before: facing an unknown, unexpected enemy already backed into a corner.

He'd have to write up a really good virus to get this sheer amount of pissed off out of his system.