Stimulus Chapter Seven:

Author's Notes: See disclaimers/warnings in previous chapters for information. I lost this entire chapter for the THIRD time. I'm in a depressed mood; I'm sure my writing reflects that. But at least I am writing. I can't believe I lost it twice! *sob* Review; I need it.

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'How much?' Aya wondered, reluctantly pulling away from stretcher as a doctor pushed through. 'What the hell has happened?' He kept a steady gaze on Youji's unconscious form, but the growing cloud of medical personnel was making his task more difficult. 'Why does this keep happening to me?' Although he normally didn't approve of self-pity, Aya was becoming increasingly suspicious that the world had it in for him. 'It's just like last time.' His thoughts began to drift to an uncomfortable topic. 'No. Not like last time. Aya and Youji are completely different matters. Aya was a victim. Youji was a fool.'



The stretcher began to move again, with Youji now pinned down securely with a series of IVs and monitors. Aya kept a firm stride, catching glimpses of waned, hollow cheeks through the flurry of lab coats.

"Sir." A hand connecting with his shoulder brought Aya from his thoughts. Acting on pure reflex, he swiveled, knocking it off and catching the wrist in a painful twist. "Sir!" The voice belonging to the hand and wrist cried out in pain. Deducing that the nurse meant no harm, Aya released his grip without apology. They should know better than to sneak up on him.

"Sir." The nurse, a middle-aged woman with her fair share of wrinkles and gray hair, tried again. Aya could almost appreciate how quickly she regained her resolve. Almost being if she were annoying someone else. "Sir, I need you to answer some questions." She raised her hand again before thinking the better of it. "Right this way."

"I already answered questions," Aya protested, returning his gaze to Youji's stretcher. It was no longer there. Stanching an immediate swell of panic, he looked to the nurse for answers.

"Your friend is being treated. If you'd just come with me." She directed him to a small cubicle, equipped with plastic chairs, desk, and an outdated computer.

"Have a seat." She gestured to the flimsy seat with a weathered smile. "This will only take a moment."



"Where is Youji?" Aya asked, refusing to sit without news of his teammate.

"He's probably in the OR as we speak. He was in quite serious condition. Head trauma was it?" She acted like she was sitting down to tea, making light conversation as the archaic piece of machinery booted up. "Could you give me the patient's name?"



Aya finally sat, common sense winning over the urge to tear through the hospital in a frenzied search. "Kudou." He watched as she pecked at the keyboard.

"Youji, you said?" She looked up to receive his quick nod. "With a U, H, or nothing?" She pecked some more.

"U. Born March third." Aya was fairly familiar with the necessary information. The most difficult part was remembering to give Youji's information rather than his sister's. "Has any information regarding insurance, place of employment, place of residence, family contacts, or the like been changed since the last visit?" 'She really should have better typing skills if she's a receptionist,' Aya decided, watching the intermittent clicking.

"No." Although he had no way of knowing, Aya was fairly certain the interrogation would end sooner if he replied negatively.

"Shall I contact Mister Kudou's family?" The woman asked. Aya floundered for a moment before righting himself.

"He has family?" He momentarily lost his trademark monotone.

"A Misters Hidaka, Tsukiyono, and Fujimiya are to be contacted in event of an emergency." Aya immediately felt the fool. 'Just like Youji to list us as family.'



"Contact Hidaka and Tsukiyono. I'm Fujimiya." The nurse looked at him skeptically.

"Proof of identity? You do realize that an emergency contact should be aware of his position as such." Aya let out a sigh, exposing his license in its neat plastic slot.

"Emergency contact is different from family," Aya ground out, defending himself against her disbelieving frown.

"And what exactly is your relationship to Mister Kudou?" She asked, the frown lifting in place of a look of interest.

"Is that really necessary information?" Aya was becoming increasingly uncomfortable about this inquisitive woman. 'What exactly is she after?' He braced himself for any kind of indication that she was enemy.

"Well, it could be helpful with the diagnosis." The tension building in his muscles eased slightly. 'Gossip.' He deducted. A real enemy would have a better lie at the ready. "Sir?" She asked, as Aya stood without a reply. "Sir, may I ask where you're going?" Aya strode out of the cubicle without a second look.

He'd been away from Youji for long enough. There was no telling what had happened in that time.



//'One hippopotamus, two hippopotamus,' Youji counts slow and deliberate, trying to get an idea of how much time had passed. 'Three hippopotamus, four hippopotamus.' Stripped of his watch and locked away in constant darkness, he may have been here for minutes, days, even weeks. 'Five hippopotamus, six hippopotamus.' The dank air absorbs the sudden clang as the door swings open. 'Seven hippopotamus,' He tries to ignore the angry presence standing in the doorway, involving himself in the simplest task of counting. 'Seven hippopotamus,' the nasal sound of breathing identifies his newest guest as Schuldig. 'Seven hippopotamus, eight hippopot.'



"Will you shut up!" Schuldig growls out. 'Twenty-nine hours! You've been here for twenty-nine hours if it means that much to you! Now will you let me sleep?" His tone is of intense annoyance. 'And you counted seven three times,' he injects as a side note. Then the door slams again. The angry presence is gone. The smallest hint of a smile appears on Youji's face. '- amus, nine hippopotamus, ten hippopotamus, eleven.' Even in the worst of conditions, he could at least annoy his captor.//



"What happened?" Ken had to call over the roar of the engine. "Do you know?" He clung to Omi as they raced through a red light and jumped a low curb. "Just because Youji's in the hospital, doesn't mean we should be too!"



Omi grimaced beneath his helmet. "Sorry," he called back to the older man. "I'm just nervous. I got the voice mail, but they didn't give us anything substantial." Ken grimaced as a fly pegged him in the head with amazing force.

"Slow down. Do you want me to drive?" he begged, hoping they'd make it to the hospital without calling an ambulance themselves.

"No, I'm fine." Omi cut off a little girl learning to ride a bike. "I've been thinking." He cut off at the blare of a horn. "Do you think his hospitalization has anything to do with when he was away?" he finally continued when the noise subsided.

"What?" Ken asked, confused. When Omi opened his mouth to repeat the question, Ken rephrased himself. "When was Youji away?" Omi took a turn with amazing speed, causing the awkward pair to shift balance.

"I don't really remember, myself. But apparently he was away for a while about a week ago. My records don't lie." Ken shifted back to his normal seat, as the danger had momentarily passed.

"I don't remember it, nothing big happened last week except for that one mission. Didn't Youji go out drinking immediately afterwards?" Ken asked.

Omi shrugged. "I guess we could ask Aya, but we'll find the reason when we get to the hospital." They pulled to a screeching halt in front of the large glass building. "See, we got here, all in one piece!"



Ken gave a weary nod before finding his proper footing on the suddenly still ground. "If you ask me," Ken confided, as the pair made their way towards the reception desk. "Aya probably got fed up with Youji and put him in here himself." Omi gave his comrade a chastising look before approaching a young woman at the desk.

"We're here to see Youji Kudou." He informed her cheerily.

"Youji Kudou?" The woman gave an uncertain glance to the notepad by the phone. "One moment please." She gave a weak smile, immediately paging a doctor.

"He'll be right with you." The receptionist dismissed them.

"I thought Youji was injured, how can he be right.." Omi cut Ken off with a poke in the ribs.

"The doctor," Omi hissed, watching as a man with a splinted nose and a white lab coat approached them with a smile.

"Hello, you're friends of Mister Fujimiya's?" The doctor unconsciously fingered the bandage marring his face.

"Well, yeah, but we're here to see Youji." Ken worked the information over.

"Oh no," Omi moaned, earning a small chuckle from the doctor.

"I'd like to see all three of you together, if I could," the doctor started. "But we must first stop and retrieve Mister Fujimiya."





Aya's gaze didn't shift as he started at the strong cuffs linking his hands. 'Amateurs, made them too tight.' He grimaced as he pulled his wrists apart, letting the metal dig into soft flesh beneath.

"Hey, don't do that." The guard complained loudly, watching Aya fiddle with the restraints. Violet eyes raised to glare at him.

"Excuse me?" Aya asked, listening for the satisfying click that told him he was free.

"I said don't play with that. There's a reason you're in those, you know. What kind of sick fuck decks a doctor for giving his patient an injection?" Aya's eyes lowered back to his bonds. 'If Omi and Ken take any longer, I will not be held responsible for my actions.' He decided, keeping the bonds closed, waiting for the right moment.



"I can't tell you how sorry I am!" Omi apologized profusely, Ken only somewhat contrite at his side.

"He decked you?" he asked, obviously amused.

"Well, I can understand how he might have misinterpreted my actions, but I assure you I only work for the benefit of my patients." The doctor was taking the entire situation in stride, meeting it with humor despite the broken cartilage centered on his face.

"I'm sure he didn't mean it." Omi continued his apologies. "He's just.a bit over protective, is all." Ken snorted, earning a glare as he wasn't helping the argument.

"It's quite alright, now how about we go check on our friend." The doctor slid the door open; a blue-clad guard immediately fled the scene. "What was that about?" The doctor asked, looking in to see Aya sitting calmly in his seat.

"Aya!" Omi immediately rebuked the redhead. "You hit the doctor." Aya looked up from his wrists, dangling his handcuffs from two fingers.

"Hey, those are good quality! You got out of them without a pick?" Ken jumped at the chance to compare skills.

"Ken." Omi warned, pushing the energetic older boy into a seat. "Now doctor, how is Youji?"



Any playful attitude diminished from the room as the doctor settled in to inform the anxious friends.

A/N: Well, I'm in a better mood than I was in the beginning of rewriting this. I didn't get as much done as I would prefer, but I'm willing to go with this. Please tell me if you understand what I'm implying with the entire "forgotten" and "time away" thing. Review, review, review! I've been a good girl, rewriting this three times, even though I'm feeling extremely discouraged.

Felicity Sez: Wow. lot of grammatical errors. ^_^ But no wonder, she wrote this in like an hour. Hey, Eternity's End dahlink, don't be depressed. This is a really good chapter! Yay Omi! And hippopotami!

To be continued.