The doctor's face is pleased as she sets her clipboard aside, lacing
her fingers together atop her desk. "She's recovering excellently," she proclaims. "Her
determination and willpower is amazing. I'm confident that she'll be walking without any
assistance in another month or so."
Ran turns his head towards me to smile encouragingly, and I squeeze
his hand in response, managing a small smile.
"Excercise is good, but make sure you have plenty of rest," the
doctor cautions, scratching with her pen at a little slip of paper. "If you get tired,
listen to your body. Sit down or take a nap. Get plenty of fresh air and good food in you,
as well. A few brief walks in the park with your brother will do you both a lot of good.
The two of you have much to be thankful for." She hands the paper to Ran. "This will
hopefully be the last prescription she'll need. When she starts to feel strong enough to
walk on her own without them, you can flush the rest."
"Thank you, doctor," Ran murmurs as he gets to his feet, holding his
arm out to support me. Gripping my cane tightly in one hand, I use his crooked arm as a
boost to pull myself up. Bowing his head in thanks to the doctor, he takes me slowly out of
the office and into the hall.
It has been nearly three months since the day the tower collapsed,
taking the men of Schwarz with it. Three months since I woke up in Manx's lap, disoriented
and heavy-limbed. Grueling hours of physical training have finally helped me to graduate
from walker to cane. I can tell my brother is privately thrilled at the doctor's good news,
but all I can muster up is a sort of relief. It is difficult lately for me to experience
much in the way of joy.
Oh, I have my reasons to be happy. I am awake and nearly walking
now; I have my brother back at last; I have finally met the mystery man who smells of cologne
and cigarettes-- Kudou Yohji, Ran's partner and friend.
But everytime I count my blessings, my curses line up and demand
Ran's face is not as cold as the image of Absynnian that I once saw
in Farfarello's mind, but he is still a changed man. While the other boys of Weiß insist he
is much more relaxed and cheerful than he ever was when they knew him, he is still a darker
version of the brother I once knew.
We have lost our parents; the only comfort is that Ran slew the man
Manx is constantly trying to wheedle Ran back into the world of
Kritiker, despite his firm refusals.
I have not heard from Farfarello or Schuldich since the Jerk awakened
me; he destroyed my link with the Berserker in the process, and I have no idea if they are
even alive any longer. Weiß is sure they are dead.
The doctors that work for Kritiker discovered an impossible fact:
somehow, my aging process was slowed almost to a standstill during my coma. I should be
pushing nineteen, but they say physically I still have the body of a sixteen year old. It is
a fact we have kept a secret from the rest of the world, even my physical therapist. At
first it only stunned and horrified me. How could such a thing even be possible? Now I just
try to comfort myself with the fact that on some level I haven't really lost those years
spent lying in that hospital bed.
And then there is my Secret.
Ran's hatred for Schwarz runs deep, and it is a distaste shared by
his partners. Their fear and loathing of Farfarello and their distrust of a man able to read
their most secret thoughts rang through loud and clear on the few conversations I wheedled
out of them concerning the black assassins.
I told Ran that I heard him sometimes when I was in the hospital,
that his voice gave me hope, and this seems to comfort him. But I cannot bring myself to
tell them about my interactions with the madmen of Schwarz. Ran would go into a rage if he
knew about the cruel things Schuldich had said and done to me, not to mention my furious
struggle with the Berserker in the landscapes of my mind.
And their fear of a mindreader only makes me more hesitant to let
them in on my biggest secret. If they knew they had a telepath in their midst, would they be
just as uncomfortable around me?
So I have kept silent about it all, and tried my best to block my
mind from their thoughts. I have not actively "spoken" to anybody in this intimate way since
awakening, using the gift only to occassionally listen in. I try not to let it become a
habit, though; it is a gross violation of privacy. And as I knew I would, I have already
heard a few things I would rather not have known
....Though some things have been rather enlightening. Such as
Sakura's rather desperate crush on my unknowing brother.
Not to mention another's confused and conflicted emotions when it
comes to Ran. This little insight was quite a surprise, and while I am not quite sure how to
cope with it for the moment, I am content to let it alone. My brother is too dense in the
romance department for that person to have a chance, anyway.
We get my little bottle of steroids at the pharmacist's desk and make
our way outside, where a familiar tone of thoughts catches my attention and makes me
Of the four of them, Kudou Yohji is the only one with shields.
Whether it is a natural talent or something he picked up in his
fights with Schuldich is unknown, but at least it means that unless I go actively searching
for them, his thoughts remain a mystery to me. I rather prefer it that way. Some things are
better left pleasant little mysteries.
He sees us coming from where he's leaning against the car and
straightens with a lazy grin, dropping his cigarette to the ground and putting out the butt
with the heel of his foot. "Good news, I take it?" he guesses, catching Ran's hovering
Ran has remarked more than once that I seem a lot more reserved and
mature since waking up, but being in Yohji's presence always makes me feel like a bashful
schoolgirl again. If he knew he had taken a part in some of my foolish fantasies, he would
probably be a bit embarrassed, too. Or maybe not. He seems to have no problem dealing with
When I imagined Ran's mysterious friend, I was half right. He
certainly is the smooth, attractive type to catch a lady's eye, though his physical
appearance is completely different from what I fantasized. No dark hair or soulful eyes
here; only lazy green eyes and honey-colored hair. But handsome nonetheless. Taller and
slimmer than I thought, too. The fact that he flirts shamelessly with me whenever he gets a
chance doesn't do much for my nerves.
"Come on, honey, show us a smile," Yohji urges, chucking me under the
I smile back at him a bit shyly, though I do wish he wouldn't mix his
signals like that; flirting but treating me a bit like a child at the same time. I've heard
that he only goes for women above eighteen, but I can still hope.
He reminds me a bit of Schuldich sometimes, but like the better
version of that red-haired Jerk. He drawls a lot, smokes, and has a sarcastic wit, but his
humor isn't twisted like Schuldich's, and his smile is a lot more genuine.
"The doctor says she might not need the cane in another month," Ran
informs him, holding the back door open for me.
"Hey, great news, Bambi," Yohji congratulates me with a broad grin,
heading over to the driver's side door. "Bambi" is his nickname for me, presumably because
of my large eyes. A bit childish, perhaps, but it's a little nice having a private pet name.
"Then maybe you can take over some of my shifts at the shop, eh?"
Ran scowls at him over the top of the car, and he holds up his hands
defensively. "Kidding, Ran-chan, just kidding."
I had another mystery solved shortly after my awakening. When Yohji
came to the hospital that once and said my name, and when Sakura referred to an "Aya" on the
bluff, they were talking about my brother. Apparently he took up my name during his search
for vengeance. Even now the boys sometimes slip and call him Aya. It gets a bit confusing
At least Farfarello was telling the truth about one thing-- Ran did
indeed save those earrings. I awoke with one of them in my ear, and he returned the other
shortly after. I wear them constantly.
I take a quick peek at Ran's thoughts as we pull out of the hospital
parking lot. He is happy and content after the meeting with my therapist. I pull away from
his mind, settling back in the seat.
"Is something wrong, Aya-chan?" Ran's gaze meets mine in the rearview
mirror as we slide into the main traffic. "You haven't said a word since we left the
I blink, quickly going over the last half hour, and wince internally.
After so long of having conversations only in my head, after years of lying in that hospital
unable to respond, I have developed the bad habit of keeping my mouth shut too often.
Sometimes it worries Ran; he always frets that something is troubling me. I can't tell him
that I just don't feel like talking; he would only worry more.
I force another smile. "Nothing's wrong," I insist. "I'm just a
little tired." The lie comes easily, but it seems to satisfy him. Yohji, whose instincts
with women and their moods are more like a fine-tuned artform, fills in the silence with
"Irrasha-- Oh, Aya-chan." Omi greets me with a smile as we enter the
shop, straightening from where he was packing new soil around a young sapling. "How did it
go?" He takes in Ran's content expression and his smile widens. "Good news?"
Ken turns from the counter, clippers in hand as he looks at us
I can sense that Ran is bursting to tell the good news, so I offer a
small smile and limp my way slowly towards the kitchen in the back. "You tell them, 'niisan.
I'm going to get a drink of water."
Yohji strides ahead of me, gallantly holding the kitchen door open,
and I cannot hold back another smile. "Thank you, Yohji-san."
"Of course, princess," he says with a little flourishing bow and a
My smile disappears. "Please don't call me that," I say without
He blinks, startled at the edge to my voice.
I give myself a mental kick in the ass and force myself to smile
sweetly. "You call all the girls princess," I say quickly. "Bambi is just fine for me."
He grins, following me into the kitchen. I'm not about to tell him
that that particular nickname reminds me a bit too much of Schuldich.
"Ne, Yohji-kun," I say with forced carelessness as I retrieve a cup
from the cupboard. "Do you think Schwarz really died when that tower collapsed?"
He pauses in his search for a snack in the fridge. None of them are
comfortable talking about Kritiker or their enemies. It took a lot of dogged wheedling to
get some of the story out of them, and even then they left out a lot. Some of the blanks I
can fill in with educated guesses after my time with Schuldich and Farfarello, but there are
parts that are still a mystery.
"Don't worry your pretty little head about those murderers," he says,
casual grin back in place as he snags a pudding cup. "They're long gone. We were fortunate
to survive; we haven't seen or heard from them since, so it's likely they weren't so lucky.
Even if one or two of them did survive, they're laying low. For all we know they ran
back to wherever they came from with their tails tucked between their legs."
I try to imagine either Schuldich or Farfarello doing such a thing
and snort into my cup.
He doesn't seem to notice, busy digging through the silverware drawer
for a spoon. "It's good to see your brother smiling. I used to wonder if that man would
ever be happy again. He never really talked about you, but we knew it tore him apart, having
to see you in that condition."
I nod, taking one of my pills with a gulp of water. "Thank you all
for keeping an eye on him all this time. I know it couldn't have been easy for all of you to
try and get a smile out of him when it was so hard to smile yourselves sometimes."
"Oh, we dealt," Yohji hedges, and I know he thinks I'm referring to
their job as assassins.
But I've already learned all I need to know about each of them; I
even dipped quickly into Yohji's mind on first meeting him, curious to know him better as I
carefully peeled back the outer shields of his mind. So I know just how haunted each of them
are. Omi's cruel family, Ken's dreams of soccer torn away from him, Yohji's tortured guilt
It bothers me a bit to think that a few years ago I would have done
everything in my power to banish such darkness from their minds. I would have put my own
feelings aside and been the happy ray of sunlight to give them a bit of cheer.
But now I can't bring myself to do it.
They are each dealing with these painful memories their own way.
There isn't much I can really do, honestly, except be there and understand. If there's one
thing the horror of Farfarello's mind taught me, it's that not everything can be fixed with a
smile and a song. Some scars are too old, too deep, to be fully healed.
Even though these four men will recover eventually, in a way that
Farfarello probably never will, there will always be that shadow lurking in the back of their
minds, keeping them awake some nights.
"Emotionally drained"... I frown down at my cup of water. Before I
was called into the doctor's office, Ran and the doctor had a short, private conversation.
Easy enough to eavesdrop on for me.
The doctor was concerned that my "ordeal" had left me emotionally
drained. She was trying to explain my rare smiles and solemn silences to my worried brother,
assuring him that soon I would be my normal cheery self. "When she is finally able to walk
without help, I think she will open up a lot more," the doctor had said firmly. "Her
confidence will come back, and she'll be a lot more open and lively. Just give it time. I'm
to understand you went through a similar period of withdrawal after the accident."
Ran's internal wince was clouded with fear. He didn't lie to
himself; he knew that no matter how happy he was to have me back, no matter how hard he tried
to be the big brother I remembered and loved, that he was still a bit withdrawn. He is
afraid that I will end up like that.
I sigh under my breath. Is he right? Or is the doctor right? I
doubt just being able to walk will really do that much for me emotionally, even if it will be
a big accomplishment. But maybe all I need is time.
Still, I can't help but feel a bit skeptical.
Those years in the hospital and all that time with Farfarello changed
me in subtle ways. Sometimes I wonder if part of it is due to the residue that clung to me
after that violent brush with his mind.
It seems I have scars to deal with, as well.
"Shoot, I have that dentist appointment," Yohji growls, breaking me
out of my thoughts. He grumbles, finishing the pudding quickly and tossing the container in
the trash. "Take care, Bambi. Be back in a couple hours."
"You wrecked the car??" Ken's voice is incredulous and
irritated at the same time as he stands with arms akimbo and glares accusingly up at his
"Not 'wrecked', really," Yohji wheedles, avoiding his eyes as he
twirls the keyring on his finger distractedly. "Anyway, why are you getting so mad at
me? I told you already, it was the other assho--" his eyes dart my way. "Um, the
other guy's fault."
I roll my eyes at the verbal stumble, but keep my mouth shut. Ken
and Yohji are always trying hard to watch their language around me, probably due to some
threat of my brother's, and I don't have the heart to tell them I've heard-- and used --much
"That's just great, Yohji," Ken hisses, stepping forward and jabbing
his finger into the taller man's chest. "Ay-- Ran is going to throw a fit. How is he
supposed to get Aya-chan home now? She can't very well ride on the back of my scooter!"
"Um, a cab?"
"It's too expensive to take a cab all the way to their
"They can split with Omittchi."
"He left half an hour before you got here!"
"That's what subways are for," I interrupt, just as Ran comes in from
the back, my small bag with my medicine and schoolbooks slung over his shoulder. "Niisan,
you don't mind riding the train, right?"
His narrowed gaze shoots towards Yohji. "I thought you said it was a
'little fender-bender' on the phone," he growls.
"Um, guess it was a little worse than I thought." Yohji shrugs
helplessly. "It's in the shop. You should have it back tomorrow afternoon. Sorry. The
other guy just came flying out of nowhere. Anyway, shouldn't you all be thanking God I'm
alive instead of going on and on about the stupid car?" He pouts, and I can't help but smile
"We're glad you're alive, Yohji-san. Really," I insist, tugging on
Ran's arm. "Niisan, let's take the subway."
"But- your cane-" he looks horrified at the thought. Overprotective
panic is bubbling in his mind. "If someone bumps into you--"
"It's past rush hour, I'll watch where I'm going, and you'll be
there," I say firmly, dragging him towards the door. I offer the other two a wave and a
smile. "See you tomorrow!" I frown up at Ran as soon as we're on the sidewalk. "Niisan,
really, I'll be fine. Besides, the walk to the station will be good exercise."
He nods slowly, though uncertainty still clouds his mind.
"The doctor said I needed more exercise."
Impatience flares, and I push it back guiltily. I don't remember my
temper ever being as short as it's been since I woke up. He doesn't deserve to get snapped
at. He's only worried about me. I force a cheerful smile and lengthen my step a bit. "See,
the fresh air is doing me good! Come on, 'niisan, you're slow as an old man!"
A faint smile hovers on his lips at my teasing, and he relaxes a bit
as he catches up to me in two long steps.
It is nearly a ten minute walk to the station, and though I refuse to
let it show, it does wear me out. We arrive right when the train pulls up, and thankfully
there are seats free. I lower myself into one in relief, though I try to keep the weariness
off my face to avoid another panic attack from my brother. The tone alerts passengers to
stay clear of the doors, and the train is off with a lurch. I wince, hunching in a bit as I
strengthen my outer shields a bit.
Despite my carefree attitude about taking the train, it is something
I would rather have avoided if at all possible. Crowds bother me now in a way they never
used to. At first a part of it had to do with being surrounded by so many people after years
of being by myself. But that wore off the first month. Now crowds are an agony for an
entirely different reason.
Even on a train, where the majority of the passengers prefer to keep
their silence and ignore their neighbors, their minds clamor away in a jumbled mix of noisy
chaos. Keeping it all down to a muffled background noise takes up all my concentration, and
Ran has to say my name twice before I hear him. We switch trains, and thankfully this one is
a lot less crowded. I sink back in the plastic seat in relief, quickly forcing a fake smile
for Ran when he looks at me with worry. "I'm just a little tired," I say, forestalling any
questions. "But I'm all right. The walk was good for me."
He nods slowly, still frowning.
I glance up at the map on the other side of the train's car. Only
three stops. At least the station there is only a few minutes' walk from our apartment. I
can make it that far. But I'm going to sleep like the dead tonight.
Idly I reach out, letting a few of the mental voices around us in.
Sometimes it entertains me to see what's on the minds of strangers. And sometimes it pays
off; once I overheard a boy thinking about how cute I was. Nice for the ego, that.
I jump so hard I almost fall out of my chair.
Ran steadies me quickly, face instantly full of concern. "Aya-chan,
are you all right?"
"What?" I stare at him wildly. "What? Oh-- um, yes," I babble. "I
just-- you know, started to nod off, then-- jerked awake... I'm fine!"
He sits down next to me, still holding my shoulder and searching my
face. "Your legs don't hurt, do they?"
"No, no, I'm fine," I insist. "I promise." I wait until he finally
relaxes and looks away and then reach again for that flicker of familiar heat I felt at the
very edges of my mind.
He hasn't sensed me, yet, so I take advantage of it. I can't
believe this, I send out dryly, though my heart slams in my chest. Just when I
thought I was free of you for good.
I have the great satisfaction of feeling a jolt of surprise from his
Not you again, Schuldich groans. Good god, what does it
take to get rid of you??
A well-aimed bullet, I reply drolly, a small smile teasing at
my lips. By the way, I never got to thank you for--
Save it, cupcake, he growls. I was just returning a favor.
Your monkey shrieks helped me track down Farf and shake some life into him.
My brother and the others think Schwarz died when the tower
collapsed. I take it all of you made it?
Why the hell would I tell you, you nosey little brat?
It's not like I'm going to tell them, I say with a
mental snort. They're happy thinking you're dead. As long as you guys don't plan on
attacking them again, I don't see any reason to break their little hearts with the bad
I feel his touch against my mind dig in a bit deeper, but don't
bother to try and shove him away. It's not like there's anything too important in there he doesn't know
about already, and I already found out the hard way that he's a hell of a lot stronger than I
am. Damn. I was hoping at least some of those irritating ass ticks got wiped out
in the fall, he grumbles. They're still at that goddamn weed shop? Not too bright.
If we were set on taking them out, we'd know exactly where to find them.
Does that mean you're not interested in 'taking care of
them'? I demand.
Feh. Who cares about Weiß? They were only a problem when they
went after our clients. I doubt they'll be interfering with us in the future.
I sense his approach-- so he was on the train, after all --but
pretend I don't. Glad to hear it. By the way, there's something I'd like
Do tell, he says with mock interest.
Ran handed me a stuffed rabbit when I woke up. He said it was
left on my hospital bed, but none of them put it there. I'm having a hard time imagining one
of you psychos putting it there.
A rabbit? Schuldich's mental laugh is like a carress. A
carress of sandpaper, maybe. Sounds like Nagi's little girlfriend paid you a visit
sometime. She's a real wacko.
I retaliate suddenly, lashing out quickly with my own mind like I did
that time I stole Ran's image from Farfarello's mind.
Little brat- he growls, but I've already retreated with the
information I was looking for.
I frown, surprised. Nagi? That's the boy with telekinesis,
right? He's still missing? Do you think he died in the tower?
Someone appears at the pole beside my seat suddenly, leaning over
slightly, and I glance up, face carefully unimpressed. He's wearing a sweatshirt, the hood
pulled up to cover his tell-tale red hair, but as he leans over I catch a glimpse of his face
and his shit-eating grin. "Boo."
Nice try, I felt you coming. And are you insane? If my brother
realizes who you are, he's going to lose his mind. Nice outfit, by the way. Is that your
idea of incognito?
You're such a mouthy little twerp, he snorts, but I can sense
his annoyance. He was hoping to startle me. Tell me why I shouldn't just kill you both
right now so I don't have to worry about either of you ever again.
I glance towards the slight bulge in the pocket of the hoody. He's
carrying a gun around in public. Is he insane??
Wait. Stupid question.
Don't be stupid, Schuldich.
I thought I was 'the Jerk', he says mockingly.
I glare up at him. You are, I snap.
And yet a microscopic part of you is almost happy to see me.
He tilts his head, still grinning fiendishly. Why is that, do you suppose?
I gape at him, then look quickly away, scowling across the car. I
am not. You idiot.
It's my dashing good looks, isn't it?
I hope you get hit by a bus.
Ran must have noticed my dirty look, and is looking from me to
Schuldich with a narrowing gaze. Schuldich keeps his head lowered, hiding his features with
the shadow of his hood. "Is this guy bothering you?"
"Who?" I ask innocently, wiping the frown off my face and staring
wide-eyed at my brother. "What do you mean?"
Schuldich's mental voice is laced with wicked amusement. This is
just too tempting.
Do it and I swear I'll kick you in the nuts.
Ran shifts, still eyeing Schuldich distrustfully. "Aya-chan, switch
seats with me."
I think you spent a liiiittle too much time with Farf,
princess, Schuldich notes. He's certainly brought out the bloodthirsty little beast
Will you shut up??
"We're almost there," I insist, keeping my face carefully blank, back
to Schuldich. "Why do you want to switch seats?" I'm not about to do that; Schuldich could
blow his cover deliberately or Ran could catch a glimpse of his face.
Ran hesitates, unwilling to say his suspicions aloud.
Go away, Schuldich.
He chuckles, but straightens and starts to head away. I'll tell
Farf you said hi, he taunts.
You do that, I respond quietly, staring at my lap.
He stops, and though he doesn't turn around, I feel his focus on me
sharpen. You actually mean that. He sounds suspicious and incredulous at the same
time. I'm sorry, I must have missed the big lump of BRAIN DAMAGE in that dense skull of
yours. You have remembered that Farfarello is the Berserker, yes? I tell him you're
alive, and he'll probably track you down and kill you. Messily. He pauses. Now
there's an idea.
I sigh, rubbing at my temple wearily. The train rattles to a halt.
Oh, christ, forget it. Just get lost.
See ya, toots. He turns then, pausing at the door as it
opens. I realize what he's about to do, but there's nothing I can do to stop him. He
reaches up and pushes his hood back, grinning insolently our way.
Beside me, Ran goes absolutely rigid, eyes widening in shock.
Schuldich waves tauntingly and steps off the train.
Ran is on his feet in the next instant, face livid with rage. I
reach out and seize his wrist as tightly as I can before he can run for the door. "Niisan!"
I cry, feigning surprise, while I seethe inside. "What's wrong?"
You just couldn't help yourself, could you? I snap,
Schuldich sounds entirely too pleased with himself. That'll give
ol' stick-up-the-ass something to think about, he sneers. He'll be looking over his
shoulder for weeks.
I really hate you, you know that?
No you don't, he jeers. Then he's drawing away, out of range,
and I retreat from his mind, focusing on the problem at hand. Ran is shaking with anger,
glaring at the closing door. The train's lurch as it starts up again makes him stagger.
People are starting to stare. I force concern into my voice.
"Oniisan, what is it? Are you all right?"
He glances down at me, struggling unsuccessfully to bring his
expression under control. "Fine. I'm fine," he finally says shortly. He forces himself to
sit back down, though his entire frame is still tense as a wire. "It was nothing. Sorry,
Aya-chan. Don't worry about it."
I bob my head in a nod, but already my mind is drifting back to that
'No you don't'... Arrogant ass. I do hate him. He's just saying
that to piss me off.
And what the hell did he mean by 'You actually mean that'? Of course
I didn't mean it. I don't want him to let Farfarello know I'm alive. I shift in my seat
uncomfortably, frowning in irritation. I don't give a flying flip about Farfarello. Whether
he's alive or dead makes no difference to me, as long as he stays the hell away from me and
I never want to hear from them again. I don't care about any of
those Schwarz bastards. Not at all.
Not one bit.
The remainder of the trip home is full of tense silence for us
Author's Notes: I think this is actually the first time in a WK fic where Aya is awake
that I actually use that whole "she stayed the same age the whole time" thing they used in
the series. Can we say deus ex machina?
Back to WK fics