Title: Double Helix

Author: teru_bozu_ebi

Website: http://teru-bozu-ebi.livejournal.com/

Pairing: Nii/Tenpou

Rating: NC-17

Warnings: Yaoi, dub-con. Violence. Language. Quite possible character death.

Summary: AU. 500 years later, and Tenpou finally wakes up. Unfortunately, Cho doesn't want to let go, and Cho is just plain crazy.

Disclaimer: Mine, not hers. Blah blah blah and all that.

 

Notes:

This one needs definitely needs a bit of an explanation.

 

It all started when a certain person (can't say who right now) was having trouble with deciding upon a scenario for a prompt she was given for a fic, and she wanted a bit of help. Given the parameters she was presented with, I bounced two suggestions off of her; either a prison piece, or an asylum story. She took the prison concept. I thought it a pity, since the asylum idea seemed so very promising, but prison fic it was and that's where things sat for about a month. Then one fine morning I woke up, walked over to the computer, and this thing began to pour out of me. And pour. And pour... be forewarned, its almost 20,000 words long, over twice the length of my longest piece to date. And my first AU fic to boot. And my first stab at Nii. Lots of first here.

 

So here's Ebi's holiday offering to everyone. Enjoy.

 

Double Helix

 

Summer

 

The "Community Room" was meant to be cheerful, a place to banish all Bad Thoughts along with any of the previous evening's nightmares. Nods to interior design had been made here and there- that is, if one could claim that paper flowers and print-outs of positive aphorisms taped on the walls had some sort of a design attached to it- and the place had been painted in the latest color deemed to be a Calming Influence on the Disturbed Psyche. In practice, these well-meaning attempts failed miserably, and ended up creating a room that was One Big Fake Smile which no one was remotely fooled by.

 

So the hospital had simply settled for brightly lit instead, employing a huge bank of ceiling-high windows that made up the entire outer wall of the room. It was his current theory that they were placing their hopes on the power of vast amounts of concentrated sunlight to bleach them into happiness, as if all their problems were a colony of ants to be burnt away under some perverse child's magnifying glass. He had to say the sunlight didn't seem to help anyone any more than the aphorisms had, though at least the Child seemed to find his dead ants somewhat entertaining.

The Child himself was huddled in the corner, giggling over some patient files with Dr. Hwan of the Gravity-Defying Cleavage. Or perhaps he was drooling over some pornography, who could say. He had that look in his eyes most of the time, the one that gave you the distinct impression of being mentally undressed whenever it was your time to dance for the boy. He tried to recall what day it was, if it was his turn at the doctor lottery... it seemed about right, but his sense of time was iffy at best in this place. Not only were the others popping into his head at the most inopportune moments and messing with the time flow, but the days themselves tended to run into one another in an unending stream of sameness, as if he were stuck in a time loop, doomed to repeat the same dismal moment over and over. That the medications had him wandering about in a drug-induced haze half the time did nothing at all to help matters.

 

He turned back to look out of the window. The view of the hospital grounds was the most pleasant thing about this place. Some patients who weren't deemed a Danger to Society were sitting on benches underneath the cherry trees which had stopped their blooming quite some time ago. It was a bizarre concept, one which never ceased to amaze him; things changed here, trees fell asleep and bloomed and lost their leaves and gained them again. He closed his eyes and leaned against the window as he tried to recall the scent of cherry blossoms. The windows never opened, they were not only barred very effectively on the outside but also had some sort of wire grid imbedded in the glass in case someone should try to smash through. To compensate them for the loss of oxygen the hospital kept a few small white boxes called 'air fresheners' some 10 feet up on the walls that put out a scent which was meant to remind one of fresh air, or perhaps a field of flowers. He once spent two days throwing checkers at one of them in a vain attempt to break it; he eventually gave up when Chin started crying a bit too loudly that he wanted his checkers back.

 

Not that it would do the man any good to have them; he couldn't eat them anymore, anyway. The doctors had taken to spraying them with something called Bitter Apple, used to keep house pets from chewing on furniture and apparently worked wonders in keeping lunatics from swallowing checkers. Chin still compulsively put them in his mouth every day, but instead of eating them he now simply spat them out and salivated a bit too much for anyone's liking, including his own. It was doubtful that the man found the activity nearly as satisfying as it once was. But still, it was good to have a hobby of some sort.  Things got a bit dull around here otherwise.

 

He drifted on his medicated sea for awhile, baking away in the relentless sunshine. Annoying though they may be, whatever meds they had him on now ostensibly worked as intended; no more murderous rages. Well, none recently... at least, none that he recalled... not that he recalled any of them. The two idiots who shanghaied his karma were the offenders, not him. He hadn't even reawakened until well after the massacre had occurred- and in the midst of an electroshock therapy session, no less. Talk about a wake up call... not that the doctors believed any of it. He couldn't exactly blame them; he wasn't even sure what he himself believed about the whole damned mess. It was rather difficult to make an informed decision when he wasn't even there to witness things half of the time.

 

The medications had stopped all that nastiness anyway, blunted the fury. The daily pill cocktail didn't make them happy so much as not unhappy, which struck him as all rather funny, since the others wanted to be miserable and now they weren't. All and all, a rather apropos punishment for the two of them. Since the drama queens couldn't be sad and tragic anymore, they simply opted for sullen and uncommunicative most of the time instead. If you won't let me kill someone, I'll just go and pout over here in this corner, I'll show you... but the doctors hadn't been particularly impressed by the continual snit the two had put themselves into, and had recently upped the medications again to compensate.

 

In fact... he looked up at the clock. He had about a half an hour at most before they all hit in full and he would be floating off into la-la land yet again. Not really time enough to do much of anything with what remained of his brief moment of morning cognizance but to lean against the window and burn under the magnifying glass, like the little ant he'd become.

 

Drooping there very much like a sunburned ant, he sighed for the umpteenth time that morning. Did ants sigh? Good question, that... well, he was an ant, and he sighed, so there you had it. Not that there was anything else for him to do. He wished there was something a bit more challenging than soggy checkers to occupy one's more rational moments, but apparently chess pieces posed too dangerous a threat to Chin's alimentary canal. Nor was there was anyone to play with; his fellow patients were to a man absolute idiots who found even Duck-Duck Goose too great of a challenge. Perhaps he could petition his doctors to be moved into the hospital's Crazed Supervillain Wing. No one he was currently quartered with had enough grey matter in their heads to create a diabolical death ray in order to enslave the world, and those sorts of people had to be housed somewhere, didn't they? One would have thought being convicted of killing a thousand people would have given him an automatic membership into that club. He should have opted for killing them en masse instead of one-at-a-time; the latter seemed to have put him into the Mass Murderer category instead, which meant he had ended up here and not with His Own Kind, People Who Knew How to Play Chess Without Eating the Pieces. It was a clear case of mistaken sentencing on his part, and he really needed to be moved to a place where one's knight was moved to queen's bishop three, and not topped with whipped cream and a side of lemon yellow crayon.

 

"My my, but our view of illusory freedom is absolutely breathtaking today, isn't it Mr. Cho. All bright, and sunny... and how are we this fine morning?"

 

He turned slowly towards the voice; it was the Child himself today, not some nameless lackey sent to collect him. He supposed the honor deserved some sort of actual response, so he made the supreme effort to swim up out of the drugs to answer.

 

"Dr. Nii."

 

The man reeked of cigarettes. There had to be some way of getting a smoke out of him, he had to understand what it was like. Apparently neither Cho smoked, which he seriously suspected was a part of the reason one if not both of them had become a homicidal maniac. But Nii couldn't smoke here, either; the whole of the hospital seemed to be a no-smoking area. Not that he'd been through the rest of the building to know for certain. He could see through the windows that the place was rather large, but he'd never been out of the maximum security wing, at least not while conscious.  He tried once, only to find that after a certain point the doors were locked. Also bolted, barred, alarmed, videotaped, and he suspected patrolled by angry pit bulls.

 

"How would you like to take a walk with me, Mr. Cho?"

 

So, it was his time today after all. He pushed off of the window sill and waited a moment as the meds settled lower in the gravitational field. He didn't mind his integrative therapy sessions with Nii, not really. Anything that might get him out of this place. Anything to alleviate the boredom. Even a bit of the Talking Cure was better than this pointless march of nothingness into nowhere.

 

"Lead the way, Doctor."

 

It all came out rather slurred, but he liked to pretend he was getting used to that. Nii grinned again in that childish way of his before turning and shuffling off. He was clicking his pen, on and off, on and off. It worked like a beacon through the drug haze as he followed behind to the private consultation room.

 

 

"My, my, Mr. Cho, but you are a fascinating case. So few true Disassociative Identity patients around here to study, let alone one that is such a stunning antisocial psychopath on top of it all. Quite the little over-achiever, aren't we? I have to say my cup absolutely runneth over with you."

 

He seemed to have been nodding off again, because he hadn't remembered getting into the room, or for that matter sitting down. It was a pity; he liked the consultation room quite a lot, and wanted to be there when he was there. It was nice and dark, the chairs were large and cushioned and more comfortable than his bed. Then there was the smell from the bookcase-

 

"But, it isn't Mr. Cho at all today, is it? May I ask to whom I am speaking? No, wait- let me guess..."

 

He managed to force his focus back towards Nii. He was leaning back in the chair opposite, dramatically backlit by the floor lamp. The clicking symphony had been abandoned and had been replaced by his tapping of the pen on his bottom lip. He was quite sure it was for effect only- Nii often seemed compelled to follow some sort of internal script, stage directions and all. This one seemed to be another one of his comedies. A half smile curled gratuitously behind the pen, right on cue.

 

"Mr. Tenpou, isn't it."

 

Tenpou blinked back at the man. This was the first time in days he hadn't been addressed by that unfortunate surname.

 

"How did you come to that conclusion?"

"Ah, it is you, I thought as much... so nice to have you here again, Mr. Tenpou. You're so much more cooperative than our friend Mr. Cho. I have to say I've honestly missed your company."

 

Nii sniggered a bit and clicked his pen. A few notes were hastily scribbled into the patient files. Tenpou wondered what it was that had given him away. Most people just assumed he was Cho; the name was the only one on his identification bracelet, after all... he found himself staring at the gibberish on his wrist once again, even though the medications were making reading just plain difficult. His heart sank a bit with that realization; once upon a time, he could have taken it all in instantaneously. Cho Gonou... Max. Sec. # 210 ... ICD-10 F44.8, comorbid ICD-10 F60.2...

 

"But to answer you; as you probably already guessed, my question was a rhetorical one. It was quite obvious that you weren't our gregarious Mr. Cho. Mr. Cho smiles. A... bit... too... much, one could say."

"Which Cho?"

"Cho Hakkai, of course. But, don't you know? Hasn't he told you? Our elusive Mr. Gonou has not shown his pretty little face since the day you were incarcerated. Actually, since absolutely everyone has placed all those nasty, horrifying crimes solely on his effeminate little shoulders, I'm not all that surprised. If I were him, I wouldn't show myself, either. But I have been informed by our allegedly lone Cho that Mr. Gonou is actually dead, and not, as they say, on the lam."

 

The pen twirled and tapped as Nii gave him That Look. Tenpou waited for the punch line.

 

"I wonder... if he's truly dead... would that make the total body count... 1,200 and oh, 17, then?"

"I was under the impression he went for the even grand."

"Well, the man is obsessive-compulsive, but not that exact in his mathematics. Plus the police are claiming his sister as one of the victims, though he still firmly insists otherwise."

 

Nii always talked about the Chos in the third person, which made Tenpou like him at least somewhat. Even if the man was simply humoring him; it was beyond irritating to be called Cho all the time. From all he'd been able to gather Cho Hakkai was an absolute pain in the ass, and he would rather not be associated with the idiot any more than he had to be.

 

With that unhappy thought Tenpou's hand wandered up to his ear and rubbed at the scars there. After the murders, one of the Chos had taken a staple gun to their collective ear to "contain the demon inside," or some such rubbish. They still ached every once in awhile, though not as much as the scar on his stomach from what was apparently a failed seppuku attempt. Apparently Cho had a talent for killing pretty much anyone and anything but himself. Merciful goddess, but he hated the man. Hated them both, in fact. If they wanted to die so badly, let them do it already. Decrease the surplus population in his body. If Nii was to be believed, one of them had already kicked- which certainly sounded promising. There had to be a way of ridding himself of the other one as well.

 

He dropped his hand from his ear as his head did a bit of a loop to the side. The new prescription strengths made holding anything upright for any length of time- be it hand or head- too much of an effort.

 

"Are you finding your medications a bit too strong, Mr. Tenpou? It seems you're having problems with simple coordination activities."

 

Tenpou let his head flop back on the chair. He was risking falling asleep completely by doing it, but too bad. If they wanted him to stay awake, they needed to stop pumping him with half the pharmacy. He wasn't the homicidal maniac, after all. They were.

 

"No 'Mister,' please. And yes. A little."

 

He couldn't tell if there was a pause from Nii or if time was drifting again.

 

"Ah yes, that's correct. No surnames for the gods, are there? Just rank. Marshal Tenpou, wasn't it?"

 

Another pause. Tenpou lifted his head and blinked to clear the blur as he tried one more time to focus. A pair of eyeglasses gleamed at him from out of the dark hole he assumed to be the doctor's face. He shouldn't have bothered to make the effort; Nii didn't really seem to care if his question was answered or not. He was back to following his internal script. Tenpou seemed to be simply part of the set dressing.

 

"I have to say... Marshal... that I always find it quite fascinating that no one ever claims to be reincarnated from a plumber. Not even a heavenly one."

 

Suddenly the room hiccupped. Nii was saying something, but the words weren't following each other in anything near a coherent order. The full drug cocktail was finally hitting the bloodstream. I'm sorry, but our time is up...  

 

"My my, but this won't do at all. You can hardly sit up, let alone have a decent conversation... or an indecent one, for that matter. Our beloved Dr. Hwan does love to knock out the fun ones with her one-two punch. We're going to have to tweak the strength of those medications of yours a teensy bit, aren't we?"

 

Nii seemed to be leaning over to the side, making some sort of clicking sound with his hand on the desk. It began to talk in a tinny voice. He answered it

 

"Yes, please have someone come to the consultation room to escort Mr. Cho back to his room. And tell our lovely Dr. Hwan to call me at my office as soon as she's available, would you?"

 

The clicking stopped and Nii righted himself as the room lurched once more. Tenpou was thinking he might lose his breakfast if this kept up for much longer. He wondered if Nii would mind terribly if his shoes were dirtied in the process. They seemed somewhat expensive, with some sort of strange design on the toes... oxfords, one of the Chos provided helpfully from somewhere in the darker recesses of his head. Damn it, this was his time, not theirs. He pushed the Cho back down and locked him out. Alright, oxfords.

 

"Yes, yes, we are definitely going to have to rethink your current pill cocktail. How will I ever be able to enjoy your lovely companionship if you're constantly nodding off like this?"

 

Nii got up and walked off somewhere into the far corners of the room. Tenpou lost track of him until he suddenly reappeared again, almost in his lap.

 

"Before you go, Tenpou... I promised you a quid pro quo last time, now didn't I? You stroke my back, I stroke yours..."

 

There seemed to be a ghosting of said stroking going on up and down his back. Still, who knew if it was really there. Those spiders crawling all over his legs last week hadn't been real, either. They had apparently been a side-effect of a medication they had since thankfully abandoned.

 

"I've been finding it difficult to bring you exactly what I had promised, as I'm never quite sure just when it will be you and not our mutual friend who will show up to these entertaining little meetings of ours. I do hope this will do for now."

 

Tenpou did his best to concentrate on what had been placed on his hands... a book. It was a book... his fingertips made their shaky way across the cover. As the room reeled about him he squinted and blinked, trying to decipher the title. No vowels, it seemed be an acronym of some sort. DSM III...

 

"It's been since revised, so this copy will simply go to waste if you don't take it. Waste not, want not as they say. I do hope you find some sort of enjoyment out of it. It had me chuckling for hours."

 

Oh, yes... it didn't matter what it was about, it was a book. He still didn't understand why they couldn't have a proper library in this place- he refused to dignify the pile of torn magazines in the Community Room with such a designation.  Libraries had books, not old copies of Sports Illustrated... as he wrapped his arms tightly around his treasure the door opened. An antiseptic brightness poured into the room, nearly obliterating the tall shadow that stood looming in the center of it.

 

"Yes, Dou... please help Mr. Cho to his room, would you? Mr. Cho, I'll see what we can do about your medication levels. In the meantime, please try to enjoy your quite legal, drug-induced high as best you can. We'll talk later, Mr. Cho. Have a lovely day now."

 

Another stroke down his back and then someone's hands grasped his upper arms and lifted him up off the chair. Clutching the diagnostic manual tightly to his chest, he shuffled beside the shadow back out into the sun, only to be dissolved into nothingness by the morning light.

 

Autumn

 

He woke up with the impression that a somewhat significant amount of time had passed since he had last been awake. A few days in the very least, if not a week or more. He was never exactly sure what made him think such, but it had happened often enough that by now the feeling of disconnection it brought had become a common enough occurrence, unmistakable... he blinked a few times at the ceiling as his form gradually began to solidify and connect with his thoughts. The drug haze seemed somehow different today, heady, and strange... though still not as bad as it had once been. After Nii had remixed the cocktail as promised he rarely found himself doing a spontaneous face plant anymore. As his mind slowly swam up from out of the muck he tried to bring the room into better focus. Not his room, not even remotely. In fact, this one might actually be padded... he squinted a bit, but gained no further information from the effort. Did they even do padded rooms, or was that just an urban myth?

 

Obviously straitjackets were still in use... he lifted up his head and looked down at his body. He hadn't recalled ever wearing one of these things before. A few tentative pulls of his arms to test its efficiency and yes, yes, he was quite stuck. His shoulders were screaming from the odd angle they'd been forced into, so he must have been restrained in the damned thing for quite some time already. Looking at it, one would have thought more movement would have been possible, but his arms had only a few inches of give either way so there was no way to alleviate the pain. He flopped his head back down onto the bed and snorted in irritation. Tried pulling again, a bit harder, but all it accomplished was to make the crotch bind tightly which was more painful still. He growled in frustration, his mood quickly kindling into an all-out conniption, even though he knew it would do him little good to lose his temper. They'd just use it as an excuse to keep him in this thing, and he wanted out of it, now... he breathed in slowly and deeply a few times, trying to calm himself down before it got away from him and totally out of control. Deep, deep breaths. Yes, he was calm. Oh so very calm...

 

He twisted his head around, blinking at a fuzzy dark rectangle in the far wall he assumed to be the door. That little square at the top was likely an observation window. Hopefully there was a guard on duty and someone had noticed he was awake, because the more conscious he became, the worse the pain in his arms. Patience, patience... he stared for awhile at the ceiling and waited. Waiting, always waiting...  they also serve, who only sit and wait... was that the quote? Too much of a trouble to recall, really... his brain was still far too muddled for anything more than a poor simulacrum of coherence. A chronic condition as of late. Once upon a time, it had all been up there, all of it- but he had lost a lot by waking up in Cho. It wasn't like Cho was stupid, far from it, but there was something... wrong... with him. Very wrong. Something that devoured the mind, ate at the soul. Some of the drugs were meant to fix that imbalance, but he wondered just how effective they really were, if Cho had truly been worse at some point. He couldn't imagine living in a mind like that. It was so fractured now, as it was...

 

Not happy thoughts. He changed the subject. Something upbeat, something not hospital related... he tried to let his mind expand, feeling the earth beneath him, spinning on its elliptical trajectory through the vast emptiness in which they all existed. Not that big of a stretch to imagine, really; his head was already reeling a bit with the medications. Above him, his mind saw the stars wandering about happily on their little predetermined paths across the heavens, making their astrological pronouncements upon the little ants unfortunate enough to be caught crawling beneath them. He wondered just what the sky looked like at that very moment above the hospital, what it was that the stars were trying to warn him about... the ceiling remained a firmly closed book on that front, refusing to tell him anything. Don't worry your pretty little head over it, the ceiling insisted in that irritatingly blank way it had. You'll know soon enough.

 

He hadn't seen an open sky since... well, since never. Not in this body. Cho had memories of the outer world, of the stars stretching out into infinity above him, of the cold biting perfection of snow upon his face- but Tenpou had no memories of it himself. His universe began and ended here, within the same suffocating maximum security tomb he'd been sealed in since he had first reawakened. It was the only thing of Cho's that Tenpou truly coveted, those memories. It touched deeply on the one thing they both shared in common; an overwhelming desire to breathe the air, to smell real cherry blossoms once again.

 

He shifted carefully to wipe his face on the straitjacket before he went back to staring past the ceiling at the imagined sky. What time of day was it now... was he looking up into bright blue, or a field of stars? How did that saying go... we are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars... yes, that was it. It sounded so nicely egalitarian, but he had found out the hard way that inspirational starlight notwithstanding, not all gutters were created equal. In fact, he was pretty damned sure he had landed in a particularly deep and filthy one. One he had yet to find a bottom to. One that he suspected didn't even have an "up," no matter which direction you turned. One in which he hadn't found even a glimmer of starlight to look towards.

 

There was the unmistakable click and jingle of a key set being turned in the door, so at least it seemed that the gutter snipe did in the very least have a guard on duty at his little hole of a sewer today. He turned his head just in time to see the blurry lab coat waltzing in.

 

"Ah, you are awake, Mr. .... Oh! Mr. Tenpou, isn't it?"

 

Tenpou had to clear his throat a few times to get anything out. It seemed it really had been awhile. His vocal chords felt as if they had been sitting unused for centuries.

 

"You're getting better at that."

"So gratified that you noticed. But it's easy, really. The difference between the two of you is plain as the nose on your face. So good to see you again... Marshal."

 

Tenpou blinked up in curiosity at the blur. It might be clear enough to Nii, but the nurses and orderlies still never seemed to notice a difference. They all continually acted as if he were Cho. He really couldn't see it, but he could certainly hear that the man's irritating grin was firmly set in place.

 

"I'm sure it's quite... humiliating for you to find yourself in this rather...  undignified position, isn't it, Mr. Tenpou? Do you have any idea at all why you're here... this time?"

 

He shook his head. Nii sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over him, pressing his fingertips here and there to check on his pulse and what have you before he brushed the hair away from Tenpou's eyes. The long hand slid lightly down, cupped his cheek just a little too long before the pen light came out, eyelids were pulled back and his pupils checked. Tenpou blinked away the dots in his vision. Nii stood back up and started writing on his clip board. His tongue clicked in disappointment.

 

"I'm afraid that our Mr. Cho has been... acting out again, Mr. Tenpou... tsk tsk, and he'd been doing so well, as of late... as to what he did this time around; he force-fed poor Mr. Chin one of his checkers. It might not sound particularly gruesome when stated as such, but let's just say Mr. Cho didn't quite like the set of orifices which nature provided him for checker insertion, and felt compelled to create an entirely new hole better suited to his specifications. Fortunately a plastic checker isn't a particularly effective choice in an assault weapon, or Mr. Chin would be suffering from far more than the black eye and severe lacerations across his chest that he's currently sporting."

 

The pen clicked on and off a few times as Nii started rifling back through the papers on the clip board, chuckling to himself over the latest knee-slapper in his internal joke book. Tenpou really had no interest in knowing what it was. Somehow, he was loath to try and get into the man's head in any way. Nii chuckled again and said nothing. It was rather obvious that he was baiting Tenpou by not telling him everything. Having nothing better to do, Tenpou took the bait. After all, he was already well-caught, and he doubted the man could do anything worse to him at this point than a padded room and a straitjacket.

 

"Why?"

"Why?"

 

Nii sounded triumphant. Or amused. Both. He clutched the clip board to his chest and grinned from ear to ear.

 

"Why, Marshal, you of all people should know better than to ask why a lunatic does anything at all, let alone why one would attack someone using a game piece, serrated edges or no."

 

There were a few clicks in the pause. At first Tenpou had assumed Nii had gone back to playing with the ubiquitous pen, but then he realized it was actually chewing gum being snapped. Another dead giveaway that the man was a smoker. Gods, but he could use a cigarette right now...

 

"But it's not like our Mr. Cho didn't have an answer for the conundrum as to why; in fact, he was still screaming it at the top of his lungs when he was finally subdued and sedated. Apparently, Mr. Chin's dolly was trying to turn another patient into a houseplant, and Mr. Cho felt it his civic duty to protect the man."

 

Nii was bending back down again, feeling along the encased arms. Tenpou grunted a bit when one of his elbows was squeezed a bit too hard and the throbbing became even worse than it had already been. Nii attempted to rub a bit of circulation into the area to ease the pain.

 

"Of course it had me wondering, I mean, wouldn't you? So naturally I had to ask him why he felt imbedding a checker into the man's chest was the best solution to an impending threat of Conversion to Boston Fern Through a Raggedy Anne as Vector Host, and I have to say his answer to that was One For the Ages, my dear Marshal. It seems he attacked Mr. Chin with the checker piece because there were no mah jong sets in the Community Room for him to use. Obviously he had to improvise. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? I have to say that in times of crisis, ingenuity provides the human animal with the most interesting solutions to life's little dilemmas."

 

Nii clucked his tongue and brushed his hand across Tenpou's cheek one more time, the fingers pleasantly cool on the overheated skin. It actually felt a bit too good for Tenpou's liking. He had to suppress the urge to lean into the touch.

 

"I am sorry this was necessary, Mr. Tenpou, but Mr. Cho was quite agitated and we saw no other way of containing him to our...  complete satisfaction... a bit uncomfortable, is it? Believe me, at the time it was quite unavoidable. Don't worry; we'll soon have the orderly taking it off of you, as quick as a bunny."

 

The fingers stayed where they were, slowly warming against his cheek. Tenpou did his best to ignore the awkwardness of the situation as the hand once again gently pushed the encroaching hair back. He coughed out an attempt at a more complex sentence. One that was at least long enough to be diagramed.

 

"I thought Chin's dolls were confiscated."

"Ah, yes. They were. This was a rag doll the staff had given Mr. Chin in compensation for the others, you see. The poor man becomes quite despondent without his dolls. Some of the nurses thought that a new one might help with his therapy."

 

Nii suddenly got up and sat in a bedside chair that Tenpou hadn't noticed. Things certainly weren't adding up. Why put a chair in a padded cell? Didn't that defeat the whole purpose of the exercise?

 

"Of course, as you can plainly tell the new doll made matters even worse, which I did tell them would happen, of course... but alas, my protests fell on deaf ears and I was voted down. You see what became of it. They really should listen to the man's doctor once in awhile, wouldn't you agree?"

 

More clipboard scribbling. More gum snapping. Tenpou didn't respond since he doubted the man would even notice if he did. The pen finally clicked off and migrated to sit with the others in the breast pocket.

 

"No, I have to say I knew it wouldn't work from the start. Mr. Chin's obsession is rather particular, centered on fashion dolls- you know, the ones with the bendable wires in their otherwise rubbery extremities. Barbie doll dolls- though he seems to have no actual brand loyalty per se, so whether it's been made by Mattel or not doesn't seem to matter to him. He just likes them small, large bosomed, and somewhat poseable."

 

It amazed Tenpou how the man could make absolutely everything he said sound like an innuendo of some sort. Quite a feat, if one cared to think about it; and really, what else was he going to think about while stuck in a straitjacket with the man jabbering away at him? Nii set the clip board on the floor and stretched his back. An audible crack came when he cocked his head to one side.

 

"I know what you're thinking- that he likes to undress them, do unspeakable things with their tiny little bodies. But that isn't it, you know. Not at all. That's what's so very intriguing about his little obsession of his."

 

Actually, it wasn't what Tenpou was thinking in the least, but he wasn't at all surprised Nii would think he would think such a thing. Nii seemed the type to be doing unspeakable things to his own hidden cache of Barbie dolls in his office late at night. Nii leaned back, pushing his chair onto its back legs.

 

"No, Mr. Chin isn't even remotely interested in their tiny genitalia-deprived torsos. It's the heads he's interested in. Only the heads. Isn't that precious? It's all that long, pretty hair. You see... he pops off their heads, and then swallows them, whole. He tells me that he loves the feel as it goes sliding down his throat...so nice, and long, and slippery..."

 

Nii's hand was following a suggestive trail down his neck into his gullet to emphasize. He seemed inordinately tickled by the whole idea. When he got to the bottom he patted his belly in satisfaction.

 

"But alas, they won't pass all the way through, you see. None of that wonderful slipperiness was coming back out the other end. We pulled over two dozen doll's heads out of his stomach all told. But I'm afraid the hospital can no longer afford to cater to the man's hirsute gastronomical whims, not when surgery is such a very expensive undertaking. Especially on the public's dime. So, no more dollies."

 

Nii shrugged in sympathy, though even without his glasses Tenpou could tell he was still a bit too amused by the whole thing. After a bit of soundless chuckling the chair suddenly lurched forward again and the front legs hit the floor with a thud. Nii's body followed the momentum and lurched back over the bed. He returned to studying Tenpou's face. Entirely too slowly. Or maybe it was the drugs messing with his sense of time again, hard to say. Finally Nii's attention wandered further down to the trusses. His fingers began to trace some of the straitjacket's contours as he spoke.

 

"I suppose, Marshal, that the time has come to call the orderlies so we can get you out of your pretty little jacket and wheel you back to your room. Though quite becoming, I'm sure it's getting more than a trifle uncomfortable. For you."

 

Fingers strayed a bit further down, as did the eyes. 

 

"I've been told the crotch strap can be especially troublesome for someone as... endowed... as yourself. Tsk, tsk... it's not even useful as a masturbation tool, is it? At least not for the gentlemen. You'd think it would be; it sits in just the right spot, after all." A dramatic sigh. "But then nothing works out quite as planned in this dark little world of ours."

 

Actually, he was right about at least a part of that; the strap had been rubbing him very much the wrong way ever since he tried to move his arms. Mentioning it again only made matters worse, and his body shifted about in another vain attempt to try and alleviate the pressure. Nii was back to studying his face. Seriously studying it, searching for something. The smarmy grin wasn't there, which made the intensity of the gaze immensely uncomfortable. Tenpou looked up at him uneasily, worried about its sudden disappearance. The man perpetually grinned, and suddenly out of nowhere- it wasn't there. Instead, he looked almost concerned. Almost.

 

"Would you like some help with that...Tenpou? I can't remove the entire jacket, but I can at least help you fix that particular little problem. Hn?"

 

Tenpou kept staring at him in a drugged silence, wondering what it was he was missing. Something important had just been asked in the undercurrent, but he hadn't been running on full cylinders since he'd been put in this place, and whatever they pumped into him this time wasn't making coherent thought any easier. The whole non-conversation seemed loaded and dangerous, something that he'd be wise to tread through very carefully. Unfortunately he was so doped up at the moment he doubted he could stand, let alone walk through one of Nii's double entendre mine fields. So he blinked instead. The hair had fallen back into his eyes.

 

Nii seemed to take his mute stare as a leave of some sort; the knowing leer slowly crept its way back across his face as he stood up and leaned in even closer. Tenpou felt a firm yank on his crotch as the buckle was worked free.

 

"Oh dear... I see that Li has gotten the thing rather tight, hasn't he? My, but he must have been enjoying himself. No wonder it's been bothering you so very much."

 

A few more strong tugs and then suddenly the blood began to pour back into the area. Tenpou had to close his eyes and bite back a moan at the blissful, yet painful sensation. His eyes snapped back open a moment later when the bottom of the jacket was lifted so that his pants could be pulled down.

 

"Ah, yes... you will be pleased to hear that there's no permanent damage to report. Everything still seems to be in the fullness of youthful vigor." Cool fingertips trailed slowly across his inner thighs, first one, then the other. Nii sighed. "Such a very full vigor, too... I'm quite sure he gets very lonely down there, with your hands unavailable as they so often are. Mr. Cho seems to deem any sort of sensuality sans sibling a sinful activity, so one wonders just how long it has been for the poor thing...."

 

The hand pointedly moved to palm his crotch and Tenpou's body jerked away in an automatic reaction. It was the first that he realized that his feet seemed to be restrained to the bed. He grunted in surprise and tried them once again to be sure. Nii leaned in closer and tried to catch his eyes, clucking his tongue and hushing him as if he were a frightened horse. He pushed the hair back once again, petting Tenpou's face reassuringly.

 

"Ah, ah... now now, Mr. Tenpou. I told you I'd help you take care of things, but you'll have to trust me a little on this, now won't you? Or, could it be that you... enjoy.... the pretense of a struggle?"

 

Tenpou kept his eyes firmly locked on the grinning face above him. Nii seemed to be searching his eyes for some sort of reaction to his advances. His body was actually giving him one, hardening almost immediately as Nii began a slow, steady rhythm with his hand. His face felt hot, as if he were blushing. Their eyes never left each other's.

 

"Oh, yes, that's it, isn't it... there's something so attractive about being tied down like this... restrained, at my mercy... it's not your fault, if the doctor touches you indecently, is it... there's nothing you can do, but submit..."

 

His eyes drifted shut as his hips began to match the rhythm, heat already pooling in his belly. He could hear Nii's breath quickening while he continued to mutter out a low litany of obscenities. It had been awhile since anyone had touched him at all, so it didn't take long. As his body snapped up and he started to spurt into the man's hand, Nii actually moaned louder than he did.

 

"Oh yes... that's it, such a good boy... show me how much you want it. Come for me."

 

He jerked against the restraints a couple times as Nii milked him dry. The peak fell off and he fell back onto the bed, his entire body tingling and numb. Combined with the medications, his senses reeled as if he were drunk. Nii's excited breathing hovered loudly not all that far away, still watching. Tenpou wasn't sure which was more surprising; that he had actually gotten off on being masturbated by Nii while tied up in a straitjacket, or that Nii had gotten off on doing it. Maybe he really was as sick as his patient bracelet claimed he was.

 

Nii calmly sat back down on the chair and pulled a large handkerchief from his coat pocket. He continued to watch Tenpou's face as he quietly cleaned his hands. Broke the eye contact briefly as he moved on to Tenpou's crotch. Quite matter-of-factly closed the pants, then shoved the cloth back into his pocket as if it were all something he did every day. Who knew, maybe it was... Tenpou studied Nii in return. No, it wasn't; the man might be trying to act nonchalant, but he looked flushed, jittery, a bit too excited for this to be anything close to a regular occurrence. Nii got up and sat back on the bed, leaning in a bit closer, bracing himself with a hand close enough to Tenpou's head that he could smell the spunk still clinging to the man's skin. The free hand brushed the hair back from his face repeatedly, petting him as he unabashedly stared into unfocused eyes.  Licked his dried lips as his fingers traced almost reverently across Tenpou's flushed face, wandering across the cheekbone and down along the jaw line. Mapping him.

 

Nii's breath caught as he tried to speak, breaking his carefully constructed veneer of indifference. 

 

"Such a pretty man, aren't you. So much more beautiful than Mr. Cho... it's times like this I don't doubt in the least that you were once a god."  The fingers moved to trail across a lip. The feeling was raw and exposed, so much more intimate than the hand job had been. "Such a pretty, pretty face... you really shouldn't hide such beauty away behind all that hair. But then again, that means no one gets to see you but me, now doesn't it? Are you for my eyes alone, beautiful?"

 

Another pregnant moment as Nii studied Tenpou's features, taking them in as if trying to memorize them for a future masturbation session. His breath hissed out in a long, slow sigh through his nose. A moment's pause before he suddenly sat back as if slapped. He quickly leaned over to grab his clipboard, a bit of adjustment to his lab coat, and then turned and walked straight out of the door. Hopefully to fetch an orderly. Tenpou stared up at the ceiling, listening as the footsteps retreated down the hall at a clipped pace.

 

That had certainly been... interesting. He decided not to think about just how twisted the whole incident was, not until later. Much, much later. Right now, all he was going to concentrate on accomplishing was getting out of the straitjacket so that his arms would stop screaming. After that, he wanted to sleep. Hopefully for a long, long time... maybe he'd be lucky, and Cho would take over for the next few days. For once, he actually hoped the man would. He really didn't want to have to come to terms with what had just happened yet. He dropped in and out of an approximation of a post-coital slumber while he laid there, patiently waiting for someone to show up and set him free.

 

Winter

 

"Mr. Cho. Wake up."

 

Someone's hand was shaking his shoulder. Tenpou blinked awake to find Dou staring down at him.

 

"It's time for your therapy session, Mr. Cho."

"Yes. Thank you."

"You know the drill."

"Yes. Yes."

 

Dou stood up to give him room. The manacle sets were tossed onto the bed as Tenpou carefully set his feet on the floor, waiting for his head spin to settle. Dou obligingly set out his slippers and Tenpou wiggled his feet into them as he slowly and deliberately placed his hands on the bed one at a time, in full sight. His left foot began to be strapped into its restraint.

 

Gods, but he hated Cho. This little routine had been going on for at least a year now, ever since the idiot had pulled the checker stunt and put poor Chin into the infirmary. Considering all the crap they kept pumping into his system to keep him docile, it was rather flattering to think that the hospital felt it necessary to do this to him each and every time he went to his therapy session.

 

Flattering, but accurate.

 

"Could you pass me my glasses, please?"

"Sure thing, Mr. Cho."

 

Once they were on he looked over to the door to see which guard he had today. Kou. Kou and Dou, the dynamic duo again. Li hadn't been around since... well, maybe he'd been transferred. Or maybe he just wasn't out of the hospital yet, hard to say. Tenpou wanted to ask, but it was probably better to wait until playtime and ask the Child; no sense in whistling up the wind with these two over that little episode. As it was, the memory of it was still with them in the room, screaming at him in the way they were holding themselves. Wary, tensed, ready for the slightest unexpected movement. Kou seemed especially jumpy, which was rather funny since he was the one that was standing halfway across the room at the moment. But then, besides what happened to Li he supposed Kou had gotten the worst of it. Must've been quite humiliating to have a skinny little otaku like Cho knock all that machismo down a few pegs like that. Those bulging pecs hadn't been quite the same since.

 

Dou tapped Tenpou's leg, finished with the ankle restraints. Tenpou stood up slowly and automatically set his hands behind his head while the belt was put on. He looked back over to Kou, who seemed to have a whole new nasty in his hand. Tenpou could only guess as to its purpose; whatever it was, it wasn't anything like a normal pistol. He had to say the staff had learned their lesson about pistols rather quickly.

 

"What is that thing you have in your hand there, Mr. Kou?"

 

He was sure to add a bit more of a 'sedation slur' into his voice, but they both noticeably flinched anyway. Dou stopped what he was doing, eyeing him warily. After a sufficient pause he went back to work. Kou seemed rather surprised he was being spoken to. Then again, this was probably the first time he acknowledged the man's presence since the Pistol Incident. Dou tapped his side and Tenpou slowly brought his hands down and front, eyes never leaving Kou's new plaything. It looked to be plastic, whatever it was... left wrist restraint on. Kou's eyes followed Tenpou's gaze. He lifted his new toy up for a show and smiled. The man seemed inordinately proud of it, so whatever it was, it had to be pretty effective. At least more effective than his fucking gun had been. Right wrist restraint on.

 

"It's a Taser. Like a cattle prod, for loonies."

 

Cattle prod. Interesting...  he wasn't exactly sure what a cattle prod was, but the mention of it had Dou snorting at the comparison. Another tap and with it he dropped his hands. Even though they were already hooked to each other Dou still hooked both of them to the belt for good measure before he did the final check, kneeling down and tugging here and there at the various attachments until he seemed at least nominally satisfied. He started the pat down. Tenpou turned his attention back from Kou to watch the proceedings, trying to remember if there was anything that was considered contraband in his pockets. Dou stood up and touched his shoulder again, leaning down a bit to look into Tenpou's eyes. He talked slowly and clearly, as if he were speaking to a moron.

 

"OK, Mr. Cho. We're going to go see Dr. Nii now. You walk OK?"

 

Tenpou frowned at the man; he was sedated, not stupid. Cho had to have a much more severe reaction to the new medication than he did; exponentially so. It would be the only thing that made sense in this over-solicitous handling he'd been getting as of late. Solicitous, and sloppy. If they knew exactly how drugged he wasn't, they wouldn't be quite this touchy-feely about the whole thing. Nor would they treat him as if he were a five year-old.

 

"I think so, yes."

 

It had been quite some time ago that he realized the staff didn't tailor the sedative to whichever alter was in control. They just made the obvious assumption that the same body had the same reaction, no matter who was in charge. An intuitively understandable assessment, but in practice surprisingly inaccurate. No one seemed to realize that One Size Didn't Really Fit All, and he had to say that suited him just fine. Let them think he was Cho and drugged out of his mind half the time, he could sure as hell play that game. He still shuddered at the memory of how it had once been, so doped up that he had to be spoon fed by sniggering nurse's aids, openly cracking jokes about him while they wiped the gruel off his chin. As if he was too stupid to understand. He refused to go back to that, those long hateful mornings of sitting there smeared in congee, seething, desperately wanting to wipe those cocky smiles off of their faces permanently. He hated feeling like that, all that impotent humiliation boiling inside of him; it made him feel that he really was no better than Cho. Nothing but an empty crucible, refining rage into a purified hatred. Ready to burn to cinders anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way. He knew he was better than that. At least he had been, once upon a time.

 

Dou stepped away to allow for a trial walk. Tenpou shuffled a few test steps and nodded. Dou's hand slid down to support him under his elbow, squeezing it apologetically.

 

"Lookin' good, Mr. Cho. Let's go."

 

Kou stepped further into the room and to the side to allow them through the door. Dou maneuvered him out of the room using the hand still under his elbow as a rudder, as if he was somehow having trouble keeping to a straight line. Tenpou let him keep right on thinking it. Hell, Cho probably walked into the walls when left unaided, he wouldn't put it past the man. It was a slow trip; the restraints allowed only a few inches of movement so his steps were relatively small, but he still preferred to walk rather than be chained to a wheelchair and rolled to his appointment. Call him old-fashioned, but he liked a little exercise now and again, and Cho's shenanigans were giving him less and less opportunity to indulge in anything beyond the shackle shuffle. Though he had to admit he had done his part to contribute to the current indignities; this last time it hadn't been Cho's doing at all. But it's not like the hospital staff knew that. Nor would they ever, if he had anything to say about it.

 

Through the security doors, past the Spot. It had cleaned up fairly well, though still obvious to anyone who cared to look for it. The blood spatters had been washed away but there was still a gouge where one of his restraint buckles scoured the wall during the scuffle. A few of the floor tiles had been shattered and had yet to be fixed, the hole an open wound for everyone to pretend wasn't there. Dou maneuvered him around the missing section without looking down once.

 

The pistol had admittedly been a stupid stunt on his part, but he was getting increasingly tired of this place and Kou had simply been too easy a target to resist- the man had no idea how to properly carry his firearm. It would have worked much better if he hadn't badly miscalculated the effect of the additional sedatives on his reflexes. Ever since the checker incident they had taken to double dosing him each time he was scheduled to be moved anywhere, changing the meds every few months to keep him on his toes. He hadn't had time to sufficiently study the effects of the newest dosage on his motor coordination before a window of opportunity had presented itself. Oh well, no use crying over any spilt milk on that. Or spilt blood. It wouldn't be the first time he'd made a mistake. Or the last, for that matter. Though it would certainly be the last time he'd make those particular mistakes. Of that he was quite sure.

 

Once they finally turned down Nii's hall, Tenpou judged it far enough from the Spot and looked over to study Kou's bruised face. He had to give the man some credit; he had come right back to work the next day, even with one eye nearly swollen shut. Tenpou hoped that Kou realized it hadn't been personal. He had simply been the one unfortunate enough to be carrying the pistol.

 

"You seem to be healing quite nicely, Mr. Kou."

 

Kou glared at him out of the corner of his eye and moved ever so incrementally away from his side. The Taser came out front and center. Dou chuckled at Kou's reaction and shook his head, squeezing Tenpou's elbow a bit tighter in the process.

 

"I still say, I ain't never seen a loony move that fast before in my life. Where'd you learn those crazy-ass kung fu moves, Mr. Cho? I thought you were a schoolteacher or something."

 

Tenpou frowned slightly at Dou's comment. One would think he would be used to it by now, but somehow it became ever more irritating as time went by.

 

"I've told you before. My name isn't Cho."

 

As predicted, the both of them laughed. Nervously, he was happy to say. They stopped in front of Nii's door. Dou gave it Quirky Double Rap #2. The door answered it with a muffled voice.

 

"Bring him in."

 

The door opened to the perennial grin and clipboard. Tenpou was quickly maneuvered down into the chair. It was surprisingly difficult to sit by oneself with any decree of decorum when shot full of sedatives and trussed like a turkey, so he was actually rather glad for the help. He was about to thank them for it when Nii saved him the effort.

 

"Thank you Dou. Kou. See you boys in about an hour."

"You sure you won't be needing us, doc?"

"I'll be fine. Won't I be fine, Mr. Cho?"

 

Nii looked pointedly at him. Tenpou nodded.

 

"Alright then. Use the pepper spray if you got to, doc."

"Don't worry; I won't be needing it today, thank you. Good-bye."

 

Nii waved cheerfully at the door as it closed. He remained silently perched at the edge of his desk, head cocked like a dog's, watching Tenpou's face as he listened to the two sets of footsteps slowly making their way down the hallway and around the corner. Waited for the distant echo of the security doors latching shut behind them. His grin suddenly broadened.

 

"Tenpou."

"Nii."

"Welcome back. It's been awhile."

 

Nii got up from the desk and dragged his consultation chair across the room. Flopped down into it, his legs spreading widely out to either side. Tenpou wanted to tell him a crotch shot wasn't particularly effective unless the pants were removed first, but he suspected Nii might treat it as if it were a recommendation so he decided not to bother. Nii was staring at him, chewing on his thumb. Waiting. Tenpou waited longer.

 

"That was you this last time, wasn't it."

"What do you mean?"

"What happened to Li last month."

 

Nii's leg started to bounce. Tenpou blanked his face. Added more Slur.

 

"I'm not sure what you're talking about."

"I've seen the security tapes, Marshal. Watched them. Over and over... and over. There was no way in hell that was Cho Hakkai."

 

Tenpou didn't bother to answer, though the mention of security tapes was certainly interesting. Time to start looking for the hidden cameras, because there were nothing in evidence at the spot the Pistol Incident had occurred; part of the reason it happened where it did. It seemed they were more heavily distributed throughout the building than he'd previously assumed. Rather bright on their part, setting out a few obvious security spots as decoys. Brighter than he'd given them credit for. Nii leaned forward, chin resting on clasped hands in a distorted version of one of those praying saints paintings that Cho remembered lining the walls of the orphanage. Eyes narrowed, searching for a flicker of admission somewhere, anywhere in Tenpou's face. Tenpou vacated his eyes, retreating further inside.

 

So, the Child was watching them on hidden security cameras, certainly something to keep in mind from now on. He wondered if Nii kept any copies of them in his files. He'd always wanted to see what Cho looked like; if they had tapes of him, there had to be tapes of his alter as well. He'd been rather careful up until now, so he seriously doubted the man got much more out of them than masturbatory material. What was disturbing about it was that he was not only quite sure that Nii was indeed doing exactly that- beating off as he watched- but that if he bothered to accuse the man of it, all he'd get for his troubles was a gleeful admission and an invitation to join in.

 

Nii seemed to take his silence as confirmation enough and leaned back into his chair again. His jaw spasmed rhythmically. It seemed to be beating up an incredibly unfortunate wad of gum.

 

"I have to say I was impressed, Marshal. Very impressed. Before last week, I would have sworn that it was physically impossible to slam a guard into the ground with enough force to put him into a coma, and then to unarm another, all while heavily sedated and in full restraints. And in the space of thirty seconds. But security cameras don't lie, now do they?"

 

Nii stared at him, daring him not to respond.  Tenpou stared right through him, unresponsive. The gum snapped a few times in the silence.

 

"You even managed to throw Dou halfway across the room. The man's a tank. Easily twice your size. Don't fucking tell me that was Cho."

 

That comment got a blink out of him. Odd, that there was no mention of any qi glow in any of that... perhaps it didn't show up on the cameras. He was quite sure Dou had seen it, that double-take the man had given right before he was slammed into the wall was undoubtedly a reaction to the light. Seen it, but hadn't believed his own eyes. Still, Nii seemed totally unaware that he had finally been able to call up a bit of war god qi. It could be a bluff of some sort on his part, omitting an obvious particular to try and draw him out into talking. Tenpou doubted that was the case; Nii wasn't very good at bluffing, and the man knew he wasn't. Which meant of course that security cameras did lie. Or at least committed sins of omission. Tenpou almost smiled at the realization of what that implied.

 

Nii chewed away, waiting. Cocked his head to the side to crack his neck. They sat there in silence while Nii watched for any indication that he might break. He didn't. It was times like this that the sedative actually proved useful; Tenpou just drifted on the clouds they created and let time slip by for a bit. The gum snapped in irritation before Nii finally lost the battle again.

 

"Tell me one thing, Tenpou... if you hadn't been pumped with enough lorazepam at the time to choke a horse, would Li have survived?"

"Probably not."

 

Nii's grin suddenly split his face, his jaw working away as if his life depended upon it. He could feel the man literally buzzing from where he sat three feet away; in fact, he seemed to be fast approaching critical mass. Tenpou wondered whether he would be blamed if Nii's head should suddenly explode during what was technically supposed to be Cho's integrative therapy session. Instead of the expected detonation, Nii clucked his tongue and shook his head. Chewing, chewing, chewing, as if the gum was his pressure release valve.

 

"I knew it. I just knew it... and here, all this time... we all thought Cho was the dangerous one. You certainly had me fooled. But I can see now that we had no idea, none... what we were dealing with. Did we?"

 

Tenpou blinked but didn't respond. He'd said his part. To be honest, he wasn't even sure why he'd given him that much, but the man had seemed so needy... still, he certainly wasn't going to get anything more out of him on the subject. Nii scooted his chair closer so that their knees were nearly touching. He leaned in, his eyes glittering sharp points of light through the lens glare.

 

"He's nothing compared to you, is he? Cho might have the bigger body count... but his violence is nothing more than an unfocussed scream of pain. Mindless. Easy enough to step out of the way as it comes barreling on through. Yours, on the other hand, it's... austere. Precise. I'd almost call it poetic."

 

Nii flopped back into the chair again. Another dramatic head shake, another snap. Chew, chew, chew... it took all of Tenpou's will not to stand up and scream at the idiot to spit out the goddamned gum already.

 

"A pity for you the gun wasn't loaded. It must have come as such a surprise."

 

A hand came up quite suddenly, index finger barrel aimed directly at Tenpou's forehead.

 

"To pull that trigger, hear that 'click'..." the thumb twitched, a sound effect helpfully supplied by Nii, "...and then... nothing."

 

Nii's 'gun' flopped into his lap, dead and useless. Then his hands spread out in a gesture of apology.  He looked almost sincere. Almost.

 

"Kou was certainly the lucky one that day, wasn't he? Luckier than poor Li, anyway. I have to say you knocked quite a few IQ points out of that old noggin with that neat little trick of yours. If and when he gets back, we'll need to reassign him to something that those newly rearranged neurons can handle. Probably something in the 'Mop and Bucket' Division. Oh, don't worry your pretty little head too much about the boy; believe me, he's still got a job here. Gotta love those unions."

 

Nii's knee resumed its bounce. Tenpou's eyes drifted away from the infuriatingly smug shit-eating grin only to land on an obvious bulge in the man's trousers that he wasn't remotely trying to hide. Who knew that Nii had a violence fetish to quite this level; he seemed about ready to come in his pants over whatever fantasies he might be having over Li's severe brain trauma. No wonder he'd volunteered to take on Cho's case for the state.

 

Nii's back arched as if in arousal to punctuate. He dangled his head over the back of the chair, shaking it incredulously.

 

"But man oh man... it was even at point-blank range. You meant to execute the man. The back of his skull would have come right off..." another sound effect, another snicker. The head popped back up, grinning from ear to ear. "Believe me, it would have been a mess to have cleaned that up... poor little Flora would have been absolutely beside herself. 'No no no, Meester Doctore! Me no cleaning up dee brains, no no...'"

 

Nii shook his head and waggled his hands in the coarsest impression Tenpou had ever been forced to witness, then chortled at his own performance. As usual, Nii didn't seem to even care if Tenpou participated in any sort of verbal exchange or not; he was off on one of his own little tangents again, happily amusing himself. Nothing to do now but to sit through the performance until the intermission, wait for his hour of therapy to be up. He was severely tempted to see if he could call in Cho to take over for the remainder of the session. Nii would be absolutely furious if he did.

 

"So now you know our Great Big Secret; the guards aren't actually allowed to carry loaded firearms while on the hospital grounds. For intimidation only. Oh, I agree, it makes absolutely no sense, but it is what it is. That Taser, however, is fully functional. And trust me; you don't want to feel its effects."

 

Yes, yes, he had figured out that the pistol had been useless by the second empty chamber. No news there. He had gambled, and lost, and now he was back to square one. Back to being chained up with Cho. It was definitely time for him to say goodbye to this so-called conversation; the Child was having far too much fun with his gloating today, and he'd be damned if he was going to participate in torturing himself any further. Tenpou let his mind drift, staring blindly at the man's lab coat for awhile. It seemed to be brand new; his name with attendant acronyms was now neatly embroidered over the breast pocket. The name of a sleep-aid that the hospital favored was printed on the pocket itself, along with its logo of a sleepy little rabbit. Tenpou's eyes drooped along with the bunny's. He suddenly felt very, very tired.  

 

"You want to get out of here, don't you. So very badly."

 

Tenpou's eyes drifted back up to Nii's face again despite himself. Nii shook his head in an overdone sadness.

 

"You can't, you know- escape. In over seventy years, no one's ever managed to do it. There's only two ways out of here; to be killed, or to be cured. Oh, and don't go thinking that cured is your ticket to freedom, either. Once I sign the papers that say you're sane, you'd simply be transferred over to the nearest federal prison. No pretty little trees growing outside of the windows to look at over there, you know. Their décor is absolutely atrocious. So, except for that sweet, lovely little plaything your new cellmate 'Snake' would be getting out of the deal, where would be the fun in any of that?"

 

Tenpou's attention drifted back to the bunny. Though it was something he had always assumed, this was the first time the truth had ever been spoken aloud. It made sense, of course- as much sense as anything had ever made in this place. No wonder Cho was on a perennial Suicide Watch. Kill, or cure... no one was holding out much hope for the latter, so the former seemed the only viable option. One he'd have to seriously start thinking about; he doubted the next reincarnation could be much worse than this one. Funny, that once upon a time he'd wanted nothing more than to escape to Down Below. Now that he was there, he wanted nothing more than to be freed of it. Be careful of what you wish for...

 

"I truly am sorry, you know. For you."

 

That was an odd statement to be coming from the Child. Their eyes met again. Nii's smile was gone; it was only the second time since Tenpou had met him that some sort of grin wasn't plastered across his face. Tenpou's heart skipped a beat.

 

"I can't say I'm sorry for Cho- he truly is a menace to society. Plus he's a royal pain in the ass, and not in a good sort of way, let me just say that for the record... but as long as the two of you continue to bring in those millions from the Koushu Foundation every year, I can certainly play nicey-nice with our prissy little prima donna. I have to admit, having such an infamous celebrity in residence has done absolute wonders for our grant-writer."

 

That explained the fancy new lettering in the Community Room. Or to be more accurate, the fancy new lettering in the Houtou Asylum for the Criminally Insane Koushu Foundation Maximum Security Wing Community Room. The entire thing had appeared a short time ago in attractively lit brass lettering above the door; he felt a weird sort of pride now, to think that he and Cho had helped to put it there. Too bad he lost his rights for use of the common spaces for who knew how long. He would have liked to have basked in the glory of their fancy new signage for a bit.

 

"And with the dozens of grad students falling all over each other in a rush, trying to piggy-back their names on the definitive study of this stunningly atypical case of Disassociative Identity Disorder, my career is certainly assured for some time to come. So Cho does have his uses. But that doesn't mean I have to feel sorry for the little fucker."

 

No argument from him on that; he hated Cho the Drama Queen about as much as Nii hated him. And yes, he had to admit Cho had his uses. They both did; Gonou wasn't nearly as dead as Nii seemed to think he was, just sort of... incomplete. And he knew how to play chess. If Lady Koushu was so intent on spreading the wealth, maybe she'd spring for that Crazed Supervillain Wing he'd always dreamed of having, complete with chess board and library. It would have at least three occupants ready to move in. Well, sort of. Two-point-five occupants.

 

"Do you know what day it is Thursday?"

 

Tenpou blinked at the jarring subject change. He shook his head.

 

"It's Christmas Eve."

 

Nii still wasn't smiling, not even with the mention of the impending holiday. Tenpou wasn't sure what significance the information held for the man; though if he had to guess, the probability was that the Boy had been forced into working on Christmas because of the pistol stunt, and now he had a bug up his butt over the indignity of it all. Tenpou sighed quietly and shut his eyes, wondering just how they planned on taking it out on him this time. Freezing shower... surprise strip search... all the above. Perhaps he'd be forced to wear the reindeer horns at the Christmas party, complete with glowing nose. If he was actually invited, since he was technically still confined to his room. In any case, whether it was Christmas or not hardly mattered to him. It's not like he or Cho were getting anything; they were both on the 'Naughty List' in perpetuity.

 

He opened his eyes again when he felt Nii standing up. The man didn't bother to move any further away, he just stood there. Unmoving, staring down at the top of Tenpou's head while the room's deafening silence crowded in about them. Tenpou continued to stare blandly forward, ignoring the impulse to shrink away from the body looming over him; the man's energy always felt so diseased, infectious somehow, and he wanted no part of it. After a small eternity Nii finally turned away and quietly walked over to his desk. Tenpou remained frozen in place, following with his periphery vision. His view was blocked by Nii's position, most likely intentionally as the white lab coat leaned over and opened up a drawer. He seemed to be pulling something out... Nii stood up, and again just stood there. Finally snorted lightly and shook his head. His voice was surprisingly soft, without a trace of sarcasm. Tenpou had to strain to hear, the words almost buried under the overwhelming stillness.

 

"I somewhat facetiously asked the book seller what a Chinese war god from the Ming dynasty might read for fun... and I'm surprised to say he actually had a recommendation. I do hope you like it."

 

Nii finally turned around. In his hand was a small boxed set of paperbacks. He slowly walked them over to Tenpou and sat them down carefully, balancing them on top of the shackled hands. Tenpou looked down. His breath caught. The Three Kingdoms. Nii snorted again. If anything, his voice was even quieter than before, a slight tremor behind it.

 

"Strange, isn't it? That it took the author four whole volumes, for only three kingdoms. I'd say somebody was in serious need of an editing scissors when they wrote that."

 

Nii was back to the snide remarks, but his tone held none of its usual edge; it was as if he was trying to diffuse the tension in the room, rather than to create it. Tenpou looked up into Nii's face, stunned.

 

Nii's eyes met his, intense. His gaze burning right through the skin, just like he was that magnifying glass... a tentative hand reached out to cup Tenpou's face, the thumb stroking slowly across his cheek, questioning. Tenpou didn't pull back as Nii leaned over. That first sweep of tongue made its way about his mouth, more acrid, old smoke than anything else. He was surprised to realize that after having been without cigarettes for so very long it really was somewhat reminiscent of licking an ashtray. The perversity of it was that at the moment he wasn't averse to licking the damn ashtray clean in hopes of a second-hand nicotine fix. He'd done worse. Nii's other hand joined in, stroking up the length of his neck with the back of his knuckles, skimming under his jaw, cupping the back of his head to draw him further in. Tenpou shut his eyes and let it happen. If there was a way out of this place, this had to be it, even if only metaphorically... their lips slid and clung together, the wet sounds entirely too loud in the quiet room. Nii's breath was ragged and hot on his mouth. Tenpou could feel the man's quickening heartbeat pounding through his fingertips.

 

Nii stood up, back to studying Tenpou's face. He wiped his wet mouth off with his sleeve. The smile had yet to return.

 

"Merry Christmas."

"Thank you."

 

Nii leaned down again and gently took the box of books off of his hands. Sat them carefully on the vacant chair seat, took a hold of the restraining belt and pulled up. Tenpou wove about a bit on his feet, in far too close quarters to properly balance. Nii held him as he settled in, kissed him again. Tenpou found himself kissing back; the body contact felt too good not for him to do so. He had never thought of himself as needy, but this long-term isolation had made him hungry for almost any sort of sympathetic touch at all. Even Nii's.

 

Nii's breath was already coming in percussive bursts, so very excited... still holding onto Tenpou's arms he dragged him over to the desk as quickly as the shackles allowed. Shoved him hard up against it, leaned in and kissed him again with enough force that they nearly fell backwards together onto the desktop. An impatient hard-on ground up against Tenpou's thigh, making the reason why Nii had moved their therapy sessions out of the consultation room and over to his private office all too evident. No one would be walking past in the dead-end little hallway, not unless Nii called for them himself. Tenpou could scream to his little heart's content and nobody would ever hear him.

 

Without warning Tenpou found himself flipped over and his shoulders shoved down towards the desk top. He managed to stop his momentum a moment before his forehead made contact with the wood. The fat patient file skidded across it, teetered a moment on the edge before it toppled over and disappeared with a clatter. Nii began to impatiently work at his pants as Tenpou wiggled about to find a more comfortable position, unable to move his arms any further than a few inches from the restraining belt. He realized he couldn't even spread his legs for leverage; his feet were already at their maximum extension. He had almost found a decent spot when a wrenching movement from Nii just sent him sprawling again. He gave up, went limp. Nothing to do, but submit... He could hear Nii's high-pitched whine of hunger somewhere far in the distance. Hot hands cupped and kneaded his bared cheeks, pulling them apart.

 

"Lord in heaven above, you're so perfect... so very perfect..."

 

The hands left him and were replaced by a body leaning heavily into him, crushing his hands against the desk. He grunted as the circulation in his arms was cut off. A moment later the pressure left and a hand pulled him apart again. Cool slippery fingers quickly sank in, stretching him open. Tenpou grunted again at the cold invasion. That was rather quick; he must keep it in his coat pocket, on hand for body cavity searches, or maybe these sorts of emergencies... next to that all-purpose handkerchief of his... slowly Nii's fingers pulled out, slowly they sank back in again, twisting, impatiently spreading him apart.

 

Tenpou took in a deep breath and relaxed as best he could. It's not like this was some sort of a surprise; to be honest, it was a miracle the man had held off this long. He'd been sniffing around this little bitch for years now, and Tenpou doubted anyone on staff would even care enough about Cho to stop him if they ever found out. No, it was more likely that they'd just unzip and get in line... Nii leaned over as he worked his fingers in deeper, hissing breathlessly into Tenpou's ear.

 

"I can feel you squeezing my fingers, pretty... you want this so bad, don't you. Bet it feels good... to be finger-fucked like this, laid out across my desk..."

 

The wood was hard and cool on his forehead as Nii pushed in, shoving his torso up and across the desk. Nii pulled him back, using the belt. Tenpou closed his eyes and turned his head away from the door, trying his best to not think of the boxed set of books that lay waiting for him in the chair; he didn't want this particular moment to be popping into his head when he finally got a chance to sit down and read the thing. Closed his mind off to everything but the rhythm of the bodies, the ghostly feel of the lips hissing their litany of obscenities, hot breath bleeding through the fabric between his shoulder blades. Nii's rhythm was ragged, hurried; there were probably less than a dozen thrusts before he was already moaning and spilling into him. Shaky arms slid up his sides, taking in what little skin they could.

 

"Oh my god it's so good, so good..."

 

Grabbing a handful of his uniform shirt, Nii lifted Tenpou's torso up off the desk, seating him on the spasming dick as deeply as the odd restrained position would allow. Hot slippery fingers squeezed his neck in a loose choke hold as Nii pulled his head back and down. A mouth trailed up wetly from behind, still breathless in his ear.

 

"Oh yes... yes... I scratch your back, and you scratch mine, isn't that right, my pretty, pretty Marshal..."

 

Trembling arms wrapped around him, touching. Memorizing. Another couple erratic thrusts, their hips bumping against the desk in a clumsy dance. Tenpou shut his eyes and waited for the man to be finished.  His body was tingling, aching for something more, but Nii hadn't bothered to touch him yet and it was quite evident he had no intentions of doing so. The man would probably be watching him on his security cameras after this, just to see if he had gotten excited enough to need to jack off. In fact, Nii was probably banking on the fact he'd be doing just that, and had the popcorn already waiting for the show... Tenpou didn't want to think too much on that at this point. Nor did he want to dwell on why it seemed better to him that way; that, somehow, if Nii was watching him, it wasn't as if he were doing it all alone. All in all, there were lots of things about this that he really didn't want to think about. Better not to think at all for a bit.

 

Nii pushed him gently back down on the desk as he softened and slipped out. Tenpou laid there, a floppy pile of limbs. Nii's little rag doll. He felt the handkerchief dabbing away at his backside before his pants were set back into position. Nii snickered as he worked.

 

"Have you heard the one... where one alien abductor says to another, 'You know, we've been abducting humans for years now, taking them back to the ship, probing them anally, and setting them free, and all we've found out is that one in ten of them really don't seem to mind.'"

 

He was yanked back up and turned around. Sat down on the edge of the desk- a rather painful position all of a sudden- as Nii began to tidy him up. It didn't take all that long; the restraining belt had kept it pretty much in place. But it wasn't just for him. Nii was taking the time to recompose himself, bring his breathing back down to normal levels, lose the flush in his cheeks. A few long strokes down his front to flatten the fabric before Nii's hand returned to cupping his cheek. The other pulled the hair back from his face.

 

"There you go, good as new. As beautiful as always."

 

A final kiss, clumsy and self-conscious. As Nii stepped away and combed a hand through his own tousled hair the thought crossed Tenpou's mind that the man might have been fucking Cho this whole time, and he'd have absolutely no way of knowing it. It's not like Cho would ever tell him, and Nii would bank on their animosity towards each other to keep it a secret. The suspicion made him much more jealous than he would have liked to admit. But then again, Nii never gave Cho anything. All the little gifts that were piling up in their room had been given to him; they were his books, not Cho's. A small smile curled about his lips at the thought.

 

Nii was on to checking his own clothing, trying to scrape a bit of something off his pants using a tattered finger nail. If the smell wouldn't out them to Dou, the stain sure as hell wouldn't- not everyone in the universe was as fixated on Nii's crotch as he assumed they were. The pants could wait until after he was gone. Tenpou wanted Nii's attention again. Now.

 

"Merry Christmas."

 

Nii looked up at him in a surprised shock for a moment before the Smile snaked its way back across his face. He broke out laughing. Manage to return the favor between the giggles, nodding in a mock politeness.

 

"Well... and a very Merry Christmas to you, too."

 

With that, things clicked back into a somewhat more recognizable form between the two of them. Nii was still giggling over it when the Dynamic Duo finally knocked on the door to shuffle him and his Christmas present back to their room. That man sure did love his jokes.

 

Spring

 

He awoke to the sound of thunder. A stark flash lit up the room. A moment later came another deep rumble, so low it shook his teeth. All the way from the far end of the hall he could hear Zack shrieking at whatever it was he was imagining he was seeing coming at him through the lightning. Tenpou sighed and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palm. Not again...

 

Zack had a habit of seeing lots of things that weren't there. The problem with that was he usually failed to notice rather important things that were there, like the orderly that was shouting at him at the top of his lungs to Shut His Fucking Ass Up Already. Everyone else could hear them both quite clearly even if Zack couldn't, and the chorus of indignation over the noise was beginning to grow in volume as everyone decided to put in their two cents worth over just who should be shutting up and who shouldn't. The heavens rumbled again, adding in its opinion on the subject. Dr. Hwan's voice crackled over the intercom, calling out a Code Silver to the staff. Tenpou leaned over and reached for his glasses. No more sleep this afternoon, that was for sure. They'd be at this for hours.

 

He sat up and set his feet on the floor. Yawned and stretched a bit before he got up and shuffled over to the toilet. Every once in awhile the world lit up brightly, throwing harsh shadows across the room. He stared through the wall while he sat, listening to the growing crisis brewing on the other side of it. The world had become a whole lot louder and more frantic out there; in fact, it sounded as if an all-out riot was breaking out in the Community Room. Things were being tossed about, a few more screamers had joined in with Zack. People were running about back and forth past his door, presumably the staff. He was beginning to feel rather glad he was locked in his room again for the day. He almost felt sorry for them. Almost. Being stuck in the middle of a crowd of agitated loonies sounded like a hell of a lot more fun than it actually was. But it was their own fault, really; they had to have known the rains were coming, and they bloody well knew this happened each and every time there was a serious storm. Yet every fucking time, they waited until the craziness hit before they bothered to get up off their asses to do anything about it, so really, it was their own bloody fault for not being preemptive. Thank the merciful bitch he was on the other side of the walls, because somebody always ended up with a broken nose whenever Zack started screaming at the boogey man, and he was happy to say he had managed to dodge that particular bullet so far. He fully intended to keep it that way for as long as possible.

 

A smoke, as long as he was up... everyone would be preoccupied with the cacophony at the far end of the hall so odds were in his favor that he wouldn't be caught. He locked the Chos out before they could start complaining, shuffled back over to the mattress and pulled it up off the frame. Worked the piping near the bottom corner for a bit- a few careful tugs and it peeled back. His fingers worked their way into the slit in the fabric, searching carefully for some solidity. There... as usual, he found the lighter first. Held it in his teeth as he dug in again. Took a bit more time to find a cigarette, they tended to wander about for some reason... he extracted the fragile tube slowly, doing everything he could to keep it from breaking apart. Ah, good. Barely dented. Still kneeling on the bed he lit up and took a deep hit- blessed nicotine- before he replaced the lighter and covered up the slit in the mattress. There. Good as new. Beautiful as always.

 

He moved to the corner of the room that was behind the door and slid down the wall until his ass plopped onto the floor. There was likely a security camera in the sprinkler head, but he knew that no one but Nii took the time to look at the tapes with any regular basis and it wasn't like Nii was going to care. But the orderlies would definitely care, so it was still a Very Good Idea to avoid being seen by anyone who passed by doing a bed check. In the very least the lighter would be confiscated; far too much of a temptation for any wandering pyro in the ward, and he had to guess there was more than one of those lurking about in the patient population. It was such a garden-variety craziness, pyromania. He wondered if they ever felt cheated, having such a dull diagnosis like that.

 

He took in another long drag. Carefully ashed into his palm. Of course his real menace in all this was Cho the Health Freak, who didn't want them smoking and kept flushing Tenpou's hard-earned cigarettes down the toilet. He could cry just thinking about it; so many blow jobs squandered, washed away down the plumbing, never to return. At least it didn't happen too very often- it had taken him years of solid effort, but Tenpou had control over their body for most of the time now. Still, every once in awhile he'd get tired of holding on and Cho would pop out on top for awhile, and then it was bye bye nicotine. He'd tried on multiple occasions to explain to the man that gods didn't get cancer, that he'd been smoking for millennia with no ill effects, but the stubborn son of a bitch wouldn't listen to reason and he was still reduced to hiding his smokes. From himself, of all people. Asshole.

 

He snorted, glancing over at the uneven stacks piled on the window sill that was currently doubling as his book shelf. An asshole who not only flushed away his smokes, but kept straightening his things- putting his books into horrifyingly neat little rows. Sometimes Tenpou would find them rearranged alphabetically by title, sometimes by author. When Cho was feeling particularly anal they were arranged into Dewey Decimal perfection. Tops dusted, the spines perfectly flush with one another as if he'd used a ruler to set them into their flawless little lines. He'd had a serious talking to him about it on more than one occasion, but it kept happening anyway. Gods but the man was frustrating sometimes. It was like having your mother not only living in the same apartment, but inhabiting the same body.

 

He finished with the cigarette and flushed the evidence down the toilet. There were commands of some sort being barked out down near the Community Room. It sounded like they were starting a lockdown; he could hear doors slamming and patients complaining loudly and keys jingling and orderlies ordering people about. About fucking time... he laid back down on the bed. Thought briefly about masturbating- another perfect opportunity, after all. Always a good way to relieve the boredom for at least a few minutes, and he had to say he was perpetually bored. Finally decided against it since he had been masturbating far too often as of late. What else to do...alas, not a book. He had already read everything Nii had given him fifty times over, and he doubted anything new would be coming his way any time soon. Nii liked to trickle them out to keep him needy, expected more and more out of him for each new volume. He usually had the most recent acquisition memorized cover to cover by the time Nii would Smile Graciously Upon Him again and give him something fresh to chew on. Whole sections of the latest book had already been committed to memory, recitable by verbatim for at least a week now. It was a pretty good indicator that they were overdue for one of their 'special' therapy sessions. He was crossing his fingers for some philosophy this time around.

 

His hands began to wander anyway, though he really did need to cut down on the hand jobs.  It's not like he believed the Born-Again nurse's aid, the one that had the annoying habit of not knocking and of walking in at exactly the wrong moment, sincerely and tearily insisting that he was Making God Cry and his dick would fall off if he yanked at it too much. That wasn't his worry. Hell, he'd actually increased their frequency just to annoy the man. Nope, the real problem was that he tended to think about Nii when he was doing it. That wasn't something he was particularly proud of admitting, even to himself. It almost made him want to stop doing it. Almost.

 

It all made him wonder, though, just what kind of a god the man believed in, who would cry over some spilt semen from a guy who had offed an entire township and used to fuck his sister out of wedlock. One would have thought he'd have stopped noticing the little stuff by now.

 

A little while after he'd finished up there was a sharp rap on his door followed by the shift of the bolt. A face he didn't remotely recognize popped in. He looked to be a guard, so he had to have been called in from somewhere else in the hospital to help contain the mayhem. They obviously had a bigger problem out there than Tenpou had realized.

 

"Room 210: Any-"

 

Before the man could finish there was another flash of lightning, followed by a blood-curdling shriek nearly outside of his door. The guard turned away to shout a warning at someone, his voice nearly obliterated by the thunder clap. He disappeared from view entirely as the door slammed back shut. Several large thuds hit the walls. A few more shadows shot past the window in his door as the noises made their way at a snail's pace down the hall. Desperate shouts were occasionally punctuated by the fireworks that continued unabated above.

 

The lights suddenly flickered off, then on again. More thunder. Tenpou stared at the door, listening intently. Somebody sure had their panties in a twist, though it didn't sound like it was Zack. Someone much bigger... more like Bull. Bull was big, real big- he made Dou look like a school girl in comparison. And Bull bit. Took out whole chunks of flesh, left holes in people's arms whenever he got agitated. It would make sense if it were Bull, since whomever it was it seemed to be taking half of the hospital's staff to subdue him and carry him out. Somewhere in the scuffle he could hear shouts of "dope him!" but unless someone remembered to stick him twice, Bull would just go loonier still; straight up intramuscular lorazepam did that to him. Bull was one of those who needed that Haldol chaser. It's not like Tenpou had any business knowing any of that, but at this point he had the medication needs of the entire wing memorized, and he knew that Bull was a Problem Patient when it came to emergency sedation.

 

Tenpou had little else to do lately but to memorize things; it helped to keep his mind busy, kept him from going nuts like Cho. The staff assumed he didn't need to be entertained because they kept him drugged up to the point of stupidity, but he wasn't- drugged, that is. At least not like they thought he was. He'd been slowly gaining immunity from the stuff for quite some time now, to the point that he barely felt the effects of it anymore. And sedation was easy enough to fake; just dull the eyes, slow the motor reflexes, slur the speech patterns. He certainly had enough examples around him to draw upon to perfect his technique, and he was good at it, if he did say so himself. But he found that his newly reacquired cognizance was very much a double-edged sword, since now he was bored out of his mind half of the time. So he memorized. Everything. The staff thought he was staring at them in a drug haze, but in reality he was committing to memory shift schedules, phone numbers, key codes, medications... the nurses still needed to use their little Blackberries to tell them who took what and when and what the major contraindications were but he knew it all, every fucking drug taken by every fucking patient in the wing. If he wasn't considered such a Menace to Society he'd have made a great RN- or at least a cute candy striper. He was ruing the day that Nii would come to the same assessment. There was no way in hell he was wearing hosiery for that man.

 

He jerked in sympathy at the unmistakable sound of a Taser going off. Definitely Bull, since the jolt hadn't seemed to do a damned thing to stop the histrionics. Still, it seemed the opera was slowing down in its cadence and rhythm, to an allargando, perhaps, so it sounded as if the sedation was finally starting to hit. Even the skies seemed to be settling out somewhat, the worst of the storm having passed for now. He wondered where it was they were trying to take whoever it was. If it really was Bull, they weren't carrying him to his room- that was in the opposite direction. Either the Padded Cell or Shock Therapy, there was little else down that way. The angry sounds suddenly dropped off into an echo of nothingness as the security doors at the end of the hall rattled shut, leaving the ward silent except for rumbles of the retreating thunder and the muffled screams of a few locked up lunatics. The door to his room swung a bit from the suction as they closed. Tenpou's heart stopped with it.

 

He sat up, stared at the door for a stunned moment. Slowly stood up and walked on over, tried the handle, gave it a tentative pull. It opened without protest. They hadn't locked him back in... he opened it up a bit further, carefully stuck his head out and checked the hall. All quiet; everyone seemed to be either in lockdown or with whomever it was that had just been carried out. He pulled his head back in and leaned his forehead against the door. Breathed in deeply, then breathed out. Woke up Cho. Made sure he had Gonou with him, told them the situation. Told them both it was Time. They agreed. Their heart began its beating again, double-time.

 

He looked back briefly at his books- no, too cumbersome. He had them all inside of his head, anyway... that decided, he quickly stepped out, shut the door to his room and punched in the lock code. No one had ever bothered to hide the combination from him; after all, it wasn't like he could access the pad from inside of his room. The bolt slid into place, far too loud in the silent ward. He looked about quickly, but as far as he could tell, no one was around to have heard it. Alright, next step... he turned and quietly padded his stocking-footed way down the hall towards Nii's office. It was in the opposite direction from the exit, but there were a few things he needed there.


As expected, the girl at the nurses' station was busy with her gossip magazines. With the radio loudly blathering on about tornado watches he had been able to crawl around the front and walk right on up behind her before she even registered that anyone was there. She had just begun to lean back, telling whoever she thought he was about a particularly scandalous story in her rag when he grabbed her skull and twisted it hard. Fortunately she was small and the station's interior was ringed in an overhang that worked as a desk top so it was easy enough to hide her from direct view, especially with the chair put back into place. Even with the pink flowery pattern on her scrubs blaring out from her little hidey hole, they'd have to actually come looking for her to notice. The "Be Right Back" sign was set out, direct phone line put on hold, and lastly, the extra set of keys hanging on the hook next to the panic button suddenly and inexplicably disappeared. Funny how that happened.

 

Around the corner a few feet from the desk he was stopped again by the security doors. They were a key-and-code affair; after years of watching he knew Dou's code number, but it would still take a few tries to figure out the proper key. The lock was round, so must be the key... easier than anticipated. Only three of the keys were round, all of them security door alarms. The biggest trouble was in keeping the key ring quiet throughout the trial process. Still, when the door finally opened he breathed a sigh of relief that the alarm hadn't sounded; he had been half-expecting an alert of some sort by now. He heard the doors across from the nurses' station open just as he stepped through; likely the Community Room nurse, returning to her post. He listened for a moment, heard nothing more than the doors falling shut again. He let out his breath. Seemed she had walked right on by, fooled by the potty break sign. Devil's in the details, after all; a little devil named Cho. He smiled, glad the man had suggested he put it out. Still, they had a ways to go before they could go congratulating themselves on their own cleverness. Next step...

 

They could both find Nii's office blindfolded at this point. It was interesting to note that according to the wall clock it had taken him seven minutes including both the door and nurses' station to get to the Spot; it took him close to a quarter hour in shackles. One more visual check down the hall before he rapped on Nii's door in the same pattern and spot Dou always rapped on it- Quirky Double Rap #1. Dou used only three variations and hadn't wavered the entire time Tenpou had been incarcerated. The man was sweet, but an idiot.

 

"Come in."

 

Good, the man was in. Hopefully alone. Considering the recent riot he had half expected him to be out, but Bull wasn't one of Nii's, so luck was with him on that at least. Tenpou waited a moment, then rapped again. And again. And again. Thank the bitch Dou and Kou were known for their stupid practical jokes... and again. And... he could hear Nii cursing, then footsteps. After what seemed to be an eternity it opened up.

 

"This better-"

 

Tenpou's hand was around Nii's throat before the man had the chance to fully open the door; it took another three seconds to push him into the room and ram his head as hard as he could against the nearest wall. After the preliminary stun he got a better grip by the back of the head and slammed him a half dozen times more, just to be sure. Satisfied any potential threat was neutralized, Tenpou let go and quietly turned back to lock the door behind them. Nii slid to the floor. A trail of blood followed him down the wall.

 

He dragged the body by the foot across the floor to the desk. He looked to be out, but it was best to take no chances, not after the fucking Pistol Incident- he had assumed Kou to be out that time as well. Left it to bleed awhile on the pricey new carpeting while he rummaged through the drawers for the keys and cigarettes he knew to be in there. He had to say that he knew quite a lot by now; Nii was a compulsive talker. Assuming his little fuck toy to be drugged to the point of insensibility he had let a lot of things slip that he shouldn't have. Didn't take much of a poke to get him going, and while Nii jabbered away in his post-coital bliss Tenpou just laid there and soaked it in. Just listened and watched until he not only knew where Nii kept the car keys but what kind of vehicle he drove and what his golf handicap was and how he once 'took the cloth' and how he kept his little collection of firearms in that cabinet in the basement rec room. It shouldn't be too hard to find the man's brand spanking new SUV in the doctor's parking area. Courtesy of a grant from the Koushu Foundation, so really, it could be argued that it was partly his anyway. Sure, he didn't know how to drive the thing, but Cho did. And Cho wanted to get out of this place as much as he did. He was more than happy to cooperate.

 

Nii began to move, managing with some effort to flip himself over onto his stomach. Tenpou placed the keys and the cigarettes on the desk and walked on over as Nii's arms flailed a bit, trying to crawl in the general direction of the door. Tenpou kicked him over onto his back again. He hoped Nii realized that it wasn't anything personal.

 

"I truly am very sorry. For you."

 

Nii moaned back at him; it sounded like he had a concussion at the very least, and considering all the blood, definitely a broken nose. Glazed eyes blinked up at him. His glasses had been lost somewhere along the way, so he doubted the man saw much even if he was still coherent. He wondered if Nii even knew who it was that was standing over him. Tenpou crouched down and started undoing the man's pants.

 

"You scratch my back, and I scratch yours, isn't that right, Doctor? I get your clothes, you get to live."

 

Maybe he'd live... he'd hit the man pretty damned hard. Blame Kou for that; never make the same mistake twice. Tenpou quickly removed the wingtips- Nii had since expanded upon his collection of 'oxfords'- and began to pull off the pants. Nii struggled a bit, but didn't put up too much of a fuss. Tenpou tried them on. Just as he thought; close enough that no one would notice the size difference. He unbuttoned the shirt as quickly as he could. A bit harder to remove the various jackets, the man was a dead weight but Nii was down to his underwear in short enough order. Tenpou looked up at the clock; nineteen minutes, still no obvious alarm. The hospital really needed to find better help. That's what they got for going cheap with their hires to try and maximize profits.

 

He buttoned himself up. It felt good to be back in a lab coat again. How many centuries had it been? Five now, they said? The shoes were tight- blame years of wearing nothing but slippers- but if that was the only problem he was going to have he wasn't going to complain. He went back to the desk to retrieve the keys, quickly rifled through the remaining drawers Just Because. Found the rubber band the man used sometimes as a cock ring and pulled his hair back into a pony tail with it. Then Cho reminded him about the patient files. Unfortunately, he'd never been able to get Nii to spill his password, so even if they took the paper copies the digital would still be there. He decided not to bother. Pocketed the pepper spray, the prescription pad. Came back to check on Nii, who seemed to have passed out. Hopefully someone would find him soon, or the body count would have to be upped by two.

 

A short examination of the key ring from the nurses' station and he found the idiots had actually written the rooms they were for on their heads. He wondered what his odds were in finding the armory and getting his own Taser before he got out. He had watched Kou play with the thing for long enough, the mechanism seemed relatively simple to use. He'd have it down in less than five minutes if he could get ahold of one. Unfortunately, he had no idea where the armory was situated in the building... not finding anything of obvious use on the key ring he tried Nii's pockets and found his security pass. Gonou suddenly piped up in that mousey way of his to let Tenpou know what it was for, how it was used. Hakkai agreed and added that it likely meant they'd have at least one more manned door to pass through. Tenpou thanked them kindly for the information. Politeness went a long way in handling a Cho.

 

Nii really should have thought twice about all that integrative therapy he had put them through. Over the years he had given enough lip service to making Cho whole, bringing the alters together, but the joke was, Nii would never realize he had actually done it. Because of his constant badgering, he and Cho had finally got to talking. Of course, neither of them was stupid enough to actually talk to each other right in front of him, not with the threat of the federal penitentiary staring them in their face. But all those long hours alone together, locked in their room and bored out of their minds, they had finally talked- and found they had more than enough common ground in which to bury the hatchet. Oh, they'd never actually be cured, they could never be truly integrated. He wasn't Cho, after all. Never was, never would be. But then, he wasn't Tenpou anymore, either. Their little maximum security crucible had boiled his humanity away to the point that what was left of Tenpou was hardly recognizable anymore. And Cho... well, Cho was Cho. Only more so. It felt different inside of him now, the two point five of them were no longer entirely separate from each other, but had somehow twisted together into a whole new being. At least it was a being which now had a common purpose; together they knew what they wanted, knew how to get it. Kill or cure, Nii had told him. He really shouldn't have given either of them that first option. All it did was to get them both to thinking.

 

The body moved again at his feet. So he hadn't passed out, after all. Playing possum, just like Kou had. Tenpou crouched down low next to him. Nii's eyes looked about wildly, trying their darndest to focus. Not succeeding. Tenpou leaned in a bit closer, studying the bloodied face. He was definitely worse off than Kou had been. More like Li. Nii blinked up at him and gurgled a few bloody bubbles. Tenpou smiled softly at his little sexual predator with a heart of... well, certainly not of gold. But even if it was simply for that precious byline in The Psychoanalytic Association Journal, the man had still helped them to heal. Sort of. Too bad he would never hear the punch line to all of it. The man sure did love his jokes.

 

Tenpou leaned in closer. Kissed him through the blood. First on the forehead, then the lips. He wasn't sure if Nii kissed him back or if it was just him twitching. Used the handkerchief to wipe it off of his mouth. Decided to warn him, though he wasn't exactly sure why.

 

"You have to try and stay awake, doc, or you're dead."

 

He pulled out one of the pens from the lab coat pocket and pressed it into the trembling hand, helped to curl the fingers around it. Pushed the thumb down to make it click. Nii clicked it again, all on his little lonesome. Good. As long as he'd keep concentrating on that. Give him that little bit of starlight to look towards.

 

He left the body swimming in its pool as he made his way towards the exit. Wasn't too hard to find; the large arrows on the walls that pointed to the "Parking Garage" did wonders for his sense of direction. The security pass on its lanyard swung about in his hand as he did his best to walk with Nii's gait. The pen clicked on and off, on and off. It all came out pretty close to the mark. He'd had all the time in the world to study his subject, after all; years with nothing better to do than to catalog his doctor's quirks. And he'd always been a good study.

 

He steered clear of the more populated areas, but even with the blood-spattered coat and the pony tail sticking out, the few staff members he was unable to avoid never even turned their heads, too busy in their own little worlds to notice. He waltzed right on out without being stopped once until he reached that final security point. It was a sealed booth affair; a good blast of qi took out the bullet-proof glass, plus half of the front wall with it. Also took out a huge chunk of the security guard that had been sitting inside. Enough of him was left to see that the poor guy hadn't even been armed with an empty pistol, let alone a loaded one. Not that it would have done him any good, but totally unarmed? Apparently no one was expecting a dangerous psycho with the power of a war god to leave through the parking garage.

 

The echoes from the blast rattled around the concrete walls in the lot and finally died out, leaving nothing but the sound of a few car alarms and the guard's walkie-talkie barking away in a blind panic, swinging like a pendulum on the end of what was left of a utility belt. Someone had finally found the nurse... spotless Italian leather crunched carefully over the bits of glass and cinder block as Tenpou stepped in closer to listen. It had worried him that he'd made a bit of noise with the blast, but it seemed no one was even around to come running. Everyone was scurrying off like a nest of frightened little ants in the opposite direction, towards the maximum security ward. He stood there for a moment, quietly listening to the crackling voices caught in a chaos he had helped to create. He looked up at the clock, but not enough of it was left to tell him how much time had passed. Checked Nii's watch instead; twenty-eight minutes. Not bad, still... he leaned into the rubble and pulled out the walkie-talkie. If anyone was sent to check on the exits in the next few minutes, it was something he'd like to know about.

 

The gleaming white Lexus was parked in Stall Number One, with Nii's name painted on the wall and everything. The ridiculous ease of his escape was rather funny when it thought about it; it was as if they had decided to helpfully stick neon signs out every few yards, blinking "Freedom This Way" in bright red letters. When they got into the car he finally relaxed a bit and turned things over to Cho. A brief moment of experimentation before Cho backed out the car and started for Nii's house. No need to look for a map; once you told it where it was you were going, the little television on the dash board was happy to give directions, yammering away in the kind of pleasant non-confrontational voice that the Chos responded very well towards. Wiper blades were certainly an interesting concept... clever.

 

Tenpou sat back and watched the scenery as Cho did most of the work. Like the doc said, Cho certainly had his uses. Poor Nii... he'd have to say he'd sort of miss the crazy old bastard. Well, he wasn't as crazy as they were, but crazy enough. He'd have to look him up later, see if he survived. But right now he and Cho had things to do. He hadn't smelled a cherry blossom in over 500 years, and absolutely no one was going to stop him from smelling the flowers. He watched the hospital slip out of sight and smiled to himself as if he really were Nii laughing at one of his personal jokes. Well, the joke was on all of them. The boy had been right all along, even if he had only half believed it himself; none of them really had any idea what they had been dealing with.

End

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