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Walking With The Dead

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter Ten

 

Sai came awake with a start. Kento was shaking him. There was water dripping into his eyes. It hurt to breath. Every breath brought with it a searing brand of fiery pain along his side and up through his lungs. For a moment all he could think about was the hurt and Kento insisting on dragging him upright when he was perfectly happy lying sprawled in a heap on the floor. The very wet floor.

"Sai, snap out of it!" Kento was yelling through the all -invasive clatter of the alarm and the patter of the sprinkler system showering cold water down upon the world.

"S'hurts." Sai gasped, and Kento paused in hauling him up.

"How bad?" then louder, when Sai couldn't find the breath to answer right away. "How bad, Sai?!"

"Ribs 're broken. I think." His speech was slurred. He thought maybe he'd hit his head as well. He was having a hard time thinking. He stared up at Kento's concerned face blankly. There was blood running in water-diluted streams down one broad cheek. There looked to be a piece of flesh flapping loosely at the edge of Kento's hairline. Sai winced and half reached towards it.

"Sai. Rowan."

Two words. Sai blinked. The shell shocked daze melted away into crystal clarity. He grasped Kento's wrist and motioned Kento to help him up. He ignored the pain. Used it to goad his dulled wits into acuity. Where was Rowan? The last he'd seen was the roof coming down where he'd stood.

"Where is he at?"

"I dunno." Kento said, a little desperate, a little confused. "Don't know where Seiji is either."

"I don't care where he is." Sai almost screamed it. He tore his arm out of Kento's grasp and staggered towards the mountain of debris. He cried Rowan's name. No answer. He curled an arm around himself and sobbed in frustration. He didn't know where to start.

"He's under there." He told Kento. Kento stared and paled. His big hands were shaking.

"Sai --- are you sure?"

"Yes! I saw it fall on him. Seiji did it. I saw him do it, Goddamn him!!"

"Not Seiji, Sai." A quiet reminder. "C'mon, let's try and find him."

They pulled at broken pieces of sheetrock and wood, and crumbling plaster and plastic. Pieces of twisted and torn metal. The alarms were echoing inside his skull. They hid the clamor of footsteps. They almost hid the presence of the men that spilled onto the floor summoned by the alarm. Firemen and security, carrying their axes and their oxygen tanks, looking for the disaster that had triggered the alarm. The security held dully gleaming weapons in their hands. They pointed them at Sai and Kento, demanding surrender. Not even asking for explanation.

"We didn't do this." Kento cried, bleeding palms held out before him.

"He's under all this." Sai gestured wildly. "Help him. Please!"

And they did, without question. The firemen pushed past the wary security and did what they were more equipped to accomplish than Sai and Kento. Somewhere under the mess they found malleable flesh. Pale, blood streaked flesh that wasn't moving and wasn't breathing and Sai felt something catch in his heart -- in his soul -- that made his knees go weak and his vision spin.

"He's dead. He's dead --" he whispered and knew it was so. Just knew it in that place where there had been that intangible connection between he and Rowan. He hadn't felt it until he saw Rowan's bruised, blood smeared face. Until he saw the broken way his body drooped when they pulled him out of the tangle.

Balance left him and he crumpled backwards. Somebody caught him and held him upright and he vaguely heard an unfamiliar voice asking if he were all right. If he were injured. Stupid question. He was dying. Part of him was shriveling up and melting away.

They bent over Rowan, clustered around him like vultures, talking to each other in short, business-like sentences. Someone called out that they couldn't find a pulse. That he wasn't breathing. Sai knew that. Sai felt it in his chest like a lump of iron.

"He's dead." He said it again and the words sounded alien on his tongue.

"He's not. They're working on him." Kento had come up. Kento had a hand on his elbow and a pale, serious expression on his face. Sai shook his head hopelessly, then felt a catch -- a reflexive jerk -- at the center of him as if some integral part of him had been jolted into a jump start. "Got it!" One of the medics exclaimed. "Get me oxygen and get that stretcher over here."

"See? See, Sai?" Kento said weakly, voice shaky with relief. Kento hadn't believed either. Not really.

"Oh -----" He wasn't quite sure it was relief he felt, but something washed over him like a wave on a stormy day. His knees went watery and vertigo rushed up. He didn't even feel Kento catch him as he crumbled.

 

*

 

"What are we doing here?" Ryo asked softly, teeth clenched. People rushed around them, carrying luggage, dragging it behind them on little wheels. Someone bumped his shoulder and he stepped aside, no more interested in the life swirling around him than they were of him. Seiji glanced over his shoulder at him, an amused half smile on his lips.

"What do people usually do in airports, Ryo?"

Ryo ground his teeth and reached out to snag Seiji's arm. He cringed doing it, knowing now that it wasn't Seiji. That the flesh was automated by something else entirely. "Why? Where are you planning on going?"

Ice blue eyes flickered down to Ryo's fingers on his jacket. Ryo refused to let go until he got an answer. Seiji let him have that small victory.

"Home. There are some things I need to do."

Home? Where was home? Not Seiji's home surely, but the place where the creature that inhabited him had dwelt. "Where is that?"

"You don't have to come." A well shaped blonde brow arched in question.

"What did you do to Rowan? To all of them?"

Seiji looked blankly at him, then turned and strode away. Maddening. Infuriating. Ryo stood there in the midst of the crowded airport, at a loss. He didn't know how to tackle this particular problem. Jumping Seiji and beating the infringing spirit out of him seemed out of the question. Especially since Seiji had his power crystal and Ryo did not have his. He'd already gotten his ass kicked several times in the last 24 hours or so. Risking it again just seemed stupid. Not that he wouldn't have tried it if he'd had the tiniest chance of success.

He wove through the people, following Seiji's pale head and Seiji's well tailored shoulders. Loosing Seiji was not an option. Giving up wasn't one. If he'd had the time, he'd have gone in search of a phone and called home. Left a message if nothing else letting them know what was up. Home. They thought she was Egyptian. Was she heading to Egypt? For what he couldn't imagine. Everything she'd known was dust now.

He caught up to Seiji at the ticket counter. Seiji was finishing a transaction. He turned without seeming to really notice Ryo and strode off down the main multiplex towards the terminal gates.

"Where are we going?" Ryo asked again, falling into step with him. He had to clench his fists to keep his hands from shaking.

"Does it matter?"

His nails bit into the flesh of his palms. More blood drawn. His heart beat so heart it likened to burst out of his chest. "No."

The side of Seiji's mouth twitched. "Good boy."

Like he/she was talking to a child. Or a dog. "Bitch." He said softly.

A glance from the side of the eyes, from under artfully disarrayed golden locks. "I'll remember you said that."

They had no baggage. The went through security without incident. Seiji handed the woman at the gate two tickets. She leafed through them and handed them back with a plastic smile.

"Your flight departs in 10 minutes, Mr. Date."

Seiji didn't smile back. He slid the tickets back into the inside pocket of his jacket and slid down the hall. Ryo followed numbly. Trapped. Coerced into something that he felt in his gut would turn out badly. He didn't want to commit himself to this. He almost panicked and backed out, but the door to the jet loomed ahead and Seiji was disappearing through it, ushered in by another smiling stewardess. Seiji who he loved and who needed his help and who he'd die for. Getting used like a ten dollar whore was another matter. Having it done repeatedly made him nauseous.

He stepped onto the plane.

There was alcohol. The Stewardess had a drink in his hand almost before he'd settled in the very comfortable first class seat in the front of the plane. Seiji already had one.

"Bring him another when he's done with that." Seiji said and the sickeningly pleasant woman nodded, more than ready to serve the high paying first class customers. It was a bloody Mary. One of those mixed drinks that Ryo didn't so much mind, because the alcohol was hidden by the flavor of the juice.

He didn't like to fly. He wondered if she'd picked up that fact from Seiji. He wondered if this was some show of consideration, or merely a tactic to keep him quiet during the duration of the flight. He downed the drink and sat the glass in the holder in the seat arm. He sat there and stared moodily at the back of the seat in front of him, not wanting to talk to Seiji --not wanting to hear a familiar voice spewing unfamiliar sentiments.

How many times had he slept with her/him? How many times had he let himself be -- used -- in the last few weeks by something that wasn't Seiji. That wasn't remotely Seiji. And he'd been blind to it. He'd just thought Seiji was going through a phase. A nasty phase albeit, but a phase nonetheless that sooner or later he'd snap out of. He always did. Visions of the last time kept popping unbidden into his head. Well, the last time before the drugs and the torture -- last night? Had it been last night or the night before, or that morning? He couldn't remember. All he could recall was pain and blood and violation and himself helpless to stop it. The time before he could have called a halt. He could have refused when Seiji had wanted his head buried in his crotch for half the night and done damn little to reciprocate Ryo's efforts. Just sat smugly back, satisfied over the fact that he could demand and that Ryo would bend to his wishes. Because Ryo was a fool and Ryo was naive and despite every other hurdle he'd cleared in his life, every other challenge met, there was something about Seiji that made him want to ---to submit. To lay down and bare his throat to Seiji's even white teeth. And there was something in Seiji that needed to do it. At least in private.

Only his Seiji had never been careless of him. His Seiji had never gone to lengths to hurt him, or humiliate him. He should have seen it. He shut his eyes and leaned his head back against the seat. A hand pressed against his leg. Slid casually up his thigh and brushed against the juncture of his legs.

"Don't touch me." He hissed softly, eyes snapping open in indignation. Seiji tilted his head, and the hand stayed.

"That's not part of the bargain." A soft reminder. The fingers shifted, cupping him, squeezing with gentle pressure. Ryo drew a breath, fingers biting into the arm rests. The stewardess came back with a second drink, and stood there hesitating with her eyes fixed on Ryo's crotch and what Seiji's hand was doing there. She blushed. Ryo did, mortified. The woman tore her eyes away and sat the full glass in the spot where the empty one had been. Seiji leaned across Ryo, pressing his shoulder against Ryo's chest, digging his fingers into Ryo's groin with enough pressure to make him gasp. "Keep them coming. He'll need them."

"Of -- of course, sir." She had her plastic face back on. It hardly mattered what first class patrons did in the privacy of their own seats. They were paying enough for it.

"Okay." Ryo said softly. "You've proved your point. But not here, okay. Get your hands off of me here."

Seiji leaned close to his ear as if he/she were going to whisper something. All Ryo felt was warm breath. The fingers drifted up under the loose edge of his shirt, across the smooth, taut skin of his belly, lingering over sore spots and welts that hadn't quite gone down. "Ask nicely."

There was a lump in his throat and tears of rage and helplessness burned behind his eyes. He didn't shed them. He took a calming breath and whispered.

"Please."

Satisfied, Seiji retreated. Ryo downed the drink in one gulp and sat there while the plane revved its huge engines, wishing for another one. Wishing for oblivion to come and wash away the indignity and the anguish of the situation. By the time they were thirty minutes in the air, he'd had five of them and got his wish. He drowsed, boneless and bereft of worry, while Seiji gazed out the round window, silently amazed at the clouds and the sensation of flight. The stewardess wondered by several times, asking if they needed anything. He was only vaguely aware of Seiji's answers. Someone got him a blanket and a pillow. Seiji lifted his head to tuck it under.

"Was he in an accident?" the stewardess whispered, no doubt concerned over the bruises and the cuts that showed on his body.

"Yes." Seiji answered. Which was true enough. She went away and if she came back Ryo wasn't aware enough to take note of it. Between the after effect of the drugs and the abuse and the alcohol, his body was more than happy to slip into much needed senselessness. A good portion of the rest of the flight was swallowed by a stuporous daze.

 

*

 

He's coming around. Move that IV, would you? BP looks good. Hello? Can you hear me?

There was a woman leaning over him. Pretty in a middle-aged, serious sort of way. She was in hospital greens, with a stethoscope dangling from her neck. He could see a little bit of cleavage through the v-cut of the front. There was blood on the greens and he wondered idly if it was his. The thought was vaguely funny. His lips twitched up dreamily and he tried to raise a hand to rub at the pounding pressure between his eyes. He couldn't. The arm was tangled in tubes that ran along the side of the bed and up to a rack with various dripping bags of fluid.

"Can you tell me your name?" the woman asked. There were other people behind her.

"Um hummm." He murmured. His head was very, very odd at the moment.

"What is your name?" she repeated the question.

"Rowan." He sighed. "Wha's yours?"

She half smiled at him. "Dr. Chan. Do you know what day it is?"

That one stumped him. He thought about it and came up blank. "I don' know. Can you hum a few lines?" he thought himself entirely too witty. He giggled, the action made his chest hurt.

"That's okay." She assured him. "The meds are making you a little giddy. You've been in an accident, Rowan. Do you remember that?"

He bit his lip, thinking. He thought he did recall. Not a nice memory at all.

"Where's Sai?" Sai had gone down before he had. Smashed aside like a insignificant bug by Seiji's armored hand. Panic assailed him and he tried to sit up. Pain roared over him with merciless, stabbing single-mindedness. His vision went red, then gray. He came back up, with the same worried female face hovering over him. She patted his hand carefully.

"He's okay. Both your friends are okay. Its you that we're worried about. You've had a serious head trauma. You've had internal bleeding. We had to go in and operate to stop the hemorrhaging. You flatlined twice on the way here and once in the emergency room. You're lucky to be alive, Rowan."

"Oh." He couldn't think of anything more poetic to say. "You're sure they're okay?" he murmured. His lids felt heavy. His body did.

Both? "Sai and -- Kento?" he ventured. Kento had been there at the last too.

Dr. Chan nodded.

"Wha happened to Ryo?"

Her brows beetled. "There was someone else there?"

The panic came back. The meds wouldn't let it take effect. He shut his eyes and forgot about it . . . . . .

. . . . . . And opened them in a different room, with the soft, constant beep of monitors a hazy noise in the background. White ceiling. Pale green walls. Dim light, with the curtains pulled tight against what might have been night. There was a blank TV mounted to the wall up by the ceiling. and the smell of antiseptic that permeated the air. He wrinkled his nose and turned his head. There was a big leather chair in the corner with a big body sprawled in it, feet flung out and resting on a stool. Kento. Who had a bandage across his temple, another at his hairline and a purplish swelling around his right eye. His snoring was giving the monitor a run for its money.

"Kento?" His voice came out hoarse. He tried again. "Kento?"

Kento grunted and blinked, lifting a big hand to wipe at his eyes. "Huh? Oh, Rowan, you're awake."

"Where's Sai?" He thought someone had told him Sai was okay, but it might have been a dream.

"Down the hall in the family room, stretched out on the coach. He can't sleep in the chair with his ribs all busted up like they are. 'Sides, the pain medicine was making him loopey."

"Oh. He's okay?"

"Pretty much." Kento said warily, sitting forward to eye Rowan. "How 'bout you? How're you feeling?"

"Fucked up. A little loopey too." He looked up at the IV's, figuring they were the culprits. "What happened?"

"I dunno. I came to and Sai was down and you were buried under half the building. You were dead man. Like totally gone for a couple a minutes."

Rowan blinked slowly, mulling that over. Trying to remember. There hadn't been any white light. No gentle sweet call from loved ones waiting at the end of the tunnel. Just a spiraling fall and the insistent pull of something that had wanted him desperately to come back. Part of it, he thought, was the connection with the armor. Even separated from the crystal it still had a pull on him. Another part of it had been more personal. More human. Sai maybe. He didn't know.

"Where's Ryo?"

Kento's face shut down. His eyes got shuttered. "I'm wearing you out. Maybe you ought to get more sleep."

"Fuck that." Rowan snapped. "Don't coddle me, man. What happened to Ryo? Where'd Seiji go?"

Kento sighed. "We don't know. Both of 'em are just gone.'

"How long?'

"Its been two days."

"Fuck. And the two of you've just been sitting here, hovering over me?"

"What the hell should we have been doing?" Kento snapped back at him, exhaustion and worry getting the better of his temper. "How the hell should we have tracked them down? They could be anywhere. Anywhere."

"Seiji took him?"

"I dunno. Like I said, they're both just gone. We didn't know what to do. Hell, Seiji's damn company wants to charge us with malicious vandalism. The only reason me and Sai aren't sitting in jail is 'cause we kept throwing Seiji's name at them.'

"Okay. Okay." He lifted his free hand and pushed back listless hair. There was a bandage around his head. Somebody had mentioned head trauma. It was fucking with his thinking in a big way.

"I'm having trouble focusing here." He said in frustration.

"Don't try." Kento said. "You've got like the mother of all concussions."

He ignored that bit of advice. "Where would she go?"

"I don't know." Kento said miserably. "We've been racking our brains, trying to figure it out. The people at Seiji's company won't tell us anything. Maybe he -- she -- just took off to get away from us."

"With Ryo in tow. Stupid to think we wouldn't come after them."

"You think Ryo went willingly?"

"Maybe. I think Ryo would do just about anything not to lose track of Seiji."

"Maybe. So what'da we do?" Kento asked slowly, a little anxiously, as if he'd been waiting for somebody to come up with a reasonable plan of action. Kento never had been the planner of the group. Kento could be counted upon to back a body up in any given situation without hesitation, but he wasn't a strategist. Hell, Ryo wasn't a strategist, but he had damned fine gut instincts that always had worked to their benefit. Seiji was. Rowan was. Sai in a pinch, but Sai got emotional and Sai got distracted easily and Rowan figured Sai had one thing on his mind at the moment and one thing only, and that was Rowan lying half dead in a hospital bed.

"Okay." He said softly. "Okay. Here's what you do. Go and call Mia. I don't care what she's doing or where's she at, get her over here."

"What's Mia gonna do?"

"She's got contacts. She knows people that know things. We need somebody who can tell us about this bitch, down to the nitty gritty. And go and wake up Sai. I just -- I just need to see he's okay. All right?"

"All right." Kento had perked up. Kento had a plan of action. He patted Rowan on the shoulder reassuringly. "We're gonna find 'em and we're gonna kick her ass right out of Seiji."

"I know. Go." He hoped Kento was right. But somehow, considering how thoroughly she had already wiped the floor with them, he didn't think it was going to be that easy.

 

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