Disclaimer: not mine
Summary: When you think about it, an anatomy professor and a nurse are very appropriate jobs for vampires...
Chapitre 11: Vampire of Angst
Even if tomorrow the bruises will disappear; with you angsting by my side, there will always be injuries to my pride.
Syaoran winced as his knees crashed down onto concrete and a siren roared past his head. For a moment, he lamented his decision to demand that Mokona transport them away from Watanuki's shop so abruptly, but was hastily reminded of his earlier reasoning as small black rabbit screamed and ran past him onto a blacktopped roadway to evade its overly amorous white counterpart.
Tires squealed and horns blared as the rabbit narrowly escaped a bloodied and decidedly two-dimensional fate.
Syaoran breathed a sigh of relief as the black rabbit reached the safety of the sidewalk. His attention was quickly diverted, however, to the less fortunate automobile that had slammed into the guardrail separating the two lanes of traffic to allow the little bugger safe passage across the road. Steam poured from the hood, which had folded neatly in an apparent effort to become an accordion. The driver flailed wildly before slumping over onto a large white balloon which flew out from the steering wheel and caught her across the head and shoulders.
A second chorus of squealing and honking began as a larger black blur raced across the stream of oncoming traffic. As the initial piercing chords faded, Syaoran was able to make out an all-too-familiar descant rising above the jarring refrain.
"…Bloody stupid manjuu! What the hell were you thinking dropping us down in the middle of the road? You'd think you had no practice at all landing in a new dimension! It's not like we've been doing this for years or anything! GET BACK HERE! I swear I'll make you into gloves!"
Syaoran winced once again. He really wished Kurogane had the presence of mind to not whip out his sword in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded street before they knew anything about the world they had landed in. Some of these places equipped their law enforcement with electrical weapons that were able to take down even the hulking ninja with surprisingly little resistance…
He grimaced as Mokona dodged the sharp edge of Kurogane's sword and landed with a thud on the roof of the battered car where it proceeded to bounce up and down frantically as the ninja thrashed wildly at the air. Syaoran squeezed his eye lids together and massaged the bridge of his nose as he silently began the countdown to Fay's inevitable scolding of the duo.
He opened his eyes, disturbed by the lack of angry flailing and cursing. The scene had changed, ever so slightly; the car itself had been moved several feet back from where it had smashed against the railing and the driver had successfully disentangled herself from the billowing labyrinth of the airbag and ventured out onto the shoulder of the road. She now stood watching in horrified awe as Kurogane fiddled violently with something just outside of Syaoran's line of vision and continued to bark threats at Mokona. He sucked in a breath and started cautiously across the road, dodging traffic that was (thankfully) slowing to rubberneck the scene.
He wished almost immediately that he hadn't. He was barely across one lane when it became clear that what Kurogane was fiddling with was not a "thing," per se, but rather Fay's leg, which was currently bent at an unnatural angle from the knee. The sight of this was distressing enough; he certainly wasn't prepared for the sickening *SLURPOP*noise that echoed off the metal frames of the cars he darted between as Kurogane forcefully snapped the bones back into position.
He prayed silently to whatever gods or devils guided their journey that the sirens growing ever closer were some sort of medical assistance and not law enforcement, though he didn't particularly relish the thought of explaining to either just how the wizard had ended up in the middle of the road to begin with…
* * * * *
Fay was vaguely aware of a dull, alcoholic tang of an antiseptic clinging to the insides of his nostrils and cheeks like a bad hangover. He was doubtful, however, that the disturbingly prophylactic odor was entirely responsible for the fog clouding his mind or the inexplicable transformation of his tongue into something resembling unhusked cotton. He was also fairly certain that he shouldn't be able to feel his pulse in his ears, but, at the moment, was feeling far too relaxed to start an argument with them regarding the finer points of their physiology.
He also seemed to be moving, which was worrisome as his brain was currently registering his bodily position as far more horizontal than vertical. He supposed stranger things had happened, but, for the life of him, he couldn't quite make out how he was moving when he couldn't feel his feet.
It was very strange indeed.
There was an abrupt shift in the atmosphere; the essence of "antiseptic and clean" was replaced with something more akin to "acidic and likely found in a sewer." With some effort, he forced his eyes open as he felt himself shudder to a halt amidst the putrid air.
Curtain. Curtain. Shouting. Curtain. Beeping machine.
"Syaoran? Where the hell are we? What happened?"… is what he meant to say. His tongue, however, was presently locked into a vast anatomical conspiracy with his ears and feet and refused to cooperate, leaving his resulting attempt at speech sounding more like "ShooooDafuk? Wamama?"
Before Syaoran could answer, a flurry of activity erupted around them. Four brutish men in matching green uniforms burst through the curtains surrounding the bed amidst shouts of "Oh shit! He's awake!" and proceeded to pin the wizard's limbs to the bed.
Fay was quite shocked to discover that he could, in fact, feel his feet. Or at least he was able to feel the sharp blast of pain that ripped agonizingly through the left one as it was forcibly restrained by Thuggish Brute Number Two. He mentally parsed several pleas for the lovely gentleman to relax his death grip just a bit, but decided, in the end, that screaming was both more efficient and satisfying.
A fifth man pushed his way through the curtains wielding a large and threatening looking syringe. "Now, Mr. Fluorite," he said slowly, "I have enough Ketamine in this syringe to knock out a small rhinoceros, and I will not hesitate to inject it directly into your eyeballs if necessary to prevent a repeat of this morning. Is this clear?"
It wasn't, but Fay nodded weakly in assent anyway. His eyes darted quickly to Syaoran, who grimaced.
"Very well," the man lowered the syringe and motioned to the others, who warily released their hold of the wizard's limbs. "Mr. Fluorite, the traffic accident you were involved in this morning tore the lateral collateral ligament of your left knee and created a hairline fracture in your tibia. We've replaced the ligament with a synthetic and set your leg to heal properly. Medically speaking, you're fit for discharge, though you won't be walking for several weeks. Legally, however, I am obliged to keep you under observation here for another hour to ensure that you are not a danger to yourself or anyone else. Do you understand what I am saying to you?"
Fay supposed he understood the meaning of the words spoken to him, even if the greater context of the situation was lost. He nodded.
"Right, then. A nurse will be by shortly with your discharge paperwork. Until then, you are not to move from this gurney." The five men disappeared back through the curtains.
Fay's gaze wandered back to Syaoran, who was eyeing him with the same apprehension the men in green had. "What happened?"
Syaoran winced. "Well…a lot. What's the last thing you remember?"
"I have a fuzzy recollection of finding the Mokonas doing something I was unaware Mokonas were equipped to do…"
"Ah, okay. So right before we left, then. Um, well, we – I – decided it was time to leave. And then Mokona dropped us in the middle of traffic here."
"What kind of traffic?"
"Oh, thank gods." It was difficult to underestimate the wizard's gratitude to whatever deities may have been eavesdropping that he hadn't been dipped in horse dung in addition to being fitted with a cast. He failed to say this aloud, however, which only caused Syaoran to stare at him with more concern.
"Are you alright?" Syaoran asked slowly, "They gave you some pretty strong pain-killers…" and an obscene number of sedatives, though Syaoran felt it best to keep that piece of information to himself for the time being.
"Hmm? Oh, I'm fine. Can't feel a thing, honestly," Fay attempted to sit up, but failed miserably and opted to roll gingerly onto his side instead. "What was that doctor talking about? This morning? And what is Ketamine?"
Syaoran grimaced and pulled the curtain behind him aside to reveal the aftermath of the wizard's hospital admission. After charming the attending paramedic into giving him "a little something to take the edge off," Fay had progressed through a multitude of rare, but not entirely unknown side-effects of the pain-killer. The early-stage fit of giggles had quickly evolved into a stream of loud honking noises as the distressed wizard fought to scare away the large flock of purple geese that had suddenly and inexplicably appeared in the ambulance. The entire episode had ultimately culminated in a full-on Ashura hallucination coupled with a disturbing amount of thumb sucking. This, in and of itself, had not disturbed the hospital staff (who were well used to the bizarre side-effects of some of their more potent drugs and were frankly happy he hadn't soiled himself as well), so much as it had inspired them to call their friends in other departments down to the emergency room to gawk at the latest admittee.
Which, of course, meant that a sizeable crowd had gathered by the time the nurses had attempted to coax Fay onto a gurney for transport to the X-Ray room.
Which, of course, meant that the number of injuries sustained when bright blue lights suddenly erupted from the wizard's fingertips and blasted through the opposing wall were increased three-fold.
(The only person who hadn't appeared alarmed by this turn of events was a rather pissy-looking man dressed in black and holding a bouquet of flowers and some sort of mutant-rabbit plushy. He was later admitted for psychological counseling after loudly and repeatedly proclaiming to anyone who would listen that "the idiot" was "fine" and was "only doing this to piss me off." )
Fay stared at the wreckage. "I did that?" he gaped.
Syaoran shuffled. "You weren't really…yourself…" He had been only too happy that fate, or inevitability, or hitzusen, or whatever the translator was calling it these days had intervened in the form of a familiar face during the mass hysteria following Fay's spectacular pyrotechnic demolition of the emergency department…
"Well, hello again, my fellow travelers."
Syaoran was snapped back to reality by the reappearance of the same familiar face through the curtained walls.
"Subaru!" he exclaimed, turning to grasp the other's arm affectionately. "We really can't thank you enough for earlier. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't stepped in…"
Subaru smiled and waved the thanks away. "It was nothing. It's not the first time someone has reacted badly to Oxyfukatol."
"Yes but the-"
"I'd actually rather not talk about that here. Might be a bad career move," Subaru tapped his nurse's badge proudly.
"Oh…" Syaoran eyed the papers in Subaru's hand. "Are those…?"
"Discharge papers!" Subaru waved the stack enthusiastically. "Where are you all staying here? He's not going to be up and walking for a few weeks, so you really should make sure it's accessible."
"Actually, we haven't found a place yet," Syaoran admitted, "This sort of happened as the result of a botched landing."
"Ah," Subaru nodded, "Why don't you stay with us, then? We've got plenty of room that we're not using and-"
"Buu-Buu!" A second dark-haired head appeared through the curtains. "We need more iodine over here! This wound is going to get infected!"
Subaru drew a patient breath and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "She's been discharged. It's only a couple of scratches – the most she's in danger of is some minor discomfort."
"And don't call me 'Buu-Buu' at work."
The second dark-haired man grumbled and eyed-up the blonde occupant of the bed. "It's you…"
Syaoran moved to affirm this, but was held back by Subaru. "Yes, brother. They're the ones Kotori hit on her way to work this morning. I've actually just finished inviting them to stay with us while they recover."
Kamui's eyes narrowed. "So they're the reason…?"
"Don't start this again," Subaru snapped, "It was an accident."
"You said that last time, as well."
"That's because it was."
"And the time before that."
Subaru let loose a long-suffering sigh and attempted to herd his brother back through the curtain. "This really isn't the time…"
Syaoran and Fay exchanged worried glances as the argument between the twin vampires escalated just beyond the curtain, the words "interference," "E," and "rat-bastards" being repeated in increasingly high-pitched tones. There was a loud scuffle, several metallic clangs, and finally a loud declaration of "FINE!" This was followed shortly by a meek "I love you, too," and the reappearance of Subaru into the curtained-off room.
"Brother's just gone up to his office to collect his things. He'll be taking you home shortly."
"We really don't want to be an imposition…" Syaoran started.
"Not at all!" Subaru insisted, "He just needs a little convincing sometimes. It will be great to have some company!"
"As long as you're sure…"
"Of course! Now, why don't you start filling these out, and I'll head up to the psych ward to see what I can do about getting your friend released."
* * * * *
Syaoran balked in amazement at the sheer size of the house Kamui led them into. The entryway, nestled unassumingly into an even less assuming façade, opened into an extravagant open living space; the entire house had been designed around a sunken central room with an elaborate wood burning stove as its centerpiece. The second story balcony overhung this space, ensuring that the open atmosphere was not limited to the first floor and towering panes of glass framed by elegantly carved dark woods comprised the majority of the outer wall, which provided a spectacular view of a meticulously scaped and gardened rock face leading into the back property.
"Hyuu…" Fay breathed, eyes wide in surprise. "You two have done amazingly well for yourselves here…" He paused as a long-haired black cat leapt into his lap as he attempted to wheel himself further into the living area.
Kamui smirked. "Yes, I suppose you could say that. That's Hokuto – she's our darling girl," he added, stroking the cat behind the ears.
"Hello Hokuto! So cute!" Fay turned his attention back to Kamui, "What exactly are you doing for work?"
"I'm a professor of anatomy. Subaru, as you gathered, is a nurse."
"You can afford this place on a professor and nurse's salary?" Syaoran sputtered in disbelief.
A faint smile tugged at Kamui's lips. "Actually, I suppose you might say that this place was left to us."
"Left to you?" Syaoran was growing increasingly flustered, both by Kamui's evasive answers and by the arithmetic he was attempting to do in his head which refused to work itself out.
Fay blanched, recognizing the expression playing across their host's face all too well. Syaoran, however, was too busy trying to multiply pi by six and divide by zero while stamping out the laughter of the imaginary numbers dancing mockingly through his head to notice, and continued to press the issue. "How long have you been here?" he demanded.
"A little over two years, I think."
Syaoran's face twisted incredulously. "In two years you managed to talk someone into leaving a house to you and managed to work your way through the years of study needed to get the degrees for your jobs?"
Kamui snorted, finally understanding the look of confusion mixed with what he had assumed to be extreme constipation contorting the young man's face. "I can jump through dimensions, you think I can't mock us up a few diplomas?" He paused to laugh. "Man, traveling with you three must be a luxury cruise – what do you do, sleep on the streets?"
Syaoran decided to let that last little jab slip by unacknowledged. "But surely you need some sort of knowledge of your field…"
"Well, having a basic understanding of human anatomy is pretty damned valuable to a vampire. And let's not forget that I've been alive long enough to have a bit better understanding than most. And Subaru…well, he's just naturally good at being over-attentive and putting up with bleeding idiots. I figured you would at least remember that much."
"…and the house?" Syaoran sighed.
"It was left to us," Kamui paused to stroke his chin. "Ah! That reminds me, we don't have any food – well, not anything you'd find edible, anyway..."
"I can go into the town in a bit," Syaoran volunteered, "You don't need to worry on our account."
"Nonsense," Kamui said with a grin, "I promised Subaru that I would be hospitable – he gets very cranky if I go back on my word. Besides, I can call out for it."
"Are you sure? We're set so far back out of town, it must be expensive to have things delivered…"
"Oh, it is. But don't worry, I have a grad student."
"A what?" Syaoran had a vague idea of what a 'grad student' was, but his definition didn't conjure up images of grocery delivery.
"A soulless, brainless troll that lives in my laboratory, leeching off my superior knowledge and one day hoping to steal my job. Luckily, he writes well enough that I can slap my name on his papers and publish them without too much additional work."
Kamui waved the boy's expression away as he picked up a telephone receiver. "It's just a figure of speech. I'm sure he's a very lovely troll."
"But is it okay?"
"What? Of course it's okay. This is what grad students are for," his attention was quickly diverted to the voice carrying through the receiver. "Yeah, hi. I'm going to need you to run an errand for me. No, no. Just to the market and then back to my house. I don't really care. No, I really don't care. Tell her to fucking walk. Look, we had this discussion last week-"
"Come on, Syaoran," Fay interrupted, not really wanting to test their begrudging host's patience any further. "Let's get settled in a bit. I think Kuro-rin would really appreciate finding a pair of pants."
The dark figure in the entryway glared. While this glare was undoubtedly intended to convey the threat imminent death to the wheel-chair bound wizard if he dared speak another word, the effect was somewhat ruined by the billowing hospital gown and fuzzy slippers.
Syaoran stared. "Why didn't they give you your clothes back?"
"I was in a hurry," Kurogane stomped past Syaoran to grip the handles of Fay's wheelchair, "Pants. Now."
"Still in a hurry, I see," Fay chuckled as he was wheeled away, "We must have some packed away in Mokona…let's go look."
* * * * *
Subaru returned home later that evening to find a disgruntled grocery delivery boy camped out on the front porch. "Fujimoto! What are you doing here so late?" he gasped, eying the boy with concern. Large, dark circles below bloodshot eyes and shaky hands determinedly gripping the groceries screamed of sleep deprivation and far too many hours spent staring down a computer screen. Subaru grabbed the bag of groceries and set a hand on Fujimoto's shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine…Kamui called and wanted me to drop by some groceries."
"How long have you been here?"
"Just a few minutes. I heard him yell for me to wait while he got some money."
Subaru sighed and unlocked the door. "You should come in. It's too late to be standing around outside."
Fujimoto complied and shuffled into the house behind Subaru. Kamui emerged down the stair case a moment later, looking perplexed.
"I told you I'd just be a minute."
"Kamui," Subaru said sternly, "It's eleven o'clock – that's far too late to be standing around outside waiting for you. I can't believe you would even ask him to."
Kamui glared. "I suppose. Here's money for the groceries." He pushed a wad of bills toward his student.
Subaru lifted his eyebrows expectantly.
"And…thanks…" Kamui murmured through closed lips.
Subaru continued to stare.
"And…I'm, I'm…s-sorry for making you wait outside." He stared at the floor.
Subaru sighed and set the groceries on the counter. "You should take the day off tomorrow, Fujimoto. You've obviously been working way too hard."
Kamui's eyes snapped up and glared toward his twin. "But the lab has to be prepared for class on Friday and I have to spend all day tomorrow preparing for my review and Kotori is out and, and, and, and-"
Subaru draped a soothing arm around his brother. "Kamui…it will be okay. You work him too hard as it is. Just let it go this once."
"But," Kamui started to complain, then bit his lip as he saw the seriousness of Subaru's expression. "Okay…"
"Actually, it's fine," Fujimoto piped up. "I have to go back to the University anyway to pick Kobato up from work. I can set up the lab while I'm there."
"Really?" Kamui's eyes brightened, "Oh, thank you so much! There are 13 compacted recta that must be removed before Friday's dissection."
Fujimoto blanched, realizing what he had just agreed to. Subaru saw this and sighed exasperatedly. "I'll go with you. I'm used to night shifts."
"Why don't I go?" a voice offered from behind them. The trio turned to see a frazzled-looking Syaoran emerge from one of the first floor bedrooms. "I can't sleep, and I'd love to see the university a bit more."
Kamui shifted uncomfortably. He wasn't thrilled with the idea of a complete novice putzing about his lab, but he didn't really want to head back to campus himself, either. "Okay," he agreed at last, "But don't let him do anything that might reflect…poorly on me."
"I won't," Fujimoto waved as he and Syaoran headed back through the front door. The door closed behind them with surprising force. "Bastard," he muttered, kicking at the ground.
"I heard that!" Kamui's voice shouted through an open window. A scuffle was audible from inside and moments later Subaru's voice called into the darkness, "And please remember to come for Brother's 'Good Luck' dinner tomorrow night!"
Fujimoto rolled his eyes as he jammed his key into the car door. "Like I could possibly forget…"
Syaoran sank into the passenger seat. "'Good Luck' dinner?"
"Kamui's up for tenure review on Friday. Subaru is having a party for him tomorrow night to wish him luck."
"Oh. Don't you usually wait until after something like that to have a party?"
Fujimoto shrugged as he maneuvered the car around the driveway in the darkness. "I don't ask." He turned to look at Syaoran quizzically. "You don't know anything about this?"
"Well, no," Syaoran shrugged, "We're old friends from out of town – we actually just ran into Subaru by accident and he offered to put us up while we're here, so…"
"Ah. You seemed a bit too sane to be friends with Kamui."
Syaoran chuckled. "He's helped us a lot in the past, but I guess I wouldn't classify us as the best of friends, no."
Fujimoto grinned and pulled out onto the long dirt road leading into town. "Well, I hope you know what you just got yourself into…"
* * * * *
Syaoran stared at the woman seated across the booth from him and wondered for the umpteenth time in the past hour just how he had ended up here. Sunlight was beginning to creep up above the horizon and glittered across the café's mirrored walls. "Um, Dr. Yokoshima, I really think I should be getting back…"
"I told you – please call me Kanoe," she grinned and shifted her shoulders to provide Syaoran with a better view of her cleavage. "And I thought you deserved a little treat after that hard night in the lab."
"Yes, thank you," Syaoran murmured, stirring his eggs around his plate. He was enjoying himself despite his guilt processing centers' insistence that the thrill of being treated to a meal by a gorgeous and interesting woman wasn't worth the inevitable shouting and hair-pulling when Sakura found out. "I just don't want my friends to worry."
"Oh, I'm sure Kamui will keep them on their toes."
Syaoran smiled and thanked her again. He had been woefully unprepared for the work he and Fujimoto had set out to accomplish. He made a mental note to investigate future lab opportunities a bit more thoroughly, lest he find himself once again surrounded by thirty three half-dissected cadavers in the middle of the night. Also, he made a point to file the phrase "compacted recta" into the portion of his brain usually reserved for expressions such as "Flash Flood," "Poisonous if swallowed," and "Hey look, this vampire is sparkling!" He shuddered just thinking of poor Fujimoto up to his elbows in foreign viscera with carefully placed surgical clamps and a tentative scalpel blade positioned just above the…
His breakfast seemed even less appetizing now that he'd been introduced to the human digestive system in such an…intimate manner.
"So…you're Kamui's boss?" he asked, trying to avert his eyes from the heaving globes of silicone sin bouncing before his eyes and failing quite badly.
"Yes," Kanoe smiled. "I'm the head of the anatomy and physiology department – I suppose you could say I'm his boss. My area of expertise is actually in cloning technology, though. Our research doesn't overlap in more than its basic subject."
Syaoran felt his face twitch at the mention of "cloning," and desperately fought to force some blood back into his cheeks, which he was certain had gone pale. "Cloning? You mean…human cloning?"
"No, not yet," Kanoe leaned back in her seat and lit a cigarette. "There are all sorts of ethical issues involved in human cloning." She paused to take a long drag. "Not to mention the implications of bringing a being into the world without a soul…"
"Yes," he finally managed, "I'm sure that must bring up all kinds of issues."
"It's fascinating, don't you think? The ability to create life from mere cells? All the more so if they don't have souls – replacement organs; armies of cloned, soulless soldiers; human subjects for medicinal trials… Of course, these are just some of the ethical concerns."
"Yeah, I can see that… How much do you know about 'souls' and their transference?"
Kanoe smiled kindly. "More than you might think," she assured him, "Though, strictly speaking, that's not my area of expertise. My sister, however…" she trailed off. "I thought I sensed something special about you."
"Special?" Syaoran was stunned. He wasn't sure whether to laugh joyously or cry tears of relief. Finally, someone who might be able to help…
A slender hand came to rest upon his own. "Yes. But this is not the time or place to discuss it. Please, come visit me at the university sometime this week. We can talk more then. And, I suspect you'll be looking for a way to escape Kamui and his temper." She winked.
Syaoran smiled. He would definitely be by later in the week.
* * * * *
Kurogane grimaced as he examined the food spread across the counter. "Where's the meat?"
Kamui smiled menacingly at the ninja. "They think we're vegans. There's no point in contradicting that now."
"What the hell is a 'vegan?'" Kurogane demanded.
"Someone who doesn't eat any sort of animal product," Subaru supplied helpfully, carrying a large box toward the refrigerator. "You wouldn't believe the amount of social eating occasions that gets you out of." He opened the refrigerator and began unloading the box, stopping to wag one of the contents toward his twin. "We had a good haul today, Brother. We even managed to get a few pints of O positive – your favorite!"
Kamui's eyes sparkled happily as he skipped toward his brother. "Oh, yay! Gimme gimme gimme!"
"Just one for now," Subaru insisted, handing Kamui a plastic bag filled with a dark red substance, "And don't go into a frenzy."
"I won't!" Kamui promised as he stabbed a curly straw through the bag and began slurping the contents. "Delicious! Thank you Buu-buu! You're the bestest brother ever!"
"Don't call me Buu-buu," Subaru insisted, but smiled happily nonetheless.
Kurogane stared. "What is that? It sure as hell isn't Capri Sun."
Kamui removed his lips from the straw long enough to hiss at the ninja. "It's blood, you fool."
"I know it's blood," Kurogane roared. "I'm not an idiot. How'd you get a bag of blood?"
Subaru chuckled. "One of the perks of having access to the hospital's emergency supplies." He placed the last of the bags into the refrigerator and closed the door. "Anyway, we should probably get started making dinner. It's good you guys showed up – we almost had to have it catered!"
Kurogane was about to grumble a response when the front door opened and an extremely weary Syaoran tumbled into the house. "Where have you been?" he demanded instead.
"I met, well, the head of Kamui's department in the lab and she took me out for breakfast…" he trailed off, not sure how much of his conversation he wanted to share just yet, then reached into his pocket, "She said this is yours." He produced a small Taser.
"What's that?" Kurogane growled, staring at the device.
"It's my Taser," Subaru said, "But, how did she know?"
"She said it was confiscated at the hospital yesterday, but she recognized it and figured you would want it back."
"Yeah, I convinced the hospital staff that the sparks flying from Fay's fingers actually came from this and they took it," he paused, stroking his chin, "Huh. Imagine that. Dr. Evil giving something back that she's taken…"
"Dr. Evil? She seemed really nice to me…" Syaoran said, frowning.
An expression of terror fitted itself across Kamui's face as his eyes searched Syaoran's face. "You didn't…"
"Didn't what?" Syaoran demanded.
"Didn't…do anything that would give her access to any of your bodily fluids, did you?"
"What? NO! She took me for breakfast and then brought me back! She was very gracious!"
Kamui breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. Stay away from that woman. She's insane." He paused. "Still, this is not good if she knows that was yours, Buu-Buu."
Subaru nodded his silent assent, but refused to discuss the matter further. Kurogane looked from Syaoran to the vegetable filled counter and sighed. It looked like he wasn't going to be getting any help in preparing for this party after all. "You should go get some sleep," he said, nodding toward Syaoran, "Go keep the wizard company – he's getting far too friendly with that cat."
Syaoran nodded and left in search of a bed.
* * * * *
"Thanks for coming at such short notice!" Subaru thanked the caterers as they filed out the front door hours later. He stared dolefully at his empty wallet, sighed, and headed back toward the party. At least the smoke had cleared from the house…
He wandered over to where Kamui was talking animatedly with his favorite student and her date for the evening. From the look on his twin's face, Subaru could tell Kamui was enjoying himself – possibly a bit too much. The fear in the eyes of Kotori's date confirmed this, and Subaru moved to step in quickly to announce dinner before the inevitable meltdown began.
He was only moments too late, though judging by the violent explosion of anger and spittle from Kotori's unfortunate date, he probably hadn't had good odds of quelling whatever tempest Kamui had been stirring to begin with. He massaged his temples as the young man stomped to the front door and slammed it behind him. Kotori watched in horror from Kamui's side, dumbstruck and gaping. Subaru inhaled sharply – was this it? Was this the foot over the line that would finally push his brother's beloved student away from him…?
Kotori collapsed into Kamui's soothing embrace. No…of course it wouldn't be. Subaru sighed and squeezed his eyes shut. It was too damned bright in this room, he decided, and stormed over to find the controls to adjust the window tint.
"Mood lighting?" a voice asked from his left. He spun to find the wizard wheeling himself out of the bedroom he had claimed.
"Huh? Oh, um, yes. Dinner is ready, so I thought…"
"I'm glad," Fay cut him off, "The sun is always too bright through those windows in the evening and it just kills my eyes."
"Mine too," Subaru turned to glare at his twin, "And I'm sure he'll appreciate the 'mood lighting.'"
Fay was unable to ask the vampire what he meant by that before the other stalked away and pointedly announced that dinner was served. He haphazardly attempted to maneuver himself to the table, but was thankfully caught by Kurogane, who wheeled him along a much straighter course than he was managing on his own. After several moments of futzing about trying to fit the wizard's massive, casted leg beneath the table edge, they opted to park him a way back from the table next to Kurogane's seat.
"Kuro-puu's just going to have to spoon-feed me," Fay giggled, smiling innocently at the girl seated on the other side of him.
She returned the smile and clasped her hands together. "That's so sweet! Fujimoto! Will you spoon feed me too?"
Fujimoto blushed as he took the seat next to her. "Um, Kobato…not here…"
"Aw! But it's so darling – look how cute they are!" she squealed as Kurogane handed Fay a glass of wine. Kurogane's eyes narrowed at the mention of "cute" and huffed as he turned away.
"Yes, it's…" Fujimoto stammered.
"Aw, Kuro-rin's being shy!" Fay exclaimed, clutching the ninja's arm and nearly spilling his drink.
"See?" Kobato continued to chirp, "I want to be cute like that, too!"
"I'm not cute!" Kurogane insisted.
"Kuro-myuu is very sensitive…" Fay whispered loudly, covering his mouth to hide its movements from Kurogane, "We have to talk about his cuteness very discreetly."
"How about you just stop talking altogether, since everyone can hear you anyway?" Kurogane growled.
"Ahem." Subaru stood at the end of the table, a glass raised in his hand. "We'd like to thank everyone for joining us tonight, and offer a toast to Kamui. As you all know, his tenure review is tomorrow and I think everyone would like to join me in wishing him the best of luck."
"Cheers!" Glasses clinked and beverages were consumed.
"And I, of course," Kamui began loudly, once the chatter had died down a bit, "Would like to thank my fantastic graduate students for being so devoted to our research. I couldn't have made it to this point without your help, Kotori and Fujitaka."
"Oh, right. Anyway, I'd also like to apologize to Kotori for scaring away her date tonight. It was in poor taste."
Kotori waved this away. "It's fine – I only just met him and-"
"You should stay away from computer science students. They're a frightening bunch."
"Like I said-"
"The only woman that boy will ever convince to love him is one he builds for himself. And he'll probably do something stupid like put her 'on' switch between her legs so he can't even…Ahahahaha…" Kamui collapsed into a loud gale of laughter while the rest of the party stared in silence. "Ahaha…and he'll probably name her something idiotic like 'Chi…' Ahahaha…and…and…"
Fay's eyebrow ticked. Subaru sank into his chair and released a low growl before gripping Kamui's shoulder sternly. "You're making the rest of us uncomfortable," he hissed.
Subaru glowered and began passing dishes around the table. Kamui shrugged and turned his attention back to Kotori, who promptly began ignoring Syaoran, who in turn refocused his conversation on Kurogane, who looked like he would really rather be somewhere else.
Fay turned back to Kobato and Fujimoto. "So, are you two married…?"
"Oh, no! Not yet," Kobato said excitedly, "We're saving up money right now. Hopefully soon, though…"
Fujimoto coughed and sighed. "It's hard when you live on starvation wages…"
"But, Fujimoto! My job pays enough for us! We'll be fine…"
"What do you do?" Fay asked, pouring himself a large glass of wine in the hopes it might help the headache creeping up behind his eyes.
"I run the campus daycare center," she said proudly, then lowered her voice, "We should talk about something else, though. Kiyokazu tends to get depressed if I talk too much about it…"
"I do not!" Fujimoto insisted, "It's just…"
Fay frowned. "Just…?"
"I'm 25 years old and don't have a real job, can't support us, and won't be able to for awhile. She's four years younger and already has a career that she loves…it's just…aggravating."
"But you do have a job!" Kobato said, grabbing Fujimoto's hand, "A very important one! You teach all of those medical students anatomy!"
Fujimoto sighed. "Only because that's the only way I can live with myself. Otherwise anatomical science and paleontology is about the most masturbatory discipline anyone could indulge in…"
"Um, what?" Fay wasn't certain he had heard correctly.
"What he means is – hey are you alright? Your eyebrow is twitching."
Fay put a hand to his brow. Damned if she wasn't right… He was going to have to go lay down soon; he could feel the pain-killers kicking in and making him drowsy. He didn't have too long to dwell on it, however, as Kamui yelled for their attention for across the table.
"Fujitaka! Did you hear me? I said the paper was accepted."
Fujimoto's eyes lit up. "Really?" he gasped, "The one I wrote? That's great!"
"Yes," Kamui said, smiling faintly, "I thought you'd be pleased. Your first publication. Granted, you're the third author, but still…"
Fujimoto's face fell. "Wait, third author? But I did all the work!"
"Well, yes, but obviously I would be the first author and Kotori drew such a lovely figure for it, I thought she deserved the second author slot."
Fujimoto stared at his plate and fondled his knife. Subaru stared at his twin, rage festering in his eyes. Neither man acted.
Fay regarded Fujimoto with concern. "Have you ever just considered leaving?" he whispered, not wanting to offend their host. "You'd be amazed at the dark, entrancing beauty of a life lived in solitude, away from the infuriating outside world. It gives you time to reflect on your injuries, your fears, your deepest, darkest desires…"
He was cut off abruptly as Kurogane grabbed his arm. "Oi. What kind of nonsense are you spewing, idiot?"
"Nothing, nothing," Fay assured him, shading his eyes and plastering on a smile. "Say, remember that time Syaoran shattered Seishiro's nose? That was fun. We should tell Kamui and Subaru about that."
Kamui's face ticked. "Seishiro? Did you say Seishiro?"
"You've had contact with that asshole?" Kamui slammed his glass onto the table, shattering it.
"Yes," Fay continued, eyes narrowing, "As I was saying, Syaoran here-"
"AND YOU CAME INTO MY HOUSE?" Kamui raged, lifting the end of the table, "YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF MY HOSPITALITY AND ALL ALONG-" he paused as he felt Subaru grip his wrists and gently remove his hands from the table. "But, Buu-Buu…"
"That's enough. Everyone, thank you for coming, but I think it's best if we call an end to tonight."
The disturbed dinner party silently agreed and began edging away from the table.
"You three should stay," Subaru added, looking from Syaoran to Kurogane, "Despite what he says, I'd like to hear about Seishiro…"
"Buu-Buu!" Kamui shook with rage.
"Look, Brother, you've already ruined the evening. Why don't you go yell at the cat – that always seems to calm you down."
"But I can't…Hokuto is so sweet and innocent…I can't yell…"
"Then go to bed," Subaru sighed, exasperated. "You have a huge day tomorrow and…" he stopped as he realized Kamui was snoring gently in his grip and shook his head. "He never could handle his drink…I knew I should have held him back until everyone left…" He slung his brother over his shoulder and headed for the staircase. "I'll be back down in a moment – I want to hear more about Seishiro."
* * * * *
Fay stared balefully at the blank television screen. Kurogane snored loudly on the sofa across from him and Syaoran fluttered about the room alongside Subaru, tidying this and that and chattering nervously about Kamui's review, which had begun nearly three hours earlier. Fay's earlier attempts to help had been quashed almost immediately as his inability to maneuver the tightly packed living space brought about the untimely demise of an expensive table lamp.
Now he was left alone with his thoughts. Useless, empty, unfeeling except for the incessant thrumming of the pain-killers in his head.
And, damned if there wasn't anything good on the television, either.
A loud BANG from the entryway interrupted the flow of nothingness through the wizard's consciousness and Kamui stumbled into the living room. Subaru immediately dropped the vase he was polishing to bounce over to his twin and exclaim "Congratulations, Assistant Professor!"
"Why is it so fucking bright in here?" Kamui demanded.
"Nothing happened," Kamui said coolly, "Everything is exactly the same as it was this morning. Including my job title."
"Oh Kamui…" Subaru hugged his brother tightly to his chest.
"Don't," Kamui pushed away slowly, "I'm fine. I just want a drink."
"There's still some O positive in the fridge…" Subaru said soothingly, "Why don't you go get some and lie down for a bit?"
Subaru motioned for Syaoran to move Fay out of the room and quickly moved to shake the sleeping ninja, who woke with a loud snort. "What the…?" Kurogane demanded, groggily.
"You have to get up. You have to get out of the-"
He was cut off by a loud BANG from the kitchen and a mournful wail. "Shit..." Subaru cursed, "Hurry up…"
"WHERE THE FUCK IS MY FUCKING CURLY STRAW?"
Another BANG, this one much louder than the previous. Kurogane rubbed his eyes and squinted toward the kitchen, trying to make out exactly what the big deal was.
He wished he hadn't.
No one needed to see that amount of blood dripping down a naked vampire standing atop the remains of a kitchen counter. Kurogane noted with more than a hint of despair that this was not the first time he'd witnessed this little display, even if the last time it had been his blood dripping from the vampire in question and it had been less of a kitchen counter and more of a check-out counter at a convenience store that said vampire had ruined…
This could mean only bad things.
Luckily, Subaru stepped in quickly, using a paring knife to bat away his brother's claws as he moved in to wrestle the other to the floor. With Kamui safely subdued, he once again tossed his twin over his shoulder and climbed the staircase. "I'll be back in an hour or so…" he called to the horrified trio.
Syaoran stared at Kurogane. "Maybe we should leave…?"
Kurogane looked toward Fay. "I don't know…how are we going to get him out of here? I don't think we should leave this dimension until he's healed…who knows where we might end up…"
Fay whimpered and turned away.
Syaoran sighed. "Well, then, I suppose I can look into fixing the kitchen…"
"Right," Kurogane agreed quickly, 'And I'll make us something to eat." The duo rushed into the kitchen, leaving Fay to stare blankly out the window and mutter to himself about the "wretched brightness of the sun."
Syaoran quickly set about removing the splintered remains of the counter while Kurogane brought a pot to boil. The two neatly avoided tripping over one another by making as much noise as possible during their tasks, and soon Syaoran had heaved away the sharper bits of wood and Kurogane was grating cheese over the top of freshly cooked pasta. Neither of them heard the surreptitious creaking of the wooden ramp as Fay wheeled himself out of the sunken living room and toward the kitchen.
Kurogane was more startled by the sudden noise than the use of his full name and grated part of his finger. "What?" he asked, sucking away the blood pooling at the wound.
"Why have you decided to usurp my role as the mother of our family?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You know damn well what I am talking about!" A gigantic, casted leg crashed down onto the counter, shattering the marble surface and crushing the wooden cabinet beneath.
"What the…WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Kurogane screamed as blue lighting flashed around his head and blew apart a rack holding cast iron pots and pans, which clattered to the ground. He managed to duck all but one, which caught him across the shoulders and sent him pummeling to the floor. He pulled himself back to his knees and stared at the wheelchair bound magician. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I…I…"Fay whimpered, tears glistening in his eyes, "Kurogane…" he croaked helplessly, collapsing into a fit of sobs.
Kurogane hauled himself to his feet and staggered over to the wizard. He smacked him hard across the back of the head. "Oi! What the hell?"
Fay looked up, eyes suddenly wide and gripped Kurogane's injured hand. Wordlessly, he brought the oozing finger to his lips and began to suckle gently at the tip.
Kurogane flushed and stared helplessly at Syaoran, horribly embarrassed that the kid had to witness this bizarre show of…affection? Lust…? Anemia…? He wasn't sure, but wasn't given the opportunity to ponder it further as Subaru reappeared down the staircase.
"What happened?" he cried, surveying the wreckage.
Kurogane gaped. "He, um…"
"Oh, Jesustapdancingchrist…" Subaru muttered, stalking across the room to where Fay was in the process of nursing delicately at Kurogane's finger. He laid a hand across the wizard's forehead and felt for a pulse in his outstretched neck. "Does this happen often?"
"This?" Kurogane barked. No, this was entirely new and horrifying. He wasn't sure exactly what this was…
"Does he have angst fits?" Subaru demanded, more forcefully than before.
"What? Yes, well…but, but…this is too soon! It isn't time!"
Subaru cursed loudly and violently pinched Fay's neck. The wizard slumped to the side, snoring softly. "You," Subaru snapped his fingers at Syaoran, "Put him in the bed room. Lock the door from the outside." Syaoran was too startled to do anything but comply.
Kurogane stared at Subaru. "What is going on?"
Subaru grit his teeth. "How often does this happen?"
"Every nine months or so – like I said, it's far too soon. It's got to be something else."
"No!" Subaru shouted, "You don't get it! There's been too much angst floating around in this house! He hasn't been able to leave here, so he's been affected! My poor, poor kitchen…"
Kurogane stared, understanding slowly creeping across his features. "You're saying…you threw off his cycle?"
Subaru sighed. "I didn't do…okay, fine, I probably didn't help. Too many angst pheromones in a closed off space…"
"This, this doesn't mean that…you're all going to cycle…together, does it?" Kurogane asked nervously. Terrifying flashbacks of growing up amongst an obscenely large group of women at Shirasagi castle were dancing through his head.
"No," Subaru said slowly, "We don't 'cycle,' per se, but…"
"But I think we're in for a bad one."
Subaru exhaled. "Well," he said, a slow smile creeping across his face, "I think it's best that we keep them both here for the time being. Lord knows what will happen with both of them going at once…"
"You're suddenly far too calm for my liking."
Subaru smiled again, this time more brightly. "Well, at least it's not me, for once."
Kurogane eyed the vampire suspiciously.
Subaru ignored this and went back to inspecting the kitchen. "Damn, you can totally tell he got Kamui's blood…"
"The rage angst. If he'd gotten my blood, he'd probably just get ridiculously mopey and then go catatonic for awhile."
For the millionth time in his short life, Kurogane silently cursed the Dimensional Bitch. This was going to be a long, long few weeks.
To be continued…