This Sweet Madness

BY : Covenmouse
Category: Sailor Moon > AU - Alternate Universe
Dragon prints: 1681
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon, and I do not make any money from these writings.

A/N: This story ignores STARS, and mixes the anime and manga canon. It’s told from the point of view of the freshly reincarnated Shitennou, who have been given names to reflect the first letter of their previous names. (As is typical in Shitennou reincarnation fic, but I figured that I should clarify.) This was initially written for the Shitennou Ficathon ’09, but has since spawned a story of its own. The over-all theme of the ‘Thon was “songs” and, as such, each chapter has been given the title of a song which reflects its major theme(s).


CHAPTER ONE: Behind These Hazel Eyes

ZOE
June, 2009. Tokyo, Japan.

The strings quivered under her fingertips as she plucked them, each one reverberating a gentle, crisp note from the beat-up guitar propped against her chest. Turning her head to stare out the window, the girl’s fingers continued to move along the strings in a melody long since ingrained into her very bones. The tune filled the room, drowning out the beeping machinery settled beside her bed and the snores behind the curtain division, as she stared down at the parking lot below. It was filled with sunlight and cars, and it stung her eyes to stare.

There was a reserved parking spot under an oak tree outside the children’s ward which had remained empty all day.

She pressed her lips together and wet them with the tip of her tongue as a tiny blue car pulled into the lot, only to sigh as it went past the space without even a pause. Her fingers stilled mid-chord, and she slapped a hand to the strings to kill the sound. Using her free hand to card through her crimped and frizzy dirty-blonde hair, the girl forced her eyes away from the window to stare at the dull nothingness of her hospital room.

There was a dull crack as she let her head fall back against the window, and she winced at the faint pain. Her vision blurred, the acrid scent of smoke filling her nostrils. For a moment there was rushing confusion—blood and screams and a strange, loud noise like lightning strikes without the flash—and then someone said her name.

“Zoe?”

Slits of reality began to make sense once more as her eyes fluttered open to the sight of a familiar, cherub face. “Doctor Mizuno?”

Those pretty, nude lips smiled at her, but the gesture never reached Mizuno’s eyes. There was only sadness there, Zoe realized, and her stomach lurched. Her head swam again, and though she was loathe to, she closed her eyes once more. Cool fingers touched her forehead and brushed her bangs behind her ear. “You haven’t been sleeping again,” the Doctor pretended to ask.

“I try,” Zoe replied with as bright a smile as she could manage and forced her to eyes open once again. That dark gulf in Mizuno’s eyes only deepened. It was like stepping off a shelf in the ocean you hadn’t realized was there. Once more Zoe’s stomach rolled—pushing her guitar off onto the bed, the girl scrambled away and to the small bathroom across the room. She made it to the toilet in time to bang her knees sharply against the tile and catch the rim of the bowl.

The feeling of her hair being pulled back alerted Zoe to the fact that the doctor had followed her; rather than protest, the girl let herself be helped as her stomach lost what little it had been holding. When she was done she sat back and scrubbed the wet from her mouth with the back of her wrist. The simultaneous scrape of cloth against her chin and a cluck of the Doctor’s tongue reminded her of the bandages.

Mizuno stood up and took a washcloth from the nearby linen rack. The tap ran for a moment, and then the wet cloth was pressed to Zoe’s lips. She took it from the Doctor’s hands and wiped her own mouth. “Thank you,” Zoe muttered a moment later.

The sigh that Mizuno gave as she stood was soft but unmistakable; the toilet flushed and Mizuno’s flats thumped gently against the tile as she went back into the main room. Zoe pushed herself to her feet and followed, sponging the cloth against her soiled bandage as she did. “On the bed, please, Zoe,” Dr. Mizuno waved a hand towards the mattress as she lingered over a tray of supplies she’d apparently brought with her, “those bandages need to be changed.”

Zoe did as she told, though she made a face, “Can’t I brush my teeth first?”

“Of course.”

The girl did an about-face and moved back into the bathroom. How long ago had her toothbrush taken up permanent residence on one hospital sink or another? She’d forgotten. Smiling at the little pink instrument, Zoe picked it up and slathered on a bit of paste from the tube to her right. Her eyes went to the mirror as she began to brush, looking automatically for some small view of the doctor in the opposite room.

As she watched, Mizuno stopped working with the tray and moved towards the bed. Curiosity overcame her, and Zoe leaned slightly to the left so that she had a better view. Mizuno’s fingers traced the edges of her guitar in a slow, curious movement. The gesture was so soft, so… perfect. Zoe blushed, and her eyes snapped back to her own reflection.

It wasn’t much to look at, she knew. For a moment her vision blurred again, and a pair of emerald eyes glared into her own. Honey-dew hair, the kind she could only dream of, framed her head like a halo, and her skin was miraculously free of the paint-splatter freckles she’d been cursed with. Her head reeled, and she smacked her hip sharply against the edge of the counter.

Zoe cursed around her toothbrush; her eyes cleared, and she glared down at the sink for a long moment before Mizuno’s voice once again broke into her lapse. “Are you ready?”

Quickly finishing with her tooth brush, Zoe spat into the sink and rinsed her mouth and brush out. She replaced the toothbrush into its holder and grabbed a towel to wipe her mouth on when her reflection once again caught her eye.

“Doctor Mizuno?” She asked.

“Yes?” The Doctor appeared in the mirror behind her, brows lifted in question. For once Zoe’s attention didn’t automatically transfer to the woman.

Instead, she asked in a light voice, “Do people’s eyes change colour?”

“That depends,” Mizuno answered with an indulgent smile, “in babies, definitely. Most colour change afterward is a result of disease or aging. Why do you ask?”

“Because my eyes were brown yesterday.”

“And they were brown a minute ago,” Mizuno confirmed with a frown. The woman moved into the bathroom, and Zoe let herself be turned to face the Doctor. Once again the touch of Mizuno’s fingers upon her skin made her shiver, and she prayed that the woman wouldn’t notice. Her chin was tipped up toward the light, and Mizuno’s frown deepened. “Hazel…”

“Is this bad?” Zoe whispered.

“Probably not,” Mizuno shook her head, “It’s likely that they’ve been Hazel and we just didn’t notice.”

Zoe noted with a small spike of fear that Mizuno didn’t sound at all confident in that answer. Instead of arguing, Zoe nodded and smiled, “Ok. If you say so, Dr. Mizuno.”

“Ami,” the Doctor replied, “Remember?” The woman waved one hand towards the bedroom, and grabbed the knob of the bathroom door, “Now scoot. Your bandages need changing, and then you’re going down to the cafeteria for dinner. No arguments.”

“Yes, Doctor Ami.”

Dinner was a dreary affair; the rest of the inmates, as Zoe called them, droned or danced about the long bench tables alternately eating their food, playing with it, and, in one exceptional case, using it as makeup. Zoe couldn’t help but wonder if she should worry that the sight of mashed potato lipstick was becoming “normal.”

Staring down at her cold plate of “American Night” cuisine, Zoe felt her stomach roll again and began to mentally calculate the distance to the nearest restroom. Whomever had designed the hospital had apparently taken into account that there were those among them which couldn’t take a meal without puking—even those of them who weren’t bulimic, and so she felt reasonably sure that she could reach the nearest one before any untoward accidents occurred. And if she couldn’t, she figured that she could at least reach the lap of a rather unpleasant R.N. sitting at the staff tables across the room.

Zoe plucked idly at the fresh bandages on her arms, trying not to be bothered at the faint red stains that had already leaked to the edges. Most of the cuts had been stitched, but those which hadn’t been deep enough to require it were aggravated each time the bandages were changed. She knew it wasn’t anything to worry about and yet the sight was mesmerizing.

A sudden impulse overtook her, and the girl lifted her arm to her nose, sniffing at the leaking wound. The smell of death and carnage clogged her nostrils, and a masculine voice shouted a name inside her ear. As always, she had no idea what name the man was saying, only that it was a name. Her name? No, that wasn’t right.

Her head reeled, and she squeezed her eyes shut only to be barraged by the fuzzy image of a forest. There was smoke everywhere, people screaming, and sunlight tried once again to blind her. Her mind’s eye dipped and staggered as “she” stood up; her vision swam as that mental eye scanned the area around her. There was a green hint of trees and grass, a blur of brown tree trunks, all hazed with the thick, unnatural black smoke that choked the air. Brilliant orange flames were scattered about the meadow, and in the midst of them a girl.

She staggered forward as fear—or was that a hand?—gripped her shirt. Something wet and warm oozed around her fingers, and she looked down at blood-stained silk.

A hand grabbed her wrist, and Zoe bit back a hiss of pain and surprise. Her attacker let go immediately, but the chair beside her was pulled from the table, the boy plopping down into it. There was only a drop of concern within the sea of his mischievous blue eyes. “That hurt, asshole,” she muttered at him and picked up her fork to stab at the cold glob of potatoes.

“Yeah, yeah, sorry,” Jun shrugged and leaned his elbows upon his knees. “Did you miss me?”

“Miss you?” Zoe scoffed and shoved an overloaded forkful into her mouth. As she chewed, she replied, “Why would I do that?”

The boy didn’t even wrinkle his nose in disgust. Unsure of whether that won him points in her eyes or lost them, she reached for her carton of milk and worked the top open as she swallowed. Jun’s eyes followed her every move—as always. She tried to ignore the grip of paranoia that followed wherever he appeared. “Well you gotta have friends in here, right?” The question was meant to be rhetorical, apparently, for he blundered right on, “And after everything you said last time, you’re going to need them this time.”

“I don’t regret anything.” Zoe snorted. “And if that bitch thinks I should, then tell her she’ll have to make me.”

“Mm, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Jun sing-songed faintly. He tilted his head in such a way that he reminded Zoe of an overgrown puppy dog. It didn’t help that those strange, blonde curls of his fell just so across his left eye. The thought of her Labrador puppy at home sent a strange pang to her heart, and she’d gulped down half the carton before she’d realized it.

Dragging the back of her hand across her lips, Zoe snickered, “Don’t tell me that Jun-Jun is afraid.”

The grin that Jun had been wearing disappeared in a fell swoop. The angelic curls that floated about his head suddenly didn’t seem quite so cute, and there was a darkness to his slanted blue eyes which made her skin crawl. “I’m not afraid of her,” he growled, “I’m just smart. You would be, too, if you knew what was good for you.”

“Could you be any more cliché?” Zoe snapped against her own fear. “Really, Jun, you’re starting to sound like a cheesy thriller film. Maybe pick up a book once in awhile, or watch a comedy!”

“At least I admit my issues,” Jun replied and pushed his chair away as he stood up. It screeched against the tile, and a few of the nurses looked up, but no one said anything, and the other inmates didn’t care. “Go break another mirror, bitch.”

“It was a plate, asshole!” Zoe shouted as the boy retreated to the cafeteria door. He paused long enough to kick a trash can on his way out and managed to slam the double doors behind him. A few of the nurses continued to give her dirty looks, and Zoe faced forward again to stare at the grey mess of what passed for food.

Baring Jun’s display, the rest of Zoe’s return to the facility was celebrated with the appropriate lack of enthusiasm; when she paused by the game room after eating, the others didn’t even glance in her direction. There were a few new faces, and some which were missing, but much of the room remained just as she’d left it.

Zoe turned from the doorway and stopped short when faced with a wall of brittle red hair that framed a pair of angry, slanted eyes. The girl hissed like a mad thing, and Zoe jerked backward as four lines of pain rose upon her cheek.

A heavy hand caught her wrist before it slammed into Bachiko’s face. Bachiko screeched as she was drug away by two interns who had flown to the rescue. For all that the girl fought, her eyes did not leave Zoe’s. Under the fluorescent light, the girl’s beady pupils seemed to glow a metallic blue. She began to laugh in a high-pitched cackle that filled the corridors and remained long after Zoe heard the double doors of the ward slam shut.

That hand hadn’t left her wrist, but it took the man attached to it shaking her arm before Zoe acknowledged him. “You’re hurting me,” she muttered.

“I’m sorry,” he replied in English.

Surprised, Zoe turned to face him as he let her go. The man was Japanese, through and through, but his accent had been flawless. Zoe frowned and crossed her arms over her thin chest; he made her fell funny.

“I can speak Japanese just fine. And understand it, too.”

“My apologies,” the man replied with a soft smile, “I just assumed you’d prefer English.”

“Well I don’t.” Zoe glanced the man over, noting with faint disgust that the jacket over his otherwise decent shirt and slack combo was a putrid shade of green. Her nose wrinkled, and she favoured him with her most derisive snort. “Why’d you stop me? She deserved it.”

“I don’t doubt it,” he replied and gave a light chuckle which didn’t quite make her want to hit him. Quite. “But you shouldn’t hit girls, even when they deserve it.”

“Excuse me?” Zoe squeaked. She scrubbed the back of her hand across her cheek and scowled.

“Mamoru-chan,” that oh-so-familiar voice interrupted.

They both turned as Dr. Mizuno joined them. Zoe returned the Doctor’s smile—though she once more noted the sadness in those beautiful eyes—only to drop it as Mizuno favoured this “Mamoru” with the same expression, only the sadness was gone. Mizuno’s hand settled upon the sleeve of that disgusting jacket.

“Mamoru-chan,” she repeated, “I see you’ve met Miss Sullivan.”

Zoe wrapped her arms more tightly about her person and glared at his suddenly contrite expression. “Oh! Um… Sullivan-san, I apolog—”

“Forget it.” Only Mizuno’s presence kept her from spitting the words. The man winced.

Dr. Mizuno turned back to Zoe, and the girl forced herself to relax. “Zoe, I’m heading out to lunch, now, but when I get back we’ll have time for a real chat. Let’s say one o’clock, okay?”

Zoe nodded because she had to. The Doctor gave her another beautiful, fake smile, and then she and “Mamoru-chan” headed towards the door.

“Your jacket is fucking awful!” Zoe screamed at his back, then turned and fled.

Three days into her stay, Zoe sighed at the window and stared into the car-filled parking lot beyond. She wondered if they’d ever let her out of here again; probably not. A glance down at her arms informed her that the jagged cuts tearing across her skin were very real. The stitches were still in the worst of them, red and angry, but they no longer bled. Mizuno must have caught her looking, because the woman leaned a little further over her desk and asked, “Would you like to talk about it, Zoe?”

The girl shook her head, and the doctor sighed. “We’re going to have to, you know,” Mizuno informed her. “I understand if you’re not ready, but as your friend I do want to know what is bothering you, Zoe.”

“You mean you want to know why it happened again,” Zoe translated, “Why all your hard work went to pot.”

“Not my hard work,” Mizuno sighed. “Zoe, this isn’t about me. You know that.”

Zoe laughed, turning to look at the Doctor, “It’s funny, isn’t it? Most people get the ‘it isn’t all about you’ speech.” When Dr. Mizuno didn’t even smile, Zoe’s faded, and she looked back at the window.

“You’re tired,” Mizuno guessed as she stood up. Coming out from behind her desk, Mizuno crossed the short length of the room to the window and stood staring out it, “You’re still not sleeping, and you’re confused… and angry to be back here, am I right?”

“I guess,” Zoe shrugged.

“It’s okay to be angry,” Mizuno turned and leaned her back against the window.

“I’m not angry.”

“Zoe…”

“I don’t know, okay?” Zoe huffed and drew her legs up onto the arm chair. For once, Mizuno didn’t “tsk” at feet on the furniture, and Zoe dared to look at the woman’s face. She tore her eyes from it a second later and focused instead on the clock. One minute to go. “I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember why you’re angry,” Mizuno tried to clarify.

“I don’t remember cutting myself,” Zoe snapped. Her eyes jerked back to Mizuno’s face, and she swallowed. “I promise. I just woke up in the hospital, okay?”

The clock buzzed before Mizuno could make a response, and Zoe hopped up off the chair. “I gotta pee,” she blurted out before the Doctor could stop her and raced for the door.

There was something around her neck, tightening until all she could make were the faintest choking sounds. Tiny pricks of pain dug into the back of her neck, ripping in and spilling hot blood down her back. Fire cracked in her ears, but her toes—her toes were frozen. Zoe’s eyes snapped open as a hand slapped her back.

Jerking awake, the girl yelped, and the stack of checkers at her elbow toppled over. “Jun!” she glared up at the grinning blonde and willed her heart to stop racing, “The fuck are you doing?”

He shrugged in reply and helped himself to the chair across from her. Zoe had never understood why Jun insisted on bothering her, but no matter how many times she told him off he just kept coming back. Something about that made her skin crawl. “You looked like you were sleeping.”

“I was,” Zoe growled and rubbed the red spot on her cheek from where she’d been leaning against the window. “Only you would wake an insomniac.”

“You needed waking,” he shrugged again and began to pick up the checkers, putting them into position upon the board.

“I’m not playing you.”

“I didn’t ask you to,” Jun huffed and frowned. Zoe waited for the explosion, but this time there wasn’t one. Instead, Jun just began to align each round disk perfectly into its appropriate square so that it touched each side in equal amount. She watched this for a few minutes until her heels began to jump in place.

“What do you want?” Zoe asked and lightly kicked his ankle.

“Hey!” Jun cast a baleful eye upon her, and his bottom lip jutted into a pout. As always, those curls gave him an angelic look which belied the hellion she knew existed inside him. He looked back down at the board and leaned one elbow on the table, his cheek in his palm. “It isn’t smart for you to sleep in public like that. Bachiko isn’t happy with you.”

“I told you, I don’t care. Besides, it isn’t as if we can lock our rooms.”

“Well… yeah.” Jun frowned, and Zoe had to wonder if that had ever occurred to him before. “Look, I just don’t want to see you hurt, ok?”

Zoe rolled her eyes and reached a hand out to shove the checkers off the table. His head jerked up, and he glared at her with a snarl half-formed upon his lips. “I’m not your friend.”

The snarl faded in and out of his expression as they glared at each other. She could feel his breath upon her lips and knew that if she struck him in this moment it wouldn’t end well. Another face, strikingly similar and yet utterly foreign, juxtaposed across Jun’s; there was a sudden impression of a blue-lined uniform, a cavern, and the distant roll of thunder. Laughter cackled in her ears, and then Jun stood up.

“Y’know, you’re not going to like being alone,” the boy warned before he stomped off. Zoe snorted and wondered if they’d ever have a conversation which didn’t end in the same manner.

She was pushing another blob of something that was, supposedly, edible around her cafeteria-style plate when someone came up behind her. The presence made the hair on the back of her neck stand straight, and when he spoke, she knew the voice. “Sullivan-san.”

Twisting about in her chair, Zoe made certain to glare daggers at the man behind her. She hated that damn jacket. “Chiba.”

Mamoru’s eyebrows rose at the animosity in her voice, but he didn’t miss a single beat as he gestured to the seat beside her. “May I join you?”

The girl glanced him over again, wrinkled her nose once more at the jacket, and then returned to staring at her so-called food. “Whatever.”

Zoe didn’t look as the chair was pulled out or when the man sat down in it. He put something on the table and scooted it over to her. She jabbed a fork into the mystery-meat “hamburger” patty, raised the entire lump of it, and watched as it slid down the spokes to fall back into its juices with a wet thump. Meat sauce dappled across her face, and she didn’t care.

The man remained seated beside her for a long time—she wasn’t sure how long, exactly, but it felt like forever. He got up when that damnably familiar voice sounded behind them, and then left her alone with the object at her elbow; curiosity forced her to look at it.

The pink-wrapped bento box sat on the cafeteria table as if it belonged to another world all together. She stared at the happy, sunshine-like object and, for a moment, imagined herself drop-kicking it across the cafeteria. Her stomach growled, and she cast a wary eye at the “meal” sitting before her. Oh it was nutritious, no doubt… but it tasted like re-heated cardboard.

Zoe stood and gathered her tray and, after a moment of hesitation, hid the bento box underneath it. She walked calmly to the trash can and dumped her food, put away the tray, and then snuck the boxed lunch to her room. It was homemade, she soon discovered, and delicious.

Life soon returned to what passed for normal, Zoe found much to her disgust. Each morning was breakfast, followed by “art therapy”--which seemed to include far more finger painting than strictly necessary, a subsequent bath for those inmates which cared about their appearance, study time for those deemed well enough to be bothered with it, lunch, a session with Mizuno, and then an evening of loitering about the halls until medication, dinner, and bed. After awhile, Zoe wasn’t sure how long she’d been back. It could have been a few days, or it could have been eternity.

That day felt like a Thursday, she decided, and was too lazy to ask a nurse to validate it. Instead she scratched at the smear of black paint on her cheek and moved a white pawn on the board in front of her. The empty chair across the table mocked her with its presence, and, after a few minutes had ticked by, she reached across and moved one of the black pawns.

She glanced up at the others in the game room, eyes drifting over each one until she found a familiar set of blonde curls. The boy they belonged to looked up after a moment, as if he sensed the eyes upon him. Jun’s eyes met hers, and he scowled. He turned a page in his magazine and returned to staring at it.

Zoe tried to pretend that she wasn’t pouting as she moved another of her white pieces.

“…the white cake. I was very surprised; I’d thought she’d want chocolate!”

Her head jerked up as Dr. Mizuno’s voice drifted in from the hall beyond. Zoe turned to face the open double doors just in time to see the woman come past with that ugly green jacket and its owner in tow. The pair drifted to a halt just past the doors, and Zoe could hear the man laughing.

“I did too,” he replied with an easy shrug and stuffed his hands into his pocket, “But that’s what she’s been going on about. Mako-chan hadn’t started on it yet, thankfully.”

Mizuno’s cell phone beeped, and the woman jumped. She fished it out of the pocket of her jacket and glanced at the message. “I’m sorry, Mamoru-chan, it seems I’m about to be late.”

“Go,” he shook his head to wave it off. As Mizuno began to head back the way they’d come, he reached one hand out of his pocket to stop her, “Oh! You are still coming by for dinner tonight?”

Mizuno turned to walk backward as she nodded, “Of course; I’ll be there. See you!”

Mamoru raised a hand in a farewell gesture and watched as Mizuno disappeared down the hall. From her place in the game room Zoe scowled at the man. A second later, he turned and caught her staring. For a moment, they watched one another, and then Mamoru nodded politely and turned to leave. The sunlight streaming through the game room window caught a glint upon his finger, and Zoe frowned.

Darting from her chair, Zoe ignored the clatter of chess pieces behind her. One of the nurses on duty shouted something, and her target turned to look just as she caught up with him. The girl reached out and snatched Mamoru’s hand as another fell upon her shoulder.

“Young lady,” the nurse warned with a scowl.

“It’s okay,” Mamoru interjected. The nurse started to open her mouth to protest, then, to Zoe’s amazement, snapped it shut again. Though the look the woman favoured Zoe with promised a lecture to come, the woman backed off and returned to her desk. Zoe stared at the hand she was grasping.

“You’re married.”

“Yes,” the man replied. He didn’t seem at all bothered by her behavior—she had to award him some minor points for that. Even so, they were canceled out by the ring on his finger.

Zoe dropped the hand and crossed her arms. She had to tilt her head all the way back to look at him, but she hoped her glare made up for what her height lacked in imitation. “Why are you here all the time?”

Mamoru’s eyebrows rose a little, and he stuffed that hand back into his pants pocket. “It’s a public place, is it not?”

Unable to come up with a response, Zoe puffed her cheeks out and scuffed her heel on the tile. Her shoes made a delightful squeaky noise, and the nurse glared at her. The girl huffed and turned away to stomp back into the game room. She noticed that Mamoru followed her to the door, but said nothing and returned to her forgotten game of chess. The pieces were laying about the table, and she bent to pick them up.

A god-awful green blob joined her in her peripheral vision, and Zoe pretended not to notice until all the pieces had been once again set upon the board. She stared at the board as Mamoru reset the game and then sat down. He looked up at her after a moment and gestured to the seat she’d abandoned earlier. Zoe glanced between him and the chair, and then took it as he put forward his first black piece. She took the white set; she was always white.

Mamoru left after three games, which he won two of. Zoe was certain that he’d let her win the last, but she didn’t say anything—it felt good to be beaten, and just as good to have someone consider her feelings, even if they were wrong. At least he did it out of kindness.

When he had left, Zoe reset the chess board for the next players; it wasn’t required of them, but she thought it a nice thing to do. A shadow fell across the board as she was finishing and Zoe sighed. “I don’t want to play anymore, Jun.”

“Who was that?” Bachiko demanded.

Zoe’s head jerked up as the wall of red hair flopped into the other chair. Bachiko lifted a hand to twist a finger into her fried locks, and her head tilted to the left. The girl never wore anything but hospital gowns anymore, and Zoe could see just how thin she had become.

“None of your business,” Zoe growled and put the last chess piece into place. She stood up and headed for the door. Quick as a snake, Bachiko’s hand darted out and grabbed Zoe’s wrist. The nails Bachiko wasn’t supposed to keep dug bloody circles into Zoe’s skin. She hissed and tried to jerk her arm away.

“I want him,” Bachiko leaned forward, eyes wide as the stared up at Zoe.

Purple silk clung to Bachiko’s lean form; her hair hung soft and loose about her body, pouring like a river down to the ground. Bats squeaked above them, and the smell of sulfur was heavy in the air. Zoe blinked rapidly, but the vision wouldn’t clear. Once again she tried to shake her arm free only to have Bachiko’s grip hold tigher. “Let me go.”

“I want him, and you’ll deliver him to me,” Bachiko giggled, “I command it.”

Zoe twisted sharply, and Bachiko fell forward onto the floor. The girl’s nails drug down Zoe’s arm, catching upon a suture as they did. Zoe bit back a yelp and clasped her free hand over the bloody wound. “I don’t take orders from you anymore!”

Laughing upon the floor, Bachiko hit the tile with a fist, and then her hair flew back as she looked up sharply. “You’ll always take orders from me,” the girl purred as the nurse came to see what was wrong. “Always, always, always. You promised.”

An intern caught Zoe’s arm as she backed away. The girl barely noticed as her arm was inspected and wrapped in cloth. She was taken to a white room where the wound was stitched shut again, and then bundled off to bed.

“You and Bachiko-san had a bit of a disagreement yesterday,” Dr. Mizuno asked from behind her desk. Zoe jerked back into attention at the other girl’s name being dropped from Mizuno’s lips. She glanced at her, sitting behind her desk; Mizuno always looked so professional, so kind. Zoe loved that image, even if it were a false one. “Do you want to tell me what it was about?”

“A boy,” Zoe said and wondered why.

“Jun-san?” the Doctor asked with a knowing smile. A sick twist came to Zoe’s stomach, and she scowled without thinking about it. Mizuno seemed surprised and wrote something down her notebook, “I’ll take that as a no.”

“It doesn’t matter. She’s fucking psycho.”

“Language,” Mizuno muttered and continued to write.

“She is!” Zoe protested and shifted in her chair so that she could see Mizuno more easily. Curled into the seat, Zoe leaned her cheek on the old leather backing and ran one finger along the length of the stitches still imbedded into her arm. “She thinks she can control me.”

Mizuno looked up at that and leaned forward on her desk with a nod. “Bachiko-san can be like that with everyone. She does seem to have a certain… soft spot for yourself and Jun-san. You three used to be close, did you not?”

“That was before she went insane,” Zoe protested. After a moment she corrected herself, “Insane-er.”

“More insane,” Mizuno responded and then winced, “Not that she is. I mean, that isn’t the technical— we don’t call people that in here.”

“No, you just dress it up with pretty words,” Zoe replied, “But that’s what we are, isn’t it? That’s why I keep getting thrown in here.” Her eyes went back down to the sutures she was toying with. Mizuno pursed her lips.

“Zoe, you keep getting ‘thrown’ into these institutions because you keep hurting yourself.”

They stared at one another, and then Zoe climbed out of the chair. Mizuno stood up to stop her, but Zoe shouldered her way past and out the door. She made a point of slamming the door behind her before she took off running.

Down one hall, a shout from an orderly, and then Zoe slammed into something about her size which was running in the opposite direction. They both fell to the floor, and Jun glared murder at her as they scrambled to their feet. Another orderly shouted, and Zoe saw one which had been chasing Jun. “Come on,” Jun tugged at her sleeve and took off down another hallway. Zoe followed a second later, and they rounded the next corner together.

The sound of feet behind them was distant but getting closer when Zoe spotted an open broom closet. She skidded to a halt, and grabbed Jun by the shirt to pull him in after her. She got the door shut just before the orderlies turned the corner behind them. Both teens held their breath as they heard the orderlies pass by and then let out a mutual sigh of relief.

Zoe sank down to the ground, tucked between the wall and a bucket of grimy mop water, and drew her knees to her chest as she panted. Across from her, Jun sank into a similar position and clasped his fingers behind his neck. When they’d caught their breath, the lifted his head enough to look at her he asked, “What were you running from?”

“Doctor,” she shrugged, “you?”

“Bachiko.”

The girl nodded and silence resumed for a long moment. The light from under the door was just enough to see by, once her eyes had adjusted. Zoe inspected the boy as best she could without touching him—it didn’t seem like he was wounded, at least. “What does she want this time,” she asked to break the silence.

“She’s just being a pain,” Jun snorted. He sat up straight again and stared at her, “Why are you running away from your sessions? Or did you finally realize that they don’t help?”

“I never said it didn’t help.”

“Your arms did,” Jun smirked.

Zoe’s mouth shut with a snap, and she scrambled to her feet, splashing mop water over the both of them in her haste. Jun grunted a note of protest, and his fingers lifted to catch at the hem of her shirt, “Wait, wait!”

“Why should I?” Zoe tugged her shirt away.

“Fine!” Jun muttered and dropped her shirt. “Run away! Leave me alone. You always do.”

Zoe’s hand clenched upon the doorknob, but she did not open it. The girl stared at the lit outline of the door and chewed upon her lip. A sense of déjà vu danced upon her skin, and her fingers twitched with the urge to brush herself off. She shuddered instead and left the door alone to shove her friend to the side.

Squeezing herself between him and the wall, Zoe once again held her knees to her chest and listened to him breathe in the darkness. The dripping of water echoed in the glacial caverns, but neither child felt the cold. “Y’know,” Zoe’s whisper echoed, “Sometimes, I’m scared of her too.”

The next day, Jun sat beside her during their art therapy. They shared paints as they wasted paper, scrawling meaningless, blobby doodles that represented nothing. Every so often the doctor on duty would pass by and mutter something about how wonderful the work was. Zoe didn’t believe him, and she doubted Jun did either.

“Pass me the green,” Jun muttered at her shoulder. He didn’t look up as she handed him the jar, instead taking it with a grunt of thanks and dipping one paint-slathered pinkie into the mixture. With a mind-boggling amount of care, he touched the freshly green digit to his paper and coloured in the eyes of a very blobish likeness of a person.

Zoe leaned in a little to stare of his shoulder. “Who’s that?”

“You.”

The girl frowned as Jun sat up straight to stare at his handiwork. “That isn’t me,” Zoe protested as she stared at the honey hair and brilliant green eyes. She shook her head, waiting for the image to correct itself, but it never did. “That isn’t me.”

“Yes it is,” Jun frowned at her.

“My eyes are hazel.”

“Zoe,” Dr. Mizuno appeared before their table with a beaming morning smile, “Jun-san. Good morning to you. I thought I’d come see what you two were painting.”

As Mizuno leaned in to take Jun’s paper, Zoe darted her hand out and smacked it down in the middle of the offending page. The pink on her hands immediately blurred out those damning eyes, but not the wicked blue pair now boring into her own. “Zoe!” Mizuno gasped.

While Mizuno demanded that she apologize to Jun, Zoe’s mouth moved silently as she wracked her brain for a thought. Nothing came until she jerked her gaze away to Dr. Mizuno’s shocked face. “Are you married?”

“Zoe, you’re not turning this conversa—”

“Are you?”

Mizuno’s jaw snapped shut with an audible click. They stared at one another for a long moment before the woman seemed to decide something. “You know that I’m not.”

Zoe’s chair toppled over when she stood up. Her hand stuck to Jun’s desecrated artwork, and she fought to peel it off and then slap it down onto the table. “Sorry, Jun,” she muttered without looking at him and ran for her room.

One week later saw her sitting upon her bed, guitar held in her lap and strumming chords in a nonsensical fashion. It was noise to everyone who passed, but so far as Zoe was concerned, it helped her to think, and that was all that mattered.

There was a rap at her door. Zoe glanced at the open entryway and forced herself to frown. “Aren’t you worried what people will think, seeing a patient like this?”

“I’m visiting a friend,” Mamoru replied as he walked in.

“A friend who is a young a girl,” Zoe shifted herself on the bed so that she was sitting cross legged on the comforter. If he noticed that she was still wearing her pajamas, he didn’t seem to care. The girl let her guitar rest across her legs and leaned upon the wood of it. “Whom you never met before entering this hospital.”

“Worse has happened,” Mamoru countered again, “Besides, you remind me of someone.”

“Let me guess, a sister?” Zoe snorted and rolled her eyes.

“More like a brother,” the man muttered as he watched her. Zoe’s skin crawled again, and her heart beat against her chest, trying to break free. A wild array of shouting voices filled her head, and she frowned. In an attempt to clear the noise, Zoe shook her head and picked the guitar up again.

Her fingers picked the chords automatically, setting into her accustomed rhythm. It was that same song which kept repeating in her head, day in and day out. Her headache began to ebb, and soon the girl was able to open eyes she hadn’t realized she’d closed. Mamoru was staring at her.

“Where did you learn that?”

“My step-dad taught me,” she replied, looking down at the strings as she continued to pluck away. “He’s a big guitar freak. Likes electric, though.”

“Not that,” Mamoru frowned. He waited until Zoe looked up again and then nodded to her guitar, “The song.”

Her fingers stopped moving, and the last note drifted upon the air and died. “You know this song,” she asked, breathless.

“Mamoru?” The soft voice from the door startled both of them, and they looked up to see Doctor Mizuno standing in the doorway staring at them. Mamoru stood up abruptly, and for all his talk about it being a ‘normal’ visit, Zoe couldn’t help but note that he looked as flustered as she felt.

“Ami-chan,” he took a few steps towards her, “Just who I wanted to see.”

“But—”

“I need to talk to you about something important,” he insisted. Turning only slightly, he gave Zoe a smile which didn’t reach his eyes. “It was nice to talk to you again, Sullivan-san.”

Zoe stared at him as he left, the Doctor trailing behind. Putting her guitar aside, Zoe slipped off the bed and out the door after them. Neither adult seemed to realize that they were being followed; they conferred in low voices as Mamoru walked the woman to her own office, all the while his hand wrapped about her wrist.

A dark feeling stirred in Zoe’s belly as she watched that, and the girl’s hands balled into fists. Wild thoughts screamed in her head even as she pressed herself to a corner lest she be seen as Mamoru turned, once, to check the corridor behind him. Then the man slid into the office after Mizuno and shut the door.

She stared at the door from the end of the hall, wanting to scream, to cry, to break it open. The fire burned in her veins as she heard a cry echo down the hall from the Doctor’s office. Zoe launched herself around the corner only to come up short as something caught the back of her shirt.

Tripped over her own feet, Zoe crashed onto the tile floor in a painful heap, then rolled onto her back to see that familiar wall of red standing over her. Bachiko’s eyes were for the doorway down the hall, and not the girl she’d grabbed. “Did you bring me my present?” The girl stepped forward onto Zoe’s foot.

Zoe yelped as Bachiko tumbled down upon her and lifted her arms to shove the girl off. “I told you, I don’t take orders from you!”

Bachiko’s eyes snapped into focus, and the girl hissed into Zoe’s ear. “You’re mine! You’ve always been mine!” Surprisingly strong hands grabbed for Zoe’s wrists as they wrestled, Bachiko shifting to straddle Zoe’s waist. “I made you, you’ll never leave me!”

“You’re loony!” Zoe accused, grunting as she struggled to regain some leverage.

The mad girl pressed forward, pinning Zoe’s wrists to either side of her head. Zoe could smell Bachiko’s breath as she leaned in, still putrid with that day’s noon meal. “The Prince is mine. All mine, like you. All my little ducklings gathered by my feet. Say you love me.”

Zoe snarled into the girl’s face, and Bachiko’s eyes narrowed. “Say it!” She shrieked, letting go of one wrist to grab Zoe’s hair. Zoe reached forward to do the same even as Bachiko gave her head a sharp crack against the floor. Her vision filled with stars.

“Say it!” the girl shrieked again, and Zoe vaguely heard a distant scream of another sort.

“I HATE YOU,” Zoe screamed and forced her fingers to clutch around whatever was closest to hand. They dug into something soft and thin, and Bachiko howled in pain. Foreign hands were tugging at them now, but Zoe’s eyes focused on the red mass of hair above her. They tumbled together, and her back was to the air. “Get out of my head! Get out of my head!”

The hands became more insistent, pulling her off of Bachiko and down the hallway. Zoe wasn’t aware of who or what had her, only that they were taking her away from her rightful kill. She fought and screamed and hit, but a familiar door soon closed in her face, cutting off the sight of Bachiko clasping her hands to her bleeding ear. But the door couldn’t stop the screaming.

Zoe stared at her feet as her fingers dug into the old leather chair. There was still blood underneath her fingernails but she didn’t care. Between the roar that filled her head and the clucking of the doctor at her desk, Zoe didn’t care about much of anything. A single glance at Mizuno told Zoe that the woman was still lecturing. Her jaw twitched.

“Shut up.”

The doctor stopped on command, her eyes widening for a moment before that same, placid smiles slipped back into place. “Zoe—”

“Just shut the fuck up!” Zoe shrieked as she launched herself to her feet. Rounding on the woman, Zoe hands hit the desk with enough force to make the tiny doctor jump in her seat. “Stop looking at me like that!”

“I don’t know what—”

“Yes, you do!” Her voice broke, and Zoe sniffed. One hand lifted to swipe against her nose, and the girl swallowed a few choice words. In a hoarse voice she repeated, “Yes, you do.”

“Zoe,” Dr. Mizuno stated and leaned forward. Her hand reached out to the girl, but Zoe jerked away and paced towards the window. “I don’t mean to. But after this business with Bachiko-san…”

“You’ve always looked at me like that,” Zoe glared out the window. The blue car was parked in its spot under the tree; she wished it weren’t, “ever since we met. Like an ugly puppy; like I can’t be fixed. I’m sick of it.”

There was a squeak of leather behind her as Mizuno sat back in her chair, but no footsteps to indicate that the woman had gotten up. Zoe could have seen the woman reflected in the mirror, but she chose to look at the sunlight beyond. After a long silence, Mizuno spoke up, “Would you like another doctor?”

“I WANT TO GO HOME!” Zoe roared as she twirled to face Dr. Mizuno. There was no sadness now, only empty eyes and frowning lips. Zoe began to tremble. “I want to see my mother! I want my brother and my bed and my LIFE.”

Mizuno’s lips parted to reply, but Zoe glared her into silence. “No. No you don’t get to talk. Not anymore—that’s all you do! Talk, talk, talk and you pretend to listen but you never really hear! I bet you don’t believe a word I’m saying—a word I’ve ever said!”

Zoe watched as Mizuno crossed her arms over her chest and settled into her chair. When no denial came, the girl shook her head and backed away until the cold glass of the window pressed against her back. Once again, her eyes fell to her shoes, and she laughed. “All I ever wanted was for someone to listen, is that so much? Someone who doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy!”

Her hands rose to her hair, fingers knotting into the unmanageable mess; she felt like ripping it out. “They never listen, they don’t want to listen. They just want to live their lives without me, as if I never existed—and that’s fine, that’s fine, that’s fine. They deserve it after everything I’ve done.”

“You didn’t do anything,” Mizuno whispered.

“I BETRAYED HIM,” Zoe screamed, and her fists pulled. She stumbled away from the window and sobbed. The chair squeaked, and this time there were footsteps. Two hands touched her arms, and Zoe gave a wordless cry. Jerking away from the offered comfort, the girl shoved out at the frail chest before her.

Backing away blindly, Zoe shook her head and heaved another dry sob.

“Zoe,” Mizuno called softly. “Zoe, shh… shh…”

She looked up as those hands reached for her, and the sadness in the eyes she saw pulled a groan of agony from deep within her. “Why don’t you hate me?” Zoe choked and fell forward into open arms. They sank to the floor together, weeping child and crooning, confused adult.



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