Anime continuity. Written for Purkledragon for Weiss Day 2011. Thanks to Olna Jenn for cheerleading and to Hope of Dawn and my husband for beta reading.
For Ran, the day of his parents' death blurred into the day after. He hadn't slept. He was too busy answering questions and worrying about Aya. Even if he'd been inclined to sleep, the doctor suspected Ran had a concussion. A nurse checked up on him once an hour, all night.
The news about Aya was all bad. Ran had no clear idea of what 'constriction of blood flow to the brain' really meant. The words had meaning, but putting them together with Aya defeated him. "She will wake up," he insisted even as the doctor shook his head.
"Long term care is expensive, Fujimiya-kun. It will run through your parents' savings." The doctor hesitated then asked, "How old are you? You're clearly the closest relative, but are you legally an adult?"
Ran looked away. That unfortunately would be easy to check. "I'm eighteen," he admitted.
The doctor frowned and tapped his pen against the fingers of his other hand. "Two years until you're of age then. Who would your parents have appointed as your sister's guardian? We'll need to consult with that person. Have you talked to the staff social worker yet?"
Ran shook his head as the reality of his parents' death settled over him once more. It had a physical presence, cold, wet and draggingly heavy. "I don't know." Did they ever talk to me about that? Once, but that was years ago, when Grandpa was still alive. Aunt Fujiko maybe, but Dad never liked her husband. I suppose Uncle Akira is possible, but he hasn't lived in Japan for years. He felt his shoulders sag. "I really don't know." And I notice that he carefully didn't ask about my guardian. I'm old enough to live on my own. "And, no, I don't think I've talked to a social worker."
"You came in at night. I think she only works days." The doctor tucked his pen in his pocket and gave Ran a tired nod. "She'll help you talk to your relatives. You'll need a place to stay once we release you." He looked for a moment as if he had more to say. Instead, he patted Ran awkwardly on the shoulder, turned and walked away.
Ran sagged against the wall. A place to stay. Yes. I'll need that. Clothes, too. I'll need to find a job, and I can't do that in these clothes. A job- That hurt. He'd worked hard to pass the entrance exams for university. Mom and Dad were so proud. Never mind. Aya first. They'd agree with that.
He allowed himself a few moments with his eyes closed, pretending that the corridor around him was a park, that the wall was a tree. He could almost smell the wind. Then he opened his eyes, straightened and walked back into Aya's room. He settled himself into the stiff, little chair next to her bed and watched her breathe in and out.
I can't call Aunt Fujiko. I don't know her number. I don't even know her exact address. I think I could find her apartment. He'd never gone there without his parents, and usually, travel went in the other direction. The Fujimiyas' house was larger than Aunt Fujiko's apartment and had more room for the combined families to interact.
He lifted Aya's hand and carefully interlaced his fingers with hers. There weren't any broken bones in this hand or arm. He wouldn't hurt her by touching her. Why haven't the police come yet? Mom and Dad were- He shied away from the word. No. Face it. They were murdered. Someone killed them and set the house to explode. Someone- His grip on Aya's hand tightened. Takatori Reiji hit Aya. I saw him. I recognized him. It was deliberate. Where are the police?
His stomach complained, and he rubbed it. I probably have enough money for some food. I'd have to leave Aya. I'm going to have to leave her eventually. I need to hold enough back to get to Aunt Fujiko's. I'm going to have to go. I need her help. I need someone's help. Just until I can figure things out. He closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair.
As he relaxed, his parents' open eyed, dead faces floated into his mind's eye. Blood soaked his mother's shirt, and his father reached out toward his mother. He rubbed his free hand over his eyes then opened them. They're dead. How can they be dead? They're my parents. How can they be dead?
Ran looked up to see that the nurse had entered the room. She was the same woman who'd been checking on Aya all night. She was short and plump with a round face. He wished he could remember her name.
She gave Ran a small smile then walked over to Aya's bed and checked the I.V. "You should be in your own room, Fujimiya-kun. You've missed breakfast, but someone will probably bring you something."
His own room was on a different floor. "I can't leave her."
The nurse made a tsking sound with her tongue. "You'll have to. You can't take care of her unless you take care of yourself." She straightened up and looked down at Ran. "It's nothing to feel guilty about, just the way things are." She made a shooing motion. "Go on. You can trust us to look after her."
Ran sat frozen. He opened his mouth to protest, but his stomach rumbled again. He looked at the floor.
"Go, eat something. Things always look worse when you're hungry."
Ran still couldn't look up. She doesn't look anything like Mom, but she sounds like Mom. His eyes prickled. He nodded. "Okay. I'll trust you." He gave Aya's hand a squeeze before letting go. He was halfway to the door when he stopped and added, "Thank you."
Leaving felt like giving up. But she's right. I can't take care of Aya if I don't take care of myself. He made himself keep walking. 702. I can find that again, even if I wasn't paying attention when I left.
Ran shared his room with an older man who had had one of his knees replaced. Arai-san had the television on when Ran arrived. It was tuned to a news program discussing the stock exchange.
"There was a policeman looking for you," Arai-san said cheerfully.
"I was with my sister." Ran sat down on his bed. Sleep tempted him, but he suspected he'd dream about his parents and his sister. And not the good things about them. He cleared his throat and looked at the floor. "She hasn't woken up yet."
"It's amazing what they can do these days, really." Arai-san coughed. "I'm sure-"
"They say she won't wake up." Ran wasn't sure why he was telling this almost stranger his troubles. Maybe it's that I have to tell someone. Who else would I tell?
"Yes. Well. They left your breakfast on the table. You should eat." Arai-san turned his attention back to the the television, appearing quite absorbed in a commercial for a soft drink. After a long moment, he said, "Something will come along. It always does."
Ran lifted the tray of food from the bedside table. He regarded it dubiously. Rice porridge. It looks like somebody poured glue over it, and the pickles are withered. He began to eat. The food didn't taste any better than it looked, but he made himself keep eating. I need food, and at least I can eat. He closed his eyes against the image of Aya lying still on the hospital bed. It didn't help.
Ran was almost finished when the policeman arrived. He looks irritated. Ran set his tray aside, rose to his feet and bowed politely.
Ran nodded. He glanced at his tray, not sure if he was sorry or relieved to be interrupted. "Arai-san mentioned you were looking for me, officer."
The policeman frowned. "You've been difficult to track down."
"I apologize. It wasn't intentional." Ran looked around the room. He gestured toward the chair next to his bed. "Please sit down."
The policeman looked at the tiny chair and frowned again. "I'm Officer Itoh." He pulled out a small notebook and perched on the edge of the chair. "I'm here to ask about your sister's accident."
Just that? "It wasn't an accident. I saw it."
Officer Itoh wrote something down. "I understood you were knocked out."
"I saw him hit Aya. I saw him stop afterward. I saw it."
"What did the car look like?"
"It was big and black." Ran sat down on his bed again, being careful not to sit on his tray. "But I saw the passenger. His name is Takatori Reiji. My father works- worked- for him. I don't know why he did it, but I saw him quite clearly when the car stopped. He leaned out to talk to another man, one I didn't recognize."
Officer Itoh had been taking careful notes. After a moment, he looked up. "The medical records say you were unconscious when you were brought in."
"I was awake long enough to see that." He doesn't believe me. "Shouldn't you be asking me about my parents, about the bomb? They were murdered!"
Officer Itoh hesitated. "Nobody said anything about your parents." He glanced down at his notebook. "What happened?"
Ran closed his eyes, trying to put it all in order. "My sister and I had been out. It was her birthday, and I wanted to give her a chance to pick out a present. I bought her a pair of earrings she liked." They're still in my pocket. He squeezed his eyes tighter shut then made himself open his eyes again. "When we got home, it was too quiet. Mom and Dad didn't greet us. Aya and I started looking around." He rubbed his face. "She found them. I came when she screamed. They were dead, lying on the floor with their eyes open. There was blood. They were so still." His hands clenched. "I- I didn't have time to look closely. That's when I saw the bomb. It had a timer, counting down, and there were only seconds left. I told Aya to run. She did, and so did I. She got clear to the road before the house exploded. She turned back to look, and that's when the car came." He gulped in air. He felt that he should have more to say, more facts, more information. Answers. I have no idea why any of this happened. It makes no sense. None.
"Then there was a fire, right?" Officer Itoh inhaled briefly. "You still smell of smoke, Fujimiya-kun. The fire will be investigated, so will- I'm sorry for your parents' deaths. They will be investigated. How old are you?"
"I'm eighteen." Ran picked at the bottom of his sweater.
"Do you have any local relatives?" Officer Itoh flipped to a new page of his notebook.
"There's Aunt Fujiko and her husband, Noguchi Dai. I don't know their address or phone number, but I think I could find their apartment." Would you do it for me? I'm so tired, and isn't that what the police do?
"We'll find them. Tell me how to get there."
Ran closed his eyes and verbally traced the route from home to Aunt Fujiko's place. She's going to hate having the police show up. She'll be worried about what the neighbors will think. Will she come? She'll come. She'll find somebody to watch the kids, and she'll come. He remembered it better than he'd expected. He even managed to recall the location of the transfer.
Officer Itoh closed his notebook. "You should get some sleep, Fujimiya-kun. We'll get back to you if we have more questions." He stood up. "I think you've given me enough to find your aunt."
That's it? That can't be it. What about my parents? What about Takatori? Ran nodded. "Thank you, Officer Itoh." He rose to his feet as well.
Officer Itoh put away his notebook. He pulled out a business card. "Call us if you remember anything else."
Ran bowed as he accepted the card. Itoh Junichiro, police officer. "I will, sir."
After Officer Itoh left, Ran made himself finish his breakfast. I didn't think this could become less palatable. He found himself yawning. If I should eat, I should sleep, too. I'm going to have to eventually. He put the tray on the bedside table.
Lying down in his clothes felt weird, but he didn't have anything else unless he wanted to put on the pajamas the nurse had left at the end of the bed. If I do that, I can't go back to Aya. Not dressed like that. His clothes felt gritty. From pieces of the house, falling on me. He wondered how much he smelled like smoke. Enough for Officer Itoh to notice.
Sleep came faster than he expected. His dreams were a jumble of images- chasing Aya but never finding her, his mother lying there dead and telling him to dress warmly, his parents and his sister eating dinner as a timer counted down toward zero. He woke from that last relieved that the timer hadn't reached zero then remembered that, in real life, it had. But Aya listened to me. She ran. Right into the street where the car hit her. She'd have been safer if she hadn't run as fast.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes. They felt sticky and gritty. I should wash. I wonder if there's any soap I could use?
"Finally awake?" Arai-san commented, turning up the volume on the TV. "The nurse wasn't happy with you sleeping in your clothes, but I told her she should be happy you were sleeping at all. There was a very attractive, red haired lady who looked in on you while you were sleeping. I thought she might be that aunt you were talking about. She said she'd be back later."
Ran pulled his fingers through his hair. I wish I had a comb. "Aunt Fujiko has black hair." Why am I telling him that?
Arai-san shrugged. "Then it wasn't her. I'm sure we'll find out later."
"She was probably the hospital's social worker," Ran said as the possibility occurred to him. The doctor did say she'd come by. The thought of needing a social worker was a heavy ache. He rolled out of bed. Once he was on his feet, he stretched, putting his arms up over his head. "Arai-san, do you know- I know there's a shower in the bathroom, but will the nurses give me soap if I ask?" He felt himself flushing a little.
"You can use mine." Arai-san bent over the side of his bed and fished out a bag. "My daughter won't be here to help me wash for hours yet. You get yourself clean, Fujimiya-kun."
"Thank you." Ran knew he ought to refuse politely at least once, but he was desperate to be clean. Even if I will have to put these clothes on again afterward, I'll be clean for a little while.
Ran showered rapidly, even taking the bandages off his head so that he could wash his hair. I have to. I really have to. He scrubbed at his body, trying to remove as much of the last twenty four hours as he could.
He could feel the dirt in his clothes as he put them back on. I don't own any other clothes now. The fire will have taken my clothes, too.
"Thank you again, Arai-san," Ran said as he returned the soap and shampoo. "Have they brought lunch yet?"
"Not yet. You really didn't sleep very long." Arai-san looked Ran up and down. "You need a change of clothes. I'd ask my daughter to bring something of mine, but you're taller than I am."
"I really couldn't impose on you like that." Ran felt his hands clench. No. He's being kind. I don't need- Yes, I do. It's not possible, but I do.
"Think nothing of it." Arai-san waved a hand. "Pity nothing I own would fit you."
Ran retreated back to his bed.
"Listen, kid, you need to take help where you can find it. It's going to take a while for all of this mess to get sorted out." Arai-san looked serious. "In the meantime, you've got nothing but what you're wearing. Have you even got any money?"
"Some." Not enough to buy clothes.
Someone knocked on the door frame.
Ran turned to look and saw a red haired woman he didn't recognize. She was carrying a paper bag. She wore a tight dress, cut low across the chest.
Ran blinked and looked away, not wanting to stare. Not the social worker. I don't know who she is, but she's doesn't work here, not dressed like that.
"Fujimiya-kun, it's good to see you awake." The woman strolled into the room. Her movement fascinated Ran, and he felt himself flush. "I brought you something." She extended the bag toward him.
Ran stood up, bowed and accepted the bag. "I'm afraid you have the advantage of me."
"Ryusaki Mari." She bowed, giving him an impressive view of her cleavage. "I brought you some clothes. I hope they fit."
Ran peered into the bag. He saw navy blue cloth. "Ryusaki-san, I can't-"
Arai-san cleared his throat.
Ran darted a glance at Arai-san.
Arai-san waved his hand encouragingly.
Ran turned back to Ryusaki-san. He pulled the bag against his body. "But why?" I don't know you. You don't know me. You're not family. Why?
Ryusaki-san smiled. "I work for an organization that helps people in situations like yours. You need help. That's enough."
Be gracious. Arai-san was right. I need help. But she doesn't look like she works for a charity. Mom would disapprove. Mom would- No. "Thank you." Ran set the bag on his bed. The cloth he'd seen before proved to be a pair of sweatpants with a drawstring waist. There was also a sweatshirt, a package of tube socks and three packages of underwear in different sizes, one of them his size.
"If you'd like to change, I can wait," Ryusaki-san said. "I thought you and I could talk on the way to see your sister. You can tell me what my organization can do to help her."
Hope hurt enough to startle Ran. He hadn't thought he could hurt more. "Give me a minute, please." He took the bag into the room with the shower, closed the door and stripped rapidly. After some consideration, he kept on his old socks. No need to destroy another pair when I still don't have shoes or even scuffs.
The new clothes still had tags on them. Ran used his teeth to remove them then dressed rapidly. He was grateful to discover that the sweats had pockets. The idea of leaving his wallet behind scared him. It's all I have. He folded up his dirty clothing and put it in the bag with the spare underwear and the unopened package of socks.
When Ran emerged, he found Ryusaki-san talking to a very pleased looking Arai-san. Arai-san laughed at something Ryusaki-san said. Ran hesitated, not wanting to interrupt them but also not wanting to wait.
Arai-san looked up. "Fujimiya-kun!" His smile broadened.
Ryusaki-san turned to look at Ran. "Oh, good. The clothes fit." Her smile looked a little tight.
Of course. She's in a hurry. This has taken longer than she expected. Can she really help Aya? Ran bent to put the bag of clothes under his bed. "Please keep an eye on my things, Arai-san." I hope they're still there when I get back.
"Of course. I'll have them leave your lunch, too."
"Thank you." Not wanting to appear impolitely impatient, Ran waited for Ryusaki-san to precede him to the door.
She murmured a goodbye to Arai-san, bending over to whisper something in his ear.
Whatever she said made Arai-san laugh again and say, "Go on with you, now! Thank you for keeping an old man amused."
Ryusaki-san swept toward the door, leaving Ran to follow in her wake.
He took several long strides to catch up to her. "The elevator is this way. She's on the fourth floor."
"We need to find some place to talk, some place private."
Why? Where? "I don't know." Ran looked along the hallway at the patients, visitors and medical staff. "Maybe in Aya's room." He frowned at Ryusaki-san's back. What can't you say to me in public? Can I even trust you? I don't know who killed my parents. "What organization did you say you worked for?"
Ryusaki-san didn't say anything until they reached the elevator. When the doors opened on an empty car, she said, "I suppose your sister's room will do." Once the doors had closed behind them, she added, "The world is a difficult place, Fujimiya-kun. There are those with power who abuse it, those who overlook such abuses, those who are victims of such abuses."
Ran's stomach clenched. He wasn't sure what she was trying to tell him, not yet, but all his instincts told him it wasn't good. And she didn't answer the question. She's done nothing to make me think I can trust her.
Ryusaki-san turned to look Ran directly in the eyes. "My organization seeks justice. The police, the established system, fail in many cases. They will fail you."
The doors opened, and a nurse came aboard.
They will fail me? They won't. They can't. The world doesn't work like that. Ran opened his mouth to voice his protests then closed his mouth so hard his teeth clicked. She said she could help Aya. Hear her out. See what she meant.
They got off on the fourth floor, and Ran led the way to Aya's room. When they arrived, a nurse Ran didn't recognize was doing something to Aya's I.V.
"How is she?" Ran asked, feeling guilty for having left.
"No change," the nurse replied, sounding irritable. She made a note on the chart at the end of Aya's bed. She hooked the chart on the end of the bed and left the room.
Ran sat in the chair next to the bed. He took Aya's uninjured hand in his. "We should have a while now." He kept his eyes on his sister's face. "You said you could help." Prove it to me. Give me a reason to listen.
"We can. It won't be easy. Takatori Reiji is a very powerful man. He won't have left any signs that can be linked to him. We haven't been able to prove anything yet."
"I saw him!" Ran's grip on Aya's hand tightened. Is she implying that he- I think she is. Did he kill my parents? Why? Why did this happen?
"Forgive me, Fujimiya-kun, but you have a head injury. It was dark, and you'd just suffered a great shock. Under the circumstances, nobody is going to believe you over him. That's the way power works."
Ran turned to face Ryusaki-san. "It doesn't. It can't." The words sounded weak to his own ears. I can trust the police, can't I? The truth is the truth.
"I'm sorry. You'll see." Ryusaki-san shrugged then turned and walked over to the window. "My organization has a place for you, a job, if you'll take it. As part of your payment, we'll see to your sister's care."
This doesn't sound right. What can I possibly do that's worth that? Ran frowned. "What sort of job?" Is it even legal? I bet it's not.
"That would depend on your skills. We don't know much about you yet." Ryusaki-san reached into her purse and pulled out a business card. "I expect you need time to think about it. Keep the card and call the number on it when you realize that you need us. At the very least, we are a route to pursue Takatori Reiji. Bear it in mind. Think about your sister, too." She offered him the card with one hand.
Ran blinked. That's not right. Having been properly trained by his parents, he disentangled his hand from Aya's so that he could accept the card with both hands. He half rose so that he could bow as he took the card. She doesn't care about etiquette. That's not right. "Thank you." He studied the card as he settled back on the chair. He tried to give it a polite amount of attention, but it was hard to give a card blank but for a hand written phone number much time. "Will this number reach you?"
"Me or a colleague who can also help you." Ryusaki-san nodded firmly. "Now that I've made you the offer, I should go. Until you say yes, there's nothing more we can do."
I won't need to say yes. I won't. He looked down at the card again. "Did Takatori kill my parents?" The question came out before he could stop it.
Ryusaki-san had turned to go. Now she looked back at him. "Probably. Not personally, of course, but probably." She continued toward the door.
"Wait! I have more questions."
Almost to the door, she stopped. "I can't answer them."
"At least give me a name for your organization. Arai-san will want to know." That sounds stupid, but I'd rather not lie to him.
"Tell him we're the Hanari Foundation. He won't find anyone who's heard of it, but I doubt he'll look very hard." This time, she didn't even turn back. "I'll give you the real name when you call that number." She left the room.
Ran closed his eyes. I wonder what her real name is? He tucked the card into his wallet, working by feel alone. Takatori Reiji. He ached. He felt hot and cold at the same time. He killed them. He tried to kill her. He must have thought I was dead. Takatori Reiji. I've never really hated before. It never felt like this.
He opened his eyes and took Aya's hand again. I still can't believe any of this happened. I'm going to wake up, and it will all be gone. Why would anybody kill my parents or hurt my sister? Why? He had no answers. He wasn't sure he ever would have answers.
I hope the police at least find Aunt Fujiko.