A/N: Written for Diversity Writing Challenge, e39 - write a fic that explores death.


Resolutions on a Grave

Five ended her own life. Twelve was shot. Shibazaki tried to save Nine and Nine probably suffered the most, in the end.

Lisa didn't know much about any of them. Nobody did. The cruelty of their past, the struck records, the chemicals that had twisted their minds… All of that was exposed. But who those people were… People knew of Five, but barely anyone knew her. They knew she was a genius at strategy, but they didn't know how much. It took weeks before Shibazaki managed to pierce together the fact the opponent of the Sphinx' had been Five in that Haneda airport chess match. Though he'd had more pressing matters to deal with and puzzles to solve. He didn't sort all of them. He might have solved the riddles Sphinx posed but, in the end, he hadn't been able to save them.

At least Nine had won that match. Brought her life with the victory, and thousands of other people as well. Funny, that, when they were the terrorists. Funny, that, when she – an accomplice – is walking around free.

But they can't charge an unconscious man – or, rather, unconscious teen that may not reach adulthood. She sat by his side those precious few days, but it did little if anything at all. And

When his eyes opened, they were looking at something inside of him. When they were squeezed shut in pain, they were fighting against something inside. Whether the weight of her hand added anything at all… Whether she'd done for them anything at all…

But she knew at least a little of them. More than their classmates who'd just seen two cute transfer boys. More than the police who'd seen terrorists through streamed videos… and Twelve had always worn a forced, careless, smile but Nine had been so different in those recordings. She'd stared agape the first time Shibazaki had shown them to her.

Not that it mattered, now. They won't shame a dying boy with no identity by plastering his face all over the news because there are just a little bit kind. They won't say a terrorist group was taken down by the Americans because that's its own can of worms and nobody really wants to touch that, despite all the opportunities strewed about. They won't sweep it all under the rug because child experimentation is a moral outrage and terrorists are still terrorists despite the death toll to their name, but a boy with neuroendocrine imbalances drugs have caused and can't correct…

Well, maybe it would have been nicer if he'd died in peace.

Twelve's death was quick: agape one moment, and then toppling and emptying of blood the next. And Twelve's hoarse scream: of shock, of grief… and then the second one where he gripped his head tight enough to make his eye sockets bleed.

Nine and Twelve had said they were running out of time, but this isn't what she'd thought they'd meant but it must be. Twelve… She didn't know whether he had the same problem or not. Syntheasia, he said he had. Was there anything else? But Nine, Nine had those headaches. She'd seen those before and now they were a constant plague on his waking hours. In the end, they were sedating him for sleep.

He slipped away at some point, swimming in sedatives and antipsychotics and narcotics. But though he had the most painful, most drawn-out death, he was the open casket funeral with lilies and schoolmates he barely knew lined up like ducklings in a row. Some looked strangely at her but nobody tried to push her into the casket when she paid her respects to an empty husk, and nobody tried to push her into the pool fully dressed afterwards either.

She still had to go home, but there wasn't much she could have done to avoid that. Her mother seemed a little more bearable after everything that had happened, and she wasn't sure if it was because her mother had mellowed or she'd become a little sturdier. It probably didn't even matter. She'd changed. Tokyo had changed. Her mother had changed. Even her school and her classmates had changed a little.

Unlike her classmates though she visited their graves often. She saw Shibazaki often, too, though he rarely talked about his work. He didn't get fired, at least. That was something. He'd muttered something about the Americans but that had gotten swallowed up with press conferences and unmasking the Rising Peace Academy and a sudden promotion and transfer back to Investigations.

In the months that followed, she wondered how things might have been different if Nine had survived. If Shibazaki hadn't solved those riddles. If Five had never come to Japan. If Nine and Twelve had chosen to live their fragile lives in obscurity instead of unleashing the skeletons of their past. If they'd never left the Rising Peace Academy, if the academy had never existed in the first place…

If her father hadn't left, if her confidence hadn't crumbed away into ash and hope hadn't come to her in the form of a makeshift bomb in a mascot toy, if she'd chosen death that day instead of another lease on a life she wasn't really happy in anyway… But what use were those what-ifs? It's the reason she'd cast away hope the first time.

But there was no washing away the poll of blood that soaked into her sneakers, or the way Nine trembled in agony for days even while drugged up to the eyes…

But now she had hope, and the weight of two lives: two people she barely knew but still probably knew best. They asked her to speak, even, at the funeral. She hadn't. She knew Twelve better than Nine and barely knew that at all. Shibazaki was the proof of their past, but she didn't think she needed to smear the names of Kokonoe Arata and Toji Hisami in the mud as well. That Sphinx were two survivors from the academy – orphaned children repurposed and experimented on – was enough information for the public. That there'd been minimal casualties despite all the damage was enough. That the damages were already repaired and scars forgotten was enough. That they'd been treated to an aurora the likes of which they'd never seen was enough.

But Lisa, who remembered two fighting boys, knew that wasn't enough. And Shibazaki, though he delivered on his final promise and brought the Rising Peace Academy and the Athena Project to light, knew it wasn't enough either. He had a place, at least. Had his place in the police force, digging up more of Tokyo's skeletons. But Lisa wasn't quite sure where she was left: what future paths were cast about her to pursue.

She could be an engineer, a doctor, a policeman, a terrorist, a physicist… She'd had a taste of each of them: morsels and none of them really sang out to her. She did remember, though, watching Twelve drive up on his motorcycle more than once, and more than once her spirit had been breaking before. She remembered holding that toy close to her chest, running amidst sirens and fires and thinking she didn't want to die even in a life she couldn't find worth living right them. And she remembered being trapped in that plane, face to face with a bomb, and being cuffed to the ferris wheel with too many for any professional to diffuse. She remembered how even Twelve's hands had been shaking as he took them out, one by one, and how he stopped when the timer hit one minute because both of them knew… Knew, and he still didn't leave.

She might have run, but she can't anymore. She knew desperation, now: hers and others. She knew life and death: of holding lives in her hands and being the life in somebody else's as well. She knew of well-laid plans running beyond anyone's control, and the gunshot that symbolises bad endings when the doors are almost closed.

She couldn't save Nine or Twelve, but they saved her, at least, and she couldn't waste that anymore. There were no other children like them either (hopefully, and she'd have to depend on Shibazaki to dig up any other Athena projects floating around). She could be the one who drives up on a motorbike, though, when all hope seemed lost. The one who stretched out a hand when they're about to fall. She could run in to a train about to explode, or crawl into a hole with a lifeline in hold. She was ready to die and ready to live, and she knew the pain of living with the weight of death and living without a purpose as well, and the difference between dying purposefully and dying accidentally and dying slowly and dying quickly as well… And maybe all that just equalled cliff edge she couldn't climb down from but here she was nonetheless: no special skills or knowledge and maybe just enough experience to save somebody at the end of the road.