Chapter 42

"Hhmm." River said, drumming her fingers as she looked at the others.

"River, I know that 'hhmm'. You are not allowed to kill Minaka, however tempting that is." Dante stated bluntly.

"Besides, you'd have to take a number." Yahan grumbled.

"Fine." River sighed. "So, he's been holed up in his room for the past two days, refuses to come out, but as far as you know he's physically fine."

"That sums it up pretty well." Jenny nodded grimly. "Doesn't help that this is the second time he's pulled back into himself."

"And you waited to call me because..."

"From what we can determine, he's absolutely terrified of your wrath." Kazehana added helpfully. "And he wanted to see if Tobias would come out of his shell without having to bring you here."

"Don't you give me that look." Dante said as River sent a slightly hurt look his way. "I've been shot by you more times than I care to remember, and with such a wide variety of bullets I know most every one you have access to. Not to mention you rival Miya in the "silent wrath" department."

She shrugged. "The situation either demanded it or you deserved it."

"You once shot me in the foot for something I hadn't even done yet! Twice!" He shouted, throwing his hands up in frustration.

"It was a very messy situation because of you." The two descended into a back and forth argument while the others just watched the show.

Obviously when everyone found out River has arrived, everyone had been eager to meet her in person. Musubi had been the most enthusiastic, as expected, firing a barrage of questions that related to her appearance and strength in regards of fighting before Dante calmed her down. Tsukiumi had been polite enough, simply saying hello and shaking her hand, a curious look on her face. Matsu had watched with the same look, with an analytical undertone added as she looked at the vortex manipulator on the blondes wrist. Ku had been excited in the way only children could manage, bouncing on her feet and grinning happily. Uzume had been her blunt, direct self by asking how she's stayed as sane as she had dealing with Dante on a regular basis with all the crap he brought with him. Chiho had been embarrassed beyond reason, but River had just laughed and said that she'd learned to be flexible in situations involving him.

Jenny had been friendly and they'd greeted each other casually while Kagari had hung back, unusually quiet and nervous, but nobody commented since Dante had then said they should talk and they retired to the TARDIS for some privacy.

Now the group was watching as River and Dante traded insults and various stories that resulted from the others actions.

"Should we stop them?" Yahan asked Jenny.

"Nah, they'll calm down eventually," the blonde replied. "This is part of their ritual when they get together. They meet, they talk, one starts blaming the other for various events, then eventually they're laughing and remembering times Dad screwed up and looked like an idiot. Sadly, there are a lot of them." She grumbled.

Kazehana and Yahan shifted uncomfortably as they watched the pair. River was casual enough, but the pair had a feeling she was just waiting for a more appropriate time to really talk to them. It was bad enough talking to the mother of their Ashikabi without throwing in the fact that she has apparently caused more trouble in a day then they had gone through in this stupid fa├žade of a game.

"OK, OK, OK, we can swap 'you did that then' stories later," Dante says after they finished arguing who had caused a small planet to descend into a civil war that almost destroyed it and the neighboring solar system. "We've got bigger problems than debating who's caused the most trouble on a slow Sunday."

Calming down and nodding, River said, "Agreed." She paused, apparently gathering her thoughts before she stood up, having been sitting in one of the chairs. "I think I'd like to see Tobias now, if that's everything important."

Sighing, Dante nodded. Honestly he had no clue what she could do to draw out Tobias that they hasn't already tried. Then again, he and the rest of his family came up with ideas out of the blue anyways, so often even they couldn't predict exactly what they'd think of. "Follow me."

The small group filed out of and went to Tobias's room. Dante lifted his hand, about to knock but paused when he noticed it slightly open. Curious, he slid the door open.

A quick glance showed everything was technically fine. Things were in their place, organized, basically perfect. Just one small thing was different from the past two days. There wasn't a dome of white in the corner, or a black haired half human teen. Dante stared for a few seconds.

"Crap." He muttered seconds before he heard Uzume yell "DANTE!" from downstairs. He was down the stairs before she'd even closed her mouth, not concerned with keeping his strength and speed down at the moment. But Miya would probably be making him clean up those skid marks on her floor later.

"Where is he?" He asked the Sekirei, noting her increased heart rate, respiration, and dilated pupils filled with very intense panic that was offset with surprise. He ignored the rest of his group as they ran down the stairs to join him.

Instead of speaking, Uzume pointed towards the garden. He quickly moved around her and headed in that direction, the others following him. When he stepped outside, he found a fairly tricky situation.

Tobias was standing in the middle of the yard, back to them, looking up at something. His stance was calm and relaxed, which meant he was either ignoring or unaware of Tskunimi, Akitsu, and Kagari. The trio were all spread out and had their elements at the ready, a ball of it floating above their hands or, in Akitsu's case, shards by her shoulders. They were all watching his back tensely, but otherwise didn't act. Miya was there as well, her sheathed katana in one hand and the other on the hilt. Even to the untrained eye, it was clear she was ready to move in an instant. Chiho was sitting next to the landlady but staying perfectly still.

"What happened?" Dante asked Miya, not looking away, mentally thanking all gods that owed him favors and that he hadn't pissed off in the past centuries that Ku was being watched by Matsu in her room.

"I'm not entirely sure," she responded slowly. "We were all out here, relaxing while you talked, when he just walked out the door and went to that spot."

"Eyes?"

She grimaced. "They kept jumping from silver to white, but it was erratic. The only reason we haven't attacked is because he just... stood there."

"Nothing else? He didn't say anything, look at anyone?"

"It's more like he was sleepwalking, like he's not even aware of what he's doing." Uzume added helpfully as she pulled her Ashikabi into a protective embrace.

Nodding slowly, Dante weighed his options. So far it sounded like Tobias's powers were unstable, but he must have enough of a handle that nothing was happening expect eye changing. The ignoring part was a cause for concern, but it was better than him being out of control and lashing out at anything that moved. But why he broke his solitude now wasn't clear, unless Rivers arrival had triggered it.

Said blonde stepped to his right and looked at him. He didn't need to see her eyes to know what she was thinking.

"You're going whether I say yes or no, but be careful. I've got no idea what he could do right now."

"So handle him like he's you and the Doctor after you've spent a week doing nothing but brain storming." The attempt at humor fell flat with the tense atmosphere. She took a deep breath, followed by a firm nod. "Right, no time like the present." She walked swiftly, past them and dropped lightly off the porch, keeping up a decent walk as she passed the unspoken line that connected the three, battle ready Sekirei.

"Maybe it would've been better to let Kazehana or Yahan try." Jenny said quietly.

Dante shook his head. "He's unstable right now, and their bonds with him means he could feel any nervousness or fear that they might have and might cause him to react in kind. It'd only get stronger if they got closer. River doesn't have that kind of bond with him, but she's still the first person who showed him any kindness. Coupled with the fact that he subconsciously knows she can't harm him if he defended himself makes her a better choice on a threat level."

River slowed down as she got closer, stopping ten feet away from him and slightly to the right, in case she needed to dive out if the way. She firmly said, "Tobias."

The teen lowered his head, leaving it level before slowly turning it to look behind him. Dante instantly saw what Miya was talking about when she had talked about his eyes. They were jumping back and forth between colors, sometimes staying on one for a few seconds or less than a millisecond before changing. Sometimes one was the opposite color of the other before they synced back up, only to lose each other again. It was seemingly random and if there was a pattern, Dante couldn't find it. He also saw what Uzume meant when she said it looked like he was sleepwalking. His eyes were a half and half mix of daze and confusion.

"River." His voice was clear enough, just confused as he turned to face her better. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to check on you." She said carefully. "We haven't seen each other in while and I got worried."

"Oh." His gaze slowly drifted off to the side as he stared at nothing, giving River his attention when she spoke again.

"Why are you out here?"

He blinked. "I don't know,I just...I guess I wanted to see the sky." He shook his head. "I don't know, it's all just...really fuzzy."

"What is? Your head?" As she kept talking, River was taking small tentative steps forward, but if Tobias noticed, he didn't react.

He nodded. "You know that feeling you sometimes get, like you're thinking too many thoughts too fast and you can't stop, so they just keep going and going and going and going until you get a headache? It's like that, but...they're not my thoughts."

Dante was feeling more and more like they handling a few hundred pounds of nitroglycerin without any sort of safety precaution in case it went off as the situation progressed. And he'd done that enough to know how damn nerve wracking it was.

Tobias pressed his hands against his head with a groan. "It hurts." He said. "I keep seeing things, know things I shouldn't, and the voices never stop."

"Like what?" River was close enough to gently lay a hand on his shoulder. "What do you know?"

"Places. Names. People I've never met but that I traveled with. Lives I never lived, but can picture like they happened just a few days ago." He groaned again and hunched over before he started talking quickly. "Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Azula, Toph, Ba Sing Se, Dai Li, Ozau, Boomi, Iroh, shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!" The yell caused a shockwave that threw River backwards. The other's all tensed.

"Don't!" Dante yelled. White tendrils of wind were forming and lashing out wildly before colliding with an invisible wall. "He's trying to keep control, but if we attack him it'll be like a bomb going off!"

"Too many voices, too many minds, too many lives, I can't make it stop, it won't stop, why won't it stop!?" Tobias screamed as he clutched his head tightly and his eyes started glowing again. The thrashing got more intense but it never crossed the invisible boundary that trapped it.

"Dante, he can't take much more of that!" Jenny warned him.

"I know!" At this rate, Tobias would be torn apart by his own power if his mind didn't shatter first. He needed to get in his head and calm him down, but going into the dome was suicide even for him. As he tried to think of a way, Tobias suddenly received a very long but shallow cut across his right forearm, followed by several more across his chest, legs, and hands. "OK, I've got an idea." He looked at Kazehana and Yahan. "But I'll need you two and, I have to warn you, it's extremely stupid and potentially lethal."

They didn't even hesitate. Kazehana also instantly grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him in, glaring fiercely. "Talk, fast, now." Yahan looked like she was thinking the same thing.

Talking fast was a family talent, as could be attested by Jenny and the Doctor to name a few. "I need a direct link to his mind to help stop the mental barrage, but it would take too long to do it through the noise, so if I piggyback on your bonds, I can bypass that, enter, and stop it, but you two would be getting the same thing he is for however long it would take me to plug the leak." Probably the only reason they weren't both screaming in agony was because Tobias was most likely keeping the bonds completely closed out of instinctive desire to protect them. That was just a guess though, since he didn't have any time to think about it.

"Do it." They both said. Both suddenly had one of his hands clamped onto their foreheads and felt him zip through their minds, homing in on their bonds. He grabbed both and forcefully wrenched them open, causing a starburst of raw agony to fill their heads as an ocean of memories and feelings rushed in.

Dante ignored the flood and simply used the bonds. It was hard to exactly describe what he was doing to someone not practiced and experienced in how minds were structured, but one could say he'd taken a back door. Picturing the bond as a two way pipe, he'd created and opened a "maintenance door" that ran down the entire length of the "pipe", entering a hall running alongside it and walking down it. He eventually came to the other end of the hall and opened the door at the end. He stepped through and instantly spotted Tobias.

The teen was standing in front of what looked like a dam, stretching endlessly in both directions and up, a mass of gray the size of a planet. But it wasn't made right. There were cracks covering the entire structure, places where it bulged outwards like it was on the verge of bursting, some small holes that were leaking what looked like glowing water.

'A mental block. He must have made this himself.'

But the largest defect was in front of him. A hole the size of a house was letting a glowing white-blue waterfall roar out of the dam, all of the elemental fury pounding against Tobias and soaking him before it curved back, only to join the mainstream again. The teen was braced against the power, but he was also slowly weakening as more and more cracks appeared, bringing the dam to the verge of collapse.

Dante simply waved his hand and the waterfall froze before reversing, flowing back behind the dam while the various cracks and holes sealed themselves, leaving a perfectly smooth wall.

Tobias collapsed to his knees and hands, panting heavily while the timelord strolled up to him.

"Mental barrier to hold back both power and memories. You did an impressive job for someone who had to do it with that much mental noise pounding away at them." He didn't get a response, so he just asked the pressing question. "How many times have you lost it like that?"

Tobias clenched his hands. "Three."

"Three times. I'm assuming that includes just now." He got a slow nod. "One a day?" Another nod. "Come and go or is there a trigger?"

After a few seconds, Tobias said tiredly, "When I listen. I start listening to the voices, and it just gets louder and louder. Then the power. It takes everything I have just to make it stay close."

"But it eventually dies back down doesn't it? And it doesn't trigger when you're sleeping or something would've happened before now."

"Yeah."

He nodded slightly. "So how much do you retain?"

Tobias snorted and sat back, resting heavily on his arms. "Bits and pieces. You looked different during the war. Younger."

"Not as wise either." Dante mused. "What else?"

"Aang was a childish idiot. Grew up eventually though. Missed you."

"Yeah, they normally do."

They lapsed into quiet, just staying there, lost in their thoughts.

"How do you do it?"

Dante looked down. "Do what?"

"How do you keep caring? I keep getting stability in my life, then it's ripped away and leaving me feeling like it's all so pointless." His voice cracked slightly, his entire bearing radiated pain and weariness. "The fighting, the worry, the caring of what happens to people...you've suffered for god knows how long. How do you just move on?"

Dante took a breath and looked back at the wall. "I don't know. I just...pick myself up and move on. There's too much to see and do to give up and die."

Tobias snorted. "I don't know. That's sounding pretty good right now." He said, cynical. So many lives and memories shoved into his head repeatedly and what did they prove? That it all ended. That eventually time ground everything to dust, be it people, ideas, world's, universes, entire sections of the multiverse, and they all died. Eventually time erased the fact that you ever even there.

He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't notice the kick until it had connected with his head, propelling him backwards until he landed, head ringing and finding it difficult to breath for a second. When he had control of his limbs again, he struggled back up and glared at the offender. "What the hell!?"

"You were getting too dark for my liking, and a swift kick to the head seemed like a good way to get you sorted." He shrugged. "Try to remember that we're inside your mind and it's easy enough to read it if you don't guard it properly."

Actually he had forgotten about that. How do you forget that you're inside your own head talking with someone?

"What do you care if I get too dark for your liking?" He grumbled as he got comfortable sitting on the ground again. "I'm just a tangent of a psychopathic killer that was molded to kill you."

"So?" Dante asked, joining him on the ground. "I've had plenty of friends who have tried to kill me because they were my enemies at the time. In fact, you should've seen in those memories," he pointed at the wall. "that Zuko tried to kidnap or kill Aang several times, but they ended up as friends that respected one another. They even worked together to establish Republic City." He sighed. "As for your thoughts on time..." He paused. "I can't deny that I've had similar thoughts once in a while. Time is a cruel, unfeeling fact of life that does grind everything to nothing. But dwelling on that doesn't do anyone any good. You look around the whole of creation and you know what you see? People, creatures, gods, monsters, all just going about their lives because looking at the big picture in that way is pointless. The big picture might be nice to look at, but it's the smaller scale and the details that have the important things. Things like places, events, people. People we meet, people we like, hate, love, let go, lose, get back...help heal." He said the last two words looking directly at Tobias.

"You can't fix what was made broken Dante."

"You keep saying things like that and I will smack you to the next universe over. You are not the broken thing, the broken thing is Black Wolf. He is a despicable, vile creature that would gladly kill me in a second and then probably slaughter a small planet for fun. You, on the other hand, locked yourself up so you wouldn't be, in your eyes, a danger to your friends and your Sekirei. Does that sound like the type of thing a killer would do?"

Tobias was quiet for a few minutes before he sighed. "No." He whispered.

"Sorry, didn't quite catch that."

"No." He said a little louder.

"Nope, still no good, one more time."

"No!" Tobias yelled, his anger getting the better off him. "No, OK!? It doesn't sound like the kind of thing a killer would do, now will you stop making me say it!?" Dante just looked at him calmly, waiting as the silver eyed teen realized what he'd said. "I'm not a killer."

"Finally got that through your thick skull I see." Dante remarked, standing up and stretching his neck while Tobias stayed sitting. "For a second there I thought I'd need to insult your intelligence."

That snapped Tobias out of his daze. "You're an ass."

"Not the first time I've been called that, certainly won't be the last." Was the flippant response he got add the Timelord crossed his arms, considering the mass of gray before them. "Now, since I'm here anyways, something needs to be done about this."

Tobias took a deep breath before standing up, pushing aside his emotions. He could come to terms with his breakthrough later. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well," Dante rubbed his chin. "It seems like you've got a decent handle on the power that you get, it's the minds that are making it dangerous and unstable. Too much information, so..." He mused. "Maybe the information can be subtracted. Siphoned off perhaps."

He had a feeling he was not going to like the answer, possibly following a large amount of pain on his part, but Tobias asked anyways. "Into what?"

"Well, I've had voices in my head before." Dante said, approaching the wall and laying one hand on it. The barrier instantly started cracking outward, the sound as sharp and clear as shattering ice as the same glow started shining out. "A few hundred won't be pushing it too much."

Neither could say anything else since the dam exploded, releasing a blinding light that whited out everything.

Back in the real world, only a few minutes had passed since Dante had initiated the mind dive with Kazehana and Yahan as links. The second he did, he and Tobias had gone still with the latter's eyes settling on their normal silver and the wind around him dissolving. Now both were just frozen in their position.

"Are they ok?" Miya asked Jenny, looking between her tenants with concern.

"I think so," the blonde said carefully. "It seems like Dante made the connection, but I can't guess what he's doing aside from messing with Tobias's head."

River nodded in agreement, ignoring the throbbing in her back. She probably has some lovely bruises there, but nothing that needed care. "The best thing to do at the moment is to let him work. Minds are temperamental things in the best of times, never mind dealing with who knows how many imprints."

"What about us?" Yahan groaned, still feeling like she'd taken a sledgehammer to the head from the brief exposure to the mental onslaught before it'd stopped. Neither she nor Kazehana could move since Dante's hands were still holding them in place.

River shrugged. "Until he's finished and snapped out of it, I'm afraid you're not going anywhere. Don't worry, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes until he's done." She cast a cursory look over her surrogate son's form, judging the cuts that he'd be inflicted with as they bleed. "Jenny, is there any sort of first aid kit around the house? I want to treat those cuts when they're finished."

"I'll get it." She nodded, turning around and quickly walking to retrieve the kit while the others watched carefully. None of them totally relaxed, but they were less on edge as they kept watch. Kagari, Tskunimi and Akitsu keeping their elements at the ready. The second ticked by slowly, only the breeze and birds making any sort of sound. Jenny returned and was handing River the first aid kit before something happened.

Dante released the Sekirei so suddenly they both staggered, not expecting the sudden movement as he snapped his head around to look at Tobias. At the same time, his head snapped up as his eyes started glowing brighter than they had before.

"Get back!" River yelled, making everyone between the two do just that.

The glow from Tobias's eyes somehow grew brighter, almost white hot before the light shot out in a steam from them, diving into Dante's in a stream. Both started shaking slightly and sounds of exertion started being pulled from them as sweat beaded in their brows.

"What's he doing!?" Yahan yelled, looking at both Jenny and River for an answer, but they just shook their heads. The stream was getting faster and faster, moving at lightning speed before long and still it seemed endless. Then just as suddenly, it reached its end, the last of the light shooting into Dante as he closed his eyes. He then staggered, holding a hand to his head. Tobias did the same, both speaking simultaneously. "Whew/Oh, head rush."

They both opened their eyes. Dante's were glowing like Tobias's had but were quickly fading back to normal while the other teens eyes were firmly resting on their normal silver color.

Not that he noticed. The only thing he was aware of at the moment was his head. It was finally, thankfully, mercifully silent. No more voices talking, whispering, shouting, no more noise. It was jarring as much as it was welcome.

"Tobias," River knelt next to him, examining the cuts he had while opening the first aid kit. "Are you OK?"

"I'm fine, but... They're gone. The voices, they're all gone."

"Yeah, I expect so. Ow." Everyone looked at Dante, who had clutched his head with that ow. "Oh, this is going to be a special kind of headache later. How the hell did you deal with this without going insane?"

"I ignored them and shoved them into the back of my mind and even then, I almost did."

"Right. Oh, SHUT UP ALREADY!" He yelled at the sky. "Tell you what, I'll just let you guys do whatever you need, I'll be in the TARDIS for a few hours in the Zero Room trying to shut these things up." He suddenly winced. "Oh, I did not need to see that." He groaned, stumbling inside and out of sight.


A/N from RoninS636: Sorry to end this chapter so abruptly, this was dragging a bit so that's why. Next chapter is going to take awhile so please be patience.