Well, I have the next week or so off school, so I thought I'd get around to finishing this up and posting it. 'The Last Night' will be up tomorrow, and my Gokaiger fic 'Movie Night on the Gokai Galleon' will hopefully be up on Monday for International Fanworks Day.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Kamen Rider Gaim or any of its characters, or Fuuto City.

WORD COUNT: 7169


"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are stronger in the broken places" – Ernest Hemingway


Monday, April 21st, 2014

Mai-san was gone.

It didn't matter what that snake had said about her being reborn or whatever. She would no longer be the girl he'd fallen head over heels for. The girl he'd done everything to protect. That girl was dead, and it was all his fault. He'd left her alone and helpless in the hands of Sengoku Ryōma, of all people. The man who'd proven to have no care for anyone other than himself, and whom he knew to want the Golden Fruit stuck inside Mai-san's body. Mitsuzane should have known that the psychopathic scientist couldn't be trusted to save her life, yet he'd trusted him anyway.

Kōta-san was gone.

Killed by his hand, his best friend had sacrificed himself to save Mitsuzane's life. A life he'd been ready to throw away under the delusion that he was protecting Mai-san. Then the idiot had forgiven him as he was dying. After the younger boy had tried to kill him six times before, that last one bringing the total to seven. After he'd been ready to let all of humanity, save for a choice few that he would hand-pick, either die or suffer as Redyue's 'toys'.

Nii-san was gone.

He'd died trying to pull him off the dark road to nowhere that Mitsuzane had put himself on. He'd had the upper hand in their battle with sheer skill and experience, but had refused to end his opponent. Because he couldn't hurt his own little brother, even if it cost him his own life. Which it had, as Mitsuzane had been too far gone to remember that this was the only relative he had who cared enough to actually stick around. Their own parents could go over a year without stopping by to check in on their sons, but Nii-san had damn near raised Mitsuzane all by himself.

The three most important people in his world were dead, and their blood was on his hands. He was a destroyer of everything he'd set out to protect. His remaining friends hated him, and rightly so, after he'd betrayed their trust and everything they stood for in the worst way possible.

Kureshima Mitsuzane had come to realise that while he'd called everyone else scum, he was lower than all of them, a blight on the face of humanity. Nobody would miss him if he was gone. They'd probably be better off, in fact, if he was no longer around to mess things up.

He numbly got off the metal table and shuffled over to the nearest window. He looked down at the concrete not too far down below. Not far enough. The building was only two storeys tall; not enough to guarantee success. The nearest building taller than four stories within his line of sight was about a block away, and if he got mauled by an Inves on his way there, Mitsuzane supposed there would be no small amount of poetic justice in that.


Zack hadn't actually expected to wake up in a world of pain, but that was because he hadn't expected to wake up at all. As he'd passed out after that brutal beating, he'd actually thought he was dying, and if not, Kaito would finish him off soon after. Guess not.

His left leg and his ribs were killing him, and the sun was too damn bright. He rolled his pounding head to the side and grimaced, wondering how he'd survived. Or if Kaito had left him alive intentionally, and if that was the case, then why? Even though she'd transformed at the last second, Zack seriously doubted Minato-san's chances of having survived both the blast and the fall. Kaito had had every reason to want to kill him, and plenty of opportunity.

He nearly threw up when it really hit him. He'd killed someone. Sure, it had been his intention, regretfully, since yesterday, but now that he'd actually done the deed, he felt sick to his stomach, and not because of his injuries. The fact that Minato-san hadn't even been his primary target made the feeling even worse.

It took another minute for him to come to another realisation: that he was completely alone on the roof. What were the chances that someone would come to help him? Sure, Peko and the rest would probably start searching if they didn't hear from him after a while, but they would have no idea where to start looking. He hadn't told any of them where he was going to meet up with Kaito and Minato-san, not wanting them to follow him and potentially get caught in the crossfire, now that they no longer had functioning Drivers. He couldn't let them get hurt like Peko had been, or worse.

He tried to sit up, but a stabbing pain in his leg told him that he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Which left him with the rather distressing question of how he was going to get out of there without any help.

A sudden noise caught his attention, and Zack couldn't believe his eyes when a GIANT Crack opened up in the sky, showing what looked like a starry night sky with – was that a planet in the distance?! Since when did Cracks lead to outer space?! He must've hit his head harder than he'd originally thought.

Then, instead of something coming out of it (thank God), Zack saw a ton of vines and struggling Inves being sucked into it. If he wasn't hallucinating, then he was seeing all of Helheim's invaders being removed from the city. That, or he really was seeing things and it was just his own wishful thinking, though he found it hard to believe that his imagination could come up with something this surreal.

He even saw what looked like a blue ball of energy following everything else before the Crack closed up and vanished. If this was a hallucination, it was a really strange one. And even if it was real, it was still no help in getting him off this damn roof.

Then he noticed another sound, this one much closer. The door to the roof screeched open, and for a moment, Zack actually thought he was saved.

Instead, Kureshima Mitsuzane emerged, looking more ragged and thin than he'd been the last time Zack had seen him, which had been before they'd even known about his betrayal. His hopes plummeted, doubtful that the former Beat Rider would help him.

However, Micchy didn't appear to notice him, moving as if in a trance to the roof's edge and peering down. His shoulders were visibly shaking, and he stayed where he was for a full minute before slowly beginning to climb onto the ledge.

He was going to jump.

"Hey!" Zack called before he knew what he was doing.

Micchy started, nearly losing his balance, but caught himself before slowly turning around. "Zack?"

His voice was hoarse, shaky, and confused. Zack really didn't like it, but at this point, he had no other option.

"I wouldn't be asking if I had any other choice," he clarified, wincing as his busted ribs told him to stop talking, "Not after everything you've done. But I need you to help me get out of here. I can't walk on my own like this." It was downright humiliating, and more than a little bit dangerous, to be reduced to this, asking for help from a deranged, suicidal traitor.

Micchy stared at him, looking… Zack really couldn't tell what was going on in his head. He'd never been good at reading people before, and the kid had already been good at hiding what he was thinking. Now, considering how visibly unstable he'd become, reading him would be impossible. But Micchy did eventually step back down onto the roof and start moving, slowly and hesitantly, towards Zack.

Up close, he looked even worse. He'd lost a noticeable amount of weight (and he'd been skinny to start with), he had dark bags under bloodshot eyes, his suit was dirty and wrinkled, and his hair clearly hadn't been combed in a while. Micchy looked like he hadn't eaten, slept, changed, or groomed in days.

But it was the dull, glassy look in his eyes that disturbed Zack the most. The kid was damaged and in pain, and had completely given up. He wasn't even trying to hide it, so much that Zack, admittedly not the most observant when it came to people, could see it as clear as day. So much for not being able to read him.

The two of them sat in tense silence before Micchy spoke up, his voice barely audible. "Where do you need to go?"

Zack started to try sitting up again, in spite of what had to be broken ribs. "Last time I saw the others, they were at Drupers. If they're not there, they'll be at the Team Gaim garage, but Bandō-san will likely be there regardless." An attempt to move his left leg resulted in a spike of pain that had him biting back a yell and breathing through clenched teeth. "Damn," he gasped, "I think it's broken."

Micchy kind of stared at him for a second before walking over to the wreckage left over from Zack's bomb, pulling his tie off. He came back over with two lengths of pipe and one small-ish piece of shrapnel with a sharp edge. Quickly figuring out what he was intending, Zack worked with him to splint the limb, using the makeshift knife to saw the tie in two and secure the pipes at both ends.

That done, Zack was forced to lean on Micchy and struggle to his feet. Even though he wasn't bending the leg itself, every movement still sent waves of pain through his body. Frankly, he hoped to get to their destination as soon as possible, because the kid just didn't look like he had enough stamina to support him for too long. They took the elevator down, Zack silently praying that the power wouldn't suddenly go out and leave them trapped (how it was still running at all when the power plant had been abandoned for weeks was beyond him).

Micchy looked around in confusion when they exited the building. It took Zack a second to notice the difference: there wasn't a single vine or Helheim fruit in sight, and the hordes of Inves that had been swarming the streets had vanished. "Guess I wasn't seeing things," he murmured. When Micchy looked at him questioningly, he clarified: "Less than a minute before you came out onto the roof, I saw a huge Crack opening and sucking all the vines and Inves up. Thought maybe I'd just hit my head too hard, but I guess that was real."

Micchy paused. "Does that mean… it's over?"


Drupers was empty when they got there, save for a hastily-scribbled note.

Zack:

If you've made it here, the JSDF have finally come to evacuate us. Try and send some sort of signal that you're here and okay, or they won't make another trip in for you.

- Peko

Zack huffed in agitation from his spot in one of the booths after Micchy read the note aloud. He was torn between relief that the others were safely out of the city, and anger that no one was coming back for the rest of them. The JSDF, or at least the people giving them orders, were acting like cowards, leaving it up to a ragtag group of civilians to do their jobs for them. "Great. How are we going to get out of here?"

Micchy said nothing, staring at the fruit display – or rather, facing the fruit display while staring at nothing. Zack wasn't sure what to do with him; the kid was clearly traumatised and broken, and might not be much help, especially if he wasn't exactly striving to survive this.


Mitsuzane had tuned everything out after reading the note.

It really was over. The world had somehow been saved, in spite of how much he'd believed it to be doomed. The military was taking action at last, and once they learned that the danger had passed, people would return to the city. The world would keep on turning.

But did he deserve to rejoin humanity? He'd betrayed them all so badly, would they even want him back?

His brother's ghost shook his head. "You'll never fit back into the world," he said simply, "You're still clinging to the past; you can't move forward as you are."

"I know that," Mitsuzane whispered, "I've known everything you've told me, haven't I?" He knew that it wasn't really a ghost. That it was all in his head.

Just when he thought he couldn't get any more pathetic.


Zack knew it was getting worse when Micchy started talking to thin air. He had to wonder: what the hell had happened to damage him this much? How long had it been going on?

Remembering Micchy's sudden outburst against Kōta months ago, the leader of Team Baron was horrified to realise that it'd been happening right under their noses. And spending so much time with the likes of Sid, Ryōma, and Redyue couldn't have helped; each one of those three had been his or her own brand of insane, all eager to lead and use a young, overwhelmed kid for their own goals. How much of his breakdown had been due to their influences? Zack only wished he'd noticed sooner; even though they hadn't been friends for long, he should have seen some sort of warning that something was wrong with the kid. The way he'd reacted when Mai had slapped him should have sent up a warning-

"That's it" Zack realised, a sudden epiphany striking, "Micchy, I know how we can signal for help!" The kid was still mumbling at the spot next to the fruit display. "Oi, Micchy!" Micchy started, like he'd forgotten that Zack was in the room. "I know how we can signal the JSDF to come and get us. There's a store a few blocks down that sold fireworks and stuff. We can set off some flares!"

Micchy didn't respond with any enthusiasm, simply nodding mutely. As Zack has suspected, he wasn't desperate to get out and get help, but rather apathetic to the whole thing. It was like his will to survive had been extinguished. Zack just considered himself lucky that Micchy had chosen to help him at all instead of just jumping off the roof.

There was just one hitch. It would be impractical in the extreme for the two of them to hobble to the fireworks store and back, especially while carrying supplies on the return trip. Micchy had to make the trip on his own. So while he was doing that, Zack had time to sit and think, and not just hoping that Micchy wouldn't just change his mind and just not come back.

What had caused the Crack that had sucked all of Helheim away? It had to have something to do with that Golden Fruit that Kaito had been going on about. Which suggested that Kōta and Kaito, the only two remaining contenders for its power, had had their battle. And considering what Kaito's plans had been, it was highly unlikely that he would have sent Helheim and the Inves away. So then that meant that Kōta had won the Golden Fruit and all its supposed power, and that Kaito was dead.

Zack took a minute to let it all sink in. The chaos and war they'd been dealing with for months was finally over, but one of his friends had had to die for that to happen. A friend that Zack himself had tried to kill. He'd shoved that thought to the back of his mind earlier, blocking the doubt, in order to do what he knew was necessary, to keep the rest of the world safe.

Now the guilt was hitting him at full strength. He'd plotted and planned to stab his friend in the back. All the good reason in the world wasn't enough to make that go away. He'd plotted to kill someone who'd trusted him, and had carried his plan out, even if his secondary target had been the only one to die, killed for her undying loyalty.

This time, he did throw up, leaning over the floor and clinging to the table to keep himself from falling over. When he was done, he was shaking all over, and laid down on the bench.

That was how Micchy found him when he eventually came back in, carrying half a dozen flares under his arm and a few other supplies in a bag. The former Beat Rider made no comment.


They set up at the West Stage, since it was an open area where they could be easily spotted from the air and didn't have to worry about their flares hitting a building or something.

The empty space around them was unsettling, the city as a whole too quiet. It really drove home that fact that they were the only two humans left alive in the entire city.

When the sun set and night fell, they set off the first flare rocket. It shot into the sky, squealing loudly before exploding with a bright flash of red light and a thick cloud of smoke.

Obviously, no helicopter appeared within the first ten seconds. They would have to space their flares out so as to not run out of them. So Zack and Micchy settled against the back wall of the stage and waited.

Micchy was silent, staring into space in what seemed to have become his default state. He'd 'accepted' the apple Zack had shoved into his hands, one of the many items they'd salvaged from Bandō-san's, but didn't eat it. Zack had a blanket draped over his shoulders (Bandō-san had been sleeping in the back room of Drupers to avoid the dangerous commute) and was scanning the skies. So far, there was nothing.

When he couldn't stand the silence anymore, Zack started talking just to fill it. "Where do you think they went?" He got no response, not that he expected one. "I mean, that Crack had to go somewhere. And there was this weird big-ball-of-light thing that followed the Inves… I wonder if that was Kōta. There's no way Kaito would have sent all the Inves away, not with what he was planning, and Kōta was really the only other possibility."

Micchy said nothing, which was almost as disturbing as the silence of the rest of the city, but at least he wasn't talking to hallucinations again. Zack sighed and bit into a pear. He didn't know why he was trying to be friendly with the traitor. Maybe it was because he just didn't want to anger the only person who could help him, but then again, it didn't seem like that was possible. Micchy had been anything but hostile in the last few hours, silently complying with every one of Zack's requests.

"Kōta-san…" The whisper was so quiet, it could've been drowned out by a gust of wind. Zack's attention snapped back to Micchy, who was now staring at his hands. "Kōta-san is dead. I- I killed him." He was shaking again, tears forming in his eyes. "He t-tried to save me, and I k- I killed him!"

For a second, Zack froze in shock. He hadn't seen Kōta since yesterday, the guy had still been injured from- "Wait! This wasn't a couple days ago, was it?" he asked urgently. When he got a jerky nod in response, he continued. "Micchy, he's alright! He survived! Peko and Chucky found him, and he recovered! I've seen him with my own eyes."

Micchy stared at him, eyes wide and utterly confused. "K-Kōta-san… is alive?" he asked hesitantly.

"Yeah. You didn't kill him." He'd still tried, but bringing that back up could possibly send Micchy into a state of hysterics, assuming he didn't get himself worked up on his own.

He let Micchy take some time to absorb the information. The kid stared out at the wide space in front of them, muttering something indistinct under his breath.

Hours passed, and the sun slowly began to sink below the horizon. They set off two more flares, but still no one came for them. Zack was getting cold; he couldn't get up and move around to warm himself up, so he had to settle for wrapping his blanket tighter around himself. Micchy had his knees pulled up to his chin, his arms wrapped loosely around them. The apple Zack had given him earlier sat by his feet, ignored.

Zack, once again sick of the silence, was about to say something to try and get the kid to eat, when a soft sound caught his attention. The sound they'd been waiting for.

From beyond a nearby building, the silhouette of a helicopter appeared, a spotlight shining down on the ground, sweeping back and forth. Zack grinned and let out a triumphant laugh, throwing the blanket off to wave both hands in the air. The light swept over them once, then returned to focus on the pair again. They'd been found.

"They're here! It worked! Micchy, it worked! We're saved!" He turned to grin at the younger boy, but his smile faltered in confusion.

Micchy was staring up at the helicopter as it maneuvered to hover above them, looking oddly resigned. As if he sensed Zack's gaze, he looked over at him. "You'll be fine now," he said, barely audible over the beating of the helicopter rotors. He half-crawled backwards a couple feet away, pulling something out of his pocket. Its metallic edge caught the light of the spotlight as Zack recognised it as the piece of debris they'd used to make the splint. Then Micchy pulled up his sleeve, hesitated, than pressed it against the inside of his left wrist.


He'd made this decision hours ago, when he'd helped Zack off the roof. The other boy had been too injured to get himself to safety, and Mitsuzane had had no idea if or when anyone else might come to help. Simply jumping off the edge and leaving him to die would have been the same as killing Zack himself. He would have had the blood of four people on his hands instead of three. So he'd held it off until Zack no longer needed his help.

Once the helicopter's spotlight shone down on them, he knew it was time. He moved away from the older boy and pulled out the makeshift blade he'd pocketed earlier.

Fear filled him as he brought the sharp edge towards his wrist. It was the same fear that had kept him from climbing onto the roof's ledge the second he'd reached it. He was terrified of what awaited him on the other side. He just knew it would be Hell, an eternity of punishment for his sins. His blade stilled for a moment.

Then he remembered Nii-san falling into the water, Kōta-san bleeding on the ground, and Mai-san's body lying on the metal table under a white sheet. And he remembered that he deserved every bit of punishment that was coming to him.

The sharp pain that accompanied the metal breaking through his skin brought an involuntary gasp to his lips. Thick, dark red liquid began to flow from the breach, running down his arm and dripping onto the ground. The sight of it sent another stab of fear through him, so he closed his eyes and released the breath he hadn't realised he was holding. 'I deserve this,' he reminded himself firmly.

"What- Micchy, NO!"

The piece of metal was wrenched out of his fingers, and a hand clamped onto his bleeding wrist hard. Mitsuzane snapped his eyes open to see Zack's face, a strange mix of panic and fury and pain, staring at him. The Beat Rider had thrown himself across the space between them, something that couldn't be good for his broken leg, and was now yelling at him.

"What the hell are you thinking?! After all the shit we've all been through, you cannot just go and off yourself like that!"

Mitsuzane didn't understand. He'd ruined everything, betrayed everyone. Why would Zack not want him dead? It didn't make any sense.


Zack gripped Micchy's wrist as hard as he could, partly to put pressure on the cut and partly because his leg, which had already hurt like a bitch, was paining him ten times worse than it had been seconds before. He hadn't even thought about it, until after he'd lunged over to stop Micchy from killing himself.

He had so many reasons to hate Micchy. He'd done so many terrible things to Zack and his friends. He'd basically betrayed all of humanity by working with Redyue. And between what Zack had learned from Peko, Chucky, and Kaito, he'd allowed Sengoku Ryōma to kill Mai (however temporary that had turned out to be), the girl he'd professed to love more than anything else.

But they'd been through enough. Too many people had already died in this whole debacle. And for all Zack knew, Micchy's decision to help him instead of jumping off the roof had saved Zack's life. He owed him one.

And maybe he couldn't help feeling sorry for the kid who, in spite of all his wrongdoings, was in some ways just as much a victim as the rest of them.

"Let me die," Micchy was mumbling over and over again, tears running down his face, "Please, just let me die."

"Like hell," Zack responded through gritted teeth, "I don't know what's going through your head, but this cannot be the answer!"

Micchy just gave him this confused, despairing look, but anything he might have said was interrupted when three soldiers approached them. Two of them kept their weapons up, keeping their eyes on their surroundings, while the third, carrying a First Aid kit, knelt down beside them.

Zack let them take care of Micchy first, lying down on the cold ground and doing his best to not cry out at the pain in his leg. The soldiers worked efficiently, and within minutes both boys were safely in the helicopter. Micchy was slumped weakly against the wall, the blood loss and lack of food and sleep finally taking its toll, while Zack laid down and allowed a second medic to examine his leg while a third soldier asked him a few questions.

Zack answered as best as he could. No, he didn't see anyone else in the city; they were the last ones left, as far as he knew. He also hadn't seen any Inves or Helheim plants lately; it was safe to return.

As the minutes ticked by, it seemed to get colder and colder inside the helicopter. Zack found himself shivering uncontrollably. The fact that the medic was cutting the side of his left pants leg to get a better look at the injury wasn't helping. He felt sleepy and exhausted, the day's excitement catching up to him, he supposed.

The sudden cursing from the medic caught his attention, though. Zack struggled to try and sit up and see what was wrong; between the pain in his chest and the sudden weakness in his arms, he only managed to stay up for a few seconds before being forced to lie back down, but that was long enough to register the sight of the largest, darkest bruise he'd ever seen, spread across his inner thigh.

He vaguely heard something about a 'femoral artery' and 'internal bleeding' before everything went fuzzy, then he blacked out not long after.


Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

When Zack woke up, it was in a state of confusion. He felt sore all over, and he was still tired and felt like drifting back off to sleep, but he wanted to know where he was and why his body was aching so badly. So he struggled to open his eyes, blinking as they adjusted to the light. He was staring at a white ceiling; looking around, he saw that three of the walls of the room were also white, while a beige curtain made up a fourth 'wall', and he found a display monitor and an IV drip like the ones used in hospitals next to his bed.

Oh. It took him a while to recognise that he was in a bed in a hospital room, and a couple minutes to remember why. It surprised him that his leg wasn't hurting him as badly as before; they must have put him on the good drugs, which would also explain why his thought process was so slow and fuzzy.

A soft sigh coming from the direction of his feet alerted him to the fact that he wasn't alone in the room. Zack struggled to lift his head, enough to see Peko collapsed in a chair at the foot of the bed, his arms folded on top of the blankets and under his head next to Zack's feet. His teammate appeared to be asleep.

Zack breathed a sigh of relief and let his head drop back down onto his pillow. So his friends had made it out alright. It was one thing to read a note saying they had been rescued, but it was another to see the proof in person.

His thoughts turned to someone else. Had Micchy survived the trip out of the city? Was he okay? Zack was already sick of people he knew getting hurt and dying; he didn't want any more casualties, regardless of which side they'd been on. And honestly, it had gotten hard to view the kid as an enemy after seeing him in that state.

Zack's musings were interrupted by the sound of a door sliding open and closed, then the curtains parted to reveal someone he hadn't seen in a while.

Azami-san had been the one to introduce him to dance. He'd been angry about a lot of things in his life before that, running with a rough crowd and having already been kicked out of one school, which had resulted in him and his grandparents moving from Hyōgō to Zawame City in the first place. He'd just come out on the losing end of a fight when she'd found him on her way to team practice, and had tended to his wounds and helped him limp home. From there, she'd brought him slowly into her and Peko's group of friends (to the immense relief of his worried grandparents), becoming the group of dancers that Kaito would eventually turn into Team Baron. But when Kaito had taken over, Azami-san had disagreed with his style of leadership and left, which had been a point of contention between her and the boys for a few months, though she remained on friendly terms with her old teammates as much as possible.

She blinked in surprise when she saw him looking up at her, then her face broke into a grin. "Zack!" she gasped, "Thank goodness you're awake!" She grabbed Peko's shoulder and shook it once before rushing over to the head of the bed. "Peko, wake up! He's awake!"

Ever the heavy sleeper, Peko predictably groaned and simply turned his head the other way, his sister's words failing to penetrate his brain.

"How are you feeling?"

"Sore," Zack admitted, his voice coming out weaker than he would have liked, "Tired. Is everyone else okay? Where are we?"

She answered his second question first. "This hospital is in Fuuto City. A couple different towns have split up the task of hosting everyone who evacuated. And everyone who was brought out with Peko is fine. That's Chucky, Jōnouchi, that Charmant guy, Bandō-san, and Akira-san. They were really worried about you and Kazuraba Kōta, though, and Kaito and someone named Minato-san. Do you know what happened to them?"

Zack bit his lip. "I'm not completely certain, but I think Kōta's alright, wherever he is. But Kaito and Minato-san… I'm pretty sure they're both dead." And one of those deaths was his fault, but he couldn't bring himself to say it aloud.

Azami-san looked solemn. "Oh. Well, that's… part of me wants to say it's good, because everyone told me they were planning something bad, but… you guys were friends for so long…" Azami-san had never considered Kaito a friend; of course she'd be less affected by his choices than Zack and Peko. She glanced over at her still-sleeping brother and huffed in annoyance. "Honestly, Peko, wake up!" She marched over to him and started shaking him again.

"Huhwha?" Peko grumbled, finally blinking awake, "Nee-san, what?" He looked like he could do with some more sleep, to be honest, with his hair mussed up and dark circles under his eyes. The weeks of hell had taken a lot out of them all.

"I told you, Zack's awake, Sleeping Beauty."

"He's- what?" Peko finally turned from glaring up at his sister to actually looking at Zack. "Zack!" he cried, stumbling out of his chair and over to where Azami-san had previously been standing, "Thank God you're okay! I saw you when they brought you in, you were so…" He apparently couldn't find the words to describe it, but it had clearly scared the hell out of him.

Which confused Zack just a bit, as all he could definitely remember was some broken bones and an assortment of mild cuts and bruises. Nothing life-threatening. But there had been something that had freaked the medic out…

"What happened?" he asked nervously, "I remember falling asleep in the helicopter…"

Peko and Azami-san exchanged a look. "The doctor said you broke your leg," Peko explained quietly, "and apparently the way you moved around afterwards damaged the femoral artery – that's a big blood vessel in your upper leg. You were bleeding internally and needed surgery." His voice was barely above a whisper as he finished: "You could have died."

Zack swallowed as he realised how close he'd come to death. He was also pretty damn sure he knew when the damage had been done: during his attempt to stop Micchy from killing himself.

"What about Micchy?" he asked, "Is he alright? He was bleeding pretty badly…"

Peko huffed angrily. "He's fine. They patched him up and put him in the next room over. Why do you even care, after what he did?"

"Peko…" Azami-san began.

"You didn't see what he did, Nee-san! He-"

"Peko!" Zack snapped, "Neither of us would have survived if we hadn't helped each other. And there was more going on with him than we knew before; you didn't see him afterwards." He sighed and closed his eyes, feeling exhausted and lightheaded. "He was hurt by everything, too."


Monday, April 28th, 2014

Mitsuzane poked at the food on his tray listlessly. He found he wasn't eating as much as he normally would be, but he just wasn't all that hungry. The doctors and the nurses gave him concerned and disapproving looks, but that didn't do anything to increase his appetite.

It had been one week since he'd been brought here. They'd been watching him very closely; he wasn't allowed to be left alone with anything sharp, and it seemed like ten minutes couldn't go by without a hospital staff member poking their head in to check on him. Maybe that was an exaggeration, but that was how it felt.

He didn't seek out another way to end his life. Not only would it be an exercise in futility with the doctors being so intent on keeping him alive, but he was now confused over what to do. A week ago, he'd been positive that no one would want him around anymore, that they wouldn't miss him. But if that were true, then Zack wouldn't have tried to save him once he no longer needed Mitsuzane's help. It didn't make sense to him. He needed to know why. Damn his curiosity.

Mitsuzane knew that Zack was just one room away, but he didn't dare try to visit. The other Beat Riders would definitely be coming and going, and he couldn't bring himself to risk facing them. Maybe Zack had a reason to not want him dead, whatever it was, but Mitsuzane had no guarantee that the others would react well to his presence.

So he spent most of his time either sleeping or staring at the ceiling, trying to figure it all out and failing. The phantom of 'Nii-san's ghost' had stopped appearing before him, but he could swear that when he thought about whether or not he deserved to die, the arguments for it seemed to be in Nii-san's voice.

Deciding he wasn't going to eat any more, Mitsuzane shoved the tray away, lying back down and resisting the urge to pick at the bandages wrapped around his wrist – the nurses tended to hover when they caught him doing that. Literally seconds later, the door opened, but the person on the other side was not a doctor a nurse, like he expected.

Zack had looked better. His left leg was covered from hip to toe by a thick, white cast. He had a few still-healing bruises and scrapes visible on his face and arms, but at least he was pushing his wheelchair under his own power instead of having someone push it for him. "Yo." After an awkward pause, in which Mitsuzane couldn't come up with anything to say, Zack closed the door behind him and wheeled over to the bed. "I'd say that you're looking better, but that's…"

It wasn't true. Mitsuzane knew that much. The doctors had gone on about how he was malnourished and underweight, and now that he was paying attention to that sort of thing, he'd noticed how tired and weak he felt twenty-four-seven. He hadn't been sleeping well, either; every time he did, his dreams would be blood-filled nightmares that had him waking up screaming and/or crying shortly after falling asleep. He felt it was a taste of what awaited him when he eventually died and went to Hell.

Zack seemed to hesitate, but continued to speak. "I'm still angry at you for a lot of things that you did. But it's become kind of obvious that someone did a number on you, too, and I'm not going to pretend that that didn't influence any of your decisions."

Mitsuzane hadn't been expecting that. He'd been expecting, if anything, a blistering denouncement of everything he'd done, threats against ever going near Zack or his friends again, or an expression of regret over stopping him from killing himself. He hadn't imagined that anyone would get the idea that any of the blame lay elsewhere. "But I…"

"Would you have sided with Redyue if she hadn't promised that she'd let you save your friends?" The question was blunt, direct; subtlety was never one of Zack's strong points.

Mitsuzane paused, thinking about it, then shook his head. No, he wouldn't have. He'd given up on saving humanity, and had selfishly just wanted to save his friends. He hadn't taken their feelings and opinions into consideration, and had reacted badly when they'd rejected the idea of letting the rest of the world burn.

"And did you think she was really going to hold up her end of the bargain?"

Another headshake. He'd been wary of her stabbing him in the back from the start; he'd thought he was merely taking advantage of her offer, always ready to strike first if he felt she was about to. But now it was obvious that the offer itself had been her strike.

"She outright bragged to Kōta that she was using you, Micchy. He told me you were just another toy to her. You wouldn't have helped her if she hadn't decided to use you like that."

Micchy wasn't sure how to respond to that. The small, almost-forgotten, logical part of him agreed that Zack was right. But it couldn't silence the other part, the part that was saying 'It's all my fault' over and over again. He shook his head again sadly. "Maybe not, but I did. No amount of 'What if's can change that."

In response, Zack sighed sadly. "I'm not going to get through to you today, am I?" There was a brief silence between them. "I'm not giving up, though. You helped me when you could have chosen not to. It probably saved my life, 'cause who knows how long it would have been before someone came along if we hadn't sent up those flares? And… well, someone needs to look out for you."

"I don't deserve any of that," Mitsuzane insisted, rolling over to face the back wall. Everyone who'd tried to look out for him got hurt. He wasn't worth that.

"I think you're wrong. It's just going to take me a while to convince you of that."

Mitsuzane heard the door to his room slide open and closed again, leaving him alone with his thoughts, more confused than ever.

THE END


Just to be clear, I feel that Sid, Ryōma, and Redyue hold a significant portion of the blame for some of Micchy's actions throughout the series. Yes, he had serious issues and would likely have gone down the wrong path anyway, but I don't believe he would have gone quite as far without their influence. Each man (or alien, in Redyue's case) saw that darkness in him, and encouraged it as suited their own agendas. And let's not forget the telepathy Redyue displayed in one episode. Who's to say she didn't use that to subtly push or encourage some of his darker impulses? Or even plant one or two in his mind without the audience even knowing? Pretty much the only thing I can conclusively rule out, of the stuff he did/experienced after meeting her, is his hallucinations of Takatora after his 'death', because they continued after she died, and I believe her confusion when they first began was genuine.

Also, the Gaim timeline within 'World of All Riders'/'Repair' is as follows:

Ep 1: Oct 5-6, 2013
Fateful Sengoku Movie Battle: Nov 25-Dec 10 (due to different time rates between worlds)
Ep 11: Dec 25, 2013
Ep 46: Apr 21/Jul 24-25, 2014
Ep 47: Nov 28-29, 2014
Movie War Full Throttle: Dec 12-13, 2014

Episodes 12-45, the summer movie, and the Zangetsu and Baron Gaiden movies are all squeezed into the four-month January-April span, in order to allow for Full Throttle taking place before Christmas 2014 as in the Drive timeline, and for Ep 47 to take place before Full Throttle. Ep 30 is non-canon, and the jury's still out on Ep 37.

Here's a new preview for 'The Last Night':

Ignoring his own rule against uninvited contact, Takatora pulled his brother into a tight hug. Mitsuzane initially fought it, but it wasn't long before Takatora felt the dampness on his shirt as the sobs began. He gently pulled Mitsuzane into the room, shutting the door behind them and leading him over to the bed. Memories came back, of when the younger boy would run to him after having a nightmare, curling up in his bed and falling back to sleep easily because he knew his big brother would protect him from the monsters.

But how to do that when the only 'monster' Mitsuzane now feared was Mitsuzane himself?

Unsure of what else to do, Takatora just held Mitsuzane closely, having no intentions of letting the teen out of his sight until he'd chased those thoughts away again.

"Why?" Mitsuzane whispered between gasps, an indeterminable amount of time later, "Why do you still want me around? Everything I've done has made life worse for everyone. You'd all be better off if I was dead. Why?"