Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Square. There's nothing I can do to change that. I don't own them. And I'm definitely not worth suing, either.
Author's Note: Happy Halloween. I know, I don't need to start writing yet more multi-chaptered fics, but they keep coming to me and won't go away! And, since so many of them are Halloweenish, I didn't think I should wait until, say, Christmas, to upload them. This is for the gals in the General Hein group, especially Ntrophi, who at one time had a strange zombie fetish that left an impression on me (remember Boyer as the Queen of the Zombies?), and Ovo, who may be the only person who'll get the Lovecraft references.
Aki Ross – Re-animator
Aki wound her way through the crowd of reporters, the false smile seemingly permanently etched on her features. Why wouldn't the idiots leave her alone? Yeah, she'd saved the world, yeah, they all owed their safety to her, yeah, she deserved their gratitude, blah, blah, blah… But she didn't want their gratitude. Gratitude didn't fill that empty void inside of her that had once been filled by love. Gray was gone, and these people wanted to celebrate!
She was the hero of every man, woman, and child around the world. But she didn't feel like a hero. Weren't heroes supposed to live happily ever after with the people they loved, together, forever, in a pure, perfect world?
"No comment," Aki muttered to one particularly persistent newswoman who asked what she planned to do with her life now that she'd done what she'd committed her life to accomplishing. The truth was, Aki didn't know. She'd always thought that maybe, just maybe, after she and Sid unleashed the spirit wave, she'd have the courage to find Gray, to apologize and tell him the truth, and maybe, just maybe, begin a new life with him.
Aki finally made it to the lobby of her apartment complex, sighing in relief as the managed shooed the reporters out. Aki tossed the man a grateful smile before heading towards the elevator and up to the small, Spartan room she currently called home. Home. There's something else I need to think of. Now that the Phantoms are gone, I can find a home. But not here in Houston, where she was worshipped when she walked down the streets by citizens she'd never met. Even the military went out of the way to do things for her. It was frustrating!
Though she had to admit, there were a lot of good looking guys in the military… Argh! What am I thinking? Gray's barely been dead a week and I'm already thinking about crawling into some other guy's bed? Irritated, Aki flopped down onto her bed, grabbing a pillow and clutching it to her chest. But I am lonely. I can't live the rest of my life like this. Dr. Sid's right, I need to find someone. But it's so hard to find someone who would want me for me, and not just to say they were dating the savior of the world. Her lips curled into a wry smile. It's a pity Sid's so much older than I am; he'd be perfect, really. Nowhere near as hardheaded as some military guys I know.
Okay, now I've left the realm of sanity. Aki just groaned and rolled onto her back. She wondered if it was worth getting undressed, then decided against it. She was going to have to go back to the lab in five hours anyway; why bother? It was better to just try and get as much sleep as she could right now. Yeah, sleep… In her dreams, she could forget just how lonely she really was.
* * *
The alarm woke Aki from dreams that hadn't cooperated with her intentions; they'd all been about Gray, and Ryan and Neil and Jane… And Gray… And, strangely, General Hein, as well. She hadn't known her subconscious thought of him that way… Wearily, she slid out of bed, fumbling for the alarm and knocking the clock off her nightstand. She felt like she hadn't gotten any sleep at all. Why had she even bothered to come home?
She ran her fingers through her hair and then smoothed her wrinkled Miskatonic University sweatshirt. It was all she gave herself time for before she left for the lab. The reporters were gone, she noticed with relief. Good; she didn't want the entire world to see her looking as if she hadn't changed in days.
The drive to the lab was quick; she knew the route well, and could have done it in her sleep. She had a moment of panic when she thought she'd left her security pass behind, but found it after a moment's harried searching. Just why had she crammed it into her boots, anyway?
Dr. Sid had arrived before her, and the holographic equipment had already been activated. He smiled when he saw her and said, "Don't worry; I didn't check the results yet. I wanted you to be here for that."
"Well, I'm here. Let's see if it worked." Aki took a potted plant out of a cabinet and placed it into the small scanner. Dr. Sid activated the scanner, his face neutral as the image of the plant's spirit was projected before him.
Aki stood behind him, studying the image before them. Had their experiment been a success? It was hard to tell… "I'll bring up the scan from five hours earlier." She manipulated the glowing icons, and a similar scan of a plant spirit appeared beside the first. Aki changed its color to red, then overlapped the two. "Sid!" she gasped. "Do you see it?"
"I see it," Dr. Sid said, his voice excited. "Aki, we did it!"
The plant had been a victim of a Phantom attack; much of its spirit had been ripped away, leaving only a pale glimmering that was enough to keep the plant alive. But now, the plant's spirit glowed strongly, with many of the holes healed over, as if they'd never been there at all. It wasn't completely healed, but the process was ongoing. In a few more hours, they'd be unable to tell the plant had ever been damaged. It was all thanks to the serum Aki and Dr. Sid had been working on for the past week. So many people had been damaged by Phantom attacks, and natural regeneration happened too slowly. Some had lost so much that they lay in a coma in hospitals. But, with this, they'd be able to save lives.
Yay, she was a hero again. Whoop-de-do… Been there, done that… What did it get her? More emptiness inside.
"Aki, are you all right?" Aki suddenly realized Dr. Sid had been calling her name for some time. She started guiltily, aware of the selfishness of her thoughts.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired, is all." Aki sighed and rubbed her brow. "I haven't been sleeping well. Dreams, you know. I thought they'd end after all this."
"Gray?" Dr. Sid asked sympathetically. Aki nodded, unsurprised at how well he'd read her. He knew her so well, better than anybody. Once again, she couldn't help but think he'd be the perfect guy if he weren't old enough to be her grandfather. Ugh. I hope I'm having these thoughts because I'm tired, not because I'm lonely and desperate.
"Yeah. I miss him. He should be here," she said, her voice sorrowful.
Dr. Sid placed his hand on her shoulder and squeezed comfortingly. "I know. I'm sorry, Aki. Look, why don't you go home. I shouldn't have asked you to come; it's too soon after the funeral."
"But this is all I have! Sid, if I don't have my work to keep me busy, I'll… I'll go mad!"
"Please," Aki pleaded. "I need to do this. I don't think I can face going home tonight. There's nothing there for me. I can monitor the experiment for the rest of the night. Why don't you go home, Sid? You must be tired, too."
"Are you sure you want to be left alone?" her mentor asked, concerned. "I could stay."
"I'm okay. I'll just keep myself busy, and I won't even think about Gray. Don't worry!" She gave him a broad grin they both knew was fake, but Dr. Sid relented.
After he left, though, she knew she'd made a mistake sending him away. The lab suddenly seemed cold and empty, and Aki felt small and alone in the giant, echoing room. The lights were kept dim to make it easier to see the holograms, and without the constant glow of the barrier through the window, it seemed darker than normal. The sad-looking plant before her was pathetic company. "It's just you and me," she told it. The plant didn't respond. "So, what's it like being a plant? I bet it's easier than being a human. You don't have to worry about losing a loved one, or being lonely…" She stopped suddenly, realizing what she was doing. "Nor do you have to worry about your sanity when you start talking to plants. Oh, God, I think I've lost it."
She folded her arms on the table in front of her and rested her head on them. "Dammit," she mumbled to the table's surface. It was less responsive than the plant.
Aki lifted her head, glaring at the offending plant. It looked better than it had five hours ago, healthier with less droopy leaves and a darker shade of green. She scowled at it. "Well, look at you. All it took was one little serum to bring you to life. You think my problems can be fixed that easily?"
As what she'd said sunk in, Aki's eyes widened. What if I can fix my problems that easily? This serum regenerates the spirit… Could it work on dead tissue, too?
No way… It doesn't work like that. It couldn't work… If I weren't so exhausted, I wouldn't even be thinking something this insane. Even if it did work, would I have that right? Would Gray be the same person? But she had to test it out. And she had to do it on her own; she doubted Dr. Sid would approve if he knew what she was thinking. I could reserve the lab at the end of the corridor and close it off; no one would ever need to know what I'm doing. It has a freezer big enough to contain Gray's body… No, the bodies. If I'm bringing Gray back, I may as well restore the rest of the Deep Eyes, too! Excitedly, Aki rose from her seat, going to the disposal unit where she'd dumped a victim of another experiment that hadn't gone quite right. Aki dug through the waste and extracted a sorry excuse for a plant, withered and dry and completely without a spirit.
She glanced up once at the clock, feeling devious. Yes, she had plenty of time to do this; it was only two o'clock in the morning. All she needed was for the plant to regenerate enough to show some spirit, she didn't have to wait for a complete regeneration. Just enough for her to decide if she was going to spend tomorrow night grave robbing…
* * *
Two hours passed with nothing to show for it. The plant was under the scanner, next to its nearly healed cousin, and there was nothing to show for it. Aki paced the lab anxiously, rearranging equipment and then putting it all back to alleviate her boredom.
Another hour passed. Nothing. Aki's stomach rumbled, reminding her she hadn't had anything to eat since lunch. She ran to the vending machine down the hall, getting a bag of chips, then sprinted back to see if anything had happened while her back was turned. The plant was still a dead thing, one that now looked rather worse for wear. Two of its curled brown leaves had fallen off.
An hour and a half. Aki could hear movement in the corridors below as a few early risers came to check on experiments left to run during the night. She growled in frustration and stood stiffly, stretching to keep her mind on what she was doing. She was dangerously close to falling asleep, and with her dreams, that was something she wanted to avoid. She decided to occupy herself by checking out the lab she was considering signing out for her illicit experiment, should it be a success.
It was still vacant, to her relief. Once she requested its usage, she'd receive the key card to the lab and she could close it off so no one could interfere. It was a small lab, but it had a large freezer in the back, which she was relieved to see was indeed big enough to hold four bodies. She'd need it; it would take time to synthesize enough serum, and she didn't want them to rot.
Assuming it all worked. Aki trudged back to Dr. Sid's laboratory, her heart heavy. Why had she let herself get so excited? It wasn't possible to bring the dead back to life. She was doomed to never have the love and happiness she so craved…
Aki resumed her seat by the scanner, staring off into the distance, waiting for Dr. Sid to arrive. Only minutes before he was due did she remember the plant she'd been using. She'd have to dispose of it; she couldn't have him guessing what she'd been thinking.
Her hand reached towards the desiccated stem, then froze as she finally took in the image hovering in the air above it.
Barely perceptible, so small she wasn't certain she saw it at first, was a tiny speck of blue where there'd been none before.
* * *
It was a dark and stormy night (Aki had always wanted to think that!) when Aki rented a refrigerated van and took a shovel out to the graveyard where her beloved had been put to rest. She found the four fresh graves quickly, and was relieved that they still looked fresh. She didn't want anyone to know what she was doing yet.
With rain lashing her face and dribbling down her shirt, she began to dig. The soft, wet earth came up easily, but water rapidly filled the holes as quickly as she dug them. Soon, she was coated in slimy mud and standing ankle deep in cold water. As she dug deeper and deeper, she cursed whoever had decided that six feet was a good depth to bury the dead. Why not three feet under? Or one? Or why even bury them at all? It was a barbaric custom! The dead should be stored in convenient freezers for all eternity in case it became possible to revive them!
When her shovel finally scraped against something hard, she crowed in triumph. With aching muscles, she cleared the top of the coffin, then thrust her fingers in the mud to fish around for the latches.
The lid came open, and Gray was revealed, a dark form nestled against cream colored satin. His skin was ashen, his eyes sunken. But he was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen, and with slippery hands, she pulled his body out.
She hadn't been prepared for how heavy his body was. How can something that was now just an empty shell be heavy? Groaning, she pushed his body up the crumbling, rain slick sides of the grave. Her back cracked in protest, and she yelped in pain. Oh, man… Did Dr. Frankenstein have to go through this? But at last she was able to haul Gray's body into the back of the refrigerated van. She shivered in the cold, but was in no hurry to leave. She crouched beside Gray's still body, gently tracing the line of his cheek. Just a few more days, and we can be together again.
After she got her breath back, she reluctantly left the shelter of the van and retrieved the shovel. She still had to cover Gray's grave, and dig up the others. Aki hoped she could survive the process.
* * *
After two days, the serum was finally ready. Aki had worn herself thin trying to synthesize enough. The process required nearly constant supervision, and since she was still assisting Dr. Sid during the day, she had to do everything at night. She estimated that she'd gotten, maybe, five hours of sleep over the past three days.
Now she knew just what made mad scientists so insane…
She decided to start with Jane. Though her heart yearned for Gray to be the first, if Aki had made a mistake with the serum, she wanted it to be on Jane. She'd always thought the woman was a bit of a bitch, anyway.
Aki made certain the door to her leased lab was locked, then pulled out the first of the frozen bodies and laid Jane out on the operating table she'd set up. Except for the thin layer of ice, Jane's body looked untouched by death. The barbaric custom of morticians 'preparing' a corpse for the grave had been dropped, so everything was intact.
She had to wait for the body to thaw enough to be flexible – well, as flexible as a corpse could be - before she could do anything. She spent the time preparing the cabinet where Jane would be contained while the serum did its work. She couldn't just leave the body out in the open, after all.
After a few hours, she judged Jane was ready for the serum. Aki opened Jane's uniform jacket and pulled up Jane's shirt, revealing the smooth skin over her heart. Then she took the beaker of glowing blue fluid from the cooler and filled a syringe with what she'd estimated was the correct amount.
She'd decided the best place to make the injection was the heart. Once the serum restored the organ, it would – theoretically – begin to beat again, and the serum would be spread through the arteries and veins throughout the body. But it would take time, and Aki wouldn't see results until tomorrow. Tomorrow… Aki shivered in anticipation. If Jane was showing signs of having a spirit tomorrow night, then she'd go ahead and work on Neil, and Ryan, and… Gray…
* * *
Night after night, she monitored the bodies. The spark of life was slow to spread, and Aki was getting impatient. It was getting harder to hide from Sid that she had leased the lab. And then there were the dark rings under her eyes, and the blossoming coffee addiction that made her hands shake when she helped her mentor. She'd already managed to spill dye all over Dr. Sid's fingers, and he was still wearing gloves to hide the blue stain.
But it would all be worth it. On the fifth night after she'd injected the serum into Jane, she could see a definite change in the woman's body. The skin had a healthier hue, and there was a warmth to the body that hadn't been there.
Aki pushed the gurney holding the soldier to the scanner and transferred the body to the table. Her hands seemed to operate the scanner on their own; she'd done this so often she could do it in her sleep. If she could only get that sleep…
The image that formed hovering above the body made her gasp. Jane's spirit had nearly completely regenerated.
"So this is what you've been doing every night," a voice behind her said grimly. Aki whirled, feeling like a scared rabbit under Dr. Sid's angry glare.
"H – how did you get in here?" Aki cried. Her eyes darted towards the door.
"You forgot to lock it," Dr. Sid said flatly. "Aki, what were you thinking?"
"I just…" Aki shifted her body to block his view, but he'd already seen everything.
"They're dead, Aki. I assume that if Corporal Proudfoot is here, then Gray is close by, too." Aki didn't reply, but her face gave it away. "Aki," Dr. Sid said with a sigh. "I know you miss Gray, but you can't bring him back. He's gone, Aki. Don't hurt yourself like this."
A soft sigh made both of them turn back to the table where Jane lay. "That's impossible," she heard Dr. Sid whisper as Jane's fingers twitched, then curled toward her palm in a fist. Above her, the suspended image of the spirit was whole. As Jane's eyes slowly opened, Dr. Sid said, "Aki, what have you done?"
To Be Continued…