Summary: With all the times Yoh's landed in the hospital, parents nowhere in sight, someone must have gotten suspicious of the strange, easy-going boy in room 302 who somehow manages to wrap everyone around his little finger. In a place where lives hang in balance, how much difference can one quixotic, headphone-wearing, spirit-seeing child make?
Disclaimer: Shaman King cool. Shaman King not mine... D'oh!
Notes: **smiles nervously** Please don't kill me for starting another fic. Blame Dietcokechic. This was inspired by her Behind the Scenes series.
Fic starts around that time when Ren put Yoh in the hospital and Anna was first introduced, but it's not entirely accurate.
Aa - (informal) "yes"
Sou ka - "really?"
By Lizeth Hallington
ww w.geocities.c om/lizeth_hal (take out the spaces)
Chapter 1 - Wandering
"He's gone again!" a frustrated voice raved, toeing the edges of despair.
Doctor Jameson turned just in time to see a harried nurse Li stalking into the reception area. Her greying hair was coming out of the usually tidy bun, giving her a more disorganised look than usual. Bringing lukewarm coffee up to his lips, the MD hid a smile of amusement.
"Who?" the doctor asked blandly.
Dumping her clipboard on the desk, the nursed turned, hands on hips. "You know perfectly well who."
"Asakura?" the doctor asked, a smile tugging again at his lips.
"Asakura!" Li confirmed, throwing her arms up in exasperation. "How that boy takes 'stay in bed' to mean 'wander whenever you please' is beyond me."
"Did you check the gardens?"
"He's not there."
"He better not be there."
This time Jameson did chuckle out loud. The last time Asakura visited the cafe, he somehow managed to get an impromptu karaoke session going. "He'll pop up sooner or later," Jameson assured.
Nurse Li huffed and slid a strand of grey behind her ear. "Oh I know that, it's just... in all my years..." she shook her head and when their eyes met again, the nurse looked torn between amusement and incredulity. "If it were any other patient there'd be a mad hospital-wide search."
Which was true, the doctor noted, sipping his coffee. Missing patients weren't usually tolerated.
"It's past time for his medication," the nurse added forlornly.
Jameson checked his watch. "Well I suppose he can do without it for a while longer. If he doesn't want painkillers, I suppose that's his prerogative."
"But with wounds like that..." Nurse Li sighed.
Thirteen-year-old Yoh Asakura had been brought in by an intimidating group of men and a small boy who looked minutes away from bursting into frustrated tears. Security had confronted the gang-like men within seconds of their arrival, but the little one, Manta, had insisted that they were friends. Asakura had been taken to Emergency and diagnosed with multiple abrasions and bruises, but the worst was a long, clean, diagonal slash that went from his shoulder to his hip.
She shuddered. "Any word on how he got his injuries?"
"Not so much as a peek. The boy won't talk and anytime we ask him he just gives that clueless smile of his."
Nurse Li have an unladylike snort. She knew exactly what expression the doctor was talking about. No female member of staff could face that Asakura-smile without melting into a puddle of maternal goo. There was something inherently... bright about Yoh Asakura. Something that spoke of sincere goodwill towards everyone.
"What I want to know," Doctor Jameson's face darkened, "Is why someone would want to hurt him... and where the hell his parents are."
"He'd better be there..." she muttered.
Nurse Li walked towards room 302 in vain hope that her patient hadn't wandered off again. Young Asakura had healed remarkably quickly in only five days. With any luck, he'd be released tomorrow... still much too early for her liking, but Yoh was visibly itching to get out.
The nurse breathed a prayer of thanks when she heard a voice from within the room and raised a hand to knock. That was when the words spoken actually caught her attention.
"-damaru, I'm fine. Don't worry. Next time we fight, I won't lose!"
Fight? Next time?! Heart in her throat, the aging nurse practically slammed the door open. "Young man-!"
...Only to find Yoh staring bewilderedly at her... and no one else in the room. The nurse looked around suspiciously.
"Asakura-kun..." she said slowly, eyes still scanning every nook and cranny for a possible culprit. Not that there were many places to hide on the bare, whitewashed room. "Who were you talking to?"
The boy blinked once, and Nurse Li was just able to catch a flicker of calculation in those droopy dark eyes. It was gone in a moment as Yoh smiled his silly smile.
"Ara? Just my friend Amidamaru," he waved a hand lazily at the empty air beside him. "He worries too much, that he does. Kinda like a mother hen."
Amidamaru? Li stared at Yoh. Then at the air. Then at Yoh once more, who stared back guilelessly. Hesitantly, she broke into a smile. "Aren't you a little too old to have imaginary friends?"
"You're never too old to have imaginary friends," Yoh grinned easily, "People only stop because other people expect them to, and then they pick up the interesting habit of talking to themselves instead." Which is so much better, the boy's eyes teased.
Arching an eyebrow, Li crossed her arms defensively. "I'm quite sure I have no idea what you're talking about," the nurse said primly.
"Hm?" Nurse Ansley frowned, seeing the door to room 443 slightly ajar. It's past visiting hours, and Mallory-san never gets visitors anymore...
Frown deepening, the young nurse approached the darkened room and cautiously stuck her head in. "Hello? Anyone here?"
"Arg!" Startled, she took an involuntary step back.
"Whoa, sorry. Didn't mean to startle you," the youthful voice apologized, laughing sheepishly.
Breathing deeply, the nurse fumbled for the light switch. Flicking the lights on, Nurse Ansley was confronted with the figure of a boy who couldn't have been more than 13. Orange headphones were draped loosely around his neck, partially hidden by sienna hair. His torso was tightly bound with bandages under his open white shirt.
Blinking lazily to adjust to the sudden brightness, the boy look up at her and smiled. "Hi, I'm Asakura Yoh."
Goodness, he was only a child!
"You shouldn't be here," the nurse chided.
"I know," the boy grinned sheepishly. "But he was lonely," he explained, gesturing to the unmoving man in the bed.
Lonely? Ansley looked at the boy in confusion. "Mallory-san has been in a coma for months," she said, walking over.
"I know," he agreed congenially.
"Stroke," Ansley added, not quite certain why she was explaining this to the boy. He watched her silently as she fussed over the elderly patient and Ansley found herself growing nervous. Those droopy eyes were strangely compelling.
"Why doesn't anyone come?" he asked at last, hands clasped behind his back.
"Mallory-san has only one son," she said quietly, straightening the sheets, "and he's travelling abroad."
Asakura-kun frowned slightly.
"He's old," Ansley sighed. "The doctors don't think he'll wake. I guess... his son just just gave up on him."
"That's not cool," the boy pointed out. Ansley was surprised to hear true feeling behind that flippant remark.
"It is too bad," she agreed. "No one's come to visit him in a long time. That's why I was so surprised to see you here."
Yoh was silent for a moment. "That's okay. From now on, I can keep him company." Reaching out, the dark haired teen gently took an old, wrinkled hand in his youthful ones and smiled brightly. "Everyone needs a friend sometimes, ne?"
Ansley couldn't help but stare, taken by the life in his eyes. Then something clicked. "I suppose, but right now... I have a feeling you're supposed to be in your own room."
Yoh's smile melted into a pout. "Aw, c'mon," he wheedled.
"You're that wanderer I've heard about, aren't you?" she teased, "The one that's been giving Li-san grey hairs."
"Don't tell her!" Yoh protested.
"To your room."
"Ten more minutes," Yoh bargained.
"Five more minutes?"
"One more minutes?"
"Get out," Ansley ordered, catching the boy's playful mood.
"Aaaww," the teen whined, hands knitted behind his head. "But I can't leave Mallory-san."
"Mallory-san will still be here in the morning, Asakura-kun."
Yoh paused and turned to look at her so piercingly Ansley couldn't help but freeze.
Three beats of a heart.
And then the boy's posture eased, eyes turning to look at the far wall as he nodded. "Sou ka... aa... I supposed you're right." He shook himself, smile back in place. "Well, g'night Miss Nurse," he said cheerfully, peering out the door to make sure the hall was clear before slinking back to his room.
Ansley placed her hand over her chest to find her heart beating inexplicably fast.
Strange child... she thought, shaking her head to clear it. As she turned out the lights, she paused by the door. Somehow, the atmosphere in the room didn't feel quite as forboding as before.
Amidamaru floated serenely, sheathed katana propped up on his shoulder as he kept quiet vigil.
Below him, an empty shell of a man flickered between life and death, caught in unnatural sleep.
"...He's a good lad," another spirit commented reluctantly as he floated to rest beside the silent samurai, long after Ansley had left.
"That he is," the swordsman replied, a fond smile softening his face. His eyes lifted briefly to the other spirit's aged features. "I am very lucky he found me."
"...Hmph..." Jim Mallory grunted, arms crossed over a transparent chest. Unheard and unseen, the two spirits kept watch over the night. "...So am I."
"So he finally quit."
"Any word from his son?"
"Can't be reached."
I don't believe it, Ansley thought dazedly, a vaguely horrified expression on her face. Sure, it wasn't unexpected. No one believed Mallory-san would ever wake from his coma but... that he would actually die... so quietly... so peacefully in the middle of the night... Why now?!
She'd been trained to accept death. Told that it was impossible to save everyone, but this... this was different.
Ansley's hands tightened around his clipboard as she walked towards room 443, her mind in turmoil. "Mallory-san will still be here in the morning, Asakura-kun." She sighed, disgusted with herself. I'm so stupid! What on earth am I supposed to tell him now?
Almost on instinct, Ansley looked up and caught a flash of orange headphones.
"Asakura-kun!" she called as loudly as she dared, shoes clicking faster against the tiles as she attempted to catch up. "Asakura-kun, wait!"
Through the hall.
Around a trolley.
And still, somehow, she couldn't quite reach him-
-until they were standing at the door marked 443.
...Looking into an empty room.
"A-asakura-kun, I'm so sorry. I... I don't know what to tell you..." she stuttered, heart clenching as the boy stared, unmoving, in the threshold.
For Ansley, caught in a spiral of her own guilt-ridden thoughts, the silence dragged for what felt like eternity. Nerves already raw, she jumped a few feet when the teen suddenly clapped his hands in front of him and bowed to the empty room, bending deeply in a motion that must have aggravated his chest wound.
With a sigh, Asakura straightened again.
"...Don't worry so much, Miss Nurse," he said, finally turning to her with a look of understanding that made all her fears melt away, even as his next statement bewildered her to no end. Orange headphones placed firmly over his ears, Yoh smiled and let his eyes droop. "He was still here in the morning."
End Notes: Yes, I like Rurouni Kenshin too. Samurais and idiots. You can't beat that combo. ^_^ No, I don't watch hospital shows, so I have no idea what I'm doing.
Next time... Yoh gets to go home and... maybe I'll start on the post-Faust visit to the hospital. Hope this wasn't too bad. I wrote it in roughly five hours.