See, I was hiding around here somewhere! I think we're 3-4 updates away from done, kids. Appreciate those of you who are still around :)


I drifted.

After the first two days, I really lost track of time. I'd always time-managed well, and Sousuke had taught me little tricks to keep track of the days - when did they feed me, was it two or three times based on my sleep cycle, did they have a watch, and how I could read the numbers or the hands from any angle - things I railed on him about, but was currently wishing I'd paid attention to.

I slept through one of the food drops and woke up to another one waiting for me, with no idea of how long I'd napped, or if I slept for six hours. That was when I began to lose track of the days.

Then they started putting things in my water.

I'd begun to feel strangely after what I thought might have been the second day, where things in the room began to bend, but how much of that was some kind of drug, or just the monotony of a windowless white room with nothing but the meanest amenities to break up the lines of my space?

I skipped the food for two meals before the hunger got to me. I'd heard you could fast safely if you drank enough water, but I'd never fasted before, and it only made me feel worse. I thought eating again might make it better, but at that I was too saturated. In hindsight, it was already too late.

I started doodling on some loose paper on maybe day three, when I began seeing things before my eyes so vividly that I thought I must have been losing my mind. But they were so clear - sharp, precise, and the more random and symbolic they seemed, the more it seemed like the rest might make senseif I could only remember them -

I asked for more paper the next day or so, but for reasons I'm a little too proud to admit, I became afraid to touch anything they brought me to eat or drink. I poured the water down the drain and scraped the food into the toilet. Whether they had a camera on me or not, someone continued to bring me food semi-regularly.

I scribbled. And I drifted some more.

I threw up at one point, and hid under all the pillows and blankets they provided me for hours or days as the fluorescent lights buzzed, and even when I shut my eyes and covered my face, I still saw those things - symbols, strange letters, all just one number or doodle away, but so clear -

Eventually I shoved all the loose papers under the cot they gave me, too dizzy and nauseated to look at them anymore. I shook and cried in quiet, pitiful little sniffles under my blanket, sweated even though I was cold, and threw up some more from motion sickness even though I wasn't moving.

Until some undetermined time later, when I heard gunshots distantly, down some hallway that led to nowhere.

Gunshots, in a maximum-security facility like I suspected I was in, only meant one thing, and that was trouble. And trouble, no matter where I was, meant -


And then it wasn't cloudy in my head, or slow, or frightened. I was awake, because something was coming. I was ready.

I sat patiently on my cot, crappy little slippers on my feet, my modest hospital gown tugged down to cover my knees, my mind surreally cloaked in patient anticipation.

The doorknob jiggled after an eternity, but it was electronically bolted from the outside.

Sousuke had never bothered too long with locks.

True to form, the next thing that hit the doorknob was a bullet.

And Sousuke's face was not on the other side of the door.

The most fabulous thing I could think of to say was "Oh, goddamn it."

Gauron could not have been pleased to see me, and yet somehow he still looked like the cat that got the cream. "You missed me."

Sousuke, thank God, was right behind him, in the middle of a pissy tirade. "... is NOT the area described on my schematics, I think we're supposed -" He froze when he saw me, his eyes widening. "Kaname -"

I smiled weakly. "You know what, I was kinda hoping you were dumb enough to come get me."

He swallowed. "You - you're - oh, Miss Chidori."

"What?" I sniffled.

"You look like shit," the other man supplied easily.

"Would you stop it," Sousuke snapped.

I didn't mean to - maybe it was stress from kidnapping, drugs, hunger, who knew - but in spite of myself, I started to cry.

Before Sousuke could come to me, Gauron stepped in quickly. "Stand up," he said, his words cold.

I swallowed and did as I was told, sniffling miserably. He snatched my chin up in one hand and studied me clinically. "She's stoned out of her mind," he declared after a moment.

"I am not," was my pitiable defense.

Sousuke's long, thoughtful gaze froze me where I stood. "Her pupils are unnaturally dilated for the present environment," he conceded after a moment. "Miss Chidori, have you felt adversely affected since your imprisonment?"

I blinked and swiped at my leaking, treacherous eyes. "Compared to how I might feel if I wasn't doped?" I asked resentfully, fixing the noted sociopath in the room with a scowl. "Or compared to the last time I was kidnapped?"

"I only had non-drowsy neurostimulants at my disposal," was the shitty reply.

Sousuke spun on him. "I said stop," he warned, voice low.

A smug grin. "You normally start out that way, yeah. I figured I'd just wait five minutes for you to change your tune."

I gaped. Sousuke didn't even blink, which I suppose was why he was the mercenary and I was the hostage.

"Your suppositions are only as relevant as Miss Chidori's ability to effectively escape," he said coolly. "If you have some previous knowledge of her condition that might benefit us, I am all ears. But if bullshit is the only thing you can spew at this moment, then do us the kindness of shutting up please."

"Well I don't know, Kashim," he drawled, "but these are Nick's friends we're dealing with. Would you like me to start making educated guesses, or would you rather impress me with your ability to connect the dots?"

Sousuke's eyes narrowed. "You're suggesting..."

"Kashim, if you've learned anything about me, you know I'm waiting for you to say it."

His eyes flashed angrily, and I smelled the faint burn of an ongoing argument.

...Actually smelled it.

"There's still something wrong with me," I announced, in case they were paying attention.

Sousuke was kind enough to spare me a moment in between glaring. "Continue," he said, all bossy-like.

"You two have spent way too much time together," I grumped.

"Chidori," he gritted, pained.

"Well I... I was, but am not currently... hallucinating," I admitted, biting down on my lip. "And freaking out. And not eating or drinking , but for awhile I was, and I drew a bunch of stuff and got all paranoid and - Sousuke, I thought the wall was melting -"

His mouth was set in a grim line. "I see. And now?"

"I haven't had anything in probably a day," I vowed. "I promise, if you mean to bust me out, I'm right behind you. I don't know if it was the food, or the water, or if it was airborne -"

"They haven't made it into any sort of aerosol yet," Gauron supplied helpfully, "but they have it in water, so how far away can they be?"

Sousuke ignored him. "I am not worried about your mobility in an escape," he said gently. "All we have to do is get out of the compound, and then we'll be safe. Weber and Major Mao are waiting for us, and my Arm Slave has been equipped to accommodate a passenger."

I studied him suspiciously, and a few things clicked in my head at once.

They were both limping. And bleeding.


"What did you do to yourself?" I wailed.

They let out identical suppressed sighs. "There is not exactly a front door," Sousuke allowed.

"Okay, we're all on the same page. Time to go," Gauron announced. "Before everyone shoots at us."

Sousuke took my elbow gently. "Are you up to this?" he asked quietly.

I swallowed, at a loss.

"If you say no," the other man added, "we'll leave you here. I am sick to fucking death of getting shot."

"Is that all?" I said dizzily. "Then yes. No matter what."

"Then move," he snapped, "and stay behind Kashim."

I did as I was told, after digging under my mattress and gathering up the stack of papers that had accumulated.

Sousuke frowned. "What in the world is that?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "I just - I mean, they just started piling up, I kept drawing - I thought they might be important."

He rolled them up and shoved them in a pocket. "We'll worry about them later," he promised.

"Don't bleed too profusely on them," was the comment from the peanut gallery.

It was made painfully clear to me that they had not specifically agreed on an exit plan. They were also still in the middle of an argument that I suspected I should not have been privy to.

We crept down an empty corridor, darkened and still as though it had only recently been abandoned. Sousuke grabbed him by the elbow quickly.

"I hear voices," he murmured, dropping his own.

They both fell incredibly still, listening rather than looking.

"It sounds like it's one level up. Ventilation shafts."

"You said personnel was restricted to ground level and above," he hissed. "We are four levels down!"

"Well, we made an entrance," Gauron retorted. "You thought they'd skip the second wave and just let us walk out?"

"I thought you said they'd dropped to minimal security!"

"We had nine hostiles, and in ten more, I'll start bitching about the difference between minimum security and no security, but until then -"

"Just shut up before they pinpoint our location."

"Have they not done that yet?" was the pissy reply. "Because there's exactly one thing left in this facility to steal, and how long did you think it would take them to do the math?"

I cleared my throat. "Am I interrupting something? I thought we were escaping."

"Can it, Grace Slick," he snapped, as Sousuke was pointlessly whispering "No," at the same time, like I'd believe him.

They exchanged a few frustrated shoves - one was just a jostle, which led to a more aggressive push, which was returned, and then Sousuke decided, "We have to get to the surface. Now." Like the previous six seconds and the sniping before that had never happened.

We did so, without arguing or discussing logistics. It was interesting to watch them work together, especially having seen them do the exact opposite for so long. Their communication was practically non-verbal, which was obviously for the best. But even their non-verbal communication was limited - if one started to go down a corridor, the other seemed to already be doing the same thing.

At one point we'd ducked into a room, apparently because of some convenient ventilation shaft orsomething, and in the course of three seconds, Sousuke had counted ceiling tiles, made some non-verbal gesture to Gauron, and made some assisted jump up, and then further up, knocking the tile aside with ease and pulling himself the rest of the way.

I was not that graceful.

There was a rumble, like an earthquake, as we pulled ourselves through the floor on the next level and I dusted myself off. They exchanged a quick glance.

"That was the waste line," Sousuke said grimly.

"What waste line?" I asked stupidly.

"The one we were going to escape out of," he explained.

I goggled. "You were going to make me sneak out a sewage pipe? Are you serious? That is the most disgusting -"

"Actually, there aren't enough people here to need a line that big," Gauron supplied. "It's mostly chemical and radioactive."

"Regardless, we are changing plans," Sousuke assured me.

"We have another plan?" I was ever hopeful.

"We will," Gauron replied over Sousuke's "Yes."

He glanced over sharply. "Oh, we do?" he said with deceptive cool.

Sousuke ignored him, and touched his ear. "Weber," he murmured. "We are at G-721. Make sure to leave us room."

Voices rose up to our right.

Then the left.

"And now we're found," Gauron muttered.