A/N: Geez, guys. If you didn't like it, you could have at least flamed me. Not a single ounce of feedback? Pff, lazy bums the lot of you.

This section rated M for language and creepy things.

Gojyo's hand shakes, two fingers holding his cigarette in his mouth, only pulling it away when he blows smoke before replacing the filter between his lips.

He might stagger when he walks, but Nii is there to hold him up. Gojyo does not shift to accommodate his hands, but where Nii insinuates his fingers he is not stopped.

A small rectangle of vertical lines, just below his collarbones, rests in Gojyo's skin.

Nii smokes, lazy and easy, letting the filter lie, hanging from his mouth.

Nii walks with him slowly, guiding.

"Prince," says Nii, when they pass Kougaiji, and smiles.

Gojyo's hair falls in a long, dark cascade, his head tipped back and eyes unseeing. His skin is bruised, yellow-green-black held only by tape to plastic tubes flowing into his veins. The thinnest draw the tips of his fingers up from his palms in tensed, sharp lines.

Nii pulls the cigarette from Gojyo's mouth and tamps it out in an ashtray. He examines the filter, then drops it in a Petri dish. Nii closes the lab door.

The back of Kougaiji's throat itches with the urge to cough against the smoke. The urge to scream hits him somewhere lower.

"It's simple, really," murmurs Nii. "This young man has been counseling our Prince in a direction it would be best he not go. I chose to alter his counsel."

"Will it hinder the search?" asks Gyokumen Koushu, narrowing her eyes.

"It can only help. The Prince—"

"Does he know?"

"Not at all," he lies, smiling. "And if he notices, the changes to the patient's demeanor will be negligible. He's almost ready now."

Nii bears the scrutiny for a few more moments, then excuses himself. He wanders idly back to the lab, whistling merrily. He'll keep Kougaiji's haunted expression to himself.

Kougaiji almost touches him, in the dark space where his shadow falls over Gojyo's chest. He watches as Gojyo's breath moves his ribs, shifts the tubes in his skin ever so slightly. Iridescent green, faint yellow, and crystal clear fluids flow from the ceiling into Gojyo's body, darkening his bruises.

Gojyo's open eyes cloud, dry and unfocused and faintly green at the corners of the whites.

Kougaiji closes them with his fingers, then pulls back too quickly. The faint green tinge has reached Gojyo's tears, and they catch in his eyelashes.

Kougaiji shudders with rage. The black barcode shifts, breathing.

"He's bleeding!"

Kougaiji staggers under Gojyo's weight, forcing his limp body through the door. "Quiet, Yaone!" he hisses, kicking the door closed behind him.

"What in the world happened?" she cries, coming closer to help carry him.

Kougaiji lays Gojyo's body down on the floor. "Nii was experimenting on him. I don't know what's in him. But—"

Yaone already has bandages, rushing to wrap them around the bloody holes in Gojyo's skin. Softly, she says, "I'm afraid I can't do much, then. We may have to wait until it passes." She gives him a thin smile. "We'll make him comfortable."

The shudders start hours later, his first sign of real life. Gojyo's fever skyrockets before his body settles.

The night drags on.

The first dry heaves bring up what was left in Gojyo's stomach, and after that, rough, raw splatters of acid that cling to Gojyo's lips and drip into the bucket by the side of the bed.

He groans while Kougaiji holds his hair back, his eyes fluttering.

"Fuck," he slurs, and heaves again. Nothing comes.

Kougaiji swallows. "You're awake."

Gojyo groans, inarticulate, and shudders, slumped over the side of the bed.

Kougaiji strokes his hair. "I'm so sorry."

The bandages on Gojyo's fingertips are rough, scraping so faintly at Kougaiji's arm.

Gojyo's mouth fights to form the words, his tongue thick and too dry, his throat rebelling. He lays limp over the side of the bed, his fingers unable to even clutch at Kougaiji.

"Don't," he croaks, panting roughly. "Ma-ake me."

Kougaiji frowns, turning over the wet cloth on the back of Gojyo's neck. "Make you do what?"

Gojyo shudders hard, then slumps, spitting. "Go back."

Kougaiji shakes his head, even though Gojyo can't see it. "No. I won't."

Gojyo nods, just barely. "Okay," he slurs, and shivers.

"I thought the Prince was supposed to bring him back by now," sneers Hwan. She tilts her head and makes her voice shrill and whiny. "Oh, Doctor, he can't take it any more! Here, have him, give him some of your wonder drugs, just take the pain awa-ay!"

Nii bites the inside of his lower lip, holding down a snarl. He turns his face to Hwan and it is smiling.

He holds up the bunny and speaks through it. "Patience is a virtue, Doctor Hwan," he chirps, his voice pitched high.

As himself, Nii purrs, "Thanks for your concern, though."

Gojyo shudders, his knees almost giving out.

"Cut it off me," he whispers, a desperate rush. He reaches his hand up, claws poised and shaking over the barcode on his chest.

Dokugakuji grabs him, holding him tightly. He presses Gojyo's arms to his sides, lifting him.

"Don't," he growls, and pulls Gojyo away, pressing him back to the bed.

Gojyo shudders, snarling. "Cut it off me!" he cries, rough and hoarse. He struggles weakly until Kougaiji leans over him.

"We will," he says, putting his palm on Gojyo's forehead.

Gojyo squeezes his eyes tightly shut and moans through his teeth.

Gojyo bears it, biting down on a belt.

Yaone moves carefully, cutting precisely. Softly, she says, "It's just a tattoo, Gojyo-san. It's coming out."

Dokugakuji holds tight to Gojyo's shoulders, keeping him still on the table. Gojyo doesn't fight, merely shivers in his grip.

Yaone stitches the wound closed where she can, deep down, then presses gauze over the hole and tightens bandages over his chest.

When she sits back, moving to clean up her tools, Kougaiji puts a hand on her shoulder in silent gratitude.

She gives him a thin smile.

Gojyo spits the belt to the floor.

"You could have let me burn it off," says Kougaiji.

Gojyo smiles, crooked and exhausted. "Didn't want you near it. Bits would've probably stayed behind, too."

Kougaiji frowns. "You're an idiot." He spends a moment deftly untangling one of the matted knots in Gojyo's hair. His fingers brush Gojyo's ear.

Gojyo laughs, though his breath catches and makes him cough. "Uh huh," he says, weak and rough. "Pissed off the good doctor."

Kougaiji's frown deepens. Softly, he murmurs, "Yaone has volunteered to bring you cigarettes from outside."

Gojyo pales. "No," he mutters. "Been without 'em long enough. Kicking the habit."

Gojyo holds onto it, silent.

The small rectangle cut from his chest scars over into something more natural, with twisting arms and raised bumps. He remembers what his own voice sounds like.

He spars with Kougaiji again, forcing his muscles into waking.

It is when they have finished, breathless and buzzing, that it tumbles from him.

"If he'd do that to one of your men and your stepmom didn't stop him, what's the chance she's really going to hold up her end of the bargain?"

Kougaiji turns, his eyes tight at the corners with loss. "Low," he says, "to nothing."