Title: Survivor
Rating: PG13 for suicide. Please don't read if this bothers you.
Genre: Psychological horror
Summary: A friend of Kujo's dies, she and an OC discuss. This story hints at interference for Izaku, which could be considered a SPOILER for volume three of the manga (but really, it's very vague).


Such power in a pen, such power in a gesture… with this act I take your final triumph away, make you less than nothing, and you will die embracing nothing because I am not yours, never was yours, and soon I will be with my ancestors.

Sakki taps the pen to her teeth, debating the merits of a confrontational suicide. She is not precisely angry, and to place the burden of her death on a fiancé she barely knew seems dishonest. But she has just used her last piece of stationery and there can be no reconsideration. She adds her signature, small neat letters looped off from the rest of the page with a theatrical flourish, and places the pen on the table. In its place she picks up the sword.

She can feel the prick of the blade through her blouse. Aimed at the heart, of course, for practical as well as symbolic reasons: she is enough of a doctor to ensure that the cut will be direct, and enough of an historian to know that not even the most honorable of samurai would have considered disembowelment without a second. She stands but does not move away. It is only proper that he find her slumped across her desk, between the neatly stacked envelopes and Venetian glass paperweights, and that her final letter to him be covered in blood.

There is a moment of doubt. She has always fought to live; suicide is uncharacteristic of her. The descision has the weight of inevitability to it and she doesn't know why. No doubt her death will be effective, though the line between drama and melodrama is very fine -- but is that really any reason to kill herself?

Then she sees the children by the window: Coral and Rose and Amber and William, all her children from the African missionary school, and one little boy in the back she does not recognize. Their eyes are accusatory and she knows, with a helpless sort of absolute certainty, that it isn't fair of her to live when they are dead. Her face twists under a sudden avalanche of emotion; the children at the window look on without sympathy; the one in back is smiling. Their little hands leave soot-trails on the glass, the characters for 'guilt'.

Survivor's guilt, she thinks, but it is already too late. She collapses into her chair, her vision fades, blood pools in her lap, and she thinks: they used the wrong characters. Those mean "responsibility for a crime," while my greatest crime was of omission...


He looks up from the body at an awkward clearing of the throat. There is an attractive young woman standing in the doorway.

"Dr. Ikeda?" she asks, as soon as she sees she has his attention. "I was told you had a body for me."

He adjusts the tarp to cover the corpse's chest -- he has heard that Dr. Kujo is not squeamish, but she is a woman after all -- and moves to uncover only the head.

"Yes, and if you wouldn't mind-"

"It's highly unusual," she continues, as if he hadn't spoken. "As a neural physiologist I deal mainly with living patients. I have also heard that your department had given up investigation of unusual suicides in wake of recent, hmmm, volume. Do you mind if I leave my coat by the door?"

"Yes. I mean no, of course not," he says, as soon as he has recovered from her forwardness. He pauses to gather his thoughts, one hand still extended over the corpse. Kujo regards him curiously.

"Ahem. Yes, it is true that we normally wouldn't have called you in. This is an exceptional case, however. Most of the incidents you refer to have involved the dregs of society, biker gangs and the like. The sort of people with reasons to kill themselves, people who won't be missed.

"But this woman was a highly respected member of the medical community. Until just before her death, she was actively involved in charity work and amateur theatrical productions. Suicide ought to have been unthinkable."

He expects at least a token protest at this callous assessment of human worth -- it's the apraisal of his superiors, one he personally disagrees with -- but she merely says, "May I see the subject's face?"

"Of course." He turns back the sheet and watches Kujo's face blanche. He does not blame her. Dr. Sakki Honda's expression is frightening, the face of one consigned to hell.

"Dr. Kujo? Is something the matter?"

She shakes her head, her composure regained so quickly that he can't be sure she lost it. "No. I mean yes: I know this woman, we attended medical school together. She was always a bit theatrical, it's probably why she was killed..."

"Because she was theatrical?"

"No, because we attended medical school together. It's just the sort of thing he would..." Dr. Kujo's eyes widen, and her hands come up to cover her mouth. "Ah, I'm sorry! I shouldn't have said that! I'm always talking before I think, it's my biggest flaw." She gives a short and nervous laugh. Dr. Ikeda can only stare. "Please, continue."

"We think," he says, carefully, "that she may have been in pain just before she died. Psychological pain, unrelated to the wound in her chest. There was a letter found at the scene of the crime, but the tone does not match what close friends knew of the victim. We are currently searching for alternatives--you've read the file?"

"Yes," she says. "It mentions that "the victim" lived alone ever since she returned from missionary work in Rwanda. There was no mention of the victim's name." The lady doctor looks at him accusingly; he shakes his head, indicating that he had nothing to do with the wording the report. If he could have spared Kujo the horror of recognizing a former friend on the operating table, he would have.

Kujo seems to accept this. In any case, she continues with admirable professionalism. "The expression on Sakki's face is clearly one of terrible guilt. I suspect that her death followed some sort of triggering event which recalled her time in Africa."

"She felt guilty? But nothing that happened could possibly have been her fault!"

"In the psychological field it is referred to as Survivor's guilt. Those left alive after a tragic, randomized accident -- the classic example is of a shipwreck -- often harbor deep-set feelings of guilt and inadequacy. They wonder, for instance, why they are alive when others are not."

"And that's all it is?" Ikeda asks, skeptically. "A simple case of misplaced guilt? With an expression like that?"

"Never underestimate the power of psychology," Kujo says, firmly, but her eyes are shadowed. "If that's all, Doctor, I think I'll take my leave." She does not wait for an answer, and she does not forget to pick up her coat on the way out.

Cold woman, Ikeda thinks. He watches her stride away down the hall, steps longer than what she would have been able to manage in a skirt. But halfway to the exit she turns, and Ikeda glimpses an expression nearly as tormented as that of the victim on the table. The lady doctor looks shipwrecked.

Survivor's guilt, was it?

Somewhere, a little boy laughs.