My Ghosts Are Gaining On Me
Notes: The characters are not mine
and the story is! The title is from All That I'm Living For on
Evanesence's album The Open Door. Thanks goes to RanMouri82
for encouraging me about the plot, which made me want to rewrite my
disjointed first draft into something better and post it, which I
probably would not have done otherwise. Thanks also to SN, Claude,
and whoever else helped out with their random speculations about
Akemi in my stories. This is a story for the October season,
Halloween and such, so expect it to be weird! And it follows my
timeline, of course, so those who don't know about my version of
Gin's past with the Miyano sisters will probably be confused.
Gin could not remember what had happened at first. He had woken up sprawled on the sidewalk, and as he slowly rose into a sitting position, he realized that he was not aching anywhere, as he had thought he would be. He felt perfectly fine, better than he had in some time, actually, and he frowned in confusion as he looked around the deserted area. His mind was a blank, until a familiar voice suddenly pierced through his consciousness and brought him to a remembrance of what had occurred several moments before.
"Bro! Bro, get up. . . . Wake up. . . ."
Vodka. . . . Gin cast his gaze around once more, now noticing his partner kneeling down at the corner, bending over a body crumpled on the concrete. Gin's eyes narrowed and he took several steps in that direction. What was Vodka doing, pleading for him to wake up? He was perfectly awake. This was ridiculous. Gin reached out, grabbing for Vodka's shoulder. "Vodka! I'm right here!" he said in frustration.
His eyes widened in disbelief as his hand passed through. Was he ill? Perhaps it was an optical illusion. . . . He grabbed for Vodka again, and again he could not get his hand to reach the other. This time he knew that he was not seeing things. "It's not possible," he uttered quietly, and realized that Vodka could not hear him any more than Gin could touch him.
Shaken, Gin leaned forward, trying to see what Vodka was concentrating on so frantically. The heavyset man had never once looked up from the body, which he had carefully turned onto its back. Now he was leaning down, checking for any sign of breath. The streetlamp above them illuminated the form's long and flowing blonde hair, the dark coat, and the blood that was pooling on the ground from several wounds of varying seriousness. Gin stumbled back, indescribable feelings crashing through his mind.
"That's . . ." He could not finish. Something was terribly wrong here. And then Gin clenched a fist, fully realizing what the explanation was. He growled, narrowing his eyes again. He would not accept this. Purposefully he started to walk forward again, determined to correct what had happened. It should not be that hard. . . . He should be able to go back over and re-enter . . .
He cursed when he found that he could not. When he tried, something unseen forced him back again. Annoyed beyond belief, as well as still being bewildered, he tried again---only to meet the same result. He was locked out. Now he did not know at all what to do.
His train of thought was interrupted when he noticed people suddenly approaching him from all angles, people who had not been there a moment before. All looked at him silently, accusingly, as they quickly formed a tight circle around him. He did not recognize any of them, and yet, somehow they did seem familiar. But he did not want to stop to deal with them right now. They were in his way.
Glowering at them, he reached out to push past them and get back over to Vodka, but his wrist was abruptly grabbed by the nearest one, who twisted it painfully. Gin gasped, staring at the one who was doing it. That person did not seem terribly strong. How did he have such a superhuman grip? Gin pulled free and was about to fight back when he was suddenly struck hard with a metal pole. Losing his balance, he fell forward, and even though he tried desperately to catch himself, it did not work. He hit the pavement hard, and all of the people who had gathered now descended upon him, striking, beating, kicking. . . .
Gin could feel their hatred, their rage, their accusations, even though they still refused to speak. He struggled to get out from under their painful weapons, managing to grab onto one at one point and tear it free from its original owner. Then he got to his feet, lunging and striking back. But he was only one against what seemed an endless number, and he soon was overpowered once again.
Each blow felt more pronounced, more agonizing, than anything he had endured in the past, though he did not entirely understand why. As he again fought his way back to his feet and punched one of the men nearest to him, realization about these peoples' identities came upon him. These were people he had killed throughout his time in the Organization. Now they were having their revenge upon him, and the longer they beat him, the more their countenances and their entire forms changed, becoming all the more grotesque and sickening. They barely looked human now, with black, almost nonexistent eyes, gray and wrinkled skin, and sharp teeth and claws.
Still clutching the metal pole he had taken, Gin whirled around, striking at one who was holding a knife. The weapon flew out of the person's hands, severing another's hand before dropping to the ground. Quickly Gin picked up the blade, lunging at two more of the creatures and impaling them with it in turn. They fell back, but instead of being defeated, they came at Gin again, their wounds still visible. It was as if they were like the zombies of legend. But Gin was determined to not be defeated. He struck at another, removing an arm.
Then he gasped as the limb flew at him, connecting with his throat. The fingers gripped tightly, choking him, and Gin struggled to breathe. There was no escape. . . . He could not pass out in his current state, and as he desperately tried to pull the hand away from his neck, the pressure only tightened unbearably. His eyes began to water. He stabbed at the arm frantically, but nothing was working. His energy depleting, he collapsed to his knees. These enemies were not like anything he had ever faced before.
He hated this show of weakness. He hated that he could not seem to win against them. He could not be defeated here, like this. He had the feeling that the torment would never end if he could not break free. It had already seemed as if it had been going on for an eon.
Now all of the severed arms and hands were grabbing at him, holding him down, digging into his flesh. . . . They were joined by all of the vengeful former people, and Gin fell forward onto his hands as they all grabbed at him at once, biting him, beating him, tearing at him. . . . One kept trying to get at his eyes, and he shut them desperately while trying to take hold of the one responsible. Then another sank its teeth into the back of his neck, while several more bit into his arms, shoulders, and legs. Unable to endure the excruciating pain any longer, he screamed. He knew it was over for him.
The voice was firm and commanding, yet not loud. And as Gin breathed heavily, trying to comprehend, he felt the beings slowly releasing him. Their hatred was still just as strong, but the person who had come upon the scene seemed to have more power than they. The creatures, both physically and mentally twisted by their malicious feelings, faded into the darkness of the night. Gin coughed, shuddering, and struggled to look up.
The figure who had spoken now walked over and knelt down in front of him, reaching out a gentle hand to take hold of his own. "It's alright, Enok. . . ." the soft voice told him, and he looked up with a start into the gentle face of a dark-haired woman whom he remembered all too well. He had ended her life as well. . . . But why had she helped him instead of being one of those who was attacking him?
"Akemi," he choked out, his voice a mixture of pain, shock, and disbelief. "Why . . . ?"
She did not answer him for a long moment, instead laying her other hand over Gin's as well as she concentrated. It was strange, Gin thought, as the pain began to leave him. Were her eyes glistening?
At last she looked up at him again, releasing his hand. "You're alright now," she told him quietly.
Gin checked himself over. His eyes widened as he saw that the wounds he had sustained in the fight were healed. Or had they ever existed? Perhaps all of this was a dream, a strange, realistic, dream. . . . Perhaps he would wake up soon, as Vodka had pleaded for him to do. . . . Then he would find that none of this had happened at all.
"What happened?" he demanded finally, looking back to the woman who had been his childhood friend.
Akemi looked at him steadily. Her expression was not unkind, though she did not smile. "You know who those people were," she said quietly.
He growled, studying her blue eyes, but he could not find the answers there. "Why weren't you with them?" he asked then, slowly getting to his feet.
Akemi stood as well. "I used to be," she answered seriously. "I hated you, Enok. . . . I hated you so much when you killed me. I'd trusted you. . . . I'd believed that you were going to help Shiho and me get out of the Organization. And when I realized it wasn't your intention at all, it was too late. . . ." She walked forward slowly, her black hair blowing slightly from the October breeze that had picked up momentum. Gin hesitated, then followed her. They had been standing out in the street, he realized now, and she was leading him back to the sidewalk.
"When I died, I found those people," she continued. "They aren't all of the people you or someone else in the Organization have killed, but they are some of the ones who have a burning hatred because of it." She turned and looked back at him. "I didn't want to stay with them. I wanted to watch over Shiho. And that's what I set out to do.
"I found myself wanting to see what you were doing as well. I don't understand why, exactly." She smiled slightly in a rueful way. "Maybe I was hoping against hope to see that you haven't been completely consumed by what they're making you do. And I came to realize something." She paused, gathering her thoughts. "I realized what you rationalized in your mind when you killed me." She looked up firmly into his green eyes. "I know you were following orders, and that you killed me for being useless to the Organization and a traitor. But you also decided that it was the only way you could keep your promise to me, your promise to help me get out of the Organization. In your mind, you didn't think you were lying to me, did you? You didn't think you broke that promise."
Gin stared at her in shock, at a loss for words. But he did not have to reply. Akemi knew.
"You used to say," she mused slowly, "that it would take more courage to keep living rather than to just die. But somewhere along the way, you lost hope. After seeing so many people die when they tried to get out of the Organization, you started to feel that the only way out was just that, to die. When I started watching you, that became obvious to me after a while."
She started walking again, not stopping until they came back to where Vodka was. The heavyset man was struggling to revive his partner with artificial respiration, but failing. Gin stopped as well, narrowing his eyes as he watched Vodka's desperate efforts. It seemed that, even though it felt to Gin that an eternity had passed, in reality it had only been a couple of minutes. Obviously time passed differently on this plane.
"Have you ever thought, Enok, that if someone cares about you enough to want you to live, that's reason enough to stay alive, no matter what your circumstances are?"
He frowned, half-turning to look at Akemi again. She did not look at him, and instead continued to observe Vodka.
"I wanted to stay alive for Shiho," she said quietly, "and Shiho wanted me to live as well." There was that trace of a smile again. "Just as Vodka wants you to live now. . . . He cares about you that much. Even though you've both become so twisted from working in the Organization, neither of you have lost all your humanity."
Gin grunted. "If he does care about me, he's a fool," he muttered, the breeze tousling his long bangs and the hair that was tumbling down his back.
Akemi shook her head slightly. "So says the man who tackled Vodka out of the path of that car whose driver was bent on killing you both," she remarked.
Gin's expression became irritated. "Vodka was occupied shooting the idiot who was trying to snipe at us in the tree. He didn't see the car coming, but I did. I only rescued him because I'm loyal to him. I don't have any reason to want him dead." He remembered that the vehicle had been out of control, even going partially onto the sidewalk to try to hit them. Gin had pushed Vodka out of the way, getting hit by it himself in the process. He had struck the pavement and blacked out, and then had regained consciousness outside of his body.
Akemi turned to look at him again, smiling in amusement. He was still the same Enok deep down, no matter what the Organization had done to him. "What you did was not because of the flat, unquestioning loyalty you're taught in the Organization," she answered. "After all the years you and Vodka have worked with each other, you've developed some kind of a bond, whether either of you will admit it or not. You saved him because you wanted to, even though I know you wouldn't have planned to get struck yourself."
"That's nonsense," Gin said coldly.
He watched as Vodka leaned back, finally having to accept that there was not anything he could do. He looked blank, as if he still did not believe what had happened. Gin would not say so, but he was deeply disturbed by that look. He had never seen Vodka look that way before at all, and he never wanted to again.
"A long time ago, before you underwent the training to become an assassin, you told me that you would never sacrifice yourself for someone else," Akemi spoke up after a long silence. She was still watching Vodka as well. "I didn't understand, and I asked you why. I thought it sounded so cold. Do you remember what you said?"
Gin wanted to look away from Vodka, but somehow he could not bring himself to. The blonde's eyes narrowed darkly. "I said that the one left behind would hurt more than I would," he replied in that same matter-of-fact tone. "But I don't see that it makes much difference now that I'm already dead." He had not intended to die, and yet it had happened anyway. It irritated him, for several reasons.
Akemi sighed softly. "You're caught between life and death, Enok." She swallowed hard and looked down. "I didn't know how else to talk to you. . . . When you were knocked unconscious after striking your head, I came to talk to you just for these few minutes. But those others got to you before I could. . . . That wasn't supposed to happen."
Gin frowned, suddenly feeling confused. "Are you saying I wasn't supposed to die?" he demanded.
She nodded. "The shock of the accident caused your spirit to separate from your body, and the ones who still hate you decided that was a perfect chance to attack. They wanted to torment you, to cripple you so badly that you could not return to your body." She looked up finally, her eyes a mixture of emotions. "I'm sorry, Enok. . . ."
He studied her, not certain what to think about any of this. "Is this what my fate is going to be?" he growled. If it was, he would fight against it. He would not accept this existence. He wanted to go back. He wanted to live.
She shook her head. "You should be able to get back in your body now," she answered.
He nodded sharply in approval. "You said you wanted to talk to me," he remembered then. "Why? What did you want to tell me?"
She leaned forward, kissing him on the cheek. "I forgive you, Enok," she replied softly, as he stared at her in shock. "I forgive you for what you did. I've finally been able to let go of my hate." She pulled back, gently brushing aside some of his bangs. "I know that my friend isn't dead," she told him firmly. "He's still alive." She drew her hand away, looking over to Vodka. "Go back to your other, poor friend."
"He's not my friend," Gin retorted as he half-turned to go. "And I'll go back for myself, not for anyone else."
Akemi was unfazed. "Maybe so," she said calmly, "but deep in your heart, isn't one of the reasons why you want to go back for yourself because Vodka's hurting? You don't want to leave him like that." She smiled triumphantly as Gin briefly froze at her words.
"That's a nice fantasy for you," he said after a moment, echoing words he had spoken once to Ayumi Yoshida.
Akemi only gave a soft laugh in reply. As Gin came to where Vodka was starting to forlornly lift Gin's body to carry it to the Porsche, and as Gin finally managed to enter the lifeless form again, he could still hear her.
"Till next time, Enok. . . ."
Beep. . . . Beep. . . .
He hated that sound. It was always so steady, so incessant. . . . And yet . . . the fact that he was hearing it at all meant that he was alive, did it not?
Weakly he opened his eyes, trying to focus. Perhaps he had never been dead at all. Had it all been a dream? It seemed so vague in his mind, as dreams do after one awakens. But at the same time it seemed so realistic. He could still feel the pain as the twisted souls had torn at his flesh. He could still feel Akemi's gentle touch and hear her words. . . . Could a dream be so realistic, he wondered.
He turned his head slightly to the side, hearing Vodka's worried voice. The other was leaning over, gripping tightly at the bed railing. Though his eyes were not visible, Gin could easily detect the mixture of concern and hope in his partner's expression. Gin grunted, not feeling either strong enough or awake enough to speak.
Vodka slumped back into the chair with relief. "You've been out for ages," he said then, and Gin could deduce that was true from the heavyset man's rumpled clothes and all-around disheveled appearance. He had likely not slept much himself, if at all. "I . . . I thought maybe you weren't gonna wake up. . . ." He shifted uncomfortably, apparently wanting to say something else but not knowing how to do so.
Gin watched him wearily. "Why would you think that?" he asked at last, his voice coming out in a rasping way.
Vodka watched him wordlessly for a moment, seeming to be trying to figure out how to say what he wanted. "You were dead, bro," he replied finally, his voice quiet and flecked with a haunted tone. "You just wouldn't respond when I kept trying to revive you. . . . I thought it was hopeless. . . ." He regarded the other with a certain mix of amazement and awe. "Then you just suddenly moaned and started coughing up blood. . . ." He shook his head.
Gin considered this in his semi-conscious mind. "I saw you," he mumbled then, without really thinking about it.
Vodka looked at him, blinking in confusion behind his sunglasses. "What do you mean, bro?" he queried.
"I saw you," Gin repeated slowly, "when you were trying to bring me back. . . ."
Vodka nearly fell off the chair. His sunglasses slid down his nose, revealing his widened and somewhat alarmed eyes. "I . . . I think maybe those painkillers are talking for you right now, bro," he said nervously, after catching himself. "You should probably try to sleep some more. . . ."
Gin shifted position, painstakingly moving onto his side. "You couldn't revive me, and you were upset about it," he muttered, burrowing into the pillow. "Then you picked my body up to go back to the car. . . ." His eyes closed involuntarily then, and he dozed, unaware of how disturbed he was leaving poor Vodka.
When Gin next awoke, he was feeling much better and more coherent. He wondered how long it had been since the accident. He looked around the room, taking notice of Vodka dozing in the chair next to the bed, and then tried to sit up slightly. His body protested, but he forced himself to rise anyway. Several locks of his freshly washed hair slipped over his shoulder as he did, but he did not bother to push them back.
The movement on the bed startled Vodka awake, as he had been leaning on the railing. He blinked sleepily, looking around, and soon found himself looking at his partner, who looked back in a blasé manner. Vodka woke up the rest of the way then, still quite in awe that Gin was awake and alive at all.
He remembered all too well what Gin had told him before. It had kept him awake for some time as he had pondered over how it could even be possible. He did not see how Gin could know what he had spoken of unless his spirit had separated from his body and had been observing everything, and Vodka did not know how he felt about that possibility. It disturbed him to a certain extent, but on the other hand, it showed him that there was something more than just this life. Gin probably would not have been able to return if it was not for that.
"How are you feeling?" Vodka asked him then, after getting over the initial surprise of seeing the stubborn blonde insisting on sitting up. Gin really should not be doing that already. But when it came to his health, he rarely ever did what he should.
Gin grunted. "I'm fine," he answered flatly, and looked down at his partially bandaged arm. "How badly was I hurt?"
Vodka watched him, wondering if Gin recalled his words from before. If he did, he certainly was not giving any sign of it. "You were cut by some glass," Vodka reported then, "and you got some bad lacerations. You were also bruised pretty bad. . . . And you've got a concussion." He bit his lip. "But it could have been a lot worse. . . ."
Gin reached up, gingerly rubbing at his head. "I know," he growled. He frowned, seeing how Vodka was giving him an uncertain and uncomfortable look. "What is it?" Gin asked.
Vodka flushed. "Bro . . . do you remember anything you said when you woke up before?" he said finally after a long hesitation.
Gin raised an eyebrow. "No," he replied truthfully. "I don't even remember waking up before." And he wondered exactly what Vodka could be referring to that he had apparently said. Would it have been something in connection with his bizarre experience? That could definitely account for his partner's uneasy expression. Gin hoped he had not mentioned Akemi, or the vengeful beings who had assaulted him. He did not plan to mention any of that to anyone.
"Oh. . . ." Vodka leaned back.
Gin watched him. "What is it I said?" he demanded to know.
Vodka looked embarrassed. "Well . . . you kept saying you saw me, when I was trying to revive you," he admitted finally, knowing that Gin would want to know no matter how absurd it sounded. "And . . . actually, bro, when you talked about it, you told what really happened. . . ."
Gin stared at him for a long moment before at last looking away. Did that mean it had not been a dream? Or was it just a strange coincidence? He could have assumed that Vodka had tried to revive him, or possibly even had heard Vodka say that to a medic. And if he had been even the least bit conscious after he finally had come back to life, he could have recalled subconsciously that Vodka had been carrying him back to the Porsche. Still, everything had seemed so real, even moreso than anything else.
But if it had actually happened. . . . Gin glowered at the opposite wall, hating the remembrance of what those hateful souls had been doing to him. It had been horrifying. His only consolation was the thought that it was, indeed, a dream.
And on the other hand, there had been Akemi. . . . But could she have been real? Would she have actually forgiven Gin, after what he had done? If she was watching him and Sherry, then she would have to know that Gin was still intent on catching the red-haired chemist. And would she not be angry and protective of Sherry because of that? Or did she think she knew something that Gin did not know?
Vodka watched the blonde, still finding it incredible that he was talking, that he was sitting up, that he was breathing at all. "You could have been killed," he said after a moment. It certainly seemed as though Gin had been, when he had been lifelessly laying on the sidewalk after the car had gone past. Vodka shuddered involuntarily. He would not dwell long on that thought. Gin had come back. There was no need to think about how he could have ended up instead.
Gin shrugged. "But I wasn't," he retorted. "That's what the driver of that car wanted. Why would I give him a partial victory, one way or the other?"
Vodka tried to relax. "I know you wouldn't, if you could help it, bro," he answered then. "But I was afraid you hadn't been able to. . . . I know you wouldn't have wanted to die, but if you'd been hurt so badly that you would, anyway, you wouldn't be able to do anything about it."
"Obviously, then, I wasn't hurt that badly." Gin was bored of the conversation, and that was apparent from his tone and his expression.
Vodka nodded slowly, though he still looked as though he wanted to say something else. But he did not, instead keeping his thoughts to himself.
Gin glanced across the room, raising an eyebrow when he noticed the calender on the wall was proclaiming the date as Friday the Thirteenth. "Is it still the same night that I was hit by the car?" he asked.
Vodka blinked. "Yeah," he replied. Neither of them were superstitious people, though when Vodka stopped to actually think about the date, it did seem rather eerie. Of course, he would never know the half of it.
Gin leaned back into the pillows, looking irritated. "That figures," he muttered.