Notes: The characters aren't mine
and the story is. The title is inspired by the Oasis song. This has
been written for Theme #9, When All Hope Is Lost, in the LJ community
30 Nights. It is another attempt to experiment with some future
twists I want to write, as well as Gin/Sherry interaction. It takes
place at some point after Good Enough for You, and it heavily
references Breakdown. It also very briefly references the idea
of one-sided Vermouth/Gin, on her part.
She was not surprised to find that he was still awake. He was on the couch in the living room, smoking a cigarette and gazing off into the distance. His expression was cold and dark, bespeaking none of his inner feelings, but she still sensed some of his turmoil. He would never admit it. And it was not just because of the things that the Organization had drilled into him. The part of his personality that made him feel that he could not show he cared had always been there. The Organization had only made it more pronounced.
With a sigh she came and sat beside him, in silence. He did not look over, though he seemed to realize she was there. Instead he continued to smoke, his expression never changing.
At last she spoke, her voice quiet. "I know it doesn't look good, but maybe something will still happen to change that. . . . The fever could still break. . . ." She made sure to keep her words honest, and to not tread into idealism. Realistically, there was always a certain chance that something would end up different than originally thought. Medical miracles, if one wished to call them that, happened with some level of frequency. And when the ill person had a strong will, there would be a determined fight for life. But she could never say for certain that all would be well. It would sound fake coming from her, and he would be disgusted and irritated by it.
He grunted. "Who knows," he said flatly.
She brushed a bit of his hair away from his face, making his green eyes more visible to her. She was slightly amused when the locks fell right back into place as soon as she removed her hand. The oft-thought of question concerning how he managed to see came to her again. The sight was comical in one way, but menacing in another---though she had decided that it was even more alarming to actually see his eyes, especially if the one viewing them was his enemy.
She did not fear those eyes now. She hoped that she would never have to again.
"It's said that if you talk about what's bothering you, it can help to ease the pain," she remarked. It was an invitation for him to speak if he wish, but she would not press him if he did not want to talk. She had always respected his need to be aloof, as she was that same way, though not to such a high extent. Sometimes she found herself wanting to reveal her deepest feelings to certain people who were important to her, such as he. Occasionally she would, though she never expected the same in response from him. He would never say such things in words, but instead in actions. She always found it meaningful when he said anything at all, in whatever way he would.
"There isn't anything bothering me," he retorted now. "I couldn't sleep."
She smiled wryly. "Well . . . same here," she answered, having expected such an answer from him. "So I guess we can keep each other company."
He leaned against the couch, his blonde hair trailing down his back as the ends came to a rest on the cushion. He did not give her a response, but if anyone stayed up with him right now he wanted it to be her. And she realized that.
It was amazing how loud silence could be, sometimes. There were occasions when she quite enjoyed it, but right then, every second that passed further emphasized her companion's mixed and confused feelings. Some part of him was worried, while another seemed angry, and yet a third wondered why he cared at all. She watched him in the near-darkness, the only light coming from the fireplace across the room. The glow from the flames danced across his face, casting shadows and at the same time, revealing truths. It reminded her of many a time in the past, when they had sat in their old home during the winter. She had studied him often then, worrying about him and wondering what he was brooding about. This time she knew, at least basically, what was the problem.
When he finally did speak, she was surprised.
"You asked me once about the scars on my back," he said, turning slightly to look at her as he held his cigarette between his fingers.
She blinked, nodding slowly in acknowledgement.
His eyes narrowed. "There was a time when I was held captive for weeks," he growled low. "I was being used by a mad scientist as an experiment to see how much I could take before I would go out of my mind."
She gasped audibly, not having expected that at all. If he noticed, he did not make it obvious.
"I was whipped many times during those weeks," he continued, "and tortured in ways that not even the Black Organization thought of. When I finally was found, I believed that I was insane. So did most everyone else. I would go into violent rages, lashing out at anyone who dared to come close. And sometimes I acted like a child, running into corners as if to seek shelter there from some unknown menace.
"He was the only one who believed that I could recover. . . . At least . . . he believed enough to try to heal my mind himself." He smirked slightly now, the light from the fire catching it all the more. "I wouldn't let the doctors near me. I associated anyone in a white coat as being connected with Portman and her aides. And it didn't help that the Organization's doctor in charge of the people tormented by Portman hated everyone connected with the Organization and didn't care if they suffered."
She continued to study him, at a complete loss for words. She wondered what she could even respond to such a thing, or if a suitable answer even existed. Of all things he could have said, this was what she had expected least of all. She had known that the origin of the whip scars on his back would have to be painful, and horrifying, but she had imagined that he had probably been taken by some of the Black Organization's enemies and tortured for information. Inhumane experimentation had never occured to her.
"There were others?" she said at last.
He nodded. "At least two others, who were held prisoner longer than I was," he replied. "They were in worse condition, and since they didn't have anyone to look after them, this doctor took them." He placed the cigarette in his mouth again. "They only went more mad from what he did to them. And I could have ended up just like them. . . ."
"If not for Vodka," she finished softly.
"He saved my life . . . and my sanity." He gazed out into the distance, his eyes hidden once again by the long bangs.
She watched him, feeling various conflicting emotions herself. "How long did this go on?" she asked.
"I lost track," he grunted. "Several months, at least."
She felt a new, added respect for Vodka as she contemplated what she was being told. For anyone to look after the man who was now her husband, when he was in the condition he had described, was incredible. And for it to be someone shy and quiet, as Vodka was, made it all the more powerful to her.
"He had to stand up to me more than once," he spoke again. "When I was recovering, I was frustrated and angry with myself, and sometimes I would do reckless things that I wouldn't do otherwise." He narrowed his eyes, obviously annoyed at the remembrance. "Vodka wouldn't just follow blindly. If he recognized that it was foolish, he would say so. We ended up in a lot of arguments over things like that."
She shook her head. "I can only imagine," she commented. She knew how headstrong the blonde was when he was in his normal mind. She supposed his stubbornness would increase a hundredfold in a situation such as what he was describing.
Again silence reigned. She was not certain what else to say. She already knew that Vodka was someone very important to him and she did not need to or want to comment on that. And he would not give a straight answer even if she did make mention of it. That was just the way he was.
She sighed softly. "If he dies . . . what will you do then?" she asked finally.
He puffed on the cigarette for a moment, not answering. "What would there be to do?" he retorted. "He would be dead, and I wouldn't be."
Gently she ran her hand over his, and though he seemed aware of it, he did not look over. "He's been there for you when I couldn't, and wouldn't," she said quietly. "It would be hard, to lose someone like that, whom you've been so close to." And she knew painfully well just how hard, having lost her sister, and having also felt for a time that she had lost the man beside her. She did not want to go through that again, nor did she want him to have to.
She stopped the motion now, resting her delicate hand on his larger, stronger one. "I'm afraid of losing you, as well as him, if he dies," she confessed, and she felt him stiffen slightly in shock. "I'm afraid you would sink into anger and bitterness, and I don't know what would then happen to you or to me." She gripped his hand, shutting her eyes tightly as she tried to push away the unpleasant memories, as well as visions of the bad dreams she had suffered, out of her mind. But no matter how she tried, they would never leave her in peace. She was almost constantly afraid that something would go wrong, something that would laugh at her and prove that neither she or he could ever have any happiness together. It always seemed too much to hope for, and sometimes she would wonder why they dared to tempt fate. They would surely both end up in sorrow at the end.
"I can't lose you again. . . . It would be too painful. I know I can't ask you not to grieve. . . . That would be unfair, and selfish. But . . . please . . . don't allow your sorrow to consume you." Her voice had grown even softer as she spoke, and now was barely above a whisper. But he could still hear her.
"You're speaking as though he's already dead," he growled. "But if he dies, I won't grieve. I'll simply go on with my life." He threw the cigarette stub into the fire, his eyes cold.
Her shoulders slumped. She was certain that was true, or rather, that he was certain it was true. He would believe that he would not be mourning, when he would be doing so. He would bottle up his pain and sorrow, and he would, indeed, become angry and bitter, partially because of that. He would not allow himself to be human and grieve.
"What am I saying?" she remarked with a gentle, rueful smile.
"It sounds like you're spouting nonsense," he muttered.
He was grateful for her presence, though he did not expressly say so. At the moment, he did not want to be alone with his thoughts and his concerns. She was a comfort. He had been without her for so long . . . much too long, and throughout the time they had been apart, he had wanted her, needed her, missed her---though he would not allow himself to admit it. But he could not deny that since she had returned to him, he had felt more complete. Now that he knew that Vodka might die, he felt an emptiness that he could not explain. But it was there.
Slowly he got up, aware that she was watching him. "I'm going to check on him," he said in explanation, and headed for the stairs. When she did not follow, he correctly assumed that she was going to give him a few moments with Vodka, in case he was awake . . . or in case he would never wake again.
He reached the top and then went down the hall, coming to the correct door. Quietly he cracked it open, looking into the dimmed room, and then opened it further as he stepped inside. Vodka looked the same as he had before, either asleep or more likely, deeply unconscious. At least he was still breathing.
The blonde sighed, leaving the door half-open as he went over to the other, checking Vodka's vital signs and his temperature. Then he relaxed somewhat. The fever had gone down, and Vodka's temperature was almost normal. Maybe he would be alright. . . .
The green-eyed man sank into a chair near the bed, simply observing the one who had been his partner for years in the Black Organization. It still seemed strange to him, that they had ended up getting along so well, and that they were still together now. Several years previous, or even the past year, he would not have thought that they would be where they were now. He had been certain that they would continue to serve the Black Organization, until they were both dead---which, he had assumed, would not take long. Most in the syndicate did not live to see old age. But now the Organization was largely dissolved, even though he imagined that there were still factions in other countries that the law had not discovered yet. He and Vodka had faked their deaths in order to get away, taking with them the woman who had once served the Organization as a scientist. And now she was his wife.
Vodka had come, he supposed, for several reasons. They had not wanted him to be tortured for information on their whereabouts. Vodka would never have told anything, and he would have been killed in the end, or else seriously and possibly permanently injured. He also most likely would have ended up dead if he had been taken by the police. And if he had escaped by himself, he would not have had anywhere to go. He had been told, basically, that the best thing would be for him to come with them, and that he was welcome with them. The blonde knew that Vodka would never have come if he had felt unwanted. He wanted Vodka there, but he had been somewhat surprised when she had, also, nearly insisted on Vodka coming.
Upon hearing soft footsteps, he knew that she had come into the room. He did not look up as she came over, checking Vodka herself before sitting down as well.
"It looks like he might be getting better," she remarked.
He glanced to her in a sideways manner, after a moment of silence. "You never have liked him, have you?" he mused aloud.
She blinked in surprise at the abrupt question, and then smirked slightly. "Oh . . . I guess he grows on you after a while," she answered. "He can be sweet, when you get to know him. . . ." She leaned back. "But you're right, he hasn't been one of my favorite people. And I don't think we'll ever be that close." Her voice lowered. "But he's important to me because he's important to you. That's why I've always been willing to try tolerating him."
He nodded. "I know," he said flatly, "and why he's tried the same where you're concerned."
She nodded as well, knowing that was true, and shifted on the chair so that she was on her side. Propping herself up on an elbow, she studied the blonde for a moment before looking back to Vodka. She had the feeling that it would continue to be a long night. He was not about to leave, and she would stay with him.
It was nearly dawn before Vodka stirred and the ones keeping their silent vigil came to attention.
Weakly he opened his eyes as he tried to focus on the scene around him. At first he stared up at the ceiling, blinking several times, before turning his gaze to the room in general, and the two others within it. He looked confused for a moment, but then recognition dawned as he watched the green-eyed man. "Bro?" he mumbled.
He grunted. "You know you don't have to call me that anymore," he said matter-of-factly, his bangs concealing his green eyes. But he could not hide his immense relief. She could tell it from the way he was relaxing.
"I'm not your superior any longer," he continued.
Vodka nodded slowly. "I know, Gin. . . ." He blinked again, still trying to completely get his bearings and to remember what had happened. For him, Gin was still someone whom he greatly looked up to and respected, and he was still deserving of the title. Vodka knew the blonde's real name, but he did not feel that he should ever address the other by it. He would always call him either "bro" or "Gin", and within the security of the house, Gin still called the other by his codename as well. Vodka was not sure why; perhaps Gin felt it too strange to call him anything else. But Vodka did not care. The liquor codename was what he thought of himself as, and not "Hiroshi."
"How long has it been?" he asked, trying to push himself into a sitting position and finding that he was still too weakened. He faintly recalled being very ill, and being cared for by the other two, but it all blurred into one confusing experience of indeterminable length.
"Too long," Gin grunted. "You could have died at one point."
She smiled slightly, watching them, and started to get up. "You've kept us up all night," she said wryly to Vodka, and he blushed in embarrassment. Then she turned to Gin, laying a hand on his shoulder as she leaned down, kissing him on the cheek. "I'll leave you two to talk, or whatever it is that you do together," she added, noting that they often simply sat in silence, as she frequently did with Gin. "I'm going to bed." If Gin wanted, she would stay, as she did not think that she would actually go to sleep when she laid down---but she knew that Gin wanted this time alone with Vodka. So she would return to her and Gin's room and attempt to doze, though she imagined she would spend time thinking instead.
Gin leaned back in the chair, watching her go. "If it was Vermouth saying that, I would hate to think what she was insinuating," he muttered sarcastically.
Vodka blushed more, remembering how much Vermouth had enjoyed making fun of the rumors that Bourbon had started about Vodka and Gin being romantically involved. He definitely did not miss the teasing, though sometimes he found that he did miss Vermouth herself. She had helped them at times, and she had seemed to like them both. Vodka wondered just how much she had liked Gin, as sometimes it had seemed to him that her flirting and teasing was more than it seemed, and that she had loved the green-eyed man very deeply. "I wonder where she is now," he said slowly.
Gin shrugged. "Who knows. She's probably still out there somewhere. She wouldn't die easily." Absently he reached for his cigarettes and then stopped, recalling that smoking around Vodka when he was ill would not be the best idea. And he did not want to do anything that could cause any more complications.
Vodka leaned back into the pillows. "Was I really going to die?" he asked after a moment of silence.
"It seemed like it," Gin replied frankly. "But you probably won't now." He rubbed his eyes. "You should just rest."
Vodka nodded slowly. "You should too, bro," he said hesitantly. It was obvious to him how exhausted his former partner was, and Vodka felt a certain discomfort at the knowledge that it was because of him. But he also knew that Gin would not have stayed up if he had not wanted to, and that was a sobering thing to consider.
"I will." Gin propped himself up on an elbow, his eyes half-open as he regarded Vodka expressionlessly.
Vodka turned slowly onto his side, bringing the pillow down further. "I'm okay, bro," he tried to reassure the other, not wanting Gin to feel that he had to keep staying awake when he looked ready to drop.
Gin gave a vague nod. "I know," he answered, and smirked slightly. Vodka had to wonder what Gin was thinking---though he doubted that he would ever know.
She was not certain how much time had passed before she sleepily heard him come into the room and climb into the bed. She relaxed, feeling the mattress vibrate as he got settled. "How is he?" she mumbled, burrowing into the pillow as she half-opened her eyes. Vodka was sleeping again, she assumed, or Gin would not have returned at this point. She was only realizing now how tired she was after the night's events, and she had to hope that sleep would overtake both her and Gin before long.
"He's going to be alright," Gin replied, laying down and facing her, his hair spread out on the pillow and along the mattress. He had been so tense all evening, but now he looked weary and yet at peace. It was a welcome sight.
She smiled slightly. "That's a relief," she remarked quietly, "for several reasons." Gently she reached out, brushing some of the blonde locks away from his face. Again they soon fell back, and she was amused.
He grunted, not making more of a response as he gazed back at her before starting to doze. But he did not need to say anything.