Sasha remembered noise and pain and the warmth of a body against him. When he opened his eyes, he saw a soft tan color and warm sunlight coming into the room. He saw a single chair and a stack of magazines. He tried to move but felt too heavy. He didn't have the energy to panic. He tried to move his fingers as he tried to figure out what was going on. The TV was on, local news in a soft hum. There were some basketball players dressed in red and silver. University of New Mexico. So that meant he must be at UNMH most likely. He had a cast on his arm and it seemed some people had already taken it upon themselves to sign it. Raz, Che, Milla…
A nurse walked in. "Good morning, Sasha. Are you feeling better today?"
Sasha tried to open his mouth to talk and failed. But he could make a noise that sounded like a 'Huh' escape as she frowned a little. "Lets see how you're doing then. Your jaw is wired shut, so please do your best with responding." She then asked him questions such as his name and birthday and other details, a few things he got wrong but she kept on smiling.
"its alright, the PTA is getting a lot better. And you do have your recording you made too. Want me to play them?" she asked as she slowly moved about him- which he was thankful for. He didn't want to worry about sudden movements as she pulled out a digital recorder- the one that he would use for notes back home and pressed play.
It was him talking of course. But it was odd, he didn't remember recording any of it. Hello, today is the fourth, Aunt Bernie came in yesterday. Milla had to leave with everyone because work build up. Aunt Bernie said she would be back in the morning. Your nurse is Lucy Ramos. She is nice and polite. You have Post-Traumatic Amnesia of the Anterograde version. Most likely it came from the pipe across the head. But who knows, there is also a journal for personal notes that would be helpful, and it is right underneath your pillow.
Don't be worried about feeling numb, it's the medication. The doctors said everything is healing well and you should be able to leave in about a week. Aunt Bernie said she will be here until you can be on your own again so to speak. She only knows you were injured on a mission.
Sasha listened to himself ramble on the recorder before turning it off. So that would explain why he couldn't remember…being here. He flexed the fingers on his non-injured hand as he rubbed some sleep out of his eyes. Nurse Ramos just smiled at him.
"Well, " she said. "For breakfast we have mostly smoothies for you- well for pretty much every meal we have through a straw. I'm sorry about that. Your jaw was injured so we did have to wire it shut for a while. But, you can tell me if you want hot or cold. I know you don't like plain warm foods and-" she started to ramble, obviously unsure of what to do. What could she say after all? Sorry you're in a hospital and your Aunt is here to baby you? Sasha peered out his window, he could see the UNM campus across the street, there were some trees developing greenery and a few students with large backpacks waiting at the bus stop. It was early spring, and from what he could remember the…incident happened in mid winter.
A woman entered his room. She had chin length blonde hair and a square jaw, she was also a green shade like he was. He could recognize her anywhere. His Aunt Bernie, his father's sister with no kids of her own. She was wearing a short sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans.
"Good morning, Little Bee." She said in German, Sasha facepalming at that nickname. She wondered when she pulled it out again. He was a grown man after all. She moved to sit next to him and talk at him as Lucy just smiled dumbly, she did not know a lick of German obviously and his Aunt knew enough English to watch British television shows with subtitles. He also knew by her tone, she was trying to lay on the sweeter tone for his own benefit. Like when his father would get sad when everyone else would be happy so she would try and make up for it. He was glad for whatever in his system was suppressing his abilities now, because back then it would be confusing and he was sure now- now it would just be painful for him. "I had a good morning so far. Have you eaten yet? I did, and I went to this little restaurant that had sweet rolls and I brought one. Maybe they could blend it up for you to have, you are too skinny and I know its only going to get worse with your jaw. But I'll make sure to plump you up, all the men in the family usually have muscle and here you are just a little beanpole."
Sasha knew she was probably excited that his mouth was wired shut so he could not tell her to please take a moment to breathe and let someone else get a word in. He bet the reason why his father never talked much was because during his and Bernie's childhood, she probably spent all her time talking at him. Sasha stretched the fingers out on his good hand again. "Also, I talked to your papa last night."
That made Sasha look at her. His Dad.
"And he wanted to check up on you . He says you should take a break and come back to Germany for a little while." Sasha looked down at the blanket and looked at the stars on his pajamas that his Aunt must have picked out for him. "Just…get away from everything."
He could tell she knew more of the details about what happened than what he would have liked her to know. He knew she probably flipped through his files and googled words she didn't know on her cellphone so she could figure out just what was wrong with her nephew. He didn't want to read the files. He didn't want to do anything besides sit here and wait to feel better before going back to work. He also wanted to take a long hot shower, but he knew with his current condition, he would be better off with a sponge bath.
He took a breath and it still hurt. He took a few moments before saying it.
"It would be nice to see him again." It would be nice, like ripping off a bandage. He needed to explain things, apologize, he needed to tell him why he ran away. Bernie was staring at him intently and sighed.
"He misses you, your boss told him about your job. And- he doesn't care if you're psychic or a magician or whatever. He was scared he was truly going to lose you before he could see you again."
If he wanted to see him again, why did he never call him? Or contact him. Aunt Bernie had been in contact with him since he was 12 and had just ran away, but she just protected him from afar, not asking why when he would send a letter asking for a few marks or tell him to come home when he said he had a job at a factory and it was good as long as he kept his head low and just worked at meeting numbers. She would only ask for a picture of him a season. So she could watch him grow.
She moved to brush his hair out of his eyes. "Little Bee, why don't you just come back to Germany and stay? You can live with me, and I wouldn't make you have to go out and work again. You earned your rest many times over. But if you wanted to work, I wouldn't stop you. You always liked being busy."
Sasha felt guilty as for a moment it sounded really tempting.
To just run away again.
No, he couldn't. But, he couldn't lay here with a head full of confusion and memories trying to claw at him from the back of his mind, like a torn in a jacket that he kept on brushing up against.
"Maybe- if I get too tired of here. Just on a vacation, I could stay with you or in a hostel. " he thought about it for a moment then said no. He- felt a bit nervous at the idea of staying in a large room with a bunch of other people in it. "No. I will stay with you. Just for a little while, then get back to work after summer time, because I want to go back to the camp for a while." Sasha said to himself mostly, trying to form a plan that involved him just being able to not hurt and just relax again.
"The camp?" She asked as Sasha nodded, the nurse coming in with a smoothie that was a pale purple color and hurried out again.
"Yes, I…do research there, and help kids learn how to use their abilities. Its out in the middle of nowhere up in Colorado."
Bernie nodded as she listened to Sasha talk.
Milla unlocked the door to Sasha's apartment as she stepped in to see how it was, there was a fine layer of dust over everything as she went to go grab a dust cloth and just focused on trying to make everything presentable again. She felt sick, naturally. She was tired and her heart hurt. During her time out in New Mexico, waiting for the doctors to give the okay for Sasha to go home, she would watch his mood change. How one day he would be friendly and talking about something he read and the next how he couldn't remember being so cheerful and stuck in those 12 hours mentally, refusing to talk to anyone about it and just wanting to watch the most brainless thing they could find on TV.
He was hurting and his memory wasn't allowing him to deal with it. She already had a talk with Truman about how if Sasha chose to come back to work how he would be pulled off field missions and be pure paperwork missions- not as a punishment, but because they wouldn't how he would react if ever put into a similar situation again- or what would set Sasha off.
She remembered one time when for a brief moment she and Sasha talked about what happened. She got out the lemon-smelling furniture polish and started to scrub at Sasha's table. She needed hard manual labor to get the thoughts out of her skull.
She needed to get the image of Sasha sitting there in bed, face bruised, talking through a closed mouth about how he felt like he was wearing a sign on him that said he was pathetic as he would keep his eyes focused up on some cartoon that she would normally see at the summer camp up there. She worked her arms, trying to get everything off, the memory of Sasha sitting there, the bloodied man in the chapel, Ehsas' blood that was still on her mind and on her hands. How easily no one cared that she killed a man that night because it was for the greater good. It was part of the job, but everytime. Every single time it hurt her to think about. That night was hell for various people.
"Milla…" Raz said as he seemingly appeared out of nowhere, he wasn't in uniform. Since his scolding, he had started to wear a more relaxed uniform. Milla didn't know if it was because he was still upset over his demotion or if it was because he was growing comfortable as an Agent and took the scolding as a part of having a job and thusly moving on from it. She knew the boy had been stopping by here to pick up Sasha's mail and drop it off on his table. "Need some help?" He questioned walking in. It felt wrong to him to just run in. Perhaps because the owner of it was not here.
"I mean, I am sure Sasha wants to come home to a clean home- I can do his laundry if you want to dust. I hate dusting. I don't see why people dust some of the places they do." He was trying to lighten the mood some. Trying to see Milla with a smile on her face instead of the constant sad look. It was no secret how she felt about Sasha and he knew if something happened to Lili like that- he would probably want to go burn everyone who hurt her. But…
But he had been spending his time learning the rules and bylaws and regulations of the agency, and he knew that there would be nothing he could do considering it would be mostly hearsay.
And how Sasha was refusing to talk about it- how he was trying to forget it. He remember talking with Sasha and how Sasha simply told Raz that when he got a partner, stick by them. Raz padded across the apartment to find the laundry basket. For some reason, this was odd to him. The more he got to know Sasha the more and more shocking it became to him.
That his hero was human. How when a few days ago he came into the apartment to get rid of spoiled or about to be spoiled foods how he would see things like restaurant receipts and rolled up bags of sweets. Chips and dip, microwaved meals. Just like anyone else on the face of the planet would have.
Perhaps he just imagined Sasha to always have the most refined meals. To always have squeaky clean uniforms and just still being a golden shining hero. Instead of…so human. It was hard to accept, to separate relatity from his comics as he grabbed the basket and moved to where the dryer was. Raz peeked around to watch Milla still scrubbing at the table. He wondered what he could say.
"Milla. How are you?" it was a simple question and Milla just blinked, she was surprised she was even asked it. Most people thought she was alright because Sasha was alive and recovering in New Mexico drinking smoothies through a straw through the hole in his mouth where he used to have teeth.
"I'm okay darling." She said, she didn't want to worry Raz, but Raz frowned. He knew she wasn't.
"Oh, I see. Because I was feeling sad and thought you would feel the same. I guess I am a bit odd that way." He knew how to get her, and that was by being a kid. Milla blinked some not seeing the boy's ploy. She knew he was a flirt, but she would forget what a cunning little devil he could be at times. Milla looked at him, a sad look across her face as she stopped at the table.
"Oh baby." She said, switching into her 'Momma Milla' voice, standing up and walking to him across the small studio. "Its alright to be sad about this. After all, a lot did happen really quickly. Its not like one knew all these bad things were going to happen to everyone so quickly. "
Raz nodded, he knew Milla just need to talk it out somehow, even if her role was being a comforter to someone else. He knew it helped her because if someone felt the same as she did, and she told them- and they told her right back- he knew that helped her. He had seen Milla and Sasha do that dance many times before, especially at the hospital when she was upset about his memory and Sasha was too. It felt raw to Raz still. But it was scabbing over, right?
"Well, I feel like I should've noticed something was up. Hindsight is 20/20 right. It was just all to fally-into-placey and all. And now Sasha is over in New Mexico by himself." Raz knew he was going to try and help Milla, and he knew he just couldn't jump into her mind there. Then it hit him. "Hey- about Sasha's memory and his issues and stuff, why don't we just jump in and fix them? Like I did for the Thorny Towers folks."
Milla shook her head. "Well, while that would be great to do, we just can't simply do that. We prefer Agents having a chance to work through the issues themselves, because it is easy to become dependent. Plus, sometimes for some issues, it can make things worse if everything is tangled up. Like for Sasha- I know you were in the bathroom listening in on his Doctor talk to Lili's papa." She scolded a little. Raz smiled some.
"No one told me I couldn't listen to it. And because Sasha is still my mentor because he hasn't signed off on my demotion- thus him surrendering his mentorship of me, I am allowed to know about his state of mental health- like he and you can with Ford. And this is said in the handbook for internships ." Raz was so glad he did go through and start reading the rules now. Milla blinked at that, a bit surprised to see thee boy had done that. He learned from the incident a while back. "So, please continue Agent Vodello."
Milla took a breath before going on. "Sasha has his PTA, has shown signs of PTSD and depression. So, with the PTA, if he wakes up one morning and everything is fixed, he will think that he doesn't have to learn how to sort through those sorts of issues- so if something comes undone in his mind that helps keep him 'healed' how would he deal with it then?"
Raz thought about it, and then suddenly worried about the people from Thorny Towers- what if something else entices El Odio? What if a thought gets planted in Boyd's head about aliens? Or someone beats Fred too many times? He frowned, why have the ability to fix people's minds if you have to worry about it all falling apart later? He chewed on his bottom lip as those thoughts went through his mind. Did he help set them up for failure somehow?
Milla noticed the odd silence from the boy. "Darling?"
"What about everyone from Thorny Towers?" he asked after a few more moments of mulling, and to Milla he looked his age. Eyes wide, concern lacing his voice softly. She moved to hug him.
"You know the Agency wouldn't leave you in the cold with that, we follow up with them often. If it looks like they might fall back, we move in to help them ASAP." Which was why the Surviving Jonas brother was often checked on too. To ensure that suddenly he doesn't decide a great idea would be to try and take over the world in the name of his brother. "But remember, the agent who did the case can't do the after work. Morceau gets followed up on, the campers do, even you do when you get your monthly evaluation."
Raz stopped for a moment at that- when did he get checked up on? Everyone gets pulled aside once a month to find out how they're doing at work. Then it hit him, that's how everyone got checked up on. Look for the signs, Oleander was a fluke, which was why brain-scans moved from being yearly to bi-yearly. To prevent such incidents from happening again.
He took a breath of relief. He didn't fail those people. He just put them into the system, and they didn't want Agents to be left in the dark if something happened. "Milla, how do you really feel right now?"
She frowned, "I feel really sad right now. Sasha is my partner, I should know him well enough not to brush off something that seemed too odd." Much too odd. Much too different. Something that was too un-Sasha like such as a text saying he would be late. She should have started hunting him down right then and there. "I feel like I should have went with him- or kept him with me somehow. We're supposed to have each other's back and..I feel like I helped feed him to the lions."
She felt guilty, she felt herself speak softly to herself "When I had to choose between him or the prison when we didn't know he was there. I chose the prison. Because it was our job." That stung and shocked Raz more than anything else. Another nasty choice of this job. And one of his heroes- had to make that nasty choice. What would he do if he had to pick between two directions. It was easy to say: I WOULD SAVE THEM BOTH like one would see on the entrance tests to various jobs within the agency, trying to figure out where one would fit in the best.
But, what if they were not in the same building. What if he was at the 50 mile mark and both were 100 miles apart in either direction.
He would have to pick like Milla did. He wanted to help people, he wanted to save the world. But, did that mean saving the world mean he might have to pick a life? Where was the glamour of saving everyone?
He remembered Lili saying the Psychonauts were not what they used to be- was this what she was talking about?
The Psychonauts were not what they used to be, Lili thought as she sat by a bright green bush, listening to the roots talk to the buds that had yet to open, it sounded like a mother cooing to the child in her womb. The Psychonauts were no longer heroes, they were a business. She felt her rage bubble up inside of her, they didn't care about saving everyone- just.
Just the most people, the greater good of people. Whats one life to that of the chance of saving seven and still three of those died. Whats the point of teaching children to be proud they could be heroes if they quite literally put their minds to it, if the children would be forced to tell people they work for stocking vending machines so people do not freak out that someone could read minds or burn things with their minds.
They didn't ask for this, and maybe, somewhere deep inside of her, she agreed with parts of what the Jonas brothers stood for. Be proud of what you are, be the best you could be. Blossom. And if others get in your way, do what you're taught in PE with sports- aim to win. That means you might tackle someone, but that also means you don't rub their noses in it.
She thought about Sasha and that day she was allowed to go see him. The sterile smell of the hospital, Raz was in the day before and said Sasha was doing great. When she went in, he was silent.
He was just watching some brainless TV and talking about stupid things. She knew as well as the next person that that prison went after him because the Agency put them there. That he was the agency's poster boy so he exemplied the heroics to the people and the bane for the bad guys. The same people who she always hears something mumbled along the lines of 'If they were not made to feel guilty' or 'If only they didn't have to deal with…' or some other excuse.
Well, what was it? Was the Agency supposed to help or to help punish? Well, that was stupid! This is stupid! That bush is stupid!
She stood up, feeling the hot prick of tears in her eyes. The Agency was a corperation. Psychics paid to do- whatever everyone else thought was best.
She started to head inside, opening up the sliding glass door and kicking off her shoes. Her father was lounging on the couch reading a newspaper as he looked up.
"Lili- I have been thinking." He started, putting the paper down as he moved to a sitting position.
"Yes?" She asked, fingers still digging into her gloved palms.
"I will allow you back on Agency property. I think you have learned your lesson, and a lot was going on…"
Lili felt her rage bubble and froth forth.
"I don't care!" She said, it coming out louder and sharper than what she wanted it too, but she didn't care. "Why would I want to go to that stupid camp so I can just sit there and talk to squirrels and wait a week for a hamburger?!"
Truman was a bit shocked at that as Lili kept on. "Why would I want to go to the HQ when everyone is just paperwork and wondering how to fake sympathy." She felt some of the tears start to fall. Truman could see it. She was frustrated obviously.
"No, stop!" she slammed her barefoot down. "The Psychonauts no longer help people. You all are just sellouts for stupid comics." And with that she started to head upstairs to her room. Truman knew Lili needed a moment to calm down. A lot has happened after all, and yelling at her for being upset would only be counter productive.
Lili threw herself onto her bed, it was covered in papers and stuffed toys and comics. A lot of comics.
She looked at one, 'TRUE PSYCHIC TALES' it read on the cover. 'WATCH AS MILLA AND SASHA TAKE ON THE SENTIENT VOLCANO.' She remember being little and being awestruck her dad worked with her heroes. She remember talking to them about it, Milla said she didn't mind being in the comic because it was just harmless fun. Sasha would just blink for a moment and just think only people who worked at the Agency's kids read it. She knew Milla enjoyed the fans, and Sasha didn't care.
She knew that if they had a choice, Milla would be trying to make it big(ger) and trying to get her names up in lights. While Sasha…Sasha would just want to learn. She remembered Che asking Sasha why he never published his research and Sasha would just say it wasn't anything serious and just his own curiosity at work and if anyone was curious they could just come grab it from him.
One wanted to be a star, one just wanted to learn. Being a Psychonaut wasn't either of their first choices for careers. She knew they liked it, being able to help people and see the world.
But- why did they join it? Che joined because his twin joined the Hawaiian branch and didn't want to seem like a slacker. Her father joined because he wanted to be a 'hero'. Why did Milla and Sasha join? Milla could have dealt with her issues and gone on her merry way, Sasha could have learned his abilities and gone on his.
What made them stick around?
She looked at the glossy cover of the comic and set it aside.
Why did she want to be one for so long?
Milla didn't expect to see Luka at the grocery store, nor did she expect to see her flipping through a book of balloons that the store had. "Luka?" she asked as the girl turned around, she was out of her winter clothes, but she still had a collection of scarves on.
"Hullo Milla! How you doing? Want to go get a burger with me once I'm done here?" She knew normally Luka was slightly more tin-foiled hat about asking people out to eat with her. But something seemed off.
"Perhaps, what are you doing?" she said finally.
"Well, I have to find some balloons. Some for Saga-" she heard the girl mention this 'Saga' many times before. "And I want to get Sasha some 'Get Well' balloons, because really who doesn't like balloons."
She felt like she should tell Luka that Sasha would probably appreciate so frappachinos and magazines more, but she could also tell the girl was trying to be a good friend. "But he doesn't seem like the type of person who would want balloons floating around his hospital room. I feel bad for not visiting him, but really, I can't afford a flight out to NM. Maybe when he comes back I can visit him. It sure sucks that his car got totaled over in New Mexico. Maybe he didn't expect the roads to be icy because everything over there is Sand-sand-sand and Bugs Bunny."
Milla felt guilty about having to lie to Luka again, the girl really had a good heart. "Lets find something simple for him. But, I have to ask, is Saga your boyfriend? You never introduced us." She needed something to distract her for a moment. To let her mind be ruled by someone besides Sasha and Caesar Ehsas. Luka shook her head.
"No, Saga is my hero. Every year in April, I tend to leave something for him there. I am sure kids steal it or something, but I like to think I was as important to him as he is to me."
Milla stared at Luka. Beach? Maybe Luka almost drowned once or something and he saved her? But in April it was too cold to go play at the beach…
"Oh? A hero darling? I'm curious." Something, anything to distract herself. Luka smiled, "I'll tell you over lunch! My treat." The girl said writing a few notes and heading off to go buy some breakfast goods. Soon, the two were at a sandwich shop near the Agency.
The one that Milla and Sasha would go to often. Sasha would get the salad because it was hard to tamp-
Milla stopped that train of thought as Luka ordered french-fries and coke and Milla order something, it didn't quite register to her. Luka also waved Raz over when he came in for his own Lunch break.
"Yay, it's a party now." She said as Raz sat next to Milla and looked at the kids menu like he was having to pick between surf or turf.
"Okay. So. Saga." Luke said when Raz placed his order and Luka got her coke. "When I was little- I was kidnapped."
That made Raz and Milla just stare for a moment, paleing at that. How could Luka say it so easily. "I don't remember much besides a lady saying that she picked me to be her little girl and not being allowed out a lot. But one day, we went to the beach. And Saga appeared."
Luka smiled at that. "And there was a lot of noise and cops and lights and I hid behind a rock. But when it was all done, Saga came up to me and said he was going to take me back home to my Mom and Dad and I got into his car with him, people were patting him on the back and I never caught his real name because no one ever told it to me."
Raz held up a finger to ask a question. "So, why Saga?"
"Because people were calling him something that was two-syllables and ended with 'Ga' and that's the only thing I could think of."
Well, that made sense for Luka. "But I got into his car, and he put on the radio and he had some poptarts in his car and he gave me some and told me he just became a Papa so he couldn't stand the idea of anyone's little girl being missing when he couldn't stand being away from his own and he was glad that I could go back home to my Papa." She smiled at the thought.
"Well, because of everything, we never got his name and I have always wanted to thank him. So-"
Milla finished the sentence. "You thank him by leaving things at the beach." Luka bobbed her head up and down.
"So, maybe one day, I will see him there again and thank him in person. Because when I was little I was cold and upset and just wanted to be back home."
Raz listened to this.
He had a mission now. He had access to-
No, he didn't have the rank to do that.
He could ask around and see if the cop who helped Luka all those years ago was still in town. Pull a favor or two.
After all, he had his hands tied too much recently and he wanted to help people.
Maybe- just maybe- he could help Luka.