"So Jessica has his research?" Steve questioned while Ada sat at the desk in the computer room, fishing through the phone Jessica had given them.
"Some of it." Ada replied as Hideki pulled a cigarette from its box, slipping it between his lips as he fished for a lighter. Ada looked over at him and smirked. "Really? You're going to light it here?"
Hideki looked back at her and lit. Ada rolled her eyes and leaned back in her seat. It was then Steve noticed Ada's attire but didn't say anything. She sported a red blouse with a pinstripe skirt, heels and a matching blazer was draped on the back rest of the seat behind her. A black lace collar sat on the desk next to the keyboard next to her blacktail.
"I gave the rest to Minnette, but it's no more than medical records." he replied. It wasn't this, Jason Styx person Steve was thinking about. Why was Hideki still hiding things from him? Things that could throw him into a depressed stupor? Hideki was so bad at making sense.
"She left us a map, but the location's not exactly the safest place to traverse." Ada said. Steve frowned at this.
"And why's that?" he asked. In the corner of his eye Hideki took a long, slow drag of his cigarette.
Ada looked up at him and turned the phone so he could see the pictures she pulled up.
The ruins of Terragrigia.
"Why there?" Steve asked, looking now to Hideki for answers. Hideki nodded his head towards the phone.
"It's where it started for those two."
For Jessica Sherawat and Raymond Vester.
"Who are these people? They pretty much beat us to the little girl in Japan-"
"Speaking of which," Ada interjected. "Kesi wanted to see you after this. Riko's been asking about you."
"How many languages does that girl speak?" Hideki questioned suddenly. Ada looked over at him and thought about it.
"I think just Japanese and French?"
The two looked over at Steve and he glanced between them.
"Only you could distract Ada, Hideki." Steve said to him. Hideki smirked at this and took another drag from his cigarette. Ada returned her attention to the phone, her lips in the slightest smile Steve had ever seen.
"They were FBC agents before." Ada said putting down the phone and reaching for the lace collar. Steve turned his attention to the Eurasian as she looped the collar around her neck.
"I parted ways with Albert once he moved to TriCell-god forbid I'd work for Excella-so he needed someone else."
"So they replaced you." Steve stated. Ada nodded as she hooked the clasp of the collar.
"What about Raymond?"
"Who knows." Hideki said, shaking his head dismissively. Steve immediately looked to Ada and she simply shrugged a shoulder.
"He stole a job from me on one occasion, thus I lost a virus because of it."
"Astounding." Hideki gasped theatrically. Ada flashed him a sarcastic smirk.
"Wait, so you don't even know who he is?" Steve questioned finding the idea hard to believe. Ada looked up at him, quirking a brow.
"There are a lot of people in the business?" she offered. Steve frowned at this. Ada shrugged a shoulder.
"I don't know what you want me to say. I've met this man once and he snuck in on one of my clientele."
Now Steve turned his attention back to Hideki.
"Jessica mentioned that Raymond had reports on me."
Steve let out a sharp sigh, this entire act of secrecy was ridiculous.
"Keeping things from me isn't getting us anywhere. I'm not asking anymore, I'm demanding that you tell me what the hell these two have to do with Yukio and myself." Steve said, raising his voice.
Hideki watched him for a moment. Ash fell from his cigarette, some specks landing on the collar of his blazer. Hideki exhaled the smoke through his nostrils as he brushed the ash from his suit.
"No." Hideki said. Steve stared at him unbelievingly. He almost didn't believe what the man had said to him.
"What the hell is your problem?" Steve heatedly demanded. Hideki stood his ground.
"You're upsetting yourself." Ada chimed in. Steve stared with disbelief. Was she serious?
"What am I not allowed to know?" he helplessly asked. There was only one time Steve had been able to force answers from Hideki, but Ada Wong? Never. With the combination of the two together, Steve knew he wouldn't be getting the answers. The two exchanged a glance and Ada stood from the desk.
Walking around the desk Ada walked over and placed a hand on each side of his neck, her forehead came against his.
They had stood like this once before, and it made Steve shiver.
"Raymond killed Yukio and took his research."
Steve looked into Ada's light brown eyes as she pulled away, her cold poker face concealed any emotion from her face. He was still confused though. It was as though these two were gearing up for him to go on a rampage or something.
Steve then imagined the red-headed man, how the man stood over him with his weapon aimed, ready to-who knew what he planned to do then.
Of course he felt anger, hatred even but why the reluctance to tell him?
"Why was it so important to keep that from me?" Steve asked, his gaze moving to Hideki one last time. Ada stepped back and leaned back against the desk, folding her arms across her chest.
Hideki held up his hands in surrender.
"Six years ago, you would have reacted differently. I assumed it would be no different now." Hideki offered.
"Well, you were wrong." Steve said to him.
"Then why are you shaking?" Ada asked. Steve didn't look at her. Instead he let his gaze fall, he did see his hands trembling though. He imagined Raymond standing over Yukio, a gun aimed at his head. Did Yukio even try to fight? Or did he just lift his chin in that prideful way and accept death?
What Steve hated most, was that he hadn't been there to protect him. To save the man who had saved his life.
"I'm fine." Steve cut Hideki off, not wanting to acknowledge the subject any further. Instead he look over at Ada, examining her attire again.
"Where are you going?" he asked. Ada stood up right and smiled.
"I'm going to go get you some money."
"You're working for someone else right now?"
"Don't worry, they don't know about you." Ada said, waving a hand dismissively. "Besides, you'll need the funds when I'm gone."
"Meanwhile, you and I will go and rescue Mister Styx." Hideki said. Steve groaned.
"Not until Ada get's back." he said. Ada walked back around the desk, grabbing her blazer.
"I'll be fine. Besides, you can't wait on me to get back." she replied. Steve watched her for a moment, not liking the idea.
"At least tell me where you're going?" Steve asked. Ada looked back at him and buttoned her blazer.
"The Eastern Slav Republic. Satisfied?" Ada asked expectantly. Steve let out a sigh and let his gaze fall again.
"Please just be careful." he said. There wasn't going to be any stopper her anyway.
"Always." with that Ada walked off and left the room. Hideki crushed his cigarette beneath his shoe and exhaled his last drag.
"Would you like to hear more?" Hideki offered. Steve looked over at him, surprised by the question. "There is more."
"No." Steve said. Hideki nodded and reached out, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I need you to remember just how fragile your state of mind is." Hideki told him. Steve watched him for a moment, the idea was discouraging but he nodded anyway.
"I'll tell you everything you want to know in small dosages, yes?"
During the time Hideki was saying this, Steve watched Alexia Ashford walk out from behind him, her face expressionless but her eyes never leaving his as she walked on. She looked as how he remembered her; golden hair neatly combed, eyes crystal blue, donning her purple gown with the same golden necklace hanging from her tapering neck.
Hideki turned his head to look in the direction, looking about the room before he looked back at Steve, a curious look on his face.
Steve didn't meet his eyes, regrettably this encouraged Hideki to worry.
"There, I've upset you." he sighed. Steve didn't look at him, but he did search for Alexia again.
She was gone. Without a trace. Just like Albert.
"Who did you see this time?" Hideki asked, releasing his shoulders. Steve looked over at him and shook his head.
Hideki frowned at this but didn't press the matter.
"Miss Riko is waiting. Go and see her, yes?"
Steve nodded and turned to head for the doors, stopping when he came face to face with Alfred. His face and uniform were bloody and torn, his crystal blue eyes staring at him directly. Steve's gaze moved to Alfred's torso, the bullets wounds that had turned his chest to ribbons left his coat blackened with blood.
It would pass. It always did.
"Steve?" Hideki's hand came back to his shoulder and just like that Alfred was gone.
As Steve exited the room, the door clicked on his past.
"Good evening, sir." Kesi said scribbling down at a journal on her desk. The stench of disinfectant wafted heavily through the air, but thankfully it wasn't too overwhelming. He stood in a simple reception room with a nicely carved wooden desk and a dimly lit hallway behind Kesi's seat. Occasionally her team of doctors would move from room to room, speaking with each other in various languages.
On the walls from left to right were simple white drapes, but Steve could still see the umbrella symbols beneath. Oriental rugs draped the cheap white tiles at his feet and a picture of the goddess Isis decorated Kesi's desk, along with other pictures and trinkets that were of obvious religious value.
"Hi," Steve said closing the door behind him. "I understand Riko wanted to see me."
Kesi removed the glasses she was wearing and closed her journal.
"Yes, she's in her room." Kesi said, standing from her desk and rubbing her tired eyes. Steve didn't say anything as she lead him down the hallway. Glancing about the rooms as they walked, Steve noticed Kesi's team watching him curiously. They had some patients in beds, some of the bioweapons that had come with Minnette. Steve made a mental note to get acquainted with them before he moved on.
"Hideki sent word about your hallucinations."
Steve mentally groaned. As long as Hideki was suspicious that the hallucinations were still occurring, Steve knew he'd never hear the end of it. Hideki would die of worry if he could. Still, he couldn't blame the man for being as cautious and thorough as he was. It was one of the main reasons Yukio trusted him.
"It'll pass." Steve said, avoiding her gaze. Kesi reached over and took his hand in hers, though she didn't look at him as she spoke.
"As your doctor, I am entitled to the damage of both your body and mind. If something's troubling either, you would come to me about it."
Now Kesi looked at him, her copper-colored eyes meeting his. It was then he realized Kesi reminded him of a cat, at least, her eyes did.
"I know." Steve replied. Kesi stopped walking and turned to him, her hands folded in front of her.
"Then? How are your hallucinations?" Kesi questioned. Steve quickly found he couldn't hold Kesi's gaze so he looked down at the floor.
"See me after you are finished with Riko. I'd like to know everything you do about these hallucinations."
Kesi cupped his chin, offered a confident, encouraging smile and walked on. Steve followed until Kesi's pace slowed towards a door on their left. That's where he'd find Riko.
Kesi turned to him one more time before she nodded her head to the door.
"I'll be waiting." with that, Kesi strolled off. Steve watched her go. Kesi's stroll reminded him of Ada; the sway of her hips, the confident bounce in her step. He was glad Ada hired her.
"How did you learn Japanese?" the pale haired girl questioned, her white eyes glowing in the dim light.
"The man who experimented on me," Steve explained, taking the hand Riko held out to him. "He taught me how."
"You speak very well." she said. Steve smiled at her, trying to keep his eyes from her arms.
Steve had never seen so many rubber tubes plugged into a pair of arms before.
"It's still there." Riko said after a moment. Steve's brows pulled together in question. Riko reached up her free hand and brushed her wispy, white bangs from her mocha face. The rubber tubs dragged along with the movement.
"What is?" Steve asked, sliding his fingers absent mindedly across the surface of hand.
Riko's tyrant skin fascinated Steve. His fingers moved in circular motions about her wrist, caressing the flesh that was soft but seemingly glazed with a layer that looked like glass. The dim light reflected off her skin, leaving a blotch of light to scurry about the ceiling every time she moved-and yet her skin was so warm.
No wonder Kesi dimmed the rooms.
"Kesi told me it was the virus." Riko said, her eyes focused on his fingers stroking her arm. Steve nodded now understanding of what she was referring, but what surprised him was that he hadn't even noticed the sensation was gone.
"I guess it passed for me." Steve offered. Riko winced a little as she adjusted herself so that she was lying on her side in her bed. Steve held her hand, allowing her to put weight on his so her shifting could be easier.
Riko's hand tightened around his suddenly, and Steve looked over at her.
"I'm scared." she admitted. Steve weaved both of his hands around hers and shook his head.
"You shouldn't be." he told her. Tears swelled in Riko's eyes and immediately Steve grew angry. A girl like this, like Riko, were the real victims. She'd been put under cryostasis at such a young age. The years she should have spent playing pretend with dolls and toys, going on adventures in the back yard and dressing up were taken from her.
He held the hand of a fourteen year old trapped in a twenty year old's body.
"You're in a very safe place now." he told her, squeezing her indestructible hand in his. A tear slipped from Riko's eye and Steve stroked her wrist with his thumb.
"And I will never let anything like this happen to you again." he spoke softly, but with certainty. Riko wiped her tears with her other and nodded her understanding.
"I can't hide what they did." Riko said, pulling her hand from his before self-consciously fiddling with her hair.
Steve watched her quietly and smiled again when their eyes met. Riko's white brows pulled together in question as another tear skittered down her cheek.
"Well, that's something you and I have in common." Steve said, tapping a finger against one of the green veins on his cheek. Riko reached over, taking his hand in hers. Steve watched as her mocha fingers traced a vein on the back of his wrist. Steve smiled at the girl as she explored. It calmed her tears, and for Steve that was simply a blessing.
Riko was so innocent. Maybe it was the 'deformities' they shared that drew him to her.
"We can't, hide what they did to us." Steve told her. Riko reached out her free hand and Steve gave her his other, allowing the girl to look at both of his hands. "But we shouldn't ever be ashamed of them either."
Riko's eyes moved to meet his. Steve pulled his hands free for the time being to unbutton his shirt. He shrugged it off and rolled up his undershirt a little, allowing Riko to see whirlpool of crimson skin.
The scar of an impossible wound.
Riko's eyes widened with wonder as she looked about the spot. They zeroed in on a spot of his torso and she swallowed thickly.
"What are those lines?" she asked. Steve looked down to see what she was referring too, then he saw them. He was surprised Riko could see them in this light, but what was more interesting to him was that he had forgotten all about them. He wondered if Kesi or Minnette had noticed them.
"My organs were transplanted. More than once." Steve said, letting his shirt drop. Riko reached out for his hands again and Steve immediately obliged her.
"You shouldn't be ashamed of your scars." he said. Riko didn't look at him.
"Because," Steve said, looking down at their hands. "You and I are strong enough to do something better with them."
"Like use the powers?" Riko asked. Steve thought about it, weighing the idea.
"We could do that too," he said. "But that's not the entirety of what we can do with them."
Then it happened, and Steve could only smile at the small event that had just taken place.
Riko placed hands on either sides of his left hand, Steve placed his free hand on the outside of her right, and together formed a tiny barrier.
"We can draw inspiration." Steve said, now meeting her eyes again. Riko blinked, her confusion evident.
"We can accept our scars and from them, draw inspiration."
Riko looked away, as if considering the idea. She didn't say anything so Steve continued.
"They can inspire us to life, or convince, or to fight."
"Convince?" Riko asked. Steve smiled at her, squeezing her hands in his. Riko smiled and then did the same right after.
"Oh." she said looking away shyly, realizing he was talking about her. Steve tilted his head to meet her eyes again. Riko looked back at him and pressed her lips together, her eyes now beaming.
Her skin wouldn't show her blushing, but her eyes made it clear.
"Do you trust me?" he asked. Riko nodded.
"I trust you."
Steve smiled and squeezed her hands again.
"Can you do anything for the man from the phone?" Riko asked. Steve looked back over at her, realizing she was talking about Jason. Steve thought about it for a moment before nodding.
"I can." he said. "I'm actually going to go soon."
Riko looked away, but Steve squeezed her hands in his.
"Sam's going to be here. She'll keep you company." he said. Riko's eyes lifted again at this and let out a relieved sigh. Steve smiled at this, also relieved.
"Good." Riko said.
"I wouldn't leave you alone like that." he reassured her. Riko released his hands and pulled at the blankets a little. Steve stood, assuming she obviously wanted to rest.
Steve was silent as he tucked her in. Riko held his hand and Steve froze in place, thinking what he was about to do next was insane.
Steve leaned foreword and kissed her forehead.
Pulling away, Riko grabbed his hand, tears in her eyes and said, "THank you Phoe."
Steve quirked a brow.
"Fee?" he asked, chuckling. What kind of silly nickname was that? Riko smiled sleepily.
"For Phoenix? Phoe." she explained. Steve smiled down at her. Affectionately. He'd been given a nickname.
"Get some sleep." he said. Riko released his hand but didn't close her eyes yet.
"Can you stay till I go to sleep?"
Steve immediately sat back down and held her hand in his.
Steve released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been withholding.