Also known as RETURN OF THE DEMON HAY!

This will be the last thing I post for a while since classes start on Monday. Maybe it will be even longer for this story in particular since I have a few other ideas I want to work on.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Please rate/review!

P.S. I own Kimi and the Name-change Brigade, but not the Gurren Lagann series. I lament this fact on a regular basis.


"Is he dead?"

"I don't think so."

Viral felt a sharp jab in his side. Other than that, he was relatively unaware of what was happening.

"You idiot! Do you want him to wake up and kill us?"

"You were the one who thought he was dead. What does it matter if I poke him? He deserves it anyway."

That was a woman's voice and… two men? He was beginning to get back to reality. His side still hurt where it had been jabbed and his throat hurt as well. Why? Oh, right, he had been yelling at the top of his lungs.

A breeze played with the strands of hair on his face and brought with it the scents of Refka, Kaoru, and Baccus. He bolted upright, causing the three members of the Spades Brigade to jump and Refka to squeal out that infinitely obnoxious note. He pushed aside his irritation. Where's Kimi? He looked around the clearing, ignoring the headache that the bright midday sun was making worse.

"So you are conscious! There are a few things that need to be said about your behavior last night!"

Viral's ears started ringing. No Kimi, but a loudmouthed bastard. What a great situation to wake up to after having let out years of frustration, he thought sarcastically.

"Such as?" Viral snapped, wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible so that he could go and find Kimi.

"I… that is, we understand why you would be frustrated," Baccus began.

"But that was no reason to vent your frustrations on Icas!"

"And?" Viral prompted, hoping that they would get to the point quickly. He was still groggy, and it was effectively interfering with his ability to be properly pissed and come up with a more clever response.

"We were going to throw you out of the Checkerboard Brigade," Refka explained.

"But?" Viral asked, his usual frustration beginning to return. Normally these people, especially Kaoru, couldn't shut up, and suddenly he needed to pry all of the answers out of them? This was just freaking ridiculous. He also vaguely wondered when he had accidentally become a member of the stupid brigade.

"You're lucky to have Kimi on your side," was the only reply Baccus offered.

Kimi had defended his behavior? Or had she just threatened to take her mechanic skills elsewhere?

"So we are letting you off with a light punishment!"

Yippee, Viral thought sarcastically. "What would that be?" he asked, finally standing so that he could be on eye level and look less vulnerable.

"First," Baccus elaborated, "You are going to put finisher on this wooden carving of Kamina."

The beastman gestured behind Viral, who turned around to see a life size statue of Kamina. A small chill went down his spine as he stared at the wooden likeness of his mortal enemy. But he suppressed it. Painting on the wood finisher was a simple enough task and-

What the hell? Where had that thing even come from? It definitely hadn't been there when he was looking around for Kimi earlier!

"Second, you will be playing the lead role in my musicale; Ode to a Pigmole!" Kaoru shouted.

Viral turned around to see Kaoru wearing a tutu. A pink one. Viral didn't know whether to laugh or vomit. And where the hell had the tutu come from anyway? There was no way the frilly thing would have fit into the vocal bastards pants. Viral was moderately disturbed when he bothered to notice that Kaoru wasn't wearing proper ballet slippers.

"Last," Refka started. A horrible sick feeling washed over Viral. This was going to be the worst of all, he just knew it.

She pointed to his left. "In that pile of hay," she continued.

It shouldn't have been physically possible for him to turn his head that fast, but he did it anyway. He could already feel the prickling in his eyes and nose as he cringed away from the massive mountain of hay. He just prayed that it was something simple like 'in that pile of hay is a needle. Find it.'

"You are going to have sex with me."

Viral broke the laws of physics for the second time in 30 seconds as he turned to look at Refka who was running towards him, naked…


"AAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHH!" Viral screamed as loudly as his hoarse throat permitted. He jerked his head from side to side, looking around wildly. Eventually his wide eyes started sending him images of the real world. The Hearts Brigade, minus Icas, were all sitting a few feet in front of him, looking as though they had been startled.

"I told you not to poke him," Refka snapped at Baccus, who was clutching his own tail as though he was afraid Viral would come over and rip it off.

"What?" Viral gasped dumbly, trying to drag oxygen back into his lungs and calm his flailing heart. A dream. It was only a dream.

"VIRAL!" The addressed beastman cringed in pain as his eardrums were assaulted. "YOUR BEHVIOR LAST NIGHT WAS INCORRIGABLE! You should use all of that rage for something constructive!" Kaoru shouted from his position on the ground.

Viral resisted the urge to cover his ears as he observed the Pinochle Brigade, who had apparently recovered from their initial shock at his outburst, and were now glaring at him. Resentment started to well up inside of him, though he had no idea why. He forced his expression into one of indifference, refusing to acknowledge that he had done something wrong.

"Yeah, yeah. Where's Kimi?" he asked, suddenly noting her absence. As soon as the words left his mouth he wanted to slap himself, not because it reminded him of his dream or the fact that she shouldn't be his first concern, but because he should already know the answer. Obviously she was fixing Enki.

"She's taking a walk on the beach," Domon answered.

Or not so obviously she was taking a walk on the beach.

"I'm going to teach her how to swim later," he continued.

What? Viral was supposed to be teaching her. Oh wait, they were fighting. Or were they? All of the confusion of the previous day chose that moment to hit him like Refka almost-

It was a dream, it was a dream, don't think about it, he chanted to himself. He didn't need a heaping helping of confusion with a side of trauma now did he?

Domon stood, regaining Viral's attention. "I just want to make one thing clear; we need Kimi, but we don't need you, and if you harass my brother again…" he trailed off as he cracked his knuckles.

Sure, Domon was beefy, but Viral was immortal, so the threat really held no sway with the beastman. He didn't care about that little idiot. All he wanted was to make sure that Kimi accomplished her mission.

"It won't happen again," Viral assured them, if only so he could get away. He stood and headed in the direction of the beach, hoping he could sort out some of the confusion whirling around his head. He honestly felt better now that he had vented some of his anger, but there was still Kimi's odd behavior to deal with. It was suspicious how she had suddenly decided to try to include him, and even more suspicious that she hadn't started yelling at him last night.

He was a little startled when the person occupying his thoughts suddenly appeared as he maneuvered around King. She looked equally surprised to see him.

All thoughts fled his mind as he stood in front of her, staring at her while she stared back. If only he could get his throat to work and say something instead of standing and gawking like an imbecile. Of course, he wasn't entirely to blame for the awkward silence. She had vocal chords too, didn't she?

Finally, the cat got his own tongue back and said, "Hey."

As soon as the single syllable word left his mouth he wished he could slap his forehead, but then that would have been even more humiliating. Not only did he sound completely unintelligent, but it brought up less than pleasant images of his dream. Damn tongue.

"Hey," she replied almost shyly. "What did they have to say?"

Viral snorted, some of his old attitude rising to the surface in order to save face. "Nothing important."

"Oh."

Well, that was certainly disappointing. Why wasn't she prying? Clearly he didn't want to talk about it, which meant that she was supposed to pester him about it in a typical human woman fashion. She had always pried into his business, back when they had first known each other.

Now was not the time for wistful thoughts of the past, Viral thought as he veered back to the main road and off of memory lane, managing to hit a pedestrian thought in the process. Not that they were actually wistful memories, because Viral didn't do wistful. Now was the time to demand answers and sate his own curiosity.

"Why is Domon teaching you to swim?"

Not the question he wanted to ask. Curse his infernal tongue! The damn thing seemed to have been on autopilot since yesterday. Even ripping it out wouldn't have done any good, considering it would just regenerate.

"Ah!" she was startled out of her own thoughts. "Ah, well, I know you don't have the pa- I mean, I know it's bothersome for you, so I thought it would be better if I didn't try to force you to teach me."

He knew she had been about to say that he didn't have the patience. Yet she had stopped herself and opted for the more diplomatic route. Why was she suddenly giving him so much consideration when just two days ago they had been up in each others faces? It was creeping him the heck out.

When she frowned he realized he had been staring at her for much longer than proper, and he had yet to reply. Think of something intelligent, think, think, think!

"Oh." What the hell was wrong with him today? Say something else! "Good, this way I won't have to deal with your incompetence."

She scowled like he had hoped, but she didn't say anything, so he added, "You had better finish that ganman soon; I'm getting sick of waiting and listening to those fools and their nightly lectures on justice." He put as much venom into his voice as he could, yet she still said nothing. Why wasn't he getting a rise out of her?

But then she spoke and managed to disappoint him even further. "Your ganman will be finished tomorrow, and I promise not to let Kaoru direct the conversation tonight. Although, if I'm the one leading the talk, then it's going to be about ganmen mechanics. Are you sure you prefer that?" Her tone was even and almost amiable.

"Yeah," he replied, unable to come up with anything better. He walked away from her and toward the cliffs, leaving all of his other questions unasked for the moment.

This is so wrong, he thought as he walked slowly up the incline. He should be pleased that Kimi was suddenly being courteous, but it was almost as though he missed the arguments. The fights they had put them on even ground. Not that she could out-debate him, but he had known where she stood and, more importantly, where he stood. All of a sudden she had completely turned her behavior around and he no longer had a glimpse into the workings of her mind. And, with her position suddenly changed, he wondered where that left him. He hadn't even been this confused when she had first randomly appeared in his life all those years ago.

He hated not knowing what was happening.

But it didn't matter, did it, because he wanted to leave, didn't he? Hadn't he said he was sick of all the crap he had to put up with because of her? Did he suddenly want to stay?

Too many questions all at once! Viral used an imaginary club to beat all of the wayward thoughts into submission, and then had them line up single file. He picked through each one carefully and in order until he arrived at a simple conclusion: there was no simple conclusion. Based on this conclusion, he needed to gather more facts, which meant remaining with Kimi and analyzing her behavior. It was rational, logical, and did absolutely nothing to make him feel better.

F**k logic. He didn't have a single clue as to why he was really staying, but trying to pick his motivation apart any further would leave him even more emotionally frayed than he already was.

Despite the raving he had done last night, outwardly he was as composed as ever, at least. Right now he felt a little raw on the inside, but he knew that eventually he would calm down and be able to think this through properly, and with a little less 'f**k logic.'

He moved his focus outward once more and found that he was almost to the top. Increasing his pace he pulled himself onto the last ledge and looked around. It didn't take him long to spot Rook's footprints, and it only took slightly longer for him to follow them to Enki.

The ganman was in a sorry state. Pieces of junk metal were scattered around the limp machine, and almost everything in sight was covered in rust, including the trees. The rust dust must have blown onto the plants when Kimi had been scraping the hull clean; he could see some portions that had been worked on more thoroughly than others. He took a closer look at the pieces lying around. She had practically gutted the whole thing from what he could tell. Viral, even with his familiarity with Enki, would have taken at least a month to do by himself what she had accomplished in a week. Once more he had to admit she was a superior mechanic. Of course, she had genetics on her side, in more ways than one. Then again, the other one never showed any talent.

He supposed it really didn't matter. She was highly skilled, regardless of the reason. And she had been generous enough to toil over his ganman despite his repeatedly voiced indifference. That gave him pause. Maybe she hadn't just suddenly started being nice. Maybe he was just suddenly starting to notice the kindness that was already there.

He went up to Enki and touched the hull. This once proud ganman, his once prized possession, was nothing more than garbage, and was only being allowed to move once more by the grace of a puzzling mechanic. He climbed inside the cockpit, where the repairs were obviously continuing. On the inside Enki looked even more tragic, but Viral was sure it was a vast improvement from whatever condition Kimi had originally discovered it in.

He sat down in the pilot's seat and remembered. He remembered what it was like to fight, to run, to hunt, to feel superior to all other beings, save for his creator and the four great generals. He remembered what it was like to taste defeat, to feel frustration for the first time in his existence, to have his pride stripped away as he realized how pathetic he truly was in the grand scheme of things, all at the hands of that damn naked ape.

A scowl contorted his face, but his anger didn't hit a peak as it had the previous night. Instead it leveled off at his usual level of resentment. Yup, he was getting back to his usual bitter self.

Viral gracefully leapt out of his old ganman. It might be useful, almost nice, to have it up and running again. Gratitude was not something he was into displaying, however. He would just tell Kimi that it was adequate and that since she had worked so hard he might as well pilot it. There was a tiny part of him that wondered if she would understand the true meaning behind the indifferent words. There was an even tinier part that hoped she would understand, a part which was abruptly eaten by a shark.

Oh yes, he was certainly getting back to his old self.