On the outside, there was nothing intimidating about Oto Psychiatric Facility. That was Sasuke's first thought when the van pulled up to the building. He'd been expecting some ancient castle with dungeons, maybe a crocodile-filled moat on the outside. Something out of a horror movie.
Instead, from the outside, OPF looked clean and modern. The sun shined bright against the windows and the cream-colored paint job was fresh and new. The grass was well-watered and the foliage looked healthy and beautiful. The only thing even slightly off-putting about OPF was its location: smack dab in the middle of nowhere, and miles away from civilization.
Sasuke kept his dark eyes clear as he took in the sights for the first time. He knew better than anyone how a pretty exterior could hide something dark and frightening. And he wasn't here for no reason.
"Here you are, Mr. Uchiha," said the driver as he pulled into a parking space. "Oto Psychiatric Facility. Looks nice, doesn't it?"
Sasuke said nothing in response as he unbuckled his seatbelt, shouldered his backpack, and got out of the van, followed quickly by his handlers.
They headed up the long walkway to the double doors in front. Sasuke's strides were slow and confident, but he never relaxed his guard; no matter how nice OPF looked from the outside, he knew that inside lay a very dark, very ugly secret.
And he was going to find out what it was.
Sasuke felt Itachi's hand on his shoulder, a silent "I'm with you" that would have made tears catch in his throat if he was a different man. Instead, his jaw tightened as he stared at the shallow grave with the simple headstone, fresh as the spring rain.
"The coroner's report came back," Itachi said softly, as the two brothers stood before Juugo's grave.
Sasuke didn't need to ask, but he did anyway. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. They confirmed it was a suicide."
There hadn't been a doubt in Sasuke's mind before this. Juugo, who'd spent six months in a psychiatric treatment facility, had been found with a note, hanging in his closet by a belt. With his brother a captain in the Konoha Police Unit, Sasuke knew that until a coroner filed a report and a medical examination was performed, they couldn't determine an official cause of death, usually for several weeks. But this one? This one was pretty clear cut.
"I'm sorry, little brother. I know he was a good friend."
There was a rumble of thunder overhead, but Sasuke didn't move. Still dressed in a black suit and tie from the burial, it felt like his legs had grown roots and were planted in the earth. All he could focus on was the unremarkable gravestone and Juugo's name emblazoned across it.
"It was murder," Sasuke heard himself say.
It was an assertion that contradicted logic, science, and truth, but Sasuke believed it from the bottom of his heart. He knew Juugo. He'd known what a gentle, caring person he was, despite his darker side. He'd known that no matter how bad things had gotten for him, there was no way he would be driven to something like this.
"Sasuke," said Itachi consolingly, "I know you don't want to believe it, but…"
"I know what they believe," he rebuked shortly, rounding on his older brother, the only family he had left in the world. "What do you believe?"
Itachi hesitated, then sighed, his hand falling away from Sasuke's shoulder and sliding into his pocket instead. The wind tugged at his long ponytail as he turned his gaze skyward.
"I believe what you do," he admitted. "I believe that something happened at the facility he was staying at. But what we believe is worth nothing unless we can prove it."
"What if we can prove it?" Sasuke demanded.
There would be time to mourn Juugo later, after Sasuke's anger had cooled. It had always been his nature to act first in the interests of justice, then allow his personal feelings to interfere after the problem was resolved. Now, he was happening upon an idea, and it threatened to consume him.
Itachi sighed again. "A full inquiry was launched into the incident," he intoned, as if reading from a report. "Investigators spoke with the head psychiatrists as well as staff, even other patients. All of them said the same thing. Juugo's mental state deteriorated, he became increasingly moody and withdrawn, and then he hung himself. That's all we know."
"But you don't buy it," Sasuke said aggressively, recognizing his brother's reluctance to discuss what was happening.
"From what I know of Juugo, if it was suicide, then something must have happened to drive him to it, something out of the norm. He was committed to OPF on a referral from Dr. Yakushi at Konoha General, to treat him for mood swings consistent with bipolar disorder. People suffering from untreated bipolar disorder are prone to fits of mania and depression, can act with hostility or spontaneity...and there are several who commit suicide, yes. But the most suspicious aspect of this, is why he was committed in the first place."
Sasuke frowned, listening hard, even as the first droplets of rain began to fall in the cemetery. He didn't know much about psychiatry, but now that Itachi mentioned it, something didn't wash.
"Patients aren't often committed, merely for being diagnosed with a psychological disorder," Itachi went on. "There are many people who live normal lives when treated, others who see a counselor for therapy…very rarely is a man placed into an institution without having committed a crime."
"So why didn't anybody question it?" Sasuke pressed. "If Juugo went to that Yakushi guy for therapy, why didn't anybody question why he was sent right to an institution?"
"Because Juugo was raised in an orphanage. Then shuttled around from foster home to foster home. He was one of the at-risk kids, the kind that slip through the cracks. If something suspicious were to occur, no one would be around to ask why."
"You've clearly thought about this before, Itachi. So come out with it. What do you think's going on?"
"Sasuke all I have right now is a theory, and mere conjecture isn't going to stop anything. It isn't going to help those kids."
"But ever since Dr. Yakushi arrived at Konoha General, there has been a surprising increase in the number of kids dispatched to mental institutions…namely the facility in Oto, where Juugo was receiving treatment. Again, most of these kids are like Juugo. Orphans, foster kids, children from broken homes or neglectful parents…"
"Kids society wouldn't miss," Sasuke finished bitterly, thinking how both he and his brother would fit into a category like that, how Juugo had, too. "But why do you think he's doing it, if it's true? Why do you think he's sending all these kids away? What's his purpose?"
"That's the rub," Itachi murmured thoughtfully. "I've spoken to a few of the other detectives on the force about my suspicions, but no one can guess as to why he's doing this. Some think it an act of kindness: he's taking troubled children away from their environments to give them treatment. But many of these children don't seem to be affected by legitimately debilitating psychological disorders that would warrant such aggressive treatment."
"So get a warrant! Search the place, find out what's going on!"
"We'd need probable cause to obtain a warrant," Itachi replied patiently.
"And Juugo's death wasn't enough?!"
"I told you already. It was ruled a suicide, and many witnesses corroborated that. Suicides in a psych ward are not unheard of."
"So how do you get probable cause, then?" Sasuke demanded, entirely focused on bringing what happened to Juugo into the light. His hands clenched into fists. "What do we need to do, to get someone to take a look at that place?"
Itachi looked around to make sure no one was listening, but a sparse, overgrown cemetery in the middle of a storm wasn't often populated with eavesdroppers.
"Our best bet," he said quietly, "would be an infiltration."
"Yes. To have an agent of ours, of sound mind, to pose as a patient in the ward and gather information from the inside. I've discussed this with my superiors, but the problem is that OPF is a teenage facility. Most of the agents in our department could never pass for a teenager."
The answer was so obvious, it was unbelievable. Renewed with this fresh purpose, Sasuke snapped back, "Then I'll do it. I'm 17. I can get you that information."
Itachi shook his head. "Out of the question. You're not a trained field agent, Sasuke. You're in high school."
"I already have enough credits to graduate," Sasuke retorted. "This is more important. I can handle this. Let me do it."
"I realize you want to help your friend, but…"
"But nothing. You said it yourself, our best bet is an infiltration, and everyone else is too old. But I'm not! Let me do it and I'll give you the evidence you need."
"It could be dangerous, Sasuke!" Itachi argued, shaking his little brother's shoulders. "How far are you willing to go to bring your poor friend justice?"
Sasuke thought back to their conversation and felt his resolve strengthen, even as the double doors swung open automatically to admit him. He, the driver, and two handlers swept inside, and he was instantly struck by the sterile smell of a hospital.
The walls were so white, it almost hurt to look at them. There was a long hallway with several closed doors on every side, and a marble receptionists' desk where he was led to first.
A woman with long black hair and a hard-looking face sat behind the counter, a sickeningly sweet smile twisting thin lips and baring pointed teeth. A glossy silver nameplate read: KIN TSUCHI, RECEPTIONIST, and she stuck her hand out towards him.
"Hello, Mr. Uchiha," she said, her voice so saccharine he almost gagged. "My name is Miss Tsuchi. Welcome to Oto Psychiatric Facility! We're delighted to have you."
He ignored her handshake completely, just staring at her with a bored expression – he and Itachi agreed that when given a fake ailment, it should be social withdrawal with violent tendencies, since that wasn't too far away from Sasuke's moody personality – and eventually she dropped her hand, but not her smile. Instead, she shoved a clipboard at him with a pen attached to it by a chain.
"Please sign in here, and our staff will take you to your room and get you situated," said Miss Tsuchi.
Irritated with how closely he was being watched, both by the receptionist and the three men who'd escorted him here from Konoha, Sasuke scribbled his name on the sign-in sheet and shoved it back at her.
"Thank you very much," Miss Tsuchi intoned. "Dosu, Zaku, please escort Mr. Uchiha to his room on the seventh floor and see that he's made comfortable," she added, to the silent handlers. "It's been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Uchiha. I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay!"
Dosu, Zaku, Kin Tsuchi, thought Sasuke, mentally cataloguing the staff members he'd met so far. Two handlers and a receptionist.
Itachi had caved to his request to be the mole in the psych ward, but his instructions were explicitly clear. He was to tell no one of his mission no matter what, and he was to report all details, however minor, to his brother at family visits. The first was scheduled two weeks from now.
Two weeks he would spend with no contact with the outside world, trying to dig up information on anything suspicious taking place here at Oto Psychiatric Facility. Besides the simpering, fake attitude of the receptionist and the slightly pushy way Dosu and Zaku were handling him, there was nothing overtly suspicious so far. But he'd only been here for two minutes.
Two weeks was starting to look like an awfully long time.
I'll meet with Itachi at the family visit, he thought, eyes taking in the sight of an empty hallway as Zaku pressed his security key into the elevator to open it. And tell him what I know. If I need more time, I'll stay another two weeks. But if I've got enough, I can have him withdraw me the hell out of here and we'll get the search warrant he needs.
"Quiet one, aren't you, pretty boy?" snickered Zaku, once the elevator doors shut with all of them inside.
His nerves prickled, but he didn't say anything in response. He doubted he could do much investigating if he was put in lockdown for kicking a handler's ass.
"It's always the quiet ones," added Dosu, the larger of the two, and they both laughed. Sasuke rolled his eyes.
"Here's what's gonna happen now," said Zaku, throwing his arm lazily across Sasuke's shoulders like they were best friends, and gambling that Sasuke wouldn't tear it off. "You're gonna change outta them street clothes and we're takin' you to your room. Know where you're staying? With Uzumaki. Most annoying kid in the ward!"
Not half as annoying as you, Sasuke thought dryly, his jaw clenching.
The elevator carried them up to the fourth floor, marked 'Restricted Ward.'
"Restricted?" he murmured, frowning. That doesn't sound good.
"Scared?" sneered Dosu. "You should be. Pretty boy like you's bound to snap, once you see all the crazies inside there."
"You know shit about me," Sasuke ground out, unable to control his temper. If this was how every staff member acted, he doubted he'd be able to keep from punching them all in the mouth.
"I know all I gotta know about you, kid," laughed Zaku. "We read your case file."
So much for client confidentiality, if they're letting thugs like these two assholes read patient files, thought Sasuke, his brain frantically trying to keep up with all the information they were pouring out for him.
"Sasuke Uchiha, age 17," recited Dosu as the doors swung open. He shoved him in between his shoulderblades, pushing him forward into the Restricted Ward hallway. "Height, 6'2". Weight, 175 pounds. Parents killed in a gangfight ten years ago. Legal guardian: older brother Itachi, a cop back in Konoha."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed.
"Committed to our fair facility by Dr. Yakushi, after your own brother turned you in for getting high and crashing his car."
(It had been easy to fake the police report with his brother in the police department; he'd even had Sasuke booked and fingerprinted to legitimize the story.)
"See?" Zaku sneered. "Even your own brother thinks you're crazy. You'll fit right in here, pretty boy." He shoved him forward, and Sasuke fought to control his anger. It wouldn't do to get into a fistfight his first day here. No, his goal was to fly under the radar, watch everything from a distance, report everything to Itachi on Family Day, find out what exactly was going on here at OPF, and get the hell out.
Finding out what happened to Juugo was more important than decking a couple of morons in the face for shooting their mouths off at him. Remembering his purpose for being here, he let his lip curl into a scowl but he said nothing in response as Zaku and Dosu pushed him down the hallway into a room in the corner.
"Look alive, Uzumaki," sneered Zaku, and when Sasuke entered his new room, he found a boy laying on one of the two flimsy hospital cots with his arms tucked behind his head, staring at the whitewashed ceiling. "Got you a new roommate. Here's hoping this one doesn't off himself in the closet, like the last one."
Sasuke's eyes widened a fraction, but he forced his expression to remain neutral. It was here? He thought, shocked. This was where Juugo…
"Put these on," Dosu added, shoving a set of clothes at Sasuke. "So we can tell you apart as a fucking nutcase same as the rest of these nutcases. Then get to know your new roomie. He's such a pain in the ass, the last guy here hung himself right there in that closet."
Misinterpreting the way Sasuke shook with anger with fear, he and Zaku laughed and slammed the door shut, locking it on their way out.
"You get used to 'em," the blonde boy said hesitantly.
Sasuke looked around at him and saw that the boy didn't look crazy. He was about the same age as Sasuke, blonde and blue-eyed with whisker marks on his cheeks. He was dressed in what Sasuke assumed was the standard-issue attire for patients at the facility, in gray pants and a black T-shirt, and he looked pale, like he hadn't seen the sun in awhile.
"We haven't had new blood around here in awhile," the boy continued, sounding almost hopeful as he sat up in his bed and swung his legs over the side. "Not since Ino came in last October. Now we got you, and I hear another girl's just been referred here to RW, so that should be good."
"RW?" Sasuke asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Yeah. The Restricted Ward." The boy grinned a little ironically. "That's where they put all us real psychopaths. Or that's what they tell us, at least. Since, you know. We're not really crazy. I'm Naruto, by the way. Naruto Uzumaki. What're you in for?"
Naruto looked like he might be irritating, and Sasuke bit back the knee-jerk urge to snap, "None of your damn business." Instead, he realized that someone like Naruto, who'd been in this so-called Restricted Ward for awhile, might be a good source of information, and that it might be in his best interest to befriend him.
"I got anger problems," he mumbled, and it wasn't quite a lie. "You?"
"Ah, they say I'm bipolar," replied Naruto with an enormous smile, like it was all a big joke. "Kind of lame, compared to 'anger problems.' Like how angry could you have gotten, to wind up here with the rest of us?"
"What's your name, man?"
"Well I hope you work out a lot better than my last roommate did," Naruto said, with a miserable glance at the closet Zaku and Dosu had referred to.
"What happened to him?" Sasuke asked; as if he didn't already know.
"It got to be too much for him," Naruto replied sadly. "All this. He…he hung himself last week. I was the one who found him."
"What got to be too much for him?" Sasuke pressed, hoping he didn't sound overeager.
"You'll see. But if I were you, I'd change into your clothes. They're taking us down to dinner in a few minutes and if you're out of uniform…well…let's just say you don't want to do anything to piss off Orochimaru or Kabuto."
Sasuke opened his mouth to ask why not, but at that moment, a series of bells went off in the hallway outside their room. Frowning, he realized Naruto wasn't kidding, and he stepped inside the small bathroom beside the closet to change.
The mirror was coated in plastic, distorting his reflection somewhat as he peeled off his leather jacket and blue T-shirt and kicked off his jeans. Everything here seemed to be baby-proofed, like they were worried about the patients hurting themselves.
Makes sense, he thought, tugging the black T-shirt over his head. A lot of these kids are at risk for suicide. Just like Juugo.
"Hurry up in there, man!" Naruto called. "They're gonna unlock the doors in a second and you don't wanna be late to dinner!"
Sasuke grimaced and emerged from the bathroom, leaving his regular clothes folded on the back of the toilet for later. Naruto was waiting for him just as their bedroom door automatically unlocked itself and swung forward to release them.
They keep the kids caged up here like animals, he thought, frowning in disgust as he and Naruto filed out into the hallway with the others in the Restricted Ward. There didn't seem to be too many people in this section of the facility; there was a tall, pale boy who looked a lot like him shuffling down the corridor, next to a tall, extremely thin girl with stringy blonde hair. Another girl, with dark hair and long bangs that covered her eyes, hung back behind them, never making eye contact with anyone.
"Not many of us in the Restricted Ward," Naruto murmured quietly as they all headed down the stairs together, herded like cattle by Zaku, Dosu, and a few of the other handlers. "Most of the other kids are downstairs. Lot nicer digs down there."
Why are we up here, then? What differentiates a regular patient from one in the Restricted Ward?
"It's weird, getting two newcomers in the same week," Naruto added, keeping his voice down. "I guess maybe they want three guys and three girls, keep it even in RW. I hope the new girl's a cutie at least. Ino and Hinata are all right, but Ino never eats and Hinata never talks to anybody, she's always up in her room."
This is a psych ward, not a pick-up scene, Sasuke thought in irritation, rolling his eyes.
"They don't let us talk to the other patients, they keep us all together," Naruto went on, while Sasuke devoured every last scrap of information with a straight face. "Me and Sai…he's really autistic, everything he says is ass-backwards. Hinata's got social anxiety, she can't handle talking to people, and Ino's a bulimic."
"None of those disorders seem severe enough to land you all here," Sasuke said, his eyes narrowing as the situation became even more suspicious. Autism, bulimia, discomfort with people, even bipolar disorder…all of them seemed easily treatable outside a psychiatric facility. Why did they need to come here? What was the purpose of this special treatment?
Naruto opened his mouth to comment on Sasuke's remark, but they were stopped by Zaku and Dosu swooping in to interrupt them.
"Eyes down and mouth shut, pretty boy," sneered Zaku.
The SECOND I get out of here, Sasuke thought venomously, I'm gonna punch you right in the fucking mouth, you little shit.
But his objective was to remain passive. Unobtrusive. Virtually unnoticeable. He couldn't afford to draw attention to himself and compromise his mission. His only reason for being here was to dig up the dirt on Oto Psychiatric Facility and find out the truth behind Juugo's suicide.
But being here for five minutes raised a thousand new questions. Namely, what was the deal with the Restricted Ward?
Only five of us in this section, segregated from the rest of the patients, he thought, sorting through what he'd just learned from Naruto, who was a veritable sieve of information. Six, when the new girl comes tomorrow. I don't know her deal yet, but everybody else…so far…seems like they could be treated with therapy or medication outside this place. So what are they doing here?
What's up with the Restricted Ward?
note.. "daisy, why are you starting another story instead of finishing one of your 400 other stories?" "why, because i fucking feel like it, that's why."
i've been kicking this idea around for awhile. it started as a oneshot but then my head-canon kicked into overdrive and now it's a monster-fic. i make no apologies for putting up another one. i need to keep myself entertained writing this stuff or i'll get bored and walk away from it. (like once i tried a pottery class. disaster. i do not have the hands of an artist. but i have the ass of a dancer and that makes it all worth it.)
ANYWAY! let me know if you liked it. have a great weekend! and oh yeah, of course, right, PHILLIES come back on monday! bye, braves.
xoxo Daisy :)