A Handful of Dust

            Part 7: Festering Wounds

            “Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not  
            Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither  
            Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
            Looking into the heart of light, the silence.”

-         T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”

            Karasuma Miho rested her head against the cold wall, watching the early morning light fill the room, illuminating the stark white paint and glinting off of the varied medical equipment. She disliked hospitals – and yet she found herself spending far too much time in them for comfort. At the moment, she knew she couldn't be anywhere else.

            Doujima stood in a corner, her arms crossed, azure eyes grave as she pondered some issue that Karasuma could not bring herself to ask about. She wasn't really capable of talking, at that moment. Silence had reigned in the room for a long time – but breaking it took too much effort.

            It had been almost a week. Almost a week of staying off and on in that room, with the silence being broken only rarely. Robin, who lay pale and fragile on the bed in the center, had woken several times, but only for mere moments before the sleep-inducing drugs slowly filtering through her blood chased her back into unconsciousness.

            However, even in that short time, they had not been able to hide from her the fact that Amon was gone.

            To their shock, Robin had seemed to know immediately, weary eyes gaining a hint of panic, her mouth moving weakly to half-form words before she lost the fight to stay awake. It was clear that it was not physical fear that had her in such a state – they had been hunters long enough to recognize the signs of that. What they had seen in Robin was a helplessness driven by loss and pain – a loss so keenly felt that she recognized it as soon as she opened her eyes. The girl had seemed to feel – somehow – that he was nowhere near. If Karasuma didn't know any better, she would have thought that Robin knew even more than that. But that had to be impossible – she had not been given any information. None of them had.

            Amon was indeed gone. He had not come to the hospital since Robin's condition had been declared stable. All had been relieved to hear that her injuries were not as terrible as they had looked. Not that this provided much reassurance – she had looked like she was dead.

            He was the only one to not express any relief. In fact, he had not expressed anything at all, waiting only to hear that she was no longer in danger, and then leaving, barely disturbing the air as he went. The air. What had that wind been, that night? Had it truly been a manifestation of Amon's power? Was he no longer merely a seed? That perhaps would partly explain his disappearance. Karasuma did not know how he would handle becoming – she steeled herself – a Witch. Because it was true… she could not pretend anymore. None of them could continue their charade. That was why the STNJ had almost imposed exile upon itself – it had become almost defensive, expecting a counterattack. Even though Robin had acted on her own, she had still once been one of their members, and that would most likely be all Solomon cared about.

            Getting into the hospital had not been difficult. The STNJ IDs coupled with the story that the girl had been attacked had gained them swift entry. No more explanations had been asked – hardly anyone asked for things from the STNJ. Besides, Robin had completely destroyed the bodies in her last effort, and Doujima and Sakaki had cleared the area – so police action was avoided.

            They were, to put it bluntly, stuck. Before, they would have at least had a choice between their jobs and helping Robin. Now – the situation was irreparable, and it had been simply caused by her return. She had told them she had something she needed to do. As time went on, it seemed less and less likely that they others would be able to avoid getting caught up in it.

           Doujima made a small sound of frustration, and shifted against the wall, drawing the older woman out of her thoughts. “Yurika…” she murmured softly. “Stop it. You know there's not much we can do.”

            “I do know it! That's why I'm so annoyed!” She huffed, and turned to glare at her friend.

            Karasuma knew that Doujima felt helpless. Solomon had cut off her contacts, showing clearly that they considered her one of the dangerous, having had interactions with Robin. It wasn't being labeled that bothered her so much – it was not knowing what was going on. Not having information that could possibly be used to help. They were all so used to being busy. Sitting and waiting for something to happen grated on all of their nerves.

            The blonde woman frowned, gesturing with her head towards the bed. “We don't know what's going on out there, and we don't know what they are going to do to her, and what it's going to mean for us - ”

            “I'm sorry.”

            The weak confession broke through Doujima's tirade, stalling Karasuma's intent to quiet her. Both turned towards the bed, and Doujima hurried over to the side, looking glad for something to do.

            “Robin-chan, I'm sorry, I woke you…”

            “No, I was awake. It's all right.”

            Blue eyes studied Robin's still form intently. She was coherent, unlike the times she had awoken before, which was a good sign. However, the young witch kept her face turned to the side, eyes averted and studying the wall without expression. Doujima looked at the deep healing gashes on her face with some sadness. Robin had been severely cut all over her body, and would bear scars for the rest of her life. Thankfully, according to the doctors, her face cuts would heal completely, leaving no mark. This gave Doujima some hope, because part of the reason people became attached to the fire Witch was her quiet, serene look – which would not be the same if she carried visible scars on her pale skin.

            Karasuma had moved next to them, and reached down to touch Robin's shoulder lightly. “How are you feeling?”

            “Fine, thank you,” came the deadened reply.

            The two others exchanged glances, and Doujima opened her mouth to speak warily. “We found you in the alley, Robin, Amon told us where you would have gone, so we followed you.”

            They had both picked up on the barely perceptible flinch that had been Robin's reaction to his name. Clearly, she did indeed know something they did not.

            “Did….” Her head turned, looking up at them. “Did he see?”

            Karasuma nodded. “We all saw, Robin.”

            The girl's face tightened, and she turned her gaze away again. Karasuma tried to continue. “We don't know where he is -”

            “I know.” Jade eyes met dark ones. “I'm sorry, Karasuma. But I do know. It's my fault.”

            “Why would it be -” she cut herself off, mind reeling back to that day two years ago. He said he would kill her, if the power got out of control. Karasuma's mouth was suddenly uncomfortably dry. “Robin…”

            “No. Please, no.”

            Doujima looked up, motioning for her friend to leave the room with her. She brushed a finger against Robin's hand to try and comfort her before leaving. As they closed the door, Robin's eyes shut tightly, painfully.

I did what you told me not to… but you can't leave… you don't understand…


            The phone rang, for the third time that morning. Michael rolled his eyes slightly and spun the chair to pick it up. “Doujima…” he said, exasperated. Trust her to call him when she had nothing else to do. The previous two calls had been made simply because she was bored, and frustrated because of it. “Do you mind? I'm trying to make sure we don't have anyone coming for us.”

            “Robin woke up.”

           Her words caused him to suddenly sit up straight, and he pulled the earphones out and let them hang around his neck. “She's awake? Like she was before?”
            “No, she's really awake now.” This would normally be an occasion that would cause Doujima's energy level to rise, but at that moment she sounded sad and pensive, something they still weren't quite used to coming from her.     

            “What's the matter? Something's up.”

            “She's just… things aren't going well, Michael.”

            “Her health?”

            “No, the doctors say she'll be fine. It's… more than that.”

            “Ah. Well, is there something you would like me to find out?” He's hand poised over the keyboard, expecting the usual request to dredge up some piece of information. He was slightly surprised to hear her reply.

            “Actually, if you could find Amon…” she sounded hesitant, as though it might not be a good idea.

            One eyebrow arched, and his tone held a hint of sarcasm. “Find Amon? Do you forget how successful we were last time we tried that? I can't do that, you know it.”

            “Did you try Harry's?”

            “Yeah, I called Master to let him know about Robin. He said he didn't know where Amon was. He told me that without me asking.”

            There was a soft snort from the other end of the line. “That doesn't have to be true, however. Just… call him. Tell him she woke up. Maybe… maybe the news will find it's way to Amon.”

Interesting. It was strange how their circles worked, but somehow, he knew it was really the only plausible idea. “Okay, I'll do it now. Call if Robin says anything important.”

           There was a slightly garbled affirmation, and then Doujima hung up, leaving Michael to his computer and his thoughts.

            And, of course, the phone.


            Kobari Yuji, owner of Harry's, known as “Master” to the members of the STNJ, hung up the phone, eyes solemn. So, the young Witch had survived her actions – he was glad. He had made a mistake with his son… he would hate to see the girl meet the same fate. Not turning to look at the figure sitting in the corner, he spoke. “She woke up. Apparently, she's coherent, but there seems to be something bothering the rest of them about her.”

            Amon did not respond. For the past week he had been wandering restlessly about the city, fighting with himself, trying to find answers and as usual coming up with nothing. It was only in the past couple of days had he been coming to the restaurant, at a lack of anything decisive to do. Master didn't ask questions – he never did. But he had already known about the fight. Amon hadn't been surprised; he had always known more than people would have thought.

            “Are you going to go to her?” Master's voice still remained passive, non-confrontational. He would never outwardly force them into doing anything.

            “No matter what I decide to do, going there is not something I can avoid.” He didn't even know if he wanted to. That night… that night had shaken him, and he was not used to being shaken. Even after all this time spent with her – he was not used to it. Amon stood, and his hair veiled his eyes as he strode towards the door.

            Finally, Master looked up, his mouth a tight line. “Amon.”

            The younger man stopped, but did not turn, waiting for him to continue.

            He did not have long to wait. “Wind… can feed a flame, or extinguish it. You need to remember that.” He saw the new Witch stiffen, but other than that, there was no visible reaction.

            “I know that too well.”

            With that last statement, he was gone.


            The room wasn't quite as bright anymore. Afternoon was growing older; the once garish beams of light had become dimmer, not as glaring. Robin remained staring at the wall, as she had most of the day. Karasuma and Doujima had tried to talk with her, but her brief responses and clear unwillingness to discuss anything at hand had driven them off several times.

            She couldn't discuss anything with them, not yet. There was only one person who deserved to know such things, and he was not there. She did not even know what he would do if he was. Although… even though she knew, what his intent might be – for some strange, unknown reason, she was not afraid. She felt almost resigned. Her move had been made – it was his turn. If only she could tell what it would be…

            Would he kill her? She didn't know, and it seemed to be too much effort to think about. He would do what he felt necessary, he always did. She was in no condition to do anything about it. He would have to let her apologize; first, she would have to do that…

            Robin had overheard the two other women talking while they thought she was asleep. They had spoken of Amon's power… his wind, his manipulation of the air. So, he had awoken, he had become what he had opposed for so long. She wasn't really surprised by what it was, now that she knew. It wasn't something she would have guessed before, but now… it made sense. Why he could go places with people not noticing. Why he could blend into crowds, people's eyes seeming to glide over him, through him, not really registering his presence. And what she had felt, before the darkness… after piecing together what she had been told about him seeing her there – it had to have been him. A wind like that was not natural. She wondered if maybe Amon was worrying about his control over the power the way he had worried over hers.

            Robin rolled over and faced the other wall, ignoring the sharp pain of pulled injuries. She deserved to feel them, she had been stupid. It would have been very easy for her to have been killed there. A small creak indicated the opened door. She could not hear anyone come in, but she assumed it was the others checking in on her again. “I'm fine,” she said softly. “I don't need anything.”

            When she received no response, her head lifted a little to look back over her shoulder, and she saw Amon, standing by the wall, quietly watching her. She felt no panic, no fear, and no dread. Only a calm acceptance. She moved to roll completely onto her back so that she could face him. To talk with him… that had been what she had wanted, wasn't it? “I am sorry. You must hate me now.”

            His face held no expression, but his eyes held something undecipherable… something that almost broke her out of her stoic state. She did not want to be broken out – in this state, she felt no fear, no anger, no guilt. No sadness. She did not want to be sad. “I… did what you said not to, because I felt it was my duty to do so. I thought I could handle it, I was wrong. Because of it… I used too much power.” He knew all that. Why was she telling him?

            Because he deserves to hear it from me. He deserves that much.

“I am… sorry. Whatever you intend to do, I wanted you to know that.”
            Robin closed her glimmering eyes and waited, waited for him to say something, to do something. When nothing happened she opened them again, seeing that he had not moved from his position. His head was bent slightly, allowing his long hair to cover more of his face.


            Perhaps it was hearing his name from her that changed him. She would never know, and neither would he. All they both knew was that in that moment, their gazes had locked, and she found in his eyes no menace, no hatred. Anger, hurt, things she would not have been able to get from him before. But… nothing that would have driven him to harm her. Ever.

            With a few, easy long strides, he reached the bed, and lifted her as easily as he had the night in the alley. Her mouth worked in shock, but he simply settled back against the metal end of the bed and pulled her against him. His warmth quickly filled her cold skin, and the gashes under the bandages seemed to lessen their aching. He did nothing but hold her there, head bowed so she could not see his expression. Where his hands rested against her arm, his tense fingers left small imprints, enough to convey a sort of desperation, a break in the perfectly built mask he had survived under for so long. A hunter, fallen to his own hounds.

            Guilt surged through Robin.

His world had fallen down, and it was her fault.

            She was unable to deny the comfort his returned presence brought her, and she slowly tried to bring her arms up, but found her injuries didn't allow her to do so, so she settled with resting them between them, against his chest. “I'm sorry, Amon, I -”

            “Be quiet. ” His voice was unlike she had heard it before, and never was she able to describe it, even to herself. It was, however, an undeniable command, and it being the first thing he had said in response to her shattered the numb state she had been in. To her pure horror, she began to cry, and the tears would not stop… tears of guilt, and pain, anger at herself and at her destiny. She cried for him, because he could not. His control had broken, but it would take a long time yet for him to be able to shed tears. Robin was young, she still could, and she gave up trying to stop it. Amon held her, unmoving, a solid, constant presence, letting her tears soak the dark material of his shirt. His command held, and for the rest of that time, Robin did not speak a word. They remained motionless, simply being healed through their renewed connection. It was one that they did not seem to be able to break – whether they wished it or not. They, too, were stuck. Stuck in a destiny that did not allow them much peace, but for that time, at least, they found some in the silence.

“Piece by piece, and bit by bit
I'll break this down for you, real slow
But I can't whisper all of this
and I can't seem to let this go

So I'll watch the matches, turn to ashes
I'll watch the matches, turn to ashes

I can tell its your turn, I smell the sulfur so clear
and fire's a beautiful sound
and the wings that you burn turn to ashes my dear
and ashes just fall to the ground
Yeah, we're only ashes

Part and part and inch by inch
You'll have your mile when it's through
Incinerate what's left of this
and torch the part of me that's you

So I'll watch the matches, turn to ashes

I can tell it's your turn, I smell the sulfur so clear
and fire's a beautiful sound
and the wings that you burn turn to ashes my dear
and ashes just fall to the ground
Yeah we're only ashes

I can tell it's your turn, I smell the sulfur so clear
and fire's a beautiful sound
and the wings that you burn turn to ashes my dear
and ashes just fall to the ground
Yeah we're only ashes….”

- Something Corporate, “Only Ashes”