A/N: I know, I know, you don’t need to tell me! I’m a horrible, horrible person for waiting this long to update. I’m sorry, but there were a few things I had to take care of, such as graduating, working 8 hours a day, life issues, general not fun stuff. (I can assure you I’d much rather write about our beloved Robin-chan than be at my job. Not my choice!) Not to mention Harry Potter sort of took over my fandom life and distracted me. (H/Hr fan pride! I know, I’m in the minority. Shaddup. ) But anyway, I’m back, with more Robin.
This is really a filler-ish chapter. Robin needs time to recuperate before more stuff starts up .
A Handful of Dust
Part 8: Existence
“Datta: What have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed.”
- T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”
Robin lay without opening her eyes for a moment, before quietly responding. “Good morning.”
Miho smiled and leaned down to her friend. The fragile girl looked much better, her skin warm to the touch and her hair seeming to regain it’s brilliant, unique color. They had been worried the first few days, for she had looked so washed out, so faded. With her recovery, her spirit seemed to return, which reassured everyone around her. The members of the STNJ had visited often as a matter of course – there was usually one of them there at the hospital. They all claimed it was for moral support; but quick glances and hesitations gave away that they were worried. They did not want to leave her alone, not when she was a target. Even if it was the hospital, and supposedly safe.
They knew she wasn’t fooled. But they kept up the façade, finding in it a security that seemed to be necessary to comprehend what might lie ahead of them. It was all “might”, for no one knew. That was the hardest part – not knowing what consequences were in store for them. They had nothing to prepare for, to harden themselves against. It was a waiting game.
It had been somewhat of a surprise when Miho had walked through the hallway to Robin’s room several weeks before, and had passed by Amon, who was leaving. None of them had expected him to come to the hospital. After his powers had developed, they had figured he would hide – go anywhere except to his “ward”. She would now represent another dilemma for him. He was supposed to keep her power from getting out of control, and now he had his own. It had been thought that he would leave, unable to do what he had claimed. After that day, however, the slightly panicked look in Robin’s eyes had vanished. Miho did not know what the connection between them was, or what sort of effect. But it did something.
Something had changed between them. He was not leaving. In fact, whenever one of them ran into him, he behaved as if his being a Witch had never been revealed. As if he was the same hunter that had disappeared a year and a half ago. This was why they knew that something had indeed changed. If it hadn’t, he wouldn’t be trying so hard to show otherwise.
The older woman’s attention snapped back when Robin opened her eyes, looking back up at her. She motioned to the tray sitting by the bed. “Are you hungry? I brought you some breakfast.”
“Ah!” Robin gingerly stretched and then pushed herself into a sitting position, managing not to wince. Her wounds were almost healed, but they did twinge now and again when she made sudden movements. “Arigatou, Karasuma. You… don’t always have to be here, I’m okay by myself.”
Miho did not miss the flicker of jade eyes as she made that statement, and kept speaking, knowing Robin would notice if she tried to cover up. “Yurika said she’d drop by this afternoon – you remember what day it is tomorrow, right?”
The pale girl had been about to take a sip of the tea, but lowered the cup at that comment. She turned, blinking. “Day?”
A small chuckle greeted this response. “Has all this sleep made you forgetful? You leave the hospital tomorrow! The doctors have cleared your release.” You have to leave the security here. We have to take you back, but no matter where you are, we will not be able to guarantee that you are safe. She was unable to keep her cheerful tone, but she hoped her friend hadn’t noticed.
She had. “Karasuma, am I going to-”
“Raven’s Flat? Yes. For now. Everyone’s there, after all, it’s best if we don’t have to all gather somewhere else.”
Robin sighed, her food untouched. “I know I’m in danger. You don’t have to keep pretending that this is normal.”
“Sometimes it’s easier to pretend.”
Silence followed those words, and Miho gestured to the food, indicating for her to eat. Robin did so, at a loss of anything else to do. With her mouth half full of bread, she continued to question. “Am I being picked up?”
“No, we’re sending a taxi. None of us can go with you in the taxi, so that as few people as possible are made aware of your connections to the STN. We will be following in another car.” Just in case.
Robin paused. “We?”
“Amon and I.”
The weather was still sunny the next day, and Robin raised a hand to shade her eyes as she stepped out of the hospital, assisted by one of the nurses. She really didn’t need the help, but couldn’t summon the energy to ask them to leave her be. It was probably best – she hadn’t been walking for a long time, and she did feel lightheaded. Doujima had needed to help her that morning, for when she got up she was hit with a wave of nausea – which was to be expected for someone who had been confined to a bed. Robin hid a grimace at the memory of her healing; the pain had gotten worse before it got better, and in the beginning she had needed to be almost unconscious with painkillers in order for the bandages to be changed. Whatever was ahead of them, she was glad that part was over.
She turned, half-heartedly looking for the car Miho and Amon would be using, knowing she wouldn’t see it until she actually got to Raven’s Flat. It would be strange going there again – the last time she had been there, had been when Juliano had some to tell her about her origins. She shook off her memories abruptly as the taxi drove up – one of the same green ones that went around the whole city.
The nurse opened the door, and Robin slipped inside, grateful to be away from “helping hands”. It was clear the driver already knew her destination, for he started off without saying a word to her. She didn’t really mind – it wasn’t as though she had a penchant for conversation, either. The silence was perfectly fine as far as she was concerned.
However, when she wasn’t talking, her mind sank back into her thoughts. They had been strange, even to her, and she had dealt with many strange times in her life. After the night when she had fallen asleep crying in Amon’s arms – even that sounded surreal, and her mind did a double-take every time she thought back to it – she had awoken to find him gone. It wasn’t unexpected, but it did sadden her a little. She hadn’t needed to worry, however, because he visited regularly afterwards. They never talked about the attack, or the time immediately after. It wasn’t awkward, not really. They had spent a year and a half without bringing up the subject of the STN… avoiding subjects was not new to them. They didn’t talk much, but that wasn’t new, either. What she was glad about was that the comfortable connection between them had not changed. They still responded automatically to each other’s actions and comments. He did not treat her differently after her display of power, and she did the same about his becoming a witch.
After all – at first, she had assumed he was one. Perhaps that assumption had just never gone away, and the proof had just decided to manifest itself. He had always been strong enough to be a witch, even without power.
One thing that was different was he now touched her more often than he had, sometimes laying a hand on her shoulder or arm, or lifting her chin with a finger to study her face – looking for signs of discomfort. If he found any, a doctor appeared soon after, much to her bewilderment. It didn’t feel odd, because she was so used to him. He just hadn’t needed the contact so much before.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t even realize when they had arrived, and only looked up with the driver coughed meaningfully. “Oh! Gomen…” She opened the door and stepped out carefully, ending up looking at the building, standing in front of the gates. It felt much like it did the first day she stood there, on a mission from the headquarters, never imagining what was in store for her. Perhaps it wasn’t that different now – she did have no idea what was ahead.
“Robin-san!” The gate guard hurried out from the doorway, but was quickly passed by another figure.
“Oy, Robin!” Sakaki stopped in front of the gate, grinning widely. He opened it and she walked in, returning his smile. “You feeling better?”
“Good. Come inside. Amon and Karasuma are coming in from the garage entrance.”
She nodded, and followed him inside, moving more slowly than he was in order to readjust herself to her surroundings.
“Did you eat?”
“I had breakfast at the hospital.”
Sakaki pulled a face. “Then you didn’t really eat. Oh well, I’m sure Michael will probably have something.”
If he changed his eating habits. From what she remembered, what the hacker had to eat was usually a bag of chips and a soda. Not that she was complaining – Sakaki was right, chips and soda were a sight better than the hospital fare.
They entered the main room and Michael looked up, removing his earphones. “Hi!” She smiled warmly back at her oldest friend from the team and took her seat opposite him. Her eyes appraised the computer equipment he had in front of him. More wires? I didn’t know he could attach any more!
He noticed where she was looking and grinned. “I now have an even better security net. Yep, I made this system much harder to crack.”
“Oh yes, rain praise upon him.” Sakaki rolled his eyes and sat down. At that moment, Miho, Amon, and Doujima entered the room, the latter two having an easy conversation, Amon following behind like some sort of apparition. He moved to stand near her, and Miho took a chair. Doujima raised one eyebrow at Amon as she passed him, and stayed standing.
It wasn’t really noticeable, but the way the team reacted to Amon was a little different. Not much, but they didn’t meet his eyes as often, and dropped a conversation when he started to speak. Even after this time, they didn’t seem quite used to the idea of his power.
“Where am I going to stay?” She asked, looking around, feeling quite like she had just experienced a displacement of time.
“Well, for now, here.” Doujima was the one to reply. “We found a room and fixed it up for you. Do you have any idea how many rooms are in the place? I mean, I never really thought about it, but it’s really quite a large building – many of the rooms aren’t even used!”
Robin was slightly taken aback. “I’m going to live here?”
“We don’t know for how long, Robin.” Miho spoke quietly. “But right now it seems best. Amon’s staying here, too. We can hide you better here.”
Hide us? But this is the first place they’d look for us… She caught Amon’s eye, and understood immediately. No, it was not the first place. They didn’t know yet if headquarters was aware that they had contacted the STNJ. Maybe they thought that she was just running around by herself. They wouldn’t have even known that she had been injured, if she had destroyed all the hunters they had sent at the time.
And Amon was staying there as well? That was strange; it seemed almost like caging him. He shifted so that his arm touched her shoulder, and she knew that somehow he’d continue to keep searching for information, regardless of restraints.
We’re going to live in a place that’s a part of what we are trying to destroy. Wonderful.
Her mood seemed to catch on, and soon everyone was turning to watch her. Sakaki spoke. “We don’t know what you’re planning to do, Robin. What is it?”
She looked around at them. They deserved a truthful answer from her, if anyone did. Amon remained silent, and she steadfastly kept from glancing back at him. Did she even have any answers to offer them?
“I don’t honestly know. I.. hoped you could help me figure that out.”