DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 55: Cafeteria
YOU ARE SO STUPID IT'S PAINFUL
mustbethesuit wrote in damned


A night spent inside his room had done nothing to ease his jitters. Peter couldn't stop worrying. Over Brainy, what he thought of him now that he knew about what he'd done to Grell, and where he was going for the night. If he'd be safe. If Indy and the others would be safe, trucking on down to the basement. (Not frigging likely, considering 'basement' was synonymous for 'giant ass doom pit'.) If that ominous intercom announcement had meant anything. Peter had spent hours staring into the dark after that, his stomach churning his supper into butter over the horrific possibilities. Whatever punishment that arose for the food fight was a mystery. It didn't seem to infect him, unless it was a particularly trying case of insomnia. No matter how badly Peter tried, he couldn't find the will to sleep. Much of the night had been spent making notations and doodles in his journal by flashlight, peppered with long stretches of staring at the dark.

Honestly, he'd rather be taking another crack at the Hall of Hallucinations instead of rolling around in his bed. Paranoia was his only company the whole night.

Morning felt like a blessing by the time it came. He wasn't sure when sleep had finally overtaken him, but as he blinked his way into life he couldn't help feeling a bit...off.

It was really quiet. Peter's face scrunched under the light, and he stretched underneath the covers. There was a zip of cotton on cotton, and his shirt half dragged itself out from under the belt.

His eyes shot open. Belt? The covers flipped back, and Peter gaped down at his form on the bed. ...Belt?!

What the frigging hell was this? Peter jolted to his feet, patting himself down. He looked like some kind of air cadet. There were freaking epaulettes on his shoulders (was that even what they were called?), boots on his feet and a beret on the dresser. A single pin was nestled into the front, looking freshly polished as it glinted in the light. Peter snatched the hat up and stared. Two letters were inscribed on the pin. Nothing more, nothing less.

"SC..."

Special Counseling? Peter's expression took a turn for the frantic. What else could it stand for? He tried to run through a few candidates, but nothing stuck. Nothing applied so neatly without being ridiculous, because it clearly didn't stand for Super Cuckoo or Spider Cadet. Was he supposed to wear this like some stupid badge of honour? God, just brand it across his forehead, why don't you? My name is Peter Parker and I totally snapped a guy's arm for Mother Landel's. Hail the Smiley!

Peter pressed the beret against his face and groaned into the fabric. This was it. They weren't playing games anymore. They were finally turning this into death match boot camp and sending them off to war. Shit. Shit he was going to be in the frigging army in some messed up alternate universe, and he didn't even know what the frick they were fighting against or why they were fighting. If they were pulling magical whatsits out of every book and TV show known to man, then who knew what wacky threat they were up against. Aliens? If it was aliens, he was quitting. He was going to curl up on the ground hugging a grenade and pull the pin. Just no. No. This was not happening. This could not be frigging happening.

Except that it was. The person who whipped open the door that morning wasn't the affably sour Nurse Rachel, but a hulking, thickly built man who looked like he consumed a toddler a meal solely to fuel his pecs. Peter couldn't even find the breath to argue as he was told to tuck in his shirt and put on his boots and come to the cafeteria. He left just as another soldier brushed past them to collect Brainy, and Peter abruptly realized that in his confusion he'd forgotten to check if the boy was okay.

Too late for that now. Peter tried to match pace with the burly man, fumbling to put his snazzy new beret on and watching with wary eyes as other patients were dragged by. Things seemed even bleaker as they hit the cafeteria. The buffet was empty. The scent of food was lacking. Soldiers packed along the borders of the room so neatly you would think they were part of a particularly tacky wall paper. And worst of all? Buckets. Mops and rags and brooms, all piled in the center of the room.

The lady officer's speech was entirely unnecessary at that point. Peter withered where he stood as she told them their duty. It was like a scolding from Aunt May, if someone gave her a gun and a license to use it. Except the joke only made things worse - now he just wanted his Aunt. The force of his loneliness bowled him over like a wrecking ball. He might never see Aunt May again. Peter's gaze fell to the floor and he clenched his fists.

Was this it? Was his life really over? Escape never seemed so far away.

There was no protest from him as they were sent to work. Ashen and queasy, Peter stumbled towards the cleaning supplies and selected a bucket and a rag. He couldn't even bemoan his lack of breakfast. His nerves were making it impossible to even think about food.

They needed to get out tonight. Everyone. Somehow...

[Lion!]

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Claire woke as if she had never slept before. The light startled her into life, twitching under the covers and launching herself half upright before, sleep itself coming as such a surprise that she could hardly understand the change. What caused it, how it happened. If a dream had woken her, she had no recollection of it.

Neither did she have recollection of the night before. Last she could recall, she was talking with Grell in the sun room. She couldn't remember lunch, or anything after.

Yet even that perturbing thought took a backseat the instant she realized what she was wearing. Namely, the military uniform.

Claire shot out of bed with no sense of grace. Her foot had tangled in the sheets, leaving her grappling at the dresser with her first step. It rattled against the wall and the floor as she worked herself free. The noise would have woken her roommate.

Had she been there at all.

Across the room from her was an empty bed, sheets tucked, pillows fluffed, and looking for all the world as smooth and neat as a freshly cut slice of cake. There was not a chance in the world that anyone had touched that bed in the last few hours, let alone slept in it.

What was going on? Claire's brows contorted, anger and panic at war for her expression. That idiot would hardly be missed, but her disappearance was unnerving all the same. What had happened to her? What was the point of all this? Had she gotten whisked off again to a different place? Because this was definitely her room. All the same furniture. But this uniform...

Marching down the hall. Measured clapping of footsteps, paces perfectly matched. The doorknob twisted, and there was a soldier at the door.

Claire's eyes widened. The military. They were here yesterday, that's right. So now...now they were in the army?

"Miss Greene, put on your cap and come with me."

"What?" She stared doe eyed at him, head slowly swaying back and forth in denial. "No. What happened? Isn't this a hospital anymore?"

"Miss Greene, now." There was no room for argument in his voice. Claire pushed forward anyway.

"No. No, you have to answer my questions. You're gonna tell me what's going on right now."

He frowned at her. "Miss Greene, I am not asking you a third time. This is an order. Either you cooperate, or privileges will be revoked."

"Privileges?!" she spat. "What privileges! You kidnapped me - you're kidnapping children and you're setting monsters on them!"

The soldier did not answer. He advanced. Claire scrambled back against the dresser, fingernails scraping against the wood. He stopped in his tracks, an almost pitiful look crossing his face. "Miss Greene. Please."

Her knife, her ax. Both in the closet, and the closet was behind him. She could not take on a man like this unarmed. Not even if he wasn't carrying a rifle. She eyed the weapon with desperation. He might snap her in two if she tried to reach for it.

Teeth were gritted and eyes grew wet, but Claire turned her gaze and nodded. The soldier reached behind her and snatched up a black cap, pressing it into her hands before beckoning her for one last time. She stared at the thing bitterly. I'm not a part of this. Claire thrust it on her head. You can't keep me here.

She shuffled into the hallway after him, only hurrying once the soldier barked at her to keep up. Anger bubbled, but she followed. Movement only jarred the thing on her neck - another surprise this morning. Claire yanked it out a metal chain from her shirt as they made their way forward, glaring at the set of dog tags and the inscription pressed into the metal. A name, 'Charlotte Greene'. Obviously her fake one, if she was to take the hint about it. A nonsense line declaring the words 'Class D', and a number. 15162342.

Somehow, she got the feeling she had just been branded.

Her mood only worsened as she was thrust into the cafeteria. The scent and sight of food did not greet her. Only more soldiers, and a collection of cleaning supplies. Claire wanted to scream. Instead, she turned on her guide for the day.

"What is this? Where's the food?"

"Keep quiet and join the rest."

"But-"

There were no buts to be had. She was deposited like a spoiled toddler in the midst of the other patients, and summarily chewed out by a severe woman with an air of authority. They were not to be fed, and instead would clean the cafeteria until their lessons was learned. Claire stiffened, moaning to herself in some daft hope that denial would clear her name. "But I didn't do it. It wasn't me. I didn't do it."

Yet only moments later, she was armed with a dust mob and rubbing the floor free of lint. She cast savage glares at those who were made to stand. They were the ones who started it. They should be the ones cleaning.

This wasn't fair.

[Roxas!!]

The Nobody shouldn't have been surprised that he'd never been able to find and help his roommate. After all, he'd been here - what, ten days? What had he even accomplished here? Just when he thought he had escaped from the Organization, he had been kidnapped or whatever and kept here like a prisoner. This was just a replacement Organization, except he didn't even have the freedom of being treated like a trusted tool. Now he was just an experiment.

Every day made it harder to remain complacent with the institute. First they'd taken away Axel - there was no doubt in Roxas's mind now that his best friend was gone, having left him behind again, as much as he had wanted it to be a lie - and now he had seen first-hand how the people here could just grab any body they wanted and make them do things they didn't want to do.

At least in the Organization, the Nobodies had been there for a reason. They had been all trying to get something they wanted, something they didn't remember ever having.

Roxas plucked at the tight new clothes he was wearing, already missing the smooth leather of his coat. He didn't really care what kind of clothes they made him wear, anyway. When his door opened to reveal one of the uptight men from yesterday, he realized he kind of missed his nurse. She had never really done anything mean to him; this man, however, was gruff and straight to the point. Kind of like Saïx had been.

He put on the hat after the soldier gruffly ordered it, trying to settle it comfortably on his hair. "Is this right?"

If it wasn't, the soldier didn't mention it.

After they arrived in the cafeteria after a very quiet walk, Roxas realized there weren't any food smells wafting out of the doors. All of the lines were empty, and patients dressed just like him were scrubbing the walls, the windows, the floors

"There's no breakfast?" He couldn't help but sound like a petulant child, his brows turning down as his lower lip stuck out the tiniest bit.

His answer, once again, was silent, in the form of a bucket of soapy water and half of a sponge thrust at his chest. Okay, he could get the point.

Depositing himself next to an older girl (why did he always seem to get stuck with girls? Not that there was anything wrong with them, he just... it was weird. After that talk with Jim, it was like he didn't know what to say around them anymore!) He caught one of her glares out of the corner of his eye and turned cold. She looked... really mad. Not that he couldn't blame her (uck, who would want to clean anyway?) but it was kind of worrying.

"Um... are you okay? Do you want some help?"

Claire's grip on the mop grew dangerously tight. Nearly to a point of strangulation, had the thing been alive. She eyed one of the standing patients. Big surprise, it was that giant Snow. He hadn't struck her as particularly bright on the first impression, and it was only worsened by seeing him up there with neither mop nor sponge.

Idiot. She narrowed her eyes. What were you trying to do? Get us all...

A voice broke into her thoughts. Claire's head jerked to the side. She had been joined by a young boy. Blue eyes, wild blond hair. Her heart jolted for a moment and she thought of Aaron.

No, that was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. Even if Aaron wasn't only three, he would not be here. Hair and eye colour aside, this boy looked nothing like either herself or Thomas. What she could remember of Thomas, anyway.

"...I'm not okay," she murmured darkly. Even so, her expression softened and the glare was dropped. He looked confused, bucket and sponge in hand and staring at her with worried eyes. In the end, Claire just didn't have the heart to snap at him. "I didn't do anything, and you didn't do anything, but we're still cleaning up their-" she thrust her head at the observers milling nearby, "-mess. It's not fair."

The mop traced a zigzag on the floor. Back and forth, catching dust and hair and crumbs and leaving a purified trail in its wake. Claire kept her eyes on the floor, but ignoring the boy was not an option. He seemed so sad. Far too young to be here, though he wasn't the youngest she'd met yet. That would be Goku and Rika, the latter of which had already left.

Yet another thing to take care of. She'd missed lunch, hadn't she? She'd have to catch that mystery man on the bulletin again. He had known Rika, after all.

"What's your name?" She chanced a glance up at him, face cleared of all anger. "Are you here alone?"

It wasn't the answer he had really been expecting; even if Roxas's small amount of experience, people usually just said they were okay even if they obviously weren't. He felt like he probably should have moved away from her if she was in a bad mood, but now he thought maybe he should stay and keep her company.

"Yeah, it's stupid," he agreed, getting that annoyed look on his face again. He hadn't even been awake for this supposed food fight, so how could he be a part of it? Actually, he hadn't even known what was going on for the longest time... and someone had had to explain the concept of a food fight in the first place. And why did some patients get to stand on the side and just watch? Why weren't they helping?

Either way, he didn't want to get in trouble and get hit with that weird gas thing he'd heard about. The Nobody dropped his bucket to the ground and sat down next to it, looking up to answer her question. It was nice that someone had asked his name for once instead of him having to offer it. He'd noticed he usually had to do that. She didn't look too angry anymore, either. "I'm Roxas." The second question threw him for a loop for a minute - what did she mean alone? He didn't have Axel anymore, but Sora was his friend and he was here, right?

"Alone? Um..." The Nobody tilted his head to the side at just the right angle for the hat to slide off his hair and right into the bucket of soapy water, splashing him in the face. He immediately sputtered, digging through the water for the hat.

"Aw, no! My hat!" Great, now he was going to get yelled at or something for getting it all wet. It came out soaking, covered with soap bubbles, and looking altogether like a drowned rat.

He seemed kind of sweet. Clueless, though, like she'd first thought. Or maybe he was just unsettled by all this. She could understand that. Either way, he wasn't half so angry about it as most of the other patients were, least of all Claire herself. It drove her into a calm place. Claire let the anger trickle out of her, soothing herself to a conversational mood. She wanted to talk to him. Talking was easier than wallowing in misery and being bitter.

Besides which, she was still unarmed in a room full of gun toting soldiers. It was a better idea to lay low than get riled up when you were so severely outmatched. She could try making up for it come dusk.

One of these days, she was bound to catch the day staff at night.

Roxas was another strange name. Her brows came together for a moment, but soon it passed. Again, at least it wasn't 'Snow'. Plus it was something she could pronounce. "Claire," she offered back. For the first time that morning she allowed a smile to creep into her lips. "You're too young to be here, Roxas. You don't deserve this."

Before he could answer her second question, tragedy struck. The boy's hat fell into his bucket with a wet plop, a stray splash catching him by the cheek. Claire frowned and joined him on the floor, dropping the broom to the side.

"Here," she said gently, taking the sodden beret from his hands. She wrung it out firmly over the bucket, then placed it over her knee. There was no chance he'd be able to wear it until the afternoon. Sooner, if the soldiers had enough heart to put it in the laundry. (Still a bizarre concept to Claire, who now had to force herself to remember that she didn't always have to air dry her clothes.) So instead, she pulled the cap off her own head and placed it on Roxas', tugging it into a position where it would hopefully stay put. She smoothed it out fondly before paying his cheek attention, gingerly holding him by the chin as she wiped the soapy water off with her sleeve. When she was done, she smiled at him. There was warmth in it this time.

"There. Better?"

She didn't wait for an answer, rising to her feet with the mop in hand and tucking his wet hat into her shirt pocket. She could feel the soldiers eying them from the sides.

The Nobody wasn't sure what she meant by "too young". Maybe it was because there weren't a lot of kids here? Not that he was exactly the same age as anyone else here, considering he was only a year old (or so Xemnas told him. No one really cared about his real age and he still to this day didn't remember the first few weeks of his "existence") but still. There were people like Sora and Goku here, and Goku looked a lot smaller than Roxas did.

Not that any of that mattered with his stupid hat all wet and gross. He wasn't really looking forward to wearing it wet, but that soldier guy had seemed to be pretty set on everyone wearing one, so -

He let Claire take the hat, only beginning his question of "What are you -" before cutting off when she put her own on his head, settling it among his ridiculous head of hair. It was a little bigger than his own had been, so it sat more firmly on his hair. She wasn't done there, though; Roxas felt his cheeks go warm when she wiped his face. It struck him that he was embarrassed by the gesture at the same time that it reminded him of someone. But who? Larxene - the only girl he'd been around a lot - sure hadn't helped him like this (or at all). Whoever it was, they must have been a good person because Roxas didn't mind the gesture.

Maybe he didn't need to rely on Jim's advice so much. He seemed to be doing okay with girls like Ruby and now Claire, right? Actually, now that he thought about it, it seemed kind of weird to have this separate set of rules for talking to them...

"Thanks, Claire!" he said, returning her smile with one of his own. "But wait, what if you get in trouble for trading the hats or something?" If she was this nice, she didn't deserve that for something so dumb on his side.

He didn't fuss at the attention. A good sign. Claire felt the last of her foul mood roll away with the force his smile. They weren't in any less danger than before, she was well aware of that. But Roxas was such a sweet boy. Rather nice to be around. A lot of kids his age acted like idiots, talking back and whatnot.

She had been like that herself, once. When she was as young as he was. Dressed in dark clothes and listening to blaring music, arguing with her mother every day. Claire never regretted it more than now, and not just because of what had happened to her mum. Knowing how she had turned on her only parent, it made her wonder if Aaron might do the same one day. Every teenager she knew had some sort of family issue. Realistically, she knew that it was impossible for every kid to act the way she did, but meeting boys like Roxas helped reassure her there was still hope.

Her gaze flicked over his hair again. Hers was close to that colour. She wondered if Aaron would look much like him, once he grew up.

"I don't care. If they want to yell at me for not wearing a hat, I'll make them wear yours." She patted playfully at the pocket. Slowly, a damp patch was leaking into her shirt from the crumpled beret. Claire paid it no mind. "Honestly, the hats should be their last worry." Another surreptitious glance was paid to the soldiers. Then she resumed her work. It was a much more jubilant pace than what she'd been going at before.

"So, you never answered my question. Are you here with your friends? Do you have anybody keeping you safe at night?"

If the answer was no, it was only right to offer herself. And he'd probably get along with Goku. Roxas was a bit older than the little boy, but they were still both kids. Good kids, too. It would be best if she could keep an eye on both of them as well as she could.

He wasn't exactly sure that was the best idea, but he was pretty sure Claire was just joking so he didn't say anything about it. When she went back to her cleaning, he did the same, scrubbing at the floor with the sponge with renewed concentration. Even when he bent over, the hat stayed firmly on his head. He was still careful near the bucket, though. It would make him look really ridiculous if he managed to drop both of them.

Roxas looked up from the particularly crusted spot of... something gross and yellow at her question, his brows folded together in obvious confusion. It was a weird question, one he hadn't been asked before.

"I don't need anyone to keep me safe," he said as if it were an obvious fact. He might not have had the best luck with the giant ape thing, but he didn't honestly know who wouldn't. "But I have a friend here." Sora was his friend, right? It always felt kind of weird to call him that, but - right. They weren't the same person. Xemnas, the whole Organization... they had been wrong. His lips pulled down. "My best friend was here earlier, but I think he's gone now. I haven't seen him in days."

The bigger cap seemed to work much better. It stretched just that much more to catch his wild hair and stay put. "See? That one fits much better," she said, smugness in her smile. "If they try to take it from you, tell them to get you the same size. Yours was too small."

Though it wasn't long before her little patch was dust free, she didn't feel like straying too far from Roxas just yet. Instead, she began to work her way in a circle around him as slowly as she could manage. She would move on when he did.

Claire didn't quite believe that he would be fine on his own. He wasn't a baby, true, but he was still young. The thought of him wandering around alone made her uncomfortable. It shouldn't be like that. Where were these children's parents? Why wasn't anyone else trying to take care of them here? She pursed her lips, but forced the worry from her face when he mentioned a friend.

"That's good to hear. Is he your age?" Claire's eyes drifted over the rest of the cafeteria, singling out the boys from the men and the girls from the women. Her heart panged, and again she thought of Aaron. Was he in a place like this, now that Kate was gone? Had she given him to one of her friends? "It's just so sad that there's so many kids here. I get worried."

And not without reason. Her voice went quiet as her mood turned solemn. "There was a little girl here a few days ago. Rika. She was about ten years old. She's gone now, and no one knows what's happened to her."

Would she be saying that about Goku next? Or Roxas, or Bella? Her chest panged. The idea was so ugly, but it could happen any day. Any time. Unless she kept them in her sight at all times, they could slip away so easily. And she'd be none the wiser.

Roxas moved a little with Claire to scrub the floor, sliding across it to work on a new spot with his sponge. "I don't know what happened to my best friend either," he said, unable to withhold the heavy, sad sigh that slipped out of him. He missed Axel. A lot. And he didn't know if he would ever see his friend again. He didn't know if Axel had given in to those weird lies in order to get out, or if he was hurt or -

He didn't want to think about it. Axel... couldn't be like that. But it hurt even worse to think that Axel left without him.

As for the other question, he thought about it honestly. "Sora's a little older than me, actually." About 15 years older, in fact. Or 14? He didn't really know that much about his Other when he thought about it. He needed to figure these sort of things out whenever he could find Sora next, when it wasn't night and he wasn't surrounded by his other friends. "I'm sorry Rika is gone. It really hurts to see everyone changing and disappearing all the time."

Did you want to end it in a round or two? I'm kind of drowning in backthreads already aslkdjasd

"Your best friend?" Claire paused, gnawing at her bottom lip. "I'm sorry, Roxas. That's terrible."

Whoever the boy's friend was, he was probably around the same age. It broke her heart to think about it. It made sense that the kids seemed to be disappearing faster than the adults, but thinking about it that way was just too cruel. Claire flattened, her mouth back to the thin, hard line of before. This place was insane. It was a slaughterhouse.

The name Sora was something she thought she'd heard before. Maybe because it sounded like it could be English? Regardless, she was happy to hear that Roxas had anyone he could depend on here. "That's nice. Did you know him before you came here? I know some people came in groups."

All she could do in regards to Rika was nod and keep her eyes down. She pushed resolutely at the ground with the mop, unaware that she'd been scrubbing the same area eight times over. "It does," she answered quietly. "It makes you wonder what happened to them when they left. If they ever left at all."

She wanted to believe Rika was still alive. Knowing this place and that she'd given Claire her only weapon - the kitchen knife - it was hard to keep that hope up.

yes because I am dying rn. I hope you don't mind if I end it here.

"It's okay," he said, trying to shrug it off. At least his face stayed stoically disinterested. That was good, right? Even if the thought of Axel made his chest clench, there wasn't anything he could do about it now. He wanted to be like Claire and believe he would see his friend again. The Nobody focused on the floor now, scooting his body over to start on a new spot. This was crummy work, and his arms were starting to hurt again just like when he'd used the Keyblade and it had sucked the energy from him...

Did you know him? Uh. That's kind of an understatement...

"Kind of, I guess. I never talked to him before we got here, but I knew about him." That was about as accurate as he could admit to without getting really weird. Even if Roxas didn't care about the whole Nobody thing anymore, he doubted it'd be easy to explain and even if he did someone might thing he was kind of crazy or something. "Sora's sort of -"

He was cut off by an abrupt whistle that made him snap his head up from the floor. The commanding woman of the group (at least from what Roxas could see) had moved back to the center of the room to demand attention, announcing the cleaning was finally over.

Finally.

Roxas quickly turned to Claire as he saw his escort approaching him. "I'll see you later, okay? Try not to worry too much."

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