DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 57: Waiting Room/Lobby 1 (Fourth Shift)
i need to know, deep breaths
hairraising wrote in damned
Since her talk with Soma in the morning, Rapunzel had been afraid this moment might come. Even as she distracted herself with other things, there was a tightness knotting up inside her stomach. Even as she assured herself that she would be prepared if it happened, the feeling wouldn't pass. And now, she felt a firm hand on her shoulder, and the word "visitor" passed from the lips of a disguised soldier to her ear. She hadn't thought that knot could get any tighter, or heavier.

She forced herself to breathe as the soldier led her to a room full of chairs. Okay. You can do this. Just take it like Soma said. Whoever this is, or looks like, or whatever — it's not the end of the world.

She drew a deep breathe in. Let it back out. Then lowered herself into a seat. She was glad for that seat, at least; it made the shaking of her legs harder to see.

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Though he wanted to continue to spend his free time in the cool air of the courtyard, Edgar instead found himself sought out by his "nurse," who ordered him to follow for the fourth shift of the day. At first, he thought he'd receive the usual excuse: something about the weather being too much for him and it was better for his health to come inside. He had to admit that prolonged exposure to the elements probably wasn't best for his recovery- the cold didn't do his throat any favors, but it was nice to stop sweating for a while. Oh, what he wouldn't do for a bath...

However, the soldier gave him a different answer when asked: "Visitor," he hissed shortly, that single word being the closest to a dignified response Edgar had heard from the staff since Aguilar's takeover. Trepidation overcame him- he'd heard whispers about the visitors in the past two weeks, with most of his information coming from the board, and it was all questionably reliable at that. Visitors were said to be friends and family related to their "true" identities, the people the institute believed them to be. That left only one obvious choice for who would be visiting him.

Edgar gritted his teeth as he reached the waiting room and was shown a table. He fully anticipated to be met with his- no, Edward March's brother; at the same time, he had no idea what to expect, aside from a strange conversation with the Sabin look-alike. He leaned into the chair, trying to appear more relaxed than he felt.

This day was one that Saxon had been anticipating with a whole jumble of emotions. He had missed his brother, more than he had ever expected to. Things had been somewhat rough between them before all this, and maybe that was why he was so bothered by what had happened. What if it had been his fault? He realized that was self-centered, but...

To Saxon, Edward had always just been a guy who didn't focus enough on his responsibilities because he was too busy chasing skirts and blowing all of his money. It was his to do what he wanted with, of course, and Saxon had tried not to worry too much about it because at the end of the day they were still brothers and they would be running their shop together until --

Well, until Edward had ended up here. It had just been so unexpected.

Saxon sighed as he waited for the right moment, doing his best to be patient with the nurse who had said she'd give him the go ahead when it was time. He started to wring his hands together, not sure what sort of state his twin would be in at this point or what he would even say to him.

Should he apologize for that fight they'd had recently, even though he hadn't been in the wrong? At this point, he would do or say just about anything to make sure Edward got better.

Finally the nurse nodded to him and Saxon practically forced his way into the room. It took him a second or so of scanning the room, but he spotted his brother, seated in a chair and looking just like he remembered him. "Edward!" He rushed over, a smile reaching his face despite all of his reservations. Right now, it was just good to see him again. They hadn't gone this long without seeing each other in... actually, he couldn't even remember a time.

No amount of preparation could have kept the surprise from Edgar's face as he heard the familiar voice call an unfamiliar name; he felt hints of excitement and anxiety overcome him, even if for only a moment. Ten years apart, and the reunion hadn't felt like this. Then again, that had definitely been Sabin in the mountains: taller, broader, but undoubtedly his twin. This man- Edgar didn't even have a name for him- was not his brother, no matter how incredible the resemblance. It pained Edgar to remind himself of that fact, but it was something he had to do.

He stood as the double of his twin reached him, reading his face- much like Sabin, he wore his heart on his sleeve. With him closer, his feelings so evident, it was even harder not to think of him as the real thing... but if he wasn't, then what was he? It was easier for Edgar to believe the entire Edward March persona- along with all of his belongings, the picture included- was an identity created by the institute, something to help fool him into thinking he'd been mad all along, than to think of his double as any sort of a living man. Magic could create illusions- was this Sabin look-alike one of the monsters he'd heard about who could take the shape of someone else? And if that was the case, then why the return of the institution facade at all? So many questions.

This was not his brother. Sabin wouldn't give up. He could be naive, but he wasn't one for quitting. To think he could be broken by the institute was unimaginable... but it had been just as unthinkable for Celes, and Edgar had seen the end result in her case- seen, and ultimately regretted.

Edgar wore a smile for now- it was less forced than he'd thought it would be. "I thought for a moment you might not recognize me," he said with a smirk. "How long has it been? I feel like I've been in here for ages now."

In the end, Edward didn't react as much as Saxon might have hoped. He looked happy enough, but it wasn't the heartfelt reunion he had been hoping for, deep down. He realized that probably was impossible right now, with Edward's illness and all of the unresolved issues between them, and yet sometimes... sometimes he just wanted things to be that simple.

He was going to have to get over it, though. He took a seat across from his twin and took in his words with a frown. "Why wouldn't I recognize you?" That would be quite the trick, seeing how even if their builds and hairstyles were different, it was clear that they were closely related.

The question asked was more troubling, as Saxon had to wonder if his brother had lost track of time due to his illness and the monotony of this place. Edward didn't seem to fit in here at all, he had to admit. For one thing, there weren't nearly enough women around.

Then again, maybe that was a good thing.

"It's been about two weeks," he replied. "Believe me, it's felt long for me too. It's hard to run the shop on my own." And yet he hadn't had the heart to hire someone else. It wouldn't have felt right, and he was doing his best to convince himself that Edward's stay here would be a relatively short one.

Two weeks since they'd parted. A shop- presumably the one from the picture- which they ran together. How did the pieces of Edward March's life he was being handed fit with all he'd learned about the institute? The obvious answer was where Edgar truly was Edward March, with everything he knew- sanity included- falling into question; however, he could never erase from his mind the experimentation on him, and what the doctor had said: her words burned in his memory every time he felt the heat rising in his chest. Even if he was Edward March, that didn't explain why the higher staff made it no secret that they knew who the patients truly were.

Then was the show for the visitors? The disguised soldiers, visitation, pretending Landel was still in charge- it had to be for them. And if they were truly 'released' patients who were somehow unaware of it...

Edgar could feel his teeth grinding again. There was so much in play that he loathed: far more questions than answers, the reality of being trapped and out of control, the knowledge that he was ultimately at the mercy of the institute and whomever was in charge of the entire operation, and that dark thought forming at the back of his mind that this somehow was Sabin standing before him, and he couldn't bring himself to believe it.

"You'll have to forgive me for not being at my best," Edgar remarked with a sigh as he slid into the seat, trying to put some distance between them. He put his elbow on the table, leaning his face into one hand as he ran the other through his hair. "Two weeks is a long time to be trapped in one place, and I've been feeling under the weather lately. I thought you might not recognize me when I look like such a mess."

It was true that his brother wasn't as well-groomed as he was normally, but Saxon had chalked that up to him not having access to all of the hair products and skin moisturizers that he'd made use of back home. He honestly didn't understand why Edward bothered when he was usually speckled with oil by the end of the day, but his twin had usually had some clever response about how you never knew when a pretty lady might show up.

While part of him felt an annoyance at that, it was distant and didn't seem important. Not when his brother was sick, both mentally and physically if his words were to be believed. Saxon didn't have any reason to distrust him. The nurses had warned him that he might say things that didn't make sense, but so far he seemed like himself, just worn down.

"It's not bad as you're making it out to be," he replied with a small quirk of his lips. It wasn't a real smile, but it was the suggestion of one. "You always do blow things out of proportion..."

Still, now wasn't really the time for teasing, and he had questions. "But Edward... how is this place? I know it's hard being confined, but are you treated pretty well?" He knew that being committed could never be an enjoyable experience, but there were certainly different qualities of treatment, right? He was allowed to be worried.

"It's..." Another pause as Edgar forced himself to look at the man sitting across the table. His fist tightened, nails digging into the grooves of his palm. That tone of voice, the look in those eyes as the brother of Edward March tried to make light of what was an undeniably unpleasant situation, the concern hidden behind as much of a smile as he could muster: it was all too close. Too close to be an imposter, but it absolutely had to be.

Who was to say the doctors, who apparently knew the finer details of the Empire's Magitek infusion process, among other things, couldn't have intimate knowledge of their patients' lives? Of how their wards interacted with their kin? Of just the right way to push their captives to the brink? The thought was disgusting. It was bad enough to aim to weed out the weak by breaking their spirits, but the methods, their abuse of emotional and familial connections... Their tactics were more sickening with each passing day.

Whether or not it was his brother sitting opposite of him, Edgar couldn't deny it: if the aim of the visitation was to unsettle him, it was working. It was so much easier to maintain his composure when speaking to a stranger. Saying what needed to be said to make the right impression, skirting the truth or hiding it to aid the greater good- he'd had a lot of practice in those areas.

It was nearly impossible to look into the eyes of the man across the table and do the same thing. There was no thinking of him as someone unrelated, no matter how much Edgar told himself otherwise. The scenario where this was Sabin- a shade of his former self, but Sabin nonetheless- still played in the back of his mind. Could he have been taken at some point, pulled out of time somehow as Celes had been? And if Edgar himself had been taken then, had they been brainwashed together? He suspected he'd been 'released' once before- that might explain their having a shop together. Stripped of their identities or not, they were still brothers. No force could change that.

Edgar sighed in the pause, bringing his eyes back to the man before him. Even if he wasn't sure that they were brothers, March's twin believed it. The chances were high he was going to appear completely mad, but he had to try. "This place isn't what it seems. It's worse, trust me."

Saxon hadn't realized that he'd asked such a difficult question. From his perspective, checking up on a family member who was in the hospital, whether for an injury or a mental illness, was normal. Still, as he watched the way that Edward's face fell as he refused to meet his eyes, he wondered if he'd gone about all of this the wrong way. Maybe he shouldn't have asked questions at all; maybe he should have just talked about what he'd been up to.

Edward still didn't seem angry with him or resentful in any way, though, and so Saxon held onto that one fact.

In the end, though, he decided that asking had been the right choice after all, since his brother came forward with an answer that he didn't like very much. He clenched his jaw for a moment, balling his fists as he tried to figure out if he could trust his twin's words or not. There weren't supposed to be any secrets between them, but that had gone out the window a long time ago, hadn't it?

"Worse? Worse how?" Did he even want to know the answer? It might just make Edward's delusions that much more obvious, whereas before Saxon had been able to pretend that his brother was relatively okay. Still, he couldn't back down now, and so he sat there, trying to seem solid and composed as he waited for the answer.

The silence between them was more uncomfortable than Edgar would ever admit. He searched his mind for an answer to the twin's question- any answer would do, as there were none that came to mind that could even begin to explain what was going on with the institute, the military, or the plans of General Aguilar for the patient population; Edgar didn't know the answers to those questions, himself.

Seeing his own frustrated behaviors mirrored by the man across the table, he knew he had to say something. It was so much more difficult than he'd expected, especially when forcing himself to think of this visitor as someone completely different from his brother- another man somehow wearing his skin, copying his mannerisms, mimicking every aspect... and yet, rather than attack as a mimic might, he was here showing concern and compassion for his ill twin. Edgar felt his stomach churn uncharacteristically, the darker thought that this was truly Sabin still there.

Clasping his hands in front of his face, Edgar tried to find the words. It was likely this... Sabin look-alike had been told that anything he might say would be the result of his condition, that his mental capacity was less than stellar and his delusions were out of hand at times. Still, he had to try- in the best case, he would for some reason believe Edgar about the institute and the deception... and in the event he was who he so closely resembled, he somehow broke free of the effects of the brainwashing. Worst case was that he didn't believe it in the slightest and chalked it up to a sick mind- that was the expected result. If nothing else, it might convince March's twin that his brother was truly mad, that he was beyond his reach for now and that leaving was the best course of action.

Edgar sighed behind his hands. No, if March's twin was even remotely like Sabin, he probably wouldn't abandon him so easily. He knew that too well.

Steeling himself, Edgar brought his eyes back the matching pair across the table. "There are monsters loose at night. A military faction has taken over this place, Sabin. It's not an institution... not anymore. It never truly was, I'm sure."

The silence stretched out once more, and Saxon didn't know what to make of it. Before all this, even with their problems, conversation had been easy between them. How could it not be, when they'd grown up together? Jokes were tossed around just as easily as more serious discussions were carried out. That was how it had been up until Edward had been placed here.

Now it was as if a wall had been put up between them, and Saxon wasn't sure if that was Edward's doing or simply the fault of the circumstances. He didn't like it, though. None of this felt right.

Still, Saxon allowed Edward to take his time with the response, partly dreading it. It turned out that that was for good reason, since the words coming out of his brother's mouth were complete nonsense. Monsters? There was no such thing. And he hadn't seen a single soldier around; he could hardly imagine what the military would have wanted with mental patients, anyway.

He frowned, trying to keep the pity he was feeling for Edward off of his face. He knew his brother wouldn't like that, sane or not. He bit his lip and then sighed, wondering if there was any easy way to respond to what he'd just been told.

"Edward, it... it can't be. Monsters don't exist and even if they did, it would be impossible to keep something like that secret." This made him even more certain that Edward needed all the help he could get. It was clear his twin didn't like this place, but would it be any different in another institution? "And it's Saxon, Edward, not Sabin." He said it all as gently as he could, since despite his build and his fondness for boxing, he was a rather gentle person. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt his brother.

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