DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 59: Cafeteria (noon)
immortale wrote in damned
By the time lunch rolled around, things still weren't getting any better. The voices hadn't gone away; instead, Firo was pretty sure they were getting more frequent. Ennis had been silent since last night, but Czes's voice had been an insistent buzz in his ear all morning.

He'd spent the morning alone, trying to ignore any cutting remarks from a boy who wasn't there as he puzzled through things. Were the drugs responsible after all? A note on the bulletin had confirmed that someone else who'd been forced into the trial had been hearing things too, but Hakkai...

The call for lunch had been welcome; the day was barely half over, and Firo was already feeling exhausted. At this rate, maybe it would be best to just wait it out instead of trying to figure out what was causing it. If it was the drug, it should wear off after a while.

He accepted his gruel quietly, looking it over as he headed across the cafeteria—Hakkai had said it looked spoiled, but he couldn't tell any difference from what they'd served morning, noon, and night every day. Maybe the man was still seeing things after all, or maybe he was the one seeing things. It could have been bad and only looked alright. Or maybe it was just the color after all...

As took a seat, a new voice called out to him: "There's no point in you trying to figure it out, Firo. You're a real idiot, you know?"

Firo scowled. "I don't want to hear that from you, Berga," he growled under his breath.

[For Peter Petrelli ;_;]

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It was even harder to believe as the Scarecrow left the bulletin board, his head down, his look one of utmost defeat as he was led to the cafeteria: Mele was gone. It hadn't even been a month, if his brain worked well enough to recall the time, but he could still remember the night clearly- he and Kaiji had headed to the second floor and spotted her lying in the hallway, out like a light. It had been up to them to protect her from the strange creatures that attacked them. They didn't know her at the time, but leaving her there wasn't an option.

Kaiji was the first to disappear, and Mele had been there for him then. She'd made the suggestion that, perhaps, he'd simply run so fast that he'd made it out somehow- run all the way home. It was a silly notion, even to a strawman with half a brain; however, he'd believed it because it was better than the truth.

He took a deep breath, feeling it rattle through his stiff body in a way he could have never experienced when he was made of straw. The truth was harder to swallow now: Mele was gone, too. The image of Dorothy returned to his mind, how she believed the lies the Institute made for her, that they'd bewitched her somehow into thinking Oz didn't exist. Mele had spent that day believing she was someone she wasn't- now it had seemingly come to pass that she'd be like that permanently. To have one's memories taken from them, told everything they knew was nothing more than make-believe... it was unimaginably cruel.

The Scarecrow took the tray he was handed numbly, finding a lone seat and settling down. All he could manage was to stare into the gruel, as though it would turn back time and prevent Mele's release. Though he'd been hungry only moments before, he couldn't find it in him to care for the meal at the moment. There was an emptiness in his chest he couldn't quite place, and he wasn't sure there was any way to fill it.

[KIBBY, SORRY YOU GET THE SADDEST SCARECROW]

[noooo SCARECROW ;;]

Kibitoshin hadn't really been sure of where to put himself during second shift. Taking some time out in the Sun Room had seemed like a nice idea, especially given that there definitely weren't any more cats there, but he'd only walked a few paces into the room before he realised that it was going to be somewhat of a doomed endeavor. There were pillows and blankets everywhere: not only would be probably get in the way of the strange construction project that seemed to be going on, he'd also probably end up tripping over everything the moment he decided to get up again.

Oh, well. At least he'd have had a soft landing.

The library had been pleasantly quiet, at least, even if his attempts to locate a copy of "You Can Heal Your Life" had only been met with a faint look of disbelief from his soldier escort. Apparently, the military wasn't very keen on self-help. Which seemed sort of a shame. Maybe Aguilar or Harrington or whoever else turned up on the intercom could have used some literary support- it might have made them less inclined to be so brutally destructive and tyrannical.

At least he didn't have to think too hard about the cafeteria. All he had to do was get in line, pick up his gruel (it wasn't that bad, though it definitely needed seasoning) and find a seat to... was that the Scarecrow?

Kibitoshin blinked, surprised to see the man looking so down, then hurried over. That wasn't normal. Had- had something happened?

"Hey, are you okay?" he asked, putting his tray down next to the Scarecrow. "You don't look too happy..."

That was putting it lightly. As Kibitoshin took the adjacent seat, the Scarecrow forced another breath through his body- it felt unnatural to him, as though it took a more conscious effort than ever before. That emptiness was still there, swallowing everything else like a dark pit with no visible bottom. It was a monstrous thing now that he'd become aware of it.

He could only manage to shake his head in response at first, his face contorting as he tried to shut out that awful feeling that threatened to take him over. It hurt in some way he couldn't fully describe, couldn't grasp. It was a completely different beast from when Dorothy returned to Kansas. Why did it feel so different this time?

Oh, there was a lot that had changed. Dorothy was going home, to her family; Mele's fate was rather uncertain, and the possibilities of what had happened to her weren't good. There was also the fact that he was in a human body now, and they were far more complicated than being made of straw and old clothes. They had hearts, which were fragile.

Trying to find the words to say, the Scarecrow shook his head a second time. He closed his eyes- it was easier to pretend he was home when he couldn't see the dreary world around him. "One of my friends was released last night."

Kibitoshin had thought his question sensitively asked, but the first thing he got in response was a forced and utterly miserable sigh as the Scarecrow's expression twisted all the more, like it physically hurt to talk. Whatever it was bothering him wasn't just going to be some minor inconvenience- this was serious. Like getting taken for testing, or brainwashed, or even-

That.

The instinct to cringe was impossible to knock back, and the Kaioshin's fists balled by his sides. He'd wanted so much to pretend that it was for the better when patients disappeared, like they'd just go back home where it was safe, but the more time he spent here the more people he wished would come back. He didn't know what was worse: the uncertainty as to what happened when someone vanished, or the knowledge that you'd probably never see them again.

"I'm so sorry, Scarecrow," he said gently, sitting down properly. In closer proximity he could drop his voice a little, anything to make the conversation more private and easier for the both of them. "I- a friend of mine disappeared a couple of nights ago, too. I know how you feel."

It was all he could do to nod, still unable to vocalize exactly how he felt. The Scarecrow knew he wasn't the only one to have his friends disappear— surely everyone who had been there for some time had lost at least one to the wicked Institute— but the thought that he'd lost Mele, that the spook he'd seen outside the walls really had been related to her somehow and wasn't just a trick put up to scare the patients, was what he found so hard to believe. He didn't want to believe it. It was easier to think she'd made it home.

Easier, but probably no closer to the truth, he thought miserably.

Worse was the other notion that clawed at the back of his mind: the officer had said there'd be consequences if they failed their mission. They hadn't just failed- they had deliberately not handed over the name, and with the broadcast during the night, the former strawman was quite sure they knew they'd failed on purpose. She had been there for nearly as long as he had, and now she was gone. They'd torn him where it hurt the most for his transgression.

His body shook at the thought, though he couldn't figure out why. He found his voice buried in him, though having it brought no comfort as he spoke his mind. "I think it might be my fault, Kibitoshin."

For a moment Kibitoshin found himself waiting for the Scarecrow to speak, wondering why he so badly wanted anything at all to fill the void- and then he realised just what was wrong with the silence. The Scarecrow wasn’t just happy all the time, he always seemed to have something to say. Something funny, or enthusiastic, or friendly. Sitting here with both of them unable to conjure up a single word was—was entirely wrong.

And it would only get worse, because when the man finally, timidly opened his mouth, it was to say something he never, ever expected to hear from him.

Your fault?” Kibitoshin stared at him, open-mouthed with shock. Did- did that mean what he think it meant? No way. It couldn’t. That would be preposterous. Of all the people in the galaxy he’d known, the Scarecrow was just about the least likely person ever to actively try and hurt someone, much less kill them. Sure, he wasn’t the brightest patient here, but there was no way even he could have so terribly misjudged someone.

There was no way that was what he could have meant. None at all. H-he’d said that his friend had been “released”, after all, so maybe that meant that she’d just disappeared like so many other people di- no, but wait, how could it be his fault? It didn’t make any sense!

Which meant, as much as he didn’t want to be rude, he needed to ask. “How could it possibly be your fault?” he asked, brow furrowing. “You can’t control what the Institute does, after all.”

"But- but what if you could?" the Scarecrow asked, finally bringing his eyes to meet Kibitoshin's. He immediately felt the pangs of guilt hitting him, wondering if he'd already said too much. They felt so tangible, like someone was sticking him with a pin, going a little deeper each time.

On the other hand, the information bottled inside him burned to get out, eating away at him like an animal would if he were stuffed with straw. He didn't want to risk causing more problems for Rosemarie or the Major, but he didn't need a human brain to tell him he couldn't handle what he was feeling alone. That void in his chest grew, threatening to devour him from the inside out. That didn't sound like a pleasant way to go at all.

If they could take Mele away, what were the chances they'd keep doing it until they got the name? And if that was the case, who was next? It wasn't as though he had a lot of people to tell. Mele was gone, as were Abe and Kaiji. He hadn't seen Scar or Remy in some time, and suspected the same had happened to them. Carter and Sonia crossed his mind. Depth Charge already knew. Oh, there was that ache in his chest again- what would he do if his roommate was next on the list? He'd disappeared during the night, magicked back to the room without a word. It had to be just as easy to spirit him from the Institute, as well.

The Scarecrow took another deep breath, his body instinctively trying to fill that hole somehow. His hands shook- he couldn't figure out why. He lowered his voice, bringing himself close to Kibitoshin. "Let's say you're told to do something, and if you don't do it, there will be consequences. A-and you don't just not do it- you not do it on purpose because you don't want to get someone else into hot water. What if those consequences were your friends disappearing? What would you do? What could you do?"

But what if he could...? If he could control the Institute, they'd never have been having this conversation in the first place. They'd be back at home, safe and sound and away from the vast array of ways this place could hurt them.

Wishful thinking, huh? What sort of a chance would that be? Yet somehow the Scarecrow seemed to think he'd managed to come close to that, even if it had obviously not gone entirely to plan. Doubtful though he was, Kibitoshin couldn't help but sit up and take serious notice of his story, trying to come up with just how he might have ended up in that sort of situation.

What he got was bewildering. It was sort of vague and almost hypothetical sounding with no detail at all, but he could feel the anxiety rolling off of every word- from the way he leaned in conspiratorially to the uncertain stutter to the little spurt of questions, everything about the Scarecrow seemed almost, well-- scared. He hadn't seen that since they'd ended up in the middle of zombie town all that time ago. And never mind that, the story itself was- it made him uncomfortable. What it sounded like to the Kaioshin was blackmail.

"You could..." He trailed off uncertainly, trying to put together some sort of wise, omniscient answer and failing magnificently. "I don't know. That doesn't sound like the kind of scenario you can win with. Either way, someone was going to--" Immediately he bit his lip, trying to keep himself in check. What sort of a thing was that to say, true or not?! "A-and you had no idea it was going to hurt your friend."

The Scarecrow pushed a sigh through him- the breath felt no better out of him than it did when it was lodged in his chest. His hands were still shaking as he looked away; his eyes trailed downward to them as he clasped them together in his lap, thinking one might stop the other from quivering somehow. "I was afraid you might say something like that." His voice sounded weak in his own ears. It wasn't as though Mele or anyone else who had disappeared had a pair of slippers that could grant their heart's desire and bring them back if they chose to do so. They were seemingly lost for good, or until someone helped them. Someone had to help them.

That was the hardest part, knowing that even at his fullest capacity, there might not have been a single thing he could have done to keep her safe— or safer, as the Institute hardly counted as a sanctuary. She was the one who had magic, who could conjure fire with only a thought. If she'd been bewitched— and more than once, at that, though this time held a sense of permanence— what could someone like himself do, not fully a man, but no longer a scarecrow?

Oh, but there had to be something he could do! As crushed as he was to know his friends were brainwashed and beyond his reach, determination bled into him. His expression took on a stubborn quality, his brow knitting together. "I've got to be able to do something," he said. "I just don't know what. I can't help but wonder why it is I'm still here while they're disappearing, though."

Kibitoshin's shoulders sank, all the heavier for the knowledge that he'd only made the Scarecrow feel worse. But really, what else could he have said? It was pretty clear that if that was why his friend had disappeared, it was going to between them and the other person he'd mentioned. He'd really had the shine taken off of his idealism in the last couple of weeks; as far as he could see there was no way that situation was ever going to turn out okay for everyone, as much as both of them would have hoped it would have done.

"I know how you feel," he agreed sympathetically, expression turning a touch melancholic. "Sometimes I wonder what the point of trying to help people at night is if they might just disappear the next day anyway." Only sometimes, of course. If they could prevent one more person from suffering at all, even if they didn't stick around to appreciate it for very long, they'd done a good job. He knew that. That didn't make it any easier to get by here- the truth was, he was just as superfluous here as he was back in his own universe.

Still, the Scarecrow had raised a good point. The Kaioshin tilted his head, momentarily distracted from his existential crisis. "... that's a pretty good point, though. If they're punishing you, it seems kind of odd and unfair that they'd hurt other people instead of you. Maybe they just wanted to upset you rather than actually physically harm you in any way."

"Oh, they would want to do that, wouldn't they?" the Scarecrow said irritably, catching himself before he gave too much away. He didn't like the tone of his own voice- it felt foreign to him.

Kibitoshin did bring up a good point- well, it wasn't good in any sense of the word, other than it made sense. Perhaps they did want him upset, hoping to bait the name out of him. Depth Charge was made of stronger stuff, harder to crack; however, the Scarecrow knew that he had the softer heart, whether he was a human or as a man of straw: of the two of them, the most logical choice would be to punish him in the hopes he'd give them the name out of desperation.

It only furthered his resolve. He'd face a thousand matches, a hundred witches before he gave them the name now.

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