Picking up the Pieces- A H&K: MD Christmas Special

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Hoitash
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 11/26

Post by Hoitash » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:13 pm

Part II:

I raised an eyebrow, both concerned and impressed, “You’re that far in already?”

Soon-hee looked up from her tea, “Huh?”

“That quote,” I said, “Sounds like you’re pretty far along in the story.”

“I’m a fast reader,” Soon-hee declared. She sipped her tea silently for a moment, then glanced back up at me, “My English teacher said if I finish it before the end of the trimester and write a report on it, I can boost my lowest test grade by five points.”

“Cool,” I said. After taking a sip from my tea, I asked, “What do you think of the book so far?”

Soon-hee made a face no doubt worn by thousands of American high schoolers at some point, “Dense. Wordy. Scattered. But… some parts really make sense to me.”

“No kiddin’,” I said, “It took me way longer than you to get that far, and I was in my college lit club for a while.”

Soon-hee smiled weakly at the praise, then frowned as she fidgeted a bit.

Trying to keep her distracted and focused on something other than her physical state, I said, “So English must be going well. How ‘bout your other subjects?”

Soon-hee shrugged, “Okay, I guess. I’m good at history, but I’m not sure I like it. Well, I like some of it.”

“I saw your collection,” I remarked, “Makes sense for a fantasy fan to also enjoy the Medieval Periods.”

Soon-hee shrugged and gnawed on her chocolate bar.

Watching the bar disappear, I asked, “Do you have a favorite subject?”

Finishing the bar, Soon-hee fidgeted a bit before responding, “English, I guess. I like medieval history, but the past is so…”

Soon-hee trailed off and sipped her tea. The withdrawal was getting to her, and she was trying not to let it show- and losing. I was concerned about her, but if I was obvious about my concern, she might get upset. Which just goes to show what a pain teenagers can be.

Looking up from her tea, she sighed and asked, “Why are people so cruel?”

Taken aback by her sudden question, I blurted, “Why d’you ask?”

Soon-hee sighed and turned her head to face the door, “…There are scratch marks on my door. Do you know why?”

“Your transition to the weekly injections?” I guessed.

Soon-hee nodded, “I spent a few hours clawing at the door, begging for more drugs. Then Miss Sorami visited and I spent a few more hours apologizing. Not my best moment.”

“You seem to be doing okay,” I remarked, possibly half-truthfully.

Soon-hee turned back to me and sighed, “Barely. My stomach was hurting before I had the tea. I can’t focus on my homework. I have a terrible headache, and I’m too scared to ask for aspirin. I’ll probably throw up later.”

“You’re not begging at the door, though,” I stated, “I’d call that improvement.”

“Me, too,” Koizumi interjected.

Soon-hee stared down at her tea and grumbled, “Doesn’t feel like it.”

I knew better than to press the point, so decided to move the conversation along. Remembering her earlier question, I figured I’d try to answer it, hoping my line of thought on the matter would help ease her mind a bit, “You asked me why people are cruel, right?”

Soon-hee glanced up at me and nodded.

Sipping my tea, I placed my cup down and leaned forward. I carefully removed my glasses and placed them on the tray so I could look the girl in the eye –metaphorically if not literally, since using just my eyes rendered her little more than a blurry blue blob. After taking a few moments to collect my thoughts, I finally responded to her question.

“People in general are not cruel. A person is cruel. A person is benevolent. A person is selfish. A person is altruistic. A person is also scared and confused, and so will find other, like minded individuals to group with. Because of that, groups of people tend to share similar views and opinions on the world. A group of people is cruel. A group of people is benevolent, and so on. The real problem is that the vast majority of people, regardless of what else they might be, are stupid.”

“Stupid people are easily swayed by a person who is good at leading people. Said person can lead a group that’s all talk into action. Cruel people will do cruel things if they were too scared to do more than talk, because they wanna look good for their buddies, or make their rivals look bad or because they’re just too dumb to know the difference. The same is true on the opposite end of the spectrum. Do you follow?”

The blurry blob that was Soon-hee moved a bit, and I guessed she was nodding, “So, the entire human race is subjected to peer pressure?”

“More or less,” I said, “My main point is you can’t look at people as cruel or not, because at the end of the day they're usually too stupid to be anything other than mindless sheeple.”

Finished with my mini-lecture, I carefully groped for my glasses and put them back on. Soon-hee looked at her tea for a few moments, then glanced up at me, “…Does that mean that it doesn’t matter what people think of me?”

“Well, that’s a bit more complicated,” I admitted, “One of the difficulties of being social creatures. I am, however, reasonably sure that the sheeple will be too distracted with their own lives to pay us any mind if we go for a walk.”

Soon-hee slowly nodded, “I would like to get out for a bit.”

I grinned and sipped my tea as I glanced at Koizumi, who looked impressed.

“You wanna just go around the grounds?” I asked, “Or maybe into town to resupply your stockpile.”

“I’m good for a day or two,” Soon-hee said, “A walk around the grounds would be nice. I like trees.”

“Sounds good,” I said.

We finished our tea in relative silence, and I stepped outside while Koizumi took the tray back to the cafeteria kitchen, and then to notify security about the walk. While I waited, I’m pretty sure I heard Soon-hee gnaw through the rest of the box of sticks.

“You’re not eating too many of those, I hope,” I remarked.

“I’m not,” Soon-hee assured me, “Kosaka was very clear on me watching my sugar and processed food intake. She’d have a fit if she knew how much I used the vending machines.”

“You could eat the cafeteria food,” I quipped.

“Have to,” she said, “Food sucks, though.”

The door opened and Soon-hee stepped out, wearing a dark brown jacket and orange skullcap over her normal outfit. She closed the door and turned to me, “You want to use the bathroom before we go?”

“I’m good,” I said.

Soon-hee nodded and locked the door. Lightly squeaking footsteps down the hall made her tense up and jerk in that direction like a deer that had smelled a wolf. The source of the sound was a short figure, and I presumed it was Koizumi. A presumption reinforced when Soon-hee relaxed her tense state, and affirmed when I was finally able to make out the woman’s mousy features, though it had taken a few seconds for me to process the light green coat she was wearing.

“Ready?” she asked.

We both nodded, and the nurse led us toward the elevator. As she did she slowly slowed her pace so that she was about three paces behind me and Soon-hee. I looked back at her and nodded my thanks; the more “normal” Soon-hee’s routine was, the better, and having a nurse or doctor constantly hovering over her, even when a good idea, would only enhance her anxiety.

“Do you have a preferred route you’d like to take?” I asked.

Soon-hee nodded, “By the pond. I’ll show you the way.”

I smiled and nodded. It was good she was taking charge of something, however small. Healing takes time, after all, and it’s rarely a smooth ride. As long as she could ride out the bumps, she’d be fine. Eventually.

+++
Next Chapter

I don’t know what it is about those blasted cookie sticks, but thank God for the international food isle.
Last edited by Hoitash on Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Dec 03, 2013 1:22 pm

at the end of the day their usually too stupid
Found your favourite one ;-)
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by bhtooefr » Tue Dec 03, 2013 1:41 pm

“You’re transition to the weekly injections?” I guessed.
And another of your favorites.

Or is that you're? :P
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Hoitash » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:26 pm

bhtooefr wrote:
“You’re transition to the weekly injections?” I guessed.
And another of your favorites.

Or is that you're? :P
It would be your.

My confusion stems from forgetting which one is possessive, as opposed to merely a contraction.

Their just gets lost in the blur, because I insist on posting these in the morning despite all evidence that doing so is a bad idea (it's when I have the time, usually.)

Thanks for those. I'm gonna stick a post-it next to my monitor to remind me to check for there's and your's the night before, before my normal editing.

Now, where did I put the post-it notes...
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
Misha Time: United States of Misha Meet the Hakamichis
Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
I wrote a book! Brythain edited it! If you like mystery and history please consider: A Sister's Habit
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Lianam » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:15 pm

Hoitash wrote:Now, where did I put the post-it notes...
Did you check under the smoke bombs? :P
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Hoitash » Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:51 pm

Lianam wrote:
Hoitash wrote:Now, where did I put the post-it notes...
Did you check under the smoke bombs? :P
D'Oh! That's where they were!

Note made and post-itted to my desk. My final excuse is now gone!

I am so frakked.
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
Misha Time: United States of Misha Meet the Hakamichis
Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 11/26

Post by griffon8 » Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:54 pm

Hoitash wrote:As she did she slowly slowed her pace so that she was about three paces behind Soon-hee and I.
And another favorite.
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 11/26

Post by Hoitash » Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:00 pm

griffon8 wrote:
Hoitash wrote:As she did she slowly slowed her pace so that she was about three paces behind Soon-hee and I.
And another favorite.
...Okay, that's just me being bad at English.

Fixed, and thanks.
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
Misha Time: United States of Misha Meet the Hakamichis
Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
I wrote a book! Brythain edited it! If you like mystery and history please consider: A Sister's Habit
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Helbereth » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:39 am

Hoitash wrote:Their just gets lost in the blur...
Wut?

Note: I just found this and I cycled backward through the comments before getting to reading... I'll do that... um... well, soon. I think I need more coffee first...

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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Hoitash » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:56 am

Helbereth wrote:
Hoitash wrote:Their just gets lost in the blur...
Wut?

Note: I just found this and I cycled backward through the comments before getting to reading... I'll do that... um... well, soon. I think I need more coffee first...
Coffee is good, even if I'm not entirely sure what you're referring to (I think.)

By blur, I meant its one of those words my mind just glosses over as I read. Probably because I'm reading too fast.

Slowing my reading while editing would probably help.
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
Misha Time: United States of Misha Meet the Hakamichis
Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
I wrote a book! Brythain edited it! If you like mystery and history please consider: A Sister's Habit
"You are absolutely insane. And entertaining." -griffon8

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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Hoitash » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:09 pm

I have no idea why I chose the book I did for a theme, but let’s just go with it and hope we don’t need a harpoon along the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go reassert my manliness by watching Kill la Kill while playing Gears of War while drinking Absinthe. While riding a bear.

Previous Chapter

Chapter Four: Meditation and Water


I’ve never believed in fate, and I’ve never liked coincidence. Still, I’ll admit that my visit in early November was rather… fortuitous. The weather report said a bad storm was heading our way, and as I left the bus stop and started the trek to Soon-hee’s room, dark clouds already covered most of the sky as far as my limited sight could see. My spleen twinged in warning, and I knew that this visit would be… different.

After signing in I headed up to Soon-hee’s room. Seeing Koizumi standing by her door as I approached didn’t help ease my nerves in the slightest.

When I reached the door I raised an eyebrow and asked, “Is something up?”

“Possibly,” Koizumi said. She knocked on the door, “Heecchan, Kenji’s here.”

“Okay,” Soon-hee’s muffled voice replied.

I waited by the door for Soon-hee to unlock it. After several moments of silence, however, I checked the lever to see if it was locked. It was.

I turned to Koizumi and raised an eyebrow.

Koizumi sighed and knocked on the door, “Would you like me to open the door for him?”

“Please?”

Koizumi reached into a pocket and pulled out a room key. Since she was one of the younger nurses, I was surprised she had it, but she and Soon-hee had become somewhat close over the past few weeks –both being quiet bookworms with a preference for fantasy- so it made sense to put reality above protocol.

Koizumi unlocked the door and pushed it open lightly. Gesturing for me to enter, she said, “I’ll be standing out here if either of you need me.”

I raised an eyebrow, “You’re not coming in?”

Koizumi shook her head, “I’d just get in the way.”

“That’s kinda the point,” I remarked.

The nurse sighed and smiled weakly, “You’ve been coming here two or three times a month for three months. The Doctors, myself, and Soon-hee all know you won’t pull anything, and the staff is level-headed enough to work things out if something goes wrong. She trusts you more than anyone else. My place is here. Your place is in there.”

“And people say I’m dramatic,” I muttered as I eased the door open, taking my hat off with my other hand.

The first thing I noticed when I stepped inside was that there was a pile of sheets draped over the desk, stretched out by the chair to form a roof of sorts. The second thing I noticed was that Soon-hee was nowhere in sight. Closing the door behind me and focusing on my surroundings, I eventually noticed that the bed had been stripped.

“Soon-hee?” I called, “Are you under the desk?”

“Yes.”

Well this visit was off to a great start. I had a feeling it was only going to get worse. If the girl trusted me as much as everyone said she did, I was her best shot at, pardon the cliché word choice, braving the coming storm. Since such efforts are best done within the presence of the other person, I knelt down in front of the impromptu shelter and gently knocked on the chair.

“Can I come in?” I asked.

“Please?”

I lifted the sheet over the chair so I could see. I had expected to see the girl kneeling under her desk with her hands over her head, but actually seeing it was a different matter.

Putting my hat down and trying my best to put on a brave face, I asked, “Is something wrong?”

“Knees hurt,” Soon-hee replied.

In an effort to distract her from what was obviously bothering her, I quipped, “Mrs. Kosaka did warn you not to practice your kicks so hard.”

Soon-hee moaned lightly, “Knees hurt because a storm’s coming. Bad one. With lightning. Lightning means thunder. I hate thunder. Makes me see things.”

“You won’t be able to hear it unless the storm passes right over us,” I stated.

“It will. Knees hurt.”

“You might wanna mention that to Dr. Tainaka,” I said, “So, you wanna stay in here?”

Soon-hee nodded from under her arms.

“You want me to stay down here, too?”

More nodding, “Can you lower the sheet, too?”

“Probably not a good idea,” I said, “I can make us some tea, though. I’ll be right back, okay?”

Soon-hee looked up at me, her eyes as wide and filled with terror as when I had first met her, all those weeks ago, “Please don’t go.”

Smiling gently and keeping my voice as calm and soothing as I could, I said, “I’m just going to the bathroom. I’m just getting some water, okay? I’ll be right back.”

Soon-hee whimpered quietly, but nodded. She was already in a bad way, and I was worried things would only get worse. So I’d have to tread carefully if I wanted to help her get through the storm, though how much help I would be was debatable. My biggest concern was preventing a panic attack, if I could.

At least I had some practice with that, however limited. Not for the first time since meeting the girl, I had wondered if it would’ve been better for someone else to have helped her. But it was my case, and so I’d do what I could. No matter how much it hurt to see her cowering like that, I had to keep calm. I had to help her. I had to trust her trust in me, if that makes any sense.

There were some paper cups in the bathroom, so I ran the tap water as hot as I could, filled two cups, and tossed in some tea bags I kept in one of my pockets. I added some sugar to her tea and headed back to her little fort with it, leaving mine in the bathroom for the time being. As I walked back I noticed Soon-hee’s eyes gazing up at me, making sure I didn’t leave her sight.

“Too bad you can’t have a hotplate,” I remarked, “Hot tap water doesn’t make for very good tea.”

Kneeling back under the sheets, I held out the tea for her to take, using my other hand to brace myself and feel around when I had to. She slowly unfolded herself and shifted into a sitting position. Due to her short stature, she didn’t need to crouch or slump to fit under her desk.

I didn’t have the same luxury, as my head kept brushing up against the sheet-roof of the fort whenever I kneeled down or got up. As I prepared to stand back up, I noticed that the night light I had given her was plugged into the socket under the desk. It was on.

“I’m gonna go grab my tea, okay?” I asked.

Soon-hee bit her lip and looked down at her tea. After a few moments, she slowly nodded and muttered, “Thank you. Sorry for making you take two trips.”

I smiled, “No problem. You got a cozy place here; I wouldn’t wanna leave it, either.”

Soon-hee smirked lightly at that for a moment and sipped her tea. I hefted myself up, grabbed my tea, and then shuffled under the sheet-roof again, this time into a sitting position, because I didn’t want my hair to grease up her sheets.

Slowly reaching into my jacket, I pulled out a chocolate bar and held it out for her, “Here you go.”

She took the bar and ripped it open with her teeth, “Fank you. You want haff?”

“I’m good,” I said, and pulled a granola bar from my pocket, “I should ask my wife to make some cookies some time. She loves to bake.”

Soon-hee gnawed on the chocolate bar in between sips of tea, obviously desperate to redirect her thoughts from anything but the coming storm, “…You keep a lot of stuff in your pockets.”

I shrugged as I opened the granola bar’s wrapper, “I like to be prepared, and sometimes I need to be on the move for work.”

Soon-hee nodded and sipped her tea.

“How’re your classes going?” I asked, both genuinely curious and hoping to keep her distracted.

She sipped her tea for a moment, tilting her head like she was listening. Apparently not hearing anything important –like the sound of thunder- she replied, “Mostly good. I still hate math. English is my best subject, history a close second. Still not sure how I feel about history.”

“It is an acquired taste,” I stated, “but it sounds like your penchant for reading is paying off.”

Soon-hee nodded, “My English teacher said I should think about that when considering my future.”

Since she had never talked about her future before, the direction the conversation had taken got me curious. After sipping my tea, I asked, “That’s good. Have you thought much about your future studies?”

She shook her head, “Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t think much about having a future. Getting through the withdrawal is a day-by-day thing. But now I can mostly tune it out. Swim. Train. Wear myself out so the nightmares go away. Study. Read. Fight the itchiness.”

“Are the nightmare’s less of a problem now?” I asked.

Soon-hee nodded, smiling weakly as she bit on some chocolate, “I can push myself harder now. Tires out my brain when I sleep and makes me too tired to be itchy. Sounds still make me see things, but I can sleep better now. Usually. Don’t like sleeping pills. Make me queasy.”

Smiling, I stated, “You just keep fightin’ and you’ll keep movin’ forward. I’ve seen it work out before, so I know you’ll come out ahead in the end.”

Soon-hee nodded, sipped her tea, and then it happened.

Barely audible above the low, rumbling buzz of the aging building, there was the tiniest grumble of thunder.

The girl’s eyes went wider, if possible, and she whimpered lightly. Her hands started to shake slightly, and her body froze.

Hoping to head off the attack before it got worse, I perked my head and mused, “Sounds like it’s heading away from us.”

She didn’t react to my statement, so I tried a different approach, “Is there anything you’d like to do when you’re older?”

It took a few moments for her to respond, but, most likely thanks to a lull in the storm, she was eventually able to sip her tea once and mumble, “…Something physical, maybe?”

“Like physical therapy?” I asked, hoping to keep her distracted.

“…Maybe.”

There was another rumble of thunder, a slightly louder one. Soon-hee whimpered and started gnawing through the rest of the chocolate bar, chewing and swallowing at a desperate speed.

Her reaction, coupled with the direction of the conversation –if you could call it one- got me thinking a bit, so I said, “I actually know a physical therapist. I can talk to her if you want more information on the job, or I could send something along if you want to ask her yourself.”

Soon-hee blinked with her widened eyes and said in a toneless voice, “That would be nice.”

“I know an English teacher, too, if you want more information on that front,” I remarked.

Another lull in the storm allowed Soon-hee to calm down enough to ask, “…You know a lot of people, don’t you?”

I nodded, “Being well connected is important in my line of work. Although honestly, a lot of the people I know are from high school or college. Which is ironic, when you think about it.”

“…Why?”

Chuckling lightly, I replied, “’Cuz I wasn’t the most… stable of people, during my high school years,” a bit of an understatement, but I was trying to keep things simple, “I’m a man of action and passions, and being stuck where I was, unable to do what I thought needed to be done, wore on me. So I did what I thought I had to. Then I met a guy with a penchant for sweater-vests, mellowed a bit with age, and the rest is history.”

Soon-hee blinked again, and moved to sip her tea.

The thunder rumbled again, much louder than it had before.
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
Misha Time: United States of Misha Meet the Hakamichis
Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
I wrote a book! Brythain edited it! If you like mystery and history please consider: A Sister's Habit
"You are absolutely insane. And entertaining." -griffon8

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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/03

Post by Hoitash » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:10 pm

Part II:

Caught in mid-sip, Soon-hee gasped and choked. Spitting out the tea in her mouth, her eyes had become brown pools of sheer terror. With a feral yelp she dropped the tea, spilling it over her floor as she ducked down and flung her arms over her head.

“It’s getting closer!” she wailed.

Barely managing to repress a defeated sigh, I grumbled, “Sounds like it.”

“It’s getting closer,” she repeated, whimpering as the thunder rumbled its way toward us.

Well, so much for heading off the attack. Next step: damage control.

In as soothing a voice as I could manage despite the disheartening sight before me, I calmly stated, “You’re safe here. It’s okay.”

The next rumble was loud enough to make even me tense up, and I thought I heard the aging pipe’s of the building vibrate lightly. As the booming thunder rolled over us, Soon-hee whimpered loudly and started crying.

“It’s gonna find me!” she yelped, “It’s gonna find me! It saw me and it knows I survived and it’s gonna kill me next!”

Nope, just a normal fear of thunder would be too easy; the poor girl was having a full blown PTSD induced panic attack. Something in her mind had linked the sounds of thunder, earthquakes, and clanking metal with those of the night the Hunter had gone after the gang that had kidnapped her.

Like my great uncle and the smell of cooking meat, or Hanako and her birthday back in the day, once the trigger went off, the best way to get through the attack was to ride it out. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do, but I’d do what I could, and nothing less.

Still maintaining my soothing voice, even as Soon-hee wailed and whimpered and tore at my heart, I said, as placatingly as I could, “The ghost won’t find you. You’re safe here. It’s okay.”

The next rumble was just as loud as the last. Soon-hee yelped again and leapt at me, knocking the now empty cup I’d been using out of my hands as she grabbed onto me.

“Don’t let it get me!” she pleaded, “Please, I’ll do anything!”

“You don’t have to do a thing,” I assured her. Remembering when I was very young and my mother reasonably sane, I started to gently pat her head, like my mom had when I was upset, “It’ll have to get through me first, and it won’t be able to. You’re safe from the ghost here. I won’t let it hurt you. It’s okay.”

I half-expected the door to be shoved open at any moment, but Koizumi had more sense than that; hearing the door open would probably make the girl completely lose her shit. Well, lose more than she currently was.

Soon-hee whimpered and gasped for breath as she cried, moistening my jacket as she clutched onto me tight enough to hurt. My ribs groaned in protest at the girl’s strength, acquired over weeks of swimming and martial arts training. I ignored the pain and kept patting her head, her short black hair now greasy with sweat.

There was another rumble of thunder. It was mercifully quieter than the last, but not by much.

Soon-hee was having trouble breathing, and I needed to calm her down. Still keeping my voice calm and low, I instructed, “Deep breaths, Soon-hee. Deep breaths, okay? Can you do that for me?”

“Is it going away?” she whimpered, “Please make it go away. I’ll do anything!”

“It’s going away,” I assured her, “All you need to do is breathe. You’re safe here. It’s okay. Just breathe deeply and slowly, okay? Can you do that for me?”

Soon-hee whimpered and gasped in, then out. Slowly, her gasps and gulps of air formed ragged, then increasingly steadier, breaths.

I continued patting her head and said, “That’s a good girl. Slow, deep breaths. Good girl.”

The storm slowly moved away from us, and between her breathing, my calming repetition, and my head-patting, Soon-hee eventually started to calm down. After the last pitiful grumble of thunder ground out, the young woman looked up at me, her pale face red and streaked with tears, her eyes bloodshot but back to their normal size, “Is it gone?”

I smiled and nodded, “It’s gone. You okay?”

Soon-hee sniffed and managed a stiff nod, “Thank you so much for being here.”

“I didn’t do anything Koizumi wouldn’t have,” I declared, “Besides, like I’ve said before, I have some experience with PTSD. Not as much as my partner or my uncle, but some.”

Soon-hee looked down and mumbled, “I’m sorry you had to see that.”

Still smiling, I gently lifted her chin up so she was looking at me, “You don’t need to apologize for your past. It may shape who you are, but it does not define you. You are not the girl I met in the summer. That girl is dead, and you are what was born from her ashes.”

Alright, I was laying it on with a trowel, but if the sappy-ass show fits, wear it. It’s called boosting morale and being supportive.

Soon-hee smiled and slowly eased herself back into a sitting position, “Thank you. You’re wrong, but thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. Turning my head toward the door, I called, “Koizumi, could you please get us a towel?”

“Right away!” the nurse replied through the door, and dashed off.

Soon-hee shifted as far from the spilled tea as she could and sniffed. She closed her eyes and started slowly inhaling and exhaling. While she calmed herself down, I reached into my jacket and pulled out a small pack of tissues. When she sighed and opened her eyes, I handed her the packet.

“Thanks,” she said, taking the packet and cleaning herself up a bit. She was still a little shaky, but otherwise seemed more or less back to normal.

A few moments later there was a knock at the door and the click of it being unlocked. The door opened and Koizumi came in, carrying a large white thing that I figured was the towel, “Everything alright?”

“I’m fine,” Soon-hee stated. Pausing to blow her nose, she added, “Spilled some tea.”

I stretched out my hand to take the towel so the young woman wouldn’t have to move.

Koizumi handed me the towel and said, “Here you go. Need anything else?”

In lieu of ordering a drink, I just smiled and shook my head, “Thanks, but we’re good. You wanna stick around?”

“I need to make some rounds,” she said, “But I’ll be back in a bit.”

We both nodded as the nurse left and closed the door behind her. I handed the towel to Soon-hee, and she started sopping up the spill as best she could, probably grateful for something physical to focus on.

While she worked the towel, she hummed quietly to herself. I didn’t recognize the tune, but it had the qualities of a folk song to it. I wasn’t entirely sure she was aware she was doing it, but when she was finished with the spill she readjusted her position and muttered, “Sorry if my humming bothered you.”

“It didn’t,” I assured her, “It was a nice tune. Where’d you learn it?”

Gazing down at the spot she had been cleaning, she shivered slightly and mumbled, “…My mother. Whenever I was upset, my mom would hum that tune to me. She said it was an old folk song that her mother would sing to her when she was upset.”

In all the times we had been together, Soon-hee had never spoken about her parents before, not counting the one time she had stated they were dead. It was odd that she would mention them then of all times, but the mind is a mysterious thing, and that moment wasn’t the time to question it.

Since she had opened up the line of questioning, I felt somewhat comfortable asking, “Did she ever teach you the lyrics?”

Soon-hee shook her head, “Dad wouldn’t let her. He said we were in Japan, so we should speak Japanese. He said we had enough problems because of our names and our family heritage.”

“Did your mother teach you any Korean?” I asked.

Still staring at the tea-soaked towel, she mumbled, “…Some.”

“Do you remember any of it?” I asked, more out of curiosity than anything else.

“…Some,” Soon-hee confided. She fidgeted a little in her spot. Turning to me, she said in a low voice, “Hello, my name is Kim Soon-hee.

I grinned and returned, “Hello, my name is Setou Kenji.”

Soon-hee’s eyes widened a bit, “You know Korean?”

“A bit,” I replied, “That physical therapist I mentioned earlier? She married a guy who’s half-Korean on his mother’s side. He taught me a bit. I have a thing for languages, actually. So do you, by the sounds of it.”

Soon-hee nodded and fiddled with her hands in lieu of anything else to do. I reached into my pocket and held out another chocolate bar for her.

She took the bar and raised an eyebrow, “How many of those do you keep in there?”

“A few,” I replied, “I modified one of my pockets to be temperature controlled.”

Soon-hee smiled and opened the bar, her fingers steady as she did so. Biting off a piece and chewing, she took her time with the bit before swallowing. When she had, her next question, though perfectly reasonable, caught me a bit off guard, “Was it hard for them? With him being half-Korean?”

I thought the question over a bit, mulling over all the times Emi had complained about one thing or another, before admitting, “At times. Honestly I think it was a bigger issue when he spent some time working in Korea- his family there gave him a lot of flak over the marriage. They weren’t too thrilled that their first kid was born before the wedding, either. But the two never let it bother them, and at the end of the day, he’s a respected electrical engineer, she’s an Olympic athlete and physical therapist, and the kids are as normal as kids in that situation can be. Why do you ask?”

Gazing down at her chocolate, she grumbled, “…If I’m going to have a future, I need to be prepared for it. I’m not Japanese, after all.”

“Legally speaking you will be in five years, if all goes well,” I stated, “Not that that’ll satisfy some people. But those people aren’t worth worrying about, and it’s getting better. Hell, a few decades ago you’da been fingerprinted. That’s one of the things I like about history, actually; watching the fight against stupidity, whatever shape it may take.”

Soon-hee smirked and bit on her chocolate. Chewing on it thoughtfully, she waited a bit before swallowing and remarking, “…When you put it like that, history doesn’t seem so depressing.”

She inhaled the rest of the chocolate bar and sighed. I didn’t want to leave her like that, especially since she had seemed to calm down rather quickly. Deciding an old tactic that worked with Hanako, I reached into my jacket and slowly pulled out a small travel chessboard.

“Miho taught you to play chess, right?” I asked, “You feel up for a game?”

Soon-hee smiled lightly and nodded, “You keep everything in there, don’t you?”

“Everything except the kitchen sink,” I quipped.

I set up the game and we started playing. Soon-hee had a good head on her shoulders, but her sense of strategy was too short term. Like Miya, she played for the fun of it, though, and not to win. Considering her current state, I wasn’t too surprised that her play style was more unfocused than usual.

We had barely started playing when she sniffed and muttered, “I miss them. Every day.”

I knew who she was talking about, and merely nodded.

“It’s hard to remember them sometimes,” she continued, more like she was speaking to the chess pieces than to me, “Even though Mom taught me and I saw Dad when he came home from work. I can barely remember how he smelled like cleaning solvents and citrus. It’s hard to remember their voices, or their expressions. Sometimes I see them in my nightmares. They’re the most vivid then. Makes me wonder if I’ll only remember them from the nightmares.”

“You’ll remember them,” I remarked as I made my move, “The dead have a way of staying with us, whether we want them to or not.”

Soon-hee made her move and glanced up at me, “What do you mean?”

“They’re with you in spirit, for lack of a better word, and while I know that’s no substitute, it is something.”

Never did me a whole lot of good, but some things are better left forgotten as much remembered.

“…You’re right. It’s not a substitute,” Soon-hee grumbled as she made her next move, “…but it is something. I guess.”

There wasn’t much more I could say at that point, so I just kept playing and thinking. Soon-hee reminded me of Hanako and Emi, and as we played through the game, an idea started to form in my mind. I was once again planning and plotting, and once again, if I was wrong, things would turn out poorly. If I was right, though…

Well, it had worked for one orphan, at least.

+++
Next Chapter

…Huh. That just happened.

I did some research on panic attacks and whatnot, so hopefully I didn’t bungle this part too much. Blame the train of thought on the flashbacks Soon-hee was having.
Last edited by Hoitash on Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
Misha Time: United States of Misha Meet the Hakamichis
Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
I wrote a book! Brythain edited it! If you like mystery and history please consider: A Sister's Habit
"You are absolutely insane. And entertaining." -griffon8

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Minion of Chaos
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/10

Post by Minion of Chaos » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:35 pm

Another satisfying update, with one conclusion. Kenji must secretly be a marsupial- it would be the only rational explanation for having all those pockets :lol: . The climate controlled pocket must simply be his pouch lol

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Hoitash
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/10

Post by Hoitash » Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:01 pm

Minion of Chaos wrote:Another satisfying update,
Why thank you :).
with one conclusion. Kenji must secretly be a marsupial- it would be the only rational explanation for having all those pockets :lol: . The climate controlled pocket must simply be his pouch lol
Rationality? In my stories? HERESY!

More likely his jacket has become a TARDIS-like artifact due to exposure (I have a similar theory regarding Kenji's glasses and aiming skills.)

Although he probably has at least seven pockets (two in his pants, two on the outside of his jacket, two inside, and one on his shirt.)
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
Misha Time: United States of Misha Meet the Hakamichis
Awesome, served on the rocks: Hisao and Kenji- Master Detectives! (Check out the Archive for more!)
I wrote a book! Brythain edited it! If you like mystery and history please consider: A Sister's Habit
"You are absolutely insane. And entertaining." -griffon8

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Helbereth
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Re: Picking up the Pieces- A H&K Xmas Special (Updated 12/10

Post by Helbereth » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:18 pm

The editor in me wants to point out flaws as a preface for offering congratulatory platitudes, but there weren't any worthy of note this time, so, job well done! Still, I do have one issue, though it seems petty; I'm not sure where this story is going. The timing and subject matter thus far indicate a heartwarming end of some kind, but how it will arrive there within the few updates that remain--two or three at most--is unclear.

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