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Knows No Pain

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Ryouta didn’t have a stomach for the medical profession.

Nope nope nope.

How dumb. He’d grown up with his Dad and Isa both dropping details of blood and guts into ordinary discussion (Isa especially) but they had often used medical terminology that sailed over Ryouta’s head. Actively studying it was somehow a different experience. Turns out it he didn’t appreciate detailed descriptions of marrow or the circulatory system, and he definitely didn’t like unexpected drawings of brains in his textbook! Bird or human brains!

He slammed the book shut, pouting a little. He was only ten, this couldn’t be right. Why was his health class making him memorize such disgusting things?

Isa chose that moment to make his return from work. Ryouta hadn’t heard the door open, but that was nothing new. His step-father had a gift for unexpected arrivals. It scared the hell out of Ryouta’s friends whenever they visited, but he had long since grown used to it. If anything, he’d be more scared if he heard Isa being conspicuous. That would probably mean Dad was in danger, or something like that.

“You look displeased,” Isa said, “is it because of the cover of that book is especially inane?”

Ryouta glanced down, not fully certain of Isa’s meaning, but definitely catching the disdain behind the words. His textbook featured an overly happy group of birds flying against a bright blue sky. Their feathers comprised a plethora of primary colors and, you know, Isa was right. It really was an eyesore.

Eyesore. Eyes. Eyes were attached to brains. Brains that controlled bodies. Beneath the feathers everybirdie was made of veins and guts. Guts everywhere.

“No, I have to learn about the nervous system this week, and I don’t really want to, I guess?”

Isa sat at the table, which meant he was probably settling in to talk for a while. Ryouta decided it was a preferable distraction. Unless he asked for the why behind Ryouta’s reservations.

Which, of course, he did. “And why would that be, hm?”

Ryouta rolled a pen around on the table. “The pictures make me feel sick, I guess. I can’t help it.”

Isa looked surprised. “Again: why?”

Ryouta wanted to put into words the weird creepy-crawly feeling that settled in when he thought about everything that goes on below the surface in a body. One stab of a knife could shut the whole circulatory system down, one vial of poison could render a person as good as dead, or a fatal disease could be lying in wait for years (like what had happened to his mother.) But he wasn’t the most articulate of birds, so he just muttered something that probably involved the word “gross” a couple times.

That only made Isa sigh. “I encounter this attitude a lot. People only appreciate the surface of things, and aren’t properly grateful to all the body parts that keep them alive.”

“I’m grateful!” Ryouta burst out, “I was just kind of surprised to see a drawing of a human brain, that’s all.”

“I experimented on a brain today,” Isa added, the way some people say ‘wow, looks like rain.’

Ryouta started laughing, just because suddenly the situation seemed so silly. He flipped open to the offending page of his textbook. “Did it look like this?” he asked, once he could get a word in amidst his own giggling.

Isa examined the glossy page carefully. Moving on to trace a nearby related sketch of a neuron and all its parts; nucleus, soma, axon. The tiniest pieces of the brain. “They really should have given you a picture,” (“Nooooo….” Ryouta wailed), “but this drawing is adequate I suppose.”

He still felt a bit queasy, but humor had a way of defusing unpleasant emotions. “What was the brain like?” he asked. It struck him, really struck him, that Dad and Isa stared at body parts every day. Seriously. Every day. (Except probably not on holidays from work. He hoped not, at least.) How did someone get accustomed to that? “The one today, I mean.” Not all the other ones you’ve seen.

“I don’t know. It was a brain. They’re all much the same in the end.”

“Bird or human?”


Ryouta thought about it. “Was it… attached to a living person?”

“No.” Isa smirked. “You can do brain surgery on a conscious person without incident, though. Were you aware?”

Yep, there was that freaked out feeling again. “I guess I am now. Wouldn’t that hurt? A lot?

“Provide anesthesia for the nerve tissue near the skull, and no. It wouldn’t. The brain has no sensory nervous system.”

“So, in other words…” Wow, this was so strange. Kind of cool though. “The brain controls everything but feels no pain itself!” The nervous system didn’t seem so daunting now. Maybe if he learned weird facts about other body parts, they wouldn’t seem so intimidating. “Okay, tell me some interesting facts about… um… the respiratory system.”

Isa’s face all but lit up.


“Why do you look so disappointed?” Ryuuji asked Isa later that night.

“I was just thinking... It’s 'take your son to work day' soon, and it’s a shame that our lab is restricted to authorized personnel only.”