In the darkness behind Rock's eyelids, a doll in a pretty kimono was falling, falling endlessly toward the dirty grey pavement. Bright streamers of blood flew out and spattered across her spectacles. He was trying to shout, but no sound came out of his mouth. Suddenly something solid touched him, and he woke, wide-eyed.
Revy's head was lolling limply over onto Rock's shoulder. He wasn't exactly surprised. They'd essentially been up all night, and this journey by car had lasted five hours already. He turned a little, as much as his shoulder-belt would allow, to keep her from sliding off. "How much further, Dimya?"
Balalaika's lieutenant spoke to the driver, low-voiced, then turned his head. "Maybe half an hour. We are almost at the exit for the place. She is still asleep?"
"It is the painkillers as well as the fatigue. That is one reason why Balalaika sent us this far."
Dimya turned back to his navigating. Rock nudged Revy gently. "Revy ... wake up."
She pulled her head away from the nudge and took a deeper breath, then started to frown. The expression twisted into a grimace of pain, clearly visible in the grey light from the van's tinted windows. "Ah, fuck, I'm never drinkin' that shit again ... oh." Her eyes opened just a little as memory returned. "Oh, fuckity ... my leg!"
"Do you need another pill? We're almost there."
"Nnnnhh. No. Shit. It's gonna be hard enough getting out of the van as it is. Where are we, anyway?"
"On the south coast, somewhere near Kumano. Balalaika's men said something about a resort that's hardly used during the winter."
The van and its companion, trailing them with the baggage, were off the main highway now. They could see brooding pine forests, and the road was winding its way down a steep slope. "We're really out in the sticks, ain't we?" murmured Revy.
The daylight strengthened, and then the forest opened up ahead of them. They were skirting some cliffs overlooking the ocean, which flashed steely grey below them. The wind off the water hissed and roared against the van. They turned a bit inland again and passed a sign: Katsuura Resort. The road became rough and bumpy. Revy let out a shaky breath and then started cursing, almost silently, as she tried to ease her injured leg.
The van swerved and slowed to a crawl for a couple of hundred yards, then stopped. They were beside a newish-looking building in cedar wood; it seemed to combine features from both European vacation chalets and traditional Japanese country houses. It was also quite large. Balalaika's men were already jumping out. Chilly, damp air gusted into the passenger compartment as Dimya opened the door for Rock. "Four apartments," said Dimya. "Two on the ground floor, two above. You're upstairs. The same apartment, both of you: there are two bedrooms. All the arrangements are for your safety."
The driver had opened Revy's door. She took her seatbelt off slowly, eyeing the drop to the ground. The sharp, cold wind off the ocean cut into Rock as he came around to her side of the van, shouldering the driver aside, and stood there. Revy reluctantly put one hand on his shoulder and eased herself to the ground, swaying and shivering and cursing. Her injured leg was bare from just above the knee down: the doctor Balalaika had produced had cut the leg of Revy's tights off on that side. Rock fished out the crutch that the doctor had supplied and handed it to her. Balalaika's men were busily unloading things: a series of anonymous canvas bags that were probably their own, Rock and Revy's luggage, heavy-looking plastic crates that could be food - or ammo. "Inside," said Dimya. "Now."
"Inside" was a hallway with two doors leading off to each side - and a flight of stairs going up. Rock glanced back at Revy and her crutch and bit his lip, wondering why the hell he'd imagined there'd be an elevator - obviously no one would bother with that for a two-story building.
"Fuck," muttered Revy. Her fingers on the crutch grip were white-knuckled. Balalaika's men were attempting to look at her without actually looking at her.
"We could carry you up," the biggest one offered.
"Fuck, no! "
Dimya sighed. "Not like you think. Like this."
He and the big guy showed her how they would make a seat for her by gripping their own and each other's wrists. She shook her head stubbornly. "Just leave us alone, dammit."
Dimya gave Rock a very speaking look. Rock avoided his eye, and Dimya shrugged. "It is your own funeral, solnitsa," he said to Revy, and handed Rock two sets of keys.
Two of the guards carried Rock and Revy's bags upstairs and then vanished up there, presumably into the other apartment. Dimya nodded at them. "Just knock on the door opposite yours if you need anything. We have stocked the kitchen with food. There will be a hot meal prepared for you in the evening. Good day."
He turned to lock and bolt the outer door. One of the others kicked a wedge under it for good measure. Then they all trooped out of the hallway and into the two downstairs apartments, leaving Rock and Revy alone in the dimly lit hallway.
Revy scowled at the stairs. "Whose fucking idea was this, anyway? Don't tell me, I know - Big Sis."
Rock put his hands in the pockets of his coat so that he wouldn't be tempted to reach out and help her. She hop-dragged herself toward the stairs with the crutch and then used it and the handrail to hoist herself onto the first tread. "Piece of cake," she whispered, hoarsely.
He waited until she was a couple of stairs up before he started up behind her, holding the railing tightly with one hand and bracing the other against the opposite wall, in case she fell. She ignored him and continued steadily upward - thunk ... ka-thud, thunk ... ka-thud. When she got to the landing, she stopped and leaned against the wall, her eyes closed. Rock hurried up the last few steps. "Revy?"
"Door's unlocked. Check it out, Rock. I don't feel like wandering around."
What an understatement. The shadows under her eyes were so dark, it looked as though she'd blacked them on purpose. Rock pushed open the door and had a look around.
The big, airy main room had plate glass windows that looked down the hill to the sea, and a sliding glass door that gave access to a balcony. The water flashed and shifted beyond the trees in the grey morning light, sullenly powerful, and the door itself had locks, a bar, and what looked like an alarm. The apartment's kitchen was immaculate and well-stocked with appliances: coffee maker, tea kettle, rice cooker, microwave, and more. There were bottles of spring water and several cold meals neatly packaged in the refrigerator - presumably brought up by Balalaika's goons - and a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. The furnishings of the room were Western, although there was a kotatsu near the sliding glass door. The place was chilly and drafty: in the heat of summer, it was probably delightful.
There were two bedrooms off a short hallway at the back, one furnished in Japanese-Western fusion with a huge futon on a low bed platform, the other as a bunk room that could sleep up to four. Rock's luggage was in the larger room, Revy's in the bunk room. He gave an exasperated grunt and switched them. The larger room had a generous Western-style bath en suite, and off the hallway there was a Japanese bathing room and separate sink and toilet room.
"What's up, Rock?"
Revy's voice sounded frayed and faint. He hurried back to the main room. "Looks OK. All the comforts of home. You should lie down."
She followed him through the big, open space, stopping in the middle to look around. "Ain't nothing like home, Rock. You could put 50 people in here."
No, it was certainly nothing like the Lagoon's close, crowded labyrinthine corridors and bunk cabins. Maybe he should have let her stay in the little bunk room after all, but if he had to work on her leg, the big bed would make it easier. He was not surprised when she scowled at the handsomely furnished bedroom, "Just another damn hotel room. I really need to take a leak."
She shrugged out of her sheepskin jacket. Rock grabbed it before it hit the floor. She smirked at him wanly: "Man, you're such a gentleman." He clutched the jacket uselessly and and watched as she tried to maneuver through the bathroom door with the crutch, swearing as she attempted to work it around the door itself and the bathroom fixtures beyond. Finally he tossed the jacket onto a chair and hurried forward to help just as Revy gave up on the crutch and threw it out onto the bedroom carpet.
"Tch. You're a pervert after all. Wanna watch, Rock?"
Her smutty grin was a sick contrast to her shadowed eyes. He watched, worried, as she hopped toward the toilet, one hand on the wall, but she was managing well enough. He closed the bathroom door and went to draw the curtains, shutting out the increasingly bright morning and the forest of pine trees outside, and turned down the bed.
The room now looked dim, cool, and comfortable. The bed was drawing him. He sat on the edge of it, rubbing one hand across his face. Revy's bed. But it was easier just to sit there. The scene with Gin and Yukio was playing in his mind, over and over again, the gritty, messy horror alien to this quiet, clean other-worldly place.
The bathroom door banged open. Revy hopped slowly across the carpet toward him, touching the foot of her injured leg down every couple of hops and wincing. He gripped the edge of the bed to keep himself from springing up to help her. She collapsed to sit next to him - not quite touching, but he could feel her body heat. "You should lie down, Revy - get some sleep."
"Not in these clothes, I'm not."
"Should I get something out of your bag?"
Silence. She had her head in her hands, elbows on knees. Finally: "Hell with it. If you're gonna be Nurse Rock, you're just gonna have to deal with seeing undies. Yeah, there should be a big yellow Tweetie bird T shirt in there, and clean panties. Get 'em out."
He dragged himself to his feet and went to do her bidding. The T shirt was there, the big-headed big-eyed cartoon bird making an obscene gesture with his wing feathers, along with a stack of clean but mostly well-worn bikini briefs. His hand hovered over them, skittishly. He knew Revy was watching him.
"Ssst. It's not like you haven't seen my panties before."
He sighed, and grabbed a pair of faded violet briefs. "That's different. Completely." Catching a glimpse when I have to wake her up belowdecks is not the same as having my hands on her ... stuff.
"If you say so, dude. Fuck ... ." She was trying to pull her remaining boot off and wincing. He wrapped the underwear in the T shirt and tossed the bundle on the bed next to her. "Hey - let me give you a hand with that."
She stared at him as he knelt on the carpet in front of her, the damnedest expression on her face, like she was trying to put on a snarky smile and couldn't get it to stick. Finally she settled for rolling her eyes and mutely held out her foot.
The boot wouldn't give up easily. Probably her feet had swollen a bit after sitting in the van for hours. He finally got it off and looked up, only to realize that he was staring up her pleated skirt. It was a good thing she was wearing tights - or the remains of a pair of tights, anyway. They still didn't hide her muscular thighs entirely. He dropped his eyes, feeling his ears burning.
"Get the fuck up off the floor already," she said, crossly. "I can handle the rest myself."
Rock got to his feet, sighing. "Whatever you say, Revy." He placed the boot neatly by her big bag and turned to go.
"What the hell happened to my other boot? These weren't damn cheap."
He took a deep breath, but it didn't help. Suddenly the sound of his blood in his ears was like a drumbeat.
"It's just a goddamn boot, Revy! It's not that big of a deal - we can buy you another pair! "
"Yeah? Says the boy who grew up rich! Those came out of my pay, you prissy fucker!"
"Shut up, you cheapskate! You're still breathing, aren't you? They aren't!"
He leaned against the door frame and glared at her. She set her jaw and glared back, but she was flushed across her nose and cheeks, and her eyes were red rimmed and too bright. Finally she looked away from him and breathed in through her nose, hard. "Damn, Rock ... ."
He pushed himself upright and turned to go. "Take it easy, Revy."
He ducked into the hall bath for a moment, and then went to the other bedroom. He usually slept in his briefs, but it was chilly, and Revy might need him. He switched his street clothes for a pair of sweatpants and grey, utilitarian t-shirt. He was just getting out his toothbrush when he remembered that Revy hadn't had any pain medication since they left the doctor's house. No wonder she was getting so bitchy. He rummaged through his gym bag and found the bottle of oval white pills, hand-labeled in Japanese with the doctor's tight, messy writing, and then went to the kitchen for a bottle of water.
Her door was open - of course. He hadn't shut it. He rapped on the door frame. "Revy? You should take one of these painkillers."
There was a moment of silence. Then: "Huh. You're still talking to me."
He went in. She was half-covered with the bedding, her legs exposed from the knees down. The bandage over the deep cut from Ginji's shirasaya seemed to be OK, but she had the crook of her arm over her eyes, as though the dim light in the room was too much. "Aren't you cold?"
"I just couldn't get all the blankets and shit to lay right." She pulled her arm away and looked at him. Her eyelids and the skin under her eyes gleamed damply. He felt something in his chest tighten, and he crossed to kneel at the side of the bed.
She tried to sit up, but groaned as she moved the injured leg and dropped back onto the mattress. "Fuck! Rock, this sucks so much."
"Here. Hold onto the pill. Just go limp in the legs and let me get your head up-"
He got one arm under her shoulders and managed to get her off the horizontal enough to drink without spilling. She gulped the water thirstily and then let her head loll back with a sigh.
"Do you want more water?"
"Nope. Just put me down, man. I know I have'ta wait for this stuff to kick in. Just wish it would stop throbbing so much. I mean, I've had a damn cut before - why's this one hurt so bad?"
"It was a really deep cut, Revy. The doctor had to stitch up the muscles too." He wasn't going to tell her what it had looked like, in the one moment he'd been stupid enough to look at the doctor's work in progress, but it was flashing against his mind's eye again now. "Oh."
She opened her eyes again. "What?"
"The doctor said we should keep your leg propped up a little. "
"These pillows are awfully squishy. They'd move around."
"Wait a second. I saw something in the other room."
As he'd remembered, the larger sofa had removable cushions, and the ones for the seat were flat and boxlike. He brought back the center one and gingerly got it under the injured leg, to the accompaniment of a litany of curses and gasps. Then he pulled the bedding loose from the other side of the mattress and gently tucked it over and around her, with extra slack over the bad leg.
"Ahhh ... yeah. Oh, yeah. Thanks, man."
He put the half-full water bottle on the bedside table, along with the pills, and showed her the time on the clock. "You can take another one in four hours. OK? Get some sleep."
He rose and started to leave, feeling bone-weary himself.
"Hey ... ."
He turned in the doorway and leaned on the wall, blinking. "What's up?"
"Got a hot date waiting for you back there or something?"
"Uhhh ... no. Why?"
"'Cause this bed's as big as Roanapur's main freight dock. I sure as hell wouldn't notice if you were on the other side there. And then I won't have to scream for Nurse Rock to hear me on the other side of this damn warehouse."
That was all such bullshit. The way she'd been acting, any movement he made would jostle her leg, and he knew damn well how loudly she could shout. But as he looked at her sunken eyes above her empty, pasted-on grin, he didn't have the heart to argue. He staggered wearily over to the wardrobe and pulled it open to find, as he'd expected, another comforter on the top shelf. Wordlessly, he went around to the far side of the bed and lay down as carefully as he could.
"Good night." Her hoarse voice was no more than a whisper.
"Sleep well, Revy."
He closed his eyes and made himself relax as bonelessly as he could. As he tried to match his breathing to hers, he realized that she was not falling asleep.
"Are you ... doing OK?"
For a minute, he couldn't imagine why she was asking. Then he remembered how worried she'd been as they'd both realized that Yukio had no intention of outliving her faithful bodyguard a moment longer than necessary, and the dream he'd had in the car. But there was no weight to either memory, not when he thought about serving as Revy's operating room nurse, or the sight of her climbing the stairs on on one good leg and one crutch, or the solid feel of her against his arm as he propped her up to drink, or the way she'd asked him to stay without actually asking him. He sighed and reached across the expanse of empty bed between them to squeeze her shoulder for a second.
"I'm fine. Now go to sleep already, damn it."
There was a small, breathy sound that might almost have been a laugh. "Whatever you say, boss."
He retreated back to his own side of the bed and curled up more comfortably. He could almost feel her warmth again, despite the distance. Her breathing soon grew slower, slower, and deeper. He realized that she must be feeling no pain, at last, and the thought released him into sleep.