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Born to Fly

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Staring up at the hospital through wet hair, he watched raindrops slide down one of the strands dangling before his eyes. The dye hadn't fully settled in, and the drops were tinted with a faint shade of blue. He coughed violently and reached into the pocket of his jacket for his cigarettes in reaction. He stepped under the awning while he waited for his agent to finish parking the car, mostly so he could light his cigarette without worrying about the pouring rain.

 

His agent hurried toward him, scowling beneath the protection of her broad umbrella. He was here at her insistence; it was a waste of everyone's time.

 

“Mamoru-sama, you really shouldn't smoke,” she chided him when she was close enough to be heard. He blew smoke into her face carelessly, ignoring the scandalized noise she choked out in response.

 

“Stop me,” he dared her childishly. “It's pointless to be here. They're not going to find anything new.”

 

“Mamoru-sama!” She stomped her foot, her tone enough to let him know she wasn't pleased. Mamoru sighed, dropped his cigarette, and stubbed it out with the toe of his boot.

 

“We might as well get this over with,” he said blandly. “Maybe they can at least tell me how long I've got.” Without waiting for her, he turned and strode into the hospital lobby. His agent hung back to shake out her umbrella and fold it up.

 

The girl behind the counter recognized him instantly despite the recent change of hair color. She paled at the sight of him, and he smiled humorlessly to think of what he must look like to her. She rose and bowed to him.

 

“Good afternoon, Takatori-san,” she greeted cordially. “Please follow Nina.” Gesturing to a mousy woman nearby, she resettled herself just in time to answer an incoming phone call. Mamoru turned his attention to the timid nurse, and she bowed hurriedly.

 

“Please follow me,” she repeated in a whisper, and led him down the hallway into one of the private rooms. She waited until his agent, an attractive woman in her mid-thirties by the name of Takaoka Kyoko, had caught up to them and gestured to her to wait in the corridor. Mamoru wished he'd finished his cigarette; he had a feeling he was going to need the nicotine boost. The nervous nurse left him in the room for a moment while she went to gather paperwork, and returned moments later with a clipboard she used to note down his height, weight, and blood pressure.

 

“The doctor will be with you shortly,” she informed him in a whisper, and bowed her way out the door again, pulling it closed behind her. Mamoru busied himself reading the posters on the wall - 'Prostate cancer is preventable!’ one screamed at him, the pink letters arched above an image of a dog sniffing another dog's ass.  He snickered to himself and regretted it almost immediately as it set off another coughing fit. He didn't hear the door until it clicked shut behind the doctor, and he started speaking as soon as he got his breath under control.

 

“If the service had been this good five years ago, I might have kept coming.”

 

Turning, he eyed the doctor and started laughing with bitter humor. He eyed the name badge hooked to the long white coat and scowled. “White really isn't your color,” he told the doctor. The badge proclaimed that the doctor was Naoe Nagi, MD.

 

“I'm glad you think so, Takatori-san,” Naoe said inflectionlessly. His face was calm, however, and Mamoru had no way of knowing what the other man thought of their impromptu meeting.

 

He knew what he thought, though. “Aren't you a little young to be a doctor?” They - he cut off the thought before it could form and quickly substituted he - had never known how old the kinetic was. Some digging had turned up the fact that he was younger than Mamoru, but not by how much.

 

“Aren't you a little young to be dying?” Was the waspish response. Mamoru flinched and scowled.  Naoe made no sign that he'd landed a direct hit, all professionalism hiding his true thoughts. “Symptoms?”

 

Mamoru ignored him. “Tell me, is it easier to kill people this way?” The rude tone earned him a disapproving glower before Naoe got his expression under control.

 

“I haven't killed anyone in almost ten years,” he replied, as smoothly as if they were discussing the weather. “Symptoms?”

 

Mamoru settled himself on the paper-lined bed, ignoring the sharp jab of pain that skittered up his forearm from his palm. Ten years would put it roughly at the time of the tower falling. Weiss pulled themselves out of the sea and disbanded shortly after.

 

Mamoru shoved the recollection away and tilted his head, wearing his most bland expression. “Which ones?” he drawled, trying to be deliberately annoying.

 

Naoe was unflappable. “Whichever ones sent your agent crawling into my office yesterday, begging for a miracle.”

 

“I'm surprised she bothered asking. At this point I'm pretty sure she'd be glad to get rid of me.” He rolled his head to one side and examined the butt-sniffing dogs on the poster. “I actually thought she was checking herself in after the shock I gave her.”

 

“Symptoms?” Naoe prompted for the third time, and now Mamoru was detecting a hint of aggravation beneath the façade. He knew he'd scored when Naoe continued. “Just because people pay you to act doesn't mean you've got a right to come in here and waste my time.”

 

“Good,” Mamoru snapped.  “Let me go and die in peace, then.  Or if you’re feeling really good about yourself, you could give me something to make it faster.”  He tossed his hair back and choked back the itch in his throat that was demanding he cough and clear it away.  He met Naoe’s glower with an even expression, trying to impress on the telekinetic doctor just how serious he was being without resorting to begging, or petty arguments.

 

“You are a spoiled, pretentious, shit-talking brat,” Naoe informed him bitterly.  “Do you really suppose I’m going to help you commit suicide?” He planted his hands on his hips, and Mamoru found a place, far back in the dimmest reaches of his mind, to be amused that Naoe was taller than him.  “No,” the doctor continued.  “Symptoms!”

 

All the energy left Mamoru’s body.  He sank down further, hunching in on himself.  “Heart pain?   Chest pain,” he amended immediately.  “Whatever.  Can’t use my arms very well anymore.  Headaches all the time.  Coughing up shit in my lungs.  Can’t sleep.  Kyoko tells me my personality’s gone down the drain, too.” 

 

“You?  Personality?  Hah.  I can’t imagine how you’ve been lying to all these people for so many years.”  Naoe’s tone was sharp, and Mamoru couldn’t keep a lid on the bark of laughter that followed the pronouncement.  The action set off the cough that had been teasing him, and he doubled over, clutching at his chest as he tried to breathe around the wracking spasm.  Naoe instantly remembered his role as doctor, and placed the eartips of his stethoscope in his ears, pressing the bell against Mamoru’s back, listening to the wheezing in silence. 

 

“Hear  anyth- anything you like?” Mamoru gasped out around a scowl.  Naoe ignored him in favor of making notes on his clipboard. 

 

“I’d like to take some blood samples for analysis,” Naoe informed him, all cold professionalism again.  “And run some more tests before I can give you a diagnosis.  Based on the sound in your lungs, I’d be tempted to say tuberculosis,” he added, more to himself than Mamoru, and continued making notes.  “I’m scheduling you for a Mantoux skin test, an RIDT, and an ECG.”

 

Mamoru waited until his breath was back.  “It’s not TB, the flu, or a heart attack,” he informed Naoe.

 

“I won’t know what’s wrong with you until we’ve eliminated the obvious choices,” Naoe shot back at him. 

 

“What’s wrong is I’m dying.”

 

“You can’t know that,” Naoe said, but for the first time since he walked in the door, he appeared uncertain.  Mamoru attributed it to concern over not being able to diagnose him.

 

“Well, what’s your patient mortality rate?”

 

Naoe paused by the door and looked back at him with an even gaze.  “Zero,” he said at last.  “I’m sending Nina back in here to get you started on those tests.  Try not to frighten her.”  And he was gone.

 

“Hah,” Mamoru murmured.  “Imagine that… Schwarz.  After all this time.”  He looked up at the No Smoking sign and pulled a cigarette free from the dwindling pack.  “Huh.”