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Beyond Measure

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Session 9
Escape

6 months earlier

Noll gasped around Foster's oversized hands, searching with watery eyes for anything he could use as a weapon. What he saw was Mrs. Foster (if that was even her real name) lurking by the door with a forlorn expression.

"Hurry up!" she hissed, peeping through the small curtained window.

Noll threw another punch that landed neatly on the side of Mr. Foster's collarbone. When his hands loosened from the shock of it, Noll gulped down a lungful of air. "She was your daughter." He managed, head thrumming in time to his racing heart. "How could... do that... your daughter?"

A sharp crack filled the room as Noll let out a strangled cry. "Shut up!" Foster snapped, kneeing him again in the rib.

Every little movement felt like his insides were being set ablaze. Oxygen was no longer making its way to his brain and the edges of his vision were fading to black, dark spots taking over.

Noll was well aware that he was going to suffocate there on the office floor, but suddenly, he couldn't bring himself to care. One minute he was writhing in waves of pain and the next he was blissfully unaware.

He saw nothing; no darkness, no light. It wasn't that he couldn't see, but that his brain had deemed the action unnecessary. He heard no sound, but wasn't encased in silence.

Warm. That was the word. He felt warmth sweeping over him. It beckoned him forward, pulling with a promise of safety and contentment andー

"Naru!"

Pain.

Noll felt his muscles twitch, vibrating as he slammed back into awareness. He swallowed hard and managed to open his mouth to speak but then his jaw locked and his teeth came smashing back together. The taste of copper exploded over his tongue.

Soft hands cupped his face. "Naru? Can you hear me?"

"Don't move," Lin appeared beside Mai and Noll couldn't help but hope he wasn't making a habit out of waking to those words. "The paramedics are on the way,"

"What happened?" He croaked, voice cracking. "Where'd they go?"

Mai creased her eyebrows, sitting back on her heels. Noll tried not to notice the absence of her hands on his face. "They attacked you, Naru. You don't remember?"

"That's not what I meant," he said, bringing a hand up to massage his sore throat. "Where are they?"

"The woman is being held in another room until the police arrive." Lin gestured to the office door and then the broken window. "I'm sorry but the man got away."

"Damn it." Noll smashed his fist into the floor and immediately regretted it. His hand throbbed.

Lin glared down at his young charge. "When you get discharged from the hospital, you and I will be spending a lot more time in the dojo. You obviously don't remember how to fight without using your PK."

Noll rolled his eyes. "They caught me in a vision. I wasn't exactly expecting-" he hushed as two paramedics rushed into the room. They settled down beside him, checking his vitals and asking annoying questions. He answered with short, curt answers, listening more to what Lin was whispering to Mai.

"I'm going to go with Noll to the ambulance. Meet me in Training Room B. You're going to get your first Qi-gong lesson."

.
.

Present Day

Noll was the type of person who hated the cold. Well, he hated being hot too, but it was something about the way his toes always froze before he could manage to get to sleep.

But he had been sleeping, he realized groggily. The kink in his back was a testament to that.

Grumbling, he kicked the blanket back over his feet and tried to return to the land unconsciousness, but it was too late. He was wide awake.

Noll sighed. He needed tea. Even when he was little, a nice hot cup of tea (or in Gene's case, hot chocolate) would always make him feel better. So he padded as quietly as he could down the hallway to the back stairway that lead right into the kitchen. Blinking against the bright overhead lights, he grabbed the kettle and stuck it under the faucet.

"Couldn't sleep?"

The kettle clanged loudly onto the counter as Noll spun around, heart pounding. In his sleepy haze it hadn't occurred to him that someone else could be up at this hour. Or that he should have thought to put some actual clothes on.

Takigawa raised an eyebrow, sipping from a coffee mug as he regarded half-naked Noll, "I couldn't either."

Noll managed a nod, leaning as far away from the monk as he possibly could. The two men hadn't been alone in the same room since the he and the rest of the Irregulars arrived in England. It was hard for Noll not to remember the way Takigawa's hands twisted in his hospital gown, pinning him against the wall. "What did you do?" The older man growled, "Why are you standing here while she's fighting for her life in that bed?!"

His own voice was hoarse and meek, barely audible above the steady beep of the heart monitor. "I-I tried t-to save her-"

"Not hard enough!"

"Hōshō! Stop it!" The redhead priestess appeared in the doorway. She pulled at the Monk's shirt, tears streaming down her face. "It's not his fault! Let him go."

"The hell is isn't," he spit but stepped away from the bedraggled boy. His eyes were bloodshot, tears threatening to fall. "If she dies, Oliver, I swear I will kill you myself."

A chill ran through Noll. Though that hadn't been the first threat he'd received that week, it definitely was the scariest. He couldn't find it in himself to blame the monk for what he was feeling that way but he wasn't exactly excited to be face to face again. Even if Mai's condition was stable.

Swallowing hard, Noll forced himself to ignore the company and focus back on his task. He filled the kettle and rummaged around for his favorite teacup as he waited for it to whistle.

When he finally had his cup he turned to make his way back to his bedroom but stopped. Takigawa didn't look up as Noll watched him from the corner of his eye. The monk sat at the kitchen table, a small mountain of rectangular papers spread out in front of him. Curiosity hit as Noll realized these small rectangles were, in fact, pictures.

Pushing self-preservation aside, (along with the knowledge that he was still only in his boxers) Noll deftly pulled out the chair opposite of the monk and took a seat. He glanced over the pictures; most of them were filled with various members of the SPR team laughing and smiling. A few of them bore his face, stern and glaring at the person behind the camera. He spotted one lingering at the edge of the table featuring both him and his brown haired assistant in the midst of an argument. Even from the picture it was obvious Mai was winning.

Takigawa sifted through the photos with a sigh. "I feel like as soon as I fall asleep, she'll wake up. And she'll be scared because no one is there to greet her." He smiled at a picture of himself and Mai decorating the tree on Christmas last year. "It's stupid, I know, but I can't stop thinking about it."

Noll didn't say anything but sipped his tea. It didn't taste the same when he made it - he could never get just the right amount of lemon - but it would have to do for now.

Takigawa glanced at him over the picture. "What's your excuse?"

The way the monk was studying him made Noll feel like he had no choice but to answer. But the thought of explaining how his room was too cold for him to sleep made him feel like an idiot, so instead he said: "Nightmare."

It wasn't a lie; not entirely. He had experienced chronic nightmares ever since waking up in the hospital with healing burns and fresh memories of the hell he'd just survived. Tonight he'd just happened to wake to his frozen toes than to his screams.

"Yeah?" Monk questioned, taking another mouthful of coffee. "Naruー" he started, then stopped. He leaned back into the wooden chair and Noll felt the weight of his gaze sweeping over his exposed skin.

Fresh pink and purple scars littered almost every inch of his back and torso, spreading up over his shoulders and around the curve of his ribs. Noll wished he had been more careful about wearing a shirt.

"What happened in there?" Takigawa breathed the question. His eyes had that pained look Noll had grown to hate overtime. It was the same look the doctors gave him, the same look his parents gave him.

It was sickening. "You'll find out soon enough." He said, downing the last of the tea and leaving the monk alone at the table to lay the cup in the sink. "You're attending the trial, right?"

"Oh," Takigawa looked guilty. He scratched the back of his head. "I, uh... I'm on the witness list, actually."

"You're... You're what?"

"Character witness. Ms. Klein stopped by again while you were at therapy. Since you're taking the stand she thinks it's a good idea to have someone to tell the jury what you were like before... This..." He gestured to the scars.

Noll crossed his arms, half hoping to restore some of his dignity. "And you volunteered?"

"No. But I was the only one who qualified. Well, John-san and Masako-san did too but John-san is too nice to say anything bad and Masako-san wasn't sure she could be non-bias. So it fell to me."

"I..." Noll bowed his head, trying to think of something to say. But he wasn't sure if he should have been angry that his friends were being dragged into his mess or happy that even through everything, they were willing to support him. He had already started up the stairs when he turned back to the monk. "Promise me something?"

Takigawa paused in his attempt at brewing another pot of coffee. "Yeah?"

"Tell the truth."

He laughed. "You don't have to worry about that. And Naru?"

Noll turned around again.

"You should know... I'm not doing this for you," the monk said, stirring in a generous amount of creamer. "I'm doing this for her."

"Yeah," Noll smiled. "I know."