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Beyond Measure

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Session 14
Influence

Present day

It didn't work.

James slams the phone back down on its holder, ramming a hand through his short hair. It didn't make sense. He'd planned every minute so meticulously, detailed every word ー accounted for every possibility. And it still hadn't worked. He growled, slamming his fist onto the small phone desk.

Oliver Davis should be dead.

The officers in the corner of the room flinch, hands hovering over their stun guns as they eye the prisoner. James sighs, pushing himself to his feet. He just needs time, that's all. More time to figure it out.

"Hands behind your back." One of the officers approaches him cautiously, hand-cuffs in one hand and the other still firmly on his weapon. James doesn't fight; he allows the officer to shove him down against the desk and place the cuffs too tightly on his wrists.

"Do you have any manners?" He snarls as he's jerked back into his standing position. "I'm not an animal."

"Shut up."

The heat of pent up anger rushes to his cheeks as the officer grabs him by the elbow, spinning him around. His head spins with the sudden surge of energy. It feels as though a soft golden light is pumping through him, stretching out just beneath his skin.

James revels in the sweet, familiar sensation, catching the officer's gaze. "Loosen the handcuffs." His voice sounds like a melodic lullaby even to his own ears. He watches expectably as the officer's eyes grow wide and then glaze over as it takes effect. James clears his throat and speaks again. "Take them off."

The officer jumps to attention, scrambling to get the key out. James turns and after a moment, the cuffs fall away. "Thank you," he said, massaging the bright red marks on his wrists. "Take me to my cell."

"Yes, sir."

A grin makes its way onto his lips as he follows behind the officer back to the cell block.

Yes, he just needs more time. After all, he has no intentions of dying in a prison cell.

.
.

"Olly ー Oliver. Wake up. Come on now, open your eyes ー that's it."

Noll comes back to consciousness in waves of familiar sounds. The tic, tic, tic of a clock. The steady breathing of the person sitting beside him, their warm hand on his should in the exact place his brother's had been. He blinks slowly, a frown on his face. Gene, you bastard, he wants to say but his voice fails him at the sight of the dark green eyes that are definitely not his brother's.

Noll tried to lift his hand, to smooth away the oncoming headache, but his arms wouldn't respond. They felt cold, detached from the rest of him. This isn't right. Noll tries to blink away the uneasiness but can't seem to find the strength to open them again.

He shouldn't be here, his fuzzy mind told him, he should be… he should be…

"Hey," someone snaps, but it sounds far away. Too far for him to care. "I need you to stay with me, Oliver. Can you do that? Focus on me."

He feels something cold press against his lips and another, more familiar voice orders him to drink. The second the cold liquid slips down his throat, Noll feels more alert. Despite the voice in his ear telling him to take his time, Noll gulps down half the glass. His throat feels raw, swollen, and lights up like fire with every wheezing breath.

August Arainn watches him, pressing his lips together in a tight smile, eyes crinkling just slightly around the edges as he felt Noll's wrist. "Pulse is normal," he announces, "He should be stable but we should get him to the hospital just to make sure."

Bou-san, stop it!

Don't touch her!

"Oh," Noll groans, but it comes out as more of a raspy gasp. He takes another sip of water and gingerly clears his throat. "Maiー"

"Are you all right?" Doctor Arainn pulls a small flashlight from his coat pocket, shinning it into Noll's eyes.

Noll shakes his head, "Where's Mai?"

Here, he hears in his head, feeling the pull of their connection.

"Oliver!"

Before he knows it, Noll had jumped from the bed and is racing down the stairs, taking them two at a time, until he stumbles to the ground floor and into the living room. Mai, who is sitting in the ottoman beside Luella, flashes him a small, painful smile. Noll wants to go to her, to make sure she is really okay, but stops dead when he notices the Irregulars occupying the rest of the room.

Noll flinches back, half expecting someone to come after him again, but no one moves. They all look completely dejected, avoiding his gaze ー but not out of hatred, this time. Out of guilt.

August is behind him, closely followed by Martin and Lin. The doctor clicks the flashlight off with a sigh, "You could have a concussion, Oliver. You need to sit down." Noll shakes his head. He feels fine, despite the fear growing in his chest. He stumbles a step backward, nearly bumping into the doctor in his panic.

August recognizes the look on the teens face and holds him firmly in place, urging him further into the room as he whispers, "You're friends were under some kind of hypnotism," he explains, "much like you were."

Noll doesn't want to believe it but there is definitely something wrong with the group. They are pale and wide eyed, focused sheepishly on their hands. Takigawa is the worst of them all, bent over in his seat with his head in his hands. It was obvious something has gotten to them.

At the sight of her son, Luella crosses the room, violet eyes sad as she spots the dark bruises forming over Noll's pale throat. "Oh, Oliver," she whispers, "You can't ー if we need to post-pone the trialー"

"No!" Noll shouts, but his voice cracks. He coughs into his sleeve, ignoring the burning pain that follows. "No," he says again, this time his voice doesn't waver, "I can do it."

He let James hurt him and his friends for too long. He isn't about to let him get away with it.

Luella glances up at her husband, who shrugs, knowing nothing he could say will change the stubborn teens mind. They murmur to each other, something Noll can't quite hear as they ready themselves. Slowly, Noll finds himself alone in the room with his father, the Irregulars, and Mai.

Mai smiles at him, slow to rise from the ottoman as she crosses the room. You need to forgive them. She thinks to him, brushing her hand across the back of his as she passes, the rest of her thoughts buzzing just beneath his. Noll turns to watch her leave, a frown on his face.

Forgive them? He thinks, how could he forgive them for continuing his torture even after he'd made it out of that basement? He clenches his fists at the thought, then pauses, realizing... he already has forgiven them.

I know you have, Mai continues, even after she disappears into the kitchen, but they don't.

As if on que, Takigawa rises slowly from his seat, his blue eyes glossy and focused on the floor. "Naru-bou, I..." he reached out, then thinks better of it.

Noll turns from his father who paused in the doorway, face pensive, and faces the group. He glances at each of them, "There is no need to apologize."

Masako and John's head snap up, surprise mounting on their faces. Matsuzaki and Yasu are slower, peaking up at him through their eyelashes.

"Yes." Monk urges, "Yes, there is. We've-"

Noll raises a hand to silence him. "You wanted to protect Mai, right?"

Takigawa slumps his shoulders, surprise bringing his blue gaze to Noll's. "But... I've done something awful andー"

"And it isn't your fault." Noll gestures to the group, "It isn't any of your faults. It's Dumont."

"Naru..."

Noll takes a confident step forward, a smirk on his face as he offered his hand to the tall monk. "Let's get this bastard."

Takigawa stares at the offered hand, unsure what do to. But Noll stands, unwavering.

"I can't do this without you, Bou-san. Any of you."

Cautiously, the monk takes his hand, surprised the teens firm grip. A smile breaks over his face.