High School Never Ends

Chapter 14: Past Mistakes

Bunny hasn’t moved for ten minutes. Tetsuko and her boyfriend were on the hospital’s roof, still recovering from Kriem’s suicide. Bunny had his fingers threaded through the chain link fence on top of the building, the barrier there so no one could fall off. His legs were a few steps back from his head which was hanging down between his arms, so it kind of looked like he was stretching. He’d been like that ever since they walked up here, silent, probably trying to wrap his head around Kriem’s death.

Tetsuko was still having a hard time wrapping her head around it as well. Kriem loved Jake enough to kill herself for him, she committed suicide after she heard he died falling off the roof and yet, she stuck around long enough to fuck with everything. And what did she mean Jake didn’t kill Bunny’s parents? He had too! Bunny saw him! But what if she’s right? What if it was someone else? And that bit about only being a faction of Ouroboros? Does that mean Ouroboros doesn’t just recruit high school kids to beat the crap out of other high school kids? Well, now that I think about it, that dude with the robot who tried to kill me that one time, he was in Ouroboros, but he was definitely not a high school kid. So are they actually a bigger terrorism/criminal syndicate than we first thought? Ug! Why does everything have to be so complicated? Tetsuko stopped her mental running around in circles and looked at Bunny. He still hadn’t moved. The brunette leaned back on the fence, shoving her hands into her coat pockets as she watched her boyfriend.

“I’m sorry, Bunny.” She started

“Why are you sorry?” His voice was devoid of all emotion and he stood up straight.

“I knew you were hoping today’s meeting would give you some closure.” She paused, giving him a concerned eye. Bunny didn’t even look her way. She scratched her cheek, “Looks like we’re back to square one, but I’m sure the answers are out there-“

“Jake is the murderer!” He slammed his palm back into the fence, making the links rattle. “I remember the whole thing! It’s burned into my memory like it happened yesterday. There’s no way it was someone else.” His voice was thick with emotion now, sadness and anger.

“So you think Kriem said all that just to mess with us?” Tetsuko pushed off the fence and walked a step closer.

“Yes. She obviously held a grudge against us.”

“Yeah, well I looked up the day your parents died on my phone and as it turns out, there really was a report of a kidnapping that day. The date even checked out! According to the case file she really was taken on Christmas Eve, but the case was dropped because the police could never find her. It’s amazing what you can learn on the internet.” She added dryly.

“So what? it doesn’t prove that Jake was the one who kidnapped her!” Bunny’s eyes finally turned to her, the green irises that were usually either filled with contempt or teasing now hard and distant. Tetsuko shuddered when she made eye contact.

“But still…”

“Who are you going to believe?” The boy shouted, facing her head on. “I remember Jake as the murderer! His face is burned into my memory! I remember him looking at me right after he killed my parents.” Bunny was losing it. The only thing he’d wanted today was to let this all go, let his parents rest in peace and move on from the murder, but now everything had gone to hell. Tetsuko turned away to look out over the city, letting the blond ride out his emotions. “He was holding a gun in his right hand, the one with the Ouroboros tattoo.” Bunny held up his hand like he was holding a gun, trying to get the woman to side with him.

“Bunny? Do you still have that laptop Kriem gave you when they were attacking us one by one?” Tetsuko halted the rant suddenly, leaving Bunny out of steam.

“What?”

“I know you’ve still got it.” She guessed he still had the thing because it never turned up as evidence in the case. So where would it be besides with Bunny?

“Why do you want it?” He backed down, shifting back into the cool, collected Bunny.

“I have an idea.” She said smiling and turning to walk off the roof.

“What’s the point of looking at all these old video files?” Bunny asked as Tetsuko lounged in his single chair. They were at the boy’s apartment and Bunny had brought out the red laptop from another locked box in his closet that Tetsuko hadn’t picked the lock yet. She’d then gotten into the downloaded files and started systematically going through the videos, surprising Bunny with her efficient work. She’d replied that it came with the territory of editing, you had to be a little organized or else Hardwick would skin you alive.

“I’m trying to see if there’s any footage of Jake with his gloves off.” Bunny, who was leaning over the chair, straightened up.

“What?”

“Well, we don’t really know if he was with Kriem when your parents were murdered.” Bunny scoffed.

“Trust me, he wasn’t.”

“But what if you’re wrong? That was fourteen years ago. But the one thing we can confirm is if Jake was really sporting a tattoo. We should be able to learn something from these videos.” She fast-forwarded through Keith’s fight and Antonio’s fight, not finding any good shots of Jake. Ivan’s hadn’t had any either.

“What are you saying? That my memory’s not reliable?” The blond seemed particularly ticked about that one.

“Well…” She didn’t want to answer that one, but it was fourteen years ago when the incident happened and he was only four at the time, and from experience, Tetsuko knew that children don’t always remember things right.

“This is stupid.” Bunny scratched his head, messing up his curls in the process which he neglected to fix afterwards. Tetsuko found nothing in Antonio’s video and moved onto hers. Skimming the fight she hadn’t realized just how bad she looked getting beaten to a pulp.

“Man, I looked like shit! I mean, look!” Bunny did, reluctantly leaning over the chair again. “That’s the kick that fractured my ribs and my skin totally split when he got me in the forehead!” She looked up at her boyfriend. He was giving her a funny look. “What?”

“You’re acting like a commentator to your own near-death fight. And you sound excited. How messed up is that?”

“Shut it! I couldn’t see straight half the time at this point. I just wanted to point out that I looked damn cool for never giving up!”

“Yeah, right before you got thrown into a wall. Several times, in fact.” Bunny pushed play and let the girl see herself get tossed around like a rag doll.

“Ow. Geez, that looked like it-ow! Okay, that makes me feel the pain all over again.” Tetsuko skipped the rest of the video until the screen went black.

“Good, now that’d we’re done watching the shit get kicked out of you can we stop this?”

“No! There’s only your fight left, it’ll only take a minute.” The brunette opened the file and started watching. Bunny wasn’t paying attention again. “Ah ha! Here we go.” She’d found some footage of Kriem and Jake talking on a couch in Bunny’s fight video. And Jake had his gloves off.

“Go ahead, but I already know the answer.” That’s his holier-than-thou voice. I hate it when he uses it. He always thinks he’s right and most of the time he us, but it still pisses me off! She pressed play and Jake was going on one of his rants while Kriem put on makeup. His hands flew up on screen and Tetsuko paused the video just as his right hand flipped around. They both gasped. There wasn’t a tattoo on his skin. It was blank.

“He doesn’t have a tattoo.” Tetsuko stated the obvious.

“That can’t be…” Bunny breathed. “Impossible!” He’s lost it again. “Something’s wrong! Maybe he had a surgery to remove it.”

“I can understand your feelings, but there’s no evidence that he ever had one.” Tetsuko looked away, not wanting to see that hurt look on her boyfriend’s face.

“No way.” Bunny stumbled backwards until he hit the wall. “That tattoo’s very clear in my memory.” He slapped his hand on his head. “If it wasn’t him, then who was the murderer I saw?” Tetsuko watched Bunny get a faraway look in his eyes, trying to remember, probably. That must suck to have to open up painful memories. I know I don’t want to remember some things, right Tomoe? Some things are best forgotten. But Bunny couldn’t forget now, he still had unfinished business. The blond gasped, his eyes wide.

“What’s wrong?” Tetsuko was up in an instant, reaching for him. Bunny was looking at his hand now, his fingers trembling. He was panting. “Hey, Bunny! You alright?” Tetsuko grabbed his shoulders, getting right in his face but the boy wasn’t seeing her. Seeing past her. “What’s going on?”

“I’m not really sure!” He gasped, eyes going wider with each passing second. “The face keeps changing…no…no!” Bunny shook his head back and forth, struggling against Tetsuko like his life depended on it until he accidently smacked it against the wall and knocked himself out. Tetsuko caught his limp body just before it hit the floor.

“Whoa!” She kneeled, holding him for a minute before hauling him up and dragging him to the bedroom. She set Bunny down as carefully as she could (maybe banging his injured head on the headboard just once) and went to go make and ice compress for the goose egg he was bound to develop. After setting Bunny’s head on ice, she went back to the chair too look at the videos again and look up criminal files that the police had released to the public. Not finding much on Jake except the usual robbery, assault and the whole deal with the videos, Tetsuko hung out for ten minutes and decided that she was hungry. Then when she went into Bunny’s kitchen and opened the refrigerator, her stomach clenched and decided that it wasn’t hungry after all. Not that Bunny didn’t have anything good (it was better than Tetsuko’s own refrigerator contents) but she just didn’t feel like eating at that moment. She plopped back down on the only chair in this fucking place and took a short nap. Bunny was sitting on the living room steps when she woke up. “Hey, you feeling better? Got yourself a nice bump there.”

“Thanks for the ice. And for carrying me in there.” Bunny glanced up at her tiredly. “You didn’t snoop did you?” He gave her the evil eye.

“No,” he sighed in relief, “I’ve already searched everywhere in there.” He glared at her now. “Don’t look at me like that. You did the same to my room.”

“Did not.” He grumped and did a turn-shrug thing where he didn’t look her in the eye again.

“So what happened?” Tetsuko asked as she got up to make some coffee for them. And Bunny explained that when he remembered the night his parents died, Jake’s face kept changing into other faces.

“It changed?” She walked back over and sat down next to him on the steps, setting his cup on the carpet. She hoped the breach in Barnaby’s Clean Rules, would tick him off, get him out of his head, but he just ignored her bad manners.

“Yeah, my memory of Jake’s face suddenly morphed into other people.”

“What does that mean?” She asked offhandedly, sipping her coffee.

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out!” Bunny stuck his hands on the side of his head.

“Has something like this ever happened to you before?” She really wanted to help him, but if Bunny was going to be a pissy little girl about every little thing, she was going to have to start asking the hard questions.

“There was a time when I couldn’t remember his face, but nothing like this.” Bunny looked up and rested his elbows on his knees, thinking. Just to ruin their concentration, Tetsuko’s phone went off. The caller ID wasn’t in her phone, but Tetsuko felt like she needed to take the call.

“ One sec, Bunny.” She took the call and said, “Hello?”

“Is this Tetsuko Kaburagi? This is Allen Ballard from Sternbild Police.”

“Yes, I am.” Tetsuko gave her boyfriend the “one minute” finger and stood up and went into the bedroom.

“I’m calling on behalf of the department. You’ve sent us and application and credentials for the Police Academy prerequisite test, is that correct?”

“Yes, but that’s not for another month.”

“Yes, well, we’re having to split up the test into two separate groups and were wondering if you’d be flexible enough to maybe take the test somewhere other than the academy. Nothing’s permanent yet, but if might be possible for you to go to another city to take the test since we at the department are swamped. Would that be okay if it comes to that?”

“Yeah, I think, but I’d still like to take the test in Sternbild because I want to work here.”

“You’d probably still work in Sternbild if you became a police officer, Ms. Kaburagi- maybe not but arrangements can be made-it’s just that everything over here is a little messed up.” You’re telling me, I have my own problems. Tetsuko glanced back at Bunny who was drinking his coffee and sighed.

“I’m sure it’ll be okay.”

“Thank you for your cooperation. We’ll send you all the necessary information as soon as possible.” Ballard finished and hung up. Tetsuko sighed and headed back into the living room.

“Are you alright? You sounded like you were worried.” Bunny asked as she sat down. Did he hear any of that? I don’t want him to worry about my problems!

“Na, its nothin’.” She waved him off. “It’s just-“ Then Bunny’s phone went off.

“One moment,” The blond took the call. “Hello? Oh, hi Auntie.” Auntie? Tetsuko thought, oh it must be Samantha. “Thanks for calling me back. Yes, I’m fine.” Tetsuko was tired of hearing only half a conversation and stuck her on Bunny’s hand to hear what the old caretaker had to say. Bunny just rolled his eyes.

“I must say it’s unusual for you to give me a call.” Tetsuko picked up the old woman’s voice. The sounded nice.

“Samantha?” Bunny interjected.

“Yes?”

“Sorry to bother you, but there’s something I want to ask.”

“What is it, my dear?”

“Fourteen years ago, can you tell me where you were on the day my parents were murdered?”

“What?” She sounded surprised and so was Tetsuko.

“You weren’t there at the house, were you?”

“No, I believe I was home ill. I remember having quite a serious cold.”

“Is there anyone who could prove you were sick?” Bunny asked, calmly. Where is he going with this?

“Prove it? I’m afraid not, that was quiet a long time ago.”

“So the fact is: we just have to take your word-“

“What are you doing?” Tetsuko hissed, grabbing the phone from Bunny’s hand, holding it out of his reach.

“What is it?” He asked, crossly, trying to get his phone back. The brunette could hear Samantha calling the blonde’s name, trying to find out what was going on.

“What’s going on?” The Japanese woman snapped, pushing his hands away and covering up the phone’s mouth piece.

“I told you what was going on! My memory of the murderer’s face started changing and her face was one of them. I’m just covering all my bases!”

“So you think she’s the one who murdered your folks? What the hell’s wrong with you, Bunny? When did you even call her?”

“Just now when you were having your phone call. She just must’ve missed me and called right back.”

“She seems like just a nice, sweet old lady.”

“But she showed up in my memory! And I have no other leads, so I have to follow up with the ones that present themselves!”

“How do you know you can even trust your memory after all these years, with all the things you’re starting to find out? If you ask me, you’re acting nuts.”

“Master Barnaby? Are you still there?” Tetsuko brought the phone to her ear, keeping Bunny away with a hand and a foot on his torso.

“Yeah, he’s still here! He just got interrupted! He’ll have to call you back.” Tetsuko snapped the phone shut and pushed the device into her boyfriend’s chest. “Get your shit together, Bunny so we can figure this out without terrorizing any old ladies. Myself included!”

“At this point I just don’t know what to think. All the facts I’d believed all this time have suddenly begun to fall apart. I feel like the ground had been pulled out from under me.” His clasped hands squeezed tighter.

“That’s completely understandable.” Tetsuko replied.

“Tetsuko?”

“Hm?”

“Maybe I should just focus on this for a while. Quit my job and resign as student president so I can focus on solving this with all my energy. I and hate to say it, but maybe we should take a break from dating. I can’t do my jobs properly or have a constructive relationship with you, in this state of confusion, anyway.”

“What? Tetsuko reeled, he’s not breaking up with me is he? “Let’s not get to hasty! You love working at the bar and you’re a great student president! You can’t just let people down like that! You have commitments! And I’m not going to leave your side! I’m going to help you solve this!”

“Sorry, I have to sort some things out.” Bunny got up and walked into his bedroom and locked the door behind him. “Please show yourself out.”

“Wait you bastard! Let me in!” She pounded on the door, cursing his name to hell and back and then slumped against it. Finally she decided that dinner was in order and went to the store to grab some things. Showing back up and hour later, Bunny looked surprised to find her in the kitchen when he finally emerged from his room.

“What are you doing here still?”

“What does it look like?” She’d stored one of her woks here on an earlier date and was using it to make fried rice. It was looking pretty good to. “It’s dinner!” She grinned. “Oh, and I also picked up some of that rose wine you wanted to try.” She pointed her spoon to the bottle on the table.

“I said I wanted to try it when I could legally drink, not right now.” He flopped down in the chair and leaned back.

“Yeah, but I want some too!”

“You’re not legal either.”

“I’ve been drinking since junior high, so get over it already.” Tetsuko made a heaping plate of rice for Bunny and a smaller one for herself and walked it over to him as she uncorked the bottle. “It also helps that Muramasa is so easy to steal from.” She then joined him with two glasses of wine and sat on the floor to present her boyfriend with his share of the alcohol. “Dinner is served! Eat it while it’s hot, monsieur.”

“What is all this?” He took the glass and set it on the coffee table next to the little blue robot his parents had given him.

“Duh, fried rice. If you remember, it’s the only thing I know how to make besides cereal.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Hm?” Tetsuko took a bite of rice and looked up at him

“Why are you doting on me all of a sudden?”

“Well, I uh…I’m worried about you. And I’m not about to let you break up with me over something I can help you with!”

“And there you go again, helping.” Bunny fiddled with his spoon, his eyes looking dead. He must’ve been thinking about his parent’s death all afternoon.

“It’s what I do. Now eat up!” Tetsuko forced herself to eat another bite, her stomach protesting at the prospect of food in it. She watched Bunny take a spoonful, get it close to his mouth (her eyes were wide at this point) and then sigh and put it back down. She groaned in disappointment.

“It’s so frustrating.”

“Hm?” Tetsuko put her dish aside, not even half eaten and it probably wouldn’t ever be eaten.

“The murderer’s face keeps changing every time I think about it.”

“Huh?”

“At one point he even looked like you.” That nearly stopped Tetsuko’s heart. And then she realized that it had stopped for a split second and beat slower before catching up. She resisted the urge to clutch her chest, setting her face into a mask while silently panicking inside her head. I wasn’t even running or shit! What is going on with me now?

“Uh, just for the record,” She squeaked out before speaking normally, “I wasn’t the killer, okay?”

“That harder I try to remember that day, the less I know!” Bunny’s voice got thick, tears springing to his eyes. He ducked his head into one of his hands, setting the untouched plate of rice on the coffee table. “My memory is so vague that its driving me crazy! I can’t take it!” He was openly sobbing now. Tetsuko stood and wrapped her arms around her boyfriend, hugging him tightly. He grabbed onto her back and buried his face in her chest. This would probably be really hot in any other situation, she mused.

“Look, Bunny,” She pulled away to rest her hands on his shoulders. The boy was wiping away his tears, still trying to be that strong, put together man he clung to. “What if we retrace your steps the day your parents died?”

“What’s the point of that?”

“It always seems to help me when I lose something really important and you know I lose stuff a lot. Maybe it’ll help you too.” The blond just hung his head. “Hey, you won’t be the Bunny we all know a love if you don’t figure this out.”

“Okay.” Bunny took the plate and ate some fried rice. He even had a little wine and as Tetsuko dragged an unconscious blond to bed for the second time that day she vowed to herself never to give him rose wine when he was depressed. It knocked him right out.

“I can’t believe they’ve already had this Christmas crap up for weeks!” Tetsuko and Barnaby were at the main skating center for Sternbild. December eighth was the next day they both had off from work and Tetsuko decided to help her boyfriend retrace his steps that day. There was a fucking huge, silver and blue tree that stood stories tall at the end of the rink, decorated up the whazoo for the holidays.

“People like their Christmas to go into Thanksgiving, you know that.” Bunny replied, pulling his jacket tighter around him. Tetsuko shivered into her green coat, and looked around at all the happy couples and families skating around the rink. There were also shops set up around the rink to cater to people browsing for gifts and the brunette had already seen some pretty sweet stuff.

“No, you are not getting me onto the ice. I vowed never to do that again.” She hissed, and Bunny chuckled slightly. “So, on that day you were here, right before it happened?”

“Yeah, the rink was just as lively as it is today. Mr. Maverick brought me here.” Tetsuko sucked at her juice box, her meal of the day and turned around to lean against the rink’s rail.

“Was that kiosk here back then?” She smiled at all the kids and adults milling about the bright colored cart.

“Yeah. That’s right,” Bunny looked away, closing his eyes. “Mr. Maverick bought me a hat.” Tetusko used this opportunity to slip away while he wasn’t looking. She walked over to the kiosk and spotted two pins on the display. She instantly bought them.

“Thank you, have a nice day!” The lady called as she walked away with her purchase. Tetsuko chuckled mischievously as she walked back to Bunny. He was standing with his hands on his hips.

“Do you really think this is the best time to go shopping?” Now he was miffed, and that was better than being depressed. He turned his chin up at her for good measure.

“Don’t worry! I got something for you too!” The brunette replied, elbowing him in the stomach/chest area. “See?” She held out the pin, with a Christmas tree etched into the gold surface and colored green, blue, white and red.

“Yeah, no thanks.” Bunny declined rather harshly. Tetsuko made her big kitty eyes at him.

“What? But I bought a matching set because you’re my partner!” She opened up her coat to show him her pin attached to her cream vest pocket.

“That’s not a selling point.” He remarked. Then she pounced, trying to pin the thing to his jacket.

“Come on now, don’t be shy! Hold still or I’ll poke you!”

“I think you’re forgetting why we’re here!” Bunny pushed her away before the pin was on. “And besides, this is real leather!” He gestured to his jacket like it was all important. “Don’t go ruining it with a cheap souvenir.”

“Uh…” Tetsuko kind of felt like he was poking her in the heart with the pin she just bought. Why can’t he ever just go with the flow on these things? Asshole.

“Why are you being so sentimental and sappy? We’ll have plenty of other opportunities to hang out together. Maybe not if the police department decides to transfer me to another area. Tetsuko whipped that thought away before it could bother her. She sighed and let it go. Bunny was looking at something else now: a photo stand where a man in a Santa costume was taking pictures of people in from of the tree. While he was distracted, Tetsuko slipped the pin into his pocket, like a ninja and then pretended like she was interested in the tree, once again like a ninja.

“Alright now, say ‘cheese!’” The camera flashed and the family on the stand stepped down.

“Wow! That tree must be a million feet high!” Tetsuko gasped as they walked over to it. Bunny started laughing. “What?”

“I thought you were going to say something else.” He smiled. Finally.

“Oh yeah, like what?”

“That damn tree is too fucking big for anyone!” He whispered so the little kids milling about couldn’t hear him. They shared a laughed and Bunny continued with, “I had my picture taken that day too, with Mr. Maverick.”

“A cheesy holiday picture with Principal Maverick? That’s hilarious!” Tetsuko laughed at the mere thought of that man and his mole smiling with Bunny on that stand.

“But why?”

“I don’t know! It’s just ridiculous to imagine!” Tetsuko clapped her boyfriend’s shoulder as she rode out her giggles.

“Not that.” Tetsuko was still laughing. “I can clearly remember coming here with Mr. Maverick, but why can’t I picture the killer?” Tetsuko stopped her giggling and gave him one of her serious looks that he was always asking for.

“Don’t torment yourself over this.”

“But what if my memory’s gone? What if I never know the answer?” Bunny was grapping his head again, his voice getting harsher. “I can’t-Ican’t-“ He collapsed to his hands and knees, nearly in hysterics and people were looking at him funny.

“Bunny? Hey!” Tetsuko reached down to comfort him, but had to get the people to look the hell away and move on. “He’s just, uh…” She really didn’t know what to say. “Take it easy, Bunny.” Tetsuko knelt and put her hands on his shoulders. The bystanders started walking away.

“Kriem was right after all,” Bunny was openly crying now and it broke Tetsuko’s heart to see him this way, “I’m going to be tortured by the past the rest of my life.” His sobs shook his shoulders, the boy’s sniffles and painful tears tore at the brunette and she made a resolute decision. I can’t be going and making Bunny’s life difficult by leaving him, just to go work as an underpaid police woman. No matter what they say, I’m going to decline the position for now, I’m not even going to take that stupid test until all of this is resolved and Bunny’s okay. He comes first. That’s what girlfriends do, right? That’s what I do anyway.

“That’s it.” Tetsuko stood up and stared down at her kneeling boyfriend. “I’ve made up my mind. I’m not leaving you until we’ve solved this thing. Together.” Bunny looked up, tears running down his face. He seemed surprised at her words. It was actually kind of sexy the way he was kneeling, defenseless at Tetusko’s feet and at any other moment she would be enjoying this. Get your head out of the gutter and focus! “Real partners stick together no matter how tough things get. Especially when they’re dating.”

“You mean it?” Bunny asked quietly, his eyes shining.

“Yeah.” Tetsuko looked away and then looked back when she heard something collapse. “That sounded pretty badass, didn’t it?” She asked her boyfriend, and then realized that it was her boyfriend who collapsed. “What the-? Hey, what’s wrong with you?” She freaked out and kneeled again to take the boy into her arms. “Come on, Bunny, talk to me!” She stared at his face, he’s completely out. Great now I have to carry him. Tetsuko hoisted him up into her arms princess style, the irony smacking her in the face multiple times. She awkwardly checked her phone for a map of the rink to see if they had a nurse station or something. They did and she waddled under her boyfriend’s weight to said nurse station. She got a look of weird looks from the rink’s patrons, but it wasn’t important to her. Bunny was.

Once in the nurse’s office, the lady on duty checked out the boy and decided that he had just fainted and then helped Tetsuko tuck Bunny into one of the beds. She took his jacket off and hung it up, he’ll be pissed it there’s wrinkles in it, and carefully placed his glasses near his pillow. She pulled the icky green covers over his body and gently brushed some of his curls out of his face. His closed eyes were all scrunched up, like he was having a bad dream. Oh, Bunny.

“Sorry. Thanks for all the help. I guess he was just exhausted. Poor guy.” Tetsuko bowed to the nurse. She smiled, said it was okay and then left them alone. Tetsuko sat next to the blond for a while, staring at the ugly green curtains that cut them off from other beds and watching over her boyfriend like a loyal dog. His eyebrows were knotted together, like he was having a nightmare again and the girl worried that he was suffering again, even in his sleep. Tetsuko needed some air. She checked out with the nurse and asked her to tell Bunny that she was outside if he woke up. Walking back into the complex, the brunette shrugged on her coat and glanced around absentmindedly, she spotted a kiosk that had cute mechanical animal rides. She saw an adorable tiger and knew she just had to ride it. The girl asked the kiosk clerk for permission to ride and he gave her the key to the tiger. Tetsuko leapt on the cat and discovered that it was a little small but the girl didn’t care and folded up her tall body to sit on the tiger’s back. She deposited her coins in the coin slot and turned the key. The machine whirred to life and she was off. Just as she was getting started, the little tiger legs walking smoothly down the sidewalk, Tetsuko’s phone rang. The brunette dug around in her pocket and pulled out her cell to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Tiger!” Circe greet on the other end of the line.

“Hey, Circ, what’s up?”

“Where are you?” Tetsuko’s heart clenched. Did I really have work today after all?

“What, did I miss my shift? I thought I didn’t have work today!” The brunette was about to leap of her tiger and dash to the office when her roommate placated her.

“No, no. I just heard children screaming in the background and wondered what you were doing.”

“Oh God, you nearly gave me a heart attack. Hardwick would’ve had my head!” Tetsuko sighed. “I’m at a skating rink, seeing the tree with Bunny.”

“Are you on a date?” She said it in a sing-song sort of voice, implying that they were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing.

“Sort of.” The brunette didn’t know how to explain this one. The murderer who killed my boyfriend’s parents is actually innocent, so says murderer’s girlfriend and now Bunny is having a mental breakdown. That’s why we’re at the skating rink. Yeah, that would go over well. “What did you need?” Tetsuko turned the steering wheel of her tiger, avoiding the crowded walkways.

“Well, you know that intern swap another magazine contacted us about a while back?” Circe asked. Tetsuko thought for a moment, a memory barely surfacing. Another city’s magazine wanted to exchange interns for educational purposes for some reason.

“Yeah, kinda. What about it?”

“Well, Hardwick decided we’d do it and she wants you to transfer over to the Post for a couple months. Isn’t that cool?”

“A couple of months? What about college? What about my other job? I can’t leave those undone, and I’ve got other things I need to stay here for.” Why is everything going to hell right now? Did it all have to happen at the same time?

“Well, the Journal would still be paying you so expenses shouldn’t be a problem and aren’t you really good friends with the boss at your other job? I’m sure he’d let you come back and it’s only for a while. Hardwick’s probably going to push this and you’re probably going to have to go.”

“Fine then.” Tetsuko put on her I’m-being-sarcastic voice as she spoke. “I’ll just quit my other job, pack up my life, leave my friends and my boyfriend just to please my boss. How does that sound?”

“Don’t kill the messenger, Tiger. I’m just the one who’s telling you what’s up.” Circe went all defensive and Tetsuko knew she was pouting on the other end.

“Yeah, yeah. Thanks for the update. I’ll see you later.”

“’Kay.” Tetsuko hung up and sighed, rubbing her forehead. “Ug, not again. Can’t my life just be simple?”

“What was that all about?” Tetsuko jumped, nearly dropping her phone. She slowly turned around, stopping her tiger. Bunny was standing behind her, his disappointed glare on his face in full force. “What did you mean? Quitting your job? Packing up and going?”

“Ah, ha, hi Bunny.” She stumbled over her words as she stood up. How much did he hear? “I’m glad you’re okay. I was really worried when you-“

“Don’t dodge my question: what was that all about? Are you quitting your job at the bar?” Bunny was not happy.

“Well, I-“

“And if you are, why didn’t you tell me? I’m your boyfriend for Christ’s sake! Why am I just hearing about it now?” He plowed on, no letting Tetsuko get a word in edgewise. “Why can’t you just tell me what’s really going on?”

“Bunny, nothings set but the Journal wants to do an intern swap with another company for a few months and another city. And I don’t want to go but I might have to-“

“So is that why you’ve been doing all of this with me?” Tetsuko sighed in frustration as the blond cut her off again. Seriously, can’t he just listen? He always does this when he want answers and then doesn’t let me answer! How does that make any sense? “Are you trying to get all my problems wrapped up so you don’t feel guilty when you leave?”

“No, Bunny. I’m genuinely worried about you and I just didn’t want to pile my problems on top of yours.” Tetsuko held her hands up in defense.

“You’re always telling me that partners are supposed to be there for each other, but the truth is you don’t trust me. You’re saying that I shouldn’t help you with your problems. That is not was a relationship is.” Barnaby’s voice was hard, his eyes narrowed into steel slits as he glared at her.

“Hey, come on, Bunny! It’s not like that!” Tetusko took a step closer to the boy and he took one back.

“Oh, I get it. All day long you’ve been trying to help, trying to stop me from quitting everything. It was all to make it easier when you quit.”

“Well, I…” Tetsuko couldn’t meet his searing gaze, he’d figured her out partly, but she just wanted to help him. She didn’t want to leave and she didn’t want to quit her other job. Things just weren’t working out that way.

“The only reason you wanted to help was so that you wouldn’t feel guilty for turning your back on me.”

“No!” Tetsuko argued. This is getting out of hand. He’s talking like I used him! He’s talking like our relationship doesn’t mean shit to me and that’s not true!

“I trusted you, Tetsuko, and you’re betraying me.” Bunny looked away, the hurt plain in his eyes. “Well, guess what? You don’t have to bother pretending anymore. Leave whenever you feel like it. I’ll be just fine on my own.” He started to walk away, but Tetsuko reached out to grab his shoulder.

“Hang on a second, Bunny!” She pleaded. You don’t mean that. Everything’s just messed up right now and you’re not thinking straight. Tetsuko felt her heart breaking, her breath coming up short. It’s just like last time: I kept my mouth shut and ruined everything. As soon as her finger touched his jacket, the blond shrugged her off.

“I’m better off on my own. I was fine before I met you and I’ll be relieved when you’re gone.” Bunny’s voice took on a cruel tone, his mouth pulling into a smirk. “I’m tired of dragging you’re dead weight, old lady. I’m better off alone anyway. In fact, I can’t wait until you’re gone-“ Tetsuko’s despair transformed into anger at his words and in a split second, her hand moved before she knew what was happening.

Smack!

Bunny’s head twisted to the right violently, his curls swinging from the impact and a red marking blooming on his cheek where Tetsuko’s palm had smacked him. The brunette knew her eyes were hard, her lips growling, her anger apparent in every way. She also knew she messed up. Again. Her hand was still extended after slapping the blond, and he was staring at it with open hatred. The brunette balked, retracting her had. Bunny’s own hand gently touched his cheek and he glared at the girl.

“Bunny, I’m-“ He was off and running before she finished apologizing. She ran after him, towards the parking lot where both their bikes were parked. He made it out first, and leapt onto his Chaser. No. No, don’t go. I’m sorry! The thought of losing Bunny again yanked on Tetsuko’s heart and it couldn’t take the pain anymore. One step had her chest screaming in agony and one more had her dystrophy-wracked leg giving out. She hit the ground hard, but instead of screaming in pain, she screamed for Bunny. Bunny. He was driving past her. Bunny! He was out on the street. BUNNY! He was gone.

Tetsuko was openly crying now, but it had nothing to do with hear slow, painful heartbeat or her throbbing leg. Why do I lose every man I care about? Why, Tomoe? Why did I lose you? Why do I lose him every time?

Because we can’t find you when you close yourself off.


Barnaby had seen Tetsuko collapse. He’d heard her scream his name, but he couldn’t go back and just kept driving. Where? He didn’t know and frankly, he didn’t care. He was too busy hating the old lady at the moment. She doesn’t trust me enough to let me in all the time. She doesn’t want me to help her. Stupid old bat. Barnaby was sick of her dodging him, sick of her always trying to be the martyr, sick of her being so hypocritical! She’s supposed to help me when I need it and when she needs help she should ask me! That’s how this relationship thing is supposed to work, right? At least that’s what I’ve read.

Barnaby’s cheek was still stinging from where she’d hit him, the hurt only a small part of the pain he was feeling. He just kept driving, trying to outrun all the turmoil in his life, but that was impossible. It was all inside him. He needed to talk to someone. But he couldn’t talk to the one person he’d usually go to, Tetsuko was half the problem already. So there was only one other person. Barnaby pulled up to the Apollon Robotics building and parked his bike. He’d been driving around for so long that the sun had set. The blond walked into the lobby and asked a receptionist if Mr. Maverick was in. She checked and then directed him to the man’s office. Barnaby took the elevator up to one of the top floors and walked down the hallway. He knocked on a door and heard a deep, “Come in.” The boy opened the door to find his guardian working at his desk.

“Barnaby, my boy. What brings you here?” The older gentleman looked up. His desk was piled in paperwork and Maverick reached up to adjust his thick glasses. Barnaby would never admit it, but his butterfly tie was so tacky and the mole on his face was ugly, but of course he would never say that out loud. This was the man who raised him after all.

“Sorry to drop in so suddenly.” The blond shut the door behind him and Mr. Maverick asked him to be seated on the couch while he finished up his work. Barnaby sat and rested his head in his hands as he stared at the coffee table. When Maverick was finished he shoved everything into a neat stack and looked at the boy.

“Did something happen today?” Mr. Maverick asked. Barnaby didn’t know where to start and the silence stretched on as he sorted things out in his head. “Why don’t you try telling me about it? I might be able to help you out, Barnaby.” The boy looked up as the older man’s calm gaze looked back at him. Mr. Maverick pocketed his pen.

“My parent’s murder isn’t solved.” Start with business, and then move to emotional issues, Barnaby asserted himself. Mr. Maverick took an audible breath. “Whoever killed my mom and dad, it wasn’t Jake.”

“What?” The old man put his hands on his desk and stood up. “Impossible!”

“Kriem let it slip right before she died. The real murderer is someone who probably works with Ouroboros. Which means Ouroboros might be a bigger organization than we ever imagined.”

“And you’re just going to believe everything a dying criminal tells you?” Mr. Maverick was always like that: questioning anything and everything to make sure he got all the facts before making his opinion.

“But what about that tattoo? The murderer had one on his right hand, but Jake didn’t!” Barnaby held up his hand as if to prove his point. Mr. Maverick turned away, hands in his pockets.

“Then I’m sorry, Barnaby, but it appears we’re back to square one.” The older gentleman pushed his chair back and went to stand in front of his floor to ceiling windows.

“That’s not the only thing.” Barnaby was standing now too, trying to get his guardian to listen to him.

“Hm?”

“Ever since I learned that Jake wasn’t the real murderer, my memory’s been a complete mess! Without that lead I don’t know anything!”

“You should calm down, my boy. I can understand your frustration.” Maverick was looking at him now. “But impatience won’t help you get any closer to the truth.” The man walked over to a tea set and poured some liquid into a cup and saucer. “Perhaps I should do some digging into Ouroboros.” He brought the tea over to Barnaby and the blond took the cup.

“Thank you.” Barnaby took a sip, happy for the calming aroma of the tea.

“Was anyone else in the room when Kriem gave you that information?”

“Huh?”

“I think it would be wise to keep this just between the two of us until we have some proof.”

“My girlfriend, Tetsuko, was with me, but that’s it.” Barnaby phone rang and he reached into his pocket to grab it. Samantha’s name flashed across the screen.

“I don’t mind, you can answer it.” Mr. Maverick said. Barnaby flipped open his cell and put it to his ear.

“Sorry, Samantha. Would you mind if I called you back later?”

“Barnaby! I remember, the day of your parent’s murder.” Barnaby’s eyes widened. “What you said a few days ago got me thinking so I dug through some old boxes and found the photograph.”

“Photograph?” He asked.

“Yes, Barnaby! It was taken the day of the murder! I still can’t make heads of tails of any of this, I’m still so confused about what’s going on, but I’ll send it to your phone so you can see it.”

“It’s okay, don’t get too stressed about anything. I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening.”

“Thank you. I hope it helps.”

“Bye, Samantha.”

“Goodbye, dear.” Barnaby hung up and waited for the photo. When it arrived, he opened the message and stared in shock. What is going on? Barnaby sat down before he fell down and set his tea on the table.

“Everything okay, Barnaby?” Mr. Maverick was on the other side of the table now, on hand in his pocket.

“Mr. Maverick,” The blond started calmly, “You took me to the park to see the Christmas tree on the day they died, didn’t you?”

“Barnaby, don’t.” The man sighed as Barnaby looked down. “Yes, it was fourteen years ago. You and I went to see the Christmas tree and spent the day together. We’ve gone over this a hundred times.” That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Barnaby remembered the picture, him holding Mr. Maverick’s hand while wearing his new Santa hat, but when the shutter when off, it was Samantha holding his hand instead. It was her smiling face, as Barnaby laughed and explored the skating rink.

“No.” The blond shot straight up in his seat, his green eyes wide. “I wasn’t with you.”

“Of course you were! What are you talking about?” Maverick’s eyes turned hard, his voice stern.

“I visited the Christmas tree that day, but you weren’t the one with me.” Barnaby accused softly.

“Yes, I was. My boy, you seem to be a bit confused and anxious. Maybe you need some rest.”

“I remember it all perfectly now, all because of Samantha’s picture!” He wasn’t giving up on this, Mr. Maverick was wrong. “You weren’t there with me at the Christmas tree, so the real question is: why have you been lying about it to me all these years?” The old man groaned. “And if you weren’t with me what were you really doing that day?” Barnaby was on his feet, nearly shouting at his guardian.

“How dare you talk to me like that!” Maverick turned his head to the side, the glare from his glasses shielding his eyes. “If anything, you should be grateful to me. You are the man you are because of how I raised you. When you were young, I was impressed by your intelligence, your ability to learn quickly and efficiently. I knew I could make you into something special. And I was right. You are now an accomplished academic, ready to set foot into the adult world with experience and education behind you. You have far surpassed my original expectations.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Barnaby, seeing you now, I know I made the right decision. I’m glad I let you live.” Those dead gray eyes were staring through Barnaby, right into his soul.

“Let me live?” He asked, confused. “No! You don’t mean-?” He was on the cusp of the truth and he didn’t want to hear it now.

“Your mother and father had a strong sense of justice and compassion, almost to a fault.” Maverick walked a few steps away from the boy, turning his back to the blond.

“What?”

“It was rough when I first launched this robotics business, your parent’s were about the only ones who supported my vision. They were my closest friends.”

“Wait, you started Apollon?”

“Yes, they even joined to company to give me the first nano-metals, invented through their independent studies in robotics research and experiments to get this business up and running. But it wasn’t enough.” The man paused for a moment before going on. “You see, I got into a little trouble when I was a younger man, and I had a debt to pay back to a certain crime organization.”

“You don’t mean-Ouroboros?“

“My plan worked perfectly, I gave then your parent’s technology for my payment. I was almost free when they found out. Your parents asked to meet me. It was on Christmas Eve.” Barnaby couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He wanted Maverick to shut up, but he always wanted him to go on, to spill everything. So he kept listening, his mouth open in disbelief. “I met them in your house. Your mother and father confronted me, saying that they didn’t invent nano-metals so they could be used by criminals. They realized that I had joined the organization and had been using their technology to supply them with weapons. They demanded that I come clean, to make everything public and atone for my crimes. But when I refused...it turned out that your parent’s were far too smart, and far too naïve for their own good. I had to remove them.” Maverick was staring Barnaby down, the blond barely conscious of anything else but his eyes and his words. The blond could hear the gunshots in his head; see himself opening the door to his living room, seeing the house start to burn.

“You’re lying! I can still see that moment and you are not the murderer in my memories!” Barnaby couldn’t believe that the man who raised him killed his parents. It was a lie.

“There’s one more thing I’ve neglected to mention: your memories are not your own. You see, when you saw me kill your parents, I knew I could use you. So I drugged you and implanted fake memories in your head to cover it up. I sorry to say I used untested technology on a small child, but it worked and you lived.” Barnaby didn’t remember any of that. “But it seems the memories I replaced yours with have been compromised by the tiniest contradiction. This isn’t good.”

“You mean that all this time you were the one behind everything?” Barnaby’s eyes filled tears and the ground was ripped out from under his feet for a second time.

“There’s really no point in asking anymore questions. After all, when I’m done, you won’t even remember we had this conversation. Barnaby took a few steps back from the murderer as he turned his cold gaze on the boy. No. No! This can’t be happening! Not Mr. Maverick! Barnaby’s head started hurting and he clutched at his head, his vision when fuzzy and his knees got weak. Barnaby collapsed, taking hold of the couch to catch himself. He couldn’t move anymore, it was too hard and his limbs were too heavy. He glanced around, seeing Maverick’s pen open on the far table, a blueish liquid spilling out of the cap he suspected wasn’t ink. That bastard drugged me!

“Don’t worry, my boy. I won’t kill you. I’ll give you this gift one more time. You won’t remember any of this.” Barnaby shivered in disgust as Maverick loomed over him, looking every bit a murderer. And there it was. The real memory he’d been looking for. The door opened and there was Mr. Maverick, standing over his parent’s bodied holding the gun that killed them. Barnaby screamed and ran but Mr. Maverick was too fast and grabbed his collar. There was a sharp pinch in his neck; the cold metal of the gun was pressed to his windpipe as he fought against the stronger hands. He was so tired. Barnaby didn’t have the fight in him anymore. He just wanted to sleep and so he did. His eyes closed as the fire raged around the boy and the murderer.

Somewhere in the background, a phone was ringing. The blonde’s arm slipped, and he barely caught himself before his face hit the ground. Something was poking him in the side and he slowly reached up to stick his fingers into his jacket pocket. Barnaby’s hand found the pin Tetsuko had bought him and he pinched the metal hard remembering that Maverick had asked who else was with him when he visited Kriem. Horror and fear shot up his spine. He’s going to do something to her! I can’t let that happen! As much as Barnaby hated the woman right now, he loved her still. (How did that make any sense?) He didn’t want Tetsuko to get hurt. The drug was making him pass out, and slumping to the ground, Barnaby dropped the pin and it rolled under the table, his tears sinking into the carpet. He was staring at it as he closed his eyes, praying that Tetsuko would stay the hell away from Maverick.

“Have sweet dreams, Barnaby.” A hand reached for him and blackness covered everything.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Barnaby was slowly waking up. His limbs were still heavy and he couldn’t feel his fingers but he was breathing and that was the important thing. He opened his eye and even though he could feel the pads of his glasses on his nose, his surroundings were still blurry even with the lenses. He rolled his head around and blinked wearily at the machines beeping and humming around him. He rolled his head to the other side where he stared at a white wall with a large glass window. There were two people running around back behind the window and one person who was just standing and staring at the boy. Maverick. Barnaby got a shot of adrenaline up his spine as he glared at his parent’s killer. He was going to strangle the man until his head popped off and then he was going to tie him around a flagpole. The blond tried to sit up, to attack, but he couldn’t. There were straps across his wrists, ankles, torso and chest and he was in a dentist’s chair. Where the hell am I? He took another look around. Then he felt them, pads all over his face and neck, the cords attached to the beeping machines next to his chair.

“Ah, you’re awake, Barnaby.” Maverick’s voice came through a speaker. He was leaning over towards a microphone on the other side of the window.

“You bastard! Come in here so I can tear you apart!” He was angry enough to shove him through a wall.

“I can’t do that now, the procedure is starting.” Maverick smiled evilly.

“What procedure?” Barnaby eyed the machines again.

“Well, I thought I had given you enough sedatives to keep you out for the whole process, but we need to get this done with so I guess that you’ll be awake for at least part of it. Don’t worry, its painless. We’re just going to replace some of your memories. I told you that didn’t I?” Maverick asked.

“Don’t you dare! I’m tired of you controlling me!” Barnaby started pulling at his straps again, trying to break free, but the Velcro held him tightly and bit into his skin. Barnaby glanced around again, checking the machines to find out their purpose. One was monitoring his heart rate and breathing, another was scanning other vitals, and a third showed a model of a brain on one panel and the other panel had a straight line across it. The first two are obvious, but what’s that other one? Is that what they’re using to change my memories?

“Don’t struggle, we’ll be done soon.” He turned away from the mic and signaled to one of the two running people in white lab coats. He stopped and grabbed a syringe and left the room. A door behind Barnaby and the blond renewed his struggle as the lab assistant walked up next to him and carefully stuck the needle in his arm.

“Don’t you think this is wrong? Why are you doing this?” Barnaby asked the man, because clearly this was ethical for anybody but he seemed to be fine with drugging a minor and playing with his brain. The man didn’t say anything, just plunged the drug into the boy’s veins and went to fiddle with some of the machines. Barnaby felt the wooziness setting in again.

“Are they up and running?” Maverick was speaking through the mic again at the man with Barnaby.

“Yes, you may begin.” Something behind Barnaby whirred to life and he desperately tried to crane his neck around to see what the hell was going on before the drug made him useless again. No use. Damn. Damn, damn. Barnaby had never wished so hard for his tiger to come and break something.

“Let’s start with Christmas Eve fourteen years ago…” Maverick started talking and the random straight line under the brain screen started doing a sound wave thing to his voice. Barnaby felt the skin on his scalp start to tingle as it worked its way down his face and neck. Oh no. The machine is probably converting his sound waves into algorithms and implanting them into my brain. It’s almost as corny as one of Tetsuko’s comic books. Barnaby was too tired to move but his eyes wouldn’t close just yet. Maverick droned on, changing his memory from the truth back into the lie where Jake committed the murder instead of him and for a second the two versions lived side by side in the blonde’s brain. Then it was only Jake and Barnaby was wondering why he was resisting Mr. Maverick. He was his guardian after all! Barnaby settled into his chair, eyes lidded and what sort of therapy the older gentleman was having him try today. He hoped it didn’t hurt at all.

Then Tetsuko’s name popped up on Mr. Maverick’s voice and Barnaby wondered why he was talking about her. He should leave her out of this. We just had a fight! Barnaby thought for a moment. What were we fighting about again? The memory was just out of reach and he didn’t want to chase after it. It was better to just lay back and go to sleep.

Barnaby was standing in his homeroom from junior year. The blond started, nearly jumping out of his desk. What was I doing? Why am I here? Barnaby looked over at Tetsuko, who was leaning back in her chair, asleep. Her uniform was not being worn correctly, the blouse was undone to far, the skirt to short and she had accessorized too much. I should card her. Wait, haven’t I already done this? Barnaby looked at the girl closely, noticing that something strange was happening. Tetsuko’s hair was smoothing out, the spiky ends becoming straight and her cleavage was shrinking. The uniform straightened out to a presentable form, all the bracelets and the tie disappearing. Homeroom was starting and Tetsuko Kaburagi-no, Tamiko Karasuma- sat up straight. She flashed Barnaby a glare with her amber-no, green- eyes and blew her razor cut bangs out of her face. Barnaby shook his head. That’s not right! That’s Tet-miko. He couldn’t say her name. Tetsuko!

He remembered what was going on. Maverick was altering his memories. His parent’s murder and apparently he was “fixing” Tetsuko too. No, her name was Tamiko. No, it’s Tetsuko! Barnaby’s memory skipped, taking him to their first meeting where Tet-Tamiko was being harassed by Jake Martinez and his gang, and Barnaby stepped in to rescue her. She had held her own pretty well, but the blond wanted to be chivalrous. After school they met with Mr. Lloyds and formed the new P.A. team. Tamiko was nice and polite as they met each other properly and then helped out with all the paperwork and projects Mr. Lloyds had them do. She was still clearly grateful to him for helping her out at lunch. He included her into the interview with Ms. Agnes and both of them worked together to stop the bomb threat at Fortress Tower. Barnaby liked her. They even worked at the same restaurant, which was fantastic!

No! This isn’t how this happened! We hated each other! I wanted to strangle her half the time! Did I? Really? Yes, I did! Barnaby was at war with himself, trying to remember the truth but at the same time giving in. He gave Tamiko a ride home multiple times, they started dating and everyone in the school envied them, even their awesome friends. The brunette even threw him a surprise party on his birthday! He was so happy they were a couple. I was happy that we were dating! But this isn’t how it happened! I didn’t like her right away, she had to grow on me, get me to open up before I trusted her, Barnaby shouted in his head as he watched himself and Tamiko race around on their Chasers, daring each other to go faster. He watched as they went to a dance together, Tamiko the picture of grace as they waltzed across the floor, drawing everyone’s eyes. She was perfect. Grace, beauty and perfection. She was the perfect girl for him. She helped other people with their problems, one case being helping Ivan stop his friend Edward from doing something stupid and then chasing after Lunatic in a show of bravery. He remembered searching for his parent’s murderer with her, working side by side until they discovered that Jake Martinez was the one who killed Barnaby’s parents. Then when their friends started disappearing and getting sent to the hospital, they confronted Jake in the warehouse district and brought him down, together.

At least that part’s mostly right, we did work together. I was mad at her then too, because she was keeping secrets from me. She always focuses on other people first and leaves herself last. Tet- is so selfless and that’s why I love her, but sometimes she needs to communicate better. Barnaby visited Tamiko in the hospital after the Jake incident, she had insisted on protecting the blond, she was more durable and selfless. So selfless. A perfect year passed and Barnaby and Tamiko were happy: they went on dates, spent Christmas together, went to the opera, took a vacation for Spring Break, and Tamiko moved closer, into Silver after she took a job working as a manager for a clothing store. Since then her wardrobe had improved and she was going to school at the university. Tamiko was perfect. And sweet. And so wrong.

Barnaby fought for the last of his memories – his last birthday where Tet- wore that scandalous bunny outfit. But wait, she dressed up as a medieval queen. Barnaby mentally shook his head. Things were getting all messed up. Tamiko never wore that ridiculous bunny outfit and she never cussed or said lewd things. That wasn’t like her. So who was this other chick with messy hair and giant boobs? She was a model student and got fantastic grades in college and had a budding career in modeling to boot! But something’s still not right. That loud chick in the background isn’t Tamiko, she’s Te- Barnaby reached for the other brunette in his head, trying to understand why she was there. They were fighting, both the blond and the brunette. He was saying awful things again. Again? What am I doing? The other brunette was clearly pissed off that Barnaby wasn’t listening to her and he said something that made her slap him. Barnaby lifted up his hand to touch his cheek, the sting faint, but still there. What’s going on? The fight was fading, getting further and further away and Barnaby let it go. He had Tamiko, so why did he need that other girl? What’s her name again? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Barnaby stood alone now, and decided that he needed to close his eyes for a moment.

He woke up in a bed. Barnaby blinked his eyes and sat up, the evening’s light slatted through the blinds on the window. His head ached and he didn’t know where he was. Wherever it was, the room was nicely furnished. He got up and stretched and found his glasses. Someone was in the other room, cooking by the sound of it. Barnaby walked out of the bedroom and saw that he was with Mr. Maverick. The thought instantly calmed him. As he slipped on his glasses and approached the kitchen, the older man looked up from his pot.

“Hm? Ah, you’re awake I see.” Barnaby’s guardian gave him a soft look. “I was hoping for a quiet dinner together like we used to do, but then you konked out on me. I suppose I can’t blame you, being a teenager is hard work, especially when someone’s student president and has a job on top of that.” Mr. Maverick chuckled and pointed to the boy’s hair. “You might want to fix that.” Barnaby’s eyes shot up and he could just picture the state his hair was in. He dashed to the bathroom and styled the bed head curls as much as he could before walking out again. Barnaby glanced around again, pretty sure that this wasn’t his guardian’s house since he’d never been in it.

“This is my little home away from home. Just make yourself comfortable.” Mr. Maverick gestured to the couch.

“Thanks.” They had a quiet dinner together discussing Barnaby’s schooling, but something was nagging at the back of Barnaby’s head.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t remember: did we already discuss what Kriem told me?” The blond asked, putting down his fork.

“You’ve really forgotten?” Mr. Maverick asked, surprise in his voice. “Well then, let me refresh your memory. In a nutshell, you told me that Jake murdered your parents for money.”

“Yeah, right.” Barnaby remembered now. They talked about this yesterday, or was it two days ago? “Kriem was the last member of Ouroboros and with her death, the organization has been destroyed.” Barnaby was so happy it was all over. Now he could finally rest from his endless search. He could focus more on school and his girlfriend now.

“That’s it exactly.” Mr. Maverick affirmed, “The case is closed.” The finished dinner talking about light subjects before Mr. Maverick insisted that Barnaby get some rest.

“You can stay here, my boy. I don’t want you driving to your apartment at this late hour.” The older man smiled.

“I can sleep on the couch tonight.” Barnaby replied, glad to have a place to crash.

“No, I insist that you take the bed. I’m staying up late anyway to do some work. You can also take a shower if you like. I’ve got a change of clothes for you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Maverick.” Barnaby took the opportunity to wash up, but he was still bugged by that thing nagging in the back of his head: like he’d forgotten something. He brushed it off as he got ready for bed and fell instantly asleep as soon as he hit the mattress. In the morning, Barnaby got up at his usual time to make himself presentable, putting on the long red turtleneck that Mr. Maverick had for him and a pair of jeans. Just as he was finishing up his hair, the doorbell rang.

“Barnaby, would you get that?” Mr. Maverick was in the kitchen.

“Yes.” The blond walked to the door and opened it.

“Hi, Barnaby!” It was Tamiko. She was wearing a faux fur coat over her dress slacks, boots and a nice cream blouse. She’d styled her bob to swoop all in one direction and had put on a modest amount of makeup for eight in the morning.

“Tamiko, what are you doing here?” Barnaby was shocked to find his girlfriend standing at his guardian’s door.

“Did you forget, silly? You said you were taking me out to breakfast and then a movie today!” Tamiko pouted with her huge green eyes and then leaned in to kiss the blond on the cheek.

“Huh? Sorry, Apparently I’ve been a tad forgetful lately.” Barnaby invited her inside.

“That’s okay, sweetie. Mr. Maverick called to tell me you were over here. He downplayed the forgetfulness, of course.” Tamiko giggled in her sweet way and said hello to Mr. Maverick.

“Go on your date, my boy. I’m not one to hold back two kids for any reason.” The older man smiled again.

“Thank you for the hospitality, Mr. Maverick.” Barnaby said, genuinely thankful that he had such a good man watching over him.

“Come on, Barnaby!” Tamiko was at the door already, holding out the blonde’s coat.

“Bye!” He called out the door as Tamiko slipped on his jacket for him and took his hand, her skin slightly cold as they walked out of the apartments and into the winter air.

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