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Bloom and Scatter
Chapter 8: The Payoff
Characters, Pairings: Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin
Summary: Rin returns to Japan to look for his mother and sister. What he finds, instead, is Makoto.
Notes: Originally posted on AO3.
[ 1: Homecoming ]
[ 2: THe Fog ]
[ 3: Masks ]
[ 4: They Live ]
[ 5: The Truth ]
[ 6: Making Plans ]
[ 7: Lost & Found ]
[ 8: The Payoff ]
[ 9: Hopeless ]
[ 10: The Waiting Game ]
They sat shoulder to shoulder in silence.
The wall behind Rin’s back had grown warm with their shared body heat and his head was tilted back so he could count the number of cracks in the ceiling. He listened quietly as Makoto’s laboured breathing eventually drew out into long inhales that puffed quietly through the mouthpiece of his gas mask. His hands had stopped shaking and he had put the note down some time ago. His hand was in Rin’s, grip loose now where it had been tight before.
“Hey,” Makoto said softly after the longest time, “What do you think is inside?”
Rin looked at him, and then at the items in his lap.
“No, the CD. People don’t really use CDs anymore, do they?”
“Huh,” Rin thought about it, “You’re right.”
Makoto fell quiet again, and Rin watched him pull away to run his long fingers across the plastic of the soft CD case. The top of the CD was shiny and bronze – one of those blank ones you could burn music into – and some illegible numbers and uppercase letters had been scribbled on in black permanent marker, labelling it. It looked like an entry in some sort of catalogue.
“Let’s use one of the computers,” Makoto said, disrupting Rin’s train of thought.
Rin scowled thoughtfully, about to give him an earful about wasting time, but he could sense the determination in Makoto after all that had happened, and who knew if they would be able to get electricity in the future? Besides which, how long could checking it out take? The CD probably just contained photos or music or something (“audio files” and “zombie dissection activity” was something Rin tried very hard not to think about). Maybe if Makoto’s curiosity was sated once and for all, he could finally put this behind him and they could finally move on, preferably towards Iwatobi.
“Fine,” Rin said reluctantly, “But we can’t spend too much time here, got it?”
“Sure,” Makoto replied distractedly, which made Rin’s scowl deepen but he held his temper in check.
They got to their feet and Rin made sure to close the door to the ward firmly behind him, sparing one last glance at the body on the table before he wrapped the broken chain loosely around the handle and appropriated the crowbar for himself. The walked back through the corridor with the ransacked offices and tested out each machine they found. After about six computers and an hour, they had taken a monitor from the reception area, a CPU that actually had a disk drive from the corner office, and they’d plugged it into the only room with more than one working electrical outlet.
“I swear to god, if it blue screens on me,” Rin growled as it finally began to start up. He felt Makoto squeeze his shoulder encouragingly and his ire subsided for the moment.
The display finally paused on the login screen.
“User name and password?” Rin echoed, a cold chill of rage freezing his blood. He was going to destroy this computer, “Are you fucking kidding me.”
“Calm down,” Makoto said – and when had he recovered? – grabbing Rin’s raised fist with both hands and forcing it down, “There’s a post-it on the wall. See? Doctor Iwamoto’s login details. We’re okay.”
“This had better be worth it,” Rin warned, and Makoto wasted no time in keying in the information. A tense moment passed during which the computer was parsing through the data and Makoto breathed an audible sigh of relief when it finally switched to the desktop. Wordlessly, Makoto inserted the CD and waited for it to load.
“Movie files,” Rin noted as Makoto clicked through the files in the CD. He eyed the file names, “You’re lucky this wasn’t full of cat videos or ‘Holiday in Hawaii 2005’ or anything like that.”
Makoto acknowledged his words and magnanimously ignored the bait. “There are about fifty movies in here.” He scrolled back up the window and double-clicked the first file. It opened up in a media player, with a bit of lag, but they could clearly make out a doctor in the middle of the shot, sitting with his back to a wall that had a big whiteboard on it and a clock on the side. The movie had a timestamp in the bottom right-hand corner, dated to about two months ago. The doctor was speaking seriously into the camera but they couldn’t read his lips. It was brief, only about a minute long, and soon skipped to the next movie. At a glance, it appeared that the files got longer and longer down the chronology.
“Oh,” Makoto sounded upset, fumbling around in the drawers, “Do we… do we need speakers? It’s just one thing after another…”
Rin rolled his eyes, reaching for the bottom pocket of his backpack, “I’ve got earphones, Ginchiyo, hold the water works.” He untangled it in his hands before plugging it into the jack. They shared it, one in each ear, and decided to just watch the third file in the playlist as it began to play.
Day ░ Vitals normal, though N’s heartbeat has elevated slightly on average. No
changes in the blood work. Blood consistency a little thick, but nothing unusual.
Noted high levels of food intake, can be chalked up to puberty. No irregularities.
Leukocytes in N’s blood consistent with the presence of the CCR5 delta 33 gene
though the concentration has r░░cently elevated to… nearly alarm░ing levels.
It’s high, of course, but nothing that could set off alarm b░░░░░░░░░░░
Honestly, I… (he looked down at his hands and then back up to the camera) No,
never mind. I’m sure it’s all just gossip anyway. N’s immune against the Infection
– ah, sorry, I mean, Neurosedata. Just because he’s got mmm░░mmore –”</i> (the
video broke up briefly, and then ended).
The next video began to play. Rin wanted to tell Makoto to switch it off, it was just some doctor’s vlog and full of skips, but Makoto fast-forwarded by about 10 videos.
The whiteboard in the background was filled with notes. The doctor’s appearance was still neat, though he had a bit of stubble.
Day 21. Exhausted. Presence of hemangioblastomas in the L1 and L2 segments ░░░
of N’s spinal c░░░░ discovered two days ago. Operation concluded; was successful.
I understand N is ░░░░░░░ by the prospect of being unable to swi░░, but early
deteccc░░░░░tion and a successful surgery should hopefully put his mind at ease.
Will go and thank Kuroi myself later for a job well ░░░░░░░░. Apparently there
were about thr░░░░░fffour small cysts in the area. It’s extremely unusual to see it
surface in such a young subject, but all the same, we should be grateful that we have
been constantly monitoring him and the tumours were bennnnn░░░░░░░nnnign.
It certainly explains the hyppp░░░░ppperactive blood░░░░░░░░ – (the video
continued to play, twitching strangely at times, but the audio had degenerated into an
electrical drone, completely incomprehensible in its buzzing except for an extremely
morphed voice they could barely make out, saying, “He’ll be fine”, in the end).
Makoto skipped ahead.
D░░4. I don’t ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ understaaaaaaa░░░░░░░aaaaaand
(the video quality just seemed to only get worse the further down the playlist they went)
swarming at the site ░░░░░░░░░ how does hemangi░░░░░░░░░░ become
maliggggggg░░nant? ░░░░░░░░░░░░bbbbreathing assis░░░░░░░░░░
(the frame was at an angle and swaying out of the screen, running doppelgangers of the
doctor as the frame repeated itself in a downwards sprint).
“Makoto,” Rin said as the boy reached for the fast-forward button, “Look, it’s just some medical observation journal, okay? There’s nothing to get. It’s barely watchable. The CD must have been corrupted or scratched up or something.”
Makoto ignored him. The video changed. It was noisier, panicky. Rin’s eyes glued themselves to the computer display as the doctor held the camera in his hands. The whiteboard had been scribbled over, again and again, frantic and covered in post-its. The frame of the video was incredibly distorted and a little discoloured, but he could make out the doctor, thick beard and wild eyes, tie gone, lab coat stained with dried blood. He was whispering furiously, afraid. All previous decorum had disappeared.
░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ what day ░░░░░░░░ unbelievab ░░░░░░░░░
regennnnnnerating ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ necrossssis ░░░░░░░░░░░░░
░░░░ do you know ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ do you? How ccccccc░░ould they ░░
░░░░░░░░░░ on the inside ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ all this ░░
░░░░░░░░░ what have we been ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░
░░░░ N fought but ░░░░░░░░░░ greater good ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░
only sample ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ autopsy ░░░░░░░░░░░
░░░░░░░ results were ░░░░░░░░░░░░ (he hung his head and sobbed once)
░░░░ I ░░░░ know ░░░░░░ I’m ░░░░░░░ a ░░░░░░ monster ░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░
Everything went dark.
“What was that?” Makoto asked, jerking his head up out of his trance to look at the lights.
“The power went out,” Rin replied, extremely unnerved. He had a very bad feeling about this. “Makoto, we really need to get the hell out of here.”
“But the CD—”
There was a roar from outside the building and Rin swore he felt the room shake.
“Leave the CD,” Rin stood, tugging Makoto by the shoulder as hard as he could, “Makoto, fuck’s sake, listen to me.”
“This is important,” Makoto replied stubbornly, trying to pry the CD drive open with a ruler he’d found on the floor.
“Makoto, that thing is fucking haunted for all we know!” Rin hissed, “Makoto! Don’t you ever watch horror movies?”
There was a crash that did not sound very far away at all, “Did you hear that? We’ve unleashed Sadako. Are you happy? Come on, we have to go, now!”
“Not without this.”
Cursing under his breath, he grabbed the CPU, threw it to the ground, and gave it a few solid whacks with the crowbar until it was a tangle of broken plastic and messy wires, and the CD drive had been forcibly ejected. Rin swiped the CD, pulled Makoto to his feet by the collar of his shirt, and dragged him out running. The sounds came from their point of entry and they had to forge a new path. He didn’t have any time for finesse or to wonder whether or not he’d drawn any… thing’s attention; they were sitting ducks in the hospital, one of the last few places in the DMZ to have running electricity, and the power had just gone out. Something was wrong and he had a hundred questions racing through his mind. Why did the power go out? How did the power go out? Worst of all, who knew what the electrical doors had been keeping out… or in?
There was an almighty scream that devolved into loud, wet heaving, accompanied the sounds of things being thrown about and breaking everything that could possible be broken, from glass to wood. Rin and Makoto briefly shared a glance. It didn’t sound like the screecher, whom they had utterly destroyed not a few hours ago.
Which could only mean one thing.
“Another special zombie? We are not equipped for a fucking boss fight after what we went through earlier! Don’t these things have weaknesses?”
“I don’t know this one!” Makoto said quickly, tone finally losing all its determined bravado from earlier, currently, every shade of worried possible, “I didn’t even know there was more than one screecher!”
“It’s not a goddamned screecher!” Rin said, yelping as he forced Makoto to a jump and they rolled quickly to the side, out of the path of a huge wooden cabinet that had been pried off the floor and sent flying towards them. It let out another scream and began to hack again, like it was puking. In actual fact, it was.
There was a sizzle by his head as the zombie’s vomit began to burn a hole in the table he’d taken cover under. Rin not only got a spot of acid puke on his jacket, the smell as it burned spread through his gas mask and curled into his nose. He snarled every curse under the sun and then some as he smacked at the burning sensation on his shoulder. “Holy fucking shit!”
A chair slammed into the wall overhead and splintered into a thousand pieces.
“We have to get out of here!” Makoto, still lying on his side, kicked at a boarded up doorway until most of the wood finally split in half. He stood hastily, braced himself, and threw his body through it, landing painfully on a gurney on the other side that stabbed into his ribs. Rin jumped in after, landing on Makoto hard enough that the boy curled up in pain and began to see stars.
“Sorry, but you’re going to have to nap later. The spewer’s right on our tails,” Rin hoisted Makoto up by the armpits and led him down the corridor by the wrist, zigzagging between upturned tables and chairs and trolleys and nearly tripping over a fire hydrant, “There are so many goddamned things in this hospital.”
“Rin, I-I feel like puking myself.”
“Don’t you fucking dare, Makoto. This is not the time.”
They staggered to a halt at the emergency exit and Rin kicked the door down, toeing it at the top of the flight of stairs. He yanked Makoto close.
“Hold onto me. Tightly.”
“What in the—AHHHHHHH!”
Makoto’s shriek went ignored as Rin essentially used the door as a sled down the staircase. They all but slammed into the opposite wall, but Rin kept his wits about him and used his feet to manoeuvre them onto the top of the next staircase, lurching their bodies forward for the needed momentum and they stuttered down to the next level, losing the doorknob on the way. The stairwell was long and steep, and the only other alternatives Rin had devised were sliding down the banisters or rolling down the stairs, but the former proved potentially dangerous to his and Makoto’s sensitive bits, and the latter would probably injure them critically. Sledding was the next best thing, even as the door crumbled about two flights from the exit, and what little time they bought themselves was as good as they could make it.
The spewer screamed and let loose a flurry of furniture that shattered against the banisters and walls and rained splinters that Rin and Makoto couldn’t avoid. Rin could feel his skin smarting at the pain as some shards caught in his clothes and rubbed against him, but they’d finally crashed into the emergency exit and nearly ripped the door off its hinges in their adrenaline-fuelled anxiety. Rin quickly dismissed any thoughts of barring the door – the spewer was damned strong, it would be a waste of time – and made to run for the gate across the distance of the parking lot, but jerked himself to a halt after only one running step. He backed up against the wall, willing himself to melt into it.
“Rin,” Makoto swallowed.
“Yeah,” he replied quietly, mouth going dry, “Shit.”
“I-I’m so sorry, this is my fault, I—”
“If you have time to mope, you have time to figure out a plan,” Rin said, managing to keep the tremble out of his voice. He wasn’t going down now after coming this far, “There’s a hoard in front of us, from the looks of it, about to notice us. There’s a boss zombie behind us. Do you see any escape routes? Don’t panic. Just look.”
Makoto nodded once, more for himself than for Rin, and began scanning. Above, the shrieking and puking grew louder and louder as the spewer stampeded down the stairs. He hadn’t taken a good look, but he sincerely hoped it was too fat to get through the doorway and would get stuck.
“Over there,” Makoto said. Rin snapped his head up to look, “The path is clear beyond that chain-link fence.”
“That’s a sewer.”
“I don’t hear any zombies from inside it.”
“Fair enough,” Rin said, strapping his backpack on tighter, “You go first.”
“Rin,” Makoto began warily, “Please don’t use me as a springboard.”
“It’s as much as you deserve.”
Makoto sighed but didn’t argue.
“On three. Ready? One… tw—”
The emergency door exploded as the spewer let out a roar and doubled over, collapsing to the ground to vomit. The asphalt sizzled beneath their feet and Rin figured it was as good a signal as any to make a break for it. He shot down the path, followed a second later by Makoto, who quickly overtook him. Makoto slid to a halt in front of the fence, squatted down and put his hands together. Rin understood what he intended about a moment before he reached Makoto and made full use of the boost he was getting, concentrating all his energy in his legs as Makoto hurled him upwards. He was easily waist-over the fence and threw a leg across the top, steadying himself before he reached for Makoto who was beginning his upward scramble.
Like the screecher, the spewer seemed to attract zombies and it looked like its dramatic entrance had alerted the hoard. Rin caught a glimpse of the spewer – unnaturally long limbed with a stretched out torso covered in a dark, burnt skin, its shirt long dissolved by its acidic puke – using its arms and legs to drag itself along unsteadily towards them, almost spider-like in its movements. It kept stumbling into things, angrily ripping and hurling them away, crushing some zombies in its path.
Makoto was already over the top and both of them took a long jump down onto the other side, Rin losing his footing and slamming into the corner of the cement drain as he slipped into the sewer. Makoto caught his arm with a grunt before he could fall all the way through.
“Come on…!” Makoto wheezed, trying to pull Rin up, “They’re climbing up the fence…!”
Before he could check, there was howl from just behind Rin, followed by the noxious sound and smell of vomit as the spewer hurled all over the fence, slowly burning a hole through it. The vomit caught Makoto’s arm and he let out an anguished sound, but did not let go of Rin. On the bright side, what vomit had gotten onto the wall of the sewer was burning holes into it, which Rin quickly jammed his feet into to climb up. Makoto heaved him over and they landed in a heap, kicking away rotten hands that were gripping their ankles as zombies piled stupidly into the sewer. Rin meant to get a good head start before there were enough zombies stacked up to make a bridge for the others.
It was Makoto who got onto his feet first, pulling Rin up, and they ran as fast as they could down the street. There were a handful of stray zombies in their path easily dispatched by his machete as most of them had been lured to the hospital compound earlier by the spewer, and Rin couldn’t extinguish the flutter of hope that they could actually truly make it out of this.
Rin jerked back, eyes widening as he saw the spewer a few hundred metres away, one of its arms thin and elongated and sinewy like a whip as it wrapped around Makoto’s foot and started dragging him closer to it. Makoto was clawing against the ground, trying to grab hold of something.
“You piece of shit! Let go of him!” Rin darted forward and sat on Makoto’s legs, hacking at its arm with his machete. It was all muscle, even thin and rope-like as it was, and it was hard to make a dent, though each rip and tear sent the spewer screaming. When zombies made that kind of noise, you knew you were doing something right. With a strong swing, Rin finally cleaved cleanly through its arm. The spewer screeched and gurgled in agony.
“Yes!” Rin pumped a fist, but did not see the severed arm come back round to whip him bodily off of Makoto and into the wall of a ruined building. He hit his head hard and crumpled to the ground, unable to see straight. He couldn’t move as the screaming got louder, the spewer crawling more quickly than ever until it was finally looming over him, each limb twisting around his neck and arm and leg and holding him down. It growled over him, dirty matted hair trailing against his sallow bony face that had partially rotted off. Rin thought he was imagining what he saw.
“C…Coach… Sasabe?” He choked out, struggling against the arm curling and tightening around his neck, “N-No way… Coach, it’s… me… please…”
It screamed in his face, pungent breath and saliva coating the front of Rin’s gas mask, tightening its grip to the point that Rin was sure his bones were just about to break. He could feel something like talons, ripping into him, drawing blood. The spewer began to heave, the cavity in its chest grotesquely pulsing. Rin’s heart sank. As he felt himself go lightheaded, he could only think one thing: He was going to get puked on.
The creature screamed endlessly as it began to spasm. Rin barely made out the silhouette of his machete sticking out of the thing’s stomach before it slashed out along the side, ripping apart the spewer’s entrails. It immediately loosened its grip on Rin and lunged towards Makoto, who swung the machete wildly at it until it had been smacked away by a rogue limb. Rin tried to get a better view, but all he could see was that the spewer had knocked Makoto onto his back. He tried to think fast, some way to help Makoto, but the sound of six gunshots stole his attention away and he could barely believe his eyes.
The spewer let out one last gurgle before it collapsed, its head blasted off from the point blank impacts. Rin wanted to cheer. Makoto was a fucking star.
Makoto quickly kicked what was left of the spewer aside as the acidic bile in its body began to leak out and corrode everything under it. He got to his feet, clutching a burnt and bloodied arm, and limped towards Rin. He fell onto his knees. Rin clapped his shoulder and let out a strangled laugh.
“You dog,” he croaked, “I knew you had it in you.”
Makoto chuckled softly and sighed, still gripping his arm. His jacket had been dissolved by the vomit and the acid seeped through to his arm, causing ugly dark splotches alongside the numerous scratches he'd gotten from being dragged and pinned down. Makoto's state made Rin want to assess himself, but he could barely lift his head, much less think. The spewer had done a number on him, and that's even without taking into account who it could have been.
That's when something caught Rin's eye.
A bite mark.