"Jail was preferable. There they only limited you physically. In a mental ward they tampered with your soul and worldview and mind."
John Kennedy Toole
The next day came right on time as they got to their weekly group sessions. There was one for each wing, so the patients had similar backgrounds – Monika insisted she be present for the sexual abnormalities even if they were the worst of the lot. She found them to be the worst of the lot because they represented everything she hated.
From behind the nurse's station, she could already see Feliciano's attempts to make contact with Lovino failing. Every tap on the shoulder going ignored, his lips moving but Lovino's remaining shut as he sat waiting for the meeting to start. Dejected, Feliciano sat down but only after several other patients moved to their seats in anticipation.
"Nurse Beilschmidt?" Erika asked politely for her attention with her hands clasped in front of her. "Can I sit in on your session?"
"Of course," Monika smiled, genuinely. "Although, I must warn you that these are the sexual deviants."
"Oh… Nothing I haven't heard from patients before," She dismissed. "I should try to learn about everything, even the uncomfortable subjects." Monika set her paperwork aside, looking out onto the floor to see everyone seated.
"Of course, come with me then." Picking up her clipboard and pen, she led the junior nurse to the floor where it appeared every patient other than Lovino was staring nervously. Well, Feliciano seemed to almost be excited when he caught a glance of her. An odd man but he hadn't seen her lay down the law yet so his distinct lack of nervousness was not unreasonable.
"We have a new patient present," She told them as she sat down, Erika taking a seat herself beside Monika. "As you can see, he may look like a familiar face, but he is not. He is just a relative of Lovino here," Her eyes crossed past Feliciano to Lovino who was noticeably facing the opposite direction to him, legs tilted to the right of him and Feliciano sat just two seats away to the left. He was leaning on his hand with his elbow perched upon the back of the chair. Just how he was told to react. Feliciano's face displayed confusion – As expected, she had assumed that he had a keen interest in catching his brother sometimes, but she would do her merry best to avoid that eventuality for as long as possible. "However related they may be by blood does not matter in relation to their conditions. How about we start with you?"
Her piercing blue eyes pointed directly to Feliciano. He looked around with a smile. "Well, I suppose I'm like the rest of them."
"How? Are you a rapist? A pedophile?" His eyes went wide.
"N-No, I guess I'm not…" His eyes shifted amongst the group. Lovino sighed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to assume that-"
"Nobody here is either of those things as far as I know." Lovino spoke up, easing the tension that was so obvious on Feliciano's face, his hands on his knees awkwardly trying to avoid eye-contact with the rest of the group. After that reassurance, Feliciano seemed to be less clammy – Comfortable. It was a great disruption from Monika's methodology.
"A homosexual?" Monika prompted Feliciano, her eyes darting to Lovino as a warning. He glared back before going back to staring off into the rest of the room, anywhere but left of himself. Once again Feliciano gave a negative response.
"I don't believe so." He seemed perplexed by the insinuation. But that wasn't what she was watching out for – She could see that it affected Lovino by the look on his face. If looks could kill.
"Hm, I do recall you saying something that might be construed as such an abnormality." He shrugged.
"It was just an exaggeration. says I just have a problem with self-control and my sex drive." He turned as Lovino snickered – Unable to control his little fit of laughter. It felt like a schoolyard now the way he was mocking his brother's words. Nobody else was laughing though, instead, they watched him laugh at his private joke. Monika waited for him to explain himself with a prolonged silent gaze, when Lovino caught sight of her staring he shook his head with a bitter smile.
"This is such bullshit-"
"Lovino Vargas if you cannot be here in a respectful manner you will be punished."
"He's a liar – He hasn't even seen what's down there," Lovino gestured with an open hand to the loins of Monika. It went unappreciated as she stood up. "Oh, you didn't like that? Nobody wants to see yours?" Lovino pouted, mocking her before laughing again.
"Your lack of self-control will be written down as a distinct lack of any progress – Explain to me the progress you have made, and I might consider a lesser punishment." She remained standing, scrutinizing him with a close eye. Lovino looked around briefly.
"Well, I've been throwing up especially well this past week looking at whatever cock you've decided to show me, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's whatever is in that IV causing that. And I've been sleeping beside that lesbian," He gestured to Emma, "Just about the only thing I like about her is her eyes and personality. No, not a single stir in the trousers."
"This sounds the same as last week, what's changed?" He shrugged.
"I guess one thing that's changed is that I've been getting real riled up after aversion therapy, you keep giving me new material to think about. This round was especially inspirational." He stared back at her before turning away with a chuckle. This was all a joke to him – He didn't care about improvement.
"If that's the case we're going to have you on a different treatment plan. We can't have this behavior encouraged," She frowned, sitting back down and ignoring him for the meantime while she focused her attention on Antonio instead, he was sitting rather uncomfortably as he had just watched what happened. He always seemed uncomfortable by Lovino's outbursts during sessions. "What about you?"
"Me?" Antonio pointed to himself, Monika nodded. "I'm… Better than last time." She looked over towards Lovino who had reserved himself to putting his knuckles to his lips. It was easy to see that he was just trying to block out everybody else – But none more so than Antonio.
"How so?" Antonio shifted.
"I don't think so much about it. Just go about my day." He was less of a problem compared to Lovino – He listened. But even still, she could tell that he wasn't being completely truthful, she could tell by the way he looked at Lovino for comfort that he wasn't cured at all.
"What do you think about when you have those instincts?"
"I-" He frowned. "I don't know."
"I think you do know. Until you're prepared to acknowledge your faults you won't improve."
"He's not crazy – He's not some kind of danger-" Lovino cut in before Monika promptly shut him up with a glare. "Fine, don't give me that face."
"Emma, how have your sessions with Lovino been progressing?"
"Not… Not good, I'm afraid," She said, ashamed, "I have been trying – Believe me."
"Believe you? Why should I do that? I've seen nothing that tells me you have been trying."
"I- He- It's-" She stuttered.
"Is he making it difficult for you to progress with your treatment?" She nodded. "And what should I do about that for you?"
"I don't…" She struggled to finish the sentence.
"I don't know what options there are- I don't want anything bad to happen… I-I don't know what you want."
"Oh, come on, leave the girl alone you rotten bitch." Lovino butted in before Monika could even respond.
"That is your final warning gone, I expected better from you today, but I guess I think too highly of you," She stood up and made eye contact with the security nearby. "Make sure to escort Lovino and Feliciano Vargas to their rooms."
"What- Did I do something wrong, Monika?" Feliciano asked.
"No, but he did. He has to learn that his actions affect everyone else too," She shook her head and sighed. "And it's Nurse Beilschmidt, not Monika. That is how you will address the nurses here; we are not your friends."
"You touch a fuckin' hair on his head and I'll knock your teeth in!" Lovino warned, the security guard rushing over to restrain him. "Feliciano – Get the fuck out of here-"
"You do not talk to him," Monika raised her voice only slightly but wished to be more demanding. She was losing control of the meeting, but she had managed to get both of the problems away relatively safely. Feliciano was much more accommodating to the change, walking quietly while watching over his brother with a worried gaze. She sighed into the back of her hand, pushing her frayed hair back to a neat position. "This session is adjourned because of the circumstances – We will meet again next week and those who didn't speak today will have their chance."
She saw Francis smiling, whispering to Antonio who seemed to struggle to smile himself. Instead, Antonio seemed to absentmindedly watch as Lovino was taken away in a tight hold.
"Antonio," Monika called, he darted his attention towards her. Green eyes filled with worry. "You've been doing well," He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. "But Francis, do try to refrain from making unnecessary comments. This isn't a classroom." Francis smirked.
"I was just telling him about my progress."
"Or lack thereof," Monika frowned. "Next week, you won't be let off so easily." He noticeably slumped in his chair. Every week he seemed to fail at maintaining his high sex-drive – He had real satyriasis if it could be called that. Although he had never resorted to dramatics as Feliciano did, he seemed to find it easy to find a willing participant. The last nurse in her position had been fired for her relationship with the patient, Monika couldn't imagine laying with someone so… Francis. He didn't struggle to make the girls swoon as well as some of the men, but he had a problem that Monika wasn't going to give up on fixing for good.
"Can I stay in my room tonight, Nurse Beilschmidt?" Emma asked. She always asked that. It was clear that staying in Lovino's bed made her uncomfortable.
"No," She watched Emma's face sink into disappointment. "But I'm sure we could make arrangements more suitable for you. appears to be lacking," She looked around at the group. There was no way in hell that Francis would be an acceptable candidate, so she glossed right over him and over to Antonio. "Antonio, would you mind company?" He looked to Emma who seemed to be just as nervous as he was, their faces displaying their mutual bewilderment. He looked back to her as she raised an eyebrow in anticipation for an affirmative answer.
"No, I wouldn't mind."
Monika smiled at Emma, "Antonio has so kindly offered to help you just as you will help him." They stared at each other – Antonio breaking into a closed smile while Emma nodded.
"Thank you." She said, however soft it was, it was enough.
"Now your recreation time will end the same time as scheduled, continue on with your day," Monika announced, noticeably frustrated by the situation. "I'm sorry, Erika. This was not the plan." She apologized to Erika, heartfelt.
"It's fine, I guess it can't always go to plan, can it? There's always next time." She said optimistically.
"Right, I just wish you didn't need to see that. It doesn't set a good example," A disappointed sight came from her lips. "But we must handle the fallout, Lovino Vargas requires attention. Please find the head nurse and call her to his room – I'll be there."
Lovino was fuming from the meeting – His face conveying every ounce of hatred directed squarely at the staff. The junior nurse, head nurse, and Monika all attempting to calm him down, some more than others. Monika was thoroughly disappointed that Lovino didn't seem to learn anything, but she was even more disappointed that none of the other staff members, particularly Elizabeta, seemed to want to do anything about it. Poor Erika seemed to be flustered by the idea of wrangling him back to a state of calm.
" , you simply must calm down." Elizabeta held out a hand to place on his shoulder but instead, he swatted it away.
"You're going to ruin him!" He shouted without an ounce of hesitancy. "Goddamn you – You're useless, you're all useless!"
" ," Monika started. "We have no choice but to treat this state of mania with therapy."
"Oh really? It can't be any worse than the shit you've been putting me through for - How many months?"
"Your memory fails you as well?" Lovino groaned.
"You really are the worst of them if I could watch you breathe your last breath I would do it with a smile!" The thinly veiled threat didn't go over well. It never did. Such behavior was reason for immediate punishment.
"Wrap him up – Some cold water will fix this, Erika, get the gurney," Elizabeta ordered. "I'm terribly sorry." She said to Lovino, but it was quite obvious that he wasn't going to accept apologies anytime soon.
Feliciano jumped at the sound of the door opening. The security wasn't kind to him in the slightest – He could still feel the tight grip that they had on him as he was led back to his room. Nurse Beilschmidt stood in the doorway.
"Oh, hello. How are you?" He asked.
"You know, Lovino is an incredible sight compared to you." She said, ignoring Feliciano. He frowned.
"What?" She shrugged.
"He's uncouth, rude, fiery… You're just…" Feliciano laughed, realizing what she was saying.
"Oh, don't worry, we know," He'd heard it all plenty of times. Everybody had to say it when they met both of them. His smile died down when he thought of him. "How is he? He wasn't doing so good when I saw him." The worry
"Fine, he calmed down. A cold bath did the trick," She shook her head. "But now you need to have yours. For treatment, of course. It really calms the nerves."
"Psychoses is usually why patients are admitted here and require such treatment. The personality seems to of rotted away until there is only a shell of a human, something that couldn't even begin to understand how impaired they really are," He heard a squeak from the knob as she turned it. It was still fine, just a regular bath, "Psychoneuroses would be what someone like you would have if you did have a mental disorder, someone who was still themselves, who just needs help. However," Feliciano felt the temperature rising. "Neither is necessary to be understood here. It's unfortunate Lovino couldn't be more considerate of you." He furrowed his brows, confused. Then what was the point of explaining all that to him if it didn't matter anyway? Now he'd just remember something unimportant and he couldn't quite understand what Lovino had to do with this bath. The bath that had begun to become uncomfortable.
Feliciano hissed, "It's too hot," He complained. A tarp covered the bath, buckled down at the sides. Monika checked her watch. A hand instinctively reached up to touch the top of the tarp, trapped and nowhere to go he felt the temperature rising, "It's hot!" It was instinctive to thrash, the water just splashing to hit the tarp.
"Two minutes. Lovino got five minutes and five degrees higher." Five, Feliciano couldn't imagine such a thing.
"Y-You-" He clenched his jaw, it felt like he couldn't even get a sentence out it burned so much. "You don't need to do t-thisss." He let out a deep breath, trying not to focus so much on the pain, closing his eyes tightly shut. No wonder she had distracted him - This was something nobody would ever agree to out of free will and now that he thought of it, he'd been duped into a false sense of security by a busty nurse with a relatively approachable attitude. As soon as felt the water it was cold before it slowly heated up. For a second, it even felt nice, a smarter man might've compared the bathwater to someone like Nurse Beilschmidt.
It wasn't often he wanted to be a frog, but this would be a rather helpful time to be one so he didn't notice the pain so much - Maybe a frog also wouldn't notice the betrayal.
His eyes darted to Monika as soon as he opened them again. She seemed unbothered, "It is completely necessary. Everything you or Lovino do affects each other. He needs to understand that just as much as you do. I take preventative measures – That is a rare sight around here, most of the action comes too late."
The temperature seemed to stagnate which was only marginally easier than the feeling of being shocked into the heat. It felt like he was being boiled alive but at least he knew what to expect now.
"I didn't do anything to you." He attempted to appeal to some semblance of humanity. Instead, Monika just checked her watch again.
"You're right. But Lovino did." He shook his head vigorously.
"No, whatever he did during the session was unintentional!" She frowned.
"Everything he does is intentional. He knows exactly what he's doing." When she went to check her watch again, he felt the steam irritating him even more than he cared for. That still didn't take his attention away from her.
"You're not a monster- You can't be half as bad as-" He hissed as his hand touched the tarp again. "I need to get out of here, please." Tears pricked his eyes as Monika looked down at her watch before looking at Feliciano. Conflicted, she reached over to unbuckle the tarp, throwing it over halfway as Feliciano climbed out the second there was enough space for his body to escape. Some of the water spilled onto the floor just as Feliciano had, feeling the tenderness of his skin as it touched the cold floor. His hands were pink, his arms, his legs, his torso, anything below the neck felt painful to the touch. Like a bad sunburn – The only bad sunburns he ever got were in Africa and even those weren't half as bad as this.
"One minute and you would've been finished, ," She said in a disappointed voice. "Lovino did the full five minutes without too much protest."
"I'm sorry – I couldn't." He groaned but didn't want to move. He heard her tut.
"And you were a soldier?" She asked with the surprise in her voice making him stare intently at the grout. It was a humiliating position to be in, so he tried to push himself off the floor, each move hurt but he wasn't going to just lay there. He wanted to rest – He wanted to sit in the cold shower to relieve himself of the burning sensation.
"Yes." He finally answered.
"What changed?" He refused to answer, shaking his head. "No?"
Standing on his sore feet he turned and said, "All due respect, Monika. I'm not feeling too good."
"Interesting," She remarked. "Well, I suppose they let anyone into the Italian military." Handing his clothes to him – She turned and waited for him to dress.
It took too long to get dressed and he was still terribly wet which only served to make every bit of fabric cling to him. It was uncomfortable – It even hurt in some places. But he couldn't help but look to Monika. Her back was to him, but she was waiting patiently, "You aren't a monster; I only believe in a handful of those," He had decided. "And-And you let me out! That was pretty… Nice." He noticed the lack of response from her. It was like he was talking to a wall.
"You know, that's what Lovino did too," Feliciano said sadly, buttoning up his shirt. "He always used to have something to say to me. I don't know if what I did was wrong or not. He didn't tell me anything. I think he hates me, but I can't really tell anymore. Do you have a brother? How would you feel if your brother didn't talk to you-"
"My God, do you never cease to shut up?" Monika interrupted; her voice raised causing Feliciano some surprise. "Are you done?"
"I- Sure." He fumbled. When she turned around again, he held out his arms. "Good as new!" She grimaced. Dropping his arms to his sides, he found it easier to stop thinking about the searing pain that occasionally shot up his body.
"Slippers, on," She ordered. He couldn't help but chuckle. "What is it?" Her voice was unimpressed by this perceived disobedience. Even if he had followed her order, it was still funny to him how strict she could be with her tone.
"You're stiff. That's all." She very quickly thwarted this little jovial jab. He truly meant nothing by it but it was obvious she didn't see it that way the way this seemed to set her off like the flick of a lighter.
"We aren't friends – We aren't allies. You are my adversary and I fully intend to keep it that way, ," She stopped him from walking out the door with a hand on the shoulder. "Ah, I believe we're not done here. Your disobedience will not go unchecked."
"What? But I just-" She held out an open hand to point towards another bath. An ice bath of sorts - Some of the blocks had melted but it was clear it had been used recently the way water was still surrounding it.
"I urge you to be tardy before I tell of your progressing lack of self-control. It seems now you've got a mouth like your brother." Her voice showed her disdain for him. It was a shame - A damn shame that he was on the other end of this woman's strict hold. He saw why he was so against this place but he was too far to turn back now.
"I just made a comment. Monika, you're don't need to-" He tried to appeal to her again, there was some humanity deep down. There had to be if it worked once.
"I am Nurse Beilschmidt, !" She shouted. Her face was red with anger – He knew he had crossed a line, but it was a line crossed too late. He struggled to feel any anger for her, but he soon realized exactly why everyone refused to talk down to her. Well, other than Lovino but if he was getting this treatment, just what punishment was given out to him?
"Yes, Nurse Beilschmidt." He nodded, looking to the baths. A distinct sense of dread filling the atmosphere in the room. Even he knew there was a time and place for obedience, however, he couldn't be trapped. He'd find another way.