Sanctuary @michichi69
Dimmed Lights

"He belongs to the class of simple-hearted, practical, and dull-witted people, prompt in carrying out orders, who like discipline better than anything in the world, and so are convinced that it is their duty to beat people."

Anton Chekhov, Ward No. 6 and Other Stories

It was the eyes. Something about the eyes.

Lovino could see it – He wasn't a fool. But his brother sure was.

The first time he comes to a group session in centuries and he looks shifty. Putting the majority of his attention in staring at the nurse's station. He sighed, watching Feliciano waiting for something. Or someone. It was unusual for only the junior nurse to be around. Usually, Nurse Beilschmidt was watching them like a hawk. Instead, it was clear that Erika was in her own world, reading a magazine.

"She's late," Lovino looked towards Emma. "Might as well make conversation."

She smiled, "I'm afraid I haven't got much to say."

He looked to Antonio, eyebrow raised, "How's the sex?" Even Feliciano broke his gaze to give him a concerned expression.

"Not here," Antonio muttered. "Don't be rude." He crossed his arms and leaned back. Rude. What was rude was this. Everything about this was rude – A total punch to the gut.

"I might change my mind. Maybe when I get out of here, I won't take you with me." He looked to Feliciano; it was obvious he wasn't focused on anything going on here anymore. Sex was enough to grab anybody's attention though.

"Maybe I'll be out before you – You haven't even tried to play the game," Antonio sighed. "Everyone is suffering here."

"Not him," He narrowed his eyes on Feliciano. "I'd bet on him."

"Bet what?" Emma whispered, perhaps she was a little smarter knowing Feliciano was an ear away. He scoffed.

"Bet that he's a fucking idiot. Most men are," Biting his lip he began to regret his outburst. "I don't want to play games. I want to be honest." He explained to Antonio, a sheepish look overtaking his expression.

"Well, you're not short on honesty." Francis chuckled.

Great, just what he needed, "Shut up. Sei un rompicoglioni."

"Non si fa così," Feliciano remarked. "Be nice." He smiled towards the Frenchman – Nobody smiled at that bastard. Not unless it was Antonio making a joke with him.

"Assassino," Lovino scoffed. "Che farai?" But he was sure that it didn't feel good that Lovino was right either. He looked towards the nurse's station. "Madonna," His eyes went wide. "Who is she?"

"The new nurse, probably." Feliciano looked as if he had to pick his jaw off the floor.

"Don't you know it could be considered rude to stare at a woman's…" Francis laughed. "Well, you know." It looked as if Feliciano was ashamed of himself for being caught but he probably didn't regret it either. Lovino didn't understand – Such a thing was nothing short of a blessing from God on a woman but not something to write home about either. They were just flesh.

"Do you see a pin on her?" Feliciano asked.

"What's it matter?" Antonio asked. "A new head nurse could be a good thing," The fool – It mattered for both of their sakes. "Better than Nurse Beilschmidt having it." Lovino glanced towards Feliciano, knowing full well that it certainly wasn't going to be pretty if she didn't have that damn brooch. It seemed like he had his worries too, after all, he would have to play executioner again if that were so.

"I hope so," Emma wrapped her arms around herself. "Everything would just get worse." Goddamn it, it felt wrong to wish for the opposite. It wouldn't be possible to have everybody out of here. The most he could hope for was to get himself out and even if Antonio was thoroughly pissing him off lately, he still wasn't going to give up on him. It wasn't justice but they had to take care of themselves first.

The new nurse noticed them staring, giving them a wave that made all of them stop in their tracks. It wasn't until they saw Nurse Beilschmidt approach her from behind that they looked at each other again, "This is a warzone," Lovino declared. He turned to his brother who was watching intently. In fact, they all were. He sighed, watching them exchange a file, Nurse Beilschmidt explaining something to the new nurse. "We're right in the middle of this bullshit."

"I don't see a pin on either of them," Feliciano said. "Why isn't there a pin?"

"Like hell if I know." Lovino pulled a leg to his chest to lean on. Maybe it was as some form of comfort, anything. It was an anxious situation for him, if another had to die then he wasn't sure if he could find it in him to look at his brother the same way again – It was already hard as is.

"Maybe she's just on a probational period right now," Antonio shrugged. "She's smiling, that's a step up from Nurse Beilschmidt."

"And that physique," Francis did a chef's kiss. "It's as if she was made from marble."

"Merda, she's not going to fuck you – Not in a million years." Lovino rolled his eyes.

"And you would know that?" Touché, Francis wasn't a complete shit talker when it came to his conquests. Although, he would have no idea what anybody could see in that frog.

"I can see why Monika hates her." Feliciano sighed; the disappointment evident in the way he seemed to slump in his chair.

"And how would you know that?" Francis smirked.

"It's… Obvious." The worst liar he had ever known, it made Lovino want to strangle him with how cagey he was acting. Cagey was not Feliciano's forte.

"A little bird tells me that Nurse Beilschmidt has been paying special attention to you, mon ami." The way Feliciano seemed hot under the collar wasn't looking good for him. Of course, Nurse Beilschmidt just had to make her little lackey happy, but he somehow severely doubted that involved opening her legs.

"Any little bird within a ten-foot radius of your stench would promptly fall from the sky before it could gossip." Lovino decided to cut his brother some slack.

"Sometimes I hear her, she stops right by his door," Francis shrugged. "Perhaps there's a reason he's been in his room for so long – Maybe he's tired." He nudged Antonio who snorted as if he were a child again.

"Ugh, don't even joke about that." The genuine disgust in his voice seemed to be enough to satisfy Francis' need to tease him.

"They're coming over here." Feliciano said with dread.

"Fuck, she looks like she wants to kill her." Probably because she was already planning to in her head. Antonio scoffed as if it was just a joke – An exaggeration. When they came closer, the contrast was drastic. She was a vast woman, that was the nice way to say it. But not thick in the waist, quite the opposite. A true Venus. Smiling earnestly, something he was certain Nurse Beilschmidt would find impossible to do, she gave the group a nod.

"It's nice to finally meet all of you," The new nurse was first to speak. "I'm Yekaterina Braginskaya, I've been told you're supposed to call me Nurse Braginskaya, but Kat would suffice." Nurse Beilschmidt sighed.

"The rules cannot be broken, Nurse Braginskaya." She couldn't let those arbitrary rules go.

"Oh, I'm sure that there can be exceptions," She dismissed, sitting down. For once, it was Nurse Beilschmidt who followed. Oh, how she hated it. "I took the liberty of learning your names from Erika."

"Good, then we can proceed as scheduled," Nurse Beilschmidt was quick to dominate the conversation again. " ," Lovino knew that meant him but Feliciano had also turned his attention to her. "No, not you." She sighed as if he should know by now – Feliciano should know by now that if it was anything to do with her wanting to embarrass someone it was intended for Lovino.

"I believe we can mitigate this issue by saying Lovino." Nurse Braginskaya smiled.

The side-eye Nurse Beilschmidt gave her was nothing short of humiliation on Nurse Beilschmidt's part. Nobody questioned her, "Mr. Lovino Vargas, tell me your improvements for the week."

"I think you should know by now," He shrugged. "Nothing. would've told you that I don't give a shit about your treatments."

"Should I ask why?" Nurse Braginskaya asked.

"No need to, he would probably respond with something vulgar." It was Nurse Braginskaya's turn to side-eye her.

"Well, I would like to know." She looked at Lovino. It was strange – Nobody liked to dig into that much. Or, well, nobody really cared when they found out.

Still, he scoffed, "If I could switch it off with an ice bath or a few pictures of women I would have a white picket fence by now," He shrugged. "So, there's no point in pretending." He glanced at Antonio.

"I see…" She frowned, almost looking like she was going to cry. Weak – Crying was weakness here. No doubt Nurse Beilschmidt knew that already. "Well, if I could have it my way, I would hope that this place didn't have to exist."

"But it does. Accept that," Nurse Beilschmidt said, interrupting any sense of hope that could've possibly been planted in anybody's mind. She sighed, "Antonio, you had an incident yesterday?" Even she sounded surprised reading off the clipboard. " 's notes were telling."

"Incident?" Lovino narrowed his eyes as Antonio seemed to try and wish away her hard gaze. Both him and Emma were looking like scolded dogs – Even if Antonio was the one playing dumb, it was clear that he was just trying to will his way out of this situation.

"I think you know what I mean but I doubt it would be productive today. Just don't do it again and you should be able to remain on track," But, it was his lucky day as she looked down at the board. Perhaps it was only because there was another pair of eyes that wasn't used to seeing this kind of treatment. "Feliciano, you've been doing-"

"Horrible," He finished, she shot him a look. This clearly wasn't discussed between them. "I've been… Horrible." She wrote something down hesitantly.

"Horrible it is." The glare that she seemed to give him was boring a hole into Feliciano's skull – Right between the eyes. That couldn't be good, Lovino had decided that himself. He could tell the air had gone cold around them just from that.

Yet, Feliciano avoided Lovino's suspicious gaze.

"What's so horrible?" Monika asked. She crossed her arms, disliking the fact that she didn't know already. "You've been perfectly fine lately."

He was ignoring her yet smiling, "I finished it today. Do you want it?"

"Define it." He swung his sketchbook around. The sight of it made her lose track of her breath. "Why the hell would you do that?" He shrugged.

"You said anything so I did what I thought you would like…" Ripping the page out, he presented it to her. "Yourself."

Insulted, she took the paper, "You're mocking me." This woman's eyes were staring at her like she knew how much she hated her.

Feliciano frowned, "I didn't mean it to be mocking. Most people like to have their portrait taken."

"Well, not me…" She sighed. "But it is good. I just won't be keeping it." A mental note had been made to throw it away at home lest someone find it and make unappreciated jokes about her image. It was too soft for her.

"Sometimes you're too honest," He laughed. "I don't know if I should cry or not."

"You never answered my question," The way he liked to pretend everything was fine frustrated her. At least she could manage to keep things under control before they ever became a problem – He just let it rest the way it was. "I want to know your plan – We're allies, we share plans."

"Plan?" He furrowed his brows before standing. "There is no new plan. I'm staying because I must."

"You must? I thought this was a choice."

"It is a choice," He shook his head. "I just can't leave here. You've made me realise that it's the only good choice I can make."

"And making everything seem horrible is a way of doing that?" She scoffed. "When asks you what horrible means on my notes then you're going to have to elaborate. Make up a story more long-lasting that justifies your stay."

"I don't need to make up a story," He rubbed his palms on his pants. "Ever since her I've been too afraid to go to sleep. And-And I haven't been thinking straight. I say it's been horrible because it is horrible and the only thing that I can think to do is to stay. At least here I'm not alone. I'm afraid."

Monika frowned, "Well, you should get used to being alone," She said coolly. "One day you'll be the only one to take care of yourself."

"How can you say that?" The hurt tone in his voice didn't elicit an ounce of guilt. It wasn't her fault he was hurt. It couldn't be her fault if he was broken from the start. "I thought you understood."

"I do understand. I just don't care for your…" Weakness was the wrong word. It certainly wasn't strength but weakness would mean she were just as weak as him. "Sentimentality. Relying on staying here won't fix anything. You will leave this place and you will still be the same broken mind as before."

"Then what's the point of this place? Isn't that your-"

"If I thought this place could fix people then I would be a fool," She admitted. "The most we do is keep the decay of the mind stagnant. At worst, people die even more broken than before. Simple as that. You won't find what you're looking for here," Her expression showed her pity for such a lost person. "I wouldn't be saying that if I didn't consider you a friend."

"Friend?" He said in disbelief. "This is what you consider friendship? You ask me to kill someone, you give me hope and then you crush it? How much longer until I have to kill Braginskaya for friendship?"

"I do consider this a friendship of sorts, yes," She remarked, offended. Although, she couldn't outright dismiss him. She had never had a friend before but this was the best idea of it she had. Something semi-reciprocal, seemingly at least, something that wasn't necessary but happened anyway. It wasn't necessary to keep her word for him but she was doing it anyway, be it honour, duty or kindness it was something that she didn't do for just anyone. The only way she could justify it was that it was only good for her to stick to her word, it meant that when the opportunity arose it would be easier to gain trust only to use it against them – That she couldn't see for Feliciano's fate. That was friendship. "Have I treated you poorly as of yet?"

It took him a while to process before he answered, "Yes. By making me do that in the first place." She frowned. It was a deal. Reciprocal – The foundations of friendship.

"There would be nothing between us if you didn't. I'm sacrificing a lot for you so it's only fair you did so for me." The way his face displayed conflict wasn't helping her case. Comfort. Even grown men needed comfort. Most did. "Braginskaya doesn't need to die. Héderváry did. As for ... He deserves death but somehow I think he's going to do that to himself." Hopefully, though, she could rush the process – Perhaps involving Feliciano in that wouldn't be the best move.

"Your idea of deserve is loose," To him, maybe. "You confuse me."

"Yes, it doesn't take much to confuse you," She quipped. "An eye for an eye. Héderváry and were responsible for my purpose here. I promised myself I would repay them. I'm sure you would understand that the ambiguity of my past is just as important to me as yours is to you."

He shook his head, "No, you seem to love knowing everything about me and yet I don't know a thing about you other than you're a vengeful woman." Vengeful she was but she knew that revenge and justice was a fine line that often became indistinguishable from the other. This, she had decided, was justice no matter how vengeful it was. However, she couldn't help but think over his words further - Reality was that she didn't know everything about him. Even if she was clearly on the right track.

"But not from your mouth," She pointed out. "Almost everything I know about you is a game of deduction and experience. I would say it's stupid to pretend it's shameful but it's the only reasonable response to be cautious with your secrets. You never know when they'll be used against you." She was certain that nobody would be worth telling hers to – It seemed like anybody she trusted enough had to disappear in one way or another. As for Feliciano, there was no point, he too would have to leave eventually even if he felt differently right now. This would be the best piece of comfort he could ever give him, learning to deal with being alone. But somehow, she doubted it would be something he could learn from her if he hadn't learned that by now.

"I do hope you keep it," He changed the subject. Something he liked doing – Especially when he was uncomfortable. "I worked hard on it."

"I don't doubt that. But what would people think if they saw a picture of myself on my walls?" She posited.

"You don't have visitors. Don't pretend you have visitors…" The depressed tone of voice he had developed over the course of the conversation had become the new normal. It should never have been the new normal, she had decided.

She took the paper out of her pocket and opened it up again. It was soft – She almost looked girlish. Not a woman at all, "I want another one then," She said. It was something about the hair, "But different." No, not just the hair but the eyes. It was something about the eyes.

"Do you want me to do something else?" She shook her head.

"Still me. But different," She handed the paper back to him. "I'll bring you something from outside to eat." Somehow the prospect of food was enough to give him a glint of hope. Even if he tentatively took the page back, it was clear that he was going to agree. Not with an offer like that.

"Okay…" She nodded, satisfied. "But I have no idea what you would want different to be."

"Real," She said bluntly. "I want something real. Not so…" She couldn't find the words to explain it. Not without sounding like a stupid girl. "I'll sit for you tomorrow."

He nodded but something was missing from him. Something in the eyes.

"Has Nurse Beilschmidt been good to you?" asked. The nurse nodded with a smile.

"Everything has been fine. I think I understand my role here a little better." Monika couldn't help but roll her eyes internally – This was all an act. It had to be. She just wanted to get to higher places, most normal people were like that.

"Right well, I suppose I have two concerns to bring up. First, Braginskaya, you will be a permanent member of staff. You will be fulfilling Nurse Beilschmidt's old duties." She could feel her blood boil.

"My old duties? Is this a termination?" She clenched her fists. "I've worked every damn day to get to this point and you're just going to-"

He slid the golden pin across the desk, close enough for her to reach herself, "You're head nurse. Congratulations." Braginskaya gasped.

"That's wonderful, Nurse Beilschmidt. Or, Head Nurse Beilschmidt." She seemed t be the only person elated in this room. For her, it felt cold and she didn't know why. Maybe because this was blood money but she certainly didn't feel guilty about it. She took the pin but didn't attach it to her breast.

"Thank you…" She was slightly embarrassed about her outburst just moments before. But this wasn't for her anymore, there was more for her. "May I have a word in private?" Indicating her specific request, she nodded towards Braginskaya. seemed to have enough sense to get the idea.

"You've done well, Nurse Braginskaya. Exactly as your experience has been used so far – I hope to see more of it," She didn't. "However, if you have any more to say then we can discuss it later." Braginskaya had the nerve to suppress a laugh.

"Well, good thing I can't find the words – Other than thank you, of course," Monika didn't look at her when the woman turned her attention to her instead. "Congratulations, Nurse Beilschmidt. Truly." Truly. Nobody said something like that genuinely, it was simply polite to or mockingly. Never genuine.

"Thank you." She said rather unenthusiastically. It was the way Braginskaya smiled at her that really threw her off. It didn't have the same effect as Nurse Héderváry's, not the same strain on the corners of her lips, not the same way she seemed to grit through it just to walk by Monika. It was painful the sense of normality that Braginskaya had. She didn't have the same horrors attached to her that made Monika just want to reach over and destroy her. It was the vulgarity of her body, her beautiful face and soft tufts of coiffed hair that made her want to trip her, but not the same hatred she thought she should have. An annoyance, a strange one. An ant under her soles. It didn't matter if she tried to find a way to fit into her life – She was head nurse right now and that couldn't be taken so easily. Well, unless this was a ploy by . A thought that had been plaguing her the entire wait for Braginskaya to finally shut that office door behind her.

"What is it?" It seemed as if had anticipated this to be stress-inducing, lighting another cigarette to quell the dread.

"I do hope you intend to keep this as is," The gold between her fingers felt strange. Unreal. "I sacrificed-"

"I know you killed her." interrupted, blowing smoke from between his lips. The statement didn't phase her.

Shaking her head, she pinned the brooch to her left breast, "I did not kill her," It was something she could say with complete honesty. The cold stare the doctor gave her didn't make her move an inch. "Your silence tells me you know it's the truth." The blade wasn't in her hand.

"But you know who did." She shrugged.

"I have some idea." seemed unimpressed. Of course he was. He always was with her. Such a conclusion wasn't important to her anyway, there was no proof and that much was impossible to have her arrested, gossip certainly wasn't enough to justify that.

"Well, I would otherwise have integrity but at this moment I feel it was best to avoid the trouble." Monika scoffed.

"Please, you never had integrity so why pretend now?" She smoothed out her skirt. "I think this was the right choice for your sake but my God, your hands are shaking from the poison you swallow every night. I always wondered why you did that to yourself."

"We all have our reasons for what we do. Including you and your rotten heart." He picked up his fountain pen without another word. It didn't matter if there was no further discussion, to her, it was her victory and that was all that mattered.

"Thank you, ," She sighed, shaking her head. "Good day." Tomorrow would be another day – A better day than the ones preceding and that much was enough to have her motivated.

A scream rang out through the halls that Lovino had never heard before. It was inhuman, bloodcurdling. The sound alone was enough to make his heart race and hands tingle, but it was impossible for the entirety of the level to not hear it. He was sure that it had even rung out to some of the levels below.

He tried to think of who it could possibly be. It was a man, but the scream alone was too animalistic to understand who had elicited it. He had thought of his brother first. There were times when he had heard such things in the middle of the night during the earlier years of his discharge – But that seemed like such a long time ago. Maybe that's what he had meant by horrible.

But to be sleeping so early was odd and he couldn't be certain. No matter who it was, it was enough to keep him alert.

1. Admitted to Sanctuary 2461 0 0 2. Vargas 3652 0 0 3. Adversaries 3821 0 0 4. Something's Got to Give 3697 0 0 5. Heavy Hearts 3996 0 0 6. Mercy 4375 0 0 7. A Coward's Choice 3720 0 0 8. Unravelling 3370 0 0 9. Dimmed Lights 4051 0 0