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I.

 

fifteen days after twisted rosalia

//

“And so, the family of rabbits lived safe in their home for many seasons to come,” Naomi finished, brushing back the hair from the eyes of the girl sleeping soundly on her lap, the soft sound of snoring coming from within the hospital room.

Light streamed into the dull room from the large window beside her bed, bringing a certain life to the room- something it desperately needed. The sheets, while soft, constricted her in a way many would find uncomfortable, though to Naomi it was just another facet in the rough jewel that was Resurgam. A small hospital, with a team of five expertly trained doctors, one of which a convict imprisoned on a crime he didn't commit. That man, Erhard, was the one who saved her life, who pulled the wretched, twisted mass of GUILT and Rosalia from within the confines of her heart. It was a miracle that she lived, even more so that the infection caused the illness thought incurable by even Derek Stiles himself disappeared with the evaporation of the Twisted Rosalia. Thinking back on all of the past few months, she chuckled to herself softly, staring out the window at the fading daylight.

A soft knock rang out from the sliding door separating her room from the hallway, before a man not unfamiliar to her entered. “Dr. Kimishima, I’ve received word from the FBI- they're agreeing to give you full custody of Alyssa,” Navel spoke, his tone softening as his eyes moved down to said sleeping girl in the lap of the woman.

“Good, I’d expect as much, lest your little secret be revealed,” Naomi snidely responded, though her words held a soft, somewhat affectionate tone; the last thing she would ever do would be to incriminate her trusted companion.

Navel sighed, hanging his head slightly. “You're unbelievable, after all I do for you?”

“Relax, Little Guy, you know I’m beyond that,” she retorted softly, watching as the man moved to sit in the stool by her bedside.

“I was worried, you know,” he mumbled, turning his head to the side to hide the slight blush covering his cheeks- something anyone with a brain would notice instantly, to his dismay.

“CR- er, Erhard, spoke to Dr. Stiles on the phone while you were under anesthesia about your condition, even he didn't know much of what to do; a miracle is the only word to describe it.”

“So you say, and yet here I am, expected to live a full life with my new daughter and cat,” Naomi responded, smiling fondly at Alyssa, who was still somehow snoring away in her lap. The little girl had been through hell and back within the last few months, no thanks to her, what with the Raging Bomber incident and her adoptive mother nearly dying from a pandemic mixed with a terminal illness. It more than likely had taken its toll, therapy was imminent for them both, but now they could begin to heal as a family. The thought made her smile only widen, earning an equal from Navel, who was watching the pair silently with an unspoken sort of love.

He watched, as the woman he met as an unruly young colt within the clutches of Delphi, a woman so broken and ready to accept the hand of death, accepted her newfound life and happiness. He could only hope the best for the two, and watch from the sidelines, as he continued to work tirelessly for the FBI, hiding his true identity and past to try and hold onto any semblance of life possible. It was sort of depressing, but what could he do? There was no way Naomi felt anything but a work partnership with him, even with her constant flirting, she had always been the “strong single woman” type. Oh well.

“Little Guy,” Naomi spoke evenly, beckoning him to look her way.

“Hm? Oh-!”

Like how she did when they first began working together again, she pulled Navel in by his navy blue tie, though this time she didn't hesitate- she pulled him in for a soft, chaste kiss, of rough lips and long-stagnant tension, before pulling back and releasing his tie from her surprisingly strong grasp. His face read a million different emotions- surprise, shock, curiosity, but most of all, a deep, lingering affection for the woman. Something that had been growing, building for the longest time, since that first fated moment they met again, after the incident with Delphi. He took a moment, or maybe a few moments, to collect himself and his thoughts, a dazed look coming over his face, before he shook his head slightly and looked her in the eye.

“What was that for?”

“Thank you. For everything you've done for me, for Alyssa, hell, I’d wager to say for this whole country,” she said, smiling softly at him, before looking down at the girl in her lap, now waking from her cat nap. Naomi looked back at Navel momentarily, and winked. “When I’m out of this bed, maybe we'll move to mine?”

A blush as red as a beet ran across his face in an instant, his hands gripping his suit pants in embarrassment, and he nodded sheepishly. Naomi chuckled, and placed a hand on top of his. “She’s waking up, you should get back to work, don't want Holden to have to take you in like he did Erhard,”

Navel scratched his head, chuckling softly. “Alright, I’ll be going then. See you, Naomi,”

“Goodnight, Navel,”

 

//

II.

 

sixty days after twisted rosalia

//

The feeling one gets when they leave the hospital after a long stay of grueling recovery filled with tests, needles, and buzzing machines is nothing short of euphoric. Even if she's still forced to be wheeled out like some ‘dying old coot’, the cool wind of the coming spring hits her face as the sliding glass doors open automatically, whirring as they move- it all makes her feel free from the chains of disease that bound her since her days with that horrid organization. The sun was high in the sky, not a cloud in sight, and people she had begun to call friends stood under the awning of Resurgam’s entrance.

“It’s good to see you recovered well, Naomi,” Gabe spoke up first, clapping a hand roughly on her shoulder. The man was like a brother to her, one who had helped her find a bit of a purpose for the inch of life she had left after Delphi- she could never fully repay him in that regard. He smiled at Naomi, one of his goofy dad grins, the burnt-out cigarette dangling from his lips. The others on the trauma team gathered behind him, with Erhard pushing her wheelchair out of the hospital like any good doctor, and friend, would. Everyone was there- Maria, Tomoe, Hank, and Gabe, but there was one face missing, though not one involved in the trauma team.

“Where’s Little Guy? I figured he'd be first to grovel on his knees crying when I finally got out of this place,” Naomi questioned, eyeing Gabe curiously.

“He took Alyssa to get some lunch, said he’d be back by now, but that kid’s got him wrapped around her little finger,” he responded, rolling his eyes at nobody in particular. She chuckled in response, gazing off past her coworkers- no, her friends, to the beautiful blue sky, the wind softly blowing through her silver hair, slightly tangled from the weeks of not being able to properly care for it.

“You picked a good day to finally set me free,” she said to Erhard, looking over at him, now leaning against the arm of her wheelchair. The man huffed, no emotion crossing his face as usual, although Naomi swore she saw a lick of a smile at the corner of his lips.

“Maybe I’ll be next, in freedom, that is,” Erhard responded, lifting his left arm, where a disconnected cuff dangled. Even after proving Albert Sartre was the one responsible for the Cumberland College incident, it still was a process to have his adopted child, one framed for a horrific bioterrorism attack, freed from his 250 year long sentence. Although, with both Naomi and Navel having significant connections in high places, it was looking to be something that could be done.

“Soon, I promise you that. We’re both working on it tirelessly, even Holden is doing his best to try and set you free,” Naomi said softly, patting his forearm in her best attempt to try and comfort the man. He smiled back at her, or he tried to, instead looking like a right idiot. Maria cackled next to him, grabbing Tomoe’s shoulder and pointing incredulously at Erhard.

“Look! He’s smiling!” she whooped, throwing her head back in laughter. Tomoe rolled her eyes at her friend’s reaction, throwing a look of apology towards Erhard, hoping it'd convey enough without words.

They were an interesting group, Naomi thought to herself, master surgeons in their own respective areas, and yet still so human, full of life, happiness, laughter, and love. Something she could now say she had a chance at, her disease once thought terminal now vanishing into thin air along with the pandemic that tore through Portland and threatened the entire United States. It made her sigh, a happy one, but one that piqued Gabe and Hank’s interests, the older men looking over at her worriedly.

“Is something wrong, Naomi?” Hank asked, his large frame hunched over slightly to speak as not to disrupt the chaos of the younger surgeons to their side.

“Just thinking, that's all,”

Gabe huffed out a laugh, grinning around the cigarette in his mouth. “About your boyfriend?”

“No such thing, you dolt,” she snapped in response, something that was easily revealed to the other two as a defense mechanism.

“Uh huh, keep telling yourself that. You should stop fighting your own emotions, and let yourself be happy for once. I’m not blind, you know, I see the way you look at him,” he replied, raising an eyebrow at her.

Gabe had been a friend of Naomi’s since the GUILT incident, the man had worked at Caduceus alongside Dr. Stiles and many other people she associated with. He gave up surgery due to trauma from the incident, after seeing the children Adam used as his “Sinners”, which she couldn't blame him for. He was the reason she worked with Resurgam, he secured her position and gave her a “get out of jail free” card. The man was just as much a master surgeon as she was, and it made her sad to see him give up such a passion, although she would be a hypocrite to say it to his face.

Naomi sighed, shaking her head. “I don't think you're one to talk,”

“Maybe not, but call me a hypocrite for all I care, I just want to see a friend happy with the new life she’s been given.”

She closed her eyes, sighing again, though more light, like she was in thought. He was right- she was given new life, a new chance to make something of herself. She had a daughter, one who lost everything and now had only her and a small black cat, and it was Naomi’s duty to care for her. But Little Guy? She did suspect, had all this time, that he felt something more than a simple work relationship for her. It was evident in how he acted, anyone from outside could see, but did she want to take it further? Was it worth it? They both had a shared history, a bad one, and their scars both ran deep beneath their skin. It was bound to happen that they both would snap, panic, and ruin one another. Or, in another timeline, they could help one another, recover together, from the horrible and dishonest life they once led. It was a thought, one she continued to consider, and Gabe’s words made it no easier to come to a decision.

“For once,” Naomi mumbled to herself in thought, “you might be right.”

 

//

III.

 

one hundred and twenty days after twisted rosalia

//

“Dr. Kimishima!”

She instantly recognized the voice calling from the doorway of the CIFM. Footsteps echoed as Navel approached the office where she was lazily sorting files from the latest accidental death case. Her door creaked open, revealing a mess of blonde hair.

“Dr. Kimishima, I-”

“It's Naomi.” She interrupted. “I think we're past the formalities.”

Navel stood stock-still with shock, mouth agape and cheeks blazing. He quickly shook his head, a poor attempt to cover his agitation.

“The Director called, said you never pick up the phone unless it's your ‘voodoo hotline’, and told me that we're being formally invited to a conference in Maryland. They're showcasing new medical technology that's going to be implemented here in the forensics department.”

She replied without looking up, “Are you sure it's a good idea for me to travel only a few months after open heart surgery?”

“We’d be taking a private jet, provided by Caduceus USA, as they're the ones hosting the event.”

She groaned, finally looking up. “Caduceus, huh? Let me guess. Derek called, specifically asking for me.”

“Y-yes ma’am. He wants to check on your condition himself, as he's only gotten updates through prisoner CR-S01.” Navel responded, sheepishly scratching the back of his neck.

“Then I suppose we will go. Let me know a week before we leave, and take care of hotel arrangements. I’m sure you can handle that, right, Little Guy?” She smiled but her eyes glinted suggestively. The subject of her thoughts was surely unsuitable for the medical office they were currently standing in.

Once again his face flamed. With a vehement nod, he scampered out the door like a lost puppy.

Naomi had been teasing him like this more and more over the last two months, heeding Gabe’s advice in her own way. She didn't have the gall to say she wanted to bed him straight to his face; no, that wasn't Naomi in the slightest. Although, it looked like this little trip to Maryland might be the perfect chance. She figured she should drop more hints before going all in though.

 

\\

“Hey, Little Guy, would you be interested in going out for drinks?” Naomi quipped as she and her FBI liaison walked out of the CIFM. She had waited until the weekend was just around the corner to ask the man if he wanted to go out with her; the first step in her master plan.

Navel looked over curiously, eyebrows raised. “Are you sure you should be drinking so soon?”

“I got the OK from Erhard, so I don't see why not.”

“Alright then. Shall we?” He smirked, holding out his hand like some distinguished gentleman from an over-the-top TV drama.

“We shall."

 

\\

“I swear, it took a whole six months to grow my hair out past the ‘edgy emo boy’ haircut I had way back when.” Navel cackled, cheeks flushed from alcohol. They had ended up at a small hole-in-the-wall bar in downtown Portland; not too crowded, nor too quiet. It was the perfect little spot for a Friday night drink, as far as they were concerned.

“I'm glad it doesn't look like that anymore. Let me tell you, it was horrific. It's no wonder you were single for so long.” Naomi replied, taking a small sip of wine.

While ‘drunk’ wasn't exactly what she was going for, 'tipsy' would do just fine for what she had in mind. The wine, from the nearby town of Durham, was slightly sweet, with a higher proof than the average alcohol; it was perfection. Both Naomi and Navel were still dressed in their work clothes, though they were a bit more winter-friendly, as the weather demanded.
A black leather jacket lined with faux fur and insulated padding lay on the chair next to Naomi, while 'cold intolerant' Navel still wore his peacoat. His fingers looked nearly blue, even in the warmth of the bar with another body sitting right beside him. ‘How ridiculous.’ Naomi thought, rolling her eyes.

“What was that for?” Navel asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

“How are you still cold? The owner has the heater 0n full blast; any warmer and it’ll be a damn sauna in here.” She grumbled, shaking her head. “Give me your hands.”

It was stupid how such a small gesture affected her. It was only meant to benefit the man with frosty fingers in front of her, but she knew that this was a turning point. Intentional or not, her rehearsed proclamation was going down the drain like ice melting in the sun. He looked at her with his steely-blue eyes, brows threatening to rise into his hairline, and the alcohol blush deepened into something headier. He didn't utter a word, just offered her a trembling hand with eyes cast down to the floor. Naomi took it, wrapping her gloved fingers around his.

“I know we've both had more than enough to drink, and this is probably the most...inopportune time to say this, still in our work clothes at a raunchy bar, and for that I apologize.” She began, running her thumb over Navel’s knuckles. “But I think alcohol is the only thing that will make me brave enough to say it...”

Her eyes moved from where they were fixed on his hand, to his face, a soft smile blooming; something not often seen from the stoic woman.

“Would you, perchance, be interested in...dating?”

The word nearly froze her tongue, as if it was a challenge just to spit it out. For her, it was. Her gaze never wavered from his, difficult for most, though she didn't flinch. Navel's jaw had gone slack, his face beet red; she was rather starting to like that color. After years working together, she thought he must have never dreamed they could be something more; oh how very wrong he was.

“I-” He started, stumbling over his words. “Yes...yes, of course! How could I possibly say no?”

His free hand moved up to scratch behind his ear; one of his signature tics. It warmed her to think how well she knew him now. He smiled up at her, soft and genuine. It was something a younger Naomi never would've thought possible from the man who was once ‘all business’. It seemed she too had been wrong about something. She smiled back, equally sincere and full of a new sort of love.

“Good.”

And with that, she leaned forward, hands still wrapped around his, and kissed him softly.

 

//

 

IV.

one hundred and forty five days after twisted rosalia

//

The telltale ‘click-bzzt’ of a card reader door unlocking had become something ingrained in both Naomi and Navel’s brains over their years. Constant travel meant hotel rooms of every shape and size, this one no different than the others, except maybe for the fact that it was more opulent than the shabby hotels provided in their days under Delphi.

“Finally, good gods above, that was boring,” Navel groaned, flopping face first onto their king-sized bed.

“I found it quite interesting, it was nice to see Derek and Angie as well,” Naomi replied, removing her coat and setting it aside on one of the leather chairs.

The pair were in Maryland, visiting for the medical conference hosted by Caduceus USA. While their normal base of operations lay in Los Angeles, the Maryland branch had apparently been chosen for the conference due to close proximity to Resurgam. Lots of talk of the Rosalia virus was brought up, of course, as everyone was quite interested in the whole situation. Naomi was the front of much conversation, and though a bit overwhelming, she found herself enjoying the way she was able to inform people of the struggles in Portland not too long ago, and how her medical expertise had been part of the main development of antiserum.

Nonetheless, it was quite tiring, and she was glad to be back in her luxurious hotel room, one all-expenses-paid thanks to Caduceus. She had decided that, due to their relationship, to request only a single king-sized bed for their stay- something Navel was extremely flustered by, though in the end he learned to get over it. They hadn't been there but one night, and had gone right for sleep as it had been the night of their arrival, meaning no time for any activities. This trip was Naomi’s chance to finally start something, something a little more than just soft touches and sweet kisses.

“Navel?” She questioned, looking over to the man still flopped on the bed.

“Yes ma’am?” He responded, heaving himself up on his elbows to look at her, smiling softly.

Naomi simply smiled back at him, removing her long, wool-lined boots, and the scarf around her neck. She moved from where she was standing close to the leather chair over to the bed, reaching out to grab the man under his chin softly, pulling his head- and the rest of him- up to meet her eyes.

“Why don't we take advantage of this lovely room we've been granted, and the peace without a peanut gallery, hm?”

Navel’s eyes lit up, as well as his face, becoming deep red in a fairly short amount of time. He nodded, sitting up on the bed fully, before moving to undo his necktie and vest.

Naomi followed suit, removing her button-down, laying it across the chair with her jacket. She grabbed his strewn off clothes as well, tossing them beside her own, before joining him on the bed. She sat beside him, grabbing hold of his chin again to pull him into a soft, languid kiss, one full of love, as much as she could convey without words.

“Take off your shirt, sweet thing,” She whispered into his ear, moving to sit more behind him than to his side, pressing hot kisses into his exposed neck. His soft blonde hair tickled her face as she lavished him, something slightly annoying and yet she couldn't deny that she loved it, so soft, and something that elicited a heady response from Navel.

He whined softly, leaning into her touch as he grabbed the hem of his white dress shirt, dragging it over his head, before he could realize his mistake- he had never fully undressed around anyone before, and for good reason.

“Naomi, wait-” He stammered, flicking his head back to look at her with fear in his eyes, moving his body around to hide his back.

Though, his actions had no way of hiding what lay upon his skin; scars- huge lacerations, bullet wounds, burn marks, everything under the sun. Memoirs branded into his soft, pale skin, forever marred by his past. It was humiliating, but even so, Naomi simply sighed and hooked an arm around his waist.

“Come back here, you have no reason to be ashamed. In fact, quite the opposite,” She said softly, laying her head on his shoulder when he was sufficiently back in front of her. “We both have scars, they're proof of our life, our survival- they're what make us human.”

Navel was silent, though his heart rammed against his chest, stress still evident within him.

“You’re still you, handsome and smart, sometimes a little stupid,” She continued, moving to run her fingers along the trails of his scars, mapping out the damaged skin like one would stars in the sky.

He flinched at her touch, the skin still so sensitive, a constant reminder of where he came from, and what he did. It was punishment- punishment for his misuse of human life, for his following of a madman’s ideologies. He thought himself unlovable for years, and never pursued a relationship, until Naomi came and stole his heart from right out under him.

“I’m sorry,” He murmured, his head hung, trembling under her careful ministrations.

“Don't be sorry, love, you have nothing to apologize for. You’re still so gorgeous,” Naomi spoke, laying kisses along his shoulder, running her hands down his sides. She could hear him sniffling, his breathing choked and soft. The man was a victim of his environment, a pawn in a massive, cruel game of chess. He came out a survivor, but the scars still lay upon his back, and on his heart.

“Listen to me, Navel- they change nothing of how I view you, in fact the opposite. You're a strong, kind man, and you've grown from that point in your life. It's okay, I promise,”

He shifted slightly from his position in front of her, looking back at her with misty eyes. He said nothing, just sniffling softly, before he shifted more to dig his face into her half-bare chest in a tight hug.

She kissed the top of his head softly, carding her fingers through his soft mop of hair. “I love you,”

His sniffling continued, as did his trembling, though he looked up into her eyes with nothing but care and devotion.

“I love you too.”

//

 

V.

three hundred and sixty five days after twisted rosalia

 

//

A soft, rhythmic strumming emanated from the family room of the townhome, an open space that allowed the music space to bounce off walls and be heard throughout the house. Soft light came in from the windows, resting upon the neck of the guitar in Navel’s arms, a hint of glare on the polished wood refracting into the wall. His fingers pulled on the strings, tapping his foot on the ground in sync with his strums, his other hand wrapped around the fretboard.

It was around ten in the morning on a Saturday, something very typical for the man to do on a weekend. He was far from alone in the house- what with Naomi and Alyssa fast asleep upstairs- but nonetheless he continued to play, sitting on a sleek leather chair still clad in sweatpants and lacking a shirt.

He hummed out a tune, one he’d long grown to love, for it’s soft words and easy playability. His fingers had grown callused over the years from consistent playing of the instrument, the one laying on his lap right now a gift from his late grandfather. It was a gorgeous acoustic, made of cedar and stained a woody red, with gold inlay on the fretboard and around the rim.

“It weighs heavy, on one’s heart, I could tell right from the start, that sweet ones are hard to come across”

He sang softly, evenly, his voice carrying a sweet yet sorrowful tone. The lyrics pulled themselves from his head with practiced precision, transferring themselves to his tongue, easily working out along with the guitar riffs.

“Well there is more than, meets the eye, a heart like yours is rare to find- Someone else’s gain will be my loss”

Footsteps rapped against the floor of upstairs, a soft sound from slippers, on Navel’s ears- deaf to the world save for his guitar and own voice.

Naomi peered over the bannister, her hair loose from it's ties, a soft nightgown adorning her body. She had been awoken by the sounds from downstairs, a trio of sounds she'd grown used to over the months of Navel staying at her townhome. She dared not say anything nor move from her spot, only watching him as he played, a soft smile on her face. He'd rarely play for her one-on-one, saying it was too embarrassing, but she’d catch him like this quite often. What shocked her the most, though, was his lack of a shirt. His scars had always been something of a tough topic, and he'd always gone to great lengths to cover them, but now? They were out in the open.

“Time does heal wounds, even those in the heart,” She murmured to herself, resting her head upon her hand.

“Well, little things that make you smile, dancing barefoot in the dark, if only I had the strength to change your mind,”

Navel’s eyes fluttered shut, tapping his foot louder on the ground, plucking on the strings harder, a pained sort of look crossing his features.

“Oh, for what you need, you will not see. Choose your words before you speak, can't you see that all you've got is time?”

The harsh tapping and strumming stopped, backing down to something soft, yet sad.

“Woah, now save yourself, oh won't you save yourself, oh darling save yourself, for someone else,”

A stray tear fell down his face through his thick lashes, his eyes flicking back open, staring at his guitar with a sad smile. There was no real meaning to his sadness, nothing but the song’s lyrics that pierced his heart like a knife. He sighed heavily, wiping his face with the back of his hand, before looking up to see Naomi walking down the wood staircase.

“Are you alright?” She asked worriedly, walking up to him, holding his chin to look him in the eye like she'd done since they met.

He looked back at her and chuckled, shaking his head. “I'm alright, promise, just a sad song,”

Naomi sighed, releasing his chin, only to place a hand on his cheek and lean down to kiss him. “If you say so. Coffee?” She asked, pulling back, though not before ruffling his already-messy hair.

He nodded, pulling the guitar strap over his head and setting it down on the stand beside his chair. He pulled himself up to his feet, stretching his arms above his head, before walking over to where Naomi was brewing a pot of coffee. He wrapped his arms around her midsection, flopping his head on her shoulder lazily.

“Smells good,”

“Me, or the coffee?” She asked snarkily

Navel simply grunted, reaching above her with one hand to grab a mug. He managed to snag a blue one with a little cat on it, one Alyssa had picked out at the store, and handed it to Naomi, who poured him a cup.

“You should play for me sometime,” She said, pouring herself a cup and adding a splash of milk.

“You already know the answer to that,” He grumbled, taking a long sip from the mug.

She rolled her eyes, moving to lean against the counter. “You've come a long way, you know. You'd never stand in my kitchen shirtless before,”

He sputtered, blushing, and hid his face behind his mug. “I forgot, that's all,”

“If you say so,” Naomi replied, and moved over to where he had seated himself in a high stool at the island.

She placed down her mug, the porcelain clinking as it made contact with the granite, before she snagged his chin again.

“I’m still proud of you,”

He smiled back at her, and leaned in to kiss her as she had done earlier.

“Thank you,”