07/02/2022: i didn't actually write a title for this one but i wanted to explore the mechanisms. of their brains. watever. lobotomy corporation oc fiction
Eva was not a fan of what was starting to become a typical night for him. He didn’t quite enjoy walking these quiet halls, the facility emptying out more and more as the clerks and agents filed their way out to their respective dorms. Yet Eva and the gang remained stationary in the Information Team’s halls, Griffin longingly watching the crowd of agents clock out after a long day’s work.
“Urgh…this is ridiculous… Can’t you just tell Julian to go home yourself?” Griffin groaned. “My back’s real sore from today…”
“No. It’s dangerous. We need a group so we’re certain they won’t just forget us and lock us out of the dorms,” Eva asserted. He was lying. He knew he would be fine if they walked home together, he’s the captain of the Control Team, he has the keys for One Sin’s sake. He’s had to do it more times than he wanted to these past few weeks– sure, at first it was a little exciting, but the longer it drew out the more tiring, and almost concerning it became. Part of him had hoped that if Julian saw multiple of his friends having to stay back late waiting for him, he’d snap out of it.
“What’s he even doing in there, anyways?” Leesihan asked meekly, leaning over to try and peek over Eva’s shoulder. “Griffin and I have been wondering what he gets up to this late at night…”
“Yeah. I’ve been cracking my own theories,” Griffin starts, “like the one where since he’s captain now, Yesod and Angela have been pawning him off to make business with other Corps and do their dirt–”
“I don’t know,” Eva sighed. “I still want the guy to have his privacy. Just need some friends to back me up.”
“Aww, so we’re your friends now, huh?” Griffin tilted her head. “What happened to callin’ me a subordinate?”
“You’ll get demoted to a subordinate if you don’t keep your head behind the line.” Eva gently pressed his palm against her forehead, nudging her back into place behind him. She groaned once more and slumped back against the wall, leaning her entire weight against Leesihan.
Eva waited, and waited some more, but once the hallways were noticeably clear of both clerks and agents, he began to grow impatient.
“It’s…really time to go,” Leesihan insisted in a whisper. “You should knock again.” Eva hummed in annoyance and nodded, heading forwards to the door leading to the captain’s office. He left a few sharp, loud knocks that definitely carried his irritation within them.
“Julian,” he said sternly, voice now raised, “You’re coming out right now. We’re not waiting for you anymore, it’s time to go back.” He could hear a drained, drawn-out "mmmmm" from behind closed doors, accompanied by no breaks or halts in the typing from inside.
“Yeah, Jules, what Eva said, mama’s gotta go home and drink some Sleepytime tea,” Griffin yelled out after him, leaning once more over his shoulder to be heard. Eva jolted at the sudden yelling in his ear and shoved her back on instinct.
“I’m almost done,” Julian’s voice pleaded from inside. “Just give me one more minute, please!”
“No, dude. This is getting ridiculous. You’re not only depriving yourself, but everyone else out here of sleep. You can resume whatever you’re doing tomorrow,” Eva said, leaning against the door now.
“I don’t have time tomorrow! I’m doing work!” Julian protested, voice still muffled from behind the door. “Just leave me alone and I’ll come back on my own, just—just leave the keys under the door, or–”
“That’s strictly forbidden,” Eva cut in, voice rising. “You know this! Yesod himself reminded you just yesterday! Julian, I’m not getting in trouble again because of you!”
“Easy, Eva,” Leesihan said quietly from behind him, hovering a hand over his shoulder. Once he looked back she let it rest on his arm, nodding as if to ask for a turn. Eva glared at the door, and back to her, before sighing in resignation and stepping back. Leesihan’s touch had untensed him, and only then did he realize how wound up he was getting at him. He…definitely didn’t want to hurt the guy, but if he didn’t do something…
“Julie, love,” Leesihan said into the door. “It’s me. Your buddy Leesihan? It’s getting really late…” She paused to think a little bit. He’s probably heard this a lot already. “We were just worried. I’ve been hearing your dorm door close awfully late at night recently.” She tilted her head, now picking up on the typing. “If you’re working on something for work, I could let you borrow my flash drive so you can take it home…?”
“Can’t,” Julian said. “The moment I stop here I’m not gonna get it done.”
Leesihan sighed. “Nothing’s more important than your health,” she started.
“You’d be surprised,” Julian responded, a twinge of exasperated laughter held back in his voice. Leesihan looked back to Eva, who was rubbing the space between his eyes.
“I…I’m a bit tired, Jules,” she said. “I’ll stay out here until you’re done, but this is really past our bedtimes.”
“I should be in a bathrobe by now,” Griffin grumbled. “Julian, you’re an asshole.”
“Hey, now,” Leesihan scolded.
“You can finish what you’re doing,” Eva said coolly, now having taken a breather. “We’ll just wait out here ‘till you're done. Alright?”
He heard no reply from indoors. He did, however, hear him stop typing. A moment's silence, followed by shuffling and a very quiet sigh. Eva gathered the crew farther away from the door, Griffin sitting down on the floor. The typing resumed, but only for a brief moment, before the sound of a printer was heard. The hum of the computer’s ventilators ceased, and Eva looked to the group expectantly.
“What?” Griffin whispered. “Is that it? Did he finish?”
“I think it worked,” Eva whispered back. “Printer’s running.”
“Classified R Corp documents…” Griffin theorized, eyes squinting. Her lips cracked into a grin, and Eva rolled his eyes.
“Oh, thank goodness,” sighed Leesihan. “How long have you said this has been going on?”
“Weeks.” Eva gave her a tired look. “It’s routine by now.”
Keys jangled from behind the door and it soon opened outwards to reveal a disheveled Julian stepping out from his dark office, hair in a messy bun. He was holding a folder tight to his chest, filled with whatever he had just printed out. He took one look at the group staking out for him and his eyes widened, presumably in surprise, then quickly he looked away to focus instead on locking the door to the office.
“About time,” Eva said quietly. “You look like a wreck.”
“Well. I’m headin’ out, then. Glad you’re alive, Julie.” Griffin stood with some effort—that back was hurting awful—and started walking down the hall, grazing Leesihan’s sleeve with her hand as she passed by. Leesihan looked to her and mouthed a quick “one second,” then made her way over to the two.
“Hey,” she said to Julian, “you feeling okay?”
“Fine,” Julian said rather curtly. “Tired. Going home.”
“Of course you are, you haven’t been sleeping…” Leesihan frowned and fixed his hair, tucking a loose strand behind his ear. “Here, let me at least fix your bun…” She reached over and undid his hair as his eyes wandered to Eva, eyelids drooping in disappointment.
“You had to get them wrapped into this, too?” He asked quietly.
“Had to.” Eva’s eyes flicked from between Julian’s and the floor. That disappointed look was new. It didn’t feel good. But…it must be necessary…
“You didn’t,” Julian mouthed, brows furrowing and gripping the folder slightly tighter. His face was a light tone of red out of embarrassment.
Eva paused, looking down for a few seconds as Leesihan finished off her new bun.
“...Sorry,” he finally mouthed. Julian watched him for a moment before sighing again and turning to address Leesihan.
“Thanks.” He gave her a smile. “I’ll be on my way now. Don’t let me hold you and Griff back.”
“Only if you’re sure you’re gonna go home and rest,” Leesihan said, putting her hands on his shoulders. “Do you promise?”
“Yeah. Don’t have a lot left to do otherwise.” He looked at Eva. “‘Sides. Me ‘n Eva have to have a little, uh…we have to talk, so we’ll be lagging behind. You two go home.” He tried to get a glimpse of Griffin’s silhouette down the hall. Beside him, Eva felt his entire upper body tense up once more. “I guess she’s already off for some tea. Remember to save me a bag.” He winked and smiled. Leesihan gave him a smile back, lifting her hands from his shoulders.
“Alright, then. Don’t chew him out too hard, now,” she joked, giggling. “Your shoulders are really tense, by the way.” She started turning back to follow Griffin.
“Gee. Thanks, mom,” Julian called out sarcastically as she ran to catch up with her friend.
He shifted his hold on his folder to be more comfortable before slinging the keys into his pocket, walking ahead. Eva hesitated a bit before following behind him.
“Listen, I’m sorry if you’re mad at me. But what else could I do?” Eva began. “You won’t listen to me. You won’t listen to the Sephirah. You won’t even listen to Leesihan. What am I supposed to do?”
“Eva…” Julian frowned, squinting an eye to hopefully obscure his concern from his vision. Eva caught on to what he was doing, however, and walked faster to catch up.
“No, listen. I’m worried, okay? I don’t know what you’re doing and it isn’t my business, but you weren’t like this before! You can talk to me, man,” Eva said with frustration building up once more. “I know this isn’t for the Sephirot, I’ve already written to Yesod and the others about any possible workload keeping you up—”
“Eva!” Julian blurted, stopping in his tracks. It genuinely startled the other, freezing him up as well as he looked up at him with wide eyes. Julian quickly gathered himself. “God, sorry—just—you can’t just—” He let out an exasperated groan, bringing his free hand to his face.
“What? Are you keeping secrets from the Sephirah now? Is—is that what’s happening?” He lowered his voice to a panicked whisper, now even more worried—
“N-no— Eva, please…” Julian put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed him. “I—I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this, it’s just… god, damn it.” He turned away, lifting his hand off his shoulder, and kept walking away, more brisk with the pace this time.
“No, tell me.” Eva ran up to him, jogging beside him. “We can talk tonight. I have all the time in the world now that you’ve kept me up.”
“It’s just…it isn’t bad or anything, I’ve told you that. But… I can still lose my job,” he said in a low whisper. “I… I know you’re a sucker for the rules. So it’s hard to trust you with this out of anything.” He squinted. “But keeping this to myself is gonna drive me insane. I’m going to need you to promise, Eva.”
Eva was admittedly not that surprised that it was something this grand of a scale, but he still felt a twinge of fear tug at his chest.
Wanting answers and an end to whatever’s been driving his friend to sacrifice so much sleep, however, he nodded anyways.
“O…Okay. I’ll show you at my dorm,” Julian said in an anxious breath.
The two sped out the facility’s abnormality hold into the dorm building without another word, Eva locking the door behind them. Countless thoughts were rushing by Eva’s head, with thousands of possibilities and endings to this tale spinning past him faster than he could think of them. Only one thought hung menacingly over Julian’s head, and it was far too obscured by the exhaustion slowly taking over his body to make any sense of it.
They finally made it to Julian’s dorm room, and once again he wordlessly unlocked the door. He held it open for Eva as he flicked on a light.
Eva was a bit nervous. He had only really been here once before, to ask for some supplies.
It was neater than he expected, honestly, with a bunk bed in the corner and a night table filled with trinkets, papers, and a pencil holder. Among the trinkets were a novelty alarm clock and a cat that swung its paw endlessly. A few books were propped up beside the nightstand. There was a desk, with a few papers and another folder alongside a lamp on top of it, but otherwise totally organized. Below his bed were some miscellaneous bins, his closet door was halfway opened, and a small rug and two beanbags lay on the ground. There was a very dated television set alongside an equally dated gaming system propped up on a few boxes near the desk in fromt of the beanbags—he remembered Julian had asked him to come over and play on it a few times in the past. A few plushies here and there on the bed and on miscellaneous surfaces, one on his bed bearing resemblance to a little smiling octopus.
Cute, he couldn’t help but think. He could definitely have seen his old friend Julian living in this room, kicking it back and playing some Doom off work. However seeing him now, wearily dumping his folder onto the desk and slump his lanky self into the respective chair, looking up at him with bags under his eyes—when’d he ever have those— it almost felt like a stranger. He shut the door behind him.
“There’s a second chair by my bed. You can take the laundry off of it and just throw it on the bed, it’s cool. Just… sit here,” Julian said, tapping the edge of the table. Eva gave him a curious look before doing as he said, dragging the new chair over by him and taking a seat. He instinctively went to undo his tie and slide out of his coat after wearing them around all day.
“Sorry. Real tired,” he said. “I’ll just keep these in my lap.” Julian motioned over with a beckoning hand, taking his coat and tie and folding it into a square, which he promptly placed onto the corner of his desk.
He slid his folder closer to the two, keeping a steady hand on it.
“Um…” Julian started. “...I… like, I’ve imagined this conversation playing out. Lots and lots of times. I just…actually having to start it is…”
“It’s okay,” Eva said quietly. “We can start by just…opening it, maybe.”
Julian thought for a second. Sighed. “Guess that’d be easier, huh.”
He hesitated before opening up the folder and pulling out its contents. To Eva, it just looked like a bunch of reports, but he kept pulling out more and more pages until he had a stack as thick as a finger.
“Not all of it.” Julian slid back on his rolling chair and bent down to a cabinet in his desk, pulling it out. Inside were more folders filled with the same reports, filed by date, some filed by letter. Eva…was confused, to say the least.
“That's…a lot of paper,” was all he could say. “What is it…?”
“Here.” He skimmed through the folders, looking through the alphabetized section until he stopped to pull out a particular report. “You can read this one. Think you’ll recognize it.” He held out his report.
Eva was no stranger to collecting reports off employees to pass them onto Malkuth. This was new, however. He took it in his hands and he noticed that as soon as he brought it closer to read, Julian averted his eyes. Although absentmindedly, his body began to face away from Eva, pretending to be awfully distracted by the rug, or his shoes.
He pretended not to notice and began to read, squinting a little to make sense of the words in front of him.
It started off fairly normal. A simple report taking note of a certain day, time, and department. Ah, the Control Department. That’s why I’d remember that, is it? It named a certain employee. An employee-centric report? That’s fine. These are commonplace to track the progress of newer members, or even just problem members— It wasn’t until he remembered the name that he raised a brow.
“Finn?” He looked up to Julian, who quickly flinched back to face him. “...The newbie from my department who died from…what was it… it was an Ordeal, wasn’t it?”
Julian motioned to the report. “Noon ordeal. All written down there.”
Eva….was starting to grow curious. He continued reading. He expected an employee report, detailing what he did wrong, what needs improvement, what works he did…you know, standard stuff. However, knowing this employee was now dead…
“This thing’s probably old then, huh? Poor guy.”
“Keep reading, Eva.”
The report didn’t focus on any of that. It described every moment leading up to his untimely death, described the death in more detail than he’d care to remember, and the aftermath. It described his failures, but it also described the department and the other employees’ failures that led to the seemingly meaningless death—one that had barely stuck out in Eva’s mind, just another newbie succumbing to the curse of wrong place, wrong time. His eyes scanned the paper multiple times.
The thing that boggled him most was that absolutely nothing was redacted.
“...What are you doing with this?” Eva finally asked after looking up to him. “Did…Did you write all this?” He glanced back down to the paper. “…You’re in the Information Team. This is supposed to all be redacted and kept in Yesod’s hands, or just plain disposed of, isn’t it?”
Julian watched him, frozen in a dreadful feeling of fear. He nodded slowly. Eva met his eyes and noticed how scared he looked.
“I— you’re not in trouble, not with me, but— Julian, you really could be—”
“I’ve been writing these because the Information Team refuses to,” Julian cut in. “All of these.” He motioned to the drawer chock-full of them with his leg. “Two copies each. One organized by date, the other by name, depending on when I need them.”
“Jules… this is… a lot,” he said quietly. “And why on paper?”
“Figured anything stored digitally can just be erased forever. All of our bosses are robots, anyway. They probably know already.” He looked down to his stash. “But…the longer I have these in my room, the more confident I am that they’ll never find out. And that these people can at least be remembered by one person. Myself.” He stared blankly down at the drawer. “...Am I making sense?”
“I…yes, I mean, I guess it makes sense, but…why…?” Eva flipped through the report. The reports were grizzly and accurate down to the distance the body’s parts were flung from the source, the type of incisions left, the amount of blood lost. None of these were ever without purpose— quickly following these details were pieced-together theories about what could’ve been adjusted, why the type of incision was fatal, and how the blood loss could’ve possibly been stopped before it became fatal. These words, separate from the formal autopsy report that preceded them, were undoubtedly from his friend Julian, the old friend who used to, in the same rambling tone, talk about nothing but the latest sports game, or a new game he had been working on getting his hands on. Hearing that same voice describe events like this in such detail was…jarring. He would be happy to welcome a new hobby. But judging by the pained look on his face, it was obvious something about this troubled him.
“I’m sorry if this isn’t my place to ask,” Eva said slowly, thinking out his words carefully. “But…what…started this? When’d you start…?”
Julian looked down into his hands, held in his lap. “It, uh…I think my first one started with the Clouded Monk death all that time ago. With, uh, the Safety employee. Skuggy, was his name?”
Eva nodded. “That was a really long time ago.” Julian nodded his head back.
“He died to protect us. His body stalled the Monk long enough so we could finish it off while it was distracted with its victim. He did that for all of us.” Julian looked to the side. “But when I was assigned to just…take this dinky little paragraph on it and redact all the details to submit to the manager, I… I don’t know. Something about it made me a little sick to think about. Completely erasing a death like that.”
Eva nodded along as he spoke. “That’s…understandable. He ended up coming back, though, didn’t he? Like…”
“Like me, yeah. That’s a whole other thing I don’t really want to think about.” He sat up straighter. “But… I don’t know, Eva. I do still remember coming back and reading the reports on my own death.” He shuddered a bit. Eva drew closer to him.
“Everything about it was butchered beyond recognition.” Julian’s voice wavered in disgust, eyes staring straight into his lap. “My name was gone. Time, date? Gone. Hell, even what killed me was gone. The only reason I got to see it was because someone from Info— I dunno, maybe even Yesod himself—placed it in my mailbox. Figured since he was going to just dispose of it due to my…I dunno… coming back? Might as well let me have it if it’s going to waste.” He used a hand to rub his eyes. “...I think that’s what started everything. Just…the everything. You know! Seeing my death be that meaningless. We’re just a number and an obituary here.”
Eva didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how he felt, and he couldn’t even start to put himself in his shoes. The best he could do was rest a hand on his knee and offer his presence as comfort.
“Jules, I’m…sorry,” he said.
Julian moved his hand from his eyes to look down at Eva’s hand. He switched gaze to his reports, and then to Eva.
“But, um, it’s okay. This is how I…cope with that, I guess. If I can’t have the basic courtesy of an accurate death report, or literally any trace of me even breathing here in the first place, I can at least make sure everyone else does.” He fidgeted with his fingers restlessly. “You, my friends, the department, the facility. I don’t care how much of a jerk they are to me. Nobody deserves to just be completely forgotten, at the hands of a business for god’s sake.”
“I understand,” Eva said. “But again, this is… a lot of work. And it’s going directly against your department. What if the Sephirot find out? If Angela finds out?”
“You’re the only person I’ve considered telling. If they find out, I don’t know what’ll happen, but considering this is material for a potential data leak, it might not look too good.” He paused for a little bit. It doesn’t matter, he thought. It’ll just restart. I’ll be back at square one again, and work my way back to the point I was at. Rewrite a few reports, it gets easier with each time you do it.
He spaced out. Eva squeezed his leg.
“I won’t tell a soul,” he said. “But no matter how noble this act of yours is, it isn’t doing you any good. Look at you, Jules.” It felt strange to hear his nickname out of serious Eva’s mouth. It felt stranger to feel his hands gently brush at his face, feel underneath his eyes.
“These weren’t here before,” he said, tracing the bags under his eyes. “I’m okay with supporting your little rebellion, sure. But I don’t want you to sacrifice yourself over this.” Eva found his hand trailing down and cupping his face. He felt embarrassed, letting his fondness show so quickly, but Julian’s weary hand reached up to his and lazily pressed it closer to his cheek. Eva thought for a long time about his next few words. During that time they just sat there together, Julian slowly leaning into his hand, head lolling off from sleep, Eva lost in thought.
“...I can try and help,” he offered, and Julian’s eyes winked awake.
“I don’t know. But whatever will help you out and get you home sooner, I’ll…I’ll see what I can do.” Eva nodded. “Just give me the word and I’ll do it. I’ll even write some for you if you give me an outline of what you need.”
Julian kept his eyes on him for a while after that. His hand loosely clung to and slowly slipped from Eva’s arm, which was still outstretched to cup his face.
“Y’know, you’re full of surprises,” he said, almost mumbled. “In all of my daydream scenarios, I never considered you ever asking to help me.”
“Well, maybe you should have a better image of me from now on.” Eva smiled. “I’m here for you, Jules. Just…please, for the love of One Sin, start sleeping before work starts and we’ll be fine…” Julian laughed a little bit, and Eva reluctantly let his hand fall to give him back his report on Finn. Julian took it and managed to file it away correctly, sliding the drawer shut.
“Looks like a graveyard in there. Maybe we’d be better off making graves and memorials rather than reports,” Eva suggested.
“Harder to hide. But maybe if we get Hod, she sound like she’d be down to make a memorial of some sorts.” Julian spun back and slumped back. “Urgh…you’re right, I’m exhausted….”
“How’s about you go to bed and we can talk about this in the morning?” Eva stood quickly, reaching over to get his coat and tie back.
“Mmmm.” Julian slid over to his bed. “Alright.” He looked back to see Eva still eyeing him with his clothes in his arms. “...You need something…?”
Eva shook his head. “Just wanted to say goodnight.”
“Oh. ‘Night, then.”
Julian scoffed. “Julie. New coming from you.”
“Sorry. I thought it was stupid too.”
“No, no.” Julian waved it off. “I like it. Like it a lot.” He crawled into bed from the chair and kicked his shoes off. “Mmm…hope this new Eva sticks around tomorrow.”
Eva walked up beside him and kneeled down.
“Not going anywhere, dummy,” he said softly. “I was worried about you. Glad you’ll be okay.”
Julian smiled below him. “I’ll be fine.” He shut his eyes. “Thanks for the…everything. Listening and all.”
“Thanks for trusting me.” Eva touched his forehead against his. “We’ll do this together, alright? You don’t have to do it alone.”
“Mm.” Julian nodded ever so slightly.
Eva got up with a soft grunt, leaving him with the gentle rustling of clothes and the flick of his lightswitch. A final “good night.” A final, “mm, okay.”
He hoped he could have at least a little more time in this timeline. Just a little longer. Maybe this was the one that fixed it— a helping hand and a nuzzle goodnight.
Julian held onto that hope as tight as he could, and it led him to an uninterrupted, relievingly dreamless sleep.