"Never Been Kissed"
Ash did not return until the next morning, just as the sun was rising.
As he stumbled into the main room, Silk leapt up from where he had been stubbornly awaiting the younger assassin on the couch. The Alchemist, struck by insomnia, was sitting in the armchair, flipping idly through the television channels. He barely spared the pyro a glance at his entrance.
Silk ran to Ash just before he collapsed. He clutched the man's arms and said his name frantically as Ash's head lolled against his chest.
"Shit!" Silk maneuvered the limp form and grunted as he lifted the man bodily into his arms, cradling him against his chest. Felix finally dragged his attention from the TV to watch with vague interest as Silk laid his partner carefully out on the couch.
Silk hesitated, hovering over his teammate as he tried to figure out what to do. Ash's eyes had slid closed, and his breathing was shallow. "Shit, he's so pale.."
Felix flicked his fingers. "Check him. Park must've had some fun with him."
Silk bristled, turning to glare, but the man wasn't directing his gaze anywhere inappropriate. He was looking instead at the feverish man's throat.
Belatedly Silk noticed the drops of blood on the shirt collar, and pulled it down quickly. His breath came out in a hiss from between tightly clenched teeth as he stared at the two puncture wounds, still leaking blood slowly. "That asshole bit him!"
"Well, what did you expect?" Felix asked, arching an eyebrow at him as if he were a fool. "He's a bloody Vampire."
Silk grabbed a handful of kleenex from the box on the coffee table and pressed them to the wounds to stop the bleeding. "Why does he look so sick?" he demanded.
Felix rose to his feet and stretched lazily before leaning over to look at the wound, pushing the kleenex and Silk's shaking hands aside roughly. "Looks like he took his fill." He reached up to put his hand briefly to Ash's forehead, and he frowned slightly. "He lost a lot of blood."
"This is complete bullshit!" Silk raged, stuffing the kleenex against the wounds again as he watched Ash's face anxiously. "How can Souma and Iragadachi expect Ash to do what they want when it could get him killed?"
Felix turned away, shrugging carelessly. "Hey, he's not dead, is he? Orders are orders..."
Silk rounded on him, seizing the man's shoulder and jerking him around to face him.
Felix retaliated quickly and viciously, like a cornered wildcat. He wrenched Silk's hand from his shoulder in a crushing grip and slammed the man against the wall, his other hand wrapping around the blond's throat. He squeezed until Silk was choking.
"Keep your damned hands off me, faggot," Felix snarled right in his face, eyes narrowed with deadly menace. "It would be my pleasure to gut you at anytime. One more stupid stunt like that, hero, and your insides will be decorating this room. Catch my drift?"
Silk glared back in stony silence before finally nodding once. Felix sneered, tightening his grip on the other's wrist painfully before finally releasing him and returning to his chair as if nothing had happened.
Silk rubbed his wrist resentfully before heading for the phone.
Felix glanced up from channel surfing. "Now what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Calling an ambulance," Silk snapped over his shoulder.
"Park's old enough to know what he's doing. If he didn't get sparky over there to a hospital himself, he'll be fine in a bit. Just leave it. Put his sorry ass to bed and don't give him any water in case he goes into shock. He'll live." He turned back to his TV, losing interest in the pyro's fate.
Silk ground his teeth, nearly crushing the phone in his grip, before hanging it up violently. He stalked back over to the couch and lifted the redhead into his arms, carrying him towards the two bedrooms in long strides.
He booted open the bedroom he shared with Ash and Hwang and ignored the muffled curse from where Hwang's face was buried in his pillow. Carefully he set his burden on one of the beds and pulled the blankets up over him. He heard bedsprings creak as the telekinetic pushed himself up on his elbows to see what he was doing.
"Wha' th' fuck?" he slurred irritably, blinking in the dim light. The Korean suddenly smirked when he figured out what Silk was doing. "I see Park had a little late-night snack..." he guffawed.
Silk rounded on him, glaring fiercely. "Shut up," he snapped.
Hwang said something rude in Hongul, flipped him off, then promptly rolled back over and went back to sleep.
Silk fetched the first aid kit from the bathroom in the hall and did what he could for Ash's wounds. Dragging a chair over to the bed, he settled himself in it, ignoring his exhaustion, and prepared to watch his unconscious teammate for any change.
His head was nodding when the bedroom door creaked open. He jerked his head up, blinking rapidly and glancing at the clock. Just after seven in the morning. Rubbing his eyes wearily, he turned to face the door.
Jenell hesitated in the doorway, darting a look between the blond and his charge. "Why don't you get some sleep?" she murmured, padding over to his side. She played with the hem of her nightshirt, looking at him from under her lashes. "You look really tired."
Silk rubbed his face roughly. "Iie... Ash could go into shock."
She gave a fleeting scowl before smiling sweetly. "He'll be fine. Look, his breathing is regular already. He will just sleep a lot. You really should get some sleep before you pass out, Silk-san."
He frowned a little, watching the pale man's chest rise and fall as he debated internally. Jenell laid a warm hand on his shoulder, squeezing slightly. "Why not come sleep in my bed? I was about to go back to sleep anyway..."
Silk raised his head and arched a brow at her. He bit back an amused smile, replacing it with a frown that came easily. Her little girl crush was beginning to get a little old. "I'll take a quick nap," he agreed. Then, at her hopeful look, he added firmly, "In my bed."
Her face twisted in an ugly mask of anger before she smoothed it away quickly and turned on her heel. "I will save some breakfast for you," she said primly, and marched out.
Silk watched her go before returning his attention to the pyro.
"She's like a pit bull."
He twisted his head to frown at the Korean across the room. Hwang was lying on his back, arm thrown over his face to block the sunlight trickling through the curtains. His lips twisted upwards in a sneer as he warned, "Once she sets her teeth in you, removing them is painful for the both of you. She's a spoiled brat. She's used to getting what she wants."
"She's just a kid," Silk snapped.
Hwang snickered from underneath his arm. "I'd watch your precious little matchstick if I were you. She doesn't like things that get in her way."
Silk's eyes narrowed. "Are you implying she'll try to hurt Ash? Don't be stupid."
Hwang rolled out of his bed and bounded to his feet. He flicked Silk a scornful look as he strode out of the room to get breakfast. "You're the one being stupid," he said pointedly. He shut the door behind himself with a thought.
Silk was left to gaze at his unconscious partner in silence, his mind churning.
The next day, they were no longer able to hold back the crowds.
Throngs of school girls came by the shop to offer their condolences and to make sure their favorite shop owners were unharmed. They asked when the shop would be up and running again, and offered to help if any help was needed. Omi and Nagi ended up posting themselves outside the front door and politely turning them away, giving their thanks for the girls' concern and assuring them that when the shop was fixed, they would let it be known publicly.
Aya's school friends came by as well. They were worried because she had been missing class, and then had heard about the "robbery" at the shop. She stood outside watering the potted trees and catching up on the latest school gossip.
Umi hefted a pile of books and papers that made Aya wince. "This is the classwork and homework you've missed," her friend declared cheerfully. "It should keep you busy until the store opens again. By the way, when are you coming back to school?"
"I'm not sure," Aya hedged. "I need to help them get the shop ready to open again, and with Ran-niisan off visiting college friends," the lie rolled easily off her tongue, "they need all the help they can get."
"Oh, that's right," Momoko exclaimed. "I was wondering why I hadn't seen Ran-san..."
"Oi oi, Momoko-chan," Umi protested, "you can't be a part of the Ran Fanclub anymore." She winked at Aya and grinned. "Keiko has a boy~friend."
"Umi!" Momoko exclaimed, flushing.
Aya turned off the hose and turned to stare at her friend in surprise. "What?? When? Who?"
Momoko smiled, still blushing a little and playing with the hem of her skirt. "Takashi asked me out last week," she said happily.
"Kanazawa-kun?" Aya's brows shot up. "I didn't know you were interested in him..."
"Un." Momoko's head bobbed in a quick nod. "I just didn't think he liked me..." she giggled.
Umi put her hand to the side of her mouth as if giving away a juicy secret as she grinned at Aya. "They've already kissed and everything."
"Umi!!" Momoko squawked.
"Kissed?" Aya's eyes widened slightly. "Momoko-chan, why didn't you call me and fill me in?"
Momoko was bright red. "It's just a kiss," she sputtered. "Everyone kisses! It's normal!"
Aya fell silent, and Umi grinned widely at her. "Yeah, Aya-chan, you've had a boyfriend before, right?"
It was Aya's turn to blush. "Ah- that is... Ano..." She lowered her eyes. "Iie. I've.. never...um.."
Both her friends gaped at her. "You've never been kissed??" Umi demanded- a little too loudly for Aya's comfort.
"Ohhh Aya-chan," Momoko gasped. "You're joking! You never had a boyfriend? And you never kissed anyone? That's so weird!"
"Gee, thanks," Aya grumbled defensively.
"You need to get a boyfriend, honey," Umi said bluntly. "You wanna die without ever having been kissed? Geez."
Aya looked up at her suddenly, eyes wide.
At her strange look, Umi pat her shoulder quickly, laughing. "Whoa, calm down. Don't panic. You have plenty of time for that."
"Y-yeah..." Aya swallowed past a lump in her throat, and didn't hear much more of the conversation after that.
Even after she'd said goodbye to her friends and gone back into the shop, her mind was still on what Umi had said.
The possibility that she might die- that any of them could die -during the fight against Rosenkreuz and the Vampires had come up several times. Schuldich and Ken had stated it outright, and the others had certainly accepted it and seemed to expect it. It was morbid, but Aya was through lying to herself.
This was a war. People died in wars.
She'd always thought it was cheesy when people in movies mourned the thought of having to die a virgin. She could deal with her virginity. But... to die without ever having been kissed?
She frowned to herself as she picked idly at a smear on the register counter.
She decided abruptly, right then and there, that she was going to find someone to kiss her, damn it. It would be nice if it were someone she truly cared for, but even a kiss from a friend would be something, wouldn't it?
Omi and Nagi had finally managed to get rid of the concerned horde of schoolgirls and came in laughing quietly. Aya plucked up her courage and turned to them. Seeing her expectant look, they paused in their conversation.
"Did you need something, Aya-chan?" Omi asked curiously.
"Yes," she said firmly. She crossed her arms, then let them hang by her side nervously. "A kiss."
They stared at her, nonplussed.
"Kiss?" Omi repeated cautiously, as if sure he had misheard her.
"Yes, a kiss," she huffed, knowing she was blushing and hating it. "Omi-kun, will you kiss me?"
Nagi's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Omi's mouth opened helplessly as he gaped at her. A faint blush finally brushed his cheeks. "K-kiss you?" he squeaked. "Why?"
"I've never been kissed," Aya mumbled, realizing how silly it sounded even as she forced the words out. "It doesn't have to mean anything, I just... wanted to know what it's like."
The two lovers exchanged a quick glance.
"But Aya-chan," Omi protested, looking a little lost, "I can't do that."
"Why? Would Nagi be jealous? Then can you kiss me, Nagi-kun?"
Nagi blinked twice.
"Aya-chan..." Omi was scratching the back of his head, looking a little embarrassed. "Gomen. I can't. It... it would be like kissing a sister..." he trailed off, a shadow of pain in his eyes. (1)
Aya turned hopeful eyes on Nagi, who quickly composed himself. "Iie," he said quietly. "Gomen."
Aya gave a little sigh. "OK... I understand. It is pretty silly..."
"Why don't you ask the Jackal?" Nagi suggested innocently. Omi stared at him.
Aya felt her blush intensify. "Wha- what.. but..."
"I'm sure he'd agree." A faint smile teased at the telekinetic's mouth. "There's no harm in asking, right?" Omi covered his face with his hand in a belated attempt to hide his knowing smile.
"Well.. I guess not..." Aya floundered. For some reason the thought of Tomás kissing her made her stomach do a weird little flip.
"He's the only option left," Nagi pointed out logically. "I seriously doubt you would want Crawford to do it- not that he would." Aya made a face. "Farfarello might just because... well, he's Farfarello." He glanced at Omi, who shook his head.
"Ken-kun's no good with girls," the blond said with an affectionate little smile. "He'd just blush and stammer and trip over things." Aya laughed. "And of course Schuldich's not here..."
"Schuldich??" Aya stared at him incredulously. The thought of kissing him had never even crossed her mind. She frowned at him. "I don't need him to be here to hear him laugh his ass off at what I'm asking. No thank you. I'd never hear the end of it."
"Sou," Nagi murmured with a little grin.
"Yosh'!" Aya took a deep breath. "I'll ask the Jackal, then."
"Gambare," Nagi said with a straight face.
"Out of curiosity," Omi ventured, rubbing at his nose and peering at her, "what made you suddenly want a kiss so bad?"
Aya crossed her arms defensively. "I just don't want to die without ever having been kissed, all right?"
Omi lowered his hand, his face sad. "Aya-chan..."
"Well, I'm going to find Tomás," she interrupted with forced cheerfulness. Her stomach felt funny at the thought of asking him. "Arigato!" Giving a little wave, she bounded downstairs to look for him in the basement.
When she was gone, both teenagers exchanged a long, meaningful look.
"Aya won't die," Nagi said firmly at the lost look in his lover's eyes. "We won't let her. She'll be far away and safe by the time the real fighting starts."
Omi sighed, pushing his bangs back from his face. "Aa," he said finally. He forced a little smile. "Since when are you a matchmaker, by the way?" he teased. "I'd been suspecting the Jackal might be developing a little crush on her, but still..."
Nagi shrugged slightly. "A kiss should mean something," was all he would say about it.
Aya finally found the Jackal in his room, seated on his bed and sharpening his heavy broadsword. She hesitated in his open doorway, watching him. The idea of marching in and asking him outright made her feel like bolting, so she decided to start a conversation instead and somehow find a way to insert her request at some point. Clearing her throat, she tapped her fingers on the door to get his attention.
He glanced up and offered a small smile of greeting. "Aya. Did you need something?"
"Ano..." She looked around the room and finally went over to sit at the desk chair. She reached up to fidget nervously with the long gold earrings she always wore. "Arigato," she blurted. "For... yesterday. You were right. That wasn't my brother." She looked sadly down into her lap, her voice quiet. "Thank you for protecting me. And for not hurting him."
He was looking over at her, sword forgotten in his lap. When she glanced up at him timidly, he quickly looked back down at the weapon, blushing faintly. "Only doing my job.." he mumbled, running the whetstone across the blade over and over.
For some reason his words annoyed her. "Oh. I see."
He looked up quickly at her tone, reddening. "I mean- I would have anyway. Even if I wasn't- if Hidaka hadn't made me your bodyguard. Protected you, I mean.."
She smiled at him. "Honto?"
He became suddenly absorbed in his sword. "Aa."
For a few minutes they remained silent, the only sound in the room the scraping of stone against metal.
Ask him, dummy, she ordered herself firmly. She straightened in the chair and cleared her throat nervously. "Tomás-san..."
He looked up curiously. "Nani?"
They both jumped, looking quickly towards the door. Himeno was leaning in the doorway, her lips curved in a small smile, eyes hooded as she shot Aya a meaningful glance. "Am I interrupting something?"
"I-iie," she stammered, jumping to her feet. "What is it?"
The smile disappeared. "Farfarello-sama wishes to speak with you."
Himeno had ignored the Jackal's insistence to accompany Aya as her bodyguard. What did they need with a human, she demanded, when the Adir'avar were there to do the job? They had been ordered not to let the girl fall to harm. They would defend her- with their lives, if need be. The consequences if they failed to do so were much worse than any death the enemy could give them.
Farfarello had no patience for failure.
Aya walked quickly to keep up with Himeno's long strides as they walked through the underground tunnels in Farfarello's lair. Vampires' eyes lingered on her as if they could hear her blood rushing through her veins, and she struggled to keep as close to her escort as possible without stepping on the woman's heels.
At last they reached the Vampire Lord's personal chambers, and Himeno rapped sharply on the door, waiting for a call from within before opening the heavy door and ushering Aya in with a wave of her arm. Aya stepped inside, glancing over her shoulder when Himeno stepped back out into the hall, pulling the door closed behind her to give the two of them some privacy.
Aya found her eyes wandering the room. She'd never been in Farfarello's room before, though she'd been to the tunnels themselves several times.
The room was mostly bare: a deep hot tub, a large bed, table, and a large chest of drawers were the only things to take up room. She found herself giving a small smile when she noted the soccer ball in the corner and the clothes tossed carelessly about, proof that Ken resided here as well.
Farfarello was sprawled on his back on the bed, head hanging off the end as he watched her silently. She tilted her head to the side and offered him a smile. "Ohayo, Farfarello," she greeted cheerfully. "Where's Ken-kun?"
Farfarello gave a careless shrug of one shoulder, running a piece of cloth idly through his fingers. "Out." He hadn't bothered to put on a shirt- the caves tended to be warm -and his numerous scars stood out starkly on his pale skin. As Aya walked over, he rolled onto his side and sat up in one lithe movement, like a cat.
Aya seated herself crosslegged on the bed, glancing at the cloth in the Vampire's hands curiously. Schuldich's headband, still spattered with blood. She felt a twist in her gut in memory of the attack on the flowershop the other day. She remembered how still Schuldich had looked, covered in blood and debris. She looked up and met his piercing stare. "Do you know where Schuldich is?" she asked, indicating the yellow cloth.
Farfarello's eye lowered to watch his hands bunch the cloth up and then run it through his fingers, over and over again in a bored gesture. "They are looking for him," he grunted. He fingered a spot of blood on the bandanna and sneered slightly in an unreadable expression.
"They can track him by his blood?" Aya guessed, frowning a little. She looked up at him. "Why did he run away?" she asked quietly. "Was it.. because of me? What I said?" Her gaze dropped guiltily to her lap. "Because I hit him?"
Farfarello's eyebrow went up. "Hit?"
"I slapped him," she mumbled. "He didn't bother to stop me. I thought he was being stupid and selfish. And..." She twisted the hem of her shirt in her hands. "It makes me so upset to hear him talk so carelessly about things like that. I didn't understand then. After what Crawford-san told me, I think I didn't have any right to say the things I did."
Farfarello snorted, draping the bandanna over the top of his head and tugging at either end idly as he studied her. She wisely bit her lip to stop her smile at how silly the fearsome Berserker looked. "Schuldich is an idiot," he said bluntly. "It doesn't matter what you said." He turned his head this way and that, still clutching both ends of the bandanna. "That." She glanced in the direction he was looking and spotted a wrapped bundle on the desk. "Bring it."
She slid off the bed and padded over to the desk, scooping it up- it was a little heavy -and bringing it back to him, scooting to sit close to him. He let go of the bandanna, leaving it draped over his head as he tugged the newspaper wrapping from the bundle. "Take it." Aya's eyes widened in recognition when Farfarello pushed the gift towards her.
"But this is-" she hesitantly touched the familiar weapon, looking up at him quickly.
"He has others," Farfarello grunted carelessly, lifting a corner of the bandanna by his face to inspect a blood-soaked corner. He put it into his mouth, sucking on it as he looked at her. She bit back a wince. "That's old. It's for you."
"He wanted me to have it?" She picked it up nervously, inspecting the bugnuk- its leather glove and wrist strap and the wicked claws.
"Aa." Suck suck suck.
Aya studied his dispassionate face for a moment before looking back at the weapon. Carefully- and a little reluctantly -she slid her hand into the glove and tightened the strap around her slender wrist. It was heavier than she'd thought. Her arm shook slightly with the effort of holding her arm parallel to the bed as she inspected the deadly blades above her knuckles. She wished she could see herself in a mirror. She must look at least a little more dangerous with such a weapon on.
She smiled at her "brother". "Sugoi ne. I'll have to thank him. Are the blades silver?"
"Silver coated," he corrected, reaching out to touch a finger to the edge of one of the claws. He drew his hand away with a jerk, deliberately drawing blood. She blinked when he reached up and ran his finger from her forehead and down the bridge of her nose, leaving a streak of blood down her nose like some kind of morbid tribal marking. His eye bored into her, pinning her to the spot, and she could not wrench her gaze away as he leaned in so their faces were only inches apart.
"You.." His finger jabbed against her breastbone hard, making her jump a little. "Stay out of it." His voice was a growl.
Aya knew what he meant. She scowled at him. "You can't just expect me to hide in a dark corner and wait until it's all clear," she protested indignantly. "I'm not just going to stand by and watch all of you fight alone!" She raised her armed hand slightly. "If you want me to hide like some little wimp, then why bother giving me this?"
Farfarello offered a dark scowl that had made grown men wet themselves. "Self defense," he snapped. "You are only," he jabbed her again, harder, "human. You will die. Stay out of it. Idiot."
She glared right back, unintimidated. "That's not fair!" she protested loudly. When he only continued to glower irritably, she switched tactics. "Oniisaaan," she wheedled, pulling her face into the adorable pout Omi had taught her. "Don't you trust me?"
He balked, retreating from her big-eyed stare. "Baka," he growled. "Stop that."
She smiled innocently. "Stop what?"
There was a knock at the door, and Farfarello reached up to tug the yellow bandanna from his head as he focused a blistering glare towards the Vampire that stuck his head in. The poor man wilted like a lily in the desert, ducking back out of sight. "A-ano.. Sumimasen," he sputtered from just outside the door.
"Nani?" Farfarello snapped.
"Ah- we've found him, Farfarello-sama," the hapless man called through the door. "The telepath."
Aya bounded to her feet. "Schu-san??" She cut off the Irishman before he could speak. "I'm going too," she said firmly.
Farfarello glowered at her with no effect. "Feh." He looked around and leaned over to snatch one of Ken's denim jackets off the floor. He tossed it at her moodily, then retrieved a plain white shirt and pulled it over his head. "Put that on," he grunted, glancing towards the bugnuk still on her arm. She pulled the jacket on hastily, trotting to keep up as he crossed the room and pulled the door open.
The Vampire at the door yelped and backed off, bowing hastily. Himeno was leaning against the far wall, watching in amusement. She inclined her head at her employer. "Should I take the girl home?"
He glanced back, meeting her stubborn glare, before looking back at the Adir'avar with a bored expression. "She'll be going with me," he intoned. "Go back to the shop."
"Hai." She turned and strode off. Farfarello turned his unwanted stare on the aide, who winced under the scrutiny.
"I'll get a few men together," he offered quickly. "We'll take you to him."
"Iie," Farfarello cut him off, looking bored. "Where is he?"
The Vampire hesitated before quickly giving him directions. When he was through he asked nervously, "Er, you won't be requiring backup, sir...?" At Farfarello's long look, he backed off hastily, hands raised defensively. "Wakatta, wakatta," he stammered. "I will let Hidaka-san know where you have gone when he gets back."
"Hn." Farfarello turned his back on the Vampire and headed off down the tunnels. Aya hurried to keep up, her heart pounding. She realized she was clutching Schuldich's blood-spattered bandanna in her fist and stuffed it into the jacket pocket, trying to get used to the weight of the bugnuk on her hand. She was grateful Farfarello was allowing her to come along.
She owed a certain pigheaded German an apology.
(1) *cough* Ouka..
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