Omi could feel his patience vanishing very quickly as his friends' angry voices broke the quiet in the other room. ~Not again,~ he moaned mentally. There was only so much he could take of their squabbling. He reached out, turning the water of the sink up in hopes of drowning them out.
Yohji's voice rose, almost as if in defiance of Omi's attempt to block him out. Omi grit his teeth. The words were lost, but the sarcastically mocking tone carried through.
"Don't bait him, Yohji-kun," he whispered aloud, a fervent plea. But there was Aya's voice, not as loud but just as angry, breaking through the rushing water.
"I'm going to go mad," Omi declared to himself, turning the sink off and shoving the plate he'd been rinsing in the dishwasher. He added soap and twisted the knob, slamming the door shut to get it started.
He could hear Ken now, urgently trying to get the two away from each other. "Yohji, Aya, stop it! Come on, you two! This is stupid!" Omi stepped into the doorway as a brief silence fell in the shop, gazing in to where the other three were standing. Aya was steadfastedly glaring at a pot he was working at. Yohji was dressed to go out- it appeared Aya had stopped him. Ken stood between them as if he expected them to attack each other. "Don't antagonize him, Yohji. Weren't you going somewhere?"
"I'd already be there if _someone_ hadn't bothered me," Yohji said, flicking a bold look Aya's direction as he moved towards the door. Omi winced at the emphasis that declared Aya to not be worth Yohji's time.
"Leaving is all you're good at," Aya snapped back.
"One of us has to be good at something," Yohji countered, slipping out the door and closing it loudly behind him before Aya could retaliate.
Ken groaned, clapping a hand to his face. "You two are hopeless," he muttered. "This is past the point of being ridiculous."
"Keep out of what you don't understand," Aya answered icily, snatching up the pot. He turned sharply on his heel, slamming the plant down on another shelf.
Omi knew he shouldn't say it, but he couldn't help it. "Aya-kun, please be more gentle with the plant...You might break the pot."
Aya levelled a dark look at him before leaving the room. Omi gave a tired sigh, leaning against the doorframe. He lifted a hand to rub at his eyes. He'd tried so hard to get his teammates to calm down. Yohji and Aya had been at each other for months. It had started slow, beginning with something as simple as a cold shoulder, but had accelerated rapidly until they were sniping at each other almost constantly. He knew Yohji's teasing could be trying sometimes, but the man's taunts had grown a sharper barb now when directed towards the swordsman of their team. Aya, on his part, had his icy mask crumbling as he lost his temper quicker and quicker with the oldest of their group. Omi had never thought that the two could be reduced to such immature bickering, and now it was tearing the group apart.
He and Ken could barely live in the shop with those two and had finally started vanishing as often as possible. When the fighting would get out of control and couldn't be stopped as easily as it had just been, he and Ken would throw in their cards and leave. Ken was giving up quicker and quicker these days, but Omi kept trying, hoping to get lucky one of these times.
"They're impossible!" Ken said, disgusted. He moved to the pot Aya had so haphazardly discarded and checked to make sure it hadn't been broken. "I thought they'd come to some sort of stalemate or truce, but..." He turned away, crossing his arms over his chest.
"They can't keep fighting forever," Omi said, but the encouragement of the words was lost in the dispairing tone he couldn't hide. Manx had stopped giving them missions until they resolved their problems. Some of Kritiker's counselors had been offered, but the help had not been accepted. Yohji and Aya hadn't been forced to talk to anyone because there hadn't been the pressing need to have Weiss as a functional unit. Omi couldn't decide if a mission would help seal the break or fracture them further. Either way, the crime lords seemed to be calmer, and Schwarz- whom Omi thought they could depend on for trouble- was quiet.
"Yeah right," Ken muttered.
Omi left the doorway, moving towards the hall with his computer. "I'm going out, Ken. I have a large paper due in a couple weeks and we're not allowed to use the internet for resources."
"That sounds like fun," Ken said, shaking his head and grinning. "I'll think of you while I laze about the house with nothing better to do with my time."
"You could come along, if you want," Omi offered, snatching his bookbag up from its spot beside the desk. He slung it over a shoulder, padding back towards the store.
Ken grinned, shaking his head. "As exciting as it sounds, I'll pass."
Omi stuck his tongue out at Ken as he passed the older man and stepped out out of the store. He turned his feet in the direction of the library. He knew the path all too well. He had found himself there more and more often lately when he had to take refuge away from the shop. It was a good place to go. The enforced quiet of the place was soothing to ears ringing from angry words, and there were always new things to read. The library even had its own cafe in the front. He was not much of a coffee drinker- he preferred hot tea- he liked the kind the cafe served. Many hours could be spent sipping a hot drink and eating biscuits as he pored over novels, magazines, and newspapers.
It was a nice walk of almost twenty minutes. He preferred walking more and more these days. He liked the time that could be dedicated to just his wandering thoughts and the many sights of the city. The city could appear so innocent in daylight...Ah, looks could be so deceiving.
The library was more full than usual, and it took Omi a while to find a table. Finally he opted for one in the deli and set his bookbag down before wandering towards the aisles of books. His class had been assigned a research paper on historic events and landmarks, of all things. He had ended up with the Berlin Wall.
He ran a search on the library's system to locate the books he would need and set off to find them. Two minutes later found him standing in front of a tall aisle, staring up towards the third highest shelf. He rocked onto the balls of his feet, stretching his arm above his head. His palm brushed the shelf and his fingertips grazed the bindings of the books. He dropped back, considering this and looking around. The ladder hooked onto this row was at the other end and was being used by a grouchy looking man who was talking to himself.
Omi looked back up, stretching up once more and willing himself to grow a few inches to get the books. Fingernails scratched against the binding uselessly and he dropped back once more, a slight pout curving his lips. Why were these bookshelves so tall, anyway? He looked back towards the ladder and its muttering occupant before scratching that option off with a mental sigh. He stared upwards for several moments, chewing on his lip thoughtfully. Finally he jumped, springing upwards and clawing at the book. This only served to shove it backwards more and he slumped against the bookshelf, staring upwards as he considered what to do.
There was always the option of finding something to occupy himself with until the man abandoned the ladder, but he didn't want to be at the library all day. He'd prefer to get as much research done now as he could. This was going to be an important grade, and he only had two weeks to do it in. His teacher was crazy...
Something grayish-blue moved up behind him, registering in his peripheral vision just as he saw an arm lift above him. A hand easily snagged the book he had been trying so desperately to get and lowered it.
"Thank you so much!" he said, spinning to throw a bright smile to the one who had aided him. He could not hide a startled sound when he saw the one before him and retreated a step with wide eyes. Schwarz!
The American watched him, a serene expression on his face but amusement in his eyes as he observed Omi's shock. He glanced at the cover before calmly offering the book. "I believe you were trying to get this?"
"You," Omi breathed, panic lacing his veins.
"I would say I am surprised to see you here but that would be a lie," Crawford said.
Omi's eyes shot from Crawford's face to the book and back again. What were his motives? What was he trying to do? Where was the rest of his team? He cast a quick, hunted look around. His darts were back at the shop.
Crawford correctly interpreted the glance. "I am the only one here."
Omi looked back up at him, hesitantly reaching out to take the book while searching for any signs that he was going to be attacked. "What do you want?" he asked guardedly.
"Coffee," was the simple answer.
Omi blinked, looking past his opponent towards the cafe. Coffee...? Crawford turned away, moving towards the cafe. Omi watched him go, mind still reeling from the shock of the other man's presence. The clairvoyant of Schwarz was here.
But that...That seemed so _normal_. It was hard to picture a member of the black assassin group doing something so ordinary. But then, he reasoned, Schwarz couldn't spend all of their time working. They were humans too, if a bit twisted. He played with the mental image of them grocery shopping and felt his lips quirk into a brief, amused grin. Somehow, it made them seem less frightening.
He studied the American from a distance, almost interested in this new insight into the minds behind Schwarz. The man was not dressed in the fine suits Omi had always seen him in, but was wearing dark slacks and a navy-gray dress shirt. It was dressy but casual. Crawford, in his mind, was the least threatening of the four. When ranked with a telepath, a psychopath, and a boy who could destroy buildings with his mind, clairvoyancy wasn't all that fear-invoking.
The man was still a danger, of course, Omi reminded himself sternly. Any member of that group was. He tore his eyes away from where Crawford was waiting in line to order his drink and looked back up at the shelf. This book would do for now, and perhaps the man would have abandoned the ladder by the time he was finished.
Tucking the book under his arm, Omi picked his way towards his seat. He set the large book down at his place and looked towards the line in front of the counter. Crawford had been served and was moving to his own seat. Omi watched him, noticing with faint alarm that the man was coming his direction. Before he could decide what to do about it, Crawford sat down at the table next to Omi's, his back to the younger man. Omi could just stare at him for a long moment. He knew that table hadn't been empty when he'd arrived at the library...Crawford had been here before him. He hadn't noticed because the man's back had been to him and he wasn't wearing the usual outfit.
He looked around. He didn't feel safe sitting this close to the other man, but the only other table he'd noted as being empty on his arrival was now taken. He pushed his things to the other side of the small table so he would be able to sit facing Crawford.
He looked from his bookbag to the line, wondering if it was safe to leave his possessions here within Crawford's reach to get a drink and a snack. The quiet rumble of his stomach decided it and he picked his way towards the counter, slender body sliding easily between crowded tables. As he tagged onto the end of the line he looked back to check on his stuff. Crawford was going through his own folders, reading paperwork.
Omi shuffled forward with the line, thoughts racing. What was he going to do? Should he tell his teammates? The other man hadn't been antagonistic so far. In fact, he didn't seem interested in Omi's presence at all. Should he leave? No...He had research to do.
The best thing to do would be to follow Crawford's example. It was clear Crawford wasn't interested in an interaction of any sort. He was here to work on his own things. Omi considered this, giving a small nod. Right now they were not opposing assassins...He was a student with a paper to write and Crawford was a businessman working on his own projects.
That didn't stop him from sending another look towards his table before stepping up at the counter. He placed his order and stood with his back to the counter, leaning against it in a nonchalant pose. He pretended to be surveying the cafe at large, checking- for his own peace of mind- that there was no sign of Crawford's teammates. He could believe Crawford's simple reassurance that he was alone...If this was an ambush, it was a strange one. Schwarz could do better than this.
"Your order," the old man behind the counter spoke up. Omi turned, offering a smile as he paid.
"Thank you, sir," he said, inclining his head respectfully. Styrofoam cup in one hand and the small saucer with his two biscuits in the other, Omi began making his way back towards his own table.
He had thought it would be hard to concentrate on his work with Crawford sitting so close, but losing himself in the research was easy. He scribbled important facts in his notebook as he read each chapter, slowly making his way from the beginning of the large book to the end. Eventually he stopped for a break, rubbing his eyes and checking his watch. He'd lost an hour and a half already. He tilted his cup, noted that it was empty, and stood. He felt the need for another hot drink before he continued. It was dry reading.
He tossed the cup into the garbage can as he passed, fishing change out of his pocket as he approached the counter once more. He counted it in his palm, finger moving the coins around. At the last possible moment to avoid a collision, he registered pants at the edge of his vision. He stopped in his tracks, rocking backwards on his feet and looking up.
Crawford was in front of him, eyes still gleaming with faint amusement. Any apology for the near-hit died on Omi's tongue. The American calmly lifted his new drink to his lips, taking a sip of it. "Is the Berlin Wall that fascinating?" he asked dryly, referring to the way Omi hadn't been paying attention to where he was going.
"Not particularly," Omi heard himself answering, taking a step back to place more space between them.
"The young do not appreciate what they have not seen," Crawford answered, moving to the side so Omi could pass.
Omi frowned faintly, curiosity warring with caution. "You saw the Berlin Wall?"
The ghost of a half-smile flickered on Crawford's mouth, and Omi felt a brief spike of annoyance that he was so amusing to the older man. "Many times, including when it fell," was the American's answer.
Omi's frown faded as he digested the information. What would Crawford be doing in Germany?...Thoughts strayed to the telepath in his group and Omi blinked, tilting his head to one side in consideration. Schuldich was German. Perhaps it had been a business trip? But it was so long ago...Neither of the two could be _that_ old, could they? Had they really been with Schwarz that long?
Crawford's civil attitude made him bold and he looked up at the American. "What was it like?"
"Big," was the dry answer.
Omi felt as if he'd been ridiculed and looked away, face flushing as he passed the man. It was an answer he deserved, prying into business that wasn't his...Especially the business of that man in particular. He had the feeling the man was mentally laughing at him.
What did he think he was doing, anyway, trying to make conversation with Crawford? He placed his order at the counter, annoyed with himself. For a moment, it had been so easy to forget that they were indeed enemies. For a moment, they had been two normal people. It had been a nice delusion. After all of the arguing at home, Omi was looking for any respite he could find. He should have known that such a respite could not be reached with someone like Crawford.
Despite the thoughts, he could not help but try to imagine what it had been like to see such a thing fall. What had it meant to those people? To him, it was just another piece of history, just something to read about and learn. What had it meant to the Germans? What had they felt as they watched it finally crumble?
Had it meant anything to Crawford?
Did he really care if it had?
Never forgive the bad ones...
He paid and accepted his coffee. Crawford was back at his own table already, gathering his things together in preparation. Omi watched him for a few moments before moving towards his own place. Crawford passed in front of him on his way out, tossing that serene-yet-amused look at Omi as he went. Omi sat down, taking a sip of his coffee. He and a member had met...and exchanged words instead of blows.
Why? Why had Crawford helped him get the book? Why had Crawford spoken to him?
He did not know. He could only feel bitterly amused that a member of Schwarz and a member of Weiss had just had a more pleasant interaction that Yohji and Aya had experienced in the recent months.
It was almost ironic enough to make him laugh as he forced himself to return to his reading.