Part Two

    Crawford was here again. Omi could see him as soon as he entered. He paused inside the doorway of the library, debating whether to enter or leave. He chewed on his lower lip, shifting weight from one foot to the other. He had his project to do...And Crawford had not bothered him last time. Of course, it could be just a trap to get him to lose his guard. He debated this, fingers tightening on the strap of his bookbag.

    "Excuse me," someone spoke up behind him, and Omi realized he was blocking the way.

    "Gomen!" Omi quickly moved, offering an apologetic smile to the newcomer as she passed.

    He took a few steps further into the library, watching as Crawford went through his papers. The man already had his coffee and looked like he'd been there for a while. Omi glanced around. Yesterday he'd chosen to stay because of the importance of his paper. Today he would have to make the same choice. Schwarz or not, this was a huge grade...He would just keep his guard up.

    Besides...It was better to be here with the threat of Schwarz than to be at home.

    What a depressing thought.

    Feeling more bold, Omi headed further into the library. The cafe area was just as crowded today, and Omi hesitated when he realized that- once again- the only empty table was the one next to Crawford. This one, however, was side to side with the American's. Omi swallowed hard before stepping into the cafe, making his way to the empty table. He was almost there when two people reached it first from the other side, laughing as they arranged their things on it. He stopped midstep, turning to scan the rest of the cafe in hopes of an empty chair somewhere.

    The tables were all full...All save the seat at Crawford's table.

    There was no way he was going to sit there. He turned on his heel and made his way back out of the cafe. He would find his books first. Then, maybe, another chair would be empty. If not, there was always the choice of huddling in a corner somewhere.

    The ladder was free this time, he noticed with some satisfaction. At least something was going right today...He pulled the ladder along with him to the section he needed and scurried up it, pausing on the third rung to examine the books. He was looking for the book he'd used yesterday. It had been a great resource, but he'd had to stop in the middle of a chapter when the library closed.

    A slight frown of disappointment curved his mouth as he went through the titles a second time. The book wasn't there.

    He skimmed the books closest to his section, hoping that it had been misplaced. Finally he was forced to give up and sighed, turning reluctant eyes back on his other choices. Apparently someone else wanted information on the Berlin Wall, too. It couldn't be one of his classmates...He was the only one with that topic. What misfortune...He picked the most promising book of those left and picked his way back down the ladder. He moved to the end of the aisle to examine the cafe.

    It was still crowded, with only Crawford's table hosting an empty chair. Omi sighed, looking around for a place he could comfortably take notes. Surely there was a spot he could settle himself...But the spots he would have taken already had people sitting or standing there.

    Omi wasn't amused.

    He adjusted his grip on his book, eyes straying back to Crawford's table. As if he'd even consider sitting there. He wasn't stupid.

    He wouldn't mind a drink, however...

    He moved towards the cafe, picking his way between the crowded tables to reach the counter. The way he had to go would take him past Crawford's table. That was all right, though. He didn't have to acknowledge the other man's existance.

    Well, he didn't until he saw what was sitting on Crawford's table.

    "My book!" he said, startled enough not to catch the words before they left his mouth. He stopped in his tracks, staring at the book he'd been looking for. Slowly his eyes lifted to Crawford's face. The American looked up from his papers, eyes falling first on the book before turning on Omi. "What are you doing with it?"

    That amused look was back in Crawford's eyes and his lips twitched. "Technically, it isn't yours. It is a library book that is available to the public."

    Omi frowned. "But why do _you_ have it?"

    "Maybe your mentioning the Berlin Wall yesterday brought back memories," Crawford said dryly.

    "Maybe you just knew I wanted it," Omi retorted. His fingers twitched, wanting to reach across the table and grab it. But did he dare be so bold to the leader of Schwarz? He frowned. "I need it."

    "I know."

    Was Crawford mocking him? Aa, Omi dared. He reached out, purposefully pushing aside Crawford's work as he plucked up the heavy volume. Exhiliration at the defiance turned into a flare of panic when a large hand closed tightly on his elbow. Omi's breath caught in his throat as he stared wide-eyed at Crawford.

    This was what Crawford had been waiting for. Now he was going to drag Omi out of here and kill him. Maybe he would kill him right here. Did the man even care if he murdered in public? Or maybe he would bring Omi back to Schwarz. It wouldn't be for information, not with a telepath on the team, but maybe to draw his team in. Stupid, stupid Omi.

    "I don't have to be a telepath to see what's in your eyes," Crawford said. "I have no intention of harming you."

    Liar liar liar.

    "Why wouldn't you?" Omi managed to get out, testing Crawford's grip.

    "If we'd wanted you harmed, we could have done it long ago. And I wouldn't do it anywhere near this library. I wouldn't want a Weiß to ruin my time here."

    "Ruin your time...?" Omi echoed blankly.

    "You're not the only one that appreciates a quiet place to think," Crawford said simply. "You are, however, the only one without a seat."

    "I don't need one." Omi tried Crawford's grip again. Why would Crawford appreciate a library? How could someone like him, a demon like him, appreciate the quiet and peace the building offered? "Let go of me."

    "Let go of my book."

    Omi stared at Crawford. "You don't need it."

    "Correct, but were you ever taught that it's not polite to grab?" Crawford's eyes were chiding him, and that made Omi both uneasy and irritated. What right did one of _them_ have to chide him?

    "What do you know of manners?" Omi asked, fingers tightening on his precious book. Crawford gazed back calmly and Omi frowned. "I'm not here for your amusement, Schwarz."


    Omi refused to acknowledge the correction. His eyes dropped to where his fingers were clutching the book, unable to look at such a chiding gaze anymore. Never before had he been so bold or rude to be acting this way, not to anyone. It was childlike. It was lowering himself to what Yohji and Aya had been reduced to. Of course, the one he was being impolite to was one of Schwarz, but...He couldn't help but feel a bit disgusted with himself. Forget the book. Why should he let himself be dragged into Crawford's game? He didn't want to be angry. He came here to relax, to get away from the bitterness that was cloaking the Koneko. He didn't come here to vent on other people, nor to pick fights.

    Omi released the book, and Crawford released him accordingly. Omi stepped back from the table. He tucked his annoyance aside. Crawford had won...He had gotten Omi ruffled. Now Omi gazed at the man steadily, face smooth. "I apologize for my behavior," he said simply, only half meaning the words. He was sorry, but not as sorry as he would have been if it had been someone else. "I will find other books."

    Both amusement and chastisement were gone from Crawford's eyes, replaced with a calm, unreadable look. Omi didn't like it. "You may have this one. It turns out I do not need it." With that, Crawford picked up the book and offered it to him.

    For one instant, Omi wanted to turn him down. He fought that ridiculous impulse down. It would only give him a moment's satisfaction before he would miss not having the thick reference book. Instead, he accepted the book, managing a stiff "Thank you."

    Crawford looked the rest of the cafe over. "It seems you have a limited choice of seats. If you promise not to interrupt my work, you can have that half of the table." He gestured to the free half opposite him.

    Omi didn't want to look at the empty half, but his eyes went there anyway. There was nowhere else to go. He looked around, checking the spots outside the cafe once more. He would need a large, flat place to flip through this volume.

    ~I don't want to sit with you,~ Omi thought.

    It wouldn't be smart to sit with Crawford. He'd already decided that. Crawford didn't seem to care which choice he made- he was rearranging the papers Omi had knocked out of order. Omi watched as the older man finished and returned to reading. It was obvious Crawford didn't see him as a threat. Omi wasn't sure whether or not to feel a bit offended. It was probably because of that that he set his bookbag down next to the empty chair. He put both books down and sat slowly, wary eyes on Crawford.

    Crawford glanced up, meeting his eyes briefly, and turned back to his reading.

    After a few moments, Omi flipped open the reference book and searched for the page he'd left off on.


    ~Why,~ Omi mused to himself as he stopped just inside the library, ~am I not surprised?~

    There was Crawford's familiar frame in the cafe. This was Omi's seventh day, and Crawford had been there every time. Omi did not have good timing, it seemed. He sighed quietly, accepting the man's presence as he moved further inside. He'd finally figured out why the library was so crowded these days. A dozen teachers at his school had assigned research papers at the same time, and his classmate had told him that her sister, a college student, also was in a class demanding one.

    Omi wondered if teachers planned these things to fry the students' brains. He was lucky to have an uncommon topic. Some people had overlapping ones and were having a rough time finding materials.

    Omi pulled the ladder down to his part of the aisle and climbed up it. He'd finished with the thick book two days ago and was slowly going through the rest of the section. Only a couple of the others had been much help before they started getting worse, and he was down to his last choice today. He needed one more good source. He pulled the thin book from its spot and climbed back down the ladder.

    He headed toward the cafe. He had approached Crawford each day to request the empty seat since the first time he'd been invited six days ago. He had been relieved so far to find that Crawford did not bother him anymore. In fact, the man spoke little to him now.

    "May I?" Omi asked, stopping beside Crawford's table.

    Crawford lifted his gaze from the book he was reading- no papers today, it seemed- to meet Omi's eyes calmly. "By all means," he answered.

    Omi sat down and silence fell over the table as both read. Ten minutes later, Omi closed his book in disgust. Useless. He ran his fingers through his hair, turning his eyes on the rest of the library. Great. Now what?

    "Something's bothering you."

    Startled blue eyes jumped to Crawford's face. The man hadn't looked up from his reading. First Omi wondered if he was that obvious. Then he wondered why Crawford was interested enough to make a comment. Oh, what did it matter? His head was pounding. He'd done enough research to make his brain hurt. Aya and Yohji were _still_ going at it. He rubbed his temples. "The library does not have enough for me to do my paper."

    "You may not use the computer?"

    "No," Omi answered wearily. He had been so close to being finished with the research.

    Crawford did not answer. Omi gazed at the cover of his book. Now what? Where was the next closest library? Could he take the time off he would need to make such a trip? He would have to leave work early one day so he could travel and have enough time looking. Did he trust Yohji and Aya to be in the shop together without him as referee? He doubted the two would do anything when working, but...

    Crawford set something on the table, and Omi's eyes strayed toward it with detached curiosity. The title was not Japanese- not English, either. Omi's curiosity peaked a little. "What language is that?"

    "German," Crawford answered.

    Why did Crawford have a German book?

    "It is Schuldich's, and it is on the Berlin Wall."

    It took Omi a moment to realize that Crawford was offering the book. He was confused by the gesture, and he turned surprised eyes on the American. It took him a while to find a response. "I can't read German."

    "I can."

    Omi's thoughts were tripping over themselves as Omi studied Crawford's face. This offer was out of nowhere, and not Schwarz-like at all. Why would the oracle of Schwarz be offering a book- and offering to translate it as well? "Why are you making such an offer?"

    Crawford's mouth twitched. "I have nothing better to do."

    That wasn't much help. "I doubt Schuldich would really let me use that book."

    A slight shrug. "He does not know it's gone. He's too busy fighting with Farfarello to notice it for another few weeks."

    Omi was silent for a few moments. "I don't understand."

    "Do you have to?"

    What kind of question was that?

    Omi's eyes went back to the book. He couldn't explain Crawford's behavior. He couldn't understand it. Did he have to? It was troubling that Crawford had become easier to get along with than his own teammates. Did he have to understand it, or could he just accept it and be grateful?

    Omi looked back up at Crawford. "Maybe not."

Part 3