Nagi let out a quiet sigh from his perch on a stool. His elbows were resting on the counter and his head was propped in his hands as dark blue eyes watched a spoon twist round and around. He was well aware of a bright yellow eye resting on him from where Farfarello was sitting at the table. The Irishman did not look as bored as Nagi was feeling; in fact, his entire being was focused on the boy and the bowl before him. Nagi glanced towards him before looking towards the oven. The temperature knob turned itself to let it preheat and he slid the bowl closer to study its contents.

    ~Why me?~ he wondered. It was a question he asked himself a lot even though he already knew the answer. There was no way Crawford would stoop to doing most of what was to be done to keep their group functional. Schuldich picked his own battles and deposited the rest on Nagi. Oftentimes it was better to go along with the German, for Schuldich doing something against his will always had an ugly end result. And Farfarello...Who would trust him to do anything other than kill? That left Nagi to clean up behind the others.

    Nagi was used to it by now. He could handle the work Crawford and Schuldich gave him. Crawford knew Nagi was more than capable of working responsibly, and Schuldich sometimes just wasn't good enough for the task. This, however, was something different. This was ridiculous and entirely beneath him.

    Farfarello wanted cookies.

    Why the hell did Farfarello want cookies? That was the question of the day. Nagi had no clue. Crawford did not really care, except that Farfarello had given them that Look that meant he was not going to cooperate with them. Nagi had expected Crawford to ignore Farfarello's comment about how he had forgotten how cookies tasted. He had expected Crawford to ignore Farfarello's meaningful look. And yet, Crawford had simply flipped the page of his newspaper and reminded the Irishman that he was not allowed in the kitchen.

    "He is," Farfarello had said, turning an intent look on Nagi. The boy had been reading, interested in the odd conversation enough to listen but expecting it to go nowhere.

    Except Crawford had said, "Nagi."

    And Nagi knew what that meant. So here he was in the kitchen, mixing the Irishman some sugar cookies. He wasn't sure he would ever be able to take himself seriously again. He was a hacker, not a baker. Why didn't someone just buy Farfarello some cookies if he wanted some? Nagi had offered to go to the store and buy some, but Crawford had trashed that idea by telling him they should have all of the required ingredients. At least Schuldich wasn't here. The telepath had gone out several hours ago, and Nagi was hoping he would continue to stay out for hours more. The last thing he needed was for Schuldich to come in and laugh at the way Schwarz had bent over backwards for Farfarello's impulsive craving. Schuldich really had no room to laugh. He thought it was amusing but even he would give leeway to the Irishman.

    A door slammed, and a nasal voice called out a "Yo!" to warn his teammates he had arrived. Nagi muttered an oath under his breath, tilting the bowl so he could see the dough better. He had jinxed himself.

    "You're not happy to see me?" Schuldich called out, and Nagi could hear the rustling of plastic as the older man approached the kitchen. He glanced over his shoulder as his teammate entered the kitchen. A plastic bag was danging from one hand and orange hair spilled wildly around his shoulders, messier than usual from the German's love of driving around with every window down. His black jacket hung lazily off one shoulder and he had a white tee tucked into tight jeans. Dark green eyes rested on Farfarello first and Nagi saw the man's smirk falter as he took in the contents of the psycopath's mind.

    Schuldich's gaze was surprised and inquisitive as he turned to Nagi. "Cookies?" he asked blankly. Apparently Farfarello's strong desire for them was as unexpected to Schuldich as it was to Nagi. "You're making him cookies?"

    "Crawford told me to," Nagi answered, turning back to his bowl. He was waiting for the amused laughter to start, but there was none. Instead there was the soft tap of Schuldich's shoes against the tiled floor. Schuldich stopped beside him, studying the batter along with Nagi. Nagi waited for him to say something, but when the silence continued, he turned back to the task at hand.

    A few cookie sheets floated themselves to the counter and Nagi turned to the cookbook in his lap, searching the directions to make sure he had done anything. Schuldich reached over his head, tugging open a cabinet and lifting down a spray can. Nagi looked up from his reading as the German gave the pans a liberal spraying before returning the can to its spot. He looked up at Schuldich, blue eyes questioning.

    "You're making sugar cookies?" Schuldich asked. "How plain." He rummaged through his bag and produced a chocolate bar. Nagi watched him unwrap it, break it into chunks, and drop the handful of chocolate bits into the batter.

    "What are you doing?"

    "Plain cookies are boring. Stir it some more." Schuldich gave a small wave of his hand and went to fetch spoons from a drawer.

    "You're helping me bake," Nagi pointed out.

    "There's a difference between baking and making cookies," Schuldich responded, returning and setting one of the spoons on the counter.

    "And that would be...?"

    Schuldich just flashed him a grin before giving the dough a critical glance-over. Nagi let the question drop and checked the batter to make sure the chocolate had been thoroughly stirred in. He saw Schuldich give an approving nod from the corner of his eye. Little balls of dough began to pull themselves free from the rest and float towards the pan. Schuldich bapped Nagi on the head with his own spoon.

    "That's cheating."

    "How is this cheating?" Nagi asked, watching as Schuldich swat the balls back down into the bowl with his spoon. The German scooped up the second spoon and offered it to the teenager, who shook his head. "This will take longer, Schuldich. I just want to get done."

    "You have to do it right."

    "Why don't _you_ do it?" Nagi asked. "I was reading when Farfarello had to open his mouth."

    "Because Crawford told you to do it," Schuldich answered easily.

    "So I'll do it how I want."

    "Listen to the kid..." Schuldich gave a shake of his head. "You can tell you didn't have parents if you're trying to cheat your way out of making cookies." Nagi said nothing. He told himself that the comment didn't bother him, but it did. He had managed to squish most of the hurt and pain that his childhood had been, but echoes still lingered on after all of these years. Schuldich offered the spoon again. "Have you even had chocolate chip cookies before?"

    "These aren't chocolate chip cookies," Nagi corrected him. "They were supposed to be sugar cookies. You can't change that by putting a cheap candy bar in the dough."

    "Has anyone told you that you're becoming more of a prude each day?" Schuldich asked, dropping the spoon in Nagi's lap when the boy made no move to accept it from him. "Crawford must be so proud of your progress."

    Nagi rolled his eyes. "Bite me, Schuldich."

    "Ah, and the illusion of maturity fades." Schuldich spooned some dough onto the pan. Nagi watched him for a while before the German beckoned for him to help. With a sigh, Nagi relented and began arranging small balls on the pans manually. He was mildly surprised to note that it didn't take much time at all to do it by hand.

    "Of course not," Schuldich answered his thoughts. "You're just lazy because you have your gift to do everything you want."

    "Don't be a hypocrite, Schuldich," Nagi told him, watching as the German slid the pans into the stove and set the timer. "You use your gift more than the rest of us combined, even when you don't have to." He did, however, climb off of his stool and carry the bowl towards the sink by himself.

    Schuldich flitted in front of him, swatting away the faucet before Nagi could start the water to rinse the mixing bowl. Nagi looked up at him questioningly. The telepath was frowning at him. "What are you doing?" Nagi asked.

    "You can't rinse the bowl yet. There's still dough in it."

    "That _would_ be the point of cleaning it."

    Schuldich plucked the bowl out of his hands and carried it back to where their spoons were resting, muttering under his breath in German the whole way. Nagi trailed behind him, frowning. His teammate set the bowl back down and handed Nagi's spoon back, then proceeded to scrape some of the remaining dough off the sides. Nagi blinked in surprise as Schuldich promptly stuck the spoon in his mouth and turned expectant jade eyes on the teenager.

    "There's raw egg in that," Nagi reminded him.

    "So?" Schuldich asked, pulling the cleaned spoon free to wave it at the bowl. "You Japanese weirdos eat raw fish."

    "Haven't you ever heard of salmonella?"

    "It's not going to kill you to try it."

    "It could."

    It was Schuldich's turn to roll his eyes. "Something's going to kill you one day or another, Nagi. A slip-up on a job, a freak accident, old age, sickness, Farfarello...Your last thought is going to be 'I can't believe I never got to try raw cookie dough'. Do you really want that kind of regret?"

    "Are you always this idiotic?" Nagi mused.

    "Oi."

    Nagi studied his face for a long moment. "Did you make cookies with your parents?" he asked. As the words left his mouth, he wondered if he should regret the question. It wasn't like he was expecting an answer; Schuldich and Crawford's pasts were coveted secrets to the two. They guarded their memories very closely. Nagi had no past as a street rat...Farfarello's had been torn enough with violence and psychiatric issues that he had left a clear trail.

    Indeed, the grin on Schuldich's face had dimmed slightly, as if he was surprised that Nagi had asked him such a thing- or perhaps in disapproval of the question. Then he extended the bowl towards Nagi. "Perhaps," he answered.

    Silence fell between them for a moment, then Nagi finally reached out and scraped his spoon among the remaining dough. He lifted it to his mouth tentatively. The threat of salmonella was not serious to him; what slowed him was Schuldich's comment about parents. It still echoed in his mind. This was something normal families did...They made cookies. Schwarz was not a normal family. Hell, it wasn't even a family. It was...something else. Dysfunctional, perhaps, but bound tight.

    He stuck the spoon in his mouth and licked the dough clean. It tasted good. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised- who would eat cookies if they didn't taste good? It was just different. Schwarz rarely had desserts in their house, and they had never had cookies. If Nagi had tired cookies in the few years he had actually been with his family, he didn't remember it.

    His first memory of making cookies would be with Schwarz. With Schuldich. He turned that thought over in his mind, reaching out and scraping more dough free from the bowl. Schuldich was grinning again. He opened his mouth to say something when there was the scrape of wood against tile, and both looked over to see Farfarello rising to his feet.

    The Irishman sent them a bored look and padded from the room. Schuldich made a face. "He doesn't want them anymore," he said.

    "That's all right," Nagi said, and jade eyes turned back to him in mild surprise. "We can eat them all."

    Schuldich laughed. "Ja," he agreed. "That we can."


Owari