Part Three: Ice Cream

    Yohji shifted from one foot to the other, waiting for the light to change that would let the group of pedestrians cross the street. Schuldich was standing at his side, close enough that their shoulders brushed. Yohji glanced over at him, debating what to do and where to go. Daytime was not his time for excursions; night was more his type of setting. He faced forward again in time to see the green figure light up. He stepped off the curb, both hands shoved into his pockets. "I don't know where you expect to go," he said over his shoulder.

    "We're playing follow the leader," was Schuldich's answer. Yohji could hear the smirk in his voice. "For now, you are the leader and I the follower. I don't care where we go. We could go to the zoo. We could ride the trains for hours. It doesn't matter to me. I am easily amused."

    Yohji flicked him an annoyed glance as they reached the other side of the street. "If you don't care where we go, why are we even out here?" he asked.

    His peer drew even with him and tossed him an arrogant look. "Patience," the man chided him, laughter rippling in his nasal voice. "This is necessary. We're taking turns. Later I will have my chance to lead and will have to find ways to keep you occupied."

    Yohji did not like the connotations in that sentence, nor did he like the assured look Schuldich was giving him. That was the kind of expression that meant Schuldich knew something he didn't. "What makes you think I'd follow you? I don't know anyone who would be so daft."

    Schuldich laughed quietly, jade eyes mocking him. He leaned towards Yohji until their faces were almost touching. Yohji leaned back slightly, eyes narrowing in warning at the invasion of his personal space. "You'll come," Schuldich told him, breath cool on Yohji's cheeks. "You'll want to."

    "I doubt that," Yohji answered flatly, pushing away the beginnings of uneasiness. He was not going to let Schuldich have his way. He had more respect for himself than that and was stubborn enough to fight to the end. "Now back off," he told the other man, putting a hand on the German's chest to shove him backwards to a more comfortable distance.

    Schuldich allowed himself to be pushed, jade eyes dancing with amusement. He said nothing, but his expression was enough. Yohji grit his teeth, turning away. How could Schuldich be so confident?

    "Because," Schuldich told him, voice silky with satisfaction, "I know you better than you know yourself." He made a sweeping, mocking gesture for Yohji to continue down the sidewalk. Yohji moved forward, hands clenched in his pockets. "Consider this," Schuldich spoke up after a few moments of weaving through the light crowd. Yohji didn't acknowledge the words, but Schuldich didn't care. "If you truly thought you could withstand me, why do I make you so nervous?"

    Yohji refused to look back. "I'm not nervous," he retorted. "You're just annoying."

    A hand brushed against the seat of his jeans and he recoiled, twisting to glare at Schuldich. The man had his hands planted on his hips and had his head tilted to one side. His eyes were laughing at Yohji and his wide mouth was pulled into one of the most smug smirks Yohji had ever seen on his face. He took a deep breath, struggling to control his temper. Why had he ever allowed himself to feel sympathy for the other man? It was obvious Schuldich was trying to rile him. He had to keep himself from reacting so violently or Schuldich would never give up.

    As it had done so many times in the past, however, Yohji's mouth was not listening to his mind. "Who do you think you are?" he asked sharply. "You think you can just decide what everyone does?"

    Schuldich stepped towards him, once again invading Yohji's personal bubble. He stood, their noses mere millimeters apart. "I always get what I want, Kudou," he assured the white assassin.

    "Like Taketori?"

    The words were spoken before they were even a coherent thought in Yohji's mind, and twisted mockingly in the air. Schuldich recoiled before he could guard his actions, eyes flickering with surprise and- briefly -pain. His lips thinned and he sucked in a quiet breath of air. Yohji found himself torn between disgust at himself for saying such a thing and a selfish satisfaction that he had gotten the upper hand over the German. Unable to decide between emotions, Yohji turned away.

    It took a few moments for Schuldich to recover his footing. Finally he drew even with Yohji, flicking an unreadable look at him. "You know, Kudou, you are not cute."*

    Yohji could not make himself look at the other man yet, deciding on disgust. Finally Schuldich nudged him with his shoulder, impatient. "My clothes are going out of style waiting on you. Are we going or what?"

    The man's words were so absurd that Yohji couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at him. "First of all, they're my clothes. Second of all, considering what you used to wear, I don't think you're qualified to decide on what's stylish."

    Schuldich turned his eyes skyward. "Details, details."

    Yohji felt his lips twitch into an almost relieved smile, though he didn't know why, and quickly altered his expression to a neutral one. "I'm going to take you up on your word," he told Schuldich, starting forward again.

    "Oh?" The man fell into step beside him, almost interested.

    "We're going to the zoo."


    It was strange to be walking down the winding path, moving through patches of sunlight and hearing sounds of water and faded children's laughter. Yohji walked with his gaze forward, oblivious to the animals on either side of him. He allowed his eyes to follow the small asphalt walkway, watching the sunlight that moved across the ground as the tree branches overhanging the path swayed in the breeze. Distantly he tried to remember the last time he had gone to a zoo. That thought was quickly squished, as it only brought back the memory of laughing eyes and a soft smile.

    He heard Schuldich make a sound beside him and glanced towards him, feeling wary irritation rise briefly. He did not want nor need the German to make a comment on his lost love Asuka. There was still too much pain tied up within those memories, still too much that he could not untangle. For several years he had been almost content to keep them knotted up within him. He did not want to lose her. He wanted to keep her memory with him always, wanted to gaze upon her face in his sleep.

    "Do you want that?" Schuldich asked.

    "Want what?" Yohji sent back, words tight, bracing himself for what he knew was coming.

    Schuldich slid his eyes towards Yohji slowly, giving him an expression of amused tolerance. "That," he said, tilting his head to one side. Yohji looked past him in the direction of the gesture. The only thing he could see was a small cart where a young woman was selling ice cream.

    Yohji experienced the sensation of stumbling over his thoughts, off-balance because Schuldich had not responded in the way he had expected. He had been waiting for one of the German's piercing, mocking remarks that cut like ice straight to the heart and bone. He steadied his thoughts, fixing Schuldich with a penetrating gaze. Had that really been what Schuldich had been referring to? Ice cream?

    The look Schuldich returned was condescending. "You think too much, Kudou. My world does not revolve around what goes on inside that vacuum you call a brain." With that, he started drifting in the general direction of the stand.

    Yohji made a face at his back before following, muttering darkly under his breath.

    Schuldich propped himself against the cart, eyeing the contents with a bored gaze. With his chin perched on his hand, he took in the various ice creams slowly before turning his eyes on the girl behind the cart. Yohji glanced at her when he saw Schuldich's smirk widen in amusement. The smile on her face was hesitant, almost nervous. Apparently she was bothered by the wildness of Schuldich's appearance. When she saw both pairs of eyes on her, she made her smile cheery and bright. "Ice cream, good sirs?" she chirped. "It's a wonderful day for it, don't you think?"

    Yohji smiled at her, glancing her up and down appreciatively. She was an attractive little thing. "Don't they give you a chair?" he asked, letting the beginnings of a friendly laugh color his tone. Schuldich was purposefully unnerving her with the way he gazed intently at her face, he noted with an inward sigh. "Do they expect you to stand all day?"

    Her smile warmed as amusement touched her eyes. "It's good for me to stand, or so they say," she answered. "If I'm tired, I just roll the cart towards the benches and take a rest. I'm not supposed to, though. I guess it doesn't make a good impression."

    "I guess," Schuldich said, and she glanced at him again, hesitating once more over the intense jade eyes.

    ~Schuldich...~ Yohji sent at him, an exasperated warning. ~Be nice.~


    "You think he's cute?" Schuldich asked her, and she sent a startled glance at Yohji before turning wide eyes on Schuldich, face flushing. She tried stammering a response as Yohji rubbed his temples, sending death threats at Schuldich's mind.

    "Schuldich," he said aloud, flatly. "Leave her alone." Schuldich finally straightened and moved towards Yohji, looping an arm around the other man's waist and tugging him close. "What are you-"

    Schuldich cut him off effectively with a light swat to his mouth, giving the girl a winning smile. "I want one of these." He waggled his finger at the display hanging over the cart, indicating one of the pictures. "Anything for you?" he asked Yohji, tilting his head to gaze sideways at him.

    Yohji spoke through gritted teeth: "No thanks."

    He closed a hand on Schuldich's, prying at the fingers that were holding onto his side. Schuldich merely tilted his hand and caught Yohji's fingers between his own. The girl's eyes dropped to their interlaced fingers before she sent both of them a wide-eyed stare. Finally she tore her gaze away and opened the cart, digging for Schuldich's selection with clumsy hands. Schuldich accepted it and glanced towards Yohji again.

    /Well? Pay the dear./

    Yohji was seething, horrified and humiliated, as he dug in his pocket with his free hand in search of loose change. It felt as if his face was burning, and he could only hope that his face wasn't colored. It was hard to get the coins out when Schuldich's hip was pressed so firmly against his own. Finally he handed over the handful of change, managing to get out a "Keep the change" before pushing against Schuldich in a command to move away. Schuldich waved lazily to the stunned girl as he headed off, pulling Yohji with him. As soon as they were around the corner, Yohji wrenched himself from his pinned place between Schuldich's hand and hip.

    "What the hell was that for?" Yohji demanded, shaking his hand violently in an attempt to get his fingers free from Schuldich's.

    "My, Kudou, you are _blushing_," Schuldich observed, amused, crushing Yohji's hopeful thoughts that his face hadn't betrayed him. The German tore open his ice cream wrapper with his teeth and spat the garbage to the side.


    Schuldich bapped Yohji's nose with his treat. "I did it for your reaction, of course," the German told him. His eyes were laughing at Yohji as the man finally began prying at Schuldich's fingers with his free hand. "I must find ways to entertain myself, after all."

    "Not at my expense!" Yohji hit him across the chest, glaring so heatedly it might have done Aya proud. "You're going to give her the wrong idea! Damn it, Schuldich, we're in public! Do you have any clue what you're doing to my reputation?!"

    Schuldich was in front of him in a moment, his movement barely a blur as he was suddenly pressed against Yohji, jade eyes burning into Yohji's so fiercely that Yohji's breath caught in his throat. "Your reputation?" Schuldich asked, then laughed and bit the tip of Yohji's nose lightly. "Do you know what she thought when she saw our hands?"

    Yohji shook his head once, slowly. Already a tinge of dread hung in the back of his throat, as if he knew what Schuldich was going to say before he actually spoke.

    "It was a wistful sort of thought," Schuldich told him, tracing his icy snack down Yohji's cheek. "It was an 'I should have known'. There's your reputation for you. How did you expect to keep such a reputation? You and your teammates work in a _flower_ shop."

    ~Should have known?~ The words rang hollowly in Yohji's mind. Should have known...He was Kudou Yohji, one of the biggest playboys in this city, and 'should have known'?? Schuldich was lying- he had to be.

    "Lying?" Schuldich repeated, mock-offended. "Why would I lie to you?"

    "Because you're a bastard," Yohji snapped, shoving the man away. This time Schuldich released his hand. Yohji crossed his arms tightly over his chest and set off down the path, striding angrily away from the German. If he was lucky, Schuldich would stay where he was. Or maybe the tigers would somehow get loose and eat him. Either one would be welcome.

    "Such hateful thoughts," Schuldich murmured in his ear. Yohji refused to look at the man that drew even with him. Schuldich studied him for a moment as they walked, mouth curved into that smirk Yohji would love to smack off his face. Finally the man gave a quiet laugh and faced forward. "One day, Kudou, you'll thank me."

    "Don't hold your breath," Yohji retorted acidly.

    "Look on the bright side," Schuldich said airily, waving the ice cream cone before taking a bite of it, "I haven't kissed you in front of your teammates."

    Yohji froze in his tracks. Schuldich turned slowly to face him, his arrogantly triumphant expression back in place as Yohji stared at him, wide-eyed at even the thought that Schuldich would do such a thing. No _way_...

    Schuldich took a step towards him, taking a deliberate bite of his snack. "And that," he told Yohji, "is why you'll want to come when I lead." He took another step. "I do believe you'll want any of what I give you to happen in private instead of in front of your friends. Imagine if they were to walk in on something intimate." Schuldich lifted his eyebrows. "Or what if I corner you one day when the shop is full and decide to take advantage of you right there?"

    Yohji shook his head in disbelief. Schuldich _wouldn't_...

    Schuldich tilted his head to one side, letting his bangs fall across his face as he held out his ice cream, setting it against Yohji's lips. There was a look dancing in his eyes, a look that declared himself the winner of this struggle, a look that dared Yohji to attempt to stop him.

    "Try me."

Part 4