Part Four

    Omi waved goodbye to Ken and turned his feet in the direction of the library. He sighed heavily as he padded along, gazing up at the sky. He had hoped that their talk with Manx would have turned up some useful advice. He had hoped she would push for counseling. She hadn't seemed too concerned over the decay of Weiß, however, and he wondered if her attention was being focused on other parts of Tokyo. The world wasn't a peaceful place...Just because it was quiet here didn't mean no one was needed to instill justice.

    He glanced over his shoulder at Ken's retreating back. He had offered Ken the chance to accompany him to the library without thinking- or hoping- that the boy would take him up on it. He wouldn't know what to do or say if Ken came along and saw Crawford.

    That didn't stop him from feeling guilty, though. He felt like he was leaving his friend without companionship, like he was allowing Ken to isolate himself from a friendly face to talk to.

    He didn't even know if Crawford would be there. This time was later than his previous meetings with Crawford. When he'd first started spending time with Crawford, he hadn't had the afternoon shift. His friends had reworked the schedule so he could have the time right after school free. In return, Omi had taken up closing the shop and weekend shifts. Now things were returning to normal. There was always the chance that Crawford would have shown up earlier but was still there, reading.

    That explained why Schwarz was so quiet...Their leader was off in the library most of the day.

    ~No, not Schwarz,~ Omi corrected himself sternly. ~We decided yesterday that our teams stay outside the library walls.~

    He pulled open the doors and stepped into the warmth that was the library, moving forward as his eyes adjusted to the change in light. Crawford was here, he noticed with some relief. He made his way in that direction.

    "I am sorry I am late," he said.

    Crawford looked up and the corner of his mouth twitched in a faint smile. "You are on time," he responded.

    "On time...?" Omi repeated, then blinked. "You saw that I would come now?"

    "Of course." He gestured to the two mugs of coffee and the biscuits.

    It was strange, but at the same time Omi was glad that Crawford had known he would be arriving late. He seated himself. "Thank you for the coffee." He cupped his hands around one mug, letting the warmth seep through him. "It's a little chilly out."

    Crawford didn't have the usual array of books and magazines stacked neatly around him. All he had now was a newspaper, and it was still folded and set before him. The American took a sip of his own drink, eyes skimming the front page. Omi peered across the table, seeing what the headline was. Oh...It was about the rising politician Wakashita Touya. A slight frown pulled at Omi's mouth as he studied the man's picture. In his humble opinion, Wakashita didn't have what it took or needed for the position he was currently holding.

    Crawford lightly tapped the picture, and Omi looked up to see the American's eyes on him. "He is a fool," he said simply.

    "In some ways, yes," Omi agreed. "I don't think he is looking at the right career. He doesn't have the strength for this one."

    "Indeed. He has a good face and he presents himself well. He is too easily intimidated, however, and there are many hands pulling the strings around him."

    "People are too easily corrupted," Omi reflected quietly, sipping at his drink. "He could cause Takatori," he added.

    "It would be wise to take him out in the early stages, then, before he grows too strong."

    Omi hesitated. "Why doesn't your group get rid of him, then, if you can identify him as a threat?"

    "My group is not as interested in maintaining peace and order. He might prove to be useful if the right fingers grab his strings. It is your job to clear the garbage."

    "Well..." What excuse to use? "Weiß is..." Busy? Still working on another mission?

    "Defunct," Crawford filled in. Omi didn't look at him. "As is Schwarz." This time Omi did look up, startled eyes meeting Crawford's calm ones. Crawford sipped at his drink. "Your teammate is coming soon: Hidaka Ken."

    "He's coming because he wants company, most likely," Omi said. "I feel bad...I let him wander off on his own when our group is...well, out of order." "

    "He has company," Crawford corrected him easily. "Nagi is always there."

    "Nagi?" Omi repeated, eyes widening.

    There was amusement in Crawford's eyes. "They are good for each other." He paused, as if considering his words. "As Kudou and Fujimiya are good for each other."

    "That's not comforting," Omi told him. "Aya and Yohji are at each other's throats day in and day out." He'd said it. He'd told Crawford that his team was ripping itself apart. And now that he'd started he couldn't stop. "They've been doing nothing but fight for weeks and weeks. They hate each other so much and now we can't function. I have to come here. I have to have an escape because they're tearing everything apart and it's always so loud there and it's always so quiet here and you treat me like an equal and they treat me like a kid." He had to stop there to take a deep breath. He rubbed at his face, trying to calm himself. He felt like he was choking at even the thought of going home.

    "I suspected as much." Two hands slid against his, long fingers closing on his wrists gently. Crawford lowered Omi's hands from his face. The American's face was serene but his eyes were reassuring. "They won't fight forever."

    ~This is why they always treat you like a kid,~ Omi told himself. ~Because you always need someone to look after you and cheer you up. Because you can't take care of yourself.~

    Omi put on a brave face, giving a nod. "Yes, I know."

    ~It's possible that they'll fight forever,~ Omi mused to himself in despair. ~They pick up more heat each time they squabble.~

    "Do not worry about Nagi and Hidaka," Crawford told him, rising and gathering his things to go. "They are on truce together."

    "Like us?" Omi ventured.

    Crawford considered it for just a moment. "Aa," he answered at length. With that, he turned and left. Omi murmured a farewell as Crawford moved away, eyes falling to his wrists. He rubbed at them absently. Crawford must have squeezed a little too hard...His wrists were tingling. Only minutes after Crawford disappeared through the door, Ken entered. He had his jacket back. He hadn't had it earlier...

    Ken had been meeting Nagi? Then, Nagi had had Ken's jacket?

    Life was far too confusing. But he put on a happy face as Ken approached, shoving everything else aside. Later he would ask about Nagi. Later.


    Ken let the door slam behind them and Omi shoved his hands in his pockets, trying to calm down. He couldn't believe he'd just yelled at his teammates...Crawford had told him they would patch things up, but he couldn't wait for that, could he? He'd turned around and exploded. Part of him was shocked that he'd done it, the rest was just irritated that they'd brought their war into the shop when it was crowded. They knew better than that! No one would come to the shop if they were at each other's throats. Without missions, it was important to keep the shop running.

    He gave a shake of his head. "They're...impossible. I couldn't help it."

    Ken was quick to answer, shooting him an alarmed glance as if surprised by Omi's apology. "They deserved it, Omi. You've put up with them better than us. I would run away and you would always try to make them calm down. Anyone would have lost it."

    ~But I shouldn't have,~ Omi wanted to say, but he was quiet. ~They're going to clear things up...I needed to be patient. I'll make things worse if I enter their fight.~

    They stopped at the street corner where they always split up, and Omi peered up at Ken's face. Now he knew Ken was going to meet Nagi every time they separated. He still wasn't sure what to think about that. But Crawford said they were on truce. He had said they were good for each other.

    "Where do you go?" he asked, unable to stop his curiosity. What place did Nagi visit so often that he and Ken shared?

    "To a coffee shop," Ken answered a little vaguely. "Why? Do you get lonely at the library?"

    "Oh, no," Omi answered quickly. "I have-" He couldn't say he had Crawford to talk to. "I have friends there." He saw Ken's faint frown. "What about you? You have people to talk to, right?" he asked, trying to change the focus of the conversation.

    Ken was quiet for a long time, as if considering how to answer the question. Finally he laughed. "Yes, Omi. There's someone there that I meet." He smiled and ruffled Omi's hair. "Don't worry."

    Omi smiled, allowing himself to feel some relief. There had been nothing in Ken's eyes as he thought to give away some sort of uneasiness or unhappiness from his meetings with Nagi. Instead, his eyes had been thoughtful and fond. Crawford was right. They were getting along. "I'm glad."

    "Tell your friends I said hi," Ken said.

    Omi couldn't stop the grin that flickered across his face. "I will, Ken-kun. Tell your friend the same."

    "I will," Ken assured them.

    As they parted, Omi knew neither of them were going to do it. He hummed quietly to himself as he moved down the sidewalk, feeling a little encouraged from his talk with Ken. At least the older boy was happy.

    Crawford was outside of the library today. As Omi approached, he offered a styrofoam cup of coffee. Omi accepted it. When Crawford turned and began moving down the sidewalk, Omi fell in alongside him without question. A comfortable silence fell between them as they walked. The morning sun felt good on Omi's bare arms and the breeze was cool. The coffee was as delicious as always, and the company...

    The company was peaceful. Omi smiled into his drink. At times like this, he believed everything would be all right in the end.

    "Can you hang on for another day?" Crawford asked, pausing in front of a post office. There was a drop box on the outside for out-of-town letters, and Crawford slid some envelopes through the slot. He turned back to face Omi.

    "What happens then?" Omi asked.

    "Then our teammates will bring themselves back to reality."

    "They'll stop fighting?" Omi asked, breath catching in his throat. One more day of fighting, and they'd be done? His heart skipped a beat in excitement. Crawford nodded, and Omi couldn't stop the wide grin that curled his lips. One more day and they'd calm down.

    He paused. "Our?" he asked. "_Our_ teammates?"

    Crawford gave him that faint smile that meant he knew something Omi didn't. It was a softer version of the one that had mocked him and his team back in the early days of Schwarz versus Weiß. Omi decided Crawford would never be able to get rid of that expression, as a clairvoyant, but he did like that Crawford had kept it from coming out haughty.

    "Schwarz is in the same position as Weiß," Crawford said simply. "Schuldich and Farfarello are in the midst of their jealousy spats. But they will calm down. Everything will settle down."

    "And return to the way it used to be?" Omi asked cautiously. Return to what it was...Schwarz versus Weiß...Nagi and Ken would be enemies again, and that fond look in Ken's eyes would vanish. Crawford and Omi would be enemies again, and he would be left remembering this peaceful lull in his days, this haven and companionship.

    Crawford glanced at him assessingly. "Life is what we wish it to be," he said in response.

    "Or what you see it to be," Omi said cheekily.

    A smile twitched on Crawford's lips. "That too."

    "So what do you see?"

    Crawford turned to fully face Omi, his eyes unreadable. Omi's breath caught in his throat again, but this time he couldn't contribute it to giddiness over the upcoming peace in his group. He tried to swallow but couldn't. He wanted to look away but that was impossible. It was like he was frozen to the spot, unable to do anything else than stare up at Crawford.

    Crawford offered a faint smile then. "I see," he said, "that you are going to taste like cafe latte."

    With that, he leaned down and kissed Omi.

Part 5