Part One: The Explosion

    The first thing he was aware of was the sound of heavy things settling slightly. Next was the sensation of pain- something he had not felt in a long time. He tried to shift his position, only to learn that such movements only sent more fiery agony up his arm. He lay still, trying to control his breathing and will the pain away, keeping his eyes closed when he felt dirt trickling onto his face. His thoughts were scattered and he slowly began to gather them and put them in order.

    What had gone wrong? It was supposed to have been a simple mission. All right...Take a few steps back in memory. He and Nagi had met Aya and Omi in the laboratories that were built into the foundation of this enormous building. They had been about to clash in battle when something unexpected had happened, something that hadn't previously been revealed to him in a vision. He tried to quell a rising headache, digging resolutely into his mind. Distantly he remembered a bright flash of light, and as the four had spun around to discern the source of such a thing, an explosion had slammed into him. Crawford must have blacked out when the blast threw him.

    Crawford's mouth twitched in the beginnings of a frown. The lab had exploded. Who had set the explosion? It couldn't have been Weiß, for a few good reasons. One, the assassins had just arrived. Two, why would Weiß blow the place up when all four of them were still in there? Schuldich and Farfarello had met the other two on the top floors.

    The small stream of dirt onto his face had stopped. He lifted his good hand and brushed it off, slowly opening his eyes. He was grateful that he had chosen to wear his contacts. If he'd had his glasses on, they would have been destroyed in the blow and he would be half blind right now.

    Considering the sight that met his eyes, he wondered if he would prefer being blinded. The situation he was in was not a good one. He was on his back, sprawled among concrete chunks that had been ripped up from the floor. One arm was bent and resting on his chest, the other was pinned under some rubble, broken. What was above him was more worrisome, however. The entire building had collapsed on top of the foundation. Only the arrangement and size of some of the pieces of what were once floors and walls kept them from falling. in some places around Crawford the rubble had already fallen through. From the creaking of the 'ceiling' just seven feet above him, it would not be long before it collapsed and crushed him.

    Crawford cursed his faulty power. Why hadn't it warned him of this?

    He reached up slowly, carefully, to remove the devris that was covering his other arm. finished, he cradled the broken limb to his chest and sat up gingerly. From the throbbing in his body it was clear he was goin to have some severe bruising from this. When was the last time something had managed to hurt him? He didn't remember. It was too long ago.

    Something crackled and Crawford tensed, trying to place the sound. It sounded a bit like static, almost like...His head swiveled to the left and behind him. Stretched out on his stomach on the ground was Aya, one arm arm out in front of him, fingers half-clenched and a communicator sitting beside the hand. The thing crackled again, and Crawford deduced that someone was probably trying to activate it to let any other conscious Weiß know they were alive. Since there were no words, that probably meant the assassin in question was in trouble or unable to get the device to his mouth. He picked himself to his feet, climbing over the concrete obstacles to stand by Aya. Calmly he put his foot on the communicator and pressed down. It crunched under his weight and shattered.

    "Nnn..." Aya stirred faintly. Crawford watched calmly as the redhead slowly came to. Weiß's leader carefully pushed himself into a sitting position, head still lowered. Dust rolled off him in a steady stream and Aya coughed, choking on it.

    "You should look into that cough. You don't sound too good," Crawford spoke up, voice even.

    Aya stiffened and looked up, lips twisting into an angry scowl. "Crawford..."

    "Yes. Very good," Crawford answered, sarcasm faintly tinging his words. Aya's hand automatically went to where his katana should be- and wasn't. Crawford had a small vision. "You might not want to get up right now." Aya, of course, did not listen and tried to get to his feet. Unfortunately for him, one side of his coat was trapped under a rock and he was pulled back to his knees. "I did warn you," Crawford said dryly, lips twitching in the beginnings of a smirk.

    Aya glared at him. "Do you find this," and he jerked a hand around, "_amusing_, Schwarz?"

    Crawford raised a thin eyebrow. "Seeing as my arm is broken...No, Weiß, I do not." Aya paused, digesting this, violet eyes raking over the arm Crawford was holding carefully against his chest. Crawford reached out with a foot, shoving the rock that pinned Aya down away. Cautiously, Aya rose to his feet, keeping his narrowed gaze on the American. Crawford turned. "Well then. Lets go."

    "'Lets'?" Aya repeated.

    "I know the way out, but I doubt I can get far with just one arm. If you want to try and get out of here, I suggest you come with me." Crawford started picking his way across the ground, picturing the layout of the building in his mind.

    "I'm not going anywhere with you."

    What a stubborn man. Crawford didn't look back or slow. "If you do not mind, I would like to get out of here before the building settles and we are squashed under several tons of concrete." There was silence for a long moment as Aya studied the ceiling, then the redhead started after him. As Crawford paused to eye a small slope and figure out which places would probably hold his weight best without giving, Aya drew even with him. "This does not change anything, Weiß. We are still enemies. I do believe our fight would be better if resumed on stable ground, though."

    "Aa." It was a grudging agreement.

    Crawford gave a slight nod and began to pick his way upwards. Aya found the chore a bit easier, as he had two hands for balance. The redhead reached the top first, standing on what remained of the first floor, and waited impatientlyfor Crawford to catch up. As Crawford neared the peak there was a low groan from the building- more a strained rumbling vibration than a noise. The ground shook beneath them, causing both men to stumble. Behind them came the sound of crashing. They glanced back to see the area where they'd woken up covered completely in rubble and exchanged looks.

    "Aren't you glad you saw things my way?" Crawford taunted quietly. He gestured with his good hand to the place in front of them. "There's a door behind that mess, with a hall leading out a back exit."

    Aya eyed the spot for a bit before moving to start clearing it away. Crawford stood off to the side, useless with just one hand. He watched as the Weiß assassin's muscles bunched under his gear with the strain of moving so much heavy debris. The groaning came again and Aya sped up, sweat dotting his brow. Far above them they could hear the sound of things falling as upper levels sagged more. Finally the door was uncovered. Aya yanked at the handle but the door wouldn't budge. He dealt it a vicious kick and it creaked.

    "Kick it at the same time," he snapped at Crawford.

    The American moved up beside him. Aya counted to three and they both kicked the door as hard as they could. The noise of it opening covered Crawford's involuntary gasp as kicking jarred his bad arm. Dizziness and nausea washed over him as a result of the pain and he had to steady himself against the doorframe. Both men peered into the hall ahead of them. The walls had collapsed, making the hall an obstacle course, and they could practically _see_ the ceiling trembling under the weight of the rest of the building. Less than a hundred feet away was the exit, the door blown off its hinges from the first explosion. Through the doorway they could the night outside. The ceiling of the hall creaked, lowering slightly, and dust rained down. The two assassins straightened, their nerves pulled tight, and gazed at each other.

    "Run," Crawford said simply. "As fast as you can." He had a feeling he wouldn't make it out. With only one hand to aid him it would take too long to get over the debris, and if that didn't slow him, having to stop because of constant jarring of his arm would. He would be too slow. From the look in Aya's eyes, the other assassin knew that too.

    Aya reached out, grabbing Crawford's good elbow. He jerked, and an off-balance and stumbling Crawford followed as he was dragged down the hall. He grabbed as his bad arm, trying to hold it against his chest. "Don't ask me why I'm doing this," Aya said through clenched teeth as he scrambled over a particularly large chunk, pulling Crawford behind him.

    "I won't," Crawford replied, a breathless answer as white hot pain laced up his arm. A thunderous cracking rent through the air. "It's giving!" He could see the ceiling splitting behind them, the crack racing towards them. Aya didn't look back, but his grip tightened. The door was so close...

    The crack raced overhead them, the ceiling opening to begin showering dust and rocks of various sizes and weights down on the two. Crawford saw a piece strike Aya across the head and shoulders. The redhead went down. Crawford released his broken limb, twisting his good arm to grab Aya's upper arm and yank him forward. He stumbled forward the last few yards through the chunks that were raining down on them, trying to ignore the pain. A rock hit his bad arm and a strangled cry wrenched itself from his lips-

    -then they were out, Crawford falling forward and landing on his bad limb, Aya hitting the ground to his side. The last thing Crawford saw before the pain yanked him into a welcome unconsciousness was the blood covering one side of Aya's face.


    Crawford was brought back to awareness by a hand gently patting his cheek and a voice that would have sounded familiar if there wasn't something off about it. "Hey...Hey, wake up. Sir, you need to get up now." Whose voice was that? It sounded almost like...Crawford's eyes slowly opened. Aya was crouching beside him, the blood on his face mostly dried. The boy sighed in relief, rocking back on his heels. "Oh, good, you're awake." Crawford wondered if he was dreaming, for in the next moment, Aya grinned at him. "I was afraid you'd been hit into a coma or something. Do you have a concussion? How many fingers am I holding up?"


    Aya nodded, grin widening, then turned to eye the collapsed building. Crawford looked as well. Once a proud forty stories tall, it had been crushed to ttwenty. Police sirens were approaching. Aya whistled softly, shaking his head. "I wonder what happened there."

    His voice was...wrong. Not as cold. "An explosion," Crawford said dryling, sitting up carefully. "Remember?"

    Aya laughed, an embarrassed sound, and scratched his head. "Actually, no. I've never even seen this building before."

    Crawford eyed Aya with concealed surprise. Temporary amnesia, perhaps, due to the blow on his head? If so, how much did Aya remember? "Do you remember your name?"

    "Of course." Aya grinned again, a quick flashing of his teeth. "I'm Ran."

    If Aya thought he was Ran, then the most memories he could have were those up until around Aya-chan's "accident". That was quite a washing. Crawford stood. He needed to leave before the police showed up.

    Ran peered up at him. "Where are you going?"


    "You should see a doctor about that arm."

    "That too."

    Ran climbed to his feet hesitantly. "I don't suppose I can come with you?"

    Crawford eyed him. "Why?"

    Ran's smile was gone and the younger man shifted uncomfortably. "You asked me if I knew my name. Well...That's practically all I remember."

    "Then why are you so willing to trust me?" That much of his memories were gone? Crawford had grossly underestimated the extent of the boy's damage.

    Ran stuffed his hands in the pockets of his coat. "You're the only other thing I can remember. I remember your face, and know you're important...I can't recall anything else. Not even your name."

    The two men gazed at each other. Finally Crawford lifted his good shoulder in a shrug. This could prove to be interesting. "I am Crawford. Come along." He started away, and a relieved Ran followed behind.

Part 2