Part Ten: Warning Vision




    ~This has to be the ultimate boredom,~ Ran thought, sighing aloud.

    Ran and Crawford had gone from the coffee shop to the library to waste more time. They'd been there for an hour and a half at least- the longest ninety minutes of Ran's entire life. He let his eyes run over the aisles that filled the massive library. The first twenty minutes had been all right...He'd spent them wandering around in search of something to read. Finding nothing, he'd turned to the magazine rack. Unfortunately, few of the magazines there had been able to catch his interest, and those now lay scattered on the table before him where he'd put them when done reading.


    "If you're bored, read a magazine," the American said without looking up from his newspaper.

    Ran sighed again. "I already did. They didn't have many good ones."

    "Find a book."

    "There aren't any."

    Brown eyes peered at him from over the top of the paper. "Take a nap," the man suggested.

    Ran frowned. "I'm not tired." It was Crawford's turn to sigh. The American set his newpaper down and tugged a sheet out, passing it to Ran with his good hand. Ran plucked it up. It was the comics section. He grinned happily. "Arigato!" This would provide five minutes of entertainment.

    Silence fell over them once more as they read. Ran finished all too quickly, however, and was left again with the problem of having nothing to do. He considered bugging Crawford once more, then wisely changed his mind. Instead he flipped the comics over to see if there were any articles on the back. To his disappointment, the top half of the page was a huge ad for a type of perfume. The bottom half, however...

    Ran's eyes lit up, interested. The bottom half listed the movies that were playing in nearby theaters. "Crawford?" he asked. There was a long pause, then Crawford lowered the newspaper enough to peer at him. Ran grinned a bit self-consciously. "Want to go see a movie?"

    "I don't see movies."

    Ran blinked, surprised. "That's no fun. What _do_ you do?"

    "I kill people and read newspapers." Crawford's eyes disappeared as the man turned back to his articles.

    ~He says it like it's an everyday thing,~ Ran mused. He looked down at the movie listings longingly. He was going to go crazy if he had to stay in here any longer. Tempting fate, for he knew Crawford hated to be interrupted, he leaned over the table and put his hand on the newspaper, bending the tops of the pages down. This gave him a clear view of Crawford's face. The look Crawford gave him was a mix between unreadable and tolerance, but Ran knew that he was trying Crawford's patience.

    "Why don't you go see movies?" There, a simple enough question.

    "They are a waste of my time. I am a busy person."

    "You're not, now," Ran pointed out. "You haven't done much except hang around the hotel and coffee shops for the past few days. You said you're an assassin, but you obviously don't have an employer right now. So why don't you relax?"

    "I do not relax."

    "I've noticed." Ran tugged the newspaper away. Crawford had a tight grip on it, but it was two hands against one, and Ran was more stubborn. "You can't live by just focusing on killing," he told Crawford gently. "Learn to get out and relax now and then."

    "I would not be surprised, Ran, if you have heard those same words in your past."

    Ran blinked, confused. "What?"

    Crawford folded the newspaper neatly and set it aside. "If sending you to a movie will calm you down, then I'll drop you off at a theater."

    Ran shook his head, propping his elbows on the table and perching his chin on his hands. "You have to come too," he told the American. "That's the whole point of going." When Crawford said nothing, Ran put on his best pleading face. "Pleeeeeeeeease?"


    That...had been an interesting experience, albeit an uncomfortable one. Crawford led Ran out of the theater. He knew he shouldn't have gone in the first place, but seeing the former Aya make a puppy dog face had been worth it all. He wished he'd had a camera, so that when Ran regained his memories he could hand it over. And yet...For Ran to get his memories back...

    Ran and Aya. Two men, living in the same body. One had been buried, to preserve its innocence. The other had taken up a blade and the life of an assassin. Now the tide had turned and it was the assassin that was hidden while the innocent one gasped for air and life.

    Ran had the same looks as Aya, but more expressions. He moved with the same grace, but without the lethal intent. He knew how to smile and laugh, and exercised those talents frequently. He was the boy that Aya should have been, the boy that lost his gamble for life when Aya-chan was injured. He was the one that had been stuffed far out of sight where no one could find him, where no one could hurt him or touch him.

    Crawford found them equally interesting- Aya, for his beauty and determination, for the way he would sacrifice everything for a single girl; Ran, for the promise of what could have been and was trying to be. Ran was the past, Aya the present. Which one of them would gain control of the future? It reminded him of his own struggle through life. Before Estet, he had been a tormented child who knew too much to ever fit into society, with Estet he had been a lap dog and assassin. Without Estet, he had taken his own way- as the one who would never fit in and would continue to kill.

    Ran tugged at his arm from where he'd latched on under the pretense that without hanging on, he'd get lost in the crowd. "Ne~?" he asked. "What did you think of the movie?"

    "I prefer to spend my days at home."

    Ran laughed, that clear and pleasant sound, fingers tightening ever so slightly on Crawford's sleeve. Crawford found himself studying those hands. Anyone else would have roughened their hands from playing with swords like Aya so frequently did. It seemed Aya had a vain streak, though- he wore gloves. The hands that held onto Crawford appeared to be smooth. Crawford briefly wondered if they felt like silk to the touch. They looked like they would...

    He had never answered the question of why he allowed Ran to hang on him, to touch him. Perhaps it was because it was a different touch than he was used to. His ex-employers had always touched him with a possessive air. They had always viewed him as a thing, to be bought and passed around, to be used. When Schuldich touched Crawford- he was too smart to do it often- he was usually after something. Farfarello did not touch Crawford, plain and simple. The Irishman disliked contact, unless it was from Schuldich or he was killing something. Nagi didn't touch Crawford either. Nagi did not invade Crawford's personal space. He craved his own too much to go cavorting in others'.

    So what was Ran's touch? He struggled for an answer. It contact, in a way. Ran saw him as a person, saw him for what he could be and what he was rather than what he did and could do. Ran asked for nothing in his touch, only offered.

    "Where to now?" Crawford asked, the words slipping from his mouth. He was mildly surprised that he was asking Ran where he wanted to go. Crawford did not ask around for suggestions...He told people where to go and they listened.

    Ran blinked up at him, then thought it over. "Is it safe to go back to the hotel yet?" he asked.

    Crawford considered it. Yes, it probably was, but...He didn't feel like returning there. "Probably not just yet," he answered smoothly.

    Was that an expression of relief that briefly curved Ran's lips?

    "Well then..." Ran grinned sheepishly. "I'm hungry. Are you?"

    Crawford blinked, only noticing his hunger when Ran spoke. Breakfast had been quick- just a grain bar on the way out the door. Farfarello had had plenty of sleep, so there was no telling when he'd wake up and want to make a mess of the room's sheets. "Aa."

    "Let's eat some American food," Ran suggested, grinning.

    "I didn't think you liked it."

    "I don't know if I've ever tried it." Ran laughed.

    Crawford couldn't argue with that. "Come along, then."


    Ran leaned against the washing machine, watching the bottom fill with water. Schuldich had been sent to do the laundry upon returning to the hotel, and Ran had offered to help him. He let Schuldich take care of the sheets while he looked to getting the clothes done. Lunch had been fun. It had taken a bit to get Crawford to open up. As they had eaten, Crawford had loosened enough for them to have a pleasant debate over some of the recent government decisions that were headlines in the news. It had been interesting and fun, and both had returned home in good spirits.

    Ran realized the machine was agitating and shook himself from his thoughts, lowering the clothes in carefully, piece by piece. He knew he was smiling like a daydreaming fool, but he couldn't help it. The day had been perfect. Schuldich and Farfarello had patched things up and he had spent the entire morning with Crawford.

    "Saa..." Schuldich glanced over at him, his jade eyes thoughtful as he pushed his sheets into another washer. "You're good for him."

    Ran looked up, surprised by the comment. "Hm?"

    Schuldich's expression was neutral, and he seemed to be choosing his words carefully- as if, Ran noticed, he usually didn't say such things. "He's not as stiff as he usually is. Somehow or other, you make him relax."

    "You said what I want with him is impossible."

    Schuldich gave a shrug, closing the washing machine. "They said taking a knife from Farfarello without getting eaten alive was impossible. I still learned how." His lips curled into a smirk. Ran smiled back. Then Schuldich's smirk turned mischievous. "You could probably seduce him if you weren't such an obvious virgin."

    "Schu!" Ran protested, feeling his cheeks heat up.

    The expression that flashed across the German's face for a split second was that of complete surprise before he burst out laughing. "Schu?" he repeated, turning away from and leaning against his machine. His eyes were amused as he turned them on Ran.

    "I'm sorry," Ran apologized quickly. It had just slipped. He wasn't entirely sure where the nickname had come from, and now he was sure he'd offended the older man.

    Schuldich waved a hand in dismissal, as if he could sense Ran's fears. "Nein, nein, kätzchen. Call me whatever you want." Ran was reassured that there was only amusement in that tone. Half of the German's wide mouth twitched in the beginnings of what might be a grin. The man's gaze went from him to the washers. "Looks like we're stuck down here for twenty minutes until the clothes are to be moved."

    "You can go back to the room if you want," Ran offered. "I can stay here and watch them. I'll just go to the front lounge and watch television."

    Schuldich smirked. "Worried about Farfarello noticing my absence?" Ran nodded in reply. "He's playing with the blender. He'll be occupied for a while."

    "That's what you said when you claimed to have given him sleeping drugs," Ran reminded him dryly. "Go on." He smiled. "I don't mind, and I'd rather not play referee if he throws another jealous fit."

    Schuldich stood, straightened, and stretched. As he turned to go, he paused. His jade eyes found Ran's violet ones and silence stretched between them. When Schuldich turned away, Ran had the feeling that the German had readjusted his opinion of Ran, or that perhaps they'd come to an understanding. Schuldich's eyes had given him a silent thanks without giving anything at all. The acceptance in those eyes, the way he'd looked at Ran as if the man was a partner and not just someone who had followed his boss home, meant more than anything Ran could have asked for. Schuldich was grateful for Ran's help with Farfarello, but the German would never say it. He was too proud, and besides, it wasn't his way.

    Ran watched the German move away, then turned and headed towards the lounge, a feeling of total peace stealing over him.


    Schuldich digested Crawford's words in silence, mulling them over as he tugged the sheets back into place. The leader of Schwarz had just explained to him the standing theory of the explosion. It made sense. The fact that Schwarz would have to look to Weiß, though, was degrading. Schwarz was so much better than Weiß. Weiß was merely a form of entertainment, was merely a group there to take the downfall if anything went wrong, to take out targets and save Schwarz the trouble.

    Weiß and Ran. Ran and Weiß. Schuldich could not put them together in his mind, could not slide that smiling man who had braved Farfarello's jealous anger into the slot Abyssinian usually occupied. That man out there...that was not Aya. That was a person all on his own. It had taken Ran stepping in between Schuldich and Farfarello in the midst of their fight to make his view of the man change. Before, Ran had still been Aya- an Aya with amnesia, who was so much fun to play with. Now they were split evenly: Yohji, Omi, Ken, and Aya on one side, Ran on the other.

    And that Ran was pining after Crawford. Schuldich pulled something off his bedside table, then crossed the room to lounge in the bathroom doorway. His eyes traced his boss's form where it was reflected in the mirror. Crawford was shaving at the moment, since he had not stopped to do it that morning. Schuldich didn't understand the necessity of it; Crawford never had any extra facial hair that Schuldich or anyone else could see. Schuldich was of the opinion that it didn't grow simply because Crawford did not wish it to. Still, shaving was part of a daily routine, something that was normal.

    In the silence, Schuldich could hear the sounds of the television set. Ran was watching some news bulletin. Behind the droning voice of the newscaster was the sound of the blender. Farfarello was still at it, he noticed with mixed affection and amusement. "So someone has to go back to the kittens' house?" Schuldich asked, glancing over at the clock. It was eight o' clock- a few hours past closing time at the flower shop.

    "Aa. I'm going in just a few moments."

    "Nein. I'll go." When Crawford met his gaze in the mirror, Schuldich let a lazy smirk trace his lips. "You have more important things to tend to."

    "Oh?" The word was soft, inflectionless. It was a warning and a challenge all in one tidy bundle.

    "You need to lay Ran." Apparently Crawford's clairvoyance had not warned him of that comment, because the American almost cut himself. His brown eyes narrowed. Before he could speak, Schuldich continued. "What? The kid is obviously crazy about you."

    "I suggest you stick to your own business, Schuldich."

    That was a threat. Schuldich's smirk widened. "I've made this my business."

    "He put you back in Farfarello's bed, so you try to shove him in mine?" Crawford asked dryly, leaning down. He cupped his hands under the running water of the sink and rinsed his face. Schuldich watched him, watched the shaving cream slide down the sides of the sink before vanishing down the drain.

    Schuldich shrugged. "Better to have fucked and lost than never fucked at all. You don't know how much time is left with Ran before Aya returns." Crawford did not answer. From the way he stiffened faintly and his eyes blanked, Schuldich guessed he was having a vision. When it was gone, Schuldich set the item he had in his hand on the counter.

    Crawford dried his face and straightened. He turned, eyes on the small bottle Schuldich had set down. It was a hotel provided lotion that Schuldich had used as lubricant. He swept it off the counter, into the trash can. Schuldich sighed, irritated, until Crawford caught Schuldich's gaze. His brown eyes were expressionless and cold.

    "You may not know how much longer Ran will be here," the American told him, "but I do."

    Schuldich moved out of the way, watching as Crawford left the bathroom and headed towards the front door. That vision...It had had to do with Ran.

    And Aya.

    ~So,~ Schu mused, moving to the trash can to retrieve his precious bottle, ~was it a good one or bad one?~

Part 11