Part Twelve: Temporary Peace

    The first thing that poked its way through his waking consciousness was that he was feeling extremely satisfied. His muscles felt the way they did after a long workout. He couldn't think of a reason why, though. There hadn't been a mission the previous night. He shifted slightly, and the second thing his mind picked up was that he was warm. Not just warm as in covered in a thin sheet warm, but quilt warm. He didn't have any thick blankets on his bed. The third thing, probably the most important, was the sound of a voice.

    "Put the knife down. It's too early to be bleeding all over the place." That voice was familiar, but the dragged-down tired sound to it was not a tone his mind wanted to put with the voice. "You should know better than to get in between me and the coffee pot this early in the morning. I will not hesitate to kill you if you do."

    There was a snicker in response to that threat.

    ~Yohji?...~ he wondered. The coffee maker was in the kitchen. His bedroom was a floor above that. He shouldn't be able to hear the conversation, unless they were talking loud and he'd left the door open.

    He cracked open his eyes, searching for the door. It wasn't where it was supposed to be. Instead, he was faced with someone's bare chest.

    A male's bare chest, more importantly. Who the hell was in his bed? Whoever dared to come into his room and climb into his bed was going to meet the pointy end of his katana. Aya slowly ran his gaze upward. Out of anyone he thought he'd see, the face that was attached to the body beside him was not one of those people. The brown eyes that watched him were guarded, as if waiting for an explosion.

    "Good morning."


    Crawford watched as Aya sprang backwards, half falling off the side of the bed. One of the light white blankets was partially draped around him, hanging low on his hips. He grabbed at it frantically, tugging it up until he was wrapped completely in it. His violet eyes were wide in disbelief, just as they'd been in the vision Crawford had had last night. Even though he'd known it was coming, that didn't stop the ache that seized his heart.

    "What is going on here?" Aya asked. It was probably supposed to come out as a demand, but it was almost too shaky to be a question.

    "You had amnesia."

    "I...I..." He was obviously scrambling for words.

    "Calm down," Crawford soothed him.

    "What the hell?" Schuldich appeared in the doorway, probably alerted by the shift in Aya's thoughts. Aya cast him a hunted look. Crawford sat up gingerly, lightly touching his cast. Before Schuldich could even open his mouth to start asking questions, Crawford lifted his good hand.

    "Not now."

    ~I don't need you jumping in right now. This is hard enough as it is.~

    Schuldich opened his mouth, looked back at Aya, and closed it again. Crawford slid off the other side of the bed, keeping himself covered with a sheet. He could tell from the look in Aya's eyes that the man's mind was reeling. He wasn't surprised. Aya and Ran were totally different, and both minds had just been put back together. He headed over to the closet, tucking his sheet in on itself so he could have a free hand, and selected two outfits. One was set aside. The other he carried towards the bed he had shared with Ran. He paused by it, holding it out and meeting Aya's gaze.

    "You might feel better if you're dressed," he offered.

    Aya glanced once more towards Schuldich. Schuldich obediently backed out of view. Aya nudged forward and took the clothes. Crawford motioned towards the bathroom, and Aya disappeared into it. The sound of the lock sliding into place was loud and clear. Crawford dressed himself and left the room. Schuldich and Farfarello were in the kitchen. Farfarello was on the counter, blood decorating his arm. Schuldich was sitting at the table, jade eyes accusing as he watched Crawford.


    "Stay away from his mind."


    "Ch'." Schuldich gave a toss of his head, offering his leader an almost scornful look. "I'm not going anywhere near that clusterfuck. Aya and Ran view Schwarz and you too differently. I don't want to listen to any of it."

    ~I know that. Don't rub it in my face.~ He said nothing.

    Someone paused outside the kitchen doorway, and all three turned to look. Aya was standing a few feet away, dressed and looking distinctly uncomfortable. "I can't stay here."

    Crawford gave the man an understanding look. "You aren't a prisoner here, Aya. You can come and go as you please." ~Hopefully do more coming than going...~ He wished his gift would tell him what would happen when Aya got his thoughts sorted out. He wanted to know. He wanted to know if Aya would leave. He wanted to know if Aya would come back to him.

    There was a reason Crawford didn't let himself get close to anyone. This was it. It had been bad enough when he'd thought his team had been killed in the explosion. This was far, far worse. This was...

    It was being sucked underwater while clawing desperately for the surface.

    It was being slowly squeezed until everything hurt and wouldn't stop.

    It was losing the world.

    Aya retreated a few steps, then turned and left. He shut the door quietly behind him.

    ~How did this happen in just a handful of days?~

    ~How did you come to mean so much? I brought you home for fun. For amusement, while I waited for my team to regroup. I suppose your innocence grew on me...You accepted me for who I am. You are the only one to have done that.~

    ~Am I going to lose you now?~


    Aya didn't know where he was going.

    He knew that he was drifting. He knew that he'd been wandering aimlessly over the city for most of the day. He knew that he hadn't stopped moving unless he'd been forced to. His mind was rolling in over itself. Aya and Ran. Ran and Aya. One had to back down.

    Aya had too much pride.

    Ran had love at stake.

    "Aya?" Someone's voice. A familiar voice. Aya turned. His eyes fell on Yohji. The playboy had just exited a restaurant. A girl was standing at his elbow. Yohji motioned for her to wait for him, and she nodded, smiling. Yohji started towards Aya. "Aya?"

    "Go away." Was he talking to himself or Yohji? He couldn't tell. His legs didn't obey, and the approaching man didn't slow.

    "Are you Aya or Ran?" Yohji asked, drawing even with him.

    ~Am I Aya or Ran??~

    Aya didn't realize the words had slipped past his lips until he saw concern wash over Yohji's face: "I don't know."

    "Aya..." Yohji took his elbow gently, trying to lead him back towards the waiting girl.

    Aya wasn't ready to go back. He tugged away. Yohji reached for him again, but Aya ducked out of his reach, heading off down the sidewalk. He heard Yohji raise his voice behind him, but didn't look back or slow. ~Not yet,~ Aya told himself and Yohji. ~Not yet!~

    That hotel had been a mixed heaven and hell. Hell, in that he'd been trapped without his memories, in that it now put his career at stake because of the way he'd come to see Schwarz. Heaven, for finding new people in the assassins of Schwarz. For finally learning to love someone other than his sister, even if it was wrong.

    For the soft touch of someone else's hand.

    For the feel of lips on his own, drinking him, making him dizzy.

    For the loss of a well-guarded virginity to the only one he would ever want to lose it to.

    ~Am I Aya or Ran?~

    He turned a corner and stopped, eyes landing on a foreign pub. Some of the words scrawled on the windows looked German. Thoughts of German led him to Schuldich, and to what Schuldich had said to him the other day.

    /In the end, there are two kinds of people./

    ~Two kinds...~

    /Those who pretend against what they are.../

    ~Aya was created when Aya-chan was injured.~

    /...And those who give in to what they are./

    /Which are you?/

    Aya stood still for several long moments, gazing at the pub. Then he turned and walked away.


    Crawford didn't turn around when he heard the glass door open behind him. He'd thought Schuldich would know better than to bother him out here. If it was Farfarello, he'd probably toss the Irishman off the balcony. The quiet voice that greeted him, however, belonged to neither of his team mates. "Crawford?"

    He turned to see Aya leaning against the now-closed door. His purple eyes were a whirl of emotions that told Crawford the man was still at a loss of how to react. Crawford inhaled quietly, not daring to say anything. He didn't have to, for Aya spoke again, moving away from the door until he was standing before Crawford.

    "....Did you know this was going to happen?"

    Crawford lifted a hand, brushing bangs out of Aya's face in an almost tender gesture. "Which part?" he asked, voice soft. "Did I know that what happened last night would take place?" Brown eyes moved over Aya's face, tracing the features there. "Or did I know what you would do to me?"

    "And what have I done to you?" Aya asked, words barely above a whisper.

    "You've taken something I thought I'd given up long ago." Crawford lowered his hand to Aya's chest, letting his fingers hover over the younger man's heart. Aya lowered his eyes, unable to meet Crawford's gaze any longer.

    Silence fell on them. Crawford waited. He needed to hear what Aya had to say, but he would wait for the words. After what seemed to be hours, Aya swallowed and turned his head away, letting his gaze drift over the city. "I can't...I can't turn my back on Weiß," he finally spoke up. "I can't drop everything we stand for."

    Crawford's reply was quiet. "I understand that."

    "But I can't," and Aya turned back to Crawford, his eyes searching Crawford's, "turn my back on Schwarz, either. Not after the past few days. I can't turn my back on you."

    Some of the tightness around Crawford's heart loosened, and he found it easier to breathe. "So where do we go from here?" Crawford wanted to know. It was a question his team usually asked him. He usually knew the answers. This was a problem he didn't know the answer to.

    Aya gave a small shake of his head, looking away again. "Weiß will be on some down time for a while. A few months, maybe. I went to speak to Manx today." He paused. "Ken was badly injured. He'll recover, but it will take time." He reached up, running his fingers through his hair. "This may be only temporary," he told Crawford. "But we have some time to figure out a compromise."

    Crawford reached out, gently turning Aya to face him again. "If this is just temporary," he said softly, "I want to make it last as long as possible. If it comes down to that, I want us to walk away without regret."

    Aya nodded once, slowly. "Aa." His voice cracked on the single word. Crawford tilted his head down, lips finding Aya's for a gentle kiss, sealing a promise he made to them both in his mind.

    ~I will find a way out of this for us.~

    ~I will not let this be just a temporary peace.~


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