Part Three: Lonely Humming

    "Sugoi~!" Ran breathed, taking in the hotel room. It was an expensive room and well equipped, even if it was less than what Crawford would usually stay in. The front room was the den, with a card table at the near end and a dinner table at the far. There was a comfortable looking couch with small tables and lamps at either end, and a lounge chair to one side. Across from the couch was the entertainment system- a wooden set of shelves stocked with a large TV and VCR. The door by the dinner table led to a large kitchen, and to the right of the TV was a door leading to the bedroom and its two beds. Another TV was in there, as was the door leading to the bathroom.

    Ran drifted through the place, admiring the richly decorated walls and the luxury the place afforded. The thought that someone would spend money to stay in a place like this was amazing. He peered into the bathroom, grinning in delight when he saw the jacuzzi bath. That would be fun.

    "How long are we going to be here?" he asked, turning to Crawford. His American friend had followed him with mild amusement as he'd explored the place.

    Crawford gave a shrug of his broad shoulders. "Probably until you get your memory back."

    Ran paused, pawing through his blank mind once more. He paused, chewing on his lower lip. "Do you think I'll get it back?" he asked hesitantly. The thought that his memory wouldn't return was frightening. On a short term basis, he could cope with just knowing his name and Crawford. After all, something had obviously happened to them that had to do with that exploding building, so this was a normal post-trauma experience.

    "That depends," Crawford said, calm brown eyes meeting Ran's worried purple ones.

    "On what?" Ran pressed when the other man didn't elaborate.

    "Maybe you don't want it." Crawford turned away and headed to one of the beds.

    Ran remained where he was for several moments, digesting those words. Why wouldn't he?...He gazed at Crawford in silence. The foreigner was removing his tie and jacket. The tie was folded neatly and placed on the small bedside table close to that bed, and the jacket was carried across the room to sit on the back of a chair. He was left wearing slacks and a white dress shirt, which, in Ran's opinion, looked uncomfortable. He sighed, raking his hands through his hair. "What happened there?" he asked, moving to the second bed and perching on the end of it. He crossed his legs and locked his fingers together on his knee. "You said you'd tell me why the building exploded, and what it had to do with me- and you."

    Crawford pushed his glasses further up his nose with his forefinger, turning to lean against the large dresser and study Ran. "The explosion wasn't supposed to happen. You, myself, and six others were there to do negotiations of some sort. We work for rival businesses that are extremely competitive. Our organizations are powerful, and we are more powerful than they are. They rely on us. Apparently someone wanted to take us out of the gambling game."

    Ran frowned, digesting that. "What's my job?" he asked. "What do I _do_?"

    There was amusement in his friend's eyes. "You kill people. You are an assassin."

    Ran gaped. "M-masaka!!" _Him_?

    "As am I." Crawford adjusted his glasses again. "I am telling you the truth. Believe it or deny it, it's up to you. That is all I will tell you about that."

    Ran was silent. His mind was turning in frantic circles. Him, an assassin? They were both assassins? Jeez...What a mind job...How could _he_ kill anyone? Killing was wrong. It was cruel. It was murder. He fidgeted, dropping his gaze from Crawford's to stare at the floor. If he was an assassin, and now he had his memory gone...

    "I don't," he finally said, quietly.

    "Don't what?"

    "Want them back. My memories, I mean." He raised sad eyes to Crawford. "If I was a killer...I don't want to remember it."

    Crawford's lips curved in a faint smirk. "Time will tell as to whether or not you will get your wish answered."

    Ran stood up and began to pace around the room. Crawford watched him calmly, eyes following the path the troubled redhead took back and forth. "So we're...assassins...." Ran breathed. "And that explosion- that was to kill us. Someone dangerous was and might still be after us. So now what? How do we know we're not going to be followed or anything? How long are we going to be safe?"

    "Nothing in this line of life is safe."

    "That was not the comforting answer I was looking for." Ran paused in front of Crawford, who sniffed in amusement and reached up to fix his glasses again. Irritated, Ran snatched them from his nose. He turned his back on Crawford, eyeing them. A screw was loose. "That is a really annoying habit," he told Crawford without looking back. The man didn't answer him, merely waited as Ran tightened the loose part with a fingernail. The redhead turned around and handed them back. Crawford put them on, and they fit snugly to his face.

    Ran eyed him, switching his gaze from eye to eye, for several moments, then sighed heavily and moved towards the window. He crossed his arms over his chest, using his hands to rub his upper arms in a self comforting gesture. They were quiet for several minutes, then Ran spoke.

    "If we're going to be here a while, we'll need food, ne?" he asked quietly. "And what are we going to wear?"

    "It seems we're going shopping," Crawford answered simply.


    An hour and a half later they returned to the hotel, Ran lugging the grocery bags and Crawford carrying the two bags of clothes. They'd bought three outfits apiece to last them through the next days. While Crawford neatly hung the clothes in the small closet of their room, Ran headed to the kitchen. Crawford pulled the outfits out of their bags one by one. When he was finished he would try to let down his mental shields enough to try and cast Schuldich a signal. If Schuldich was alive, the German would be able to find him. As Crawford was sliding the last shirt on its hanger, he paused, ears catching a small sound that seemed strikingly out of place. He tensed, hung the shirt, and set out to find the source of the sound. His ears was telling him what it was, but his mind was rejecting the idea.

    He moved silently to the doorway of the kitchen, where the sound was coming from. Ran was standing on tiptoes, putting bags of noodles away in the cabinets. He was the one making all that noise.

    He was humming.

    Crawford had not heard anyone hum in many years. It was something assassins didn't do, especially not ones with dignity. But there was Ran, smiling as he arranged the food neatly in their spots, humming- and humming well. He had a nice voice.

    Ran looked up when he noticed the attention and flashed white teeth in a grin. "Need something?" he asked.


    "Hungry?" Ran waved his fingers at the clock on the stove. "It's almost lunch time, and we didn't have breakfast. I'm starving." When Crawford didn't reply, he lifted a small bag of rice and wiggled it around between his index finger and thumb. "If I make rice balls, will you eat them?" he wanted to know.


    Ran smiled again, a pleased smile. "I make good rice balls," he boasted, turning to get everything ready. He reached out, flicking on a small radio that was attached to the underside of the cabinets. Soft rock spilled forth from the speakers. Crawford watched as the redhead swayed slightly side to side with the music, lighting rocking up on his toes and then back to his heels in small bobbing motions. When the younger assassin had heard enough to pick up the basic melody, Crawford heard his humming join the tune.

    He leaned against the doorway to listen and watch. He had been on his way to do something, but now he didn't remember what it was. For now, he was content to listen and watch. Ran was an interesting study, so different was he from Aya. Aya was cold, elegant, aloof, vicious. Ran smiled. Ran hummed. Ran had joked around and was now doing a small dance as he cooked rice balls.

    Ran was fascinating.

    It was amazing what amnesia could do to a person. Ran had forgotten completely about Aya-chan, Taketori, and the burning hatred and need for revenge that had driven him most of his life. He had forgotten about the flowershop, about his teammates...



    Crawford straightened and moved out of the doorway. How foolish of him, to let himself relax like that. He still had his team to find. Whatever was left of Schwarz needed to meet up again. How much of Weiß was still standing? They needed to find out. And most importantly- who had tried to destroy them? He sat on the window seat that led out to a small balcony, gazing through the glass. Slowly he began to peel down his mental walls in one spot. He was very cautious, and wary of doing it. Schuldich had never before been able to get a glimpse at Crawford before. Who knew what this would do, what it would give away.

    He continued to hold down his walls for several moments, waiting to see if there was a response. Schuldich was connected tightly to the three of them so he would always know if one of them needed anything. He never got anything from Crawford, but that vigil was still kept just in case.

    There was just silence.

    Crawford closed his mind. He removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose between his index finger and thumb, sliding his eyes shut. How strange...Schuldich was gone? Schuldich was the teammate Crawford had had longest. While they were not friends, they were partners. Crawford could not push back the sense of loss that echoed inside him. How could anything defeat Schuldich?

    Fingers brushed against his hand. Crawford opened his eyes. Ran was crouching on the floor, peering up at him. "I'm sorry...Did I make those too tight when I adjusted them?" he asked.

    "No. I was just thinking."

    "Ah." Ran rose to his feet in a lithe gesture. "The rice balls are done," he told Crawford, beckoning for the American to come. He turned and padded away.

    Crawford stared out the window for a minute longer, letting his gaze travel over the city outside. People were bustling everywhere. They all had people with them, they all had a place to go to. Their ignorance made them safe, made them see the world as a better place. Schwarz and Weiß had been cut off from that type of existance, but had found teammates. They had belonged to an organization and had people to suffer the same life from. And now...Schuldich hadn't answered.

    He had never felt more alone than he did in that moment.


    Ran lay on his bed in just his pants, stretched out on his stomach and reading a newspaper they'd picked up during the day. The hotel was an incredibly boring place to be, even with all of its furnishings. He'd tried to vegetate in front of the television set earlier, but none of the shows that were on had been any good. Crawford, who had been reading the newspaper, had finally traded him so he could watch the news. Ran had retreated to his room to read the comics.

    He smiled as he finished, yawning and closing the paper. His eyes sought out the alarm clock on his bedside table. 9:27. It was getting late, and he was bored out of his mind. He sighed and climbed off his bed, moving to the doorway to peer out at Crawford.

    "Do you need something?" the American asked without looking up.

    "I'm bored," he declared petulantly.

    "And what do you want me to do about that?"

    Ran grinned. "Entertain me?" he asked hopefully.

    "Go to sleep."

    "I'm not tired," Ran retorted. He ran a hand through his hair. "How about a walk? Will you take a walk with me?"

    "Why do you want me to come with you?"

    "Because I might get lost, that's why."

    Crawford eyed him for several moments, then flicked off the television set with his remote. "I'm giving you more leniency than I ever gave Schuldich. Tell me why." He stood and brushed his pants off, one hand rising to automatically adjust his glasses- glasses that now no longer slipped.

    Ran tilted his head curiously. "Schuldich?" he asked.

    Crawford hesitated, as if trying to decide how to word his answer. Ran waited patiently. "He was a partner of mine. I believe he was killed when the building exploded last night."

    Ran was horrified. "G-gomen..." he breathed. "I didn't mean to make you think about it."

    "We were partners, not friends." Crawford moved to get his jacket from the bedroom. Ran lowered his gaze to the carpet. Despite the way Crawford talked, he was sure Schuldich had meant more to him than just someone on a business level. He couldn't imagine the pain of losing a loved one...or the uncertainty of wondering if a friend was alive or dead.

    "Did I know him?" he asked quietly when Crawford was on his way back to the livingroom. What if he'd known this Schuldich person? What if Schuldich had been a friend of his, and had been forgotten by Ran because of his amnesia? How must that feel, to be forgotten by someone you trusted? His heart ached under his ribs and he lightly rubbed his chest to try and dispel it.

    Crawford paused beside him in the doorway, offering him an unreadable expression. "You could say that." He continued on, heading towards the front door. "Come along."

    Ran paused for a minute, digesting Crawford's words. When he heard Crawford unlocking the door, he shook himself out of his thoughts. He grabbed his discarded shirt from the bedroom, pulled it on, and hurried after his friend.

Part 4