P.O.D --- Payment on Delivery

Seventeen: Last Waltz
"You weren't supposed to be what I was looking for."

    Schuldich spotted the Takatoris as soon as he stepped off the elevator into the waiting room. The sons were discussing something in the corner while Reiji snarled something into his phone about how the doctors hadn't bothered to wait on their arrival before drugging Ken. Schuldich had to wonder who he was talking to, and he forced his gaze away from them before they looked his way. They turned his direction, sending cool glances towards the new arrival to the waiting room, and Schuldich wondered how many of the other guests were their bodyguards. He wasn't interested in drawing suspicion to himself and kept one hand on his bandaged eye as he started slowly towards the front desk.

    Was he supposed to sign in? He didn't have an appointment and surely the receptionist would notice that.

    The doors opened then that led into the back rooms and the doctor that had tended to him downstairs beckoned. "Here," he said. "I have your room ready. The ER said they were going to send you up."

    "I'm glad you could work me in on such short notice, Schuldich said, starting his direction. The man waved that off, going on about his eye and how urgent it was to have his face looked at quickly to avoid scarring. He stopped his monologue as soon as the door shut behind Schuldich and took a step back to consider the German. Schuldich stared back in silence and finally the doctor shook his head.

    "Room 519," he said, and he headed away.

    Schuldich glanced at the numbers on the rooms around him, pulling out his phone to message a quick note to Ran. As soon as it was sent he started forward, heading down the hall towards Ken's room. The door was open a crack and he peeked in to double check. He felt someone's stare on him and glanced down the hall to see a woman standing a short distance away with a paper cup of water in her hands. He didn't like the look she was giving him and she was definitely not dressed as hospital staff.

    "Is that really Takatori Ouka?" Schuldich asked her, looking back through the crack. The girl inside heard her name and glanced up, and Schuldich poked the door open a bit more to let her have a good look at his face. It had been almost three years now, but his hair had been dark then like it was now, and he hoped there was still a piece of her that remembered him. "I'm with the Japan Times. I don't suppose I could have a comment from you regarding your family's recent downfall?"

    He could watch the blood drain from Ouka's face as she stared across the room at him, and then a hand was on his shoulder, pulling him away from the door. "Mind your own business, foreigner," the woman warned him, eyes narrowed. "Leave her alone."

    "No, Hel," Ouka called, sliding off her stool and starting for the door. "Ken is sleeping, anyway. It will give me something to do to pass the time." Her smile was pretty as she stopped in the doorway, but it was the faintest echoes of what it used to be and it didn't reach her eyes. "I've given interviews to this man before. He pleases me."

    Hel hesitated, looking from one to the other and not liking the situation. "This is a hospital. He shouldn't be allowed to harass you here."

    "I don't consider it harassment. The public likes to keep its eye on the Takatori family and it is rude of us to hide from them, especially in the wake of such scandals. We will be fine, Hel. You can wait here." She pointed a finger at the floor and turned away, expecting the woman to obey.

    "I should tell your father, then," Hel started.

    "And leave my room unguarded? I think not." Ouka didn't slow but went to perch on the foot of Ken's bed, leaving the stool for Schuldich. Schuldich didn't look back at Hel but followed the shorter girl into the room, taking the chair. Ouka glanced over her shoulder towards the door and the frustrated woman waiting there and arched an eyebrow at her. "You may close the door. I don't want us to be disturbed and I don't need people overhearing what I might say off the record."

    It was clear Hel wanted to argue, but in the end, she reached out and pulled the door shut.

    Silence fell in the room and it was a long minute before Ouka looked back at Schuldich. They considered each other for a few moments, studying what they'd become in their absence from each other, and Ouka reached out to trail her fingertips along Schuldich's cheeks. "I'd just about convinced myself that I'd dreamed you up," she whispered brokenly, "that I'd dreamed that whole night up."

    "I'm flattered to think I rate high enough to be a dream, I'm sure," Schuldich returned, forcing his tone to be amused. He reached up and took her hand away from his face, curling his fingers around it. "You look well."

    "Of course I do," was her bitter response. "All the money in the world makes it so. Why did you leave?"

    "I had to," Schuldich answered, and she pulled her hand away from his. Schuldich kept his eyes on her, ignoring the prone form that slept so close by. "I warned you that I would be leaving. I told you then that I couldn't stay."

    "And now you come back?" she demanded.

    "Chance," he answered, and gestured towards his face. "I saw your father in the waiting room and thought you might be here. I was afraid you were the one in one of these beds." She said nothing, continuing to study him in silence, and Schuldich gave her a few moments to think before lacing his fingers together in his lap. "How long?" he pressed quietly.

    Her lips thinned at the question and she looked away. "Ouka," he murmured. "It can't help you to ignore it."

    She closed her eyes against him and a tear streaked down her cheek. "Six months," she whispered. "Six months, they guessed."

    "They still don't know, do they?" He stood, pushing the stool neatly aside, and reached up to wipe the tear from her face. The touch just seemed to free the rest and they leaked from her eyes, trickling down her face. She reached up and scrubbed them impatiently away, and Schuldich caught her hands to stop her. Two hands wove through her dark brown hair and he pulled her forward carefully to rest her face against his shirt. That broke her self control and she wrapped her arms around him, crying brokenly against him. Schuldich gazed across the room as she shook, listening to the pitiful sounds in silence.

    Meeting Takatori Ouka had been a thing of chance. He'd been out on the town to drink and celebrate a victory and she'd been out to drown away her sorrows. Somehow they'd ended up side by side at the bar counter and Schuldich had been high enough on his success to prod her into telling her story rather than stick to his usual "I don't give a shit if you're boo hooing right next to me" attitude. It had taken a bit of work to get the story out and they'd spent several hours talking and walking together across Tokyo.

    Sixteen years old at the time and Ouka's life had been in ruins ever since her father had decided he wanted what the Matusmichis had. Ouka could barely remember a time when things were different; she just remembered what they'd become. The lessons, the killings, the bodyguards, the sheltered apartment away from the world. She remembered her mother overdosing on drugs and alcohol and her brothers not even bothering to show up to the funeral. But most of all she remembered that she was sixteen years old and that her private doctor had just diagnosed her with cancer and given her three years left to live.

    It had taken everything Ouka had to keep the doctor from telling her family, and she'd told Schuldich that night that she hoped they didn't find out until she was dead and rotted away. He'd argued with her because telling them at least meant that she could have chemotherapy, and she'd cried at the thought.

    She'd cried a lot that night. Schuldich remembered that. He also remembered taking her someplace and burning away all of her sorrows the only way he knew how.

    She'd been much too young at the time and he'd been her first and he realized in that moment that he'd done something he could never take back. He'd left her because he had to, because he was already tangled up in Crawford's messes and because he wasn't any sort of answer she needed. He left her because he knew if her family found out that she was hanging around with a foreigner, they'd kill him on the spot. He'd given her flowers and a kiss and he'd walked away, and she hadn't called him back.

    Virgins were such a tragic thing. There was such a sense of obligation to them after taking everything they knew and changing it on them. Schuldich had never forgiven himself for Ouka and he'd warned himself not to make the same mistake twice. Funny how Ken had tricked him into breaking that rule; Schuldich had never seen it coming.

    Through the years he'd kept a discrete eye on Ouka and he'd noted her changes, noted the way she lost weight and stopped smiling. The tabloids called her an ice princess whenever they thought they could get away with it, which wasn't often.

    Two and a half years ago Ouka had talked to Schuldich about her dreams to grow up and have a fancy white wedding in a European cathedral, had talked about being a model or a movie star, and now she was staring at six months left to live and nothing to hold onto. Schuldich wasn't supposed to be the one thing she had left, but then, neither was Ken.

    "It's all right," Schuldich assured her, and he could hear the lie in the words. "It's all right." She pulled back from him, too exhausted to cry anymore, and used the hem of his shirt to wipe her face. He let her because there wasn't much of a reason to argue, and sat down on the bed beside her. "Who's the boy, Ouka?"

    She glanced at Ken. "He's to be the one I marry," she said, and her voice had returned to its dispassionate tone. "My father wishes it of me."

    "Your father wishes it of you because he doesn't know the truth," Schuldich pointed out, and he finally took advantage of the moment to study Ken. The machinery around the bed was blipping calmly and he had been changed into a hospital gown. There were bandages up and down his legs and Schuldich wondered if he could get away with asking what had happened. He wasn't sure what to do anymore. It had been easy a few minutes ago to come here thinking that he could do something to help Ken, but that meant playing the only card he had in that situation and he wasn't as ready as he'd thought he would be able to do that. Apparently he wasn't prepared for the reality that was Ouka.

    Ouka gave a small shrug. "I'll get my fancy wedding, at least," she said, and her lips quirked into a hollow smile. "But it'll be here in Japan, not London or Germany."

    "You should insist on the best," Schuldich told her. "You've earned it by now."

    "My family is near bankruptcy," she returned, and Schuldich affected surprise at the news. "If I'm lucky we won't lose so much that I just get signed paperwork. Look, I…" She trailed off and then slid from the bed. "I'm going to get a drink. Wait here for me? I won't let Hel hurt you."

    "I'll wait," he said.

    "Do you promise?" There was a little child behind that request, a little girl who'd had her world smashed into too many pieces, and Schuldich gazed back at her in silence for a long minute.

    "I promise," he said, and she sniffled and started for the door. There was a brief conversation with Hel that was blocked out as she closed the door behind her, and the room fell into silence.

    "You know her?" Ken spoke up, and Schuldich started in surprise. Teal eyes slid open as Schuldich looked towards him and the younger man considered him from where he was stretched out on the bed.

    "You're awake," Schuldich observed stupidly.

    "The doctors gave me painkillers when I was brought up here but they didn't want to drug me until Farfarello's people arrived on the scene." There was a slurred edge to his voice that gave truth to the words and Schuldich again wondered what the hell had happened in the few hours he'd been gone. "What happened to your face?"

    "Farfarello and I had our differences. Are you all right?"

    "Do you care?" was the response, and Ken yawned. Schuldich tried to think up a clever answer but Ken wasn't waiting on one. "How do you know Ouka?"

    "She and I crossed paths a few years ago when I wasn't being Schuldich and she wasn't being a Takatori." Schuldich gave a small shrug, reaching up to brush his dark hair over his shoulders.

    "She was crying."

    "She has reason to. Do you want to talk about her or do you want to figure out how you're getting out of here? Farfarello's got everyone in the parking garage, if he hasn't already worked his way into the hospital."

    "She was crying," Ken insisted again.

    "She's dying," Schuldich returned. "She's dying and there's nothing she'll do to stop it. As much as she's afraid of dying, she doesn't want to keep going, either."

    Ken blinked at him, trying to process that. "She wants me to marry her."

    "Takatori will lose interest in the arrangement if he finds out she's dying. He'll switch inheritance to one of the sons to make sure the loyalty stays in his family's grasp."

    "We don't want that, right?" Ken asked, and Schuldich didn't answer. "She keeps the power, I marry her, the war is avoided… and in six months…"

    "You want to marry her?"

    "I don't want people to die because of me." Ken lifted a hand from the blanket and rubbed at his eyes. "Why did you leave me, Schuldich? You left her and you left me. You have a history of walking out on people when they need you most."

    "I…" Schuldich tried to think of a smart response.

    "Go back to Farfarello, Schuldich." Ken yawned again and lowered his arm back to his side. "Go back to Farfarello and wait there. You don't need your tricks for this; no one needs your tricks right now. Will you come to the wedding?"

    "Will I…"

    "I'd like it if you were there. Good night, Schuldich."

    Schuldich searched for something else to say, but the doorknob rattled and Ouka returned with Styrofoam cups of coffee she must have taken from the break room. Schuldich forced himself not to think about Ken's words and went to meet her halfway, taking them from her. "You've filled them too full," he chided her lightly, and she pulled one of his hands close so she could sip at a cup. He let her, waiting until she'd drained some of it, before letting her take the cup back. She went to sit on the stool and considered Ken and Schuldich stood behind her, one hand resting on her shoulder, as he sipped at his own hot drink.

    "I think he might make me happy," she said at last. "Not as happy as I think you would have, but enough. Do you think?"

    "I don't think I know enough to judge, but he looks like he could make anyone happy," Schuldich answered. "He has an honest face."

    "Is that a good thing?" Ouka wanted to know.

    "Of course. This world has become a tangled mass of lies. Anything honest in a day and age like this is something that should be treasured instead of squandered. It'd be a mistake to walk away."

    "I hope so," she breathed, swallowing the last sip from her cup. "I hope so."

    A doctor came by just a minute later to get Ken carted off to surgery, and Schuldich decided that was his cue to leave. Ouka looked back at him as she stood and saw it on his face, and there was something terribly sad in the smooth look she gave him. "Will you come to our wedding?" she wanted to know. "I can pretend it is you across from me."

    "Put the time and date in the paper," Schuldich assured her, ignoring the beady look Hel was giving him, "and I'll come."

    "Thank you." The smile she offered him was faint and tired but it was close enough to the Ouka of two and a half years ago to reassure Schuldich. He inclined his head to her and gave her a kiss to the forehead and she let him walk away without calling him back. He stepped through the waiting room to the elevators and took one of them down to the first floor. It was just a short trip to the ER and he followed the signs that way, feeling immensely drained and unsure why.

    He remembered Farfarello saying that Nanami was here and it took just a short search to find her. Asuka, Yohji, and Nagi were waiting in the room with her and they looked up as he entered.

    "Where's Farfarello?" Schuldich wanted to know.

    "Where's Ken?" was Nagi's easy response, and Schuldich pulled out his phone and dialed the Irishman's number. He left the room and headed outside, starting back towards the parking garage to make sure Farfarello was still there. He considered the time on his phone as he neared Farfarello's car. He'd been gone less than fifteen minutes; funny how it felt so much longer.

    "He's going to marry Ouka," Schuldich told Farfarello, sliding his phone into his pocket and coming to a stop by the Irishman's door. Farfarello's window was rolled down and his two passengers were where Schuldich had left them. "He thinks it's the best thing to do."

    "You didn't try to talk him out of it?" Omi asked. He didn't sound too surprised by Ken's decision, and Schuldich knelt beside the car, leaning back against the truck that was parked in the next spot.

    "Ouka's going to be dead in six months from cancer anyway," he said tiredly. "Let them marry; let them link the bloodlines through a peaceful union. Ken said it right- let her keep the power and marry him before Takatori can switch inheritance to one of the sons. You can worry about picking off the rest of the Takatoris until she dies and when she dies, it'll be of natural causes and no one can fuss."

    "Ouka has cancer?" Omi said disbelievingly. "How do you know?"

    "It's my job to know things about people that they don't want others to find out," Schuldich answered.

    "If you're minding everyone else's dirty little secrets, then who is hiding yours?"

    Schuldich hadn't come up with a smart ass response to that when there was a gurgle and a thud. He sent a quick look to the right to see Asuka standing over the crumpled body of that female bodyguard. She gave the body a nudge with her boot, considering the blood spreading out beneath the corpse, and gave a satisfied nod.

    "Are we leaving?" she wanted to know.

    Farfarello eyed Schuldich and Schuldich gazed back. "We're leaving," Farfarello said at last, and Schuldich pushed himself up and climbed into the back seat.

    They left Hel where she'd fallen, and Schuldich's thoughts stayed with Ken and Ouka the entire way back.


    The wedding took place one week later. One week was enough time to spread the word of Matsumichi Kentaro's survival and more than enough time to give the underworld time to reel and come to terms with it. The loyalties Farfarello and Omi had been holding onto latched onto Ken instead and Takatori's people rallied behind the thought that their queen was still going to rule in part.

    Ouka's brothers never showed up to the wedding, as they were involved in a rather unfortunate car accident on the way, but it was questionable whether anyone really noticed or cared and no one was ever sure which side arranged it.

    The wedding was as grand an affair as Ouka could have dreamed up. Everyone came, from the biggest reporters to the current prime minister to the people that the Matsumichi and Takatori lines controlled. Both sides had spent the week stressing that no harm was to come to either Ken or Ouka, and while no one really believed that, people were willing to suspend disbelief and show up to the wedding.

    The flowers were supplied by the Koneko no Sumu Ie and were the best the shop had to offer. The left side of the church was reserved for Takatori's people and the right for the Matsumichi loyalists. Ouka requested a western style wedding, as she'd always favored the flowing gowns western brides were allowed to wear. She was a vision in white, flowing lace and silk. Her bridesmaids were taken from her side while the grooms were from Ken's, and Takatori Mamoru acted as best man and gave her away in place of her father as a sign of goodwill and compromise between the lines.

    Schuldich was standing just a few feet back from Ken during the ceremony, as he'd been invited to be one of the grooms. Schuldich knew it was Ouka's doing- she must have asked Ken for the favor, because Schuldich knew Ken wouldn't have given him away as a Farfarello-loyalist so easily. Either way, he was standing with Farfarello, Yohji, and Nagi when the ceremony started.

    Ken had been rolled out to the altar before the wedding started in a wheelchair, recovering from surgery on both legs, but he let Farfarello and Schuldich help him to his feet when it was time for Ouka's entrance. He refused to sit through his wedding, no matter that the whole thing had been orchestrated. Schuldich wasn't sure who to look at- Ken or Ouka- and in the end settled for focusing on Ouka's face because Ken's back was to him.

    They stood together on the dais at the front of the church as the priest began to read, and Schuldich thought the whole thing was rather surreal. The man was preaching love and peace and harmony and the smell of roses was thick in the air, but the pews were full of murderers and rapists and drug lords. There was something so terribly hypocritical about it all and he thought the two in front of the priest had to agree, because their lips had curved into faint, twin smirks.

    It was a blur from start to finish, almost overly sharp at times and just a numb mess the rest. Schuldich didn't know how to react to what was going on and so forced himself not to react at all and instead watched as the two said their vows and traded rings. The priest didn't bother to ask if anyone objected and Schuldich was glad that he didn't, because he objected to everything about this wedding and there were a lot of people in the church that would maim him for interfering. This was the best thing that could happen to Japan's underworld but that didn't mean Schuldich had to like it, and so he didn't like any of it.

    It was almost enough to make him wish he'd never come to Japan.

    It was over just like that; Schuldich had thought it would be longer and he wasn't sure what to do now that it was over and official. He could just watch as Ken sat back down in his chair and Ouka sat herself in his lap, offering his temple a kiss even as she looked past him at Schuldich. Then everyone was moving and leaving, offering congratulations even as they left. They milled in the back and on the street and Schuldich wasn't allowed to linger any longer on the dais near the newlyweds. Someone took hold of his elbow and led him down the steps and away. Ouka buried her face against Ken's shoulder and Schuldich glanced back just once to see Ken watching him as he was pulled away.

    The reception was not even an hour later, reserved for the closest twenty of the group. Schuldich came again on Ouka's invitation and drove himself to the restaurant they were using. It almost amused him that it was Kyouko's and idly wondered what stories she would have to tell Crawford later about the crowd. By some coincidence Ken and Ouka ended up at the table that Ken and Schuldich had sat at just days ago, and the group dined and attempted to make civil conversation. There were a few hesitant overtures at business relationships and Schuldich figured things would warm up a bit more after everyone had been drinking for a while.

    Either way, Schuldich was at the nearest table to the newlyweds and he didn't miss the fact that they said nothing to each other for the first fifteen minutes of the meal. At last Ouka stood, excusing herself to the restroom, and Ken took advantage of that to say that he would look for someone to take him outside for fresh air.

    "Here," Ouka said, reaching out to touch Schuldich's shoulder. "He will help you, won't he?"

    "Of course," Schuldich answered, and he pushed himself to his feet. Ouka nodded to him and headed away for the bathroom, and Schuldich took the handles of Ken's wheelchair and maneuvered him between the tables outside.

    They were alone on the sidewalk, as police had barricaded the road for a block in either direction, and Schuldich stood to Ken's side and stared out at the darkness. He wasn't sure what to say and at last dug his cigarettes from his pockets to light one.

    "Nice wedding," he offered up at length.

    "It was, wasn't it?" Ken returned evenly, and silence fell between them once more. Schuldich searched for a conversation topic but Ken was the first to come up with something. "She'd rather have married you, you know. She told me last night about you; she felt it was only fair that I know before we were married."


    "Would you have liked to have married her?" Ken wanted to know, glancing his way.

    "No," Schuldich answered easily. "I'm not the marrying type, you know."

    "You like her."

    It was an accusation and Schuldich glanced his way. "I like you and you don't see me marrying you, either." Ken looked away. Schuldich sighed and took a drag off of his cigarette. "Ouka was something that never should have happened and she's something that happened years ago. You're a bigger problem than she ever was."

    "*I'm* the problem?" Ken queried.

    "I was doing just fine in my life before you crashed into Crawford's car," Schuldich pointed out. "I could do whatever I wanted and not give a damn. I didn't need to have my conscience smack me in the face when I was twenty-four and had long since decided that it was a waste of time to think twice about people."

    "You left."

    "I came back," Schuldich muttered, and it sounded lame even to him.

    "I've had a while to think about it," Ken said. "I've had a while to think things through and I've decided I'm not mad at you. I think I want to be, but I'm not and I can't change this. You did what you did because of Crawford and you left because you found out the truth. You're human. Whatever." Schuldich said nothing and Ken glanced up at him, studying him in the darkness. "I just want to know if you meant anything you said that week or if everything was a lie."

    Schuldich eyed the glowing end of his cigarette, exhaling smoke slowly as he stalled for time. He knew the answer but that didn't mean he was comfortable with saying it. Ken was waiting, though, and Schuldich had a feeling he wasn't going to leave until he had an answer. In the end Schuldich let his cigarette fall to the sidewalk and ground it out with a shoe, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I meant it more than I should have," he said at last, voice low. "It wasn't supposed to. It was supposed to be just another job to run. But you…?" He struggled to organize his thoughts and come up with a right way of saying it. He'd given Omi the answer but he couldn't figure out how to say it to Ken, and a part of him wanted to just pull back and offer something else up instead. After all, Ken was married now. Ken was a Matsumichi now.

    "I told you I grew up in the US," Schuldich said. "Seven kids and two parents in a trailer home and never enough money to have more than one meal on the table. Fifteen years of hand me downs and home schooling and homegrown cures because we couldn't spare the money for generic aspirin. Germany was supposed to be heaven, you know? We had a home and my parents had jobs. But you put a feast in front of a starving kid and he'll gorge himself until his stomach bursts, and that's all Germany was- one LSD-coated mess from beginning to end, with everyone desperately hoping for an escape even though we all boasted that Germany was everything we wanted."

    He wished he hadn't gotten rid of his cigarette. He needed something to do with his hands and Ken was still studying him in silence. "Japan wasn't supposed to be what I was looking for but it was," he said at last. "I had a place and a job and things were finally right. If you'd asked me five years ago if I'd thought this would be it, I would have laughed at you, because I'd already decided that there was never going to be a right place.

    "If you'd asked me two weeks ago… if I'd thought you'd be it…" Schuldich trailed off, and silence stretched between them. "You weren't supposed to be what I was looking for," he offered at last.

    Ken had nothing to say to that immediately, and the minutes ticked by between them. Schuldich finally gave in and lit himself another cigarette, and Ken reached out and took the lighter from him. His fingers were warm against Schuldich's hands and the German looked down at him. Their gazes met and held and there was something sad on Ken's face. "I didn't want you to leave," he whispered. "I didn't want you to leave me. I wanted it to have meant something."

    Schuldich didn't know what to say to that, but Ken wasn't waiting on an answer. He took a deep breath that didn't shake and Schuldich watched as his expression cleared. "I want you to leave again," he said.

    Out of anything he could have said, Schuldich wasn't really expecting that. "Leave?" he echoed dumbly.

    "I'm married, Schuldich, and my wife is dying. I'm Matsumichi Kentaro and I have a lot to do here right now. We're working with a hundred years' worth of loyalties and I want everything smoothed out. I have a lot to learn about who I am and what I'm doing, and I won't be able to get anything done if I'm thinking about you or thinking about how much Ouka wishes I were you."

    "Leave," Schuldich said again.

    "I want you to leave," Ken said, reaching out to catch Schuldich's hand, "but I want you to promise me that you'll come back again. Just… leave for five months to let us do what we have to do, and then come back. Come back for her, because she'll need you then. Come back for me, when I can finally look at you again."

    Schuldich said nothing to that and Ken laced his fingers through the German's. It was a familiar weight and Schuldich studied their linked hands. "I'll have the weight to keep anyone from hurting you," Ken told him. "I'll have the authority to keep you safe. Just… You have to go, but I only want you to go if you'll want to come back. I don't want to watch you walk away and think that this time you're going to leave forever. I want to work on this. I want to fix this. Will you come back?"

    Schuldich stared down at Ken in silence as he thought the words through, and in the end he answered the only way he could. He leaned down to close the distance between them. Ken tasted exactly as Schuldich remembered him and the German could feel fingers knotting in his hair. He held onto the arms of the wheelchair for balance as he deepened the kiss and Ken didn't let him go until they both needed to breathe.

    "Five months," Schuldich promised, and Ken smiled for the first time that day.

    "Good," he whispered, and he lowered his hands to lace them together in his lap. "The dances are going to start soon, then. I can't dance with my wife like this, so I'll have to ask you to take my place for the first song. Can you dance?"

    "Of course," Schuldich assured him airily, feeling some of the good mood he'd lost a week ago start to return. "All of Choice Enterprises' employees are well versed in these sorts of things. Didn't you read that in the brochure?"

    "I must have missed that section," was the dry response.

    "Well, now you know." Schuldich caught the handles of the wheelchair and turned it back towards the door. He lifted his hand from one of the handles briefly to dig a card out of his coat pocket, eyeing the kanji for a few moments before reaching over Ken's head to offer it to the brunette. Ken read it in silence as Schuldich turned his hand to the handle and the younger man laughed at what it said. Schuldich felt his lips quirk into a smile as he rolled Ken towards the door and Ken glanced up at him, arching an eyebrow at him.

    "These things come standard?" he asked.

    Schuldich just offered him a toothy smirk. "They're more guideline than anything else."

Back to Mami's Fics