Part One

    It was a shame, Yohji decided, that he couldn't see more stars.

    He wandered down the sidewalk, one hand stuffed in his jacket pocket and the other idly swinging an open bottle of alcohol. It was a little chilly out, especially since his jacket was more for decoration than for keeping him warm, but the alcohol would help. He hummed to himself, walking with his head tilted back as he gazed up at the heavens. There were too many lights on to let him see more than a faded gray of clouds and some blank sky.

    He added a soft beat to his humming, tapping the bottom of his bottle against a denim-clad thigh. The desire to take a walk had been strong tonight…On the evenings when his presence was not demanded by a pretty lady or Weiß's dirty work, he loved going for strolls down the streets of Tokyo. There had, in fact, been a mission tonight. The other three were gone on it. Yohji had turned it down despite Ken and Omi's protests.

    A wry grin twitched on his lips as he lifted his drink for a swallow. He could almost envy their fierce drive for justice, even as he found it amusing. For them, it was a flat matter of right and wrong, the need to strike out against the bad guys. They wanted to make the world better one mission at a time, and Yohji was content to watch them try. He didn't hold the same beliefs. Once, several years ago, he was as consumed by the fires of justice as they were now. That was when he was first starting as a private detective.

    Now, years later, the edge had worn off. Weiß was a job, just like his detective work had been. He won some, he lost some. For every one scumbag he put away, another one sprang up in his place to scrabble for what he had left behind. It was a back and forth game of sorts, outwitting and outmaneuvering, but never quite winning. His teammates were more than capable enough to handle the missions on their own and they still had the passion to throw everything they were into Weiß. They could still feel horrified by the deeds their targets had committed.

    For Yohji…It was the same old thing, year after year. It wasn't that he was indifferent about the work; it was just that he was used to it. He was disgusted by what their targets did, but he had seen it all before in some form or another. His teammates couldn't understand; they didn't understand why he could be so flippant about taking and dropping missions. When they protested and wondered why he turned down jobs, he just laughed and waved them off, waiting for the day when the meaning of Weiß changed for them as well.

    He turned the corner, taking another sip of his drink, and found himself at the entrance to the park. He studied the sign for a moment, then gave a shrug and started down the path. Why not?

    The lamps were on to light the way, and he strolled down the stone pathway with his hum and his drink keeping time to his steps. As he disappeared further inside, the trees blocked out the noise and sounds of the city. He paused at a bend where one of the lamps had burned out, standing in the shadows. He inhaled deeply, breathing in a clean, floral scent. A smile curved his lips as he cast a lazy glance around him.

    There was a bench just a short distance away, also cloaked in darkness due to the faulty lamp. A figure sat on it, leaning against the back with one arm dangling out of view and the other resting in his lap. Yohji lifted his bottle in greeting, inclining his head to the stranger.

    "Good evening," he said, since it was the polite thing to do. He wished the man wasn't there; the bench looked like an inviting place to sit and think.

    "Good evening," came the response.

    The man was a foreigner; Yohji could detect a slight accent to his voice. It wasn't much of one, but it was there. "It's a pleasant night, isn't it?" he asked, taking a sip from his bottle.

    "Yes, I suppose you can call it such."

    His voice was faintly familiar, and Yohji wracked his mind for any foreigners he knew. He was generally good with voices; it was one thing he had picked up as a private detective. Where had he heard a soft baritone voice like that? He couldn't place it, and that annoyed him.

    "What makes you say that?" he inquired, hoping to draw the man into a conversation. He hadn't really wanted human companionship tonight, but now he was aggravated by his slacking memory.

    "The weather in the world is not the same everywhere at the same time," the man replied. "In one place, it is sunny and warm. In another, it rains. In another, there are hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes. What you view as pleasant is due only to your own location and circumstances, as well as your outlook on them. Some people enjoy the rain more than the sunshine, after all."

    Still no luck. "That's true," Yohji agreed, thinking about his teammates and their targets. People were going to die tonight; he doubted they would think as finely of this evening…not that he really cared. "And as nothing lasts forever, I suppose you and I will have a nasty day tomorrow, courtesy of the millions of miserable people that currently hate people like us."

    The man made a soft, amused sound. "Indeed."

    "Saa…" Yohji leaned against the broken lamp, switching his grip on his bottle to his forefinger and thumb so he could drum the other three fingers against the glass. "Everything truly is a matter of circumstance," he mused, not really meaning to say it but helped along by the half empty bottle in his hand.

    "Such as?"

    Yohji jiggled his drink, listening to it slosh around inside. His thoughts returned to Weiß, since they had been the last thing on his mind before he bumped into the stranger. It was a good enough topic, he supposed, even if it was a strange thing to be talking about with a stranger in the park after midnight. "Good and bad," he said. "They're kind of vague descriptions, aren't they?" The man inclined his head slightly, listening silently. "You could have an opinion about someone before you ever meet them. Someone tells you something they've heard or seen, and you base your entire mental image off of that whether you want to or not, and it's hard to shake it. Someone tells you, 'that guy's a jerk because of such-and-such,' and you nod in firm agreement. It could have been a misunderstanding or someone was having a bad day, but you've decided they're not a pleasant person.

    "I mean, just imagine…" He gazed down at his drink, searching for an example that wouldn't give away his nighttime profession. He settled for his previous position as a detective. "I used to be a private detective, you know? Some people would come to me and tell me that they knew someone who needed to be put away because they were evil and inhuman and such. They had wild claims about neighbors or business associates, and sometimes I'd investigate just because it was a slow day. Sometimes the stories were true, sometimes they were false, but I tried to look at my targets in an objective sight."

    "How did that work out?" the stranger asked.

    Yohji gave a quiet sigh. "Whether they had done what they had been accused of or not, they were more than the claims brought against them. They had families and friends and such. To them, what they had done was right, was justified. To others, it was criminal. Different viewpoints…different weather."

    He tried not to dwell on such things; there was no room for sympathy for targets in Weiß. Ken had learned that the hard way when Kase had been a target, and Omi had almost faltered with that freaky lawyer person. They could not afford to look at their targets as anything else.

    "Well said," the stranger said at length, drawing Yohji out of his thoughts. "An interesting viewpoint, but a valid one."

    "What about you?" Yohji asked, peering over at the man. The next light was too far away for him to make out anything about the man's face except for vague outlines. "What do you think about it?"

    "I suppose our view is the same. Under words and actions, one person is very much like another. The difference between us is what we choose to do with our judgment of mankind." There was a slight edge of amusement to those words, and the man stood. He was taller than Yohji by several inches, but the white assassin had expected as much from a foreigner. "You see, you are the type of person that believes every person has some sort of redeeming quality." He gestured towards Yohji, and the man could dimly make out something in his hand. "You looked at the people you were investigating and a part of you sympathized with their humanity, even as you disliked them for what they had done."

    "And you?" Yohji asked.

    "I pity them for their humanity," came the bland response. The man executed a slight bow and Yohji returned it. "It was interesting talking to you," he said. "Enjoy the rest of your night, for you don't know what tomorrow will bring."

    With that, he turned and headed down the path. Yohji watched him go, turning their conversation over in his head. He hadn't been able to figure out who the man was. He wondered if the alcohol was impairing his thinking or if he had just imagined he'd recognized the voice. Then again, he hadn't had much contact with foreigners that could speak that clearly. He had to be English or American; he didn't have the right accent to be from the Philippines or the Middle East.

    Soft white light covered the man as he finally reached the next lamp, and Yohji was able to see him clearly- his back, at least- for the first time. Raven hair, a dark gray dress shirt, and some khaki slacks. The hand he had used to indicate Yohji held a pair of glasses, and he reached up to slide them onto his face. Yohji blinked. He did know an American with dark hair and glasses, but surely the stranger wasn't…

    The man glanced over his shoulder, allowing Yohji a look at his face. His mouth was curved into the faintest of amused smirks, and Yohji could only stare.

    It _was_...The man he had spoken with had been none other than the precognitive of Schwarz. Yohji hadn't heard the man- Crawford, hadn't his teammates called him?- speak much when they had opposed each other on the field…Aya seemed to have chosen the man as his personal opponent so Yohji had not had much interaction with him. He had heard Crawford's voice before, but usually his words carried a hard edge of cold condescension. Tonight he had been soft-spoken and amused. Crawford, after all, had known who he was talking to- that much was apparent by the look he was sending Yohji now.

    ~Well, doesn't that beat all…~ Yohji mused absently, lifting his bottle to his mouth. Down the path, Crawford turned away and continued on.


    Kudou Yohji had a routine for his morning. He was expected at the shop at 7:30 to help get things arranged for the opening at 8:00. His alarm clock went off a total of three times: 6:45, 6:55, and 7:10. On its third try he would roll out of bed, snagging a cigarette from his bedside table and lighting it as he made his way across the small apartment to the bathroom. A piss and some brushed teeth later had him rummaging for some clothes, and he sailed out of his place at 7:20 with a trail of cologne and cigarette smoke behind him. This gave him time to swing by the cafe a block over and savor a cup of coffee, and he made it back to the shop exactly one minute late.

    His teammates were, of course, already there. Because it was a Saturday, all three of them were present and aproned, ready to go. Ken was sitting at the table while Omi gathered water pots from the closet in the back of the room. Aya was standing by his counter, arms loosely folded over his chest. He glanced up at Yohji's entrance, giving a slight nod when Yohji raised a hand in greeting.

    "Nice to see everyone's in working shape," Yohji commented, crossing the room to plop himself down in the chair beside Ken.

    "Such a morbid greeting, Yohji..." Ken complained, drumming his fingers on the table in time to whatever tune was running through his head. Yohji flashed him a grin, raking a hand through his bangs before pulling his hair back into a small ponytail.

    "You'd have known that we were fine last night if you'd come along," Omi informed him sensibly, emerging from the closet with four cans. He set two on the table in front of the lanky blonde, flicking his fingers at them in half-entreaty, half-command to help him check on the plants. Yohji knew better than to shrug off the youngest Weiß, so he picked himself back up to his feet and plucked up the cans.

    He did, however, try to hand one off to Ken. The brunette made a face, shaking his head. Yohji made a face back and went to fill the cans from the sink. He glanced sideways at Aya as he waited behind Omi to get water, raising his eyebrows in question.

    "So the three muskateers managed to save the day?" he asked. "In, out, and a ride off into the sunset in a blaze of glory?"

    Aya lifted a shoulder in a delicate shrug. "The sun was already down."

    Yohji grinned. Omi stepped aside to allow him at the sink. Yohji deposited the water cans in it and turned the faucet to start filling them. "Ken-kun did get hurt," he said. "There was an unscheduled change in guards."

    "Oh ho, a professional assassin at his best," Yohji mused, turning green eyes on his younger teammate. Ken flipped him off. "Not bad, right?"

    "No..." Ken scooted his chair in closer to the table so Omi could get by on his way down the row of plants. "They didn't see me, but it was a narrow miss. To avoid them I had to blow my cover to two other sentries, and they just managed to get the first swing." He shrugged it off, baring his teeth in a grin. "It was their only swing."

    Omi gave a curt nod. "The change turned out to be a good one," he told Yohji, glancing back at the oldest of their team. Yohji turned the faucet off with a twist of the handle and carried his cans to the other side of the shop. "Morisawa was heading home early, and when Ken was forced to switch positions he found that out."

    "Oh, right, because of his wife..." Yohji mused as he checked the first plant.

    "His wife?" Omi asked.

    Yohji glanced over his shoulder, meeting curious blue eyes across the shop. "Yeah...Morning paper at the cafe said the lady Morisawa went into early labor last night. Someone probably called him to inform him, and he was leaving to go meet her."

    Omi and Ken exchanged looks, some of their pride in a successful mission dimmed as they digested this bit of news. They looked disturbed. Ken looked back at the table, fingernails tapping out an awkward beat against the surface as he turned Yohji's words over in his head. "Well..." he said, obviously searching for something to say. He trailed off, and an awkward silence settled in the shop.

    It was Aya that broke the silence, flicking purple eyes towards Yohji as if chiding him for even telling their teammates the baby existed. "Morisawa was a criminal. The baby will be a better person without someone like that in its life."

    "Yes!" Omi agreed, giving a curt nod. Aya's words were a miracle drug- both Omi and Ken were immediately reassured. The youngest of the four gave a toss of his head to clear his bangs from his eyes and turned back to his work. "He was a filthy man...drugs, gambling, prostitution... Things are better with him gone. We did the right thing."

    "The kid will probably never understand," Ken agreed, leaning back in his chair and glasping his hands behind his head as he turned his eyes towards the ceiling. "But I think it's better that he doesn't understand...It means he won't realize what his father was capable of doing. He can grieve for a father he never knew, but at least he'll be allowed a clean image of a father to grieve, since he won't know any better."

    'She', Yohji almost said, but chose to keep his mouth shut instead. He couldn't stop a rueful little smile from curving his lips, so he turned his back to the group to hide it. His teammates were right in their self-reassurances, but what was right only stretched so far. The baby would still grow up without knowing what it was like to have a father, and Yohji- whose father had walked out on the family when he was still in diapers- knew what that was like. This baby girl's mother would be left trying to support herself and a newborn child. It was likely that she would receive help, but her husband also had many unsavory connections and enemies who might be interested in taking out what was left of the Morisawa name. He- and Morisawa's wife- could only hope that the man had invested in some really nice life insurance.

    The conversation turned his thoughts towards the previous night. The morning was a perfect example of what he had spoken of last night. Omi and Ken were idealistic, fixed in their beliefs that they were the good guys here. They never lied to themselves...They just glossed over some of the finer details. If it helped them sleep at night, Yohji couldn't blame them for it. As for Aya...Aya had no such illusions as towards what he was and what he did, though he did take a grimmer view of it than Yohji did. He thought of himself as a murderer, someone who would willingly kill people if it would help him support his sister. He couldn't accept the job the way Yohji did, not when he loathed the blood that stained his hands, but he was the closest of the other three to Yohji's view on things.

    He still couldn't believe that he had held a conversation with Schwarz's leader last night. It was a bit surprising that the man hadn't killed him. He would have been able to do it easily- he had known from the start who he was talking to and Yohji had been drinking. He brushed such curiosity away- why should he question such luck?

    "So did you miss us last night, Yohji-kun?" Omi asked, breaking through Yohji's thoughts. He was already finished with his side of the shop and was returning his cans to the back closet. Girls were gathering at the front of the shop, waiting for the door to be opened.

    "That's unlikely," Ken said dryly. "He was probably off on some hot date. I'm surprised we haven't heard the story of his amazing conquest yet."

    Yohji's face gave a funny little contortion before he burst out laughing. He knew his three teammates were staring, but he couldn't help it, and he set his cans down so he could lean against the counter for balance. When he caught his breath again, he grinned at his friends' bewildered looks. "Definitely not," he assured them.

    Most _definitely_ not.

Part 2
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