Part Six

    Yohji gave a heavy sigh, lowering his head to rest on his arms where they were propped on the steering wheel. He could smell the blood on his hands from this new position and he inhaled deeply. The scent was thick enough that he could almost taste it on his tongue, and he opened his eyes to gaze into the darkness. He had flipped the light on above his head and now stared out the windshield at the thick blackness beyond.

    Today was obviously not a lucky day for a Pisces.

    Muttering something to himself about faulty limosine services, he faced the inevitable and climbed out of the car. He left the keys on the seat; it wasn't like they would do anyone any good, anyway. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he squinted at the road to find the curb and started walking, aiming himself in the direction he was sure would lead him home.

    The directions Crawford had given him had been correct, but the house Karaki had been staying at had been two hours away from the dock. Yohji had driven Arasuka there, not bothering to kill him until they were close so he wouldn't have to put up with the smell long. It had been too easy; the man had been dead asleep from so much alcohol. Then he had just been dead. Karaki had been awake when Yohji arrived and he was also a joke to kill.

    It wasn't until Yohji had started on his way back that he had noticed the gas tank of the limosine was lower than it needed to be.

    He had gotten an hour and a half into the trip home before the car had rolled to a slow stop, and now Yohji found himself facing a very long walk back to Tokyo. He would call his teammates- it was six forty five so Aya at least should have been awake- but he couldn't get a signal for his phone. Musing that this was not the best end to a long and strange night, he resigned himself to his fate and the hope that he would get a signal soon.

    There was no sound save for the wind and the soft scuffing of Yohji's shoes on the road, and no light save the weak glow of the moon through the clouds. The sky was a dark mass far above him, as clouds covered everything. All in all, it was definitely not his scene. He was used to the city, used to the lights and noise. Being out here made him uneasy, and he started humming the first tune that came to mind to keep himself company.

    He checked his phone every five minutes, but half an hour passed with no luck.

    Then it started raining.

    Raining wasn't really what Yohji would call it; pouring fit the description more. One moment it was dry and cool, the next a sheet of icy cold water hit him. He froze in his tracks, staring blankly ahead as he was drenched. It took just seconds before he was completely soaked, and his clothes stuck to his skin to chill him to the bone.

    "What's up with that???" Yohji yelled at the sky, disgusted, holding his arms out at his side and glaring up at the clouds the best he could through the fat rain drops that bombarded him. "Jesus Christ..." He hurried onwards, folding his arms tightly over his chest to try and retain some body heat. He fervently hoped that the intensity of the rain meant that it would be a short fall, but ten minutes later it was still pouring on him and he couldn't feel his fingers or toes anymore. His shoes were soaked through so that he could feel the water through his socks, and he clenched his teeth to keep them from chattering as he struggled gamely on.

    Something flickered far ahead and Yohji looked up from where he had bowed his head against the rain, hoping that it wasn't lightning. As he watched, the single light became two, growing brighter and larger as it approached.

    A car.

    Yohji moved into the middle of the road and waited, telling himself that the headlights would give the driver enough warning to stop before running him over. It didn't take him long for the car to reach him, and it slowed to a gentle stop just a few feet away. Yohji squinted against the glare of the headlights, his eyes protesting the pain of such a bright light, and shuffled towards the driver's side of the car.

    But the driver got out of the other side, and Yohji watched him come with some confusion. Part of his sleep-deprived and cold brain told himself that he had seen such an oddity just a short while ago, but he couldn't seem to focus on it. The driver approached him, an umbrella over his head. As he passed through the headlights, Yohji saw the dark suit and pale skin.

    "You're a little wet," Crawford greeted, standing close enough that the umbrella would cover both of them.

    Yohji was too tired to glare at him; instead he just stared up at the other man's face with a blank expression. His eyes had adjusted enough to the headlights that it was easy to see the other man- especially the amused curve to his lips. Yohji felt a brief rise of anger, but it faded in his weariness.

    "Next time you arrange a limosine for me...I would appreciate it if it came with a full tank," he said instead.

    Crawford gave a soft laugh. "I'll make a note of that." He reached up with his free hand, pressing the back of it to Yohji's cheek. His hands were warm, almost fiery hot against Yohji's chilled skin. Yohji couldn't help himself from leaning into it, craving the warmth. "You're like a block of ice."

    "I don't even want to know if you knew it was going to rain tonight when you arranged all of this," Yohji told him.

    "Then I won't tell you. Come." He opened the car door, and the light inside flicked on. Yohji gazed down at the passenger seat to find a set of dry, folded clothes and a thick towel there. Crawford gestured to them. "You need to get out of those wet'll catch a deathly chill or you'll get my upholstrey wet, neither of which is a good thing. There's a bag in there for the wet clothes."

    Yohji almost managed a laugh. Crawford kept the umbrella over him as he lifted the towel with numb fingers and buried his face in it. It was faintly warm; Crawford must have the heater going. He dried his hands and face and set the towel back in the seat before going to undo the buttons on his jacket. He didn't bother trying to question any of this. There was no point. He was wet, he was cold, he was exhausted, and Crawford was offering to take care of all three things. Yohji wasn't eager to pass that up.

    "You're trembling from the cold," Crawford noted. His voice was very close to Yohji's ear; they had to stand right next to each other if they wanted to both be shielded by the umbrella. A small chill ran down Yohji's spine at the feel of Crawford's warm breath on his ear, but he forced himself to not look back at the other man. "We need to get you warmed up quickly."

    "These damn buttons..." Yohji grunted. His fingers were too numb to be able to get the tiny things undone. They had been hell on earth to get fastened; there was no way he could get them undone in this state.

    "Take the umbrella." Crawford's hand and the handle brushed against Yohji's side. Yohji took it, glancing back to make sure he was holding it right, and two hands lifted to his neck. Yohji said nothing, facing forward again. He could feel the heat from Crawford's hands; it rolled over his neck and sent tingles down his cold back. He could feel the jacket giving way- the American was having no problems with the buttons. The wind was cold against his back, and Yohji grit his teeth against it, grateful that Crawford was in the way to take some of the brunt of the icy breeze.

    "There." Crawford took the umbrella back.

    "Thanks..." Yohji twisted, trying to worm his way out of the jacket. It was stuck to him in funny places from the rain water, and he did a small, clumsy dance as he tried to pull free. He managed to get it down to his elbows and paused there as the wind washed across his bare chest and back. He gave a small shudder at its icy touch and only then realized he had twisted enough that he was facing Crawford again.

    He looked up when the man shifted, and he felt himself tense when he saw the look on the man's face. "Don't-" he started to say, but he couldn't get the rest out.

    He was pulled forward by a hand that had snagged his beltloop, tugged up against the taller man as if he weighed nothing. He took one moment to register the feel of warm cloth against his cold skin; a moment was all he had. That moment was all he needed- Crawford was heat and Yohji needed that warmth. And then Crawford was kissing him, and it didn't matter that he was a man or Crawford, or perhaps it did, but it sent a bolt of pure fire straight through Yohji's veins. It was teeth and tongue and lips and he moaned, eyes closed as his fingers curled on Crawford's hips for balance. He arched into it, deepening it, molding his body to Crawford's hard chest. The American slid a hand down his back, planting his hand at the base of Yohji's spine to press him even closer. A hot wave rolled outwards from Crawford's fingertips; Yohji was almost _too_ aware of the feel of his hand resting there. Yohji realized his eyes had fallen closed and he struggled to open them again. Green eyes met golden honey. Crawford's eyes were- different. They were not shielded, nor warm with the amused glow Yohji had recently grown accustomed to. They were hot with lust and desire, open for the white assassin to see. No one had ever looked at Yohji like that- no woman could pool that much liquid fire into her eyes. It startled Yohji; rocked him to the core even as the heat from Crawford's eyes helped warm his chilled body.

    Then it was over and Crawford lifted his head from Yohji's. Yohji was glad to find himself suddenly leaning against the car, because his legs felt strangely weak. He stared at the American, who gazed back in silence. The heat was gone from Crawford's eyes, replaced by the calm look Yohji recognized. His mouth was curved in the faintest of smirks as he reached up and brushed a wet strand of Yohji's hair out of his face, long fingers deftly tucking the lock behind an ear. Yohji let him, as he didn't think he had the strength to move just then.

    Crawford could kiss. Yohji was damn impressed.

    And horny, now.

    He felt his face color a little darker as he studied Crawford's face. They said nothing as Yohji struggled to put his thoughts back in order, as he tried to control his breathing.

    "Well?" Crawford asked after a moment, reaching past Yohji to pick up the towel again and allowing himself to brush Yohji's ear with his lips as he passed. "A little warmer now?"

    Yohji just swallowed, taking the towel from Crawford with unsteady hands. "I don't understand," he finally said.

    "You don't have to at the moment. Get dried so we can get out of the rain."

    Yohji nodded. He couldn't say anything else. He dried himself off as quickly as he could, all too aware of the precognitive's watchful gaze. He tugged on the sweater and allowed himself a precious second to appreciate that it was warm like the towel had been. He looked from the pants to Crawford, and the precognitive turned around with the wisp of an amused smile on his face.

    It was a struggle almost as great as the jacket was to get out of the drenched pants. They clung to Yohji's legs, and he fought them gamely for a minute in silence before he managed to get them off. He had to take his shoes off to get the pants off, and mused that at least his socks couldn't get any more wet than they already were. He dried and yanked on the black slacks. Crawford faced him at the sound of the zipper and reached past Yohji, lifting a plastic bag from the floor in front of the passenger seat. Yohji stuffed his uniform inside and closed it, sending a hesitant look towards Crawford.

    The precognitive gave him a faint smile that was not at all reassuring and gestured for him to take a seat. There was nothing else to do but accept, and Yohji eased himself into the chair. The heater was going and Yohji felt some of the tension drain from his body at the glorious feeling of sitting in a warm car. Crawford closed the door for him and went around to the other side.

    Yohji glanced towards the American as the car was turned around and they started off towards Tokyo. Half of him was demanding that he fall asleep. He was so tired...that was all he wanted, was to crawl away somewhere and pass out for a week. The other part of him wouldn't allow him to sleep, not in Crawford's company and not after what had just happened.

    Should he feel dirtied by Crawford's kiss? Shouldn't he have fought the man? He had done the exact opposite, felt the exact opposite, and that bothered him- both because it was Crawford and another man.

    He finally broke the silence. "Why?"

    Crawford said nothing for a moment. Yohji waited patiently- he knew he was going to get an answer. "You were surprised that I smoke," he said. "People generally are when they find out. But I have my indulgences...Smoking, dancing..."

    "The company of pretty ladies," Yohji muttered. He was still a little confused over how he had misjudged the two.

    "Indeed." Crawford slanted a sideways look at him. "You are another indulgence of mine."

    "Pardon?" Green eyes fixed themselves on the taller form beside him.

    Crawford gave a small laugh at the politely blank expression on Yohji's face. "Your company is an indulgence of mine. You are interesting to talk to because of the way you think and act...You make for an intriguing study, and I consider it worth my time."

    "I suppose I should be flattered..." Yohji muttered dryly, reaching out to tilt the vents more towards him. He folded his arms over his chest, letting the sweater soak up the warm air that rolled across him. "It's not like we get a lot of time as assassins."

    "That's it," Crawford said, giving a small shrug. "If you live to be seventy, you'll have lived over two billion moments. Due to the work we do, we'll be lucky to hit thirty. We're losing a lot of moments. What will you do with the moments that are handed to you? Will you do something with them or will you watch them slip away?"

    Yohji said nothing, turning the words over in his mind. Crawford wasn't finished. "Life is lived once, and no one knows how long it will be. Some of us draw a short straw. Why risk losing anything? When we have decided we want something, we should take it before we lose it. There are not always second chances. Why waste our moments with regret?"

    Yohji understood the words a little too well; what Crawford was saying matched his own views on life. His teammates chided him for being self-indulging, for treating himself to long nights with women and dancing, but he continued on his path because he didn't want to waste the time he was given. Instead of acknowledging that this was what made him and Crawford the reflections of each other, he said "If everyone took what they wanted there would be a hell of a lot more problems with this world."

    "That is why not everyone can have what they want. But some of us..." Honey eyes slid towards Yohji. "Some of us can."

    Yohji fixed his gaze on the window. "Why?" he asked again.

    "Because I can," came the answer.

    The rest of the ride passed in silence.


    Crawford took Yohji all the way to the Koneko no Sumu Ie, dropping him off behind the building. It was almost eight by that time, and Yohji was just barely holding onto consciousness. He made a face as he tried to climb out of the car- everything was sore, and he knew he was getting sick by the way his head felt. He used the side of the car to steady him as he made it to his feet and glanced back at Crawford.

    They studied each other for a few moments in silence, then Yohji said, "Thank you."

    Crawford's lips twitched but he said nothing. Yohji closed the door, but it was another moment before he made himself turn away. Slow steps brought him to the back door of the shop and he let himself in. Crawford was driving away as he closed the door behind him and he gave a deep sigh, putting thoughts of the other man far away because they were too complicated to focus on now.

    He leaned against the door, wondering if he had the strength to make it across the room to the shop. As he was finally deciding to risk it, the other door open and Aya stepped in, presumably searching for something.

    He paused when he saw Yohji. "Where have you been?" he asked.

    "Out and about," came the answer. Yohji managed a tired smile.

    Aya was noticeably not smiling. "You were supposed to have been back almost five hours ago."

    "There were some complications." Yohji was too tired to give a careless shrug, so instead he started twisting the doorknob to leave the storage room and head up to his place. "Just wanted to say I'm back, and if anyone disturbs me before six o' clock tonight, I'll take their heads off with my wire. I'll give Omi the report when I wake up again."

    Aya studied him for a moment, not bothered by the threat but judging the sincerity of it. Purple eyes raked the outfit Yohji was wearing before going back to his face. "Go to bed," he finally said. "I'll tell the others you're here."

    The smile was easier this time. "You're a lifesaver." He hobbled outside and started up the stairs. It wasn't until he reached the landing that he noticed Aya had moved to the doorway to make sure he didn't fall on his way up. He searched for his keys in the pants pocket and let himself into his room, offering a small wave to Aya as he went. He didn't bother taking off his shoes; he just focused on getting across the room and to the bed.

    As he allowed himself to fall forwards onto the mattress, he could hear a voice in his mind.

    'Because I can.'

    "Says who?" Yohji asked, an incoherent mumble as everything faded around him.

Part 7