Part Seven

    Yohji was slowly pulled back to consciousness by a loud, annoying noise. He struggled against it as long as he could before his eyes slid open, and he gazed blearily at the far wall as he tried to figure out where the sound was coming from. It stopped, and he gave a sigh of relief, tucking his blankets closer against him and letting his eyes slide closed again. He was so comfortable, and so tired.

    Bang bang bang. “Yohji-kun!”

    It was the door, and it was his youngest teammate. Yohji groaned in protest. Hadn’t he told Aya to keep everyone away from him until 6? His eyes cracked open again, searching out his clock. He focused on it in time to see it turn to 6:01.

    Damn, was it so late already?

    “Yohji-kun, are you awake yet?”

    “_Now_ I am,” he grumbled, wondering what the chances were of ignoring the boy and passing out again. He didn’t want to get up. He was happy where he was. Omi fell silent again, as if waiting for an answer. Yohji could just see him pressing his ear against the door, straining for a sound from his teammate. Let him strain. Yohji wasn’t getting up. He wasn’t going anywhere. He pressed his face against his pillow, letting out a deep sigh. Consciousness was bringing him a headache, and he would rather pass out again than deal with it. He made a face as a sharp throb went through his skull. God, his throat felt like it was a full of syrup. He felt like shit…He must have caught something from running around in the rain last night. Just his luck.

    It was all Crawford’s fault, for sure.

    Of course, thoughts of Crawford led to thoughts of what had happened against Crawford’s car, and Yohji burrowed himself under the covers as he fought back the memory. He didn’t want to deal with that right now…

    BANG BANG BANG! “Yohji-kun!!”

    “God damn it, I’m up!” Yohji sat up, throwing back the covers. The fast movement brought a thick wave of dizziness and he paused on the edge of his bed as he waited for it to pass. For a moment he thought he might throw up, and the intense dislike over the thought of having to clean it up was all that stopped him. He pressed the back of his hand to his mouth and slid off the side of his bed. His feet were still somewhat asleep, and he made his way towards the door with slightly unsteady steps.

    He twisted the lock and threw open the door, intending to give his teammate his best “You just woke me up” glare. It was somewhat ruined by the fact that the sun was setting and the light hit Yohji full in the face. He ended up squinting and rubbing at his eyes instead, curses spilling from his lips at how bright it was.

    Someone laughed at him – definitely Ken.

    ~Mental note: Kill Ken.~

    ~No, scratch that. Kill Omi for waking me, _then_ kill Ken for thinking it’s funny.~

    “Yohji-kun, are you all right?”

    Yohji lowered his hands from his face, propping himself on the doorway and half turning to try and cut back the sunlight that was determined to blind him. “I was about five minutes ago. What’s up, chibi? Don’t you know better than to disturb people who are trying to get some sleep?”

    “Don’t even try that on me, Yohji-kun.” Omi folded his arms over his chest, tilting his head back to give Yohji a stern look. “You came back almost five hours after you were supposed to return. You called once to tell us that the mission had changed and would take a little longer but you didn’t say it would be _five_ more hours and you didn’t call again to let us know you were safe. I was up all night waiting for you to come back! You had me worried to death and I at least gave you until six like you told Aya-kun you wanted, so don’t fuss at me now for waking you up!”

    Yohji blinked, a bit taken back by the youngest assassin’s tirade. He felt his irritation melt away and the beginnings of a rueful little grin tugged at his lips.

    This…was one of the things he liked most about Weiß. It wasn’t the valiant search for justice. It definitely wasn’t the cover-up job as a florist. It was knowing that he had somewhere to come back to, where someone had been worried about his health. He had that once, several years ago. He reached out, ruffling Omi’s hair a bit before beckoning for the two to enter. If Omi wanted the report, Yohji was going to be comfortable while he gave it to them. They followed him and he flopped back down on his bed. The two teenagers perched on the end, watching him as he yawned and stretched.

    And he launched into his story, neatly leaving Crawford’s role in it out. He wondered if it was a bad thing that he didn’t need a moment to think before he could easily weave the story around the American. It showed that he had too much practice with half-truths. He told them about how Karaki hadn’t showed up, told them – with Crawford’s logic – why he had waited so long to kill Arasuka. Then he had managed to discover that Arasuka had called a limo, and Yohji had knocked the driver unconscious and dumped him off to the side before taking Arasuka back to his place. He hadn’t thought it would be _quite_ so far away and he had tried calling Weiß on the way there to ask them to locate Karaki. It had been a failed attempt, as his phone had lost all signals. Then he had found Karaki at the safe house and considered himself quite lucky. He told them about the limo breaking down and an old gentleman picking him up out of the rain. The man dropped him off at an apartment complex a block down and Yohji had walked back. He had come up to his room and changed before realizing that he should tell his teammates he was back, so he had located Aya and then gone back upstairs to pass out.

    Omi and Ken listened in silence, Ken out of curiosity and Omi intently. The boy would have to write a report up for Yohji later, so he was absorbing as many details as he could remember. He asked a few questions and Yohji answered easily before turning the kid away from technicalities and towards the more amusing parts of the night. He told them about how easily he had managed to fool the others on board and what the established businessmen had been like drunk. The stories helped pull Omi back out of Bombay mode, and Yohji relaxed as the boy relaxed. His story was good, but he didn’t want to test his tired brain with too many of Omi’s questions.

    It wasn’t his stories that diverted the boy’s attention the most effectively, however- it was how he sneezed right in the middle of one. The sneeze set off a coughing fit, and his teammates stared as he choked.

    Then Omi launched into another tirade about how stupid Yohji was for walking around in the rain, didn’t he know that people caught pneumonia that way and what did he think they would do if he were to get his dumb ass killed? Ken sat in the background laughing his head off, completely unsympathetic for Yohji’s position. Omi may be the most forgiving and tolerant of the team, but when his teammates got sick Omi tended to blame it on them. He would nurse them back to health with more care than any doctor could ever scrounge up, but he would make sure they realized that they were in trouble for getting sick, first. He hadn’t always been that way- Aya had given them all a scare eight months ago when he had gotten horribly sick, and ever since Omi got a little _too_ edgy when his teammates fell ill.

    Yohji found himself flattened back to his mattress by two small hands and he stared up into concerned blue eyes. It took a bit of effort to not laugh at the boy; he didn’t think Omi would appreciate it but it _was_ amusing to watch him go off. Omi took a deep breath, finished with his rant. His small shoulders sagged as all frustration seeped away. He just stood there for a moment, blue eyes closed. Yohji looked from the boy to Ken, finally giving way to his grin.

    Omi chose that moment to open his eyes again and he frowned at Yohji’s obvious amusement, wagging his finger at the man to emphasize his words. “It’s not funny that you’re sick, Yohji-kun. Now you stay there and I’m going to go get you some soup.” With that, he turned on his heel and stormed out.

    Ken watched him go. “Poor Aya,” he offered up.

    “Aa,” Yohji agreed, snickering as he laced his fingers together under his head. If Omi bumped into Aya on the way to the kitchen, the redhead was going to get it for not noticing that Yohji was sick when they talked this morning. It would come out of the blue, and Yohji could just see the blank look on Aya’s face as he tried to figure out what was going on when he was suddenly the brunt of Omi’s frustrated concern.

    “You suppose he’ll make me soup, too?” Ken wondered.

    “Yeah right. He only cooks for the invalids, and the price is letting Omi rip you a new asshole.”

    Ken gave a small snort, rising from the oldest assassin’s bed. “You know, I’m sure his lectures would be more effective if you taught him some of your vocabulary.”

    Yohji tried to imagine Omi saying a few choice phrases and laughed. “Right,” he said, wincing when his laugh made his chest hurt. “Damn.” He rubbed at his ribs, lowering his hands to rest on his abdomen. “Least I don’t have to help clean up shop today. Maybe I’ll even get out of work tomorrow, too.”

    “Lazy bum.”

    “Sick lazy bum,” Yohji corrected loftily. “Begone. I am resting to restore my health.”

    “Whatever.” Ken made a face at him and climbed off his bed, wandering towards the door. He paused just for a moment to glance back, the smile temporarily vanishing from his lips as serious brown eyes locked with Yohji’s gaze. “I am glad you’re back safe, though. We all are.”

    He didn’t wait for a response but turned and left, pulling the door mostly closed behind him. Yohji gazed thoughtfully at the door before allowing his eyes to turn towards the ceiling, letting his thoughts wander where they would as he waited for Omi to return with medicine and his dinner.

    It didn’t take long. Ken had left the door open just enough that Omi could nudge his way in with his hands full. He was carrying a small tray, moving slowly so as not to spill either the steaming soup or the milk. Yohji sat up, holding out his hands to take the tray. He set it on his bedside table carefully, swore up and down that he would take the medicine Omi had brought him, and promised to let the younger man know how he was feeling the following morning. That was enough to satisfy the younger man, and Omi walked himself to the door. He paused at the doorway to wish Yohji a soft good night before leaving. Yohji listened to the lock automatically click into place and sighed, rubbing the heels of his palms against his face. Omi was overreacting. If anything, Yohji had a small cold.

    Although…Yohji couldn’t stop the small grin of amusement that tugged at his lips as he started untying his shoes. It would be kind of funny if this was the way Crawford killed him- he let Yohji get used to his presence enough to be bold and then let him catch pneumonia or something and die.

    Not likely.

    Yohji didn’t think he knew the other man well enough to judge whether or not such a death was beneath Crawford’s dignity, but he was pretty confident he would not die any time soon. He had a feeling the American wasn’t done with him yet. As for what the man might want from him….Yohji wasn’t sure he was ready to try and figure that out yet.

    He kicked his shoes off to the side and set about pulling the sweater over his head. It was most of the way off when something scratched his cheek. Frowning, Yohji dropped the shirt to his lap and started twisting it this way and that to find the source of the small pain. He found it in the form of a price tag.

    That made him think. His frown deepened as he stared down at the sweater. It was brand new; he was the first to wear it. Crawford had loaned it to him- but why this one, why a brand new sweater? He had thought to bring it, but not to take the tag off…Fingers touched the price tag, turning it to one side to study the number. It was expensive- too expensive to loan to just anyone, much too expensive to loan to a rival assassin. In the light, now that he was rested and had the time to study it, it looked its price. It was gorgeous, a dark thick brown interwoven with black and gold. It was very comfortable, too. He burrowed his face in it, giving a small sigh of appreciation- so this was what cashmere felt like… The sigh turned into one of regret, that he would have to return it. It fit so well, too…

    He paused.

    It _did_ fit. It wasn’t snug, but it hung to his frame in the right places. Crawford…was taller, had broader shoulders. Could a sweater like this one fit him? Yohji lifted it by its shoulders, holding it at arm’s length to give it a critical stare. Crawford was a meticulous dresser. There was no way he would buy something the wrong size, no way he would buy something that wouldn’t look perfect on him. And this sweater was definitely too small. Yohji frowned, setting the sweater aside and tugging his shoes off. His thoughts spun in uncertain little circles as he stood, fingers going to the fastens of the pants.

    The pants…fit him too.

    They couldn’t be Crawford’s- they wouldn’t fit someone with legs as long as his.

    But they fit Yohji perfectly.

    He stood there with his hands on the button for several minutes, gazing at the floor without really seeing it. “I don’t get it…” he murmured.

    Maybe he didn’t want to.


    Yohji had taken too many painkillers in his life for Omi’s drugs to do him much good. He had taken them like a good teammate and had slept from eight to midnight. When his clock turned from 11:59 to the hour, its glowing face shone on an empty bed. Yohji had tucked himself in his warmest robe and propped himself out on the balcony to smoke. The drugs had taken off the edge of his headache and he let the nicotine smooth out the rest as he steadily made his way through a pack of cigarettes. He was bored from sleeping, but too lethargic to actually do anything. He told himself that now was the perfect time to get some thinking done, but he had had enough thinking for one day.

    So he stood there and smoked, letting his mind wander aimlessly. Three cigarettes in he was sick of standing still, and he ducked back inside his room to struggle into some clothes. Surely he could manage a walk. He dropped his robe to the floor, tucked his cigarettes in his pocket, and let himself back out of his apartment. He was quiet on the stairs down to the sidewalk although he knew his teammates were fast asleep and the creaking wouldn’t wake them.

    He wandered down the sidewalk, hands tucked into the pockets of his coat. The wind was cold and he hunched his shoulders against it, letting his eyes slide half closed as he let his feet carry him wherever they wished.

    The cold was quickly waking him from his foggy mind and he did not appreciate the return to clear thinking- it helped bring his headache back. He didn’t really appreciate the cold, either. He had had enough of it this morning. Muttering to himself about what a wise choice this had been, he plowed on. As long as he had started there was no point in going back. It wasn’t _that_ bad out.

    He gave a small cough, turning onto the next street. He almost ran into someone and took a stumbling step back. “Ah- forgive me. I wasn’t watching…”

    He cut himself off with a sigh. “You’re getting predictable, Crawford.”

    The American was tucked in a coat that was obviously much warmer than Yohji’s, a long, thick thing that must have cost a fortune to be both so elegant and protective. A black glove covered the hand that was free from his pocket, so that the lit end of the cigarette and Crawford’s face were a stark contrast to the rest of him. Crawford allowed himself a faint smile at Yohji’s words as he lifted his cigarette to his lips and inhaled. Yohji watched him, watched the end of the cigarette glow brighter, watched the smoke drift from between Crawford’s lips when the cigarette was dropped back to one side.

    He tore his gaze away when he realized he was staring at Crawford’s lips.

    His cheeks were warmer and he breathed a silent thanks that it was so dark out. It was one thing to reflect on what had happened between them during and after the Dorogu mission. It was another thing to think on it when the precognitive was standing right there.

    “Is it a wise idea for you to be traipsing about in this weather?” Crawford asked, flicking ash to one side.

    Yohji followed the path of the ashes with his eyes, steadily looking away from the other man’s face. “If I’m sick, it’s your fault. You knew the tank didn’t have enough fuel and you knew it would rain. You knew that I would be stuck out in the rain. You had to have started out to pick me up long before it started pouring, and you brought a change of clothes with you. So if I get sick, let me tell you thanks in advance.”

    “Any time,” came the smooth answer.

    Yohji flicked him a dark look that he didn’t really mean. He didn’t really have the energy to be aggravated with the other man’s careful orchestration of his life. Looking towards Crawford was probably a mistake- the moment their eyes met their gazes held, and Yohji could not turn away. He stared up at the Schwarz assassin, thoughts yet again turning to the moment in the rain. It was hard to see Crawford’s eyes in this poor light, but he knew what he would see there if a street lamp was nearby. They would be the warm honey of amusement…not the fierce gold of a fire Yohji had never been burned by before.

    “I wonder what the Balinese is thinking of…” Crawford murmured.

    “You’ll never know,” Yohji returned. “You’re not the telepath of Schwarz.”

    Crawford took a small step forward; Yohji held his ground. His breath caught in his throat- damn the cold he was getting, anyway, because surely that’s why he was reacting in such a way. Crawford was too close- ~too close~-

    “I can guess,” the American said softly. “I believe it has something to do with…” He lifted his hand and it took everything in Yohji to not lean away. Crawford turned his hand, touching the unlit end of his cigarette to Yohji’s lips. “…this.”

    “You don’t know anything,” Yohji said. He meant it to come out as flippant, maybe arrogant- how laughable that the precognitive of Schwarz knew any of what was going on in _his_ mind. But the truth could not be clouded in his words and his voice had a small crack in it. He blamed it on the cold. The cold was blamed on Crawford. Therefore, the crack was all Crawford’s fault. Damn it, he couldn’t loop around that either.

    Crawford made a small noise of amusement, though none of it made it into his quiet words when he spoke: “I know that if I were to kiss you again, you would not resist me.”

    Yohji said nothing- his mind went blank as he scrambled for a reply. He needed something, some sort of retort to such words.

    But there was no denial to be found…

    …not when Crawford spoke such an obvious truth.

Part Eight