Part Eight

    A few minutes later found Yohji staring up at the back of the Koneko no Sumu Ie. Crawford had not waited for a response, knowing that Yohji wouldn’t be able to find one, and had instead reached out and turned Yohji around. They had walked back in silence, Crawford smoking and Yohji pretending that the older man hadn’t been beside him. The soft tap of the other man’s shoes against the sidewalk, the faint smell of smoke, and the occasional brush of another shoulder against his made such pretending a waste of his time. Yohji’s thoughts were running in rapid little circles, kicked to life from the cold and Crawford.

    Crawford made a gesture at the building, a silent command to go back to his room. Yohji’s eyes lifted to his door and a frown pulled at his lips. Crawford had brought him back here because Yohji was sick. Yohji was sick because Crawford had rearranged the mission and Yohji had let him. Crawford had bought Yohji new clothes. Just a little over a month ago they had almost never seen each other, and suddenly Crawford was a permanent presence in his life.


    ‘Because I can.’

    He couldn’t go upstairs, not yet. Too much had happened, there were too many things he needed to know.

    “I want to talk to you.”

    “Then find someplace inside,” came the response.

    There was no way he was taking Crawford upstairs to his apartment, so he instead turned his feet towards the shop’s back door. Crawford followed behind as he tugged his keys from his pocket and worked on getting the lock undone. A part of his mind commented that this was probably not the brightest thing he’d done- letting one of Schwarz into their flower shop- but it sounded almost bored as it pointed that out so Yohji didn’t listen. The warm air from inside washed over his cold skin as he stepped inside, and Crawford pulled the door shut behind them.

    They stood together in darkness. Yohji considered turning on the light; his finger even brushed over the switch before he let it fall away. There was something safe about the dark- he didn’t have to look at Crawford, and Crawford couldn’t see his face. All they had were words, and that was all Yohji needed.

    He did not, however, intend to stand in the dark so close to Crawford. He knew the storage room layout well enough that he could put space between them. He headed towards the table he knew was a couple feet away and turned around, facing Crawford’s general direction as he crossed his arms over his chest. There was no movement from the other man- Crawford had to know that Yohji had left him, but he also knew that he did not know his way around. Silence fell between them again for a few moments.

    Yohji needed to know what was going on, needed to know exactly what Crawford was doing, needed to know exactly why he was reacting in such a way. There was so much that needed to be said, but where to start?

    “Why?” he finally asked.

    For once, there was no amusement in Crawford’s voice. “There is very little that is real left in this world…We are riding on a carousel of plastic horses and painted masks. Sometimes the mask is thinner than others, other times it has melted onto the person’s face. But sometimes someone lifts his mask to peek around him, and we can see with brutal honesty who they really are. What is hidden away is what entices us- this glimpse and promise of something true. This is what drives us…to make contact with another soul that we can recognize.” Yohji said nothing, worrying his lower lip with his teeth as he listened. “I told you before…Your company is an indulgence of mine, if only because your way of thinking is close to mine.”

    The dark made Yohji bold. “Something tells me you’re not after my deep thinking.”

    That got a soft laugh. “Not only that,” he admitted.

    Yohji swallowed. “Doesn’t it bother you?” he asked. “Doesn’t it bother you to touch and kiss another man?”

    “Does it bother you?” came the response. “Does it repulse you?” He did not wait for an answer- Yohji’s fingers tightened on his arms because Crawford knew the answer already. Yohji knew the answer as well…It didn’t, but he didn’t know why. The thought of any of his teammates was just bizarre and very wrong. He had never looked twice at any of the guys at the clubs he had gone to, and he had only looked the first time to see if they were attached to the women. “Why confine yourself to judging just by the body they have?” Crawford wanted to know. “You’re limiting yourself to a shallow pool.”

    “So you’re gay?”

    Another soft laugh. “No.” A frown pulled at the Weiß assassin’s lips; eyes narrowed in thought. “To be declared homosexual or heterosexual still confines you to looking at a set gender. I don’t bother with that. I find a mind that I like and I pursue it.”

    Yohji’s mind flicked through all of the conversations they’d had, from the first one in the park to the last conversation they had last night. “You did sleep with her,” he said, the stubborn declaration coming out of nowhere. “Fujiko’s niece.”

    “Once upon a time,” came the easy answer. “And once upon a time, I’ll have you too.”

    There was no arrogance in that last statement, but Crawford said it simply, matter-of-factly. He said it as if it was a complete certainty, and Yohji stared into the darkness, wondering how to react. Finally he settled for being offended, that Crawford would think the younger assassin would give him what he wanted so easily. Shit, was he making an assumption or was it something he’d seen? Yohji still didn’t even know how to react to being kissed, not to mention _sleeping_ with the precognitive. Suddenly he felt trapped; the room was much too small for the both of them and perhaps he should not have let the American in. Perhaps he didn’t really want Crawford’s answers, after all.

    “How can you say that?” he demanded. “What gives you the right to suddenly waltz into my life out of nowhere and turn everything upside down for me?”

    “I give myself the right.” Crawford sounded amused once more.

    “Fuck you. Get out of my shop.”

    “Make me.”

    “‘Make me’?” Yohji repeated, almost choking on the words. “What, are you suddenly in the second grade?” There was no response. Yohji knew he shouldn’t do it, knew he shouldn’t approach the other man. But he wanted Crawford _out_, wanted the other man to go away so he could think, wanted to fall asleep so he wouldn’t have to think anymore. He didn’t understand. This conversation had shown him what Crawford wanted but it didn’t help him at all. He found himself taking the first step away from the table, intending to open the door so Crawford would leave. His foot hit the ground and there was an echo of another footstep right afterwards.

    Yohji froze for just a moment- just the moment his mind needed to register that Crawford was moving, placing him by his footstep and his voice- and it was too late. Two hands touched him, reaching his shoulders first. Yohji tried to jerk backwards but Crawford had gotten a better hold and moved with him.

    Yohji’s back came into sharp contact with the table he had just been resting against and he swore at the pain. He was stuck between Crawford and the table, and he twisted in an attempt to get free, hands rising up to beat and shove at any part of the American he could reach. When one hand hit Crawford’s abdomen to shove him away, long fingers closed over that wrist and pulled it free. It wasn’t long before Crawford caught his other wrist, and Yohji swore again, voice cracking on the curse.

    Lips brushed against his cheek and ear.

    “Don’t-” Yohji said, twisting his face away. His heart was beating a rapid tattoo in his chest. Any anger at the American for assuming he could have what he wanted had vanished. Yohji fought the conflicting urges to fight and stay, not understanding the latter but unable to fully listen to the first. Crawford’s lips touched his neck; the American gave it a soft kiss and then a small suck. Heat flooded through Yohji’s veins; his eyes slid helplessly closed. “Don’t,” he tried again, but it was weak this time.

    “Why not?” Crawford asked softly.

    Yohji’s answer was silent. ~Because I want you to kiss me. Because I don’t want you to. Because I like it, and it bothers me that I do. Because I don’t want to but I can’t help it.~

    Crawford found his mouth then, and all of Yohji’s concerns were burned away.


    A quiet rapping at the door was what roused Yohji from his sleep. For a while he lingered between unconsciousness and clear thought, hazy images filtering through his brain as he tried to figure out where he was and what was going on. There was the sound of a key in the door, and Yohji cracked open an eye as someone entered his apartment. His vision was blurry for a long moment, the colors swimming together before finally focusing. Manx stood beside his bed, a silhouette against bright morning light. Yohji made a soft noise of protest at the way the sunlight hurt his eyes, lifting a hand to shade his face so he could peer up at the woman.

    “I brought these,” Manx said simply, reaching out a hand to set a bottle of pills on his nightstand. “I figured they would be more effective than whatever you bought yourself.” He squinted at the bottle, but the label was too small for him to see what prescription it was. “Take them twice a day, drink plenty of fluids, and stay in bed. Your teammates have rearranged the shifts to compensate for your hours.”

    “’S just a cold,” Yohji grumbled.

    “We don’t want it to develop into pneumonia. You’ve already got a nice fever. Take the medicine.” She held up her other hand, and Yohji gazed at the thick jacket dangling from her fingers. “And next time you go on a mission, check the weather channel so you know whether or not to bring your coat with you. It was left in the storage room downstairs.”

    Yohji blinked. He hadn’t brought his coat with him, but he had left it in his room, not...

    A image flickered before his eyes- another’s hands pushing the coat free, hair tangled in his fingers, a hot mouth on his that made him dizzy, made him feel strong and weak at the same time…

    Yohji cleared his throat, blinking the image away. “Ah…Right. I will.”

    She tilted her head to one side, squinting at him. Yohji forced his expression to remain neutral under her scrutiny. Finally she gave a sniff and tossed his jacket at the foot of his bed. One long finger tapped the top of the bottle, and she turned away. “Omi will let me know when you’re healthy again. Until then, you’re out of missions and out of shop.”

    With that, she was gone, and the door was tugged shut behind her. Yohji pulled the covers tighter around him, wincing at the headache moving brought. He could feel the weight of the coat on his feet through the blanket, and his mind drifted back to the previous night even as a hand slipped free of his covers to cover his mouth.

    Yohji was a womanizer, he knew it. He seduced girls with varying amounts of ease, buying them gifts and kissing away their second thoughts. He had never found a girl since Asuka that would refuse his advances when he was being serious. Nowadays he didn’t really have to work for what he wanted…His reputation was strong enough that sometimes all it took was a smile in one girl’s direction to have her flock to him.

    Yohji had always been in charge.

    But now…everything was out of whack.

    Now, Yohji was the one being seduced- by Crawford, no less! And Yohji couldn’t fight.

    Because each kiss was different, because each kiss was new. Because every one burned him like nothing ever had before, and he couldn’t understand. It was a bit frightening, in some ways. And in some ways, Yohji wanted to crumble. The fire in Crawford’s eyes that night was burned into his mind. It haunted him, taunted him when he closed his eyes. Yohji had never seen a fire like that, had never felt it, and a part of him wanted to fall, just to feel what it would be like to be consumed by something so raw and powerful.

    Yohji would be lying if he said that he didn’t want it, that he wasn’t curious to know what it would be like. But another side of him was whispering harsh warnings in his ear, was pointing out the countless reasons this would be a horribly bad idea.

    The fingers touching his mouth curled into a fist and Yohji rolled onto his other side, gazing blankly at the far wall.

    “You may not die tomorrow,” Crawford had whispered, lips brushing against Yohji’s ear as he spoke. Yohji had struggled to hear him over his own labored breathing, clinging to the American for balance as their intense kissing had made him dizzy. “You may not die next week, next month, next year. But you will die someday, and you don’t know when. What are you going to do about that, Kudou? Will you reach that point and look back at a line of things you didn’t do, or will you have lived your life moment to moment, so that you throw the conquered world a smirk as you pass on?”

    With those words and a light kiss to Yohji’s jaw, the American had guided Yohji out of the shop. Yohji had lost all strength at the stairs and sagged down on the bottom step, watching as Crawford turned and walked away. He didn’t know what time he had finally made it back upstairs- Crawford’s retreating back was the last thing he remembered.

    He closed his eyes, pressing his fist against his mouth. Could he afford to listen to Crawford’s words? Did he really want to? It was dangerous, it was unnatural…

    It was damn complicated, that was what it was.

    He was roused from his thoughts by a need to use the bathroom, and he struggled out of his sheets. Thinking was impossible for a while after that, as his head throbbed violently in protest of his movements. His entire body felt weak as he slowly and unsteadily made his way to the john, but he managed to stay upright. It wasn’t until he was turning to go that green eyes glanced at the mirror, and he paused, one hand rising to his neck. Crawford had left a mark on the smooth skin. Yohji’s mind scrambled to figure out if Manx had seen it, then decided she most likely hadn’t- he had been lying on that side when she came in. Then he rebuked himself for worrying…It wasn’t like she would know who it was from. It didn’t say “Crawford was here” all over it, so he was safe. It was a bit odd, though. Only one girl Yohji had ever met with had left a mark on him, and she had left it on his shoulder.

    A fingertip ran over the colored skin, two pairs of green eyes met on the glass. “What right do you have to speak of living moment to moment when you’re stuck on the future?” he mused. “What do you know about the present?”

    No one answered, of course. Yohji let his hand fall back to his side and carefully picked his way back to bed. He took one of Manx’s pills dry and fell asleep not much later, uneasy thoughts giving way to an exhausted mind and body.


    Whatever Manx had given him was some good stuff. Yohji spent the next several days in and out of consciousness, his waking moments just blurred images in his memory. He knew Omi came to visit him sometimes, not because he remembered the boy’s face but he could remember the scent of the youngest assassin’s shampoo lingering in his room.

    Mostly he slept, and he dreamed often. Sometimes he dreamed he was on a mission, other times Asuka’s face echoed in his mind. Most of the time he dreamed of cigarette smoke and a molten honey-colored fire that burned at his flesh.

    Four days after Manx’s visit, Yohji stopped taking the medicine. He could feel the lingering affects of his illness, but mostly he wanted some time to recuperate from just sleeping. The first few times he walked around the room his steps were lethargic and his muscles weary. He knew it was both from the drugs and from spending the majority of four days in bed, so he took his time in his little rounds.

    When Omi came to visit him, Yohji was sitting up in bed with the covers wrapped loosely around him. Yohji listened to the boy’s happy chatter about his returning health with a vague smile on his face and allowed his teammate to take his temperature. Omi declared him to be healthy and hurried off to find him something to drink. He brought back hot tea, and Yohji accepted it wordlessly.

    The boy left him when Yohji asked him to, and the oldest of Weiß leaned against his headboard. He held the mug in both hands and took a deep breath before letting his eyes slide closed.

    Four days of sleeping…Now he was back in reality, and he had a lot to think about.

Part Nine