Part Two: A Homecoming

    Aya stumbled back a step under the weight that slammed into him. Omi had rolled up the grate, taken one look at who it was on the other side, and had pounced forward with a relieved cry. His arms were wrapped in a death grip around Aya's middle and his head was buried in Aya's chest. Aya dug in his shoes to stop his movement and dropped his hands to Omi's shoulders, pushing the boy away enough that Omi could raise his head. The younger boy looked up. His eyes were large and filled with tears. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by another voice.

    "Who is it, Omi?"

    Aya turned his head in the direction of the voice. That was Yohji. The man sounded utterly exhausted. The sound was coming from the door in the back of the shop that led to the kitchen. Omi drew his arms back and grabbed Aya's wrists, pulling him into the shop. "Yohji-kun! It's Aya-kun!"

    The clatter of a chair falling over sounded, and Yohji bolted into the shop. The speed with which he came forward to grab Aya rivaled Schuldich's gifts. He closed his hands on Aya's shoulders and he searched his eyes frantically. "Aya? You're back? You're here- to stay?"

    Aya was silent for several moments, just regarding them. Yohji was now patting him rapidly, bringing his hands along Aya's shoulders and arms, as if making sure that Aya was indeed there. Omi had relinquished one of his hands, but still held the other wrist in a firm grasp. It was as if they were afraid he would disappear, he noted. Yohji's eyes were worried and worn. "Aa."

    Yohji seemed to collapse with that response, stumbling forward the remaining step that separated him and Aya to pull the younger man into a tight embrace. Aya blinked in surprise, bringing up his free hand and placing it against Yohji's abdomen. The contact could be taken as either a brace to shove Yohji away or a return of the hug. He was uncomfortable with the hold but did not squirm. "Yokatta..." Yohji breathed, mouth close to Aya's ear.

    Omi released Aya and disappeared to close the grate again. "Manx called us," the younger boy said, speaking loud to be heard over the squealing of the metal. "She told us you contacted her yesterday and that you sounded a bit more like yourself..."

    Yohji finally drew back, retreating two steps to look Aya over. "Are you all right?" he asked. "Are you hurt anywhere? What did Schwarz do to you?"

    ~They showed me something I never expected to see,~ Aya answered silently. "I'm fine. I'm not injured." He glanced around the shop. It was spotless, and a broom was off to the side. It seemed someone had been cleaning recently. He paused before looking back to meet Yohji's eyes. "How is Ken?" he asked. Yohji's lips thinned at the mention of their other teammate. "They told me he was injured badly in the explosion."

    "He has several broken ribs and a broken leg," Omi said quietly in response. "We went to see him. He's still unconscious. He lost a lot of blood...He was the last one to be found." The boy glanced towards Yohji. The oldest Weiß's face had drained of any emotion, and guilt lingered in the backs of his green eyes. Yohji, Aya remembered, had been on the same floor. Perhaps Yohji felt guilty that he had been unable to help Ken. Aya nodded slightly, accepting the information Omi offered.

    The kitchen phone rang. Omi hesitated, uncertainty rising in his eyes. He didn't know whether to stay or to go answer the phone. Aya lifted a hand to show him it was all right to go. Omi hurried out. Aya turned back to face Yohji. "How did you fare in getting out?" he asked. He knew how Omi had gotten out- with Nagi's power. The question he had yet to answer was _why_ Nagi had used his power to help a member of Weiß.

    "Luckily, I was caught in a pocket by the side. I was near a window that led to the fire escape. Bits of it were missing, but there was enough still there that I was able to get down when I recovered enough to move. I was the first back here...I made it back the same night it exploded. You showed up three days later with Schuldich. Omi came the next day." Yohji ran his fingers through his hair. His hands were shaking. "Damn...I'd heard from Manx that there was a chance you'd escaped, but she didn't elaborate. I spent three days scared shitless and thinking I was the only survivor."

    Aya said nothing, letting this sink in. The mission had taken place in the very early morning hours, around one a.m. He and Crawford had left a few hours after that. They had missed Yohji by only a short time- perhaps only minutes. The absence of all other teammates had been why Yohji had been so frantic to keep Aya when Schuldich brought him to the shop. Why hadn't Manx told Yohji about Aya's amnesia? And Omi had taken four days to get back to the shop? Why? With Nagi's power as a shield, it shouldn't have been hard to get out. He should have either been first or close after Yohji.

    There were so many questions he had to find answers to...

    "Were you injured badly?" Aya asked next.

    Yohji shook his head. "Iie. I only had minor scrapes and bangs. Nothing bad. Ken took the beating for all of us, I think," he added, quieter. Then he tilted his head to one side and peered at Aya. As he spoke, Omi entered the doorway, finished with the phone call. "What about you? What happened with Schwarz in those five days you were gone?"

    ~What happened? I was forced to see Schwarz as people instead of a group we fought against. I saw into their minds. I saw that they were capable of emotions. I saw a side of Brad that I doubt even Schuldich, with his power, can see. I went to a club. I went to the movies. I hummed. I fell in love.~


    "Aya-kun?" Omi's mouth twitched into a concernted frown at his teammate's silence.

    "Nothing," Aya answered, eyes sliding away from Yohji's. Nothing he could tell them, anyway.

    Yohji reached out and closed his hand on Aya's shoulder. "Aya?" he asked. "Aya, what happened? Did they hurt you? If they hurt you, I'll kill them. I swear to God..."

    The reference to God made Aya's thoughts stray towards Farfarello. Memories of the man from long ago meetings were lifted to be compared to the Farfarello he'd seen in the past days- the Farfarello outside of missions. He remembered the bitter anger when Farfarello thought Schuldich was going to leave him, the way Farfarello looked so vulnerable and small in the bed when Schuldich was gone, the way he'd pulled Schuldich up against him when he'd accepted the German back...

    "Mine," Farfarello had said. And Schuldich's response: "Yes."

    "Aya-kun?" There was hesitation in Omi's tone, and Aya realized that his expression had faded from his usual stern mask to a thoughtful look- a softer face than they'd ever seen on him.

    He ignored the inquiry. "What did you find out so far about Svenska?" he asked.

    Omi stretched, then leaned against a table, tilting his head back slightly as he talked. "So far we know he's a drug lord with several groups of mercenaries. They've been slighted by Schwarz multiple times in the past. I'm working on his schedules right now. I won't have enough to form a plan off of for a few more hours." His expression was worried. "Will you be all right enough to come on this mission?"

    "I'll be fine. I wasn't injured badly in the explosion. You need to work on the mission now."

    Omi sighed quietly at the dismissal, then pushed away from the table. Before Aya knew it was coming, the boy had hugged him and was heading towards the basement to work. "It's good to have you back, Aya-kun...We were so worried."

    Aya turned to Yohji. The man looked like he was trying to figure out what to say. Aya glanced him up and down. His clothes were disheveled and his hair was clean but unbrushed. Yohji had spent very little, if any, time on his personal grooming these past few days. He also looked like he hadn't had a proper meal in a while. Aya met his gaze. "Did you eat breakfast?"

    Yohji looked surprised by the question. "I-iie. I wasn't hungry."


    Aya turned away and started away. "Go fix yourself up, Kudou. You're a mess." Yohji reached out towards him, his fingers brushing along Aya's shoulder as his reach fell short. "Go on. I'm not going to disappear while you're gone." Yohji hesitated. Aya didn't wait for an answer and disappeared into the kitchen. He opened the cabinets and gazed thoughtfully up at the contents. In the quiet he heard footsteps on the stairs as Yohji obeyed his orders.

    He closed his eyes and gave a soft sigh. So...He was here again. It was a strange feeling he felt- the feeling of being home...but not quite home. That hotel had been home for a few precious days. He now had two homes, with no way of putting them together so that he could have both.

    No way ever, or no way yet?

    He opened his eyes and focused on the task in front of him- getting a breakfast made for his teammates. He began gathering items for a simple meal and arranged them on the counter. Absently he reached for the radio and flicked it on, then paused and gazed at it as music spilled forth from the speakers. Before the explosion, when was the last time he'd been the one to turn on a radio for music and not news? It was just one more thing that had changed about him, he supposed, returning to his work. He recognized the song. It was the song he'd danced to at the club.

    The thought that he'd danced...

    That was one of the only three things about the past few days that he was definitely uneasy about. He'd danced at a club with a girl. He'd danced like Yohji.

    /"You can't live by just focusing on killing," he told Crawford gently. "Learn to get out and relax now and then."

    "I would not be surprised, Ran, if you have heard those same words in your past."/

    Aa...He'd heard them. Yohji had said them to him often, usually when he was trying to get Aya to come spend the night on the town with him. Aya had stubbornly refused him all those times, had dug in his heels and resisted Yohji's pull. As Ran, he'd been the one to pull Crawford, to try and get the stoic man to get out and relax. Was that how his teammates viewed him? Did they see the same person he'd seen in Crawford- a man too caught up in the business and killing of life to take a breather and just look around? It had bothered him when Crawford had said he didn't do things to relax. Did it bother his team?

    He sighed quietly, pulling himself out of his thoughts. He would have time to dwell on these insights later. He looked up, searching the cabinets once more for a mission ingredient. Where was...? Ah. He stretched up, reaching high to get it.

    "Nice bruises."

    Aya stopped, hand closed on the item, and looked over towards the doorway. Yohji was standing there, looking like his usual self- dressed in tight pants and a crop top. His hair was brushed to sleek perfection and held back by sunglasses. His emerald eyes lingered on Aya's waist. Aya dropped his eyes to see. Bruises stood out on his deathly pale skin where his shirt had lifted, starting at the hem of his pants and disappearing under the material. Bruises made by fingers in the rush of passion...Memory brought a strange thrill up Aya's spine.

    "Aa..." He lowered himself to the flat of his feet, letting his shirt slide back down to hide the tell-tale marks. Yohji met his eyes, silent and demanding. "They're from the explosion," Aya lied evenly, returning to his work as if he was dismissing the situation.

    "Is that so?"

    Aya didn't reply. He knew Yohji knew the bruises were too vivid and purple to be from the explosion. By now they would have faded to brown and yellow marks. He wasn't going to start an argument over them, however. These bruises...These bruises were to savor. He began to mix items in his bowl, aware that Yohji was watching him. He refused to look at the older man. He didn't want to look into Yohji's eyes, because he knew what expression he would see there: a defiant but pleading look that asked for Aya's explanation. Aya knew what Yohji wanted. He wanted Aya to put aside what he was working on and collapse in the comfort of Yohji's presence, to tell him wild and horrible stories of abuse at the hands of Schwarz.

    That was what Yohji wanted, but would never receive.

    Aya would not collapse. He would not tell. He would not lie and make Schwarz into monsters. Once he himself had thought them to be demons, creatures incapable of human thought and emotion. He wondered what life would be like if he hadn't been struck that blow to the head that had wiped his memory. He wondered where they would be now, what he would think of Schwarz, what he would think of Crawford.

    His fingers lifted and touched the skin where his head wound had been. The scab had fallen off two days ago, leaving the pinkish new skin slightly raw. It was the only wound he'd ever received in battle that he was glad to have gotten.

    "Aya..." Yohji started when he realized Aya wasn't going to talk.

    He was interrupted by a female's voice. "Good morning, Weiß." Aya glanced up and met Manx's gaze. The woman was standing a few feet behind Yohji, hands on her hips. She hadn't come in the front way, which meant she'd been given a key for the back door. Perhaps Yohji or Omi had made one for her while he was gone so she could visit them as often as she liked. Aya wasn't sure but didn't care. Yohji turned halfway so he could see both Manx and Aya. For once, his expression showed that he wasn't overly pleased to see Manx. "Omi called and informed me you were home."

    "Aa," Aya answered simply.

    "I think you and I should talk, Aya."

    He paused. It was an order, not a suggestion. His eyes went from her to the pan, then he turned away from her. He set the pan on top of the stove and motioned to Yohji. "Stir this until it's light brown all over," he said.

    Yohji's lips thinned and his eyes flickered with an internal battle, but he stepped forward to obey. Aya followed Manx to the basement. Omi dismissed himself and closed the door as he went.

Part 3