Authors' Notes:

Marty : *looks up blearily, blinking and batting away sleep bubbles* Ne, ne Fei-chan... *shakes Fei* I think we dozed off, what time is it??

Fei : *shoots upright* ETHNE!!!! *blinks wildly* Huh? What? Oh time... erm... hang on. *rummages for battered watch* It's ... erm... ehehe... it's broken. And are we still here??!

Marty : .  Fei... were you having naughty dreams again? Hold on I'll find out the time. *whips out satellite linked power computer* Let's see it's.... 2:21... September the 14! ^_^ .......... -_-  ......... -_-;;;;;  Wait a second that means.... we've been sleeping for over half a year??!

Fei : O.O  Holy cow.... how did time pass so fast?! *peeps out of trench* Is anybody still out there? Are they all gone?? *teary eyes* Na Marty, I think we really did it this time. Shit... told you indulging Brann and Ethne would not be a good idea. *mopes* Maybe we should go back to sleep... *looks at trench lovingly* Then again, maybe we should just apologise sincerely and hope someone's listening. *looks pointedly at Marty*

Marty : *blanches and laughs nervously* Ah... sou deshyou... *clears throat* Well alright. *rubs back of neck* I know I've been a little, er... out of commission for the past few... months, but not without semi-good reason! I had a really stressful job and... and... it was summer! So we couldn't coordinate our schedules!!

Fei : *nods nods* The whole 17-hr apart thingy again.

Marty : And... and.... *hangs head* Okay, I'm a lazy ho who had writer's block. Gomen... gomen nasai!! *hangs head in shame and weeps*

Fei : *pets pets*'s okay. I'm sure the wonderful readers will understand... I think. ^^;;  And you're not the only one caught up with crap in real life. I mean, although I had written my part here some time back, I have been neglecting my other baby ... *sniffles* Gomen gomen. *hurts self* Well, in case any of our dear readers are still here, I guess we should move on to thank some people ne?

Marty : Hai! *looks around* Where did I put that piece of paper... *picks up a wadded piece of paper that's obviously been lain on* Oh... there it is. *sheepishly hands it to Fei* Well on the up side I think the shelling stopped... *looks up at lip of trench*

Fei : *mumbles* Anybody would have run out of ammunition after half a year. *coughs* Okay... we'll like to thank Carter Tachikawa, Prodigy, Yaoke, sara-chan, MooMooMilk, Carrothien, Gnine, sykoanimechick, Talaco, chibi koneko-chan, ember-fang, Isa-chan, Astralkitten, Lola-chan, Moonraven, Perfectly Windy Sky, Seph Lorraine, Rika-neechan, Jin, Lilas, kami-chan, Windy-kun, Katarzyna K Yue, Whisper-chan, pink bunny, Sayiera, Kuroi Atropos, futagiakuma-tenshi02 and 01, kiske, bri-chan, Ayako, gin neko, Shi-koi, Zeto, Nekocin and Aishiteru. Hope you're still around to read this.

Marty : *nods nods* And in case anyone is –still- wondering, we do not own the glorious boys of Weiss. And that's why we need Brann and Ethne. *huggles them*

Fei : Hehe. Well, read on folks!


Chapter Four

By Marty and Fei

Whichever idiot coined the saying that bad luck comes in threes obviously didn't know what the hell they were talking about, and Ken Hidaka wanted to thrash them for it.

Just take his day for example. He'd had a huge fight with his oh-so-aggravating leader, a run-in with a group of oh-so-irritating and so-not-making-it James Dean wannabes, and then got stuck with the oh-so-confusing Mr Journalist turned good Samaritan. That was three wasn't it? He couldn't have counted incorrectly, bad as he was at mathematics. So nothing else should go wrong right? Right?!

Wrong. Oh-so-fucking wrong!

And this revelation was drummed into Ken's head by big, splattering raindrops that decided to hurtle down on him unannounced when he was barely more than halfway back to the safety of the Koneko.

Cursing his luck, Ken started to sprint. Quick as he was, he couldn't outrun the rain and by the time he caught sight of the shop, he was a soaking mess - chocolate hair plastered to his face, raindrops dripping from long lashes like frustrated tears, T-shirt and jeans clinging uncomfortably to his trim form.

He didn't know whom he wanted to beat up more: the idiot who came up with the bad luck saying, or the other idiot who proclaimed that strolling in the rain was romantic. Or maybe he should just rearrange the pretty face of Teijirou Uchida. If it wasn't for the little detour he took with that damned journo he would be all warm and snuggled up in bed by now.

'Damn him! He'd better be as wet as I am or I'm personally gonna drown him like how I usually drown those potted plants!'

The fuming brunette dashed the last few meters to the front door, and then balanced the disintegrating bag of groceries on his knee while rummaging desperately in his pockets for the keys. It didn't take him long to realize that he had forgotten them during his hasty departure from the shop.

Moaning in dismay, Ken ran a hand through his drenched locks in frustration, blinking the wetness from his eyes as he took in the drawn shutters and darkness within the Koneko. Damn it! The others must be upstairs in the cozy comfort of their rooms at this time of the night.

"Omi?!" Ken yelled while thumping his fist against the glass door. "Youji! Somebody open up! I'm freezing here!"

He thumped a few more times for good measure, if only to somewhat let out his frustration, before giving up, banging his head lightly against the glass panel. Who was he kidding? With his luck, what were the chances that anyone would hear him?

Sighing, Ken closed his eyes and rested his aching head against the door. He so didn't need this. He just wanted a hot shower, a good cup of tea, and then to curl up on his bed and not think about anything else. Couldn't he get a break? Just a little one?

It was a little while more before he straightened himself with determination, brown eyes hard and glinting. That was it. He'd taken enough shit for one day. He'd try the back door, and he'd pick the lock if he had to. No way was he going to spend the night outside in the miserable rain. Not even if he was gonna get flak from his oh-so-righteous leader tomorrow for giving people ideas about breaking and entering.

Mind made up, Ken cradled the bag of groceries protectively against his chest, lowered his head, and dashed towards the back of the shop, splashing through puddles without even noticing, not that he could get any wetter.

It wasn't until he was right on the back doorstep that he looked up, and then almost crowed with joy and relief.

The lights were on!

A smile breaking out on his face, Ken almost threw himself at the door. Maybe Youji was up, preparing for a hot date. Or maybe Omi. He hoped it was the blonde bishounen, then maybe he could wrangle a cup of tea out of him. Oh what the heck, he didn't care who the hell it was as long as they let him in.

"Open up! It's me. Come on, open open op…"

The door snapped open with a startled ferocity, and the shout died in Ken's throat as his pounding hand froze in mid-air.  He found himself staring into a pair of unamused indigo eyes.

'Shit. Of all people…'

Forget that statement about not caring who the hell it was. He certainly hadn't expected Aya.

Tensing, Ken could only stand there, hand lowering uncertainly as he watched the critical gaze of the redhead move from his head right down to his toes, and then back up again. He felt a shiver run up his spine as he met those intense eyes. He recalled emotions drug up by his earlier encounter with Aya and felt their weight crash down on him. Ken hugged himself tightly, crushing the soaked bag against his chest.  Brown eyes stared mutely at his leader, and Ken willed him to say something, do something. He didn't want another fight though. Not when he was still feeling guilty about what he had said before.

It was a wonder he didn't collapse onto the ground in relief when the redhead, not uttering a single word, turned and moved away from the door, leaving it wide open for him to enter. Releasing a breath he didn't realize he had been holding, Ken ordered his feet to take the few steps forward into the warm kitchen, closing the door behind him with his head bowed.

When he finally worked up the courage to look up again, he blinked in confusion. Aya was nowhere to be seen. A quick look around the room revealed a kettle bubbling merrily on the stove, a pack of Earl Grey tea laid out on the counter, and Aya's usual mug standing stoically by its side. It would appear that the redhead was preparing to have a nice, hot drink. But where had he gone? Did he so badly want to avoid Ken's company?

Still standing just inside the door, dripping miserably onto the doormat, Ken felt an inexplicable pang of disappointment shoot through him, causing him to blink in surprise. Shouldn't he be glad that he didn't have to face the redhead at all? He'd probably just get another dressing down. So why then, did he suddenly feel so alone?

God forbid, but did he actually yearn for Aya's company?

That thought itself was so unbelievable that it was actually amusing, and Ken found himself chuckling. No. It was just that he was stressed out with the events of the night. He was tired, and he wanted some comfort, a friendly face. He chuckled even more, albeit somewhat bitterly, at associating those attributes with Aya.

'I would have more luck with Uchida than with Mr. Iceman himself.'

The chuckling abruptly stopped as he suddenly slumped backward against the door. It was as if all energy had been sapped out of him, and without warning, he could feel a wave of depression washing over him. Ken shook his head and smiled bitterly.

'Get a grip Hidaka. What the hell is wrong with you?'

Staggering upright, Ken stumbled a few steps to a drawn out chair, slumping into it heavily while depositing his possessions haphazardly onto the table. Closing his eyes, he rested his wet head on his equally wet arms. He should make it upstairs to his room and dry himself off. But he was just so tired.

He didn't know how long he sat there, didn't know where his mind drifted off to. It was only when a cough rang out in the room that he shot upright, blinking dazedly. Turning his head, he stared blankly at the figure standing in the doorway.

Aya. When had he come back?

His heart started thudding a little faster as the redhead strolled gracefully towards him.  Ken's wide brown eyes held the gaze of his leader. He continued to stare as Aya stopped before him, and then he blinked once more as something soft, white and fluffy was thrust into his hands.

A towel. Aya had brought him a towel.

His chest tightened as he looked back up at his leader, his throat suddenly caught as a feeling of gratitude rose up within him. Aya was still looking at him, an indecipherable expression in his deep eyes. It was the redhead who finally broke the heavy silence.

"Dry yourself. You're going to catch a cold."

Ken mutely obeyed, hands raising the towel to mechanically run through his hair as his eyes followed the movements of his leader. He watched as Aya lifted the kettle off the stove and poured hot water into his mug, and then hesitated before reaching up to the cupboard above and taking out Ken's cup. A surge of warmth and guilt shot through him as he watched his teammate. Aya was making tea for him.

Suddenly feeling too emotional for his own good, he scrubbed the towel vigorously over his face. The wetness he was wiping away was the rain, nothing more. At least that was what he told himself.

It took a while for him to regain his composure. He drew the towel away just in time to see a steaming cup of tea placed in front of him. Dropping the damp cloth onto his lap, he cradled the warm porcelain in his hand, gratefully absorbing the heat. Lowering his gaze, he studied the swirling brown liquid, his thoughts in a whirl themselves.

He hadn't expected this from Aya. Not the towel. Not the tea. And he was at a loss as to how to react. He wanted to apologize for his outburst earlier. Wanted to make peace with his leader, even more than before. Wanted to curse himself for his unkind thoughts just minutes ago. It would appear that he really didn't know Aya. Wasn't even close. Sensing his teammate sitting down across from him, he mumbled quickly, "Arigatou."

There was no answer, however; he could only sit in awkward silence.

Minutes ticked by, and surprisingly, Ken found himself relaxing. It was strange, sitting here in the kitchen with Aya, sipping his tea, neither of them talking. Yet it was not unpleasant. On the contrary, the brunette felt somewhat more settled, calmer than he had felt in days.

Sneaking a peek at the man opposite him, he saw that Aya, like him, was staring into his tea, brooding as usual. Ken felt a small smile tugging uncontrollably at his lips as he studied his stoic leader. A strange man, Aya was. So tightly reined in, so guarded in showing his feelings. Once again, Ken found himself wondering what it would take to get him to open up, well, other than pissing the shit out of him.

Thoughts once more drawn back to their less than amicable encounter, Ken sighed.

"Aya?" He ventured tentatively, feeling the need to reach out to him. He hesitated briefly as dark eyes raised to meet his own. Steeling his resolve, Ken forged ahead, though part of him badly wanted to cling onto the rare sense of silent companionship he had found with his teammate moments before.

"About earlier…gomen."

He didn't flinch at the short, but intense gaze given to him. Other than that, there was again, no answer.

Ken bit back an audible sigh.  Gripping his cup tightly, he took another sip of the sweet liquid.

'At least he's not tearing my throat out. Stop dreaming Hidaka. He may not be as cold as he looks but he's still frigid like a sculpture of…'


Ken choked and nearly dropped his cup at the soft voice. A few seconds of awkward fumbling saved it from shattering, though he could not stop the tea sloshing out and scalding his hands, which were shaking when he set the porcelain mug back on the table. Breathing somewhat harshly, he looked up with wide, bewildered eyes at his leader.

"What?" He croaked out, his heart beating violently in his chest. Had Aya managed to read his thoughts?

Frowning, Aya stared at him, probably wondering why a simple word would get him so flustered. The few seconds of silence seemed like an eternity to Ken, as he took shallow breaths to calm his pounding heart. His gaze was riveted to pale, slender fingers as they were raised to tap lightly against an ivory cheek. Was this some sign language he was supposed to be able to decipher? Sad to say, he was so not getting it.

"Ice." Aya finally deigned to repeat patiently, looking like he was entertaining an idiot. "You should put some on your cheek. It's starting to bruise."

Ken gaped at him, not knowing what to say. He knew that that was as close to an apology as he could get out of the redhead. But it was enough, more than enough. He bit his lips as he continued to stare at his leader. How long had he yearned for Aya to show some form of emotion, some form of concern towards him? But now that he had that concern, Ken had absolutely no idea what to do.

It would appear that either Aya's patience had run out, or he had resigned himself to dealing with a moron. Signing, he pushed his chair back quietly as he got up and moved over to the brunette. Ken was frozen in his spot, dark eyes held captive by a probing gaze, as Aya bent slightly and picked up the towel in his lap.

Once again, the brunette could only watch mutely as the older assassin opened the freezer compartment and took out a tray of ice, emptying a few cubes into the towel before wrapping it up into a small bundle. Aya looked so graceful, even when doing the most mundane things.

It was not until the man was right in front of him, once again thrusting the towel back at him, that Ken snapped out of his daze. Hand shaking slightly, he reached out and took the offered towel, his fingers lightly brushing against Aya's as he did so. And it was not until he had the cold cloth pressed against his cheek that he realized he had not uttered a single word of thanks.

Glancing up hurriedly at Aya who was by now back at his end of the table, Ken said softly. "Sa…sankyuu."

"Hn". Aya didn't look up as he settled back down in his seat and went back to studying his tea.

The pattering of raindrops against the kitchen window was the only sound to be heard for a long while. Ken methodically rubbed the ice in small circles against his warm cheek, his gaze resting blankly on the tabletop. The events of the night kept replaying in his head, his thoughts crashing and tangling amongst themselves. He was confused, getting more muddled by the second by the man opposite him. No. Not just one man, but two. And it was more than he could handle for the night. He was jerked out of his reverie when a deep voice shattered the silence.

"Are those groceries?"

Brown eyes shot up to see the redhead staring quizzically at the soggy mess on the table. The brown paper bag was soaked through, and so were the cartons it contained. Catching sight of a rumpled corner of a lemon jell-o box, Ken nearly groaned. So much for his peace offering. Looking up once more and meeting those intense eyes, Ken felt his cheeks heating up for no reason.

"Ye..yeah…" he stammered and lowered his eyes hurriedly. "Looks like they're all ruined though."


He could feel the redhead's gaze on him and his cheeks heated further. Damn it. What was wrong with him?! Not knowing what else to say,, Ken laid the towel back on the table and started fiddling with his teabag.

"Were you delayed getting back?"

Once again, Ken jumped slightly at the question. He seemed to be doing that a lot tonight. "Nani?" he whispered, looking up uncertainly at the redhead.

"You were a long time at the grocer's." Aya's response was calm, unemotional, as he stared deeply into the brunette's eyes. It was like he could read his innermost thoughts, and Ken fidgeted uncomfortably.

"I…decided to go for a walk." Ken mumbled in reply. He didn't know why, but he just couldn't bring himself to tell Aya about Uchida. Somehow he knew that his leader wouldn't take the news of him running into the journalist well, let alone spending time with him. And somehow, he just didn't want Aya to know, though he couldn't really say why, just like he couldn't explain why the hell he was feeling guilty about it.

Aya was still staring at him, studying him. He could feel it, but he couldn't bring himself to meet those eyes. Throat suddenly dry, he brought his cup up and gulped down the rest of his tea, not caring that he was scalding his tongue. Standing abruptly, he said in as steady a voice as he could muster, "Thanks for the tea Aya. I should go to bed. I have an early coaching session tomorrow."

Before he could turn fully to go however, he heard the sharp reply from his leader.

"I thought we talked about coaching those kids."

Ken froze. He could hear the underlying disapproval in the voice, and once again, he couldn't help the frustration and the anger rising in him. The feeling was tinged with exhaustion this time, a disappointment, an ache that he couldn't quite place a finger on.  He should have known. That feeling of companionship between them couldn't last, was too good to be true. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, fingers gripping tightly onto the edge of the table. No, he wasn't going to argue with him on this matter again. Not anymore. Not tonight.

Turning back to meet the redhead's cold gaze head-on, Ken spoke clearly, levelly, tiredly.

"I know how you feel about my coaching. I know you think it's unimportant and frivolous. I don't know how to make you understand and, you know what, I don't give a damn. I'm not stopping. And you can't make me. So don't even try, Aya."

He could barely control the shaking of his voice.  He just wanted to escape to his room, too worn out to deal with anything else. Turning without sparing another glance at the redhead, he muttered, "Oyasumi", and sprinted out of the kitchen, heart heavy, taking the stairs two at a time.

He didn't see the contemplative look Aya gave him, didn't see how he stared silently after him long after he was gone.

He didn't see the redhead standing up to look over the groceries, nor the long look he gave to the lemon jell-o boxes.

He didn't hear the quiet sigh, nor saw him gathering the soggy boxes up before carefully putting them away in the cupboard together with his pack of tea.

But then again, he wasn't supposed to.


Ken stood hands on hips, watching three children chase after each other, up and down the green lawn of the park. Between them they passed a soccer ball in the happy, pointless way children play with things. The bright sound of laughter hit his ears, forcing him to smile just slightly. The smile did not quite feel real, but that was alright. There were at least three happy souls in the park that day.

Behind him, talking quietly amongst themselves and every once in a while throwing glances in his direction that he knew he was not supposed to notice were the three children's parents. Usually when parents brought their children to Sunday morning soccer practice it was a chance for them to get some shopping done, a kind of temporary daycare. But today was different. It was different in a lot of ways. Usually there were in upwards of ten or even fifteen children who came to play soccer with him. But today there were only the three, and their conspiring parents.

Ken sighed and looked at the ground. He shouldn't think of it like that. It wasn't their fault. He couldn't blame the parents or the kids. He had no one to blame but himself, as he was sure Aya would point out if he had been there to witness what was happening. After all it was somehow Ken's fault that the entire world now knew, or thought they knew, who he really was and what rumors the papers were spreading about him. So who else should he blame but himself?

He cursed softly under his breath. This was so stupid. His life was becoming a joke. Everywhere he turned there were people pointing, staring, looking, passing judgment. He just wanted his life back, and what little normalcy anonymity had afforded him for a small time.

"Hidaka-san?" the soft sound of the female voice made him turn. Hirata-san had come up behind him and was now smiling and looking rather awkward.

"Hai, Hirata-san? Tadashi-kun is much improved, don't you think?" Ken asked, smiling broadly. He figured he knew what was coming, but it was easier just to forge ahead anyway.

"Oh, yes yes, he is. Thank you so much for the time that you've put into teaching him, but… well, it's only that I think we should be going. Yamamoto-san and Aizawa-san have matters to attend to as well."

Ken blinked, the smile threatening to fade from his face. Practice was not even half over yet. "Well, you know you are more than welcome to leave the children with me if there are things you need to do," he said.

Hirata lowered her eyes and pushed a piece of her hair behind her ear. She was a pretty woman and Ken felt bad, because he knew that this was difficult for her. They had always been very amiable with each other, and to her credit she had come with Tadashi today when so many others had not.

"Forgive me, Hidaka-san, this is very embarrassing, but I hope you understand. We've all been talking and it is not that we believe any of the things that we are reading about you. We know you are a wonderful person, it is only that with such lies being spread… for the protection of our children…"

Her face was growing red and Ken could not see the poor woman so uncomfortable any longer. He placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled sadly. "I understand, Hirata-san. I'd hate to think that my misfortunes should cause you or your son problems. I think this will be the last practice for a while, ne?"

He laughed somewhat derisively and turned away, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched the three remaining children laugh and run down the green. One of them, Miho, he thought, kicked the ball hard to the right sending it spinning into a group of docile pigeons. The birds took off as one, filling the sky with their startled and erratic flight.

"Thank you for understanding, Hidaka-san." Hirata's voice was soft and regretful and Ken felt more than saw her bow low to him in apology before she turned away to join the other two parents, Yamamoto and Aizawa, near the edge of the sloping green. He watched with sad brown eyes as the children were called over, watched as their parents gathered them to go and as they protested, but he knew that their protestations would make no difference. Adults were always so terribly worried with things like appearances and prestige.

The parents led the children by him, holding them tightly by the hands so that they could wave goodbye, but could not gift him with their usual end of practice hugs. A sick, horrible feeling filled Ken's stomach and he had to force himself to smile so that he would not cry in grief. He was losing the most important thing in his life and there was nothing he could do about it.

"Goodbye!" he called as cheerily as he could and had to bite his tongue so as not to call out 'see you next Sunday', because he knew that there would not be a next Sunday. There would not be any Sundays for a long time and it was breaking his heart.

Long after the kids and their parents were gone Ken stood, arms slack at his side, looking out over the quiet, sun-drenched field. It was hollow and empty and reminded him of his heart. The ball was sitting off to one side, abandoned by the children when their parents had called them away.

He jogged down the length of the field, taking no pleasure in the simple act that once brought him great joy. He juggled the ball between his feet, dancing with it gracefully back up the lawn. He imagined how angry Aya would be if he knew he'd messed around like that in the park where anyone could see and affirm their suspicions that he was indeed –the- Ken Hidaka. But what the fuck did Ken care anymore, anyway. He was. Besides, Aya'd already had his triumph for the day, though the redhead didn't even know it. There would be no more soccer practices. That ought to make his fearless leader happy.

With a savage kick Ken sent the ball spinning wildly towards the tree where he always left his bag. As he watched the ball hurtle towards its mark he realized that his bag was not the only thing that was leaning against the tall, shady tree.

Brown eyes widened as he took in slightly tousled black hair, a pair of fashionable glasses, and Gucci loafers. He really was being stalked. The ball slammed against the tree about a foot from Uchida's head. The journalist gave the ball a scandalized look and then got to his feet, brushing himself off as Ken ambled over.

"Uchida-san, what did I tell you about stalking me?" he asked, arms crossed over his chest.

"And what did I tell you about stalking you?" Uchida replied raising one eyebrow over a hazel eye.

"That you have better things to do, and yet here you are."

"Why does happening by the park and seeing you coach soccer and stopping to wait for an ample opportunity to say hello qualify as stalking?" Uchida asked, trying to sound indignant. He flashed Ken his winning smile and Ken couldn't help but be affected by it, feeling the pit of his stomach warm slightly. He lowered his eyes. As soon as they rested on the soccer ball he forgot any good humor that his banter with the journalist had caused and sighed. He walked over to his bag and shouldered it, picking up the ball and tucking it under his arm.

Uchida gave him an appraising look, tilting his head to the side. "What's wrong, Ken-san?"

Ken shot Uchida a dark look, rankling at the use of his first name again, and the half-assed attempt Uchida was making to make it appear somewhat formal by tacking 'san' on the end.

"Nothing is wrong, Uchida-san," he replied, punching the last name.

The other man sighed, rolling his eyes. "After yesterday, aren't we at least somewhat civil with each other? Don't I stand at least a little bit higher in your regard?"

"Thanks to yesterday I ended up soaked on my way home," Ken grumbled.

"As if I didn't." He sighed and came closer to Ken, giving him an earnest look. "I really do appreciate you helping me out yesterday, Hidaka-san. There does that make you feel better, that I used your surname? I'll refrain from using Ken if it bothers you so much. I mean heaven forbid I say it and you rip my throat out or… try to kick me in the head with another soccer ball."

"I wasn't trying to kick you in the head," Ken broke in.

"It sure looked like it."

"I didn't even know you were there!" Ken said, aggravated.

"Sure you didn't."

"Look, Uchida-san-"

"You could call me Teijirou, I'd be okay with that."

Ken adjusted his bag and stared hard at the black-haired journalist before him. He wanted to be angry, wanted to chew him a new one, but for some reason the playful twinkle in those hazel eyes and the charming quirk of Uchida's smile wouldn't let him. This man should have been a politician, not a journalist. "Look," he snapped, not sounding half as mad as he wanted to, "I've already had a shitty day, and I had a shitty night too. I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't aggravate me on purpose."

"I promise that's not why I came here," Uchida said earnestly. "But I will admit that you were right about one thing, I didn't just happen by. I came to see you."

"So you are stalking me."

"No, I just wanted to get some coffee. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Ken-kun?" he said smiling that smile again, only this time it was softer, more playful and it seemed like it was a particular smile meant just for Ken to see.

The brunette assassin mentally kicked himself for thinking something like that and had to look away because of the awkward heat he was feeling rising to his cheeks. He didn't look away fast enough though.

"Are you blushing?" Uchida asked, his voice teasing, bemused. He stepped closer and bent low, trying to look into Ken's face. "Aww, kawaii da yo!" 

"Get away!" Ken snapped, blushing even redder while trying to fend the other man off with his hand.

"Not unless you come get some coffee with me," Uchida answered, smiling brilliantly.

"Fine!" Ken agreed grumpily, not liking the way it felt like Uchida might pounce on him at any moment if he failed to comply.

"Great! I know just the place." Uchida grinned and gave Ken's wrist a little tug as he passed by him.

The two men headed out of the park, Uchida leading the way with long, elegant strides, Ken following a bit more awkwardly with the bag and the soccer ball forcing him to do an odd little balancing act. They passed down a few streets, Uchida talking about nothing in particular most of the way, Ken halfway, but not really listening. The journalist led Ken to a small, but pleasant café and sat them down at a small table on the street.

After they'd settled in and ordered Uchida leaned across the table, chin in hands, and fixed Ken with a hazel gaze that was a lot more intense than Ken had been prepared for. "So what's made your morning so bad? Why the distraction?"

Ken hadn't thought he'd been all that distracted, but didn't comment on this fact. Maybe he had been. Maybe he'd just been too distracted to notice. Still he found it interesting that Uchida wanted to know, that he cared at all.

Brown eyes looked up and Ken sighed. "My life is falling apart and there's nothing I can do about it. These fucking tabloids have attacked every part of my life and the shit they print isn't just affecting me anymore, it's affecting the things and the people I care about. It's bullshit and I'm sick of it," he said, the words flowing out of his mouth in a bitter, poisonous torrent that surprised even himself. He usually saved that tone of voice for talking to Aya.

The thought of having rough words with the redhead sent an unexpected and annoying little pang to Ken's chest and it irritated him. He grumbled, curling his lip and staring down at the table.

"Is this about your soccer coaching?" Uchida asked, his voice startlingly gentle.

Ken looked up, surprised by the soft concern and understanding. He blinked and then looked away again. He tried to stop the words, not entirely comfortable about confiding in Uchida, but they spilled out anyway. "Yes. The parents won't bring their kids anymore. And it's not that I can blame them for it, I mean I wouldn't want my children to be linked to a supposedly perverted, reportedly dead, apparently drug addicted, ex-soccer star either. I know where they're coming from, but it still hurts. Those kids are my life."

"I understand what you mean. I'd hate it if I couldn't see the kids at the church." Uchida paused for a moment and then said, "You know, you're more than welcome to help out there with me. My number's on that card I gave you…"

Ken looked back at the young man and furrowed his eyebrows. He could never quite figure out if he was just being paranoid or if he had good reason to be suspicious of Uchida Teijirou. Why was the other man so confusing to him? Why couldn't Ken just do what he wanted to do and pass him off as another pushy journalist? Was it because Uchida wouldn't let him or because Ken wouldn't let himself?

"Thank you, but…"

"I'm serious, Ken-kun. You're great with kids, I'm sure they'd love for you to come. What about next week?"

"And what happens when the tabloids find out about that?"

"Do you really think they're going to be so gung-ho about attacking what goes on in a church establishment? For a lot of people reporting that you volunteer at a church would only make them think better of you. Tabloids wouldn't touch that. They're after dirty laundry Ken, not church boys," Uchida said, cocking one eyebrow.

"You seem to know a lot about what tabloids want."

"I'm a journalist, Hidaka, I know how to find a story, and if need be I know how to make a story," Teijirou said matter-of-factly. He wasn't being smug. It was just how it was.

The waiter came with their drinks then. Ken took a sip of his coffee and then shrugged. "We'll see." Though his answer was noncommittal, he couldn't deny that he was excited over the prospect of not having to give up his time with kids after all. And like Uchida said it might even work to his advantage. He wondered what Aya would say to that.

Ken took another sip of his coffee and sat back. "So why did you want to buy me coffee, Uchida-san?" he asked at length.

Uchida looked up, eyes slightly startled. Once again Ken was drawn in by their unusual coloring, that hint of gold in green, both warm and cool at the same time. Dark hair fell gracefully over the rim of his glasses and he brushed it away with one hand, tucking it back behind his ear where it refused to stay, falling forward once more. "I just wanted to do something with you, and I knew where you'd be this morning, so," he shrugged, "I just thought I'd ask you out to coffee. I like you, Hidaka-san. I won't make that a secret."

Ken was taken aback. He didn't quite know what to make of Uchida's answer. The fact that the man knew for certain his whereabouts was unnerving, and yet Uchida would not admit to any ulterior motive, except one potentially huge ulterior motive if his words carried with them a specific kind of meaning.

Ken glanced down at his watch. Normal practice time was well and over with. If he didn't get back to the Koneko soon Aya would notice that he was gone. Thinking of Aya made him think of Uchida's last words again. 'I like you, Hidaka-san, I won't make that a secret.' Shit, he didn't need this.

He stood up abruptly, reaching for his bag. "I'm going to be late for my shift, I gotta go."

Uchida got to his feet hurriedly and reached after Ken. "I'm sorry, was that weird? Did I say something?"

Ken shook his head. "No… yes… no, well it doesn't matter, I need to go. Thank you for the coffee, Uchida-san. And for… trying to cheer me up," he added a little more quietly.

"Anytime. Ne, Hidaka-san, give me a call. I'd really like it if you'd come with me to the church again." 

Ken looked into his eyes for a moment, caught on what to say and then nodded quickly. "Alright. If I have time, ne?"

"If you don't I'll have to start stalking you for real."

"Ha ha. I'll see you later maybe."  And with that Ken grabbed up his stuff and hurried from the sidewalk café. All the way back to the Koneko he couldn't get the sound of Uchida's voice out of his head or the look in his eyes out of his mind. How could this man, this pretentious, arrogant, Gucci-wearing, Prada-toting journalist who was after his soul have this kind of an affect on him?! It wasn't fucking fair! As if his life wasn't complicated enough he now had to worry about Uchida Teijirou's other possible motivations for stalking him. He wasn't sure which option he liked better.

Grumbling to himself he finally reached the shop and shoved the door open, sending the bell into a fit of loud jingling. He breezed by Aya as if he wasn't even there, eye trained resolutely on the door leading into the back. Halfway across the shop Youji stuck his head out from behind his arrangement and called, "You're late, Hidaka. Have a run in with destiny or what?"

"Shut the fuck up, Kudou!" 

He swore that the entire way he could feel indigo eyes burning holes into his back.    


to be continued


Er… please review? Arigatou na!