Standard Disclaimers apply.

Author's Notes:

This is a character story, not a plot story. (Blame my Fil101b professor for feeding that rubbish to my brain.) Gomen for the lack of well, plot. These are basically just musings from Omi's POV with a little ambiguously sappy ending. Enjoy!


By Ryuuen

He smiles.

He knows it makes him a hypocrite, that smile does. No one in their profession should have been able to smile -- at least, not anymore; not in that boyish, seemingly innocent manner that characterizes most of his smiles. For what right does he have to smile when too much blood stains his hands? Yoji told him once that he could easily get away with murder with a smile like that. Maybe Yoji was right. Maybe he could. And maybe that is what he wants -- for the smile to wash away the sins, cleanse his soul of the indelible mark of an assassin, a murderer. For that is what he is -- they are. No matter what Manx tells them. No matter what Persia made him believe. No matter how they hide their gruesome deeds behind the guise of justice. Or maybe he just wants to escape the surrealism of his life, even for a moment. For that smile is the closest he could get to normalcy.

His life, he acknowledges, is one of the bitterest forms of irony. Sometimes, he feels as though he were a mere character in some bizarre manga and his life was subject to the sadistic whims of a deranged mangaka. Or maybe, he thinks, he is a pawn in some warped version of human chess, where the stakes are high and capture equals death, the moves being controlled by some higher being. Had he believed in them, he would have cursed the gods long ago. They must have been having the time of their immortal lives at his expense -- which is an irony in itself. What wasn't? Wasn't it ironic how, at an age when normal children were just beginning to learn the basic principles of life, he was already shoved headfirst into the reality of pain and suffering, of death? Wasn't it ironic how he was left to suffer an unimaginable fate in the hands of his captors by the man he had learned to call "father"? Wasn't it ironic how the man who saved him from that fate took him from one form of darkness to that of killing, hiding behind the emblem of the white cross; ironic how that man turned out to be his real father? Wasn't it ironic how the first time he allowed himself the guilty pleasure of loving and being loved in return, he had lost the girl whom he later found out to be his half-sister? Ironic how he clings to this life in spite of everything. Ironic how, even if given the chance, he would refuse to let go of the darkness for the unfamiliar, blinding realm of light. Irony -- his life, in one word. And yet he still smiles. To cover up all the bitterness that he feels inside. Ironic, how he could still care for what people think of his smile when a part of him insists that he smiles only for himself, even if he smiles at everyone.

He has always wondered what effect his smile has on the people he encounters in his life, or if it makes any impact on them at all. He wonders what it makes them think, makes them feel, makes them see. He knows that people like it when he smiles. He knows by the way they would instinctively return the smile in any way -- a Pavlovian reaction, a conditioned response; as though it were a sin not to -- Yoji in that sleepy way of his and Ken, bashful, playfully ruffling his tresses in an endearing, brotherly gesture. It makes fan girls giggle and swoon. It puts customers at ease. It makes Momoe-san break her silent routine of cat-petting to make light conversation with him. It makes people think him innocent and not suspect a thing, feel that he can be trusted. It lends them a false sense of security. Yes, people like it when he smiles. It probably gives them the illusion that the world isn't as fucked up as some make it out to be, not when there still are people who could smile the way he does. But it doesn't really matter to him, as long as seeing him smile could somehow brighten up their days. It doesn't really matter because, in some bizarre, unexplainable way, he makes himself believe that that smile could atone for his sins. And so he smiles. For everyone and no one. For what he has and doesn't have. For his friends, his family... Weiss. For Yoji-kun and Ken-kun. For Momoe-san. For his classmates and teachers who know him as the smart and talented student that he is during the day. For the people who see him as just another pretty face. For Manx. For Botan and Birman. He smiles for Takatori Shuichi and for Ouka. For all those who have fallen by his hands. He smiles for the world and for himself. For Aya-kun. For Ran.

Ran. It has been hard getting used to calling their stoic leader that. Somehow, he feels it isn't right to refer to the person he has known only as Aya for several years with such a foreign name, even if it is his real one. Somehow, through those years, he has learned to associate the beautiful, if not effeminate, name with the coldness of steel and the warmth of passion, with stark clarity and miasma, with deadly calm and acerbity. He has learned to associate it with pomegranate eyes and pale skin and hair almost the color of blood. It has always reminded him of pain and suffering akin to his own, of betrayal. For Ran assumed that name as a vow, a pledge to exact revenge upon those responsible for his and his sister's fate. And they did, upon the same family that brought him into this gods-forsaken world. That is why Ran need not hide behind the facade of Aya any longer.

Ran is, however, not one whom he could consider a close friend. Of the three older assassins, it would be Ken who would fit the description best, with Yoji being who he was and with whomever he was. But with Ran... He knows that the redhead tolerates him, to say the least. Whether it is by virtue of their pseudo-partnership or because of the fact that he strives to be less annoying than how the other finds Yoji and Ken to be sometimes is debatable, though. And even if he never really intends to, there are times when he could almost decipher the flicker of approval and satisfaction reflected in bottomless orbs. And it makes him happy, for that is everything he wants. So he smiles. And though Ran never returns the gesture, it is alright. He understands so much more by allowing himself to drown in liquid amethyst.

He has never really seen Ran smile and, somehow, he knows that that isn't something he was meant to witness. Sure, he has sometimes glimpsed the slight quirk of thinly drawn lips during missions as purple eyes glow in harmony with that lone golden earring. He doesn't know what to make of that and it makes him wonder how it must feel to be at the receiving end of that look and consequently, the tip of a katana's blade. He couldn't help but wonder how it must have felt for their targets to realize that the ripper whose name is death comes in the form of glinting amethyst and fiery scarlet -- feral in the silver of moonlight, predatory. Ran is his complete opposite, he thinks -- the older man's indifferent, sullen, withdrawn demeanor the antithesis of his bright, outgoing and jovial nature. Many times has he tried to strike up a conversation with him to be answered in monosyllables or short, clipped sentences, as though he might reveal something if he speaks more. He counts himself lucky not to be ignored, though, or worse -- get yelled at. Well, not as often as Ken and, more so, Yoji were subjected to his trademark "Shi-ne" glare anyway. And so he smiles for him, even if such is to be met by that blank expression and unidentifiable flicker in their leader's eyes, bordering between mild scrutiny and something else altogether. He could never guess what Ran thinks of that smile and he resigns himself to the knowledge that he may never figure it out. Ran would never let him. Funny, though, how someone who never reciprocates that smile could be the only one who could bring it back.

He had never known pain as much as he did during that life-altering moment of revelation when he learned the truth -- about his past, his family, who he was and who he is supposed to be. He almost betrayed Weiss for the illusion of filial love of kin. And it hurt. Hurt to see the sadness in Ken's eyes and the look of disappointment mirrored in emerald orbs. Hurt to know that nothing could ever be the same again. Hurt to perceive hatred and anger emanating from the man he has always striven so hard to please. For, the moment he raised his bow in defense of the man who was his brother by blood alone, he became the enemy -- their enemy. For the sheer desire to experience that it feels like to belong to a family, which he soon realized was a mistake. So he came back, drenched in the blood of his own brethren. And they accepted him, welcomed him back -- the prodigal son. But he doubted, then, for he knew that nothing could absolve the mortal sin of being a Takatori. It was during that moment between confusion and realization, denial and acceptance, that he heard the very words that served as his epiphany.

"Omae wa Takatori Mamoru janai. Tsukiyono Omi da."

And for some time now, that has been his only reality. He believes, holding onto it like a lifeline. For he knows that, without the reassurance masked by severity, he would find himself lost, floating in a never-ending sea of loneliness. Like his soul, burning in the pits of hell. With no redemption. And, though the thought scares him, he still smiles. To chase away the fear. To deceive others. To deceive himself. And to deceive the only one who manages to recognize the lonely child hiding behind the shelter of that smile.

He wonders how one who never smiles and hardly show emotion could be the only one to decipher the falseness of his smiles. He thinks he could fool anyone with that expression, for deception had been part of his training. He could fool everyone, even himself at times. But not him. Never him. And it has always been comforting and frustrating at the same time, having those eyes stare unfeelingly at him, save for the tiny flicker of repressed sympathy which he would have missed were it not for his keen sense of observation borne of being an assassin for half his life. Ran understands, he knows, even if he never says a thing. And he is grateful for that. So he smiles. Sincerely, truthfully. Without pretense. For him... only him. And yet...

He reveals so much in each of those smiles that there are times when those emotionless spheres that bore into his soul makes him want to lash out in anger or pain or a strange combination of both. At such times, he hates him. Really hates him. He hates him with a passion that blurs in its intensity. He hates him with an emotion that gnaws at the very core of his being. He hates him for living up to the image of the cold-hearted bastard that everyone portrays him as. He hates those cold, cold eyes that make him feel... make him acknowledge what he feels. He hates him for unknowingly being the reason behind his few heartfelt smiles. For, when he smiles at Ran, he always unwillingly seeks those eyes that bring him so much pain and comfort -- cerulean against velvet. When he smiles at Ran, he instinctively offers something of himself to the older man. And it hurts to find no acknowledgement thereof in those eyes. But he manages to smile, telling himself that it doesn't really matter, that it doesn't pain him to know that Ran doesn't really care for him as much as he wants himself to believe. For Ran forces himself to see him as nothing more than what his smile makes of him.

He is a child, appears to be an innocent. And maybe that is how Ran sees him. Maybe that is what his partner has always read into his smiles. He often looks himself in the mirror and smiles. And what he usually sees is not Mamoru, the abandoned child nor Bombay, the assassin, but Tsukiyono Omi. And it feels good to indulge himself in the illusion. But then, if what Ran sees in him is a naive, gullible, breakable young boy in spite of his functions as Weiss's strategist, then maybe that is the reason why he has never allowed himself the chance to entertain the thought of accepting what he was being offered -- what their youngest team mate was offering him willingly, unconditionally. Whatever it is.

He is drawn out of his reverie as footsteps pad towards him and he tenses...


... and relaxes. The tone is flat and stern, soft yet firm, and he could almost imagine the quirk of an elegant brow that accompanies his spoken name. He sighs, willing the almost painful racing of his heart against his chest to stop, and faces the newcomer. There is no doubt who it is.

"Gomen, Ran-kun. I didn't mean to leave the door open and let the cold in. I just needed some fresh air. Can't sleep. Was there something you wanted?"

Dark eyes of the deepest violet stare at him, into him, as though studying him intently. And then they are gone as he draws his own gaze away shyly and studies the floor with equal intensity, a flush he doesn't bother explaining away creeping against his cheeks. Silence. And then...

Warm hands rest upon his shoulders, a fleeting touch quickly replaces by the comfort of fabric, warm against his skin. He wraps himself more tightly in the blanket, for that was what Ran had placed around him, but refuses to look up.

"You should come in. It's getting cold."

Only then does he lift his eyes only to be faced with the Abyssinian's retreating back.

"Aya... Ran-kun!"

The redhead stops and turns around. Maybe it is the night. Maybe it is the warmth of the cloth around his shoulder that reassures him that it would be alright for now.


And he smiles. Though it makes him look young and naive. Though it makes Ran think of him as a hypocrite. Though he doesn't expect it to be acknowledged. Though it may have been useless, may not have meant anything to his friend. He smiles and puts everything he feels into that smile, enough to warrant a second glance from the usually immovable Ran. Amethyst eyes watch him once again with an unreadable expression as though urging him to continue.

"Thank you for everything."

And then he is moving forwards and, in an impulsive gesture he doesn't care whether or not he would regret later, he reaches up, fastening his arms around a slender neck, and presses cold lips against surprisingly warm ones in a brief, chaste and tentative kiss -- as innocent as his smiles make him appear. His eyes flutter closed as he relishes the feeling, for he knows he would never be allowed to relive this moment, this communion. Reluctantly, he pulls away and opens his eyes, preparing himself for the worst. Ran has just been standing there throughout the whole ordeal yet he is somehow chastised by the absence of discernable disgust or hatred in the almost feral glow of the other assassin's eyes. He ventures a smile once again.

"Thank you, Ran-kun."

Sheepishly, he withdraws his arms. A soft night breeze blows, tinged with the chill of near-autumn and he huddles closer to the fabric draped upon his shoulders. And as the roguish wind sends his tresses into mild disarray, he barely notices pale fingers holding them back behind his ear.


Simple. Straightforward. It is a sincere, almost curious question that makes his smile grow tender. With a contented sigh, he leans against the hand that is yet to leave the curve of his cheek and covers it with his own. Ran does nothing, but patiently waits for him to answer. He closes his eyes once again and whispers.

"For being the reason behind my smile."

He doesn't know where this would lead, doesn't really care. Ran maintains the comfortable silence between them, allowing him the illusion of something more. And though he almost wished that the redhead would return his smile or do something else altogether, he know it would be asking too much.

So for now, he smiles -- for himself, for Ran, for the stars in the heavens and the cold night wind, for the flower shop below and the city resting beyond. For the world. And he smiles for a day in the future when he would give everything up for a smile in return.