...xxxXxxx...

"You're bored."

"No." Rai shifts on the floor. She doesn't lift her head when she answers. "I like this magazine." She doesn't sound particularly enthusiastic.

Omi is surrounded by notebooks and textbooks, over on his side of the living room. Ken and Aya checked in around ten. They should be back by now. Maybe they stopped at a restaurant. He reads a calculus problem for the third time, and checks the time again, surreptitiously.

It doesn't seem as though Rai dislikes him too much, although when Ken told her the evening's plans she was less than friendly at first. Omi can't really blame her; anyone subjected to Aya's sense of helpfulness is bound to have a backlash in distrusting the majority of the human race for at least a day or two – or, at least, any members of the human race who are in neck-deep with the redhead. But pizza and manga relaxed the atmosphere. He'd suggested a movie but gave in when she pushed him to admit he had homework, so she's now reading manga while he studies.

"I'll be done in a few minutes," Omi finally says. "We can watch a movie then, if you like."

She makes a noncommittal sound. Paper rustles; she turns a page.

The phone rings. Omi reaches for the headset and brings it to his ear in a fast motion from years of practice.

"Where are you?" Oh, shit, he thinks. This isn't good. "Yeah," he says into the voice piece. "On my way."

He lets the headset fall to the floor and concentrates on letting his face smooth over as if everything's fine. After a second he opens his eyes, smiling widely at Rai.

"You need to stay here for a little while by yourself," Omi says, choosing his tone carefully. "I need to help Aya with some stuff."

"That's cool." Rai lays the magazine aside and pulls her legs under her as she speaks. "I'll head back to Ken's."

"No," Omi replies, a little too quickly. She shoots him a strange look and he smiles again. "I'll be back before you know it."

Rai slowly sinks back down, her expression puzzled. She stares at Omi for several seconds, then slowly nods. Her hair falls in her face as she turns away, and she picks the magazine up as if it wasn't worth further protest. Omi nods, satisfied.

"I'll be back in just a few."

He slips his feet into his sneakers and pulls the door shut behind him. Omi pauses outside the door, then silently locks the door behind him. It wouldn't hold his teammates in, but the need for a key on the interior side would definitely keep an amateur in one place for a while.

He takes off down the stairs for Ken's apartment, cursing the entire situation under his breath. He's got to make this fast.

...xxxXxxx...

Aya opens the door to Ken's apartment, his lips thin in his pale face. Wordlessly he opens the door wider, letting Omi slip past.

"The bedroom?" Omi toes his shoes off.

Aya grunts; he's putting on his boots. Omi takes that as a yes, noticing a streak of red covering Aya's jacket, and drying blood on Aya's left hand. By the time Omi ducks into Ken's bedroom, Aya is gone.

"Ken," Omi whispers, his eyebrows up to see Ken hunched on the bed, cradling his arm to his chest. "What happened?"

"Ran into Farf after dinner." Ken looks up, grimacing.

Aya must have helped Ken out of his jacket but hadn't stuck around to do more than call for Omi's help. That's fine by Omi, anyway. Aya makes a piss-poor nurse when he's cranky. Omi gathers up the med-kit, setting it to the side, ready to go.

"We were walking out, he was walking in. And no, Schuldig was nowhere around."

"Strange. They're always together." Omi pulls Ken's arm away from his chest and studies the deep gash in Ken's forearm. "I'll stitch it up."

"Where's Rai?"

"Reading manga in my apartment."

"You're kidding." Ken grins.

"What's so funny?"

"She hates comics." Ken's grin gets wider, despite a mild wince as Omi dabs at the caked blood with an antiseptic cloth. "Hell, she hates reading anything that isn't a car manual."

Omi's eyes are wide as he stares down at the cut. Farfarello got a good one in on Ken. Means Ken must've been distracted. Either he was arguing with Aya again, or there's something else on his mind. Omi studies Ken out of the corner of his eye and knocks the argument theory off the list. If that were true, both Aya and Ken would be halfway to unconscious and covered with more than a few bruises. Their arguments tend to get violent, fast.

Omi sighs and drags the first aid kit to the edge of the bed. Dabbing the topical painkiller on Ken's arm, he prepares suture and thread.

"I don't know if that was—"

"I know what you're going to say," Ken interrupts. "I heard enough from Aya already about it. Didn't stop him from kicking the daylights outta Farf when he got the chance."

"Of course." Omi sits back on his heels, taking a break from leaning over Ken's arm. "He wouldn't have left you there," he tells his teammate.

"Like hell," Ken replies, but his voice is softer. "He would love for me to fall off the face of the planet right now."

"Ken-Ken," Omi says. He shuts his mouth as Ken jerks his arm away.

"Look, I'm a screw-up. Let's talk about something else."

"I'll wrap this and we'll be done." Omi pulls the last stitches and carefully snips the end of the thread.

...xxxXxxx...

Ken's front door slams and both men instinctively freeze. Omi motions to Ken and rocks back on his heels to see into the hallway, one hand slipping to his hidden stash of darts. He relaxes at familiar light footsteps, and a few seconds later Aya appears in the bedroom doorway. He looks over Ken, but his frown fades slightly when he glances at Omi's handiwork.

"Are you done yet?"

"Almost, Aya-kun," Omi replies with a smile. He begins winding bandages around Ken's right arm.

"I'll go get your bike," Aya states.

Ken is startled by the offer. "No need." He can hear the defensiveness in his voice; Aya's eyebrow goes up, and Ken fights the urge to bristle. "I'll call a cab and head over there."

Aya grunts, dismissal and disbelief, his eyebrow arching again. "You deal with Rai." He crosses his arms, leaning against the doorjamb as he watches his teammates. "I'll get the bike. We can't leave it there overnight."

"Why not?" Omi is searching the kit for a butterfly clip.

"The whole area around the Meiji Shrine is a towing area if you don't have a permit." Aya's voice is remote. "Besides, I don't want to leave it there for Schwartz to find. The restaurant was only a block off Omotesando Avenue."

"He's got a point," Omi tells Ken.

Ken grits his teeth. He's visualizing using Aya's head to make a new window in his bedroom. He would have been fine riding the bike home, but Aya won't hear of it. No, Ken considers, the bastard wouldn't want to miss a chance to be even more martyred by having a wounded team mate bleed all over the precious leather interior of that stupid sports car.

Omi piles the first aid materials back into the kit; Ken comes to his feet.

"Omi," Ken says, avoiding Aya's knowing gaze. "If you could keep Rai busy for another half-hour, I'm going to call a cab and go get the bike myself."

He silently dares Aya to offer him a ride, although he doubts Aya would bother. Doesn't matter; either way Aya would retain that self-righteous attitude. Ken yanks his sliced shirt off, grabbing a clean one from the dresser as he shoves past Aya. He pulls it over his head in the four steps to the kitchen, blindly putting his hand down to the countertop for his keys.

His hand hits the countertop, his fingers catch nothing, and he sweeps his hand in a wider arc. Ken jumps slightly when the back of his hand catches his helmet, which promptly flies off the countertop and bounces a few times on the linoleum. Most of his stuff is already unbreakable, so he isn't worried. He ignores Aya's disapproval, radiating in waves from where he stands by the cluttered table.

Ken is too busy focusing on why his keys aren't on the countertop. He always drops his keys and his wallet right here. Coming in with the human ice cube hadn't interrupted that habit. His wallet is sitting right where he'd left it. He knows he was the one who unlocked the door, so they hadn't used the spare Aya kept on his own chain.

He turns around, scanning all horizontal spaces in the apartment in a rapid circle. No, he'd stopped in the kitchen and then headed straight back to his room. He hadn't wanted to be in the living room if Omi had no choice but to bring Rai with him. Ken's sure she'd believe he got into a bar fight; she'd give him hell, but she'd believe him. He just doesn't want to lie if he can help it.

"Ken-Ken," Omi whispers, his blue eyes startlingly large in his heart-shaped face. "Where's your spare helmet?"

"My what?" Ken glances down at Omi, his brow furrowed. "I'm looking for my keys."

"Your helmet." Omi holds up the motorcycle helmet before putting it back on the edge of the kitchen counter. "When I came in, your helmet and your spare were both sitting there. Now there's just one."

Ken stares down at his wallet with a dawning feeling of horror, and slowly drags the wallet towards him, flipping it open. "I'm missing 2,000 yen."

Aya looks over, glancing down at the wallet and then back at Ken. "How do you know?"

"Because I paid for dinner and ended up with exactly 2,000 yen left." Ken puts the wallet back on the countertop and feels the back pocket of his jeans. "Shit." He takes a deep breath and digs his left hand into each of his jeans pockets. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."

"Ken!" Omi is starting to sound scared. "What's going on?"

"The print-out," Ken grits out. "I took it out of my pocket and left it on the countertop with my wallet."

"What?" Aya's violet eyes are narrow and harsh; his entire body vibrates with fury. Ken takes an involuntary step backwards. "You just leave it out where anyone could find it?"

"What about you? Did you leave my door unlocked?" Ken retorts hotly. "I was busy getting my latest scar tailored, if you didn't notice!"

"Lock..." Omi's soft voice interrupts the two men.

Suddenly he's sprinting past them. He doesn't even stop to put on his sneakers but tears the door open and darts out without a backwards look. Surprised, the two men immediately take off after him. They find his apartment door open, and Aya nearly runs into Ken when he pauses at Omi's threshold.

"Idiot." Aya's tone is between exasperated and incredulous. "This girl— did you even—"

"Shut up," Ken spits back. "I don't want to hear it. There's got to be a reason for this."

He can't think, between his head spinning a little from the blood loss, and Aya's furious glare. The topical painkiller is already starting to wear off thanks to the endorphin rush of finding that his friend has stolen his keys, one of his helmets, and 2,000 yen. Angrily he shakes his head and pushes past Aya, into Omi's cluttered space. Aya draws back at the contact, and Ken has to take a deep breath to keep from taking offense at Aya's usual response to having his personal space violated.

I'll punch him later, says a small amused voice somewhere in the back of his head. Ken adds Aya's proximity alarms back into the mental list of things that bug him about his teammate.

Omi is crouched in the middle of a pile of keys, notepads, pens, flyers for local take-out places. "Her shoes are gone. So's her jacket." One of his drawers has been dumped upside down onto the floor.

Aya comes to stand by Omi, who's crouched in front of the drawer's contents. He kneels down, swiping a luggage key with two delicate fingers. "Junk drawer?"

Omi nods, his face pale.

"You keep spare keys in here, too?" Aya's voice is level and controlled.

Omi nods again.

"Hey," Ken says, puzzled. He's in the living room, staring down at something. "Do you usually leave your bag like that?"

"What?" Omi starts. Ken is holding up his empty school pack, and Omi rounds the kitchen island to gape at the entire contents of his school bag dumped in a pile. "Why would..."

"Is anything missing?" Ken's voice is soft, dangerously soft for the anger coursing through his veins.

When he finds Rai, he's going to pummel her into next week. No, he'll yell at her. No, he'll hit her so hard her grandmother will feel it. She's gone through my friend's stuff, took my money and my bike keys... Yeah, that annoying small voice reminds him, she did all that after you ditched her for five hours without a really good reason and made her stay with a babysitter who locked her in. Who wouldn't bolt?

Ken sighs, the fight draining out of him. His shoulders slump as Omi digs through the pile of pencils, homework assignments, and various school-related odds and ends.

"My school ID," Omi says. He sits back on his heels and scratches his head. "Why would someone take that?"

Ken starts laughing. "For getting out of – or into – locked apartments."

Aya glances behind him to the door, reaching out with a hand to shut it when he realizes it's ajar.

"Must not have worked when getting out," Ken continues. "Or she won't have gone through your kitchen drawers." He stifles the urge to bash his fist into the wall; his second impulse is to giggle hysterically. He coughs instead. This is just turning out to be one seriously fucked-up week. "Anyway, I'm going back to my place. You need me, you know where to find me."

"Ken-Ken," Omi starts to say, but Ken holds up a hand as he stops at the door.

"No," Ken replies evenly, ignoring the furiously cold vibes rolling off Aya. "I don't want to hear it. She'll come back, she'll give me a reason, and I'll get you back your stuff." Without another word he yanks the door open, not even bothering to shut it behind him as he strides off down the corridor.

...xxxXxxx...

The garage is dark, and a bit chilly on the spring midnight. Omi is pulling on his helmet, when he looks up to see Aya. There were no footsteps warning him, but he's learned to sense when his too-silent teammate is around. Aya is standing before the scooter with an irritated expression.

"Aya-kun," Omi replies to the unspoken command. "Someone's got to see if she's okay. She's got the keys, and the address list. If she's gone to get the bike..."

Neither man sees a reason to note that Omi's got his crossbow slung across his back, or that Aya's katana case is slung over his shoulder. They both know what it means.

"Get some sleep." Aya waits until Omi nods agreement, setting his helmet down. Aya folds his long limbs into the low-slung Porsche, pulling out of the garage bay without a second glance.

...xxxXxxx...

Ken has counted time by the beers collected at his feet. Four beers; she's been gone a little over an hour. Sighing, he props his head up on his chin, his elbows on his knees, his right hand dangling uselessly. The dark brown hair, tangled and overgrown, falls into his face, masking the kitchen's overhead light from his eyes.

It takes a second to register the draught from the front door opening and closing. Somewhere, in the back of his brain, it becomes a little clearer how she could get in and out, if the door could open and close that quietly.

Thud.

One boot hits the floor.

Ken wouldn't know how quiet things could be. He's always banged the door open and banged it shut again. Idly he wonders if this one more reason Aya glares at him in the mornings.

Thud.

The other boot hits the floor.

With a quiet sigh, Ken closes his eyes again. Does he want to deal with this right now?

Socked feet pad towards Ken, and he feels more than hears Rai kneel down in front of him. He doesn't open his eyes, and it startles him for a heartbeat when her fingertips settle onto his knees. He can feel warm breath on his cheek and fights the urge to bolt upright.

"Was I wrong?" Rai's voice is sorrowful, but quiet. "To believe in you?"

Ken frowns. This wasn't what he expected, and he pauses before slowly opening his eyes to see Rai's gray eyes are swollen and red. Her face is stained with clean streaks where tears must have coursed down her cheeks.

"Believe in me what?" His voice startles him. It sounds louder than he'd meant it to.

"I always believed you were innocent." Distrustful. Hurt. Even accusing. "All this time, you weren't?"

"I was." Ken frowns again, his eyes searching her face. "I am."

"Right." She sits back on her heels. Her shoulders slump, and she rubs her nose for a second before speaking. Her tone borders on sarcastic. "So you fight just for the fun of it?"

"It's not..." Ken cuts himself off.

What's he supposed to say? I'm an assassin, and if you hadn't come home I would have tracked you down and killed you for taking that printout? He turns his head, to stare across the cluttered apartment, rather than continue to see her tear-stained face. That is, assuming my teammates wouldn't have killed you already. No, there's nothing to say.

"You're in something bad," she finally says, watching him closely. "Will you tell me?"

"No."

"Can I help?"

"No."

"I didn't think so." Rai exhales, long and slow, and starts gathering the beer bottles. She seems disappointed, as if she doesn't believe him. Or maybe she does, but doesn't want to because doing so raises more questions.

"You don't have to do that," Ken says, but he makes no move to stop her as she gets up. She dumps the bottles in the trash. "Leave it," he tells her when she comes back for the case. She nods, digging out a beer for herself.

"You don't have forty-two thousand yen," she says. Her voice is flat, as though she were commenting about the weather.

"Do too," he retorts, leaning over to get a beer for himself. Number five? Number six? Whatever.

"This isn't going to get us anywhere." Her observation is met with silence; Ken goes back to staring at the kitchen wall.

There's a pause, and Ken reluctantly looks over, surprised to see her digging in one of her boxes of clothes. After a second she pulls out a dark green bottle and sets it down with a solid thud on the floor between them. Two shot glasses follow it.

"I'm not drinking that crap," he tells her.

He recognizes the brand. It's repulsive. Strong, opiate-based stuff that could bring a grown man to his knees. Ken kissed a girl once that drank that stuff. Her lips tasted of black licorice, heady and sweet. He didn't bring her home, he remembers now. He just kissed her in the alley and pulled away before she could respond. He wonders why he's thinking of it, and drags his attention back to Rai, the bottle, and the two shot glasses.

"We each ask a question. If you don't want to answer it, you take a shot," she explains. "You can go first," she adds graciously.

Ken settles cross-legged on the floor facing her. All he wants to do is tell her the truth... and he can't. His mind is spinning, behind his serious expression, and he's not sure whether it's really just the alcohol. He can't tell her about his life now, but he doesn't want her thinking Kase's lies were real. She'd always believed in Ken, when so few else did. He knows he doesn't want to lose that, but without a good explanation? Ken shakes his head. Get a grip. She's not going to keep going on faith, not with the way things must look to her, now.

"What do you want the money for," he asks.

"I need ten thousand for false papers." She leans against the wall, her eyes half-lidded as she takes a swig of the beer.

"Why?"

"No," she replies. "My turn. What happened to your arm?"

Ken's surprised. He didn't realize she'd noticed he was favoring the arm. Or maybe she noticed that he's wearing long sleeves on a relatively nice spring evening. Or perhaps it's just that one forearm is twice the size of the other, thanks to Omi's thick bandages.

"Got cut up in a knife fight. What are the papers for?" He takes a drink, and the reply comes back at him. Fast.

"Need to convince someone I'm twenty-one. Do you know the guy you fought?"

"Yeah. You in something illegal?" He clenches his jaw, not sure what answer he wants to hear.

"What?"

"For why you need papers."

"Oh. No. Not really."

There's a pause, and Ken glances up to see Rai looking away from him. There's a line forming between her eyebrows, and she looks a little confused. Finally she shakes her head, turning to look at him again.

"Not illegal if I were twenty-one." When he nods, she relaxes. "How do you know the guy?"

Deliberately Ken leans forward, his eyes locked on hers as he picks up the large green bottle. He takes the shot with a quick tilt of his head, gasping slightly as the thick liquid pours down his throat. It tastes like cough medicine, if cough medicine came in black licorice flavor. Ken settles back down, his hands on his knees as he stiffly sits cross-legged.

"My turn," he tells her. "What's the rest of the money for?"

There's a slightly longer pause before she answers. "An operation. Why did you drug me last night?"

"We were stitching you up and removing rocks from your feet. Did you really want to be awake for that?"

"That a question?"

Ken shrugs.

"Then... no, I wouldn't. I found the bottle. Why'd you give me three when the dosage is one?"

"I gave you two. The third was an antibiotic." He takes another swig of beer. The liquor is making his throat feel numb. His fingers are starting to tingle. "What's the operation?"

Without hesitation her fingers wrap around the bottle, pouring herself a shot and tossing it back with calm efficiency. Setting the shot glass down in front of her, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, her eyes defiant.

"I woke up while you were gone," she says. Flat, annoyed. Maybe a little hurt, but Ken wouldn't be able to tell if her fingers weren't playing nervously with the seam of her jeans. "Where'd you go?"

"I had to work."

How many questions can he dodge? That liquor is strong. It doesn't help he's on his fifth beer, or sixth beer, or whatever. She's pulling her ponytail holder out, and he can clearly see lines of exhaustion on her face. He'd not noticed before, too distracted by her puffy red eyes.

Ken blows his unruly bangs out of his face before speaking. "Why were you crying?"

"I was humiliated! Thinking I'd defended you when you'd really done what everyone said you had." She glances away from him, then comes up on her knees to drag a piece of paper out of her back pocket. "What was this for?"

"Work. Why'd you go after the bike?"

"I wanted..." Tears are forming in Rai's eyes. She bristles at his gaze, blinking hard, forcing the tears back. "I wanted to help. Whose addresses are these?"

"Clients." That's close enough to the truth, he figures. "If you wanted to help, why didn't you let us know you were here?" Not that I would've been thrilled to see you, Ken admits to himself unhappily. The whole point was for her to be out of the way.

"I was going to, but..." She shakes herself.

"Answer the question."

"I did," she replies.

"No," Ken interrupts. "You have to answer the whole question or we'll never get anywhere. I want to sleep at some point tonight. I have to work tomorrow."

"Fine," she snaps. "I was going to, but then that Aya guy or whatever his name is came in, and I ducked behind the kitchen island rather than deal with him. I don't like him, and after hearing him be all nasty to you, I just wanted to punch him." Rai takes a swig of beer, following it up with a defiant look at Ken. "That good enough?"

He nods.

"Is he always like that?" Her expression's surly.

Ken's startled. "Aya?" When Rai raises her eyebrows, as if to say 'who else?', he can't help himself and grins at her. "Yeah, pretty much, but he's not a bad guy. Just...not a people-person. What was the fight for?"

"They found out who I was dating. Why did Omi lock me in his apartment?"

"I think he was trying to keep you safe." Ken shrugs. "Why don't your brothers like your boyfriend?"

"He's not Japanese. Can I beat Omi up later for being so rude?"

"After you return his school ID and spare apartment key." Ken drains the rest of his beer and gets up for something less alcoholic. He's amused to find his feet aren't quite as steady, and he accidentally kicks the shot glass. Rai scrambles after it, and he laughs. "I think you'd be surprised how much fight Omi could put up," he tells her. The kid may prefer long-range but he's got more grace than this scrappy little brawler with the barely-healed scratches on her cheek and the florid bruise running down her leg. "Let's move to the sofa."

It takes some arranging, but soon they're lying across the sofa at opposite ends. Ken's got one leg bent up and the other stretched out. Rai faces him, her ankles crossed between his legs. It's an old position, from how they used to lie when watching movies at the foster home, but their legs are longer now, Ken notes, absently amused. She's got a fresh beer; the shot glasses and green glass bottle sit waiting on the coffee table.

"Who was next?" Rai fiddles with the label on the beer.

"Me." Ken sighs. "How'd you get this alcohol?"

"It was a gift." Rai sneaks a glance at him, and he's surprised to see a shy smile on her face. "What clients want flowers at midnight?"

"We weren't delivering flowers." Ken knows the flippant response won't be enough to satisfy her. He rubs his forehead as he throws out his next question. "Your boyfriend give you a lot of things?" A sudden intake of breath from the other end of the sofa means he hit the mark on that one.

"Not really. Are you mixed up in anything illegal?"

"No," he finally says. He thinks about adding, 'if I told you, I'd have to kill you,' but the joke is too close to the truth. The thought makes him cautious ask he asks his question. "What else has your boyfriend given you?"

"A knife and a gun."

"What?" Ken's voice is loud and abrupt. He sits bolt upright, his dropped drink rolling across the wooden floor to bump against the sofa's base. "What in the holy fuck are you doing with a gun?"

Rai flinches. "Nothing, yet." She turns her head away. "That's two questions. It's my turn."

"Screw the fucking questions!" Ken shakes his head. "Do you have any idea what would happen to you if anyone finds out you have a gun?"

"Yeah," she says, sullenly. She brings her legs up into her chest and wraps her arms around her shins. She winces at the motion, and he knows the stitches in her shoulder and thigh were pulled.

"I don't think so," Ken barks. "They're illegal. You'll go to jail if anyone finds out you've got one."

"You gonna turn me in?" Rai's sudden ice-water fear is tempered by a burst of indignation that her old friend might betray her. The end result is that her words sound strangled, torn between the two strong emotions.

Ken stares at her for several seconds before his face relaxes. There's still some anger seeping from him, but it's subsiding even as he pulls her back to her original position.

"No," he says after another long silence. "I wouldn't turn you in."

"Thanks for small favors," she replies, glancing at him. His lips are quirking at the edges, and she scowls. "Don't you dare laugh. It's not funny."

"I think so." Ken's lips twitch up at the corners. "What kind of boyfriend gives his girlfriend a knife, a gun, and a bottle of cough syrup?"

"We playing questions again?"

"Sure," Ken replies, picking up the bottle from the floor. He turns the lights off when he returns to clean the spill, knocking over a stack of magazines in the process. "Fuck," he mutters, then shrugs and settles himself back on the sofa.

"My turn," Rai informs him when he hands her one of the drinks. "Actually I should get several turns, I think."

"No, you don't."

"Fine." Her hair is slipping in her face again, and she tucks some of it behind an ear while she thinks. "Why didn't you want me staying in your apartment while you were gone?"

Oh, Ken thinks. Back to that. Because I didn't want you finding anything bloodstained. Because I didn't want you finding old gloves I've been meaning to get fixed. Because I didn't have a chance to move anything to the shop's basement. Because I was too tired last night to care.

"Pour me a shot," he replies.

Rai grimaces, but obeys. Ken tips the shot glass, frowning slightly as the cool liquid coats his throat again. There's a clink as the shot glass is set on the floor by the sofa, and he takes a quick swig of soda to rinse the taste from his mouth.

"Do you even know how to shoot a gun?"

"No. You gonna teach me?"

"I could." Ken smirks at her surprise. "I heard the message Yohji gave you. What'd it mean?"

"It meant Akira saw my...boyfriend." Rai hesitates on the word, as if it's a newer concept than she'd like to admit. She rubs her nose a few times and leans back against the arm of the sofa. "How do you make enough money for your own place if you only work at a flower shop?"

Nail, hammer, bang.

Ken wonders if she'd figured it out right away and just waited to spring it on him. You either have cash, or you don't, and you don't get it working in a florist shop. Not with the cost of living in Shibuya. He sighs.

"I have...other work. What did the message mean?"

"Means Eric came by, and Akira told him what happened. What other work?"

He grins, suddenly amused at the thought of Rai, with a boyfriend. The tomboy found a boyfriend. He knows he's drunk, and for a moment, he doesn't care about all the rest – the blood, the money, the questions. Rai blushes deeply, looking away from him with an annoyed expression.

"Stop looking at me like that."

Ken grunts, doing his best Rai imitation. And Aya, that small voice in his head says. Don't you pity Aya-chan, the voice teases, if you have this much aggravation dealing with a Mini-Aya? Imagine having a full-blown Aya as a sibling. Ken growls quietly at himself. Shut up. Stay focused.

"I do freelance work for..." Ken pauses. His reaction time is slowing, thanks to that stupid liquor moving through his veins. It's slowing down his thinking, which is never that fast in the first place. Action is his forte, not this slow considered phrasing. That's Aya's skill, logically reasoning things out. Or Yohji's, coming up with the most charming, manipulative way to say something without really saying anything at all. Even Omi is witty, bantering cheerfully where Ken just feels tongue-tied.

"So are you gonna finish that sentence?"

"Oh. Right." He wonders what time it is, but a glance at the VCR reminds him it's never been set. "I do freelance work for... a kind of security company." Not even close, he thinks, but he can't handle another shot so soon after the first. "Your boyfriend have something to do with why you want money?"

Rai pours herself a shot. Her silence as good as answers the question.

"All four of you do this freelance work?" Rai's staring at the shot glass. Ken wonders if she's keeping it handy in case.

"I'm not answering for anyone else."

"Then take a shot."

"No." Ken crosses his arms. "That question's out of bounds. Not my problem if you don't like it. Why won't Eric loan you the money?"

"Not his problem. Will you teach me to fight?"

"Will I what?" That was unexpected. His fuzzy brain pushes the gun discussion to the forefront and he smirks. "Yeah," he reluctantly says. "Sure." It might even do her some good, if she plans on... "You going to keep seeing this guy?"

"I don't know." Rai's gaze falls on the fallen magazines, the glossy covers spread out across the wooden floor, dark shapes against the floor. "Will you still loan me the money?"

Her tone is bland, but Ken can see one large gray eye looking sadly at nothing in particular. He settles back farther into the sofa. Rai response by wriggling downwards on the sofa, her ankles slipping into his armpits as she lays her head down at the opposite end.

"Of course," Ken chides her. He stares up at the ceiling, then lets his eyes slowly close. "You in love with him?"

"I don't know." Her voice is softer, trailing off on the last word.

Ken can feel her legs relaxing along his torso, and her breathing deepens. He's at the threshold of sleep when she shifts slightly. Her returning question is a caress of words in the dark room.

"Were you in love with Kase?"

...xxxXxxx...