Greetings AxR addicts! Once again I succumb to shipping, though this is less fluffy than some. I've set it in between episodes nine and ten, an outtake episode if you will. Hope you like it, please review! And now, the legal disclaimer:
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The speedometer had long ago sailed past irresponsibility, but that's exactly what he wanted. Dangerous disregard. Childish temper. It was impossible to rant or scream, beat his fists on the windows or show any other outward signs of his seething anger, so he pressed the accelerator till the engine screamed for him. Roared. Wasted useless energy on an equally useless stretch of road.
He didn't even know where he was, only where he came from. Her bed, the bed she was supposed to be sleeping in even now was vacant, and he knew why. Yeah, he knew where she was. And Touko knew too. That innocent look hiding the smirk, casual curiosity cloaking all of it. So transparent. He hadn't asked, and she knew he wouldn't. That's why she had found a way to bring it up in the course of conversation. "You know, it's funny that you should be here when you keep Robin working so late." Wasn't that how she put it? "Sometimes she doesn't even come home at all." She had spoken into her drink, sipping it afterwards, watching him peripherally to judge his reaction, trying to seem like it was a joke, that it didn't matter to her one way or the other. And hell, maybe it didn't.
There had been no reaction for her to judge of course. He didn't shift his position on the couch, the grip on the cold glass he held didn't tighten. Even his eyes were schooled to obedience and gave no sign of the rock he had just been made to swallow, the tight journey down his throat to land heavily in his gut, the bad taste lingering in his mouth. His lack of conversation after this smooth little remark was identical to any other night. He wasn't required to talk, only to listen and look as though he were paying attention, and then allow her to touch him till they both were satisfied. Touko didn't care if his gaze was blank or looked past her while they were at it. She made love to him with her eyes closed, clinging, suffocating him with her closeness, her need for every inch of their skin to be touching allowing no room for him to breathe.
Not tonight though. The disappointment in her eyes was clear enough to see, but he simply looked away. He'd left with no valid excuse, only a polite refusal, which brought him to this moment.
He allowed his thoughts to wander erratically as he kept the car under tight control. It shouldn't matter, he reminded himself as he took another tight turn at speeds that seemed improbable. And it didn't. He wasn't hurrying to her, he just preferred to drive like a demon from hell. He wasn't angry at the situation, he was just tired. And he wasn't going to put a stop to Robin's late night visits for any other reason than that the lack of sleep was interfering with the quality of her work.
For a single moment Amon relaxed the tight grip he held on his imagination, and the result was nearly overwhelming. So much had been pushed beneath the surface that the accumulated force now nearly popped the eyes from his head. Collected images flooded his mind, hoarded guiltily away for careful examination when alone in the dark hours of the night. Only now his devious mind re-construed them with ulterior purpose. The wide-eyed, innocent, open look so often directed at him was now beaming upon another. A slow, shy smile that tormented the psyche now was being gifted to someone other than himself. The feather light touch of her long, tapered fingers no longer brushed the sleeve of his coat.
The accelerator was being pushed to its maximum, as was Amon's patience with his little secret. It was against regulations, against his better judgement. Hell, it was against the law. For those reasons alone he should have sufficient ammunition to kill this lurking demon in the back of his mind. But despite his best intentions to do so, he couldn't pull the trigger. That had never happened to him before. Never had something refused to be ruled by his mind.
His destination arrived sooner than it should have, but then, he had probably left the sound barrier broken about a mile behind him on the dark road. He shot an accusatory glance at the Vespa parked in its usual place before stalking up the stairs, unwilling to wait for the elevator. And just maybe it was to preserve his stealthy approach. Amon would have flatly denied it, but that didn't keep him from treading lightly as he traversed the hall leading to the office he knew she would be in. Keeping to the darkness, he studied the scene laid out before him.
There were no lights on in the room, a damning piece of evidence in Amon's addled opinion. Only moonlight from the barred windows and the glow of computer screens illuminated the office.
At first he thought the room to be deserted, but as he entered silently he noticed the round shape of Michael asleep at his desk, head cradled on folded arms amongst the litter of soda cans and candy wrappers that had accumulated on his workspace. Amon didn't need to shake Michael awake – apparently he was a light sleeper and the Hunter's presence alone was sufficient to startle the teenager to consciousness with an avalanche of debris.
Michael stared at Amon for a wild moment, trying to orient himself. "What's going on? What time is it?"
"It's late." The young hacker rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses, still coming around. "Where's Robin?"
Michael glanced to Robin's desk and frowned. "Uh, she was here for a while, but I must have dozed off."
Amon's frown deepened. "Her scooter is still downstairs."
"Huh. Well she might have gone to Harry's then."
Amon glanced to the wall. "At this hour? Harry's is closed."
"I don't know then." Michael reached down and collected one or two soda cans, returning them to the desktop. Then he paused and glanced at Amon from the corner of his eye. "It is late. What are you doing here?"
Amon wasn't the type to give anything away in facial expression or body language, but he still squirmed internally a bit and was tempted to give no explanation at all. But when the astute blue eyes of their young IT guy didn't look away he shrugged and covered his unease with prickly indifference. "Looking for Robin. Her roommate was worried since she didn't come home." Then a thought occurred to him and he continued. "In fact she said Robin is often away all night." Amon now went on the offensive with his gaze. "Is she usually here?"
He had expected, or rather deeply dreaded a showing of embarrassment or dissimilation from Michael, but the gaze that returned his own was clear and uncomplicated. "Yeah," he nodded.
There was a pause as Amon's mind systematically sorted out possible scenarios. "What does she do here all night?" he asked in a very controlled tone of voice. "Why does she stay?"
There seemed to be a moment of hesitation before Michael answered, a moment that seemed dark and ominous to Amon. "Well I think she feels kind of bad that I don't get to leave," the young hacker said quietly, "so she'll bring me doughnuts or dinner from Harry's. That sort of thing. But when she's here she works really hard." He paused as though finished, but then bit his lip. "You know, Amon, I think she stays and works all night it because she thinks you expect it of her. To be the best. To know everything. Ya know?"
This was not a conversation he had expected to have this evening, and he shrugged the cloaked rebuke away. "She has a lot to learn," he replied cryptically, giving no hint whether he was agreeing with Michael or not. Before it could come to question, he turned on his heel and headed for the door. "Michael, if she shows up here again tonight…" he paused mid stride, uncertain how to finish the sentence.
"I'll tell her you're looking for her."
Amon took a long calculated breath. "No. Tell her to go home."
Michael sounded confused. "You know, you could call her if you…"
"Tell her to go home," Amon repeated firmly, cutting him off and heading for the door.
Alone in the hallway, Amon let the tension slip from his shoulders somewhat. The images that had haunted him on the drive over here seemed unmerited and he could have sighed with relief. The thought of Michael and Robin… the mere idea made his jaw clench with a force that knotted the muscles beneath his slightly stubbled cheek. At least that bullet had been dodged.
But now the question remained – if she wasn't here, then where was she?
The usually lit sign of Harry's was dark as Amon approached the restaurant, but through the windows beyond the glare he could see a glow deep in the rear of the large room that was probably the bar light. It flickered as a figure moved in front of it, encouraging Amon to quicken his footsteps.
The door was open but the hallway was dark as he entered. His theory of the light had been correct, a single shaded bulb casting a glow over the polished wood and a slice of Master as he tidied up the bar. His eyes lifted and unerringly found Amon's form in the gloom, likely silhouetted from the light of the street outside.
"Welcome," Kobari greeted him quietly and with no apparent surprise, waiting until Amon entered the warm yellow sphere of light before speaking again. He indicated a barstool that Amon took. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
In the well practiced and silent dance of people who know each other well, Master pointed absently to a glass, Amon nodded, and Master reached behind him to the bottle of single malt whiskey, pouring a double before placing it on a napkin at Amon's elbow.
Kobari's face was bland and bemused but his eyes studied Amon carefully as the Hunter took a careful sip and placed the heavy tumbler silently back to the bar. The older man's hands mindlessly returned to the task he had been performing before the interruption, and Amon's eyes glanced at and then settled on the tiny white porcelain cup Master was drying with a soft towel. He glanced up to Master's eyes to find them looking back. The two men held this gaze for a long moment, an unspoken understanding passing between them before the bartender nodded.
"Yes, not even fifteen minutes ago," he murmured with the barest hint of a smile, speaking in the warm fatherly voice that he adopted when speaking of Robin. "It's a nightly ritual at about this time," he continued without prompting, settling the espresso mug rim down on the mat by the barista machine. "She comes in just after I close, has a coffee, we chat for a bit, and then she leaves. Sometimes she helps me tidy up," he added, unable to hide the affection in his voice, casting a lopsided sheepish smile to his audience of one. "I rather look forward to her visits."
Amon looked down into the dark liquid in his glass, studying the wavering reflection of the bulb above. He didn't see it, though, not really. His mind saw the gentle smile of Kobari in recalling the new young Hunter, saw the friendly warmth that was summoned at the thought of her company. What did they talk about, Kobari and Robin, here in the semi darkness and deep quiet of the late hours? Was Master a kind of confessor to the young convent raised girl, or was it more the bond of a parent and child? Irregardless, the glow of it lingering in Kobari's smile made Amon jealous – jealous that he could not find it in himself to have that sort of easy openness with anyone, much less the fifteen year old partner he was searching for tonight. He raised the glass to his lips again and took a searing sip.
His chores finished, Master poured himself a healthy measure of top shelf bourbon and settled his forearms on the polished bar. He didn't speak, simply sipping his own drink and cupping his long fingers around it, letting the silence stretch without pressure to interrupt Amon's brooding.
Amon surfaced at last to find Kobari looking off in the distance. There were so many questions he wanted to ask this man, the person he know realized knew Robin better than anyone. What secrets was this man privy to? How much information could he glean about the young woman he spent much of his waking time with and yet knew almost nothing about? But he couldn't ask, wouldn't even if he could. It wasn't in him to divulge his desire to know the girl better, even if he did want to.
It was as if Master could sense his train of thought, looking meaningfully at his guest from the corner of his eye. "She's quite easy to talk to," he said simply, quietly, startling Amon with his uncanny ability to sense people's thoughts. Kobari looked away again, sipping his bourbon thoughtfully. "And I don't think I'm the only one to think so."
Amon's brow furrowed. "Yeah, I learned from Michael tonight that she spends a lot of late night time at the office."
Master nodded. "Yes, she asks me to make up a plate for Michael every now and then. Robin really tries to make his situation more bearable for him. But that actually wasn't what I was referring to." When Amon looked guardedly toward him he continued. "Well the girls come here a couple times a week for lunch – Robin, Doujima, and Karasuma."
Amon nodded, trying not to look surprised. He had some idea the female members of his team had a speaking relationship outside work, though he wouldn't have thought it to be so chummy. But then, he hadn't realized until tonight that Michael and Robin often pulled all-nighters together either.
But before he could think any more on it, Master was speaking again. "And then there's Sakaki." Amon had no idea one sentence could make his stomach clench so fast, but suddenly the liquor he'd already imbibed threatened to curdle in his gut.
The outward sign was a narrowing of the eyes. "What do you mean?"
Kobari's dark eyes narrowed as well, but with the effort of consideration. "I think it began shortly after your team's run in with the single-eye witch."
It? What began? Amon's mouth tasted sour and his emotionless face felt like it would crack under the strain of remaining composed.
"Yes," Kobari continued slowly, "he began showing up here at about closing time a couple weeks ago and would talk with Robin while they had a drink. Then sometimes they leave together."
Time had slowed to a crawl in Amon's head, making the words stretch and distort in a disorienting way. Sometimes they leave together. It took only a spare moment for Amon to put two and two together. "Like tonight?" he pushed past barely concealed clenched teeth.
There was no fooling the Master, and his look now was a bit cautious. He nodded slightly, just once. Amon picked up his glass and considered it for a second, then threw the entire contents down his throat in a single motion and swallow. Once he felt the loosening warmth of it crawl up into his chest he found the will to ask, "Where did they go?"
"They walked toward the park." Master was now standing at his full height with his hands pressed flat to the bar top. "I know what you're thinking, Amon. But I don't think it's like that."
"I think," Amon formed the words carefully around his alcohol loosened tongue, "that Robin should be home right now, not wandering around all night."
Master looked concerned. "Amon, I agree with you, it's just…"
Amon rummaged in his jacket pocket and withdrew a few bills which he tossed next to his empty glass before replying. "Just what?" he nearly whispered.
Master cast his eyes to the bar. "Well, just consider that if she doesn't want to go home at night then maybe there's a reason."
His brows furrowed, Amon stood. "What do you mean?" A shrug was his only reply. Apparently the two men had reached the border between their camaraderie and Master's relationship with Robin, a line the older man was not willing to cross. "Goodnight," Amon said with resignation as he left the darkened restaurant.
The voice in the back of his mind was asking what he hoped to accomplish by going after them. Surely any sort of confrontation would be inappropriate at best, extremely embarrassing at worst. Still his feet led him toward the park near Raven's Flat, a pretty patch of trees and walkways that he often traversed without notice. Tonight his eyes took in every detail, looking for a dark bench or inviting patch of grass where two young people might engage in an encounter. His senses failed to register the bite in the air that would probably discourage anyone from lingering outdoors too long. He didn't notice his numb fingertips or the slight puff his breath made in the air.
He had reached the border of the park when he noticed a familiar figure climbing onto a motorcycle which had been parked on the edge of the road. He didn't call out, he only hurried to come into view before the young man started the bike and left.
Sakaki was just putting on his helmet when he looked up to see Amon striding purposefully down the sidewalk, moving in and out of the street lights' glow. He slowly lowered his helmet, though he didn't dismount his ride.
When Amon was close enough, Sakaki spoke. "Hey man, what're you doing here?"
Amon's glare was his only answer. The younger Hunter swallowed and tried again. "Is everything okay? Have you been trying to get a hold of me or something?"
The lead Hunter let him squirm while he looked around, then back to Sakaki. "Where is Robin?" he almost growled, clenched hands concealed in the pockets of his coat.
Now Sakaki really looked concerned and uncomfortable, sure proof in Amon's eyes of his suspicions. "I uh, she said she was going back to the office, she's walking back there now I think." Amon's icy control and lack of reply spurred Sakaki into a verbal tirade. "Hey, I offered her a ride, you know, but she said she wanted to walk alone in the park for a little while before going back. I don't why she's going back to work again, you'd think she lived there or something. I mean, it's not like we get paid overtime or anything." Here he gave a nervous little laugh, quickly swallowed when he noticed the absence of reaction in Amon.
"What," Amon asked softly, proud of the neutrality of his tone, "were you two doing out here?"
"Uh, yeah. Well, I just had to talk to Robin about something. I mean if she was supposed to go back and work on a project for you she didn't mention it. Hey man, I'm sorry I kept her if that's what the problem is."
"And this something you had to talk to Robin about in a deserted park in the middle of the night couldn't wait until tomorrow?"
Now Sakaki's temper flaired. "Listen, I said I was sorry. Won't happen again, okay?" He tugged on the strap of his helmet petulantly. "Geeze, I didn't realize you had her on such a short leash," he said under his breath. Looking up, his complexion blanched slightly at the smoldering expression on Amon's face. "Sorry," he grumbled, looking down into the depths of his helmet.
"Why did you need to speak to Robin?" Amon asked, hating himself for the hint of jealousy he could hear in his own voice.
For a second he thought Sakaki wouldn't answer. Then the boy sighed heavily. "Robin has been working on something for me, and I wanted to check up on it." Amon clearly wasn't prepared to accept this as a finished answer so he continued after another sigh. "She's been, um, talking to someone for me. About me. Uh, yeah. For me."
Now Amon looked angry and confused. "What?"
Sakaki looked skyward as though seeking intervention. "Man, I can't talk to you about this."
"I think you'd better."
Amon took a step closer. "Start talking."
"Geeze," Sakaki groaned, leaning away from the threatening shape of his coworker. "Okay already. A couple of weeks ago I was talking to Robin and I happened to mention that I would be interested in, uh, well… Damnit Amon I can't talk to you about this."
Amon was seeing red and seriously considered taking the young man by the lapels and shaking his head loose. "Talk," he hissed. "Interested in what?"
"You're not going to like it," Sakaki muttered nervously, sensing the agitation of his leader. "You're gonna be pissed."
"Not as much as I will be if you don't start talking." Another step brought him face to face with the nervous young Hunter. "Interested. In. What?"
Sakaki hung his head, defeated. "In taking Yurika out on a date."
Amon's jaw dropped and hung for an undistinguished length of time, long enough for the tortured lad to notice. "Doujima?" Amon finally croaked, the lightness of relief rising from his feet to his head in a rush, obliterating any thought to the inappropriateness of two of his teammates potentially dating. This compared to his previous suspicion was nothing, a laughable scenario at worst. "You've been using Robin to get Doujima to go out with you?"
The relieved tone was misconstrued by Sakaki to imply incredulity, mockery, or both, and he bristled. "Yeah. Stupid, I know, Whatever. Are you satisfied now?"
Amon sobered. "Hey, Sakaki, I didn't mean…"
"I know we're not supposed to date coworkers. It's just that I can't meet anyone outside work. We work all the time, damnit! And I got needs, ya know?"
Amon barely restrained himself from guffawing. "Yeah, I understand." Needs, indeed.
"And I promise it'll all be no big deal, real quiet, ya know? That is, if we ever do go out."
"What, she hasn't said yes?"
Sakaki hung his head again. "Well, no, she hasn't said anything yet. I haven't asked her. I wanted to wait and see what she thinks of me, to see if she might say yes if I ask her."
"And so Robin has been spying for you?" Somehow the thought of Robin playing covert matchmaker made him want to smile. "And tonight you were checking on the progress?"
The boy nodded miserably. "I don't think Yurika will say yes. She thinks I'm a jerk."
"Robin told you this?"
"No, but I can just tell."
Amon wasn't familiar with heart-to-hearts, and didn't know what to say to the love-sick young man. He decided to clap him roughly on the shoulder in lieu of an answer.
Thankfully, Sakaki seemed satisfied with this response. "Anyway, I'd better go." He started to put his helmet on and stopped again. "Wait, weren't you here looking for Robin?"
"Yeah," Amon replied dismissively, "no big deal. I'll catch her on the way back to the office." He watched as Sakaki started his motorcycle and revved off down the quiet street before turning and heading into the park.
A touch of relieved euphoria still lingered in his blood, enlivening his steps on the paved path. If the thought of Michael and Robin was bad, the thought of her in Sakaki's arms was worse. He frowned, his train of thought springing a leak in his elevated mood. What a hypocrite he was. He couldn't have her, so no one else was allowed to either? Godamnit, he wanted to howl into the frosty night sky, why must I think of having her or not? She's not mine to have.
Yet look at what lengths you'll go to when you think she's with someone else, his brain taunted him. You've been chasing her through the night like a man possessed. You pursue her even now. Still think you can do without her?
"I will," he muttered as he walked the dimly lit path. I will do without her. She is a member of my team, my partner, and that's all. That's it. "That's it," he echoed aloud, as though giving voice to the words sealed the pact he was attempting to make with himself.
He had reached the river that ran through the heart of the park, a current of water with several stone bridges spanning it. It was vaguely familiar to him, an echo from another time. It was not raining now, though. And he was alone.
No, not alone. Something caught his eye and he turned to see a dark shape at the center of the bridge parallel to the one on which he stood. The light of the nearest lamp just reached her, casting enough glow to make out the puritanical dress and golden hair of the girl he had been pursuing all night. She had been looking down into the dark water below but now her eyes lifted and she stared at him as though seeing an apparition. He left the bridge and strode toward her, though she didn't make any move to meet him halfway. She seemed rooted to the spot, soundly startled to see her partner in this place.
His steps slowed as he neared her, and shuffled to a stop a full eight feet away. Neither person had spoken. For the life of him he didn't have any idea what to say. What reason did he have for pursuing her to this place? What was so pressing that he would seek her out in the middle of the night in person rather than calling her communicator as he usually would have done? As he should have done, had he been thinking clearly and with no ulterior purpose?
She finally spoke, giving voice to his thoughts as though reading his mind. "Amon," she said this in the tone reserved for his name alone, "what are you doing here?"
Frantically he willed his mind to think of something good, any excuse. Yet he heard himself say, "You weren't at home," and cursed himself for an idiot.
Now Robin looked confused. "You're here because I wasn't at home?"
"Yeah," he ground out. "Touko was worried."
The mention of her roommate's name brought a change in Robin's entire demeanor, a slight crumpling of her posture. "So you came looking for me because Touko told you to?"
This was his way out of this uncomfortable and embarrassing situation. All he had to say was yes. Yes, I searched through the night for you because your roommate was concerned. Just say yes, he told himself.
Before he could do so, however, Robin spoke again. "That's strange," she said softly. "Touko knew where I was."
Oh godamnit, Amon groaned inwardly. Of course Touko knew where Robin was. She was the one who'd sent him in this direction in the first place.
"I didn't mean to worry anyone," Robin nearly whispered. How like her to apologize for a situation not her fault. "I didn't want to disturb you," she concluded in a volume so low Amon had to strain to hear.
He felt the blood drain from his face. "Disturb me?"
Her eyes left the pavement at her feet and looked at him. "I knew you were coming over tonight to see Touko. I didn't want to be…in the way. To disturb you. So I came back to the office."
The blood had now completely left his body, replaced with ice water. "Robin," he choked, "what are you talking about?"
She looked over the stone railing beside her in the direction of the bridge several yards away. "A few weeks ago," she said softly, "during the big rain storm we hunted the witch who controlled the dolls, remember?" She glanced at him from the corner of her eye and he nodded. "The witch had killed that woman I met, who gave me a ride when my Vespa ran out of gas." Again Amon nodded, though his mind was already racing ahead. "I came here that night. I needed to walk, to be alone, to think. I was standing here on this bridge…"
Amon's brain jumped to the conclusion with a sickening jar. "And you saw Touko and me together," he finished for her.
She nodded without looking at him. "I asked Touko about it a couple of days later."
"What did she say?" Amon asked, perhaps a little sharper than he intended.
"Not much. But she knew that I knew, so she didn't have to keep the secret anymore."
Amon felt positively ill. He hadn't wanted anyone to know about his involvement with Touko, least of all Robin. Yet how blind of him to think that he could keep the secret when Robin was Touko's flat-mate? It amazed him to think that she had known for all this time and never said a single word; never made any indication that she was keeping his secret.
But then another thought occurred to him with the memory of Master's parting words, a thought so startling that he gave voice to it without intending to. "Robin, have you been staying at the office all night to keep from… disturbing… Touko and me?"
The young girl still didn't look at him, simply giving a miserable nod. "I know that you and she don't come back to our apartment very often," she whispered, "and I figured that it was because of me." Robin's face was a stricken mix of sadness and the effort of hiding it. "No," she continued with a small shake of her head, speaking as though to herself alone, "that's not it, that's not the only reason."
Amon closed the distance between them and impetuously took Robin by the shoulder, turning her to look at him. "What is?" Amon urged her quietly, "What is the reason?" He was unsure why the answer now seemed vitally important, but he had an inkling and he wanted confirmation.
His hand was still on her shoulder, and she looked at it. Then she looked down and sighed. "I don't want to say," she answered.
Slowly Amon's hand dropped to his side, her avoidance giving credibility to his suspicions. "Touko asked you to stay away, didn't she?" He didn't need her reply, her expression told the story and his brain fit the pieces together.
Touko had become aware that Robin knew of them. She wanted Amon to herself and so had convinced Robin that she was in the way. But not only that, Amon knew. Touko was jealous of Robin, a realization he had already recently come to. She was envious of the time they spent together, the proximity of the partners from day to day that Touko was denied. And perhaps Amon's conflicted and secret feelings for his young partner were not so secret after all. Suddenly Touko's snide remark earlier, the statement that had set tonight's events in motion, made a little more sense.
He shook his head angrily, trying to clear his thoughts. Robin had turned back to the railing and was now leaning against it, resting on her forearms with her hands gripping the edge. "That night when I saw the two of you together, it made me feel so strange," she said, speaking as though to herself once again. "Alone. I felt alone that night and you had each other and…" a slender hand rose and covered her mouth for a moment as though holding something in. Then it retreated and she continued. "I think I was jealous."
The courageous honesty of this simple statement left Amon floored. The three of them were tangled together in a web of jealousy – Touko of Robin, Robin of Touko, and Amon of anyone who even looked at Robin. He sighed softly and shoved his hands back into his pockets, feeling the cold of the night air at last. "Robin," he said, and waited until her eyes met his. "It's over. I won't be seeing Touko any more."
Her emerald eyes widened. "What?"
"It was a mistake. It's over now."
Rather than relief, her expression registered remorse. "It's not because of me, is it?" she asked innocently.
God, if only you knew, he thought to himself. Outwardly he shook his head. "No."
Apparently he had not been convincing enough. "Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied quietly but firmly. She looked into his eyes, searching for a shred of doubt, and found none.
He suppressed the impulse to smile. "Don't be." And the moment stretched as the two Hunters looked at each other, each aware that this moment was the closest they had come so far to an actual conversation or moment of intimacy.
The moment was resoundingly broken as Amon's communicator rang. He fished it out of his pocket, watching Robin as she retreated several steps and turned away in an effort to give him privacy. "What?" he said irritably into the phone.
It was Michael. "Hey Amon, did you find Robin?"
"Yes," he snapped, glancing up to see Robin studying him from the corner of her eye. She looked quickly away. "What do you want?"
"I just received a call from Kobari. It seems he received a communication from his son tonight."
"When? What did he say?"
"Tonight, just a couple of minutes ago in fact. His son is back in the country is what Kobari said. Sounded kinda scared. What do you want to do?"
"Michael, tell Kobari to come to the office. I want to interview him myself. Then start a requisition order for surveillance equipment, I think we're going to need it. I'll be there as soon as I take Robin home."
"No," Robin spoke up, hurrying back to Amon's side. "Please let me come. If this is about Master then I want to be there. Besides," she continued after a brief and endearing blush of guilt about her eavesdropping, "you could use some help, couldn't you?"
He considered sticking to his guns and insisting she go home and get some sleep. But he no longer felt the need to keep her at arm's length, not after tonight. They had taken a step toward one another tonight, and there was no point in denying it. He no longer wanted to. So instead he nodded and pocketed his communicator. "Come on then," he said, waiting for her to fall in to step beside him before setting off for Raven's Flat.