Disclaimer Love Mode doesn't belong to me. I just like to play in the fandom and write many, many angsty stories.

Author's Notes Well, this WIP basically hibernated in my hard drive for a long, long while—believe me, it definitely showed when I brushed off the dust and handed it over to shikosensei to beta—but I finally managed to get back to it.

It began with the Tien Li fascination (which continues on to this day); then it grew and grew until I had several chapters outlined in my notebook, but unfortunately, RL hit and I lost the inspiration. I've been inspired recently, and—shock, horror—actually made progress. So here is the first chapter of an on-going story that has obsessed me, lingered on my mind, and then, was finally resurrected through some minor miracle. ;)

Many thanks goes to shikosensei for beta-ing this. My writing was definitely…wince-worthy… and I'm sure there were also many grimaces along the way.

1 October 2006

Chapter I
"I'm with you"

This wasn't supposed to happen. Fuck. They weren't supposed to be behind grey bars, sitting on dank and hard mattresses, while they waited tensely for whatever the hell they were going to be charged with.

Tien Li had a feeling first degree murder wasn't that far off. Caught, gun in hand, blood-splattered corpse on ground, and his face filled with coldness, even satisfaction—it wouldn't look good to any judge or jury. And he knew very well that even if they could drudge up some motive, some excuse for ending that lowlife's heartbeat, they still couldn't get away. Too much evidence, circumstantial as it was; too many witnesses—all from the cops to boot, which only served to strengthen Tien Li's suspicions. Someone had set them up. Someone, who had most likely sent the order in the first place, was using Tien Li and Yi Shin like pawns in a game of fixed chess. He wasn't going forget this so easily.

"Do you think we can break out?" Yi Shin asked, thoughtfully studying the bars.

"Maybe," Tien Li said, leaning back against the cold walls.

Footsteps made him look up, and he turned to stare at the expressionless face of a policeman in his mid-forties; balding and narrow-eyed, he looked more like one of the villains than an officer of the law. The frown didn't help—neither did the suspicious and angry glances he shot at them, but when the twist of a lock made an echoing clang, Tien Li couldn't hide his surprise. He immediately tensed.

There was no doubt in his mind. They were set up—and now they were about to meet the bastards who'd done it.

Yi Shin gave him a wary look before exiting the open cell, and Tien Li followed a step behind, ready and alert. Following the policeman's lead, they twisted around the corners, arms released from their restrictive handcuffs, and walked freely towards the front of the station. Tien Li narrowed his eyes, his pace faltering, but he kept moving forward. Time ticked away in the back of his mind, like the face of an old grandfather clock, and he was seriously contemplating knocking the guy out and making a run for it.

Before he could signal to Yi Shin, they rounded a corner and were led into an unfamiliar room. Frustrated, Tien Li tried to keep his calm. His heart thundered, his pulse jumped, and he could feel his fingers twitch, already missing the feel of his revolver. He took a look around their surroundings, trying to catalog anything useful. But it was just a normal room; no bars, no obvious exit blocks, and with only the one guard—the balding, villain-cop—watching them, while the other sat behind the sparse, wooden desk, staring almost accusingly at the visitor in front of him. The visitor—dark-haired and young—murmured something in a dangerously familiar voice, and then turned around.

Tien Li stared.


"Hello, Haruomi," Kiichi said, looking and smiling at him pleasantly.

"Kiichi," the name escaped he could stop it. He couldn't look away, couldn't say anything else—his sight was filled with Kiichi, and he just couldn't look away.

Kiichi's smile softened, and for just a moment, Tien Li was back in that church, feverish and hot, foolish and angry... Then, Kiichi turned to talk cop behind the desk, and Tien Li was back in the room, shivering. Tien Li was vaguely aware of an event taking place, a sort of transaction, but he couldn't quite focus. Kiichi was here. Kiichi. He was talking to the police, calling him Haruomi— Tien Shue —and then he was putting some kind of folder down on the desk. Before Tien Li knew it, Kiichi had finished speaking—voice bitingly pleasant, with an underlying edge. Kiichi stood up, and without looking back at the sputtering cop, beckoned him and Yi Shin to follow.

Yi Shin asked uncertainly, "Tien Li?" and Tien Li could only nod silently, his eyes still trailing the graceful, familiar form in front of him.

He had healed well from his wound, he thought almost inanely. Wistfulness and regret churned in him, like it always did when he thought about the past—when he thought about Kiichi on those rainy nights. It was stronger this time, because unlike other times, Kiichi was actually here. In front of him, walking calmly, casually; like it was everyday he bailed out mercenaries and bounty hunters and every bad guy he ever came across.

Hell, Tien Li thought, maybe he did. Tien Li was a bad guy once—still was, in fact—but that hadn't stopped Kiichi before, and Tien Li had a feeling it wasn't going to now.

He learned a long time ago not to underestimate Kiichi, just as he had learned a long time ago how it felt to hunger for something other revenge.

They followed Kiichi wordlessly as he led them to an expensive car. Nearing the gleaming black vehicle, Tien Li suddenly stopped, his gaze captured by the driver whose head was bowed, standing silently like a statue, as soft shadows blurred the planes of his face. The sky was getting darker, Tien Li thought, even as his heart clenched and his lungs constricted.

Tien Shue— Haruomi —lifted his head and stared straight at him.

"Please get in," Kiichi's smooth voice broke into his whirling mind, persuasive enough that Tien Li felt a keen urge to obey.

Yi Shin glared. "No! Who the hell are you? Why should we get in? I don't care if you got us out of that stink hole—you're not telling us anything. And we're not getting in."

"I'll explain everything as soon as we get home. It isn't wise to talk here." Kiichi lightly touched Haruomi on the arm as Haruomi opened the car door for him, pausing for a small moment to look at Haruomi intently before he went into the car. Haruomi started to walk towards the driver's seat, stopping short just before he had the door open, and looked at Tien Li.

"Please," he said softly, and Tien Li nearly flinched.

Tien Li nearly flinched.

A word. It was just a word, but many years ago, it had meant so much more. It had meant promises and dreams, and the gentle voice of his brother. It had meant being the half of something larger, something unexplainable. It had meant never having to be alone.

What did it mean now? Tien Li thought, and for a second, his leg throbbed and ached, a wound torn and reopened. Then, the blood-stained face of Tien Shue flashed through his mind, soothing away the pain like a cool cloth on feverish skin.

"All right," he said, just as quietly, before he beckoned Yi Shin to go forward.

"Tien Li?" Yi Shin looked confused and lost, almost like when Tien Li had first found him, a small, skinny orphan in a world of blood and death.

Tien Li knew all about orphans and blood and death—he wasn't surprised when he relented and said gruffly, "We'll get explanations later."

Yi Shin still looked uncertain. "You trust them?"

Tien Li paused. Then, he said evenly, "Yeah."

Yi Shin looked at him, biting his lip. "Okay. If you say so."

They got into the car silently and settled in. Tien Li turned towards the window and stared at his reflection, looking into a face he knew by heart and wondering if Haruomi saw the same thing.