Kai didn't fall asleep easily, not after what happened that day. Even when he finally started to drift to sleep, his thoughts were still clouded with images of Irene, and the things she said about the Schiff. It was haunting his mind. After today, he was constantly wondering were I all of the chiroptera really so bad? Why couldn't he get them to realize that the Schiff were not their enemies?
After today, he didn't want to believe they all were. He wanted to believe he found a friend. After Riku's change from human to chevalier, Saya's growing determination to defeat Diva, and the others' business with anything relating to the chiroptera, Kai felt noticeably outcasted and lonely, lost in a sea of fast, harsh change. He was slowly realizing that there was little he could do to protect those he cared about, but he was stubbornly refusing to accept it. He had to do something. Even if he couldn't protect Saya and Riku, he could take care of them, give them a safe and warm place to return to. Even if Riku would never age a day, and even if Saya's duty to kill Diva was all she could focus on now...
His miserable, half-asleep thoughts were interrupted when he heard a few faint, neat taps on his window. They sent a small jolt of alertness through his mind, and after a delayed reaction and a few more impatient taps on the window, he slowly sat up, blinking. He stared out at the window, willing his eyes to open more so he could focus on the familiar shape in the darkness.
"..Irene?" Kai asked aloud, perplexed, and suddenly awake. She gave him a small wave. She wasn't wearing her cloak over her head, and her almost-white hair and pale skin seemed to be the only things that made her noticeable in the darkness.
He glanced at the clock. 3:43 A.M. Had he really been trying to sleep for that long?
Kai finally got up, groggily, and went to the window. He was clad in only a pair of boxers and a tank top, his usual choice of sleep-wear. He seemed to have forgotten that, only until he forced the window open and felt the cold night-time air against his skin.
Irene, however, didn't seem to be phased at all. She poked her head out of the window now that it was open. "Kai, I'm sorry for waking you up…" Ignoring what she said and cutting her off, Kai's eyes widened in realization.
"… Irene, you're four floors up."
Irene merely blinked. "I know."
Kai should have known. Climbing – or flying, or whatever they did – up several floors of a large building would not be a problem for a Schiff. He also noticed that she was hanging on a ladder: the fire escape. Still, he hurried to help pull her into his room, taking care not to cause her to fall on the floor. "Come in, Irene. What are you doing here?" Kai wasn't annoyed, just confused. Actually, he was glad to see her. Very glad.
He closed the window once she was inside. Irene was sitting on the floor next to him now, huddled up in her black cloak. She was quiet for some time, as she usually was, before she spoke up vaguely. "I wanted to see you again."
Kai understood that… but at almost four in the morning? Still, he didn't mind, especially when he remembered how they last left each other. He didn't worry that the other Schiff would convince Irene that he was dangerous, but he did worry that they would prevent her from seeing him.
Also, he realized, Irene couldn't stay out in sunlight that well. He remembered this when he noticed how tired she seemed.
He smiled. "I wanted to see you too, Irene. But how did you find me?" He squinted to see her in the darkness, immediately dismissing the idea of turning on the light.
"I sensed where you were," she said simply. "It took me a while to get out again. Can we go outside, Kai? Just for a little while."
Kai blinked. It seemed sudden, but then again, he had a lot of things to ask, so he wasn't against it. Even if he should have been sleeping. "Sure, Irene," He paused, glancing down at his 'pajamas.' "Just let me get dressed first."
Irene looked a little confused as he got up. "Aren't you already dressed?"
Kai stared at her from his dresser, nonplussed, but he laughed a little. "It's cold outside. I need more clothing than this." He found a pair of his usual casual clothing and a jacket. Decidedly, he just slipped them on over his tank top his boxers, rather than changing in front of Irene.
When he was finished, the next thing to figure out was how to get outside. They could just simply exit the apartment and take the elevator down. But Kai warned Irene against that – he shared his room with Riku, but now Riku didn't sleep at night. He stayed awake with Hagi. Undoubtedly, those two would be wondering around awake, somewhere. With a small pang of frustration, Kai knew that they wouldn't accept Irene's presence at all.
The only other way outside was out one of the windows and down the fire escape, four floors down. Kai looked down at the flimsy fire escape ladder outside his room incredulously, before simply shrugging and agreeing to it. He had done more reckless things in his life, especially since he had met Saya.
Irene gently insisted that she climb down before Kai, in case he fell, so she could catch him. How she could manage that, Kai didn't know, until he considered just what she was. It was often that he was thinking of her as human.
The climb down was slippery and slow, but they made it down intact. Now that they were walking on solid ground, Kai could ask questions. He looked to his side at Irene, walking slowly down the streets of Paris with her. It was dark and few people were out.
"Irene, what happened earlier?" He remembered how fast she ran away from him that night, and how quickly she and the others retreated.
She glanced at him briefly, her expression not changing much. But Kai still got the feeling that she didn't want to talk about it. "They were worried about me. They thought you were trying to hurt me."
Well, Kai figured that, unfortunately. Saya was worried about the same thing, except with Kai as the victim. It still didn't answer his other question, though.
"I saw Diva," Irene started suddenly, almost as if reading his mind. "I knew that the others must have been coming. I didn't want to get you in trouble."
Ah. So that was why. Kai would have been surprised, but Saya had told him later that night – that she saw Diva too. And he knew that the Schiff needed either Diva or Saya's blood.
"It's okay, Irene. I just didn't know what had happened." He was a little scared, admittedly, when Irene ran away with so much fear in her eyes. Was it because of Diva, or the others?
Irene nodded faintly, staring ahead. Then she stopped gradually, and Kai looked ahead to what she was staring at. It was a small ice-cream shop. He was almost amazed that it was open at this hour.
Irene stepped closer, staring at the large poster display of fluffy, multi-colored scoops of ice-cream. "What is that, Kai?"
"It's ice-cream," Kai explained, walking closer with her. He was trying to look for the right words to define something he usually took for granted. "It's… a treat, kind of. It's cold and sweet, and comes in lots of different flavors." He smiled, just from her reaction. Her eyes widened a little in wonder when they got to the ice-cream shop window, where she stared at the display poster that showed how many flavors they had. It was very colorful.
The tired-looking cashier in the shop was giving them odd looks, so Kai put his hand on Irene's shoulder and led her inside. "Do you want to try it, Irene?"
She seemed confused. "How? There are so many."
Kai led her toward the counter. Right… Irene wouldn't know the first thing about ice-cream flavors. Did the Schiff even consume anything besides blood? He looked down at the containers of ice-cream. "Well… I'll pick for you, okay? If you don't like something you can try something else another time."
She nodded, not knowing any other solution. He spoke to the only person working behind the counter, a thin, bald man. "Let's see... chocolate for her, and strawberry for me." The man working behind the counter gave them confused looks before he began to scoop ice-cream on cones. Kai turned to Irene, smiling at her. "If you don't like yours, you can try some of mine."
Irene actually smiled, and Kai was now glad they stopped for ice-cream. When the bald man finished scooping the ice-cream, he held out a cone of chocolate and a cone of strawberry. Irene looked at the two cones confusedly before Kai told her which one was hers, and then she timidly accepted the chocolate cone.
Kai took the strawberry cone, but just when he was about to fish out his wallet, Irene was starting to leave, ice-cream in hand. Slightly alarmed, Kai grabbed her as gently as he could by her shoulder. "Hold on, Irene, I have to pay for it." He carefully tried to retrieve money from his wallet while he held his ice-cream cone at the same time.
Irene stared, bewildered. "Pay for it?" She was so used to just taking.
By now, Kai wasn't that surprised anymore. "Yeah," He said, quietly, not caring if the cashier heard. He finally paid for the ice-cream and took his change as quickly. "Humans pay for things with money." He led Irene out of the shop with their ice-cream, out into the cold air. Why an ice-cream shop was open at this late, cold hour, he didn't know. He would normally never purchase ice-cream at four in the morning, but he wanted Irene to try it.
"Ah," Irene said, not seeming embarrassed by her mistake at all, only curious. "You don't just take things?"
Kai shook his head. "No. We get money by getting jobs…" He cut himself off after he licked at his strawberry ice-cream cone. "Are you going to try yours, Irene?"
She stared at the chocolate ice-cream guiltily. "But you bought this ice-cream for me with your money and I have nothing to repay you with..."
Kai blinked. Was she worrying over that? "No, it's okay, Irene." He smiled. "I wanted to, and it's not that big of a deal." He nudged his shoulder against hers. "Eat it before it melts."
Irene suddenly looked alarmed for a brief moment. "It… melts?" She looked at the ice-cream and back at Kai.
"Well... yeah. Probably not that fast in this chilly weather, but ice-cream does melt."
"Oh." Irene blinked at the ice-cream, and finally she lunged at it; she bit into it and immediately recoiled, flinching. "It's cold!"
Kai could barely keep himself from laughing. "Silly, you don't bite ice-cream. It's too cold." At her confusion, he added, "You lick it."
Irene considered this, and finally leaned in to lap her tongue against the chocolate ice-cream, timidly at first. Then she sampled it more boldly, blinking, as if she was trying to decide if she cared for it or not.
"How is it?" Kai asked, tasting his own ice-cream.
"It tastes…" She paused, not even knowing how to describe it. She was only used to blood. Blood, which depending on who it came from, could taste so many different things: sweet, or bitter, or rich, or weak…
She didn't want to think about blood.
"I don't know. But I like it." She gave him a small, distracted smile and Kai smiled too.
"That's good. Chocolate is a nice flavor. Do you want to try mine too? It's strawberry." He held out the pink ice-cream cone toward her, and Irene leaned forward to lick at it a few times.
"I like that one too…" Her smile was more sincere now. "How do you ever decide a flavor, Kai?"
He shrugged. "I've always liked strawberry since I was a kid… You just experiment with different flavors, I guess."
"How many flavors are there? It looked like there were so many." Irene walked slowly with Kai, slowly consuming her chocolate ice-cream now.
"There is." Kai chuckled. "Some ice-cream shops have hundreds of flavors! Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are the most common ones. But there's a lot more. Like Rocky Road, chocolate chip, green tea, caramel..." He tried to search his mind for some of the more strange ice-cream flavors he had encountered.
Irene, however, was amazed already. "I wish I could try them all."
Kai, as usual, was ever optimistic. He ignored the red glittering cracks on her neck that were conveniently concealed by her long hair. "You will someday, Irene. You can try them one at a time. I'll help you."
Irene shook her head after she licked her ice-cream again. "I can't ask that, Kai. You already paid for my ice-cream once, and I have nothing to give you."
Is that all she was worried about? "I don't mind, Irene." He smiled. "We're friends."
She didn't know what to say. She knew the meaning of the word 'friend,' and that the Schiff were her friends. But somehow, hearing it from Kai, who was a human yet treating her so kindly… It meant a lot. It made her forget about dying.
"Kai?" She finally asked, after being so quiet.
"Hm?" He looked up from his half-eaten ice-cream cone.
"Thank you." Irene smiled. It was a more serene, genuine smile than she was used to, and Kai was glad to see it. That was his true reward.
"You're finally getting the hang of thanking people." He grinned. "No problem, Irene." He leaned over to ruffle her hair briefly with his free hand, which both confused and amused her.
"But I still want to repay you." She was still smiling. "Somehow."
Before Kai could insist that she didn't need to, Irene was distracted again, and thus he was again looking for what she was watching. This time, her eyes were drawn to a pair of girls on a park bench, partially hidden by a tree. It was something she had never witnessed before. They were kissing.
Of course, it wasn't that they were two girls kissing. Irene had never known I anything /I about kissing. She was hypnotized. Kai found what she was staring at, and then he was staring too, but unlike her, he was now blushing.
The two girls were clad in their pajamas. They didn't seem to notice them, or anyone else in the world for that matter; they were kissing each other as if they had little time, as if they were trying to escape the world.
The taller girl had shortish brown hair, cut in an array of messy spikes, and she was trying to slide the smaller girl closer on her lap. The other girl had dirty-blonde hair that was long and mostly unbrushed. She had her hands on the other girl's chest, and she shivered and clung to her for warmth.
Kai was doing his best to try and look away, much as he found his eyes back on the two girls again. Irene, however, didn't stop looking.
"Uh… Irene…" He flushed. "We should stop looking. I think they want… er… a moment alone." That was the most delicate way he could put it.
Irene finally stopped staring, and instead she glanced up at Kai. "What are they doing? Are they trying to consume each others' faces?"
If Kai wasn't so flustered already, he might have laughed. "Er… No... They're kissing."
She blinked. "Kissing? What is that?" She seemed conflicted. "Are they trying to hurt each other, or is it some sort of pleasurable activity?"
Kai couldn't believe this. Did he really have to explain… kissing? He had plenty of patience explaining other things to Irene, but now his face was already turning red…
"It's… uhm... the second one." He left it at that. It was easier that way.
"Well, it looks kind of pretty." Irene finally turned her attention back to her ice-cream cone, and Kai found himself avoiding anything that involved mouths and tongues. He stared down at his own ice-cream.
They were quiet for a while, and just kept walking. Then Irene broke the silence again.
"Kai? Can I do that with you, even though you're male?"
Kai was dumbfounded. Wasn't it that usually that people asked the opposite question? Irene's first time witnessing kissing, and it was two girls, not a male and female. Not that Kai was really complaining…
But more than that, did Irene just I ask him that? He nearly choked on his ice-cream, and that was kind of difficult to do.
"Uh…Well… you could…" he choked out. "Why?"
She didn't seem at all phased as she looked up at him. "To repay you for the ice-cream. And it seemed nice. Why is your face red, Kai?" She began to look concerned.
Damn. She noticed? "I-It's nothing, Irene. It's just… not a question you usually hear." He unconsciously tried to cover his burning cheeks, even for a moment.
"Oh." She said, and Kai wondered what else he could say. He knew that he… er… wouldn't really mind if she did kiss him. But Irene was so naïve, that it felt wrong to encourage her to do it. She had only just learned what it was, and she didn't know what it meant, mostly because of Kai's prudish inability to explain it.
Irene, however, seemed to be fitting the pieces together in her mind. She spoke again after she finished her ice-cream cone. "Are you shy?"
"I-I am not!" Kai's pride suddenly caught up to his embarrassment and he looked at her defiantly, wishing his cheeks would stop reddening.
Strangely, he found that Irene was trying not to giggle. She had a gloved hand over her mouth and a bit of mirth in her green eyes. Kai huffed, flustered again, until he froze when he had the delayed realization that this was the first time he sensed the slightest bit of laughter in Irene.
She uncovered her mouth and tried to speak, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Sorry, Kai. You just looked…silly." And just when Kai didn't expect it, but probably when he should have, she stood up on her tippie-toes and pressed a small peck of a kiss against his lips.
She declined back on her heels again, seeming pleased with herself. "Thank you."
This time, Kai wasn't sure what the thank you was for. However, he was distracted enough with the small tingling sensation on his lips that a simple peck gave him even though it was just a kiss and he shouldn't be getting so worked up about it.
He fumbled around for something to say, blinking. "Uhm… uh… you're welcome…"
Before he could even gather his thoughts on what just happened, Irene glanced up at the sky and announced suddenly: "I should go. The sun will be rising soon, and the others will soon find out that I've been gone."
Kai didn't have time to be timid and flustered anymore; now he was just disappointed. He frowned noticeably. "Already?" He didn't say anything else, though. He knew that he shouldn't keep her; he didn't want her exposed to the sun or for her to get in trouble.
"Yes." She looked down sadly herself. She didn't want to leave.
Before she started to leave, she offered her mostly eaten ice-cream cone to him. "You can have the rest, Kai." She smiled, but only a little.
He accepted it, although he wasn't sure why. Maybe because he didn't want her to bring something questionable to the other Schiff.
There was a moment of terrible, awkward silence. Irene was about to turn to leave and about to say farewell, but Kai stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. "Wait."
She blinked but stopped where she was. Before she knew it, Kai had worked up the courage to lean down and kiss her. A few times, actually, although they were small, timid kisses. He didn't know why he was doing this. But for some reason, it felt like he should, as if it would be his last chance.
He finally moved away, cheeks pink again. Irene didn't appear flustered at all. She was smiling again.
"You taste like that ice-cream, Kai." That didn't help the fluttery feeling in Kai's stomach at all, but it was kind of flattering. Somewhat.
"Er… thanks." He tried to ignore that he just kissed her, and smiled. "I'll see you again, Irene." Right? "And I'll talk to Saya again." He remembered how stubborn Saya was – and, admittedly, he was stubborn too – and how it irritated him that he couldn't make her see what he saw. But he ignored it, for now. Right now, he was being optimistic, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop that. Nothing. "And we'll get you and your friends better. You'll see."
Irene was speechless. She didn't know what to say to that, nor if she believed it. But she managed to summon a small smile, albeit a sad one. "I hope so, Kai." Her voice was soft and barely heard.
After a few more farewells, Irene finally disappeared – literally – and Kai walked back to the apartment that he stayed in with the others. As they left each other, Kai wondered how he was going to go about convincing the others that the Schiff were not their enemies. Irene, instead, wondered if it was true that she would see Kai again.
"Is that right? Happy?"
"Today, I am happy to have been able to talk with you."
"What are you saying? We'll still be able to talk after today."