Notes &c: This story was originally written and posted for the most recent round of subrosatennis on LiveJournal. I wasn't really happy with the way it ended the first time around, so I rewrote the ending to be more in line with my original goals.

This story owes a great debt to Austin Grossman's novel Soon I Will Be Invincible.

Ride the Lightning

Part One

Aniki had been gone on some assignment or another for a couple of months (as best as Yuuta could tell, given the way his brother tended to come and go) when the two goons showed up on Yuuta's doorstep one Saturday at an unwholesomely early hour of the morning. Yuuta figured they had to be goons, because no one normal was that tall or hulked that much. "Yeah, whaddya want?" he yawned, scratching his stomach.

The goon on the right flashed a badge at him, too quick for Yuuta's sleep-deprived eyes to really focus on it. "We'd like to speak with you, Fuji-san."

That woke Yuuta up more effectively than even coffee could. "Who are you? What's this about?" he asked, straightening up and thinking frantically, trying to catalog what he might have done within the last week or so to warrant a visit like this.

The goon on the left said, "We're not at liberty to say, sir. If you'll just come with us, they can explain it downtown."

"I didn't do anything, and I'm not talking to anyone without a lawyer," Yuuta said, promptly, the way Aniki had taught him to do, after the first time something like this had happened. "And I'm not going anywhere unless you have a warrant, and can I get a look at those badges again, please?"

The goons exchanged glances of the worrisome we're so not legitimate sort, and that made a cold sweat break out on Yuuta's forehead. Fuck, he'd told Akazawa-san that they ought to just pay off the yakuza guys. Fuck Akazawa-san for being a cheap bastard, fuck fuck fuck. "You're not in trouble, Fuji-san," Goon One said, after a moment. "We just need to talk with you for a bit."

If he slammed the door, could he make it to the fire escape before they managed to break it down? Probably not; he was still in his pajamas, and only had house slippers on. Fuck. "Look," Yuuta said, as placating as he could manage, "I'm really not sure what the problem is, but I'm sure we can work it out." Could he make it? No, but damned if he wasn't going to try, edging a foot back.

He was tensing to slam the door and lock it when Goon Two said, "It's about your brother."

Yuuta froze. "What about Aniki?" he asked--Aniki, who'd disappear for weeks without a trace on one of his jaunts to photograph exotic things, and heaven only knew where he went when he did, except that he always came home with pictures of strange places and people. Yuuta's gut clenched. Two official-sorta goons on his doorstep, here about Aniki, could only mean one thing. "Oh, fuck. He's dead, isn't he?"

The goons exchanged uneasy glances, and Yuuta swallowed. Oh, shit, Aniki was--fuck. "I'll get dressed," he said, and turned away so they wouldn't see the way his eyes were wet.

He didn't recall much afterwards about the car ride; the Goon Twins took the front seat and he rode in the back, hunched over and miserable, mourning for the impractical photographer brother who'd finished raising him when there'd been no one else to do it. Is it dangerous, when you go on these trips? he'd asked Aniki once, and Aniki had only smiled and changed the subject in reply.

Yuuta supposed he had his answer now.

Neither of the goons said anything to him or to each other, so he didn't rouse from his stunned grief until they turned in at a garage, flashing a badge at the attendant in the booth, and then winding their way down into a labyrinth of dim yellow lights and rows of empty parking spaces. "Where the hell are we?" Yuuta asked. This didn't look like the kind of parking lot that ought to be under the police station.

The goons exchanged glances again, and if he weren't so goddamn heartsick, he really would have been tempted to let himself get pissed off by that. "They'll explain upstairs," Goon One said, and that was apparently that.

They herded him into an elevator, more or less literally, since Goon One took his left and Goon Two took his right like they expected him to bolt off into the dimly-lit garage, and kept a wary eye on him while the elevator ascended to the tenth floor--the highest number on the buttons.

They emerged from the elevator into a hallway of what was probably a busy office during the week. It was silent and dimly lit this morning, with only the emergency lights to show them the way. The Goon Twins kept him moving, not giving him much time to examine their surroundings, until they found another set of elevators, more impressive than the ones that came up from the parking garage. The floors for this one went up all the way to thirty, which was the floor Goon Two pushed. As Yuuta studied his reflection in the mirrored walls (scruffy twenty-something, red-eyed and a little hungover, pretty much completely out of place), he started wondering just what kind of trouble Aniki had gotten himself into before he'd gotten himself eaten by crocodiles or whatever, because this didn't seem to be like any police station he'd ever been in.

The elevator chimed its way upwards, the ascent smooth and rapid, and let them out into an atrium that was as deserted as the office twenty floors below. Here, though, the lights were on, shining on the gently revolving sculpture of the globe in the center of the room. Yuuta had seen that sculpture before, in a documentary, and suddenly the question of where he was became clear, and a dozen others took its place.

He turned on Goon One. "What are we doing here?" he demanded, taking refuge in bravado, because panic (as Aniki had pointed out once) was never productive, and there was no way he was going to believe that Aniki had had anything to do with the Japanese branch of the Bureau of Metahuman Interests.

"Just a little bit further, Fuji-san," Goon One told him, and steered him around the sculpture to the double doors on the other side of the atrium. There he laid his palm on a pad; after a second, a light flashed green and the doors slid open with a soft whoosh.

"You have got to be kidding me," Yuuta muttered, when they motioned him inside, but he didn't have any conviction to put behind it, not when there was a stirring of something tiny and fragile in his chest that might have been hope. What if Aniki wasn't--he stopped that train of thought, and went in.

The room was large and dominated by the long table ringed by high-backed executive chairs. There was a bank of screens against one wall, and light poured in from the wall of windows opposite, silhouetting the figure of the man who stood at them, looking out across the Tokyo skyline. He turned, cape swirling around him, as the door whooshed shut behind Yuuta, and Yuuta swallowed hard, because he was standing four and a half meters from one of the most venerated superheroes in Japan.

"Fuji-kun." The man they called Hashira, who had headed up the Seishun division of the League of Super-Powered Beings for years, and had defeated more monsters and supervillains than Yuuta could keep track of, inclined his head. "Thank you for coming."

Yuuta bowed, quick and jerky, the surrealism of being thanked by Hashira-san for his presence enough to push him into numbness. Numbness was good, though, because without it all of the overwhelming emotions of the morning would have tipped him over the edge into outright gibbering. "Sir," he croaked, mouth too dry to allow any more than that.

Hashira-san gestured at the table. "Please, have a seat. Would you like a drink?"

"No, I'm... I'm fine," Yuuta said, pulling out one of the chairs and sitting before his knees could give out on him. He'd seen this table before, in that documentary he'd watched until Aniki had called it trash and turned it off--this was where Seishun had their meetings about... well, whatever it was superheroes had meetings about.

Hashira-san poured him a cup of coffee anyway and took the seat across from him, gloved hands wrapped around the mug casually. Funny; Yuuta had never really pictured him as the coffee-drinking type. "I suppose you're wondering why you're here," he said, after a moment.

The coffee mug was normal and so was the coffee in it; Yuuta drew some equilibrium from it. "Just a little bit," he said. "They said it had to do with Aniki." He took a deep breath, and asked the hardest question first. "Is he--all right?" Hashira-san was silent for a beat, and another beat, and by the third beat, Yuuta knew. "He's not, is he?" he asked, voice cracking.

"," Hashira-san said. "I'm sorry."

"You're not an orphan," Aniki had said. "You've still got me." Only now he didn't, not anymore. Yuuta squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip till it stung and he tasted blood, trying to keep from embarrassing himself. It didn't work.

Hashira-san looked away, politely, until he got himself back under control, scrubbing his sleeve against his cheeks. "What happened? He get caught in some kind of stupid crossfire between you and your arch nemesis?" he asked. Boy, that would piss Aniki off if he knew, given how much he had despised the superheroes.

Hashira-san hesitated. "No," he said. "There are things about your brother that he didn't tell you, Fuji-kun."

"You're wrong," Yuuta told him, before he could think twice about contradicting Hashira-san. "Aniki didn't have any secrets from me."

Fortunately for him, the man didn't seem to mind. "I'm afraid you're mistaken," he said. "Your brother worked with Seishun."

"What, was he the official photographer or something?" Yuuta asked, and shook his head. "No way. He didn't even like you cape people. Said you were a waste of resources and energy."

The corner of Hashira-san's mouth kicked up, ever-so-slightly. "That," he said, "was because he found it convenient for you to think that."

Yuuta tried to quash the sudden spike of anger, white-hot against the dull fog of grief. "You think you knew my brother better than I did?" This wasn't the time or the place to get upset, he told himself. It wasn't. Anger throbbed in his temples anyway.

"I mean that your brother was a member of Seishun," Hashira-san told him. "You're sitting in his chair, in fact."

That distracted him from his anger. Yuuta couldn't help himself; he laughed at the thought of Aniki being a superhero--Aniki who'd sneered at the people he called costume-wearing lunatics at every opportunity, and who had never stopped being bitter that Yuuta towered over his slender frame. The idea was ludicrous, and he managed to gasp as much out as he teetered on the edge between mirth and hysteria.

Hashira-san let him laugh, sipping his coffee until Yuuta slouched lower in his chair, breathless. "I see he was good at keeping you from ever suspecting," he remarked, once Yuuta had caught his breath.

"You could say that, yeah," Yuuta told him, staring at him across the table. The man certainly seemed convinced that Aniki had been--Tensai-san. He ignored that small, practical voice. "Look, I think I would have noticed my brother being a superhero, all right?" This was such a ridiculous conversation to be having when Aniki was--but it was diverting, and he clung to that. There was no way Aniki would have been a superhero, so maybe Hashira-san was just messing with him, and Aniki was off photographing stuff like normal, and would get a good laugh out of this when he came home. All he had to do was humor the crazy superhero for a little while, and then he could go home and forget this whole thing.

Hashira-san must have seen some of what he was thinking on his face. "Everyone says that," he said, tapping the table--no, tapping the buttons that were integrated with the surface of the table. "If you'll look at the footage, please."

Behind him, the screens flickered to life with footage of Seishun in action, clip after clip of newscast footage that showed Tensai-san fighting monsters both literal and metaphorical, giant lizards and supervillains, weaving and dodging and flicking them aside with a wave of his hands--what was Tensai-san's power, anyway? He tried to recall as he watched, but it seemed like Tensai-san was impossible to pin down. "This is all pretty interesting, but I don't really see what this has to do with anything--"

And then the footage changed from the professional-grade to something clumsier; the camera bobbled around as the fight raged on around it. It looked like the end of the fight; there was dust and rubble everywhere and the bad guy--whoever he was; Yuuta didn't recognize him--was looking pretty battered by the time Hashira-san-on-the-screen cold-cocked him. "That was careless," he told Tensai-san.

Tensai-san laughed, and a cold chill went down Yuuta's spine. "I'm out of condition," he said, and turned in the direction of the camera. "Did we have to record this? I'm going to burn the footage," he added, reaching to turn it off, and the image froze on the close-up of his face.

He was shaking his head even before the screen split and a photo of Aniki went up next to the still of Tensai-san. "It's not true," he whispered, even though side-by-side, the resemblance was unmistakable. "It's not--"

Except it really was, and even as Hashira-san was murmuring platitudes about how understanding he was of how difficult this must be, the anger was making his temples throb again. "Why didn't he tell me?" he demanded. "I'm his brother. I'm his only family. Why didn't he tell me?!"

Hashira-san rocked back a little. "I don't know," he said, after a moment. "All I know is that he felt--strongly--about keeping you out of danger."

"How would me knowing about--that--" Yuuta gestured at the twinned images on the screen "--have put me in danger?" He'd been upset ever since the Goon Twins had shown up at his door, and he was a hair's breadth from losing the tenuous hold he had on his temper. In the back of his head, he heard Aniki's ghost whispering to him, reminding him to keep control of himself, that the price of letting go was a migraine and that wasn't worth it, but Yuuta was beyond caring.

"He had his reasons," Hashira-san said.

"Yeah, so what were they?" Yuuta demanded. When Hashira-san hesitated, he shook his head, even though the back and forth motion made him queasy. "You don't actually know, do you? Don't bullshit me, Hashira-san, I'm not in the mood for it." He pressed his fingers to his temples. "You got anything else you wanna lay on me? Otherwise, I wanna go home." Home, where he could crawl into bed in a nice dark room, be as angry as he wanted to be, and let it take its toll.

Hashira-san was silent for several heartbeats, until Yuuta looked up again. "What?" He wasn't sure he liked the odd expression on Hashira-san's face.

Hashira-san was studying him, eyes intent behind that silly little mask. "Interesting."

Yuuta gritted his teeth. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"Shuusuke took a leave of absence to care for you," Hashira-san said, slow and thoughtful. "And did everything he could to keep you away from all of this. I wonder if he did have a reason after all?"

Yuuta glared at him as best as he could from between slitted eyes. "Either get to the point or call your goon squad to send me home." Fuck, his head hurt--

"Did you know it's possible to--" But he lost track of the rest of what Hashira-san was saying as the lights began to flash behind his eyelids, off-on-off-on in time to the beat of his pulse, until they went off and he slid down into unconsciousness after them.

He woke up in a dim room, hooked up to a machine that was monitoring his vitals, and groaned softly. Aniki was going to kill him for ending up in a hospital again--

No. Aniki wasn't going to do anything, was he? Aniki was dead, and had been a superhero, and hadn't told him even though they weren't supposed to have any secrets from each other.

He was limp and drained from being angry, but that wasn't enough to stop the stir of another anger-headache. Yuuta pressed his palms against his forehead, trying to focus on something else, anything else.

The door opened and light spilled into the room. "Awake, I see," said a pleasant female voice.

Like that. Yuuta peered at her from under his hands. "You the doctor?" he hazarded, looking at her lab coat.

She smiled. "I'm a doctor, yes. Ryuuzaki Sumire, and you're Fuji Yuuta." Her smile dimmed. "I'm very sorry about your brother."

"Can we not talk about him?" Yuuta asked, cringing at the stab of heat behind his eyeballs, and tried to focus on her instead. Ryuuzaki Sumire--she was what, the woman who'd first founded Seishun, back before there was the governmental support for metahumans, right? Looked like this was his day for getting to meet living legends. Too bad he was mostly beyond caring.

She hesitated, and then nodded. "Of course." She picked up the chart hanging from the end of his bed. "Tell me, Fuji-kun, how long have you been getting these headaches?"

"Since I was twelve." Of course she'd want to take a case history. New doctors always did, for whatever good it did them.

Her eyebrows went up. "That's young."

"Was in a car accident. Had a head injury." And he'd gotten off light, with just the lingering migraines. He was still alive, after all. The rest of the car's occupants hadn't been nearly as lucky.

"Ah, I see. Precipitated by trauma, then." Ryuuzaki-sensei made some notes on the chart. "Do you find that they're triggered, or do they happen at random?"

"Triggered," Yuuta said. "When I get--upset. Pissed off. Aniki always tells--told--me to just keep a grip on my temper, and then I won't get them."

Ryuuzaki-sensei's pen stilled. "Did he," she said, slow and careful. "That's very interesting. I wonder what his logic on that might have been."

"I don't know," Yuuta said, digging his palms against his skull more firmly. "Can we not talk about him, please? It's making my head hurt."

Ryuuzaki-sensei set the chart down and leaned over him. "Are you getting another one?"

"Yeah, the start of one, yeah." He reached for calm, but it eluded him. "Fuck..."

Aniki would have told him off for swearing in front of a lady, but she didn't seem to even notice. "I wonder if there might be a way to stop them," she said.

"Sedation usually works," Yuuta grunted. "Or a good shot of whisky."

She huffed softly. "I meant for good."

"Not possible," Yuuta told her. "Aniki said--oh fuck." He squeezed his eyes shut, because even the dim light over his bed was too much for his eyes.

He heard her take a quick, sharp breath. "I could kill him myself," she said, softly, and then a cool hand was resting over his fingers. "Fuji-kun. Yuuta-kun. I think I can help you, but you're going to have to relax and let me. Can you do that for me? Will you?"

"Yeah, sure," he said, because what could it hurt? If she thought there was something she could do, even though the headaches were from the accident--

"Relax," she told him, and he had just long enough to feel the pressure of cool fingers picking at the knot of pain inside his skull and start to panic before everything came apart.

He was in the back seat of the car, leaning against the window, watching the lightning flash across the sky, followed by the steady rumble of the thunder. The lightning was close, bright enough to light the world in stark white for an instant, with every shadow so sharp that he could have cut his fingers on them. Kaasan and Tousan were talking in the front seat, a steady murmur against the thwip-thwip of the windshield wipers.

Oh fuck. He didn't want to be here. He knew what was coming next.

"I don't know what it is about a little water on the road that makes people drive like idiots," Tousan said, as the car behind them hit the gas and tried to pass them. "I mean, honestly, we're going perfectly fast enough--"

"Maybe they're in a hurry," Kaasan said. "We really can't know--"

Another car started to pull around them; Tousan growled something that Yuuta knew he wasn't supposed to have heard, and carefully filed away; he'd ask Aniki what it meant later, because Aniki would tell him. "Now what's this guy's excuse--" he started, but he never finished it, because that was when the truck in the oncoming lane came around the curve in the road ahead of them.

Time slowed down; the whole car jerked as Tousan hit the brakes, and again when the wheels slid on the pavement, spinning them around. Yuuta tried to close his eyes, but he couldn't, and had them fixed on the opposite door when it struck the car that was trying to pass them and began to buckle. Someone was shrieking; it might have been him or Kaasan, or it might have been the scream of the brakes, for all he could tell.

Then the truck was on them with its horn blaring, and all he could do was stare at the glare of the headlights until the sickening crunch of impact.

Everything after that was a welter of pain and sound and terror and the sound of thunder, peal after peal of it while lightning lit the sky again and again, close enough that he could smell the ozone and feel the electricity making the hair rise on the back of his neck. It was too much; he'd done his best not to remember this moment for a reason, why was it coming up now? He tried to retreat; he'd done it before--

"No," someone whispered. "Not this time, Yuuta-kun. You're strong enough to face it."

He didn't feel strong at all, no matter what anyone said, but with that pressure at his back, inexorable for all its gentleness, he held on and endured the cold of the rain, and the pain in his arm--broken in three places, that was what they were going to tell him later, after he woke up at the hospital--fuck, this was confusing. Meanwhile the lightning kept leaping down from the clouds, too close, and when the police and ambulances showed up, they kept a distance. Why weren't they coming any closer?

"It's the lightning," that someone whispered. "They can't."

Well, what was he supposed to do about that? The lightning hadn't stopped until--until--

Until Aniki had come and calmed him down, and put him to sleep, and he'd forgotten all about it by the time he'd woken up again. Only this time, Aniki wouldn't--couldn't--come.

Yuuta nearly panicked again, and the lightning cracked loudly, even closer than before. "No," his guide said, "you can control yourself now. You know how."

Yuuta gritted his teeth; that was easier said than done. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath anyway, and another, trying to focus on the air moving in and out of his lungs to the exclusion of everything else, trying to find some semblance of calm. Breathe in, breathe out, slow and even, until the lightning slowed down, and then stopped, and the rapid beating of his heart evened out.

"There now," Ryuuzaki-sensei murmured. "I knew you could do it."

"I didn't want to remember that," Yuuta told her, and opened his eyes--and stared. The room was in ruins, monitors smoking and half a wall simply gone. "What the hell happened?"

"That's what I'd like to know," someone else said, standing in what had previously been the door. "Ryuuzaki-sensei, what on earth is this?"

"It's what we like to call a breakthrough moment," she said, climbing to her feet and offering Yuuta a hand up. "If you'd stop by and talk to me sometime, perhaps you'd--"

"Stop!" Yuuta said, urgent, as she started to step away from him. "Don't move--" He reached out, like he could stop her from stepping down on a live wire just by willing it.

She stopped, but not before the electricity, which had been waiting, ready to reach out and bite her, came meekly to heel, coiling back on itself. "Ah," Ryuuzaki-sensei said. "Thank you."

"Huh. Who brought the latent in?" the other guy asked, as Yuuta stared at his fingers, not entirely sure he believed what he'd just done.

"Tezuka did," Ryuuzaki-sensei said. "This is Fuji Yuuta, Echizen."

Echizen-san's face went stiff. "I see." He turned on his heel and stalked away without another word.

"Took that well, didn't he?" Ryuuzaki-sensei said, but Yuuta got the feeling that she wasn't talking to him.

Just as well. "What--" He waved his hand and the coil of electricity he could feel, even if he couldn't quite see it, moved with his gesture. "What's going on?" His voice rose on the last word, nearly cracking; but he'd more than earned the right to a bout of hysteria, and didn't particularly give a damn.

Ryuuzaki-sensei's smile was sympathetic. "Tell me, Yuuta-kun, have you ever heard of latent talents?"

"No," he said.

"It's when someone has powers that are dormant, or sealed away," Ryuuzaki-sensei said. Her voice went flat in a funny way when she said sealed, and Yuuta tucked that away to think about later, when he was less confused. "And they stay that way until something wakes them up." She surveyed the ruin of the room. "But perhaps we should discuss this somewhere else." Her mouth quirked. "Tezuka wanted to speak to you once you were up and about again, anyway."

Ryuuzaki-sensei took him back to the conference room he'd been in before, and she and Tezuka went through the explanations of what it meant to have superpowers. Mostly it boiled down to the fact that the superheroes themselves were mostly making it up as they went along. Even after the better part of a century, no one really understood why some people cropped out with strange powers, and Yuuta got the impression that the main difference between a hero and villain was that the heroes had a code of conduct and stuck to it. "So," Yuuta said, once he'd digested that. "What happened to Aniki?"

Ryuuzaki-sensei and Hashira-san (Tezuka-san? did Yuuta get to call him by his real name, now that he was part of the metahuman club?) were silent for long enough that Yuuta looked up from his hands. "He disappeared," Tezuka-san said, finally. "Just over a month ago."

"Doing civilian things," Ryuuzaki-sensei clarified. "We didn't know he was gone until he didn't show up for a meeting. We found his car, but it looked like it had been abandoned, not like he'd been in a fight." She glanced at Tezuka-san. "And there hasn't been a body."

"That doesn't mean anything." Tezuka-san's tone was clipped. "We all know what happened to Yamato."

Everyone but Yuuta, that was. "What does that mean?"

Ryuuzaki-sensei hesitated. "It means that sometimes there isn't a body."

Yuuta looked down again. "That means you think there ought to be one," he said, and felt the web of electricity running through the table and the walls and the ceiling pulse in response. He quashed the surge of emotion; now was not the time to get upset. Later, when he found who'd taken his brother, that would be the time to get--upset. At length.

"Not all of us do," Ryuuzaki-sensei said. "It's possible that--"

"It's been a month," Tezuka-san said, perfectly even, and in that instant, Yuuta hated him for not caring about Aniki, who'd been his fucking teammate. "Shuusuke is more resourceful than this. If he'd been captured, he'd have escaped by now."

"And I think you're being too pessimistic," Ryuuzaki-san said. "Everyone with the kind of resources it takes to tackle Tensai is already locked up, and has been for months."

"All that means is that there's someone out there that we don't know about," Tezuka-san said; it sounded like he'd made this argument before. "We need to spend our energy preparing for them."

"No one could be that powerful," Ryuuzaki-sensei said. "We'd have noticed--"

Tezuka-san cut his eyes over to Yuuta. "We didn't notice him before today."

Ryuuzaki-sensei bit her lip, and didn't say anything.

"So. Aniki's dead." Yuuta was distantly proud of how level his voice was. "What I want to know now is how I find the bastard who killed him."

That got their attention away from their argument. "We've been wondering that ourselves," Ryuuzaki-sensei said. "And we've been working on it--"

Yeah, he was sure they had been, for all the good it was doing. "I want to help."

Ryuuzaki-sensei's smile was patient, and kind, and absolutely infuriating. "I'm sure you do, but--"

Tezuka-san interrupted her. "I think you have that right."

"What?" Ryuuzaki-sensei went from soothing to scandalized between one heartbeat and the next. "Tezuka, have you lost your mind?"

He carried on. "We do have a gap in the team, and you really can't stay neutral, not with the way you're oozing potential," he said. When Ryuuzaki-sensei squawked, he raised an eyebrow. "You think we should let him run around loose, and hope he gets snapped up by Abare instead of someone worse?"

"He's not even trained," Ryuuzaki-sensei pointed out.

"I learn fast," Yuuta volunteered.

"You'll have to," Tezuka-san said, "because you'll be just as dangerous to us as our opponents until you learn how to handle yourself."

Ryuuzaki-sensei gesticulated, face starting to go red. "Tezuka, you can't--I know you're upset, but this is--"

"I know what I'm doing," Tezuka-san said, interrupting again. "Wasn't that why you put me in charge?"

"I'm starting to rethink that decision," she said, and stood. "I do not approve of this."

"I'll take full responsibility for the decision," Tezuka-san said, looking up at her. "Like always."

That had all the weight of an insult, coming from Tezuka-san like that. Ryuuzaki-san's lips went white, and she walked out of the conference room without another word.

Tezuka-san let her go; once the door had swished shut behind her, he looked at Yuuta. "It's going to be dangerous, especially for someone who's not trained."

Yuuta met his eyes. "So what have I got left to lose?" He looked away again, out the window to the curve of the sky. "My brother's dead because someone decided to kill him. If you don't let me help, I'll go out and find whoever did it myself." And then he'd--

"Ryuuzaki doesn't understand that."

There was something in Tezuka-san's voice that made Yuuta look at him again--some undercurrent, a tension that he hadn't seen before. Perhaps Tezuka-san wasn't as dispassionate as he'd thought. That was something he could work with. "She doesn't have to," Yuuta said, after a moment of measuring Tezuka-san. "She just has to stay out of my way."

They shared a look, one of mutual understanding, and then the corner of Tezuka-san's mouth ticked up just a bit. "I can see to that."

Yuuta settled back in his seat. "I think we're going to get along just fine."

"Yes," Tezuka-san said, "I think we will."