Shades of Blue

Pairing: November 11/Hei

Time line: AU after episode 12, just after Hei's mission in the PANDORA-research-centre.

Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me, I only use the characters to satisfy the voices in my head.

A/N: So, yeah, this is my very first real story. While watching the anime, I thought that it was a pity that Hei and November didn't meet properly, so this little idea showed up in my head and really didn't want to leave…

I'm really slow with my updates, but the chapters are long, so I hope that makes up for it.

Also, since I'm crappy at plots, I simply concentrate on getting Hei and November through the series relatively unscathed and most of all alive. (Though I guarantee nothing).

If you notice any spelling or grammar mistakes or mistakes in general, please tell me and I'll fix it!

This story is dedicated to Shinrabanshô, since she encouraged me and really helped me with the finer points of characterisations and details. I also recommend her stories!

The first time they'd met face to face had been a coincidence.

Hei had just finished a job and had been looking for something to eat when he'd seen the other man and Kirihara-san. He had immediately recognized the blonde Contractor who could give him a run for his money when they fought.

After an exhausting mission and having to endure Huang's nagging, Hei really hadn't been in the mood to deal with an overly curious police officer and the one who had killed Carmine, so he'd kept his head down and hoped that Kirihara-san wouldn't see him. She always wanted to talk to him when she did.

To his chagrin he seemed to have used up all of his luck on his mission, so he'd only barely been able to keep from flinching when he'd heard the woman call his name.

Sighing inwardly he had turned around, plastered a tired but happy smile on his face and put surprise into his voice as he greeted her.

"Kirihara-san! It's nice to see you. How are you?"

The detective had smiled back at him while blushing slightly.

"I'm fine Li-kun, and how are you? You seem tired."

Hei had nodded while smiling and explained that he had just finished at his workplace and was looking for something to eat.

"And you? Are you out on a date?" He'd known that she wasn't, but teasing her had been revenge for bothering him and even if he disliked it, it had been a good opportunity to gather information about November 11.

"A date? No way, we're just colleagues!"

She had been blushing furiously and taken several steps away from the blonde, waving her hands frantically to emphasise her denial.

Hei had arched his eyebrows, wondering just why the woman seemed that horrified about his 'assumption'. The Brit had smirked, openly amused about Kirihara's rather violent reaction, which had made Misaki glare at him angrily.

The assassin had been too tired to try and figure out why the older woman had reacted that strangely and decided to write it off as her being embarrassed until he was awake enough to think about it properly.

It was quite obvious that she was quite modest and self-conscious – she didn't wear contacts, wore little make up and wore a business suit that, while not too big or too small, didn't accentuate her features.

He had remembered the Chinese dress that she had worn when they had met the first time (the occasion where she had asked about Shinoda Chiaki didn't really count as meeting).

It had looked good on her and while he really didn't like her that way, he could appreciate an attractive person.

"You know, we were looking for something to eat too, would you like to join us?"

The question had caught his attention and he had been quite unhappy about the dilemma it had brought with it:

On one hand he'd have loved to refuse the offer, but on the other hand, refusing the invitation would have been impolite, so Hei had had no choice but to accept if he wanted Kirihara-san to stay fond of him.

So he had nodded again and cheerfully accepted. He looked at November –who had been watching them quietly – and introduced himself.

"Good evening, I'm Li Shengshun. I hope I'm not intruding."

The obviously older man had just smiled, shaken his head and introduced himself after reassuring the younger one that it was always wonderful to meet new people.

The alias the Brit had used had been Jack Simon, Hei remembered.

The three of them had gone to a ramen-stand where they had eaten, laughed and talked.

Hei had pretended to be a naive student who hadn't just come back from a mission where he'd killed 3 people to get an item that the syndicate was interested in, Kirihara-san had relaxed and pretended that she hadn't been called to a crime-scene where she had been unable to find any clues to BK-201's identity.

November 11, or Jack Simon, had been his usual self, completely carefree and not at all bothered by the lack of progress made by the police with 'Mr. 201BK' and the syndicate.

When he had noticed that, Hei had, not for the first time, wished to be either a 'normal' Contractor, or to be back the way he had been before the incident in South America.

The Chinese man hated the way he was at the complete mercy of his emotions – before the Heaven's Gate had disappeared he had been calm, stoic and unfeeling – a lot like a Contractor – and the only person he had been able to feel something for had been his sister Pai.

After losing his sister, Hei had also lost his unshakeable calm and his actions had started to be more and more influenced by his feelings.

Another customer had arrived at the ramen-stand and reminded Hei where he was and what he was doing – it wasn't a good idea for a hunted criminal to let his guard down when he ate dinner with people who could arrest him, so he had jerked himself out of his musings, lest his carefully constructed mask shattered.

Neither Misaki-san (she insisted that he called her that) nor November 11 seemed to have noticed his lack of participation in the conversation, but Hei felt the MI6 agent's eyes on him when the Brit thought he wasn't paying attention.

Unnerved by Jack's staring, Hei had excused himself as soon as he'd been able to, hoping that he wouldn't have to deal with the two of them again anytime soon.

Slowly Hei opened his eyes, wondering what had woken him up. He got his answer, when he heard the sound of claws scratching against wood and glass. Hastily the assassin threw off his covers and hurried to the window to let Mao in before the man-turned-cat damaged the windows.

Hei really didn't want to deal with his landlady when she was angry and he doubted that Mao had the necessary pocket change to pay for repairs – which meant that the blue eyed man would have to pick up the bill.

The assassin promised himself that if it came to that, he'd use Mao as ingredient for a dish and serve him to the old woman.

The Contractor couldn't help but smirk at the thought, which made Mao look at him warily.

"I just came to tell you that there won't be any missions for a while. The fact that an important research material vanished from PANDORA despite their tight security put the secret agencies all over the world on edge, so we got the order to lay low for a while."

The man who was also called Black Reaper nodded. It made sense that people would be upset about the loss of the meteor shard and future missions would probably get tougher with all the security that the paranoid people, who owned things from the gate, added.

"Thanks you for telling me. By the way," the assassin's smirk vanished and his face returned to his usual empty, apathetic expression. "Do not, under any circumstances, damage the windows. Is that clear?" His voice was toneless and cool and Hei's eyes promised retribution should the warning not be heeded.

Mao's eyes widened slightly, but the cat seemed to be more intrigued than afraid, much to the dark haired man's chagrin.

The body-snatcher didn't really want to anger the Black Reaper, though he was always interested in the other man's reactions, so he nodded, not wanting to get on Hei's bad side.

After all if he's mad at me, I can't really study him anymore…

The Chinese man slid Li Shengshun's usual expression of naivety back across his features, satisfied that, while he hadn't really gotten the reaction he had wanted, his colleague wouldn't get him in trouble. His eyes followed the other Contractor's form as the feline left, the small body quickly leaving his range of vision.

Tiredly Hei let his eyes wander around the street, as he thought back to the previous evening, that he had spent with Misaki-san and November 11.

He remembered the older man's stare and an unsettling feeling settled itself in his gut – he had grown to trust his instincts and over the years and they rarely let him down.

Ruthlessly the Contractor shoved the thought of – blonde hair, amber eyes, a mouth curving into a mischievous smile, bright light, the pain of betrayal – past experiences out of his mind and concentrated on 'Jack Simon'.

Unfortunately most of his memories of the other man weren't positive and the attitude November 11 had shown him when they had fought, just after the blonde had killed Carmine, made it difficult for the assassin to form an objective opinion of the man.

What he knew of the Brit was inconsistent and didn't really make any sense, since it seemed to totally oppose Hei's other experiences with Contractors and agents.

Contractors were known to completely disregard their feelings, and yet it was obvious that Jack enjoyed indulging his whims, even if they got him into trouble and another one of his kind would have acted more rationally.

Another thing was that most people who were part of a contract were solitary creatures, only being part of a group for the sake of reaching their goals –they didn't form any attachments.

When he thought that, Hei couldn't help but think back to the almost affectionate look that had crossed November's face last night when the man had talked about his team-mates.

Both of these characteristics were obviously an integral part of the Brit's being, but the assassin also remembered the look in the blonde's eyes when they had fought.

The power to freeze things – it really fits him well, the Black Reaper couldn't help but think, as he recalled the way these orbs had stared at him – as blue and as cold as the ice that the blonde was capable of creating.

A little frustrated that he couldn't say more about the man, Hei started to turn from the window to go and make breakfast when something caught his eye – or rather when someone caught his eye.

Stunned and incredulous, the Chinese man stared at the man he had just been thinking about. He watched as November looked at a piece of paper that was held between his fingers before looking at the house numbers around him and could feel the bad hunch he'd had the whole morning turn into a dull ache.

When the assassin noticed that the MI6 agent walked towards his house, he almost felt sick, but managed to push the feeling away.

Maybe he wants to visit someone else and doesn't know that I live around here too.

It was a hopeful thought, but the closer Jack got, the more improbable it seemed and when he saw that the blonde walked up to the landlady that was taking out her trash, all hope was lost.

Sighing quietly, Hei closed the window, quickly threw on some clothes and walked to the kitchen to make himself breakfast, waiting for the sound of somebody knocking on his door.

As he had expected, he heard the sound and as expected it was November who stood in front of him, waiting to be let in.

The Chinese man smiled a surprised smile and greeted the older one cheerfully, while inwardly he wanted nothing more than to slam his door into the Brit's face.

"Good morning Shengshun! I apologize for arriving here this early, but after yesterday I wanted to talk to you about something."

The older Contractor smiled charmingly and Hei felt an incredible wave of loathing well up inside of him.

The night before he had been too tired and exhausted to pay attention to it, but now he couldn't help but recall that this was the one who had killed Havoc.

When they had worked together, he and Carmine hadn't really gotten along – the red-headed woman's remuneration had always disgusted him, because he was quite fond of children. He had killed innocents before, but the death of kids always left him with a hollow ache in his chest.

Despite their differences, though, they had been comrades and had trusted the other to watch their back.

Now, as he looked at the Brit, all he could think about was the anguish in a pair of emerald green eyes, a small malnourished body clinging to him and the smell of blood mixed with the cleansing, earthy scent of rain.

He let the other man in while he absently retorted to Jack's greeting.

"Good morning to you too, though I have the feeling that you've been awake for quite some time longer than I have."

Hei let an amused smile slide across his face while he walked back to his kitchenette, motioning the man to follow him.

Telling the other man to make himself at home, the Chinese man picked up his knife where he'd left it and continued the conversation while cutting vegetables.

"What is it that you want to talk about? Did something happen?"

The older man, having left his shoes at the entrance, lowered himself to the floor in front of the low wooden table in the room and arranged himself into a comfortable, cross-legged position before he answered.

"No, nothing happened, there's just something that I wanted to ask you." November paused for a moment before he continued. "It concerns Masaki."

That made Hei curious, so he waited for the man to continue. When nothing was said for a few minutes, the younger one realized that the other Contractor wasn't going to continue talking, so it was up to him to keep the conversation going.

Looking down at the food he was preparing, the dark haired man decided that they could continue to talk after he had eaten, though it would probably be polite to offer his guest something to eat. Because of this train of thought, he, instead of inquiring further about what had happened to the Section-Chief of the Foreign Affairs Section 4, asked November whether the older man wanted some breakfast.

Had the assassin turned around, he would have been able to see surprise and intrigue flashing across Jack's face.

Wincing slightly, as it sounded incredibly callous to simply disregard Misaki-san's apparent situation, Hei quickly continued talking.

"It's better to talk about serious things with a full stomach, right?" This time the Chinese man turned looked over his shoulder to shoot the older man a quick smile.

November chuckled.

"Of course it is. I'd love to try your cooking, especially since it smells and looks wonderful."

Nodding, the assassin wiped his hands on a dishtowel and quickly set the table before sitting down.

Jack couldn't help but admire the rich variety of dishes and, serving himself, he tasted the food, only to praise the younger man for the excellent meal.

"It's delicious – I'm sure that if you wanted to, you could cook professionally. Your customers would be delighted."

Hei stilled for a moment, taking in the comment, before replying with Li Shengshun's customary humble- and shyness.

"Thank you, though I doubt that I'm talented enough to cook for a living."

The blonde looked at him amused, but didn't comment on the younger man's apparent timidity. They finished the rest of their meal in silence.

Wiping his mouth with a napkin, Hei thought that it was probably the right time for them to continue their talk about Misaki-san.

"You said you wanted to tell me something?" He turned inquisitive eyes to the older one, who just looked at him for a moment.

Jack's face was dead serious and the assassin tensed.

Did something happen? Is she injured? His eyes narrowed. Did she figure something out? Do I need to silence her?

Blue eyes stared into blue eyes. A mouth opened.

"Do you have any diseases that could be transmitted sexually?"

The assassin's mouth opened to answer before he realized just what had been asked. Stunned he stared at November, midnight blue eyes impossibly wide.

The other man calmly continued with his questions, seemingly not at all bothered by the younger male's shell-shocked silence.

"When was the last time you slept with someone? Does your family have any history of hereditary diseases? Have you ever slept with a male? What is your opinion of BDSM? Have you ever-", the Brit was abruptly cut off mid-sentence.


Hei's voice wavered as he asked, too shocked to control his feelings.

The older man just looked at him patiently, smiling that infuriating smile of his, before replying.

"I was asking whether or not you have any sexu-", again he was cut off by the younger one.

"Why would you want to know that?"

The younger man's expression was almost comical in the horror it portrayed and suddenly Hei felt sympathy for Misaki-san. If the blonde was always like this, it didn't surprise him that she had protested that vehemently when the younger one had asked her whether they were dating or not.

The blonde continued to smile while he answered the question cheerfully.

"Well, it seems to me that Masaki likes you a lot, so I thought that I would make sure that the one she's interested in doesn't have any dubious sexual urges or maybe a disease that she could catch."

Hei looked at the Brit sceptically, his face a mixture of beet-red and chalk-white, which the older man watched curiously.

Aren't Brits supposed to be prude?!

Slowly the Chinese man got his bearings back and took a deep mouthful of tea. As the beverage slid down his throat, he thought about how he should answer the questions.

The first thing he did was deny.

When in doubt, deny, deny, deny, even when- especially when- it's something you really don't want to think about.

"I really don't think that Misaki-san is interested in me that way, so I don't think that there is a need for you to ask me this."

Jack sighed a suffering sigh and Hei felt irritation well up inside of him.

Just what I need – another reason to loathe that man.

"While you obviously don't notice it when someone fancies you, let me tell you something."

The blonde leaned over the table, close enough to Hei that the younger man could feel the older one's breath on his lips.

"Kirihara Misaki has a crush on you and, since she is too self-conscious to ask these kinds of questions, I'll do it for her."

The agent leaned back again, looking for the world like a cat that ate the canary after robbing a dairy-product factory.

The Chinese man felt heat rise up in his cheeks and quickly took another gulp of his tea.

"You are not going to leave until I tell you these things, are you?"

It was unbelievably embarrassing, but if it got the other man off his back, he was willing to subject himself to it. Hei took a deep breath and slowly started to answer, his voice quiet and hesitant.

In reality, he could have said it coolly, because, when he had fought at the Heaven's Gate and had been injured, similar questions had been asked, though mostly about diseases that could be caught by sex and transferred by blood and other fluids, but only Hei could answer like that – not Li Shengshun.

"I don't have any… venereal… diseases. The last time I… slept with… someone was f-five years ago."

The assassin's face was coloured a bright crimson.

"As far as I know, my family didn't have any diseases that… could be a… danger… to my… sexual partner or me. I don't really support BDSM and while I don't like giving or receiving pain, I don't have anything against people who do. I mean… who do enjoy these kinds of things…"

Hei felt Jack's ice-blue eyes watching him, which caused him to falter sometimes in his speech.

"You didn't answer one question."

The comment caught him by surprise. What also startled the dark haired one was the interest in the other's voice and for a moment he just sat still and tried to think of something to say.

He really didn't know how to answer such a question without completely embarassing himself.

For a moment he thought about telling the truth, but from the way the older one looked, the Brit had another load of disconcerting and awkward questions and Hei really didn't want to answer any more of those.

He needed the other man to back of and the thing that would probably work best was a bluntly said lie.

"Yes. I have."

Ignoring the uneasy feeling he had when he told the lie, the dark haired man smiled at the older Contractor and cheerfully asked if the man had any other questions.

It surprised him when the older one answered with an interested look and curious words.

"You have? Do you want to tell me about it?" The curiosity in the blonde's words would amuse Hei if it weren't for the topic they were talking about.

He'd never have guessed that the other would ask further into it, because from what he had seen the day before, the man had been flirting with every female he had come into contact with and Hei knew that most womanizers were quite uncomfortable with same-sex relationships.

I should know better than to simply assume things…

Forcing a mischievous smile on his face, the assassin laughed. "I really don't think that I have to give you a detailed description of every single one of my sexual encounters, do I?"

Jack sighed disappointed, but agreed reluctantly. It was then that the Brit took a look at his wristwatch and made a sound of surprise, before his shoulders slumped.

"I'm late. Misaki isn't going to be pleased." Sighing deeply, he murmured more to himself than to the younger man. "July is going to be disappointed if I'm late for the fair…"

A fair?

Arching his eyebrows Hei listened to the older man's muttering and decided that he really didn't want to know what the MI6 team did with their free time.

"If you're late, shouldn't you be going?"

November looked at him for a moment before he agreed and made his way to the door. He slipped on his shoes and turned around to face the younger Contractor.

"It was nice to talk to you and I'm sure that Misaki will be pleased to know that there won't be any danger of her or your children catching anything. I hope we can talk again soon."

Waving cheerfully, the man walked out of the door and closed it behind him.

In the silence of his room, Hei stared at the door, a bemused look on his face.

I wonder what that was about. Somehow I have a bad feeling about this…

Unfortunately for Hei, his bad feeling proved to be correct. Since the day they had met the first time two months ago, he had been running into November 11 almost every day, to the point where he suspected that the older man stalked him.

That made him nervous and a little paranoid even though he tried not to show it. The more time he spent with the man, the more he got the feeling that November 11 was deliberately provoking him.

The questions about his sexual relationships were only the first in a long chain of embarrassing and unrepeatable questions. The assassin was also afraid that he'd slip up and say something to incriminate himself – it was a possible scenario with how much his patience had been dwindling down to nothing.

The uncertainty was slowly driving Hei insane, and while he despised unnecessary killing, the Chinese man felt that if he 'ran into' the other Contractor again, he wouldn't be able to keep himself from butchering the man.

Even Huang had noticed his bad mood, and while neither he nor Mao were particularly fond of him (well, Mao loved the food and backrubs Hei sometimes gave him), they also didn't want to antagonise the already stressed assassin.

It was because of that, that, when 'Li-kun' ran into both November 11 and Masaki-san once again, it took all of his self-control to not commit murder in front of a high-ranking police officer.

Even Kirihara noticed that 'Li-kun's' smile was strained when he greeted them, which was an accomplishment in and of itself. It wasn't that she was stupid or even unobservant (if she were, she never would have become Section-Chief of the Foreign Affairs Section 4), it was just that Hei had fooled her with his fake personality to the point where she explained any discrepancies that crept up away with the argument that 'Li-kun' simply had an off day.

If the Chinese syndicate member was slipping up that badly, it was a sign for everyone in the general vicinity to throw themselves on the floor in hopes to be missed by any flying shrapnel as Hei brutally ripped the cause of his fury to shreds.

Finally dropping his smile, the assassin grabbed the Brit by his tie, and told Misaki-san that he'd borrow Jack for a moment. He then proceeded to drag the older man into a nearby alley and shoved the blonde against a wall before he demanded to know just why November 11 thought it was a good idea to stalk him.

Hei had been prepared for a lot of reactions – anger, surprise, even an honest explanation – he had, however, not been prepared for the reaction he got.

November 11, top agent at MI6, cold-hearted and cold-blooded Contractor, a frighteningly good fighter and an apparent stalker, burst into laughter. The blonde apparently thought that Hei's question had been hilarious, to the point where tears streamed down the man's face and he had to lean against the wall he had been pushed against.

Hei himself was baffled and was frustrated enough that the idea of bursting into tears didn't sound half bad.

Jack finally noticed that Hei didn't seem to be very happy with his reaction and forced himself to stop laughing.

Wiping his tears from his cheeks, the blonde grinned at the raven haired man before finally answering.

"I was wondering just when you'd confront me. I have to say that I'm impressed – you lasted longer than anyone else I know."

Gritting his teeth, Hei told himself to calm down.

Don't electrocute him, don't stab him, don't kill him, don't rip him apart piece by piece, it will be suspicious if you're the last one to see him, for goodness sake, at least wait until it's dark and no one can see you…

"Well? That doesn't answer the question why you would do something like that!"

If anything, November's grin seemed to grow even larger and –in Hei's opinion – more despicable.

"Isn't it obvious? I wanted to test how patient you are and I have to say that you exceeded my expectations. Congratulations."

Hei hands balled into fists and he replied with a dangerous calm.

"Is that the only reason you have for harassing me for two whole months?"

Jack just laughed.

"Of course it is! After Misaki mentioned your patience, I just couldn't resist my curiosity and- uh, you know, your eyebrow is twitching, are you okay?"


Satisfied Hei shook his hand. His knuckles hurt, but it was totally worth the stunned expression on Novembers face when the older man's face met Hei's fist.

Turning around, Hei felt calm again for the first time since Jack first started to stalk him. Walking out of the alley without looking back at the MI6 agent, now sprawled out on the floor, he gave Misaki-san a cheerful smile and wished her a wonderful day before he walked to the park he always met his team at for mission briefings.

Stunned November 11 stared after Li Shengshun's retreating form. His face hurt like hell and he could already feel his eye swell. The punch had been totally unexpected, but Jack suspected that even if he had expected it, the fist had come flying fast enough to make him doubt his ability in blocking it.

Despite the pain he was in, the agent couldn't keep himself from grinning at his accomplishment – he had succeeded in making 'the world's most patient person' (at least after Misaki) lose their unshakeable calm.

If he were honest, the Brit would have to admit that he had been about to give up and concede defeat, as it seemed that nothing could make Li lose his cool.

November also had to admit, that he found the man intriguing, which was completely surprising to both him and his companions. Jack had never imagined, not even in his strangest dreams, that he would find himself fascinated by someone like Li Shengshun.

The first time he had heard about 'Li-kun' it had been after he had scolded Misaki's eating habits, to which she had replied that she ate less than the Chinese man she had met some time ago.

He had found himself amused and, in severe need of entertainment, had hounded Misaki for more information about the blue eyed man.

Both Misaki and Saito had described him as naive, good-natured, gullible, and patient, so he had been curious about him.

When he had noticed that Misaki seemed to have a crush on Li, November had imagined him to be a tall, dark, handsome, intelligent, mature and responsible man several years older than both of them, all the other things he had been told included.

Because of this, he had been very surprised when he had finally met Li-kun.

Dark and intelligent fit, even if the other man obviously felt he had to hide his intelligence. But other than that, nothing really seemed to be suitable for an accurate description.

Hating to do anything inaccurately, November had started to think about how to describe the Chinese better. Due to this, he had compared Shengshun with the characteristics he had imagined or been given.

Li wasn't short, but he wasn't really tall either - in fact he was about half a head shorter than November, which put him on the taller side of average.

Also, Shengshun was younger than even Misaki and Jack guessed that he was in his early twenties (which shot the impressions he had from Misaki completely to pieces – he'd never have guessed that she went for younger men…) which made him at least nine years younger than the Brit.

Another thing that he had noticed was that, with his pale skin, raven hair, slender built and wide, incredibly dark and incredibly blue eyes, Li was more beautiful than handsome despite there being a certain sharpness in his features.

Jack could clearly see just why Masaki was interested.

But it wasn't only looks – the younger man had an air around him (some would call it charisma) that simply attracted people towards him – even if, or maybe because, he had no idea that he was doing it.

What November could attest to, were Li's good-natured character and his patience. The blonde had stalked the younger man, been as obnoxious and annoying as possible and had asked embarrassing questions in front of other people and Li had put up with him for two whole months before going ballistic.

In that time the secret agent had found out many interesting things about the Chinese man.

Chuckling slightly he thought back to the first time he had asked Li embarrassing questions and how the man had answered them – after the initial surprise – without batting an eyelash.

The answers had been quite interesting, though also somewhat unexpected. Unfortunately, as time went by, Shengshun's willingness to answer questions deteriorated together with his patience, while the coldness in his midnight blue eyes increased exponentially.

Really – the way he looked at me, I swear he was going to strangle me, not that the punch wasn't painful enough…

Now that I think about it, the last few days he started to look more and more homicidal – maybe I should change to a more secure hotel…

That thought didn't sound all that unreasonable, because, while Li might be gullible and naïve (and November wasn't sure about that either, from what he had been able to weasel out of the younger man), there was no denying that the dark haired man was dangerous and trained in at least one martial art.

Li moved too well, too fluidly and his body was too balanced to allow for anything else.

Something that had bothered November was just how well the younger man hid his skill – it took a lot more skill to keep oneself from moving like that, than to move like that.

Shengshun had moved normally, maybe even a little clumsily, until the end of their first dinner, where the younger man had obviously been tired and distracted.

The Brit had also noticed, that Li had started to slip up more and more as time passed – it probably had something to do with the dark haired man's frayed temper…

The way he had stood from his chair at their first meeting had been one fluid motion that was a little like water and a little like a feline (Had November known that Hei worked with a Contractor that was trapped in the body of a cat and a Doll that used water to observe and find people, he probably would have laughed until he collapsed from a lack of air).

The punch Li had hit Jack with had hurt a lot, though the agent supposed he deserved it for teasing the younger one like that. He just hadn't been able to help himself, after all it had been either laughing or staring dazed and while both of these reactions were out of character for him, laughing had been more rational than staring like an idiot, no matter how wonderful Li looked when he was angry.

And what a sight it had been…

Narrowed eyes, almost glowing in a bright, intense blue; thin lips pressed into a sharp line; dark, slender brows drawn together; the lithe body coiled as tight as a spring, ready to pounce at any given moment…

Yes, beautiful fits a lot better than handsome…

Shaking his head, November stood up and brushed dust and dirt from his suit.

The outcome of Jack's musings and observations was that Li Shengshun was on the taller side of average, he was intelligent, young, more beautiful than handsome, charismatic, good-natured and patient, despite being dangerous and, from the way the dark haired man dressed, November had the feeling that the younger one was completely and utterly oblivious to how others perceived him.

He was also a wonderful cook, could keep up with November's sharp wit and was a good listener.

If he were a woman, I'd totally go for him…

Amused with himself, Jack walked out of the alley, where Misaki was waiting impatiently for him. Her whole attitude changed, when she saw his swollen left eye and the bruise on his cheekbone under it. Incredulously she stared at him, when she realised that the only one who would have been able to do that was Li-kun.

Grinning at her stare, he waved her concern off.

"Don't worry Misaki – I completely deserved it." He then proceeded to tell her about how he had followed and harassed Shengshun for two months and how patiently the younger man had endured Jack's nerve-racking behaviour until it had been too much to bear.

After he had finished, the brunette just stared at her colleague for a moment, as if waiting for the words 'I'm just joking.' that Jack often used after a particular horrible joke, but when the blonde man stayed silent, she shook her head with exasperation at his antics.

"You can be glad that Li-kun didn't do too much damage, after all, being such a trouble-magnet, he's pretty tough."

That interested November 11, since the characteristics he had gathered to describe Li with weren't really extensive and 'trouble-magnet' sounded intriguing.

"What do you mean by that? Shengshun didn't seem like he would go and look for trouble."

Misaki sighed, but agreed to tell him the story he asked for if he behaved himself and left Li in peace.

"Well, it started with a Contractor called VI952 – I later learned that he was called Wei Shi Jun. I met an informant who wanted to talk to me about…"

Oh, yes, Shengshun is getting more and more interesting by the second…

November 11, aka Jack Simon, grinned – he had promised Misaki that he'd behave himself, but he had never said just how long he would do so…

Half-truths, he decided, are a wonderful thing.

Elsewhere, Hei shuddered. He had a really bad feeling about something, but he couldn't tell about what it was. He just hoped it wasn't something that would be a problem with his mission.

Huang and Mao had been cautious when he had arrived at the park, while Yin was her usual apathetic self. Both men (man, male cat – where was the difference?) relaxed when they saw Hei's good mood, but now Huang was nervous because of something else.

"Hei, do you have a corpse we need to dispose of? I don't really care, as long as it's someone who deserves it, but if you weren't careful, it could be traced back to you."

Annoyed, Hei glared at Huang. He didn't know what should insult him more – Huang's belief that Hei had killed someone in his rage, or that the retired police officer obviously didn't think that the assassin could cover his tracks well enough to keep from getting caught.

"I didn't kill anyone and even if I had, you wouldn't need to worry about there being anything that could be traced back to me." He said that in his usual monotone voice, which didn't really make what he said sound believable.

"What made you that angry anyway? It must have been something or someone incredible to make you that furious." Mao was a good example for the saying 'Curiosity kills the cat'. The man-cat always got into trouble because of his need to satisfy his curiosity.

To everyone's surprise it was Yin that answered the question.

"The top agent of the MI6 was following Hei around for two months."

For a moment there was silence, before both Huang and Mao started yelling at Hei. It took the dark haired one some time to reply, since the two other men were too busy with panicking to listen to him.

"November 11 didn't follow me around because he suspects me of being BK-201. If he had, I would have acted differently and, had the opportunity arisen, eliminated him. He followed me around to annoy me, as he wanted to know just how much I was willing to put up with his inexcusable behaviour."

That rendered both man and cat speechless. "Why on earth would he do that? He's a Contractor after all, isn't he? That's not something a rational person, let alone a Contractor would do." Huang was baffled and had no problem with showing it.

Mao nodded, also curious. "Well Hei, what did he say?"

The assassin was annoyed – the other men were worse than his landlady when it came to gossiping. He was also annoyed because he had no idea just why Jack would do something irrational like following another guy around until said guy's patience ran out.

"I don't know. I didn't stay around after I punched him." He answered shortly.

This time, even Yin blinked as if surprised. Under his calm exterior, Hei was quite hot-headed, but he knew better than to simply walk away from someone who hadn't given him wanted information.

"It's not important. What is the mission about?" It was blatantly obvious that the Contractor wanted to change the topic, but the topic he changed to was serious enough to snap everyone out of their stupor.

"Some rich business guy called Yamazaki Sho decided that it would be a good idea to smuggle an apple seed out of the gate. He planted it, grew a tree and found out that the apples growing from it were an incredible drug. He now decided to sell them. The syndicate wants the seed that the tree grew from and they want the guy out of the way – it's a lot like the stone-flower-seed you had to steal from the Ch'ing-Long-Tang some time ago."

The oldest one took out a small stack of papers that he gave to Hei.

"These are the blue-prints of the villa the guy lives in. I marked the place where it is. There's also information about the employees, and the businessman – there are pictures, so you know whom you need to take out. The change of shifts for the security personnel is underlined. You'll see that there're ponds all around the house, so Yin is going to keep an eye on the security. I'll provide back-up as sniper, in case you need cover for a quick getaway. Mao'll stay near the police, since we need to know if or when the police will get involved. We do it today. Everyone is to be at their necessary location at eleven o'clock. That's all. Don't be late. If you screw up, I'll kill you."

With that, Huang left, not wanting to stay with them any longer than he had to. There was a lot that could be said about the man (a lot of swear words too), but one simply had to admire his resourcefulness and thoroughness when he did a job. They were just two of the many reasons why the syndicate had decided to recruit him.

Sighing inwardly, Hei looked at the papers. Not for the first time he was thankful that he learned incredibly fast. Otherwise knowing everything there was to know about the target would have been close to impossible.

Mao stretched and left together with Yin, after saying goodbye to Hei.

He probably hopes that he'll get a backrub from her, thought the Contractor absently, already leafing through the papers. He put them away after some time and looked at the clock fastened at the side of a building.

It's 13:15 – I'll go back to the flat and cook something. It was a mundane thought that people who knew what Hei did for a living wouldn't expect of him, but the Chinese man liked to cook and he enjoyed eating and he had the feeling that he would need all the strength he could get for this mission.

Silently November crept through the apartment he rented and shared with his team. He really didn't want April to see him with a black eye – he'd never live it down if she knew about it. Of course he knew that he couldn't avoid her forever, but with a pair of sunglasses, a little ice and luck, he'd be able to hide it from her and July.

The boy never liked it when one of them was injured, so he'd like to spare the kid the knowledge – at least that was what he told himself.

Unfortunately he didn't seem to have the luck he needed to deceive his team mates.

The living room door was violently thrown open and November winced as he heard April's loud voice. The dark skinned woman walked into the hall, July, following her closely.

As usual she held a can of beer in her hands and for a second November marvelled at her resistance to alcohol – then apprehension, mixed with resignation, made itself noticeable.

Both woman and child stopped dead in their tracks when they saw their companion crouched on the floor, looking like a child caught with a hand in the cookie-jar. The black eye completed the picture.

Snapping out of his stupor, November quickly stood and straightened his jacket while he cleared his throat.

April just looked at him for a moment before a large grin spread on her face – it didn't last long, because, after taking another look at the blonde's face, she threw her head back and burst into laughter.

July's reaction was less embarrassing for the blonde. as he just looked at them blankly, before turning and walking back into the living room.

They could at least be a little concerned about my well-being…

November sighed deeply and waited for the woman to stop laughing.

He waited.


And waited.


And waited-


-until his impatience got the better of him and he grabbed her arm, wrenched her beer can out of her hand, opened the door of a nearby closet, shoved her into it and, using the beer, froze said door shut after slamming it closed.

Satisfied November made his way to the kitchen where he took a box of ice-cream out of the refrigator.

He made his way onto the balcony and lit a cigarette.

While he smoked to adhere his contract terms, he looked down at the street 30 floors below, where people didn't look like people from the height he was at.

The carton he pressed against his eye was cold and stung where it touched the swelling and he couldn't help but think of the cold anger Shengshun had shown him.

I really have to improve my hand-to-hand skills before I start to provoke him again…

"November? November! Come on, don't be like that! Hey! Can you even hear me? Open up! You can't deny that it was funny! HEY! NOVEMBER! Okay, don't help me – I don't need your help! July? Are you here? Help me out, will you? JULY! LET ME OUT OF HERE!!"

It was eleven o'clock and Hei was perched on the branch of a tree, his mask a cool, familiar presence, his dark clothing and the tree's leafs around him were hiding him from the sight of the security personnel that was walking around the premises.

He was waiting for the change of security and also for the go-ahead of Yin and Mao. Finally he heard Mao's voice through the earplug he wore.

"This checkpoint is clear. The police is busy dealing with a non-existing contractor and the MI6 guys are with them. I'll notify you if they react to Hei."

It was too dangerous for the assassin to answer, but he heard Huang's quiet confirmation. Now they were only waiting for Yin to tell them when they could start acting.

It took another few minutes, but finally she gave the final go-ahead.

"Alright. Hei. Now it's your show, so don't screw it up. From now on, we won't contact you and you won't contact us for anything other than emergencies. If there's trouble, I start shooting and that's that. Yin, Mao, if something happens, tell me. End of communication. For now."

Taking the earplug out of his ear, Hei had to suppress the urge to roll his eyes. Huang acted as if it was their first time doing a job together – which it wasn't and it definitely wouldn't be the last time either.

Shaking off these thoughts, Hei concentrated on the mission.

The villa was large, and had five levels above ground and three levels underground. The tree was located in the lowest underground level. The preparation of the drugs was done in the next to last basement, while the first one was simply a façade for the police and other visitors who got curious and decided to snoop around.

Waiting until the last security man walked around the corner, Hei leapt from the branch he was standing on to the window sill across and slightly below him.

He opened the window easily and stepped into the room it led to. It was the owner's office and, since the syndicate wanted Hei to destroy all evidence that the tree ever existed, the assassin attached a small bomb on the underside of the desk in the room. Despite its size, the explosive would easily be able to destroy the whole room and damage the adjacent rooms.

Not making a sound, Hei moved to the door and opened it a crack. The hall was silent and so the Black Reaper, as he was also called, made his way out of the room and down the stairs to the entrance of the first basement.

Hei frowned. It was too easy. He didn't particularly like difficulties, but someone with his skill and experience eventually came to expect that things rarely went exactly how you wanted them to when on a job. That was the reason why Huang hadn't really given Hei any orders concerning how he had to act other than telling him to be punctual and not to screw up. The oldest one in their team had concentrated more on back-up and support, since he had learned the hard way that when something happened, Hei could react faster and more appropriately to it, considering that the Contractor was actually the one in the messy situation most of the time.

Every single one of Hei's instincts screamed at him that this was a set-up, a trap cleverly (or not so cleverly) laid out to catch an intruder.

There were no security personnel around. Not even those that they had expected and which Hei had been prepared to take out. No, the Chinese man was sure that it was a trap, but that would mean that either there was a leak in the syndicate, or it was a test to see if Hei was still stable after his mission in the PANDORA-institute.

The blue eyed man couldn't help but think that it was the latter of the two, but if it was, he certainly wasn't in a position where he was able to complain.

Gritting his teeth, Hei decided to simply take the risk and opened the door slowly, his back pressed to the wall beside it. He took out a mirror and used it to take a take a look at the room. It was messy: cardboard boxes and old furniture littered the room, and while no person could be sighted, Hei felt a pair of eyes on him. Deciding that standing around wouldn't give him the answers he wanted, Hei moved into the room as fast as he could, nothing but a shadow in the darkness. He quickly looked around to make sure that there weren't any attackers – he also didn't make the mistake of forgetting to check the room above.

There was nobody. Tense and alert, Hei walked to the hidden trapdoor on the floor. He opened it and, without hesitating, slid into the room below.

Moving too quickly could get him killed, but it seemed that his opponent had a sense for dramatics – meaning that there was probably a whole army of men waiting for him in the last basement.

There were crates filled with apples on this floor and bottles of apple-juice were stacked in shelves lining the walls. Pausing for a moment to consider the best locations, Hei planted the bombs, sure that they'd go off when he wanted them to.

Again there was a trapdoor. It was closed and Hei really had no illusions as to why (Huang's information said that it was always open) it wasn't open.

Now more cautious, Hei kicked the door and it opened with a loud banging noise, while simultaneously retreating. He didn't want to be caught in any traps if there were any.

There weren't.

Narrowing his eyes, Hei dropped down to the last level. It was lighted, and with the white walls, ceiling and floor, the Black Reaper stood out like a sore thumb.

On the far side of the room, the apple tree was planted. It looked like a normal tree, other than the fact that the apples were black.

It wasn't he tree that worried him though – it was the man in front of it. The man was tall, about a head taller than Hei, had pale skin, crimson hair and crimson eyes. He looked calm and smiled pleasantly, which put Hei on edge.

The red-head continued to smile, even as he started talking.

"You don't have to be that cautious. We're both Contractors after all, I'm sure we can come to an agreement that leaves the tree in this room and both of us alive. Though", he added, "if there isn't, I'm afraid I'll have to kill you."

Still smiling pleasantly, the red-head looked at him, apparently waiting for an answer.

He wasn't going to get one, though, since the Black Reaper disliked Contractors like that guy – pretending to be all amiable and happy and acting as if they had feelings. It made him sick. Hei himself acted like that in front of clueless civilians, but when he met people in the know, he immediately dropped the façade, since in his opinion it wasn't worth the energy it took if it fooled nobody and was useless. In an instant, Hei drew his blade and threw it across the distance to the other Contractor. The red-head simply continued to smile while his body glowed slightly, like it did for all Contractors that used their ability.

Hei felt his body freeze and noticed, despite having no control over his body, that the other Contractor didn't even try to avoid the attack. A second later, he realised why.

Hei was glad that it had been a shot that wasn't aimed to kill. He had thrown it to the other man's left shoulder because he wanted to know the red-head's ability.

As the blade made contact, Hei felt a soaring pain in his right shoulder – it was the familiar feeling of cold metal tearing into warm flesh, but he could detect no blade other than his own. It was as if he had been hurt by air.

He doubted that the taller man had that kind of ability, though, since every Contractor had an ability that fit their personality and Hei refused to think that an actor like that had a power as straightforward as the ability to move air.

For a moment his thoughts turnes to November 11, who had a straightforward ability which suited him almost frighteningly well, before he shook that thought off.

The conclusion that Hei reached was that he had been injured by his own blade.

Also, it had been his right shoulder, while the other Contractor had been injured on his left shoulder. It was probably an ability that transferred one's injuries towards the person standing opposite oneself – also it transferred the whole wound, not only the pain. Feeling warm blood streaming from the wound, Hei decided that it was an annoying power to be subjected to.

It also meant that using weapons wasn't going to work. He could only use things that would hurt and possibly kill the red-head and not him and the only thing that came to his mind was his own ability. When Hei had fought with Nick, who had had the same power as him, he had noticed that being electrocuted didn't do anything to him other than push him away.

Now, how do I get close to him?

Without hesitation he launched himself at the other man, throwing a punch into his face that made the red-head stagger. Finally that damned smile had vanished. Ignoring the pain in his shoulder, Hei continued his assault on his opponent, this time electrocuting the man anytime they touched. That wasn't often. After the first hit, which had obviously surprised him, the other man showed that he was a skilled martial artist. Hitting, blocking, a punch, a round-house-kick, a jab to Hei's throat, and quite a bit more was used to keep the Black Reaper from touching his prey.

The red eyed man knew better than to try and use his ability in such close quarters, and both of them were quite evenly matched in hand-to-hand combat.

Growing tired of the way they avoided each other's hits, Hei decided on a painful, but effective tactic that would help him win the fight.

He simply didn't avoid a hit.

It had been a punch to his stomach and Hei took it without a second thought. Doubling over after getting hit, and while the other man was still surprised by his success, the assassin grabbed the fist that had hit him and let loose.

Electricity coursed through both of their bodies, though it did damage to only one of them.

The red haired man's eyes rolled back in his head until only the whites showed. When he was sure that the man was unconscious, Hei pulled his knife towards him, by the wire he used to keep it on hand.

Grabbing it by the hilt, the Black Reaper lived up to his name and cold-bloodedly slit the other man's throat. He disliked needless killing, but he needed time to figure out just how he got the seed out of the tree and he didn't need an unconscious Contractor near him, whom he had to hit every few minutes, so he'd stay immobile.

Letting go of the corpse, Hei moved to the tree, scrutinising it, so he'd have at least a clue of how to get the seed.

Huang hadn't told him anything about it – the only thing the man had said had been "You'll see it when you get there".

Why the older man hadn't simply informed him about it, Hei didn't know, but he suspected that it had something to do with Huang's dislike of Contractors. Another possibility was that it had really been a test from the organisation and Huang had known about it and had been ordered to not tell him anything.

The Contractor didn't really care – after all, no matter what the reason – it didn't change the fact that he didn't know anything about the retrieval process.

It was then that Hei noticed a dim glow in the middle of the bark, around the size of his palm. Intrigued, he came closer, put a hand on it and, with his knife, dug whatever produced the glow out of the wood.

As soon as it hit the floor, the tree withered and died and Hei realized that what he had dug out must have been the seed. Shrugging slightly, he put the glowing thing in his pocket and proceeded to disperse the explosives he carried with him.

Finishing, the Chinese man made his way out of the villa, this time glad that there weren't any guards. He walked into the office he had used as entry-point and put another explosive where the safe should be located. Huang had reassured him that one bomb would do the job just as well, but Hei had learned the hard way that it was better to be safe than sorry.

The dark haired man climbed onto the window sill and, after making sure that nobody had noticed him, he climbed up a story to another window, which he opened as easily as he had opened the first one – it was the businessman's bedroom. Slipping into the room, Hei walked to the bed and pushed the blanket covering the man back.

After making sure it was the right one and he didn't kill someone who didn't need to be killed, the Reaper took his knife, still bloodstained, and stabbed the man into his heart, adding a dose of electricity for good measure.

He waited for some time and after making sure that the man was dead, he slipped out of the window again. Putting his earplug back into his ear, Hei contacted Huang and the others.

"I have the seed and terminated the target. The bombs are planted and ready for detonation."

Huang replied, obvious relief in his voice.

"Got it. Go to an agreeable distance, detonate them and go home. Leave your equipment and the seed at the usual place, I'll come get it."

Mao and Yin voiced their agreement and Hei knew that they wouldn't leave their post until he contacted them and told them that he was back to being Li Shengshun. Stopping his run, the assassin decided that he was far enough away to not get caught up in the explosion or be hit by any flying shrapnel, so he detonated the bombs.

He watched for a moment, as the villa caved in, deprived of it's foundation, then he continued on his way to the place where he could drop off his equipment.

Arriving at the place – an alley near the park where they had their meetings – Hei changed into the clothes he had prepared beforehand. He grimaced when he changed shirts, since his shoulder was hurting like hell. He had been able to ignore it until now, since he was used to pain, but he also knew that ignoring a wound for a longer time was unhealthy and Hei had no desire to let the wound get infected. Doing so would either get him sick and killed, or he'd lose an arm and neither possibility sounded good to him.

He was now dressed in his usual jeans and white button-down shirt, though his right sleeve was turning red at an alarmingly fast rate. Seeing that the shirt was already ruined, Hei slashed the fabric of both his jacket and his shirt, so if someone on the streets asked him about it, he'd be able to explain it away as a simple mugging. The dark bruise on his stomach would probably help with that, the Contractor thought ruefully.

Putting his knife away, Hei contacted his team again.

"I changed clothes and left the equipment and the item at the checkpoint. I was injured in a fight and need medical help. Should I go to the hospital or should I bandage it myself?"

"How bad is it Hei?" Mao's voice was actually concerned, which surprised him a little.

"I was hit on my right shoulder. The wound is bleeding rather strongly and though it's probably not life threatening, it has to be stitched up."

Yin didn't take part in the conversation, but she always was more content to just listen to them talk.

Huang sighed deeply.

"Alright. Go to the hospital and pretend you were mugged. Leave your wallet with your stuff and I'll give it back to you when I see you next."

Hei accepted the order.

"I will and I don't have my wallet with me. I'll make up a reasonable excuse as to why I was out on this time of the night."

While it hadn't seemed that long to Hei, in actuality it was almost two o'clock in the morning and he slowly felt exhaustion creep into his limbs.

"Got it. Leave the earplug there too, just to be on the safe side. We'll meet up in three days at 10:00 am at our usual place. Don't be late."

Huang didn't wait for a reply before he hung up on them. Hei heard Mao sigh in exasperation.

"Well, that's it from me too. Get better soon Hei."

Mao's farewell was politer than Huang's, but he, too, didn't wait for a reply.

"Hei" this time it was Yin. "Good night. Sleep well. Heal fast. November 11 is walking into your direction. You'll probably meet him. Goodbye."

Stunned Hei stared at the wall in front of him. Jack was nearby? The assassin cursed his bad luck and quickly put the earplug into the bag that contained his working clothes and weapons.

Straightening again, he again suppressed a wince and walked out of the alley, keen on getting away from this place. He really didn't want to deal with the obnoxious MI6 agent when he was tired and in pain, so he quickened his steps, walking into the direction of the nearest hospital.

It seemed, though, that fate brought the two of them together, no matter how much Hei loathed the man.

Not watching where he was going, the dark haired man barrelled straight into a body walking out of another alley, which made him lose his balance and land painfully on his back.

Why the hell are there that many alleys around? Hei's thoughts were tinged with annoyance as he glared up at one he'd run into – who'd also stayed standing by a miracle.

To his chagrin, but not to his surprise (he now knew that his luck was rotten when it concerned the older man), the one he'd run into was November 11.

Yin could have told me from which direction he was coming from…

The thought was angry and inwardly Hei flinched at how ungrateful he sounded. Yin had warned him that there was a possibility that he could run into the Brit, but he had been too preoccupied with himself to pay attention to where he was walking. On a job that could get him killed.

Hei, or Shengshun, felt quite a bit happier, when he noticed the giant bruise that made up one quarter of the blonde's face, though that feeling vanished just as quickly when his shoulder screamed in reply to the harsh landing on the floor.

It was only then, that Hei noticed that November had been talking to him for quite some time.

Too tired to say anything and too exhausted to even try to get up from the floor, the younger man simply stared at the older one, hoping that Jack would catch the drift and either repeat what he'd said, help him up from the floor, or leave him alone.

It wasn't often that November 11 was frustrated, but once in a blue moon it happened and the cause of said frustration could only be pitied.

Jack ignored his frustration – like any good, rational Contractor would do – and looked at Shengshun who stared back at him as if he had no idea what the blonde had been talking about.

In fact, Jack bet that the Chinese man probably didn't have a clue and wasn't even trying to hide it.

Not that it had been important. It had just been a barb about learning how to walk, which was slightly mean, but since when was a Contractor bothered by guilt? Right – never, which was exactly what November was getting at.

Tiredly the Brit looked at Shengshun again. At the moment, all the older one wanted to do was go back to his hotel and go to sleep but that was impossible at the moment. After she had come out of the closet (November smirked at the ambiguous thought) April had thrown him out after threatening the story out of him, which had put him into a bad mood.

Now he was walking into the cause of said bad mood and he could only thank the good luck he had where it concerned the younger man.

Ignoring the other's stare, he looked at the dark haired one again.

It was only then, that he noticed the lines of exhaustion and pain on Li's face and his eyes were ultimately drawn to Shegshun's right shoulder, where the fabric of his jacket was already turning red. Jack also noticed the cut in the cloth and immediately his frustration vanished as if it had never even existed. Instead concern flooded his senses and hadn't November been that worried, he would have noticed that this certainly wasn't a normal reaction for someone as laid back as him.

The Brit dropped to his knees beside the younger male and asked what happened to the Chinese man, while the blonde prodded at the wound, trying to see just how bad it was.

"Eh? What happened? Well, I was mugged." That was all Li said, until Jack looked at him with consternation.

Glowering, Shengshun continued with his explanation.

"Well, I couldn't sleep, so I went for a walk, because I can always sleep after I go for a walk. Well, when I was on my way back to my flat, some guy walked towards me and demanded I give him money. I left my wallet at home, since I thought that I wouldn't need it, and I told him that, but he wouldn't believe me, so he punched me. When I stuck to my story, he pulled out a knife and started threaten me with it, but since I really couldn't do anything other that tell that guy the truth, he stabbed me and when I was down started to search my pockets. When he didn't find anything, he cursed and left, so I got up and started to walk into the direction of the nearest hospital when I ran into you. That's about it."

Deciding that going to the hospital really was the smartest thing to do in such a situation, November grabbed Li's left arm and helped the younger one up. When he noticed that the dark haired one seemed to be unsteady on his feet, he wrapped an arm around Shengshun's thin waist and steadied him as they slowly walked towards the hospital. It was only a little while away, so calling an ambulance would take longer than walking.

While they moved, Jack continued to ask questions that Li tried to answer.

"What did your attacker look like?"

"I don't know. He wore a cap and a hooded sweatshirt."

"Can't you remember anything? His height, maybe you saw his hair colour, was he muscular or skinny? What colour was his skin?"

"Hmm. He was about a head taller than me and he was thin, but I remember thinking about how strong he was. And his skin… I don't know, but I think it was normal. Not pale, not tan, just this in-between thing that most people have.

I didn't see any hair, but he had a rough voice, like he smoked, or something."

While answering, Li's voice had become more and more quiet, and Jack admitted that he was worried about the man he had teased and annoyed for two whole months.

Looking down a little, November noticed that Shengshun's skin was pale and clammy, his eyes were glassy and he was breathing shallowly. Looking up again, Jack was incredibly happy to see the entrance of the hospital ahead. He quickened his steps, now dragging Li with him. He rushed through the door and demanded immediate attention. As the doctors took Shengshun away to tend to his wound, November let himself sink into one of the chairs in the waiting area – he was adding unlucky, accident-prone, tough and slight to his list of things he knew about Li.

Sighing deeply, he thought about the last one. The last few meters, Jack had noticed that he easily could have carried the other man.

Shengshun barely weighed anything – he was built more for speed than strength.

Not, November thought with self-derision, that he can't pack a punch…

April and July probably don't miss me, so I don't really have anything to do – I might as well wait here.

Looking at his watch, the British agent prepared for a long night.

I wonder if they have coffee…

I congratulate everyone who managed to get this far – I hope you enjoyed it (or at least didn't dislike it too much)!

This is the second version - many thanks to Dear4Life for telling me about my mistakes.