"What," she says, eyes dark and dangerous, "were you thinking?"

In retrospect, it seems obvious that she'd eventually hear about what you were getting up to on your off days. After all, when one had as many sources as Ichihara Yuuko, something like that was just a matter of time. You just wish you'd had the foresight to plan ahead so you didn't end up standing here in her office like a dumb mute while she stalks around in those unbelievably tall heels like she's looking for something to throttle. As for what you were thinking - well, plainly speaking, you weren't, but somehow you doubt telling her that would placate her.

You decide to keep your mouth shut and look penitent. There's probably nothing you can say to get out of this hole you've dug for yourself, anyway.

"In case you've forgotten," she continues, in that same silky, menacing voice, "let me remind me of your duties. You are in my employ to act as a bodyguard for my charge. Not to amuse yourself in bar basements having slap-fights with other man-children. If you ever feel the urge to have the shit kicked out of you, just drop my line, my men can easily take care of that. In fact, they'll be happy to, if you ever pull something like this again." She pauses; you are staring at the floor. You don't think you've ever noticed how very shiny everything in her office is. "Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal," you say, and try not to flinch when she brushes past you on her way out, her mouth set in a thin, furious line.

It's quiet in the car on the way home, except for the sound of rain plunking off the windshield. Thankfully, Watanuki wasn't invited to witness you get royally chewed out by Yuuko. But then again, that's how you know she wasn't fucking around any more. One more misstep and you're probably going to find yourself at the bottom of a lake. You're not going to push your luck, so it's boring evenings at home from now on, for you. The anticipation is killing you, really.

Watanuki is looking sullen again, but at least he's not crammed up against the passenger's side door like someone dragged him around on shag carpet and then stuck him to a balloon. Normal-sullen, like he's just upset that he wasn't asked to sit in on the lecture you just received. Probably imagining Yuuko and you getting on all buddy-buddy without him. In reality the likelihood of that happening is a little less than zero, now, unless it involves a baseball bat or a branding iron. Which is kinda kinky, but it seems prudent to stop that thought in its tracks, because you still haven't figured out if Yuuko can read minds or not.

"What'd she say to you?" he says, obviously trying to sound casual, as you slip quickly into the driver's seat, shutting the door to the poor weather outside. Rain drips into your eyes, and you slick it out with the back of your hand impatiently.

"Not much," you tell him, starting up the car. He makes a skeptical noise in his throat, but otherwise says nothing. A pause, and then you add, nonchalantly, "Told me she'd cut my balls off if I kept going to fight clubs."

Watanuki harrumphs again, but otherwise doesn't comment, staring morosely out the window. You're kinda surprised, but then again Watanuki's been full of surprises recently. Actually wanting to accompany you today is just one more incident to add to a long list of his unusual behavior. You could almost - but no, you remember what happened the last time you got your hopes up. Anyway, as your grandfather used to say, a job's a job, and money is money. Even though she'd scared you enough that your balls had shrunk all the way into your throat, you feel like you needed that. Needed a little reminder that there were things bigger than how you felt about Watanuki, things that could dunk your feet in concrete and throw you off a bridge if you so much looked at them the wrong way. Now that you've got your head back on straight, you figure there won't be any more problems. (You make a mental note to get your shoulder looked at - it's probably bad to keep tearing a wound open like that.)

As you pull over in front of your apartment, you reach into the backseat to fumble around for an umbrella, and hand it to Watanuki. He protests halfheartedly, but by then you're already out the door, jacket drawn halfway over your head in a futile attempt to keep dry, and he has to jog to catch up.

"You're always like this," he hisses, as he tries to shield you and himself from the rain at the same time, and fails miserably, getting the both of you wet in the process.

"Like what?" you ask him, straight-facedly, and almost smile when he makes a violent, truncated motion with his arm like he wants to stab you with the umbrella.

You peel off your damp shirt, drying off in the living room while Watanuki heads into the kitchen and starts bustling about. You hear him put the kettle on, start the stove. You've noticed that he's at his happiest when he's keeping busy, despite all his whining and bitching. The TV provides some comforting background noise. You, Watanuki, and the eight o'clock news.

After a while, when whiffs of something delicious have started wafting from the kitchen, Watanuki brings out the cutlery, which you take from him. He begins to say something but you cut him off quickly; you've got to stop him before he gets started or else you'll never get a word in edgewise.

"Sorry," you tell him, seriously.

"... What?" he says, looking disconcerted. Whatever he was expecting, it wasn't that.

"Sorry," you repeat, and then, when he just stares at you, you clarify, "About getting into fights. I know it upsets you."

He gawks at you for a few moments, mouth working soundlessly, and then turns and flees back into the kitchen.

After dinner, you're doing the dishes, sleeves rolled up to your elbows. Watanuki's in the living room watching his favorite show; you can hear the laugh track, then cut to commercial. You turn around to grab a dishcloth, and nearly run into Watanuki, who, for whatever reason, is standing directly behind you. He backs away quickly, and you brace yourself for all the inevitable yelling, but it never comes.

"Listen. Um," he says, fidgeting. You've never seen him like this before, and it frightens you a little. Maybe he's coming down with a fever. "Do you have some time? After this?"

You raise an eyebrow. Of all people to be asking you that question, right? You can see through the window on the far wall that it's still pouring outside, and pitch-black to boot. Hold back a sigh; well, it's not as if Watanuki would ask you to run an errand in good weather.

"Sure," you say, trying not to sound reluctant. "What do you need?"

"No, it's not - I mean. I just -" He takes a moment to compose himself, before continuing - his next sentence comes out in a rush of air, in a tiny little voice: "I rented some movies and since I was going to watch them anyway I was wondering if you'd like to come too." He is determinedly looking anywhere but at you, knotting his hands together in agitation.

You parse that with some confusion, and then parse it again. He can't really be asking to spend time with you. You look at him again, seeking confirmation, and notice the backs of his ears have gone all pink.

"What's that? I'm not sure I heard you right," you tell him, straight-facedly, and nimbly dodge when he swats at you in irritation, nearly laughing out loud. You think you could get used to this, sitting very still on the couch while Watanuki draws close to you tentatively, as though he'll startle like a bird into flight if you so much as stir. And again, as you carefully check that he is really is asleep, sound asleep with his head tucked into your shoulder, before tugging off his glasses, setting them on the end-table, then wrapping an arm around him the way he never lets you when he's awake.

When you finally doze off, it's to the sound of his quiet breathing, and the rainfall outside, and the flickering of the TV as the film credits roll down, before the screen goes black.

You're woken by a combination of sunlight and an insistent buzzing. Must be your cellphone. You try to peel your eyelids open, gummed together by sleep as they are, and only partially succeed. Only then do you answer, hoping you don't sound as tired as you feel.

"Wata -" The voice on the other end begins, and then stops short. It's Yuuko. She's silent for a few moments, and then she says, with a sort of forced calm, "Is Watanuki with you?"

You're instantly awake as though someone's jabbed you with a pin, the haze of sleep falling swiftly away from you. Something's wrong. Watanuki is still lying next to you on the couch, fast asleep and dreaming. Carefully you sit up, and switch the phone to your other ear, trying to keep your voice down without her noticing. "He's with me. What happened?"

Yuuko raps something out in perfect Russian; judging from the racket in the background, she seems to be holding several conversations at once. There's a short silence, as though she's trying to decide how much to tell you. When she finally speaks, it's to tell you something that knocks all the air out of you, that narrows your world down to a small cold point centered on Watanuki alone.

"They targeted his flat. All rubble now, they took it to the ground. I'm tracing the source of the leak, but I won't get answers right away. Whatever you do, don't let him out of your sight." She pauses, and then says, her voice unusually quiet, "You know what to do."

You do. You're bursting with questions, like who 'they' are, for one, and how they knew, and why him, why Watanuki? But you figure if she wanted you to know more, she'd have told you already, so instead you say, crisply, "Got it," and hang up just after she does.

"'samatter?" says Watanuki, groggily, one arm thrown over his face. You feel a sudden, brief tenderness, and almost smile, but it passes quickly. You have to focus. You pick his glasses up off the end-table and hand them to him; he takes them, mumbling something that might have been 'thanks'.

"Get up," you say, shortly. Your tone brooks no argument. Watanuki shakes himself awake slower than you did, but he manages it well enough.

"Doumeki?" he asks, sounding bemused, as he scrubs blearily at his face. You grunt in response, already on your feet, loading your gun. Your mind is racing. Yuuko gave you this place. In all likelihood, it's no longer safe. You know she has other places, around the city, but you don't know how deep this rabbit hole goes, whether you're just standing on shaky ground or whether it's already crumbled away. But you're not about to take any risks. You throw him his jacket - which he fumbles, cursing indistinctly - and say, calmly,

"We're going for a walk."