Yes, I know it's been forever. Good news is, I'm back! Thank God I remember what the plot was supposed to be. Well, vague hints of it. I can make up some bullshit to fill in the blank places in my memory like nobody's business; you know I can. And I'm officially done with high school and in college! WHOOOOOOO~! I'll have a shit-ton of free time over the summer, so I'll spend a good portion of it finishing this thing for the wonderful people who have waited SO. FREAKING. LONG. God bless you and I'm sorry again for the wait.

Disclaimer: EXPELLIARMUS. With that, you no longer have a way to magically make me the owner of Kyou Kara Maoh. Shazzam.

"You ready to head on home?" Shoma asked, eyeing his son.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Because you still look kind of pale-"

"Seriously, Dad, it's fine. I'll get more rest at home than I will here, anyway," Yuuri said. His voice sounded hollow even to him. "Can we just go?"

"Did you want to pop in on Conrad before we-"

"N-no, it's all right."

"Are you sure?"


"But you-"

"I'll call him later!" Yuuri lied. "I just want to get out of here right now."

"Okay," Shoma muttered, exchanging glances with his equally worried wife. "I'll call your brother to tell him we're on our way, I suppose."

"...Thank you."

Yuuri led the trek out of the hospital, determinedly avoiding eye contact with anyone at all. He didn't want to have to think about anything, especially not anything to do with Conrad or with the poisoning, and definitely not anything relating the two. His whole body felt cold and dead, more so than it had when he had actually been on the edge of death. Everything felt stiff, but that might have been from his lengthy stay in a less-than-comfortable hospital bed. He kept flinging his thoughts out to strange tangents to avoid dwelling on the issue at hand, but always found himself right back where he started, only twice as miserable.

He'd really liked Conrad. He'd been perfect. Too perfect. He really should have known that there would be a catch somewhere along the line. No-one that perfect existed in real life, not unless they were scripted, and it was looking more and more like Conrad was exactly that. Was Conrad even his real name? What if absolutely everything had been a lie? What if he only asked Yuuri out that first time because of the hit? A voice in the back of his head asked why a date was necessary to poison someone several days later when they hadn't gone anywhere near his house, but the pain the rest of him was feeling swamped it into silence. Yuuri's body mechanically yanked open the car door (perhaps with a bit more force than was necessary) and slid in, staring blankly at the back of the leather seat in front of him, examining the nicks and marks made over the years. His parents both gave him worried looks that he completely missed, but didn't say anything. For that at least, he was grateful. He wasn't sure he wanted to talk to anyone just yet. When he had his own head straight, he might be able to talk about it, but until then, he wasn't certain he wouldn't break down completely.

Murata had been staring down his cell phone for the last five minutes, and had been stealing glances every 30 seconds for a half-hour before that. Yozak was reasonably irritated.

"I thought we were supposed to be spending quality time together," he griped.

Murata's eyes flicked up. "Honestly, love, I meant to, but I'm worried about Shibuya. His brother is supposed to text me when he gets home so I can call him and weasel an answer out of him as to what's got him so messed up."

Yozak felt his insides squirm uncomfortably for a reason he wasn't sure he wanted to name. "Well, I mean, poor kid just got poisoned – on purpose, no less... Don't people usually have the right to be a little shaken when somebody tries to do them in?"

"Yeah... but this is something else. Normal people are scared when people try to kill them."

"He's not scared?"

"Oh, I think he is a little," Murata smiled ruefully, "but not as much as I think he should be. If I'm not wrong, he's acting more miserable than scared."

The uncomfortable feeling in Yozak's gut multiplied. "Why would that be?"

"That would be why I'm waiting to call hi-" And, as though cued, his cell phone nearly vibrated itself off his bedside table. He dived down for it, opening the text message instantly. "Excellent. He's home. I'm going to give him a minute or two to get comfortable or something before I interrogate him, though."

"You don't think Shouri waited until after Yuuri went to his room to text you?"

"Good point; screw waiting." And with that, he speed-dialed his friend's cell number.

"Yuuri," the tinny voice finally answered after the fourth ring. "Murata, I know it's you, so please get on to explaining why the fuck you're calling me near midnight when we both should be getting some sleep."

"For one thing," Murata said, "this is more important than sleep. For another, it's a form of torture to deprive someone of sleep, and I figure this way, you'll tell me what I want to know faster."

"Just talking with you at all is a form of torture, no matter what time of day it is."

"You're an ass. But that's beside the point."

"Then please make this elusive point of yours and let me hang up."

Murata's face turned serious, and Yozak edged closer to better hear Yuuri's half of the conversation. "Something was really wrong with you today and I'd like to know what's eating at you."

"Aside from the assassination attempt? Nothing at all..." Yuuri gave an insincere laugh.

"This is serious," Murata growled. "Stop trying to deflect my questions and give me a straight answer."

Yuuri waited a while before speaking. "I wish I knew what the hell was going on, Murata. Honest to God, I do. You see, I wasn't even that fussed about some nameless dick poisoning my tea, but... I mean, what if is wasn't some nameless dick? What if it was... someone I knew? Or someone I thought I knew, at least."

"What are you trying to say?" Murata asked, hitting the speakerphone button for Yozak's benefit, motioning for the man to remain silent.

"I... Okay, so I got a-a recording, I guess... of Yozak and Conrad talking. I don't know when the hell this was, but it must've been recent. Let's just say... it sounds really bad. Really bad." Yozak had gone white, eyes wide, as he turned to face Murata, shaking his head slowly in horror. He did his best to mouth, 'No, Conrad didn't do it,' but he wasn't sure how clear it was. It must have been clear enough, because Murata was giving him a look that clearly asked, 'Well then who did?', accompanied by a wandering accusatory finger.

"So you think... you think Conrad tried to... to what, kill you?"

"I don't know what to think, Murata! That's the point!" He could clearly hear Yuuri's frustration. "I don't know what the hell is going on, but there's no way that tape was faked. You can't just tell me the guy's innocent of everything after that!"

"Well, what was said that implicates him on the tape?"

"Well, for one thing, he says there's a contract out on my head and he's the one who took the job," Yuuri said brusquely in a way that was clearly meant to sound uncaring, but failed spectacularly.

"Holy shit," Murata breathed, looking again at Yozak, who looped a finger to indicate going further. "What else?"

"What else? What else could there be worse than that? Sounds pretty damn convincing to me!"

"So there's nothing else?"

"Like what?"

"Fuck, I don't know, Shibuya! Like, did he say he was the one who poisoned you?"

Yuuri paused. "Well, no... not those exact words."

"Then how do you know-"

"That's what I've said about three times now. I don't."

There was a long break of silence. "Deep down, do you really think he did it? Do you really think he's the sort of person who would do that to you? I mean, what the hell kind of assassin gets to know a guy and takes him out on a date before killing him? Why not do it remotely and avoid any and all suspicion? You've seen the same movies I have – hell, I'm the one who forced you to watch them!"

"I-I don't know. Movies are probably all full of shit, anyway. And it's not like it might even matter; I'll figure out the truth soon enough anyway, whether I believe 'deep down' that he did it or not.'

"What do you mean?" Murata asked, alarmed.

Yuuri didn't speak again for a few seconds and both Murata and Yozak got the impression that he hadn't meant to let that slip. "Well... I wasn't really paying all that much attention in the car ride home, but Mom and Dad were talking about sending me to a safe-house out in... well, I'm not supposed to tell anyone, you know? Not very safe if I go blabbing where it is. Apparently, the cops took one look at the case and sent it up to higher authorities, who back-traced the ISP of the guy who posted the hit, and he's foreign, so Interpol's in on this and there's just too damn much going on right now. They're getting me out of the way until they find not only the guy who posted the hit but the guy who actively tried to kill me, too. I guess they don't do anything halfway."

"Shibuya, I am so sorry. Not to make light of your situation, but you are just mired in shit right now."

"You say that like it's a revelation," he snorted. "I'd always had a sneaking suspicion that life was trying to bone me hard, but now it's like it's actively picketing my continued existence."

"Just put your paws up," Murata said encouragingly. "'Cause you were-"

"Don't say it. Honest, Murata, you aren't Lady Gaga. You haven't got the nose for it. Or the fashion sense." Yuuri's voice sounded a little less burdened now that he had unloaded. "Although I have no trouble believing that you were 'born this way'."

"Hey, Shibuya, before you hang up..."


"I don't think Conrad had anything to do with it. Keep your hope up. I'm expecting you back home damn soon, and don't go roaming about doing stupid shit that might get you killed before then."

"I'll do my best. Thanks, man." Murata could hear the smile in his voice.

Saralegui was fiddling with the hinge on the left side of his lavender "pimp specs", as he privately called them. It had been giving him trouble for the last week or so, becoming increasingly loose until the frames were slightly lopsided on his face. He pulled out a very small pair of pliers to hopefully push the pins back into their rightful places, knowing fully that it wasn't going to work and that he'd eventually have to resort to super glue, but having too much pride to give up so easily.

"Hey, Uncle?" he called into the next room. A quiet murmur of acknowledgement sounded. "Should we just drop the hit and head home? I mean, Interpol's in on it, though they haven't started moving yet. The ruddy idiot who put the hit out is going to get back-traced in two seconds and I don't much fancy what might happen when he starts raving about double-booking and blah blah blah else. And what happened to that other guy who took the hit? Conrad, was it? Something. I definitely don't want to get on his bad side unless we absolutely have to. At least Interpol is only of a mind to throw people in prison. Assassins aren't people you generally want to have pissed at you, especially when you're probably not even going to get paid for your work because you're employer's locked up."

"That's odd for you to say, Saralegui," the other man commented, stepping into the room, securing his very long, dark hair in its customary bindings. "You've never backed out of a job before. And besides, didn't you say you wanted to rid the world of a drug dealer?"

Saralegui gave his guardian an incredulous look. "I know Interpol is daft at times, but do you really think they'll miss that? After the digitalis, they're probably going to turn his whole house upside down. If there's even the slightest trace of drugs anywhere on his belongings, he's going to be in a world of shite once they make sure his life isn't in legitimate danger anymore."

"And you think they will find all that, but still not find us in the process?"

Saralegui gave a tiny smile. "I suppose you're right. But it's not like you weren't careful, correct? Theoretically, they should have nothing that can be traced back to us, yes?"

The man looked thoughtful a moment. "My first inclination is to say that I was very careful and that I left no evidence, but I'd still rather not tempt fate, if possible."

"Sensible," Sara laughed. "I find myself wishing we'd go out and do something insensible – something spontaneous and stupid once in a while. Let's go throw eggs at a politician; it doesn't matter which one, they're probably all thieves and skanks, anyway."

"Why eggs?"

"The yolk is harder to get out of hair than water might be, although water balloons absolutely crossed my mind initially," he said, finger-combing his own absurdly long tresses. "This being said, let's pick a politician who isn't bald."

"Regardless, Saralegui. Do you really mean to back out of an obligation simply because you fear incarceration? It seems not to have stopped you before. After all, the very nature of what we do encompasses more than enough risks for several consecutive life terms in various world-wide prisons."

Sara gave up on the hinge on his glasses, reaching for the super glue bottle conveniently placed on the desk. "You're right. I think it's a bloody waste of time and effort, though, and I'm simply notifying you that I will be complaining for the entirety of this job and perhaps a bit beyond that. Indeed, I may bring it up in arguments whenever I feel I've been ousted or done a disservice. See if anyone ever questions my dedication again! Are you interested in food, or am I to fend for myself in that monstrosity this hotel calls a kitchenette?"

(A/N:) *collapse* I just wrote all this in one sitting. I don't give a shit that it's a bit shorter than normal. Somebody applaud me, because I think I deserve it. Or hit me upside the head because I didn't do it sooner, as I also deserve that. Well, I doubt I would have been able to write a word if I hadn't had the proper inspiration. And I rather like writing Saralegui. I think of his speech as the dry sort of humour I normally employ in my essays for English. You'd be surprised what sort of jokes I write in there for my teachers. I figure they get bored reading the same old crap over and over and need a little laugh, if they're careful readers.

Remember, if you catch any grammar or spelling errors (or gaping plot holes) I may have missed in editing, TELL ME. I will fix them as soon as I am cognizant enough to do so. And with this, adieu. I plan on having more to post as soon as I can get it all down on paper. Or a Word document. Whichever comes first.

Review fast or die slow, my loves! Oh, how I have missed you.