Author Notes: Ack. I've only recently gotten back to writing this story, and I realized I'd left some of the HTML in this...*thwacks self*

Hand Clean Part One

~If it weren't for your maturity none of this would have happened

If you weren't so wise beyond your years I would've been able to control myself~

A young boy gasped in pain as stinging alcohol was applied to his numerous cuts and bruises. Mostly the wounds had been caused by falling debris and broken glass, but the largest of the bruises had been administered by a fist. His leader's fist, to be exact. It had been many days since the actual "accident", but the wounds seemed set on annoying Nagi for as long as possible.

"You're such an idiot, Naoe," a nasal voice said out loud. Schuldich, owner of said nasal voice, twisted the lid back on the rubbing alcohol. The powerful scent burned his nose, and he blamed Nagi for this as well as their failure in defeating Weiß once and for all. Nagi and his stupid emotions.

Nagi shrugged listlessly and tested his sprained wrist, wincing when his nerves screamed at him in response.

Before Schuldich could insult him any further, a familiar voice drifted to them from (the living room? kitchen?) somewhere else in the apartment other than the bathroom where they were currently situated.

Nagi didn't bother to catch whatever Crawford was saying. At that moment, he hated his leader, the one man in the world he was supposed to be able to trust. Nevermind that Crawford hadn't been to blame for Weiß's victory. Nevermind that Schuldich insisted Crawford was only trying to raise Nagi as best he could. "Let's face it," the German had said before they'd gone on that last mission, "you're a difficult kid. You may be intelligent, but you sure as hell ain't overflowing with common sense."

The Schuldich of this time and space was now helping Nagi down from his perch on the counter. "Pouting, chibi?"

"No." Nagi frowned and headed for his bedroom, but came to an abrupt halt when a certain redhead snagged the collar of his shirt roughly.

"Didn't you hear Brad's orders?"

"I'm ignoring whatever they are for the time being," retorted Nagi, telekinetically forcing Schuldich's hands off of him.

"That's bright."

"Shut up."

"Oh, you'll be missing my company soon enough." Nagi didn't see the mocking smile that was aimed at his back. "After all, France is a big place."

His hand halfway to the doorknob of his room, Nagi paused thoughtfully. France? What on Earth...?

/Ah, interested now, are you? Brad's orders were--/ Schuldich ticked off the tasks with his fingers, /One: pack lightly. Two: bring your laptop. And three: you're going to Paris./

Nagi suspected that the tasks were slightly out of order, but he didn't comment. The last one was the most important, any way he looked at it. "Says Crawford?"

"Says Crawford," Schuldich agreed. "Lucky you, I say. I mean, it's not every day a guy gets to go to the city of love with his cold yet definitely hot boss."

The telekinetic could only grimace at that comment. "That's disgusting. Do you mean to say...Crawford and I are going alone? What about you and Farfie?"

"More or less. He claims he needs--what were his words?--the backup of someone he knows isn't going to take whatever may come lightly."

Nagi snorted. "I'm not going anywhere with him."

"You most certainly are." The callous gaze of Brad Crawford bore through Nagi like a laser, but the boy stood his ground, crossing his arms stubbornly. Crawford, noticing this, said, "The matter is not up for discussion. Unless..." He smiled darkly. "...you prefer to be duly punished for insubordinance."

Schuldich raised a skeptical eyebrow but didn't comment on the harshness of this statement.

The Japanese boy returned Crawford's gaze, realizing he'd lost. They were no longer under the employment of Reiji Takatori, but they were still working for EstE; that meant he, to a certain degree, HAD to obey Crawford. But that didn't mean he had to like it. Without saying a word, he retreated to the safety of his room.

That night, when Schuldich checked up on him, Nagi was figuring out the best way to fit his laptop into his suitcase.

Fast forward to the next day. The plane ride was uneventful. The limosuine ride was uneventful. Even their arrival at the hotel they'd be staying in was uneventful. And Nagi was still in the dark about the precise reason as to why Crawford (who generally disliked travel of any kind) had been summoned to France. Summoned, Nagi knew, because Crawford certainly wasn't HAPPY about being there.

Nagi was pleased to see that they had seperate rooms, and he hastily unpacked all that he'd brought with him, setting his laptop reverantly on the bedside table. He unlocked the shutters of the only window and leaned out to stare at the streets below. France was a very bright place, he mused. The sun hadn't yet gone down, and the palazza was bathed in a sweet orange glow. He could almost taste the blissfulness of the people. He watched with vague interest as a little girl with red hair stole an apple from a booth that had been set up next to a large central water fountain.

He heard his door creak open. He didn't even have to ask who was there; he already knew. Ugg. What did Crawford want NOW?

"Your clothes are filthy," the older man commented. Out of the corner of his eye, Nagi saw him cast a disapproving glance around the room. Of course, there was no reason for him to not approve of it, other than Nagi's presence. "You can't go to any of the meetings like this."

"Meetings?"

"Yes. Your little accident involving Weiß has got EstE breathing down my neck. I've had to--well, let's just say you should be on your best behavior. Act as if--"

"Do I have to wear a suit?" Nagi interupted. He was beginning to understand why Crawford was so anxious about his appearance. At the meeting (surely the only other attendees would be EstE representatives), both of them would be observed closely. And if, at its close, they had failed whatever tests were being put on them....

He remembered Schuldich's earlier words. /He claims he needs--what were his words?--the backup of someone he knows isn't going to take whatever may come lightly,/ the German had said. So Nagi was to protect Crawford and himself if they had to escape punishment or (more likely) death.

"Yes," Crawford said. "In fact--" He glanced at his wristwatch. "It should be arriving right about--"

A rather loud voice called in French for a Mr. Crawford to come get his package, and Crawford himself turned on his heels and left, returning a moment later with a white tux in a neat plastic bag. He laid it out on Nagi's bed and ordered the telekinetic to dress quickly. They were leaving soon.

~If it weren't for my attention you wouldn't have been successful and

If it weren't for me you would never have amounted to very much~

"Stand up straight," Crawford told Nagi as the Japanese youth leaned against the solid metal wall of the elevator that was transporting them to the nth floor. The elevator smelled like magnolias and smoke and the combination made Nagi's nose hurt. His wrist hurt, too. And so did the rather large bruise on his cheek. But those were not because of the awful smell. The former he'd recieved in the explosion and the latter from Crawford. The bastard.

Nagi squared his shoulders as the two of them entered the Conference Room. It was a simple room, decorated in browns and whites with a large center table around which were seated men and women of various ages. Each and every eye was trained on the assassins. Nervously, Nagi schooled his face to blank perfection. He'd had quite a bit of experience with EstE personel. If they knew you were frightened, they'd use that to their advantage.

"Mr. Crawford." A skinny little woman at the head of the table nodded her acknowledgement to Crawford, who bowed deeply.

"Madame. It is a pleasure to meet you at long last," the American replied in faultless French. She was, after all, the coordinator. It wouldn't do to stumble over his words in her presence.

Nagi sat beside Crawford, not paying much attention to the words that were exchanged but watching the body language of the representitives, noting their expressions when their eyes settled on either Crawford or himself.

During Recess, he elbowed Crawford. "They don't seem hostile to me," he said. Crawford glanced at him sharply before replying, "Of course they won't let it show, if they are. I want you on your guard."

"I'm always on guard around you," Nagi retorted. But he was tense for the remainder of the meeting.

When it was time to leave, many of the men came over to shake Crawford's hand and muss Nagi's hair (an action Nagi hated, but couldn't very well voice out against). One particularly chubby man even pinched Nagis cheek, giving Crawford a knowing smile. "Done well for yourself, boy," he told the Oracle. (Nagi couldn't imagine why ANYONE would call Brad Crawford a boy.) "This one's still fresh. He doesn't struggle, am I right? Likes it, I'll wager." He took Crawford's arm and pulled him aside, saying something in low tones that Nagi couldn't catch. But he saw Crawford's cheeks flush and noticed his leader's frown. They were disagreeing about something. Try as he might, Nagi couldn't understand what the man had been insinuating. Was whatever it had been...was it some sort of code to let the surrounding men know that Killing Time was at hand?

Nagi followed Crawford closely as they exited the room, feeling a sudden protective streak. NO ONE was going to assassinate Brad Crawford or Nagi Naoe. No one. The natural order of things would be reversed if such an occurance should come about. "What were you so upset about?" Nagi asked at length, sliding into their rental car beside Crawford. All he recieved was a curt, "Nothing."

"No, it was something," Nagi argued. He hadn't yet forgiven Crawford for that day when the mansion had come crashing down around their heads. When Nagi had just barely escaped, only to find Crawford waiting for him, anger only freezing his eyes colder than they'd already been. And then his fist connecting with Nagi's jaw. "You should tell me."

"No. Be quiet."

Nagi caught the edge that was in Crawford's voice, and decided to push the issue at a later time.

He was in the lobby later that night, sipping on a Pepsi he'd bought from a machine, when he encountered one of the men he'd seen at the meeting. He wasn't the fat man; he was middle-aged, slender, with thick eyebrows and a head of red hair. He smiled at Nagi (who was embarrassed to have an EstE representitive see him in his pajamas) and waved for the boy to join him by the fire place. Nagi did so, with some trepidition. He hoped this man wasn't staying in the hotel just to get close enough to..."What's your native tongue?" The man asked in English. It was accented funny. Irish, Nagi decided.

"Japanese."

"Not my best. But practice is always good." This last was said in slightly uncertain Japanese. "You're Crawford's boy?"

"...I'm Nagi Naoe."

The man chuckled. "I see. I'm Charles Manning. I hope I haven't offended you, Naoe-san. But I have the habit of refering to younger men as possessions of their lovers."

"L-lovers?!" Nagi sputtered, choking on his Pepsi. "What do you mean?"

Charles Manning blinked. "Old Evans said Crawford had found a boy. I assumed it was you. You ARE his only traveling companion, yes?"

"Well...well, yes. But we're not..." Nagi wrinkled his nose in distaste. "Why would anyone think we would...Isn't that illegal?"

"People such as yourself tend to be above the law," Charles Manning pointed out.

"Crawford is..." Nagi searched for the right words. Finally, out of lack of anything else to say, he motioned to the bruise on his cheek. "Crawford did this. I'm sure his affection for me is very deep. He wants to give me the gift of color."

Charles Manning laughed, crossing his legs. HE was dressed in an immaculate suit, so much like Crawford. Nagi pulled self-consciously at the hem of his pajama shirt. It was plain unnerving to think of Crawford as...as a romantic interest. But now that the idea had been presented to him, it wouldn't go away. What would it be like to look at Crawford like THAT?

What would kissing him be like? And would it feel good, to go further...?

Charles Manning must have noticed the pink staining Nagi's face because he said, "You're considering it, though. Crawford isn't an unattractive man. Quite the opposite."

"He's a bastard," complained Nagi. "A selfish one, at that. I don't even LIKE males."

"Have you ever tried one?" Charles Manning suggested.

Nagi blinked. "No."

"Then how can you be sure?"

Nagi thought about this. And decided Mr. Manning had a point, even if he WAS prying into Nagi's business. Charles Manning nodded decisively. "Young Naoe. If I were you, I'd go find Crawford right now...find out." There was no need to ask what he was supposed to "find out". Nagi, a bit dizzy from all of these new thoughts, nodded and got up to leave.

Nagi shadowed his flashlight with his palm, being painfully careful not to let the light anywhere near Crawford's eyes. He was faintly shocked by his leader's appearance; he wasn't wearing glasses, and his hair was fanned out around his face. The faint lines at the corner of his eyes had softened, and the perpetual frown was gone.

The Japanese boy leaned down until his face was level with Crawford's. Suddenly, the man he'd been hating for the past few days seemed somehow different. Brad Crawford was dangerous, and the sight of him lying in his bed, unprotected, faintly lit by electronical sunlight, gave the telekinetic a sense of power, made him feel...erotic.

'Should I kiss him? Is that how I'll know for sure...?' He pondered this. 'Those old guys are just perverts, I don't really have to--but what if they're right? What if we COULD be...' He shrugged and leaned so close that Crawford's breath tickled his nose. 'This is my first kiss, I guess.'

His lips brushed against warm, smooth, and most importantly, immobile flesh. Crawford's mouth was still beneath his own, but even so, Nagi felt the funniest sensation, like a million butterflies having civil war in his belly. So much for not being affected. He sighed and straightened, hugging the flashlight close.

It was then that he noticed the pair of peanut-butter brown eyes staring up at him.