"What." He heard a growl. "Is he doing in my bed?"
"Calm down, Kuro-pi! You're going to wake our guest up!"
Already done, Watanuki thought sullenly, but let himself fake slumber. He evened out his breathing and fought the impulse to open his eyes. He knew what he would see. There was the sound of rustling, a soft sigh and bare feet scraping against hardwood floors. He snuggled into the sheets, they felt rich and warm and soft and-
"Hey kid, did you finish the supply?" He froze, but decided to nod. There was a pause, and then a sigh. Watanuki almost jerked when he felt a hand ruffle through his hair.
"You can sleep in today, but you're coming back tomorrow. Got another job for you."
Of course, the thought to himself. Trying not to let the irritation show in his face. The bed dipped, and the heavyweight was out of the room. Watanuki nuzzled the sheets in relief.
Watanuki hadn't come home last night. Doumeki furrowed his eyebrows and fixed a soul searching gaze to his cereal box, hoping it would give him the answers he needed. He had overreacted. It was clear then that he was jumping to conclusions. The sash around his wrists and his clumsy gait should have been proof enough that the clarinet player had been forced to endure whatever punishment was bestowed upon him.
But then Doumeki remembered what Watanuki told him about his relationship with Yuuko. His blood boiled, and he had reacted without thinking. Doumeki sighed and continues to scrutinize Captain Crunch's permanently joyous expression with worry. He was probably with Yuuko, the songwriter thought jealously. A curt knock on the door interrupted his brooding. Doumeki's eyebrows shot up in surprise. He was near positive it was Watanuki. He hopped off the counter and went to open the door. He stared in puzzlement at the figure on the threshold.
"Who are you?" A burlap sack was thrust over his head and a pair of muscles arms pulled him out of his apartment.
"Red Velvet, and a medium caffe latte."
"Yuuko..." Watanuki's brow twitched in irritation.
"You're eating us out of house and home!" The baker yelled, gesturing at the many empty plates and empty display. It was going to take a solid four hours to restore it all! And she wasn't even paying! Fai patted Watanuki's shoulder in what was supposed to be in reassuring gesture, but even the blond was starting to twitch.
"I apologize for his rudeness, but he's right. I don't understand what 'tab' you've managed to convince Kurogane giving you, but as you can see...business isn't exactly booming." Without another word, Yuuko fished out several bills from her cleavage.
"Will that be enough?" She said sweetly, and upon closer inspection, they proved to be in the triple digits. Fai's eyes widened to blue saucers.
"Are t-those hundreds?" Watanuki, by now used to Yuuko's mysterious wealth (She had an empty fourteen acre lot and manor for god's sake,) simply got out the closing binder.
"You're short 3.54" "Watanuki!" Fai exclaimed in exasperation.
Yuuko merely smirked. "Let's not forget that I've covered you also. I guess it should be taken out of your pay cheque, hm?"
Watanuki blanched and silently put the binder back. Fai sighed with a small smile. "It's fine, we cleared your debt since the day you started here."
Watanuki stared at Fai in mute surprise and clears his throat. "I'll be right back."
The both of them let his footfalls fade into the kitchen.
"We have a problem." Fai cocked a brow at this.
"Pardon?" Yuuko sighed and leaned into the table, face weary.
"There's something I need to tell you."
Watanuki almost turned back around when he saw who it was. Sakura was slowly mixing the red velvet batter and looked entirely downcast. Her hair was less shinier, her green eyes looked dimmer, and she was radiating doom and gloom. Watanuki tip toed away from the scene and froze when she lifted her gaze, pinning him on the spot. She forced a smile.
"Hey..." She dropped her gaze bake to the batter and started to beat the living shit out of it.
"Having a good day so far?" He was almost positive that by the way she was beating that mixture, it was probably supposed to be him. He gulped and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like a 'yeah.' A pregnant pause sustained between the both of them, and Watanuki took at his cue to leave.
"Wait!" Sakura called out, a shameful blush on her cheeks.
"Are we good?"
Watanuki forced a smile, feeling a shiver of revulsion tickle his spine in response.
"That little shit." Fai growled, his blue eyes cold with fury. Yuuko bowed her head and said nothing, hoping Watanuki wouldn't walk in at that moment. Just her luck, in he walked.
"Um, we have an order for later today, do you want me to get started on it no-"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Fai whirled, seething with anger. Watanuki's mouth fell open in confusion.
"I think it should be worth knowing that my employees run a drug lab in the basement!" The blond widened his eyes in realization.
"So that's all the work he's been making you do?"
The owner paced and started to mumble to himself, wringing out his hands. Watanuki forced a glare at the witch in the corner, because that's exactly what she was.
"It seems you didn't tell the full story." The baker said chillingly. Yuuko avoided his eyes.
"Did you, now?" Fai smiled, eyes still dark with repressed anger.
"It's...not the first kind of trafficking Watanuki's ever done."
"Oh my god." Fai stared in shock at Watanuki, still coldly glaring at Yuuko.
"The both of you...just get out." Fai's arms were limp at his sides, and he only made it to his office before he fell into his swivel chair, boneless and tired.
They weren't even out on the street when Watanuki snapped. Luckily, there weren't any bystanders.
"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?" He started to sob. "I'VE ONLY HAD ONE JOB. THIS WASN'T YOUR SECRET TO TELL!"
He started to shiver, his jacket was still inside and it was starting to snow. He shoved his arms into his shirt and cradled the warmth there.
"NOW EVERYONE KNOWS! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW?" Yuuko went to open her mouth but Watanuki didn't want to give her the opportunity to talk. He shook his head. "You know what? I see what this is. I owe you too much dough over the years and its about time I paid my way, right?"
He got out his wallet from his back pocket and started to collect the crumpled twenties and his Friday night paycheck.
"Take it. Take it all-" he threw the bills at her shamelessly, taking note of her shell shocked hurt. Yuuko was so astounded by his audacity that she made no move to defend herself. S
he had good intentions, she just wanted to end this farce of drug trafficking. It was consuming his life. Yuuko had thought of herself as his guardian over the years (never family, there were gaps that the both of them couldn't fill.) It didn't matter if Watanuki had Doumeki with him, if he continued to associate with the filth, he would eventually be engulfed in so much grime of her world, he would never be clean again. Yuuko's teacher had taught her few valuable lessons in their trade,
'Don't meddle. Our worlds will never be the same, it does no good to mix the two.'
How she wished she had listened to the old woman, now crippled with disease and debts. With the life she lived, she knew she would die alone, and Watanuki was setting himself up for that life without being aware of it. She felt sick to her stomach at the thought and shut down, continuing to let the red faced youth yell, no longer processing what he was saying (yelling) instead, choosing to let Watanuki decide for himself.
At some point, tears had gathered in his eyes and he wiped them away, heart hammering in his chest, an annoying reminder of his lack of composure. Yuuko's face was closed off and he opened his mouth to say something-something meaningful. He wanted the last word, the word that ended these confrontations. For once, Watanuki wanted to be the calm one, in control. He closed his mouth and shook his head, not trusting his voice. He turned his back on the woman and collected the bills he had thrown and walked away. He didn't get far before the tears resurfaced. He was back where he was a few months ago, penniless, inexperienced, and alone. Inquisitive hazel eyes caught sight of him and decided to offer comfort, her dark pigtails bouncing behind her.
Kurogane cracked his neck and fanned himself with Fai's catering menu. He was sweating profusely despite the chilling weather, he stripped off his sweater and ran a hand through his still drying hair. He thought he'd indulge and pump some iron at the gym, having been in stasis for too long.
Before Kurogane had met Fai, he had been involved in gang activity.
Every couple had their secrets, and Kurogane had uncovered long ago that Fai wasn't even his lover's name, he was using his brother's. The blond had never mentioned siblings, but in the back of his mind he knew that behind that cheery smile, he had done terrible things. Their confrontation two years back had put a strain on their relationship, and Kurogane had relapsed back into business with Tomoyo, while the blond took time off to return back to Norway. He loved lurking as a guardian in the night where the light of the moon never fell, as if knowing what evils took place in abandoned warehouses and slim alleys. He loved the thrill of a brawl, the fight clubs, the money, he loved it all.
But more than that, he loved Fai.
The two had met at this bakery, which had not been theirs at the time. Kurogane brushed the blood off his knuckles and winced at the slight cracking sound it made. It was pushing three in the morning but there were no cars, no buses, the street was perfectly empty, once blanketed in snow that was untouched by footprints and the like. He examined the few commercial buildings and the theatre with distaste. "What a dump,"
He preferred his upstate apartment in the Soho/Tribeca area. He was close to having it paid off and was smug with the realization that he could carry on with the rest of his life without having to work relatively hard. He was in his mid-twenties and life couldn't really get any better. As far as he was concerned, he was living the dream.
"Hey," He was roused from his thoughts by a small voice and looked up, not really listening.
A blond had his back turned to him, staring at the pastel pink bakery in wonder. "Is it true what they say about New York? Is it really the place where dreams are made of?"
Kurogane saw their reflections in the class, him, a gangly behemoth next to the almost effeminate man. His pale cheeks were gaunt and his lips cracked. He shook his head, maybe he was seeing things. It was three in the morning after all.
"I don't know, kid." He automatically corrected himself when he saw the blond extend more to his full height.
"It's not for everybody." The blond stayed silent, choosing not to say a word. Lost in his thoughts, he was unaware of the way his piercing blue eyes had bore into Kurogane's.
Feeling just the slightest bit uncomfortable (and no one had ever intimidated Kurogane since his mother had found out she stealing from her purse) he backed away, letting himself fade into the shadows. The blond was still staring into the shop window when he was well into the distance.
The next night had followed the same pattern, meeting with Tomoyo, then meet with the dealers, collect fees, go home. He cut through this particular neighborhood because the police never made an appearance and he could wander in peace and be left to his thoughts. And maybe a little part of him was curious to see if the blond was still staring through shop windows. Before he left, he felt compelled to visit Little Italy since it was close to his apartment and pick up a cannoli.
He doesn't understand why he did it, he never had much of a sweet tooth, but maybe that kid was staring at the bakery so much because he was living on trash and he was hungry for real food. He wouldn't blame the guy, you had to make virtually nothing to be living here. Kurogane had a heart, he didn't want the kid to starve. The blond was like a scared cat, and maybe he was the slightest bit interested in gaining the kid's trust. But once you start to feed a cat, it comes back. For some reason, the thought unsettles him so much he bites into the pastry, sickeningly sweet ricotta cheese coating his tongue. He forces himself to enjoy it and lets his eyes slide across the street.
"Looking for someone?"
He chokes on the pastry and pounds at his chest to get the crunchy shell to dislodge from his windpipe. Lanky arms come to loop around his waist and proceeds to use the Heimlich maneuver, and jam his fists in quick, upward motions. He falls to his knees and hacks the offending pastry, now a disgusting glob.
"ugh," he wipes the back of his hand over his mouth and avoids the sight of it. His stomach rolls nauseously.
"Sooo, I saved your life. Does that owe me a favor?"
He glares at the cheery blond. "Save? You were the reason I was choking, asshole!" The cannoli had fallen out of hands at some point.
"Ok, fine. Here." He passes the cannoli to the blond who wrinkles his nose slightly.
"After you bit it?" After a murderous glance the blond acquiesces without another word.
They sit side by side on the curb, lightly blanketed by a sheet of snow. The blond munches it quietly and glances at the giant. "So, what brings you to this part of the town?"
"Business," he grunts, a little distracted by the way the blond licks his lips to retrieve a bit of filling. The blond simply nods, he doesn't want to know what constitutes as business to a burly man in the early hours of the day. He's a bit caught off guard when the man turns to him.
"You?" The blond glances behind the bodybuilder.
"I guess you could say business."
"Thinking of taking over the bakery?"
"Nah, not yet. Maybe someday."
"Is that why you stare at it a lot?" The blond startles, blushing profusely.
"I'm simply trying to get a feel for what I'm going into!" Kurogane chuckles a bit,
"Still in school? It's a bit early for that don't you think." It was the blonde's turn to stifle a chuckle of his own.
"Actually, I'm well into my thirties. Starting a new business is tough, isn't it?" Kurogane bristles at this. There is no way he's younger than this midget! He doesn't let it show on his face and smirks in agreement.
"It is." Kurogane doesn't know how long the two of them had had been sitting there undisturbed, but he sees the startings of sunrise. It's awfully sudden, but he's really curious.
"What's your name?"
"Fai," the blond says, a minute hesitation in his voice.
Fai turns to look at him, an orange gold glow bathing his face in light. "You?"
He's momentarily stunned by the blonde's radiance and shakes his head to clear those thoughts.
A honk interrupted the minute peace between the two. A slim black car pulled up at the corner of the street, its windows tinted but Kurogane swore he could see the faint silhouette of a black haired man inside. Fai visibly startled and jumped to his feet. "Well, that's my cue. See you soon, Kuro-doggy!"
Kurogane's eye twitched at the unwanted nickname and made no move to return the blonde's tentative smile. "Same place as last time, hopefully?"
Fai glanced at him uncertainly, smile still frozen in place. It occurred to the dealer that he was expecting some form of reply. Before Kurogane could respond however, the blond had bounded up to the car and it cruised away swiftly, as if intent to erase any traces that the exchange had ever happened.
It was really bugging him.
He was unable to erase memory of Fai pulling into the stranger's car. He knew what it looked like, a young man waiting on a street corner, only to jump into the spend it in the company of older men. His mind raced with possibilities, the late nights, 'business transactions'. The thought made Kurogane's stomach roll. It sickened him even more to envision said business transactions.
At night he was plagued by fantasies of the blonde's hair falling against his pillow, his skin pink and slick with sweat, of cerulean eyes hooded and half mast, his straight and skinny body arching off his bed. Kurogane cursed to himself and went back to bench pressing, focusing on the burning in his muscles rather than his explicit daydreams. The encouraging grunting noises he made only contributed to the fantasy and he found his hand creeping to the drawstrings of his workout shorts. His fist blurred on his length, a pit in his chest opening up in response. He knew in the back of his mind that it was wrong, but no one had told him that since he was fourteen. He accepted without any further question that he subconsciously may have been attracted to the effeminate man, but years of inbred homophobic teachings blurred the lines between right and wrong. He felt no guilt that he was touching himself to the thought of a man, but struggled with the realization that this man was real, and it only solidified what he already knew. All too soon the fantasy was over, the only evidence that it had even occurred was the milky substance in his hands. Kurogane kid his face into his shoulder, cheeks flooding with unwelcome heat. What was happening to him?
Before he left the apartment that night, he made sure to scrub his hands thoroughly until they were red and raw, content to watch the last of the evidence swirl down the drain with a sense of satisfaction. He wasn't expecting it to be a rough night, it was just a pick-up after all.
Tomoyo got off the bus just as he had left the area. She was smart enough to not take the town car and insisted on leaving with her protector. The two had originally went to the same high school, Tomoyo being a freshman, and him repeating his final year of high school for the second time. There had been no pretense of a friendship from the very beginning.
A petite girl had found him at the lunch servery, her silky black hair braided in two long plaits. She couldn't have been any older than fourteen and spoke to him with steel in her eyes. 'Want to make some money?"
Kurogane dropped out after a month, but Tomoyo went on to graduate with honors, even pursued a degree at a fancy prep school. When he asked her once why she was doing this, she replied dryly that "It was more profitable than sitting in a philosophy lecture with a bunch of prim, sophist assholes that were only interested in furthering their own academic career and the same could be said in politics."
He learned to stop asking her personal questions. That wasn't to say that their friendship grew over the years, but in Kurogane's eyes, it was loyalty. She was his princess in every way that rejected the conventional notion that their relationship was romantic. If anything, it was platonic. It was just knowing that she had chosen him to be her sole protector. Of course. there were others, but they lost themselves somewhere along the way. They paid with jail sentences, crippling addictions, and the worst punishment, death.
They went with the notions mechanically. Two buses and a transfer to the subway, a fifteen minute walk into the nameless town that Kurogane had no idea could still exist and be as close to being off the map as a deserted island. So lost in his thoughts he was unaware of the situation until Tomoyo's shrill voice shrieked beside him, and had gripped his arm with the desperation of a frightened child. She desperately pointed to the young man being beaten senseless by their suppliers.
He dodged the dumpster in the narrow alley and shouted furiously for the punks to move aside and let him handle their little intruder. Kurogane's heart sank when he realized the bloody, mangled face was once Fai's, who lay out cold on the concrete, his hand still twitching sporadically, and stuttering breath the only evidence that he was even alive.
"Move out of the way you fucking idiots!" He took off his hoodie and bent down to wipe the crimson from the blond's pale face. "You awake?"
The blond's breath hitched, his luminous blue eyes blinked open wearily, barely focusing on him.
"How many fingers am I holding up?" A garbled cough like sounding laugh passed through the baker's lips.
The blonde's brows furrowed and he winced in pain when it only re-opened a cut above his eye.
"What? I thought I got it right!"
Kurogane shook his head, a bit of amusement in his expression.
"It was twice that amount."
'Should have went with my first guess! Thought I was seeing double."
"So you thought it would be good to lie? Never second guess yourself."
"Sorry to interrupt, but are we already over the fact that he just stole from us?" A kid with a crew cut said calmly, eyes flicking between the two quizzically. Kurogane's head whipped around in disbelief.
"Magical lockshmiiiit." Fai slurred, eyes drooping closed. Kurogane stared at Fai, unimpressed. "Sure, so what were you saying?"
"That guy," the kid pointed out, his friends were polishing their knuckles of blood behind him as if they had just lost a game of monopoly than beat a man within a inch of his life. "Sneaked around the back and was stealing from our safe." Kurogane cocked a brow at this.
"Didn't we tell you last time to transfer the money to the online bank account like we promised?"
Tomoyo and Kurogane had set up an account in name of one of her smaller, phony companies and instructed the group to deposit the money like one would a paycheck. Seal the cash in envelopes and deposit four hundred dollars bi-weekly to avoid suspicion but more importantly, taxes. It was not the perfect plan, but at times it was more secure than being paid in cash. They took the money before, and the products came afterward. When the group had revealed that they had a safe, Kurogane had immediately discouraged the use of it, especially its place in the abandoned warehouse where anyone could steal from it, even Fai.
The boy's face turned red and he said nothing, just watching as Kurogane had lifted up the unconcious blond into his arms.
"Where are you going?"
"Tomoyo!' The girl was at his side at once, and the group of kids were staring at the two in disbelief. "Hey! You're just going t-to let him go?"
Kurogane glared at the kid and then he got the hint to shut up. Tomoyo examined them, and said nothing. She had a good intuition, she would be ready to crack jokes in no time.
"Is he giving you fellatio?"
The bodybuilder nearly yelled as he flicked on the lights, Fai was staring at him quietly with his fingers laced together under his chin, legs crossed.
"Holy shit! " He fell into one of the chairs. "Scared me half to death."
"Why is Tomoyo informing me that you're getting Watanuki to pick up where Syaoran 'left off?'" "
The smirk fell from Kurogane's lips and he stared at his boyfriend in mute shock.
He had no answer, his eyes falling to his lap instead.
"Yuui, you know this shithole doesn't pay the bills-"
"Don't call me that!" Fai stood up and clamped his mouth shut, his composure lost and recovered. He cleared his throat, all intimidation gone. "It must have at some point! What do you need all this money for? Didn't you pay off your agreement a long time ago?"
Kurogane's eyes lowered. "That was with the salary Tomoyo gave me. Who can afford to live in SoHo on minimum wage? What was I supposed to do?"
Fai grabbed him by the shoulders, eyes pleading. "You were supposed to tell me. I would've gotten another job, wouldn't have brought Syaoran into all this, and not Watanuki either."
Kurogane's eyes softened. "But you love this place. I couldn't take it away from you even if I tried."
Fai let him go and stepped away. "But this isn't about me. I can't afford part-timers, hell- I don't even need them. That isn't it, the problem is that an innocent boy was subjected to committing a crime. And now, he's gone. What if they don't find him? What do you think Sakura will think?"
Kurogane stiffened and kept his eyes guarded and mumbled soemthign unintelligably.
"He was saving up for an apartment for the both of them. He volunteered."
The sudden crash of tin against linoleum startled the two. A tear stricken Sakura stood in the doorway, her face a mask of blank shock.
'Sakura!" She turned her back on them and ran, Fai chasing after her.
Kurogane massaged his temples in aggravation. This was a fine mess they had gotten themselves into.