A little AN before we start~
Ever since I started reading Karneval, I've always thought that Gareki was an interesting character. He's been hardened by the terrible events of his past, and yet, he still finds it in himself to be so compassionate. For one who declares out loud that friends are useless, it's nonetheless himself who struggles the hardest to protect his not-friends. I like how mature he is, how he doesn't allow his pride to cloud his judgement (well, most of the time :D), and how he expresses his concern for Nai and the others (which, of course, he doesn't show obviously. oh, you shy boy, you~). There is much about him that we don't know, the most recent mystery the one mentioned by Uro, and it's so deliciously intriguing (on that note, Yogi is such an interesting character as well!) that it makes me like him more and more. He is my favorite character, and as such, I'm writing this for myself, because there is not much long, Gareki-centric fics out there (I am not overly fond of romance, so...)!
To those who love Gareki as much as I, I hope you find my portrayal of him to your liking~ And to those who are reading this for fun, I hope you guys enjoy it just as much!
Lastly, a disclaimer: I used similar scenes from the manga, for example, how they met, but that's it, mostly. Everything is still the property of Mikanagi Touya~
On The Way Home
"G, are you sure this'll work?"
G would have rolled his eyes at his companion— accomplice, if you will, but since his eyes were covered by goggles and half his face was covered by a mask, both of which were his signature accessories other than, of course, to hide who he was, he merely raised a brow and said, "Yes, Ban. I'm sure. But I told you both before, didn't I? If you felt that it was too risky, then back out. I won't hold anything against you."
The other sighed and raised his palms up in front of him in defense, "Easy, friend. Believe me I would've backed out as soon as I heard who you're planning to hit, but it's you," he said, "If you say it's possible then I believe you."
"But?" G prompted patiently.
"But this is Yakuza, G. The Shingen family. You may be the 'king of thieves', but this beyond our level. If they spot us, we're done for. We'll be running our entire lives, man. And I... I-,"
"I know," G interrupted. He turned away then, finishing the last bits of programming in his laptop then he said, "Why do you think I chose you?"
The man with him was a father who had three children and a wife who was sick. G knew that the man, in desperate attempts to keep his family alive, would occasionally join thief heists and even pick-pocketed now and then, when his salary was just not enough. He was a good man, but his situation had forced him to do things he normally would not have done. G knew this, and he also knew that these were the kinds of people that would be loyal to him till the end. They had everything to lose after all, so compromising a heist would be out of the question.
The other man with them was not someone G picked, but rather a recommendation from the father beside him. G didn't trust him at all though and he wasn't his usual pick, but he had proven himself capable when he pointed out some flaws in his initial plan. They were small misjudgments, but they would have been annoying if they did come up.
Turning once again towards the men, he asked, "Ready? A minute till detonation. After that, you know what to do. And remember, don't take anything else. Time is on our side only if we follow it."
The men nodded and all at once they moved to their designated positions. A few seconds later, a small portion of the wall they had been facing collapsed, allowing all of them access inside the house without anyone inside the wiser.
G was crouched in a rarely used room in the mansion, wires around him, his laptop on his knees as he watched both the men he brought with him and the men of the Shingen move about. Ban, the father, was in their target room, and was on the process of extricating their fortune. Tenma, who had successfully diverted the attention of the guards just enough to allow Ban through, was currently on his way back to the mansion, having finished preparing their getaway vehicle.
"Got it," whispered Ban as he carefully opened the safe and began loading the unmarked ingots of gold onto a duffel bag.
"Shifts are changing," G reported, "We've got fifteen minutes before our exit's blown." Typing furiously on his laptop, G grinned as he hit Enter with a flourish, "Windows are open. Proceed with caution, Ban. I spotted a couple of men smoking near that window."
"Tenma?" G called, "How's it going?"
"Vehicle is in position, G. On my way to Ban."
"Good. We're still on schedule. I'm heading over the target room as planned," he said as he gathered his materials in a bag, "No more Big Brother from now on so be careful." Glancing one more time on the positions of Ban and Tenma, G frowned, "Tenma, remember the path behind the garden we marked? Take that route to where Ban is. A maid just wandered to the other path."
Tenma, however, didn't respond. Curious, G looked at his laptop and found that the man was thoughtfully looking at the path they had planned to use. Frowning, G prodded, "Tenma?"
It took a moment, but the man eventually responded, "Got it." And then he was walking again towards the window where Ban had dropped their first bag of gold. By the time Tenma got there, Ban was already out the window, noiselessly landing on the grass below.
"Thank god they hold it on the first floor," Ban whispered, as he and Tenma silently slipped outside toward their vehicle, holding between them the now very heavy duffel bag.
G chuckled, "They have a bigger vault on the upper floors, but the gold there are already marked. The gold on the first floor are recently... acquired," he explained, "They'll be bringing them to goldsmiths tomorrow. But unfortunately for them, they'd find their stash sorely lacking."
As both Ban and Tenma made their way towards their vehicle, making their way within the forest surrounding the mansion, G pushed his goggles to his hair and pulled the mask down before heading towards where the rest of the gold lay. His was the hardest task of all and he needed to use his senses at full capacity to finish successfully. Not only did he have to dodge the men walking around the mansion, he had to make his way invisibly towards the room. He had to time his movement perfectly since there was only a small window of time during the shifting of guards where the door was unattended. This was the part where he had had to hole up for days, watching hours and hours of hacked surveillance video, trying to get the timing right.
Saluting to a camera that he knew was unseeing having tapped the entire system, G dashed towards the door, his strides sure, steady and silent. He had had practice before, of course, having stolen from other fine establishments like this. He was not named the King of Thieves for nothing, as all his heists have been fairly successful. Slipping inside the room, he allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief before moving towards the hidden compartment under the desk on the far side of the room.
Five minutes had already passed since he left the room he had been in, three minutes till Ban and Tenma return. Seven minutes left before guards spot the vehicle outside, seven minutes before Goro Shingen would come in this room to finish his paperwork. Seven minutes before they're all violently shot to kingdom come.
Silently but steadily filling another duffel bag with more gold, G put most of his attention on the task. Once he had gotten enough gold to keep them alive for years without work, he carefully arranged the gold left, making it look like nothing was missing. It was this meticulous trait of his that had ensured the success of most of his heists, because by the time the owners realized that they had been stolen from, G was halfway across another city, enjoying the fruits of his labor. He knew he was cutting it short this time around, but it didn't matter. They planned to get as far as possible tonight.
Suddenly, he heard Ban curse in his earpiece. Frowning, G asked, "What is it?"
"Damn Tenma, he wandered off somewhere. I know I'm big but, come on! This thing is heavy!"
Feeling the beginnings of dread rise, he hastily called, "Where are you, Ban? Tenma, get back to Ban! We don't have time!"
"I see the car now, G. Give me a few minutes."
"Oh calm down, G," Tenma drawled, sounding so different from the man he had met, "We've got a few minutes left, right? I can do it pretty quick, so no need to worry."
Before G could curse the man, a whimper was heard through the earpiece. G frowned even harder. A whimper? Could it be? Was it the maid he had seen?
"Tenma—," he began, but was interrupted by Ban.
"Oh kami, Tenma! This is no time to satiate your... needs. If we get caught—,"
"Shut up, both of you! I'll be quick, so don't worry your pretty little heads."
G was torn between putting a bullet between the man's eyes and finishing up his task. Glancing at his watch, he cursed. "Five minutes left. No more time, Ban. Go back to the car and wait there. We're just gonna have to contend with a duffel of gold. All thanks to you, of course, Tenma."
At this point, both Ban and G could hear the muffled protests of the poor maid Tenma had accosted. They could hear Tenma's heavy breaths, his false promises of no pain with a voice that was filled with want and desire. G felt sick hearing it, especially because he couldn't do anything about it. Forcing himself not to wrench the earpiece, G carefully placed the gold back to compartment below the desk. When he was done, he looked at his watch and cursed again.
Less than three minutes left.
Suddenly, a shot rang clear in the night. G swiveled his entire body towards the sound and realized it came where Tenma was.
He was right.
"Damn girl. She didn't have to fight me so much."
He didn't know if he should be thankful for Tenma or appalled at the man's brutality. Sure he didn't trust him, but even he hadn't expected the quiet, greasy man to be this cruel.
Knowing that most of the men in the mansion would be distracted by that gunshot, G had every intention of taking advantage of the situation. He was already by the window and was about to go over the ledge when his eyes caught another door in the room— a door that led to a room that didn't exist here before.
And he knew this mansion, knew it inside and out. This room was new.
Taking hold of himself, he shrugged off his curiosity and forced himself to take another step forward, but as he did, he heard a soft thump in the room accompanied with a pained whimper.
He was gripped suddenly with indecision. Should he get away while he still had time, while Tenma would undoubtedly be chased, and then killed? Or could he risk his time— his life, by investigating what, or rather, who was in the room? Fists clenched in frustration because this was so unlike him, he growled and ran towards the room. He would have left it alone, normally, but this time… It was as if something was calling him from inside.
With practiced ease he picked the lock and with a click, the room swung open to reveal a small bed in the corner and an even smaller figure curled beside its legs. The child, for it could only be a child, had his face buried in his arms, his shoulders shaking from sobs, a whimper breaking out now and then. It seemed the child hadn't noticed G yet though, for he continued to cry, unmindful of G's attention.
As G looked closely, it didn't look like the child was hurt— at least, not very recently. On his arms were faint traces of bruises on their way to healing. Why the child was crying, G didn't know, but the door had been padlocked… But why up here? Those sold to the Shingen family was usually locked in the basement...
Making his way across the room, his footsteps silent in the carpeted floor, G knelt across the boy and shook him gently. The boy looked up with a start and with fear in his eyes he immediately backed away from G, muttering, "No, please. Don't make Karoku make that medicine anymore! He doesn't want to do it!"
G didn't have time to figure out the ramblings of a child, so he ignored them and said, "If you want to leave this place, get up and follow me."
The child looked stunned at his words, but G didn't have the time to convince this boy. Suddenly, he remembered just how much was at stake by staying here. He couldn't afford to waste any more time. Frowning deeply at himself, wondering why he uncharacteristically offered to get the kid out, wondering just what made him open the door in the first place, he stood up briskly and made his way towards the door. He didn't look back.
A small, timid voice made him stop, however.
"Wait," the boy said, "Please, wait. I have to save Karoku."
Gritting his teeth, annoyed at himself for getting so soft, he whirled towards the boy and found him slowly, painfully, getting to his feet. Within a few strides he was again beside the boy, and without preamble he bent down and ordered, "Get on my back and hold on tight. I'm gonna make a run for it."
The boy nodded and tried to get on G's back as fast as he could. When G was sure of his hold on the kid, he stood up and as he ran he said, "Keep that hold tight, got it? If you fall off, you're on your own."
Reaching the window, thankful that it was just the right height, he turned his back against it and sat the boy on the sill. He then grabbed the boy's leg and pushed so that the boy was now facing outside. Carrying him by the armpits, he eased the boy down, letting go only when he was sure that the boy was steady on his feet. Once again, he frowned at himself at this uncharacteristic concern.
But just as he was about to go over himself, the door opened and in walked the man he feared the most, the current head of Shingen. Suddenly gripped by fear, G was frozen on spot, as he and the head stared in disbelief at each other.
Goro was first to react. As he called for his men, he took out his own gun and aimed at G. Snapping out of his stupor in the face of the barrel of a gun, G scrambled outside, barely escaping death. Hissing as he felt a sting in his shoulder, he gave it a glance and was relieved it was only a scratch, albeit, one that bled furiously.
Wanting to waste no more time, he yelled for the boy to get on his back, taking off even without making sure that the boy had gotten on properly. A few seconds later, shots were being fired in their direction. It was fortunate that none of the bullets were close enough to hit. They were even more fortunate that the head of the Shingen had a useless right leg. The man wouldn't be able to run after them. And by the time his men would, G was hoping they'd be in the car, driving away as fast as possible.
Running through the dense forest, using paths that would hinder anyone who would go after them, G made his way towards their car, parked cleverly behind a group of closely knit trees. He had used the same trees as a cover once before, a long, long time ago, so he knew that they wouldn't be found here.
Ban was already in the driver's seat, worriedly staring outside. When G appeared, he immediately started the car, barely making notice of the boy on G's back. Gunning the engine, Ban sped off, all three of them grim and tense.
For hours they drove in silence, still doubting that they managed to get out of there alive even when their entire plan got shot down to hell. They were in their second vehicle, having ditched the first one in an impound, and already miles and miles away from the Shingen, when Ban spoke, "I'm sorry, G."
G blinked, "For what?"
"I didn't realize Tenma would… If he hadn't, everything would've gone according to plan. You were seen, weren't you? I heard gunshots before you came. So I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry."
G though, just waved it off. "I don't think it would've mattered, whether I was seen or not," he began. Gesturing towards the now sleeping boy beside him, he said, "I somehow snatched this kid instead of the gold, and if he's important to them, I'm sure they'd eventually trace everything back to me."
Ban glanced at the kid thoughtfully, "You mean you'll let the kid stay with you?"
The question threw G off. Was he going to let the kid stay with him? It was a ridiculous thought! He should just leave the kid in a police station somewhere, right? Hell, he had no obligations to the kid; he could just leave him now in the streets. Right?
"You're a strange kid, G," Ban said, interrupting his thoughts. And then with a snort, he muttered, "A kid, can you believe it."
That was when he realized that he hadn't been able to put the mask back on, or his goggles. Eyes widening, he looked at Ban and found him staring at him through the front mirror of the car.
"I can keep a secret. Besides, it's not like anyone will believe me."
"Kidding, kidding," he said, smiling. Then the smile disappeared, "I really can keep a secret, though. You don't have to worry about me."
G just sighed, knowing he wouldn't be able to do anything about it. So he just said, "Thank you."
"I'm the one who should be thanking you," replied Ban, eyeing him disbelievingly on the mirror, "Even with this amount of money, I can finally promise my family a prosperous life. And that's all thanks to you."
"We did it," G insisted, "I'm not such a kid to be so full of myself."
Ban hmmed, "Indeed. Even though you are, technically, still a kid."
G didn't reply. Ban eyed him critically using the mirror, "My god, you aren't legally allowed to drink alcohol yet, are you?"
Again, G didn't reply, but he did frown harder.
"I have a son who is older than you. What pushed you to do these heists? Is it because of family?"
Annoyed, G growled, "That's none of your business."
"I'm a father, G. It is my business," he replied, "Just like how you made that boy's business yours. And don't deny it! I've seen the look in your eyes, it's the same look my wife makes when our children are concerned."
G looked slightly embarrassed and insulted at the same time but he again remained tight-lipped.
Ban sighed, "All right, I give. I won't ask anymore."
"…it doesn't really matter, you know," G suddenly muttered, looking out of the window. Ban didn't say anything, fearing that more comments from him would make G stop. Still looking out of the window, G continued, "My parents sold me to the yakuza when I was 8 to pay off their debts. I don't remember much of them now, really. So no, I'm not doing this for family."
The way G said 'family'… Ban frowned at that. He knew these things happened, of course, but how could a parent even allow their child to—, "Wait. Yakuza? You don't mean…"
G grinned at him in the mirror, "I told you I was sure, didn't I? I spent four years 'serving' them, but at the same time, I was always trying to find ways to get out. Didn't realize I'd be using the knowledge like this, but it paid off in the end, right?"
Ban whistled, "True, but you're still pretty much a genius to have come up with it in the first place. Only a year since you started stealing big time, right? And yet, I don't find it strange why they call you the king of thieves. You've got the smarts, boy," and then, with a frown of disappointment, he said, "I only wish your parents had given you a better life to live. You could've gone to higher places with smarts like that."
G just shrugged in answer.
The two fell silent after that, each one mulling over what had happened.
On their way to a contact that would exchange the gold for money, and still a few miles off, Ban had the time to study the boys in the backseat.
The boy G had carried out of the mansion was a skinny little thing. His face was sweet and gentle as he slept, and Ban had no doubt that the boy was the same in temperament. The boy looked half-starved and beaten, but there was resilience there, as if he was fighting for something important. Ban could only sigh in despair at the thought of what the child had gone through in the hands of the Shingen. Children shouldn't be able to feel this much pain. It didn't matter now though, because surely, the boy had someone looking out for him. He was just too innocent to have been living by himself.
G on the other hand, now that Ban had gotten a better look, looked just about the same as any other kid on the streets— wild and rough, with an air of maturity that was forced by getting thrust in a world with only himself to rely upon. His eyes, as expected, held the world apart from himself, unable to trust his safety to anyone else. These were the kind of children that Ban hated to see the most for they were reminders at the cruelty of humanity.
There was hope for this one though, Ban thought. G had shown that he still cared. He looked out for himself and was moved by compassion to save the boy beside him, even when the cost of doing so was so high. Ban felt irked to have been taken care of by a boy years and years younger than him, but it was evidence that G wasn't as far gone as the rest of the children of the streets.
Ban could only hope that someone would find what he himself did in G. And hopefully, this time, a someone who would be able to do something about it.
"I don't deserve this."
G shrugged, "I said we were going to share it equally. I don't go back on my word."
Ban rolled his eyes, "Well, I'm giving this much back to you. Of my own accord. Just accept it, G. You need it more than me."
About to protest, Ban shook his head and insisted, "This is more than enough, G. I swear. Don't start acting like a kid on me now. You know you need it more, especially since you're taking care of that kid."
G frowned hard at that, "I'm not taking care of him! I'm leaving him in the nearest police station!"
"Right," said Ban, totally unconvinced. He knew that some of the police were working for the yakuza. Bringing the kid there was like giving him back. Ban knew that G knew this fact as well. "It's best if he's taken to back to where he belongs," Ban suggested gently, "Safer for him too."
He wasn't rewarded with an answer for that.
"Well," Ban started, hefting an almost bulging duffel on his shoulders, "I best be off. It was great working with you, despite everything that had happened. And again, I'm sorry for Tenma, that poor bastard. He had me convinced that he wanted to an out too, just like me. I didn't realize… Well, that doesn't matter now."
G stood up as well, hefting an equally bulging duffel bag on his considerably smaller shoulders. Ban eyed him regretfully, "Remember how I said you got smarts, boy?"
G looked at him in confusion, but he nodded nonetheless.
"I've no mind of lecturing you, because it isn't my business but… I've no doubt that you can do anything you want, if you put your mind to it. Living like this is fine, since you obviously can take care of yourself. But it is terribly lonely, isn't it?" giving the boy a smile one last time, he said, "I hope you find someone who would get you out of this life, just like you did for me. You're a good kid, G. You deserve all the happiness in the world."
And then he was gone, back to a family that was waiting for him to come home.
Looking up at the now bright sky, he whispered, "I hope you find a home to come back to, G. Because there is nothing else that gives more happiness than that."
He didn't know how long he stood there, staring at the back of the man he had come to respect during the night. Ban had said that he deserved all the happiness in the world, but he was happy now, wasn't he? Sure he was by himself, but he didn't need anyone else. Everyone he had gotten to know hadn't liked him much in the end, so why bother?
Shaking the thoughts off, he barged in the room they placed the kid in and found said kid staring at him in awe.
"What?" he said, a little unnerved. No one's ever looked at him like that before.
"I thought it was all a dream," the kid began, smiling brightly at him, "But it's real. You really did save me. Thank you! Thank you so much!"
G had no idea what to say to that or how to react. Taking the kid's arm, he pulled him up and began to drag him out of the room. "I dunno about saving you, kid. You're probably in more danger now, because you escaped. Men like those do not like to be trifled with."
The kid cocked his head to the side and asked, "'Trifled'? What does that mean?"
G sighed. Was this kid an idiot or what? "It means they don't like getting messed around with. Now keep your mouth shut, all right? We're leaving this place."
"Where are we going?" the kid asked, voice almost unbearably cheerful.
"Away. Far, far away."
"Away?" he repeated. Suddenly, the kid began pulling his arm, "No! I can't go too far! I need to save Karoku! Karoku is—,"
Surprised at the kid's outburst, G bent down and hastily grabbed the kid's face. "Look, kid—,"
"My name is not kid!"
Ignoring the complaint, G continued, "If you want to save Karoku, you gotta have a plan first! And you can't save him if you're captured, can you?! You can't just go there and say, 'Please give Karoku back!', you know! That's stupid!"
"Yes, but…" he said, blushing. G blinked, then groaned, "Oh god, don't tell me that that's what you did?"
Still looking down, the kid softly said, "You can't know if haven't tried… Karoku told me that."
Praying to the gods for deliverance from idiots, G sighed. "You," he said, "Are the type that dies fast. How can you hope to save Karoku by yourself?"
"Then," the kid said, eyeing him trustfully, "Will you help me?"
Brows raised in surprise, G snorted, "Help you? Sure," he said, "But what's in it for me?"
"Um," he said, seriously thinking about it, "What do you want?"
G shook his head, standing up again, "I don't think you can give me what I want, kid. Come on. I'll take you back to your family and you guys can plan to get this Karoku back."
The kid looked at him unhappily. "Karoku is my only family. He took care of me since I was very small and he always protected me. I want to protect him now, too! But I need to save him first!"
"Yes, okay, but you can't do it alone, can you?"
"No," he said, "But I need to try!"
"Look," G began, bending a little to face the kid directly, "Right now, you and I can't do it. You already tried but look where that got you. We need to find people that can actually do it, okay? But we gotta go far, far away first."
"…okay. And then we'll save Karoku?"
"I dunno about me," G said, holding out his hand towards the boy, "But we'll find someone who will."
The kid nodded, then he took G's hand and smiled. G couldn't help but wonder how long the kid's innocence would last.
"Thank you. Karoku said that the world outside our house was filled with bad men. But you aren't! You're not even asking for anything in return!"
G lamented a little at that. Well, whatever. It was a small burden to bear. He only needed to get the kid to the right people. And he wouldn't mind a little company, even though the kid was in idiot.
G had thought the world was only filled with bad men, too, before. But he had met a lot of good ones through the years as well. He could probably ask them what to do with the kid's situation. One of them was connected to the police before. And that person lived far, far away, so…
The kid smiled brightly, "Yes!"
G could almost feel a headache starting. What was the kid thinking? That this was some sort of school trip?
"Wait!" the kid suddenly said, pulling G back, "Karoku taught me how to be polite, too! My name is Nai! What's yours?"
G blinked, stupefied. Nai was such a weird name. Then he shook his head and said, "It's—," G, he was about to say. Somehow though, that didn't feel right. Perhaps it wouldn't be too bad to trust someone this time. Nai was a child, after all. Adults were the ones who can't be trusted. They can be dependable at times, just like Ban and a few adults he knew, but that was it.
"Gareki," he finally answered, "My name is Gareki."
Nai smiled even brighter, "Nice to meet you, Gareki!"
Gareki scoffed, for once, amused. Maybe this trip wouldn't be so bad after all…
"It's nice to meet you too, Nai."