Notes from the Author: Greetings! Sorry to keep you waiting, I had to tweak some things in the next chapter to accommodate some stuff. To everyone reading and reviewing this story, thanks for your never-ending patience! Once again, special thanks to Lommy, laurose and RodiSquall. Yes, I've been wondering why I haven't done a Crawford/Yohji yet, maybe I could accommodate that one here as well! As for Crawford, well there will be times when he knows too much for his own good, and there will be times when he really doesn't know what's going to happen next. I'd like to slightly veer away from the notion that he can see almost everything before it happens. Hope I did him justice so far, lol.
Anyway, again, disclaimers, I own nothing and no one (wish I own Yohji, but I can only dream). Without further ado, the next chapter! Will Yohji be kicked out of the flower shop? Let's find out!
"No Yohji-san, please don't listen to him," Nagi pleaded, chasing the blond on the sidewalk, the rush of the warm afternoon air putting a glow on his cheeks. "They need to be found."
It had been yesterday when Aya had given Yohji his two cents about his situation. He had to put that behind for now; he needed to work, otherwise it's ramen again for the whole week. He stopped, turned and flashed Nagi a bemused smile. "Wow, first-name basis. Glad you're warming up to me, kid."
"Please, Yohji-san." Nagi stopped beside him, slightly winded.
"You know, I'm beginning to think that you're the one who needs saving more than those two." Yohji leaned on a post of a nearby shop. "Why do you want them found, Nagi?"
"Because they're my teammates!" Nagi couldn't believe his ears. Oracle's powers of persuasion can be annoying at best. How could this man be swayed when Nagi's reasons are entirely valid? "They're family."
"Okay, let's stop for a moment there."
"What-" Nagi fumed, eyes wild and slightly teary. "There should be no questions about this. I am your client and you need to solve this case."
Yohji broke into small fits of laughter, much to Nagi's disbelief.
"How dare you make fun of this!"
"Naggles, I never make fun of business." Yohji shook his head chuckling. "Also, I never said I'd stop looking for them."
Nagi glared at him wordlessly, both relieved and infuriated. "Don't mangle my name."
"Come on, I bet the others have nicknames for you." Yohji pushed away from the post, patted the boy on the head fondly and led him inside the shop, which was in fact a little bistro.
"Yes, they do. Schuldig has probably called me that, among other nicknames I detest but that doesn't give you the same right."
"All right, fine. So, family, huh?" Yohji smiled. "What's a typical morning like, for you guys?"
A few moments after having ordered and being served their breakfast, Nagi watched Yohji as he dropped another sugar cube into his coffee before stirring. He thought there was only one person in the entire universe who can drink coffee sweet enough to poison.
"Crawford's a black coffee person, right?" Yohji asked, sensing the other watching him.
Nagi nodded. "But mostly without sugar."
"Do I even dare ask what Farf has in the mornings?" Yohji asked before lifting his mug. Towards the end of their breakfast, Yohji already had a couple of nicknames for all members of Schwarz.
Nagi didn't know if it was on purpose or for the sake of convenience; Farfarello especially has a long first name and Schuldig's is just plain hard to pronounce. "Ironically, he shares cereals with Schuldig, if he's up early, or if there's any. Otherwise, fruits. Or shakes, since he's inclined to use the blender for some reason."
Yohji tried to picture Schwarz on the breakfast table. Crawford was the type to read the morning paper with coffee. With a bagel perhaps. Nagi would probably have a full breakfast; he has school so he needed it. Schuldig and Farfarello are probably not into breakfast, they'd likely have something that was easy to prepare; if Schuldig preferred cereals, Yohji would probably reach for instant noodles. "I don't usually eat cereals. Ken has those, otherwise he has whatever Omi has. Or fruit juice. He's a health buff."
Nagi frowned. "Why the analogy?"
"Well your leader said I could use it." Yohji shrugged. He picked up another sugar cube for better measure.
"I can't even imagine the taste of that." Nagi winced. "You remind me too much of Schuldig."
Yohji stirred his drink slowly with a grim smile. "Sorry."
Nagi picked at his food to distract himself. "What is this?"
"It's creme brulee."
Yohji rolled his eyes before repeating it flawlessly.
"Oh." Nagi muttered. He'd butcher the word if he tried it out loud, and the last thing he wanted was for Yohji to think it's utterly cute for someone like Nagi trying to learn the foreign word. He knew he'd never hear the end of it. He wondered at that; Yohji didn't look remotely Japanese. He cleared his throat, trying to hide the slight blush creeping up his cheeks. "Your mother's a gaijin?"
Yohji nodded. "English."
Nagi nodded in realization; hence the European car.
"Does Schuldig ever tell you about his childhood?"
Nagi shrugged, carefully rolling the piece of delicasteen around his mouth. He decided that he liked the taste of it. "He almost never does. When he finds himself talking about it though, he just sort of trails off and then changes the subject. Crawford told me once that he was the one who picked him off the streets. He was on the verge of a breakdown and Crawford offered to help. Anyway, anything they ever tell me involved their time after Rosenkreuz. Before that..." Nagi shook his head.
Yohji frowned. "Why is that? Was Rosenkreuz that harsh?"
Nagi nodded. "I'm not even sure if Schuldig ever went there, but if he did, the discipline is no joke, and mischievous students like him often get punished, so if he did go there then maybe that explains why sometimes he's not right in the head."
Yohji shook his head wonderingly as he watched Nagi grin. "Some compassionate teammate you are, kiddo."
"Hey, I went through similar troubles." Nagi defended. "Schuldig's just more...rebellious."
"I'll take your word for that." Sighing, Yohji downed the last of his coffee and stared outside, worry evident on his face. His thoughts turned to his ex-teammates, who must really hate his guts by now. Maybe if he could disappear for a while...not like Schuldig though. But where would he go?
If he wanted to lose himself for a night or two, he would go to a club.
If he wanted to lose himself for a week, a beach getaway maybe, it's been a long time since he tried that. Chances like those were hard to come by when he was in Weiss.
Crawford said that he shared something similar with the redhead, so maybe he would have done the same...
But it's been almost a year.
Where would he want to be if he wanted to be away for that long?
Home. If he had one that is.
But that somehow contradicts the situation. Schuldig's home is with Schwarz.
"I don't suppose Schuldig has any relatives left?" Yohji asked softly.
"Not that I know of." Nagi looked up, puzzled at the question.
'I'd make one.' Yohji thought. If he wanted a home, he would settle down, probably make a family of his own, change his life, and forget his past.
If he had any, Yohji frowned, he would visit them, possibly live with them. It didn't matter where they were, he would go there. "Is it possible for them to leave the country?"
"If they wanted." Nagi answered forlornly. Neither of them have discussed the possibility in the past, although Nagi was sure Yohji had been keeping it at the back of his head as one of the worst case scenarios.
'Right. You're getting ahead of yourself.' Yohji sighed. If Crawford is right, Yohji would try to find the places Schuldig frequented before they disappeared. "Do you know any hangout places he used to go to?"
"Clubs." Nagi said uncertainly.
Aha. Yohji narrated every singly joint he knew. Nagi nodded to a few of them, which meant the redhead more or less has the same taste in music as him. "I probably should look into them."
Yohji seized himself from wandering into his own little detective world to look back at Nagi. He couldn't resist the urge to lift the other man's chin. "Hey. I'm going to look for them. All right? I'm not going to leave this case hanging."
Nagi nodded, momentarily stunned by the sweet gesture. When he got his bearings, he straightened up and picked up his glass to drink water.
"Afraid I have to go though, I got another client after lunch." Yohji made a show at looking his watch.
The suggestion to leave was just music to his ears. There was a limit as to how long Nagi can keep the red in his cheeks from getting more noticeable. "Sure. I got school anyway."
Yohji nodded automatically, standing up and letting the younger man lead the way out. It was only when Nagi had crossed the street and was on the next block that Yohji realized one thing.
It was Sunday.
Yohji couldn't get a decent sleep and was aghast when the morning caught up with him. The soft rays of sunshine caught the blond wearily getting up his bed and slowly getting ready for his shift at the flower shop, one he had been dreading since Aya barged in his office. He went through the possible arguments that his ex-teammates might throw at him, and yet the only comeback he had was that it was nothing personal; it's just business.
But he swore he would have nothing to do with Kritiker-related stuff. Yet here he is, handling a missing person case, much less that of Estet's agents. Aya was right in that he found that unfair, helping the other side. Should he be able to put Schwarz together, then what? They would be four assassins against three of Weiss. He had more to lose than gain from it.
Why pursue the case then? He was tied down by the agreement. The hand-me-down cases from Kanzaki-san paved the road to salvation for Yohji's latent detective skills and personal bank funds. Let's not forget his own pride.
Omi. Yohji ran his hands through his hair after hurriedly pulling a pair of decent jeans and shirt. Omi would tell him what to do; Ken and Aya's vantage point is from an assassin's point of view. Omi can possibly see this the way a proprietor of a business would, him being the son of Shuuichi Takatori.
After smoothing down his clothes and checking at his reflection for the umpteenth time he sighed wearily and left his room, soft footsteps descending the stairs quietly. He couldn't remember who would be taking the first shift with him, so he prayed that it was Omi who would greet him today.
The good news was that he found Omi putting out the plants in the stands.
The bad news was that Aya was manning the register.
"Hey guys," Yohji greeted wanly with a tight smile as he snatched his apron from the storage door beside the register. "Busy day today?"
"Hey Yohjikun," Omi beamed at him, returning from outside. "You can continue bringing these out, I'm going to start-up the water hose."
"Sure thing," Yohji muttered, momentarily glancing at Aya who only ignored him while counting the notes in the register. At least the blond isn't as hostile to him which meant Aya might not have said anything to the others yet. He watched Omi as he proceeded to the back and found the row of plants that needed to be transferred outside. "Hey, Omi?"
"Yeah?" Omi called from farther back, struggling with the water hose he hoisted on his shoulder.
"Um, we still have water cans, right?"
Omi laughed. "Yeah, but I figured we're just opening shop, not much customers and it's convenient not having to keep coming back for water refills."
Yohji smiled, picking up two medium-sized plants before following Omi outside. He could feel Aya's eyes on him as he went on three more trips from the storage to the front of the shop, and soon all the plants were on the stands with Omi spraying them with water.
"Omittchi, can I ask you something?"
"Has there even been an instance when your personal life has been affected by work?"
Omi gave him a weird look but returned to the plants. "Well I think all of us have gone through it in some way. I can vouch for that, the borderline between my work and my life is virtually non-existent."
Yohji felt the need to elaborate. "How about, has your work ethics gotten in the way of personal decisions?"
Turning off the water, the younger man turned to him with furrowed brows. "What's wrong, Yohjikun?"
Crossing his arms, trying to put things in perspective, Yohji finally sighed. "Schwarz is my client."
Omi's eyes slightly widened before he discreetly looked around for any bystanders. When he found none, he glanced at the redhead inside, retrieving order slips from the cork board and starting to work on the arrangements. "Aya knows."
It wasn't really a question. The redhead was usually quiet, but everyone notices when something doesn't sit well with him. Yohji bit his lip in agreement.
Yohji found that it was easier to go straight to the point. "A few days ago."
"Why do they need your help?"
"They just wanted their other two comrades found." Yohji answered. "They've been missing since that last mission."
Omi frowned. "So you're helping them?"
"I had to. This case was handed down to me by a colleague. I couldn't say no." Yohji ran his fingers along his hair. "I shouldn't have helped, should I?"
Omi shook his head uncertainly. "How do you want me to look at it?"
Yohji sighed leaning on a stand and crossing his arms. "I guess I'd like your point of view supposing you were in my shoes."
"Well the easiest would have been to talk things over with your colleague, sort out cases I could take on and leave the rest to him."
Yohji nodded at that; apparently he didn't have the luxury to choose. Kanzaki had just dropped off the files in his office with a note and a bribe for a favor.
"Since unfortunately you seem to not have that," Omi guessed, "I probably would have taken it."
"Yes, thank you." Yohji let out a great sigh of relief.
"But." Omi frowned at him sternly, "I would have thought to ask the team first before I do it."
"You would..despite non-confidentiality agreements?"
Omi sighed wearily, sparing the redhead a glance. "Well, there is that concern about violating the contract-"
"See? That's what I told him-"
"But I would like to think that yes, I would have told the team." Omi finished.
"Really? Takatori Mamoru?"
"Okay maybe." Omi pouted at the inside joke. "Still, it's very risky. Usually, you can find in contracts that you are not allowed to take on a similar job or an offer from a rival company within a given period." Omi smiled grimly, "And of course from the view of an ex-teammate, I would have said no. If you find them, then you will have robbed us of an advantage over them. More or less, that's how Ayakun and Kenkun might see it."
Yohji smiled faintly. "I know, Omi. I also understand the others if they get mad at me for this. I wish I had a choice to reject it, but I couldn't wait for Kanzaki-san. But thanks, Omi. Really."
"You're welcome. Now go away before I change my mind about dousing you with water." Omi chided, making the older man laugh and raise his hands in surrender.
Little did Yohji know know that Omi and Kritiker already had something in the works, that will change the status and the viewpoint of both Weiss and Schwarz soon, one in which he had little control in, and he could almost see Aya regard him in the same viewpoint as Yohji.
 Gaijin = foreigner