He tapped on the door before pushing it open. "Still in here?" he called as he stepped into the room. Omi sat on the bed, staring out the window; the boy looked bored out of his mind. No wonder. From what he'd heard just on the walk inside, this Sokoke woman was being very... careful with him, allowing him very few privileges. Still, Ken couldn't find it in him to fault her too much; after all, twenty-one days under her care and Omi looked quite a bit improved, despite the boredom. The bruises didn't look nearly as bad today as they had even yesterday.
Electric blue eyes turned to look at him, staring at him for a long moment. He watched as recognition bled into them, and a small smile touched Omi's lips. "Hey," he greeted him. His voice sounded a little less forced today as well; whatever Sokoke and Mau were doing, obviously it was helping, slowly but surely.
"I would have thought you'd have flown the coop by now," he teased, taking a seat on the edge of the bed and dropping his soccer bag in the chair closest to them.
The grin on Omi's face grew minutely. "Wrong analogy. We're cats, not birds, remember?" He chuckled softly. "I thought about it though."
He grinned in response. "Think we can get Sokoke to let you out for a little bit? It's too nice a day to be cooped up inside." From within the bag, he pulled out a blue and white soccer ball and tossed it hand to hand. "We can always go outside and play around a bit."
A faint chuckle issued from the blond boy on the bed. "It's worth a try, ne?"
"Then let's give it a try, shall we?"
* * * * * * * *
The trick was to keep smiling. As long as he kept smiling, no one - hopefully least of all Ken-kun - knew what was going on in his head. Sometimes it was hard, damn hard, but he'd had a lot of practice. He'd been doing this his entire life, that he remembered, after all. He'd smiled as his uncle - as Persia trained him to be a killer. He'd smiled when he found out that his classmates only hung out with him for his brains and his looks, not him. He'd smiled for the widows of Kritiker agents he'd known his whole life.
He'd never been around one group of people as long as he'd been around the other members of Weiss, though. Somehow he wondered if, just maybe, they were starting to see through the mask that his smile had become.
* * * * * * * *
Omi hesitated a long second then nodded in agreement, sliding to the edge of the bed to pull on his shoes. He already wore a t-shirt and shorts; as far as Ken could tell, if the colors didn't change, they could be the same ones day to day.
A grin darted across his lips, and he stuffed the soccer ball back down in his bag. "I'll go tell Sokoke so she won't send the Special Forces after you." That quip earned him enough of a familiar smile that he had to return it as he slipped out the door, slinging his bag over his shoulder.
"So, what do you think?" a feminine voice asked the minute the door was shut.
The grin faded as he turned to face Manx, and his voice was as grim as it ever got. "Still zoning out," he reported, "but not as badly as before." He glanced behind him at the door. "He looks a little better too, like he's finally starting to relax."
"Has he said anything else about... IT?" The capitalization was evident in her voice, as he knew he occasionally did as well. "Anything more about Mastermind or Balinese?"
That settled it in his mind: Manx definitely suspected something. And despite all outward appearances, the woman had basically raised Omi from the time he'd been rescued by Persia. She was like a mother or an elder sister to him, and since his uncle's death, she'd taken more responsibility toward the teenager. So if she suspected Kudou of having something to do with this, then Yohji was in for it big time in the very near future.
"Not a word on what happened." He glanced up at the red-haired woman. "Maybe he's trying to put it all behind him."
"Maybe," she relented, staring past him at the closed door, "but with Mastermind involved, I don't want to take that chance." Her eyes skipped back over to him. "Just see what you can find out, okay?"
"Sure." He glanced back at the door. When he turned again, Manx was gone, the retreating sounds of her heels the only sign she'd really been there.
Her timing was impeccable; Omi stepped out of the room just then. There was more than a trace of hesitation in his smile, but he was out.
Good thing he'd gotten this run by Sokoke first. Looks like this little outing could do Omi a world of good, even if he did end up having to upset him by asking about IT. Maybe, the sooner it was out in the open, the better things would be. Yeah, maybe that would be what would happen.
He could hope at least.
* * * * * * * *
Okay, he'd had his doubts, but it looked like Ken-kun was right: it was a nice day to be outside. The sun was shining, there was a hint of an autumn breeze in the air, it was a clear, crisp day... and he was actually having fun. Whoever knew kicking a ball around the Kritiker hospital's front lawn could be so much fun? He'd be unsure about the merits of this activity, how much fun it would be, but once they got started, he felt a real smile, his first one in weeks, building on his face. A moment or two later, he was surprised to hear a laugh escaping his lips as some of the klutziness he was used to seeing escape Ken in the flower shop showed up as he hit a patch of wet grass, went airborne for a split second, then landed hard. The stupefied look on Ken's face was enough to send him into a second bout of amusement and resulted in a playful scuffle. It was good, clean. It was like it had been before, only a bit bittersweet. It wasn't going to be like this again once they got back to Tokyo, he couldn't stop himself from thinking, sprawling down on the grass.
The soccer ball seemed to appear out of nowhere to bop his forehead lightly. "Look like you're thinking dark thoughts there, Omittchi."
Mostly out of habit, he smiled at the familiar nickname, watching as Ken lay down beside him. "Not really. Just thinking." He chuckled, covering his eyes with the back of his wrist to block out the sun. "I almost don't want to go back to the Koneko, it's so nice here."
"Omi?" He waited till the younger man looked over at him to ask his question. "Is that the only reason you don't want to go back to the Koneko?" The beginnings of a smile began to touch Omi's face, and he could feel a frown beginning to appear as worry grew within him; that damn smile again, it showed up too often when something was upsetting the other boy. "Honestly, is it?"
The answer came almost too quietly for him to hear. "...no..."
Ken hesitated a second then covered Omi's free hand with one of his own. "What happened, Omi? You know you can tell me anything."
"You wouldn't believe me if I did, Ken-kun." He had to strain to hear the words.
"I'll believe you. You're just going to have to trust me enough to tell me."
Omi lay absolutely still for a long moment, one hand still thrown to cover his eyes while the other lay beneath Ken's, motionless and silent long enough that Ken began to doubt he was going to say anything. Then bland, dispassionate words began to fall from his lips, each phrase and sentence spreading more and more of a sense of horror within Ken. This couldn't be happening. Not in Weiss. Not to Omi. Not to the only one of them left who had a chance for a normal life when all this was over. And to think one of their own could have done something like this...
"I'm going to kill Yohji." To his own ears, his voice sounded cold.
Omi's fingers curved around his, squeezing his hand tightly as the younger boy leaned up on his side next to him. "Don't." Ken's eyes snapped open, staring at Omi in confusion. "Mastermind could have been controlling him." His gaze dropped to the ground beside Ken's shoulder. "Yohji-kun could be as much a victim here as..."
Ken rolled up on his side as well, suddenly eye-to-eye with Omi. "No matter what happened, Omi, he did this to you. He wouldn't be nearly as much of a victim, and we don't know for sure if Mastermind was controlling him or not. If he wasn't being controlled... then he's as good as dead."
"We'll deal with 'maybe' if it gets here, Omittchi." He reached out to put a gentle hand on the other young man's shoulder. "We need to go back to Tokyo, though, so we make sure Manx knows all this. If you don't want to go back to the Koneko, she might can arrange some place else for us."
Blue eyes lifted from the ground, a bit of confusion darkening their depths. "...'us'?"
This time Ken was the one offering the faint smile. "You don't think I'm going to leave you alone, do you? I've got to make sure nothing happens to you." He winked. "Now that Sokoke finally got you well."
A faint laugh escaped him. "That's true. She'd never forgive either of us if we showed up back here in bad shape anytime soon." His eyes widened momentarily. "Besides, I need to get to a computer." Ken raised an eyebrow minutely in a silent question. "I've got this... friend... in Tokyo. He could be... He might be..."
He squeezed Omi's shoulder lightly. "We'll get you online first thing when we get back into the city. We'll make sure your friend's all right."
A soft sigh of relief escaped him. "Thank you, Ken-kun."
"What are friends for?" He pushed himself to his feet and held a hand down for Omi. "Let's go break you out, okay?"
With a familiar, real smile, he accepted the hand and let Ken pull him up. "Sure."
12 September 2003
Okay, this was really finished yesterday, but I wanted to wait to make sure I didn't add more to it. Sorry it's so short; finishing it was like pulling teeth though. Sometimes it's torture to have such wonderful standards of comparisons as Shoori and Aoe and E-sama the Llama. ^___^ But such sweet torture it is indeed...
Please, leave me a comment. I'm conducting a poll. Who should the final