[When You Gonna Learn]


The television screen flashed once more, then Persia's outline faded into black and white lines, his voice replaced by static noises. Ken reached for the remote control and turned it off before the flashes drove him nuts.

'I'll leave it up to you, I don't think all three of you have to go this time.'

Birman leaned against the spiral staircase that connected this room to the outside world and crossed her arms over her chest, looking at the three young men in the room. Without moving his head, Aya's eyes turned and his gaze drifted across the room, setting on Ken. Ken caught the message and nodded.

'Aya and I'll do it.'

'Heh? I can do it too!' Omi, surprised that he was left out, looked at Ken, who grinned at him.

'Straight-A students should go find friends and party the night away.'

Ken had thought about throwing a party for Omi, but Aya wasn't the party type and Youji wasn't around... it'd be stupid. If Youji was here it would be so great. 'Celebrate, muck around and get drunk' would be what the green-eyed one would say. He would buy packs of beer and drink the night away with Omi, even though Omi wasn't much of a drinker. Youji would be so proud if he knew Omi did so well. He'd probably even make them close the shop for a day just for Omi.

Youji loved Omi even more than a parent would. Ken still didn't think Youji would abandon them.

Come back, Youji, when you're ready.

Birman left them to devise their own plans. Aya rewound the tape and watched it again. Not another MO. It was much easier to watch tapes although the information was so jumbled up. Last time with the disk everything was well ordered and they knew exactly what to do once they had finished reading the file.

Omi had asked the woman if Persia had responded to the disk they gave him. It made Aya feel that they were divided, that they were doing something behind his back. Just like Youji who turned his back on all of them. What were they doing that had to exclude him? Wasn't he part of the team too?

'Don't talk about teamwork with me baby. Who's the one wandering off doing his own things all the time?'

Youji had said that. But Aya was born this way, he never knew how to work with people. Even when he was younger and had a part time job, he didn't know how to work with others. After all this time, had he not improved? He tried very hard already. He wanted to know his teammates better but didn't know how to. No, he wasn't like Youji, who could drape a hand over Ken's shoulder and ask how he was feeling. He couldn't waltz into Omi's apartment and see if the young man needed help with his homework.

Aya thought he was getting somewhere. He thought it would be easier to start with someone of similar age, and Youji didn't seem to mind his silence, his lack of conversational skills. Aya, over twenty years old and still learning how to make friends. Youji didn't laugh at him. Hadn't he and Youji just started becoming good friends? Youji didn't even get angry when he mentioned Asuka, wasn't that a sign that they were friends that could understand each other?

Anger. Aya felt it again, as soon as Youji's face flashed across his mind. And to think that he actually trusted this man... Why did he bother saving him if he was going to leave like this? He almost had Aya killed. Why bother? Maybe Youji didn't intend to save him last time. Maybe he was trying to run away but hit himself on Aya, that was all.

'Aya-kun.' A gentle but firm grip caught Aya's wrist. 'You're shaking. Are you feeling okay?'

No, feeling betrayed. 'Yeah.'

Feeling betrayed, even though deep in his heart he knew perfectly well that Youji did intend to save him and did just that.

'Coffee, anyone?'

He was shaking.

Youji watched his arm in horror as it shook, his other hand trying to hold it steady. Just once. He only had that thing a few hours ago... if he had a bit more then...

No way Youji, not over your own dead body. Don't even think about it.

He got out of his hiding. He heard that exercising helps, it was time to test out if it was true.

It didn't help, not even after jogging for three miles at daybreak, pushing it for himself because of the breathlessness that thing brought. He was starting to sweat despite the cold he was still feeling, and he pulled the hood of his sweater to cover his head to keep himself warm. Bed, he wanted his bed. Turning around, Youji headed back, but suddenly stopped.

'Omi hurry up! The train won't wait!' A youngster shouted, swinging a huge backpack onto his shoulder.

'Coming!' Omi's pack was slightly smaller, and he ran with ease as if the weight of the pack was nonexistent, quickly catching up with his school mates. They dashed towards the train station, and Omi spotted one familiar looking figure just outside the station.

Without much thinking Omi ran to the ticket booth. The man out there looked faintly like Youji, but he hadn't got the time to see clearly, especially with the face half hidden in the hood. It couldn't be him anyway, Youji had never worn this type of clothes and the man Omi saw was too pale to be his friend.

Almost. Youji watched Omi get into the ticket gate and smiled at the sight of the few girls who would not leave Omi's side. Omi looked just as usual, like the healthy little devil he was born to be.

See, he can do perfectly well without you.

He had been stupid not to hide when he saw Omi, but he had never expected to run into Omi like this and that stuff had made him go so strange.

Go back and sleep. When you wake up it'll all be over and you won't get it again.

'Sorry, I have to do my slot today.'

'But you're always working!' The chubby kid standing at the front pouted, hugging the soccer ball to his chest. 'Where's the curly-haired one? Doesn't he work here anymore?'

Ken glanced back at Aya, who seemed to take no notice of the small crowd of children outside the shop, then he looked at the kid and smiled. 'Youji's away for a break, so there's only three of us and I'm busier now.'

'What about after the shop closes then?'

'I think by that time you should all go home, it's getting dark earlier now. I'm free tomorrow, so why don't you all meet me here tomorrow morning?'

The kids cheered and Ken smiled to himself again. He watched them chase each other as they left, then got back into the shop and resumed cleaning the display windows.

Youji was just away for a break, that was all. There had been something wrong with the green-eyed one ever since after that time when he nearly got killed. Ken remembered seeing Youji alone one night when he said he was going out for a date. Ken was out for a nightride and Youji didn't notice him, he just stood there on the promenade, leaning against the wet handrail with a cigarette burning away between his fingers. Ken could tell from the way Youji looked that there was no girl and no date, it was just a little lie that Youji told. Without doing anything, Ken had started his motorcycle again and drove away, because he thought if that was the way Youji wanted it to be, then he should respect his freedom and privacy. It didn't seem very right to go and ask 'hey Youji what are you doing here'. But now thinking back, Ken wished he had gone over and talked to his friend. He hadn't even really talked to Youji the night before he left them, when they were all in his flat.

Stupid, stupid Ken. You saw something was wrong and you didn't help him.

There was no reply from Persia about Omi's message. Were they too late? Had they already found Youji and -

'Your hand will go through the glass soon.' Aya suddenly said softly, not looking up from his flower arrangement. Ken realised that he had been wiping the same spot for the last five minutes like an idiot, and moved on to the next pane only to find that it was all clean already. Since there was nothing to do, Ken squirted on some window cleaner and wiped it anyway.

He had enough of silence from Persia. Though they had been told not to, should he try to find Youji himself?

It was Youji that he saw. It must be him. Omi cursed himself for not taking another second to look at the man outside the train station this morning. Youji looked different because he had to avoid Persia's men, that must be it.

What time was it? Omi pressed for the light on his watch. Almost two in the morning. Well he would just have to wake Ken up. Quietly he crawled out of his tent with his mobile phone, pressing the quick-dial for Ken's phone number.


'Ken-kun, you're still awake!'

Ken's voice was tired. 'I'm thinking about trying to find Youji myself, so I'm brainstorming how to do it.' Over the phone there were some noises that resembled pen scratching paper in random doodling.

'I saw Youji-kun today!'


Omi told Ken about the man he saw in the morning. 'It was him, I can't have mistaken. Youji-kun's still alive. Ken-kun, let's find him.'

[end chapter six]

chapter five chapter seven

note: As Koyasu himself once said, Aya's lack of smile and word is more than just because of what happened to his family. It was also his own problem. I intend to branch away from the typical 'I punish myself with no smile because of what happened and I'm constantly depressed' and explore (a rather poor attempt) how someone like Aya may really feel. This is my interpretation of Aya, or Ran, rather.