Previous chapters: I, II, III, IV, V, VI,VII, VIII
Summary: What happens when a non-lethal mission turns lethal in a matter of seconds? When mission turns deadly, and Ken's separated from the others, will help come too late? What happens in the aftermath?
AN: Chapter also uploaded to Fanfiction.net. Link above. Reviews are appreciated, ♥
If it was in the way he presented himself, then it was in the way he spoke. It was in the very way he breathed, down to the very core of his existence. Visible, if you looked hard enough. Pushing back at what pressed harder, he was resurrecting the barriers he had unconsciously dropped around him. Replacing the walls that had fallen in his presence.
And he was reinforcing them tenfold.
Ran as growing distant.
One step forward was so many more taken back. Everything that had come to be was falling apart, and all in the matter of seconds.
Emotionally, physically, Ran was withdrawing.
He was suddenly withdrawing himself from the situation he’d found himself in. Pushing away from the possibilities that presented themselves in him. Ran was secluding himself from what was before him and the one person he’d unwillingly let close. Pushing away the one person who needed him; away from the very person he too needed.
Ran was pulling away.
And it hurt.
Down to the sudden emptiness wrought with pain within his voice when he got to close, and the sharpness to his the words he spoke when he stepped away. There was a distance Ken didn’t need to see to feel growing.
Just like the hollow ache within his chest.
Ken sat listlessly from his position upon the sofa as Ran busied himself about the apartment. Listening as the redhead disappeared into the various apartment rooms, organizing himself in preparation for the hospital visit. Ken sat quietly, the sound of Ran’s footsteps keeping his attention. The soft pitter-patter of his movements as they drew closer and stepped away. He listened to the distance.
A brief pause fell in his movements, his footsteps falling silent as he stood beside the sofa’s arm; a distance maintained.
Ken lifted his head languidly to the brief brush of fabric against his forearm. Ran moved stiffly back, clearing his throat as he placed the brunettes jacket over the sofa’s backing, “We’ll be leaving in just a few minutes.”
A step back and the sound of his boots against the hardwood floor paused yet again, hesitant. But the words didn’t make it.
Another step back, one more away from him - and he was off again.
He didn’t understand.
The brunette’s fingers tightened about the seat cushions beneath him. His hunched form growing tense, the upcoming possibilities pulling at his attention. The possibilities.
It seemed to be that Ran had finally grown tired of him. He could find no other explanation for the hollow words he now spoke. For if he spoke at all, the words were now cold and curt. All physical contact for that matter, was much the same; unavailable unless needed. And even then, contact was strained and harsh.
Had he already become the burden he did not wish to become?
A weight that no one would wish to bear, for the trouble was too great to encompass alone…
His thoughts twisted.
The knot within his stomach wrenching with it.
Would he be made to bear, yet again, being torn from his family? He wasn’t sure he could bear it a second time. It had nearly torn him in two the first, when he’d been made to. But could he do it once again, alone?
Or could he leave without a goodbye…
To relieve them of the burden they’d been placed with.
His fingers tightened, sinking further into the cushion.
He didn’t understand.
And it didn’t make sense.
His chest burned.
He couldn’t fit the pieces together. Even if he was a burden, why was Ran suddenly withdrawing from him? Why was he suddenly pushing him away?
He didn’t understand.
And just as quickly, his thoughts circled for a second time.
What would it be like,
To be completely alone?
Away from where he wanted to be; here.
He wanted to be here.
Where the fingers that played thru his hair on darkened nights were gentle and soft. Where whispered words meant to reassure him were placed against his hear, caressing him with a comforting touch. Where on long nights, his presence was the only thing needed to calm him. Where Ran would sit with him throughout the night, never once having been asked too. Where he felt something.
The front door closed, the sound of a heavier footfall approaching. Youji’s voice broke the silence, “Are we ready to go, gentlemen?”
Ken could feel the smile on his lips and the excitement in the blonde’s voice as he rubbed his hands together, “Well, Ken-Ken, how ya feeling?”
Ken pulled himself from his thoughts, his hands kept hidden within the cushions. Slowly, he lifted his head slightly to where he knew Youji to be before letting it fall once again.
Youji’s eyes narrowed in confusion.
Something was off.
Something had changed.
Youji dropped to his knees, moving to kneel before the brunette. Hesitantly placing a hand upon his knee, he gave him a gentle nudge. “Hey…” His voice came softly.
Ken remained silent, detached.
Youji shifted slightly, “Ken...”
Ken fell forward, his head dropping to fall against his shoulder, startling the blonde. Instinctively, his free hand went up to cup the back of his neck, “Hey, what’s wrong?”
Youji’s eyes fell to his lap, giving the brunette another nudge with his fingers. His eyes caught sight of the hand holding the pillows in a vice like grip. Youji’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“Kudo, grab Ken’s jacket. Let’s go.” Ran’s voice loomed outside the main room; his hurried footsteps still busy about the apartment.
And just as quickly as the brunette had moved to lean against him, he righted himself upon the redhead’s entrance. Wordlessly, Ken moved to speak, his mouth moving noiselessly. But the words seemed to have fallen away from him.
Sealing his lips, he resigned himself, giving up on the words that refused to surface.
Puzzled, Youji broke from his standstill, bringing himself to stand upright, “Yeah.”
Grabbing Ken’s jacket from behind him, He eyed the redhead as he once again disappeared down the hall; having made no move to help the brunette as he would usually.
His eyes narrowed once again, a new wave of confusion washing over him.
Something had changed.
Fighting the sudden bought of bewilderment, Youji quickly helped the brunette into his jacket; keeping close to him.
Returning to the main room, Ran made for the front door, slipping his own jacket over his shoulders. He made no move to come stand beside the brunette, to walk with him as he had always.
Subtly, he moved ahead to avoid being left with him.
Youji glanced down to the brunette at his arm, finding the look upon his face just as lost and confused as he was. He was torn.
Ran was suddenly distancing himself from the brunette. Only unlike before, he was angry, and at himself; and he was just as torn.
Something had change and drastically.
Youji was at a loss, left standing amiss the loss that Ken seemed to radiate and the anger and sorrow that Ran himself was suppressing. But what left Youji worried, was that as a result, Ken was shutting down.
Whenever presented with, Ken dealt with shock in the only way he knew how. He lashed out with an anger, unrestrained and fevered. It knew no bounds. With the sudden barricade Ran was rebuilding, Ken was left at a loss, his usually outlet barred by the suddenness too close and far too personal. He looked broken, devoid of emotion.
Just as Ken was shutting down, Ran was reverting into himself. His icy demeanor slowly returning as he resurrected the barriers he’d temporarily dropped, and Youji didn’t understand why. How things could have changed so much over night.
“Come on, Ken-ken. Lets go.” Youji spoke softly, patting him upon the shoulder as he took his hand within his own. He pleaded for that to be enough, if only for now. Because while he knew he could never be what the brunette needed, who he needed, he knew right now the brunette needed someone to help him stand. And while he could, he would do what he was able to.
Giving the shaking hand within his own a reassuring tug, he led them out the door.
The ride was silent, a nervousness present that none were able to break for its duration. The radio played softly, falling silent to the pressure of the growing wind that drove thru. The four forwent the idle chatter, leaving the silence to wash over them with their thoughts of what was to come. Their own fears silent with the upcoming possibilities.
Their silence, their fear feeding his own.
Youji’s eyes drifted up and back, adjusting the rearview mirror as he glanced back upon the two rear passengers. Upon the occupants causing such unease and discomfort within them all.
His eyes moved across the mirror, taking in the distance between the two.
While he had seated himself beside the brunette, Ran sat to the farthest edge of the seat, insuring that no accidental contact would be made; his arms folded tightly over his chest. His body tense.
Green eyes lingered upon the brunette, upon the hand that sat outstretched between them. Fingers reaching to grasp between the distance. Fingers that held to the upholstery with a fear. He sat unmoving, his posture lax despite the tension that ran through him. His head dropped forward.
The fear growing.
Wanting to reach for him, wanting his touch and reassuring words.
The hand between them was left ignored, the redhead keeping his gaze to the window.
Youji’s eyes moved back towards the road, his fingers tightening about the steering wheel. His jaw shut in an effort to keep from shouting at the redhead; his anger seethed.
He didn’t understand what Ran was doing.
Pulling to a stop half an hour later near the back entrance of the hospitals parking lot, the tall blonde jumped from the car, slamming the door behind him. Circling Seven in a stride, Youji pulled open the right rear passenger door, helping the brunette from the car.
He fought to calm himself with a deep breath.
Forcing a smile, he bent over slightly to bring himself to the brunettes level. He pulled at the bill of the baseball hat obscuring the bandages wrapped around his eyes.
“Alright Ken-ken, Manx should be up there already with the paper work. Omi here’ll take you up and get you checked in.” His eyes moving to find Omi’s, he gave the young blonde a small nod.
“We’ll be right behind you.” He gave the bill of the cap a final tap
Omi nodded, taking Ken’s hand within his own, “Come on, Ken-kun.”
Leaning back against Seven, Youji fished out his lighter from his pocket. Cupping his hand about the cigarette, he gave a single flick to the lighter, pausing for it to take. Taking a drag from his cigarette, he watched, waiting for Omi to fall past their range of hearing.
Ran shifted silently beside him, his boots scuffing against the concrete as he watched the blonde. Curious.
Taking a final drag from his cigarette, Youji pushed away from Seven as they disappeared through the back doors and dropped it to the ground. Languidly exhaling the bout of smoke, he gave a quick twist to his heal and turned; pulling back his fist.
Ran staggered back in shock, his hand moving to work at his jaw. Flinching slightly, he pulled up, putting himself on even footing. A warmth spread across his lower lip. Darting his tongue across the broken skin, he wasn’t surprised to find it bleeding.
Youji didn’t wait for him to retaliate, he knew he wouldn’t. Not with things as they were.
Ran had been expecting it. While not directly in the action, he’d expected the confrontation. He hadn’t put it past Youji to put the pieces together to a puzzle he himself had yet to make out. Not when, to him, the picture was so obscured, the pieces so misshapen.
He couldn’t complain, not when he felt he deserved it.
And yet, he couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t enough.
Squaring his jaw, Ran lifted his head, watching as Youji pulled yet another cigarette from his jacket pocket to light. A brief silence followed, breaking only as he exhaled, and lifted his narrowed eyes to lock directly upon his.
Ran couldn’t bring himself to look away.
And after a moment or two, it was Youji who broke away, giving a quick glance over his shoulder towards the hospital entrance. Drawing the cigarette from his lips, his eyes returned, “Don’t fuck up.”
“Don’t fuck him up.” He repeated in a whisper as he turned to follow after.
Ran stood still.