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13 January 2007 @ 10:04 pm
'Are you going to go to bed or do I have to tie you to it?'  
Place: Koneko no Sumu Ie
Date: Monday August 14, 2006


And tried to look immovable. He sounded like a stubborn child, pouting over his mother's insistence that eight PM was a perfectly good bedtime. He stood in the middle of the darkened store and tried to look like he wanted to be there, his head tilted slightly back, arms folded across the chest: an attempt at righteous indignation that had left him looking little more than peevish. But mom, I'm not tired...

Ken looked it, though. But not tired: pained. Youji knew Ken far too well not to know when he was denying pain. Ken wasn't a good actor. His eyes were all wrong.

"I'm fine, Youji. I don't need to go lie down."
Youji looked down at him dubiously. "You don't look fine."
"Fine," Ken repeated, as if the simple act of saying something twice would make it sound more convincing. As if he were trying to convince himself. (Never had known how to lie, that one.) Then, a little defensively, "It's been three years."
"If you can't even say I'm fine and look like you believe it..."

He broke off. No, Youji counseled himself, stay on target. If he let Ken - what, you're saying I'm lying? No, I'm saying you can't lie. What's that supposed to mean? - get tangential on him this could go on for hours and he'd still not have gotten Ken to go lie down at the end of it. He pursed his lips slightly and, just briefly, wished that he were someone else, someone Ken found a lot scarier, not good old Youji the Cuddly Assassin. Omi, perhaps. Omi never seemed to have this problem. A sweet, simple, would you like to go lie down, Ken-kun? and Ken would have got the message.

(Of course, with Omi they'd all have known it for an order.)

"Ken," Youji said, quite calmly and simply, "you look like shit."

There was a woman outside, bending down slightly to peer through the glass door into the darkened interior. About thirty, Youji guessed. Chic, neatly-pressed little business suit, unfortunately teamed with tangled, shoulder-length corkscrew curls that undid all the professionalism that power suit hinted at and left her looking a little ditzy. Looked a little bit like a certain sharp-tongued redhead they all knew. Not her, though: this woman was darker, plainer, lacked all Manx's poise. Smiled in relief as she caught Youji's eyes, mouthed, can I come in.

Five minutes, Youji mouthed back, holding out one hand in case she couldn't quite see his lips. She must have got the picture; she smiled and nodded thankfully. I'll wait. It never would cease to amaze Youji that people could end up in situations where they needed emergency floristry. (Business proposition in that, somewhere. Drive-in flower shops, perhaps. Might play well in cities, especially in the States...)

"In..." Made a production number of checking the watch, rolling up the sleeve slightly, turning the wrist so the face caught the light, "... ooh, about half an hour's time, the schools will be out. Which gives us about forty minutes' grace before those girls we had here this morning pile back in, notice Aya's gone, and decide we need to be comforted at the top of their voices and I'll be lucky not to have a headache at the end of that."
Ken tried, once again, to look stubborn. That much he was good at, though Youji could tell he was wavering. Blame the eyes. "I don't have a--"
"Ken," Youji said wearily, abruptly losing all interest in the charm offensive, "are you going to go to bed, or am I going to have to carry you up there and tie you to it? Your call."

Ken flushed, just a little. He knew what that sounded like.

(Naughty, Kudou, something at the back of his mind murmured in a soft, feminine voice. That was underhand... And of course it had been, and that was precisely why he had said it. Honestly, Kenken, you're too easy sometimes. It was an effort to suppress the smirk.)

"Um," Ken was saying awkwardly. "I'll be back down in--"
"No you won't," Youji said, placing one hand on Ken's shoulder and guiding him toward the door. God, listen to me, coming over all paternal. You're getting old, man. "You'll stay up there and get some goddamn rest until you stop wincing every time someone talks to you. And don't even think about coming down before then, because I'll be able to tell. Unless, that is, you want me to make good on that threat?"
Ken started slightly, but what he said was, "like Hell you will."
"Really?" Youji said playfully. "You're absolutely sure about that one?"
"Oh, shut up," Ken muttered. "Fine, I'm going. Just don't blame me if Nagi finally snaps and splatters those girls all over the walls."
Youji laughed. "Go to bed, Ken."

Pushed him gently out through the rear door and turned back toward the storefront, giving the young woman (stood in the doorway, rubbing one elegantly-shod foot against the back of her calf) a brief, acknowledging nod before snapping the store lights on. Nagi, as if on cue, drifted in from the corridor, reaching for his apron: Youji gave him a smile which he was unsurprised to note went entirely unacknowledged and headed for the front door, absently fishing the door keys from his pocket. Threw them to himself, once, twice, prayed he wouldn't fumble the catch in front of their putative customer - and she was a lot cuter up close than she'd looked...

Wondered what right he had to be acting so jaunty.

Caught himself wondering just how many of their regulars would be glad Aya wasn't here.
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