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Synopsis: Joel was just a regular ol’ park ranger, minding his own business when Yukihiro, a recently retired assassin for a Tokyo yakuza family, burst through a window and into his life. 

Now, he’s trapped quite figuratively in a web of deceit and danger that goes beyond the usual ‘hilarious misunderstanding’ and driven straight to ‘running away for dear life’. 

Will Joel survive the adventure? Will Yukihiro ever explain what it’s all about or why Triads want him dead? Or will everyone just be eaten alive by bears?

 

Chapter 15: No Surprises

Index

Chapter 17: Use Somebody

 

Chapter 16: No-where To Run To

 “So how long are you going to keep this silence up?”

Yukihiro, slowly and mechanically looked up from his bacon and eggs, and fixed his unwilling travelling companion with a very cold stare. Joel seemed to flip-flop between sullen silence and incessant nervous nattering that made little sense to him. At this particular point, Joel had his sullen face on, but sadly he was not staying silent. Yukihiro sensed that it might be because he had made Joel cut his hair and dye it a rather Goth black; on top of the whole ‘kidnapping’ thing of course.

They’d stopped at a tiny café in a little town. Yukihiro couldn’t really figure the name, apart from the fact it was on the road down to the U.S. Oh yes, Joel had had plenty of questions about that one. ‘How can you cross the border if you’re on a wanted poster?’ ‘You do realise the cops are looking for us?’

Perhaps sullenness came from the lack of police activity. The weather had turned bad again, and since shearing Joel and buzzing his own hair and dyeing it blond, no-one had really given them a second look.

When he had first raided Joel’s belongings for scissors or a razor and brought out the bottle of bleach, Joel had actually laughed. The idea that he could change his appearance with such amateurish tools amused him greatly. Or that he thought that he could. But he’d started to learn how to hold himself, the art of the double-bluff. I am no-one, but I don’t want to scream it to the world.

“Until your mother says sorry,” he snapped in clipped tones, giving the waitress who topped up their coffees an overly sweet smile. She blushed a little – probably embarrassed to be caught out eavesdropping – and scurried away to the next occupied booth on the opposite wall.

Joel turned bright red as well, mouth gaping. Yukihiro was vaguely aware of the waitress and the café owner gossiping in urgent whispers at the payment counter. Apparently theirs was the first domestic of the day. Off of the pain meds, Joel was still rather attractive when he blushed. It was rather funny.

After about five minutes of violent bacon slicing and plate scratching, and the blush on Joel’s face still rather furious, a thought occurred to Yukihiro. He leant across the table.

“You don’t like gays?” he hissed surreptitiously, aware that if he played this wrong they would become the waitress’ new favourite entertainment.

“Oh wow, you’re really something,” Joel muttered, a bitter laugh echoing through his coffee cup.

Yukihiro didn’t get it. But then, he didn’t particularly care as cute had not been his type.

“If you don’t like it… quit with the bugging me, then. Otherwise, I ‘camp it up’ the next time she gives you coffee,” Yukihiro said, feeling very clever.

“Ah yes, because I’m the homophobe here…” Joel said, before finally shovelling a forkful of bacon into his mouth.

Now, Yukihiro did not feel so clever. His English was very high for someone who ended up dropping out of school. Mostly because it had to be, as his work often meant he was interacting with foreign representatives who didn’t like a street punk speaking their language. English could be an acceptable medium. The words Joel chose… they weren’t words he’d heard before.

He didn’t think about it very hard though. Just went back to eating his eggs and bacon, and left Joel to continue sipping coffee and staring out of the window. He sensed some barrier of etiquette had been breached, an unknown quarter that Joel hadn’t expected him to stumble into.

The rest of the day had been gloriously silent, and Joel had not tried to probe him on inanities as he sometimes did. While he was check the room for vantage points and escape routes, Joel slammed his open palm down on his twin bed and fixed him with a very strong glare. Yukihiro popped the snib on the door, and sighed.

“Yes?”

“Is it too much to ask to get a fucking shower around here?”

Now his mind had to be going. Perhaps it was a side effect of Stockholm’s, or he just was just crazy.

“There is a shower. There has been a shower in every hotel we have stayed in. I’d be grateful if you bathed, you don’t need permission to…”

Joel grumbled “Thank fuck!” and began to grab a wash-bag from his belongings on the bed beside him.

“… I just can’t let you close the door. Security reasons, you understand.”

“Security reasons? Are you fucking with me?”

“Yes, there is a window. If I let you close the door, you could try to escape through it, or leave some kind message or token. I do not think you are stupid, but I can’t risk you getting us killed either.”

He decided not to raise to the bait on the issue of fucking.

“Do you want to strip search me as well, make sure I’ve not stolen any of your guns?” Joel snapped. “Am I allowed to use my shaver or is that an offensive weapon too?”

Yukihiro rolled his eyes, and set about checking the clips of the gun he’d left out on the table, gesturing to the equipment with his free hand.

“I would know by now if you were carrying anything worth worrying about. And it is not as if I do not have contingencies. Now are you wanting your shower, or do I have to suffer your stink for longer?”

Joel grumbled under his breath and marched off into the en-suite. Yukihiro didn’t catch all of what was said but he did catch the words ‘contrary’ and ‘fucker’. Ignoring Joel’s grumbles, he sat down on the floor in front of the open bathroom door with his legs half-crossed and his back against the door, and set about cleaning his piece.

It had been a long while since Yukihiro had seen a guy naked, at least outside of the public baths. The baths never counted, that was the rule. And it had been a really long while since they’d been anything worth looking at.

Admittedly, he could only make out the silhouette of Joel standing behind the curtain and muttering to himself murderously as he scrubbed. He also knew it was rude to stare, and that this could only set a bad precedent for later on. At that point in time though, fit lines of a silhouette were better than nothing at all to let his mind wander.

“So for the third time already, how much longer?”

“Er, longer what?”

Yukihiro began to look at his work with a studied nonchalance as Joel’s soggy head peered around the shower curtain.

“THIS. This situation, me having my very own entourage in the goddamn shower, for how much longer do we keep doing this? It doesn’t take this long to get to the U.S. border,” Joel said.

“I thought I made my position on asking questions clear.”

“You have, repeatedly. About questions that would involve actually telling me anything about why you’re doing this and who is after us and what you’re going to do beyond meeting some guy. I just want to know when the hell I can go home,” Joel insisted, now dripping on the floor.

Yukihiro clenched his jaw, the cleaning of the gun becoming more vigorous than was necessary. It was a reasonable request. It could still put Joel in danger though – knowing the schedule meant Yukihiro had trusted him to some extent. It would mean he was no hostage.

“Specifics could get you killed. If… others catch up to us, people not the police, then specifics could most definitely get you killed,” Yukihiro said slowly, studiously not looking up at Joel.

“That line is getting real old, real quick,” was Joel’s muffled reply, as one hand flailed about for the towel rack. So he was still feeling coy.

“It doesn’t make it less true. It will not be for much longer, I can promise you that much.”

That statement was not taken with any greater grace. Joel only took to muttering again as he towel dried his hair, which had turned an odd dark, dark purple under the dyes that they had subjected it to. The bad grace and quiet continued through their dinner of gas station convenience hot dogs, Joel’s 10th re-read of a book he must have had jammed into his baggage, and Yukihiro’s habitual gun cleaning.

It wasn’t until around one o’clock in the morning, when Yukihiro was checking the perimeter from their window that his etiquette breach from that morning’s breakfast came up again.

“Do you have some kind of thing against gay people or something? Some kind of macho thing?”

Yukihiro nearly jumped away from his vantage point, and aimed at the noise. Stupid Joel – he was awake. In the low light, Yukihiro could make out he was flopped out on his back on the bed, eyes glinting in the darkness as he stared at the ceiling. He hissed and lowered his gun, trying to hide the fact he’d nearly started to hyperventilate. If Suzuki had managed to get inside and he’d had no warning, then they could have been….

“You are fixating on a conversation we had seven hours ago now? When I’m checking for people coming to get us?”

“Why, you scared to answer the question?”

Grinding his jaw, Yukihiro pondered why he had not just dumped Joel by the road side yet, apart from his pesky sense of responsibility. The personal questions and constant sullenness was beginning to grate.

“You care so much about what I am thinking, what I say? I don’t. I don’t care whether you like a woman or man, or whatever. My only interest is getting my job done right now,” he replied, snapping. “You bitching all the time does not make this any easier for me.”

The question irritated him, and he wasn’t entirely sure why. It wasn’t so much his former colleagues had been very open-minded, so much as when you were tough you were tough. Some of the younger guys, the chimpira, indulged in bravado when it came to their sex lives, but Yukihiro was high enough up the food chain not to get ribbed about personal matters. He wasn’t really allowed to have any as a matter of course, given the often solitary nature of his work. Certainly a love life would have interfered with it, and often he just didn’t have the time.

After a while, he had just learned not to care. Now however, for some reason, Joel’s questions and constant need for answers was starting to get on Yukihiro’s nerves. For the first time in a long time, he was aware of what a civilian thought of him.

Hell, a damn civilian was telling him exactly what he thought!

“Oh… okay then,” came the faint mumbled reply.

“Does that satisfy your curiosity then?” Yukihiro said, muttering sarcastically.

“To be honest, it just throws up more questions… but I’m starting to get tired of asking those.”

 

Chapter 15: No Surprises

Index

Chapter 17: Use Somebody

 

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