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Missing Pieces

Chapter Text

The pain was hollow; hunger clawing at his insides having long become his daily normal. Just like the soft splats of the waves as they hit the old concrete wharves and the thump of the small tugboats rhythmically hitting the sides of their piers had become common. Cool air seeped through the cracks along the old building's sides and wound its way about the boy's shoulders. He tucked the thin summer blanket about the small, shivering body beside him. The sun had seemingly set earlier than normal and he peered up at the roof in worry. He didn't know if it could survive a pouring rain.

The boy looked up through broken wooden slats that had once patched the old warehouse's tin roof and waited for a brief hint that the moon would come out that night. Any hope he'd had was dashed as the first drops of rain tapped the metal with uneven beats. Soon enough the tempo increased and the previous sounds of the waterfront were drowned by the beat of pelting rain, the moan of driving wind, and the booming crack of thunder. Lightning hit near the building, the ground shook and years of dust of tumbled down from the rafters.

The body next to him coughed, a deep wracking sound too wet to have been caused by the tumbling dust and far too dry to be a fleeting allergy. The sound was also normal. He'd promised they'd be fine when they'd run from the foundation home.

They had been fine for the first few months after their world crumbled. His companion had been healthy enough to keep the tiny room they'd secured in a hi-rise complex's maintenance basement clean and tidy. She had also been able to keep up with the loads of laundry they were required to clean daily in order to earn the small space to sleep. Back then he'd been strong enough to take on paid errands; which kept them with just enough money they didn't starve. Some weeks they'd even able to afford cubes of instant beef or chicken stock flavoring to mix with the rice or noodles that had been put on sale the previous weekend.

He glanced down at the silvery hair working its way out of the thin blanket his companion was wrapped in and frowned with memories. I was never able to afford any meat or vegetables. The girl's face finally freed its self and coughed again before speaking, "Aki?" She pushed herself to her knees and looked around fearfully.

He reached over and drew her closer pulling the blanket over her hair, "Shush, Kai. Everything is fine; it is just rain." The girl nodded and closed her eyes again and pressed herself to his side. He could feel the shivers that ran through her and the cough that had settled into her chest rattled in fits of broken breaths against his. He wrapped both arms about her shoulders and tightened his arms as he whispered, "I'm sorry. We should have stayed at the foundation."

His twin shook her head, "No, they were hurting you." She wiggled free of his embrace and smiled up at him, "Safer here."

Memories rose to the surface of his thoughts again. Grasping hands and the resulting bruises covering him from the nights he'd spent away from her. They never bruised his face. It had been part of the agreement. The foundation superintendent and the man's friends were allowed privileges with the boy's body as long as there were no bruises for other's to see. No one was allowed to know what was done to him. He had tolerated it for nearly a year; since it had meant his sister got enough food and medication when needed. He had promised their adoptive parents he'd take care of her. It had been the last thing he'd said to them as they'd walked out of the small two bedroom apartment the family had shared.

Their parents had never returned from their adoptive father's pre-Christmas business trip. The man's spouse having joined to get the lost honeymoon she'd been denied as he'd had built his career. The boy had felt so adult being left in charge of the apartment and taking care of his younger sister. When the police had come to the apartment the afternoon their parents were supposed to have arrived home and instead asked if the two of them had any living relatives, had instead asked if they had any place to go, now that a drunken pilot had taken their parents, he had felt anything but adult.

However, Kaida had been sick the night before and he had long learned that stress could make her worse. So he'd squared his shoulders and calmly told the police and the concerned welfare workers that visited days later that they were fine. His parents while not rich had planned for the eventuality and set up a trust into which all of the Tabaka's death benefits were deposited. There were plenty of funds and the two preteens had an account off which they could live; he would be able to take care of them.

What he hadn't understood was that at fourteen he didn't have any say. The courts assigned a guardian. The man was granted access to the Takaba bank accounts and legal right over the few existing Takaba estate assets. Six months after his parent's death Akihito had tried to purchase a very small one person cake from a convenience store on his way home from school. The account was declined.

The next day their power was turned off and the landlady stood outside as the police helped the two of them pack the few personal items that were not going to be sold to pay off what he learned was six months of missing rent. The court appointed guardian, a man they had not even known existed, had cleaned out the accounts. All of the automatic payments his father had set up had stopped just days after they'd buried their parents. He remembered the social worker telling them they'd be safe at the foundation.

Lightening cracked across the sky causing the building to shake again pulling him from the memories. He smiled down at her and laughed, "Yeah, this place is so very safe."

Dust rained down on them again and his companion smiled back, "No monsters here."

She shivered again and he tried to gather her closer. Their body warmth wasn't much, as thin as they had become, but what they had was shared. She opened the blanket and wrapped part of it about his chest. She mumbled something he couldn't make out and they fell into fitful slumber backed by the loud staccato raindrops pounding the tin roof.

Several weeks later found him staring at a street hawker's cart. Akihito had, to date, never stolen anything in his eighteen years of life. Today was in fact the first time he'd ever seriously considered it. It had been nearly a month since his sister had gotten a full meal.

They had been forced from the tiny place they had found in Tokyo after first arriving nearly two years ago. The building's new manger had found out about their arrangement with person in charge of maintenance. He'd tossed them out with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Apparently the room they were living in was actually a storage room and it was illegal for them to be there.

That first night they had tried to stay at a train station. However, the underground locations for the trains that ran the width and breadth of the island also housed the access tunnels to the country's massive geothermic engines. No sooner had they settled to sleep on a vacant bench than a patrolman had roused them. The cop had held Aki by the scruff of his thread worn shirt and called social services. His sister had stomped on the officer's foot and they'd taken off running. That had been nearly nine months ago.

Since then they had been chased out of several locations that would have better suited them than the old warehouse on the nearly forgotten docks they currently slept in. However, travel by water in this century was only done by the extremely poor or the extremely wealthy since the movement of industrial and agricultural products had moved to the aerospace transport machines that flew in and out of the space port located far north of the lights of Tokyo. This made the old water port of Tokyo nearly deserted and the perfect sleeping spot for two desperate, homeless teens.

Aerial buses and underground electromagnetic trains were what moved goods across the islands. People moved similarly. Salaried workers and trades men often crushed against each other on the trains and buses or bumping together as they rushed along the walkways of the city center. All while the rich cruised past them in self-driving limos and sports cars while around them all rose hi-rise apartment buildings and huge shopping plazas. Steel, concrete, and glass sparkled about the middle and upper-class citizens of Japan's capital.

That of course was how it worked in the cleaner better maintained parts of the city. In Kōtō, where the streets were packed not because of the size of the buses or the multitude of people, but instead with the dead remains of centuries old vehicles and the debris of housing long past the point of being salvageable by even the best of handymen, lived the others of Tokyo. Mostly honest hard working folk not flashy, shiny, or in most cases clean enough to be out among the people that lived and worked in the other districts.

These streets were not filled with clearly marked walkways and clean bus benches every few blocks to prevent even the most adventurous from having to walk far to reach one. Here the line between street and side walk was blurred by numerous handcarts and the street vendors that manned them. There were no rules here about where or what stuff could be sold, no store fronts or closely guarded mall spaces cleaned daily and patrolled by ever vigilant beat cops. Around these streets rose towering apartment buildings long abandoned by those better off. The buildings full of broken windows and cavernous silence seemed to lean over the small streets, shadowing them from the warmth of the waning spring sun.

Yet, with money one could purchase almost anything, even in Kōtō. That was the problem Aki had at the moment. He'd been without any day jobs for over a week and no work meant no money. So, here he was standing at the edge of the tiny section of street where the fruit vendors sold their wares. Just out of his reach was a bucket of bruised apples and oranges. Bright fruit not normally found in their area during early May. However, the vendor was hawking their flavor and exotic existence, among the range of otherwise wilted vegetables the other stands held, with great success.

His hand reached out. He was just pulling it back empty when the hawker noticed him. "Hey! Thief!"

Aki looked up shaking his head, "No! I didn't touch them!"

The man grabbed his shirt and shook him, "Don't lie to me!" He pushed Akihito to the ground and stood over him. "I saw you. Where did you put it?"

Aki shook himself and pushed away from the man. He heard yells from others and the man turned to see who was yelling and Akihito took his moment of inattention to scramble to his feet. He looked over the man's shoulder to see what passed as law enforcement headed their way. They were bad news and he turned to run. A hand grabbed his shirt. As thread bare as the garment was, it held against the sharp tug the man gave it and Akihito was thrown onto the ground once more. He fought the hands that reached for him.

"No you don't you ugly gaijin! Settle down now!" The hawker yelled as he pressed Aki's face into the street's filth with a hand while a knee held him down. The pressure on his back increased when one of the enforcers took over holding him. He tried to protest when the hawker accused him of taking one of the fruits.  

The enforcers searched his clothing with bruising hands, but even after finding nothing Akihito was unable to prevent the series of events that followed. The enforcers were led by a short stocky man. His pot belly wasn't well contained by the flowery button up shirt he wore over dark grey pants that had seen better days. Aki cringed as the man bent over him recognizing the leer his face held. Aki shivered as the man ran a hand across his chest and down to his left hip grabbing it painfully as he laughed, "Looks like we've caught a thief, boys."

The group laughed as they dragged Akihito to his feet. The hawker nodded without looking directly at the potbellied man who looked between him and Akihito again before asking, "How much for the stolen goods, hawker?"

Aki didn't hear the amount but the potbellied man laughed and shoved several coins into the hawker's hands. He took Aki by the chin then, "Now you owe me boy." He turned and walked away. The two men with him dragged Aki behind him. He kicked and scratched as best he could before one of the men punched him in the gut hard enough to make him pass out.

Kaida stared out of their hiding place willing her brother to walk through the broken doors that separated the outside of the building from the inside. He was late. They had parted at dawn; promising to meet again before the sun set. She had been waiting for what felt like hours. The sun had long set beyond the western skyline and still no Aki.

She looked down at the cup of instant ramen she'd managed to obtain. The woman she'd met in the park that afternoon having been grateful for her help in watching the young children playing. She had wanted to get their daily groceries without the children underfoot and had paid Kaida with the ramen cup. Kaida had smiled and thanked her profusely. Next to the cup was a small, bottled water Kaida had obtained with the coins she'd earned dancing in the park earlier in the morning.

She frowned then; she was going to have to find a new park soon. The one she'd been performing in had gotten more cops and they were cracking down on unlicensed entertainers. It was the third location in as many months and Aki wouldn't let her go with him to perform any day work. She sighed and looked at the doors again. Where are you?

Her heart leapt in anticipation when one of the doors was pushed open. Only for it to plummet when she saw it was not her brother but a set of blonde men leading a group that moved several pallets of what her nose told her were oranges. She peered at the group as they maneuvered twelve wooden lidded, steel mesh boxes into the dirty warehouse. She heard one say in stilted Japanese, "Really Sudou this is the best you could do?"

The flashy dressed blonde snorted, "Next time give me more than a couple of days for your goods to make landfall." He broke open the top of one of the crates and plucked out one of the bright fruits, "Hard to believe this is contraband." He broke the fruit open. Blood red juice dripped from his finders before he tossed the pieces towards the stacked crates and bricks that made up Kaida's hiding spot.

Kaida just prevented herself from gasping at the waste. She was certain they could hear her stomach as it growled from the sweet smell. However they laughed and talked in a language she didn't understand and soon enough left pulling the double doors fully closed behind them. She looked up at the whole in the roof above her seeing the moon high in the sky and worried, "Aki where are you?"

At that moment Akihito was waking up to the sounds of a poorly played piano. He knew it was poor because Takaba-san, his adoptive mother, had once played professionally. That was before she had met Takaba-shi, her photographer husband, fallen in love, married, and after several unsuccessful attempts to carry had adopted near twins. He could still remember her playing Brahms and Chopin as well as American Jazz and Ragtime on the nights Takaba-shi was out working late. In fact he recognized the song filtering through the walls around him; the pianist was butchering the end of it. He also recognized the next tune that started up with a harmonica and winced when the pianist missed the first notes of The Piano Man.

He took stock of his surroundings and sighed. He'd been in backrooms like this before; though being tied up and nearly naked was new. The bed was narrow topped with a cheap futon and even cheaper sheets. The small table next to it was barely large enough for the empty water urn sitting on it. He wasn't certain what had happened in the hours, he prayed it wasn't days, he had been unconscious. However from his current location and lack of clothes he could make a pretty good guess. The potbellied enforcer had sold him to one of the many brothels that littered the back alleys of north Kōtō-ku prefecture. Well at least I'm still near the old wharves.

He twisted his wrists; smiling to himself as the ropes loosened. He was just about free when the lock on the door rattled. He ripped his hands from the bonds bloodying his wrists and stood up as the door opened. A dark haired man filled the doorway. He was hairy with a small goatee. His fitted flashy shirt open except for the last two buttons near the tail showed off piles of curled chest hair. His eyebrows were bushy and his head was crowned with thick long curly locks that looked like they'd be greasy if touched. He wore black, thick framed glasses.

The man leered at him and Aki backed up against the wall as he approached. Akihito flinched as the man reached for him then brought up his knee sharply. The man bent over grasping his crotch in pain and groaning. Akihito rushed out of the room. He found himself running down a long hallway. He nearly ran headlong into a woman leading a rather drunken man into another room as he hurried along. Swerving left through swinging double doors he found himself in a filthy kitchen. Workers yelled and pushed him out of the way as they moved in and out of the smoke filled bar area beyond another set of double doors on the left wall.

Aki paused and glanced around before cutting past angry cooks and waiters towards the door he'd seen a boy returning from. Surely that was an alley he could run down. He just made it out the door into the narrow space between the building and its closest neighbor when he heard the shout he'd feared. The voice yelled for someone to catch him; luck was on Aki's side though and he found the dumpster was near the other building's fire escape. He clambered up the side and jumped onto the bottom rung of the broken ladder.

He reached the first landing as the back door slammed open. He paused after thrusting himself against the brick wall. There were no lights in the alley and he held his breath in the hopes they'd assume he'd run down the alley and not have braved the jump to the ladder. He closed his eyes which had always shone unusually bright in low light and willed the darkness to hide him. He didn't see the shadows deepen around him.

Akihito felt his luck hold as the two burly men chasing him were sent down the alley by the hairy man yelling after them to find the boy and bring him back. The man didn't think he'd get far on the streets. Akihito cracked his eyes so he could watch but didn't move again until the door had closed behind the hairy brothel owner. He then climbed the rest of the old fire escape and crossed the bulk of Kōtō-ku over the roof tops. He was forced to return to the ground when spacing between the buildings widened as he approached the old port of Tokyo.

He looked at the sky and cursed; the moon was low in the west. He prayed Kaida had not gone looking for him. Akihito approached the warehouse they had taken to sleeping in from the water side. He always came from that direction since it meant he could weave in and out of the old transport cars left abandoned in their stacks. This enabled him to ensure he wasn't followed or if he was, he could lead whoever it was away from his sister before losing them in the maze of the old port's buildings.

The doors were pulled shut, unusual since they had started crashing here but not enough to rouse suspicion. Aki pulled them open and eased into the building quietly. It was late and with any luck his sister had fallen asleep waiting for him to return. The building smelled differently, but his nose was still full of the scents of the cloyingly perfumed but unwashed bodies of the brothel and he couldn't tell what the new smell was. He skirted close to the edge of the building as that was the only area where he could see in the dim moonlight and made his way to the blind he and Kaida had created with old crates, pallets, and shipping boxes when they first moved in.

He smiled as he saw Kaida, curled up in their thickest blanket and asleep, come into view. Next to her sat a water bottle, a large cup of instant ramen, and what Aki only realized on closer inspection were two small red oranges. He tried to be quiet as he sat down next to her, but his brush against her arm jerked her awake.

She smiled when she saw him but scolded, "We promised to meet at sundown? I was so worried!" She clasped her arms about him before asking, "Aki where are your clothes?"

"Sorry, Kai. I was still trying to find work and they got so messed up I took them off outside," Akihito figured he could blame them being missing in the morning on the stray dogs that sometimes roamed the port. He settled down, shivered at the cold seeping from the concrete floor, and pointed at the food, "Looks like dinner is on you tonight."

His sister looked at the meager offering and nodded, "Sorry it isn't more. The police are chasing off anyone without a license these days." She picked up the ramen, "I got this babysitting some kids so their mother could shop in peace."

Akihito laughed; he could remember the terrors the two of them were some shopping days. He pulled out one of their matches from the small stash of things they kept at the warehouse. Two thread bare winter sweaters they always slept in, a smaller blanket they used as a pillow in the heat and for additional warmth in cold, and a small cloth pouch containing a box of matches, two pairs of chopsticks, and small cooking pot with its handles missing. Aki had earned the stuff dumpster diving for a woman's lost wedding ring. He'd found it and earned nearly a thousand yen that day.

He'd had to bathe in the sea water around the port several time to get the smell of rotting food out of his clothes, however the dive had netted them the blanket and the cloth bag for free. The money had enabled him to feed the two of them for nearly three meals as well as afforded them the small treasure of working matches along with something they could actually cook in.

Aki wrapped the smaller blanket about his waist and pulled on his sweater before pulling the few pieces of wood he scavenged for into a small pile inside the ring of broken concrete he'd built to hold any fire they started. They kept the fire small, too small to warm them. It was just enough to heat the small amount of water they needed for the ramen though. They both huddled over the steaming bowl as they slurped up the noodles. Aki carefully ate less than his sister and pressed her to drink the remaining liquid. They carefully rinsed the plastic cup and drank the used water before storing it along with their chopsticks back in the cloth bag.

Kaida pulled the oranges over and handed one to Akihito, "Happy Birthday."

Aki took the fruit and smiled before frowning, "How did you afford these?"

Kaida looked down at her toes peeking through the ends of worn tennis shoes before answering, "I stole them from the crates those men stored in the warehouse earlier."

Aki looked at her disbelieving, "What crates?"

Kaida rose and pointed around the side of their screen to the two large crates Aki had not seen in the building's shadows when he arrived. Now that he saw them he realized that he should have noticed the smell of oranges was to strong be accounted for by just two. He looked back at his sister and nodded, before sighing, "I guess we're going to have to find another building."

Kaida nodded sadly, "Yeah, it's too bad I liked this one."

Aki sat down on the cold concrete and shivered again. His sister shimmied out of her ripped blue jeans and held them out. Akihito shook his head, "I'm not taking your pants, Kai."

"You're freezing, and don't think I don't know something has happened to the only clothes you had. You didn't even take them off after you went dumpster diving in April." He pushed the pants at him. "Look you don't have to tell me what happened, but you can't work if all you have on is underwear."

He shook his head again, "No, you need the warmth." He pressed the jeans back towards her, "Besides they'll be too short on me." Kaida frowned and crossed her arms; Akihito sighed knowing from experience that once her arms crossed there would be no reasoning with her, "Fine. At least put on your sweater though. I know that tee shirt is long enough to be a dress but it isn't nearly warm enough."

She smiled and did as he bid her. He slipped on the jeans, they were made for boys several years younger than him but lack of food had thinned him out nearly everywhere but his bottom. This allowed the jeans to fit though they were snug in the behind and looked more like a pair of cutoffs than proper pants. He was warmer, however.

Kaida pulled him down to sit near the nearly burned out fire and handed him the orange again before saying, "Well go by the temple tomorrow; maybe someone's left some more shoes."

Aki nodded, "Perhaps the monks will have clothing to give away." He looked down at his orange and then put it in the small cloth sack, "I think I'll save this for offering."

Kaida looked down at fruit in her hands and then reached to put it away as well; Aki stilled her, "I think one should be enough for both of us." He peeled the fruit and pressed it back into Kaida's hands, "here eat."

The juice ran like blood across her fingers and she looked up smiling as she pulled the fruit in half and pressed part of it back into her brother's palms, "Let's share it." They ate in silence and once finished curled together with the blankets. Kaida softly sang a lullaby Takaba-san had taught them as they slipped into sleep.

Yurikago no uta o (A canary sings)

Kanariya ga utau yo (A cradle song)

Nenneko Nenneko (Sleep, sleep,)

Nenneko yo (Sleep, child!)

 

Yurikago no ue ni (Above the cradle,)

Biwa no mi ga yureru yo (The loquat fruits sway)

Nenneko Nenneko (Sleep, sleep,)

Nenneko yo (Sleep, child!)

 

Yurikago no tsuna o (A squirrel rocks)

Kinezumi ga yusuru (The cradle by its rope)

Nenneko Nenneko (Sleep, sleep,)

Nenneko yo (Sleep, child!)

 

Yurikago no yume ni (Dreams in a cradle,)

Kiiroi tsuki ga kakaru yo (With the yellow moon shining down)

Nenneko Nenneko (Sleep, sleep,)

Nenneko yo (Sleep, child!) 

Asami looked out over the nearly still waters of Tokyo Bay. He was one of the few that could remember the once bustling port it used to be. He smiled grimly before mentally reminding himself he was one of the few remaining creatures that could remember when Tokyo was little more than wood clapped houses with dirt floors crowding narrow muddy streets on all but the driest of summer days. Part of him missed the acrid smell of dust, horses, fresh caught fish, and cloying spices that had filled the ancient open market of what was now an unused, centuries' old water port. Even the few craft that still moored here were modern with their clean hydrogen or solar engines regardless that their decrepit upkeep stated otherwise.

His limo slid to a stop near the only warehouse still retaining doors in the whole of the area. He grunted when Kirishima his secretary announced they had arrived at the location Mikhail had been able to pull from his informant about the illegal shipment.  Asami had not planned on leaving the penthouse tonight. It was a full moon, and his kind was always temperamental the three days surrounding the event. Luckily it was not a blue, a super, or Kami forbid a super, blue moon.

The only thing worse than those nights were lunar eclipses and those only because of the lassitude they brought on. He would forever be eternally grateful to the human that had figured out the cause and better yet the mathematics to predict when those would occur. Yet here he was in the last of the predawn darkness inspecting an illegal shipment that wasn't even his.

Suoh his trusted bodyguard opened the door to the classic limo. It was technically illegal to drive on Tokyo's streets. Human's long ago having determined that computers made better drivers on the electromagnetic roads of Japan than they could ever be. Asami felt authorities should be glad he at least road around in one with a hydrogen engine. Unlike his counterpart in Russia he did not enjoy the smell of burning diesel.

A small self driven box truck came to a stop behind the limo seconds after Asami exited the car. He paused and lit one of his Dunhill's, another item technically illegal inside the city. Tobacco had been successfully outlawed nearly a hundred years ago. Kirishima, knowing which way the vote in the United Nations would go had thoughtfully squirreled away several hundred pallets of his lord's favorite cancer stick. His longtime friend had taken great delight in presenting Asami a box with the familiar Red label several hours after Asami had thought he'd smoked his last one.

He only ever really smoked them to clear his nostrils of unwanted smells. This evening had been spent with the Japanese Prime Minister and her overly perfumed wife. The two women were lovely, great conversationalist, and understood just what role his people played in the greater scheme of world politics. They were overly pleased that his family chose to remain on Earth when many of his kind had long sought the starts and new planets to inhabit. Dinner and the following theater performance he'd attended with them had been nearly nauseating with their smell though. The smoke, therefore, was justified.

He pulled another drag from the stick and flicked the ashes onto the pier. He probably didn't even need to be here tonight. The small matter was something he could have let Kirishima or even Suoh handle. Illegally imported oranges, even when actual covers for drugs, were rather tame when compared to other matters he dealt with. Still Arbatov had insisted he check whatever it was that man's competitors had smuggled onto the island; apparently there were several bad batches of the newest narcotic working their way through the underground.

His men circled the building reporting back minutes later that everything appeared clear. He gestured to the men near him to open the double doors. He was proceeded inside by Suoh and three of the man's best trained guards. Weapons were drawn but lowered with safety switches locked. He followed them inside seconds later with Kirishima behind and on his right leaving his left hand clear to pull his own Ceska should it be needed. His men shone spot lights on two metal shipping boxes. The warehouse smelled of oranges, overlying the sting of chemical pharmaceuticals, and blood.

The blood reminded Asami of the plums and peaches found in the orchards of his childhood home. Fruits he'd regularly gorged himself on before he'd come of age. He found himself pulled towards the back of the warehouse barely resisting the compulsion to run towards whatever was leaking that blood and feast upon it. The urge was overwhelming until he was able to squeeze his eyes closed and stop the blood lust welling in his brain. Asami looked at his two most trusted men; they did not seem to have noticed his lapse. Though Kirishima closed his own eye briefly and shook his head as if to clear it. Asami had not been that close to a blood rage in centuries.

Rather than dwell upon the ungrounded sensation Asami decided to seek out the source of the delicious smell. Perhaps there was someone worth snaking upon nearby. Since only non-humans would have picked up the smell of blood and even fewer species would have picked up the drugs. They followed the faint smell to the back right corner of the warehouse. There someone had built a clever blind. Had the blood not drawn them even Asami would have thought the tumble of crates, boxes, and concrete blocks was nothing more than rubbish.

Kirishima and Suoh stepped around the carefully arranged pile with their weapons drawn. Asami followed and paused at the sight before him. Two human children lay wrapped together. The larger male enfolded the smaller female in a vain attempt to provide warmth on the freezing concrete. Their hair was blonde though filthy and the little bit of skin visible among the streaks of dirt and scant moonlight that filtered through the broken roof was pale, nearly translucent.

At first Asami thought the two shivered from the cold and still sought the source of the blood. Kirishima moved to the two children and gently turned them over. The blood source was apparent then. It leaked from their noses and eyes. Asami knelt near the boy his own heart slowing as Kirishima pulled the thin blanket from them. They were too thin but it wasn't until they had been turned to lie on their backs that he understood what had happened.

The children's fingers were covered with the juice of blood oranges. At least one had been taken from the shipment and eaten. The drugs, sloppily packaged and poorly hidden along the bottoms of the crates, had leaked and the fumes had penetrated the sweet smelling fruit. Suoh held up a peel and shook his head. Kirishima sighed, "If I was as hungry as they look, I'm not certain I'd have stopped at one."

Asami stared at the two forms lying before him. They were as much alike as they were different. Both were blonde, both were pale of skin, and both smelled like the sweetest fruit he'd ever come across. The girl was small, petite in a way his kind never were with an oval face, tilted eyes, and lashes darker than her hair. The boy though wasn't much shorter than his own hundred and eighty-five centimeters. His face was also sharper, having higher cheek bones, narrower eyes, and lashes as pale as his hair. 

The biggest different though was their smell. The girl reminded him of plums warmed in the summer sun picked just before they burst from ripeness. The kind his family's cook had always used to make jams and pickled preserves. The boy however smelled like fresh peaches; the only sweet Asami had ever enjoyed.

Their breaths started coming in wheezing pants and blood gushed from the girl's mouth as she started coughing. The boy stirred; his eyes moved rapidly behind their lids and Asami could tell he fought to open them. His body jerked awake and he threw himself into a sitting position nearly knocking Asami over as his arms thrashed about to find balance.

He failed to notice the three men around them as he turned to the girl calling, "Kaida! Kaida, wake up!" The boy cried as he rubbed at the blood around her nose and eyes, "Please wake up!"