Furuya Rei had been prepared to get his hands dirty from the start, when he accepted this mission. He’d been prepared to do what he had to do.
But there was definitely such a thing as too dirty. A point of no return. A line, when crossed, he wouldn’t be able to step back over. Before, it was hard to tell where that line was.
But now, he felt, he’d definitely found it.
Too far took the form of a Japanese six year old with big blue eyes and oversized glasses hiding under the desk in a vacant office in the business district. The vacant office where they’d chased their target to, after months of investigation, close calls, and near misses.
Where had the target gone? Rei had been so sure he had been chasing Gin’s rumored fox into a corner, but the only one here was practically a toddler!
Who let their kid wander around a dangerous place like this? Who? He really wanted to punch their brains out right now!
And how had their fox escaped? Wasn’t that guy just way too good at slipping through their fingers?
“Well, did you catch him, Bourbon?” His partner’s voice came over the comm in his ear, accompanied by the faint sound of pounding footsteps. Hiro would be arriving soon, then, but Rei was still crouching on the floor, dumbfounded.
The boy had bunched himself up against the back of the desk, little face twisted in a terrified scowl.
And Rei was still holding his gun.
Tucking that away, making sure the kid could see the weapon disappearing back into his jacket, Rei tried to look a little less threatening. The last thing anyone needed was the kid kicking up a fuss. If the kid stayed quiet, Rei could just pretend he hadn’t found anybody.
First things first, however. He had to find a better place to hide the kid. A glance upwards revealed that the ceiling was lay-in style. He could get on top of the desk and push one in, plop the kid up there, and then move it back into place before their third-wheel arrived.
He reached out to grab the kid. Said kid immediately scrambled to the other corner of the desk, wide eyes set fiercely on Rei’s outstretched hand.
The kid looked like he’d bite.
Rei pulled his hand back with an easy, gentle smile. The boy stared suspiciously at him.
A moment passed quietly.
Then, Rei shot out and snatched up the brat before he could even flinch, dragging him out in a single swoop. The kid squeaked and clawed at his arms, but Rei held firm and set his eyes on the ceiling.
Of course, that was the exact moment the door burst open.
Rei adjusted his grip on the child, letting him inch away from Rei’s chest while keeping a firm hand on the kid’s forearm, and tried not to lose his goddamn mind.
Rye paused in the doorway with a cold expression, his eyes only flickering over the child once before focusing on Rei. He had his rifle in hand, his case slung over his shoulder, and of course, his face could make even the happiest of children cry. That was exactly what Rei needed right now.
“What’s this?” He drawled as he approached, kneeling down to inspect the kid. Surprisingly, considering Rye’s admittedly intimidating gaze, the boy eased rather then tensed up further.
“He was the only one here when I came in.” Rei said shortly, dragging the kid closer to himself and away from the dangerous criminal sniper. He allowed some of his anger to show on his face, as well as a tinge of anticipation, pretending to twist the boy’s arm to hide how he was subtly angling himself between them. Like this, looking over his shoulder at Rye slightly, he was in the best position to either attack or defend. “The target must have given us the slip somehow.”
He waited, forcing himself to breathe evenly, for Rye to make a move. To pull out his gun to shoot the kid, or to tell Rei to. The moment he did, Rei would have to strike. An elbow to the sternum, then in the same motion smash his fist right into the nose—he could do this. He could just tell their superiors that the target somehow got his gun and shot Rye, or that Rye and the target were working together, something like that. Hiro would back him up.
Rye didn’t say anything of the sort, and didn’t pull out his pistol. His poisonous eyes were on Rei instead, as if he was waiting for Rei to make the first move.
Like Rei could! This was a kid! He wasn’t going to murder some random six year-old for a criminal organization, mission or not!
The boy hissed, and Rei slowly eased his grip, feeling a little guilty as the child still winced. Right. Children were fragile. Not to be squeezed. Slightly behind them, Rye’s eyes had narrowed at the sound, and Rei felt chills down his back.
Fuck. Rye had definitely noticed that.
There wasn’t much Rei could do about that except squeeze his fingers once more over the red fingerprints he’d already left on the poor brat’s arm and leer into the little thing’s pained face.
“Why don’t you tell us your name, little guy?” He hoped the kid was smart enough to give them a fake name or something, or not say anything at all. “And what you are doing here?”
“Co-Conan.” The boy stuttered, obviously uneasy. His eyes flickered around the room behind the lenses of his glasses. “I was— there was—”
Rei gave him his patented Look, one hundred percent guaranteed to be both encouraging and terrifying in equal parts. He mastered it in the Police Academy, against the worthy opponent that was Matsuda. “It’s alright, you can tell me.”
The child tried to pull away, but Rei held firm. He had to keep himself bodily in between the boy and Rye. “T-the ghost…”
A ghost. Seriously.
Rei refrained from letting even a flicker of his exasperation escape into his voice. “You’re looking for a ghost?”
“Uh-huh.” The boy nodded so rapidly, his childish voice slurred. “Even though this place is supposed to be empty, I heard a buncha weird sounds.”
Their target, maybe?
“What were you doing around here?”
“My papa works in a building nearby. But playing soccer by myself in the park until he gets out is boring.”
I am going to find that man, Rei thought viciously, and make him regret not hiring a babysitter.
If it was just him, or just him and Hiro, he could just let the kid go, but with Rye right there, could he get away with it? The usual policy of leaving no witnesses, no evidence—they both knew what this situation demanded of them. If Rye reported that he broke protocol, he was screwed.
The other option was taking the kid with them.
“Well?” Rye said, his voice as dull as ever. Rei released the child to turn and face him, scrutinizing. Just like Rei’s own, his face gave away nothing at all.
Before Rei could answer, Hiro finally arrived, bursting into the room fully armed to find Rei and Rye in a stare down over a child.
All three of them looked at each other. Hiro’s eyes flickered rapidly between Rye and Rei’s own. As best friends from childhood could always do, Hiro managed to convey a lot of colorful remarks with just his eyes.
Mostly along the lines of what the fuck did you get us into.
Not my fault, Rei shot right back, which was something Hiro heard often but rarely ever believed.
Rye measured them both up, his eyes narrowed into almost slits, but said nothing. All three of them turned back to the child, who had been very quietly and inconspicuously trying to sneak away, only to freeze under their collective stare.
Hiro cleared his throat. “Is that—?”
“Yup.” Rei filled in.
“Oh.” Hiro looked back through the door, glancing around the area. “But no one got passed me.”
“Me neither.” Rye agreed, and Hiro peeked back at Rei.
“Bourbon, did you—”
A scalding look shut him right up. As if Rei would be careless enough to let the target escape and catch an innocent kid instead!
They were running out of time until they next had to check in, too. It wouldn’t be long now until Gin was breathing down their necks. The underlings were already patrolling the area, maintaining the circle they’d trapped their prey within.
Rei reached out and reeled the kid back in, despite the sneaker-clad heels digging into the floor. The moment the kid’s mouth opened, to whine or scream or yell for help, Rei’s hand slammed over it. Teeth immediately tried to bite his palm, but only sunk into the cloth of his gloves. “Scotch, where’s your case?”
“...Why?” Hiro hesitated.
“This kid’s our only lead on the fox.” Rei bullshitted, one eye on Rye and the other on the child struggling to kick him in the shins. “We’re taking him with us.”
They didn’t have many other options. Thankfully, Hiro was quick on the uptake.
“Won’t Gin just kill him before we can get anything useful out of him?” Hiro asked, a cruel laugh working into his voice.
Rei grinned at him, full of malicious intent as a six year-old beat against his chest. “Which is exactly why we need your case.”
With a devious expression almost identical to Rei’s own, Hiro turned towards the door. “I left it on the roof. I’ll go fetch it.”
“No need.” Rye’s voice cut in. He’d been watching them both closely, and finally made his move. He shrugged off his own case, setting down his rifle to unzip it. The instrument inside was ditched soon after. “We’ll leave this here.”
That… was not what Rei had expected.
Rye was willing to play along? Why? Rei had expected he’d protest, and need… convincing. He didn’t think the taciturn man would volunteer. Was he planning to go with it, let them lower their guards, and the snitch later on? Was he testing them?
That was fine. Rei would just say they were testing him too, if things came to it. Then all three of them would look like untrusting bastards that let their rivalry get in the way of a job undone, not two traitors and one loyal dog.
But Rei did not want to leave a child in Rye’s hands. He also couldn’t think of a way to argue it. With frustration boiling in his gut, he carried over the boy, who had gone oddly still, and set him down in the case. Rye nudged the child into lying down, surprisingly gentle, and wide blue eyes stared out at them as the case was slowly zipped shut.
That was an image that was going to haunt Rei at night, probably, if this shoddy, half-baked plan went south.
They still had to smuggle the kid through the encirclement, after all.