Notes- Chen Quon Yue's name is always written the Asian way. Chinese given names are always two syllables and the family name is always one, so Quon Yue is his given name. And his name is pronounced "Chen Gwong Way". Also, in this chapter I use a lot of Chinese. I am NOT trying to show off since, since 98% of it is cut and paste. It's just that I bought a new Chinese language CD to help me in my writing and, dammit, I'm gonna use it. So just use this as a learning experience. (I actually bought it because I have two original series with Chinese characters.) And the last note: yes, that is why Aizawa was called "Lazy Eye". He doesn't technically have a lazy eye, but notice he has no close-up shots or just profile shots until Episodes 6 and 7, where you see a full shot of his face for the first time. Just one of those little nuances of the series that make it so great. ^_^

Heart's Faade

Chapter Seven: Friends and Enemies

Written by A Girl Named Goo

"I am NOT going," Shuichi announced, reading the invitation. "Besides, I'm not personally invited. I'll go to the wedding because I was personally invited, but if Seguchi-san or Sakano-san can't find it in their heart to invite me to their engagement party, then I am simply not going to go."

Yuki took the invitation from Shuichi before he could do something like rip it up or throw it away. "It says I can bring a guest."

"Bring someone else. I don't care. I HATE Seguchi-san's dinner parties."

"I thought you liked formal affairs?"

"I USED to. Then I went to Seguchi-san's last dinner party. He started out with one glass of wine at dinner, moved on to a scotch on the rocks, and by the end of the night he was plastered. Then he sent me downstairs to the basement for more wine, and when I finally came back he was hitting on you! And even worse, you weren't doing anything to stop it!"

Yuki couldn't argue with that logic. His former brother-in-law was the type who didn't drink often, but once he started he had trouble stopping. Yuki, on the other hand, had been a casual drinker for a good portion of his life and alcohol had little to no effect on him.

"You've been known to do some pretty crazy things when you're drunk," Yuki said at last. "I'll do you a favor and refrain from discussing them at length, but I will say that I hardly think Touma is going to hit on me or anyone else at his own engagement party, drunk or sober."

"I still don't want to go," Shuichi muttered. "He obviously doesn't want me there. Otherwise he would have sent me an invitation instead of having it be implied on yours."

"All the more reason to go. Make him regret not inviting you."

"Because that's not the way he works. He didn't invite me to see if I'd come with you, anyway. Then at work either me or Hiro will have to suffer for me coming. Frankly, I'm not in the mood."

"Fine. It's your perogative," Yuki said at last, though in his mind he was already making a note to call Touma and tell him to send Shuichi an invitation, not so much because he wanted Shuichi there with him, but more because he knew how disappointed Shuichi was at not having been invited, something Yuki would have to suffer for later. He wasn't going to miss his former brother-in-law's engagement party because his own live-in lover was deciding to be difficult, but he wasn't going to catch grief for going, either.

Shuichi was sitting in his chair next to Yuki's in his office, watching him write. "I also got some interesting news from Hiro today."

"He's going to move to America and find himself the same way Fujisaki did?"

"You wish. Speaking of which, Seguchi-san called while you were in the bathroom. Mr. K, Sakuma-san, and Alex are here and they brought Fujisaki with them. Though don't kill yourself returning the call; everyone's asleep and Seguchi-san saw Fujisaki's condition and brought him to the rehab center right after he called."

"Is that your news?"

"No. First, I got to meet my biggest fan today. He nearly had a heart attack when he met me. He's Hiro's new assignment, and I'm the reason he wants to sing. He isn't evil at all. Not that I can tell, anyway. Certainly strange, and there's something familiar about him, but he seemed nice enough to me."

"That's wonderful. Is that it? Because I'd like to finish this novel sometime this century. It's already late," Yuki muttered with no enthusiasm or sincerity (or even a clue that would let Shuichi know he was at least listening to him) as he continued to type.

"No. The second bit of information Hiro gave me was that Chen Quon Yue, my biggest fan, is interested in Tokui of all people," Shuichi announced, forgetting the boy in question was in the closet. "Hiro told him to stay away from him, but Chen-san started saying how he seems hurt and that he knows what it's like to be hurt and that he wants to help. He seemed really sincere, I guess, because he got really defensive and then stomped away before Hiro could say anything or ask him about it."

Yuki stopped typing and turned to face Shuichi. "Who is this guy, anyway?"

Shuichi shrugged. "Everything Hiro tells me about him is bad, but I personally don't see anything bad about him. But then, he doesn't like you, either, and I love you. When I shook his hand it was all cut up, though. He tried to hide it from me at first. Hiro says he did it himself playing knife games because he has no feeling in his hands, but it definitely supports the theory of him being hurt."

Yuki nodded, thinking for a moment. "He could be good for Tokui. I mean, he doesn't really have an friends. He doesn't talk to anyone but me and his sister. Maybe someone who can sympathize and understand is just what he needs."

"If Tokui is capable of making friends. He's a good, decent, sweet person, but try telling him that."

Yuki sighed. It was a sad but true fact about his nephew: the boy had horribly low self-esteem with no chance of ever gaining self-confidence. It would be a miracle to get him to trust others, and an impossibility to get him to like himself. Not sure of what else to say or do, he continued typing.

"Yeah, that's what I thought, too. But who knows? Miracles do occasionally happen."

What they didn't know was that the boy in the closet was listening to every word they said...and taking it to heart. Tokui knew they were worried and that they meant well, but it hurt him nonetheless to hear them talking about his lack of social skills. And how could a stranger who knew nothing of him possibly like him? If this strange person really did like him, even just a little, Tokui might indulge him slightly, if just to be nice. That is, if this person liked him enough to actively search for him. He hated to see others hurt, and from what Shuichi said (and Hiro confirmed) this man was hurting.

Swallowing, Tokui resumed his scribbling on the notepad in front of him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hiro didn't bother kicking the slushy snow off of his shoes as he walked in and looked at the slip of paper in his hand. Yes, this was the correct address. He looked at his surroundings again and sighed. He'd hoped he'd been wrong, but he wasn't. He was inside a dimly lit and very cold and damp corridor of an apartment building. There was a stairwell that wrapped around the wall all the way up to the last floor, with a single door each floor in front of a balcony-like extension of the stairs, including the ground floor. Graffiti in several different languages was scribbled on the walls, and the floor was stained different colors (Hiro didn't want to think about what had made them).

He began to trek up the stairs, wondering if they were going to give out as they creaked beneath him. At the end of a few ledges were people slumped over, many without jackets and holding bottles. He kicked bottles and cans out of the way every time he walked down a new ledge to a new set of stairs.

Hiro finally got to the fourth door and hesitated before knocking, as he could hear loud fighting between two men in a language he couldn't understand on the other side. He finally knocked, and almost immediately a tall, broad, tanned, and intimidating man with glassy dark eyes and messy short brown hair answered the door, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans even though the draft from the apartment was just as chilly as the one in the hall.

"Excuse me, but does Chen-san live here?" Hiro asked nervously.

The man gave him a confused looked before saying "Di b qi, wo b mng bi."

Hiro blinked, then tried to think of how to phrase what he wanted to ask. "Does Chen Quon Yue live here. Chen Quon Yue."

The man nodded, then turned to look into the apartment. "Quon Yue! Moon!"

"Yat jan!" was the response from somewhere in the apartment. Finally Quon Yue appeared, wearing blue boxer shorts and a white tank top. For the first time Hiro could see that he had several scars on his shoulders and chest, and he had a feeling whoever gave them to him had positioned them so they could be easily hidden by a shirt. His hair had been separated once again, and the two colors were in separate braids, and all of his jewelry was still in place. His eyes turned from the angry ice-blue color to the mischievous bright blue color, and there was blood leaking from a small cut on the corner of his right one.

"Mr. Suit!" Quon Yue exclaimed with genuine surprise. "You're lucky you didn't get mugged four times on the way up the stairs alone dressed like that. Get in here."

Hiro hesitated (especially since the other man was glaring at him) and stepped in, Quon Yue shutting the door behind him.

The man looked from Hiro to Quon Yue, his eyes angry. "Kui jia shn me mng z?"

"Kui jia Nakano Hiroshi. Hui yi ga!"

"Cu w! Nei hui!"

The man sat on the couch and glared, and Quon Yue sighed deeply. "I told you he was stupid. That's my cousin, Ln Si, by the way."

"Did he..?" Hiro started, pointing at the cut.

"Huh?" Quon Yue asked, then he touched the corner of his eye, looking at the blood. "Damn. No, he didn't. He's so stupid he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with those meaty paws of his. I was getting a glass out of the cupboard when we started fighting and dropped it, and when I went to pick up the pieces I hit my head on the counter."

Hiro didn't believe him, but he really wasn't in any position to question his judgement. He looked around the tiny apartment, which was cold and smelled damp and musty, much like a cave. The ceiling was so low Hiro and Ln Si's heads were mere centimeters from touching it, and the carpet was threadbare and an ugly brown color that still looked dirty and stained though it should have hid it. The only furniture was a bed and clock through an open door on the other end of the room, a card table and two folding chairs in the kitchen, and in the living room a horrible green-and-brown plaid couch, a TV tray with a lamp without a lampshade resting on it, and another TV tray holding a black-and-white television set with large antenna sprouting from it. The television set was turned on, though Ln Si had no way of understanding what was being said as he watched intently, eating what appeared to be a bowl of cereal. Next to the entrance of the apartment was a door to what Hiro assumed was some kind of closet, but strangely enough it didn't have a doorknob. There was only one other door, and Hiro assumed that lead to the bathroom, though he wasn't going to ask to use it to find out.

"I assume this wasn't a courtesy call," Quon Yue said idly, picking up a wet washcloth and wiping off the tacky yellow Formica countertop, though it still didn't look clean. "You're on the wrong side of the tracks."

Hiro sighed. "I wanted to apologize for what I said to you earlier. You're right; I don't know anything about you. But what I do know I don't like. Maybe if I got to know you better I'd like you better, but until then I won't. And I really think it's best if you stay away from Tokui. He has horribly self-esteem and always thinks he's doing something wrong, especially if someone is watching him. You suddenly start paying attention to him he'll quite possibly have a panic attack."

Quon Yue sighed deeply, motioned to the table (Hiro hesitated before taking a seat, disliking how the metal of the chair bent a little beneath his weight), and opened the refrigerator. "Would you like something to drink?"

"What do you have?"

"Soda. Beer. Water. Possibly milk if the moron didn't put an empty carton back into the fridge as he tends to do."

"Soda sounds fine. I'm driving."

Quon Yue suddenly started laughing as he slid the soda across the table and lit a cigarette. "If you parked your car in this neighborhood, you're walking home. If it's still there when you get back down there it'll be stripped. I guarantee it."

Hiro groaned at his own stupidity. Most of the people who lived in this part of the district were dirt poor and desperate enough to strip a stranger's car for cash, if they didn't find it nice enough to just steal the whole thing.

"That's what happens when you make the mistake of driving yourself into a bad neighborhood," Quon Yue taunted. He flicked his ashes onto the floor and opened his own can of soda. "I grew up here. In this very apartment. I'm used to it. Now you know why I had to worry about getting beat up. Just beat up if I was lucky. I was little, cute, and foreign. Three strikes against me right there."

"How did you come to own this apartment if you were raised here?" Hiro asked, looking around and wondering where there was room for Quon Yue and his previously mentioned mother and stepfather. He also found himself wondering where Quon Yue and Ln Si slept.

Quon Yue dropped his cigarette on the floor. "My stepfather died. My mother moved back to China. I was 13, didn't know how to find a new apartment, and my family technically owns this one so I just stayed."

"You were abandoned when you were 13?"

"That's one way of putting it, yes. Right after it happened I went temporarily insane and tried to find my father for about four months. Then I snapped out of it, realized if he wanted nothing to do with me up to that point there was more a chance of a snowstorm in hell than of him feeling sorry for me and taking me in, and started to put my life together. Slowly, piece by piece. That's right around the time I discovered Shindou-san, too. Sadly, that was the last year you were touring, though, so all I had were tapes and tabloids."

Hiro swallowed and looked at Quon Yue's eyes, which were the distant dark blue color that meant the younger man was reminiscing. He was hoping that he had just dreamed what Quon Yue had said about his father, since it was difficult enough for him to like him without remembering who had been responsible for his existence in the first place. But Hiro also knew that he deserved to know who his father was and what he had done. It might even help him to know that having Aizawa Tachi as a paternal influence wouldn't have benefited him, and he seemed the type to enjoy the irony of his idol being the one who his father had hated so much he had destroyed his own career in an attempt to destroy him.

"I know your father," Hiro said in a tone that he hoped sounded offhand, like he were merely discussing the color of the drapes.

Quon Yue choked on his swallow of soda and dropped his cigarette into the soda can, making a slight sizzle. "You're bullshitting me."

Hiro shook his. "Aizawa Tachi was the leader of the band ASK. They were our rivals when we first came out. We being Bad Luck, of course. I also know what he did that got ASK thrown out of NG."

Quon Yue nodded and looked down at the table. "What did he do?"

"I don't think you want to know."

"I do. I want to know who my father was, what he was like, so I can do and be the complete opposite."

"Trust me: you are already the polar opposite of Aizawa Tachi except for your arrogance and smug attitude."

"Tell me. Please. I have a right to know."

Hiro took a deep, shuddering breath, regretting having brought up the topic in the first place. "Bad Luck was much more spontaneous than ASK, and as a result we became much more famous much faster. Aizawa was a spiteful, jealous man, not content to be runner-up to some newcomers when things were just starting to go his way. And most of all, he hated Shuichi. He hated his music, he hated his style, he hated his spontaneous nature. He hated everything about him. And he especially hated the way Shuichi went out of his way to pretend he was no one when they met in person. So one night, after Shuichi had a fight with Yuki Eiri and was thrown out of his house, he came to see me, got a little drunk, and I told him to go home because chances were things had blown over. When he went to get on the subway he wasn't disguised and was recognized, and it was Aizawa who saved him from a crowd of fangirls. He brought Shuichi to his apartment and...."

Hiro stopped. It wasn't his story to tell, and Shuichi would never actually get into detail about what had happened. Hiro had pieced it together from the film Yuki Eiri had recovered and given to him, knowing that if anyone could be trusted with that horrible piece of evidence it was Shuichi's best friend. Because Shuichi would never directly discuss what had happened to him, Hiro had used a darkroom from NG's public relations department to develop the film himself when the curiosity got the best of him. He was hardly able to look at the pictures before he burned them and the negatives and spit on the ashes. But even though it was Shuichi's story to tell and Hiro had no right to tell it, Quon Yue did have a right to know what his father had done. So he licked his lips and continued.

"He hired two men to take Shuichi into a parking garage. They attacked him. Beat him. And worse. And all the while Aizawa just took pictures, planning to use the evidence against Shuichi. You see, he told Shuichi he would give the film to the press and tell them it was Yuki Eiri's fault that it had happened unless Shuichi quit Bad Luck. And Shuichi was going to do just that rather than ruin his lover's reputation, but Yuki Eiri recovered the film and I destroyed it. But they left Shuichi with barely enough strength to crawl over across the street from my house and call me there. I was ready to kill someone when I saw what had been done to him. But what happened afterward was Yuki Eiri got the film back, and Seguchi Touma, not pleased at what Aizawa had done at all, pushed him in front of an oncoming car. The car stopped, but Aizawa had an emotional breakdown and spent a year and a half in a psychiatric hospital. After that, I have no idea what happened to him or where he went. I don't even know if he's still in the country."

Quon Yue was very still. And very quiet. His eyes were still dark blue as he looked at nothing, the pupil of his defective eye twitching madly. Finally, he swallowed and, without looking up, whispered "Please tell me my eye defect didn't come from him."

Hiro drew in a deep breath. "His nickname was Lazy Eye."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Amai looked across the living room at the older boy stretched along the couch. They were watching some anime (something that Amai had never had an interest in) on her father's large-screen TV but she was keeping her attention on Alex (something that did interest her a great deal).

"So...um...how do you like Japan?" Amai asked.

Alex shrugged. "I haven't really had a chance to see it yet. I'll get back to you on that."

Amai cursed softly. Alex hadn't been rude when he had said that (in fact, he'd been quite friendly) but she had hoped to divert his attention from the television. She noticed he was playing with the dark blue ribbon around the neck of the bunny he was holding against him as he kept his blue-violet gaze fixed on the program.

"That's a nice bunny. Where'd you get it?" she asked.

Alex widened his eyes and looked down at the stuffed animal. "This? This is Shatekijou, Kumagorou's son. He's named after where my Dad works. I've always had him." He held up the bunny, grinning and making it wave it's paw. He changed the pitch of his voice to say "nice to meet you, Amai!", then diverted his gaze back to the television.

Amai just gaped at the pair. She'd heard her father telling stories of Sakuma Ryuuichi and Kumagorou (he was always quick to bring up that no one had any way of knowing that Kumagorou wasn't a magical bunny that spoke through Ryuuichi, but Amai had a feeling he was trying to justify his best friend's apparent insanity) but she had no idea his son suffered from the same delusion. He seemed to genuinely believe that "Shatekijou" was alive and the son of Kumagorou, and more to the point, he seemed to believe that Kumagorou was alive and communicated through his own father.

But Shatekijou aside, Alex was still a friendly person, and really, his delusion just made him seem all that much sweeter and more endearing. And besides, she'd never met a boy she found to be as attractive as Alexander Sakuma-Winchester, and she was willing to overlook any of his quirks if it meant having a chance to get closer to him.

"I thought you were going to work today?" Alex asked at last as a commercial came on.

"This is work," Amai told him. He gave her a confused look, and she decided to clarify. "Tousan told me to stay here today and get to know you better so I can decide if I want to work with you as Neo Grasper or not. My CD is finished, and my first live concert is a week and a half away with my CD release date just a day before, so I'm not in any real hurry. I don't think I can sound any better than I do right now, certainly can't sound worse, and a day off wouldn't kill me after a year of steady working. And dear lord, I'm rambling, aren't I?"

"It's all right. I don't mind. I tend to ramble about things, too."

Amai sighed, both from relief and humiliation at having made an ass of herself in front of the older, attractive, and (Shatekijou aside) sophisticated boy. She swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat and summoned as much courage as she had ever had in her life (mostly by thinking of how her father would handle this or any situation) and said in a cool, even tone "my father's engagement party is on Saturday. If you're going maybe we could go together."

There was a few moments of silence while Amai held her breath. All of her life she had either been focused on music, her father, or her brother that she had never really made friends, much less asked a boy she hardly knew out on a date.

"Sounds like a plan," Alex said at last. "Don't want to show up at the social event of the season without a date, after all. We'd both look like losers then."

Amai heaved a huge (though, thankfully, unnoticed) sigh of relief, fighting the blush crawling to her cheeks. "All right. A date it is."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hiro had known at the time he would regret it. He had had known it before, he had known it during, and he certainly knew it after. But in the heat of the moment he hadn't been able to resist.

It had started simple enough. Quon Yue had put on a pair of jeans (though no other top or even a jacket) and offered to walk him downstairs to see if his car was there. When is wasn't, Quon Yue had offered to talk to the neighborhood car thieves to see which one had it and call in some favors to get it back (preferably in tact). It took them an hour and a half to interrogate three car thieves (one of which had aimed a gun at Hiro's head and asked for all his money before noticing Quon Yue standing next to him) before they found one who had it (also of Chinese decent, as Quon Yue had spoken to him in either Cantonese or Mandarin). They had already taken it in back and started to strip it, but on Quon Yue's order they quickly reassembled the car and allowed Hiro to drive off in it.

Hiro had offered the younger man a ride home in his car, but seeing how his deathly-pale skin began to color from the heat, he drove past the rickety apartment building to the other end of the district, where his own apartment was waiting for him.

And that was when it had happened...

After allowing Quon Yue to get himself settled in (he'd been fascinated by the large bathtub, fully stocked refrigerator, huge collection of Bad Luck albums, videos, articles, and awards, and a satellite dish that got not only programs from all over Japan, but from the Pacific coast of America and China as well), Hiro had offered him a drink or something to eat. After a quick dinner, the pair had settled in to watch a Chinese program (Hiro had tried to keep up using the action and Quon Yue's infrequent and badly timed translations). Finally, after Hiro had announced he was going to bed and Quon Yue could help himself to anything in the house, Quon Yue had just approached him, breathed "I want you" in his ear, and before Hiro could control himself he was in bed with the younger man.

It hadn't been a bad experience. In fact, it was some of the best (if meaningless) sex Hiro had ever had. Quon Yue was very experienced, and after a little trouble deciding who would be on top, Quon Yue had demonstrated his mastery of both positions. But it wasn't the sex itself that Hiro regretted. It was the fact that Quon Yue was half his age (and, in his mind, still a boy), the son of a man he had hated for at least seventeen years, and that they already had a shaky relationship that was closer to mutual respect and tolerance than anything close to friendship and that they still had to work together each day. Hiro was sure his fragile bond based on respect was probably broken now, and, as he sat in the rehearsal room across from the man in question (Seguchi Touma had informed them personally, in a voice that implied if she did it again she'd be fired, that Kyousei Himeko would not be joining them) Hiro was sure the man was already planning to take advantage of the knowledge of what he had done.

But to his surprise, Quon Yue said nothing about what had transpired the night before, neither before or after recording some more tracks for his CD. The younger man was wearing the jeans he had thrown on the day before, but with a white T-shirt that belonged to Hiro, his hair in a loose ponytail that matched the older man's.

Quon Yue stood and put out his cigarette on the edge of the trashcan, his eyes the neutral black. "Are we finished?" he asked coolly as Hiro finished filling out his paperwork.

"Just about. We have to get you a live performance, probably opening for someone else. But I think I have that covered."

"That's good. Then I'll be going."

Hiro watched in shock as Quon Yue walked toward the door. "Is that all you're going to say? What about last night?" he asked before he could leave, wanting to find out what was on the younger man's mind before he just left for the day.

"Oh, thank you for your hospitality. I'll return your shirt as soon as I can. Hopefully when I am famous I can live in a place as nice as yours."

"Not that. I mean the other thing. What we did."

Quon Yue sighed and leaned against the doorway, crossing his arms and examining his fingernails. "Shindou-san was a fool to give up sleeping with you whenever he wanted, no strings attached."

"That's it?"

"What did you want me to do? Look, you're older than me, yes. But I've slept with men who are older than you are. I have since I was much younger than I am now. It's a little awkward that I work with you, yes, but my sex life and my daily routine are two very different things. I'm at my cousin's throat most of the day and vice versa, but don't think we haven't slept together- though I should note that's largely against my will- and I've met people I absolutely adore that I haven't slept with. I'd love to sleep with Shindou-san, but there is more of a chance of you taking up guitar again and plotting a Bad Luck comeback tour. But that doesn't bother me. And the fact that I slept with you last night doesn't bother me, either. It was great sex, something I've been without lately, and I was glad for the experience. So don't go tearing yourself up over it because your sense of moral decency dictates what we did was wrong. I have no regrets, and neither should you."

Hiro was just left gaping at the empty doorframe as Quon Yue disappeared into the hallway.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tokui was used to having the stairwells of the NG building to himself, as only maintenance ever used the stairs, and that was only after normal business hours. So when he literally ran into the man known as Chen Quon Yue he was every bit as surprised as he was frightened.

At first Quon Yue's eyes were wide and surprised violet, but they softened to a much more pleasant sky blue as he smiled and held out his hand to the boy. Tokui looked at the pale, cold, and still scabbed-over appendage, taking it hesitantly (only because he thought it was what he was supposed to do).

"It's my lucky day. And here I thought finding you was going to be hard," Quon Yue said brightly. He seemed to notice Tokui's gaze was fixed on his defective left eye, and his smile wavered temporarily. "Don't worry about it. It's a genetic thing, apparently. Had it all my life. You didn't knock me screwy or anything like that."

Tokui swallowed and nodded. Part of him wanted to turn and run from the strange man, at least to somewhere more public. But the larger part of him found, much to his own surprise, that he was fascinated by the unusual person who dressed and acted how he wanted with no regard for others.

"I'm Chen Quon Yue, by the way," he said, bowing slightly. "You can call me either Chen or Quon Yue. Whichever is easier to say."

Tokui also bowed slightly. "Seguchi Tokui," he said softly.

"So you are the elusive Tokui!" Quon Yue exclaimed, as if just coming to a realization. "Why aren't you in a closet somewhere?"

Tokui looked down at his feet. "Th-that's where I was going..."

"Oh. Can I come?" Quon Yue asked.

Tokui gasped. No one had ever asked to accompany him to his hiding places before. When he was very little Amai used to join him, but she'd never ask. She'd just open the door, sit down, and start talking, with no regard for what he was doing. Tokui wasn't sure he wanted to share his hide-out, but he was afraid if he turned down the fascinating Chen Quon Yue he would lose his one and only chance to get to know him, and his instincts were telling him that, strange as he might appear to be, he was not only harmless, but possibly a strong ally.

"Don't worry. I won't hurt you. Though word of warning: I'm a big hair-triggered, so if you touch me in the hall or jump me I'll pull my knife on you. I won't hurt you, though," Quon Yue explained.

"Um...all right," Tokui said slowly. He continued walking down the stairs, aware of Quon Yue's presence behind him. It was a presence that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, but not in a bad way. He opened the door to the second floor, peered on the other side, and slinked to the nearest open door. The light was off, and no one was in it, so he darted toward the closet, dimly aware of Quon Yue mimicking his moves. As soon as they were in the closet, Tokui took out his flashlight and turned it on, taking his inhaler from his satchel and taking in two deep inhalations.

Quon Yue looked around the small, cramped space that barely had enough from for the two teens. He appeared to be shaking a bit, much to Tokui's surprise. "I never much liked closets," Quon Yue confessed. "Bad memories. I'll spare you the details. So, this is what it's like to be a member of an exclusive club..."

"Beg pardon?" Tokui asked, sincerely taken off guard.

"Well, how many other people have you let come into the closet with you? Not many, if any, I figure..." Quon Yue said, more to himself than to the other boy.

"Um...just you and my sister. And my sister invited herself."

"That's what I thought."

There was a few moments of awkward silence, Tokui just glaring at the other, and Quon Yue looking around the dark surroundings.

"Nakano-san says you've been hurt," he said solemnly as his eyes turned dark blue. "That's why I wanted to find you." Tokui didn't say anything, so he continued. "When I was a little kid, I was hurt very badly and very often. I think I can understand. And understanding is step one to friendship. Well, at least, I think it is. I have about as many friends as you do. If you have some, then I have less."

Tokui swallowed. He hated talking about himself. As long as he talked about himself, he had to deal with how different and messed up he was. So he just nodded, hoping the subject would be dropped.

"Step two to friendship, as I understand it, is trust. So we have those two things. Step three is honesty, step four is knowing one another as well as you know yourself. We've got two out of four down, and that's enough for me. I assume the rest kind of comes naturally. Is that enough for you?"

Tokui's head was spinning. He found himself nodding dumbly before he could consider if he wanted Quon Yue as a friend or not. Since he had never personally had any friends, he wasn't sure what that entailed, though he had a feeling that Quon Yue was telling the truth when he said he had as much experience as he did.

"Good. We're friends. Glad we've settled that," Quon Yue said with a curt nod. "Now, I am going to step out for a cigarette. I don't like the looks of that inhaler and it'd be mean to smoke in here with you having breathing problems. Filthy habit. I should quit. When I was eleven some older kids thought it would be funny if they got a cute little kid to smoke a cigarette, and threatened to beat the shit out of me if I didn't smoke an entire one. It's true when they say one is enough to get hooked."

Quon Yue stood and opened the door, shutting it behind him as he lit a cigarette. Tokui opened to door a crack to make sure Quon Yue wasn't going to leave so soon. He could hardly believe it: he had never trusted anyone so much in his life, and now he was trusting a complete stranger.

But that didn't matter. He had a friend now, and that was what mattered.

End of Chapter Seven

Translations-

Di b qi, wo b mng bi. - I'm sorry, I don't understand.

Moon!- Door!

Yat jan!- Just a second!

Kui jia shn me mng z?- Who is he?

Kui jia Nakano Hiroshi. Hui yi ga!- He is Nakano Hiroshi. Go now!

Cu w! Nei hui!- No! You go!