Summary: Mamoru likes the way his life is ordered, but some things are worth the risk of change.
Fandom: Weiss Kreuz
Notes: Thank you to toscas_kiss for beta-ing!
Title, Author and URL of original story: Breaking Patterns, by lady_ganesh: http://lady-ganesh.livejournal.com/32199.html
It hadn't been easy, but he'd thought of it as his life.
Mamoru had always liked routine – too much routine was dangerous of course, and always had been in his line of work, but for his everyday life he liked things simple. Unchanging. In the past, when he'd still been Omi, he'd liked to get up before everyone, and be out and about before someone like Yohji had so much as opened his eyes. School had been such a pleasure, not because of what he'd learned, precisely. Everything was so regulated, so orderly. He'd always known what to expect. As Mamoru he found he could have an equally ordered life; only the most vital work got as far as his desk, his evenings' social engagements were scheduled as far in advance as possible, three times a week he went to the gym and ran on the treadmill until all thought was extinguished. Only Weiss' missions, arising as and when needed, interrupted the steady pattern of his days. The break in pattern was itself a pattern, though now he directed the killings from afar.
It was astonishing how much destruction one small child could work on the neat, expected course of his life.
Ran was a quiet child, at first. She looked at her room and put her hands behind her back, as if she was telling herself not to touch. It took a week before she opened the box of crayons he'd got her, and even then she only looked at them.
"Leave her alone," Nagi said as Mamoru frowned over the problems of too-quiet children. "Let her get used to having her own stuff."
That night Mamoru came back from a conference dinner to find the house in confusion and Ran exhausted from crying.
"It's just a nightmare, Mamoru-sama," Rex said. "I didn't think it was something you should have been bothered with –"
"When did the staff ring you?" Mamoru said across her.
"10PM," she said with only the slightest hesitation.
Mamoru looked at Ran clinging desperately to Nagi, as she had been from the moment they came home. "In future," he said, "I am to be told immediately in such cases. Or Naoe-san should be told," he added, a thread of mean pleasure at Rex's quickly hidden expression warming him.
The next day Ran gave him a picture in crayon. He and Nagi were drawn large, flanking a very small Ran. Mamoru started cancelling evening engagements so he could be on hand when Ran woke up sobbing.
A week later he bought an exercise bike and pedalled furiously while watching cartoons with Ran.
"I should have a gym set up here," he said, wiping his face as Nagi held Ran on the bike. "There's enough room, and it'd be more convenient. I'm thinking about having some of the guest rooms converted to a modern apartment. This place is like living in a museum."
"It's your house," Nagi said, steadying Ran as she wobbled precariously on the saddle.
It was, Mamoru thought. The idea was freeing, as if he could give himself a new beginning in another area of his life.
"I'm moving to Phase Two," he said quietly the next day. That got him a sharp look.
"It's the perfect time." Mamoru looked up from his polished desk slyly. "Who'd expect me to move forward now?"
"You'll be distracted," Nagi said. "You are distracted."
"Of course I am," Mamoru said. "Architects' plans to consider, Ran to look after – my mind is clearly only on home matters. Now's the time to move, while they're all still thinking my only interest is in home improvements." He laughed quietly with dry amusement. "I'm sure Kritiker's psychologists are writing reports stating I'm trying to give myself a secure childhood vicariously through Ran." Nagi looked at him silently with raised eyebrows, like he agreed with the idea.
"What about Rex?" Nagi said at last. "Are you bringing her in?"
Mamoru looked back down on his desk, tapping out a staccato rhythm with his fingers. Rex had been doing her best to keep in his good books, he thought, remembering her expression as she'd handed over all of Grandfather's files, the ones Saijou had ordered burnt after his death clearly marked. It was almost enough to wipe out the memory of her holding him back, telling him he couldn't see Grandfather. Almost.
"Yes, I think so," he said. "I'm not sure there's any other choice. She's loyal enough – and this will be a good test to see if she stays that way. If she slips, we'll know it."
"And if she slips?" Nagi said. "It's a risk."
Mamoru looked at him blandly. "You're volunteering, then?" He felt the smirk escape at Nagi's expression.
"I'd rather shoot myself than deal with your fucking kittens."
"Then we use Rex." Nagi was still looking like a disgruntled porcupine. Mamoru shuffled his papers around, trying not to laugh. "I'd like you to come inspect a school with us."
Mamoru looked up at him. Nagi was all business again. "Yes. And because you can get into places I can't. You can find out what's really going on."
Nagi nodded. "When?"
"Tomorrow. I'll send you the time."
"Fine," Nagi said, like he didn't think it was beneath his dignity. Like Mamoru could trust him to do what was needed.
Thank God, Mamoru thought. He needed that from one person at least.
"This is a different kind of mission," Persia said, his voice tinny through the speakers. "You'll be asked to gather information only."
"What? Why?" Ragdoll asked. He looked irritated.
"We want to learn more about your capabilities," Rex explained. "Your skills." The answer didn't seem to please him, not that she could say she blamed him. He leant back against the wall, his arms crossed and his face not as expressionless as he probably thought it was.
"We get paid more money for this?" Tonkinese said. His grin looked almost natural.
"I can't say," Rex said. "Are you in?"
"I want in," Tonkinese said. "What the hell. It's a change, right?"
"Yeah," Ragdoll said after a moment, like he wasn't going to be left out of Tonkinese's fun. "Okay. I got skills."
"Everyone?" Rex said. They all nodded.
She smiled. She'd told Mamoru-sama she could persuade them. Maybe now he'd tell her what this was all about.
"Why are you doing this, Mamoru-sama?" she asked, back in his office. "We have Crashers – why use Weiss for information gathering?"
He looked at her levelly. "How many members of Weiss have we lost, Rex?"
She didn't reply.
"It's not easy, being in Weiss," he said. "Trust me on that. The strain of being nothing but a killer...if we expand their set of skills, they'll be less stressed, and more effective. Remember Abyssinian? He functioned better as more than a killer - surveillance and information gathering skills are invaluable assets."
Of course. He was soft-hearted at his core, she thought, he personalised things. No wonder he looked at the current members of Weiss and saw his old friends. Kritiker was right, those connections were a weakness. Still, he'd grow out of them in time - time she hoped she could give him.
"You don't have anything else in mind, Mamoru-sama?"
Mamoru's glance was sharp and quick. "Do you?"
"No," she said, her eyes downcast. "Of course not."
She'd never noticed before how much he resembled his grandfather.
It had been a long day. Mamoru was tired, but not as tired as Nagi looked as he sank down onto a chair and rested his head in his hands. He looked drained and ill, as he had been for much of the latter half of the day.
"I'm sorry," Mamoru said.
"Christ," Nagi said, and Mamoru couldn't tell if it was irritation at his sympathy, a statement on Nagi's general view of things or an actual prayer.
"I didn't realize –" Mamoru started. I didn't think, he thought. The one person I know I can depend on and I --
"I'm an empath," Nagi said, his voice a thread of exhaustion.
"I know," Mamoru said. It was in Nagi's file; he was a fool to have ignored it. "I miscalculated."
"So did I," Nagi said. That much of an admission startled Mamoru out of his own tired frustration. How stupid had he been? Mamoru wondered. Suppose this sort of thing really was too much for Nagi –
"Tonkinese can do the next school," he said. "It'll be good for him, it'll make him use his head –"
"No," Nagi said quickly, as the few pens on the conference table began to roll away from him as if running for cover. "I can handle it, I can do things they can't, like you said."
"I'm not going to risk –"
"I'll be fine," Nagi snapped, looking up briefly. The whole heavy table was rattling. Nagi stared back down at the polished wood, breathing hard. Mamoru made himself think of clear skies and still water. It was safer than telling Nagi to calm down.
"All right," he said quietly. "All right." He took a few careful steps nearer, his mind still full of peaceful images. Nagi flinched a little when he touched the back of his neck.
He hadn't expected Nagi to sit still for this, nor to be willing to be touched. He worked his thumbs over the tense muscle, watching Nagi's shoulders lose some of their rigor. "Better?" he asked.
"Yes," Nagi said. And, "Thanks," which was, Mamoru decided, shorthand for Keep going.
"Let me know if it's too much," he said, remembering Ken's instructions about loosening up too-tight muscles. Nagi didn't say anything else, just sat there, head drooping, weariness and misery in his every line.
"I'm throwing Mizuki out of the kitchen and cooking tonight," Mamoru said, laying a hand flat between Nagi's shoulder blades. "Do you want to stay? I always make too much for two."
Nagi was going to say no, he could tell. The tension was creeping back into his muscles, and he'd always hated people showing they felt sorry for him.
"Okay," Nagi said.
Mamoru caught himself acting up in the kitchen, trying to make Nagi smile. He added just a little too much of one ingredient, a little too much of another, till Nagi was shaking his head and asking if he meant to feed an army. Mamoru meekly obeyed instructions after that. Bossing people round always seemed to make Nagi feel better.
Dinner itself went well. Ran sat as close to Nagi as she could and sneaked her mushrooms onto his plate, while he in turn sneaked tiny corncobs onto hers. Mamoru smiled and pretended he didn't notice. He'd worried the first time she'd done that sort of thing, and had carefully explained to her that he wasn't annoyed at her having preferences. Now, though, he knew it was a game, and he was getting better at playing his part, broadly signalling glances at her place setting, and being warmed by her giggles.
Nagi played along with great determination, which amused and touched Mamoru. They'd already decided he wouldn't use his abilities in front of Ran, so it was sheer skill and light fingers that moved the corncobs from both his plate and Mamoru's to hers. It was hard to keep from grinning openly at the game – harder when he realised Nagi's poker face barely covered up laughter.
"Can Nagi-nii stay after dinner?" Ran asked excitedly. "Ran-chan wants him to see her Barbie video."
The thought of Nagi enduring it was too much. "You don't have to –" Mamoru said.
Nagi looked very grateful. He was going to run, it was clear. "Sure," he said, "I'd like to see it," and let Ran take his hand and lead him to the couch.
"You sit there," she said, pointing at one end of the couch, "And Mamoru-nii will sit there, and Ran-chan will sit here!" She sat in the middle as they obediently took either end, scooting close to Nagi and curling against him as the video started.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," Mamoru muttered. He'd seen it twice that week already.
"How bad can it be?" Nagi said as Ran shushed them.
That's how bad, Mamoru thought, meeting Nagi's glance a little later. He smiled innocently.
"Bedtime!" he said after, as Ran snuggled closer against Nagi and begged for another viewing.
"Can Nagi-nii read me a story?"
"Poor Nagi-nii might want his bedtime too."
"I don't mind," Nagi said, hanging on to Ran's hand like a lifeline.
"Okay," Mamoru said, happy to see her so buoyed up and cheerful. "Just one story."
She managed to drag it out, finding and rejecting books, deciding on which story it was to be, but was finally nestled against Nagi again, paying close attention as he read to her. Then she had to show him that she could brush her teeth, that she had a pink Barbie nightdress, and that her dolls had their own little beds.
"You put on your nightie, and I'll be back to tuck you in," Mamoru said, rescuing Nagi. "I'll just be a minute or so," he said, back in the safety of the living room.
"I should go," Nagi said. "I'll let myself out while you're tucking her in."
"You don't have to. It's not that late; you could stay for coffee –"
Nagi's face seemed perfectly easy to read. He was going to say yes, then,
"I should get some rest," Nagi said. "I'll see you in the morning, Mamoru."
"Okay," Mamoru said softly.
He didn't hear the door close as he tucked Ran in, though he was listening for it. He stroked her hair and made sure he was smiling as he kissed her goodnight.
The living room seemed too big and empty when he left her. He turned about aimlessly, feeling as if some carefully-ordered structure had been torn down when he wasn't paying attention. The room was so quiet he could hear his own breath. He closed his eyes. Down the hall there was someone who needed him. In a near-by apartment there was someone he needed.
They were three lost children, he thought, turning on the news just to hear another voice. They had to go on finding each other. No one else would do it for them.