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Natsuo cried into his hands, his cheeks wet, his palms wet. He could feel Mark close beside him, then his arm around him. It was comforting, to have him there like that. But he couldn't bring himself to stop crying. Trusting that Mark was holding his eyes away, he pulled his palms from his eyes to wipe his cheek, his nose. But the small drops of water still ceased to stop falling. He felt like every time where he hadn't cried; had stopped himself from crying; was catching up to him. Had caught up to him. And in that moment, he thought he should have felt alone. Alone, forgotten, hopeless, and completely unprotected. Instead, it was almost the opposite. With Mark holding him up against him, speaking to him like he was, Natsuo felt like he hadn't been forgotten, that he wasn't hopeless. And he felt so, so safe.
And that was probably why he couldn't help but keep crying.
Natsuo glanced up to Mark beside him, crushing more of the wetness from his cheeks as he stared up at him. He dropped his eyes after a second, and fully leaned into his side. His took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. And, slower than that, the tears began to stop. One by one, they ceased to fall, leaving only the wetness on his cheeks and the redness in his eyes. He rubbed his eyes with the balls of his hands again, before closing his eyes. He took another deep breath.
"I don't remember how old I was." he finally spoke. His voice was small, quite, but it didn't break. "I don't remember what we were doing...or why we were there. I only remember... being there." He opened his eyes, staring at the tiled bathroom floor. "They were walking in front of me...me and Sean. I remember them holding hands, smiling and laughing. And I think I was talking to Sean. I think...I think we went to get ice cream." He paused, letting his eyes fall closed again. "We were crossing the street, and I guess...maybe the driver just didn't notice us. Maybe we just didn't notice the driver. I remember my mom turning around with a big smile on her face, and then...suddenly she was screaming." he stopped, opening his eyes again.
He glanced up at Mark again, catching his eye. "It happened so fast...it was like I blinked, and suddenly I was lying on the ground. I couldn't move. My arm and my hand hurt...and I couldn't feel my leg. I could only see Sean, on his back, his eyes closed. It took me what felt like forever to make myself move, and when I did, I saw everything else. My dad was lying on his stomach a few feet from me, and I could tell he wasn't breathing. My mom was slightly behind him, under the car. Everything was red. And then, everything was black." He finally dropped his eyes again, down to his hands. "I woke up in the hospital; broken ankle, dislocated shoulder. Sean was in the bed next to mine, awake now. Slight concussion. I knew the minute I discovered that my parents weren't there with us..." he shook his head, closing his eyes again.
Mark watched the boy and heard his words as he covered his face and pulled himself into a ball against the wall of the bathroom. He sighed lightly and sat beside him not looking at him but he put an arm around him and rubbed his shoulder. “I’m not looking at you.” He said quietly, his eyes had no emotion, though he felt bad for the boy he knew that he needed support, some kind of support even just a little. He sat there as the boy cried beside him. Pulling Nat to lean on him after a couple minutes, he let his eyes fall to the top of his head.
He probably thought he was weak, felt like a child, felt… helpless. He didn’t know exactly, but he knew one thing was true… “You’ve done good... You’ve been strong Natsuo.” He said quietly rubbing his back. “For where you are in life, you have had to deal with too much.” Leaning his head back against the wall he stared at the ceiling. “And I think… you’ve been strong for too long. Because no matter how much of a strong front you put up, you’re going to want to break it down and cry after a while. It’s not healthy not to do that.” He said squeezing the males shoulder lightly. Keeping his eyes off the boy as he was told, but not leaving him alone for now…
"You don't have to keep everything to yourself now..." He said in a quiet voice. He felt like the boy had gone through to much, he had seen to much, had too much happen to him and he needed to let it out and be able to feel safe again...
Natsuo vaguely heard a soft pawing at the door, and his brain seemed to just barely register that it was Hunter on the other side. He could hear the pup trotting back and forth, up and down the hall, whining softly all the while. And then, footsteps. And a real knock at the door, followed by a voice. A familiar voice behind the door, worried and almost...pleading, for him to open the door. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He couldn't answer, but did he really want to? He wasn't sure what he'd sound like, anyway. It didn't matter, though. Mark came in on his own, and only a small part of the raven haired male was annoyed with him for doing so. He looked up from the floor as the brunet knelt beside him. His smile was worried, pained, pitying.
Natsuo felt it like a wave, knocking into him. He brought his hands up to hide his face as the first drop slipped from his eyes, followed by another. He pushed his forehead against his knees, keeping his hands covering his face. "D-don't look!" His voice was raspy and broken. "D-don't look at m-me!" He didn't like it when people saw him cry, because he didn't like it when others could see him at his weakest. He hated being weak. Being weak was what had opened him up to Sean's torture. Every time. Though he knew Mark wasn't anything like his older brother, or anyone else he'd ever met, and he knew he was safe with the brunet, he still didn't want him to see. He didn't want to see that pitying look on the older male's face; he didn't want Mark to think he was weak.
The boy was right, he did get annoyed with Lieke’s attitude, it was snobbish and rude, she pushed buttons not to be pushed and he really found that more childish that Nat’s reaction to what she said. Natsuo had said before his parents were dead and the look in his eye had said he wasn’t lying, no one could fake that kind of sadness, that kind of shock, he must have seen the accident. Hunter seemed to be going between the door to the bathroom and the bedroom then stopped at the door to Mark’s office. Whining softly but the brunette thought that the younger male needed some time to himself. It seemed that way at least, that he was in a weak moment so he needed a few minutes.
Mark was in the middle of typing something but then stopped, hearing Hunter trot out to the bathroom and paw at the door. A quiet noise made him raise a brow and get up. He stood over Hunter and then knocked on the door. “Nat? You alright?” He asked. Waiting a moment for the male to answer, Hunter still raising his paw to the door and patting at it like he was knocking. Eventually Mark slid the door open, seeing Natsuo on the floor he frowned, worry in his eyes and knelt down near him. He smiled lightly at the boy, sighing lightly. “Bad memories huh?” He asked, he’d seen death, he’d killed before, he had no choice in his job. It never got easier but it got easier to mask the pain of seeing, and killing and almost dying. Facing the barrel of a gun was never a fun thing he did but he ended up chasing someone down at some point, and they were armed and a scared, cornered animal in the end, everyone was.
Natsuo slid down the door on his back until he reached the floor. He knew what Mark was doing, and it made him happy. But everything about that night just seemed to be going wrong. Leike had pointed out every problem; every flaw in the relationship that they had - what was their relationship? - every issue in their situation. She didn't know when to shut up; didn't know her place. But she had managed to provoke him more than he'd thought possible. The thought of her made his anger build inside of him, and he felt hot. He rested his forehead on his knees as he let out a heavy sigh, closing his eyes.
In seconds, images from the past flashed by his closed eyelids. Everything was huge; every tree, every park bench, every car; no, they weren't huge, he was just small. He was little again. Everything was bright, shining, happy. Two people walked ahead of him, holding hands, talking and laughing and smiling. Beside him, a boy held his own hand, walking along beside him. They were crossing a street. The people in front of them turned around, large grins on their faces, laughing.
Another second, and everything was different. Everything was dark. he was laying on his side, his throat was soar, his eyes hurt and he could hardly see. His side and his arm hurt, and he couldn't move his ankle. Beside him, the boy who'd been holding his hand lay on his back, eyes closed. It took everything he had to look up, and when he did, he saw the two people who had been walking in front of them strewn across the ground. They lay in awkward positions, red painting the ground.
Natsuo's eyes flew open, his stomach turning. He lurched forward, catching the edge of the toilet seat as he heaved-
He fell back, his back hitting the wall with a soft thump. He felt tense, but at the same time, his body was relaxing all too quickly. His hands were shaking, and he felt hot again.
He hadn't seen that in so long.
In the kitchen he put the dishes from him and Lieke away, having lost his appetite and put the left over’s that hadn’t even been served away. Taking Nat’s bowl and heating it up in the microwave he set it back out on the table to hear the movement in the other room, Natsuo going into the bathroom Hunter trotting to the bedroom and he was left in the kitchen. Writing up a note and leaving it beside the bowl, a cover over it so it would stay warm for at least a few hours, he made his way to his office to finish up some work at least before tomorrow came, he’d email it to his boss then.
Make sure you eat. I’m sorry about tonight.
In his office opened up the information that had been sent to him on multiple cases, pictures to help with some, data, lists, descriptions to go with others. It was hard knowing what to do with this and that. Mark sighed getting to work, hopefully getting his mind off of what had happened. Tonight may have just ruined everything. Absolutely everything between the two of them. Lieke was right though, he hardly knew the boy and he trusted him in his own home. Around his dog, and things like that. He didn’t know why or how he did, he just did, it was natural. He wanted to keep the male safe.
Natsuo was right, he didn’t need another dad. Mark couldn’t see him being his son. They were two close in age really. He held him highly in his mind, Hunter was family, he could say that the big pup was his son and it would be a joke and be realistic. What he felt around Nat… it was different…
Natsuo could hear Mark walking behind him, but was thankful for the fact that he hadn't made any move to catch him. Though, after a few minutes, he heard the other male's footsteps quicken behind him. He turned to tell Mark to leave him alone, but before he could say anything, he was being picked up off his feet and slung over the other's shoulder. He blinked for a moment, then frowned. "Mark, put me down." he said, though he didn't bother saying it again. He listened as he spoke, and had to hold himself back from rolling his eyes. He knew that Mark was older than him, that the maturity was greater. But he already knew what the brunet was saying. He sighed. "I know you aren't trying to replace him, Mark. That's not what I meant when I said it." he muttered.
When dropped on the couch, Natsuo grunted, though said nothing as Mark walked away. He watched him as he walked into the kitchen, and turned his eyes down to look at Hunter. He wasn't growling anymore, which was good. It told him that Leike had indeed gone home. Hopefully she never comes back. He thought. Reaching out, he started scratching the German Sheppard on top of his head, resulting in the thumping of his heavy tail and a goofy grin springing to his face. Natsuo let a small smile come to his lips. After a moment, he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Hunter's neck. His smile faded as he stared out into space, the pup taking his chance to lick Natsuo's ear and neck clean.
Natsuo sighed, letting go of Hunter and sitting back. He glanced over to the kitchen, then stood from the couch. He walked out of the living room, down the hall to the bathroom. He closed the door behind him, sighing again. He felt like Leike had completely ruined the evening. Too many thoughts rushing back; too many memories and flashbacks.
Mark glared at the boy, he wasn’t trying to be a dad, he wasn’t one, he knew what it was like to not want anyone else to act like a parent though. It pissed him off seeing other people do it but that was a painful look Natsuo was giving. “Nat, I’m not trying to replace your dad.” He said. His voice slightly cold to the boy, he wanted to help, like he had been the entire time. When he heard Lieke’s voice and then Natsuo’s response to it. He watched them for a moment, wanting to burst out laughing because of how he was acting, towards her of all people. He thought it was funny. But she stood there in shock not saying anything. Mark shrugged as Nat went towards the apartment then right past them. He patted the woman on the shoulder then said. “You should go home Lieke.” Before following the male.
Hunter stood at the door and growled until the car drove off about 5 minutes later but that wasn’t what Mark was paying attention to. He walked after the boy letting him walk off a bit of steam keeping a distance between them. After a while he moved quicker to catch up and when he caught up he grabbed him around his waist lifting him up and over his shoulder. “Going to far from home bud. Don’t want your brother coming.” He said turning back around and walking towards the apartment. As he walked he spoke. “To make things clear. I trust you Nat, you’re a good kid, your hardly a kid anymore. I want to help you, that woman is used to getting things she wants and is used to being agreed with no matter what. I want to be part of your family, but I’m not going to be a replacement for your dad.”
Inside the apartment, he was careful not to hit Nat on anything as he closed the door then dropped him on the couch. “And I am not going to stand for you walking out without knowing your ok.” With that he left him on the couch Hunter near the door sitting there quietly as he went into the kitchen to clean up.
Natsuo didn't stop walking until he was half way across the parking lot. His eyes fell to the ground, littered with snow whiter than white. It was beautiful. But at the moment, he didn't care. He didn't care about the snow, he didn't care about it's beauty, it's softness, it's comforting coolness. He barely noticed when Mark walked up behind him; barely noticed the warmth of the coat; barely noticed the hand on his shoulder. What he did notice, were the brunet's words. He looked up at him over his shoulder, his brows drawn together. "I don't need another dad, Mark." he told him, and dropped his eyes. "And I don't want you to be him, either." This time his voice cracked slightly, and he shook his head. He let out a huff of air, his hot breath creating a cloud of smoke in front of his face. He looked up to Mark again as he finally turned around, but his eyes caught Leike walking over to them.
"Mark~" her voice chimed as she got closer. "You should pay him too much attention. It only feeds-" This time, Natsuo lost time. This time, he really had had enough. He spun on his heel, walked right over to her. "Shut up!" he yelled at her. "Stop talking! Nobody wants to listen to you! You're annoying! You piss the hell out of Mark, out of me, even the fucking dog!" Leike blinked up at him as he caught his breath. When she opened her mouth to speak again, he raised a hand. "Fuck. Off." This time she froze. This time, she didn't speak. Her eyes widened, in real shock. Every nerve in his body told him to slap her, to shove her out of the way; knock her down.
He pushed past her, over to Hunter as he trotted over. His tail did a sort of half wag when he saw the raven haired male, but halted when he felt the mood. The growl came up in his throat as he faced the woman, but Natsuo didn't turn around to look. He kept walking. But he didn't stop at the apartment. If she's going back in there, then like hell I am. He thought.
Mark took calm sips from his glass and ignored Lieke for the most part. Crossing his arms he set the glass down and kept his eyes closed not showing that he was getting annoyed but she was making a few good points. “I don’t trust you.” He said quiet and calm. “I don’t trust anyone, unless they have given me their trust. So far he’s done exactly that.” He opened his eyes and looked at the woman. His voice was ice cold, though when she said the final thing to make Nat snap, Hunter shot up and growled deep in the back of his throat, Mark watching with wide eyes at the boy who seemed to be calm for the most part. “Nat.” He said standing after the boy stood up.
“Just look at him, he’s a child. Not even mature enough to hear the truth. He’s probably going off to cry on his own and get over a tantrum. He’s no better than a four year old Mark.”
“Lieke!” He yelled getting her to clamp her mouth shut. “Hasn’t he been through enough. Now you come in and decide you can make assumptions over who I trust. This is my apartment and right now you aren’t welcome.” He said pushing away from the table and out of the room, Hunter still there growling at the woman quietly, tail between his legs. Grabbing his coat then the one Nat used he slid into his shoes and walked outside looking for Natsuo. Moving towards him he hung the jacket over his shoulders and smiled at him lightly. “I’m sorry… It probably brought up bad memories about your parents.” He said. Putting a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He wanted to pull him into a hug, to make him feel like she hadn’t even been there but he didn’t know how he would do that... he wasn't a father though he could try and comfort him still...
Natsuo kept his lips together as Leike kept speaking, trying to work her way into his thoughts; trying to get him to out something that he hadn't even told Mark yet. What made her think that he was going to tell her anything, being the way that she was? There must have been something wrong with her brain if she actually thought that he would spill something that big to her, of all people. So, he said nothing. Instead, he let Mark do the talking for him. It was nice to see the brunet coming to his defense, but it was beginning to annoy him even more that the woman wasn't taking no for an answer. But even after Mark's last line, she still kept persisting. "What makes you think that he's being honest with you?" she said, before bringing her spoon up to her mouth, as if it were a casual conversation.
Natsuo blinked at her again, and her eyes swooped back to him. "How do you know he's not lying to you? You have no idea who he is. Mark, if he isn't being honest with you, how can you trust me?" Leike batted her eyelashes at him, raised a brow, and he swore he could see the smirk on her face. But her eyes said it all. She was fishing, and she was definitely enjoying herself. Natsuo could only frown as she carried on. "You know, he probably didn't even run away for a real reason. Spoiled brats get in fights with their parents all of the time-" Natsuo stood up, dropping his spoon on the table. "Do you not have any boundaries?" he asked, his voice biting. "How could I have gotten in a fight with my parents when they're dead?" He glared at her. She simply stared up at him, no emotion on her face. He rolled his eyes, walking away from the table.
He'd had enough. Enough of this. Enough of her bullshit. Who the F did she think he was? As he left the kitchen, he could hear her voice in the background, telling Mark that he was acting out a "temper tantrum". He bit his tongue as he slid his shoes on and left the apartment, closing the door behind him and cutting off her voice.
Mark had looked up at her question then looked to Natsuo as he asked a question back, logical answer but he froze and Hunter rose his head. Having not heard that tone from the male before, it was cold, and made the woman stop and think, two men that didn’t like her, at all, must have been a shock to her. Though the brunette hid his amusement as he waited for her to finish saying how much she cared about the situation. But then. It was like a smack in the face. Hunter sat up and watched the woman carefully obviously not interested or liking what was going on. Marwin put his hand on the back of the pups head to keep him calm for now. “I’m sorry but someone must be taking care of you. Do they know Mark?”
“Lieke.” He said making her stop.
“Don’t you want to know? I didn’t think you would just let anyone stay with you.” He raised a brow. “I mean, you don’t seem that interested in people around you at work.”
“That’s work. And I’m not letting anyone just stay with me.” He said. Taking a sip of his drink.
Lieke turned back to Nat and looked him over before raising a brow. “Why are you so protective, unless you’re afraid of telling us where you’re from.” Mark looked up through his bangs glaring at the woman across from him. She seemed much to interested in the fact that Nat was just here.
“May I ask why your so interested. He doesn’t have to tell you anything.”
“That case your working on. Approximate age, he looks the same. Height, got that one down. Very little description otherwise, the woman stopped in with more info on what he looked like. What if your friend here is your runaway.”
“He’s not. He’s told me that. At the moment I’m just giving him a place to stay till he can support himself.” Lieke stopped, opening then closing her mouth. Before he looked over to Nat and gave a slightly apologetic smile to him as Hunter leaned his head on the young man’s lap, growing slightly, his gaze directed at the woman.
Natsuo nodded at Mark's request, and began grabbing place mats, plates, the cutlery, and everything else they would need. It didn't take him long to finish setting the table, and then he just had to wait and watch Leike fawn over and stare after Mark as he continued to look after the soup and the drinks. Natsuo had to keep himself from rolling his eyes and leaving the room, because he knew that if he did the woman would probably try and be all over the brunet, with him out of the room and out of the way.
When dinner was ready, Natsuo filled his, Mark's, and Leike's bowls and set them down in their places. He had just sat down again when the woman spoke, her question directed at him this time. He stared at her for a moment, surprised and a tad caught off guard by her question. He really hadn't expected her to ask him, because her interest had seemed to be locked on the other male. "Why do you want to know?" he asked, his words flowing out of his mouth before he could stop them. Leike blinked at him, obviously surprised by his words and his slightly icy tone. It took her a minute to respond, but once she did, her smile returned to her lips, her tone was soft, but her eyes had hardened. "Because I'm interested, of coarse." she said. "What do your parents think or you living here, in the middle of the big city? With someone you don't even know? Natsuo paused, before saying, "My parents are dead." Leike seemed unphased. It bugged him.
Lieke seemed annoyed with the fact that he was more concerned over Natsuo than his ‘guest’. That wasn’t really his problem though, she’d been the one to come over after all. When he heard her huff lightly then take another sip of her tea, he sighed and then looked back to the male as he asked if he could help anymore. He thought about that. Mark had set up about everything, the table wasn’t set but the food just had to sit and cook for a while then it would be ready. “If you want to set the table, I’ll get drinks out.” He said, not sure what else would really get the male to do anything.
When their eyes locked he smiled and his eyes softened. Seeing that the other smiled as well, he turned to get out glasses and drinks. From the fridge he paused then drew out a bottle of sparkling water, then an orange and a lime. Putting the fruits on a cutting board he cut them into slices then cut the slices in half. Lieke came over and hovered over his shoulder, he looked over and gave a half smile that made her blush. Turning back to what he was doing she leaned on the counter beside him as he put the juice from the fruits into each glass then added the sparkling water. Then held one out to the woman standing beside him. Of course he had to pay attention to her.
After a while, and once everything was done, Hunter laid down under Mark’s chair and stayed there as everyone sat down to eat. Lieke seemed to not be done asking questions about the two of them. “So, Natsuo. Where are you from?” She asked with a calm smile.
Natsuo nodded, watching as Mark moved along the stages of making the soup. "Sure thing!" he said, happy to help. He really had nothing else to do, and it looked like the little "talk" between Mark and Leike had ended, so he did as he was asked to do. As he did so, he was careful not to ruin what the brunet had already started, or to let the water boil over. But, at the same time, he felt sort of...he wasn't sure what it was. Superior? Over Leike? Well, he definitely liked the fact that Mark had asked him to help and not her, and that he seemed more...at ease, talking to the other male instead of the woman. But he wasn't really sure why he felt a tad relieved over those things, as well.
As Leike began speaking again, Natsuo felt that sort of superior feeling grow. He already knew the answers to her questions of the brunet. But she didn't seem to know much about Mark, if anything at all, by what she was asking. Though Natsuo himself had asked those questions, he hadn't known Mark as long as Leike did. Still, he raised a brow at Mark's answer, his tone a tad...well, more than a tad emotionless. It was weird to Natsuo, seeing the older male act like this. He'd never seen him speak to anyone like he was to Leike, nor had he ever imagined he could. Well, I've only been here for a week. He thought, brushing it, as well as everything else, off.
"Did you need help doing anything else?" he asked, turning his eyes up to meet Mark's. When they met, he saw the other male's eyes seem to...soften. It made Natsuo smile. "I'm happy to help with anything."
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