by Talya Firedancer

"Want some popcorn?"

Aya batted the helpful hand away, craning his neck just long enough to shoot a baleful glance upward. "No food." He dropped his head between his knees again.

"Geez...sorry." Yohji sounded aggrieved, taking the last gulp of his staggeringly overpriced soda. "Hot dog? Cotton candy?"

"Don't be absurd." Aya concentrated on his breathing.

"Are you gonna be okay?" Oh, fine, *now* Yohji sounded concerned. "I wanted to hit the Devil's Curve before Omi and Ken met us..."

Aya felt himself turning green again. Breathe. In and out. "Not. A. Chance," he ground out, wishing his two other teammates would just hurry up and appear, already. They had vanished a short time after they'd come into the park, Ken wearing a foolish sort of grin that betokened they'd be doing more dallying in secluded corners than getting their ticket's worth of rides from the park.

"Ah. Er. Sorry," Yohji offered. "D' you want me to get you a snow cone? Look, they've got 'em the same color as your hair..."

Aya breathed deeply, and told himself he would not. Kill. Yohji. Especially not with so many children running about the park. He had done his duty; he had let Yohji drag him along to every single ride in the amusement park. Once. No more.

"I can't believe Manx gave us admission tickets to Funco-land as a 'reward' for the latest mission," he said in disgust, assassin's pride still smarting from that blow.

Yohji lowered himself onto the bench beside him with a quiet sigh, abandoning that veneer of cheerfulness. "'re the only one who's not having fun."

The redhead looked at him with some surprise. Yohji's tone wasn't upset, exactly, but he sounded disappointed. "...Sorry," he begrudged, and the apology was worth the flash of warmth in verdant eyes.

"Well, so what," Yohji said with a shrug and that charming half-grin of his. "Who knew that you get motion sick, from the way you drive that Porsche of yours?"

"That's when *I'm* driving it," Aya said flatly. He got motion-sick when anyone else drove; that was why he had his own car. No one drove him around.

"So...I guess another go on the water rides is out?" Yohji said with a half-smile, nudging him in the ribs.

Aya shuddered. He was still damp from the Whitewater Rapids ride, and getting blown dry on the Screamer's Peak had not been much help. He never saw any kind of fun in the humiliation of being publicly drenched in water. Yohji, on the other hand, had whooped and yelled and carried on in properly idiotic, oh, excuse him, *enthusiastic* fashion.

"I'll take that as a 'no,'" Yohji said wryly. "Well..."

They waited for twenty minutes until it was obvious Ken and Omi were missing the one o'clock checkpoint and going for one of the later ones. Yohji hopped up once more during that time to grab another Big Gulp drink and a greasy hamburger. Aya's stomach finally settled into its proper spot, recovering from the gauntlet of fast-motion rides.

"I suppose they might be stuck in line somewhere," Yohji said, offering Aya a sip of his drink.

Aya shook his head. "I find it more likely they're taking a third or fourth turn on the Fortune Wheel," he replied. They had spotted Ken and Omi in the line for the ride earlier, the one that had separate, enclosed cars that went high up in the air, like dangling from a giant's hand, and rotated for twenty minutes with a spectacular view of the park.

"Heh," Yohji said with a smirk. "That ride *is* popular with couples."

Aya frowned at him. Even mentioning that much was indiscreet in public.

"Well..." Yohji rubbed behind one ear, glancing around the horseshoe-shaped food court. "What should we do now? We could go on the tram ride, or play in the arcades...or there's always the Imax screenings at the other end of the park, too."

"No tram ride," Aya said firmly. Nothing else that moved; he'd done the whole circuit of rides with Yohji and he was *through.*

Yohji glanced at him slyly. "There are shooting games in the arcade."

Aya gave him a wolfish look, lips curving subtly. Not a smile, but a fraction of one. "You're on."

The arcades had several types of shooting games. Air rifles to hit moving 'roosters,' waterguns to aim at gaping clown mouths and inflate their balloon 'noses,' laser-targeting games, blow up the alien arcade games.

At the air rifle booth Aya sized up the prizes. They were all stuffed animals, of course. He glanced at Yohji, playing some game that involved racing radio-controlled cars on a circuit. Maybe presenting him with a large pink elephant would make up in part for the repeated drenchings as they hit one water ride after another. If Aya had known about that he wouldn't have worn denim. Yohji had obviously planned ahead -- he was wearing khakis.

He was approaching the head of the line, and continued to watch Yohji. The other man finished the car game, coming in first, having put two other radio cars out of commission with wild sideswipes. He was a good racer. Aya scowled as a woman approached the chestnut-haired man, a young, blonde, pertly attractive woman who was cooing over the little blue teddy bear in Yohji's hands, by the look of it.

With a gallant bow he presented it to her, lips moving, then turned and headed for another game without a backward glance.

Aya's eyes softened, though he remained watchful. Yohji had been 'good' all day, hadn't flirted with any girls in his typical careless fashion, and he hadn't responded to any overtures. In short, he was treating the outing like a date, with the attentiveness and consideration he'd shown to Aya. Aya rather thought he liked it that way.

He was at the head of the line, and picked up the air rifle. A man and his girlfriend were moving away from the booth, looking disappointed. "Normally I'm such a good shot," he was saying, stricken.

"It's okay, I don't need another stuffed animal," the girl replied, patting his arm.

Aya examined the rifle in his hands then glared coldly at the booth-tender, a rail-thin man with a patchy black goatee and a nervous tic below one eye. "The settings are off," he commented.

"N-no way," the scraggly man said, looking nervous. "Must be some kind of mistake." The flesh at the corner of his eye jumped.

"I'm sure," Aya replied with a snort. "Here, I'll fix it for you." He fiddled with the rifle as the scraggly man scratched his goatee and tried to cover his growing dismay. He looked like he wanted to protest.

He lifted the rifle to his shoulder and sighted. Better. The scope had been set up wrong, with the result that anyone who relied on the scope to sight their target would fire higher than they aimed by several centimeters.

Aya sighted and shot down the entire row of metal roosters. The booth-tender couldn't contain a groan.

"What prize would you like, sir?" he asked, forcing polite cheer.

"That one." Aya pointed.

The scraggly man gulped, nodded, and took the air rifle back. He reached for a hook to pull the stuffed animal down.

"By the way," Aya added, accepting the pink elephant, "if you have any ideas about 'fixing' that rifle again, I'm planning on seeking out the arcade manager before I leave the park."

The man gulped. "I - I understand." He bowed his head.

Aya gave him a cold look and turned on his heel. Contemptible. For most people the game was already hard enough without rigging it. He didn't care to seek out the arcade manager, but he'd given the booth-tender something to think about.

"Oniichan," a clear young voice said, as a hand tugged at his shirt.

Aya looked down and to the side, and almost smiled. Almost. A little girl, about eight or nine, looked up at him with earnest blue eyes. She wore a school uniform and cap with an unfamiliar crest, and her dark hair lay in twin plaits on her shoulders. "Yes?" She reminded him of...someone.

"That's an awful big stuffed elephant," she told him in conversational tones. "Are you going to give it to your girlfriend?" She enunciated each word clearly to make up for missing some baby teeth in front.

Aya glanced over at Yohji. He was playing a shoot-em-up video game, both barrels blazing. Yohji looked up, saw Aya, and freed a hand to wave. Aya lifted his hand in reply. "Not exactly...I was thinking about giving it to my friend over there, you want it?"

The little girl's face lit up. "Really?" She looked over at Yohji, and bit her lip. "He looks like a really nice guy, oniichan. If you were going to give him a present..."

"It's okay," Aya said solemnly. "I think Yohji's a little old for stuffed pink elephants. And he's a boy. You'll treat this elephant better than he would." He handed the stuffed animal to her, and she clasped it in both arms, barely reaching all the way around.

"Sankyuu!" she said sincerely, heart-shaped face beaming. "You'll have to give your friend an even better present, 'cause you gave me this one!"

Aya's mouth twitched. "I'll do that," he assured her. He turned, digging for tokens, then it occurred to him that she might be lost, separated from her class. He looked over his shoulder, mouth open to ask.

The little girl was gone, and the pink elephant too.

Bemused, Aya joined Yohji by the shoot-em-up game. Yohji grinned at him briefly, and returned his attention to the game. "Thank God. When I saw that pink elephant in your arms I was terrified it was for me."

"Did you see the little girl I gave it to?" Aya asked slowly, looking back at that spot.

"Huh? Little girl?" Yohji's concentration was on the game. "No, I don't think so."


2500 yen's worth of tokens later, they returned to the checkpoint where they were supposed to meet Ken and Omi. It was almost five o'clock and getting marginally darker, and cooler. Aya was glad his clothes had finished drying. By mutual consent they had turned over all their winnings -- stuffed animals and costume jewelry for the most part -- to passing girls in the crowd.

"So, what do we do next?" Yohji said, leaning back against the bench. "I think Ken and Omi are gonna miss this check-in, too."

"I think you're right," Aya said shortly. "Irresponsible...Omi's not usually so thoughtless."

"Hey, Omi's a good kid," Yohji protested. He grinned. "Right now he's being led astray by Ken, that's all."

Aya wondered how many times a person could go on the Fortune Wheel. Wasn't there a park limit, or something?

"We could go to that Imax special," Yohji said, green eyes darkening, giving him a slightly more private look. "And sit in the back and hold hands and maybe make out..."

"Don't be ridiculous," Aya snapped, feeling warmth flush his cheeks.

"Ah, well. It was a thought." Yohji stood in a burst of energy and paced about. "How about the two-tiered merry go round? That looked pretty cool...I think it even had a miniature Porsche on the second deck."

"Nothing that moves," Aya said flatly. He was keeping his feet firmly on the ground. No more roller coasters, water rides, things that rose high in the air and dropped sharply, things that rose high in the air and spun, rooms that spun as the floor bottomed out, none of it.

"All right, all right," Yohji grumbled. "Spoilsport."

Aya said nothing, merely glanced around the crowded food court. He was starting to get his appetite back but the prices were ridiculously high and the lines were long.

"Well, let's do something." Yohji raked his hair back, a restless gesture, and stuck his hands into his pockets. "I don't think we'll see Ken and Omi until the final checkpoint time. They're probably making out--"


"--just fine without us," Yohji finished, giving him an unrepentant look. "What? No one's listening."

"Whatever." Aya looked at the brightly-colored map of the park to the left of him by one of the entrances to the food court area. There was one place they hadn't been yet. "We could walk around the lake," he offered. "If it won't be too boring for you."

"Huh?" Yohji paused in the middle of lighting up a cigarette. "Hey, yeah, let's go do that!"

At the edge of the park bordering the east flank of Funco land, there was a man-made lake -- well, a large pond, really. That was where they walked, guided on the way by smiley-faced signs that pointed to 'Funco-Lake.' There was a path that wound its way along the rough oval of shimmering blue. They walked along it side by side, saying very little for now. The sky darkened by degrees.

"The fireworks will start soon," Yohji said quietly. "You want to watch from here? We'll have a pretty good view."

"Sure," Aya replied. It had been a long time since he'd been to an amusement park, since he'd seen fireworks, since he had relaxed like this. It was good.

"Then we can meet Ken and Omi at the last check-in time," Yohji continued. He grinned at Aya.

"If they even show up for that," Aya muttered. He had a mental image of Ken and Omi, kissing and pawing until the Fortune Wheel ground to a halt. Maybe he was wrong.

Maybe they'd found some *other* ride that gave them privacy enough for petting and making out.

On the far side of the lake there were benches, picnic table areas. Yohji ambled for one of the more secluded benches, hands tucked in his pockets.

"I hope you don't expect me to go to 'B' with you here," Aya told him, a little sharper than he intended.

"No, of course not," Yohji replied, turning a startled face in his direction.

They settled on the bench side by side, not touching but close enough for Aya to feel a line of warmth along the right side of his body.

"The last time I watched fireworks," Yohji said suddenly, "it was in the park with Asuka."

So? Aya wanted to say, feeling a sense of near-resentment for the woman who overshadowed so much of Yohji's life. Even now, he felt, he couldn't forget the way she had been entangled with him, and the way she had died. Twice.

"So it's nice to be here with you now," Yohji continued, lifting a hand to his hair, raking it back, pulling his pack of cigarettes free and tapping one loose.

Aya looked out over the lake. As the dusk deepened, lights flickered on across the park, casting scintillating reflections to dot the darkened waters here and there. It was almost dark enough, but not quite. He ran his tongue over dry lips. "I...haven't seen fireworks since the last carnival with my sister." A painful pause. "And so I'd like to see them now with you."

He didn't know what time it was, but the park was sparkling with lights now, like a cluster of stars come to earth. From the edge of the lake they began to erupt; soft popping sounds at first, whistling overhead, then blossoming above into sparkling gunpowder flowers. The fireworks spiraled up, crackling across the sky with heat and light and thunder-cracks. They watched the fireworks flare, and Aya slipped his hand into Yohji's.

"I'm glad," Yohji said. His hand squeezed around Aya's.

Me, too, Aya wanted to say, but stayed silent for now. This day in the amusement did remind him strongly of the last carnival he'd attended with Aya-chan. She had been so cheerful, so determined to see everything, dragging him from booth to booth and demanding that he buy everything from shaved ice to mochi, everything that caught her eye.

"So why *did* you go on all those rides with me?" Yohji wanted to know, shifting to face him partially. More fire-blossoms whistled and crackled across the sky. "I didn't know you got motion-sick. You could've said something, I wouldn't have minded."

"Well..." Aya muttered, raking his free hand through his hair. "Because you wanted to go on all of them. It's no fun going alone, right?"

"Aya," Yohji said, sounding soft and surprised. "Thank you..."

"Yeah, well..." Aya glanced at him sidelong. "Don't expect me to ride them a second time, that's all."

Yohji grinned. "Well, how many times do we have the opportunity to visit an amusement park without paying?"

"Not many," Aya said with relief. They settled back on the bench to look up at the sky.

"So..." Yohji's tone positively crawled with speculation. With *that* particular tone, Aya already knew where he was heading.

"No," Aya said firmly.

"What?" Yohji asked, striving for injured and sounding only guilty. "You don't even know what I'm going to ask."

"We're not going someplace cozy to make out," Aya told him, flat and inarguable. "You can wait until we get home."

"Fine..." Yohji slouched, but from the corner of his eye Aya could see he was smiling. "Besides, I guess Ken and Omi are probably risking public discovery enough for all four of us."


With Yohji's hand in his, it was enough. They watched until the fiery blooms faded from the sky. People began to leave the park in twos and threes, small groups, foursomes. Aya stood, pulling Yohji to his feet, ostensibly too quick. Their noses bumped, then Aya kissed him.


"Come on," he said shortly, releasing Yohji's hand. "Let's go meet Omi and Ken."

"Right..." Yohji lagged behind him for a few steps, dazed, then caught up with him in a few long strides.

Because you wanted to, Aya wanted to say. But kept silent. There were some things he was no good at saying out loud.

~end~ 12/08/01 Christmas giftfic ...For UT/Elysaar!