This is a what-if. What if Akihito were killed and Feilong and Asami attended the wake. How would Feilong act, and could I describe Asami's generally minimalist reactions well enough through Feil...
The tension was thick enough that the civilian guests started to look nervous, and Feilong was preparing to call his men in to deal with it. Akihito deserved better than that. But then a chill fell over both sides, a dark cloud, and whatever fires were sparking visibly fizzled out underneath it.
The man didn't even say anything, do anything other than stand there at the end of the hallway, a lone figure who seemed to carry a circle of emptiness around him wherever he walked. A single glance at the other guests quelled them. There was a cold fury in his eyes that he was obviously trying to control because of where he was, but Feilong was shocked at how little control there seemed to be.
He'd known what they meant to each other after seeing them on the deck of the ship, but for Asami to be so affected by it...
He couldn't help the small surge of jealousy that arose. He could, however, ignore it.
The golden eyes that were scanning the crowd flickered past him, then returned briefly. For a second the eyes held something other than animosity, surprise perhaps, but then they shifted away again.
He took a deep breath and walked forward. He was not like the others here. He was Liu Feilong, and he'd loved both this man and Akihito, though in very different ways. No one else here knew that, not even Asami. Maybe Asami would figure out why he did this, but it didn't matter if he didn't understand. Feilong had to do this for himself.
The insignificant ones, the cops and criminals, would see two powerful crime lords on a collision course, and no one would have the guts to step between. Asami though, what was he seeing, with his unwelcoming eyes focused so intently on him?
Feilong stopped less than a meter away. He could almost see ears growing in the crowd around them, desperate to hear what they had to say to one another. They were inconsequential and ceased to exist for him.
"I grieve with you, more deeply than you know."
Asami said nothing, but his henchman, the one with the glasses, stepped forward. "You dare...!"
A glance from his boss and the man's face paled. He bowed and returned to his place, behind, beneath, insignificant.
Asami still didn't speak. Feilong thought perhaps he didn't dare, being unsure of what would come out.
He almost felt sorry for him. But there was too much between them to allow that. "Would you like to meet his family?" he asked, watching the once-familiar face.
He felt the man gather himself. "I don't need a nursemaid." The rough voice scraped at his nerves.
"I'm offering to be a friend," he said, more sharply than he'd wanted.
"I've never needed those either."
"Wasn't he one to you?"
"You're reading your own desires into it."
It was like a slap in the face. But Feilong knew, because he'd been delivered an identical one last year on that ship, that Asami shoved people away by wounding them beyond forgiveness.
Except that Akihito's heart had known no bounds.
And except for Feilong himself. Asami hadn't been around to see the scar tissue he'd developed. He had to be wounded far more deeply than that for the pain to even reach him.
"Perhaps. And perhaps I'm reading you more clearly than you're capable of reading yourself right now. You should greet his parents. They don't know us. Though they're clearly wondering just how their son came to run in the circles present here. You could put them at ease."
Asami's lip curled slightly.
Feilong ignored it and answered the unaired demand. "Because you owe him his parents' peace of mind, that's why."
After a moment the answer came in a short nod, a king giving permission to a subject to proceed. Keeping his temper in check, Feilong nodded back, emperor to king. Asami blinked, startled for a second, his mask quickly falling back into place. Feilong thought there might have been a flash of something else there though, an admission of equality.
Then again, he didn't want to read too much into it. Asami's ability to manipulate was layers deep, even in this situation.
The sounds from the surrounding guests, muted though they were, began to filter back into his reality. They were beginning to feel stifling. "Come, they're down this hall."
Asami reached into his suit and handed a condolence envelope to a young woman who was accepting such gifts for the family. It was thin, insubstantial.
Yet when she glanced at the amount on it she audibly gasped. "Sir, um, I'm so sorry, but is this a mistake?"
"The amount is correct."
The young woman bowed deeply and began thanking him profusely. Asami just walked away from it.
"Blood money?" Feilong couldn't help asking.
"What other kind of money is there?" Asami returned bitterly.
Feilong understood the sentiment. After all, it was a greed for money that had spilled Akihito's blood. He'd heard his killers had received all the money they'd wished, right before they were hung upside down over it and bled like stuck pigs. The squeals must have been sweet, but it clearly hadn't assuaged Asami's pain.
A path cleared in front of them as they walked down the hall. But as they made to enter the room where his parents sat, an older man barred their way. A cop from the looks of it.
"They don't need to see scum like you here." His eyes were fastened upon Asami.
"Imamiya. Too bad you weren't such an effective watchdog three nights ago. Then we wouldn't have had to have this gathering."
"Fuck you Asami. If you hadn't dragged him into—"
"I'm aware of my role in his death. Can you say the same?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Asami's voice had remained level, but the detective's was getting loud and drawing attention.
Feilong stepped between them, aware of the irony of his playing the reasonable one. "Perhaps you should consider that this day is to comfort his friends and family, and this kind of outburst does nothing of the sort." He was polite, but he made it clear through his body language that this wasn't a request.
The cop looked him up and down. "Pretty caring about someone you kidnapped just last year."
"Very caring. Enough that I'd be ashamed to be behaving like you."
Imamiya's face flushed red. "I'm not moving."
"Imamiya-san. Won't you please allow those gentlemen in? I believe they're friends of Akihito's that I've yet to meet."
The older man's stiff posture crumbled. "Takaba-san..."
A tall, slim older woman stepped into their line of view. Her lined face showed a beauty akin to Akihito's, especially within her eyes, stubborn and brilliant. "I'm Akihito's grandmother. I don't believe we've met."
"Takaba-san-" Imamiya tried to interrupt.
"Imamiya, I believe some friends of yours are looking for you in another room." It was a clear dismissal. The older man hesitated a moment longer, but the woman's stare was unrelenting, and he finally gave in and left.
"I apologize. He's overzealous, I think because he feels that he should have been able to prevent Akihito's death. He forgets that no one prevented Akihito from doing anything." Her eyes clouded with a mix of grief and pride for a moment, then cleared by a visible act of willpower. "You'll want to meet my son and his wife."
Takaba's parents were barely there. Feilong wasn't even sure they heard the introductions. Akihito had been their only child, and his death seemed to have sucked all life from them.
Asami was clearly uncomfortable in their presence. He started to mouth a platitude, then pressed his lips together in disgust. He finally simply said, "I'm sorry," his voice rough with pain.
Feilong had to turn his face away so Asami wouldn't see the pity in his eyes. But he laid his hand on the stiff suit-clad arm for a moment, ignoring the fact that it stiffened further.
After another uncomfortable moment that seemed to last hours, the grandmother led them away. "He meant the world to them."
"He did to all of us," Feilong agreed.
"Thank you for coming. He's in the next room, if you wish to pay your respects." She turned to Asami and spoke softly. "Asami-san, I heard him speak of you many times. It was with the frustration that he spoke of the things that he was most passionate about. Over the past few months however it took on another note. I don't believe his parents noticed, but I did. He was happy with you."
Asami stood there like a statue, only his eyes betraying the torrent of emotions within him.
Feilong couldn't bear it. "Thank you, Takaba-san. Asami, we should leave—"
"I need to see him."
Feilong sighed, not wanting to see it. Yet it was necessary so he nodded and led the way.
The coffin lay at one end of a small room. Feilong recognized two of the young men in there, Kou and Takato, and prayed they wouldn't remember. But Takato turned and caught sight of him, his eyes widening. That got Kou's attention, and he too turned his head and stared. Feilong tiredly made his way toward them and crouched down. "Listen, this isn't the time or the place. If you have something to say, come to the Ritz tomorrow and ask for me, Liu Feilong. You'll have as much of my time as you want. He loved you, and I'll do this for him."
Kou's hands were in fists, but he nodded sharply and turned away. Takato's eyes on him were appraising and frank. "We'll come," is all he said.
A cry of outrage had them spinning toward the coffin, gasping at what they saw. Asami was kneeling beside it, Akihito's body cradled in his arms.
Two men jumped forward and started pulling at him, trying to get him to release the body. They could not break his hold. He didn't even notice them, just held him gently on his lap, stroking his brown hair.
Others guests just backed away in shock.
"Takato, get them all out of here," Feilong ordered. The blond broke free from the paralysis that had held him. He nodded, apparently realizing that it was the best thing he could do and he started ushering the mourners out.
Feilong pushed forward and grabbed the two men by the arms. "Leave him. I'll handle it."
The men seemed to want to argue. Feilong cut them off. "The best thing you can do is not cause an even bigger scene. Help Takato clear the room." They backed down in the face of the triad leader, and did as they were told. Soon the room was empty of everyone except Feilong and Asami and Akihito.
Feilong knelt down beside them. "Asami, don't do this. He's dead."
"I know that." His voice was harsh, pain and fury pouring from him. "Do you think I'm a fool? It's all gone, the light, the spark, everything that made him who he was. Everything I..." He clenched his jaw, grinding teeth together, regaining control before continuing. "But it's all that's left. And he still looks like he could wake at any moment."
He lifted Akihito closer, burying his face in his cold white neck, his hands clenching at the body as if trying to pull him back from wherever he'd escaped to. Feilong heard him speak again, this time softly, not for his ears. But he could hear outrage and anger and an overwhelming anguish.
Then he understood. Asami had only allowed himself to be human in front of Akihito. And now Akihito was the only one who could witness his grief. Feilong rose and walked to the other end of the room to stand by the door, head bowed, leaving them their privacy.
It was night when he heard a stirring that made him look up. Asami was laying the body back inside the coffin. He arranged all the clothing, slowly, methodically, gently so it was once again perfect, then bent and placed a kiss on those cold lips.
When he stood, he took a deep breath, then turned his back on the coffin. Their eyes met, Asami's surprised and weary. Feilong thought his own looked the same. Asami walked across the room until they stood side by side, not looking at one another.
"You didn't have to stay..." Asami said.
"I did." Feilong peered at him. "You could use a drink."
"There isn't enough alcohol..."
"No. There isn't. Still, it would help."
Asami shook his head, tired. "Not tonight, Feilong. Maybe another time."
When they opened the door, they found Takaba's grandmother sitting in a chair placed squarely in front of it. Feilong tried to help her to her feet but she brushed him off. "I'm not so old that I need help standing." He smiled a little, reminded of Akihito.
She turned to Asami, searching his face, and simply nodded. There were some gasps among those remaining who knew him as Asami bowed to her, a full bow, before he straightened and walked from the house without a word. Feilong thanked her and hurried after.
His own limo was parked in the street beside Asami's, his Chinese guards glaring at Asami's Japanese ones. Asami was staring up at the night sky, a butterfly flitting around him under the streetlight.
Feilong paused as he walked by. "If souls return Asami, then the only place his soul could come would be somewhere beside you."
Asami shifted his attention to the man at his side. "Death is death, Feilong. You know that."
"I know it. I also know that for all the times I've seen death, I've never seen beyond it. Who knows what's there, and what follows?"
"We didn't get where we are by spending time thinking of such things."
Feilong knew that. He bowed his head in acknowledgment. "Nonetheless."
Asami pulled the edges of his overcoat together, as if trying to preserve whatever warmth was left in his heart. "...Ah," was all he said. But his hands trembled slightly as he reached inside his coat for his cigarettes.
A little while later, Feilong asked, "Will you be at the funeral tomorrow?"
Smoke drifted upward, the butterfly dancing around it. "No."
Feilong contemplated the picture it made, something about it bringing him peace. "Nor will I."
They stood there in silence for a moment, then without any farewells both got into their respective limos, both leaving the larger part of something good within themselves behind.
The butterfly fluttered about in widening circles, then suddenly set off into the darkness, leaving the familiar light of the street lamp behind, following some light only it saw.