Asami's POV of the events in 'Risking the front line'
Asami answered his phone on the first ring.
"He's not at his apartment sir. His neighbours didn't hear him come in either."
"I see. Keep looking."
He hung up and put the phone down with a little more force than was strictly necessary. It was about time Takaba moved into an apartment block with a proper doorman, so Asami could keep better track of his coming and goings.
His phone rang again, another of his men, and again no sign of Takaba. This time Asami slaps the sleek piece of metal against the highly polished desktop. He's not angry at the little brat. No. Of course not. He is positively furious, and Takaba is going to pay for it dearly when Asami gets his hands on the illusive photographer-turned-reporter. Damned slippery eel!
Asami felt his lips twitch in anticipation. He could already envision an adequate punishment. Nothing excessive, he didn't want to hurt the younger man or scare him after all. Just to remind him of the need for punctuality.
"What is it?"
Asami's assistant slid into the office "The reports you wanted on our European investments are here. It doesn't look like we'll be taking any damage from this little outburst."
Asami nodded. "Any news from our sources?"
"None, sir. Communication lines have been damaged and we don't have satellite access. But JP2 seems to have a reporter in the area. They're expecting a broadcast soon." The man explained, turning on the television. The JP2 news anchor was talking rapidly, with surprisingly little to say, other than to encourage viewers to stay tuned.
Asami lit another cigarette. He was already through one packet. "And our position?"
"Best that we remain out of this one sir. The rebels have already destroyed most of the country's structure. Any investment would take decades to pay off."
"I wonder who they sent in." Asami mused aloud.
"The reporter. The poor bastard."
Then the broadcast began and several things clicked into place at once. As his assistant put so very eloquently while Asami stared speechless at the monitor, "How the fuck..."
Less than an hour later, Asami marched into JP2 television station, six of his more intimidating men flanking his sides. He'd made a call, letting certain people know that he was upset with their choice of reporter, and while assuring Asami of their ignorance, they had more or less put the news desk to the mercy of Asami's wrath.
"Excuse me sir, can I help-."
Asami ignored the frightened looking woman and made his way through the desks to director's office. It took him all of three seconds to have the man by the throat and pinned him up against the wall.
"Did you send Takaba in there?" He hissed with barely contained fury. He was angry. Angry at being denied, angry at having his possession taken from him, and like a spoilt child ready to shout and scream until it was returned. He was not, most certainly NOT worried about any stubborn brat.
The middle-aged man made a choking sound and Asami was forced to ease his hold.
"Please stop it!"
Asami dropped the man and stepped back. A small woman rushed forward immediately to help the older man back onto his feet.
"Takaba-san volunteered." She explained defensively, "He came back to the station last night and volunteered himself. We tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted. I don't know what happened to him. He was very happy when he left earlier, so excited. I thought he might have had a date, but when he came back, he looked really upset. I think his girlfriend dumped him or something. But it wasn't Seki-san's fault."
Asami could just imagine whose it was.
Takaba's friends were next, waltzing in and accusing Asami of sending Takaba off to... well, they had an explanation, but Asami couldn't quite get his head around it. He did however suspect that the boys were spending a little too much time behind videogames.
"They said he volunteered for the job." Asami told them calmly. "Said something about him being upset-"
"And whose fault do you think that was?" Kou snapped, jumping up.
"Asami-sama would you like us to-." One of Asami's men began, taking hold of the younger man.
"Oi! Let go you bully!!"
Maybe there was a class in Journalism where they taught you how to attack large and heavily built men intent on throwing you into (or in this case, out of) a room by a kick to the shin. Asami's man went down cursing.
Asami himself quietly mixed whiskey and aspirin. Escapism was very much wanted at this stage.
Asami became unbearable, glued constantly to the television and drinking far too much coffee. His employees are worried about him, but Asami has a frighteningly one-track mind. One, Japan needs to get into the war and two, Takaba needs to get out. To his utter frustration and growing annoyance, even with all of his influence, Asami can't convince parliament to send in Japanese troops, because, apparently, it's unconstitutional.
That evening, Asami's men gather in his office to watch the news. It has become a ritual. Eventually, not just Asami but everyone in Japan holds their breath when the young reporter appears on television.
A few minutes into the report and there's an air raid. The camera keeps rolling, even as Takaba and his cameraman throw themselves to the ground and cover their heads. The roar of the explosions in the background has Asami on his feet and cursing, surprising his subordinates. Asami can't care about that because something twists inside him.
For the first time in a long while, Asami thinks that he might actually be afraid.
"Get him out." Asami orders, looking at the three old men over his cup. "Order him out of there."
"We can't get him out." Seki insists, looking nervously to his superiors for support. "I've told him to, but he says that it's too late. There's no one left to help him out at any rate!"
Asami glares at them, worthless bugs not even fit for his hand-stitched shoes. "If anything, ANYTHING happens to him, you'll pay for it." He hisses, leaving in a furious maelstrom.
Takaba hadn't been around to pay his rent and his landlord decided that it would be a great idea to put Takaba's belongings on sale to cover the cost. Asami makes quick work of teaching the man a lesson and tracing down the one or two items which had been sold. For some reason the thought of the old man's grimy hands on the camera's Takaba cleans and frets over so lovingly turns Asami's stomach.
Just to be on the safe side, Asami has Takaba's belongings moved into his own apartment. When he returns home late in the evening, the apartment is so transformed, Asami isn't sure he'll ever be able to let Takaba move his things out again.
He flips through a few of the CDs stacked neatly by his stereo, and the games stored under the television. Someone even had the foresight to plug the game station in. Asami imagines Takaba going to the electronics store and buying each game then coming home to play.
Asami's heart misses a beat. He knows he's too young to be in danger of a heart attack, which, by comparison to what he thinks it might actually be, doesn't seem so bad.
There's a box on the kitchen counter. Asami opens it up and finds Takaba's favourite cup and a few other pieces. He sets the cup down next to his own coffee mug.
Asami makes his views known. They have a moral obligation to interfere, and it was already overdue.
He speaks to Takaba's parents every few days keeping them up to date on his efforts to get their son back. There are a few aid organizations making noises now. They want to get back in and demand that the UN provide them with an international security force.
Asami thinks he might be losing his grasp on things when he makes a promise to come with Takaba the next time he goes to visit his parents.
It's early morning. Takaba's reports are becoming more and more erratic and it feels as though he's reporting whenever he has the chance. On screen, Takaba is changing. He's lost weight and grimy to the hair tip, not to mention utterly exhausted. Asami hates the maturity he sees in Takaba's eyes now, hates the flat indifference with which the man delivers the news.
It's like Takaba is missing a part of himself. Asami wants to be the one to help him find it again. Maybe Asami is missing a part of him as well.
He orders Takaba's brand of shampoo and takes small comfort in the familiarity of the scent.
Takaba is on again.
He stops his report suddenly and screams "Get down." The camera captures the instant when Takaba threw himself to the ground, before splattering with red. The signal dies.
Asami can't breathe.
"Stupid boy," He yells, "Stupid, stupid, stupid boy." What have you done to me?
The reports continue. Condolences are sent to the cameraman's family. Now Takaba is a voice, a collection of photos or a written report.
Asami supports the UN's announcement that international interference was necessary.
"Sir?" Asami's assistant rushes into his office, looking rather distraught. Fear runs down Asami's spine and the prospect of bad news. "Sir, these were just emailed to your account. By Takaba."
Asami takes one look at the missiles and knows that they're Takaba's ticket back home.
The UN troops are being deployed twelve hours later.
Asami made arrangements for Takaba's return. "They have Akihito." he says, the words tasting like honey on his tongue. "I'll be sure to have him call you as soon as he can. He'll be staying with me." He told the defence minister, leaving little room for argument.
"This is very important." The minister protested. "We need to ask Takaba-"
Asami growled. "You are not allowed any where near him, minister. I'll ensure it. He'll need at least a day to rest. After that, I'll bring him in myself. But I warn you, I won't allow you to mistreat him."
The minister frowned. "Asami-san! Do you know what you're doing? There are representatives from other countries who want to talk to the boy. This isn't-"
"I said NO. I'm not willing to negotiate this point." Asami's voice trickled into a whisper. "Don't make me do something we'd both regret."
Takaba was coming home.
Asami sits in his car, and waits. He doesn't smoke because his hands are shaking. Outside, there's a crowd waiting to greet Takaba home. Like a hero, or a movie star.
There's a roar and Asami's heart flutters. And then, Takaba is there, looking at him in shock and confusions and-