A Handful of Dust

Part 4: Comrade's Trust

“'Do you know nothing?  Do you see nothing?  Do you remember 'Nothing?' I remember Those are pearls that were his eyes.

'Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'”

            - T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”

            The rusty lock gave a protesting screech as Robin forced it shut, chaining the bicycle outside the office. She removed her helmet and shook the hair out of her eyes, still not used to returning to the old routine. Mika had put her to work running errands right away, and Nagira had only grinned teasingly as he brought her the old bicycle she had used before. It wasn't hard work… it was just… so normal for her situation. She felt like she should be doing something that had some meaning.

            If her discomfort was bad, then Amon's was much worse. Always, even when they had been on the run, he had to feel like he was doing something of use – scouting around cities, watching out for members of the STN, whatever he could think of. Michael had returned once, to talk and to let them know that Karasuma and Doujima were heading back. Neither knew about Robin yet. Amon had spent some time speaking with Michael, and then had gone into his routine of disappearing from the office. He always returned slightly more relaxed, but still unsettled.

            She knew he was looking for people sent by SOLOMON. There was a chance that spies had been sent to monitor the STNJ because of the previous events, and he worried over it.  He only did this when Robin was out doing jobs, she could tell he didn't even approve of her being outside in disguise, but he had no valid argument, so he remained silent about it. She even wondered if he watched her while she did Nagira's work, for when they were both in the office, she was always in his sight, as if he suspected she would leave to do something foolish. She knew this, and though she didn't entirely understand it, she stayed away from any discussion involving the STNJ or Harry's, so as to not further discomfit him. Robin was slightly disturbed at how this reflected their previous attitude of ignoring things that needed to be said.

            The contact with the others was inevitable, so Robin had not been able to see a reason why Amon was acting in such a way. Nagira had whispered to her that this was a complete turnaround from Amon's old life, and he wasn't adapting easily to it. She, however, was the most constant aspect that he'd had in his life for a long time, so a lot of it ended up being centered on her. She had understood a little better then, and had made it easier on Amon by staying close by, smiling more often than she was used to. It hadn't seemed to work, as the older man seemed permanently tensed for some coming storm that only he could see.

            Robin moved quietly through the office and into the room at the top of the stairs, gratefully slipping into her looser, more comfortable clothes. The biking outfit had felt strange when she first wore it, and it had gotten no better with the passage of time. When she returned downstairs, she was unsurprised to see Amon sitting in a chair near the wall. He did not outwardly react to her presence, but the young witch could feel the tension. She steeled herself and strode towards him, determined to break the silence.

            His eyes remained gazing at some remote spot on the far wall as she came to a stop in front of him. Her tone, when she spoke, was measured and even. “Why are you doing this?”

            His answer came so quickly that she realized he must have been expecting her to ask for some time. “Because I need to know if it is safe.”

            She folded her arms tightly to herself. “It is not safe, Amon, it can never be for us. We can't pretend like we can do this without harm.”

            He shifted slightly in the chair, placing his feet flat on the ground, hands on his knees. “It does not cost anything to be wary.”

            This isn't about wariness. You know that. “I am wary, Amon.” Her voice was soft, never rising in the entire exchange.

            “You have not shown that.”

            “I've not had a chance to show it.” This time it was she who avoided his eyes. “But… I can't be cowardly. I have to face what I have brought upon myself.”

            The resulting silence was so heavy that she felt compelled to meet his gaze. When she did, there was something there that she could not comprehend. “How?”

            It took her a moment, and when she found her voice, she spoke rapidly. “I don't know, but I can't just wait for something to happen.”

            “You're going to be reckless, Robin. And you'll get hurt.”

If I do, then it won't matter anyway. “Sometimes you have to get hurt.”

            “You'll get killed.” This he grated out, face drawn, eyes like chipped granite. Although she did not show it, Robin was taken aback by his fierce reaction.

            Not knowing what else to do, she bent her knees and lowered herself in front of him, placing her slender hands over his large ones that rested on his knees. He was so used to her that he did not flinch, and her liquid jade eyes softened a little when she saw the tautness in his shoulders ease. But when he raised his eyes from their hands to hers, she was severely shaken. He looked at her as though he had never known her. His body responded to her as someone so familiar, but his eyes told her different. Who are you seeing, Amon? Do I confuse you, too?

            Her throat had gone dry, but she whispered hoarsely as her hands pressed his. “I… hope that's not true. I'll try – I promise I'll try to keep that from happening.”

            Amon did not respond, merely turned his eyes away from her again… but he did not try and move his hands away, and for that she was grateful. He was not shutting her out entirely. She began to move closer when the door opened, and Nagira strode in.

            “Hey, you two-” he cut off abruptly when he saw them, mouth open.

            Robin rose calmly, catching his eyes in a warning look. “What is it? Has something happened?”

            This seemed to snap him out of it, and he looked quickly between the two before deciding it was wise to not comment and risk angering the formidable girl. “Oh, yeah. Michael called. They're back.”

            She stiffened, and Amon closed his eyes in near-pain.

            Robin turned her head, a stray lock of hair falling into her wearied eyes. She watched Amon for a moment, and spoke without moving. “Is…. is he still on the phone?”

            Nagira had stayed silent, but the curiosity on his face was plain. “Yeah.”

            “I'd like to talk to him.”

            He shrugged. “Sure, do what you want.”

            She nodded, brushing a hand against Amon's shoulder as she moved towards the doorway. It may have been her imagination, but she felt his head tilt a bit against her arm at the light contact. If it was true, then the conversation would have bothered him more than it had her… and that was something she didn't like to think about.

            The phone lay face up on the desk, and she picked it up, speaking firmly. “Michael?”

            “Robin? Yo.”

            “Karasuma and Doujima… they're there?”

            “Yeah. They're willing to see you. Well, more than willing, I'd say. They really want to see you. Haruto was kind of mad at me, though…” his sentence trailed off into a rueful chuckle.

            She blinked, eyebrows arched in confusion. “Mad at you? Why?”

            “Because I didn't tell him you were here. He was here the whole time, but I had to wait to tell him until I told them. Just because he'd be tempted to act on his own and go find you guys, and I got the feeling that Amon wouldn't have appreciated anyone drawing any attention to you.”

            She sighed inwardly. “Yes.”

            “Kosaka is heading out soon to do some work with the police, we thought we'd go then.”

            Robin frowned. “You don't want him to see me.”

            “I thought it best if we wait and talk first. He IS the boss, you know. STNJ is his life. You are a threat to that.” He did not mention his own life.

            “I'm not just a threat to him.” All of you… you must realize that what I have to do… it might…

            “We're different. We can live without it. We can learn to, anyway. Not that we want to. Either way, you were once one of us, and even though you are opposing what we are a part of… I don't know, Robin. But it feels like you still are. To fight you would be too strange.” The young hacker's voice was pensive, with a tone that indicated that he had thought about this for some time.

            Comrade's trust.

            To hunt your own comrade…

            There was no comrade's trust between us.

            “So… I meet you at Harry's?” Another reunion. It was like going to a funeral.

            “Yeah. I already called Master, he's closing the restaurant so we can have it to ourselves. Will Amon…”

            “Amon knows what has to be done.” He just doesn't like it.

            “Okay. There's no sign of the new hunter, as of yet, which may or may not be a good thing. It's good because we don't have another person to work around, but it could be bad… they could know about you.”

            Unbidden, an icy wave of fear washed through her. “They wouldn't already… would they?”

            “I don't know.  Better not to dismiss the possibility, though. Be careful on your way over.”

            She nodded, before realizing that he could not see her. “Ah… hai.”

            When she left the room, she found herself facing Amon. The older man looked weary, as though he expected some disaster and had reconciled himself to it. Robin felt sick with guilt at knowing she, and what she was doing, was the cause of his distress. But still, in true form, he bore it silently, shoulders set and eyes determined. She knew that his state was only obvious to her… having spent so long observing and being around him. To anyone else… they would never know.

            This was evidenced by Nagira, who stepped up beside them, oblivious to his brother's mood. “So, we're off, then?”

            She responded with a slight incline of her head, her eyes staying on Amon, who nodded once and walked away.

            Harry's looked the same as it ever had. One of the most unique looking restaurants she had ever seen, and one of the first memories she had after arriving in Japan. She was surprised to see Master at the door, waiting. He held it open for the three of them, a kind smile on his face and relief in his eyes as he looked upon the young witch. Once inside, Robin embraced him, glad to be reunited with the man who had served as a father in her hardest times.

            He smiled, pulling back to examine her at arm's length, much like Michael had. “I wonder.. how many times we are going to have to do this.”

            She returned the smile, half gratitude and half apology. “I'm sorry, I-”

            “You're still too thin.” He cut her off, casting a look at Amon over her shoulder. “And you haven't changed. Good to see you back.”

            Amon responded simply, but Robin was happy to hear some of the stress go out of his voice. He, too, had always been treated kindly by Master. “Thank you. They are here?”

            He nodded, moving to lead Robin into the restaurant. “Yes, they are. And I can get you something to eat, and an espresso…?”

            Robin had just opened her mouth to accept when her words caught in her throat. Miho, Haruto, and Yurika sat in a corner near the bar, heads bowed in conversation. When she entered the room, Miho's head rose, sparking the others to look up as well. There was utter silence, and then Yurika Doujima pushed back her chair violently, standing and fixing her eyes on Robin's.

            “You're here.”