Genre: AU/ Drama/ Friendship
Summary: Nino meets his old childhood friend Ohno after so many years, but Ohno is keeping a dark secret from Nino.
Notes: for andreja1989 (sorry it took so long!)
One summer day, Nino sat alone outside a cafe shop. He scanned the crowded streets of Tokyo while waiting for his friend to show up. He nervously sipped his tea and set it down quietly on the white table. Then, Nino spotted the familiar round face in the distance and smiled. He stood up and waved his hand at the man approaching who saw him and waved back.
It had been twenty years since Nino last saw his old friend, Ohno Satoshi. Nino was surprised to receive a call from his office yesterday, and he had a hard time recognizing Ohno's voice until the man said his name. Nino was overjoyed when the memories started flooding back, and he couldn't believe Ohno found his business number. And so, they arranged a get-together.
"Ohno!" Nino greeted him. They shook hands and pulled each other for a brief warm hug. "I can't believe it! You still look the same!"
"You too," Ohno grinned and sat down. "How old were we before I moved? Nine? Ten years old?"
"My gosh, the time goes by fast," Nino smiled back.
They continued to talk about miscellaneous topics: where have you been, how is your family, what have you been doing the past twenty years. Nino was enjoying himself. He's been working hard at his stressed-out job, but to meet an old friend who still remembers his old self was really refreshing.
"That's amazing," Nino said. "I would never have guessed you work as a fisherman."
"What about you?" Ohno asked calmly. "Where are you working?"
"I work at a developing business," Nino replied. "We build parts for different machines for different factories around the world. I'm in charge of making the first blueprints. Sometimes, we make special models for big clients."
"Wow, sounds top class," Ohno said, his eyebrow cocked up slightly. Nino smirked.
"I don't mean to brag, but I do have a certain pride in my career," Nino nodded.
"So, are you the boss?" Ohno asked.
"No. The president is Sakurai Sho. He's an amazing person. He's around our age and he's extremely wealthy, thanks to his company," Nino explained. "The ideal business man, you know. He has a family and everything."
"You seem pretty close," Ohno said. "I would love to meet him."
Nino shook his head.
"He's a busy man," Nino said. "Even if I did set up an appointment, I can't guarantee it'll be soon."
"Darns," Ohno sighed, leaning back in his chair. "I would love to do business with him and make new equipment for my fishing company."
Nino only nodded and continued sipping his drink. He watched Ohno stare out into the streets with tired looking eyes. It's been so long since they've met, and yet it was as if nothing had ever changed between them. Nino was lucky to have such a comfortable job, but his friend probably wasn't as fortunate. Judging from his slouch and tired expression, Ohno must be going through a rough time.
Nino wanted to do something for him.
"I'll tell you what," Nino said, setting down his cup. "Tonight, the president is having a short meeting with a few special clients in the office. Usually when his meetings are over, he likes to sit in the office alone to finish any paperwork."
"Now, I'm just saying, but we have a lousy janitor that always leaves the exit door open when he throws out the trash at night. So maybe...someone can sneak in past the secretary and-"
"Thank you, Nino!" Ohno jumped out of his chair and hugged Nino.
"I don't know what for!" Nino winked at Ohno.
Ohno's huge smile made Nino grin back as Ohno shook his hands enthusiastically. Nino could see honest to goodness tears forming in Ohno's eyes, and Nino's heart swelled.
"This means a lot to me," Ohno nodded. "If I can make this deal, I can...my company and I-"
"When your fishing business is booming, invite me for dinner," Nino said, patting Ohno's shoulder.
"Of course," Ohno said. "I'd best be going now. I need to gather my things to impress Sakurai Sho."
"Wait! Before you go," Nino pulled out his cellphone and slung his arm around Ohno's shoulder, "let's take a picture together."
"W-what? No, I'm not-"
"Come on, don't be camera shy," Nino teased as Ohno tried to hide his face. But Nino already took the picture.
"I never look good taking pictures," Ohno mumbled.
"Aah, you're all blurry," Nino complained. "One more."
"I really need to get going," Ohno pouted.
"Sure...oh, hey!" Nino called out to Ohno. "I said nothing."
Ohno smiled and gave him the thumbs up before he disappeared into the crowd. Nino sat back down and edited his cellphone background wall. It wasn't the best picture, but it brought back good memories.
* * *
Nino left work early since he finished his latest layout for a new model. A strange model at that, but Nino paid no attention since it was just the skeleton of the structure. He usually never sees the finished project. He sat down on his couch and flipped through channels when his cellphone rang. It was one of the new interns from work, Shinichi.
"Hello?" Nino answered.
"Ninomiya! I'm so sorry, but I forgot the blueprints you sent!" Shinichi wailed. Nino sat up, alarmed.
"You what?!" Nino snapped. "The meeting is tonight!"
"I know, I'm terribly sorry! I informed the president and he had to cancel his meeting with the clients."
"Did the president leave yet?" Nino asked.
"Yeah, he did...and angry too," Shinichi mumbled. "The clients were upset as well, and everyone in the office left early like you. I'm the only one left because I'm trying to find extra copies, but I think I left it all at home."
Nino rubbed his eyes in annoyance. Then, he remembered that Ohno planned to meet Sho, but now it will be awkward to find no one there. Shinichi will be there, and then Ohno wouldn't be able to approach the office again.
"Why would you...this is why I hate interns," Nino grumbled under his breath.
"Never mind," Nino sighed and turned his TV off. "There's a hard drive in my drawers. I saved the documents-"
"I searched! I can't find it anywhere!" Shinichi cried.
"In the bottom left drawer!" Nino grunted.
Then, Nino made a small gasp when he remembered he kept his hard drive inside the safe. It was a thick dial lock, and the president entrusted it to him for no one else to open it. Nino pinched the bridge of his nose to push away the annoying headache.
"Fine. I'll be there in ten minutes."
"Oh, thank you, Ninomiya-san!" And Shinichi hung up.
Outside was nearly total darkness since the clouds blocked the moonlight, but thank heavens for street lamps and the building was still open. Nino arrived at the office and entered through the main entrance. The secretaries already left for home and only the security guard remained. The man let Nino pass since he recognized him, and Nino rode the elevator up to the top floor.
When the elevator opened, the hallway lights were out. Nino could hardly see a thing until his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He tried flicking on the light switch, but the light bulbs wouldn't turn on. He made his way quietly towards Shinichi's office space and noticed the door was slightly ajar. Nino peeked inside and saw a body lain on the floor.
Nino panicked and burst into the room; his eyes were still on the body. He realized it was Shinichi, and dark liquid pooled around his head. He was shot.
But nothing prepared Nino when he saw a man in black standing over the dead body with a gun in his hands.
Nino's voice was small and shaky. "...Ohno?"
Ohno simply raised his eyes at him. His expression was unreadable. Nino stood there petrified; his hands trembled, and his knees felt weak.
"What...what is this?" Nino whimpered. "What did you do? Ohno? What is going on?"
"You weren't supposed to see this," Ohno spoke. His voice was completely different from this morning. It was dark, heartless, and cold.
"You...you killed Shinichi?!" Nino gawked, finally able to take a step back, "Why?"
"He wasn't my main target. He just found me, so I..." Ohno holstered his gun away and pulled out a thick knife.
Nino backed away until he slammed against the wall in fear. Ohno walked towards him with a firm grip on his knife. Nino noticed his clothes weren't just black but equipped with paddings and small pouches clipped to his belt like...an assassin.
"You're a hitman," Nino pieced it together. "You're not a fisherman."
Ohno brought the knife dangerously close to Nino's neck, and he shut his eyes tight. He could feel the cold blade on his skin, and his heartbeat thumped loudly in his chest.
"Please," Nino pleaded. "We're friends...Ohno...please."
Nino managed to squint his eyes open and saw a small flicker in Ohno's eyes.
"Forget about me," Ohno whispered.
Suddenly, Ohno struck hard with the butt of the knife, and Nino's world went black.
* * *
Nino felt a throbbing headache pounding his temple, and his eyes fluttered open. He was outside the office near the trash bins. It was already morning, and Nino slowly got up.
Then, Nino remembered everything, and he started to panic. Shinichi is dead. He was just a young student from college, and now he's dead. Nino immediately thought of contacting the police, but as soon as he opened his cellphone, the background picture lit up.
Nino was smiling idiotically at the camera, but Ohno had his hands up, blocking his face and looking fairly blurry. It wasn't a good picture to identify someone, and Nino felt the rage build up inside him. Ohno tried to keep his identity a secret.
"But why approach me?" Nino sighed.
He was tempted to dial the police, but he couldn't even bring himself to do it. He just couldn't believe that his friend, his childhood friend whom he trusted for so long, would kill someone. Nino had to know for himself, and he returned to the office building front entrance. Strangely enough, there was nothing out of the ordinary. No police, no detectives. The secretaries appeared calm as well as the day security guard, and business men walked in and out of the building as usual. As if no one knew about the crime that happened last night.
Nino took the elevator to the top floor again and saw the hallway lights were back on. Nino dashed towards Shinichi's room and saw the place was clean. No dead bodies and no blood stains. Even Shinichi's things were gone.
"Nino. Good to see you," Sho spoke behind him.
"President," Nino whirled around. "S-shinichi...where-"
"I got a fax from him saying he had to leave," Sho frowned. "But there's something we need to talk about. Come to my office."
Nino followed Sho to the largest office on the floor, and he closed the door behind him. He noticed Sho looked worried with dark circles forming around his eyes.
"Do you have the blueprints?" Sho asked.
"Saved in my hard drive, sir," Nino replied.
"Go get it."
Nino didn't need to be asked twice and returned with his external hard drive. It holds the blueprints for their latest project. It required a lot of mapping and programs to have them displayed. It was probably the biggest project their company as ever taken part.
"Nino, I haven't been fully honest with you and the staff about this," Sho said, pacing around his office, "but I fear that I'm in danger."
"In danger?" Nino said. "From what?"
"The clients are very...influential," Sho said. "I think they're after me, particularly, and want to get their hands on those blueprints. I think someone is trying to kill me."
Then, it hit him like a ton of bricks. Ohno's target was Sho from the very beginning. He cleverly tricked Nino into getting easy information to get inside and find Sho alone. Nino felt the bitter guilt building up inside.
"Sir, what is this?" Nino asked, setting the hard drive down on the coffee table. "For months we've been working on it. To me, it looks like just an empty shell for an engine. Why is it so important?"
"I can't tell you that, Nino," Sho sighed. "Just tell me one thing...do you know what happened to Shinichi?"
"The fax I got from him...I feel like it's a fake," Sho said, holding the fax paper in his hands. "His desk is completely cleaned out too. After the clients left last night, I told him to stay and find the extra blueprints copies he lost. Did he ever called you?"
"He did," Nino said, his eyes lowering. "The only one left was this hard drive in the safe. So I had to come to unlock it."
"What happened?" Sho asked, looking anxious.
Nino took a deep breath before he spoke.
"Sakurai-san, someone is after you," Nino said. "Last night, I came to show Shinichi where I keep the hard drive, but...he was dead."
Sho's eyes widen with horror.
"A hitman was there to kill you."
"You saw him?!" Sho gasped, "And you're not dead?!"
"I don't know!" Nino grabbed his hair as he remembered those cold eyes. "I woke up outside near the dumpster."
"Probably to warn me," Sho grunted. He slammed his palms hard on his desk. "Damn it! First my wife, and then this-"
"He got your wife too?!" Nino asked, mortified.
Sho's back hunched over, burdened. Nino watched the poor man lean on his desk and make a small nod. Nino felt the pit of his stomach churn. This can't be happening. This can't be the same person Nino talked to yesterday morning. His friend has become a cold-blooded murderer. And for what...?
"Are your children alright?" Nino asked, quietly.
"They're safe...for now," Sho said, his voice a little cracked before he cleared his throat. "I don't know what to do. The meeting is tonight, but I should be at home with them."
"Tonight...again?" Nino frowned.
"Yes, the clients want the blueprints as soon as possible," Sho said.
As quickly as he heard those words, a plan formed in Nino's head. He was scared and thought he was crazy just for thinking of it, but Nino had to know the truth for himself. Nino grabbed the hard drive and shoved it into Sho's hand.
"Take this and give it to the clients now," Nino said. "Don't come to the meeting tonight."
"But...they require paper copies," Sho frowned. "We have to print the layouts first."
"They can do that themselves!" Nino yelled. "You and your family comes first."
"Give it to them. Take your kids and leave the city," Nino said. "I'll let you know when it's safe to come back."
Sho narrowed his eyes at him with concern.
"What are you planning to do?" Sho asked. He grabbed Nino's shoulder roughly. "You've not thinking of facing the hitman, are you? We need to call the police about this."
Sho made his way to his phone and picked up the receiver.
"I know him," Nino blurted out. Sho looked up. "I saw him that night, and I knew him...from a long time ago."
Sho only blinked at him in shock.
"Please let me face him alone before we call the authorities," Nino said. "I have to know why he's after you...why he changed."
"Nino, that's suicide!" Sho said, putting the receiver down. "Even if you do know this man, what's stopping him from killing you to get to me?"
"I have to trust him," Nino said softly. "He is...he was my friend."
Sho stood there with his mouth slightly open in disbelief. Then, Sho ravaged through his drawers and pulled out a small handgun. He handed it over to Nino.
"I've dealt with some shady customers, so I always have one nearby," Sho said. "Take this with you."
At first, Nino was reluctant to touch it. He was even curious what shady business Sho got in to have one, but his hand slowly took hold of the cold weapon. It felt heavy.
"I hope you know what you're doing," Sho said.
* * *
Nino sat in his office alone that night. The staff already left under Sho's orders, and Nino began contemplating to leave as well. The fear that he might die made his hands tremble again. Nino started to wonder if Ohno will try to make the same move again. Nino was no expert, but he'd figured an assassin would try other means to kill.
He walked into Sho's office and paced around. The plastic blinds covered the large window behind Sho's desk, and Nino peeked outside. It was dark, but the sky was clear unlike yesterday night. Thanks to the provided moonlight, Nino could see the building across from him.
Suddenly, Nino pulled the blind cords and stared out in dumbstruck. Someone stood on the rooftop, but Nino knew who it was already. He could tell by the way the man walked. Nino never forgot after so many years...
Nino raced down the hall and rode the elevator to the ground floor. He dashed across the street and entered the building next door. The elevator wasn't working, so he flew up the stairs. Before he opened the roof door, he pulled out his gun and took a deep breath before he swung the door open. He stopped when he saw the man laying on his stomach with a rifle gun in place.
"Ohno!" Nino shouted in the wind.
The man slowly stood up, abandoning his rifle on the floor. Ohno looked over his shoulder and glared at Nino with heartless eyes. Nino swallowed a hard lump stuck in his throat, but he didn't dare move closer. He tried to keep his gun steady, but seeing his friend standing before him as a different man broke his heart. He tried to fight back tears, but they welled up quickly.
"Ohno...what is going on?" Nino spoke first. "Why are you doing this? What happened to you?"
Ohno didn't respond back.
"What do you think you're getting out of this? Money? Reputation?" Nino asked, his hands shaking again. "You looked so happy yesterday. Was it all a lie? Were you just using me?"
Nino could see Ohno's harden expression slowly evaporating, and his eyes began to soften. He started to look like the familiar friend Nino once knew, and Nino stepped closer.
"Are you doing this on your own? Or did someone sent you?" Nino asked. "Why are you killing people?!"
"I'm sorry I lied, Nino," Ohno finally spoke. "I had hoped I didn't have to meet you, but I need to do my job."
"And what's that?!" Nino yelled angrily. "Betraying a friend? Killing an innocent student?!"
"Shinichi was working for them!" Ohno shouted back. "I did what I had to do!"
"He was just an intern!" Nino cried loudly. "He only joined us a few months ago!"
"When you started your new project, am I right?" Ohno brought up.
"He was an inside man!" Ohno said. "He was watching you and Sho from the very beginning on the project."
Nino shook his head, denying him. Shinichi was an idiot. Ever since he became the new intern, he would mess up documents and forget things. He was the type to accidentally put salt in coffee instead of sugar. Shinichi was an airhead, not a calculating man. Or was it all an act...
"But...you said you wanted to desperately meet Sho," Nino said, his gun still pointing at his friend. "Sho is your main target."
"He wasn't my target!" Ohno's eyes widen in shock. "Why on earth would you think I'd kill him?!"
"But...Sho's wife...she was killed too," Nino said, his voice weak and confused. Ohno took a step forward aggressively.
"I wasn't the one who killed her! Those were their men!" Ohno explained. "Your president was making a deal with undercover North Korean military officers. Those blueprints are the outer shell for a new nuclear weapon."
Nino felt the cold winds blew right through him. Anger and frustration rose up inside him.
"You're lying!" Nino shouted. "Sho would never make a deal like that!"
"He's not the honest man you may know, Nino," Ohno growled. "He's been working with yakuza groups all over Japan and underground businesses for years. There's a reason why you don't see the finished projects because they're parts of future weapons. I was sent to stop his clients from getting those blueprints."
Nino blinked. A few tears leaked out.
"I gave the hard drive to Sho," Nino said. "I told him to give it to the clients and skip town."
"You what?!" Ohno roared, his hands flew to his head. "Do you realize what you've done? You've blown years of investigation!"
Nino's mouth was slightly open in horrified shock. He slowly lowered his gun as his eyes darted left and right in confusion. Nino didn't even pay attention to Ohno slowly approaching him.
"There...there must be a way," Nino mumbled. "There must be a way to stop all this! The people must know about this. You're working for the government, right? Your investigation. Can't you do something?"
Ohno walked up to Nino and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Nino."
Suddenly, Ohno expertly grabbed hold of his gun and shoved Nino hard. Ohno pointed the gun at him with a steady hand. His cold eyes were back again, and Nino's heartbeat pounded even harder. Fear crept up inside him, and he felt his jaw stuck open.
"I never said I was working for the government," Ohno said. "I am my own business as a hired assassin. Whatever I do, it's for money. My targets were those clients that I missed all thanks to you."
"Ohno...you wouldn't," Nino quivered. "You couldn't do it last time. I know you're not a killer."
"Nino!" Ohno yelled bitterly, "You don't know what I've been through to get to this. I'm not who you thought I was. The old Ohno you know is dead!"
"But yesterday morning," Nino whimpered, "weren't you happy to see me?"
Ohno's eyes began to glisten and his frown deepened.
"I was so happy to see you," Nino said, clutching his fists. "I had such a great time meeting you after twenty years. Sure, we never keep in touch after you left. We never talked and I honestly forgot about you, but you are still my friend. I am still your friend!"
Finally, Ohno shed a tear and soon more followed. His hand was still steady, probably through years of discipline, but his eyes were red and Nino could feel his own eyes feeling sore from build up tears. Nino guessed that Ohno must have lived a very lonely life. Maybe no one has called him a friend in years.
"Maybe everything you said was a lie just to get close to your target, but I had a great time," Nino nodded. "I want us to continue being friends. Ohno, don't do this. You can live a normal life."
"That..." Ohno's voice was shaky, "...will never happen...I can never have a normal life."
Ohno reached inside one of his pouches and pulled out something small. Nino couldn't see it, but Ohno lowered the gun and Nino felt a little relaxed. He wasn't going to kill him.
"I did enjoy meeting you," Ohno confessed. "It was probably the happiest, most peaceful feeling I felt in a long time."
Nino sniffed. His throat was too tight to speak.
"But I cannot see you again, Nino," Ohno said. "You must forget about me. I'm sorry."
Somehow, Nino knew what Ohno was going to do, and he closed his eyes. Ohno threw small pellets at Nino, and his muscles tensed from the temporary electric shock until he passed out. Ohno knelt down and reached inside Nino's pocket until he found Nino's cellphone. Ohno tried to stop his quivering lip when he saw the background picture.
He deleted it.
* * *
Five years had passed since Nino worked for Sakurai Installments. The scandal broke out not too long after Shinichi's death, and government authorities managed to stop the undercover North Korean military officers from crossing back to their country. Sakurai Sho was also arrested for numerous business with gangs, and Nino lost his job. Now, he worked for another company. A lot smaller, but more honest.
It was summer again, just like that one day when Nino was reunited with an old friend. Now, he waited at a stop light to turn green until he heard the beeping sound, and he looked up. On the other side of the street, he saw...him.
The man wore a black leather jacket and carried a thick bag over his shoulder. Ohno walked towards his direction, but his eyes looked straight ahead and emotionless. Nino also avoid eye contact, and with a heavy heart, he continued to walk forward. In the midst of the crowd, they passed each other...