Pairing: Sakurai Sho/Mizukawa Asami, mentions of Akanishi Jin/Kuroki Meisa
Summary: Sakurai Sho did not want a woman to be part of the team. Not because of some misogynistic belief that women should not be in the middle of a battlefield and remain in the kitchen, but simply because he was just about done being Super Nanny.
A/N: Dearest steffilinos, I hope you like this one. I had so many ideas but the image of Sho being part of a team pulling off a heist really wouldn't leave me alone. And Maroon 5's "Maps" kept looping in my head, serving as the background music to this whole fic. XD;; Enjoy!
"I am NEVER listening to you again, Bakanishi!"
Over the screeching of tires and the smell of burning rubber that permeated the air, Sho bit back a tired sigh and tried to blend in with the upholstery. He wondered if drawing his knees up to his chest would somehow help him disappear and teleport him to a nice, quiet hotel room where he could enjoy hours of blessed silence instead of this —
"Hey, you're an idiot for listening to an idiot, Matsumoto!"
"And fuck you too!"
"Hah! I'd rather get ass-raped by a gorilla!"
Pop quiz! What was worse than being in a high-speed car chase with several other vehicles bearing down on you? Answer: Being stuck in said car chase with friends who took "crass" to a whole new level. He didn't even have the option of jumping out of the car.
"Should I call the zoo and tell them you've got a hard-on for one of their gorillas, Akanishi?!" The car swerved dangerously to the right, narrowly missing a Toyota before pulling ahead. He should have been keeping his eyes on the road, but Jun was too preoccupied glaring at Jin, who was wrestling with his seatbelt.
'Probably to strangle Jun with it,' Sho thought, before he weakly reminded them about safety laws and for Jun to not even think about drifting — a warning that was promptly ignored, of course.
Jin sneered in response. "Hah! You probably got to them first! And you got one of them pregnant!"
"We can settle this argument fairly quickly," Nino's merry voice filtered through their earpieces. "Both your faces passed through a gorilla's vagina. The end. I win!"
After years of being part of this group of misfits, Sho thought he had developed some immunity to the banter but he was never, ever fully prepared for the mental images that scarred his cranium. His friends, it seemed, only got progressively worse with age.
Feeling a tad nauseated from both the horrible mental images and Jun's reckless driving, Sho closed his eyes and prayed instead that at the very least, he wouldn't be throwing up as soon as he was back on solid ground.
Hitting the banks through Sho's hacking skills was what sealed their fates.
He was able to graduate from college, but the recession had hit so hard that it was like the thread passing through a needle's eye when it came to finding employment. As he was an orphan, there was no one else he could rely on. The only people he could count on were orphans just like he was, all rejected by the foster system for different reasons. Jun and Jin both had volatile tempers and constantly got into fights, Nino was too mischievous for his own good, Toma did not want to be pinned down by the system, and Sho? He was the anomaly of their little group, being the sensible one.
But he had one major flaw: unfailing loyalty.
He refused to be adopted unless they were all adopted. Even as they would insist that they were fine and that he could be happy, Sho felt that he just wouldn't be the same without them. How could he leave behind the friends who had protected him at his weakest and supported him throughout his studies? It was simple; he just couldn't.
So he stayed. They all grew up, becoming brothers if not by blood, then by bond.
With bullheaded determination, he'd gotten into a community college where he discovered a love for computers. Within a year, he'd become something of a legend in the underground hacker community. Nino joked about using his talents against the law, but Sho had dismissed the idea. He would work towards his degree, get a stable job, and maybe open his own little internet cafe which his four buddies could help manage. It was a sensible plan and he was sure he could make it.
All was fine and dandy until the stock markets crashed.
Funny how desperation could change people.
Jin was the first to suggest that they do something to rectify their situation. He had no intention of becoming a homeless bum, however, there was no way anyone would hire a violent part-timer who found reasons to get into fights with customers. Jun had the same problem in terms of defying authority — which promptly got him kicked out. Nino always left every job when he realized that the routine would drive him stir-crazy. Toma was going through something of an existential crisis and declared that they couldn't find what they were good at by conforming to double-standards.
So Nino suggested that maybe Sho could hack into some corrupt politician's account and siphon money.
"Just enough to keep all of us from going hungry and to pay for our rent," he reasoned. "What's the harm in that?"
One heist tuned into three. Three quickly multiplied into twenty. Soon, they'd obtained enough tools on the black market to help them pull off some of the most ingenious heists that left authorities scratching their heads.
It was only a matter of time before they got Interpol's attention. When that happened, they celebrated with several bottles of expensive champagne.
He stared at the woman sitting beside Nino. Her long hair was swept away from her face in a simple ponytail, and though she was calmly smiling at all of them, Sho caught the unmistakably shrewd look in her eyes. That made the alarm bells go off in his head and he demanded to know why she was sitting on their couch, in their hideout. And why did Nino have to make her tea?
"Mizukawa-san says she wants in on the plans we have for the casino," Nino repeated. "I'm actually impressed how she tracked us down. Sho-kun must've forgotten to cover our trail completely."
He sounded completely nonchalant about being found out — amused, even — but Sho bristled at his friend's words. There was just no way he had left a paper trail; he was far too cautious for that sort of thing. The only conclusion he could draw up was that she had somehow hacked her way to them.
"Look, five guys walking into a casino is suspect. You need a woman on the inside," Asami countered, when Sho tried to reason that it was dangerous. "If we split up and I went in there as someone's arm candy, there's less chance of hotel security getting on your case. I'm the perfect distraction."
Toma shrugged. "It sounds logical to me. And I would've thought you, of all people, would approve of that, Sho-kun. I mean, you DO like it when everything makes sense, right?"
Sakurai Sho did not want a woman to be part of the team. Not because of some misogynistic belief that women should not be in the middle of a battlefield and remain in the kitchen, but simply because he was just about done being Super Nanny. Testosterone displays from his colleagues often left him having to be the one to sit through the tears, the angry diatribes, and the dressing down of his species. And knowing how his friends worked, he'd be babysitting this one again.
Jun and Nino were the worst and hearts were often laid to waste at their feet. Jin and Toma were following a close second, and Sho was getting really exhausted with having to clean up after them. It wasn't their faults, supposedly, that women were crazy for them (according to Nino, the arrogant prick) and that whatever transpired was a result of their own choices. However, there was only so much he could take when their team just happened to be on Interpol's "Most Wanted" list. An additional list of scorned women terrified him even more, since there was no telling what could possibly happen if any of these ladies (justifiably) decided to seek revenge.
Sometimes, he wished they had never discovered girls. It would have made their lives so much easier.
He sent a silent prayer to whatever deity was still watching over them in spite of their lifestyle. It wouldn't do them any good if Asami fell in love with one of them. Normal girls were dangerous, but a female hacker would end their lives.
Their targeted hotel-casino had just opened that month in Macau. Named "The Pearl", it boasted of the same top-of-the-line facilities and architecture that made the Bellagio in Las Vegas world-famous. No expense was spared on the interiors of the establishment, and it was said to be owned by one Kamenashi Kazuya, a young billionaire famed for his looks and business sense. He was also the man who had unknowingly snatched Kuroki Meisa from Jin — a fact that did not sit well with Jin at all.
They had met the girl in question once, and it was obvious from Minute One that Jin was pretty much far gone. He talked about her too often, called her all sorts of poetic things that would make a man gag. But Sho was nothing if not magnanimous in supporting his friend. Who else would be willing enough to sit through an entire conversation focused on a woman’s eyes besides him?
So when Jin got his heart run over and wanted to drown his sorrows, they knew it was only a matter of time before he’d beg them to help get her back.
"Dumping me for that rich kid. I can't believe it," Jin slurred over his drink. "I'll get her back, I swear!"
He slammed his glass on the counter for emphasis, stopping to giggle at the way the brandy sloshed over the rim and on his hand. Sho heaved a sigh at how trashed his friend was, already dreading the morning after. A hungover Jin was not fun to babysit, and he was already up to his elbows in trying to keep the others from getting equally wasted. They promised to demonstrate solidarity by sharing in his woes through liquor, but Sho extracted a promise from each of them to limit their intake or else.
"I'm gon' get 'er baaaack!" Jin was moaning now, sagging against Nino. "We're—"
"—meant to be, I know," Nino finished. Jin had only been repeating that for the entire evening.
It had been Jin's idea to hit this casino and put a considerable dent in Kamenashi's pockets. Nobody took what was rightfully his, not even some trust fund baby, and he was out for blood.
Nino had joked that maybe it was a good thing Jin had given up his skirt-chasing because of one girl, but what guy in his right mind would commit felony for her?
Toma needed little convincing and Jun, intrigued by the idea of stealing from a vault guarded by the world's finest in security measures, readily agreed.
Asami volunteered to take care of all travel documentation, Sho would take care of gathering more intel. Nino was in charge of their disguises, while Jun agreed to help Sho in figuring out the security. Jin and Toma, as usual, assigned themselves to the grunt work of infiltration.
Despite having worn his suit for more job interviews than he could count, Sho felt uncomfortable as hell. Whoever claimed that men weren't slaves to fashion had never envisioned the agony that was a necktie. The first time he'd struggled with it, he was almost certain it was meant to be a strangulation device, not a fashionable accessory. When he finally DID get it tied right, there was no end to the nerd jokes from Nino.
Still, he supposed it was a good disguise if he had to look the part of a young businessman staying at the hotel. So here he was, disguised and sitting in one of the many cafes spread out around the hotel's spacious ground floor. Asami was dressed casually in a maxi dress that brought out a healthy glow to her skin (and why did he notice such things?), taking the low-backed arm chair behind his.
They sat back-to-back — a businessman and a young woman on holiday — silently typing away at their laptops. To the outsider, they looked just like every other customer taking advantage of the free wifi, but in actuality, they were monitoring the movements of their companions who were all strategically placed in different sections of the building.
"So what made you become a part of this?"
The rapid tapping of keys abruptly paused and his fingers hovered above the keyboard as he tried to get a better grasp on his muddled thoughts. He refrained from turning to face her, considering whether to answer her honestly or make up a story on the spot. He still had some misgivings about the inclusion of an unknown variable, but Asami's frank tone made it clear that she could tell if he was fibbing or not.
"We're from the same orphanage," he finally answered. "We're all we have of each other. It's been that way all our lives."
"Hm... No living relatives?"
"For me, at least," he replied, not missing a beat. He spoke matter-of-factly, trying to keep his tone even as he worked. Pity was the last thing he wanted from anyone, least of all her. "Jun's father left him and his mom, then his mom disappeared. Toma's mother died when he was born, and nobody could trace his father's whereabouts. Jin's parents left him at the orphanage and never came back. Same with Nino. They've all got some distant relatives, I'm told, but nobody ever came to take them."
He didn't see her nod as he continued: "The system wasn't very kind of them. All anyone ever saw were problem kids that no amount of discipline could tame. But to me, they were my only friends in the world. They were always cheering me on, telling me to always do my best for my sake. There was nobody else..."
'Nobody else can really understand what it's like to be alone like they can.'
Perhaps it was unfair, but Sho was already bracing himself for the same judgments he'd encountered as a child: why associate with delinquents, why waste the best years of his life being friends with bottom-feeders, why—
"Not all blood relations make the best families anyway," Asami said, her voice soft. "You lucked out."
This time, he turned around, staring incredulously at the back of her head. Maybe it was just him, but that certainly sounded like she knew exactly what he couldn't find the words for.
Their earpieces crackled static and Jun's voice cut through the silence.
"Guys...you're not going to believe this."
A weapons smuggling ring.
They'd gone in to maybe spirit away the woman Jin was absolutely certain was his soulmate (and maybe steal a few gold bars from the vault), but instead, they'd found a weapons smuggling ring.
It was only a matter of time before everything would be shot to Hell. Sho wasn't the kind of person to tempt Fate, but his best friends had a careless habit of never factoring in Murphy's Law. All his careful planning was out the window now, and all he could think of was making damn sure nobody got killed.
Grabbing Asami's hand, he began walking briskly in the direction of the lobby, cursing silently at how massive the building was. As this rate, it would take them forever to regroup at the parking garage. Jun had informed them that he hadn't been spotted, Toma and Nino were fine, but they hadn't heard from Jin. Wherever the bastard was, his life was in danger now.
Dialing Jin's number, Sho tried calling again. After four rings, Jin finally picked up, sounding out of breath.
"Dude, we gotta jet," Jin muttered, panting. "Dammit, she snitched. I'm heading for the staff entrance now."
"Where are the others?" Sho wanted to know, panic mounting as he quickly made mental calculations of how much time they had after being ratted out. Given all its bells and whistles, they had less than five minutes before hotel security and the police would swarm outside to block any chance of escape.
Asami tugged at his arm, steering him towards an emergency exit. 'Not the lobby', she mouthed.
Breaking into a run, they burst through the door and into the parking garage. A car screeched to a stop in front of them and the window rolled down, revealing Jun in the driver's seat. "Get in," he ordered.
They didn't need to be told twice.
And this was where they were now, racing down the highway with a horde of armed thugs at their heels. Toma and Nino were in another car, God only knew where. Asami was directing them where to go and Sho was trying not to get sick all over the expensive upholstery.
"I'm sorry," he muttered weakly.
Asami blinked and turned to him. "Pardon?"
"About not trusting you," Sho went on to explain, looking faintly green. He growled at Jun to stop swerving the damn car so much or he would throw up on his lap in retaliation, then he averted his gaze to meet hers once more. "I was just worried one of these idiots would pretend they'd fallen in love with you and break your heart, and then I'd have to clean up after them like always."
"Hey!" Jin interjected, pretending to sound hurt. "You think so little of us, Sho-kun!"
"With good reason," Jun snickered.
Sho rolled his eyes. "Both of you shut up." Despite his queasy stomach and the danger they were still in, he still couldn't help smile. Life was never boring with these guys in his life, that was certain. He heard Nino's laughter in his ear, and Toma had joined the teasing.
Beside him, Asami returned his smile with one of her own and she let out a small laugh. "They're not really my type anyway," she answered. "Give me a nerd any day of the week."
The tunnel they passed through only hid his blush for a moment. In the dark, he felt her link their fingers together and then pull away once they reached the end of the tunnel and sped towards their next exit.
"Take this exit," Asami ordered, looking up from her phone. "We need to lead them through here."
Why he didn't think to ask what she was up to, Sho never knew. He was too preoccupied with the realization that for the first time ever, his heart was beating faster than he'd ever felt before — all thanks to the girl sitting next to him.
The men who surrounded them with guns trained on them weren't the armed thugs Jun was talking about. These suits looked more dangerous, with years of honed reflexes zeroed in on their trigger fingers. One false move and they'd undoubtedly be riddled with bullets.
Looking helplessly at each other, the only thing the five of them could do was raise their hands up in surrender. The license to do crazy things afforded by safety in numbers had finally expired. Oh well... it was fun while it lasted.
"No need for that!" Waving away the men with their guns, Asami spoke in a commanding voice. Sho watched, transfixed, as the men in black all lowered their guns in perfect sync.
Asami turned to face them with an apologetic grin as she showed them a badge. "Agent Mizukawa Asami, at your service. I'm with Interpol. My apologies for the deception, guys. And my profound thanks for helping to expose a weapons dealer we couldn't apprehend until today."
The expletive that escaped Jun's mouth was like an explosion. "FUCK!"
Had he the energy to swear, Sho would have echoed the sentiment. But all he could do was weakly ask, "Why...?"
Asami went on to explain that Kamenashi Kazuya's father had long been suspected of being involved in weapons and drug dealing. But with the business acumen that he had and the team of lawyers he paid handsomely to protect his interests, Interpol had very little evidence to go by. After he'd passed away and his only son had taken over the family business, Interpol renewed their mission to bring him down. Proving that the apple never fell far from the tree, Kazuya had inherited the same intelligence of his father, making it nearly impossible to be caught.
It was around the time when news of the elder Kamenashi's health declining was broadcast that five orphans had decided to begin stealing from their country's most corrupt. Their activities had started out small in scale, but it was Asami who had noticed just how smart they were and where the money they stole really went. They'd prevented the demolition of several orphanages when a shady contractor with political backing was arrested — after he had, ironically, tried to get the authorities to investigate on the disappearance of his wealth. Another millionaire was outed for heading a buy-and-sell of overpriced fake paintings.
After their last heist involving a member of Parliament — with ambitions to become the next Prime Minister — exposed his dabbling in sex trafficking, Asami had made the decision to find out just who this group of thieves were. Perhaps, with their help, she could close this case.
"Thanks to you, Interpol found enough evidence to dismantle the weapons ring. They're arresting Kamenashi as we speak. My partner, Kuroki, thought it best to get you in on this by having you infiltrate the hotel," Asami said. "She was under orders to apprehend him, one way or another."
Right on cue, Meisa stepped out from one of the cars surrounding them. She winked at Jin and wiggled her fingers in a playful wave.
This time, it was Jin's turn to swear.
Sho felt his knees weaken and he sagged back against the car. If any experience could effectively shave off years from his lifespan, this was it. His emotions were a jumbled mess, as were his thoughts. He could only stare at the two women who had so brilliantly executed their own plan, with him and his friends as the unsuspecting pawns.
It was Karma at its finest. They were never going to be the same after this.
"I guess this means we're going to jail, too?" Toma muttered.
Asami surprised them by saying, "I was thinking more along the lines of hiring all of you. We took an incredible gamble on you, but it was worth it, don't you think?"
Five jaws dropped in astonishment.
She laughed at their gobsmacked expressions before focusing her sharp gaze on Sho. "Well...I'll think of where to place the four of you." Reaching for Sho's necktie, she tugged him forward, "I already know where this one's going."
- END -