Cages

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chapter 9

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never say never

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Aya woke with a groan, his head throbbing and his stomach queasy, and shifted on top of the bony body he was sleeping on. It took him a moment to remember that he didn’t usually sleep on Hirofumi like this, nor was his lover so thin. Suddenly confused, he slowly sat up and opened his eyes.

The warm body beneath him was actually Yohji, who groaned and turned his head towards the couch. Aya couldn’t do much more than stare at his friend as memories from the night before slowly filtered into his thoughts. They’d spent the night drinking and talking, then Yohji had said something about birthday presents and that had led to….

As carefully as he could, Aya crawled off Yohji and ended up huddled on the floor, his gaze never leaving the sleeping man’s face as he waited for Yohji to wake up. After what seemed a small eternity he decided that Yohji wasn’t, at least, not unless he made some noise. He shakily rose to his feet and, as quietly as he could, hurried from the room. His head was spinning and he felt nauseated, but he managed to find the keys he’d left on the table in Yohji’s foyer and let himself out of the apartment.

Thankfully, the hallway was empty, so he ran to his door and fumbled with the lock, taking several tries until he managed to open it. The whole time he tried not to think about what he must look like with his hair unbraided and tangled, his clothes rumpled and his pants sticking rather uncomfortably to his crotch. If anyone saw him….

He made it inside, took a moment to lock the door behind him and then hurried to the bathroom. He poured himself a glass of water and tried to drink it, but his stomach threatened to rebel at the thought. He ended up kneeling on the floor in front of the toilet, waiting to throw up. Thankfully, the urge passed after a few moments, leaving him sweaty and drained.

What the hell had he done last night? Aya could still feel Yohji’s hand along his back, sliding beneath his pants…. Refusing to think about that, he scooted away from the toilet and sat on the floor, his head bowed and resting against his bent knees. He’d been such an idiot last night. How could he have given in to the desire he felt for Yohji? If Hirofumi ever found out about last night it could mean Yohji’s life, and Aya would certainly be beaten within an inch of his again. He was such a fucking idiot.

He rested on the floor for a few minutes and then wearily stood up. Without looking at himself in the mirror, he picked up the glass of water and swallowed several aspirins. Once the glass was empty he filled it again and drank all the water, which made his stomach feel queasier. Giving it only a minute to settle, he quickly stripped off his t-shirt, jeans and boxers, throwing the soiled garments aside in disgust.

He was shaky enough that he had to sit on the small stool as he scrubbed himself clean, trying to use the familiar ritual as a distraction from his thoughts. His back hurt from the cleaning, lines of fire running down his spine that had him recalling Yohji arching beneath him and calling out his name as he’d run his nails down Aya’s back in unrestrained passion. He rubbed his eyes as he thought of the marks that had been left behind, incredibly thankful that Hirofumi would be gone for another three weeks. If he came back before the scratches were healed….

Stupid, he’d been so incredibly stupid. Get a little wine in him and he’d risked Ayumi and Aya-chan’s futures, and risk pain to both Yohji and himself. As he washed his hair, he berated himself on his lack of control. People depended on him; he couldn’t just give in to his desires as he had so carelessly last night.

After rinsing off his hair, he lowered himself into the bathtub. The hot water caused the scratches on his back to sting, a constant nagging of what he’d allowed to happen last night. For a moment he remembered the pleasure and happiness of kissing Yohji, of stroking his body, but he didn’t allow himself to dwell on those thoughts. Instead he thought of Aya-chan, all alone in a foreign country, and of what could happen to her if he could no longer pay for her apartment and other living expenses. How would Ayumi live on the meager funds her son provided her if Hirofumi didn’t pay many of her bills?

He’d been a fool last night, but it wasn’t too late to make amends. He’d break off his friendship with Yohji if he had to, and would make sure that there was never a repeat of last night. If that didn’t work… he’d have Yohji kicked out of the Hanabatake. It would be a vile thing to do, but he would make sure that Yohji was paid good money for his apartment, enough so he could leave this life behind. Yohji had a chance of being something other than a whore for the rest of his life, Aya didn’t. He was Hirofumi’s, and his lover would never tolerate him cheating. It would be best if Yohji had nothing more to do with him.

Aya sank down into the tub until the water level reached right below his nose. Along with the pain in his head and stomach, there was a sharp ache in his chest. The hurt didn’t matter, though. He wouldn’t change his mind.

*******

As Yohji woke up, he became slowly aware of a dull throbbing filling his body. He was sore, his neck stiff and protesting, and his head felt as if it was filled with scratchy wool. His thoughts were muddled and it hurt to focus on them. Wondering what the hell he’d done to feel this lousy, he slowly opened his eyes.

Well, clearly the reason for his body and neck being so sore was because he’d fallen asleep on the couch. What an idiot, to spend the night out here when he had a really comfortable bed just down the hall. He must have been drunk and passed out here….

He clutched at his head in pain as he suddenly sat up. He’d been drinking with Aya the night before, he recalled suddenly, as he looked at two empty sake bottles and a half empty one resting on the coffee table. They’d been drinking and then…. Then Aya had kissed him, he remembered that part perfectly clearly, and that had led to more as they’d lain down on the couch.

Yohji frowned as he tugged on the crotch of his pants. They’d been too drunk to do much more than dry hump each other, and then he at least had passed out. Hadn’t Aya fallen asleep too? Yohji could have sworn he’d been curled up on the couch with someone throughout the night.

He shakily rose to his feet as he brushed back the hair falling onto his face. His belt was half undone and his shirt had been pushed up his chest, so he tugged it off as he walked towards his bathroom to rid himself of the uncomfortable pants. Along the way, he peeked into his bedroom just in case Aya hadn’t left but had decided to sleep in a real bed, but was disappointed to find the room empty. Fuck.

He tugged worriedly on a strand of his hair. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, waking up and finding Aya gone. Maybe he was supposed to have breakfast with Ayumi, or had wanted to go home and change. Maybe Aya was giving him a little space, in case he was freaked out.

Yohji wasn’t freaked out in the least, except over Aya being gone. Walking into his bathroom, he leaned against the sink and smiled wearily. As drunk as he’d been, he could still remember flashes of what had happened. At how soft Aya’s skin had been, the feel of sleek muscles shifting under his fingertips, the low moans his lover had uttered as he’d been kissed and stroked…. Gods, it had been even better than any of Yohji’s dreams….

Tossing aside his sweatshirt, Yohji found several scratches and even a hickey on his neck and chest. No, he certainly hadn’t imagined making out with Aya.

Gods, just thinking about that made the headache fade away and left him smiling. Until he recalled waking up alone. Aya had left him. What the hell was he thinking right now? Was Aya afraid of how he’d react to waking up and remembering what they’d done last night? Or was it Aya who wasn’t handling things?

If Aya was freaked out by what had happened…. That didn’t bode well for Yohji. He cursed as he stepped into the hot shower. Dammit, what if Aya didn’t remember anything that had happened last night? Yohji was pretty sure Aya had come during their make out session. He would probably figure out that something had happened between them, even if he had been too drunk to remember what exactly they’d done. He just hoped Aya didn’t think he’d taken advantage of him or anything.

He snorted in amusement as he started to wash his hair. As if he could take advantage of Aya. The younger man might be shorter than him, but was in much better shape and had the benefit of proper martial arts training. Shit, Aya had managed to hop along balconies and not fall to his death, not to mention scaring Gensai away like he had. There was no way Yohji could take advantage of a conscious, unwilling Aya.

He quickly cleaned himself off and then spent some time just standing under the water, letting the heat soothe his stiff muscles, his mind flipping back and forth between fantasies of Aya finally being his lover, and Aya not wanting to have anything to do with him. There was no way he’d allow the last to be true.

He turned off the water, stepped out of the shower and dried himself off. He wasn’t going to let Aya run scared from him. He couldn’t. Not after opening himself up to caring about something after the past couple of years. Rejection would hurt too fucking much for him to just give Aya up. Just the thought of Aya never wanting to see him again made Yohji want to do something desperate, like break into his apartment and shake some sense into him.

He wasn’t going to stop seeing Aya because of what had happened between them. No way in hell. Yohji knew he’d cared a lot for his quiet neighbor, enough to start feeling again and to dare to hope. He didn’t think he’d been lying when he’d jokingly told Aya he’d loved him. Aya cared enough for him to risk angering his psycho boyfriend by being friends with him, and to jump across thin air about thirteen stories above the ground. Yohji wasn’t going to let go of the best thing that had happened to him since Asuka’s death without one hell of a fight.

He walked into his bedroom and sat down on his bed. He lay back and pressed a hand to his forehead. Unless he managed to talk to Aya and make him see reason very soon, it seemed he was going to have to go with breaking into Aya’s apartment and shaking some sense into him. He’d decided that he wanted Aya in his life as a lover and a friend, and he wouldn’t rest until that happened. Or until Aya lived up to his threat and tossed him off the balcony.

*******

Aya lay curled up in a ball on his bed, his eyes focused on nothing as he worried over his actions. At least he was starting to feel better physically. Kikyou and Tsubaki should be arriving soon, and he needed to get the apartment ready for their visit. Fortunately, he’d gone shopping yesterday, so he didn’t have to leave his apartment and risk running into Ayumi or Yohji. He didn’t think he could handle seeing either of them at the moment.

He closed his eyes and hugged his arms tighter around his chest, trying to ignore the pain that was steadily growing inside him. Even though he knew it would be a mistake, he wanted so much to go to Ayumi’s and tell her everything over a soothing cup of tea. He wasn’t a fool - he knew she had been hoping that something would happen between him and Yohji. It was obvious from the way she was always inviting the both of them over and arranging for them to sit by each other. The way she’d tell stories about the geisha and courtesans in her day who had dared to carry on affairs that their patrons or houses hadn’t approved of. She’d been subtle the first month or so, but during the past couple of weeks, especially since Hirofumi had left, she’d become more and more obvious.

Still, he desperately wanted to talk to someone, to express the pain he felt when he thought of his resolve to never speak to Yohji again. If he was honest with himself, what he really wanted was someone to ease his fears about what was causing the pain. To reassure him that he wasn’t falling in love with Yohji. They were just friends. He didn’t care any more for the handsome blond than he had Sakura.

Maybe, if Yohji and he managed some distance between the two of them, they could be friends again one day. Perhaps after Hirofumi returned, and the temptation to cheat while he was able to was gone. It certainly would look odd if he didn’t talk to Yohji anymore. Ayumi, Mamoru and Ken would be sure to wonder what had happened between them, and the gossips here would be quick to notice their falling out. Maybe all he needed was a day or two away from Yohji to convince himself that what had happened last night had simply been lust getting the better of them.

A small voice inside his head, which sounded suspiciously like Ayumi, called him a fool. Still, he didn’t see any other solution. Maybe if he spent some time away from Yohji, things would calm down. He hoped that would be the case. He didn’t want to never see his friend again, or to have him kicked out of the building. But he had to be sensible.

He couldn’t give in, he sternly told himself as he sat up on the bed. Despite the pain he felt, both emotional and physical, he made himself stand up and walk out of the dark room. He had things that needed to be done, the sooner the better. Tugging his black yukata straight, he went to the kitchen to make a pot of tea and start getting the place ready for his guests.

While he cleaned, he was careful to be as quiet as possible. He didn’t go out to water his plants on his living room balcony in case Yohji was smoking on his. He didn’t want to give any indication that he was home and awake in his apartment. He just wanted some space right now, and for the pain to go away.

When there was a knock on his door almost an hour later, things had been so peaceful that he actually jumped in surprise at the sound. He headed automatically for the door, but came to his senses before he entered the foyer. He stopped and crossed his arms over his chest, debating if he should get close enough to use the spy hole to see if it was someone other than Yohji. As he was standing there he heard Yohji’s voice.

"Aya, are you there?" A couple more knocks. "I… we need to talk." There was a moment of silence, and then Yohji knocked again. "Aya? Please?" Some more silence, and then there was the sound of a nearby door being opened and closed. Not trusting that Yohji had really left, Aya quietly walked to his kitchen and sat down at the table.

The pain in his chest returned full force. What if someone had seen or heard Yohji just then? What would they think, if they’d seen the man knocking on his door and pleading to be let in to talk? The gossips would have a field day with that, and word would eventually get back to Hirofumi. And when that happened….

Things wouldn’t just die down in a couple of days. He’d have to stick to his initial resolve and avoid Yohji from now on. No matter how much it hurt, or how much he’d miss the man and their friendship.

All this pain wasn’t worth the little bit of pleasure he’d felt last night. Aya was torn between wishing he’d never gone to Yohji’s after dinner and wishing that they hadn’t drunk so much and been able to properly have sex. At least he’d have some memories, that way. Right now he had nothing but pain and longing.

*******

Yohji gazed down at the street below while he smoked a cigarette. He’d been up for several hours now, and he hadn’t managed to talk to Aya yet. Knocking on his door hadn’t worked, nor had calling him on the phone.

Dammit, he knew Aya had to be at home but was avoiding him. He’d spent a good half hour with his ear pressed against their shared wall and swore he’d heard movement in there. But the stubborn man clearly didn’t want to talk to him. This was not good. Not good at all.

He flicked the cigarette butt over the ledge as he considered his options. He’d broken down about an hour ago and called Ayumi to see if she’d arrange a tea for the three of them today, but Kohmi had told him that Ayumi had taken up a friend’s offer to spend the day shopping. So that was out until later tonight. Mamoru was at school and then had promised to do something with his sister afterwards, and Ken was busy with Kase. There was no chance of using either of them to lure Aya out. Besides, he wasn’t sure he wanted them to be around Aya and him until they got this matter straightened out. If they managed to figure things out and say something to the wrong person, Hiro could easily find out and….

Yohji felt his hands clench as he thought about Takatori. If it weren’t for that rich, psychotic bastard….

Still thinking of Aya and last night, he left the patio and went to his bedroom, where a present wrapped in gold paper sat on his dresser. Inside the large box was a porcelain Lladro statue of a samurai astride a horse, accepting a flower from a geisha standing before him, a parasol in her hand. Maybe it wasn’t the most practical gift, but he hadn’t been able to resist getting it. As he walked back to his living room, he wondered if he’d ever have the chance to give it to Aya.

The thought of being ignored all day made Yohji angry enough that he had to open the bottle of half empty sake resting on the coffee table and start drinking. There had to be some way to make this relationship work, there just had to be. Aya deserved some happiness.

He snorted at the thought. A tad vain, wasn’t he? Assuming he could make Aya happy? At least he was a damn sight better of a lover than Takatori-boy was. He wouldn’t have tried to buy Aya’s love.

The sake continued to disappear as he sat on the couch and moped over the current situation with Aya. Why the hell did his life have to be so fucked up?

As he sat there drinking, a little tipsy and on the verge of becoming properly morose, he realized that he could hear the sound of voices coming from Aya’s apartment. There was more than one person speaking, a soft tenor and a low bass that was deeper than Aya’s, discussing something. For a moment Yohji thought that Aya had turned on his television, and then he remembered Aya telling him about his friends who were coming to visit. The ones who were more than willing to dangle him off the balcony.

He listened a little longer and then he stood, set the empty bottle down on the coffee table and headed for his bathroom. Aya had company, so that meant he’d have to answer the door if someone knocked, or risk his friends wondering about his odd behavior. While Yohji wasn’t drunk enough to force Aya to deal with the sudden change in their relationship in front of his guests, it would still be an opportunity to see the man, and maybe wring a promise out of him to talk once he was alone. It was the best chance he’d had all day. He’d go over right after he made himself presentable.

*******

Kikyou smiled at Aya as his friend set down a tray of tea and snacks on the low table in the living room. He once again noted the dark circles around the violet eyes and the pallor to Aya’s face, and wondered what had caused them. Surely Aya hadn’t gotten that drunk at his neighbor’s last night. He didn’t usually indulge enough to be seriously hung-over the next day.

"Did you have too much to drink at Kudoh’s last night, hmmm?" Kikyou couldn’t help but smile at the dirty look Aya gave him while pouring their tea. "I’ll take that for a yes. What are we going to do with the pitiful lush, Tsubaki?"

His old friend chuckled as he picked up a piece of yôkan, the snack appearing dwarfed in his large hand. "Knowing you, you’ll say treat him to more of the hair of the dog that bit him." Tsubaki took a bite of the red bean paste-filled pastry and smiled at Aya. "He was a bit hungover himself this morning, which is why we were late arriving. Someone had a little too much to drink at the party last night."

A false smile on his face, Kikyou bowed his head. "Guilty as charged, I’m afraid. I appear to be teaching you well, Aya." He sipped his tea as he tried to push back his anger over last night. Saijou had enjoyed inviting several people to the party who had known Kikyou’s family before they’d fallen on hard times. He’d spent the night feeling their questioning gazes as they’d wondered what he was doing as Takatori’s ‘personal assistant’. One or two had seemed to know the truth, and had avoided looking at him throughout the party.

Aya didn’t say anything as he sipped his tea. Kikyou’s eyes narrowed in concern. While Aya was usually reserved, he normally would have said something other than ‘hello’ and ‘how was your trip’ by now. "Just how much did you have to drink last night?"

Aya looked up from his teacup and shrugged. "There were several bottles at dinner, and… two I think, at… Yohji’s." After mentioning his neighbor he dropped his gaze back to his cup and didn’t say anything else.

Kikyou and Tsubaki exchanged looks and then stared at their host. This sudden change in temperament had Kikyou worried about Aya. The calls and emails he’d received from Aya the past several weeks had been almost cheerful in tone. When Mamoru had come to Kyoto for a family function the other week, he’d mentioned that Aya had made a few new friends, and seemed happy. Kikyou also knew that Ayumi had made plans for Aya’s birthday and was sure that the old woman had kept their friend too busy to get depressed like he usually did when he celebrated the day with Hirofumi. He might not get along with her very well, but they both made sure to look out for Aya, and could count on the same from the other.

"Well, I hope you’re not too hungover to go out tonight," he told Aya. "I was hoping to see you in the outfit that I sent you for your birthday, and to have some fun. I thought we could go back to that club." He sipped his tea as he waited for Aya’s response.

Aya glanced up from his cup and nodded his head. "That… sounds fine. I could use a night out," he replied softly.

Tsubaki poured them all more tea, something that Aya usually took care of, and then ran his fingers through his short black hair. "I think I’ll stay in tonight and let you two party animals have your fun." He hadn’t gotten much sleep lately, since he’d helped Shion coordinate security for the party last night. Usually Rindou helped Shion in that regard, but he was in America at the moment, taking care of something for Hirofumi. Kikyou was sure that Tsubaki wanted to do nothing more than read for an hour or two this evening and then go to bed.

"That’s fine," Aya mumbled as he sipped his tea. Kikyou had to suppress the urge to shake Aya by the shoulders until he snapped out of the odd mood he was in. It wasn’t so much that Aya seemed depressed as… preoccupied. Sad, even, and wistful. It was very odd.

He tried again to get more than a couple of words at a time out of his friend. "So, do you want to go out to eat, or do you have something prepared for dinner tonight?"

"I have some sea bass that I’d thought I’d steam, and some vegetables." Aya set aside his teacup and rubbed his eyes. "Do you want to rest for a bit before going out?" For the first time since they’d arrived he actually looked at Kikyou, and started to frown. "You don’t look so good yourself, you know."

Yes, Kikyou was sure he didn’t. He had dark circles under his eyes, and hadn’t taken the time to do more than run a comb through his hair and pull it back in an untidy bun before leaving. He’d been too excited about getting away from Saijou for a few days to care about how he looked, not to mention he’d had one hell of a headache when he’d left Kyoto. "Tut tut, Aya, you know you’re supposed to be more respectful of your elders." He tugged on the sleeves of his kimono as Tsubaki hid a smile behind his hand. "I’m still more gorgeous than you, even on my worst day."

That got a hint of a smile out of Aya. "I won’t say anything about over-inflated egos for fear of upsetting my elders, then," Aya teased. "Yours is even worse than Yoh-." He actually became flushed and quickly lifted the teacup to his lips as he took to staring at something across the room.

So, whatever it was that was bothering him, it had to do with his neighbor, Kikyou mused. He’d make sure that Aya had enough to drink tonight to make him talkative, and then find out what was bothering him. If it was something that Kudoh had done, Tsubaki would be more than happy to toss him off the Hanabatake’s roof.

"Are you implying that someone is nearly as vain as me?" He smiled at Aya, who refused to look at him. "I think I need to meet this person. What do you think, Tsubaki?"

"That I’d have to see it to believe it, you peacock." He pretended to glare at Tsubaki, who only laughed at the look. Glancing at Aya, he found the slightest of smiles tugging at the younger man’s lips.

"I don’t believe that I came here to be abused," he pouted.

Aya glanced at him and then down at the cup of tea, the slight smile still on his face. "Let me fetch some more water, and then start dinner. I assume you’re both hungry," he said, gesturing at the empty plate that had been covered in treats. Tsubaki had the grace to blush, causing Kikyou to laugh while Aya left the room.

"Don’t you get enough of those at home?" he teased his friend.

"Aya’s always taste better," Tsubaki sniffed.

Kikyou shook his head and sipped his tea, and then was startled to hear a knock on the door. He wasn’t used to Aya having any callers while he was visiting, since Ayumi usually stayed away on those days. "I’ll get it," he called out to Aya, curious to see who it was.

"No! I’ll get it!" Aya sounded almost panicked and something in the kitchen fell to the floor. Kikyou was closer to the door and determined to see who it was. He opened the door just as Aya came running out of the kitchen, and stared at the blond man standing before him.

"Kudoh-san, isn’t it?" he asked, an eyebrow arching as he wondered why Aya hadn’t wanted him to answer the door. Had he known his neighbor would be the one paying a visit?

"Yes, it is, Kikyou-san….?" When he nodded, Kudoh bowed to him. He was dressed in a pair of navy slacks and a light tan silk shirt, his hair mostly pulled back in a ponytail, and carried a large gold box in his hands. "Is Aya home?"

"Yes, he is." Kikyou stepped aside so Aya could talk to Kudoh, but made sure to stand in the doorway, despite Aya trying to push him back into the room. He wanted to hear this conversation.

Aya merely stood there with his hands tucked into the sleeves of his black kimono, something that he usually only did when he was either cold or nervous about something. "What do you want, Yohji? I have guests."

Kudoh sighed and held out the present. "I never got a chance to give this to you," he said softly. "Aya…," his gaze flicked over to Kikyou and then back at Aya. "I’d like to see you, if you have any time later. Maybe for some tea, and to talk." He stepped forward into the doorway, causing Aya to take a step backwards. His whole posture implied that he wasn’t budging unless he got a satisfactory answer.

Aya chewed on his bottom lip for a moment and then reluctantly reached for the present. His hand brushed against Kudoh’s, and the two men stared at each other for several seconds as they both just stood there. Kikyou rolled his eyes and wanted to clear his throat to remind them that he was standing beside them, but then Aya stepped back, the present in his hands and an actual flush to his cheeks. "Later, Yohji." He then turned around and quickly walked away.

Kudoh stared after him, longing plain on his face. Kikyou wasn’t sure what the hell had happened between the two men last night, but he seriously doubted that Kudoh had insulted Aya again, as he’d previously thought. Aya would have punched the blond and tossed the present in his face if that had been the case. He certainly wouldn’t have blushed and all but run from him after a simple touch.

Feeling slightly evil, Kikyou finally cleared his throat and smiled at Kudoh, who looked at him in confusion. "I must thank you, Kudoh-san, for telling me about that wonderful club, Shinju." Kudoh nodded. "Aya and I liked it so much that we’ll be going back there tonight. Why don’t you come with us? We’ll leave around nine."

The perplexed expression grew for a moment, but then Kudoh suddenly grinned. "Nine o’clock sounds fine to me. I’ll meet you here. I can drive, if you like." He glanced inside the apartment again before leaving, whistling happily as he walked away. Kikyou couldn’t help but smile at the sudden change in attitude. Somehow he doubted that Kudoh had deliberately made Aya upset. He had some delicious thoughts on what might be bothering his friend, though, and hoped to be proven correct tonight.

He found Aya in the living room, sitting down and unwrapping the present. Once it was revealed, Aya stared at the expensive statuette, tracing his finger along the samurai’s detailed armor. It was a lovely work of art, and Kikyou approved of it as a present. This Kudoh had to care about Aya to spend so much money on him, and to give him a present that would be so well received.

"It’s lovely, Aya."

Aya grunted as he continued to stare at the present. After several minutes he rose and carried it to his bedroom. He emerged a minute later, his hands empty and his face composed. "What were you talking to Yohji about?"

Smiling, Kikyou collected the torn wrapping and pushed it inside the box. "Oh, I thanked him for recommending the club to us, and invited him along tonight." He had to bite down on a laugh as Aya struggled to keep his composure in face of that bit of news.

"I’m sure he’s much too busy to come with us," Aya stated icily before snatching the box from his hands and doing his best to crush it.

"Oh, no he’s not. He’s even going to drive us there," Kikyou breezily replied. "Kudoh’s quite a nice man, your first impression of him aside. He seemed very eager to go out with us. I take it he didn’t get as drunk as you last night?"

"I wouldn’t know," Aya mumbled as he stalked towards the kitchen. Kikyou smiled as he left, and then winked at Tsubaki. His friend appeared ready to ask him a question, but he just pressed a finger to his lips and shook his head. He’d give Aya a few more minutes to stew in silence, and then go to the kitchen to try to pry some information out of him. One thing was certain, Aya wasn’t happy to be going out with Kudoh, though he clearly had been touched by the gift. Oh yes, this was getting very interesting.

It was such a good thing that he was here, to make sure that things remained interesting. He was very glad he hadn’t remained in Kyoto and allowed Aya to mess up whatever it was that was going on between him and Kudoh. Whatever it was, Kikyou had the impression that Hirofumi would not be happy about it at all, so naturally he was all for it. Especially if his crazy hunch was right.

"Tsubaki, call Mamoru later tonight, and ask if it will be all right if we spend a night or two of our stay at the Takatori estate." At Tsubaki’s puzzled look, he grinned some more. "I’m thinking that right now might not be the best of times for Aya to have houseguests."

*******

Aya brushed his hair as he stared at the mirror. Kikyou’s present fit him perfectly, and he wondered if his friend had had the outfit specially made for him. Then he remembered that he wasn’t too happy with Kikyou right now and frowned. The interfering busybody, why did he have to invite Yohji out with them?

He hadn’t been able to settle his damn emotions at all today, and seeing Yohji earlier had just made him even more confused. He wanted Yohji so much…. He grunted as he slammed the brush down on the dresser. He wasn’t going to think about that.

Looking away from the mirror, he saw the statuette that he had set on his low dresser. His hand automatically reached for it, stroking the cool porcelain and marveling at its beauty. It was lovely, and he already cherished it. Damn Yohji for knowing him so well to have bought it as his birthday present.

Deciding that he didn’t want to follow that train of thought either, he stomped over to the bench at the foot of his bed and picked up the dark blue kimono that lay upon it. He pulled it on over his outfit, careful to make sure he didn’t wrinkle his new silk shirt, and then properly arranged the robe and tied it shut. Hopefully no one would notice that he was wearing boots and not geta tonight.

He left his room and then paused to glare at Kikyou, who was waiting for him in the living room, wearing a dark gold kimono over his club clothes. Both of them had their bangs hanging down on their faces to help hide the fact that they were wearing a touch of makeup. Since they couldn’t help how exotic they appeared because of their hair, and in Aya’s case, his coloring, they played up their differences with their clothes and makeup. People often asked them if they were in a band, which was at least preferable to being called whores.

"Well?" he snapped at his friend, who only smiled calmly at him and nodded towards the door. As he headed towards it, Aya hoped that Yohji wasn’t ready yet and that he’d have an excuse to leave without him, but his luck proved true to form when he opened the door and found Yohji out in the hallway closing his.

Aya felt his anger drain away at the sight of Yohji dressed for a night out. His dark blond hair was untied and tousled, framing the handsome face that showed very little sign of last week’s beating, other than a thin line of red on his check and faint bruises. The gold-colored mesh shirt he wore emphasized Yohji’s golden skin tone, and provided tantalizing glimpses of his chest and stomach. Aya remembered how it had felt to run his hands along that toned abdomen…. A pair of tight black leather pants completed the outfit, along with a thin, black nylon duster that Yohji was in the process of tying shut.

He couldn’t help it, he wanted the man so much. It was so very hard to resist the urge to press Yohji against the wall and kiss him breathless, then lead him to one of their apartments and finish what they’d started last night. Aya sucked in his breath and shook his head. He was being an idiot.

"Aren’t you coming, Aya?" He looked over at Kikyou, who was motioning towards the elevator with a cocky grin on his face. Oh, how he wanted to punch his friend right now. Glaring, Aya quickly headed down the hall, trying to put as much space between him and Yohji as possible. He ignored Yohji when he tried to tell him how good he looked.

He wasn’t going to do it. He wasn’t going to give in to his desire. He’d think of Ayumi and Aya-chan and remain cold to Yohji all night long. Then he’d come home and strangle Kikyou. It sounded like an ideal plan.

"Did you like the present, Aya?" Yohji’s voice near his ear almost made him jump.

He looked over his shoulder and glared at Yohji, who was standing right behind him. "Yes. Thank you." The words came out as angry as he felt at that moment, and he almost regretted their harshness at the gleam of hurt in Yohji’s eyes. He then reminded himself again of why he couldn’t give in to his emotions.

"Aya, where are your manners?" Kikyou chided him. "He loved it, Kudoh-san. So much so he stared at it for at least five minutes. It was a lovely gift."

Luckily, the elevator arrived before Aya could decide to move up strangling Kikyou to *before* they went to the club. He glared at his supposed friend before entering the car. As the elevator carried them to the garage, he had to wonder which burning desire he’d give in to first, fucking Yohji or killing Kikyou.

*******

"Wait here while I go fetch us some drinks." Kikyou smiled at Aya and him before heading to the bar. Yohji smiled back, happy to finally be alone, more or less, with Aya for the first time that day. Since he’d met the two men before coming to the club, Aya had been ignoring him, but that would be a little hard now.

He glanced at Aya, who was making a point of looking around the club and not at him. His smile became bigger as he thought about how his jaw had dropped when Aya and Kikyou had shed the kimonos that they’d worn for the elevator ride down to the garage. Kikyou was dressed for a night of dancing in indigo leather pants and a black silk shirt that was loosely wrapped around his chest. He had dark blue eyeliner on, and his hair was mostly held back with an indigo ribbon.

As for Aya… he was dressed in a silk shirt too, this one a gleaming white that laced down his chest. It was loose and full sleeved, like a poet’s shirt, and a black leather belt rested low on his hips. The shirt made his purple eyes and red hair stand out even more. Add to that thigh high soft black leather boots and tight black velvet pants, and he appeared both gorgeous and slightly androgynous. His hair was loose and hanging down to the top of the belt, and his eyes were also enhanced with eyeliner, this time a smoky black. Aya was so fucking sexy that it hurt to look at him. Especially when Yohji remembered what it felt like to have that lithe body resting on top of his, moving against him while pale hands played with his nipples and drove him wild with pleasure.

His throat having gone dry, Yohji had to swallow before he could speak. "Aya…. About last night, I-"

"There was no last night," Aya rushed in, his sight focused on the floor. "It never happened, Yohji, so there’s nothing to talk about."

It was exactly as he’d feared. Aya was refusing to talk to him because of what had happened on his couch. Well, tough shit. He wanted Aya too much, wanted him as both a lover and a friend. He didn’t want any more distance between them.

"It did happen." He pitched his voice as low as he could and still be heard above the loud music, and leaned over to speak in Aya’s ear. "You’re not going to be able to make what we did last night disappear by ignoring it. You wanted me, I wanted you, and only the fact that we were so drunk stopped us from having sex."

Aya flinched at the last word and finally looked up to glare at him. "It was a mistake, Yohji. It won’t happen again." Aya tucked back a strand of hair falling into his eyes and looked around the club. "It was a mistake."

"The hell it was." He captured Aya’s hand and held on to it, preventing Aya from pulling it out of his grip. "I think it’s what we’ve wanted to do for a long time now, and I’m not going to just forget about it. We need to talk about what we’re going to do next, so stop acting like a child and pretending nothing happened."

Aya’s free hand suddenly grabbed him by the elbow, pressing against something that had his hand twitching and releasing the one he was holding. As he shook his tingling arm, Aya took a step away from him and started to scowl.

"Listen to me, Kudoh. *Nothing happened*." Aya’s face was close enough to his that he had to fight the urge to lean forward the slightest bit and kiss him, but the gleam of anger in Aya’s eyes warned him off. "This friendship isn’t worth the grief it can cause me. I don’t want to see you again, or to speak to you. Leave me the hell alone or you’ll be looking for a new place to live."

This couldn’t be happening. On top of Aya wanting nothing more to do with him, he was being threatened. Aya knew how much the apartment meant to him, knew how happy he was to live there, and was still willing to toss him out. The bastard. He wanted to grab Aya by the shoulders and shake him silly, but knew he couldn’t do that in a public place. When they got home, though….

So he forced himself to remain silent and just glare at Aya until Kikyou returned with their drinks. He didn’t care what it was, he just snatched it and gulped it down. Ah, whiskey. Just what he needed to help calm him down before Aya had some sense knocked into him.

Aya tossed back his shot as well. Kikyou looked at the two of them with amusement and shook his head as he sipped his whiskey. "Slow down, we have all night. Now how about a little dancing? The floor’s getting crowded already."

Aya didn’t wait for an answer, he just handed his friend the empty shot glass and headed for the dance floor. Yohji and Kikyou exchanged a look before setting their glasses down on a table and following.

Once they reached the dance floor, Yohji made sure to stay close to Aya. Aya had to have been bluffing back there. Aya hadn’t tossed anyone out of the Hanabatake, and somehow he doubted that Ayumi would do that to him. Not just because of what had happened last night.

Aya was probably so upset because of his lover. Hirofumi wasn’t a man to be messed with, not with the Takatori family connections, but nor was he an insurmountable barrier to them getting together. Not if they were careful. Which Yohji damn well would be, just to make sure that Aya didn’t get into trouble.

Trying to remind Aya of how good it had been together was harder than Yohji thought it would be. Aya started to dance with Kikyou, turning his back to Yohji as if he wasn’t there. When Yohji tried to dance with both men Aya would block him again and ignore him. Kikyou met his eyes over Aya’s shoulder, a puzzled expression on his face. Yohji then tried to move Aya around until they were facing each other, but then all Aya did was start dancing with someone else.

The sight of Aya willingly dancing with some girl he’d never met before instead of him made Yohji angry. He tried to dance behind Aya, mindful of not getting too close but to at least be dancing with him and not just near him, and got an elbow in his ribs for his troubles. As he wheezed in pain, Aya took the opportunity to move along the dance floor away from him.

He rubbed his sore ribs as he watched Kikyou flash him an apologetic grin and then trail after Aya. People bumped into him as he stood there, one of them a young woman with long, dyed blonde hair. With nothing better to do than stand there and be bumped into again, he smiled at her and started to dance. She smiled back and pressed against him, appearing very happy to have him as a partner.

He’d thought he’d just dance for a song or two and give Aya a couple of minutes to get out of the snit he was in, and had even started to look around the floor to try and spot his friend. He found him halfway across the floor, dancing with Kikyou and acting as if nothing was wrong. Once more he was the aloof ice-prince who had so angered Yohji his first few weeks at the Hanabatake. Aya certainly didn’t seem to care that he’d left Yohji behind on the dance floor.

So, Aya was going to ignore him, was he? Yohji wasn’t going to put up with that. His anger growing, he lowered his gaze to the woman pressed against him and smiled. He’d show Aya that he wasn’t someone to be so easily dismissed, that he was someone who people found attractive and even desirable. Besides, it gave him something to do, instead of chasing Aya down and kissing him right then and there until he got a reaction out of him. Let Aya see that other people would be more than willing to take what he was prepared to throw aside.

*******

"Ouch!"

Startled by the voice that had practically shouted in his ear, Aya forced his attention away from Yohji and to his partner. Kikyou had stopped dancing and was now glaring at him. "What?"

"That’s the second time tonight that you’ve stepped on my foot," Kikyou complained as he tossed back his hair. "Come on, we’re getting off the dance floor before you cripple me."

His wrist was grabbed and he was pulled towards a bar. Not really fighting his abduction, Aya sighed and tucked back his bangs, which were sticking to his sweaty face. The club was packed tonight, and the dance floor was an inferno because of all the body heat. The air actually felt cooler when he walked up the steps to the bar. He gratefully leaned against the cool metal rim of the bar while Kikyou ordered them something.

He had a great view of the dance floor from here, and he couldn’t help but frown as he caught sight of Yohji, who had given up bothering him in favor of flirting with anything that breathed. Yohji was on his sixth dance partner of the past hour, the brunette woman practically dancing on his lap as her hands roamed all over his ass. Of course Yohji didn’t seem to mind the attention, especially since his gaze never left her impressive cleavage, barely restrained by a black halter-top. He wondered if Yohji had any idea how stupid he looked at the moment, and then reminded himself that he wasn’t supposed to care - or feel any pain over the fact that Yohji was flirting so shamelessly with someone else.

"Here, drink this." Kikyou pressed a shot in his hand and he immediately snatched it and tossed it back. The alcohol burned his throat for a moment, so he reached for the other glass his friend handed him, expecting it to be water or a soda. It turned out to be another shot, and once he drank it down he gave Kikyou a questioning look.

"You need to loosen up. I’ve never seen you this tense before, or known you to be so clumsy on the dance floor." Kikyou raised an eyebrow in his direction and sipped at his drink. "What’s wrong?"

He grunted as he set the empty shot glasses down on the bar. "Maybe I’m not happy about being here tonight. Maybe I didn’t want to go clubbing." His gaze strayed back over to Yohji.

Setting his drink aside, Kikyou wiped his hand down the front of his black silk shirt. "You know, you usually enjoy going clubbing with me. I could have sworn you were looking forward to this night, at least before I invited your neighbor along." He made a big production of looking in the direction that Aya had been staring in for the past few minutes. "You know, the one you’ve been doing your best to ignore all night? Why are you so mad at him?"

Because Yohji had him so confused he didn’t know what to do anymore. Because he wanted to go up to the large chested woman who practically had her hands down the back of Yohji’s pants and shove her away from his neighbor. Then he wanted to press against Yohji, to hold him tight and kiss him senseless.

"I don’t know why you bothered to bring him," he muttered, unwilling to answer Kikyou’s question. "It’s not like he’s even hanging out with us."

Kikyou toyed with a strand of his hair while he waved the bartender over for another drink order. When he was done he turned to face him. "Perhaps he isn’t with us because you were very rude to him earlier? Why wouldn’t you dance with him? You don’t seem to care about doing that with me."

Thankfully, their drinks had arrived by that point, and Aya quickly picked up one of the shots and tossed it back. When Kikyou nudged another glass towards him he didn’t pause in picking it up and doing the same. He hadn’t wanted to get drunk tonight, not after last night, but drinking gave him something to do other than answering embarrassing questions.

He should be happy that Yohji was leaving him alone, just like he wanted. He shouldn’t be this confused or sad. It should be a simple thing, deciding to never see Yohji again and doing just that. Why couldn’t he get the man out of his mind, then? Why did he want to drag Yohji off to the bathrooms and fuck him right there?

Refusing to acknowledge the pain in his chest at that thought, he tugged on Kikyou’s silk sleeve and motioned towards the dance floor. Kikyou didn’t appear happy at leaving the bar, but he did follow him back to the crowded area. Aya was sure to pick a spot that allowed him a good view of Yohji, and noted that the blond was now dancing with a different woman than before. What, he’d grown bored with the last one’s chest already?

Only paying half a mind to Kikyou and the music, he started to dance while his gaze remained locked on Yohji. The pain and confusion slowly changed into anger. How had Yohji done this to him? His life had been… not content, but simple, until he’d met him. Now he was struggling with unfamiliar emotions and a decision that could impact everyone he cared about. He felt like walking up to him and punching him, but didn’t see what good that would do, other than make him happy for all of five seconds.

Watching Yohji pick up yet another new dance partner, he was almost willing to go for those five seconds of happiness. But he wasn’t going to create a spectacle of himself in public, or give Yohji the satisfaction of knowing that he was jealous. So he stayed where he was and hoped that they could leave the club sometime very soon. Before Yohji ended up either being kissed or punched.

*******

Kikyou carefully parked the Jaguar in the spot marked for 13-E and turned off the engine. "We’re home, if anyone cares." For an answer, Aya pushed violently at the back of his seat and muttered at him to get out of the car. He grudgingly did so, keeping an eye on his friend the whole time.

Aya practically had to crawl out of the small back seat of the sportscar. Maybe he shouldn’t have done such a good job of getting his friend drunk tonight, but he hadn’t felt as if there’d been much choice. Aya had been in a truly pissy mood, and at least being drunk had distracted him somewhat and cut down on the requests to leave the club.

As soon as Aya was out of the car, so was Kudoh. He stalked around the vehicle to stand beside Aya as he straightened his outfit. His hand was even outstretched as if to help him. Aya, of course, ignored the gesture as he headed towards the elevator. Kikyou rolled his eyes and bit back on a smile. Someone was so mad they were forgetting all about their kimonos in the trunk, and he almost called out for his friend to stop and put his on. He decided not to, though, since he was unwilling to have Aya be pissed off at him too. They’d just have to chance running into someone on their way to the apartment.

Kudoh immediately took off after Aya, and he trailed leisurely behind the two men. Yes, something was definitely going on between those two. He’d never seen Aya act like he had tonight, being so rude to a guest and drinking so heavily. Kudoh had also had a few drinks too many, enough so that he couldn’t drive, and had flirted with anyone who came near him, male or female. He’d thought that the blond had some intelligence, from the little he’d heard of him from Aya and Mamoru, and wouldn’t be so ‘friendly’ in public like that. They hadn’t been in a gay bar, after all.

Yet for all his flirting, Kudoh had done little more than a bit of dirty dancing and giving a few hugs to his dance partners. When they got a little too touchy, he would start flirting and dancing with someone else. Aya hadn’t seemed to have noticed that little fact, other than to complain under his breath about Kudoh picking up yet another person. He swore that his friend had been keeping count.

From where he was standing, Aya seemed to him to be jealous and trying his best not to show it. And considering the way that Kudoh would suddenly appear around them on the few times Aya had danced with someone other than him tonight, he was willing to say that Aya wasn’t the only one. He’d bet ten years being added to Saijou’s already too long life that something had happened between the two neighbors. Something that had Aya trying to ignore Kudoh and Kudoh desperately seeking any attention he could get from him.

They reached the elevator before he did. As he joined them there he found Aya continuously pushing its button while Kudoh was gazing at Aya out of the corner of his eyes. Kikyou wanted to shake his head. What was he going to do now? Getting the two of them to a club had done nothing more than end up with both of them drunk and pissed off at each other.

The elevator arrived, thankfully empty, and Aya practically leapt inside it. Kudoh quickly joined him inside, standing much too close to him to be considered proper. Kikyou had to again prevent himself from smiling at the way Aya took to playing with his belt with a scowl on his face, appearing determined to ignore Kudoh, who kept sidling closer.

"So, is anyone in the mood for a drink before bed? I know Aya has a few beers in his fridge that we can enjoy." His smile was met with twin glares as Kudoh stopped inching closer to Aya while his friend stopped playing with his belt and crossed his arms over his chest.

"I don’t think that’s a good idea," Aya stated quietly.

"Yeah, you wouldn’t want to get drunk and do something that you’d regret, now would you?" Kudoh’s snide comment surprised Kikyou, and caused Aya’s glare to go up a notch. For the first time since they’d left the club, he looked straight at Kudoh and spoke to him.

"Something would have had to happen for there to be any regret, right? And *nothing* happened." He seemed to have totally forgotten that Kikyou was there as his gaze locked with Kudoh’s. "Now leave me the hell alone."

Kudoh’s mouth tugged into a frown as he combed his hand through his air. "Is that why you ignored me all night long? You actually think it’ll all go away if you don’t talk to me anymore? You’re acting like a brat, Aya. We need to talk about what-"

Aya cut him off with an angry wave of his hand. "There’s nothing to talk about."

Kikyou held his breath while the tension in the elevator increased with each floor it climbed. Yet he was thrilled with the little bits of information the budding fight was letting slip. Aya and Kudoh had to have done something last night, while they’d been drinking. Something that Kudoh wanted them to do again, if he was any judge, and that Aya was desperate to prevent. The idiot. He should take what his neighbor was offering, the attraction between them would be apparent to a blind man.

"Aya… gods." Kudoh’s hands rose until they were level with Aya’s shoulders and then clenched into fists, as if he was stopping himself from grabbing Aya by the shoulders and shaking him. "Stop being so childish."

The angry words reverberated through the small car just as it dinged to announce that they had arrived at their floor. As the doors slowly opened, Aya took a step towards them but didn’t look away from Kudoh.

"Better to be a child than a slut. I thought you fucked all those people for money, but now I see it’s because you can’t keep your dick in your pants." Aya’s voice was thick with ice as he insulted Kudoh, then he spun around and left the elevator. Kudoh and he could only stare after him for a moment, and then Kikyou shook his head and followed his friend. He had to have a little talk with Aya about not insulting friends and prospective lovers like that, but inwardly he felt like cheering. There was no doubt about it, Aya was in over his head with Kudoh. Now to make his foolish friend see sense.

*******

Yohji watched Aya storm off down the hallway, unable to move until the elevator doors started to close. That snapped him back to reality as he shoved the doors open and went after the stubborn idiot, his anger building with each step. There was no way in hell he was going to let Aya have the last word, not after what he’d put up with today. He was going to shake some sense into Aya, even if he had to go through Kikyou and Aya’s other friend to do it. Hell, Aya would be lucky if *he* wasn’t the one dangling over a balcony before Yohji was through with him.

Aya managed to get inside his apartment before Yohji could catch up to him. However, Kikyou didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to close the door, and even stepped aside when he pushed it open and stalked in after Aya. It even looked as if the man was smiling at him, but he didn’t bother to glance behind him and double-check that fact. No, what mattered at the moment was making Aya see reason.

It wasn’t until he’d reached his bedroom that Aya noticed he was being followed - by then it was too late. Yohji slid the door closed behind him and took up guard before it, his arms crossed over his chest in an effort to prevent himself from reaching out, grabbing Aya by the shoulders and shaking him silly. Or kissing him breathless. Right now he wanted to do both.

"What the hell are you doing here? Get the fuck out of my home." Aya glared malevolently at him from the foot of the bed, his hands clenched in fists at his sides.

"No." That seemed to rile Aya up even more, and he couldn’t help but smile at the reaction he was provoking. Even if he was pissing him off, Aya certainly wasn’t ignoring him now.

"Get out of here," Aya said tersely, his voice thick with anger. When Yohji didn’t move, he took a few steps closer, his arms rising as if to shove him, but after a couple of seconds he came to a sudden halt, out of Yohji’s reach. "I told you I don’t want to see you again. Go away."

It wasn’t going to be that easy to get rid of him. "And I told you that I’m not going anywhere. What the hell is your problem, Aya?" He jerked a hand through his hair, combing it back from his face as he stared at his friend. "Why did you leave this morning without saying a word? Don’t tell me you’re ashamed of what happened." He wanted to know how Aya could treat him like this after spilling his heart out last night. He wanted to know how Aya possibly thought that things were over between them after what had happened on his couch.

When Aya didn’t say a word he stepped closer to him, lessening the space between them. Aya held his ground as Yohji came within arms’ reach, the only reaction being his eyes narrowing in anger. Gods, he looked so fucking gorgeous right then with his hair hanging loose around his face and down his back, his cheeks flushed from alcohol and his eyes sparkling. Yohji recalled how he’d looked with those same eyes darkened with desire and those pressed thin lips swollen from kisses. He felt himself harden at the memory.

"No, I don’t think you’re ashamed of what happened, more like frightened." Aya flinched the slightest bit at his words and he glared even more. Yohji reached out his hand to touch a lock of hair that had fallen over Aya’s shoulder, only to have his hand smacked away. The anger inside him roiled at the blow, but he managed to keep it under control as he smiled. "Yeah, I think that’s it. You were scared this morning. What does it feel like to lose your cool and actually want something, hmmm? To no longer be a perfect little doll?"

"You’re a fucking idiot," Aya snarled at him. "Do you have any idea what could happen if Hiro ever finds out about last night? Have you given that any thought at all?" He didn’t give him any time to answer before he reached out and grabbed Yohji’s shirt and yanked him closer. "He could hurt the people I care about to get back at me for that little ‘loss of control’, and he can do anything to you without fear of reprisals. Do you want to have the life beaten out of you one night? To find yourself on the streets with no home and no money? To have the yakuza or the police after you? He’d destroy you if he ever found out you’d touched me."

Yohji knew all that and he didn’t care in the slightest. Well, he didn’t want anything to happen to Aya or Ayumi. "I have thought about that, and I don’t give a damn." He couldn’t help but laugh bitterly as he gripped Aya’s white shirt, mirroring the hold Aya had on him. They now stood centimeters apart, and being this close to someone he wanted so badly was making him even dizzier than the alcohol he’d drank all night.

"I don’t give a damn." He had to laugh for a few more seconds, thinking about how much he’d changed in the past months. "You know, before I met you I didn’t care about a single thing, except maybe having money to pay for the roof over my head and all the cigarettes and alcohol I wanted. I certainly didn’t give a fuck about another person, and I was happy about that. Then I ran into you that day and you began to screw with my head. You made me care for you, to believe in myself and the future, and last night…." He took a deep breath as he tried to force his chaotic thoughts to make sense. He wanted Aya so badly, was filled with so much desire, hurt and anger that even if he’d been sober he didn’t think he’d be able to think straight. "I’m not letting you take that back, no matter what the danger."

One minute Aya was glaring at him and the next was filled with pain as something hard slammed into his jaw, almost knocking him to the floor. Yohji straightened up and stepped back in time to avoid another punch from Aya. Luckily, he’d ended up in front of the door. When Aya tried to brush past him to leave the room, he grabbed him by the arm and yanked him back. With Aya off-balance like that it was easy to shove him onto the bed and then pin him down by straddling his waist and grabbing him by the upper arms. "You shitty little-"

"Get off me, Kudoh!" Aya yelled at him.

"The hell I will," he yelled back before shaking Aya a few times. "What the hell is your problem? You treat me like shit all night at the club, call me a whore and then deck me! Have you gone nuts?"

Aya tossed back his head, probably trying to get rid of the strand of hair that was falling on his face. When that failed he blew at it and glared at Yohji. "I’d have to be to ever want to have anything to do with you again. You don’t care about Hiro finding out about us? You self-centered bastard. What about Ayumi? What about my sister? It’s not just you who can end up hurt by us fucking around, but do you even care?"

"I care." He leaned down until his hair was falling onto Aya’s face. "I’ll kill the bastard if he so much as touches you, and I won’t let him hurt Ayumi or your sister. But I’m not going to deny myself the best thing that’s happened to me in years because I’m afraid of him finding out about us."

"There is no ‘us", Yohji." Aya struggled for a couple of seconds, trying to get his arms free, and when that failed he continued to glare up at him. "I was drunk last night and not thinking clearly. If I’d been sober I wouldn’t have fooled around with a slut who’ll fuck anyone who smiles at him. I’m surprised you remember to ask them for money when you’re done. "

He was practically growling as he slammed Aya back onto the bed. "Whereas you get the money up front, huh? What’s the matter? Can’t you fuck someone unless they pay you, Aya? Does the thought of all that money turn you on?" He was panting as he spoke, his chest tight with anger and desire, wanting nothing more than to beat some sense into Aya.

Beneath him, Aya was panting too, his body tense and his eyes narrowed in anger. His cheeks were flushed with more than drink now, and he still looked fucking gorgeous. "I was crazy to risk everything I have for a whore," Aya gritted out. "The only reason I wanted you last night was because I was drunk. You took advantage of-"

"The hell I did. You kissed me, you stupid bastard." Aya was not going to deny that he’d been an equal partner in what had happened between him. The only reason he was in here now and trying to make Aya see reason was because he’d felt how much his friend had wanted him last night. "You were a hundred percent willing, drunk or not. And if you didn’t care for me you wouldn’t have been so bothered by what happened in the club tonight. Well, if you weren’t going to give me any attention, I have no problems with finding other people who will. I won’t let you treat me like a piece of shit who can be tossed aside after getting you off." His anger grew as he thought about how cold Aya had been to him all night long. "I’m not going away, either."

Aya bared his teeth at him. "Why would I want you after what I saw tonight? What makes you worth it, Yohji?"

Dammit, he was really getting pissed off now. Why was Aya being so damn stubborn? He shifted on top of the man, his breath hissing as he rubbed his erection against a similar hardness. The anger faded beneath lust and surprise. He rocked his hips again, making Aya gasp at the contact and close his eyes. "You don’t want me? Then why are you hard, Aya?"

Snapping his eyes open, Aya glared at him, but now he could recognize the desire in those lovely eyes. "I hate you." The words came out more petulant than angry. "You’ll be the one gone in the morning." Without any warning he quickly lifted his head, and Yohji couldn’t jerk his back in time. Expecting to be hit, he was startled when instead Aya’s lips pressed against his. But only for a few seconds, and then he was kissing him back with a passion.

He released Aya’s arms and groaned when they came up and wrapped around his shoulders. Suddenly ecstatic, he slid his tongue into Aya’s mouth, tasting him once again. Gods, he’d wanted this all day long, and now he had it again, had Aya looking so incredibly sexy beneath him and kissing him back. If this was an alcohol induced dream he was going to be pissed as all hell when he woke up. If it wasn’t, he was *not* going to wake up alone again.

The kiss carried on until they were both left gasping for air, and all the while their hands roamed over each other’s body. He’d managed to undo the laces on the white silk shirt and slide a hand underneath it to skim along Aya’s chest. Aya’s hands were beneath the back of his gold top, and had pushed it halfway up his back.

"Gods, I want you so fucking much," he breathed against Aya’s panting mouth. He rocked his hips downward and couldn’t help but moan as he ground against Aya.

"Say my name," Aya said as he wrapped his legs around Yohji’s waist.

A little confused, he did as he was told. "Aya…."

"Aya." Aya was glaring at him again as he spoke. "Not one of your customers, not one of the sluts in that bar who couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. *Aya*." His legs squeezed around him as Yohji’s shirt was yanked over his head.

Once the garment was off, he rolled onto his back, dragging Aya along with him until their positions were reversed. He couldn’t help but smile at the jealous tone in his lover’s voice, before being kissed again. While Aya stole his breath away he worked on the leather belt that prevented him from removing the white silk shirt. Once that was gone the shirt was sent flying through the air, momentarily breaking apart the kiss. Within seconds, he met Aya halfway and resumed it, their tongues battling as they tried to taste as much of each other as possible.

Aya’s skin was as soft as he remembered it being, save for a few raised lines down his spine. He ran his fingers over them, causing Aya to flinch, so he soothed his hands along his sides until he relaxed again. He skimmed a hand along the edge of the velvet pants until Aya was squirming on top of him, rubbing against him in such a delicious manner that he had to close his eyes and take a deep breath.

"Aya… oh, don’t do that. I don’t wanna come in my pants again." He slid his fingers through Aya’s hair as he opened his eyes. Holding his lover’s head still, he stared intently at him. "I wanna come in you this time. I wanna feel you around me, hot and tight, just like I’ve dreamed of since I’ve met you."

His eyes heavy-lidded, Aya gazed back at him. "Fuck me, Yohji. I… want you." Then he lowered his head, forcing Yohji to release his hold before he pulled on Aya’s long hair, and started to nuzzle his neck. Stunned to hear Aya actually say he wanted him back, he just lay there until Aya’s warm mouth sucked on his earlobe. Then he moaned softly and tilted his head to the side so Aya could have better access to the side of his neck. He couldn’t stop rocking his hips as Aya’s mouth tormented him by sucking on and nipping at his skin. He took it for as long as he could before he rolled over, tucking Aya beneath him. Gods, how he loved the feel of Aya beneath him….

He caressed Aya’s chest as he returned the favor, nibbling on a pale ear before his mouth trailed down his lover’s neck. Once he reached Aya’s collarbones he started to suck in earnest, delighting in both the thought of Aya bearing his mark and the way he squirmed beneath him. After a few minutes he continued downward, pausing to suck on a pert nipple, tracing the lines on a muscled abdomen with his tongue and swirling it inside Aya’s navel briefly before scooting down even more and then breathing on a velvet covered bulge.

Aya moaned his name so prettily, but he had to take care of a few things first before he could lose himself in his lover’s luscious body, the way he wanted. Aya must have really been pissed off at him earlier because he’d not taken his boots off when he’d entered his apartment. Yohji now set about doing that. They had to come off before he could get rid of the annoying pants. Skimming his hands down the inside of Aya’s thighs, he couldn’t help but chuckle at the gasps his touch provoked. Taking the metal zippers between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, he slowly unzipped the boots. Then he was tossing them behind him, his hands trailing back up the inside of Aya’s legs, his fingers brushing against his lover’s erection and making him buck his hips at the contact.

Yohji’s hands shook as he undid the laces on either of Aya’s hips, and once they were loosened enough he grasped the pants’ waistband and started to tug on them. Aya quickly lifted his hips, helping him to slide them down his long legs. Soon enough they were tossed the way of the shirts, and Yohji bent down to kiss one of Aya’s ankles. He slowly made his way back up the pale limbs, placing kisses here and there while Aya’s slender fingers buried in his hair. He drank in each moan and gasp he wrung from the man, deliberately skirting around the jutting erection before him to suck on a hipbone. While Aya writhed beneath him he fumbled with his own pants, desperately wanting them off as quickly as possible. It took several tries before he could undo his belt buckle, and once his pants were unzipped he was shoving them down his hips.

He had to pull away from Aya so he could completely remove them, wanting nothing to come between their skin anymore. Then they were gone and Aya grabbed him by his hair and pulled him back on top of him. He groaned as their bodies came into contact, and then again when Aya rocked against him, their erections sliding against each other with a maddening friction.

"Yohji…." Aya arched his back and moaned, his eyes closed as a leg wrapped around Yohji’s waist.

"I know, Aya," he sighed as he tilted his lover’s face up for a kiss. He leisurely kissed him, savoring his taste as their hips thrust against each other’s, reveling in the fact that Aya needed him. That he was naked before him, and in a minute his dreams were about to come true. He felt separate from the world, cut off from everything except Aya.

Aya’s hands fell from his hair, one of them settling on the small of his back. He stroked his hands down Aya’s sweat slickened sides until they rested on his hips, pulling them up as he ground his down. That left the both of them gasping, and then something cold and plastic was being pressed against the back of his hand.

He pulled away and opened his eyes, and smiled when he saw the container of lubricant. He eagerly snatched it before bending down to kiss Aya again, utterly addicted to the way Aya tasted and the sweet moans breathed into his mouth when they rubbed against each other.

He clumsily flipped the top of the bottle open, and almost squeezed its contents all over the bed. He managed to get some into his hand, and after coating his fingers he urged Aya to spread his legs wider. Then he was sliding down Aya’s body, curling up between his legs. A pillow was handed down to him and he positioned it beneath his lover’s hips, licking his lips at the sight of Aya completely exposed before him. He couldn’t resist a teasing glide of his slick fingers along the crack of Aya’s ass, or smiling at the way his name was gasped out at that caress.

Resting his elbows on either side of Aya’s hips, he eagerly licked the red cock that was bobbing in front of his face, making Aya suck in his breath and his body to tense. Yohji lapped at the top of it for several seconds, making his lover squirm beneath him. Without warning he deepthroated Aya’s erection, taking it inside his mouth as he sucked on it.

"Yoh-ji!" Aya’s hands tightened in his hair, his body arching off the bed for a second before falling back down, his hips rocking forward. Yohji held them down with his arm as his hand crept between Aya’s legs. One slick finger circled around the tight bud hidden there, making Aya start to jerk his hips backward. He lowered his head to keep his lover’s cock in his mouth and pushed the finger inward, drinking in the low moan that Aya made. Gods, he loved each and every sound the redhead made and wanted to wring many more from him.

Sucking for a couple more seconds, he pulled away and started to kiss his way up Aya’s chest, pausing to nip on a pink nipple as he slid another finger inside his lover. Gods, Aya was so tight and hot, and the sounds he was making…. Yohji groaned and had to close his eyes, telling himself he couldn’t just shove inside his lover so he could feel that tight heat right now and hear Aya moan out his name. He couldn’t. But he wanted to so incredibly much….

Aya jerked his head up the rest of the way for a kiss that stole his breath away. It was demanding and passionate, a battle of tongues that fought to delve as deep as they could. Then Aya broke it off, his head tossed back onto the pillow as he gasped, his eyes drifting shut and a smile spreading across his swollen lips. Yohji flicked his fingers again, making Aya cry out his name and spread his legs even wider.

"Oh… Yohji… do it. Fuck me, please. I want you to. I want you." Aya moaned out the words as his hips rocked upwards, his legs wrapping tighter about Yohji’s waist.

He lost it at hearing those words, at knowing that the man he’d wanted for so long needed this just as much as he did. There had been the fleeting thought of taking things slow but he felt ready to burst after hearing Aya begging to be fucked. He pushed Aya’s legs against his chest, his hands trembling as he squeezed out more lube and then fumbled for his twitching cock. He wanted this too, needed it desperately before Aya changed his mind or it proved to be an alcohol induced dream.

As soon as he was slick enough he pressed against Aya, holding his breath as he pushed forward. For a moment he dazedly thought that he’d forgotten something, then he was burying himself into that tight heat, sinking into Aya’s body as his lover choked out his name. Aya’s hips rose to take him in deeper, and he didn’t stop until he was completely buried inside the clenching heat.

He was so close to coming right there that he lowered his head, resting it against Aya’s chest as he took deep breaths. It felt so fabulous, so different than it usually did, and he had to calm himself before he ended things too soon. Aya shifted beneath him, breathing slowly as if to relax himself, and hands tenderly stroked through his hair.

"Yohji…." Aya rocked his hips upwards, taking him in even deeper and almost driving him over the edge. "Please, move," he moaned.

Yohji took another deep breath and lifted his head so he could gaze down at Aya’s flushed face. "I… oh gods… I-"

Aya wrapped his arms around him and pulled him down, and before he knew it he was on his back with Aya on top of him and slowly sitting up. He couldn’t help but gasp at the sensation of Aya taking him in so deeply, he actually had to close his eyes and count to ten. Thankfully, Aya didn’t move after that, not for several seconds, giving him time to get himself under control. He’d never had such a hard time preventing himself from coming early before, but he’d wanted Aya for so long.

His hands trembling, he reached up and grabbed a lock of Aya’s hair, using it to pull his lover down for a gentle kiss. Aya’s hair fell all around him, brushing against his skin in light caresses that had him shiver. They kissed until he regained some control over himself. He then let go of Aya, his hands settling on his lover’s hips and urging him to move. Aya immediately got the hint, and after flashing him a sliver of a wicked smile he started to rise up, his body clenching around Yohji’s cock even as it slid out of him, and then falling back down, taking it in to the hilt.

"Oh… Aya. You’re so damned beautiful." He’d never forget the sight of Aya riding him like this, his long hair clinging to both of their skins as if a crimson web tying them together. Aya’s mouth was open as he panted, his head lolling back on his neck and one of his hands pumping himself in time with their thrusts. Yohji’s left hand joined him in that task, sliding up and down the redhead’s cock as his was buried again and again in Aya’s body. He started to pant too, feeling the bliss build again, knowing that this time he wouldn’t be able to stop it from cresting. Their pace became more frantic, the thrusts fast and deep, leaving them both gasping out each other’s names. It felt so good, so perfect, and he couldn’t hold out much longer.

Aya let out a startled cry as he was rolled onto his back, his hips resting on Yohji’s thighs as he pistoned inside him, pulling him closer with each thrust. Oh gods, Aya was so tight and warm. He could feel Aya’s body rippling and clenching around him and it simply became too much, no matter how much he wanted to drag this out. Yohji came in intense spurts, shouting out Aya’s name as it felt as if he was pouring all of himself inside Aya, and shaking as he was drained. He felt a warm liquid suddenly coat his hand and he cried out again as Aya clamped even tighter around him. Falling forward until his head rested on Aya’s chest, he wanted to shift his weight to the side but couldn’t do much more than gasp for air. The both of them were trembling from the aftershocks, their breath ragged and their bodies overheated.

Yohji felt languid and sated, utterly content for the first time in ages. He hugged Aya tightly, needing to hold him, to have him close. His emotions were a muddled mess of affection, desire, need and happiness, all of them centering on his lover. He was finally able to shift onto his side, pulling Aya against him and snuggling close, his arms around Aya’s back. He was holding onto his lover very tightly, causing Aya to lethargically squirm in his arms, but he didn’t want to risk letting go of him and waking up alone again. Something told him that if Aya left him this time, he’d never get him back. As confused and tired as he was, he knew he didn’t want that to happen. So he held on even tighter as he found himself drifting off to sleep.

*******

Aya awoke to a headache, the presence of warmth behind him and what felt like a damp towel sliding along his stomach. Confused by the latter, he wearily opened his eyes, almost regretting doing so when they started to ache from the dim light filtering into his bedroom through the blinds. Dammit, he was hungover. Again. Then the memories from the night before returned to him, causing him to moan and bury his face into his pillow.

The damp towel stopped wiping along his stomach and then gentle fingers combed through his hair. "Aya? Are you all right?"

Yohji was still in bed with him. He’d had sex with Yohji, no dry humping this time but full on intercourse, in his own bed, with Kikyou and Tsubaki in the next room. He was so screwed.

"Aya?" Yohji’s voice sounded anxious, so he slowly opened his eyes and turned his head to see his friend leaning above him, a worried expression on his face. For a second he drank in the sight of Yohji, rumpled and gloriously naked, and then he sighed and nodded his head.

"Yeah." His throat was dry so the word came out raspy. He swallowed a couple of times before he tried speaking again. "You stayed." That hadn’t been what he’d meant to say, but that was what had slipped past his befuddled brain.

Yohji slowly pressed on his shoulder until he was lying on his back, and then he bent down for a kiss. Aya couldn’t help but close his eyes and kiss him back. He couldn’t help but want Yohji. Enough so that he’d allowed them to have sex last night, in his own bed, with Kikyou in the next room. All because he hadn’t been able to deny his desire any longer, not after Yohji had thrown it back in his face. He was insane, but oddly, he didn’t seem to care.

It was an exceedingly gentle kiss, one that made his breath catch in his throat as his fingers wove through Yohji’s hair and held him close. He wanted it to last as long as possible, but eventually they had to break apart to breathe, their eyes locked on each other’s. He could feel Yohji’s erection pressed against his hip, and knew that he’d become hard during the kiss himself.

Yohji tenderly tucked back his hair and smiled at him. "Yeah, I stayed. There’s no place I’d rather be, to be honest." Then Yohji tugged on his arms, making him sit up. "Come on, I fetched you some aspirin and water. I know your head has to be killing you, mine sure was."

That’s right, Yohji had been awake before him. As he sat up, Aya ran fingers over his damp stomach. He remembered falling asleep in Yohji’s arms, held tightly enough he hadn’t been able to get out of bed and clean himself off. Yet that fact hadn’t kept him awake for more than a couple of minutes. "How long…?"

"… have I been awake?" Yohji supported his shoulders with one arm while the other reached for the glass of water on the nightstand. While Aya held that, he fetched the aspirin. He held onto him as he swallowed the pills and all of the water, and once the glass was set back on the nightstand they slumped against each other.

"Not very long. Got up to get some painkillers and to wash off, then figured you’d want the same so I came back to bed. I didn’t mean to wake you up." Yohji nuzzled his hair and then fell back onto the bed, taking him down with him. "You stayed, too."

"It’s my home, where else would I go?" he grumbled as he shifted about. He ended up half on Yohji’s chest, looking at his… lover… while his chin rested on his crossed arms. Lover. What kind of a fool was he?

Yohji, who had been smiling at him, suddenly frowned and reached out to tuck back a strand of hair that was falling down the side of his face. "Don’t look like that, Aya."

It was hard to resist the urge to tilt his face into the caress, but he managed. Barely. "Look like what?" When Yohji didn’t answer he took to scowling. "Like a man who’s done something incredibly foolish? Like someone who’s putting other people in jeopardy because of his own selfish wants?" Gods, he couldn’t believe that he’d had sex with Yohji, and that he was lying here wanting to do it again.

"You’re not selfish, Aya. Dammit, you’ve given up everything for the people you love, from what I can tell. You deserve some happiness." Yohji scowled back at him as he spoke and then sighed. "We both do, so I’m not going to let you pretend this never happened, and I’m definitely not going to accept you ignoring me again."

Feeling completely exhausted, Aya closed his eyes and rested his forehead against his arms. Did he deserve some happiness? He’d thought he’d managed to find some, but he knew it was nothing compared to what he’d experienced the past two nights. Even hungover he felt better than he did on most mornings when he woke up next to Hirofumi.

"I’m not ignoring your fears, Aya. I know you have every right to be worried about the two of us carrying on an affair." Yohji’s voice had softened and he was stroking Aya’s hair, the touch soothing. "I know Hiro is very powerful, but why should we both be miserable because of him? I want you, Aya, have wanted you from almost the moment we met, and I… I care a lot for you. Probably more than I should, but I do."

He looked up to see Yohji smiling uncertainly at him, his fingers still combing through his hair. "I don’t want to see you be hurt, but I don’t want you to be so unhappy, either. Neither does Ayumi or your friend Kikyou, I suspect." Yohji suddenly tapped him on the tip of his nose. "If two people who know you and Hiro better than I do want us together, why are you so worried?"

He glared at Yohji as he rubbed his nose. "Because Ayumi is an incurable romantic and Kikyou… well, he’s all for me cheating on Hiro, it doesn’t matter much to him with whom I do so." His friend had probably spent the night with his ear pressed to his bedroom door and had been cheering him along.

"Aya…." Yohji rubbed his eyes. "I’m not stupid. I know we’ll have to be careful, even more so than we’ve been the past couple of weeks. But Hiro’s barely here more than a night or two a week, and he’s always going off on business trips. It’s not like we’ll be fooling around right under his nose."

At least Yohji was admitting to there being some danger to them doing this. "But why should we be fooling around in the first place? Why should I risk so much for sex, Yohji? Why should you?" His throat felt dry again, causing him to choke out the last few words.

Yohji didn’t say anything for a few minutes but just looked at him. Then he cupped Aya’s face between his hands, his thumb brushing along his bottom lip. "If it was just sex we wouldn’t be talking like this. I’d have crawled back to my place after getting what I wanted, or you’d have kicked me out. Hell, I don’t think you would have allowed it to happen in the first place if this was only about sex." Yohji stared at him, his green eyes serious, yet still soft with emotion. "I wouldn’t care about you so much if this was just sex. You never would have gotten under my skin this much. I have sex almost every day, Aya, and I don’t need any conquests or challenges. It’s not just lust, what we feel for each other."

No, it wasn’t. That was why he was lying here in bed with Yohji the morning after having convinced himself that he wasn’t ever going to so much as speak to the man again, let alone sleep with him. It scared him to realize that it wasn’t about lust after all. It was about giving himself to someone he trusted and cared for, to someone who didn’t see him as a possession.

"We’d have to be very careful, Yohji." Gods, he was such an idiot. He was risking Aya-chan and Ayumi’s future on how incredibly good it felt to lie in bed with Yohji. "No one can find out about us." He thought darkly about Kikyou, who was probably ecstatic over this development, and Ayumi, who he was sure would figure things out eventually. "No one we can’t trust," he muttered.

To his credit, Yohji didn’t do much more than smile an incredibly sweet smile before pulling him up for an equally sweet kiss. "I won’t risk you or anyone else being hurt, Aya, I promise." Yohji settled him more firmly on top of his chest and hugged him tight. "I know I shouldn’t risk you at all, but… I think we need each other too much to just walk away from this and play it safe. Besides, I think we’d just end up screwing each other during tea at Ayumi’s one day if we did that." He slid his hand down Aya’s back and fondled his ass.

"Just use your head, Kudoh," he grumbled. When Yohji’s smile became wicked, he rolled his eyes and lightly punched him on the chest. "The other one."

"You live to torment me," Yohji pouted before kissing him lightly on the lips. "So… what do we do now? If I’m not mistaken, I smell coffee brewing. Is there any chance of me having a cup or two before you shove me out the door?"

He rested his head against Yohji’s chest as he considered things. It would be best to pass off Yohji’s stay here this morning as him stopping by for breakfast and not having spent the night. He could lend his lover a yukata to wear, which would look much better than his rumpled club clothes if anyone saw him leaving. Of course, that would mean that he’d have to put up with Kikyou and Tsubaki, who he was sure was the source of the coffee aroma. But he’d have to face them eventually, and he’d get a reprieve of sorts while Yohji was here. Or at least he hoped so.

"Come on, let’s get some breakfast." He reluctantly sat up, pulling Yohji up with him. He was partially disappointed with himself for not enjoying having Yohji naked in his bed, but if they had any hope of pulling this off, one of them had to be thinking with their brain.

As he rose to his feet, Aya belatedly realized that for the first time in a very long while he was indeed hoping for something, at least other than death, and didn’t know whether to punch Yohji or kiss him for that change. He had a feeling that time would eventually decide the answer for him.

*******

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