Of Cups and Wands

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Chapter 3

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Observing with detached interest the black ball as it sank into a far off pocket, Aya tensed when a hand clasped his shoulder. Ignoring the urge to snap it off at the wrist, the redhead spun around to face a tall yakuza with black eyes. The man was smiling broadly at him, and was a bit closer than what was considered proper. "Another win, right Fujimura? That makes seven so far tonight."

"Hn." The pale man walked away from the pool table, leaving it to another set of men. He'd play the winner of the game. The yakuza followed him to a small round table that the assassin had appropriated for during breaks such as these. Once there the gangster leaned against it and offered to by him a drink. "No thanks."

"What's the matter, worried you'll lose your edge if you get too drunk? Don't be, my money's on you tonight, so I wouldn't do anything to risk my investment." A scarred hand reached out to tuck back a long strand of hair, but Aya just leaned away as he knocked the limb aside. There was a spark of something in those ebony orbs, but it disappeared before the assassin could interpret it. The stranger grinned wolfishly as he stepped away from the table, and the other yakuza gathered around the pool tables started yelling at him.

"Hey Ueno, trying to rig the next game or something? No conspiring with the players, you bastard."

A broad shouldered thug with purple highlights laughed at the comment. "Nah, he's just trying to find out if Fujimura is a guy or a girl. Not often he comes across someone that pretty who isn't in a dress. Looking for a new girlfriend, pal?" There was a hoot of laughter, while the men started shouting out suggestions for their comrade the redhead just sat there, acting as if nothing was going on.

Ueno regarded the pale man he'd recently become fixated upon. "He's a guy alright. No female can sit around for that long without saying a word." Violet eyes stared at him for a few seconds, utterly indifferent about the teasing, before gazing at the bar. "They're probably talking just to hear some intelligent conversation," was the remark from the redhead as he stalked off to get a drink after all, causing the men to burst out laughing yet again. The tall yakuza shook his head as he watched Aya leave, smile growing wider. There was nothing like a challenge.

He and his friends were highly amused with the strange young man who last night had walked off with a good bit of their money after kicking their asses at pool. Fujimura was so unlike anyone they normally associated with, neither being afraid of them nor trying to curry their favor. The man just played exceedingly well, calmly claiming the pot when he won and on the extremely rare times he lost merely shrugging his shoulders gracefully as he looked about for another game. The yakuza were intrigued, especially when their rude comments failed to provoke any reaction whatsoever. And then there was the fact that the redhead had a sort of air about him that indicated he was very good at taking care of himself, and could hold his own in the presence of a bunch of murderous criminals. So they had commenced to bet on the silent man all this evening, winning back their lost cash and then some.

Rasping his fingers over the stubble coating his chin, Goro Ueno reflected that he was a bit more intrigued than the others. He'd always had a soft spot for beautiful things, and the more out of reach the better. Last night he'd tried to figure out his chances with the distant redhead, and came up with nothing. Fujimura equally ignored the attractive male and female waiters he'd sent over to the enigma, and the free drinks they had been carrying. Turning the attention up a notch tonight, Ueno found all of his slight overtures rebuffed in a manner that indicated annoyance more than disgust. It was shaping up to be a fun chase.

Unaware of the attention focused upon him, Aya waited at a particular section of the bar until Ken was free to serve him a drink. The brunet inquired if it would be the usual, and then surreptitiously proceeded to serve his teammate a very weak bourbon and coke. Once that was done the swordsman went back to the pool section to see if it was time to play again. He walked past Yuushi, who was engaged in conversation with some unsavory fellows, busy buying them drinks and furtively going about extracting all the information about Soma he could. The two men had been careful to not encounter each other again, they didn't want any connection between them noticed. The incident at the bar last night had been bad enough.

Aya bit back a sigh as he noticed the men were still playing. Why did people with no skill insist on wasting his time and money? The better pay was in beating those considered good enough to have a lot of cash wagered on them. He mollified himself with the thought that once word of him got out, there should be better players showing up shortly. And maybe then he'd hear something about their target. The redhead didn't know what it was, but ever since he'd entered the club last night he'd been positive that a break in the assignment would come if he just hung out around the pool tables. It was a bit odd, but over the past few years he had learned to go along with these impulses. Right now there was something urging him to avoid his table and settle instead along the wall as he watched the ridiculous game.

There were several men and a couple of women standing there also, including a clearly inebriated fellow with long, permed hair. The man was dressed in a pair of black slacks and a brilliant print silk shirt. The aroma of gin whaffed off of him, and he was evidently being avoided by the surrounding crowd. As soon as Aya leaned against the wall the drunk came over to him, a crooked grin on his face.

"You're Fujimura, aren't you? Heard about you last night. You as good as they say?" The redhead shifted his face away to avoid the stranger's breath, he could get drunk off of the fumes alone. Something kept him standing still though, for a moment if felt as if he was trapped in a web of threads, tying him to the drunk. Shaking the thought out of his head, and trying to ignore the headache that was slowly making itself felt, Aya didn't reply. "Must be, they said you were on the quiet side. You going to play one of those idiots or what?"

"Back so soon, Kitayama?" Ueno had decided to make an appearance and save his new friend. "Still have some money left?"

Something dark passed over the inebriated stranger's face, twisting the smile for a moment. "Still have a little to spend. You trying to tell me your boss wouldn't mind if I lost it all again? It seemed that he." A scarred hand squeezing a silk clad shoulder shut the man up. Aya tried to keep interest over the action from showing in his eyes. When Ueno turned his attention back on him, the pale man just smiled slightly and nodded to the pool table.

"Looks as if I'm up." He pushed away from the wall, and as he went to select a pool stick, he heard the stranger, Kitayama, place a bet on him. There was definitely something going on there, he could feel it in his bones. On his way to the game the swordsman made sure to search out a pair of gold eyes, and once snared tilted his head in the direction of the gin drinker. Yuushi slowly blinked his eyes twice, letting him know that the message was received. That done Aya concentrated on playing.

It was a little later in the night that the swordsman started to feel uneasy as his headache flared up. He was waiting for his opponent to finish his shot when the impression that something was not right came over him. Glancing about the club, he didn't see anything out of place. Knight was occupied trying to hold a conversation with Kitayama, and Ken was attempting to keep up with the thirsty customers at the bar. Yohji had spent part of the night hanging out near the pool tables, clearly hoping for Kisaragi to show up again. The blond would let himself be dragged out to the dance floor a couple times by one cute woman or another, but always drifted back to this area. It was one of those breaks where he was dancing. The redhead had to abandon his search when it was his turn to shoot, but the feeling would not go away. If anything it just intensified when he won, as Ueno once more approached him and tried to buy him a drink in celebration. The gangster ended the offer with a pat on the back, his hand skimming down Aya's skin-tight shirt as he dropped it. A flare of anger flashed through the pale man's head as the limb paused for a second on the small of his back, and he shifted away in as much pain and confusion as annoyance. Where had that come from, he thought as he controlled the impulse to rub his temples, the tall man had failed to provoke that strong a reaction from him all evening.

Citing that he needed a break, Aya made his way to the men's room. Strangely enough the bathroom was empty and quiet. Not about to question his luck, he turned on the cold water and soaked some paper towels, hoping the impromptu compress would help with his throbbing head. Resting his forehead against the mirror, he placed the damp towels on the back of his neck and closed his eyes. There was a sense of vertigo, and the soothing touch of fingers combing through his hair. Coming back to himself, the pale man straightened up, hands reaching for the towels. Only to find them warm, as if they'd been on his neck for a lot longer than a few minutes. The headache's intensity somewhat lessened, Aya decided to make his way back to the pool tables. He idly noted that the bathroom was still empty.

"It's about time, Fujimura." Ueno chided him. "Thought that maybe you'd left for the night."

"Hn." Heading over to a waiting game, the swordsman just brushed the comment aside. If he'd given it any amount of attention, or glanced at his watch, he would have noticed that he'd been in the restroom for over a half hour.

*******

Fingers busy massaging his temples, Aya walked into the Koneko, intent on reaching his bedroom. All he wanted to do was take some damn pills and collapse into bed. Anything to get rid of this blasted headache. It had kept coming and going all night long, and he'd had enough of it. But he'd had to stay and play all the men who'd spent the night waiting for their turn at a game, sticking around the club until almost closing time. Now it was time to sleep. Mind entirely focused on his objective, the redhead was a bit startled when he found Yuushi sitting in the kitchen. Clearly the man had been waiting up for him. Hell. This was the last thing he needed, and he felt like snarling at the thought of his now unattainable bed. No chance of the blond letting him pass, not with /that/ expression on the handsome face. "What do you want, Honjyou."

The blond man grunted, refusing to let his temper get the better of him. Here he'd been waiting for his friend to come home, actually starting to become worried about the man due to the late time. Only to be snapped at upon his arrival. From the looks of it the smaller man was exhausted and in a bit of pain. That didn't help his sense of anxiety at all. "I see your manners haven't improved by much, Fujimiya." That earned him a glare. What a surprise. "What I wanted was to apologize for last night and to make sure you got home alright."

Leaning against the counter, Aya stared at his former teammate. "If you want me to forgive you, stop baiting Kudoh." He desperately craved his bed and the warm sanctuary there, but knew he had to deal with Honjyou first. Naturally that fact did nothing for his migraine. "And don't worry about me."

Ignoring the first comment, Yuushi decided to focus on the second. There was no way in hell he'd promise to back off of the lanky bastard, not with Ran at stake. "Do you even know why I was waiting for you to get home?" Predictably, the redhead just hn'ed and treated him to a flat look. "You might want to watch yourself around that one yakuza fellow. The way he's been staring at you the past two nights seems to indicate he's not only interested in your pool skills. Those guys are dangerous to mess around with."

Yohji had mentioned something similar earlier, the redhead couldn't wait to inform his boyfriend that he shared the same delusion as his rival. "I can take care of myself, and you're just imagining things. Anything else?"

Tugging on his hair in frustration, Knight debated whether or not to pursue the matter. Ran could be amazingly oblivious to the most obvious things. Like when someone wanted him. He remembered an assignment when Bishop had him work with the short-tempered swordsman, pretending to be the man's boyfriend. After the first night he had understood his leader's reasoning. Ran simply attracted a lot of people to him, and was often unaware of their true intentions. The man failed to grasp that these people were fascinated with him and to act accordingly. Most thought he was being a tease, and Yuushi had been very busy discouraging the lechers of the notion that the redhead was leading them on. "That new friend of yours, Hiro Kitayama, sure is an interesting fellow, and you made him very happy tonight. Man was in a talkative mood. Hopefully tomorrow I can catch him before he consumes a bottle of gin and make sense of what he's saying. I get the impression that he knows a lot about Soma, but wasn't willing to speak about it right then and there. Although he shares the opinion that the gangster is a problem waiting to happen, and that you need to watch your back. Just be careful around the thug, okay?" The redhead sighed as a mulish expression settled over his face. Once more Ran Fujimiya was being oblivious to the real world, Yuushi thought. "Seems you didn't change all that much after all, just the name."

That caused the pale man to straighten up as he pushed away from the counter. "You're wrong, Honjyou. I'm nothing like the Ran you knew, not anymore." Aya had to disabuse the man of that notion as soon as possible. Maybe once the blond realized that the person he'd known back then didn't exist anymore, he could move on from the past.

Tsukiyono had made a comment just like that yesterday. How could Ran and Aya be two separate people? "Then try to explain to me what the hell happened, /Aya/. Why did you leave without saying a word?" Unsure if he wanted to hear the answer, Yuushi hesitantly asked, "was it because of me?"

"Yes and no." Headache not really being helped by recalling his past, Aya set about trying to make the blond man understand. It hurt him more than he cared to think about to see his friend so confused and upset. "It was only temporary. There was no way I would have been able to stay, not with Rook on the mend. I would have had to leave you at some point, just decided to do it on my own terms. And I knew that if you found out before hand you would fight me on the matter, so I didn't tell anybody."

"I'm not buying that, not entirely. You knew we were trying to find a way to keep you on the team, you should have had faith in us. No, you wanted to leave, and I need to hear why."

Hissing softly in anger, the pale man wondered if blond hair and stubbornness were related genetic traits. He just wanted this conversation over with. "There was no way I could stay. I needed to take care of certain matters, and Crashers would have prevented me from pursuing them. So I left."

"To kill people. We kept you from being a murderer, so you up and abandoned us." All those months of trying to soothe the swordsman's thirst for revenge, to try and show him an alternate solution, had been for nothing. Maybe Kudoh had been right, the team had failed Ran in some respect. "That still doesn't explain why you quit the organization and never tried to see us again."

"Because I am a murderer." There was a sting of anger in the reserved man's voice, and a hint of pain. "Do you even understand what it means to take a human life, night after night? I knew that once I started down that path that there would be no turning back. You and the others were part of the price I had to pay. To try and remain with Crashers, or to stay in contact with you, would have hurt too much. It had been painful enough those last few months. To hear a voice in my head telling me that I was just hiding my true nature and myself by staying with the team, that I was letting down the one person that depended on me. Night after night facing the fact that I was allowing the monster responsible for destroying my life get away with murder, while I was too afraid to do anything about it. There was no way for Crashers to touch Takatori. Nor for me, unless I was willing to let go of the few morals and what little honor I had left." That voice had been Schuldig's, taunting him with all the things he'd known but had been too afraid to face. The German was right, he /had/ made him what he was today. If not for those dreams he would have remained with Crashers until guilt and shame had driven him to take his own life. Aya wrapped his arms around his chest, hugging Yohji's jacket tight against him. "So I quit, and set out to do what I needed to do, before I went mad. Ran died the night I killed my first target. It was the final blow, in all actuality he'd been dying since that day my family was killed. There was no sense going back to you, the boy you knew was gone. And sooner or later you would have realized that, and been filled with disgust for the killer standing before you."

"You don't honestly believe that, do you?" The pale man just stood there, silent and withdrawn. Yuushi couldn't believe what he was hearing. That Ran had felt he'd be turned away by him and the others, that they'd cared so little for the idiot. "We'd have never turned our backs on you, Ran."

"It's /Aya/. And yes you would have. Eventually."

The blond swiftly got out of his chair and gathered the slender man in his arms. Aya immediately became stiff and glared at the agent. "Let. Go."

"No, not until you hear what I have to say. There's nothing you can do that would make me betray or hurt you. Now or ever. I just wish I could get through that thick skull of yours." Seeing how the man clearly doubted him, Knight reluctantly released his hold. "Please don't tell me that's why you're with Kudoh. Because you think only another murderer could love you."

"Not now, Honjyou." The redhead's migraine had increased in intensity, too much painful memories and stress from trying to make his friend understand and failing miserably. Once more rubbing his temples, Aya gazed longingly towards the steps. Knight was a minute or two from being knocked out so he could reach his bedroom and the waiting pain pills there.

"Sorry." Noting the man's pallor and the lines of pain creasing his mouth, Yuushi stepped back to give his friend some room. "They weren't kidding about your headaches earlier, where they? Why don't you go get some sleep, we'll talk more tomorrow."

Grateful for the reprieve, if not the threat of another such discussion the following day, Aya just hn'ed and made his way upstairs. Upon opening his door though, he found another surprise waiting for him. Seemed it was the night for them, oh joy. The room was filled with candles, their tiny flames flickering in the darkness. Lying on the bed was a nude Yohji, his skin glowing in the candlelight. "Hey there lover," the man said teasingly, a lascivious smile on his face. Which slowly faded as the person in question merely stood there staring at him, visage impassive.

Hell. Aya dredged up the memory of his promise earlier that night, which his boyfriend obviously was counting on being fulfilled. It just wasn't worth another 'discussion' to explain to the man that he wasn't in the mood anymore. With a bit of luck the pain pills would kick in fast and it would be a short night. "Hn." He made sure the door was closed behind him and wearily made his way over to his nightstand, where a bottle of water and some spare pills were always located after the incident a week ago. Tossing the borrowed jacket on the sofa, the pale man treated a now disgruntled Yohji to a wan smile as he stripped down to his boxer shorts. Once done, he sat down in the bed and reached for his medication.

Yohji sat up in the middle of the bed, frowning at his lover's unenthusiastic attitude. If he came home to a naked Aya reclining in bed, he sure as hell could manage more than a grunt. Watching as the man carelessly tossed his coat and clothes on the couch and dropped rather than sat on the mattress, he became to get more worried than irritated. His suspicions were confirmed when the quiet man grabbed his pill bottles and shook out several of the pain medicine into his palm. Aya didn't even bother with taking any water, just swallowed the things dry. Once done he turned around and scooted over until he was sitting in the older man's lap. There wasn't a hint of passion in the man's motions, as he mechanically ran a hand up a golden chest before hooking it around the blond's neck.

Great, Yohji thought, now he was going to be treated to a mercy fuck by an invalid. Thinking evil thoughts about the kitten's inner wirings, the playboy twisted his head aside as the smaller man tried to kiss him, grasping a handful of the crimson hair and pulling back. Green eyes regarded violet ones shaded with uncertainty and pain. "You have another bad headache, don't you." After a few heartbeats Aya nodded his head, the motion limited by the hold on his hair. Sighing, Yohji let go as he started to massage the baka's scalp. "Do you try to be this much of a masochist or does it just come naturally to you? Aya, as much as I love and desire you, it's not exactly a turn-on to have sex with someone in pain and who's forcing themselves to participate."

"I promised." Suppressing the urge to shake his boyfriend, the blond just sighed again and wrapped his arms around the quiet man. The kitten's self- sacrificial nature got to be a bit much at times. Someone had done a real number of convincing the redhead he was worthless. "You said 'later', not 'tonight'. Trust me that I'll hold you to it the moment you start feeling better." Tucking back the too long bangs, Yohji offered the slender figure in his arms a bit of a leer. "Besides, I'll need more than an half hour to do that promise some justice. A real lothario like me barely gets warmed up in that small of a time." Aya just snorted at the comment and closed his eyes as he curled up against the older man. Feeling the redhead relax in his embrace, Yohji kept up the massage until the swordsman's breathing evened out and he was fast asleep. "Stubborn snugglebunny." Smiling a little at getting away in one piece with calling his lover that, no matter that the man was unconscious, the lanky blond gathered up the duvet and reclined back into bed until he was lying down with Aya on top of him. "You better believe that I'm going to work this for all it's worth, tomorrow." Tucking the covers about them, Kudoh drifted off to sleep

*******

There was a muffled thump from next door, and the sound of some curses. Emerald green eyes peeled open, glaring out at the world that dared to wake a poor tired assassin up. And judging from the lack of a certain redhead snuggled against him, Yohji was alone in bed. So much with starting the day off with that promised 'later'. Damn it, it was turning out to be a lousy morning. Not even eleven o'clock and he had the urge to strangle Ken. Who once more was cursing about something. But sounding oddly happy, none-the-less. Getting out of bed to investigate, the blond grabbed a pair of boxer shorts and stuck his head out into the hallway.

And promptly blinked at the sight before him. The hall was filled with various boxes, books, clothes and sports apparel. Thoroughly confused, Yohji entered Ken's room. "What the hell is going on here?"

"Morning, Kudoh. Here, hold this please." The athlete shoved an armful of soccer magazines at the older man. He was busy trying to clean out the top of his closet, and various objects falling out were responsible for the thuds and obscenities. Holding up a particularly battered green and black soccer ball, Ken happily exclaimed that he had been looking for it for over four months. "Guess I should have cleaned this out more often."

"Ken, what the hell is going? Why is there shit all over the place? Don't tell me this is all some sort of twisted spring cleaning impulse."

"What, didn't Aya tell you? We're swapping rooms after all. He agreed this morning. Just woke me up an hour ago and said let's do it. So I'm trying to get everything all cleared out so he can move in here today. And you guys can go at it like rabbits every night from now on for all I care." The brunet was quite cheerful at the prospect of having some uninterrupted sleep at last.

Dropping the magazines on the bed, Yohji went off to find his lover. The man was in his soon to be old room, busy putting books in an empty shipping box. The place was mainly packed up; all that was left was the dresser and closet. "Ohayoo kitten. Did you forget to tell me something?"

"Yohji." Aya left off from the packing and crossed the room to go kiss the blond good morning. Unsure if the man was trying to distract him again or not, the playboy kept the kiss brief and his arms about the smaller man's waist. The redhead pulled back with a frown on his face, letting his arms fall from Yohji's neck. "I decided to move after all."

"I can see that. The question is why? Yesterday you kept saying no."

Aya paused for a second, debating what he should say. "I did what you suggested, and thought about it some more. And changed my mind." Mainly because he knew that the blond wanted him to move, and had been hurt by his refusal. Not that he would ever admit that out loud. Yohji had enough power over him as it was, no need to clue the man in that all he had to do was pout in that particular way to get Aya to do his bidding. "Are you going to help or not?"

"Hmm." The playboy debated the best way of moving his lover into his room. From the feel of it there was a ridiculously huge grin on his face. Wait til the Honjyou prick heard the news. "I'll get Ken's help for moving a few of the bookcases and dresser into my place. And clean out some space in the closet. But I'm telling you right now, that damn chair of yours is not getting within ten feet of the room." He pulled the swordsman in close enough to kiss again, this time enjoying making the man breathless. Aya was finally moving in with him, at last taking a step in making their relationship permanent. Maybe it wasn't such a bad morning after all.

Panting a bit as he broke off the kiss, Aya tugged at the arms holding him. "I need to finish boxing up the one bookshelf, and then get started on flowers downstairs. Everything that's supposed to be moved into your room is marked with a red x, just try and get whatever clothes you can in the closet." Yohji let him go after another kiss, taking a minute to survey all the boxes before heading back to his room to change. The redhead had so few possessions, it was shocking. Most if it was books and cds, there should be no problem fitting almost all of that stuff in their room. And the size of the man's wardrobe was pitiful, it wouldn't take much clearing out of his closet to make space. So that pretty much left the stereo, chair, bed and desk to be moved into Ken's old room. They should have it all moved in a couple hours, once the brunet cleared out his stuff. Humming a cheerful tune, the blond left to get things started.

*******

Aya was busy putting away the delivered flower shipment when Yohji strolled into the storeroom. "You hiding back in here?" The older man bit back on 'kitten' at the last second, mindful of the electrician outside of the door, busy doing some rewiring.

"Hai." He kept arranging the flowers in the cooler, keeping in mind which ones he'd have to use first. "Tell Ken the arrangements are ready for delivery."

"He'll be down in a few minutes. We just finished moving all your furniture out and his in, boy said something about having to get his trophy wall set up for luck. You just have to unpack a few boxes now." Ken had been hoping that Yohji would help with the rest of the athlete's stuff, but after getting the furnishings out of the way, he'd declined. Aya got the full treatment because he was sleeping with him. And was much sexier. It would probably be days before all the brunet's stuff was out of the hall. Omi was going to have a fit when he came back home and saw it.

"Hn." Flowers now arranged to his liking, the redhead walked out of the storeroom, Yohji trailing at his heels. The two of them were loading the delivery van while debating what they wanted to have for lunch when the soccer player showed up to work.

Ken was in a bit of a sulking mood when he finally arrived in the garage. It had been so easy to toss everything into the hall, but now he was forced with finding a place for it all. And needed to make a very necessary run to the hardware store for some shelves. "Why the hell can't Kudoh drop off the flowers today? I really want to try and put away a couple more things. You can't tell me he has a lot of stuff to do today like me."

Lighting up a cigarette, Yohji had to gloat over his response. "Sorry, Kenken. Remember that little vote you guys had a couple months ago, that officially declared me banned from ever making deliveries again?" All because he had a habit of disappearing during the rounds. Either to get drunk or towards the end there off on private errands of his own. Of course he didn't mind the decision in the least, it meant that usually he was alone in the shop with Aya. Which led to quite a few trysts in the greenhouse. There was just something about taking the exotic man in the hot and steamy room, surrounded by a riot of flowers that pushed all his buttons. Hell, if it weren't for those interfering electricians, he'd pull out his 'later' card and drag the man off to the conservatory as soon as Ken left. "Just got yourself to blame." He debated using it after lunch, but decided to see what his lover's reaction to the room was first. Maybe there wouldn't be a need. It was always nice to hold something in reserve with the aloof man.

"Great, so once again I'm stuck paying the price for your goofing off." About to voice his opinion of the lazy blond, Ken abruptly shut his mouth. It was never good for a person's health when Aya looked at you like that. So now the man was defending his indolent boyfriend, just fucking peachy. Yohji smirked at him behind the safety of the irate and protective swordsman. Wisely leaving the two men's presences and climbing into the van, the brunet reflected that things had been much better for him when the redhead had hated Yohji's guts.

"So, what's left to do down here?" Yohji inquired after he blew out a series of smoke rings. Aya was just too cute when he tried to glare and scrunch up his nose at the same time, hands too busy waving away smoke to swipe at him.

"Clean up the work table, turn on the answering machine, let the electrician's know we'll be upstairs."

Not that bad of a list, considering it wasn't even three o'clock yet. Omi should be home from school soon, he could baby-sit Honjyou and the workers while they got something to eat and finished moving. Then have some 'fun'. It was hard to keep the leer off of his face. "Sounds good." The blond quickly set about completing the tasks, eager to have his lover see how the room had turned out. Aya gave him an odd look for his rather enthusiastic efforts in cleaning up, but it wasn't long before they were done.

Pushing and shoving at the quiet man, since picking him up and carrying him to the bedroom would result in massive blood loss, considering the fact that there were witnesses present, Yohji got Aya upstairs to the kitchen. Where Yuushi was moving about, putting a kettle of tea on and arranging some pastries on a plate. The two men came to a halt, having forgotten all about their guest's presence.

"There you are, Ran. During my wanderings today I went past a certain bakery. Here, have some." The elegant blond held out a plate of cream puffs. Violet eyes lighted up upon seeing the pastries, it had been almost two years since he'd last had one. They came from a special patisserie that Crashers patronized, and the redhead hadn't been able to go back in case he crossed paths with his former teammates accidentally. Taking one of the delicacies, Aya sat down at the table and preceded to enjoy his treat.

Both blonds weren't able to tear their eyes off of the pale man as he daintily lapped at the cream, oblivious to their attention. It was quite clear that he was relishing the pastry, and taking his time with it, nibbling and licking and sucking. After a few minutes he looked up and thanked Yuushi for picking up the dessert. For some strange reason the two men just stared at him as his former teammate silently offered him another cream puff. During which in the middle of the second pastry Aya had to get up and turn the boiling water off, as the older men just quietly stood there ignoring it. He poured the water into the waiting pot as he finished the last of his dessert, licking the filling off of his fingers.

Having had enough of the innocent teasing, Yohji grabbed the redhead and soundly kissed him, taking a moment to lick a stray bit of cream off of the man's lips. Aya squirmed in his arms, not quite happy about Knight just standing there watching them. "Ku-oomph, Ku~udoh, stoffthp." Finally getting a hand free, the smaller man firmly tugged on some long blond strands. Yohji broke off the kiss as he winced in pain, but made sure to keep the smaller man pressed tight against him. Sputtering in indignation, Aya glared up at his boyfriend.

"Sorry, love, couldn't resist. Honjyou, where did you get those damn things from, I'm stopping by the place every single day from now on." He turned an almost friendly look at the other blond, who was regarding the couple with a closed expression. Seeing how the man wouldn't stop staring at the struggling redhead, Yohji's eyes narrowed in anger. It seemed that someone wasn't getting the picture that Aya was in no way available. Time to make that abundantly clear. So he picked up his lover, idly noting that the man still hadn't gained back the weight he'd lost a couple weeks back, and slung him over his shoulder. The redhead immediately started issuing death threats at him as the Crasher's eyes grew incredibly wide. "You might not want to struggle so much, kitten. I'd really hate to drop you head first down the stairs." Now the man was hissing unintelligibly at him, beyond pissed. He was either a dead man or about to be fucked senseless once he put the swordsman down. Just depended on how well Aya reacted to the sight of the room. Winking at their spectator, Yohji made for the steps.

Yuushi couldn't believe what he was seeing. There was no way in hell he'd even /think/ of treating Fujimiya like that, and not only was Kudoh doing it but he was acting extremely nonchalant, as if the idea of having an enraged assassin after his hide didn't faze him at all. He decided to follow the couple, very interested in watching the dirty blond's last few moments of life. Aya lifted his head and treated him to a look of pure fury as he came up the steps behind them, violet eyes glowing through strands of crimson hair, spitting and hissing the whole way upstairs. Knight was beginning to understand Kudoh's choice in nicknames a bit better.

Debating whether to toss the furious man on the bed or deposit him on his feet, Yohji figured no guts, no glory. So he slid the redhead down until he was standing, being very careful to keep the pale man close. Aya got a good hit in on his ribs, solid enough to knock the air out of him and leave a bruise as he turned his lover around. It took a moment for the change to register on the livid assassin's senses, but Yohji recognized when that happened as the slender form stilled. "So what do you think? Thought it was appropriate to carry you across the threshold to your new abode. If you don't like something we can always rearrange things."

Aya just gazed at the room, mind busy noting all the changes. Yohji had gotten rid of the bar and moved the couch, making room for his dresser and most of his bookshelves. The posters of scantily clad women were no where to be seen, and of all things there were a few ukiyo-e prints scattered across the walls. His sword was resting on top of a cedar chest that he didn't recognize in the corner, and the picture of Aya-chan was sitting on one of the nightstands. Somehow the room looked completely different than it had this morning; it was now a blend of his and Yohji's personalities instead of just the blond's. His boyfriend must have been very busy the past few hours to get so much done. There were still several boxes left to unpack, but being mostly books they wouldn't take very long. Twisting around in the older man's arms he stared up at the smiling playboy. He hadn't expected Yohji to put this much effort into the endeavor, that he had meant that the blond must have cared very much for the move.

Standing in the hallway as he looked back and forth between the couple and the room, Yuushi tried to piece together just what was going on. The blond's mouth twisted bitterly as he watched Kudoh tenderly brush back Aya's bangs. It looked as if the asshole got to live after all. The previously irate redhead just stood there staring at the lanky man, still as a marble statue. The hall hadn't been filled with boxes and assorted things yesterday; it appeared as if someone was in the process of moving. Recognizing the sword in the corner and some of the books scattered about, it was probably safe to assume that the redhead had just moved in with his boyfriend. The gods must really be laughing themselves silly, bringing Ran back into his life just so he could find him involved in what was looking to be a rather serious relationship.

The blond bit back on a moan as he watched his former teammate wrap his arms around Kudoh's neck and bend the man's head down for a kiss. Backing away from the door until he ran into the opposite wall, the golden eyes never stopped gazing at the embracing lovers. After a couple of minutes, Kudoh broke off the kiss, turning slightly so as to close the door. Emerald orbs met gold, and the playboy's lips curved into a wide grin, a hint of malicious intent glittering in his eyes. Once the board of wood blocked his sight of the man he wanted dragging another over to the bed, Yuushi found himself free to move. Fighting the urge to burst into the room and beat the living shit out of Kudoh, the blond headed upstairs to the exercise room instead. He felt the urge to tear into something. Anything to distract him from the need of strangling a certain longhaired bastard. How the hell could Ran care for someone like that?

*******

Oh gods. Aya's tongue was circling his ear and the man's slender hand stroking him hard once more. One got the impression that the redhead was very happy about the room's redecoration. Still trying to catch his breath from a few minutes ago, Yohji rolled on top of the tease, latching on to and pinning the pale hands at the man's sides. "You trying to kill me or something?" All that statement earned him was a wicked smile that devastated him, filling him with a need to kiss his lover breathless. Cheerfully giving in to the impulse, Yohji commenced rendering the both of them completely deprived of oxygen. It was while he was busy panting against the redhead's lips, desperate to breathe, that his cell phone went off. Damn it.

Lifting himself off of Aya, Yohji sat up in bed as he reached for the phone. Not recognizing the number he cautiously answered it instead of yelling at the caller to leave him the hell alone. "Moshi moshi." And was grateful for his tact when he realized who was calling him. He mouthed 'Miho Kisaragi' to the smaller man.

A thin scarlet eyebrow raised at that name. Watching his boyfriend assure the woman that he remembered her from the other night, an evil thought occurred to Aya. Time for some payback. Pushing himself up, he snatched the bottle of lube and settled himself in the blond's lap. Green eyes went very wide as they regarded the pale man apprehensively. And snapped shut as clever fingers smoothed lubricant up and down the playboy's erection. "No, I have no plans for tonight. My girlfriend is working. Why, you have something in mind?" The blond's voice caught ever so slightly on one or two words, but overall was even enough to not cause any suspicion. Wicked expression once more in place, Aya started to lower himself, causing Yohji to bite the palm of his hand to stifle a moan. He tried to glare at the redhead, but couldn't in face of that smile and the feel of his shaft being encased inside his lover's tight body.

"No, Kasbah sounds fine for dinner. Never been there." Oh gods, the kitten was keeping the pace so fucking slow. He had to put up with Kisaragi babbling on about how good the restaurant was, then actually pay attention when she spouted out the address. The name was familiar for some reason, but there was no chance in hell of him recalling why just right now. Not when Aya kept languidly lifting himself up and ever so slowly pushing back down. It was driving him nuts. Yohji had to close his eyes again, unable to concentrate on the phone call with that sinful grin on the pale man's face and violet eyes darkened to indigo with passion. Sharp teeth took to nibbling on his neck, sending goosebumps down his body. He had to grip the phone with both hands to hold it steady. "I'm sure my girlfriend won't mind. She has an important pro-ah-ject at work. No, I'm fine, just got nipped by the cat. Not paying enough attention to the poor thing. Yes eight o'clock sounds fine. See you then." Pitching the phone onto the couch, the blond tightly grasped slender hips and held them still as he thrusted up. The two men groaned in unison at the action, Aya pulling back from the older man's neck to stare deep into his boyfriend's eyes. Yohji took a deep breath as he regarded his mischievous lover. "You are pure, unadulterated evil. I hope you realize that."

"Hn." Aya just leaned in for a kiss. It was so nice to return the favor and thoroughly fluster the playboy whenever he had the chance. There never were enough opportunities to do so. Lifting his hips once more, he set out to prove just how evil he could be. Something told him Yohji wouldn't be complaining for much longer.

*******

Walking up the steps to the workout room, Aya was taken back to hear that someone was in it practicing. Yohji was in the shower, and Omi busy making dinner as he tried to burn off the sugar high from polishing off the cream puffs. Doubting that Ken was willingly working out in some manner that didn't involve a soccer field, the redhead could only assume that it was Knight in there. Finishing the last step, he looked through the open door and found out he was right.

The blond appeared as if he'd been working out for a couple of hours. His hair and chest were dripping with sweat, and he was breathing in short grunts. The punching bag in the corner was showing signs of serious abuse. Leaning against the doorframe, Aya watched as his former teammate decimated a couple of imaginary foes and eventually came to a halt.

Violet eyes locked on gold, and were a bit stunned to see the pain and anger residing in them. Recalling that Yuushi had followed Yohji and him up the steps, it was a safe bet that the elegant blond had witnessed Aya's reaction to his new room. Cheeks flushing a tiny bit, the swordsman was torn between anger and a sense of guilt. Which was ridiculous, he had nothing to be guilty about. He loved Kudoh and was involved with him and not Honjyou. He'd never given the blond one single reason to hope that there would ever be something more between them besides friendship. Giving the other man a curt nod, he proceeded to a corner of the room where he unsheathed his sword and removed his t-shirt, then commenced his warm-up katas. When the Crasher refused to leave he tried to blot out his existence, focusing completely on the katana and his forms.

Reaching to a shelf, Yuushi picked up a towel and used it to wipe himself down. He'd spent the past two hours up here, trying to work off the anger and frustration at seeing Fujimiya gaze up at Kudoh with love and desire and then pull him over to the bed. It had been so hard to concentrate on his exercises with the thought that below him the bastard was fucking the man he'd wanted for so long. Once he worked off some of his anger he'd been able to resist the urge to go back down to the bedroom and beat the shit out of the longhaired asshole, but every target he'd taken down had been a green-eyed, smirking blond.

Now he stood here watching the object of his lust dance with a sword, all flowing lines and grace. Damnit, the man made simple practice moves a thing of beauty. A scent of sex still clung to the redhead, and the exposed white skin bore the marks of passion as well as several new scars. Sinking down to the floor, Yuushi sat there until his muscles protested at the treatment, attention riveted on the pale man and his weapon. He fantasized about what it would be like to be the lucky one allowed to caress the porcelain hued flesh, to be looked at the way Aya had at Kudoh.

Not even realizing it, he got to his feet and started to walk over to the redhead. Unsure of what exactly he meant to do, if he just wanted to get closer or maybe stop the man and talk, Honjyou was stunned when the amethyst hued orbs snapped open at his approach and a sharpened blade was sent swinging to his throat. It stopped just short of the flesh, he could feel it pressing against his skin when he swallowed. Those beautiful eyes stared at him coldly and distantly, as if their owner wasn't quite sure of his intentions and thought the worst. Gradually clearing, they blinked a few times as Aya lowered the blade while his teeth worried at a lip. Resisting the urge to step closer to the shaken man, Yuushi instead backed up. That seemed to help Fujimiya settle down a bit. He couldn't ever recall seeing the man react that way to an interrupted practice session before. "Are you alright?"

"Hn." As long as the blond stayed out of arm's reach, he'd be fine. The rest of Weiß knew better than to try and disturb him while he was up in the workout room. Aya didn't handle it very well anymore. "What do you want now?" That came out much sharper than he had intended it to. It was just that he immediately went on the offensive when he was this shook up.

The banked anger flaring up once more, Yuushi snarled at the smaller man. "What does it take to get a civil response out of you anymore? You only reserve them for people screwing you?"

There was no way in hell he was going to apologize for his rude behavior. Not when Honjyou had started it. "Never will know now, will you?" The two men continued to glare at each other for several minutes, the little bit of control they had left preventing them from speaking and making the situation worse. These staring contests between them had been infamous back in Crashers, always lasting until someone or something ended the stalemate. This time it was Omi's voice drifting up the stairwell, cheerfully informing the house that supper would be ready in a few minutes.

Breaking off the stare, Aya walked over to the corner to pick up his sheath and t-shirt. He put away the blade, then propped it against the wall so he could put on his shirt. As soon as he straightened up Knight crashed into him, pushing him to the wall with his arms trapped between their chests. For a moment panic kept him still as the taller man fervently kissed him, trying to thrust a tongue between his panting lips. Gathering his wits about him, the redhead jerked his head to the side as he brought his knee up. The blond hadn't prepared himself for an assault from that direction, so sure that he could wring some sort of positive response from his friend.

Yuushi groaned as he slid to the ground, gold eyes weakly focusing on his attacker. Aya was completely white, and shakily held his now unsheathed katana in his hands as he backed out of the room. The blond remained on the floor; unable to comprehend the panic and fear he had seen in the smaller man's eyes. Somehow he'd done what he'd never thought possible, he'd made Ran afraid of him. Cursing himself and his out of control hormones, Knight was sure he heard the sound of amused chuckles echoing around his head. 'Arschloch.' Maybe it was just a mixture of pain and confusion, making him imagine things.

*******

Fresh from the shower and an impromptu kitchen raid, just to see the chibi bounce around and to grab a snack that would hold him til dinner, Yohji made his way back into his bedroom. Not just his anymore, he reminded himself with a smile. His new roomie was most likely upstairs swinging that damn sword of his around; the pale man had taken his medication once playtime had been over. Libido well satisfied for the time being, the playboy entered the room and while on the way to his closet tripped over a box, the contents sent flying. Cursing Hidaka for just dropping things anywhere, he rubbed his toe as he surveyed the mess. Luckily it hadn't been a box of books, or else he'd probably have a broken bone or two. But he didn't expect a series of papers and photographs to be littering the floor. Sitting down cross-legged, the blond started to shift through pile.

All of the pictures featured Aya-chan, from infancy on up to what must have been right before the explosion. The cute girl was always smiling in them, pure joy just radiated off of her, making the playboy grin as well. Some of them contained Aya, as a slight, serious boy/young man whose violet eyes were always focused on his imouto, love and protectiveness shining through. There were a few family shots, with a reserved pretty woman dressed in traditional kimonos and yukatas who must have been the siblings' mother in the background. It took several of these photos for Yohji to realize that Aya's father was in none of the scenes, and that some of the films had been cut or cropped as if to exclude something. One or two shots contained a spare arm or shoulder, but never an entire body that would represent Fujimiya senior. Shifting through the pile, he finally came across a formal portrait that hadn't have been altered.

Judging from the date, it was taken at Aya's high school graduation. The redhead stood off to one side, unusually somber in a dark suit, with a radiant Aya-chan clinging to his arm, wearing a pretty lavender dress. Besides her was their mother, once again kimono clad, and on the other end was a slightly frowning man, his face cold and shuttered. Only the women looked happy with the occasion. Glancing back and forth between his lover and the man's parents, Yohji couldn't find a single feature in common. It looked as if the redhead had been plucked out of some exotic locale and deposited amidst the dark haired family. The only thing that made him resemble his father was the closed off expression on his face. The blond was willing to bet it hadn't been a particularly affectionate relationship there. Going back through the pictures, he also noticed that it was Aya- chan that was being fussed over all the time, that there wasn't a single one where the mother was touching her son.

A frown slowly formed as he once more surveyed the photos, trying to recall everything the pale man had said about his parents. All he came up with was that the father had run an investment company, and had made Aya study several languages. That was it. There had been a couple of discussions about his sister, mostly in the form of out of nowhere comments that the girl liked this or would have enjoyed that, and once a brief speech on how she had hoped to become a nurse. Staring at the images before him, Yohji was beginning to understand why the swordsman had lavished all his concern and affection on the girl.

After a while he set the pictures aside to go through the rest of the belongings. Part of his mind kept warning him that the redhead was not going to be happy if he found him prying into the private things, but Yohji'd never been able to leave secrets be. That was why he'd become a private investigator, because of his curious nature. And the tantalizing glimpse into his lover's past life was too much to resist.

There were several financial documents and ledgers, all with a neat tally of numbers. The amounts were staggering when added together, and were almost all deposited in either one of two accounts. He was willing to wager they were most likely a private account in case of Aya's death and one for the Magic Bus hospital. Recognizing some of the dates from the past year or so as missions Weiß had partaken in, green eyes blinked at the amounts paid to the swordsman on what had been his solo assignments. Wow. Manx always came around every now and then to offer the swordsman a private job or two, something the reserved man never talked to his teammates about afterwards. There hadn't been any lately, but Yohji knew it was a matter of time before another one came up. The thought made him very nervous. Looking at the outlandish sums Aya was paid for those missions, the blond had a bad feeling about what the kitten must be doing on them. Most likely it involved a lot of risk and general nastiness.

A letter with pink ink and Kitty-chan stickers decorating it attracted his attention. 'This letter has been officially blessed by Aya Fujimiya for her dear 'nii-san, ensuring his acceptance. Not that you needed it. Now open the thing, silly.' Huh, what an odd and sweet girl. The blond noted the return address, Tokyo University's admissions office. Yeesh. Aya had applied there? Taking out the formal stationary, Yohji was only half surprised to see that the redhead had been accepted. What raised his eyebrows was the tone of the letter, as if the administrators were all but bending over backwards to ensure that Fujimiya joined their international business program. T.U. didn't have to appease /anybody/. Being the most prestigious university in the country, students literally killed themselves trying to get in. And Aya had been admitted without reservation. What had it meant to the man to have achieved something most everybody in Japan dreamed of, only to lose it as his life came apart?

There were a few more letters, all from Aya-chan to her brother. Mostly for his birthday or some other special event, but a few berating him to smile and enjoy life for once. The playboy liked the girl more and more. Also in the pile were several programs from various symphonies and operas that the pale man must have attended. And gathered together with a gumband were several articles about the explosion of his father's company and the resulting scandal over misappropriated funds that were attributed to the man. Another stack contained various stories on Reiji Takatori. Opening a pale blue book revealed a series of pressed flowers between pages of haiku. Then a booklet that was the owner's manual to the white Porsche, and held the title to the car. Picking up a piece of parchment paper, a chill went through the blond when he realized that he was holding Ran Fujimiya's death certificate.

Setting the curious and sometimes disturbing objects aside, the former detective found a large manila envelope and pulled out its contents. There was a series of legal documents pertaining to various insurance policies, accounts and deeds of property. The thickest of documents upon closer examination proved to be a will. Skimming through the pages, Yohji stopped once his eyes caught the beneficiary part. And felt the rush of blood to his face as he read. Everything had been left to Aya-chan, property, accounts, policies and so forth, to be held in trust on the condition that she married and produced a male heir willing to take on the Fujimiya name. If this failed to happen the money would default to various charities. Nowhere was there a single mention of a Ran Fujimiya. It was as if the boy never existed.

Fingers shaking in anger, Yohji wondered what sort of parents deliberately excluded a child in this manner. Not being an expert in such financial matters, even the blond could tell that between the insurance policies and the few assets that hadn't been seized by the government that there was quite a healthy sum left over. And all of it clearly unavailable to Aya. The man had turned into an assassin to provide for his injured sister, an event that might have been avoided if he hadn't been excluded from the will. How much different would the redhead's life have turned out if desperation hadn't driven him to Kritiker? All those dreams forever lost, as he became a killer.

So focused on the documents he was holding, the lanky man failed to notice when the door opened to admit his lover. Aya had taken refuge in the shower, washing himself clean of Yuushi's touch as he'd tried to calm his nerves. The swordsman knew that Honjyou hadn't meant anything malicious with his rather forward and rash advance, but still had been very shaken by the man's actions. Damnit, he'd thought he'd put worst of those memories behind him. Once he'd scrubbed away a layer of his skin the pale man had been able to leave the dubious sanctuary of the bathroom. Clutching a towel tight about him, the redhead hurried into his new room, only to find Yohji sitting on the floor going through his belongings. He instantly recognized what was being gripped in the older man's hands.

"Kudoh."

Shit. Caught red-handed, as it were. Gulping softly, the blond twisted around to glance at his boyfriend, excuse dying in his throat at sight of the tense frame. Aya was definitely upset. The man's skin was flushed pink, as if scoured, and if the towel was held any tighter around the slim waist the redhead would lose circulation in the lower part of his body. Which Yohji had a decidedly vested interest in. Shaking his head to remind himself of the situation, the playboy quickly put the documents back into their envelope and shuffled everything into the box. Standing to his feet, he walked over to the pale man.

Maybe groveling would be best. Big eyes and a fragile smile could usually sway the kitten, if he combined them just right. Usually. "Aya, I'm sorry. I accidentally knocked the box over, and my curiosity got the better of me when I started to put things back. I guess once an investigator, always an investigator." He offered the silent man a sheepish grin.

The redhead only stood there staring at him for a few moments, then hn'ed as he slipped past the older man, gracefully bending down and lifting the box one-handed. The closet door was opened and the box pushed far back on the top shelf, amid various sweaters. Once done Aya closed the door and crossed the room to his dresser, where he proceeded to get dressed. After he'd pulled on a pair of boxers, loose jeans and the horrid orange sweater he faced his roommate and quietly informed the waiting man that he'd appreciate it if there was no more snooping in his private belongings in the future.

Yohji sighed. Things were going better than he'd predicted (he was alive), but really, what had the reserved man expected when he hid anything dealing with his time before Weiß? "I said I was sorry. It won't happen again. Not like I deliberately set about prying into the damn thing." No, he'd just taken advantage of the opportunity. Wondering which side his mind was on, the blond sat down on the bed near where Aya was standing. Taking in the outfit the smaller man was wearing, he deduced that the redhead was still rather troubled about the incident. The outfit screamed 'security blanket', especially the top, which Yohji had finally found out had been a present from Aya-chan, thus rendering it safe from any misadventures in the dryer. "What's wrong love? I'm sorry if my going through your things bothers you, really I didn't mean any harm."

"Hn." Refusing to make the same mistake twice that evening, setting off a confrontation because he was once more unsettled enough to go on the offensive, Aya ran a hand threw his damp hair and sat down next to his lover. Something about the man's warm presence helped to soothe his nerves, and when a gold hand crept over to entangle long fingers with his, he didn't resist it. The two men sat quietly for several minutes, until a deep voice broke the silence. "Go ahead and ask, Kudoh, I know you're dying to."

"Hmm?" It took the blond a few seconds to process he had been given clear permission to ask the question that had been bubbling in the back of his mind ever since he's seen the document. "Why were you left out of the will, Aya? Was it some sort of mistake? I mean, all that money." Yohji's voice drifted off as he thought that if Aya'd had access to the cash most likely he'd never have met the redhead. Not a happy thing to consider.

"It wasn't a mistake. My father hoped that Aya-chan would marry someone suitable to run the company and have nice normal children with him. Maybe a son that wouldn't be such an embarrassment. Who would then be responsible for carrying on the family name and assets." There was no inflection at all in the deep voice, it was as if the smaller man was reciting telephone numbers or something.

Shocked from the deliberate cruelty inflicted on his lover, Yohji shifted around until he was facing Aya. The redhead just stared off into the space straight in front of him. "But they had you, a son to carry on the name. Don't tell me you could have possibly done anything that bad to offend them. And why did he force you to learn so many damn languages? You said it was so you could have an advantage at work."

"I was to work at the company my father ran, it just wasn't expected that I would take it over. Wasn't suitable enough. I was to learn things that would help my imouto's husband. Same with assuming responsibility for the family. Who would want to marry someone like me? You don't let tainted stock breed." It didn't hurt very much to say it out loud. There had been too much time to accept the fact and push the pain aside. Years of hearing his parents fight over who's fault it was that their only son had been born so obviously a freak, so outside the Japanese norm. Over who's bloodline hadn't been pure enough after all. His mother sobbing and his father screaming. It had never been said out loud, the thought that maybe he hadn't been his father's child at all, but there had been more than enough tests administered in his childhood that it could have easily been found out. So he had spent his youth impossibly striving to please the man somehow, to prove he wasn't a mistake and had the right to the name Fujimiya, only to fail at every turn. At least there had been Aya-chan to restore some hope to his parents, but once again it only served to prove his worthlessness and oddity. She had been born normal, he hadn't.

Warm arms wrapped around him and pulled him close. Yohji's hands stroked through his hair, helping him to finally relax. He tucked his head under the blond's chin, breathing in the clean scent of his lover, feeling the heat the man radiated. No wonder Kudoh got by in those skimpy clothes, he was like a furnace, burning off all those calories from the junk food and alcohol he consumed.

Internally seething, Yohji concentrated on making his lover's tense muscles slowly loosen. And he'd thought his childhood had been bad. There were all sorts of abuse, and he'd take a physical beating rather than a major blow to the self-esteem any day. Bruises went away a hell of a lot faster. No wonder Aya was the stoic, self-sacrificing twit that he was. It's easy to risk your life if you think it has no value. It gave one a sense of panic over the thought of what the man would have done if his sister had been killed that day as well, leaving him no one to martyr himself over. Anger finally down to a manageable level, he bent his head and whispered in a pale ear. "I want you, always have, always will. Ai shiteru." There wasn't enough time to try and reverse eighteen years of emotional abuse, but the blond did what he could. Today had definitely given him some insight into the smaller man's head. Too bad Fujimiya sr. was unquestionably beyond his reach, if it had just been the bastard who'd been blown up that day he might be tempted to go shake Takatori's and Schuldig's hands.

Glancing over at the clock, the blond seriously considered calling the restaurant and canceling his dinner plans. Surely someone as clever as he could come up with an excuse to appease any hurt feelings Kisaragi might have at being stood up. As if following his thoughts, Aya sat up and frowned at him. "You need to get going."

"No I don't."

"Yes you do." Violet eyes glared up at green. "We're in the middle of a mission." Twisting a long strand of hair around a finger, Aya decided to be the one tugging on a lock for once. "Remember our weekend. Can't go if we don't take care of Soma first."

The older man pondered that fact, then made a face. "I hate it when you're right." Grasping the finger that kept tugging on his hair, Yohji bent down to kiss his lover's mouth. "I'm going. See you later tonight down at S?d?'s, most likely." He needed to be made presentable, and in a hurry if he wanted to be on time. Standing up, he watched as the redhead curled up on the bed. The man was still obviously upset from the conversation. "You sure you don't want me to stick around a little longer?"

"Kudoh, get out of here. I'm fine." The glare was back, the walls reforming and shutting him out once more. Like most things concerning the stubborn grouch's personal life, it was one step forward, two back. But at least there was a little advancement from time to time.

"Okay, I can get the hint." The blond reached into the closet to grab the outfit he'd picked out earlier, then turned to regard Aya. "Be careful tonight, will you. Some of your buddies were paying a bit too much attention to you last night. Watch your back and everything else." For some reason that prompted a stronger glare and a bit of a growl from the younger man. Yohji paused in his quick change of clothes to peer at the swordsman, wondering what had provoked that reaction. Most of the time his over-protective comments were just brushed aside. Running his fingers through his hair to go for the sexy tousled look that suited him so well, he stood in front of the bed and posed. "How do I look?"

Aya eyed him up and down. Obscenely tight leather pants, the only type he swore the blond owned, and a cropped bronze top that made all that exposed skin seem darker. "Same as usual, like a slut."

"Just the look I was going for, thank you very much." The lanky man grabbed a jacket that would serve for dinner and later than night, and then bent over the bed to kiss his lover goodbye. "Get something to eat before you go, huh kitten? I wasn't even the slightest bit winded hauling your skinny ass up here earlier." A pale hand shoved him away, reminding him that thin or not the man still packed some serious muscle.

Watching his boyfriend saunter out of the room, the redhead snuggled deeper into the soft bed. That had gone better than he'd have otherwise expected. Yohji clearly thought that his unease had been a result of finding the blond going through his person effects and the admission of his past. While it hadn't been pleasant dealing with his parents' attitude toward him, it was an old pain and lacked the power to shake him up that badly anymore. The mistake was a good thing, since if the possessive assassin found out what had happened upstairs there would be a great deal of blood being spilled. It was going to be bad enough facing Yuushi again without trying to restrain Kudoh from an act of murder. Which was why he was going to skip dinner and not leave the room until it was time to head to the club. If Honjyou was stupid enough to try anything before his desire to castrate the man faded away, Aya didn't want to have to hear a lecture from Omi about it afterwards.

Knowing that he should spend part of the evening unpacking the rest of his stuff, Aya nonetheless remained in bed. He just wanted to blank his mind for a few minutes, to forget about the exercise room and what had happened up there, both earlier this day and several weeks ago, and about the will. Thoughts drifting away from the painful matters, the redhead felt the last of his tension flee as a deeply buried memory broke free. It felt as if a hand was stroking through his hair as a voice murmured just how precious and wanted he was. The feelings the words provoked eased his battered sense of self so much that he didn't pause to think of where he'd heard them before, or note the accented voice that spoke them.

*******

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