Of Cups and Wands

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Chapter 5

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Ayaís eyes drifted open, the pansy colored orbs blinking a few times as he tried to decide if he really wanted to be awake or not. A sense of exhaustion still remained, but heíd just experienced a rather unsettling dream. Of him floating in nothingness, clad only in a myriad of threads that stretched out to everything. Quite a number of them connected to Schuldig, and with each beat of his heart in the dream the telepath came closer and closer as the threads bound the two men tighter to each other. Schuldig had just smiled at him and murmured "soon, little Katalisator, soon." The dream had left him with a mixture of apprehension and a sense of confinement, with just a touch of longing. That last bit was what had him so shook up. He didnít think that the reverie signified that Mastermind was back to his usual nocturnal visits; there hadnít been enough pain or torment in it for it to mean that. Nonetheless, the dream had left him with a desire to remain awake for a bit.

He was still cold. It seemed to radiate out from the center of him, as if some vital flame had been doused or stifled. Soaking in Yohjiís body heat seemed to help somewhat, but the ache continued to persist. Sighing, Aya set about disentangling himself from his lover. There were things that needed to be done, and as much as he wished to stay in the warm bed, it just wouldnít do. The older man mumbled a little and rolled over, but didnít wake the slightest bit. Yohjiís ability to sleep most of the day away constantly amazed his lover.

Silently crossing over to the closet, Aya tried to select an outfit to wear as quickly and quietly as possible. He seemed to recall that Yohji had been in a questioning mood last night, but couldnít remember how much he had answered the blond. No sense in starting off the day with a barrage of queries. Reaching into the packed wardrobe, Aya found a thick black sweater that belonged to his new roommate. Shrugging his shoulders, the pale man decided why not and held on to it. Yohji didnít seem to mind him wearing the manís clothes, and the top looked hearteningly warm. After a minute he pulled out a pair of his tan pants. That was the good thing about black; practically everything in his wardrobe went with it. Which was why he owned so many black pieces of clothes, no matter what Kudoh said about it being a sign of a disturbed and melancholy personality.

It only took a few seconds to get dressed. The redhead had to admit it was nice not having to run back to his old room for a change of clothes, or scour about trying to find something clean and suitable to wear each morning. Hugging his arms tight against his chest, Aya left the room. A short stop in the bathroom assured that he was presentable. There had been a flash of concern when heíd glimpsed his face in the mirror, much paler than normal and the dark purple eyes that stood out vividly from the white skin, but it was just a fleeting thought. Along with the question of why he still felt so chilled, even wearing a thick sweater. <Donít worry about it. Forget.> There were so many other things to distract his attention, such as getting the floral arrangements ready for the day and finding out how much longer the electricians would be rewiring the shop. Then there was Yuushi to face, after what had happened last evening, and the upcoming visit from Manx.

Walking into the kitchen he found Omi standing in front of the stove, right leg bent at an angle and the top of his foot resting on a chair. "Ohayoo Aya-kun. I hope youíre hungry for a late breakfast." Aya just hníed in answer to the boy as he filled the teapot and set it on the stove. There was a pot of miso soup bubbling away, and Omi was busy flipping what appeared to be an overstuffed omelet.

"Go sit down at the table, breakfast will be ready in a few minutes." Eying the slender man, Omi realized why Mastermind had been so adamant that Manx or Birman didnít catch sight of Aya. The redhead was still much too pale, his skin taking on an almost translucent tone. Add to that the eyes several shades darker than they should be, and anyone familiar with the swordsman would be in for quite a shock. If either of the women mentioned the changes to their supervisorsÖ. Omi knew that Kritiker paid such minute attention to Aya that it would most likely set off alarms and result in the redhead being submitted to a multitude of tests. Which would be a bad thing, especially if his power slipped its leash while Aya was under scrutiny.

Checking the eggs to see if they were done, the young blond grimaced at the direction his train of thought had gone off in. Here he was, following the orders of Mastermind. The bastard responsible for the death of his sister. And he couldnít tell anyone. Yohji and Kenís first response would be to rush out and try to kill the telepath, assuming they didnít take him to task for going along with Schuldig in the first place. He knew Yohji in particular would be furious at him, the man was very protective about his boyfriend and wouldnít react very well to the news. As for Aya, the youth was no longer sure where the quiet man stood with the telepath. Images of his friend, curled up on Schuldigís lap as the German had stroked the pale face and chest kept flooding his mind. Plus the fact that the Schwarz agent kept insinuating that there was some sort of bond between the two men. How else did he know so much about the redheadís well being? All Omi could do for the time being was keep listening to the telepath and pray that the demands were kept reasonable. And maintain a careful watch for the first presented opportunity to kill the man. Schuldigís days were numbered, that was for sure. There was no way he was going to let a psychopath control the people he cared about like this. Omi could manage protecting Aya on his own after that.

"The foodís all done, come over here and get some." The young blond turned off the heat under the teakettle and twisted about to face his silent friend. Aya was hunched over the table, his arms wrapped around his chest. "You okay, you look as if youíre freezing."

His concern was rewarded with a glower. "Iím fine." The redhead got up to grab the hot water for some tea. About to return back to the table with the pot and a mug, his arm was grasped in a tight hold.

"You need something more in you than a cup of tea. Did you ever eat anything last night?" Aya didnít reply, causing Omiís eyes to narrow. "I didnít think so. Alright then, one omelet and a bowl of soup. And you will eat all of it, seems to me youíve been skipping meals a lot lately." The youth frowned back at his friend, fussing instincts in high gear. "Youíve lost too much weight, that canít be good for you."

"Iím fine." Aya tried to glare his way free, but it wasnít working very well. He could easily snatch his arm out of the boyís grasp, but didnít want to risk over-balancing Omi, not with the injured foot. "Let go."

Time to break out the big guns. "Either you start eating more or Iíll tell Manx and arrange for a physical for you." Omi knew how much the redhead hated going to the doctors, and felt it was a pretty safe bluff to make. Just in case, he turned on the chibi eyes, all big and dewy. "It might be a sign that somethingís wrong, Aya-kun. It worries me to think that you might not be well, or too weak to fight properly during a mission." As a final touch he added a sad smile as he sniffed a little. Judging from the stunned expression on the older manís face, Omi knew heíd scored a direct hit. The big eyes never failed him.

"Ö.. okay." Aya set the pot down and got a plate for a now smiling Omi to deposit an omelet on. Placing it on the table he returned back to the stove for the tea and a bowl of soup. Omi started to whistle as he prepared a couple more omelets, clearly happy with himself. The swordsman took a moment to glare at the teenagerís back before looking down at his plate. Why did everyone get on him about eating? It was true heíd lost some weight, but then again he was taking medication that made him nauseous several times a day. That sort of put a crimp in oneís appetite. Besides, ever since Takatoriís death there hadnít been such a strong impulse to take care of himself anymore. His objective had been achieved, what else had he to save his strength for? Waiting for his imouto to wake up? Deep down Aya despaired of that ever happening. Everything heíd sacrificed and still she slumbered on, oblivious to the world. And he remained trapped in WeiŖ. Those depressing facts tended to take the edge off of his focus, and heíd been drifting a bit through life as a result. Yohjiís presence acted as a type of anchor, one that became more important with each day, but a bit of that careless attitude remained.

"Howís breakfast? Want some more green onion for the soup?"

"No, itís good." Suppressing a sigh, Aya picked up the bowl and ate the miso soup. It was as tasty as ever, Tsukiyono was a good cook. His stomach, receiving nourishment for the first time in quite a while, decided to wake up and demand some more. The empty bowl was put down as Aya started in on the omelet, filled with cheese and various vegetables, just how he liked it. Once he was done at the stove Omi hopped over to the table with a plate of his own and set another bowl of soup in front of his friend. Aya didnít complain, the food was helping to push back the cold slightly, he could unwrap the one arm clutched tight around his middle. "Thank you."

Omi beamed at the words. "Itís no problem. Maybe a good meal will put a little color back into your cheeks, youíre still rather pale. Were you planning on heading down to the shop?"

The older man nodded as he finished off the omelet. Pushing the plate away, he regarded Omi with a critical eye. "Howís the foot?"

"Still hurts. I donít want to think about how many stitches Honjyou put in. No sprints for me the next few days."

"What time is Manx stopping by?"

Playing with a piece of cheese on his plate, the archer tried to think about how exactly he wanted to say this. "In another couple of hours. I sent her an email about Hirohata, guess weíll get an update then." Swallowing a bit of his breakfast, Omi paused before the next part. "I can talk to her alone, you focus on the flower shop. If thereís a chance of her having found out about Knight helping us, itíll be much easier for me to deal with Manx by myself."

"Hn." Aya got up from the table and stacked his dishes in the sink. He was in the process of topping off his mug when Yuushi entered the room, nose twitching.

"Thought I smelled something. There any food left over?" He stopped when he say Aya standing motionlessly at the counter. Dark purple eyes drilled into him for a moment, then lowered as their owner took a sip from his mug. The redhead then proceeded to ignore the older blondís presence as he walked out of the room, admonishing Omi to stay off of his foot. Yuushi reflected that it was rather obvious that he wasnít forgiven just yet. Glancing over at Tsukiyono he found a pair of blue eyes gazing at him narrowly.

"Thereís some soup and a few omelets on the stove. Make sure to leave enough for Ken and Yohji." Omi wondered what had happened between the former teammates now, but knew that Honjyou wouldnít tell him and risk being kicked out of the mission. "What are your plans for the day?"

Yuushi helped himself to some food and sat across from the smaller blond. " Thereís a few people I need to check in with, and I was going to try and find out a few things on the power structure of Somaís goons. You know, maybe see if I come across anything that will make it easier to bring the organization down when we make our move. Plus a few errands of my own that have to be done. Why, have something specific in mind that youíd like me to do?"

"No, just want you out of the house during the day. Manx, our Kritiker contact, is meeting me here now because of the foot. Iíd rather her not know WeiŖ is letting you assist on this assignment. It should be safe for you to come back by dinner." Breakfast all done, Omi started to stand up, wobbling slightly. "Though if you could leave me your cell phone number, I would appreciate it. Might want you to check up on a few things for me as well, today."

Yuushi leaned over to give the young assassin a steady hand. "Donít worry about the dishes, Iíll take care of them. Find any leads on Somaís whereabouts yet?"

"Yes. Last night Yohji and Ken managed to get ahold of Kisaragiís phone. They downloaded all the numbers for me, and Iím going through them and all the calls sheís made on the device. The information should help me narrow down where the man is hiding." With that Omi hobbled out of the kitchen.

*******

There was a pounding noise that went on and on, dragging a sleeping blond to the edge of consciousness. Snarling at the sound, Yohji curled up under the duvet, pulling the thick comforter up over his ears to muffle the thuds. He was nice and warm for once, and intent on remaining that way. The noise faded away, but his sense of relief evaporated as the mattress sank and someone took to shaking his arm.

"Yohji, wake up already."

"Go away." The lanky man flung an arm out from underneath the bedclothes, earning a high-pitched Ďowí from his annoyer. Before he could feel smug at scaring away the pest, clever fingers twisted back a pinky, making him curse in pain and sit up in bed. "What the hell was that for?" Bleary eyes finally registering that it was Omi holding on to his hand, Yohji snarled some more. "Youíre in an awful pissy mood this morning. Someone eat all your Fruit Loops or something?" The boy was almost as vicious as a particular sociopathic redhead at waking him up.

"No, just trying hard to get a certain slothful person out of bed. You awake now?"

"Yeah." Damnit. Once his hand was released Yohji used it to search about for a pack of cigarettes. It was then that he noticed he was alone in bed. No sign of Aya, the walking ice cube to be found. No wonder heíd been so nice and toasty under the sheets. He took a drag off of his cigarette and asked Omi where the man was.

"Downstairs in the shop. Kenís still unpacking in his room, and Yuushiís in the kitchen." Yep, seeing the sudden flare of anger in those green eyes at the last name Omi knew that something had definitely happened between Fujimiya and Honjyou. "Thought you might like to have some breakfast while it was nice and hot." And to ensure that there was a chaperone around the Crasher.

Yohji got out of bed and started opening drawers in an attempt to find something to wear. Dressing in grey acid washed jeans and a white pullover, the smoking man hurried out of the room, taking a second to snatch his watch off of the nightstand and to ruffle Omiís hair. "Thanks, chibi."

"Yotan, wait." The older blond stopped in the doorway, turning a questioning look on his teammate. "I think you should take Aya out to lunch today. I made sure he got something to eat for once, but heís still too thin. Drag him out into some sun too if you can manage it." This last bit earned him a snort of amusement from the lanky man.

Blowing a couple smoke rings, Yohji asked if the request had anything to do with Manx stopping by. Omi remained silent. After spending a minute trying to puzzle the request out, he answered the youth. "Okay, kiddo. Iíll do it. Like you really have to twist my arm in the first place. As soon as the orders for the day are taken care of Iíll whisk away the fearless leader. See if we canít dispel that myth of him bursting into flames if sunlight touches him." Smoke trailed after him as he left the room.

Omi bit back a laugh and shook his head as he levered himself off of the soft bed. No wonder it was so hard getting the couple out of it, the thing had to be all feathers. Images of what him and Ken could get up to on the piece of furniture drifting through his mind, the youth groaned as he started hopping. Might as well get this over with, his conscience would just keep nagging at him until he did. Stopping in front of the brunetís door, he banged on the wood two times.

The door opened halfway. "Hey, should you be up, Omi? Howís the foot?" Brown eyes glanced down at him earnestly, but the athlete remained safely behind the door in case Omi started hitting him again.

The foot hurt like hell. "Itís okay now that itís all patched up. Just wanted to let you know that there are some omelets downstairs. Why donít you take a break and get a bite to eat."

Ken let out a sigh of relief and opened the door all the way. Smiling at his friend, he commented that he was a bit hungry, and would grab breakfast after a quick shower. "Would you mind if I run out and take care of a couple of errands when Iím finished?"

The man was a tad too eager to please. Guess all that yelling had gotten to him. "That sounds fine, Ken-kun. As long as youíll be back in time to deliver the flowers."

"Shouldnít be a problem. I just need a few shelves."

"Howís the room coming along?"

"Take a look." Peering around the doorway, blue eyes found a room radically different from the last time heís seen it. The walls were covered with sports posters and the bookshelves all gone. Plus it was a mess. "It certainly exudes your personality, thatís for sure," Omi wryly commented.

A tentative hand reached out to ruffle his hair. When he wasnít hollered at Ken smiled some more. "You trying to say that Iím a disaster zone?" Laughing at the younger manís sputtered attempt at an apology, the brunet continued. " Nah, donít worry, I know what it looks like right now. Itíll be better once I get some shelves to store things on. I think I now understand why Aya has so few clothes, that has got to be the tiniest closet in the Koneko."

"Why do you think it was the only room left? No wonder the man barely talked to us his first month on the team, after getting stuck in here like he did." The two youths shared a grin, their camaraderie back in place. Ken insisted on escorting Omi back to his room and making sure everything he needed was in reach of the computer desk. Watching the older boy then leave rather wistfully, Omi pondered for a few seconds what their relationship would be like if they ever were more than friends. Would they always be fighting and making up like Yohji and Aya, or would it be a quieter affair? The second might be nice, he was of too genki a nature to be mad at Ken all the time like he was earlier today. But heíd walked in on enough make up necking sessions to see the attraction of the older assassinsí relationship. Half the time he swore Yohji started the fights just for the hell of it, knowing what would happen once Aya cooled down enough to forgive the blond.

Suddenly remembering the request that had been asked of him a couple of days ago, the master tactician started to formulate a plan. Assuming the mission was successful and completed quickly, the older men would soon be taking off for a long weekend. Which left the house to him and Ken. Maybe before then he could have a little chat with Yohji and find out a few of the techniques the playboy had used to snare himself a skittish Aya. Anything that had thawed through the redheadís icy shield should be guaranteed to work on a certain soccer fanatic.

*******

Entering the kitchen, Yohji found his archenemy doing the dishes. The other blond held on to the plate he was scrubbing for a moment to regard the assassin, then returned his attention back his task. Deciding to get into it /after/ he had breakfast, Yohji grabbed two of the last three omelets and sat down to eat. A few minutes later he got up and tossed the dish into the sink, splashing Yuushi with the sudsy water. The Crasher turned to face him, gold eyes flashing.

"Oops, did I get you? Iím sorry." His tone was anything but apologetic. The gesture had been on the childish side, but emotionally rewarding.

Wiping away the suds dripping down his face, Yuushi glared at the man. "Iíll just bet you are." He had to remind himself that Tsukiyono was upstairs, and would hear the thumping noises of Kudohís head being bashed into the wall repeatedly. "Shouldnít you be out trailing after Somaís mistress or something?"

"Weíre meeting up later this evening. Thereís no hurry. You werenít the only one to find a lead last night," Yohji leaned against the counter as he lit a cigarette. "Going to spend the night drinking again?"

"I didnít find out about the traitor by hanging out on the dance floor til the wee hours of morning." The elegant blond took a moment to dry his hands, just in case things got nasty with Kudoh after all. "Must be real hard for a guy like you to work your assignment. Pretty much a legitimized excuse to cheat, from what Iíve observed the past few nights. You handle being a slut real well."

Okay, Yohji told himself, off came the gloves. "You mustnít get out to date very much, Honjyou, if you canít tell the difference between a person being a gentleman and them throwing themselves at somebody. What you saw last night was the former. Remember that. Maybe next time it will save you a spot of pain when you try the latter on Aya again." And that hit was below the belt, judging from the way the agentís face twisted into a grimace. Yohji wondered if the man knew that he telegraphed everything he thought with his expressions.

Muttering some curses, Knightís hands clenched on the dishcloth he was holding. "Ran mentioned that to you?" Why wasnít Kudoh taking a swing at him? If he was in Kudohís shoes heíd be eviscerating him right now.

"Sure as hell did. You had the man pretty pissed off, and should be very thankful he let you out of the room alive. Try it again and heíll rectify that mistake." Exhaling some smoke, the lanky man edged closer to Honjyou. "I donít know what the hell you were thinking at the time, but maybe now youíll realize that youíll never have a chance with Fujimiya. Never. Get that little delusion out of your head before you force him to really hurt a friend."

"Like Iím going to listen to anything you have to say. Youíd truly like it if I just went away, wouldnít you? That unsure of your relationship with Ran that you have to scare away any rivals?"

Emerald eyes, glittering with malice, raked over the Crasher. "Youíre starting to repeat yourself, Honjyou. Iím not worried the slightest about you stealing Aya away from me. After all, he loves me, not you. What Iím concerned about is the damage you do to him before you finally realize that heíll never care for you the way you want him to. So be a good pal and back off the man. Youíre stressing him out and endangering the mission."

Yuushi flushed as the picture of Ran, edging away in panic and fear, filled his mind. He needed to talk with the redhead and find out what had shaken him so. "You have no idea how Ran truly feels about me. Or what we went through together in Crashers. Until I hear it from Fujimiya himself that he wants me gone, Iíll do whatever I want." With that he turned to leave the room, flinging the towel aside. Yohji quickly snatched up the cloth as he wound out a length wire from his watch. Ignoring the hissing sound behind him, Yuushi kept moving for the door until something snapped around his throat and bit into his flesh. He came to a sudden halt.

Kudoh immediately crashed into him from behind, forcing the golden-eyed man into the wall before he could react. An angry voice hissed in Yuushiís. "Now listen to me you stupid prick. I see you near Aya again Iím going to remove your head from your body. Understood?" The wires bit a little deeper. "You donít seem able to grasp the fact that the man doesnít want you, short of him taking that damn blade of his to you. Perhaps this will work just as well." Yuushi tried to force himself backwards, to toss the other blond off of him, but stopped struggling as the wireís tension increased. "For someone who claims to care so much for Aya, you really donít give a shit about anything other than getting what you want. Youíre throwing him off of his game, and that will get him hurt at best, possibly killed. And I refuse to stand by and let that happen."

"Hear this loud and clear. I will kill you before I let something happen to Aya. Can you say the same? If it spares the kitten the slightest bit of pain I will gladly slice you to pieces and face whatever the hell Kritiker decides to do with me. Iíll pay any price to keep him safe and from being hurt. /Thatís/ love. All you want is a body. Well you can get that anywhere else but from Aya. Heíd never give that to you unless he loved you and thought you loved him back. Not just had the hots for him for a couple years. You disgust me, willing to toss aside his friendship and respect just for the sake of sex. Think Iím such a piece of shit? Well I never made a serious move on Aya until I knew I loved him and that he felt something for me as well. He meant too much to be treated like a whore."

The wire around his neck loosened as the playboy backed off. As soon as he was able to Yuushi whirled around to face the man. Yohji just stood there, hands wrapped with the towel and weapon ready in case of retaliation. More than anything the Crasher wanted to pound the lanky man into the floor, but couldnít risk Tsukiyono finding out about it. The two blonds stared at each other for several minutes, the stalemate broken when Ken entered the room, hailing out cheerfully. "Hey, I hope you guys left some food for me." Two pairs of eyes regarded the athlete for a second, then looked away as the men moved apart. Ken noted Honjyouís bleeding neck and Yohjiís hands filled with wire, and wisely walked over to the stove without saying another word.

Staring intently at Kudoh once more, Yuushi hoarsely informed the man that he wasnít going anywhere. "Not until I make Soma pay for Moriyamaís death."

"Fine by me, we can use an extra hand on this assignment. Just leave Aya the fuck alone." Yuushi left the room without answering that last statement. Raking a hand through his hair, Yohji let out a frustrated growl. "I really am going to kill that guy."

"Just do it somewhere other than here. I donít even want to think how Omi will react to finding his body on the premises. Not after this morning." That earned Ken a smirk as the older man wondered aloud if he could use Honjyou as fertilizer. "Just as long as there isnít a mess for Aya or Omi to clean up."

*******

Walking into the flower shop, Yohji was surprised to find it empty. "Aya, you down here?" he called out.

"Back here."

Following the voice to the greenhouse, the blond found his lover sitting at a table on the conservatory, busy assembling the orders. There were already a dozen scattered about the place. "Could you put those away for me?"

Yohji picked up two of the arrangements. "Sure thing, kitten. Where are the electricians at?"

"Just left for a lunch break."

"Hmm." That gave the playboy a wicked thought. Hurrying about placing the orders in a cooler, he shortly finished the request and sat behind Aya on the high bench. "Why are you working in here today, still feeling cold?" The question became redundant as he snaked his arms around the smaller manís waist, sliding them under the sweater. The redhead remained cool to touch.

"Ö.." Aya leaned back against the older man, grateful for the warmth. It had helped spending the day in the hot room, but the chill hadnít quite released its hold on him yet.

"Iíll take that as a yes. If it makes you feel any better itís like holding a person who spent a couple of hours out in the cold without a jacket on instead of hugging an ice sculpture right now. Thatís an improvement in case youíre wondering."

"Thanks Kudoh, Iím so much happier to hear that," the redhead scathingly replied. Picking up a daffodil he promptly dropped it as a hot mouth caressed his neck, branding the flesh with heat. A low moan burst from his lips at the sensation, causing the arms about him to tighten their hold.

"How about now, kitten? Feeling better yet?" The mouth moved up to his ear as one hand toyed with his navel ring and the other reached higher under the sweater.

"Huhnnn. Definitely better." Shuddering at the tongue tracing along the edge of his earlobe, Aya rested his head back on Yohjiís shoulder. The blond chuckled evilly and tweaked a nipple, loving the way his lover whimpered in response. He continued nibbling on the pale manís neck, hands busy underneath the sweater.

Sliding off of the bench, Yohji walked around the seat to stand in front of Aya. Tilting the slender manís face up he instigated a kiss that soon left the both of them panting. Long legs wrapped around his waist, pulling him close. Holding onto the redhead tightly, Yohji lifted him off of the seat and set him on the edge of the worktable. "Want you now, love." Aya just rocked his hips against the older manís in response.

Breaking away from the smaller assassin Yohji felt along the inside of one of the tableís many compartments, searching for something. Aya kept pleading for him to come back and warm him up, letting out a purr of pleasure when the blond finally found the tube of lubricant that heíd stashed back there and returned to the waiting arms. "So impatient." Purple eyes glared up for a moment before closing in pleasure at the hand combing through his hair, pulling back his head so a lush mouth could nibble on the extended throat.

There was a flurry of clothes being torn off and discarded everywhere, and Yohji let out a gasp of his own at the feel of Ayaís cold body pressing against his. Shifting the younger manís hips to the end of the table, he started to lubricate the tight opening, eager to be inside of it. Aya clung to him tightly, moaning in his ear at the feel of those fingers driving him crazy. Having waited as long as he could, Yohji started to push his way in, groaning as the clenched muscles relaxed to let him in before tightening around him again, squeezing hard. "Gods AyaÖ."

The heat filling the redhead felt too good for words. Each thrust made it radiate out further, blinding him to everything but that sensation. Nails biting into Kudohís shoulders as he held on for support, he rocked his hips forward, wanting more. Hot breath hit his ear at each word of endearment and possession uttered, and all he could do was mewl out his loverís name. Body and arms holding on all the tighter, not wanting to ever let the blond go, Aya cried out at the flood of liquid fire being ejaculated inside of him, triggering a release of his own.

Arms falling to either side of the redhead as he tried to keep himself upright, Yohji panted against the manís neck as he attempted to regain control of his limbs. Aya continued to cling to him, crying out when he shifted to pull out of his lover. "Shh." He sat back on the bench, pulling the pale man into his lap. The scent of flowers, musk and sweat filled his senses, making him smile in contentment. "Have I said yet today how much I love you?"

A cool mouth moved up from his collarbone to his ear, tugging on the adornment it found there before answering. "Donít think so."

"Well I do, even if you are still as cold as hell. Didnít even work up a sweat there, did you lover? You really know how to make a guyís efforts feel appreciated." There was a sharp nip at his jaw before Aya leaned back in his arms to scowl at him. "Just teasing."

"Hmph. If you have any doubts on that matter youíre dumber than you look, Kudoh."

"Was that a compliment or an insult?" Aya just graced him with a Cheshire smile before glancing about for his clothes, causing the playboy to pout in response. "Ah, the spark is gone. You donít even stick around to banter sweet loverís talk anymore." Not that he ever had in the first place. Still, Yohji felt ignored as the slender man got off his lap to get dressed, taking a moment to clean himself. Leering at the naked figure before him, the blond remained seated until a pair of jeans hit him in the face. "Ow, nice aim there, kitten."

"We need to get dressed before someone comes back. Do you ever shut up?" Aya asked as he pulled the sweater back on. He prevented the older man from answering as he leaned forward to kiss Yohji on the lips. "Ai shiteru."

"You better love me, considering how much youíve been raiding my wardrobe lately. Thought I recognized that sweater." It looked so endearing on the slender redhead, the arms too long and the oversized neck exposing an eyeful of pale shoulders and collarbones. "Promise me youíll wear that more often."

That got him a raised eyebrow and a shove away from the bench, as Aya rearranged his seat and set about restoring the tabletop to order. Finished wiping himself off and pulling his clothes back on, Yohji once again settled behind his lover, arms hugging the man close. "How many more arrangements do you have left?"

"Three, counting this one."

"Hmm, wanna go out and play when youíre all done? We can even stop at the hospital before getting something to eat." The blond couldnít resist tasting all that exposed flesh, sated as he was from a few minutes ago. Aya didnít mind the lingering sense of heat the mouth left as it moved from one shoulder to the other.

"Sounds good. Iíll just be a little bit. We need to be back early though, find out what Manx wants." Yohji murmured agreement against his spine, causing the smaller man to shiver. It was several minutes before either one of them spoke.

As much as he hated to do so, Yohji broke the contented silence. "Had a little talk with Honjyou this morning. How you ever managed to work with the man without killing him Iíll never understand." Not liking the direction the conversation was taking, Aya put the pruning shears down.

"What did you talk about?"

"You." Feeling the slender form tense in his arms, Yohji ran a hand through the crimson hair, brushing it away from Ayaís face. Was it just his imagination or was the hair shaggier today? "Iím afraid heís not going to leave you alone until he hears it from your lips that he hasnít a chance in hell." The redhead just sighed and resumed his work. The blond tugged on a dangling eartail after a couple minutes had quietly passed. "What you thinking, love?"

"Why does he have to be such an idiot? Havenít I made my answer clear enough?" A carnation was the recipient of a rather ferocious glare.

"Man has excellent taste, Iíll credit him that. But I agree that heís a dense fool. Just pull him aside and say that youíre so desperately in love with me that no one else exists as far as youíre concerned." That earned Yohji a snort of derision. "You know that no one else but me will do. Who else would think of hiding some lube back here?"

One thing Aya had to say for the older man, Kudoh sure knew how to make him smile. "No one else has such a fetish for doing it in a greenhouse like you do. Anyone ever tell you thatís quite an impressive ego you have there?"

"Thatís not usually the thing about me that leaves them speechless." Yohji rolled his hips forward, smirking at the much put-upon sigh his lover uttered. "Seriously, you have to say something to the man."

Aya growled for a moment, hating the fact that his boyfriend was right. What a ridiculous situation to be stuck in the middle of. "I will. Hand me the blue ribbon." Once the bouquet was finished Aya asked Yohji where he wanted to go.

"How Ďbout we make Saeba-sanís day and stop by for a bite to eat? And have a walk in the park afterwards to burn off all the food she brings us."

"Hn."

"Iíll take that as a yes. Iíll even let you treat for once, considering how much money I saw you win last night. Speaking of which, what did that one yakuza keep bothering you about all night? Besides trying to get into your pants? Ow." Yohji rubbed his sore ribs.

This was turning into the day for uncomfortable topics. "Heís taking a cut from my winnings. For Ďprotectioní." That was another aggravation he didnít want to focus on. "Think heíll take no for an answer and leave me the hell alone?"

"I doubt it. You might have to rearrange a few body parts for him to get the hint. Let me know if you want any help." The blondís voice sounded a bit too eager.

*******

Omi was busy checking the results of his computer searches when there was a knock on his door. "Hai?"

"Konnichi wa, Omi. Howís the injury?" Manx walked into the room and sat down on the bed near the youth. "Would you mind explaining a little better how you managed to step in some glass?"

The teenager rubbed at his eyes, sore from staring at the computer monitor for the past several hours. "Letís just say that itís from a roommateís messy nature. How are you? Are you working too hard?" The woman looked exhausted, there were actually circles under her eyes and the red hair hung down straight, not in its usual bouncy curls. Omi was guessing that she hadnít gotten much sleep lately.

Manx waved his concern aside. "Iím not that bad, really. Things have definitely improved since I got that email from you earlier. It does indeed appear as if Reiko Hirohata is the traitor. She had access to the information and a careful background check has revealed that sheís been shifting her bank accounts about, as if getting ready to close them." Tired green eyes closed for a moment, then opened back up to gaze wearily at the young blond. "You know what you have to do, donít you?"

"Hai. Just her or the boyfriend as well?"

"Both." God, it was chilling so see such a sweet-faced boy calmly inquire about how many people he had to kill. "Kitayama most likely knows too much about the organization. Youíll take care of the couple at the same time as Soma; our employers donít want anyone to be scared off. Everyone responsible must be made to pay for the agentsí deaths. How are things coming on the other part of the mission?"

Omi managed a smile after the grim discussion "We had a break there as well. Guess the gods were smiling down upon us last night." The expression wilted when he thought that it was Aya, and not some weird bit of luck that was responsible for WeiŖ doing so well. "Iím in the process of tracking the man down as we speak. Ken got ahold of Kisaragiís cell phone; Iím going through the numbers and tracing back the calls right now. Plus the fact the phone is now Ďbuggedí, Iím getting a record of every call that she makes or receives from now on. Next time Kisaragi talks to her boyfriend Iíll have the conversation and location." Those programs of Asoís were coming in handy, the man had been a programming genius.

"You have no idea how happy I am to hear that." Manx gifted Omi with a tired grin. "WeiŖ is doing a fantastic job so far. Not to sound as if weíre complaining, but how much longer do you think it will be before the mission is completed?"

"You cited the extreme prejudice code, so we assumed that we have to pull out all the stops for this one. Between destroying the club, taking out Soma, his hired help, and now Hirohata and her boyfriend, it will be a couple of days before we get everything coordinated. But it should be done within a week, as long as the man tries to contact his girlfriend, or vice versa." Omi chewed on his lip for a minute, trying to think if he left anything out. "Are we to eliminate her as well?"

The woman nodded. "If you find any proof that she knew about the hits, then yes." The green eyes glittered like pieces of glass; Manx wanted everyone connected to the murders to suffer. Sheíd lost several good friends over the weekend, and Kritiker would be hard pressed finding replacements for all the dead contacts and agents. "Iíll report on how far into the mission the team has gotten, there should be a couple happy faces after they read this file. Good work."

Standing up, the redheaded woman eyed her young charge during the few seconds it took her to straighten out her skirt. "Will you be all right with the foot?"

Omi gave the question some serious thought, then flashed a thumbís up sign. "As long as I give it a day or two to heal, I should be able to take a physical part in the assassinations." Manx frowned at that word. "The cuts are mostly superficial, itís more painful and messy than damaged. On the plus side I think Iíve finally cured Ken of leaving his belongings out in the hall anymore." It would almost be worth it if that was indeed the case.

Smirking at that bit of news, the redhead tilted her head in question. "Where are the rest of the team? Itís so quiet in the house."

"Ken is out delivering the flowers. Oh, please pass our thanks on for the electricians and new coolers. The Koneko will run so much smoother with the new upgrades." Omiís face glowed with happiness at the thought, the flower shop was much more than just a cover for him. "Yohji and Aya are out together, running some errands for me."

Torn in two over asking the question, the female agent gave in to the impulse. "How are things proceeding on that front? Any problems for the team?" Not that she thought that Omi would seriously answer her, he was the two menís staunchest supporter.

"I told you not to worry about those two. There are no problems, either between them or with WeiŖ." The young archer let out a huff of air, annoyed at the question. "Why do you think it is so impossible for the team to function properly if two members are involved with each other? We all know each other well enough to be able to judge if the relationship will work or not. Besides, itís not exactly like we have a lot of options. Hirohata is a prime example of what happens when an agent gets involved with an outsider." Or Ouka.

Feeling a bit out of her depth, Manx could only stare at the teenager. There clearly was something going on here, but she wasnít sure she wanted to know what. "I just want to make sure that you and the others arenít being jeopardized by this relationship. While there are a few successful examples, for the most part these things have ended badly. But if you feel so strongly that Kudoh and Fujimiya are in the first group, I will drop the subject from now on."

"Iíd appreciate that." Omi stared at the woman coldly for a moment, but his cheerful nature once more asserted itself. "Sorry if I snapped at you, the foot is making me a bit cranky. Itís just that if you saw Yohji and Aya together youíd understand my point a little better."

That caused the womanís eyes to soften, as her cheeks flushed the slightest bit. Omi could only look on in wonder. "I think I saw enough of them together the other day, thank you very much." Her hormones couldnít take much more, that was for certain. As it was Birman was clamoring for her chance to stop by one morning and catch the assassins in bed together. Manner once more very business-like, Manx gave the youth a quick hug. "I have to get going. Once I turn in my report I can get a little sleep. Keep me updated." She turned around and walked out of the room, with a spring in her step that hadnít been there when she had first entered.

*******

"Hey, dinnerís here. Come and get it while itís hot," Yohji bellowed, making Aya wince at the manís loud voice. Guess all those cigarettes hadnít destroyed the blondís lung capacity after all. The redhead merely continued on his way, heading upstairs to take his medicine.

There was a sound reminiscent of a herd of buffalo charging, which ended up being Ken running down the steps and into the kitchen. "Food? Great! Iím starving. What did you get?" One would think the brunet hadnít eaten all day.

"The ever traditional Japanese cuisine of hamburgers and french fries." Brown eyes lit up as the athlete tore through one of the bags on the table. "Geez, Hidaka, take a moment to chew." Yohji had seen a pack of dogs with better table manners. Ken just mumbled something and continued devouring three Whoppers and two super-sized fries. Yohji smoked a cigarette as he looked on in a mix of fascination and repugnance.

"Did I hear you mention food?" Omi asked, hanging on to Ayaís arm for support as the two assassins joined their friends. The older man helped the injured youth sit down at the table and then walked over to his boyfriend. The smell of burnt tobacco would help disguise the aroma of cooked cow and grease.

Yohji hugged the pale man tight as he answered the archer back. "Yep, only the best for my roommates. Better get some quick before Ken eats it all." The athlete grunted at the comment, pulling a bag of food closer.

Omi deftly maneuvered one of the sacks away from the starving brunet. "Hope you brought enough for Honjyou as well, he should be back soon. You guys eat already?" The playboy growled for a moment at the sound of Yuushiís name until a bony elbow whacked him in the ribs, then nodded as he rubbed the sore spot. Aya still was as pale as he was earlier, but now there was a faint tinge of pink on his cheeks. "What did you guys do today?"

"Some shopping, visited Aya-chan, had dinner, and attempted a nice walk in a park until mister pigmentally-challenged here started to get a sunburn in under ten minutes. Ouch. Damnit Aya, did you have to hit the same exact spot?"

"Hai." Yohji grumbled some more and held the man even tighter, making sure the thin arms were firmly pinned to his kittenís sides.

So much for the idea of making the swordsman get a tan. "That sounds nice. Iíll fill you guys in on my conversation with Manx as soon as Honjyou arrives."

This time the older blond remained silent, but still made a face, safely behind his loverís back. Omi was hard pressed not to laugh, while Ken used the opportunity to steal some of his friendís fries.

"If weíre just going to wait, Iím off for a shower," Aya replied as he extracted himself from Yohjiís arms and headed upstairs. Face breaking out into a huge grin that was half a leer, the blond commented on what a great idea that was and followed him.

"Yotan! We have to have a meeting tonight! Canít your hormones wait til later?" Omi wailed.

Ken just rolled his eyes as he yelled his two cents worth. "There better be some hot water left for me, Kudoh, or weíll see how well you look with pink hair this time." Lowering his voice, he shook his head at Omi. "We really need to find the hot water cut-off valve some day."

"What we need to do is get Yohji neutered. Heís corrupting poor Aya. I donít think the man got out of bed before eight am all week long. Thatís late for him."

"Yeah, no wonder heís so pale, Kudoh must be wearing him out. I thought it was bad before with all those dates the man brought home, but at least after a half hour or so heíd leave them alone or pass out. I donít know where he gets his stamina from these days." But at least he didnít have to hear it anymore. Last night had been the first night the soccer fanatic had been able to sleep without his radio on for months. Ken found he actually missed having some background noise going on, but had worried that it might disturb Omi. "Say, we have any ice cream left over?"

The youthís face lit up at the mention of dessert. "I think so, why donít you check the freezer?" The older boy was in the process of doing just that when Yuushi peeked his head in the door. "Is it safe to come in?"

Omi gave him the all-clear sign. "Yes, Manx left hours ago. How was your day?"

"Productive. Found out that Somaís made a lot of enemies, and it seems he lost some powerful backing last year. Thatís what made him rely so heavily on the yakuza. It shouldnít be too hard to knock his house of cards down." Yuushi looked on in interest at the lone bag of fast food remaining. "This up for grabs?"

"All yours." Pulling out the only remaining pint of ice cream, Ken offered the man a sheepish grin. "Just donít expect to get any dessert."

"This is fine." He waited until heíd eaten the burgers and was mostly done with the fries before he asked where Kudoh and Fujimiya were.

"Upstairs, getting a shower."

Gold eyes blinked in puzzlement. "But, you only have the one bathroom."

The two assassins sighed in unison. "We know."

"Uhm, okay." That was so not what heíd needed to hear. Yuushi forced himself to keep eating and not go over to the kitchen sink and turn the hot water on full blast. If anyone needed a cold shower he was willing to bet it was Kudoh, but with his luck it would be Ran under the water and the redhead would just be all the more angry with him. Once he was finished he inquired what was on the agenda for the night.

Ken got up and put on a pot of water and started fiddling with the coffee maker. While he was doing that Omi informed their guest that there would be a meeting held shortly. "Help me into the living room, would you?"

Yuushi lent an arm and got Omi settled before returning to the kitchen to help Ken with the beverages. It was while to two men were placing the drinks on the coffee table that Aya and Yohji joined them. The redhead was dressed in an over-sized sweatshirt that clearly belonged to Yohji and a pair of cotton pants, while his boyfriend wore a pair of old jeans and nothing else besides a contented grin. Finding all the seats taken, what with Omiís foot stretched out on the couch, the couple settled on the floor. Yohji leaned against the sofa with Aya tucked between his legs, happy at feeling warm once more. "So whatís the news, chibi?"

"Itís been confirmed, Hirohata is the leak. We have to take care of her and the boyfriend as well." The three other assassins nodded at this bit of news, not surprised in the least. Yuushi, distracted from glaring at Kudoh, blinked his eyes and asked what the hell did that mean. "Are we to turn them in to the authorities or Kritiker?"

That remark was met with silence. Aya finally spoke up when it stretched on painfully long. "No, weíre to eliminate them along with Soma." He gazed into gold eyes, waiting for the realization to strike. It didnít take much time.

"Are you telling me you guys just got orders to kill her and Kitayama? Just like that? And you have no problem with murdering a woman trying to help out her addicted boyfriend? She should be made to pay, but by death?" Yuushi looked beseechingly at Aya and received only a cold expression in return.

"Itís what we do. Sheís responsible for the deaths of almost a dozen people, all because of the man. We have our orders." The redheadís manner was more distant than usual, and his teammates recognized it as his work mode. Sensing that something was going on between the two friends, they wisely remained quiet, though Yohji tightened his hold on the pale man.

As far as Yuushi was concerned it was just him and Ran in the room. How could the man change so much, from an intense boy to a bloodstained murderer? Ran had always felt pride in taking a person down without the loss of life. "Thatís what prison is for! What, you just go about your way killing everybody Kritiker tells you to, without any question or doubts whatsoever? Three people dead, all in a dayís work for you?"

A chilly voice snapped back "thatís our job. And it will be a lot more than three people by the time weíre done. Why do you think they picked WeiŖ for this mission in the first place? You were warned, Honjyou. Welcome to the dark side of Kritiker. Not everybody gets through the day without being covered in blood."

Heíd known, ever since hearing the news that the redhead had rejoined the organization, what it was that the man did for a living. But it was so hard to reconcile this cold Aya with his passionate Ran. To acknowledge that the young man killed people on a nightly basis, just for a paycheck. "What the hell happened to you, Ran?"

"/Itís Aya/. Life happened, Honjyou. Now can you see why I left Crashers?" The blond didnít respond, just looked away to a corner. Suddenly realizing that his body was tense, as if ready for a fight, Aya forced himself to relax back into Yohjiís arms. His boyfriend raised a hand to brush back his bangs and kissed him on the temple. "What else did Manx say, Omi?"

"Uhm, Yotan, youíre to find out if Kisaragi knew anything about the assassinations. If soÖ." the boyís voce trailed off as once again Yuushi glared at the assembled assassins.

"So sheís to die as well, never mind the fact that youíve spent the past two nights charming her? You can still kill her?" he demanded to know.

"If I have to, yes. But sheís not involved, just an unlucky woman in love with an idiot. From what I can tell Soma keeps her far away from that aspect of his life. Kisaragi doesnít even know what heís done that requires the increase in bodyguards." Yohji couldnít decide which urge was stronger, the need for a cigarette or smacking Honjyou upside the head.

Omi tried to move the conversation on. "That leaves you, Ken. Find out which, if any, of the clubís employees are involved in the illegal activities." Yuushi didnít say anything this time, just made a noise of disgust at the sight of four young men deciding who they killed and who lived.

Ken sat on his hands, feeling one of the same impulses that Yohji did. "I think only the upper management is involved. Itís the yakuza that sell the drugs and run the prostitutes and games. I imagine weíll be taking them out when we make a go at Soma."

"Most likely. The clubís to be destroyed as well." The archer turned to face their guest. "Can I count on you to manage that, Honjyou? It can be blown up on the off hours, when no oneís there. Also can you take care of the bank accounts and the other assets?"

"Yes." The word was bitten out. "What are the rest of you going to do, pick them off one by one?"

"No. A list will be handed over to Kritiker concerning the employees, but Soma, his muscle, Hirohata and Kitayama will have to be handled in the same night. Which will be as soon as we can locate Soma and make the arrangements." Omi regarded the man with blue eyes much older than they should be. "You arenít to be involved with any of the murders. If our plans offend you so much, you can always leave. Youíve already contributed greatly to this assignment, and helped find the person responsible for your friendís death."

"Iím not leaving, not yet. I was sent to see this thing through, to make sure Soma pays. And I will." The Crasherís jaw was set and he swept the room with his eyes, scowling at the seated killers. "Just because I disagree with your methods doesnít mean I canít be of more assistance. Iíve been in touch with a few contacts that can help out in dealing with Ueno and his pals." Yuushi stood up. "Now if you will excuse me, I need to get ready for tonight." Making his way to the steps, the agent was stopped by a deep voice calling out his name.

"Knight, donít even think of warning Kitayama about whatís going to happen. If he or the woman disappear, you will be viewed as a traitor as well."

Yuushi whirled around, face pale and mouth tight. "What are you trying to say, Ran? That you will add me to your little list of Ďpeople who need to die nextí?"

"If Kritiker commands it, yes." The dark purple eyes gazed at him evenly, showing no hint of emotion. "I would have no choice but to obey the order." If it meant WeiŖ or Honjyou, the man would lose. Heíd already killed one old friend. Something on the redheadís face must have expressed this.

"Youíve made your pointÖ. Aya." With that the elegant blond left.

*******

Surveying the club, Aya felt a tension sing through his body that usually wasnít there unless WeiŖ were about to undertake mission, weapons in hand. He didnít normally feel it while doing undercover work. But there was just something in the air tonight, telling him that things were about to happen. Important things that he needed to pay attention to. Attempting the fathom out the feeling, the redhead was interrupted as a scarred hand clamped down on his shoulder and remained.

"Ready for another game?" Ueno asked as he leaned in close. Aya refused to show any reaction or try to move away.

"Of course." As soon as the hand was removed he walked over to the waiting player, intent on the new game. It had come as a surprise when heíd started playing earlier, the sense of warmth that returned to his body. While he still felt a little cold, it was the warmest heíd been all day. However it faded away when he stopped, leaving him aching with its loss. All the more reason for him to keep playing, especially since Ueno had to back off and give him some space at those times.

The yakuza was keeping very close tabs on him tonight. Must be upset at him shaking off the tail last evening. Ueno didnít seem to be taking any chances of that happening again, and remained nearby at all times. Him and the purple haired fellow. Aya hadnít even been able to go to the bar and get a drink for himself, every time he tried there was another game that he Ďcouldnítí resist. It must be the gangstersí scrutiny that left him with the impression that he was being watched.

So he won that game, and the one after that, and another. He hadnít lost all night, nor last night as well. The stakes kept getting higher as people waited for his luck to break, but Aya knew that wouldnít happen. Not as long as he wanted to win. The redhead had already won enough money to pay Aya-chanís hospital bills for the next few months. He made sure to claim his cash after each game, knowing that heíd have to sneak away again tonight.

A quick survey revealed what the rest of his teammates were up to. Yohji was once again over in the booth with Kisaragi, who appeared very determined to get drunk that evening. Ken was being kept busy supplying her drinks. Yuushi, who had ignored him ever since the meeting, was sitting with Kitayama and not looking very happy. Aya hoped he kept his mouth shut, it would be very painful to kill the man if he let stupidity and a conscience get in the way of the mission.

Deciding to take a break, the redhead returned to his table, where of course there was a yakuza standing there to discourage anyone from talking to him. Except Ueno, who came right on his heels. Aya cursed under his breath, it really was too bad that he couldnít kill the man just yet.

The gangster peered at him anxiously. "Whatís the matter, Fujimura? You feeling faint again? Still look too pale, you know."

"ÖÖ" What was it with everyone having to point that fact out? One would think theyíd be used to his appearance by now. "So Iíve heard. Just wanted to sit down for a few minutes."

Ueno set a drink in front of him. "Here, have a shot. Itíll put a little color on your face, gods know you could use it." Aya ignored the drink and sat back in his chair, closing his eyes as if he could wish away the club and all the people in it. Several minutes later a hand grasped the blue sweater he was wearing and jerked him forward. Resisting the impulse to punch the other man, Aya just glared at him instead. "I donít like people ignoring me."

"I donít like people forcing themselves on me or grabbing me, now let go."

"No. You need to understand something, Fujimura. I tell you to do something, you better damn well do it if you donít want to get hurt. And if you want to keep making some money. Youíre a bright boy, and seem to know the deal pretty well. So donít try and tell me you donít understand the fact that I own you now, since the second you came under my protection. That means you play pool and keep winning and do what I say unless you want your hands broken. Kind of hard to win any money then, right?" The redhead remained silent and bumped the look up to shi-ne level. Slightly unnerved with the scowl he was receiving, Ueno let go of the smaller man and pushed the shot towards him. "Now drink it."

Two things immediately happened. First Aya calmly picked up the liquor and turned it over, spilling it on the table. Next came a large hand, smacking the pale man across the face with brutal force, splitting open his lip. Aya rocked back with the blow, forcing his hands to remain still on the table. A small part of his mind was thankful that Kisaragi was distracting Yohji sufficiently enough that the blond didnít see the incident. Raising a slender hand to his lip, he wiped away the blood as he glared back at Ueno.

The man just stared at him, black eyes narrowed in anger. Once more his sweater was grabbed and he was yanked forward. "What the hell are you thinking?"

"That Iím not one of your boys over there. I donít play elsewhere, and I donít try to cheat you out of any money. /That/ is what I signed on for, and youíve been doing very well by me the past few nights."

Ueno felt the urge to slap the redhead again. Fujimuraís attitude was getting to him, the way the man constantly remained out of reach. For some reason there was a need to break the quiet man, to make him come to heel. It was more than just the gorgeous face and physique that attracted him, but he couldnít say what it was. Of course the more the man repulsed his moves the more he wanted him. "You listen very closely now, Iím about to define a new set of terms. And donít think for one moment that I wonít carry through with my threat from earlier, there are a lot of ways I can make a ton of money off of someone looking like you do. From now onÖÖ"

"Red! There you are! Iíve been looking all over for you. Didnít you say weíd meet by the bar at ten pm?" What at first appeared to be a girl flung himself into Fujimuraís arms, long hair and plaid skirt sent whirling about. But once Ueno got a better look at the foreigner he realized it was a man. Was he a cross-dresser or something? Didnít seem to be wearing any makeup.

The redhead gritted out a question. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"See I knew youíd forget about mentioning this place to me the other night and inviting me down. Some friend you are. I think you owe me a drink in return." The longhaired man latched on to Ayaís arm and started dragging him towards a bar. A broad shouldered gangster stepped into their path, stopping both of the slender men. "Pardon us, urgent need for alcohol, get out of the way."

Stepping behind Fujimura, Ueno snaked an arm around his waist and pulled the smaller man close, smiling at the way the slim body stiffened. "Iím not through with you. Weíll continue the conversation later, count on it. And donít try to sneak away again tonight or youíll really piss me off. Not a good idea." Trailing his hand up the redheadís chest, he wished him a fun break with his friend and that he be back to play pool in twenty minutes. Nodding to Yoshioka to move out of the way, the dark eyed man watched the two men until they were out of sight.

*******

Dragging Aya away from the bastard as fast as he could, Teddy didnít stop until they arrived at the bar heíd spotted Brown-eyes at when heíd entered the club. A bit of investigating (Mickey would call it snooping) on his part had led to the discovery that Kudohís date was the girlfriend of a club owner. So heíd rearranged his schedule at work, agreeing to work lunches for the next two weeks just so he could have a night free to check out the blond. Just to make sure that the man wasnít lying in the first place and if he hadnít to remind him of their deal.

Not too long in the club heíd stumbled across Brown-eyes, and was faced with the fact that Kudoh had told the truth. So he stuck around, looking for the blond so he could set up a night for the date. Glancing around, heíd spotted another foreigner with long, reddish hair. Heíd gotten quite skilled over the years of spotting all the non-Japanese people in crowds. Something about the man was familiar, but Teddy couldnít place just what. Walking over to the man, thinking of striking up a conversation until he remembered where heíd seen the guy before, the American found himself looking over to where the redhead had his attention focused. Nearly bumping into a couple as he stumbled forward blindly, he saw Red finish up a game of pool and go sit at some little table. As soon as the pale man sat down some thug in an expensive suit joined him, and from the looks of it proceeded to piss Red off. Not a particularly hard feat, Teddy was forced to acknowledge, though usually Fujimiya saved that certain glare until he was ready to rip your heart out.

Next came the blow, stunning the American and making him cry out. The red headed man on his right reacted as well, snarling something under his breath and taking a step forward before coming to a halt. Spinning around, pale green eyes locked onto blue, and Teddy found himself filled with an impulse to go do something. Racing over to the table, he slipped past a bodyguard as he called out to his friend, tearing him away from the dark eyed man whoís hand was twisted in the blue sweater a second time.

The look on Redís face had been priceless. Teddy had talked fast, trying to keep his friend from ruining his story and just wanting the get the man as far away from the yakuza as he could. His heart had skipped a beat when the other gangster blocked their path, the fear turning to anger as once again the scarred man mauled Fujimiya, but they were shortly let go after a threat was muttered. Now safe at the bar, the American turned around to examine his friend.

He winced at what he saw. "Man, what did that guy hit you with, a 2x4? Your face is starting to match your eyes." Speaking of which. "Uhm, did you buy some new contacts, Red? I donít think itís me, but your eyes look a lot darker tonight."

"Teddy, what the /hell/ are you doing here?" Aya tried not to flinch as he broke open the cut on his lip by yelling at the kilted idiot. "Do you have any idea what you just walked into back there? Why are you at this club?"

"Hey, I see a pal getting smacked around, I try and do something. Consider it a return on the favor you did me a couple weeks past." At this point Ken had finally noticed the two men and walked over to see what they wanted, doing a double take when he recognized Stout. The puzzled brown eyes widened even further when he caught sight of Ayaís bruised and bleeding face. The brunet quickly threw some ice in a bar towel and handed it to his teammate. "What the hell happened? Kudohís going to flip when he sees you," Ken hissed out, earning a glare from Aya.

The redhead ignored the question as he snatched the towel and pressed it to his face. "Once more, what are you doing here Stout?"

"Give us two beers, Brown-eyes." Attention back on the irate redhead, Teddy explained. "I came here to check up on your boyfriend. He was in my restaurant last night with some strange woman, and I was just making sure his story checked out and he wasnít cheating on you. I didnít expect to walk into the place and find some yakuza treating you like a punching bag." Filled with righteous indignation, the foreigner pulled himself up to his full height and leaned in close, ignoring the scowl he was receiving. "You want to tell me whatís going on here? I find it hard to believe that youíd work some side job that has a guy bitch-slapping you left and right. I wanna hear the real story behind whatís happening."

Wiping away a thin stream of blood that trailed down his face, Aya pressed the ice pack closer, hoping it would take away the throb of pain in his face. Ueno must have loosened a tooth or two with the hit. "You were already told the truth. And stick to nicknames here, itís much safer."

"I know, your boyfriend already told me that." Oh ho, from the looks of it Kudoh hadnít told Red about their little meeting last night. The dumb blond better not even be thinking of reneging on their bargain. But it didnít look to be the best time to fill Fujimiya in on that little detail. "Listen, Iím here right now, the damage is done. Consider yourself stuck with me for the rest of the night. The bastard tries to hit you again he has to go through me. Just wish Iíd brought Mickeyís bat with me."

Dark purple eyes closed for a second, contemplating some inner vision with horror. "Please donít tell me heís here too."

"Nah, gave him the slip tonight. Didnít want his big brother routine to get in the way, once I heard about what really goes on in this place." Mickey had been acting suspicious all day, as soon as heíd heard about the shift change, but Teddy had lied through his teeth and told the older man that he just wanted to spend a couple of nights with Koyu. He was pretty sure his sibling had bought the story. Ken returned with their drinks, an anxious look on his face. "Thanks Gorgeous, what does Red owe you?"

The brunet blushed slightly at the compliment as he set the pints down, gazing intently at Aya. "Itís taken care of. Some of the yakuza are asking around about the two of you, making sure you havenít left. I think Uenoís stationed a few guys at the exits." The two assassins passed a meaningful look, then the redhead deposited the towel on the bar. Picking up his beer, Aya mumbled thanks as he headed back to the pool tables. Teddy let out a yelp as he snatched his drink and hurried after the redhead.

Catching up to the man, Teddy asked a question. "What are we going to do? Sounds like it will be a little tricky getting you out of here, and I donít think you want to stick around for that little chat."

"Itís me they want to keep an eye on, youíll have no problem leaving." Aya rubbed his temples, feeling pressure building in his head. "Something will happen, I know it. I just have to wait til then. Go home, Stout, things are going to get ugly. Donít want you here for that."

Teddy just latched on to the pale manís arm. "No fucking way. Youíre stuck with me. Koyu will never speak to me if I let you get killed or snatched away by some two-bit gangster before he gets a chance to meet you. Consider me your bosom buddy until we get you safely out of here.

Aya paused to wonder what the hell it was that he had done to offend the fates so badly.

*******

Snatching at the pair of hands that were trying to find their way under his fitted tee, Yohji swiftly stood to his feet. "Iím going to get another round, be right back." The last thing that Kisaragi needed was some more alcohol, but he required an excuse for getting away from her. It seemed that a certain lady was intent on forgetting all about her absent boyfriend tonight. Unfortunately she was going to get the current object of her affections beaten to a bloody pulp with her actions, if the looks Yohji was receiving from her bodyguards was any indication.

Sighing as he jerked his hands through his hair, Yohji stole a quick glance at the pool tables he passed by. Aya was busy playing once more, and from all appearances still kicking ass. The blond almost fell face forwards though when he caught sight of the figure cheering his lover on. What the hell was Teddy doing here, and with Aya of all people? The foreigner was like a curse, following them around everywhere. And he still hadnít told the kitten about the deal Stout had blackmailed him with. Yohji was hoping to hold off on doing so until after their getaway weekend. He wanted to be in one piece for that event.

As usual he made his way over to where Ken was busy pouring drinks. It was so fun to tell the soccer player to put the drinks on Kisaragiís tab. Yohji had to resist the urge to stick his tongue out at the other assassin and say ĎI told you soí. Nothing better than spending the night drinking unless it was when someone else paid for all the alcohol. Smiling at Ken, the lanky man was a bit nonplussed to see the serious expression on the brunetís face. "Something wrong?"

Ken debated telling the blond his bit of news, but knew he had to. "You hear about the incident between uh, ĎRedí and Ueno yet?" Judging from the suddenly curious expression on Kudohís face, it was a safe bet the answer was no. No wonder the club was still standing. "All Iím going to say is thereís trouble brewing on that front, and Ueno isnít letting him just walk out of here tonight. So be on guard." Stepping away to get the alcohol he needed for the drinks, Ken had his wrist snatched and felt himself be jerked back towards the bar.

Green eyes glared at him, blazing in a face set with anger. "What do you mean by Ďincidentí? What did the fucker do to Aya?"

Great. Just what the mission needed, a pissed off jealous boyfriend. It had been bad enough when Honjyou had made his way to the bar, steaming from witnessing the slap and helpless to do anything about it. The Crasher had all but promised to rip the gangsterís arm off if he did it again. "He hit him." Ken desperately grabbed at Yohjiís arm, digging in his heels to keep from getting hauled over the bar. "Wait a minute," he hissed out. "Ayaís fine, if a bit bruised. You go charging over there and thereís no telling who will get hurt. Just concentrate on coming up with a plan for getting the man out of here tonight." Yohji gave him a very good impression of his loverís best shi-ne glare, but settled back at the bar and waited for his drinks. Handing them over, Ken added that their teammate would kill the blond if he let his possessive feelings interfere with the mission. "So donít do anything stupid and just sit tight."

Anger tearing at his insides, Yohji made his way back to Kisaragi. Passing by Aya once again, he carefully inspected the redhead, trying to see any signs of injury. The manís crimson hair was covering a good deal of his face, casting shadows over the rest of it. Not wanting to draw the attention of the goon squad clearly standing nearby to keep a watch on the pale man, Yohji kept heading back to his booth. It probably was a good thing he didnít see anything, else heíd have lost it and started tearing into the bastard responsible.

Once back at his table, all thoughts of Aya and trying to figure out a way to get him safely home fled his mind as Kisaragi intensified her assault. For the next half hour or so he was constantly trying to scoot away from the woman and keeping her hands off of him. It felt like he was being attacked by a damn octopus, each time he thought he had both wrists firmly in his grasp he felt yet another hand on his thigh or up his shirt. "Kisaragi-san, uhm, arenít you forgetting about somebody? Like your boyfriend perhaps?"

Drunk and frustrated with having been ignored for too long, the brunette just shook her head as she tried for her dateís belt buckle. "Yuzoís obviously not very concerned about me, I havenít seen him for more than two weeks and he keeps putting me off. And call me Miho. What do you say to us having a bit of fun, heh? I thought we were here for a good time." It was hard getting the words out, as drunk as she was. A part of her was appalled at this behavior, but another part was hoping that one of her boyfriendís thugs would call the standoffish prick and heíd come charging down here to put a stop to things.

"Well, my lover is most definitely concerned about me, and will kill me if Ďsheí finds out about this. Iím sorry, but Iím really not interested. Flattered yes, but not willing to cheat on my girlfriend." Yohji grabbed the womanís hands quite tightly and held them up as he glared at Miho. Watching as the contact tinted eyes filled with tears that trickled down her face, he immediately released his hold. "Iím sorry Kis- ah Miho, didnít mean to grab on so tight."

Shaking her head at the man as she waved the approaching bodyguards away, she sobbed out that he hadnít hurt her. "Why canít Yuzo be like you? All I want to do is see him." Miho buried her face in her dateís chest. Uncomfortably cradling the crying woman in his arms, Yohji patted her back as he soothed Ďthere thereí, looking up to catch the eye of one of the bodyguards. The dark suited man edged forward to claim Kisaragi, holding her close.

"Weíll take her home, itís obvious that sheís had too much. The yakuza spared the blond a grateful look, relieved that he hadnít tried to make a move on his bossí girlfriend. Yohji just let out a sigh of relief at seeing the three leave the club, freeing him to deal with the problem at hand. Wracking his brains to try and find a solution, he broke out of his thoughts as several gangsters rushed past the table, cursing and barking out orders. Getting up and walking over to a group of people, he asked what was going on. "Something happened in the menís room. I heard a guy talking about a body."

Glancing about the room in panic, Yohji felt the constricted muscles in his chest relax at the sight of Aya dodging through the crowd, alive and well with Teddy attached to his arm like a leech. Thank the gods that his lover was safe. The blond started following the two men, eyes searching for anyone trailing them.

*******

 

Ueno watched as Yoshioka handed Fujimura a thick wad of money that was his part of the winnings from the last game, contemplating what the redhead was up to. The man in question returned back to the pool tables to face another challenger, the foreigner in a skirt right by his side and yelling encouragements everytime he sunk a ball. Weird man. The yakuza was hard-pressed trying to figure that relationship out. Fujimura couldnít seem to stand the longhaired man, given the way he was glowering at him, but each time another yakuza tried to separate the two men he would grab the Americanís arm and jerk him close. Nice to know there was a weak spot to go after if the redhead refused to behave. Seemed he didnít want this ĎTeddyí to be hurt. Ueno already had men looking into exactly who the foreigner was.

For the most part content with the way this evening was going, Goro decided to take a quick break, walk around the club and hit the john. Yoshioka would watch over Fujimura while he was gone and make sure he didnít disappear again. A smile broke out over the gangsterís face as he looked forward to the conversation later. It was going to be fun teaching the man his proper place. And very enjoyable.

Circuit of the club done, he headed for the menís room. Relieving himself at the urinal, Ueno didnít pay much attention to the other men in the room leaving. He was too busy thinking of what exactly he wanted to do to Fujimura that night and what would be saved for later. Turning around as he zipped up his pants, the yakuza was surprised to find the room empty except for him and another longhaired foreigner, this one with impossibly reddish orange hair. He grunted at the man and made his way to the sink.

The stranger came up right behind him. About to whirl around and snarl at the man, maybe shove him away, Ueno was shocked to find he couldnít move. "ĎN Abend, Arschloch."

Schuldig leaned over the Japanese man, a look of evil anticipation on his face. "Donít bother to try talking or moving, your motor functions just went on strike. And donít expect anyone to be coming to your rescue either, strangely enough everyone has forgotten that this room exists. Just you and me for the next few minutes." He scanned Uenoís mind, delighting in the confusion and panic that he found in there. And the burning question of why this was happening.

<Ah, you want to know how the hell I can do this to you? If I were you Iíd be more concerned on the why. Youíve been a very naughty boy tonight, and Iíve come back here to teach you a lesson.>

The telepath reached out and grabbed Uenoís right hand, stroking the scars with a light touch. "You should be more careful of whoís property you abuse, donít you know. I was going to have a little chat with you tonight anyways, make sure that you understood that ĎFujimuraí wasnít yours to play with. However your display of temper has changed things considerably." The pale green eyes glittered with fury as Schuldigís grip squeezed the limb painfully. He released it as he sensed the other manís pain. "I will /not/ tolerate anyone laying a hand on the Kštzchen, let alone harm him. Very bad mistake that you made there."

Ueno stood there, mentally praying to the gods that this was all one strange dream. And trying to figure out how Fujimura was a part of this, he was just a pool shark. Schuldig chuckled at the thought. <Wondering what the man has to do with all of this? Simple enough, heís /mine/. In more ways than you can imagine. Your stupidity is going to cost you your life. Never should have touched him. I could have understood everything up to that point. After all, itís not all your fault that you want him. Some people just canít help it, like you and the Flachwichser out there. A part of you recognizes that the dear boy is extremely precious, and wants that power all to yourself. Itís very easy to mistake it for desire. But chasing after him is one thing, threats and violence is another. Abyssinian could tell you that Iím not a very forgiving person under the best of circumstancesÖ.>

"Punch the mirror." Ueno wanted to yell out and curse the man, tell him to go fuck himself and shoot the spooky bastard dead, but to his horror he saw his hand lift up and shoot towards the glass covered wall. Desperately trying to stop it, he whimpered in pain as the limb struck the mirror at full force, shattering the glass and breaking a couple bones. "Do it again." Once more the arm pulled back and then sailed forward, breaking more bones and driving the glass shards deep into the torn flesh. The scarred man felt everything. "And again, until I tell you to stop." The action kept on repeating as tears and blood from a bitten tongue traveled down Uenoís face, and his hand was reduced to a bloody pulp with shattered glass and bone fragments poking out. Heíd hoped to pass out from the pain as the mangled limb kept hitting the wall, sending blood everywhere, but that escape eluded him. Behind him Schuldigís grin grew wider and wider as he drank in the pain and despair. "The other hand now." Ah, this was so delicious, watching as the man irreparably maimed himself, all the sweet pain his to savour, helping to soothe the fury that had risen up as he watched the Arschloch hit his tuberose.

The whimpers of anguish that his telepathy couldnít force the man to hold back reminded the German of the situation at hand. This was fun, but playtime needed to come to an end. "Stop now." Pulling out his gun, Schuldig moved over to Uenoís side, so as to point the weapon between the yakuzaís eyes. He wanted the man to see his death coming, the anger at seeing his heart struck had not fully been assuaged. "This is fun, you know, but I have other plans for the night. One of them is creating a little diversion so Abyssinian can get away. Can you guess what that means?" Oh, it was so delightful, the pleas that filled Uenoís head, begging not to be killed. "Sorry, no mercy for naughty boys." Mouth stretched wide in a smile, the telepath hummed under his breath as he pulled back the trigger, watching as the back of the Japanese manís head exploded. He released his hold on the dead manís muscles, letting the body slump to the floor.

Taking the time to let the gun cool down before he returned it underneath his jacket, Schuldig checked out his image in an unbroken mirror and with a wet cloth dabbed away the flecks of blood and meat that spotted his hand and jacket. Whistling a cheerful tune as he repaired his appearance, Schuldig felt the tension that had knotted his muscles ever since heíd followed Abyssinian here and watched the yakuza try and make a move on the assassin finally ebb away. No one was allowed to touch his property, let alone assault it. He barely tolerated Balineseís presence to begin with, forced as he was to bide his time and let the blond live until Bradley said they didnít need him alive anymore. That was his limit. Now one irritant was down, one more to go. The Kštzchen was doing a pretty good job of keeping that Wichser at bay, heíd continue to monitor the situation until a more direct mode of intervention was necessary. That would be every bit as enjoyable as tonight had been. Putting his gun away, Schuldig took another minute to survey the mess heíd left behind. The things one did when they were in love. Hee.

*******

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