Of Cups and Wands

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Chapter 6

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Tension building in his head, Aya concentrated on sinking this last shot. Just as the eight ball sunk in the back right pocket he felt a snapping sensation, making him abruptly stand upright. Trying to maintain his disinterested faÁade, he quickly walked over to Yoshioka and claimed his winnings for the game. As soon as the cash was safely tucked into an already stuffed pocket, the redhead mumbled something about needing another drink and walked back to the pool table to snatch Teddyís arm. Dark purple eyes speared into the Americanís pale blue ones, and any questions the younger man had were cut short. The two men swiftly departed the game area.

They had to get out of the club. There was a little voice whispering inside Ayaís head, telling him that now was the time. On the way to one of the bars there was a loud scream. Teddy tried to crane his head over the crowd and find out what was going on, but his pale friend kept dragging him over to the jam-packed bar, stopping behind several people already in line for a drink. As soon as half a dozen yakuza ran past them on the way to one of the menís rooms Aya was once more in motion. Seeing several dark suited men rush from the front of the club, he decided to go out the main door. Everyone would expect him to leave from one of the emergency exits, after all.

He didnít bother to get his coat. Ken would take care of it later if possible, and if not there was nothing in it to link Aki Fujimura to an Aya Fujimiya or the Koneko no Sume Ie. Timing their departure until a large pack of people tried to leave the club at the same time, clearly not wanting to take any chances with whatever had grown men screaming their heads off, Aya pulled Teddy along with him into the center of the crowd. Finally out of the club, the assassin decided it would be best to take a roundabout way to his car. He knew that the foreigner didnít drive, so he could just give him a lift home once they made it safely to his Porsche.

Planning to dodge down a side street, Aya cursed at a loud voice calling out for him to stop. Ducking into a crevasse between the club and another building, the redhead shoved Teddy to the back and assumed a defensive stance at the entrance. And waited there. Shortly he heard the sound of a scuffle on the sidewalk, and curiosity soon won out, causing the pale man to peek around to see what was happening.

Mickey was standing behind a yakuza who was sliding face forward down a wall, body limp with unconsciousness. "Red." The burly American just nodded his head and said the one word, paying the stunned assassin slight heed as he peered around him for his brother. "I know youíre back there Theodore, come on out. No more goons around here for the time being." Aya was rewarded with the sight of Teddy meekly walking out of the dark alley, an expression of contrition on the puckish face. "How did you find me, Mickey?"

"Nowís not the time," Aya quickly cut in, looking about him before he continued walking down the street. Both of the foreigners decided to follow him as he swiftly backtracked down several streets and alleys, making sure no one was tailing after them. Half an hour later the three men finally made it to the parking garage where the swordsmanís Porche was. It was clear as soon as they exited the stairwell that someone was standing by the sports car. Ayaís muscles relaxed when he got close enough to recognize Yohji.

Yohji did a double take when he realized who the two men with him were. "What the hell is this, a Bacchus reunion? Seiichi going to make an appearance next?" The teasing smile on the blondís face faded as he got a good look at Aya. Letting out a string of curses, Yohji grabbed ahold of his loverís chin and tilted his head up as his other hand brushed back the long bangs. The lower left hand side of the pale manís face was covered with a darkening bruise, a lip swollen and split. "It was that fucker Ueno, wasnít it? Heís dead." Aya glared up at him, jerking at a gold wrist to get him to let go.

Once free he asked the older man if anyone had traced him back to the car. As Yohji shook his head he keyed the alarm, disengaging it and unlocking the door. Ayaís voice drifted back to the assembled men as he searched his coupe for something. "We need to get out of here. Yohji, can you give the Stouts a ride to either their home or car?" Turning around in time catch his teammateís nod, the redhead busied himself with tying a bandana over his hair, disguising the crimson locks. Yohji stepped close to assist in the task, tucking away a few stray strands. "Here, you better wear these as well." He placed his sunglasses on his loverís face, smiling slightly as they slid down a pale nose. "Get home safely." Aya spared him a quick kiss before getting into his car and taking off.

Lighting a cigarette, the lanky man turned to face the two brothers. He nodded his head to indicate the Sportster parked not far away. "Good thing one of you guys is scrawny. Any preference on where I drop you off?" Mickey indicated that his car was parked a few blocks away.

Once all of the men were crammed in the vehicle and directions had been given, Yohji asked the burning question. "What the hell are the two of you doing here?"

"Thatís a very good question," Mickey responded, twisting in the front seat to look behind him at a very quiet Teddy. "I myself came down here to check up on a certain nosy twit who said heíd be spending the night with his boyfriend. After driving around forever looking for a parking spot I was about to enter the club when I saw Red and him racing out of the place. With some guy chasing after them."

"What happened to the guy?" Yohji inquired.

The big man smiled as he flexed his fingers. "I introduced him to two laws of physics. That two objects canít occupy the same space at the same time, and when a speeding object comes to a halt there will be a discharge of energy."

"Huh?"

Teddy spoke up for the first time since seeing his brother. "What Mr. Science is trying to say is that he slammed the goon into a wall."

"Who needs sports equipment when architecture will do just as well?"

"Hmph." Yohji lit a cigarette, needing some nicotine to calm him down. Between Aya being hit and sharing a small space with the two brothers, his nerves were a wreck. "Okay, that explains you, what about trouble sitting back there?"

"Why does everyone call me trouble?" Teddy whined. Green and grey eyes regarded him in astonishment as their owners twisted around to stare at him. Fortunately they were stopped at a red light. "All I wanted to do was make sure that Kudohís story was legit. That was it. Honest. Why are you guys looking at me like that? The lightís green, by the way."

They werenít buying it. "So you decide to go to a club you know is a known yakuza hang-out just to make sure a friend wasnít being cheated on. Without telling Koyu or me where you were going. If I hadnít decided to check up on you do you have any idea how much trouble you might be in right now?" Mickey asked.

Yohji added his two cents worth. "Tell the truth. You were looking for more ammunition to blackmail me with, werenít you, Teddy?" At the incredulous stare the younger manís brother was giving him, the blond elaborated. Once more grey eyes regarded the longhaired man, who was doing his best to sink back into the upholstered seat.

"Theodore Robert Stout. I canít believe youíd try to take advantage of a dangerous situation like that. Do you have any shred of decency or common sense in you?" Yohji snorted in doubt at that bit as he pulled up to where Mickeyís vehicle was parked.

"Hey, why am I the bad guy? I didnít smack Red, or sic the mob squad on us. If I hadnít been there the guy might have been in a real dilemma. Especially since his boyfriend was too busy cozying up to some slut to lend a hand." Teddy was flatly ordered out of the car by a fuming assassin and mortified sibling. Yohji could still hear the man protesting his innocence as he sped away, pausing only to make sure no one had followed them.

*******

Aya was intent on reaching the bathroom to survey the damage and take some medication when he walked into the Koneko. So of course that meant that Yuushi would be waiting for him in the kitchen, with Omi puttering around the coffee pot. The youth had been shocked to have someone return home so early, and once Honjyou had filled him in on what had happened at the club that evening had insisted on going downstairs to wait for Aya along with him. The redhead grunted at the worried faces and leaned against the counter, eager to get the questioning over with. Kudoh would be home soon.

Busy taking off the sunglasses and bandana, he hissed in anger as Yuushi came over and tilted his head to the side. "Jesus, he really nailed you, didnít he? Why?" The blond stepped back a few feet to give his friend some room, taking in how tense the man had become in his presence.

No one was surprised to hear a sparse answer and a diversionary tactic. "He was trying to boss me around, I wouldnít play along. Any idea what happened back there to freak the yakuza like that?"

Yuushi searched about for a towel which he promptly dampened with cold water and handed to Aya. "I was just telling Tsukiyono about it. No idea, all I know is they emptied the place pretty quick. Held one or two people back, from the looks of it they were just normal guys treated to a shocking sight. And a few of them were looking about for you. Took off at just the right moment." The redhead sighed as he cradled the compress to his face, and Omiís eyes narrowed in thought.

"I havenít a clue either, just that itís bad." Aya stared off in the distant for a moment, feeling about for something that he couldnít describe. There was a flare up of heat before a smothering wave of cold descended upon him. Shivering slightly, he hugged his arms tight against his body. For a moment he could have sworn he heard a woman whispering an apology. Coming back to himself, dark plum colored eyes regarded the two blonds watching him closely. "We need to find Soma right away. Somethingís been set into motion, and things are going to be stirred up the next few days. Itíll be the best time to take him down, if we miss it heíll disappear for good." Rubbing his temples, he asked Omi if the target had called his girlfriend yet. At the boyís negative response he replied, "He will, soon. Can you monitor police communications while youíre at it, try and find out what went on tonight? Just in case Ken doesnít find anything out either."

"Iíll get right on it, as soon as I get some caffeine in me. Since I donít have to be at class tomorrow I figured Iíd stay up a bit tonight, see what I can find out when trafficís not so bad. Why donít you go upstairs and take care of that cut, it looks nasty."

Aya nodded his head, then turned his attention to Yuushi. "Weíll need to combine all our information on the yakuza, figure out exactly where theyíll be and how many. Crashersí has more contacts in that department than WeiŖ. Can they be any help to us?"

"Yes. I already talked to a couple of them earlier, will try and catch a few more tomorrow. Then we can sit down together and see what weíre up against." Yuushi flashed a smile at the pale man, and was warmed to get a shadow of it back. This was more like it had been before, the two of them working along side each other. Heíd missed this so much. Aya tossed the towel aside and hurried up the steps. Omi got out a thermos and began to pour the just brewed coffee into it. He offered Yuushi the cup or so that was left when it was full.

"No thanks, I think Iím going to get ready and go to bed as well. That way I can be up early and try to track down a few people." The older man stared pensively at the doorway that Aya had just walked through. After a few minutes he voiced his thoughts. "Heís still doing it, isnít he?"

Omiís hand tightened on the thermos. "Doing what," he asked with false cheerfulness.

Yuushi gave him a rueful look. "Donít know if I can explain it properly. Bishop said it best, itís like Fujimiya can look at a tangle of knots and pluck out the one or two strands that you need. He was forever changing things at the last minute, throwing off all of Bishopís careful plans yet somehow making sure everything turned out right in the end. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, I do. Thatís why heís field leader." Keeping his eyes on the sugar he was adding to his coffee, Omi asked in a neutral voice. "Did you ever mention this to Kritiker?"

"Nah, by the time we realized what we had the team didnít want to lose him. We were afraid heíd be reassigned elsewhere." The gold eyes grew hard for a moment. "Didnít do us much good though, did it?" Omi just stood by the counter as Honjyou quietly left the room.

*******

A quick trip to the bathroom turned into another long hot shower, as Aya tried to rid himself of the cold sensation once again. And to get the scent of alcohol and cigarettes off his skin. Washing his hair a second time, he realized all he really was doing was hiding out in the bathroom. Angry with himself, he wasted no time rinsing and drying off, just wanting to get dealing with Kudoh out of the way. Wrapping a towel around his waist he picked up his clothes and stalked out the door, almost running into Yuushi as the man waited for his turn in the room. Mumbling an apology as he continued on his way, Aya pushed open his bedroom door, not surprised to find Yohji sitting on the couch, smoking a cigarette.

"íBout time there, kitten. I was beginning to wonder if you would ever get out of the shower." Yohji eyed the smaller man, taking in the still too pale skin and the damp blood red hair clinging to the delicate face. The purple bruise stood out in stark contrast to the other colors, and the blond ground out his cigarette in anger. "Had a short chat with Omi while I waited. Just what the hell was Ueno trying to order you to do?"

The redhead resisted the urge to storm back out of the room. "Welcome home, Kudoh. Can you give me a minute to get dressed here before the interrogation starts?" Yohji hmphed at the last part but remained silent as he watched Aya remove quite an impressive sum of money from his pants and toss the clothes into a hamper. The redhead then took off the towel and pulled on a pair of boxer shorts and the sweatshirt heíd been wearing earlier. Sitting down on the bed he started to dry his hair, prompting Yohji to get up and sit behind him, taking over the task. He just loved playing with Ayaís hair, combing out the silky strands and making the man purr in pleasure. As soon as the locks were mostly dry and in some semblance of order he held his redhead tight, enjoying the calm before the storm. Chances were very good heíd be sleeping on the couch tonight.

"What happened at the club, Aya?"

"ÖÖ. Ueno tried to get me to drink something. I refused, he objected."

Typical Fujimiya answer. The absolute bare bones, no embellishments or explanations whatsoever. Had he really expected anything else? Running his hands through his own locks in anger, Yohji tried again. "Now why didnít I guess that? A perfectly normal response there, donít you think. I want to know what the hell is going on between the two of you. Most guys donít knock the shit out of you or sic a bunch of gangsters on you for turning down a free drink." Another typical response, Aya just clammed up as his body grew tense. "Do we skip to the fight right now, or you going to drag this out a little more?"

"He wanted me to jump when he said so. I told him I was there to play pool, nothing else. Ueno wasnít going to take Ďnoí for an answer. You want to know what exactly he was thinking, go ask him. Iím not a telepath."

For once Aya was getting to the point in a relatively short amount of time. Though Yohji didnít need to ask the gangster just what exactly he was trying to get from the pale man. And not even Aya could be that oblivious, he was just avoiding the issue. Again. Time for the fight. "Youíre not going back to the club. Honjyou, Ken and I can handle it just fine, youíll stay home and help Omi." The playboy sat there in silence, waiting for the explosion.

Hugging the long arms around him tight, Aya tried to calm the anger and to think how he wanted this to go. As predicted, Yohji was playing possessive boyfriend. The normal, and so far only tried responses to this was either to freeze out the man or start yelling. Both would naturally lead to a loud battle, setting off another damn headache and a day or two of silent treatment. He wasnít sure if he was up to the drama tonight. Aya was cold and exhausted, feeling as if heíd been hollowed out, and his head was throbbing. Nothing too bad right now, but why aggravate matters? It was getting monotonous.

Aya removed the arms about his waist and stood up. Yohji watched him warily as the blond gathered himself, clearly waiting for an attack of some sort. And was left puzzled as the quiet man walked over to his side of the bed and slid inbetween the sheets. "So Iím being ignored now?" he asked in indignation.

"No."

Totally thrown off by this change of tactics, Yohji got off the bed and stood at the foot of it, staring at his lover. After a minute he said aloud what he was pondering. "What the hell am I supposed to do now?"

"Shut up and get into bed would be my suggestion, but do whatever you like." A little extra body heat right now would be very nice, Aya thought as he pulled the down comforter close. Feeling Yohji sit next to him on the bed, he opened his eyes and gazed at the older man wearily. Clever fingers brushed back his bangs, and the redhead tilted his face into the caress.

Still trying to make sense of the situation, Yohji stared deep into his loverís eyes. They showed exhaustion and a hint of pain as well of irritation, but werenít iced over as normal when he was being shut out, or gleaming with fury. "Uhm, you did hear what I said, didnít you, about not going back to the club?" This was confusing as all hell. The eyes flashed more irritation before drifting shut.

Aya sighed as he snuggled deeper into the feather bed. "I heard you, just didnít think it was worth screaming Ďshi-neí at you all night long only to resume fighting in the morning. Canít we save that part until we wake up?" Because of his eyes being closed he missed the completely flabbergasted expression on Kudohís face. It wasnít like him to turn away from a fight, but what heíd said was true. Nothing would be resolved that night, might as well deal with it in the morning. Finally coming to that conclusion himself, Yohji got up and started to strip off his clothes before joining his lover in bed.

Spooning himself behind the smaller man, hands combing through the damp hair until Aya relaxed and sank back into the embrace, Yohji planted a kiss on his kittenís neck. "This is weird."

"Hn."

"No, really, I keep waiting for you to burst out of bed and start waving your damn sword at me. Or to get kicked out and told to sleep on the damn couch." Something suspiciously like a chuckle emerged from the pale manís mouth before he smothered the sound. "Though it makes sense, considering weíll be fighting well into the next day or two." Hands roaming downwards, Yohji pulled Aya close to him as they slipped underneath the sweatshirt. His lover was ice-cold once more, but quick to respond to the feather-light touches. "So do we save the make-up sex til later as well or no?" The delectable bottom being rubbed against his erection was answer enough. Aya sat up to pull his sweatshirt off and toss it aside before curling up facing Yohji.

Passion filled kisses gave way to panting and moans as Yohji rolled on top of the smaller man. Shortly after that he was thrusting into his lover, crying out the redheadís name as nails raked down his back. It was short and all consuming and mind blowing, just like usual after they had fought, desperate and hungry to find their way as deep inside the other as they could until they were one. But it lacked the hint of anger and hurt that had always lingered after an argument, tainting the pleasure just the slightest bit. Which usually drove them on and on until exhaustion masked the feelings. Tonight there was none of that, just determination to enjoy each other as much as they could before the negative things once again inserted themselves into the coupleís life. Satisfied, exhausted and warmer than heíd been for hours, Aya draped himself over his grinning lover, holding the man tight as one hand played with his hair and the other lit a cigarette. A voice echoed in his head, telling him to enjoy his knight as long as he could. Clutching the blond tighter, Aya drifted off to sleep seeking the threads that ensured that their time would last forever.

*******

<Wake up, little tuberose. We have to get you out of the house. You and the Wichser.>

Darkened eyes snapping open, Aya came awake, filled with the need to get out of bed and leave the Koneko. Resisting the impulse as he tried to figure it out, he felt a tugging sensation that kept shattering his concentration and made him carefully shift away from his sleeping lover. Having relied so heavily on his instincts these past couple years, he gave in to the urgings and swiftly got dressed. Grabbing some of the bills scattered about his dresser he shoved them into the jeans pockets and left the room.

It was still quite early in the morning, not even seven am yet. Considering that everyone had been up late last night because of the assignment, it was no surprise that he was the only one out of bed. After a brief stop in the bathroom he quietly made his way downstairs, approaching the sleeping figure sprawled out on the couch. Grabbing an exposed foot he yanked on the limb a few times before Yuushi sat up, grumbling and wiping at his eyes. "Hush, the others are still sleeping. We have to leave."

"Wha? Fujimiya, do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Itís not that early. Come on and get dressed. Iím treating for breakfast." Ignoring the glower being directed his way, the redhead went through the bag on the floor and threw a pair of jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt at the disheveled Crasher. "Now."

Grumbling some more under his breath, Yuushi reluctantly got up and did as he was told. As he dressed Aya straightened out the couch and hid his bag away, making the living room appear normal. Citing the need to use the bathroom quickly, the blond rushed upstairs as his pale friend hissed at him to be both fast and quiet. Returning back downstairs, Yuushi found Aya waiting for him in the kitchen, Kudohís glasses perched on his face.

The redhead led him several blocks away from the house to a small eatery. He selected a table in the back of the room, far away from the windows, and sat facing the door. Yuushi took the seat nearest him, trying to figure out Ayaís change of attitude. Yesterday heís barely let him get close, and for the most part when not ignoring him had been threatening him.

Having been caught at staring at the pale man, Yuushi offered a weak smile. "See you still heal pretty quick, but that bruise is going to need another day or two before it completely fades. Now why did you drag me out of bed?"

Aya fiddled with the menu for a second, not terribly sure himself. "Youíve been wanting an opportunity to talk to me, well now you have one." The waitress came over, granting him a brief reprieve. He ordered a bowl of rice and some miso soup along with a pot of tea. As Honjyou selected something off of the menu he toyed with Yohjiís sunglasses.

"Okay then, what do we talk about?" Yuushi inquired as soon as the waitress left. Aya asked him how the rest of Crashers was, and the time waiting for their meal was spent by the blond reminiscing over the past two years. He actually made the redhead smile a time or two.

When the food arrived the talking halted as the men ate. Spying a piece of rice clinging to Ayaís chin, Yuushi reached over to brush it away. The pale assassin flinched from his touch, scooting back in his chair. Plum colored eyes immediately looked downwards, suddenly fascinated with the teapot. Gritting his teeth together, the older man let his hand fall to the table. "I have a question for you now, Aya. What the hell happened to you. And I donít mean the career choice. You never were this skittish around me before. I think itís more than me just being an idiot in the exercise room the other day. Which Iím very sorry about. I never meant to scare you like that."

That got the manís attention. "You didnít scare me."

"Bullshit, I know fear when I see it, Fujimiya. You would have gutted me if you hadnít wanted to be out of the room so badly."

Tugging on his bangs, Aya pushed away his mostly empty bowls and rested his elbows on the table. "You startled me. I never thought youíd do something like that. IÖ. I canít ever feel about you the way you want me to. Thatís what I wanted to talk to you about. Canít you just back off?"

Hearing the words heíd been dreading to the past several days, Knight leaned in close, desperate for an explanation. "Why, can you tell me that much? Please Ran, Aya, whatever."

Taking a deep breath, the quiet man decided to face the issue head on. "I love Yohji. All you ever were was a friend, Yuushi. A good one, painful to leave behind. But I never thought of you as anything else. Even now, thatís all I think of you as."

"Whatís so special about Kudoh?" The blondís voice was harsh, filled with bitterness.

Aya sighed, resting back in his chair. He wrapped his arms about him as he tried to figure out what to say. It was so hard for him to put emotions into words. "He loves me back. You asked if I was with him because of what he does, what our jobs are. Thatís part of it. I know he can deal with what Iíve become, with what I have to do, because he does it as well."

"You never gave me a chance, Ran," Yuushi pleaded. "How do you know I canít handle that?"

"Because of yesterday. Admit it Honjyou, you were disgusted with us. With me. And you keep thinking that I am the same boy who worked along side you two years ago. Youíre back to calling me ĎRaní. I canít be that person, ever again, and you canít deal with me as I am now. Yohji can." The other man remained silent. "Yohji knows me almost better than anyone else. I can let my guard down around him. I can depend on him." Yuushi made a face at that last comment, clearly disbelieving that fact.

"Heís proved it. The man might aggravate the hell out of me, and be a possessive, hedonistic bastard most of the time, but he makes me feel safe. I believe him when he says heíll do anything for me."

"And you donít believe me."

"Thatís because you donít love me." Gold eyes blinked at him in puzzlement. "Admit it. You wanted me, and then I left. That just made you want me even more. And then you found me with someone else, and that just increased the feeling yet again. I know you Honjyou, the harder it is to get something, the more excited about it you are. Thatís why you always took the most difficult jobs. They gave you the most thrill. Iím not a thrill. You have no idea how hard it was to let Kudoh get close to me, and I only really gave in when he proved it wasnít just sex he wanted. And after I had to admit to myself that I loved him. It wouldnít be worth the pain and hurt to do that with you when I know youíd just move on to the next challenge." Aya sipped at his tea, throat sore with all the talking. The only ones he really had a conversation with anymore, banning mission discussions, were Yohji and his sister. He finished off the cup and poured himself another as Yuushi tried to work through what he had just told him.

Feeling as if part of his world had tumbled down upon him, the Crasher tried to figure out just what it was that he felt for his former teammate. Lust, that was a definite. Surely that couldnít be all though. Trying to remember all the fantasies heíd had concerning the redhead, all he came up with was sex and a few wishes that Ran was back by his side during a mission. Nothing else. There werenít any scenes like heíd seen at the house, with Ran merely resting in his arms like Kudoh always held him. Just the man giving in to him, letting Yuushi own and possess him. That couldnít be love, could it? Thoroughly confused, he silently finished his breakfast, thoughts directed inward.

Wondering if heíd made his point or not, Aya quietly paid the bill. The waitressís presence shook Yuushi from his reverie. The pale man regarded him sadly for some reason. Yuushi treated him to a slight smile. "Thanks. I wonít say it was one of the best breakfasts that I ever had, but it wasnít all bad. Weíre still friends, arenít we?" Aya nodded his head. Moving to squeeze a pale hand in relief, the blond was once more startled as Fujimiya jerked the limb back. "Thatís the second time this morning, now whatís the story behind this? You never acted like this before."

"I just donít like people touching me anymore." The redhead stood up, busy adjusting the glasses on his face. Before Yuushi could pursue the matter any further he was quietly informed that it wouldnít be a good idea if he returned to the house any time soon. "You said you were going to get in touch with some contacts, it would be best if you did it now. I have a few errands to run as well." Aya needed to see his imouto, and to get some refills on his medication. Heíd gone through too many pills lately, and most likely would keep doing so until the mission was over. He swiftly left the restaurant, leaving the other man behind.

*******

Ken was holding him down in a grassy field, busy tickling and kissing him. Omi pleaded for help, but Aya only grunted and Yohji yelled out for the brunet to pucker up more and tease less. In between laughs the youth heard the playboy remark to his lover that heíd gotten a few ideas of his own and why didnít they try them out while leaving the youngsters to their fun. Attempting to gasp out the word Ďtraitorsí to the older couple, Omi settled for just trying to breath. He didnít know what left him more winded, the kisses or laughing. Gazing up into deep brown eyes, the question became moot as all the air left his lungs at the look Ken was giving him. Leaning down once again, the broad hands finally left his stomach to settle on either side of his face, holding him still for a kiss that made his toes curl. So incredibly happy at the moment, Omi slid his own hands under the brunetís jersey, loving the feel of muscles under skin. Ken started to rock against him just asÖ..

Someone started to shake him awake, dragging him from the wonderful dream. Muttering curses, Omi opened his eyes to take in the shocked countenance of Manx. "What do you want," he snapped out.

"Omi, are you feeling okay? Youíre not usually this abrupt in the morning." He usually wasnít awakened from a very pleasant dream featuring another teammate, who was too stupid to figure out he was being lusted over. The youth softly apologized before asking the woman what she was doing in his bedroom at, pausing to look, seven thirty am. It took some effort to leave the word Ďhellí out of the sentence.

"Something came up that I need to talk to you and Fujimiya about. Can you wake him up?" There was no way in hell she was going to walk into that bedroom again unless she knew that both men were clothed and out of bed.

"Why? Is something wrong?" Omi was cursing once more, this time inwardly. He was supposed to keep Manx away from the swordsman, whose appearance still wasnít back to normal. He could even have sworn to have seen the manís eyes darken some more last night as he talked about the mission. But the female agentís presence didnít give him any choice.

Getting out of bed, thankful for his loose shorts, he quickly donned an over sized t-shirt. Dragging his feet the whole way down the hall, Omi opened the older menís bedroom door and stepped in. The curtains were tightly drawn, making the room dark. "Aya-kun, I need you to wake up. Manx is here, and she wants to talk to you." There was some stirring underneath the blankets. "Iím sorry, Ayan, Yotan."

A bloodshot emerald eye glared at him over the comforter. "Will you just shut the fuck up and leave me alone? Ayaís not here."

"Nani? Where is he Yohji? Are you sure?"

Manx popped her head around the door, trying to figure out what was taking so long. Not being able to see much she flipped on the light switch, illuminating a confused Omi and a bed containing only a scowling Yohji. Whose language was much more original and foul than the youthís. "Whereís Fujimiya?"

"No one seems to know. What the hell do you want this time? Donít tell me thereís another mission you need us to undertake," Yohji snarled out. He never flirted before ten am unless heíd still hadnít gone to bed.

"I need to talk to Fujimiya about last night." Giving the room a thorough examination, Manx was hard pressed not to let her surprise show. This wasnít what it had looked like the other day. "Go back to sleep, Iíll just talk to Omi for now." She left the room, and after offering the lanky man an apologetic look, Omi did the same.

Cursing under his breath, Yohji forced himself to get out of bed. Something was going on, that woman would never be here to talk to Aya about something good, so he needed to find out what it was about. And to try and figure out where the damn kitten had gone off to. Perhaps he was down in the flower shop? But that would be one of the first places Manx would look.

Once in the kitchen Omi bustled about brewing a pot of coffee. Having come down the steps he noticed that Honjyou was left the house as well, and his stuff tucked out of sight. While very grateful that the men were gone, it still puzzled him as to what had alerted them to the need of their departure. "Now what is this about last night? Did you find out what had happened at Sōdō?Ē Ken had come home just as much in the dark as the rest of them, only saying that word of a body in the menís room had leaked out before the staff was tossed out on the street, and speculation was it was one of the gangsters. The police scanner had been quiet as well; the matter had been quickly hushed up.

Manx nibbled on her lip, trying to figure out where the hell Fujimiya had disappeared to as well. The hospital maybe? But it was too early, visiting hours wouldnít be for another hour or so. "They found a body in the menís room, mutilated and shot. Does the name Goro Ueno sound familiar at all to you?"

The young archer almost dropped the mug heíd been setting on the table. "Heís one of the higher-up yakuza members at the club." And the one causing trouble for Aya. "What do you mean he was mutilated? Why does this concern Aya?"

"His hands had been beaten until every bone was broken. Shattered is more an adept description. It takes a good bit of time and effort to manage that, and so far the coroner says it looks self-inflicted. And finally he was shot by a Luger P8."

"He did it to himself?" The red headed womanís look disproved that theory. There was something familiar about the gun, but Omi couldnít place what.

"No one should be able to do that to themselves, not without passing out from the pain. Or under the influence of some serious drugs. Of which no signs have been found, weíre waiting for the tox report though. No, between that fact and the bullet, we suspect that Schwarz is involved. Mastermind to be specific."

That was why the gun was so familiar. Omi was going to kill the German bastard. Not that it had been in doubt before, but he was really going to relish the task now. The damn telepath had gotten all over him to keep Manx away from Aya, then had turned around and done something like this. Before he could form an appropriate response, a scowling Yohji burst into the room. The lanky blond had been eavesdropping in the hallway.

"Mastermind, are you sure?" Manx graced him with a dirty look, plainly not happy with his presence at the moment. There went the opportunity to talk to Omi in private about Fujimiya, maybe try and get a promise from the youth to notify her of any odd occurrences surrounding his teammate.

"There needs to be a test done on the bullet, to see if it indeed came from one of his guns, but Kritiker is pretty sure."

"Then what the hell does any of this have to do with Aya?" The playboy shouted out the question that Omi was dying to know.

Huffing a bit, the older woman took a second to glare at the young assassins. This was not how sheíd envisioned the morning going. Fujimiya was supposed to be tucked away in bed, available for her to pull aside and question. About whether or not Schuldig had been in contact with him lately. Kritiker was insistent on finding that out. There was no reason for the telepath to go after the yakuza, other than the fact that several witnesses had reported seeing Ueno harassing a pale redhead all night long. That had caught her employersí attention. "You probably arenít aware of this, but Fujimiya has a bit of a history with Mastermind. He knows him the best out of all of WeiŖ. I wanted to get his opinion on last nightís murder."

Both men knew she was lying through her teeth. It went way beyond asking the man for his opinion; Kritiker had experts to rely upon. Omi had found out about the dream visits when he had hacked into the swordsmanís private files, courtesy of Schuldig. Kritiker had used the mental intrusions as an excuse to order more physical and psychological tests for Aya. Reading the files closely, the youth could pick up hints that the psychiatrists hadnít been so interested in repairing any damage that the telepath did as much as try some subtle attempts at brain washing. No wonder the organization had been so upset when Aya had left after Crashers. He shouldnít have been able to.

Yohji knew exactly what that history entailed, his lover had confided in him about it, after The Bastard had let it slip about the dreams. He decided inform Manx about the fact of his knowledge, while trying to be careful of what he said in front of Omi. The chibi didnít know yet. "I doubt he can help you. Schuldig has been very far from his /mind/ lately." That got him the agentís attention, and another dirty look. "And if the prick was after Aya again, there would be a lot more blood, and some of it his. Schuldig seems to get his rocks off by hurting the man." Omi once more almost dropped something, this time the sugar bowl. The adults were too busy glaring at each other to notice.

That last remark about the Schwarz agent wasnít true, at least not anymore. However, there was no way the teenager could let his friends know that Schuldig had indeed been paying Aya a visit or two, in the physically sense if not the other. Not even the pale man knew about it. And the telepath didnít seem out for blood anymore, he wanted all of Aya now. "Iím not sure that Abyssinian could help you, Manx. Besides, if it was Mastermind, why didnít any of the team spot him at the club? Especially Aya and Yohji, they spend most of their time around the yakuza. Maybe it was just someone else, Lugers arenít exactly rare weapons."

Manx poked a finger in each ear, uncertain that she was hearing this correctly. Somehow Kudoh knew about the dreams, she would have sworn that Fujimiya would never tell him about them. And the man was in the position to know if his lover was suffering from the nightmares. Then there was Omi, dismissing Mastermindís presence. Besides Fujimiya, he had the most cause to hate the telepath. But he didnít seem very concerned right now. "Perhaps its not what we suspect. Please ask the man, though, if he has any idea why Mastermind or Schwarz would be involved in the matter. He can contact me at any time. Now I have to get going, there are a lot of matters to attend to." Most likely she wouldnít be able to stop by for another day or two, unless the ballistic test came back positive. "Iíll be in touch, this mission needs to be resolved soon." She left via the flower shop, deciding to check down there one last time.

Omi let out a sigh of relief while Yohji lit a cigarette. "All right, spill chibi. Where is the man? And I noticed that Honjyouís gone as well."

"Wah? I had nothing to do with that, Manx woke me up from a sound sleep." There was a hint of a blush on the youthís cheeks. It appears that it had been a bit more than just a sound sleep. Mayhap the little chibi had been dreaming as well? Yohji just smirked as he thought what those dreams must have entailed. And who. Omi quickly changed the subject. "Were you guys fighting last night? Maybe he left early because of that."

The smirk gave way to a frown, as the tall assassin treated the question to some serious consideration. "Nah, last night we declared dťtente. Battle was to resume today. I canít see Aya running from the fight. If anything I expected to wake up and find him sharpening his sword." That got a smile from the younger blond.

Abruptly tossing his cigarette into a coffee mug and shoving back his chair, Yohji jerked his hands through his hair. "Damnit, this is /so/ not good. Schuldig. If the fucker gets within ten feet of Aya I am gutting his ass, witnesses or not. Thereís no way Iím letting him start up his shit again. The kittenís still trying to get over what heíd been put through a couple months ago. Iím just now finally able to come up behind him unannounced without risking serious injury."

"Yeah, though Ken found that out the hard way. Aya almost broke his arm that one time, and it was just a few weeks ago." One thing was for sure, the athlete would never try and reach around the redhead from behind ever again. Kenís arm had been sore for days, and Aya had genuinely apologized once heíd calmed down. No, this was not good at all. "It might not be him after all. We should wait and find out for certain before we panic."

"Bullshit." The lanky man jumped up from his chair and paced around the kitchen, obviously upset. "I know itís him. Just canít figure out what the hell game heís playing this time. The only way Ayaís stepping back into that club is over my dead body." Knowing how stubborn the quiet man could be, Omi seriously hoped it didnít come to that.

*******

Entering the house, Aya set a box of pastries and his boyfriendís sunglasses down on the kitchen counter and wandered towards the steps. He wanted to drop off the medication bottles upstairs before heading into the shop and working on the dayís orders. The redhead made it up one step before long arms grabbed him around the waist and swung him back down on the floor. Forcing aside the impulse to attack the baka holding him, Aya settled into Yohjiís embrace.

"Where the hell have you been, love? I get woken up early only to find you missing, no note or anything." There was a touch of hysteria in the older manís voice, and he was being all but squeezed to death.

"Kudoh, let go," he managed to wheeze out as he was carried into the living room. Yohji ignored the command as he sat down on the chair with the smaller man in his lap, Ayaís legs on either side of his thighs. Before the redhead could say anything else he was kissed with a thoroughness that left him gasping for breath and his skin tingling. His struggles soon came to an end as he enjoyed the caress, arms curving around Yohjiís shoulders. Heavy lidded eyes regarded the blond when the kiss finally broke off, a smile hovering on pale lips. Ayaís sense of contentment swiftly departed as soon as his boyfriend opened his mouth to speak. "Youíre /not/ going back to the club."

Guess it was time for the fight to begin in earnest. "What the hell," Aya hissed out, "gives you the right to dictate what I can or can not do?" Gearing up for the argument heís postponed last night, the dark purple eyes narrowed in anger as he twisted about, trying to get off of Kudohís lap. The playboy held on to him firmly. "Let go of me. You canít go ordering me around, I wonít put up with this shit."

"Uenoís dead."

That got Aya to stop and look at Yohji in something other than a glare. "Ueno? He was the body in the menís room?" The blond head nodded. "Then what are you worried about now? He was the only one interested in anything other than my pool skills. The others might try to take some more money, but for the most part should leave me alone. Iím going back tonight."

"NO!" Even Yohji was startled at the volume of that denial. Once more being glared at, he tried to resist the impulse of shaking his obdurate lover until Aya just gave in. "Manx was here this morning, looking to talk to you. Do you have any idea who Kritiker is pinning the murder on?" The redhead refused to take a guess, body stiff and eyes shining with fury. "Well youíre going to love this. Itís your buddy, Schuldig." The purple orbs widened in shock when Aya heard the telepathís name. The slim body became even tenser and shook from the deep breaths he took to try and control the sense of panic filling him.

Schuldig. His own personal demon. The telepath delighted in tormenting him, taunting him in both dreams and reality. Last time Aya had barely managed to hold it together under the assaults, made all the worse by the fact that Schuldig had used Yohji against him. Heíd managed to fight back against the German, even score a victory of sorts. But the redhead had been mentally and emotionally prepared for that confrontation. Hearing the manís name so unexpectedly, finding out that he was back in their lives once more sowing mischief and death, it came as a shock.

Yohji pulled him close, holding on to him as if afraid heíd just disappear. Closing his eyes, Aya rested his head on the manís shoulder. Sensations assailed him, of being pressed tight against a porcelain sink, arms wrapped around him as a mouth moved down the back of his neck. A voice in his head, whispering how precious he was. It felt like a dream. Shoving the memory aside, Aya realized that Yohji was busy talking. "Ö.. fucking nuts. The Bastard is probably going to be there, waiting. You didnít listen to me last time. Well Iím not backing off now."

Aya tried to put some space between him and Yohji, but the older manís hold wouldnít let him budge. "Kudoh, what the hell are you babbling about?"

"No more club, Aya, Iím serious. We donít need you there. And Iím not taking the chance that Schuldig has something else in store for us. Last time was bad enough. Youíre still not over what happened. You think Iím going to give him another shot? No fucking way. Hate me as much as you want. Maybe I am being an over-protective prick, but you canít tell me that it will help the mission to have The Bastard gunning for you."

"Hn." Reaching for the hands clasped around his back, the pale man grasped them and pulled them apart. Finally able to lean back, Aya regarded the blond, trying to push down the anger and panic. Yohji had a point, dammit. If Schuldig was involved, then he could make any endeavor Aya was occupied in an unmitigated disaster. That was the sort of thing that the telepath would find amusing. However, he wasnít about to back down and hide everytime Schuldig appeared. "Iím not quitting this mission just because Mastermind is bored and looking for someone to play with."

"Iím not suggesting that. Just donít return to the club." Trying to rein in his possessive impulses, Yohji jerked a hand through his hair, desperate to figure out how to convince Aya to listen to him for once. He attempted a less hostile tactic. "For all you know the yakuza might feel that you had a hand in what happened to their buddy, he was getting awful pushy in regards to you. And you did disappear right away. So help Omi out with the leads weíve uncovered, while Ken, Honjyou and I keep an eye on Somaís goons. Let us concentrate on that front, without worrying how The Bastard is trying to use us against you. Besides, weíve gotten all the information that weíre likely to get from the place."

Looking off into space, the redhead thought about what Yohji had said. All he really would be doing was playing pool and taking mental notes on the yakuza present at Sōdō, trying to estimate exactly how many Soma employed. He could do just as much good helping Omi track down the manís location and assets, if not more so. Kudoh also had a very good point that the yakuza might suspect he had some role in Uenoís death. It was just like Schuldig to have him take the blame for the telepathís actions. Now that the alarm of finding out that Schuldig was back in town was dying down, Aya felt the familiar sense of anger and hate fill him. However, it didnít seem have the same intensity as it had in the past. And beneath it all was on odd sense of longing that left him perplexed. Why would he want to see the German ever again? Other than to run him through with his katana.

Shaking off the odd thoughts, Aya heaved a sigh as he fixed Yohji with an even stare, having come to a purely analytical decision. "You and Ken need to be careful tonight, Schuldigís been in both of your heads before. We donít need a repeat of the Sybil mission. Iíll stay behind to help out Omi, youíll function better if you donít think you have to keep an eye out on me." He kept on, ignoring the stunned expression on his loverís face as he calmly conceded to not returning to the club. "I want you to see how Somaís men are reacting to Uenoís death, they should be bothered enough about the incident to be disorganized and jumping at shadows. We can use that against them. And get that smile off your face, Iím not doing this for you." The blond simply nodded his head as the grin grew improbably wider. Aya let himself be pulled in for a kiss, hmphing for a moment before responding. He had to put the mission first, even if the decision galled him and left Kudoh with an over-inflated sense of ego. Just meant that heíd be busier than usual deflating it.

Several minutes later the two men broke apart. Unable to resist any longer, and now not fearing the loss of a limb, Yohji tugged on an eartail, earning him a smacked hand. It was getting to the point that he didnít even notice the slaps anymore. "I donít care why youíre doing it, but Iím very grateful. The mere thought of Schuldig being near youÖ." He shook his head, dispelling the wave of fury that threatened to engulf him. "Youíre right, I wouldnít be able to concentrate on the mission. Iíd be too worried about you and over letting my guard down like last time, giving him a chance to hurt you through me. And I know Ken feels the same way." Upon being informed of their early morning visitor and the reason for Manx stopping by, the brunet had in a soft voice mentioned that he would be upstairs in the exercise room until he needed to make the deliveries. Ken was still up there, most likely chopping imaginary Masterminds into bite sized pieces. He was still rather upset at being used by the telepath to nearly kill his own teammate.

Aya only hníed as he traced a finger along the playboyís tattoo, outlining the wings over and over. He suddenly jerked his head up. "You mentioned Manx at the beginning. Why exactly was she here again?"

"Hmm? Oh yeah, I did. She came by this morning to talk to you and Omi, supposedly. I think she just wanted to find out if The Bastard had been giving you nightmares again. I told her no." Yohji stopped talking, perplexed by the strange look on Ayaís face. "He hasnít contacted to you again since the Sybil mission, has he?" The pale man shook his head, but there was a hesitant manner to the gesture. Yohji didnít think the redhead was lying, Aya would do a much better job of it if he was, and was left feeling worried. Heíd better pay some extra attention to his kitten, make sure that Schuldig wasnít trying to get his hooks in the man again. "She didnít seem real happy that you were gone. Where did you disappear? Omi and I couldnít believe our luck that both you and Honjyou were out of the house." Theyíd been relieved over the fact for an hour or two, until their leader failed to surface. Yohji had been one step away from leaving the house to frantically search for his lover when Aya had finally returned.

"I couldnít sleep, so I woke Yuushi up for breakfast and a talk." Green eyes bored into him as a lush mouth bit back on a question its owner clearly wanted to ask. "I told him weíd never be more than friends, and I think he accepted that fact. Yuushi was rather stunned to be told that he didnít love me, I doubt he ever really thought about what he really felt for me before today." Aya had left too suddenly years ago to give the elegant blond much of a chance to work through his feelings. Yohji let out a yelp as he was punched rather forcibly in the ribs. "You donít have to look so smug about that either."

"Gods, Aya, there isnít a day that goes by without me sporting a bruise from you anymore. Iím going to start wearing a flak jacket, just you wait and see. Weíll find out whatís stronger, those damn elbows of yours or Kevlar." Treating the smaller man to a scowl, Yohji rubbed his sore ribs.

"Consider it fair return for all the hickeys I have to cover. Can you possibly be anymore possessive?"

"Do you really want me to try and be? As for the other, well at least you enjoy getting those. Try to remember love, that /you/ are the masochistic one in this relationship." That comment earned him a particularly scathing glare as the redhead attempted to get off of his lap. Kudoh snatched him close yet again. "Where do you think youíre going?"

Aya held up the bag holding his medicine, which had been resting on the chair. "To put these away and go work on the floral arrangements."

"No need." Brushing aside the smaller manís bangs, Yohji shifted his hand to the back of Ayaís neck, toying with the strands of hair near his nape. His lover closed his eyes at the caress. He knew just exactly where to touch the quiet man to get the response he wanted. Always had been a quick learner, and heíd spent many hours studying the beautiful creature on his lap. "Omiís taking care of them today, he said his eyes needed a break from staring at a screen for hours on end and that he feels like he hasnít contributed much help in the shop lately. By the way, the electricians should be all finished tomorrow, and be ready to install the new coolers whenever they arrive. Which should be Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest."

"It will all be done by then."

"Hmm, what did you say, kitten?"

"The middle of next week. Itíll be finished by then. All it will take is Soma calling Kisaragi later today, then weíll find out where he is. Everything is falling into place." Yohji felt goose bumps rise on his flesh at hearing that strange tone of voice Aya was using. The redhead felt warm in his arms, almost feverishly so. "One more person is needed, heíll be here soon. Then the action will start." The heat swiftly vanished, leaving a chilled body in his arms. "Everytime I think Iím beginning to understand, itís all smothered," Aya whispered. Opening his eyes, he frowned at the concerned expression on the blondís face. "Something wrong?"

Yohji let out a shuddering breath. "No." That had been too weird. Suspicions swirling about in his head, he watched as the smaller manís lids drifted closed, then snapped back open. "Well, you look as if you didnít get much sleep last night, and thanks to Manx I know that I didnít. What do you say to a nap?" Aya opened his mouth to make a comment about the playboyís indolent nature, but all that came out was a yawn. "Iíll take that as a yes." Helping his lover stand up, Yohji shoved him over to the couch. "Canít fight the bad guys if we canít even stay awake. A little bit of rest will do us both some good." Unfolding the blanket draped over the top of the couch, the lanky man dropped down and dragged Aya along with him. A bit of maneuvering and soon both were comfortable, Yohji lying on his back with the redhead tucked against the back of the sofa and resting half on top of him. Shoving aside the partially formed notions in his head, Kudoh let himself fall asleep, leaving the matter to another time.

*******

Seated in the greenhouse, Omi trimmed the sprig of delphinium in his hand as his mind kept chanting one word over and over in his mind. Schuldig. Although occasionally a swear word or two would sneak in as well. It was so unfair that the German could contact him any time he wanted and the youth couldnít return the favor. Not quite sure how telepathy worked, not being so gifted, Omi nonetheless was hoping to somehow attract Mastermindís attention.

"Keep thinking so hard and you might strain something."

"What the fuÖ ow!" The teenager thrust his wounded finger, snipped by the shears, into his mouth as he whirled around. Schuldig was sitting on top of table, surrounded by recently potted foxgloves. Omi lunged forward, pruning shears held as a weapon, ready to slice into the telepath. In a blink of an eye Schuldig darted to the side and behind him, and the youth found himself kneeling on the floor, arms twisted painfully behind him.

"Now that wasnít very nice. Here I come pay you a visit after youíve been trying to get my attention all morning long, and you attack me. With a garden tool of all things," the man sniffed. "No sense of style, I swear." He jerked the younger assassin to his feet and thrust him aside, away from the work table covered with other sharp objects. Flipping the shears in his hands, Schuldig settled on the abandoned bench, smirking at a glaring Omi. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"Youíre not welcome here, Mastermind. I can think of three men who would love nothing more than to tear your head off of your shoulders, and a crew of electricians who might find it of interest to inform their employers of a longhaired gaijin paying a visit."

The telepath pouted for a moment before tossing his hair back. "They have to actually see me first. Youíll find the men decided to take a coffee break if you look up front. They wonít return until I leave. And Balinese and Siberian will never know I was here. The Penner is fast asleep, and your SuŖer is too busy hacking the punching bag into so much fluff. That leaves just you and me."

"And Aya? Heís the reason I wanted to talk to you." Omi knew that the swordsman had returned, heíd heard Yohji yelling earlier.

"Ah, the Kštzchen. Asleep in Balineseís arms." Jealousy twisted the Germanís face, making it into an ugly mask for a few seconds. Then the habitual smirk returned. "It wonít be long before he realizes that he no longer lusts so fervently for my blood. Poor thing, heís bound to be very confused. I take it you discouraged the rothaarig Weibsbild that stopped by this morning?"

Resisting the impulse to toss a pot of rosemary at the telepath, Omi stomped his foot instead. "She wouldnít have been here if it wasnít for you. I thought you didnít want Aya to attract any attention. Well you splattering Uenoís insides all over the clubís bathroom has done it in spades. Kritiker suspects it was you, and want to question Aya about whether or not youíve been talking to him lately."

"I know, who do you think is responsible to getting the man and the Arschloch out of the house? I also Ďoverheardí the little discussion you had with the agent. Donít worry about the tests, theyíve been taken care of." Sniffing at one of the tulips lying on the table, Schuldig took a moment to scan the sleeping catalystís mind. Heíd felt his tuberose pull on his power once more, while on his way here after switching the ballistic test results. It had been such a rush, reining in that flow of power. He was still tingling from the sensation. It was impossible to completely block Abyssinian from the source at this time, heíd already set too many things in motion that night at the club, and was feeling the aftershocks as events continued to line up to accommodate his wishes. Things should be different after the mission was complete. Right now the man was exhausted from the attempt, too much power expelled in the past few days. He sent some warmth and energy to his heart via their connection, wanting to make sure that Abyssinian would be in good enough shape to face the next few days. And an image as well of the two of them entwined on a hotel bed, gasping each otherís name as passion over took them. Schuldig felt the reverberations the remembered dream touched off in the pale manís mind.

"As for Ueno, consider it a warning as to what will happen to anyone you let too close to or harm the boy. I will /not/ tolerate such things. Abyssinian has put your guest in his place for now, but if the man tries anything else I will be paying another visit." Jumping off the bench, he crossed over to where Omi was standing and tucked the flower behind the youthís ear. He patted him on the head before leaping back, chuckling at the waves of hate radiating off of Bombay. "Youíre just too cute for words, StreifenhŲrnchen. Now hurry up and finish playing with the pretty flowers, youíll be intercepting an important phone call soon." Now that he was tied into Abyssinianís talent he saw all that the man did, and was able to interpret it much better due to experience. Tonight was going to be so much fun. "Make sure to feed the Knuddelhšschen before you send him out on his way, heís been working so hard for you and your employers." The telepath swiftly made his departure, grinning at the angry "I donít need you telling me how to take care of my friends" that was shouted at his back.

Huffing in rage, Omi tried to calm back down by mangling the tulip in his hair. Once the flower was reduced to shreds he felt okay enough to resume making the orders. They werenít some of his best, and definitely werenít up to Ayaís standards, but were finally ready for delivery. Getting up from the workstation, he cleaned up the clutter and made his way upstairs, taking a moment to glare at the oblivious electricians. Surely the damn German had some other talent besides telepathy to be able to work his last nerve like that. Dumping all these messes on him and then having the gall to tell him to take care of Aya-kun. He wouldnít have to if the bastard would just die. Resolving to work on that last detail some more, the archer climbed the steps to his abode. However, his anger mostly evaporated at the sight of the pastry box on a counter. Letting out an Ďeepí of joy he grabbed a knife and swiftly cut the strings holding the box closed, peeling back the lid as his smile got wider. Inside were several of his favorite petit fours, Aya must have stopped by the bakery when out and about this morning.

Busy stuffing one in his face on his way to inform Ken that the flowers needed to be delivered, the teenager almost crashed into Yuushi. The man was standing in the hallway, looking into the living room. Upon the near collision he spun around and grabbed Omi as he made a hushing sound. Peering around the taller blond, Omi caught a glimpse of what the Crasher had been staring at. Yohji and Aya were curled up together on the couch. Plum colored eyes drifted open at the noise, then slowly closed again. The pale man turned his face until it was resting in the crook of Yohjiís neck and went back to sleep. A golden hand crept up to rest on his head. "Iíll be, that has to be a record for quickest make-up after a Ďpossessive bakaí fight to date," the youth muttered as he continued on up the steps. After a moment Yuushi followed him.

"I never stood a chance, did I?" he softly asked when they reached the second floor.

Omi sent a poignant smile the manís way. "No, you didnít. Iím relieved that you finally realize that. It should help put Aya at ease." And lower Yotanís blood pressure. The other man blocked his path from the next flight of steps, gold eyes intent upon him.

"Whatís the story behind that, Tsukiyono? Fujimiya wasnít much of a touchy-feely person before, but he never flinched away from contact before. I donít think itís just me. Kudohís the only one of you guyís Iíve seen touch him, and even heís usually careful."

Chewing on his lip, the young assassin racked his brain to try and think of what he wanted to say. With Mastermindís presence involved, anything that got Honjyou to back off the redhead would be good. Right now it appeared to be a close race as to who would strangle Knight first, Yohji or Schuldig. "Heís always been a bit distant, although Yohjiís helped a lot with that lately. However a couple of missions ago, things went bad. Itís not my place to say exactly what, thatís Ayaís decision. Just that it was nasty and Iím surprised heís overcome it as well as he has." Yuushiís face hardened, and as he nodded his understanding he let his arm fall down.

Finally reaching the exercise room, all the two blonds could see was a flurry of white fluff. Yuushi looked on in puzzlement as Omi exclaimed "oh wow, itís even worse than the plushie incident." Batting aside the nylon fibers, they found Ken desperately trying to clean up the mess and a gutted punching bag in the corner. "Ah, have a nice workout Ken-kun?"

"Omi." The brunet sputtered on the name, spitting out some fibers as he tried to wipe them off of his sweaty face. "I ah, sort of got carried away." It hadnít been a good idea to practice with his bugnucks on after all, but it had helped with the fury that he had felt upon hearing that Schuldig was once again messing with them. All heíd seen was the smirking Germanís face and heíd kept slashing until heíd fallen down in exhaustion. His teammate gave him an understanding look.

"Itís okay, weíll clean it up later. About time we got a new punching bag anyways." It had taken a lot of abuse the past few months. "Why donít you go get a shower. There are deliveries that need to be taken care of, and I think itíll be easier to sweep this all up once if stops drifting about." Ken offered some heartfelt thanks as he waded through the stuff and went down the steps.

Regarding the mess dolefully, Omi just shook his head and went back downstairs, Yuushi at his heels and chuckling. "And I thought that Pawn could wreck the place." WeiŖ was making quite the impression on the man.

*******

"Guys, get up here quick. Iím tracing a call from Soma right now!" Omiís voice echoed throughout the house, high-pitched from excitement. It jolted Yohji and Aya awake, and as the genki youth repeated the news once more it sunk into their minds, making them jump up and race to his room.

Yohji plopped down on the bed and Aya settled more gracefully beside him. "You find out yet where the target is hiding, chibi?"

"Almost, just give the program a few more minutes." As they waited Yuushi joined them in the room, clearly interrupted in the middle of a shower. Water and various suds still clung to him, and all he was wearing was a towel. Yohji eyed the well defined physique for a moment before realizing this was /Honjyou/ he was checking out, and quickly averted his eyes. He snaked an arm around his boyfriendís waist, who was too busy watching the computer monitor to notice his little faux pas.

Omi let out a crow of triumph. "There, got it. Itís from a townhouse thatís on the west side of downtown. Here, let me play the conversation for you." All four of the men listened intently at the sounds of Kisaragi and Somaís voices. The woman was clearly ecstatic about a date with her boyfriend, while the target seemed tired and on edge. Kisaragi was chastised for a few minutes on her behavior at the club last night, and after she apologized was informed that she would be picked up for a date in an hour. She protested a bit about the earliness of the date and on how that wouldnít give her much time to prepare, but quickly acquiesced. The call was abruptly ended.

Aya stood up and walked over to the computer, memorizing the address. "I better get going then. Iíll stake out his place and then follow him on the date, making sure he returns at the end of the night." Stretching for a few seconds, he let his eyes rest on WeiŖís youngest member. "Mind if I borrow your bike? Itíll blend in more than my car."

"Not at all, Aya-kun. Guess it was a good thing that you got some sleep after all, no telling how late youíll be up tonight. Just be careful and grab a bite to eat while youíre out." The redhead did look better than he had the past couple of days, and his skin wasnít quite so pale anymore. His fussing earned him a glare as Aya took the offered set of keys and turned to leave the room. Yohji intercepted him before he reached the door and all that the youth could hear was something that sounded exactly like the bit of advice that heíd just uttered before ending in a kiss. Judging from the expelled breath and wince of pain on the playboyís face, Yotan had received more than a glare.

Once the short-tempered man had left the room Omi spared a moment to regard the remaining blonds. "Iím going to be busy tonight hacking into Somaís phone account since I finally have the number. You guys going to head back to the club?"

Yuushi nodded as he absentmindedly wiped away some bubbles still clinging to his chest. "I want to try and find a few more things out from Kitayama about the yakuza. I should be hearing something from my contacts later tonight or tomorrow, so weíll soon have an idea on how big the organization is."

"So weíll probably be moving Sunday night, Monday the latest," Yohji commented, thinking back on Ayaís prediction. "Iím heading down to Sōdō as well, if Kisaragi is out on a date it gives me plenty of opportunity to observe how the guys are reacting to Uenoís death.Ē He was about to light a cigarette when Omi started to chide him, loudly proclaiming his room as a smoke free zone. ďGeez, kiddo, I get the point. Iím outta here, think Iíll finish that nap I started." With the mission so close at hand, he better take advantage of any chance to sleep he came across. Leering a bit at the chibi, Yohji inquired if the boy would want to take Ayaís place. Omi sputtered a bit and threw an empty box of Pocky at his head. Emerald eyes sparkling, he turned around and offered a raised eyebrow at Honjyou. The Crasher turned bright red as the innuendo sunk in, and clutching the towel about him tightly quickly fled the room. Kudoh followed him as his teammate ranted on about how poor Ayan had to put up with a hentai-minded boyfriend who needed his hormones adjusted.

*******

Checking to make sure that the door leading to the apartmentís roof didnít lock behind him, Aya stealthily crossed the expanse and leaned over the walled edge to find out if he could easily see the hotel his target had entered. He had a good view of the front entrance, and looking down he could spot the parked car with its chauffer down the block. As soon as the vehicle moved he would know that Soma was on his way out. Judging that he would most likely have a bit of a wait, he settled on the wall, leaning back against a cooling unit to prevent his silhouette from being apparent. Too bad he hadnít brought a book.

It was threatening to rain. The sky was much darker than it should be at this time of the evening, and there was a charged feel to the air. Tugging his leather jacket close, Aya wondered if Soma would finish up before it started to pour. The answer most likely was going to be no. Already there was a drop or two falling down, heralding more to come.

The redhead just sighed as he resumed monitoring the black BMW parked five stories below him. It had been an uneventful tail so far, riding a bike made it easy to move back and forth amongst the traffic as he followed the target. The restaurant that Soma and Kisaragi had dined at had been a small, quaint little place situated near a park. Aya had managed to get a bite to eat for himself while he waited, careful to not attract any attention from the yakuza who had remained in the car, vigilant for any threat that might affect his boss. Then came the trip to the hotel, so the lovers could have some time to themselves. Aya hoped that would be it for the night, he didnít feel like spending several hours out in a storm.

A bright flash of light was the only warning he had before a deafening crack of thunder filled his ears, almost making him jump. Cursing at his luck as the rain commenced in earnest, Aya tried to decide if there was a sheltered spot that he could unobtrusively observe the car from. While wracking his brain for a suitable lookout, he felt a jittery sensation, as if someone was watching him. Another flash of lightning convinced him that staying on a roof during a thunderstorm was not a very good idea, so he jumped down from the wall. Facing the door, the pale assassin froze at the sight of Schuldig standing before it.

The slender form stiffened for a moment, completely ignoring the orders from its brain to stop standing there like a target and /do something/. Part of the problem was not even the mind was terribly sure of what it was supposed to be doing. Taking advantage of the hesitation, the telepath put his amazing speed to good use and tackled Aya, knocking him to the ground. Naturally Schuldig landed on top. Very careful to pin the stunned manís appendages down, the telepath leaned in close, his face centimeters from his heartís. "Guten Abend, Knuddelhšschen."

"Get. Off. Of. Me." A maelstrom of emotions swept through Aya, panic and hate and longing and confusion and despair, a bruising jumble that he couldnít make sense of. Schuldig drank it all in through their bond, knowing that several of those feelings were a direct result of his tampering with the manís dreams. Ignoring the confusion as he tried to buck the foreign man off of him, the red head let out a string of curses when his actions failed to do anything but make Schuldig smile all the more. The telepath ground his tumescent erection into the smaller manís pelvis, prompting a more frantic struggle and a torrent of verbal abuse. "Hee. Do it some more. I like." Growling in frustration, Aya let his body go limp as he fervently wished he had one hand free and his unsheathed katana in it.

<Now why would you want something like that? Here I come to pay you a visit and see how you are doing, and you start fantasizing about the best way of going about my dismemberment. Quite the bloodthirsty little tuberose, arenít you?>

Aya tried to concentrate on the hate that normally would be overwhelming him while in the other manís presence. His emotions refused to cooperate, the panic growing as he felt his body relax underneath Schuldigís, lulled by the sense of warmth the man radiated, sheltered from the cold rain. "Get off of me. Get out of my head. Drop dead. Go Away." Aya was remotely aware of the fact that he was babbling. Something wasnít right here, it had to be one of the telepathís tricks He had to focus on the mission, somehow get himself free and if he could manage tossing the bastard off of the roof at the same time it would be quite the bonus.

<You donít really mean that. I can feel it while Iím in here. Why donít you stop struggling so much and listen to what your heart and body are trying to tell you?> Another crack of thunder heralded an intensified bout of rain, the falling water accumulating on the roof so quickly that the swordsman was left lying in a thin puddle, moisture soaking into his clothes. /The feel of rain-chilled skin, garments plastered to his body as the scent of rain and the bouquet of sweet peas he held in his hand pervaded his senses./ Aya shook his head, bewildered at where that memory had come from. "Itís you, it has to be. Get out of my head you fucking ba-mph" Schuldigís mouth descended on his, ending the tirade abruptly.

He was going mad. An image of him lying on a strange bed, giving himself to the German as a hungry mouth stifled the moans of pleasure he was uttering filled his head. It had never happened. Why was he remembering such things? Jerking his head to the side, Aya lay there gasping as Schuldig moved the kiss to his neck, sending waves of pleasure through his body. Somehow the man knew each of his sensitive spots, and was manipulating them with delight. "Why are you doing this to me? What the hell do you want now?"

<You. I want all of you, body, mind, heart and soul. And I always get what I want. Told you there was no fighting this fate. Nothing left to do but give in and enjoy.> The words echoed about his head, teasing at something barely suppressed. Frightened by the wave of emotion they induced, the pale man struggled anew. Schuldigís tricks were getting to him somehow, he /had/ to get free right now. The hands holding his wrists together clenched tight and jerked his body upright as the telepath sat up, weight solidly on Ayaís legs. One hand maintained its grip as he found himself clutched tight to the foreignerís chest, the other hand threading through his hair, tucking his face underneath the manís chin. The soothing touch jarred at his nerves, setting off conflicting feelings.

Schuldig tried to calm the catalystís mind, dragging it back from the edge heíd nearly thrust it over. The last thing he wanted to do was to break the man. All heíd be left with then was a pale shell of the fire and passion that had attracted him so in the first place. But heíd never been very good at patience, and the intensifying bond between Abyssinian and Balinese had him in a frustrated panic. There was no way in hell he was going to lose him to the Schwanzlutscher, and when heíd spied the opportunity tonight to get the redhead alone he hadnít been able to stay away. "Shh precious, no need to struggle so." He wanted to reassure the pale man that he would never hurt him, but knew that to be false. The telepath would do almost anything to make Aya his, to the exclusion of snapping his mind and spirit. He could have done that years ago, but it wasnít what he wanted. "I told you not to worry, mein wertvoll Herz. No need for fear. Just give in, and the pain will go away."

Aya wasnít buying any of that. "Youíre doing this. Why? What game are you up to now? Why did you kill Ueno? To mess up the mission? Do you hate me so much that you just have to spend all your free time finding new ways to get me killed or to drive me insane?" The fingers in his hair contracted, gripping the strands firmly as they yanked back, forcing his neck to extend painfully as pale green eyes glared at him.

"Eigensinnig Idiot. I could have done either of those things a long time ago." The German exerted his power to still Ayaís tongue, rendering him mute. "Now listen to me for once. /I want you./ I donít give a damn about whatever little job Kritiker sends you out on. Ueno died for daring to lay a finger on you ." The hold in his hair vanished as the hand drifted down to caress the fading bruise on his face. The rain continued to beat down on the two men sitting on the roof, oblivious to everything but each other. A streak of light illuminated them briefly, and the redhead caught a look in Schuldigís eyes that he never imagined to see. It reminded him of how Yohji would often gaze at him. "You are mine. Anyone who harms you has to deal with me. Anyone who thinks they can claim you will swiftly find out the error of their ways. I will allow neither. We are fated to be together." A telepath and a catalyst, their talents and minds intertwined. It was already happening. Never before had it been so easy for the foreigner to move through anotherís consciousness like now. He could feel the turbulent emotions in the smaller man, hear the denial to the fact that they were meant to be together. "Yes, we are, Iíve seen it. Our pasts the same, our futures joined." Great, now he was beginning to sound like the old witch. Angered by that thought and at the continuing denial, Schuldig unleashed a barrage of memories.

<A young child growing up in a cold house, foster parents seeing to his base needs and little else. Impassive faces that fed him and clothed him, ignoring his presence at all other times. They were to ensure that he grew up strong, little else. There was an air of expectation along with neglect, and the boy grew up unchecked, desperate for the interest and affection that was continually denied him. The only attention he received was for the never-ending mischief he always found himself in, the only means he had of being noticed. It got to be so bad that in the foster house whenever something went wrong he was the one blamed, whether it was his fault or not. But at least it meant that someone was looking at him, acknowledging his presence, so he never protested his innocence. It was a way to reaffirm that he had some worth, however begrudgingly, or else they wouldnít have even bothered with him that much.

It all changed the day when so starved for affection he felt his mind slip into one of his caretakers, setting off convulsions in the woman as his untrained talent disrupted the vital synapses, shutting down her brain. After that he had all the attention he could ever have wanted. The boy was whisked away to a private facility, his days filled with ceaseless training. Esset tried to break him, force him in into a more suitable mold, but he was stubborn and had nothing of value for them to threaten against his good behavior. The troubles continued, it ensured that they didnít forget about him, and if there was to be pain at least he would do something to earn it, not willing to endure the senseless beatings that were to make him cow before his new masters. He knew that all they wanted was a little wind-up soldier to do their bidding, and refused to remain so nameless. They dubbed him the Guilty One, for all troubles led back to him, and somehow forced him to learn to control his talent. When he realized the benefits of being able to twist people into doing whatever he wanted, the boy finally embraced the training wholeheartedly. But his personality remained, the behavior too long engrained, a point of rebellion against the shadowy adults that didnít care for him in the slightest except as some sort of commodity.

So he made the people around him care for him, using his talent to get him whatever he wanted, within the limits that his masters imposed. But as the boy grew up it became wearisome, no one saw him as anything other than a troublemaker, or a tool to be used unless he Ďchangedí their minds. The burden of his gift weighed on him as well, the countless voices he was never completely able to shut out of his head. Everything started to become so hollow and worthless, nothing was truly his. Any bit of joy or affection he earned Esset quickly snatched away, not wanting anything to distract their most promising telepath from reaching his potential. Or to give him anything other than the organization to cling to.

Any happiness was taken away and broken before his eyes. The young man grew cold, not caring for anything anymore. His talent for mischief grew worse, if he was miserable so then would be everyone else. Esset eventually assigned him to a group when his training was done, in charge of a priggish clairvoyant whose power shielded his mind and an insane psychotic who was impervious to mental tampering, seeking to hobble his ability to control the people around him. They sent him off to a foreign land, where he would always be reminded of his differences, on how he would never be able to fit in. This was to be more education in a way, to remind him that without Esset he was nothing, would never have a place of his own. So he did whatever they ordered him to, murder and various mayhem, all the while seething at the leash they set on him, the cage he could never be free of.

Then one day during a routine mission he stumbled across another young man with the most beautiful eyes heíd ever seen, eyes that didnít look past him but noticed the longhaired man, something that the boy never should have been able to do. Then came the other surprise, when the boy survived the bombing, heart breaking at the sight of his beloved sibling lying so still. The Guilty One knew he should kill the beautiful youth, but wasnít able to as those eyes locked on his. So he delved into that oneís psyche, delighting in what he found there. So many repressed emotions, so strong that they blocked out the thoughts of everyone else, as panicked as the crowd was. Unable to resist, he left the young Fujimiya alive after planting a seed or two, unable to destroy someone so like himself. Pulling his mind back, he caught a faint trace of /something/ that he couldnít name, an alluring hint or aura around the boy that burned in his mind. He would keep returning to that delicious consciousness, never able to stay away for long. Mocking and taunting, trying to mold the boy into something less naÔve, to something that might one day be his equal. And was rewarded to come across the boy, now a man, dressed in leather and holding a shining blade. Abyssinian. His other half, equal in all ways but one. Or so he thought, until one day during a mission that fell apart unexpectedly he felt the manís mind calling out to his, forming a link that it never should have been able to. That day he realized that they truly were equals. It was then as well that he realized how much he had come to care for the exquisite assassin.>

He let the memories wash through Abyssinianís mind, felt it when the loneliness, the unfulfilled desire to belong, and the constant reminder of being a freak reverberated in the otherís thoughts. So much alike. All the Penner Balinese had in common with the pale man was a current job occupation. What they had together was so much more. Dark violet eyes stared back at him, eloquent with shared pain. Even if Aya was able to speak he wouldnít have been able to. He was too stunned at the telepathís revelations, at what he knew to be the unvarnished past. Schuldig was laying so much of himself bare, and Aya didnít know why. Was refusing to see why. Once more his mind was filled with images, but this was different. It wasnít the past.

<His throat was sore, throbbing in pain from the rough abuse it had suffered such a short time ago. Schuldig was there, holding him close, trailing soft kisses down his jaw that distracted him from the agony. Clutching onto the man resolutely, Aya laid back on the bed, drawing the telepath down with him. Words of endearment in Japanese and German filled his mind as Schuldig shifted up and captured his mouth. The scent of cherry blossoms filled the air as his robe was stripped off, soon joined on the floor by the outfit the German had been wearing. Long strands of hair teased his skin as the older man bent over him once more, tongue busy tasting exposed pale flesh. Aya pleaded with the man not to stop, he needed this too much. The taint of betrayal was heavy on his heart and soul, he wanted it purged away. Whatever their pasts, Schuldig had always kept his promises to him, in one way or another. That was more than he could say of his other lover, whose violence was evident on his body. If the man swore to keep him safe, then the telepath would move heaven and earth to do so. Crying out at the mouth that was tormenting him so, Aya opened his mind completely to Schuldigís. He shivered at the sense of completeness that filled the two of them as their consciousnesses intertwined, a prelude to the physical act that just heightened every sensation, leaving them bereft of everything but need and pleasure.>

It was so real. Aya returned to the present to find himself kissing Schuldig back, locked tight in a passionate embrace. A part of him was horrified at his actions, while another drove his fingers deeper into the long mass of reddish hair, not wanting to let go. There was a feeling from something buried inside of him, of finding a missing piece of his soul after so long a time. But it wasnít right. It was Yohji that he loved, not Schuldig. ĎAt least you think you donít.í First he thought the voice belonged to the telepath, until he finally recognized it as his own. That final shock gave him the strength to break off the kiss and force himself back as far as the green clad arms would allow him to go.

Looking deep into the shell-shocked eyes of the Kštzchen, Mastermind felt a surge of joy. Hate for him was the last thing on the pale manís mind, confusion and need reigned foremost. Heíd accomplished all heíd wanted to tonight, it wouldnít be safe to push too far. Time to let his tuberose stew for a bit, maybe partake in another dream when the mission was over. It was just a matter of time now. Cassandraís linking of their talents would make Abyssinian come to him, his catalyst nature seeking out another of a similar power. That was what the poor boy was feeling right now, it would only increase the more he drew on the talent. One day soon his tuberose would love him back.

Leaning in for one more kiss, the telepath stood up, dragging a stunned Aya with him. "Well this has been very enjoyable, but Iím afraid I have other matters to tend to this evening. You need to go home and get out of the rain, water and kitties donít mix. Donít worry about the target, heíll be finishing up with the missus shortly, and will head back home. Iíve personally seen to it." A trivial use of power to dissuade the man over changing his residence once again. The sooner the assignment was over the faster Abyssinianís talent would lie dormant, as it should, the strain on the man coming to an end. And the sooner he could engage in the continuation of their dream sequence without its interference. It would be a very frustrating next week or two, as he waited for the opportunity. Taking advantage of the manís bewildered manner, Schuldig swiped back the long bangs clinging to a pale face and patted a high cheekbone before speeding off of the roof.

Aya could only stand there for a few minutes as the rain pounded down on him, desperately wishing that everything had been a dream and any moment now would find himself waking up. But it refused to happen. Another crack of thunder forced him into motion, no longer able to deny that this had been real. That somehow heíd been regarding Mastermind more like a lover than a hated enemy. Pale hands were driven into his hair and tugged violently, hoping the pain would help him to focus on the mission and not what had just happened. Spinning around, he leaned over to look at Somaís car. Its lights were being turned on as it pulled into traffic. Cursing softly, Aya dashed down the steps, intent on reaching his bike. Fuck Schuldig and his unsolicited help, he was going to make sure that Soma did indeed go home. He couldnít take the chance that everything had been one hell of a messed up tactic to get him to lower his guard, to fail this assignment.

He made it to his bike just as the target left the hotel, Kisaragi nowhere to be seen. Concentrating on the task before him, Aya shunted aside what had just happened, all to willing to forget about it for the time being. It was just Schuldig playing his games, after all. There was nothing to be worried about, no lasting repercussions beyond the usual. At least he kept hoping that by repeating it enough times it would be true.

*******

Humming cheerfully as he sat at the kitchen table, eating petit fours as he did his homework, Omi was feeling back to his normal self. The foot barely hurt anymore, unless he let his full weight rest on it, he had a sugar rush going for him, the mission was proceeding better than could be expected, and he had the house to himself, no complaints at his J-Pop blasting out of the radio on the counter. Life was good. Not great mind you, that included Ken buying a clue and asking him out, but once Soma was taken care of he could get to work on that. Heíd already informed Yohji before the playboy had left for the club that he wanted to have a bit of a talk with him as soon as things settled down. It would be embarrassing to confess his predicament to the other blond, but gaining some much needed advice from the notorious lothario would make it all worthwhile. Hidaka didnít stand a chance. And if Yohji thought to tease him over his romantic predicament, he could just sic Aya on him.

Not even the storm raging outside bothered him much, besides some concern that Aya was caught out in it. Not the best weather to be stuck riding a bike in. But there was nothing he could do about it at the moment, besides the huge stack of towels he had sitting on a chair, waiting for the man. So he continued reading about how Native American warfare tactics had influenced the American Revolution. He was mostly through with the chapter when he heard the garage door open. Hopping up from his seat, he grabbed a towel and stood ready, mothering instincts to the fore. "Aya-kun, youíre soaked to the bone! What did you do, go for a swim or something?" The pale redhead just stood there and looked at him, eyes distant and body shivering. A puddle was rapidly forming at his feet.

Omi attacked swiftly, removing the sodden leather jacket and even managing the sweater before his teammate reacted. Deep voice mumbling that he wasnít a child, Aya snatched the towel being rubbed against his back and wrapped it around him, grateful for the dry warmth. The ride home had been hell, the wind cutting through his soaked clothes like a knife. For once he had a reason to be ice cold. "Take off the jeans as well, I brought down a pair of Yohjiís sweatpants that were lying out in your room. Iíll toss the clothes in the laundry," Omi fussed as he put on a pot of water and picked up another towel to dry the dripping crimson mop once Aya was seated. The redhead just mumbled some more and submitted to the administrations; while highly annoying it was perfectly normal for the teenager to be acting like this. The pale man urgently needed some normalcy at the moment.

"Uhm, Ayan, are you all right?" Omi had expected the man to put up some sort of fight, he usually hated being fussed over. All his teammate did was rest his head on the table, hiding his face between his crossed arms. "Did Soma return back to the townhouse already?" A muffled yes could be faintly heard. Unsure of what he was supposed to do at the moment, the youth gathered up the wet clothes and left the room to deposit them in the washer. Returning back he found Aya in the same position and the water boiling. Hopping over to the stove, he quickly set about preparing some tea and set a mug in front of his friend.

Sitting up, Aya grasped the cup, letting the heat warm his hands. He didnít want to think about anything right now. The assignment was done for the night, what he needed to do was distract himself until Yohji came home and could take over the task for him. He desperately wanted to see the man, to reassure himself that he still loved the blond and was loved in return. Schuldig had shook him up too badly. Another physical assault would have been preferable to what had taken place on the rooftop. How did one fight back against oneís traitorous self? Yohji would make it all better, he just had to pull himself together before Kudoh got home, or the man would quickly pick up on the fact that something was wrong. Sipping at his tea, Aya quietly thanked Omi and asked him what he was studying at the moment. That should be diversion enough until their visitor showed up.

Sensing that something was wrong, but not quite sure what, the young WeiŖ did exactly that. Aya just sat there quietly, asking a question or two. "Aya, you must still be cold from being out in the rain. Why donít you go take a hot bath?" The redhead just shook his head. "Thereís no time now. Why donít you put on some more water."

Puzzled but willing to humor his friend, Omi did just that. Setting the full kettle down on a flame, he jumped in his skin at the pounding sound on the door. Glancing over at Aya, who had his eyes closed and was rubbing his temples, he decided to answer the door himself. At least he was properly clothed to greet whoever it was paying them a visit at this hour. Throwing open the door, a welcome died in his throat as he took in the light haired man standing there. He looked to be in his early thirties, a dangerous air about his scruffy appearance. "Can I help you?"

Before the stranger could speak Ayaís tired voice drifted over. "Come on in Rook."

*******

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