Double Trouble

*******

by nekojita

*******

Iwaki felt a painful throbbing in his head, starting at his temples and spiking inward with each word Kato spoke. All he wanted was for his idiot lover to shut up and listen to reason, but things weren't working out that way. "For the last time, you're being utterly paranoid about this!"

"No, I'm not!" Kato paced about the room, still wearing his hair extensions and yukata from the scene he'd just finished filming before racing back to their hotel. "Not only does the bastard swoop in and takes over our film, but now he's sending flowers to you! I just know he's trying to take you away from me again!"

Just why had he fallen for such a melodramatic fool? "He already has a lover, and he hasn't taken over the film! He's just helping to produce it," Iwaki said for at least the fourth time. "And you received flowers from him as well!" He pointed at the bouquet of roses and lilies that sat beside the larger vase full of lush orchids.

"Yours are bigger!" Kato wailed, coming to a halt before the flowers. "He's just trying not to be so obvious about his nefarious plan!"

"You sound like some silly character in a sappy romance movie!" His patience pushed to the limit, Iwaki rose from his bed, needing to do something other than sit there and listen to this nonsense. "How many times do I need to tell you that he's not interested in me, and I certainly am not interested in him! Will you stop acting like a foolish child!" His temper finally snapping, he smacked his lover on the shoulder. "Stop obsessing over some stupid flowers!"

"Ow! Iwaki-san is so mean," Kato pouted, his hand rubbing his shoulder. "You see, he already has us fighting with each other. Next thing you know, he'll come to Kyoto and try to take you from me!"

That was it, he'd had enough. His headache had only intensified in the last few minutes, spurred on by his anger. He felt that if he stayed here he'd do something he regretted, so without saying another word he turned around, grabbed a ballcap and the small pouch that held his id and money, and stormed out of the room.

"Iwaki! Where the hell are you going?" Kato yelled behind him, but he didn't stop. Pulling the hat onto his head and grabbing the sunglasses from inside his pouch, he managed to get past a few women who obviously recognized the yelling man following him down the hallway. He could dimly hear his name being called out over the excited cries of 'Kato-san!' from the women. The idiot. Kato should know better than to wander around in costume like that.

Iwaki rushed out of the hotel, not even bothering to wait for the doorman to open the front door for him. He needed some space, needed to do something until his thoughts cleared and his temper cooled, and he couldn't do it in the hotel room he shared with Kato. Heading down the street, he tugged the ballcap down even lower and took the stairs into the subway station.

He really didn't care where he went, just as long as he was moving. He would pick a line at random, getting off if he heard his name muttered or at another station that didn't seem too crowded. After crisscrossing Kyoto this way for over an hour, he felt the need for fresh air and finally left the subway system.

He had no clue where he was, other than in some quiet part of Kyoto where half the buildings were commercial and half weren't. The sun had set during his travels, the air containing a hint of coolness that was entirely welcome after the last few weeks of heat.

He continued aimlessly down the streets, turning this way and that at random and becoming even more lost. It didn't help that he paid more attention to his thoughts than to the landmarks.

The last week had been utterly crazy. After the fear of the movie being shutdown and then the couple of days of inactivity while new contracts were worked out, they'd finally been able to start filming again. They were already slightly behind schedule when the break in shooting had happened, and now they were more than two weeks behind,
and everyone involved with the project wanted to catch up as much as possible. Iwaki felt as if he'd been working non-stop the past week, and he wasn't the only one who was feeling some stress from the pressure. Kato was just as involved with the film as he was, and acted like a man driven.

Iwaki really shouldn't have been surprised when his lover had latched onto something silly like the flowers and overreacted. He should have used his head back in their room and calmed Kato down, but he was just as much on edge. Funny how he could see that so clearly now.

He stopped walking and truly paid attention to the street around him. He still had no clue where he was, and he didn't see any bus stops or subway signs. Feeling tired, he decided that the bar down on the corner looked like a good place for him to sit and collect his thoughts, maybe have a drink to help him relax before calling a taxi to take him back to the hotel. Kato would either be cooling off himself or a complete basket case right now, and if the latter Iwaki wasn't in any hurry to deal with that.

The bar was small, wooden tables and chairs crammed together in all the open space so that even the waitresses had a difficult time walking around. The customers seemed involved in their own conversations, only a few men looked up when he entered and took a seat at the end of the bar. Smooth jazz music was playing, soft enough to blend into the conversation until everything blurred together into a type of white noise.

"What would you like to drink?" the bartender asked while sliding a laminated piece of paper in his direction. Picking a drink at random, he told the older man his order and pushed up his hat enough so he could rub his temples. He wasn't much for casual drinking but right now he could use something to help him relax.

The drink arrived, smelling strongly of whiskey but not tasting too bad. The cool liquid felt good sliding down his throat, even if the fizzle of soda and bite of alcohol making him cough once. Lulled by the low hum of background noise and the comfortable barstool on which he was perched, he slowly drank it down and ordered another one.

He'd barely taken a sip of his new drink when a thick hand rested on the bar next to his. "You're that actor, aren't you?" a deep voice asked, bearing a Nagasaka accent. "You sure as hell look just like him."

Not in the mood to deal with anyone at the moment, especially a mob of starstruck people, he tugged his hat back down. "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about."

"He sounds just like him too," another voice, sounding a little slurred, spoke from right behind him. "Iwa or something? The fag filming a movie here with his lover."

This appeared to be something much worse than fans. "You're mistaken," Iwaki said as he reached for his bag to pay for the drinks. He just wanted to get out of here right now before attracting any more attention.

The next thing he knew, his hat was knocked off his head. "Yeah, it's him. Iwaki the queer. What are you doing here, looking for someone not as fruity as your 'husband' to fuck you right?" The man wasn't as tall as he was, but almost twice as thick, with muscles evident beneath the tight t-shirt. "This isn't a fag bar, you know."

All he wanted to do was get out of here. Why the hell had he even come in here in the first place? "My mistake, I'll be going." He tried once more to fish some money of out his bag so he could pay the bill and do just that.

The man's friend grabbed his bag from him. "Hey, look, he even has a purse! Damned fags and their – ah!"

"Give the nice man back his bag." For a moment, Iwaki mistook the tall blond grasping the stocky man's wrist in a grip that had the man wincing in pain for Kato. The height and hair was similar, but he gradually noticed a pair of amused green eyes and the cigarette dangling from smiling lips. Not Kato, not with that angular face and lanky build.

"Leave him alone," the man standing beside Iwaki growled, disgust turning into anger as the blond did something to cause the man's friend to cry out in pain. "You bastard!"

Iwaki wasn't sure exactly what happened next. The burly man lunged for the blond, only to go down a few seconds later, bellowing in pain and clutching at his knee. There was a sickening snapping sound, and the man's friend cried out again, his arm folded against his chest and hand dangling oddly. The blond just stood there, cigarette still pressed between smiling lips, but the amused look to his eyes gone. There was something else there now, something dark enough to make Iwaki shiver and the men coming to help their friends back away, hands hanging empty at their sides.

"I've never thought it very nice when two people try to pick on someone else," the man said quietly.

The room was silent, save for the music, until the bartender cleared his throat. "Get them out of here," he said, chin jerking in the direction of the injured men who seemed too absorbed in their pain to notice anything else. There were dirty looks and muttered curses but soon enough they and their friends were gone, though the tall blond remained standing beside him.

Feeling a little dizzy from the excitement, Iwaki tried with a shaky hand to pull out enough money to pay his bill. Yen fell onto the ground, causing him to curse and his headache to return.

"Let me get that." The blond bent down to pick up his money and straightened up in a fluid movement, and once again Iwaki thought of Kato upon seeing the muscles revealed beneath a tight black, longsleeved shirt. The man didn't appear as muscular as his lover, but the strength was obviously there.

He handed over the money with a smile, cigarette now held between long fingers. "If you're thinking of leaving, I wouldn't. Those guys might be waiting for you to do just that."

"I can't stay here, I need to go home." Iwaki snatched at his money and threw a 1,000 yen bill down on the counter.

"I'm telling you, you'll get the shit kicked out of you the second you step out that door." The blond man sighed and jerked his left hand through his hair. "Listen, sit down for a while and I'll see to it that you go home, okay? No sense in letting those guys finish what they tried to start."

Instantly suspicious, Iwaki gazed coldly at the stranger. "I should be fine if I call for a cab."

"Yeah, and will it provide an escort out the door?"

The service would if he asked... and if the man was right, there would probably be an ensuing scene. Dammit, that was the last thing he needed right now, but he didn't exactly trust this stranger, the help minutes before notwithstanding. "Why are you being so helpful?"

The man smiled, a breathtaking picture that made him think he'd imagined the darkness from before. "I guess you could say that us fags have to stick together."

"Fags?" A new suspicion occurred to Iwaki, making him take a step backwards. The last thing he needed, even more so than being caught by the papparazi for being involved in a bar fight, was for some stranger to try and pick him up. He'd never hear the end of it from Kato.

The stranger snorted and flicked aside his cigarette. "Oh, relax, I have a boyfriend and I hate to tell you this but he's sexier than you are." He snorted again and motioned to a table in the corner. "Do whatever the hell you want, but if you'd like that ride, I'll be over there."

How had the man known his thoughts? Suddenly confused and not terribly pleased with the idea of walking out of this place by himself, Iwaki took a step forward. "Wait... who are you?" He didn't even know the man's name.

The stranger looked over his shoulder and flashed a sexy grin. "Kudoh Yohji, at your service."

› › › ›

Yohji sat down at his table and smiled when he saw Iwaki slowly head toward him. He picked up his leather jacket and draped it on his chair so the seat next to him was available and motioned at his waitress. "Bring us two more," he waved at his drink while Iwaki sat down.

"I'd prefer to go home now, if you don't mind," the actor stated rather stiffly, edging his chair away slightly.

"And I'd prefer another couple of drinks." Yohji finished off the last of his and reached for his pack of cigarettes, resting on top of the table. "Give them some time to cool down and realize that you're not just gonna walk out there and let them pounce on you."

Iwaki didn't seem very pleased with that answer. "I want to leave before anyone finds out I'm here."

That got an amused snort out of him. "I doubt they're gonna go running to the press about getting their asses kicked while hassling you, and no one else seems to care." That was the reason he came to this bar in the first place. No one tried to chat with him or be friendly, to bother to try and get to know him. "Have a drink or two, all right?"

Iwaki didn't say anything, not even when the waitress returned with their drinks. Yohji was halfway through his when he sighed and leaned back into his chair. "Could you relax a little? I told you I'm not trying to get into your pants, all right? I don't want anything from you."

The actor still seemed a little suspicious, but at least picked up the drink and had a sip. He appeared as if he wanted to cough at first, but his lovely grey eyes became resolved and he had another sip. Yohji couldn't help but notice the eyes, he was such as sucker for them. An unusual color but they couldn't hold a candle to Aya's....

He sighed into his drink before finishing it off and motioning for another round. "So, how's the movie coming along?"

Iwaki acted startled by the question. "What? I- why do you want to know?"

Gods, the man needed to relax before he had a heart attack or something. Yohji wasn't used to inspiring this amount of suspicion from people other than Aya. "My boyfriend loves the book it's based on. I actually have a chance of getting him into a movie theater when your film comes out."

"It's... going well." Iwaki finished his drink and finally relaxed a little. Maybe he realized that Yohji really wasn't after him. "Your boyfriend enjoyed the book?"

"Yeah." Why wasn't he surprised to find himself talking about Aya, when he purposely came here to forget about his lover for a short time? Still, he hadn't had much luck of that yet this evening, and had even risked a fight with those assholes just as a distraction.

"He loves the historical aspect of it. He's a sucker for anything dealing with samurai." He smiled at the mental picture of Aya curled up in the chair, totally engrossed in a book. They didn't have many escapes available to them here in Kyoto, always traveling around as they were and crammed in that damned van, but Aya tried to spend an hour or two a day reading. "He was rather surprised to hear it was being made into a film because of the subject matter, though."

Iwaki was quiet for a moment, and then rested his arms on the table. "I was too, to be honest, but I loved the book so much I had to take part in it." He seemed a little surprised to find himself talking and blushed, just the tiniest bit. Oh yeah, the man was definitely sexy. Yohji could see why he had so many fans, and why Iwaki's lover risked condemnation for making their relationship public. But thoughts of an even sexier redhead kept him from being tempted into doing something very stupid. That and the knowledge that he'd be killed the instant Aya ever found out.

"I guess it's a good thing he's not here with me tonight, or he'd be pumping you for details." His smile faltered as he thought of why he was alone. Omi better be watching Aya's back tonight. Damn, he *hated* two-man missions, since they usually fell to Aya and Omi. He didn't deal well with sitting at home and waiting to see if the man he loved was going to come back or not.

"Hmmm." Iwaki turned his empty glass between his hands. "You don't sound like you're from here, Kudoh-san."

"Please, call me Yohji." He caught Iwaki's slight twitch at the name and had to smile. Nope, even if he was interested, each time the actor heard that name, he'd probably think of his lover and not feel tempted to stray. "I'm from Tokyo, originally." No sense lying about his accent.

"I thought so," Iwaki replied, seeming to pull back a little, maybe
because of the reminder of his lover.

Smiling at the waitress as she left new drinks and cleared the empty glasses, Yohji lit a cigarette. "I work in a flower shop, of all things." He knew he was being a bit talkative tonight, but what the hell were the chances of a famous actor working for Esset or some other spy organisation? Besides, the distraction of conversation was welcome. Sitting here drinking by himself wasn't cutting it so he'd try something new. "My boyfriend and I travel all over Kyoto with our
roommates."

"Flowers." Iwaki grimaced and reached for his drink. "If you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about flowers right now."

"No problem, I'm rather bored with them myself. So, what should we talk about?" He noticed the way Iwaki stared at his lit cigarette and slid the pack and lighter across the table. "The weather? Baseball? The stupid government?" Iwaki shook his head at each one but smiled in gratitude as he smoked his cigarette. "You've ever been to the soba place by the Gokokuji station?"

"No, I don't think I have." Iwaki looked interested as he leaned over the table. "Is it any good?"

› › › ›

Yohji parked his car between Aya’s and the van, heartened to see light through the mostly curtained windows. Turning off the engine, he gave a quick glance up and down the street, not finding anything out of sorts. He thought it was such a shame that they’d be picking another spot to park at nights soon, as the row of warehouses they’d been staying at the last week was nice and quiet. Oh well, maybe this time they’d find a place with a handy convenience store nearby or something.

Staring at the large van in distaste, he left his car and walked over to the vehicle. Each time he saw the thing, all he could think about was what the hell drugs Manx and Birman must have been on when they’d picked the damned thing as their new ‘home’. He’d much rather prefer being holed up in an apartment somewhere. Four men were not meant to live in a tin can on wheels. If this went on much longer, Weiß would be dead – at their own hands.

He knocked three times on the door in warning before unlocking it, sliding inside and kicking off his wet shoes. "Aya?" he called out as he closed and locked the door, not seeing anyone inside.

"You’re soaking wet." Aya, rather wet himself, came out of the bathroom. Yohji couldn’t help but watch in utter fascination as thin streams of water trailed down from dark red hair onto pale skin, along Aya’s toned chest and stomach to vanish in the white towel clutched around his waist.

"Well, it is raining out there, you know." He knew he sounded like an idiot but Aya had the tendency to do that to him, even more so now.

"Hmph." Aya reached back into the bathroom for another towel, which he tossed at Yohji. "Dry off before you get sick." There was a hint of concern in the command, tempering the look that clearly said Yohji was an idiot to allow himself to become so wet. It was that tone and the way Aya glanced away, as if shy, before removing the towel around his waist to dry off his hair and upper body that gave Yohji hope that he wasn’t being a lovesick fool once again.

Quickly pulling off his own clothes, Yohji couldn’t help but stare at his lover’s body until it was partially hidden by the damned towel once more. "How did the mission go?" He finally realized that they were alone in the van and frowned. "Where’s Omi?"

Aya sighed as he sank down on the couch, appearing more than a little tired. "The mission… was more complicated than we expected, but we managed. Omi and Ken are meeting with Birman to hand over the information." His head lolled onto the back of the sofa as he watched Yohji undress, eyes heavy lidded.

Finally managing to rid himself of the wet clothes, Yohji gave himself a quick dry off and, unbothered by his nudity, sat down beside his lover. "Come here." He tugged on Aya’s shoulders until the man turned around and rested against him, and then started to massage the tense muscles. "So, when did they leave?" He felt a spark of hope flare to life. He could practically count on both hands the nights when he and Aya had the van to themselves. He *hated* sharing such a small space with so many people.

"Hmmm." Aya slowly relaxed under the massage, his eyes drifting shut as he leaned forward slightly. "They just left a little bit ago." He was quiet for a minute, and then his hands crept up to rest on Yohji’s. "They’re meeting Birman in Hiroshima."

"What?" Yohji pulled his lover upright and around enough so he could look him in the face. "Why there?"

"Because Birman wanted to meet outside Kyoto, and…." Aya licked his lips and slumped forward a little, resting his head against Yohji’s shoulder. "Omi wanted to get Ken away from here, to see if he couldn’t talk to him a little. Maybe figure out what’s going on with him."

Yohji didn’t say anything for a few minutes. His fingers threaded through Aya’s hair and started another massage, and once again his lover’s eyes closed as he slumped some more, against Yohji.

As much as he was jealous at those two getting away from the damned van for a bit, and probably spending some time at a nice hotel to get some rest, he wouldn’t change places with Omi for anything. Not when a heart to heart talk with Ken was the price to pay for the little getaway.

"You think it’s going to help anything?" he asked.

"Hmmm." Aya opened his eyes. "I don’t know. We can’t afford for Ken to… keep losing control like he is, but he’s being pretty tightlipped about what’s bothering him."

"Besides the obvious, you mean." He sighed and hugged Aya closer, his body starting to react to having his mostly naked lover practically draped all over him. He spared Ken a little more thought but when Aya didn’t answer, decided there were better things to dwell upon. Thinking about Ken just reminded him about the dark road he’d started down – before Aya had stepped in and gave him a reason to give a damn about his sanity and life.

"So we have the place all to ourselves until, what, tomorrow afternoon?"

Aya shifted on the couch until his back rested against Yohji’s chest. "Maybe two days. Omi said he wasn’t rushing back."

Two days…. Two days of just him and Aya in this tin can. Two days without having to step around Ken, who seemed to alternate between bouts of hyperactivity and depression when he wasn’t being downright scary, and an increasingly frantic Omi, desperate to keep the group together. Just him and Aya. He felt as if a prayer had been answered or something.

"I wonder what we’re going to do with ourselves," he said, voice husky with passion as he bent forward to nibble on his lover’s neck.

Aya murmured something, the sound low but pleased, and tilted his head to the side. "We need to do laundry, and to stock up on more flowers. I thought… maybe we could take a short break." He shivered as Yohji’s mouth traced a path up to his ear. "Yohji…."

"Ayan," he breathed, adoring how his lover trembled in his arms. They’d only been together for a few months but he’d quickly learned how exactly to manipulate the lovely body he was holding close, learned what drove Aya wild. First as a means to hide from the nightmares and bad memories, but now because he so utterly needed the man. Aya kept him sane.

His hands slid down a firm chest and, even though Aya refused to admit it, a ticklish stomach that rippled beneath his touch to the white towel. Slowly working the damp material loose, he then pulled it away.

Aya took a deep breath and turned around to face him, a hint of blush on his cheeks. He smiled at his lover and met him halfway for a kiss that fully had his attention, not to mention his cock hard and ready. Gods, what Aya could do to him…. He ravished that sweet mouth, tasting mint toothpaste and something else, something that had him flicking his tongue in as deep as it could go and all around. His hands settled on Aya’s wonderful ass and squeezed, his hips rocking forward to meet an equal hardness.

Gasping, Aya pulled back, chest heaving but eyes heavy lidded and tranquil. There was a sense of peacefulness there that he never saw any other time. He always felt something constrict when he saw that look, felt words that he desperately wanted to say catch in his throat.

"Where did you go tonight? You reek of smoke." Aya leaned forward to sniff his hair, lips pressing into a thin line.

"I went out for a few drinks," he confessed, "but I didn’t get drunk." He’d promised not to, after all, and wouldn’t risk breaking his word. Not to Aya. "I’ve a funny story to tell you in the morning about who I ran into tonight."

His lover gave him an even look, one that promised that there’d be more questions later, and then moaned deep in his throat as he stroked his fingers down the crack of Aya’s ass. Yohji chuckled at the thought of telling Aya about Iwaki and then devoted himself to what he was doing.

Holding Aya on his lap, he stretched out on the couch, tugging the towel beneath his hips. He fumbled about between the cushions for a moment, searching for the bottle of lube they hid there. He wasn’t helped at all when Aya leaned down for another kiss, one that made his breath hitch and entire body ache with the need to be inside his lover, thrusting as deep as possible.

Finding the damned bottle finally, he let out a laugh of relief and grinned wickedly at Aya, and was startled to see a lascivious smile in return. Aya’s lovely eyes were so dark with desire, filled with need and that rare peacefulness. He stared into them for a precious few seconds, drinking in something he alone got to see.

"Yohji," Aya sighed and leaned down again, his mouth pressing against Yohji’s chest. He groaned at the feel of hot wetness that enveloped his right nipple, back arching when his lover started to suck. Fighting to open the bottle one-handedly, he eventually managed to pop off the top and squeeze out some of the cool liquid.

With his other hand, he slid his fingers once more through Aya’s hair, grasping the silky locks and tugging gently. "Tomorrow I’m taking the time to do this right," he promised. Aya’s pleased grin told him that his lover understood what he meant. Right now they were both too tired, Aya especially, to drag this out but in the morning….

He slid his slick fingers down Aya’s ass, pushing him forward as they parted firm flesh in search of- Ah, Aya’s sharp breath, slowly changing into a moan, made him smile and push one of his fingers inside the tight entrance. "You are so damned sexy," he said, meaning every word. He felt as if he could get off right now just by looking at Aya, naked and expression wanton, crouched over his hips.

"I want you, Yohji." Aya slowly stroked his fingers over Yohji’s cock, making his hips jump and finger press inside even deeper. They both gasped at the sensations, Aya’s head tossing back as another finger was added.

Having worried about his lover all night long and dwelled upon what he’d do when Aya returned from the mission, all he wanted was to have Aya wrapped around him and to come. Taking several calming breaths, he continued stretching his lover, his free hand capturing Aya’s on his cock and holding it still. He was not about to embarrass himself.

"Here, play with this instead." He shifted their hands to Aya’s cock and smiled when his name was moaned again. Gods, how he loved hearing it like that, Aya’s voice so deep and rough with need. He pulled his fingers out and couldn’t help but chuckle at the sharp gasp of disappointment. "As if I’d leave you alone at a moment like this," he teased, earning an almost glare.

Quickly slicking up his cock, he reached for Aya’s hips again, only to find his lover already moving into position. Oh so slowly, Aya impaled himself, and all he could do was grit his teeth at the absolutely wonderful sensation of such perfect heat and tightness engulfing him and pray he didn’t come right then.

"Yohji, move dammit," Aya ordered, a hitch in his voice as he started to lift his hips. Grabbing onto them, Yohji shoved his boyfriend back down, sliding in all the way to his ball. They both moaned, utterly still for a few seconds before moving once more. The pace started slow but became more frantic with each thrust, their bodies desperate for release.

One hand on Aya’s hip and another on his cock, Yohji lost himself in the pleasure, the warmth growing inside him with each heartbeat. This was so fucking perfect… was heaven. Aya on him and around him and crying out his name, heavy lidded eyes shining with an emotion that he longed for desperately because he was so utterly lost in it himself. That emotion was his saving grace.

Aya came first, his body clenching tight around Yohji as he cried out loudly, head thrown back and chest heaving. Warmth splattered along Yohji’s stomach, barely noticeable as a hot vise tightened around his cock, squeezing him so damned hard that he couldn’t have stopped coming just then if his life depended upon it.

"Aya! I- you… oh." Lost as he was in the pleasure, he barely prevented himself from saying those words that had been caught in his throat ever since returning home. He couldn’t risk being wrong and driving Aya away. If he lost the man, lost this…. Ken wouldn’t be the team’s only basket case.

He grunted softly when Aya fell onto his chest, hot and sweaty and a limp bundle of muscle and bones. Somehow he found the strength to wrap his arms around his lover, happy to be holding him close. It felt so fucking good to be able to lie here like this, to slowly come back down to earth after wonderful sex. Normally, they had to hurry and clean themselves up before Ken or Omi barged in.

"I have an idea," he said, more than a bit tired but smiling happily. "Why don’t we just take off to somewhere far, far away?"

"Hmmm." Aya nuzzled his chest and slowly, as if he barely had the energy to do that, sat up. "Don’t tempt me."

Sitting up himself, he winked at his lover as he combed his hands through the messy crimson hair sticking up all over the place. Aya looked like a disgruntled lion at the moment. He snickered softly at the image. "Just think about it. No more annoying roommates or crazy missions, no more two minute showers in a stall so small you can’t even turn around in it. We could have a real bath and a soft, real bed." No Kritiker.

Aya sighed, the sound sad, and reached down for Yohji’s towel. "You know we can’t."

Yeah, he did. Kritiker was watching over Aya’s sister now that she was awake, and there was no telling what would happen to Omi and Ken if they left. They were trapped here. At least they had each other now. "I’m going to enjoy the next day or two." He leaned his head against Aya’s. "I just want to spend some time with you," he dared to say.

Aya tensed against him for a second, and then slumped against his chest. "That sounds nice," he mumbled sleepily.

Wondering just how bad the mission had gone for Aya to be this tired and open, he grabbed the towel and cleaned the two of them off. Aya mumbled his name and shifted about but didn’t seem inclined to move much. Not that he had a problem with that, not in the slightest. Tugging the blanket off the back of the couch to cover them both, he settled down, Aya on top of him, and closed his eyes. Funny how living in a tin can with a crazy teammate and what he did for a living all melted away in moments like this.

› › › ›

Aya stood guard at the door, his breath harsh in his throat and muscles aching from the intense battle with the building’s security mere minutes ago. His hands, damp beneath the leather gloves, clenched around his katana as he stared down the hall, trying to make out if he’d heard something or not. Let Omi get the information quickly so they could leave this place, he thought with particular fervor, with its too many guards and faulty blue prints. The damned mission had gone wrong from the start, and all he wanted to do was go home and see Yohji, to lie down on the couch and finally rest.

"Two more minutes, Abyssinian," Omi said over their comms, the frantic click of keys evident in the background. Aya snorted softly and looked down the other end of the hall, on edge and *knowing* that something bad was going to happen. He felt certain of that.

When the rest of security finally rushed down the hall a minute later, he realized that he’d need more than his katana and reached for the gun he’d taken from one of the dead guards earlier. Fumbling inside his coat pocket, he found it to be empty. Where had the gun gone? Cursing himself, he barely got his katana up into position when there was a loud noise and something burned through his chest, knocking him back against the wall. He stared down at the gaping hole in disbelief, and everything went dark as more shots were fired….

Aya came awake with a muffled gasp, his face pressed into the curve of Yohji’s shoulder. Imaginary pain filled his chest, fading with each panting breath as he reassured himself that it was just a nightmare. He’d put the gun to good use earlier tonight and he and Omi had returned home safe, a little tattered around the edges but successful in their mission. They were both fine.

Taking a deep breath, he forced his body to relax against his lover’s. Yohji mumbled something and shifted about slightly on the couch, his arms tightening around Aya’s waist. There was the soft pinging of rain hitting the trailer’s metal roof, the occasional crack and rumble of thunder, various creaks and groans from their home as the wind buffeted it. All was safe and normal – as much as things could be that way now.

Moving his arm from Yohji’s hip, he reached down for the blanket that had wound up at the end of the couch. What he wouldn’t give for a real bed. The couch wasn’t meant to be slept on, was barely big enough for just one person but as cramped as he and Yohji were on it together, it was still preferable to the floor. Over the last couple of months they’d gotten used to sleeping with each other, *on* each other, in constant contact.

He was amazed how quickly they both had adjusted. Yohji wasn’t known for spending the night with his ‘dates’, and Aya hadn’t shared a bed with anyone before. He guessed the fact that most nights they were exhausted from work and truly needed the rest helped them grow accustomed to the new arrangement. He couldn’t help but smile at the thought that it seemed that Ken and Omi had taken longer to get used to it than him and Yohji.

The blanket tucked around his shoulders once again, he closed his eyes and rested his head on Yohji’s chest, listening to his lover’s heartbeats. He hoped the panic from the nightmare faded soon so he could get some rest. Even if they weren’t going to do much more than laundry and cleaning the next day – if they ever got off the couch, that was – he needed the sleep now.

If only he could be more like Yohji. The man could sleep through almost anything, be it storm, fight or fire. Once Yohji decided to go to bed, one had a hell of a time waking him back up. Unless he suffered from nightmares of his own.

But Yohji hadn’t had many lately, or at least they’d gotten better, to the point where he didn’t wake up, covered with sweat and a choked cry in his throat. Aya was in a position to know, after all.

He had to wonder what had brought along the change. Was Yohji finally moving on past Neu’s death, or was the situation they found themselves in just wearing him down to the point where he was too exhausted to react to the dreams any more? Maybe, just maybe, he was happy with Aya, enough so that the bad memories were beginning to fade.

As much as he wanted to, Aya couldn’t put much faith in that last one. Yohji was the ultimate playboy. Right now he was hurt and set adrift, as they all were, in a strange city and cut off from their former lives. Yohji needed him now, but that wouldn’t always be the case. Then this… thing… they’d started would come to an end.

He wasn’t sure why Yohji wanted this relationship, other than as a means to escape his nightmares and have a lover nearby so he didn’t have to search out a new one each night. At first, Aya didn’t mind that. He had no purpose any more, no goal to attain now that Aya-chan was safe and awake, so he’d thought… he’d thought to try some of the things that he’d denied himself these last few years. He’d always been attracted to Yohji – who wouldn’t be? – and he’d seen someone who needed something, someone he could try and save. Guess he was just used to that after all this time.

He never thought he’d fall for Yohji, though. He guessed that a casual relationship was just beyond him. They weren’t beyond his lover, though, so he didn’t say a thing about his true feelings, tried his best to hide them as much as he could. They needed each other too much for him to allow those feelings come between him and Yohji when the man moved on.

Groaning with frustration, he pulled the blanket up over his head. Just great. Here he’d hoped to get some sleep tonight, and to distract him from the nightmare, he started thinking about his messed up relationship of all things. Now he’d lie here, wallowing in misery and self-pity until he finally grew tired enough to pass out. That was the last thing he needed.

A particularly loud clap of thunder made him jump, made Yohji moan out his name and hug him tightly. Forcing his body to relax, Aya started to concentrate on counting each bright flash of light seen through the curtained windows, and the seconds between the answering rumble of thunder. He wouldn’t allow himself any more dark thoughts tonight. After all, he knew better than most that brooding would get him nowhere.

› › › ›

Kato looked down on his sleeping lover. Iwaki was curled up in bed, one hand tucked beneath his chin and a slight furrow to his brow, probably from a headache. Kato still couldn’t believe that Iwaki had come home last night completely drunk. Not his usually proper lover, on a work night no less. For a moment he felt a spark of jealousy and concern as he wondered what all his lover had done after storming out of their hotel room, but he pushed the emotions aside.

As much as he regretted doing this, he reached down and shook Iwaki’s shoulder. "Time to wake up," he said, his voice more cheerful than he felt. He’d let his lover sleep in as long as possible, now they really had to get ready for work. It would be another long day in front of the cameras for them, though at least they would be filming scenes together. "Iwaki-san, time to wake up!"

Iwaki groaned and tried to bat his hand aside, but he was persistent. He’d get yelled at by both the director and his lover if they didn’t show up on time.

"Go away," Iwaki mumbled and hunched down in the bed.

"Sorry, but I can’t. It’s six thirty already."

"Hmmm?"

"Six thirty," Kato repeated, a smile on his lips.

Iwaki was quiet for a moment, and then his eyes flew open. "Six thirty! Why didn’t you wake me earlier?" He sat up in a rush – and then clutched his head. "Ow."

"Here, I thought you might need this." Kato handed Iwaki a glass of water and a bottle of ibuprofen. "What did you all drink last night?" he asked, careful to keep his voice as neutral as possible. He didn’t want to start another fight first thing in the morning.

Iwaki gave him a lovely smile in thanks as he reached for the medicine, the expression wearing at the jealousy and concern Kato felt. You idiot, he thought to himself, you need to get over this foolishness. As much as he knew that Iwaki loved him, enough to spend the rest of their lives together, he couldn’t shake his fear of someone else snatching his lover away. He didn’t so much doubt Iwaki as worried about other men. He’d done whatever he had to in order to make Iwaki his, had lied and pushed past any decency he had, and he didn’t doubt that someone like Carlos or anyone else would do the same. Iwaki was more than worth the effort.

Swallowing the medicine and the water, Iwaki set the glass down on the nightstand and groaned. "Too much, evidently. There was something with whiskey at the bar, and we switched to something else later on." He closed his eyes and started to massage his temples. "Yohji did all the ordering."

"Yohji." Kato felt a spark of anger at the informal, friendly way his lover said another’s man name, the same as his. "You know, it’s not very smart to let a stranger order drinks. You never know what’ll end up in it."

Iwaki’s cheeks flushed as he opened his eyes and glared. "I didn’t think I had anything to fear from him, especially after he helped me with those men."

The anger increased, this time directed at himself. Iwaki had been in danger last night, and he hadn’t been anywhere nearby to protect his lover. "You seem to know this *Yohji* very well, considering you just met last night."

"Kato, not now." Iwaki started to climb out of bed. "I have a terrible headache we both need to get ready for work. Yes, I might have done something foolish last night, but *I* at least trust my judgment, and I felt that the man wasn’t a danger. He didn’t try anything at all last night."

"So you said." He still didn’t trust this Yohji. Especially if the man was gay. Who could resist his Iwaki-san?

"Yes, I did." His lover’s eyes flashed with anger as he stalked toward the bathroom. "I’m not getting into this right now, Kato. If you want to act like a jealous fool later on, we can fight *after* work. Now I’m taking a shower."

Kato’s eyes followed his naked lover across the room, drawn to Iwaki’s lovely body. He couldn’t resist rising from the bed and trailing after his lover, catching the bathroom door before it was slammed shut and sliding inside.

Iwaki glared over his shoulder while he turned on the shower. "What do you want?" he asked, voice testy and pinched with pain.

"I haven’t had a shower yet. I thought we could save time and take one together," he said, his expression as innocent as possible. Iwaki glared a little more but didn’t say anything as he stepped into the shower stall.

Quickly stripping off his robe, Kato joined his lover. "We don’t have time to fool around," Iwaki hissed before moving under the stream of water to wet his hair.

"I know that," Kato said as he picked up the bar of soap. They really didn’t have any time but he couldn’t resist his lover, couldn’t resist touching the man’s wonderful body. Iwaki was his and only his.

"Kato…," Iwaki warned, busy washing his hair.

"I’m just helping you clean off," he replied as he stroked his soapy hands down his lover’s back. "You’ll be ready much quicker now." His hands slid around to Iwaki’s chest.

Iwaki snorted in disbelief at the comment, but the sound changed into a moan as Kato tweaked his nipples. "Ka~to… work."

"I know." Kato couldn’t resist pressing against Iwaki’s back, his erection nestling between his lover’s ass. "I wont take too long. I promise your headache will feel much better when I’m done." He pressed a kiss against the back of Iwaki’s neck. "Please, Iwaki-san?"

Sighing, Iwaki tilted his head back, leaning it against Kato’s shoulder. "You’re insatiable."

"Because I have Iwaki-san as a lover," he murmured as he rocked his hips forward. All his jealousy and anger melted away as his lover pressed against him. Iwaki was indeed his, wanted him just as much despite work and a hangover. He’d watch his foolish temper better and make sure that no one ever got a chance to snatch the wonderful man away from him.

He grabbed the bar of soap and slathered his hands with suds before trailing them down Iwaki’s front. Reaching between his lover’s legs, he fondled Iwaki’s hard cock, drinking in the way Iwaki gasped out his name and relaxed into his arms. His mouth roamed all over his lover’s shoulders and neck, careful not to suck too hard and leave a mark but desperate to taste the golden flesh, to feel Iwaki’s shivers against his lip.

As Iwaki thrust forward into his grip, he slid his free hand around a sharp hip, down a defined cleft to stroke at the soft skin hidden there. Iwaki cried out his name again and shifted in the shower to brace his arms against the tiled wall.

"Kato! Don’t drag this out," Iwaki snapped, an undercurrent of need to the order. Wanting his lover too much to tease or take his time right now, Kato released Iwaki for the bar of soap, once more coating his hands until they were slick.

He reached for Iwaki’s chin, pulling his lover’s head back enough to give him a kiss. "You’re mine, Iwaki-san," he breathed against his lover’s lips before leaning forward, his tongue thrusting deep into the warm, wet cavern.

Iwaki whimpered under the assault, the sound intensifying as a slick finger slid inside him. Kato plundered his lover’s body, dove in as deep as he could with finger and tongue, twisting about and stroking everything he could until Iwaki writhed against him. He added another finger, stretching his lover as quickly but thoroughly as he could, driven on by Iwaki’s moans and gasps and the thought of being buried inside the warm, perfect body clenching around his fingers.

Pulling them out, he once more fumbled for the soap and moaned himself as he coated his aching cock with lather. "Iwaki-san, I’m coming in," he warned, and groaned when his lover thrust back his hips, eager for him.

"Kato…," Iwaki breathed, his head tilted back and eyes closed. As soon as Kato was inside his lover, he snapped his hips forward, needing to bury himself as deep as possible.

Gasping in hot, humid air, he set an almost brutal pace, hips pistoning as his hands grabbed Iwaki’s hips and pulled them back. His lover crumbled forward, one forearm braced against the tiles, hips titled backwards and up, hand clenching at Kato’s ass as Iwaki fought the same battle, to get as close together as possible.

Hunched over his lover’s back, unable to form the simplest of words as grunts and moans poured from his mouth, he managed to pry one hand free to skim along Iwaki’s hips and grasp the man’s neglected cock. Iwaki cried out, the sound sharp and loud, echoing off the tiles, as he pumped it in time to his thrusts.

"Ka- Kato!" His eyes closed and mouth panting, Iwaki called out his name again. Wonderful, warm walls clamped around Kato’s cock as his lover came, body shuddering in pleasure. He found himself lost in the pleasure, in the feel of Iwaki so damned tight around him and came himself, thrusting as deep as he could a last few times.

Trembling in bliss, he slumped over his lover’s back, hot skin against his as warm water pelted down on them. The legs in front of his shook, the only warning he had before they both collapsed into the tub, Iwaki landing in his lap.

His arms tight around his lover, Kato relaxed against the tub’s porcelain side and laughed weakly. "You’re going to kill me one of these days, Iwaki."

"*I’m* going to kill *you*?" Iwaki said, his whole demeanor indignant. "You’re determined to drive me to an early grave! Can’t you control your urges at all?"

"Hmmm, not when Iwaki-san is mine." He pressed his lips against the side of Iwaki’s neck. "How’s your headache?"

"….." His lover stiffened in his arms and the next thing he knew, he was smacked over the head. "We’re going to be late for work now, thanks to you! And I still need to wash off!" Iwaki stumbled to his feet, pausing to give Kato a potent glare as he patted what had to be a sore bottom.

Kato grabbed the bar of soap he’d dropped and rose up. "Here, I think you’ll need this." He had to smile as Iwaki snatched the soap from him and started to rub it with the washcloth, his motions jerky. The expression remained as he washed his hair, and he spared his lover a wink or two whenever their eyes met during the shower. He even made certain to rinse down the shower wall after Iwaki, muttering about young lovers who had more hormones than sense, stomped out of the shower. He noticed that his lover didn’t complain about the headache any more.

› › › ›

Yohji checked his appearance one last time in the mirror, smiled at the sight and then left the cramped, humid bathroom.

"Are you *finally* ready?" Aya asked from over by the couch, where he was busy stripping the cushions of their slipcovers. "I don’t see how you can stay in that room for so long."

"I don’t think it’s big enough to qualify as a ‘room’," Yohji answered as he opened the too small cupboard that held his clothes. He was about to say it was more the size of a coffin but stopped himself in time. They didn’t need dark thoughts on a rare day off. He pulled out a pair of clean jeans and a clingy white t-shirt – not cropped, as he knew Aya hated him wearing things like that.

"Hmmm." Finished stripping the couch, Aya crammed everything destined for the laundromat into an old, plastic hamper. "You certainly took long enough in there." There was a hint of reproach in Aya’s voice, probably for being left to collect all the dirty linens and clothes by himself. Some of Ken’s stuff had probably put up a hell of a fight before going into the basket.

Buttoning his jeans and pulling on the shirt, Yohji offered his boyfriend an apologetic smile. "Sorry. I have to look my best for my adoring public, don’t you know." Plus it had been so nice to have the bathroom all to himself for once, to enjoy a four minute shower, of all things, and to shave without Omi and Ken whining about needing to use the toilet.

Aya just grunted at his joke and looked away, surveying the tiny trailer as if to see if there was anything he’d missed. The place already looked neater without having the dirty clothes of three men strewn all about. Then he bent down to pick up the overflowing hamper.

"Here, let me help." Yohji hurried over to the door and, his hand on the knob, leaned down to kiss an unsuspecting Aya once he approached. He felt Aya stiffen at first but then return the kiss. For a moment, all he could think about was how they’d spent the morning, him keeping his promise to take things slow this time, Aya utterly willing to go along with him….

Aya, a little out of breath and cheeks flushed, pulled away and jabbed him in the stomach with the laundry basket. "We need to wash this stuff before we can mess it up again," he said, a slight smile hovering on his lips.

"You’re right." Yohji leaned in for a brief kiss, his hands clutching at the basket. "Here, I’ll take this. Least I can do after you gathered it all up." Aya gave him an odd look but let go of the hamper and followed him out to the car.

There were a few teenaged girls hovering around outside who appeared rather depressed that the shop wasn’t going to open today. Yohji flirted with them briefly as he walked over to his car and placed the hamper in the trunk, telling them that pretty young women such as themselves shouldn’t look so sad. That seemed to cheer them up, along with the promise that the shop would open in another two days, all restocked and eager for customers.

Closing the trunk, he looked up in time to see a strange expression on Aya’s face, one of sadness and longing. Taking a guess as to what caused the sad look, he offered his lover a reassuring smile. "I’m sure your sister’s doing fine. Manx and Momoe-san will look after her for you."

"What?" Aya frowned as he waited for Yohji to unlock the car door. "Ah, yes. I’m sure she’s fine." The expression became a little darker, leaving Yohji to wonder if he should have mentioned Aya-chan at all. He couldn’t understand why Aya refused to talk to her or even let her know he was alive but figured the man had his reasons.

Sliding into his car, he reached over to unlock the passenger side door. Aya quickly joined him inside and pulled on the seatbelt.

"So, where do you want to go for breakfast? Or should I say lunch?" They’d slept in late to begin with, and it was well past noon now.

"Okonomiyaki sounds good." Aya seemed distracted with something trapped between the seat and the door.

"Great." There was a place not too far away. He was starving and right now some okonomiyaki with squid, cheese and pork sounded wonderful. "You know, there’s a bathhouse not very far from the restaurant. What do you say to having a nice, long soak before we tackle the laundry?" He glanced over at his lover and found Aya to be holding a small leather bag in his hands.

"What is this?" Aya asked. He didn’t sound happy and was glaring at the bag as if it was highly suspicious. Yohji didn’t feel too happy when that look was directed at him. "I’ve never seen you with this before."

It took him a moment to figure out how the thing had ended up in his car. "Ah! Remember when I told you that I’d met someone interesting last night?" He smiled at Aya, the expression faltering a little when Aya didn’t smile back. "Open it up and see who was my drinking buddy last night." When his lover didn’t move, he sighed. "Go on, you’ll never believe me if I tell you." Aya still didn’t move. "Oh for crying out loud, it’s not a bomb!"

"If it belongs to someone you were drinking with, I’m not so sure about that." There was an odd note to Aya’s voice, fury and a hint of disgust and something else…. Yohji pulled out into traffic and felt the need for a cigarette. The good mood from this morning was starting to slip away.

"Just open the thing." He remembered seeing Iwaki’s driver’s license when the man had paid for their meal last night.

Aya was quiet for a few seconds and then snorted softly while doing as he was told. "Just what were you doing that your ‘friend’ forgot to take his wallet with him?" Aya gave him a cold look before folding open the damned thing.

He knew the moment when Aya recognized the driver’s license, a small sound of surprise startled from him, and had to smile. "You never know who you’ll run into one night, na?"

"How the hell did you meet a movie star, let alone have several drinks with him?"

Ignoring traffic for a moment, he gave his lover a wink. "All part of the Kudoh charm, my dear." He didn’t appreciate the snort of disbelief that remark met but tried not to let it bother him.

"I know the type of places you hang out, Yohji. They’re not exactly someplace you’d run into a famous actor, let alone have a few drinks with them." Aya crossed his arms over his chest and glared at him. "This is some sort of joke, isn’t it? A way to cover up what you really did last night?"

Trust Aya to think so highly of him. It was a miracle the man had lowered himself enough to sleep with him, Yohji thought bitterly. "It’s not a joke. Hell, I didn’t even know he left his wallet behind until you found it."

Aya stared at him, the glare melting slowly into doubt. He glanced at the wallet again and riffled through the various contents. "Tell me what happened," he said, his voice quiet and sounding almost apologetic.

For some odd reason, Yohji felt relieved to hear that rare tone. Then again, there was nothing odd about it, he knew why he now felt better. It hurt for Aya to think so lowly of him, even if he deserved it because of the shit he’d pulled in the past. Trust him to lose himself head over heels for a man who’d witnessed him at his worst and had an excellent memory. "I went out for a few drinks last night." As he always did when Aya was on a mission without him. "It’s a bit of a quiet place, a bar where everyone minds their own business, and just off the beaten path. You know the type, not a dive but not someplace you go looking for company or conversation."

He grabbed himself a cigarette and lit it, desperately needing the nicotine. Aya let go of the wallet long enough to roll down his window a bit. "Well, I hear a commotion and look up to see a few of the regulars picking on the guy. They recognized him and took offense at a ‘faggot’ having a drink in their bar. Long story short, I made them leave Iwaki alone and we ended up having a few drinks together." Well, more than a few.

The car was silent for several minutes so he turned on the radio for some sort of noise. He kept glancing at Aya out of the corner of his eye, trying to figure out what his lover was thinking. Damn the man for having such a good poker face. However, he had a pretty good idea what was bothering Aya. If there was one thing he didn’t doubt it was the fact that Aya wasn’t the type of guy to put up with a cheating lover. There’d been more than enough hints when they’d started this… relationship that Aya would only stick around as long as Yohji behaved himself. So he was damned sure to behave.

"So you had a few drinks with a famous man last night." Aya’s voice was… blank. He sounded as if he was telling Yohji the name of the street they were on or something.

"Not exactly a ‘few’," Yohji reluctantly admitted. "Not enough to get drunk – or at least not me. Iwaki was a little worse for wear, though." He smiled when he remembered the actor’s insistence that he wasn’t drunk. "We had a bite to eat before I took him back to the hotel."

Aya held up the card key for a hotel room. "He must have missed this then."

Pulling in to the restaurant’s parking lot, Yohji stopped the car. "Probably. I didn’t stick around to find out, just dropped him off at the door." When Aya just stared at the card, he sighed and leaned back in his seat. "His lover probably let him in."

"Probably," Aya echoed as he put the card back in the wallet and closed it. "Iwaki must be upset to have lost this. You should let him know you have it."

"I don’t have his phone number." He tried to figure out if it was a good or bad thing that Aya seemed so bothered by all of this. "Believe it or not, Aya, we didn’t exchange too much personal information."

"Must have made talking over all those drinks very difficult." Aya released his seatbelt and made to leave the car but Yohji reached over to stop him.

"If you want to know the truth, all we did was talk about our lovers. He complained a little about how overprotecting his boyfriend was, and I…." In the face of Aya’s scathing glare, the explanation suddenly didn’t seem so smart. "Well, I talked about you a little and how you always leave me alone with nothing better to do than rescue famous gay actors from bar fights."

"You shouldn’t have talked about me at all," Aya all but snarled, his eyes shining with anger. Yohji felt his heart sink as he wondered if Aya was so ashamed to be sleeping with him.

"Sorry. I wanted to put him at ease since he seemed to think I was trying to pick him up or something." He laughed bitterly and let go of Aya’s arm. "You know, I thought you’d be pretty happy, all and all. We spent a good portion of the night talking about the movie he’s making so I could tell you all about it."

The dirty look faded somewhat. "I… thank you." Aya sighed as his shoulders slumped, the anger completely leaving him. "But it’s still a bad idea to talk about any of us out in public. We’re supposed to be hiding here, not hanging out with famous actors. Surely someone had to recognize him and was paying attention to the two of you."

Yohji felt better when he realized that Aya was just worried about Weiss being compromised, not that he had dared to tell someone that Aya was his lover. "We spent the night at a couple of low key places. I was careful, Aya, and didn’t use any last names or anything. Didn’t even tell him where we lived." He offered up a smile and was relieved to have it answered, however slightly.

"If I find out that some paparazzi wrote an article about Iwaki spending the evening with Kudoh Yohji, I’ll kick your ass." The smile stayed on Aya’s lips, taking out some of the threat’s sting. "That’s if Manx leaves anything when she’s done."

"Hey, *she* was the one who got kidnapped, may I remind you." He couldn’t help but reach out and run his fingers through Aya’s silky hair. With his lover leaning toward him like this, the hair appeared longer than usual. He couldn’t remember the last time Aya had it cut.

"I was careful, I promise."

"Hmmm." Aya titled his head into the caress, strands of crimson hair falling onto Yohji’s hand and making his skin tingle. "You really spent the evening with a handsome man like Iwaki and you didn’t try anything?"

"Hell no." His fingers reached the spot right above Aya’s nape, causing his lover to shiver in pleasure. "First off, he has a boyfriend – a husband if you consider what they did in the States last year. And I have a boyfriend too, one much more sexier than any actor." He leaned forward until his lips were centimeters from Aya’s. "I even told him so. You should have seen his face when he heard someone was sexier than him."

"Probably not something he hears every day," Aya murmured before bridging the gap between them, making Yohji’s head spin over the fact that Fujimiya Aya was kissing him, in broad daylight in the middle of a parking lot. Life was good.

They finally broke apart a few minutes later, leaving him wonder why the hell they’d ever bothered leaving the damned trailer today. Then his stomach growled, reminding him that they both needed some energy to make full use of the empty trailer all evening long. "All right, let’s get something to eat, do the laundry and get the hell back home. How does that sound?" he asked, more than a little breathless.

Aya licked his lips, the sight making him moan softly. "If we get takeout, we can eat while we do the laundry."

"Such a smart man. I knew there was a reason I’m crazy about you." He had to smile at the way Aya’s eyes went wide at the comment, the tentative smile he answered with a sexy grin. He started to lean forward again – and stopped when some customers walked past the car. "All right, takeout it is." He reached for Iwaki’s wallet and put it in his glove compartment. "I’ll have to figure out a way to get that back to him later. Maybe you can help me out."

"We’ll think of something," Aya said as he left the car. Joining him out in the parking lot, Yohji walked close enough beside him that their shoulders brushed together. He noticed Aya glancing at him out of the corner of his eye as he adjusted his sunglasses. "Crazy, na?"

"Yeah. Gods, it’s another hot, muggy day." He held the door open for Aya and received a considering look for his courtesy. Stepping into the thankfully air conditioned restaurant, he followed his lover over to the register. "Utterly and quite happily crazy for you," he whispered.

› › › ›

Iwaki smothered a yawn as he walked into the hotel lobby, nodding at the doorman in thanks as he passed.

"Don’t forget about the new keys," Kato reminded him.

Gritting his teeth, he barely resisted snapping at his lover. He was tired and still not quite recovered from this morning’s hangover, and the last thing he wanted was another fight over what he’d done last night. "I haven’t," he sighed as he headed for the lobby’s desk, manned by a cheerful young woman who always giggled slightly when she saw him or Kato.

"Excuse me, there should be new room cards here for me," he told the young woman.

She smiled, her small hand covering her mouth and stifling yet another giggle. "Of course, Iwaki-san. The lock was changed earlier, and here are your and Kato-san’s new cards." She handed him two small envelopes. "Also, something arrived for you today."

"What is it?" Kato asked as he joined him at the desk. The young woman smiled and dipped her head before turning for what appeared to be an arrangement of flowers, wrapped in a sheet of pale blue paper, flecked with darker blue. Oddly enough, there was no logo at all on the paper.

"These are for Iwaki-san," she said as she set the arrangement on the desk. "They just arrived an hour or so ago."

"Was there anything else?"

"No, Kato-san. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you during your stay." The young woman bowed, her long bangs falling onto her face. Then she turned her attention to a newly arriving guest.

He could tell by the look on Kato’s face that his lover wanted to throw the flowers away, but Kato merely picked them up, a little roughly, and nodded toward the elevator. Enjoying the silence while it lasted, he left the counter for their room. If Carlos had sent more flowers, this time just to him…. He rubbed his temples, feeling a headache coming on.

Thankfully, they had to share the elevator going up to their room, which spared any comments from Kato until they were in private. Kato’s face grew stormier and stormier by the second, his hands clenched around the paper wrapped flowers. Iwaki ignored him in favor of opening one of the envelopes and having a card ready to open their door.

The hotel, upon being informed that he had lost his room’s card and that he and Kato hoped that they wouldn’t have to move to another room, had efficiently replaced the lock for them. He guessed there were some benefits to being a respectable actor but more likely thought the production company would be paying for the service. He felt a little guilty over that but was still thankful that they hadn’t had to switch rooms.

His lover set the flowers down on the table by the door. "Well, do we want to bet on who sent the flowers to you?"

"Kato, not right now." He sat down on the bed, feeling worn down both by work and fighting with his lover. The day had gone down hill after he’d noticed that he’d lost his wallet at some point during his night of drinking with Kudoh. He hadn’t needed Kato’s disapproval on top of working with a hangover.

His lover’s shoulders tensed – and then he let out a sigh and lay down beside Iwaki. "Are you going to be upset with me if I tell that if Carlos sent the flowers, I’m cramming them down his throat the next time I see him?"

"Why aren’t I surprised?" he said as he fell down onto the bed. If anything, Kato would be showing remarkable restraint if he did only that.

His lover chuckled softly. "You’d have to give me credit for showing some restraint," he said, as if reading Iwaki’s mind. Kato rolled over and pushed up onto one arm, leaning over him. "I’m getting better, aren’t I?"

"Only because you know I won’t forgive you if you act like a possessive idiot. As is, you’ll probably make Carlos withdraw his funding for the movie." He reached up to brush back the golden hair falling onto Kato’s face, his fingers lingering in the soft strands.

Kato captured his hand and pressed it against his cheek. "As much as I’ve sacrificed for this movie, I’d do it in a heartbeat if it would make Carlos leave you alone."

No wonder he still had a headache. Possessive acts such as this seemed very romantic in movies and books – but were very trying to deal with all the time in real life. "I won’t let you ruin this movie." But he didn’t glare at his lover as he gently tugged on Kato’s hair. "Besides, Carlos isn’t interested in me anymore. He already has someone he loves."

"Magira can’t hold a candle to you," Kato murmured as he leaned down, lips brushing against his. "Why would he want someone else when he can have you?"

"Maybe because he can’t have me? No one can." He tapped his ring finger against Kato’s temple. "I’m already taken, remember? He even helped plan the wedding, so I doubt he’ll have forgotten that fact."

"Hmph. I wouldn’t let anything stop me from having you." Kato bridged the distance between them, his lips pressing ardently against Iwaki’s. Giving up on the budding argument, Iwaki wrapped his arms around his lover and kissed him back. Funny how his headache always faded away when Kato was close to him like this….

The kiss stretched on, leaving him out of breath and rather amorous. His hands slid beneath Kato’s tight shirt, eager to stroke his lover’s warm, smooth flesh. Kato always did this to him, drove him beyond sense with love and desire….

"The flowers!" his lover cried out, breaking off the kiss. "You haven’t seen who sent the flowers!" He sat up and jumped off the bed.

Iwaki groaned as he covered his face with his hands. Why had he fallen in love with an idiot? Frustrated and more than a little annoyed, he sat up with a snarl. "Are you serious?"

Displaying an amount of enthusiasm usually reserved for children, Kato practically hopped in place over by the still-wrapped flowers. "I want to know who sent them!"

Realizing that he’d never get any peace until they solved that mystery, Iwaki heaved a weary sigh as he pushed himself off the bed. He doubted they were from Carlos – but he was still a little apprehensive about the flowers. He hoped they were just from an anonymous fan. However, that probably wouldn’t calm Kato down any. No, his foolish lover would then imagine some nameless person out there determined to steal him away.

Gently tugging apart the lovely blue paper, he slowly revealed an arrangement of gold lilies and pale purple orchids. The flowers were beautiful, the glossy green of their leaves and stems echoed in the dark green of the vase – from which the tanned brown leather of his wallet stood out in contrast.

"My wallet!" He quickly untied the string holding his wallet to the vase and then rifled through the billfold, finding his money, driver’s license and key card still inside. "Everything’s still here!"

Kato frowned at the good news as he reached over for the card stuck amidst the flowers. He ripped open the envelope and read the writing aloud. "’I think you might be looking for this. Yohji.’" He showed it to Iwaki, who noted that his friend’s name was written in katakana and not kanji. A little odd – but not as odd as the fact that the card, like the wrapping paper, bore no sign of a logo or shop name. The flowers were so artfully arranged, though, that they had to have to have been done by a professional.

"See, the flowers aren’t from Carlos after all, and Yohji didn’t steal my wallet." He smiled at his lover. "I feel a little guilty now for making them change the lock for us." He also felt a bit smug, especially since Kato had given him so much grief over losing his wallet during the day.

Kato didn’t appear very happy that his belongings had been returned to him. Instead, he glared at the flowers as if they offended him somehow. "So he returned it to you with flowers? Don’t you think that’s a little odd?" There was a jealous tone to his voice.

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Iwaki lightly hit his lover on the shoulder. "He told me he’s a florist so it’s not that odd at all."

"I still don’t like the fact that he gave you flowers," Kato said, practically sulking.

After snatching the card from his lover and setting it down on the table, Iwaki then ran a hand through his hair, his fingers clenching in the strands as he fought to control his temper. "Kato, please listen to me for once. The man did me a favor last night. He got me out of a bad situation and made sure I made it home. Yes, during that time he let me buy him several rounds of drinks and something to eat, but he *never*, not even once, made a move on me." He leaned against the table as his arms settled across his chest. "He even returned my belongings to me in a manner that wouldn’t attract much attention, and this after I still have the leather jacket he lent me. He hasn’t left me a phone number or address so it’s very unlikely he plans to see me again in the future. Does that sound like someone desperate to get into my pants?"

Kato shook his head as he reached out to stroke along an orchid’s petal. "Not really." He offered Iwaki a rueful smile. "When you put things like that, I guess I look like an idiot, na?"

"Yes, you do." Iwaki softened the words by moving to his lover’s side, his arms draping over Kato’s shoulders. "Please, stop worrying like this. I’m not going to leave you, especially not for a man I just met."

"I’m not going to lose you, *ever*" Kato replied, his voice quiet yet heavy with promise. "You’re mine forever."

"Yes." Such a simple answer, but it seemed to do more to soothe Kato’s fears than anything he’d said all day. Iwaki couldn’t help but shiver as his lover leaned in close, slid strong arms around his waist and pulled him tightly against a toned, hot body for a kiss that literally made his toes curl. His fingers tightened in Kato’s hair, eager to prevent him from pulling away before he finished things, as he’d done before.

Somehow they made it over to the bed, leaving him grateful that they were still in their familiar room. They both shed their shirts along the way, greedily seeking each other’s mouths as soon as the material was off their bodies.

He let out a small bark of laughter when he was tumbled onto the bed, for the third time that day feeling his tiredness and headache fade away as Kato settled on top of him. The look in his lover’s eyes took his breath away, one of love and possession and passion.

Kato stared at him intently before leaning down, never once breaking eye contact. "Iwaki-san is mine."

"Oh yes," he breathed as he lifted his head, eager to close the small space between them. Kato kissed him back just as fervently, pushing him into the soft mattress as hands scrambled down his sides before fastening on his pants. In a matter of seconds he was stripped bare, the kiss broken yet again as his lover threw the pants onto the other side of the room and then snatched up the bottle on the dresser.

"You do this to me all the time. All I have to do is see you, to smell you, and I can’t stop myself from needing to be buried deep inside Iwaki-san. Those pheromones of yours are just getting stronger and stronger." Kato’s slick hand slid between his eagerly parted thighs, and he couldn’t hold back on a moan as a finger pressed into him.

"Kato!" he cried out as it slid inside, cold and hard and oh so welcome, part of his lover. His hands clutched at Kato’s muscular shoulder, his legs twitched as they moved, bending at the knees to leave him splayed wide open. "You… ah! You’re the only one who notices them." His eyes almost rolled up from the wave of pleasure rushing through his body as fingers pressed deep inside him, sparking pure bliss as they rubbed his sweet spot.

He grabbed a handful of his lover’s hair and tugged, yanking Kato’s mouth down onto his. His need to have as much of his lover inside him as possible, and right now was forced to settle for tongue and fingers. He sucked Kato’s tongue into his mouth as he twisted his body on the bed, rocking his hips so those fingers drove in even further.

He felt it when his lover’s control snapped, felt Kato’s sudden indrawn breath, the way his body tensed and fingers stilled for one brief second. Then the fingers were pulled out, and Iwaki’s knees were grabbed, his legs splayed even wider and his hips lifted as Kato pushed into him. He couldn’t help but cry out as he was swiftly penetrated, the sound one of joy as he pulled Kato’s hips even closer.

"Kato!"

"You’re mine, Iwaki-san," Kato grunted as he started to thrust, the strokes deep and fast. "You’ll only say my name, feel *me*… huh… inside you."

He could only choke out his lover’s name again as he gave in to the sensations, of Kato so deep inside him, sparking off bolts of bliss that had the breath catching in his throat, his vision darkening. He clung to his lover, lost in so much passion and pleasure, and when a calloused hand wrapped around his cock and stroked in time to those frenzied thrusts, he couldn’t help but be lost to those sensations. Managing one more cry of Kato’s name as he came, his head fell back onto the bed as his body shook.

A few more forceful, oh so deep thrusts and Kato yelled his name, warmth filling him as strong arms wrapped around him. Kato collapsed onto his chest, covered with sweat and out of breath, and they just lay there for several minutes. Despite having a full-grown man a limpid weight on top of him, Iwaki felt comfortable, warm… content.

He poked Kato roughly in the ribs and ignored his lover’s protest of pain and abuse. "I’m happy. Why do you keep thinking that I’m going to give this up? Idiot."

Kato looked at him with big, round, golden eyes and sniffed melodramatically. "Iwaki-san is always so mean to me." He rearranged himself, sliding out of Iwaki’s body and settling partially on the bed but still draped over him.

"Because you’re an idiot. Stop being so silly and I won’t have to knock sense into you as much," Iwaki huffed – as much as he was able. He was tired and sated and headache-free… now all he wanted was to rest for a short while. "How does a late dinner sound?" he managed to mumble as his eyes drifted shut.

Gentle fingers brushed back the hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. "I think that sounds like a great idea. We’ll splurge on room service and have dinner in bed."

"Hmmm." The thought was a very tempting one. Hugging an arm tight around Kato’s waist, Iwaki let sleep claim him.

› › › ›

Aya squirmed beneath Yohji and groaned as their erections slid against the other’s, hot and slick. His fingers tangled in Yohji’s long hair and tugged tight on the sweat-damp strands to gain his lover’s attention. "Fuck me now or I’ll gut you."

The hungry mouth sucking on his mouth shifted upward, soft moistness and hard teeth blazing a trail of torment to his ear. "How can I possibly resist such a romantic request?" Yohji then took to nibbling on his earlobe while strong, large hands cupped his ass, lifting it up and spreading it apart.

Ohhhh…. He wasn’t doing things right if Yohji could still think enough for snappy repertoire. To correct that and to give the man incentive to following his order, he slid his hands down Yohji’s back, skimmed them along prominent hipbones and clasped the eager hardness he found. He had to smile when Yohji let out a hiss of breath and jerked back his head, eyes closed tightly as a faint curse fell from his lips.

"Fuck…. You’re so damned impatient," he complained as his fingers touched Aya, two of them sliding inside with relative ease. Thankfully, Aya was still slick from before, and not in the mood to repeat such leisurely sex.

"And you’re a tease," he answered as Yohji’s fingers scissored inside his body for a few seconds. He moaned as he stroked his hands along Yohji’s cock a few more times and then guided it to where he wanted it the most. His lover finally got the hint, fingers sliding out only to be replaced by a hot, hard presence that wrung another moan from him. So good… it felt soooo incredibly good….

"Gods, ah-Aya." Yohji actually stuttered as he slowly thrust inside, going deeper and deeper until Aya practically sobbed from being filled so perfectly. Hands slipped around to grasp his hips as Yohji rocked against him, buried as deep as possible. All he could do was toss back his head and try to remember how to breathe. Already the pleasure was too much, and when his lover pulled back and thrust forward…. He gasped as his fingers dug into Yohji’s scrawny ass, pulling him as close as possible.

So much bliss… there were times he didn’t think he could live without sex after finally discovering it. Couldn’t live without Yohji making him feel this good. His eyes still closed, he let the gasps and pants and moans slip past his lips, knowing that Yohji loved to hear those sounds, knowing that they invariably would hasten his lover’s pace. Right now… he just wanted Yohji inside him, hard and deep until the pleasure became too much.

Breath coming in ragged pants and eyes still closed, he focused on that pleasure, on what Yohji was making him feel. The sparks of bliss were coming closer and closer together, brighter each time that spot inside him was struck. His arms and legs clung to Yohji, pulling him tightly against him. He let out a sharp cry and arched his back as a hand wrapped around his cock, the sparks almost incandescent with ecstasy. Closer and closer to the edge, he barely noticed Yohji’s other hand caressing its way up his body, stroking and pinching and scratching his chest until he was writhing once more.

His eyes flew open as the hand loosely wrapped around his throat. He stared at his lover, body still moving in time to those wonderful thrusts as the pleasure stared to fade under apprehension. Yohji’s eyes had a glassy look to them, as if green marbles with the lack of emotion and the amount of shininess to them. But before he could do anything, his lover blinked and then seemed to see him once more.

"Ayan." Yohji leaned down for a kiss, his hand now tangling in Aya’s hair, fingers clenching tightly. Aya surrender to the kiss, to the pleasure once again as his fears subsided – though wariness remained. Oddly enough, that emotion just made the passion even more intense, the sparks all the brighter.

With Yohji practically pounding into him, stroking his cock and tilting his head back for the occasional scrape of teeth along his neck, he lost himself into that brightness, the world becoming pure white with pleasure. He wanted to hide here forever, away from the pain and disappointment that was life, but the bliss was always so transitory. Before he knew it, he was back in reality, Yohji’s breath hot on his neck as his lover shuddered in his arms.

"Aya…," Yohji groaned as he moved slightly, sliding out of Aya’s body and resting a bit on his bent arms. "Are you really trying to kill me?"

"Hmph. It would be much easier to just run you through with my sword," Aya retorted, still a bit out of breath. He doubted there was anything in the world that could make him move right now. No, not even the imminent arrival of Aya-chan or Schwarz.

Yohji laughed, the sound warm and deep and also a little out of breath. "Yes, but would it be this much fun?"

"There are some times when you use all the hot water that it would be very, *very* enjoyable to gut you."

Yohji laughed again as he slowly sat up, and then tugged Aya into a sitting position. Once upright, though, they had to lean against each other for support.

"I see you’re getting the hang of joking," Yohji murmured into the top of his head. Aya sighed as he slumped against his lover, wondering if it was a good or bad that, being able to make jokes again. He hadn’t done it very much over the last few years, but somehow… it just felt natural to tease Yohji back.

He knew he’d changed over the last few months, because of his sister finally being awake and his relationship with Yohji. He was resigned to being a killer but wanted more out of life than just death and blood. Then to find so much pleasure just by surrendering his body, to trusting Yohji to be the one in control…. His hand stroked lightly along his throat, wondering if pleasure was the only thing he sought.

Yohji’s hand brushed against his. "I don’t think I left any marks this time, other than a few scratches." For a moment his fingers felt hot against Aya’s throat. "I… gods, Aya, don’t let me do anything stupid, okay?" he said in a shaking voice.

Aya didn’t know if now was the time to talk about this. Not when everything had been damned near perfect – or as perfect as things could be when they were living in this cursed van – the last two days. Not when he could imagine that Yohji was indeed crazy about him as something other than a ‘fuckbuddy’.

"I told you I’d kick your ass if you ever tried to do that to me," he said gruffly as he pressed his face against Yohji’s chest. He’d promised his lover that back when they’d started this… ‘relationship’, when Yohji had been a hair’s breath from utterly losing it. But just now… part of him wanted to see how far his lover would go, how far his lover thought he was Asuka.

Yohji was quiet for a couple of minutes, but his hand constantly stroked through Aya’s hair. "You better. I-" He took a deep breath and shivered. "I don’t want to lose you."

How was Aya possibly to know the real Yohji? Was it this man, kind and passionate and so concerned about him? Was it the libertine, concerned only with his own pleasure, be it from drink or sex or rest? The amused and flirtatious Yohji that most people saw? Aya’s head hurt from trying to figure it out, to think he had his lover’s true nature pinned down and then have Yohji reveal a new facet of personality. To have his hopes crushed once and again. Dammit, he should have known he wasn’t cut out for casual sex, so why pick the team’s resident slut to experiment with?

He sighed as he shifted into a more comfortable position against Yohji. The problem with dealing with long restrained emotions was that he didn’t have a clue what the hell to do. This was one mess that he’d gotten himself into without any outside interference, if one didn’t count Yohji being so damned sexy and needy. His arms wrapped tightly around Yohji’s waist, and a slow breath escaped him when Yohji returned the embrace. "I’m not going anywhere."

"You better not."

He kissed Yohji’s neck upon hearing the words and told himself not to get his hopes up. Sure enough, the man wasn’t finished talking.

"I mean, if you leave me here with Omi and Ken, I’ll be the one doing the gutting when I manage to track you down."

A joke, just like all the other jokes over the last couple of months, that always managed to make his hopes plummet. One minute Yohji didn’t want him to leave, the next he complained about being stuck with Ken and Omi, as if his soul purpose was to act as a buffer of sorts for his lover. Just like that, any intention he had of a serious discussion was gone. He wouldn’t bare his heart for Yohji to mock.

The silence stretched on again as he grew aware of various aches and pains from spending most of the day having sex on a couple of blankets stretched out on the floor. He was also very well aware of the fact that he needed to take a shower. Yet it felt so good to just lean against Yohji.

"You were supposed to keep on joking," his lover said, voice quiet and sounding a little uncertain.

"Maybe I’m too tired to see the humor in the situation," he responded with a yawn as his head rested on Yohji’s shoulder. "I’d give anything to have a real bathtub," he added as an afterthought, mind busy imagining him and Yohji soaking together in hot water. They needed to go to a bathhouse soon. He just never felt clean unless he could soak.

Yohji caressed the side of his neck and then his cheek, fingers brushing back the hair falling onto his face. Hair that was getting too long but that he couldn’t seem to care enough about to get it cut. Maybe he’d let it grow long, another change in this new life full of them.

"You might have a point." Yohji still sounded so quiet, making him wonder if he wasn’t the only one feeling tired. He never imagined how tired sex could make a person. "Maybe we should stop with the jokes for a while and-"

The phone cut off Yohji and whatever point he was trying to make. Groaning in annoyance, Aya forced himself away from his lover and reached for the damned thing. Only six people knew about this number. He hoped it was Omi and Ken checking in, not Birman or Manx with a new job or some depressing news.

But before he could answer it, Yohji snatched the phone from his hand. "What?" his lover snapped, an annoyed expression on his face.

Aya sat there and listened to the one-sided conversation.

"Back already? Couldn’t you have stopped to have taken in any sights or something? Maybe done some research for a school paper?" Yohji even sounded annoyed. Judging from the high-pitched squawk on the other end, it was Omi he was talking to.

"Don’t even go there, Omittchi. You left us in this damned tin can for room service and a real fucking bathroom. No wonder I’m not eager to share this prison with two other people." Yohji glared off in the distance as Omi spoke. "No, we haven’t. Hey, you’re too young to talk about stuff like that!" This squawk was even louder than the first one, making Aya flinch.

Yohji’s expression softened as he smiled and gave Aya a wink. "All right then, if we have to let you back in, you might as well feed us. Get two of the breaded chicken dinners, and make sure there’s extra sauce." He seemed to consider something. "Make that four, we haven’t had much to eat today. Oh, go to hell, chibi. See you in a bit."

Hanging up the phone, Yohji smiled, the expression more than a little bitter. "So much for having the place to ourselves. They’re getting takeout and will be here soon." He tossed the phone aside and leaned in for a kiss. Aya found himself leaning forward eagerly, wanting just a little bit more of his lover before Ken and Omi returned. They’d have to go back to snatching at any time they could find to be alone, back to watching how they touched and acted around each other with their teammates here. No more marathon lovemaking sessions on the floor.

He broke off the kiss with a regretful sigh. "I’m getting a shower. You can clean up out here." He felt muscles complain as he stood up, and tried not to wipe at the mess on his stomach. Now that the mood was ruined, he was desperate to wash off. Sex was wonderful… and messy. Gods, what he wouldn’t give for a real bathroom.

Yohji patted him on the ass, earning a potent glare. "Don’t hog up all the water."

"My name’s not Kudoh."

His lover, busy gathering up the blankets, tried to throw them at him as he left, but he managed to make it into the bathroom just in time.

› › › ›

Yohji tossed the trash left over from dinner in the garbage bin and walked away, pulling out his cigarettes as he did. The smell of burning tobacco helped to erase the stench of garbage on a hot day and to soothe his nerves. Gods, why did Ken and Omi have to come back so soon?

Not ready to enter the tin can and put up with sharing that cramped space with three other men, he reached into the front pocket of his denim shirt for the can of beer he’d stowed there while taking out the trash. Then he leaned against the damned van and popped the top, the cool beer feeling wonderful on a still warm evening.

Inside their ever so humble home, he could hear Omi commenting about something, Ken’s equally excited voice and Aya’s deep, calm rumble in turn. They were probably still going on about Hiroshima. Yohji had a feeling that if they had to leave Kyoto and set up shop somewhere else, Omi was going to push for there. Who the hell knew, it might even be a good idea. Word was already starting to spread around the city of a traveling flowershop run by four handsome young gentlemen – it couldn’t be much longer that they had any hope in hell of keeping the fact that they were alive and well secret much longer. For fuck’s sake, the incident with the United States Army had to have set off alarms somewhere, letting their enemies know that Weiss was active in the Kyoto area. Whatever was left of Esset was probably still pissed off with them over ruining that group’s grand plans and would be looking for some retribution. Not to mention all the other enemies they’d made over the years.

Gods, but he so didn’t want to think about this right now. Didn’t want to reflect on how fucked up their situation really was. How little support Kritiker could provide them if they ran into any serious trouble. They truly were out here on their own, Birman and Manx aside. Hell, Manx had even managed to get herself kidnapped of all things. And she was supposed to be looking out for them? They were sooooo fucked.

So, not wanting to think about the metal coffin he was forced to live in and the fact that his career was looking even shittier than usual, he focused on something else. Something that was never far from his thoughts the last couple of months. He thought about Aya.

//Maybe I’m too tired to see the humor in the situation.// What had Aya meant by that? Had his lover been talking about just then, or their relationship on a whole? Yohji knew that he used jokes as an manner of defusing a potentially nasty situation, a habit that had become ingrained over the years. He even fell back onto it when he didn’t mean to. But fuck, he certainly saw this relationship as having immense potential for becoming nasty. Any day now, Aya might realize he could have sex with just about anybody he wanted and decide to leave Yohji for someone brighter and sexier and saner. Definitely saner. Then he’d be forced to see the one thing that he wanted, the one thing keeping him from going totally off the deep end, forever out of his reach.

Back then, right before Omi called, he got the impression that Aya was talking about more than their latest teasing exchange. But was Aya getting tired of the jokes because he wanted something more from their relationship, or was he getting tired of the relationship in whole? How the hell was Yohji supposed to tell? What if it was the latter and by bringing up the issue, he made it easier for Aya to break things off? That was not something he wanted to risk bringing about.

He’d lose it if he didn’t have Aya. Maybe this relationship hadn’t started out with any intentions other than both of them finding a method of… release that wouldn’t put them or others at risk, but it had become so much more than that for him. Aya had gone from being a teammate he respected and liked to someone he loved deeply, someone who gave him a reason to fight the demons that had been dragging him down.

Tilting back his head, he finished the beer in one long swallow and crumpled the can before tossing it aside. His hands shook slightly as he lit another cigarette, his back sliding down the metal side of the van until he was crouching. He hadn’t expected one of those demons to make a surprise return, not after how great everything had been the past two days.

He still remembered the feel of Aya’s neck in his hand, his lover’s pulse beating against his fingers. He rocked his head back and smacked it into the van. Gods, he thought he was past that. But at least he hadn’t done anything tonight, had felt his hand around someone’s neck and looked down to see Aya and not Asuka. Whenever he’d done that with his dates, he hadn’t returned to reality until they fought back. Hell, that last girl barely had any life left in her before he stopped thinking of Asuka and Neu and let go. That had scared him so bad that he’d sworn off women.

Somehow, he didn’t think he’d avoided a repeat of that night because Aya was a man. He’d choked a guy he’d picked up not long after arriving in Kyoto and sported a black eye as a result. Maybe it was the fact that he couldn’t get his lover out of his mind, couldn’t help but savor every bit of him when they were together. Aya’s taste and feel and scent, the deep moans during sex, the way Aya’s strong fingers would dig into his flesh, urging him on faster and deeper….

Yohji let out a shuddering breath. Even now he couldn’t get Aya out of his head. There were even days when he didn’t think of Asuka or Neu at all, but he always thought about Aya. Didn’t help that they were crammed in the torture chamber on wheels together, that they ate almost all their meals together, slept together on a couch meant for one person. His lover might go off for a few walks on his on, or the occasional mission, but other than that, they were always at each other’s side. That should have driven them both crazy, but somehow it worked. Maybe they’d lost so much over the last few years that they didn’t mind always seeing the person they cared for nearby.

The question was, did Aya really care for him? He had no doubts about his own emotions anymore, and too many about Aya’s. Part of him said that the reserved man would never have allowed him this close unless there were some feelings on his part, but Aya didn’t act like a person on love, not really. A bit more human, a bit more relaxed – but the change had already started before they began having sex.

//Maybe I’m too tired to see the humor in the situation.// The humor of what? The jokes, or the fact that they couldn’t talk seriously to each other despite being lovers for the last few months. Yohji rolled the cigarette between his fingers and gave the matter some serious thought. He’d been surprised when Aya had begun teasing him back, but lately…. He was tired of it too, tired of never admitting what he felt.

A burst of laughter had him tilting his neck back as he stared up at a window. Omi sounded happy, for once. Guess maybe getting away for a few days and a chance to talk to Ken had done him a world of good. Yohji could imagine his young friend inside the van, rocking up on his toes as he tended to do when he was excited or happy. He’d be standing in the middle of the small common ‘room’. Ken would be sprawled out on the chair or busy in the ‘kitchen’ area making himself a snack, and Aya would be sitting on the couch, book in hand that he paid just as much attention to as the conversation around him. If Yohji got up and went inside, there would be a space waiting for him beside his lover. He’d sit down and drape his arm over the back of the couch, and Aya would shift just enough to be leaning against him. He could already smell the scent of Aya’s shampoo, sweat and the cheap laundry detergent that they used. Could feel Aya’s warmth soaking into him, the way his body relaxed because his lover was near.

He wasn’t giving that up. Fuck. He’d have to take a chance that Aya felt just as deeply for him and have a serious conversation for once. A conversation that would either lead to them breaking up or… or admitting their feelings and making this relationship more permanent. Well, as permanent as they could, considering what they did for a living. He’d long given up on the dream of growing old and dying in bed. The past couple of years, the best he could hope for was a quick death and a life up to that point filled with as much pleasure as he could manage. Even that had changed lately. Oh, not the quick death part, but he’d like to enjoy something real and meaningful while he lived. Something like waking up every day to find Aya asleep beside him, spending his time in the company of the man he loved, just… just being happy. "Gods, you sound so sappy, Kudoh," he snorted as he banged his head again.

So how did he go about convincing Aya of that fact? Shit, this wouldn’t be easy. He didn’t think Aya was just going to buy the fact that Kudoh Yohji was ready to settle down with someone. Not with the way his lover kept dropping hints that as soon as he started seeing someone else, Aya was ending things between them. He couldn’t even blame Aya for being suspicious, not with the way he’d gone through lovers in the past, often two or more at the same time. What was the saying? Hoisted with his own petard? That was so the case here. He chuckled a little as he thought that Aya would be shocked to find out that he’d nicked some of his lover’s Shakespeare books on the nights that Aya had been out on missions without him.

The humor soon faded, though, as he tried to figure out a way to convince his boyfriend that they both wanted a commitment. He’d taken to lightly banging his head against the van when the door opened and Ken appeared to hand him a can of beer.

"Hey, stop that! Your head’s thicker than the walls."

"Thanks, Kenken." Popping open the beer, he had to admit that Ken looked a lot better after a couple of days away. "Did you ever think that if we damage the damned thing enough, Manx might be forced to move us into a real apartment or something?"

Ken grunted after taking a sip of beer. "Or she’ll give us a piece of cardboard and some duct tape and tell us to make do."

He made a face as he straightened up. "You’re probably right." What the hell had they done to Manx to make her hate them this much? Or was it really Birman they’d pissed off. The woman was probably upset that he’d never really flirted with her in the past…. "So I say we have a ‘minor’ electrical system error one night and set the damned thing on fire."

"Manx would still probably give us the cardboard and tape and tell us to make do," Ken snorted as he sat down on the step. "Now there’s a woman who’s grateful for us saving her neck." A hint of bitterness had crept into his voice, as it always did when he referred to that mission.

That mission had left all of them a bit shaken, but Ken most of all. "Yeah. Next time we’re not going after her," Yohji joked. He had some more beer, suddenly wishing he was drinking something a lot stronger. "Not unless she promises us a penthouse."

He managed to get a little laugh from Ken, who had turned so quiet so sudden it disturbed him. "So, remind me what it’s like to sleep on a real mattress again. It’s been soooo long."

Ken finished his beer before answering. "Come on, don’t you and Aya ever go to love hotels?" he asked while wiping his lips.

"Aya won’t waste the money, and those aren’t exactly the places you go when you want to get some rest."

"What the hell is he saving his money for now? I thought his sister was fine." Ken scratched his head and looked up at Yohji.

He set his empty beer can down and folded his arms over his chest. "Maybe for a rainy day?" He wasn’t going to say anything about how Aya didn’t trust Kritiker anymore – well, trusted it even less after Manx’s kidnapping, and was squirreling money away in case Weiss would have a need for it. "Once a miser, always a miser I guess."

"So where do you guys go if not love hotels?" Ken seemed so confused that he felt he had to enlighten his friend.

"We found someplace much cheaper and usually cleaner," he smirked. "Karaoke booths." He remembered the last time they’d went, just over a week ago, of the music blasting as he thrust into Aya from behind, his lover pressed tight against the wall and pushing back against him, taking him in even deeper…. He had to shake his head to clear it of the wonderful image. They’d be going back soon, now that Omi and Ken had returned. "I think we’ve found all the karaoke places in Kyoto by now."

The look on Ken’s face was priceless. "You… you do it in karaoke clubs? What if there’s a roomful of kids next door?"

"Nine out of ten, they’re doing the same thing we are," he pointed out as he wondered if he should have another cigarette or not. He was trying to quit, and had already exceeded his limit for the day by one. Ah well, he better not. "If you’re so worried about us corrupting the poor, innocent youth of Kyoto, go away with Omi more often."

That earned him another snort. "Go ahead and twist my arm, why don’t you?" Ken titled his neck back and looked up at the cloudy night sky. "It felt so damn good to sleep in a real, soft bed, to have a bathroom all to myself, and to watch whatever show I wanted. Funny how you miss the little things in life, na?" He looked over and smiled when Yohji nodded. "Guess you had a bit of that yourself, other than the bed. How much longer until we’re going to have to replace the couch?"

Yohji reached out to smack his friend on the back of the head. "Now I know where Omi got his recent perverted streak from. The couch still has a few more months of use left." Basically because they used a blanket or two and the floor whenever they had the place to themselves. It was kinda hard to avoid the wet spot on a narrow couch.

"What do you expect from the kid when he sees you and Aya groping each other all the time." Ken shook his head, a silly grin on his face. "I mean, it’s bad enough when you do it, but we all thought that Aya was a nice, normal man, if a bit psychotic whenever you mentioned the name ‘Takatori’. I think I’m scarred from seeing him slide his hand down your pants."

Yohji laughed. "Aya’s making up for lost time, what can I say? That and he has one hell of a sexy lover."

"He has a lover with one hell of an ego," Ken muttered. Just like that, he switched from an amused, teasing mood into an almost brooding one. "Where do you think you two are going, Yohji? I mean, come on, how much of a future do you think there is for us?"

Oh boy, it seemed like Ken wasn’t completely back to normal. Yohji really wanted another cigarette now, just to hold and use an excuse to be quiet while he smoked, but firmly told himself ‘no’. "I know we’ll never be in the record books for ‘oldest living man’, but I’m not ready to give up just yet, Kenken. I’ll fight for all the time I have left, even if it’s just a few years or even a few months. And, if he’s willing, I’ll spend that time with Aya." He’d finally managed to say that – too bad it wasn’t to Aya. But still, he’d just taken a step there. Ken was a bit of a blabbermouth, so maybe word of his commitment would get back to his lover.

"A few years. Don’t you think it’s fucked up that we’re willing to settle for that?" Ken asked as he rubbed his eyes with his fists. "That we’re grateful that we’ve lived even this long? Meanwhile all the sick bastards out there will grow old and die in their beds. They’ll have the lives we never will. They deserve to die, not us."

Not certain how the conversation had taken this turn, Yohji just stood there and wondered what he should say. Fuck, Omi was supposed to have done something about this, and should have warned them that Ken wasn’t really that much better after a couple of days off. Guess they’d have to keep a close eye on him during missions still.

Ken didn’t seem to notice his silence. "Then again, people better than us have already died. People like Sister Ruth and Ouka and-" Ken became quiet as he stared at something off in the distance only he could see. Then he shuddered and took a deep breath. "You really serious about Aya? You, the guy who used to brag about how many hearts he’d break in a month?"

"I never bragged about that," he said in defense, and felt his cheeks grow a little hot when he remembered that it had been how many one night stands, instead.

"It was something like that," Ken said as he waved his comment aside. "I figured the only commitment you’d ever make was if the girl’s father tracked you down and held a shotgun to your back until you married his daughter. You know, like in the movies."

"People change, Ken, " he said slowly. "It’s possible."

"Yeah, but not always for the better." Ken sounded so… utterly weary back then that

he felt tired in sympathy. "Not everyone is so lucky. Sometimes the darkness takes you down."

He thought about that statement for a few seconds. "I know all about that, Ken. I guess you could say that Aya’s my saving grace and that I’m not so stupid as to not recognize that. Sometimes all a person needs is a little help." Which sounded hokey as shit, but so did most psychobabble. He just hoped his friend got the hint.

"Sometimes that help gets snatched away from a person." They were both quiet after that, Ken with his brooding and Yohji wondering what the hell he could say to snap his friend out of this dark mood and increasing descent into madness. Then Ken did another emotional flipflop and jumped onto his feet. "Bah, it’s too nice a night for moping. I think I’m going to do a little running before I go to bed." He smiled at Yohji and cocked his head to the side. "You interested? Or did you have enough ‘exercise’ the last two days?"

"It was a veritable marathon," Yohji said with a leer, right now content with the fact that Ken was smiling again to try and continue their conversation. Let Omi or Aya do that, he was too afraid of saying something to make Ken even worse.

"I bet." Ken rolled his eyes and then started stretching. Yohji gathered up their beer cans and walked back over to the dumpster to throw them away. As he headed for the trailer, his friend called out his name.

"Yeah?"

Ken’s smile had faltered a little. "I’m glad that you and Aya are happy together, honestly. Even if that means I’ll never get to sleep on the couch again." He seemed to brighten a little more when Yohji smiled at the joke. "It’s good to see that there’s hope for some people."

"Omi would say that there’s hope for everyone, Kenken."

"Yeah, he would." Ken straightened up, his smile now all gone. "I just wish he was right about that." Then he was gone, breaking out in a sprint down the road. Yohji watched him for a minute and thought bleak thoughts about it did indeed seem that you couldn’t save everyone. Not when they refused to even try anymore, as seemed the case more and more with Ken. His hope of having his old friend back was slowly dying, and being replaced with a new one that Ken didn’t drag the whole team with him when he finally lost it.

There was a lot of anger associated with that thought, anger with himself for not knowing how to save someone he cared about, anger at Fate for fucking with their lives to this extent, at the people who had broke Ken’s heart over the years. But mostly he was pissed off at Kritiker for making them into first killers and now broken things, and not giving a damn.

› › › ›

Yohji groaned as he tugged the blanket on his hips up to his shoulders and tucked his head into the corner of the couch. Fucking morning. Aya wasn’t curled up with him, someone was banging the ‘kitchen’ cupboards and Ken was swearing about something. This did not bode well for the rest of the day, so he decided to try and fall back asleep. If he never got out of bed – never mind the fact that he technically wasn’t in bed in the first place – things couldn’t get too much worse.

"Where the fuck are my socks?" Ken asked for the sixth time. Yohji began to wonder if he could blame getting out of bed, shoving said socks down the idiot’s throat and going back to sleep as a sudden fit of sleepwalking.

"Omi? Did you mess with my socks?"

"No, Kenken, I haven’t touched them."

Ah, the cupboard-banging culprit was Omi, then. Chibi who could be shoved into the things and locked up for the day shouldn’t make so much noise when people mean enough to do just that were sleeping. He grumbled a little as he jerked the blanket over his head in a vain attempt to shut out all the noise.

"Well, the damn things didn’t just get up and walk away, now did they?" Ken practically yelled.

"They were filthy enough to do just that so I washed them." Aya’s deep voice cut through Omi’s attempt to soothe Ken. "Try checking your drawer for them.

"You really did all our laundry while we were gone?" Ken asked, voice incredulous. Yohji made a mental note to never expect Ken to return the favor if he and Aya managed to escape for a few days. The loud idiot would never think of being that nice. There was a moment of quiet and then a drawer slammed shut. "Hmph. Well, they weren’t where I left them, how was I to know they’d be here?"

"Because socks don’t belong on tables, especially when they’re filthy." There was a dangerous edge to Aya’s voice that made clear the fact that Yohji’s lover was once again getting a little squirrelly about sharing such a small space with three other people, especially a slob like Ken. Ah well, it was to be expected, after all. This living arrangement was slowly driving them all insane.

Omi must have noticed that edge and stopped slamming cupboard doors. "And we’ve Aya and Yohji to thank for buying groceries as well, Kenken. Thanks so much for picking up more natto, Aya!"

"Hey, is there any for me?" Ken asked, seeming to have forgotten his sulk over the socks.

"There should be enough for a few days," Aya replied, the edge still to his voice though a little toned down now. "If you’re going to eat it, do that outside."

"Don’t know why you can’t stand the smell of natto, Aya. The stuff’s delicious!" There was the tread of heavy feet on the floor and the refrigerator door being opened and slammed shut. "Ah well, guess that means I only have to share with Omi," Ken said.

"Come on, Ken, we can eat while we set up the shop. Thanks again for the shopping and clean clothes, Aya!" Gods, he hoped that Omi’s voice broke soon. Either that or the Vienna Boys Choir tracked the chibi down and hauled him off to sing soprano for the rest of his life. Yohji’s ears actually ached right now.

After the door slammed shut, things were actually peaceful for a few seconds. Then there was a heavy sigh and Yohji felt Aya sit down on the couch by his hips.

"I know you didn’t manage to sleep through that," Aya said as he lightly shook Yohji’s shoulder.

Catching his lover’s wrist, Yohji held onto it as he twisted on the couch, lying on his side facing Aya, and yanked him down beside him. "I say we kill them and make a run for it. We find some deserted island to live on and we can sleep in every damn morning without a pair of obnoxious idiots waking us up."

"Omi’s not an idiot," Aya quietly remarked as he pulled his wrist free. Yohji had to stare at the man who was only wearing a towel, though he was dried off this time. How the hell someone could look so damn sexy this early in the morning was beyond him.

His hand settled on Aya’s hips, right above the cotton towel. "He’ll be an idiot until he stops waking me up every morning. I mean, come on. He can crawl around a building filled with dozens of security guards and not be caught but can’t fix his breakfast without making it sound like a herd of monkeys are in here?"

"Monkeys don’t travel about in ‘herds’," Aya, the only one of them to finish high school so far, pointed out.

"Then what do you call a bunch of the noisy beasts?"

As Aya tried to figure that out, he leaned forward for a kiss. It was morning, he sported a woody, they had the van to themselves and Aya was inches away wearing nothing more than a towel. Really, he’d shown remarkable restraint in waiting this long to pounce. He let out a happy little groan when his lover parted his lips and kissed him back.

Funny how he no longer gave a damn about sleeping in. He kicked off the blanket and hooked a leg over Aya’s, slid his arm around his lover’s waist and pulled him close. He rocked his hips forward, pressing his erection to the growing one behind Aya’s towel.

Fingers tangled in his hair and pulled until he broke off the kiss. "Omi and Ken are back now," Aya panted, a stern look on his face that was belied by the passion burning in his eyes.

Not about to lose this fight, Yohji cupped Aya’s ass and snapped his hips forward. "They’re busy setting up shop." He tugged at the damp towel, wanting it gone so he could have all of his lover bare before him.

"Yes, for all of ten minutes." Aya gasped as the towel was pulled free and his semi-erect cock rubbed against the front of Yohji’s boxers. "Yoh-ji," he growled as he closed his eyes and tilted back his head. "I’ll kill you if they walk in on us."

Taking that for acceptance, Yohji had to marvel over how much Aya had changed these last few months. Had he become so enamored of sex that he didn’t care so much about his former morals and aloof image, or was there something more? Was he only giving in because Yohji was his lover?

Yohji had to hope for the latter. "We’ll be quick," he breathed as he bent down to kiss Aya’s neck. Aya shivered but didn’t try to push him away, instead calloused hands grabbed his shoulders and pulled him closer.

Moving his lips upward, he kissed his lover, tongue delving deep into the taste of peppermint and Aya. His hips kept rocking, his boxers growing tighter all the time as Aya writhed against him.

"I’ve an idea," he said as he broke off the kiss, out of breath and frantic to be naked. He dragged Aya beneath him, wiggled out of his boxers and leaned down for one more kiss. Gods, his lover was so damn addicting…. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he sat up and then turned around, his knees on either side of Aya’s shoulders and him facing a hard, slick cock. As much as he’d love to fuck Aya, right now he needed more of his lover’s taste, needed more of him. Besides, this was supposed to be quick.

Bending down, he nuzzled the thatch of red hair surrounding Aya’s cock, breathing in the clean scent of his lover. Then he licked his way upward, enjoying the sound of Aya’s gasp and the way the cock twitched, bobbing in front of his mouth. As he settled his lips around the thick head of it, he felt calloused hands grip his hips and pull them down a little. That was all the warning he had before his cock was completely engulfed.

Gods…. He drew a shuddering breath in the face of the sudden, intense pleasure. Someone sure wasn’t wasting any time this morning. For a precious few seconds he thoroughly enjoyed the skills that Aya had quickly learned and then set about returning that pleasure.

His hips rocking slowly, thrusting into his lover’s willing mouth, he nibbled and licked until Aya moaned in bliss. Which, of course, produced a similar sensation in him as the warm throat vibrated around his cock. Slowly becoming mindless with pleasure, he wrapped his lips around Aya’s cock and bobbed his head, one hand fondling Aya’s balls while another rubbed the smooth skin behind them.

As his throat muscles relaxed, he took Aya in as deep as he could, his nose buried in the slightly musky hairs at the base of his lover’s cock. He was entirely focused on pleasure, both the giving and receiving of it. Swallow and hum and tease his finger against a tight opening, moan in bliss as his balls were tugged on gently and try so damn hard not to come just then. Sensing he couldn’t hold out much longer, he very carefully pushed the finger inside his lover, making Aya squirm beneath him. Half of the pleasure was based on the fact that it was Aya’s throat he was thrusting into, it was Aya’s cock that he was sucking on and Aya’s body his finger was buried in.

He knew when he found that special spot when Aya groaned, the sound muffled by his cock. He flicked his finger again and again as he sucked hard on the head of Aya’s cock and stopped holding himself back. Clamping his lips closed, his eyes drifted shut as intense bliss coursed through him. He lost himself in it, coming back to himself as warm, salty come pulsed into his mouth.

He swallowed it down as the last pleasure-induced tremor wracked his body. Aya’s cock slipped out of his mouth as he stretched out beside his lover and rested his head on Aya’s thigh. With a low moan, Aya heaved himself up and then lay down face to face with him.

Tucking back the damp bangs falling onto his lover’s face, Yohji smiled. "Well, I guess I get to live a little longer. Omi and Ken are still busy setting up the shop."

Aya grunted softly and stretched, a glorious sight that made him wonder if they couldn’t spend the whole day in here, much like they had yesterday. Aya rested his hand on Yohji’s hip, a hint of a smile on his lips. Aya always smiled more with his eyes, which were practically twinkling with amusement right now. "Hmmm. I guess you get to live until the next time someone walks in on us."

"In that case, I’ll remember to bar the door so that doesn’t happen." Yohji leaned forward for a brief kiss. "Come on, Omi needs the sex lessons he learns from walking in on us, and Ken’s usually amused as hell for a few hours afterwards. Is it really that bad?"

"Yes." That one word left him no doubt of Aya’s opinion on the matter. "I hate this."

"’This’, as in our current living arrangement?" he asked, his heart literally in his throat.

Aya gave him a look as if he was a complete and utter idiot. "Yes. I thought you hated it more than anyone else."

"Well, I do like having the excuse to sleep with you every night" he said as his heartbeat slowly resumed a normal rate. The look in his lover’s eyes softened at that comment, and Yohji suddenly found the courage to tell the truth to Aya. "Ayan… I… gods, I don’t know how to-"

"OI! Get your asses out here now! We’ve already got customers," Ken shouted, completely obliterating the mood.

Before Yohji could do anything, Aya grunted and sat up. "The damn girls have probably been waiting all morning for us to open." He quickly got off the couch and disappeared into the bathroom.

"Dammit," Yohji muttered as he punched his fist into the cushions. Oh Ken was so dead when he got his hands on the man later. Fuck. He finally had the balls to tell Aya he loved him and the bastard had to interrupt. Nope, poor Kenken didn’t have to worry about going insane because he wasn’t going to last the day.

At least when Aya finished washing up, he walked over to Yohji, gave him a kiss that damn near curled his toes before shoving him towards the bathroom. "Go get ready," Aya said as he pulled back and walked over to the drawer which held his clothes.

Muttering under his breath how he was going to torture Ken before granting him a much deserved death, Yohji did as he was told. As he closed the bathroom door, Aya called out to him, sounding very, very amused.

"Oh, and there’s no more hot water left."

"Fuck!"

› › › ›

Kato stopped playing with his costume when one of the production assistants walked in. "Good morning, Watanabe-san."

The pretty young woman blushed becomingly and bowed her head. "Good morning, Kato-san. I… I heard you asking Ueno-san about traveling florists yesterday and wondered if you had found any information about them yet."

"No, I haven’t," he said hopefully as he leaned against the makeup counter. "Have you heard anything about a group of young men traveling around Kyoto selling flowers?" Why the hell couldn’t that Kudoh tell Iwaki the name of his shop? It would have made it much, much easier to track the man down.

Watanabe bowed her head again. "My sister has been talking about four young men who sell flowers from the back of their van. Her and her friends have spent the last few weeks following them around the city as they move about."

He smiled, causing the woman to blush again. "That sounds like the shop I’m looking for! Does your sister know where they are now?"

As the woman stuttered out an answer, he was hardpressed not to laugh. Finally, he’d managed to track Kudoh down. Now to go see the man who had so impressed his lover in person, and if need be, cram a leather jacket down Kudoh’s throat as he convinced him to leave Iwaki alone.

› › › ›

Omi handed over a bouquet of flowers and smiled. "Thank you!"

The young girl who had just paid for them blushed and stammered out a ‘see you soon,’ before running over to her girlfriends. He didn’t have the heart to tell her or any of their customers that they wouldn’t be remaining in this location for much longer, but seeing as some of the girls had tracked them down before, it would only be a matter of time when they moved again. While it was nice to have such a devoted fanbase – and one more likely to buy flowers than in Tokyo – he was growing worried by how easy it was to find them any more.

The last mission had left him with a bad feeling. The information had been way off on the mission specs, and if Aya hadn’t kept the gun, they might not have made it out of there alive. As it was, it had been pretty close. Birman hadn’t been happy when she found out how close, and had left their meeting with a suspicious gleam in her eye. He felt certain that the next meeting with her would be very interesting, not to mention informative.

Now to survive until then, he thought wearily as another smiling teenaged girl literally bounced over to him and asked for his help in selecting some flowers. It was a good thing they’d just sent Yohji off to pick up some more stock, as the mob of customers had nearly depleted all the flowers him and Aya had bought the other day. As Omi helped her pick out some lovely iris stalks, he glanced around the makeshift shop.

Aya, his brows furrowed in a manner that suggested he wanted desperately to order all the young women to leave but couldn’t as long as they were purchasing flowers, was putting together Tussie-Mussies for a group of giggling girls. Ken, a sincere smile on his face, was talking a trio of schoolgirls into buying carnations in the colors of their favorite soccer teams. Omi was glad that his friend appeared so happy. Yohji not hanging around and glaring at him might have something to do with that. Omi wasn’t sure what Ken had done to piss Yohji off so much this morning, but the last thing they needed was for a fight to break out. Ken tended to take things… to seriously when that happened.

Another purchase rung up, he couldn’t help but wonder why the girls weren’t busy with their after school clubs or something. He felt a pang of envy seeing so many school uniforms and sighed wearily as he thought about all the homework he had to catch up on. While in general it was a little easier to be finishing his high school diploma via correspondence courses, there was still a lot of work to be done. He wished he could have just enrolled in school here, even with all their moving about. He missed the social aspect of going to class, even if he’d fallen asleep in most of his back in Tokyo.

The crowd started to thin a little, a few girls talking about having to study for this test and that, and he felt relieved. There would be another rush soon enough, when the office workers were done for the day and looking for flowers to take home or to offer as gifts, but by then Yohji should be back to help them out. Not to mention bring more flowers for the customers to buy. As the teenaged girls started to drift away, a tall man wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap slowly walked toward the van.

He looked familiar…. Omi tried to figure out why that was so and stared at the man. He appeared in very good shape, wearing a tight polo shirt that clung to his upper body and almost as tight ripped jeans. What looked to be blond hair peaked out beneath the baseball cap bearing the Yomiuri Giants’ logo. Despite the heat of the day, he was carrying a leather jacket draped over one shoulder. A few girls stopped walking away to stop and watch the man approach.

"Hello, can I help you?" Omi asked, a bright smile on his face as he cupped his elbows in his hand. All he had to do was pull out a small dart hidden in this sleeve and throw, if this stranger proved to be any trouble.

The man stopped and looked around. He seemed to stiffen as he watched Ken wrap some carnations in wrapping paper. "I was hoping to purchase some flowers," he said, his voice bearing a hint of Tokyo dialect and sounding very familiar.

Omi stepped in the direction of a bucket of cut roses. He wished that Yohji was here, and that Aya would return with the flowers he’d entered the van for a minute earlier. He only had Ken for backup, and if Ken’s temper got out of hand, there’d be one heck of a scene. "We’ve some lovely roses, sir. Perhaps a dozen red? Or you could pick a variety of colours."

The stranger pushed up the brim of his hat and looked over at the bucket. "They’re pretty. Do you do arrangements?" He glanced at Ken. "Either of you? Or someone else, maybe?"

Omi didn’t like how the man seemed to be trying to find out how many of them there were, but he didn’t let his distrust show. Where had he seen the stranger before? He know he was familiar, that he’d seen him before. During a mission maybe? "I can make an arrangement for you, sir," he said as he bowed – and palmed one of his darts.

The stranger didn’t appear happy to hear that. "Oh." He seemed to be trying to think of something to say, and removed his cap to scratch at his head. A gold earring glinted in the sun. "I think I’d like something with orchids, if you have anything."

As Omi opened his mouth to say that they did have a few, and ask if the man had any preference, all the while his mind raced to think of the significance of that flower, one of the girls let out a shriek.

"Kato-san?"

The name made the stranger tense and cram his hat back on as he smiled at Omi. "Definitely orchids. And lilies, if you have them," he said in a rush.

The girls approached the man. "Are you Kato-san?" one asked. Another searched through her school bag. "He looks just like him, I have a picture right here." Some of the girls started to squeal loudly and crowd around him.

Omi finally placed the name ‘Kato’ and felt like groaning. He’d almost killed an innocent man. The actor was hiding from his fans, not trying to take on Weiss. He felt a little silly and started to put away the dart – and then took in the growing mob of squealing girls and decided he might need it after all. And another fifty or so….

The crowd was starting to attract attention, something that made him feel umcomfortable. He didn’t like Weiss being focused on to this extent, even if just as the shop where a famous actor was caught buying flowers. But when he asked the girls to be quiet and give him and Kato some space, they just ignored him.

"What are you doing?" Aya’s deep voice cut through the noise and made some of the girls fall silent. Moments later he pushed his way through the crowd to where Omi and Kato were standing, the glare on his face making the girls take a step backwards. He glanced first at Omi and then at Kato, his eyes narrowing as he looked at the actor. Then he resumed glaring at the girls. "If you’re not going to buy something, then *leave*." There was no telling how long he’d waited to say that today.

"But Aya-san," one rather brave girl tried to explain, "we just want Kato-san’s autograph." The crowd behind her murmured in agreement.

Aya snorted as he grabbed Kato’s arm. "This is my cousin Daisuke from Nara. If you want his autograph, you can wait until after he tells me how our grandfather is faring. Now either buy some flowers or go away. We’re trying to work here!" he snarled as he dragged the actor toward the van.

Kato appeared stunned for a second, and then smiled. "Wow, Aya-kun, you weren’t kidding when you said you see some of the loveliest ladies in Kyoto every day! Grampa will find this very funny when I tell him about your job!"

Aya twitched at the ‘kun’ and his glare became even more vitriolic, but he didn’t say anything as he opened the van’s door and literally tossed Kato inside. Then he scowled at the still lingering girls. "Go away. Find some other famous look-alike to bother." He then entered the trailer and slammed the door shut behind him.

Omi stared at the close door until he felt Ken nudge him in the shoulder. "Eh, so Daisuke’s back in town. I guess he heard one too many times how he looks like that one actor and decided to even dye his hair the same colour," he said rather loudly.

Gathering his scattered wits, Omi gave his quick thinking friend a warm smile. "I thought he did it just so he could look more like Yohji, but you’re probably right." He turned the smile on the disappointed girls. "Would you like to buy some more flowers?"

"Is he really Aya-san’s cousin?" one of them asked.

"Yes. I’m surprised you haven’t seen him before," Omi added. "Their grandfather…," he shook his head and pressed his lips together.

Some of the girls made sympathetic noises and purchased a few flowers ‘for Daisuke-san to take back to his and Aya’s grandfather’. Omi felt mostly relieved that they appeared to have bought Aya’s story, but wasn’t happy to see some people linger around the van. Yes, it definitely appeared that they’d be moving on soon. Then he started to wonder what in the world Aya was doing inside the van with a famous actor, and how Yohji was going to react when he came back.

› › › ›

Kato allowed himself to be shoved inside the van, only a little worried about no longer being out in public. He figured he could handle this ‘Aya’ much better than that crowd of ravenous teenagers. He loved his fans – at a distance when there was so many of them.

Looking around the van, he found a mostly tidy area composed of an old couch sporting a neat pile of blankets and pillows, two newer chairs and what looked to be a couple of futons folded in the corner. Magazines, cups and a few articles of clothing were scattered about, there was an expensive looking laptop on the coffee table, and some dirty dishes in the kitchenette area. It certainly looked lived in and more than a little cozy.

When the door slammed shut he set the leather jacket down on the couch, turned around and took off his sunglasses. He looked at Aya, who was leaning against the door with a very pissed off look on his face. For a moment he took in how gorgeous the man was, possessing pale skin and brilliant hair color that many of his actress friends would kill for. Well, maybe maim. Oh hell, they’d kill to look like a feminine version of Aya, he thought after noticing the man’s violet eyes surrounded by thick black lashes. This Aya was prettier than his last leading lady – and couldn’t be Kudoh. Iwaki had made a comment about Kudoh looking a bit like him, after all.

He smiled at Aya and removed his hat. "Thank you for helping me out back there." His smile wavered a little when Aya remained quiet and glared at him. "Sorry for all the trouble I caused you. I can leave, if you like." There was something cold about this man, something… contained, but ready to lash out at any moment. Aya reminded him of one of his kendo teachers, the one who had worked him the hardest, clearly offended to be teaching the art to so someone could act like a samurai. No matter how much he’d worked, the man had never been satisfied with his skill.

Aya pushed away from the door, merely frowning now instead of glaring. "If you go out there now, they’ll come rushing back. Give it a few minutes for the crowd to break up."

"Well, we should be in here talking about Grampa, after all. I guess it would be odd if I left after just a couple of minutes." He smiled again at Aya, who gave him a dubious look before going over to the kitchenette. "Thanks for coming up with an excuse so quickly."

"I’m sure not everyone believed us," Aya said as he picked up the electric kettle. "Would you like a cup of tea?" he asked, his voice frosty with politeness.

"Yes, please." Kato settled down on the couch and made himself comfortable. As his host had pointed out, he couldn’t leave any time soon if he wanted to avoid being recognized again. And wouldn’t the press just love to find out about him spending some time in a trailer with such a handsome man? Nope, he wasn’t going anywhere until the coast was clear.

While Aya fixed the tea, he looked around a little more. His eyebrows went up when he noticed a practice bamboo sword resting in the corner of the room and wondered who used it. Somehow, he wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it was Aya’s. But when he slid to the edge of his seat to stand up and go investigate, he noticed a picture on the small table by the couch. It showed four young men – Aya, the young blond who’d been helping him outside, and the other employee. And standing behind Aya, a hand on his shoulder, was a tall blond with green eyes and a wicked smile. He had a feeling he’d finally tracked down Kudoh Yohji.

There was a click of wood on wood, and he looked up to see Aya setting a tray filled with a teapot, some cups and a place of biscuits down on the counter, the glare back on his pale face. "What do you want?" he asked as he knelt in front of the table.

Kato was taken back at the question. Aya spoke in a cultured accent, his words formal – but their meaning very rude. The contrast was a little disturbing, almost as much as the man’s forwardness.

"I’d… like some tea," he managed without stuttering, all the while wondering if coming here was a good idea.

Aya’s glare went up a notch. "A famous actor just decides to wander around and buy flowers. I don’t believe you’re here just for tea." His burning gaze flickered to the jacket. "That’s not your coat. Why did you bring it here?"

Feeling a little angry over the rude third degree, Kato folded his arms over his chest and did a little glaring of his own. "I was just trying to return something that didn’t belong to me. I’m certain Kudoh-san will appreciate having his jacket returned to him." He’d hoped for some type or reaction from Aya upon mentioning Kudoh’s name, but there wasn’t any. "Listen, if you want me to leave I’ll go." He knew where Kudoh lived now, he could come back later when charming Aya wasn’t here.

Aya grunted softly as he poured the tea, his expression softening a little. "We just discussed this. I don’t want my home mobbed by your fans so you’ll wait here for a while longer." He held out a cup of tea. "Stay away from the windows until then and be quiet."

Kato didn’t like being ordered about like this but just clenched his jaw and accepted the drink. "When will Kudoh-san be back?" When Aya resumed glaring, he sank back in the couch and shook his head. This man was even harder to charm than Iwaki in a bad mood.

He waited for Aya to either ignore him or say that he was mistaken, and was surprised when the man sighed and picked up a teacup. "He should be returning shortly. If he doesn’t arrive by the time your fans have given up, I’ll let him know that you returned his jacket."

"Thank you." Some of his irritation faded at Aya’s admission. "Look, I really am sorry for causing you so much trouble. I just wanted to return Kudoh’s jacket, and didn’t think I’d be recognized." He sipped his tea. "Also, I want to thank him for returning Iwaki-san’s wallet."

Aya waved aside the thanks. "It was not a problem." He picked up a biscuit and nibbled on it, his glare melting away and leaving him a rather attractive young man. He had a similar air of refinement as Iwaki, similar light coloured, piercing eyes and such smooth skin. His bangs, an improbable shade of red that, remarkably enough, seemed natural, fell onto his face just like Iwaki’s would when he dipped his head forward like that…. Kato thought about his lover, busy filming, and sighed. Iwaki was going to kill him if he found out about this, over yet another ‘jealous fit’. But he couldn’t figure this Kudoh guy out, and had decided to meet him in person.

"Well, Kudoh-san didn’t have to help Iwaki that night," he tried to explain. "Nor did he have to lend him his jacket, or return Iwaki’s wallet. Not to mention what those flowers must have cost, even if he did arrange them himself."

There was a very soft – yet definite – snort from Aya, and unless he was imagining things, even a hint of a smile on the man’s lips. "The flowers didn’t inconvenience him any." For a moment that sliver of a smile turned decidedly wicked. "He didn’t mind-" Aya fell quiet and shook his head. "He was just concerned with returning Iwaki-san’s property."

"I feel the same way." Kato patted the soft leather jacket. "Returning his jacket is the least I could do after all the trouble he went through."

Aya’s eyes narrowed as he tilted his head to the side. "Why isn’t Iwaki-san the one doing the returning, then?"

That question had him flustered, though he tried his best not to show it. "Iwaki-san’s very busy with work at the moment. I’m not needed much on the set for another day or two, and I thought Kudoh-san shouldn’t have to wait so long for his jacket." That sounded logical enough. He’d thought Kudoh might ask him just that, not the man’s co-worker.

Setting his cup down, Aya’s face lost the slight bit of warmth and openness it had gained the last few minutes. "I see. Kudoh never placed Iwaki-san under any obligation, and so never expected any thanks. He’ll be surprised to hear that you went so far out of your way to return his belongings and thank him." It was subtle, but there was definite sarcasm in that deep voice.

Feeling a bit stung over the comment, Kato leaned over, his arms folded on top of his knees. "Maybe Iwaki didn’t have the time to try and track him down in person. He’s a very busy man."

"And we’re just florists," Aya fired back, his face perfectly impassive. "It doesn’t matter if you arrive unexpectedly to bestow upon us your gratitude and impair our business."

What the hell was this guy’s problem? Granted, he didn’t expect people to fall at his feet because he was an actor, but he didn’t normally put up with shit like this. Was Aya a homophobe or something? But how could he stand to work with an admitted gay man like Kudoh?

"I didn’t have to return it in person, you know," he gritted out as he tried to control his temper. "I could have just sent someone if I was certain where Kudoh-san worked."

"Hmmm." Aya poured himself some more tea, not offering him any. As he waited for a retort of some kind, all the man did was sit there and sip his drink"

Kato just didn’t get it. He wasn’t used to being treated with coldness and distrust – at least not by anyone but Iwaki – and couldn’t grasp why this Aya seemed to dislike him. He’d gone out of his way to be nice, never mind any ulterior motives. Yet Aya seemed to see through him, and didn’t like a damn thing about him. Right now he was fed up enough that he just wanted to return home and be with his lover. If Kudoh didn’t really expect any form of gratitude from Iwaki for all his ‘kindness’, then maybe he could just forget all about the man. If not and any more flowers arrived, then at least he’d figured out where Kudoh worked and could stop by some time when Aya wasn’t around. Damn, but he’d never met such a cold, suspicious bastard in his entire life, especially the last few years spent acting. Iwaki’s brother could take lessons from Aya on how to be rude to him.

"I think I’ll check and see if my fan club’s gone now, and then leave you in peace." He stood up and managed a curt bow. "Please pass on my and Iwaki-san’s gratitude to Kudoh-san. I’m terribly sorry I couldn’t do so in person."

Aya rose from his pillow in such a graceful manner that Kato was once again reminded of his time spent training in a kendo dojo. "I will pass on your message."

Looking about for his disguise, he couldn’t help but ask the question, annoyed with the man or not. "You practice kendo, don’t you? I had to learn it for the movie I’m working on, you know. You remind me of one of my instructors."

If Aya’s demeanor had been cold before, it became positively frosty now. "Good day, Kato-san." He didn’t even deign to answer the question.

"Okay, what the hell is your problem?" he couldn’t help but ask as he stepped closer to Aya. He didn’t care if he was being just as rude, he merely wanted to know what was so… offensive about him in Aya’s mind. He wasn’t ashamed of anything he’d done and he wouldn’t let some stranger look down on him and Iwaki.

Aya stared at him with narrowed eyes, his body falling into a defense position that Kato recognized from his training. That brought him to an immediate halt, as he realized that the redhead was prepared to attack. Something wasn’t right here, and he had no clue what. As Iwaki would say, he was acting like an idiot.

"Look, I’m sorry, all right?" He slowly raised his hands. "Good bye, and I’m sorry-"

The door being thrown open cut him off as he jumped in surprise and Aya whirled around, arms held up as if to fend off a blow. A tall man with blond hair stood in the door, bright green eyes filled with suspicion and anger.

"Great. *Now* you decide to come home," he heard Aya mutter.

› › › ›

Yohji stared at the stranger, instantly recognizing him from magazine articles and television shows. Kato was just as impressive in person, if not more so. Tall and handsome with a wonderful body that tight clothes did nothing to hide, he was a very attractive man. A very attractive man who had been alone with Aya for some time, according to Omi. A very attractive man who seemed ready to rip that handsome face from said wonderful body.

However, he didn’t think anything had happened or else Kato would be dead right now – but had Kato tried something? That would be one reason why Aya was furious. The mere thought of anyone trying to hit on his lover made him want to put his wire to good use, but he forced himself to remain calm.

Seeming oblivious to the fact that he’d almost been killed, Kato stared at him for a moment and then executed a curt bow. "Kudoh-san."

He didn’t bother to return the bow. "Yeah, that’s me," he said as he slammed the door shut and leaned against it. "To what do I owe this ‘pleasure’, Kato-san?" His voice was anything but civil, earning him a curious look from Aya and a frown from Kato.

"I… your jacket. Iwaki-san wanted it returned to you." Kato hurried over to the couch, and he took advantage of that to step closer to Aya. His lover gave him a tight smile and curt nod, and the anger calmed down a little as he realized that Aya really was all right. Still a little pissed off, but that wasn’t surprising, for Aya.

Kato picked up the jacket, returned to him and held it out. "Thank you for lending this to Iwaki-san, and for looking out for him that night. Thank you also for returning his possessions. I can pay you for the flowers, if you like." The actor bowed again.

Slowly accepting his coat, Yohji snorted in annoyance. "I’m not worried about the flowers. Call us even for Iwaki-san buying all the drinks that night." He desperately wanted to ask how Kato had tracked him down, but couldn’t figure out how to go about that without raising any suspicion. Nothing he’d read in the gossip magazines had said anything about Kato being a rocket scientist, but he couldn’t risk drawing any attention to Weiß. It was bad enough they had someone famous in their trailer right now – a supposedly not very bright actor who had managed to find a team of assassins trying to lay low. Oh boy, was he in trouble. He tried to figure out of killing Kato would be a good or bad thing right now.

"You returned his property, it is only fitting that we make the same effort." It seemed that Kato’s politeness was wearing thin, probably because of his cold attitude.

Well that was fine, no one had asked the man to come here in the first place. Maybe this was what had pissed off Aya. "This is just an old coat, while the bag contained some important documents," he drawled. He was getting tired of this, and very suspicious about what had really brought Kato here.

As Kato’s frown deepened, Aya went over to the table, which contained a teapot and two mugs. He picked up the pot and went to the kitchen area. As he prepared more hot water, he looked at Yohji. "Are the girls still out there?"

"Yeah. They keep talking about your ‘cousin’." Yohji glanced at Kato. "Those are quite the rabid fans you have." And he knew what he was talking about, considering his last few years at the Koneko. "Any idea on how to get rid of them so we can actually sell some flowers?" He let an edge of anger creep into his voice so Kato would think that was what had him so irritated.

Kato had the grace to blush. "I’m sorry, I didn’t think anyone would notice me. I didn’t mean to interrupt your business." He glanced at Aya and smiled. "At least Aya came up with a good excuse to get me away from them before they attacked me."

Yohji didn’t like that smile, especially how handsome it made the actor look. He was distinctly aware of the fact that Kato was just as attractive as him, was gay and wealthy and not an assassin. If Aya felt like moving on, he could hardly do any better. Yohji felt a possessive pang and wanted to grab Kato and throw him out of the van before Aya came to his senses and dumped his ass. Especially if Aya was as pissed off with him right now as he suspected.

"Well, Aya doesn’t like being mobbed," he said quickly as he hurried over to his lover’s side to gauge Aya’s mood. "Here, let me help you with that." He glared at Kato as he leaned against Aya, under the pretense of fetching the tin of tea. "None of us are big on crowds, to be honest."

Kato appeared confused as he stood in the center of the trailer. "I… I guess you wouldn’t be. I guess I accept them because of my work. I truly am sorry for being a bother, and will leave as soon as my fans do." His expression turned guilty as he walked over and sat down on the couch.

At least he’d managed to remind Aya that if he was interested in an actor, he’d have to put up with those fans. His hand settled on his lover’s hip, and he had to smile when Aya leaned back against him for a moment. Maybe he’d survive being bitched out for creating this mess after all.

"Are you hungry?"

It took him a moment to realize the quiet question had been directed to him, he’d been so relieved. "Nah, not really. I stopped for a bite while I was picking up the flowers."

Aya nodded, poured the hot water into the teapot and gave him a level look with a hint of anger before walking away. Oh boy, maybe he wasn’t as forgiven as he hoped. He thought it might be a good idea to keep the man in sight right now and followed his lover, the three of them soon seated around the low table – thankfully far away from where Aya’s katana was hidden. What a comfy scene – not. Well, maybe if he could get rid of Kato it wouldn’t be too bad. Nope, just him and Aya in the tin can by themselves, and they could pick up from where they’d left off this morning and forget all about fighting…. He jumped when Aya nudged him in the ribs. "What?"

"Kato-san just asked you a question," Aya said as he poured the tea. He gave Yohji a cool look that implied he knew very well what he’d just been thinking just then, as was proved when his hand slid beneath the table to squeeze his upper thigh… a little too harshly for it to be meant affectionately.

Gods, it was difficult to think after that, but he forced himself to look at their guest and not wonder how painful his death was going to be. "Yes?"

He got another cool look in return, but it was from Kato so he ignored it. "I asked you if you’d had a nice time with Iwaki-san the other night." Kato’s voice was perfectly bland, as if he could care less about the answer to the question. Yet Yohji noticed how the man’s shoulders were hunched, just the slightest bit. He’d gotten very good at reading body language over the years – and dating Aya these last few months.

"I had a very nice time, thank you." He smiled as he cupped the warm mug between his hands. "I almost feel bad about letting Iwaki-san pick up the tab all night long, and figured he’d more than repaid me for anything on my part. I hope he felt well the next day." Iwaki had managed to hold most of his liquor, but he wasn’t a professional like Yohji.

A light flush highlighted Kato’s cheeks, but he gave no indication of his feelings. "I don’t believe he’ll be in any hurry to have more of what you were drinking that night." He paused to take a sip of his tea. "The two of you hit it off very quickly. I must admit that I was interested in meeting the man who could charm Iwaki-san so thoroughly."

Yohji leaned backwards and gave Kato a sly smile. "I guess you could say I’m very charming." Out of the corner of his eye he caught Aya shaking his head, a tiny smile on his lips. "Iwaki-san is a very attractive, intelligent man. Of course I’d get along very well with him." He suddenly wanted to make Aya a little jealous, to see if he could any reaction out of his lover. He wanted to see if Aya cared about him finding another man attractive, just as he minded Kato having been here alone with Aya. And maybe it would distract his lover from beating the shit out of him over Kato’s visit. "I guess you could say we struck sparks from the moment we met."

He almost smiled when he saw Aya’s eyes narrow and noticed the way a pale hand now gripped the mug. He drank in the small reaction before looking at Kato, and then was puzzled by what he saw. As the lover of the man in question, he didn’t seem to mind Yohji’s implications. Oh, his shoulders hunched in a little more, but he kept the same bland smile on his face and his voice perfectly calm. Not exactly the response of a jealous ‘husband’.

"Yes, I got that impression. You must consider yourself very lucky, as few people manage to strike up such a quick friendship with him." Kato rolled his empty cup between his hands.

Aya sighed softly as he picked up the teapot. "Would you like some more?" Yohji smiled as he thought about how his lover hated it when he had to use his manners. Aya much preferred to be gruff with the world, in hopes of it getting fed up with him and leaving him alone. Yohji found the attitude mostly charming, especially now that he was one of the few people Aya didn’t want to leave him peace. Well, when Aya wasn’t furious with him.

"Yes, please." Kato’s smile went from bland to brilliant as he held out his cup. "I’m truly sorry for being a pest, Aya-san. I’ve affected your work and made you stay in here with me. You must let me know if there’s anything I can do to make it up to you."

Aya poured the tea and frowned as he looked at Kato, especially when the smile became even brighter. Yohji waited for his lover to shoot the man down or ignore him, and wasn’t prepared when Aya nodded once and smiled the slightest bit. "I’ll let you know if I think of anything, Kato-san."

"Perhaps you’d like to come to the set one day? Iwaki-san told me you were interested in the movie."

To his growing horror, Aya seemed to seriously consider the offer. "I wouldn’t want to be in the way," he started to say, before Kato cut him off.

"Oh, it wouldn’t be a problem! I could even show you around if you like." His smile became impossibly bright, and at that moment Yohji could understand why women had voted Kato one of the country’s sexiest actors. Even Aya appeared dazed by him. He so wanted to kill the bastard right now. Aya was supposed to be jealous of him, not the other way around!

He suddenly wondered why Kato had asked him about Iwaki. At first, he thought the man might be jealous, but now he was left believing that Kato’s interest in his relationship with Iwaki was so he could have a clear go at Aya. Maybe Kato was planning to do the same thing he thought his ‘wife’ guilty of doing.

Furious, Yohji set his cup down and draped his arm over Aya’s shoulders. "I don’t think we have the time for that, but thank you for the offer." His tone was anything but thankful as he glared at Kato. "You know, we’re awfully busy with work, right love?" He teased his fingers through Aya’s hair and smiled at his lover – who wasn’t exactly giving him an adoring look right now. Oh, no, it was more of an ‘I *will* gut you the moment there aren’t any witnesses’ one.

However, the expression on Kato’s face was priceless. He almost spilled his tea as he stared in shock at them. For his part, Yohji gave him the nastiest glare possible as he possessively hugged a stiff Aya even closer. "Besides," he added with faked cheerfulness, "Aya and I rarely have any alone time together any more, so we take advantage of it whenever possible." Oh he was so going to be killed for this, but it was worth it to see Kato stare at him with dawning recognition.

"I… ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to extend the invitation to only Aya-san. You’re both welcome, of course, but I can understand if you’d prefer to spend your time off elsewhere." Instead of being disappointed to find out that Aya was taken, Kato actually seemed… relieved. He smiled and set down his teacup. "Ah, why don’t I see if my fans have gone away yet?" He didn’t wait for an answer as he hurried over to a window and cautiously peeked outside.

While Kato’s back was turned, Aya knocked his elbow into Yohji’s ribs and gave him an even more potent dirty look. One that said he might not worry about witnesses if he got any more pissed off. Yohji just smiled and caressed his cheek, and wasn’t surprised when his hand was roughly batted aside.

"So, what’s the verdict?" he asked Kato, knowing his life expectancy was now tied to however long the actor stayed.

"I think they’re gone. If you don’t mind, I feel I’ve imposed on you long enough, and I have to get back to work myself." He bowed low and then picked up his cap and sunglasses. "Thank you once again for everything you’ve done. Please, let me know if there is ever anything that Iwaki-san or I can do for you." He bowed one last time before slipping out the door.

Uh-oh, he was so dead now.

Aya didn’t waste any time, and before he knew it, Yohji was lying flat on his back with an extremely irate man sitting on his chest. "What the hell was that all about?"

He thought furiously for a reason that Aya wouldn’t kill him over. That he’d been jealous wasn’t one, unfortunately. "I thought he was trying to hit on you, so I figured I’d discourage him a little before you gutted him. Besides, it’s not like I lied about anything."

Aya grabbed the front of his shirt and gave it a harsh tug, causing him to lift up from the floor a few inches and then fall back down. "I can take care of myself, Yohji."

Yeah, he’d done such a good job of it in the past, he thought, but he didn’t say anything that would *definitely* get him killed. "Well, what was I to think when I come in here to find you about ready to kick his ass? I figured he had to say something to piss you off, and judging by the way he was acting when he mentioned the movie, I figured it was by trying to get into your pants."

"Like I said, I can take care of myself." Aya, thankfully, let go of his shirt and sat back, a solid weight on his stomach. "The less he knew about us, the better. It’s bad enough he knows where we live and about the shop. There also was no reason for you to act like a jealous boyfriend, *love*." He said the last as if it was a filthy word.

Something in that statement brought all of Yohji’s anger from earlier rushing back. Maybe it was the boyfriend or love comment, maybe it was the fact that Aya didn’t seem to want anyone to know about them. Whatever it was, it propelled him to sit up, knocking Aya down onto his lap in the process, and grab his lover’s shoulders and give them a few good shakes.

"No, I’m just a fuckbuddy, and everyone knows we aren’t the type to get jealous at all. Gods, Aya, what the hell does it matter if he knows about our sexlife? Who is he going to tell, Schwarz?"

Aya knocked his hands aside and glared at him through the thick fall of his bangs. "He already knows too much, thanks to you. Somehow he even managed to track us down. If an actor of all things can do that, anyone can."

"Oh, and that’s all my fault?"

"Who was he looking for?" Aya pushed his right hand against his chest, but he refused to budge. Instead, he grabbed Aya’s wrist and held on. "How much do you want to bet that there will be gossip about a famous movie star visiting a traveling florist shop operated by four young men? That he spent time privately with not only one but two of them?"

"Oh, you can’t blame that last on me! You were the one who invited him inside!"

"Because I didn’t want him standing outside where anyone could see him and attract even more of a crowd!" Aya snarled as he tried to pull his wrist free. Yohji continued to hold on as he timed things just right. "The fact is, he wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t for you!" Aya tugged back his wrist… and Yohji moved with him, causing Aya to fall onto his back with him on the top. He felt much more comfortable with their positions reversed and used his lover’s shock to grab both of Aya’s wrists and hold them pinned down. "Get the fuck off of me!"

"Not while I think you’re ready to run me through with that damn sword!" he snapped as he refused to let Aya buck him off. "What was I supposed to do that night, let those guys beat up Iwaki? I mean, as long as they weren’t gay-bashing me, everything’s fine, right?"

Aya stopped struggling and gave him such a dirty look that it put all the others this afternoon to shame. "You didn’t have to tell him your real name. You didn’t have to tell him what you did for a living."

"I didn’t have to tell him about you, you mean," he said, starting to feel a little weary. All his grand hopes of making this into a real relationship between them, and Aya could care less. "Admit it, that’s why you’re so pissed off right now, because I told Iwaki and Kato about us."

His lover made a spitting sound, much like a furious cat. "Will you stop being an idiot? I’m talking about a major security breach here, and you’re focusing on utter nonsense." Aya closed his eyes and shook his head. "Why the hell would I care about that?" he said in a quieter voice.

He wondered if this was some sort of ploy to lull him into lowering his guard and held on even tighter to his lover’s wrists. "Because of the way you acted just now, after I let Kato know we’re lovers, and when I told you about Iwaki."

Aya opened his eyes and glared at him some more. "I told you before, I didn’t want them to know anything about us, and you just keep on ignoring me. What happens if Schwarz or Esset track them down while looking for us? What if they tell our enemies about our relationship and it’s used against us? Do you ever think, dammit? Now get the hell off me."

"No." He leaned down a little, but not enough so Aya could hit him on the head very easily. "I like living so I think I’ll remain like this a little longer. What the hell makes you think that Esset will have anything to do with those two? You take paranoia to new heights, Aya."

"At least I try to be careful, which is more than can be said about you." Aya tried bucking him off one more time and cursed softly when he just smiled and squeezed his wrists hard enough to bruise. "You bastard. How do you think Manx and Birman are going to take hearing that we’ve been compromised? They’ll probably find an even smaller van for us as punishment for you fucking up."

"That’s not going to happen. Now that Kato’s returned my jacket and found out I’m not interested in Iwaki, they’ll both leave us alone. Wasn’t that worth having him think we’re a happy couple, *love*?" he asked with real bitterness.

Aya’s eyes narrowed in anger. "Let’s hope so, because if he comes back here again, chances are he’ll find you hitting on anything that moves and won’t ever be convinced you’ll leave his lover alone."

He scoffed at the accusation, more than a little stung at its implication. "When’s the last time you’ve seriously seen me hit on anyone but you?"

"Give it time, Kudoh. After all, you’re so damn *charming*, aren’t you? Maybe the next time you go out drinking you’ll rescue someone a bit more willing to properly ‘thank’ you for being so kind," Aya said with real venom.

So there were once again back to him being such a slut that Aya could never care for him. Too furious to think properly, he leaned down until his face was centimeters from his ‘boyfriend’s’. "Yeah, you’ve got me all figured out. I’ve just been biding my time until a piece of ass finer than yours comes along. You have no idea how boring it’s been fucking the same person all these months."

There was a brief flash of pain across Aya’s face and then it settled into a cold mask. "Your words, Kudoh, not mine. I’ve done nothing to hold you back from sleeping with whoever you want."

"Nope, and now you don’t have to keep making that sacrifice, Aya dear." He was so full of bitterness and disappointment it hurt to even breathe. "And they call me the great heartbreaker," he laughed, the sound jagged and as full of pain as he was.

The next thing he knew, there was real pain as something smacked into his face, making him release Aya and scuttle backward. "Fuck!" He pressed his hands against his nose and found it bleeding slightly, but didn’t think it was broken. "So now you’re trying to kill me?"

Aya grabbed him by his shirt again and yanked him close. "What the hell was that last bit supposed to mean?" he asked, eyes intent on Yohji’s.

"You nearly broke my nose. What, trying to shove the fragments up into my non-existent brain or something?"

"No, before that." Aya gave him a good shake and then let him go. Now it was his turn to grab onto and hold Aya close. It was like a fucking merry-go-round or something.

"I called you a heartbreaker," he snapped as his fingers dug into Aya’s shoulders. "Did it never occur to you that maybe I was serious? That maybe the reason I hadn’t gone chasing off after someone else was because I loved you?" Suddenly he wanted Aya to know the truth, to know that he, Yohji Kudoh, loved him. That it hadn’t just been about sex, and he was the wronged party here. He wanted the truth known before Aya twisted the whole thing into his fault. Maybe he couldn’t have the relationship he’d longed for now, but he refused to be stuck with the blame.

Aya was quiet for a moment, and then knocked his hands aside. "You’ll say anything to get out of trouble, won’t you? And you honestly expect me to believe you *now*?"

He gave up. "Yeah, it’s all one big lie," he said tiredly as he leaned against the couch. "You were supposed to laugh and forgive me, and I’d have strung you along for another month or two and then leave you for Omi when he turned eighteen."

He barely caught Aya’s fist before it smacked into his face. "Don’t you fucking lie about something like that," his lover snarled.

"Why not? It’s not like you’ll ever believe the truth, will you?" He shoved Aya’s hand aside and glared. "I could tell you that I’ve loved you for the past two months and you’ll just laugh at me. I could kill Kato for hitting on you and you’ll just call me an idiot. You don’t seem to care about the truth so I’ll just lie about everything now. I used you for sex, Aya, and you were such a lousy lay I’ve become utterly bored and will be moving on. I’ll go back to fucking everything that moves and you can be happy knowing that you were right about me all along. But let me just say this, if I’m such a slut for fucking anything that will have me, what does that make you, the man who was well aware of that fact when you started sleeping with me?" More than anything right now, he wanted to know why Aya had been his lover if he thought so damn little of him.

His now former lover just… sat on the floor, crumpled over himself, so far from the usual in-control Aya that it hurt to see him like that. Aya rested his head against his bent legs. "I thought you needed me. I thought I could help you out, and that I would be all right with you leaving me eventually." He snorted softly. "You call me a heartbreaker? I knew you’d do this to me eventually yet I still hoped…." He shook his head. "Go away, Yohji."

Wait a minute… Aya wasn’t angry anymore, wasn’t calling him a slut. Had basically said that he’d just broken his heart. So if they were both hurt by all of this…. He cautiously crept closer to Aya. "Can we stop behaving like idiots determined to hurt each other right now?" he asked quietly as he gently wrapped his arm around Aya’s shoulder. Then he took a deep breath and chanced having his heart torn to shreds. "Ayan, this is the honest truth. I love you." The words were so frightening, but he couldn’t stop them. "I’ve known that fact for at least two months now, and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell you, to ask you if you wanted to make this serious. Why the hell do you think I got so upset about Kato being here right now? About you yelling at me telling Iwaki that you were my lover?" He wanted to shake sense into his lover so desperately right now, but couldn’t chance starting another fight. Not with his emotions on the line like this.

Aya was quiet for a minute, the time stretching out and making him believe that he’d just poured his heart out for now reason. Then Aya lifted his head and stared at him so intently that he felt the urge to squirm under that scrutiny. "How the hell was I supposed to know that when you pick up handsome men on your nights out, or flirt with every pretty woman you meet? How am I supposed to believe that when every time you say anything positive about our relationship, it’s either about the sex or a joke? I’d be insane to believe you after all of that."

Shit. He’d been so focused on not getting his heart broken that he’d never really thought he’d be shooting himself in the foot in regards to their relationship. "I love you. You can either choose to believe me or not," he said finally, knowing of no other solution to his predicament. "You can trust me and let me prove to you that I’m not lying." He waited a minute for a reaction, and when all Aya did was stare at him, slowly leaned in for a kiss. If he was rejected… then things were over. He knew better than to hope that Aya would change his mind if there wasn’t any trust between them.

At first it was just him pressing his lips against Aya’s, and just as his heart sunk, Aya kissed him back. It was gentle at first, he was too scared of doing something wrong to press any harder, and the next thing he knew, Aya was in his lap and shoving his tongue down his throat.

Okay, he’d take that as a definite sign that Aya trusted him. His arms wrapped around his lover and hugged him close as he kissed back with an equal intensity, until the both of them were left short of breath.

Panting, Aya threaded his fingers through Yohji’s hair and gave it a painful tug. "If you ever cheat on me, I’ll gut you, I swear I will. If you don’t want to be faithful, walk the hell out of here right now, because I’m not going about things half-assed anymore." The look in his eyes, passionate and stormy, gave no doubts to his promise.

"I’ll never do something that stupid," Yohji promised as he tried to figure out how to get Aya’s t-shirt off without tearing it. Oh hell, he’d buy him another one…. "No more half-assed relationship from me either, I play for keeps when it’s real. You better not change your mind later on and expect me to accept that," he warned as he ripped the shirt all the way to its collar. That took a little longer to pull apart, but he managed, and Aya didn’t even seem pissed off about the shirt. Then again, his tongue was in Yohji’s ear at the moment….

His shirt would have come off quicker if both of them didn’t fumble with the buttons, trying to take it off at the same time. A few of the damn things went flying but his shirt sustained less damage than Aya’s, and then they both fell onto the floor, fingers scrambling to undo belts and buttons and zippers. He felt like crying over wearing such tight pants that day, especially when Aya was halfway out of his while he still had two buttons left to go. But the sight of his lover naked and waiting for him gave him the inspiration to pry the damn things off and send them flying across the van.

Aya met him halfway, toned, luscious body pressing against his, arousal already slick. Gods, less than two minutes had passed and he felt so hard it hurt, especially when Aya slid against him like that, sparking every damn nerve in his body. His fingers buried themselves in that improbably red hair and held Aya still long enough to ravish his mouth. Strong hands clutched at his shoulders, pulling him down on top of Aya. He let out a groan as he settled between his lover’s thighs, their erections rubbing together. "Oh… fuck…."

"Exactly." Aya’s legs wrapped around his waist. "I’m not going to change my mind," Aya said, his voice hoarse with need. "You’re mine now."

He was Aya’s now, and all that entailed. He belonged to a man who would rattle heaven and defy hell for those he loved, and that thought made him moan. "I love you," he said, voice shaky with potent emotions as he cradled Aya’s head in his hands. "I honestly do."

Aya’s expression grew tender for a moment. "Good. I… I love you, too." Then it grew dark with passion and determination. "Now shut up and fuck me or-"

"Or you’ll gut me," he said with a laugh, which was cut short by Aya growling and yanking his head down for a kiss. Later on he’d teach his boyfriend some new threats – or maybe not. He’d survive a sword through the stomach much better than a beheading, after all.

Then he concentrated on the matter at hand, on keeping himself in one piece and making Aya happy. His hand fumbled about on the couch until it found both a blanket and the lubricant, and both were hauled onto the floor. The way Aya squirmed beneath him as they managed to shift onto the blanket made him close his eyes and count to ten, all in an effort not to come just then. He let out a gasp as Aya took advantage of his stillness to fasten his hot mouth to one of his nipples, making pleasure spike through his body. Oh… he’d always liked that…. His hands were busy stroking his lover’s skin, caressing spots that soon had Aya gasping as well and writhing beneath him. He wanted this moment to last, wanted to draw out the pleasure, but the emotions were just too damned strong to slow things down.

Aya sobbed out his name when he finally put the lube to use and slid two slick fingers inside his lover, stretching him as he nipped and sucked on Aya’s neck, driving him wild as two erogenous zones were teased mercilessly. He had to stop when his lover’s hand found his own cock, the touch there bringing way too close to the end. "Not… not now, he stuttered as he laced his fingers with Aya’s and moved the hand aside. "Wanna come inside you, love."

"Then *do* something," he was ordered, right before being yanked up, his hips banging into Aya’s. He couldn’t help but moan as he cock slid against a slicked crease.

"Always be this demanding," he quipped before kissing Aya on the mouth, a brief peck before he tilted back his lover’s head to expose his neck. He was going to leave one deep red hickey right out in front, so everyone who saw Aya knew that he was taken. As his lips closed over Aya’s Adam apple, he pushed slowly inside. He felt the moan build deep inside Aya’s throat as he entered him, and had to think about things like car engines and Persia and Omi walking in on them to keep himself from ending things right then and there. Especially with the way Aya writhed beneath him, legs wrapped around his hips and pushing him forward.

"Yotan!" Aya tossed his head back and gasped as he thrust in that final inch, and again as he lifted one of the pale legs around his waist up onto his shoulder. His hips took on a life of their own, rocking forward faster and faster, and Aya’s matched them, matched him for each thrust and begged for more. "Ha-harde-er. *Hard-er*"

"I’m fucking you into the floor," he growled as he did as he was ordered, his hands gripping Aya’s hips tightly and lifting him up for each thrust, onto his lap as he knelt between his lover’s thighs and pistoned back and forth. Dimly, he was aware of the sound of someone other than Aya yelling his name and the door slamming shut, but that wasn’t as important as keeping his hands from sliding on sweat-slick skin, from angling his thrusts until Aya screamed out his name, from focusing on the bliss that kept building and building until all he was aware of was intense pleasure.

There was another sharp cry and then tightness, incredible tightness that spiked the bliss so high that he was lost in it, his world exploding with color that bled to white. The orgasm seemed to go on and on forever, leaving him blind and drained, and then he came to with his head on Aya’s heaving chest, their skin stuck together with sweat and semen and their arms wrapped tight around each other. "Oh fuck, please tell me that was real," he managed to pant after a minute.

Aya tugged on his hair. "*Everything* was," he said, eyes narrowed suspiciously. Yohji smiled and gave him a sloppy kiss.

"I’m not trying to get out of what I said earlier. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t imagine it all after being run through with your sword." He managed a weak chuckle as his lover rolled his eyes and tried to shove him off. "Uh-un, I’m not moving any time soon. And then I’m gonna take the time I should have just now – once I have the strength. Give me a year or two to recover." He closed his eyes and rested his head back on Aya’s chest, utterly content to listen to his lover’s slowing heartbeat.

"And I’m just going to lie here and allow that?" Aya asked, sounding distinctly amused and more than a little worn out.

"Yeah." He rubbed his cheek against Aya’s chest. "You’re my boyfriend now, you have to humor me on things like this. Now be a good boy and give me a minute to catch my breath, and then I’ll make it worth your while." He counted to four before he found himself shoved off of his lover and onto his back, and couldn’t help but laugh. "Okay, maybe I’m ready now after all," he lied blithely as a scowling Aya straddled his stomach.

"You are so not the one in charge here, Yotan," Aya said before kissing the little breath he’d caught right out of him. He didn’t even try to refute that claim, instead he pulled the man he loved down onto his chest and planned to enjoy a bit of leisurely foreplay until he had the energy to live up to his promise of making it worth Aya’s while. He might not be the one in charge, but he could make Aya more than happy enough to get his way when he really wanted it. A perfect situation, really.

› › › ›

Ken turned off his bike and put the kickstand in position. "You need any help?" he asked over his shoulder at Omi, who nodded and handed him the bags of takeout.

"Hold these for just a moment, please," his friend asked as he scrambled off the bike and took off his helmet. "Okay, I’ll take them now." He reached for the bags and, looking at the van, blushed a vibrant red. "Do you… well, do you think it’s safe now?"

Ken bit back on a laugh as he removed his helmet. "We warned them we’d be back with dinner, so if they’re still at it, I say we get a bucket of cold water and help them cool off." Poor Omi was obviously still scarred from entering the van earlier, when he went to see what was keeping Aya and Yohji from helping them with a crowd of customers. Omi had been even redder then when he’d stumbled over to the cash register, clearly dazed out of his wits. "Yohji’s really corrupting Aya, making him skip out on work like that. I don’t know if it’s a good idea, them dating each other," he joked.

However, Omi didn’t see the humor in that statement. "They’re happy, Kenken. I don’t mind getting stuck with work if the two of them are… enjoying themselves," he finished with a stammer.

"Relax, Omi, I’m only teasing." He tousled his friend’s hair as they approached the van. "I just hope they don’t make it a habit to throw us to the wolves while they fool around." They’d busted their asses dealing with the crowd of girls earlier, and right now he wanted to sit down in his nice, comfy chair and eat his dinner. "Oi, you two better be decent," he hollered before banging on the door twice and unlocking it.

Omi pressed against his back as he cautiously opened the door and entered the trailer, and he let out a sigh of relief when he spotted Yohji – mostly clothed – alone on the couch. He was wearing a pair of old jeans and nothing else, but that was a hell of a lot better than him being stark naked and fucking Aya.

"It’s about time you guys got back," he said as he sat on the edge of the couch, arms crossed over his legs and an unlit cigarette between his lips. "We’re starving."

"Must be because of all that energy you guys used up this afternoon," Ken muttered as he kicked off his shoes – and promptly let out a yelp of surprise when Aya seemed to materialize right beside him, a six-pack of beer and some glasses in his hands.

"Excuse me?" he asked, his voice deceptively calm and quiet, but his eyes were filled with a hint of anger. Almost as shocking as his sudden appearance was the way he was dressed – in an old black t-shirt that did nothing to hide the numerous hickeys on his neck and a pair of Yohji’s cutoffs. Aya *never* wore shorts. Ken swore this was the first time he’d ever seen the man’s legs before, other than to help bandage them up.

"Uhm, I hope you like sushi!" he stuttered as he pushed Omi and the food toward the table in the middle of the ‘room’.

Yohji snorted. "Oh no, not sushi," he said in a sarcastic tone as Aya set down the beer and glasses on the table before joining him on the couch. "Anything but that. You know how much we hate it."

He couldn’t help it, he held up his hand and gave the man the middle finger. "Go to hell, Kudoh. You should be happy with anything we bring back for you deadbeats, especially since you managed to stick us for dinner two time this week." His tone, however, didn’t bear any malice as he knew he still owed Yohji and Aya for stocking up on groceries and doing the laundry the other day.

Yohji stuck out his tongue and grabbed Aya around the waist, pulling him against him. Ken waited for the redhead to clobber Yohji, but all he did was bump his elbow into his boyfriend’s ribs and give him a warning glare. Then he… snuggled – there was no other word for it, even though Ken wracked his brain just so he didn’t have to associate ‘Aya’ with ‘snuggle’ – against Yohji’s chest.

Beside him, he heard Omi start choking. He shook his head, snatched a beer from the table and sat down in his chair. This was just too weird. Maybe Mastermind was fucking with his friends’ heads or something.

"You okay, chibi?"

"Yes, Yohji-kun," Omi managed to say as he set down the bags of food. His hands shook as he pulled out the two trays of sushi, the condiments and the bowls of miso soup they’d ordered. "I hope you’re hungry, we certainly bought enough."

"Well, there’s enough there that we won’t have to fight Ken for it all," Yohji teased as he once again sat on the edge of the couch, with Aya curled up at his side. "Thanks." He grabbed two beers and passed one to Aya, along with a glass. Then he popped the plastic containers off the trays and after picking up and breaking apart a pair of chopsticks, started putting several pieces of sushi on one of the plates on the table.

Omi grabbed a spare pillow and sat down on the floor, the blush finally fading from his face. "We did some good business today, so we thought we’d splurge a little." He opened a can of beer and took a sip. Nobody said anything to him; hell, if he was old enough to kill someone they all figured he was mature enough to drink. "I think many of the girls were here to try and see your ‘cousin’, Aya."

Aya scowled as he accepted a plate of sushi from Yohji. "Was there much gossip?"

"A little." Omi opened up a container of soup and frowned at it. "I heard his name mentioned a few times, but we were too busy to notice much." He started blushing again. "Uhm, did he say anything about why he was here?"

"I’d lent his boyfriend something the night I’d met him, and he was just returning it." Yohji shrugged as he leaned against Aya. "I’m sorry, I honestly didn’t think either of them could track me down. I didn’t believe I’d ever see Iwaki again, let alone have Kato show up here in person. This is entirely my fault."

Ken stopped eating and stared at his friends. Yohji had, with no poking, prodding or death threats, just apologized and taken the blame for something. Even more shocking was the fact that Aya just sat there and swiped a piece of pickled ginger from Yohji’s plate instead of bitching the man out. Something was definitely going on here. First the two of them fucking during work, then all the cuddling, and now no explosive fight. He was scared.

Poor Omi looked as if he was about to pass out from shock. After a moment, he gave himself a good shake and stared hard at Yohji. "I’ll have to inform Birman about this. Kritiker needs to be aware of the chance of rumors drawing unwanted attention to us." He strived hard for a professional air – only to lose it when Yohji grabbed Aya’s right hand and held it still as he ate the cuttlefish sushi off Aya’s chopsticks. Now Omi appeared about ready to suffer a massive nosebleed.

Yohji winked at a frowning Aya. "Don’t think I didn’t notice you snatching my ginger." He licked the wooden sticks suggestively before looking at Omi, and Aya just grunted and didn’t try to kill him. "We figured that Kritiker should be informed. I really am sorry, I didn’t intend to draw any attention to us." He frowned as he leaned over and tapped Omi on the head. "You okay, chibi? You look a bit flushed."

Yeah, because he’d walked in on Yohji, from the little Omi had been able to spit out later on, fucking Aya’s ass into the carpet, and the two of them looked about ready to go for another round at any moment. But Ken didn’t say that out loud, as attached as he was to living at the moment. It would be too undignified to die from having chopsticks shoved down his throat or into his eyes. "He’s had an interesting afternoon, to say the least. Movie stars showing up and you two… okay, what the hell were you two doing?" he asked – and then immediately blushed. "I mean, besides the obvious."

Aya gave him a cool look that warned him not to push things and held his chopsticks up in a distinctly threatening manner. "How many times have you left work early to go kick a ball around?"

He flushed at the comment, a spark of anger building as he thought about how long it had been since he’d been able to play soccer with his kids back in Tokyo. Kritiker hadn’t given a fuck about their lives when it had forced them to move here, and he seriously missed his kids. They’d helped to keep him together, something he desperately needed now. "At least I did that somewhere other than at home. We all have to share this place, you know. The last thing I want to do is walk in on you two going at it like cats in heat."

"Yeah, well we live here too, and we haven’t had any chance to go away on a nice short vacation like you did," Yohji shot back. "We at least try to have our fun elsewhere, unlike other people who hog up the bathroom while they jerk off, if they even bother to go somewhere private in the first place!"

"Yohji!" Omi squealed, his face so red that several blood vessels must have burst, while Ken debated throwing some food at the asshole but knew that with his luck he’d end up hitting Aya.

"Quit being a rude fuck," he snarled instead as he set his plate down.

Yohji glared at him for a moment before shaking his head and reaching for another beer. "Okay, I admit that was uncalled for, but we’re *all* stuck living here. No bedrooms, no damn privacy, a lousy shower and no cable." He leaned back against the sofa, his arm around Aya’s waist. "We don’t exactly plan on putting on any shows for you, you know."

Omi seemed to be taking deep breaths to help himself calm down. "I know, Yohji-kun, and I’m sure Ken does too." He gave Ken a look that said he better. "Maybe we need to start giving each other a little more privacy at night, but please refrain from sex during your work hours." His even tone was belied by his furious blush. "Also, there will be no more skipping of shifts, either for soccer or… fooling around."

"Ah, you’re breaking my heart, Omittchi," Yohji teased as he stretched out on the couch, his head now in Aya’s lap. "And here I was hoping to ravish you ne- OW!" he yelped as Aya smacked him on the head.

"Thank you, Aya," Omi said, a smile teasing at his lips. Then he grew serious again. "There’s a chance that we might not be here for much longer. I think Birman was worried about how the last mission almost failed, and we’re becoming much too conspicuous anymore. We’ll probably have to move on soon, this thing with Iwaki and Kato is just the last straw."

"In that case," Yohji said as he rubbed what had to be his rather sore head, "I only apologize for dragging them into this mess if we end up in an even smaller van." He let out a happy little sigh as Aya took over massaging his scalp. "Thanks, love."

Ken and Omi’s eyebrows both rose at that last word, and they shared a quick look while the two lovers were distracted with each other. ‘Love’. Neither man had used that word before in relation to each other, especially when the other was nearby. He remembered his discussion the other night with Yohji and wondered if the man had finally asked Aya if he wanted a serious relationship. It sure as hell looked like that now, with the two of them engaging in an awful lot of public displays of affection. Normally they’d just sit near each other, with Yohji’s arm hovering around Aya’s shoulders.

Omi swallowed some beer and picked at his dinner. "If we get stuck with a mini-van as our new quarters, I’ll never forgive you, Yohji." He seemed to perk up when Yohji looked away from Aya to smile at him. "However, I really can’t see how they can make things any worse than they are now."

"You’re such an optimist." Yohji rubbed his cheek against Aya’s thigh and closed his eyes. "An apartment would be nice. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind another trailer, as long as it has a separate bedroom and a twice as big shower. I miss the Koneko."

"So do I," Omi said rather mournfully.

Aya set the plates balanced on the sofa’s arms down onto the table and then rubbed Yohji’s shoulders. "We’ll know better tomorrow how we stand in regards to Kato’s visit, but perhaps we should inform Birman tonight of what occurred." He suddenly looked very tired. "I think it would be best to avoid any missions for a few days, until we find out what went wrong with the last one, and in case we’re being watched."

"Yeah, I’d hate for some gossip rag to find out what we really do for a living." Ken made a sound of disgust as he claimed the last beer and the remaining salmon roe sushi. "Didn’t Kato ever hear about disguises? I thought all big-time actors dressed up as, I don’t know, someone else when they didn’t want to be noticed in public."

Aya echoed his sound of disgust. "I got the impression that he thought he was adequately disguised. He seemed rather shocked to be noticed so quickly."

"Must be something about blond men named ‘Yohji’," he teased as he swallowed the sushi. "You know, as prime examples for the dumb blond stereotype." He had to laugh at the dirty glare Yohji gave him.

"You’re getting your ass kicked later, Hidaka," Yohji warned. "As soon as I have enough energy to do a proper job of it."

"That’s what happens when you wear yourself out having fun," he retorted – and dropped the matter after Aya gave him a particularly chilling look. "Anyway, you two can work the first shift tomorrow since Omi and I covered for you today."

Yohji grunted in agreement and closed his eyes again, a happy smile on his lips as his left hand brushed up and down Aya’s bare legs. Omi and Aya started talking quietly about what exactly they should tell Birman, so he decided to enjoy a little more of the sushi since everyone else seemed to be finished with dinner. Restocking his plate, he leaned back into his chair.

So Aya and Yohji had worked something out between them, something that clearly made them very happy. Aya looked the most relaxed he’d ever seen him, and Yohji radiated sheer contentment and joy right now. For a moment he was jealous of them, especially Yohji. He couldn’t help but reflect back on the discussion with his friend the other night.

Yohji had definitely found his saving grace in Aya, and from the looks of it, the feeling was returned. He’d never have suspected either man of falling in love like that, and certainly not with each other. But they looked so damn happy and *right* cuddled together that his jealousy quickly faded.

Yohji had found his way out of the darkness, and it was all because of Aya. He started to feel a small spark of hope that there was a similar out for himself, somehow. An image flashed through his mind but he pushed it aside, along with the thought that his hope had been killed. He couldn’t assume that, not when Aya and Yohji had danced around each other for the last year or so before realizing they really loved each other. Maybe there was still someone out there waiting for him.

That thought helped to push back the darkness, just a little. More than likely, time would prove him wrong, but right now he’d cling to it. There was precious little else for him to hold on to right now, other than his teammates. Them and the faint hope that he’d have some personal space back soon, and maybe a chance to teach soccer once again. He needed to do something other than kill people and play with flowers if he wanted to keep the little bit of sanity he had left.

› › › ›

Kato collapsed onto the bed and sighed dramatically. "I don’t know what got into the director today, but I hope he’s not such a slave driver tomorrow!"

Iwaki settled much more gracefully beside him and slowly started to undress. "I think he wanted to get as many scenes out of you as possible before you disappeared again." His lover gave him a slightly disapproving look before shrugging out of his shirt. "Where did you go on your break?"

He found the strength to sit up and help strip Iwaki of his shirt, and noticed how tired and pale his lover appeared. "Are you all right, Iwaki-san?" It had been another hot day, and Iwaki had been wearing more formal costumes than his own, not to mention being stuck with the awful wig. "You look exhausted," he said with worry as he caressed his lover’s face.

Iwaki grasped his hand and gave it a squeeze. "I’m tired, that’s all." He stifled a yawn and scrubbed a hand over his face. "If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a nap before dinner."

"Here, let me close the curtains," Kato said as he jumped off the bed. He hurried over to the window and slid the curtains shut, sending the room into twilight darkness. He heard his lover’s sigh of relief and turned to see Iwaki fold his pants and set them aside, then crawl beneath the blankets clad only in his underwear. The sight of his lover’s almost nude body made his throat go dry, and he haltingly approached the bed. Looking down at Iwaki’s face, eyes closed and brows furrowed as if from pain or tension, he felt the overwhelming urge to do something to make Iwaki feel better. Quickly stripping off his own clothes, he slid in behind his lover.

"Kato… please, I’m not in the mood," Iwaki murmured as he hugged the blankets around him tighter.

"I know. Just relax." He pressed lightly against his lover’s back and threaded his fingers through short, silky hair. "I know I feel better whenever Iwaki-san is near, maybe you’ll be comforted by my presence also." He started to massage Iwaki’s scalp in an attempt to relieve the headache.

Iwaki sighed as his body slowly relaxed. "Thank you," he breathed after a moment.

"Isn’t this what husbands are supposed to do? Help their wi-, uh, spouse whenever they’re not feeling well?" He skimmed his lips along Iwaki’s shoulder. "What do you want for dinner? Something light? I know you don’t like to eat anything heavy when you’re not feeling well but you do need to keep up your strength."

"Hmmm." Iwaki turned around to face him and curled up against him. "Definitely something light." He started massaging Iwaki’s stiff shoulders instead, and smiled when his lover groaned in pleasure. "That feels so good."

"Of course it does." He pressed a kiss against the top of Iwaki’s head. "What’s your schedule like tomorrow? I know we have those three scenes together, but is there anything else?"

"I have to spend some time with wardrobe," Iwaki mumbled as his arm slid around Kato’s waist. "Things shouldn’t be so busy tomorrow – unless you disappear again and the director wants to shoot more scenes with me."

He felt some guilt over the fact that his planned, short errand had taken up a good part of the afternoon. "I’m sorry. I’ll have to work extra hard to make up for the missed time."

"Where did you go?" His lover sounded ready to fall asleep any moment.

He debated whether to say anything or not, but thought it would be for the best if he came clean now. "I found out where your friend Kudoh lives and returned his jacket to him."

Iwaki pulled away and blinked his eyes, a small frown settling on his face. "You went to see Yohji?"

There was a slight burn of jealousy at the way Iwaki said the other man’s name, but then he remembered Aya and shook his head. Kudoh wasn’t interested in his lover, that much was obvious after his little visit. "I thought one of us should return his jacket since he made sure to get your wallet back to you," he explained, more than a little defensive.

Iwaki blew a lock of hair away from his eyes and sighed. "Any particular reason why you didn’t let me return the jacket?" he asked, in a tone of voice that clearly said he already knew the answer.

Kato grinned sheepishly and clasped his hands behind his lover’s neck. "Well, you were awfully busy today, and I thought I could return the coat and be back during my break."

"But you weren’t," Iwaki pointed out with a frown. "What happened?"

He took a deep breath as he thought about this afternoon. "I found the van that they work out of… and ran into a few fans." He chuckled nervously as Iwaki gave him a disapproving look. "I never thought they’d have so many young women hanging around to buy flowers, and one of them recognized me."

"Kato…."

"Relax!" he pleaded as he started to massage his lover’s neck. "One of the men, Aya, told the girls that I was his cousin and to leave me alone. The reason why I was so late was because I hid out with him until the girls gave up and went away."

"Aya?" His lover looked a little confused. "I know I’ve heard that name recently…."

"Probably from Kudoh." He combed his fingers through Iwaki’s hair and smiled. "He’s Kudoh’s lover."

Iwaki smiled brightly. "That’s it. He did mention the man’s name one or two times, which made me a little suspicious since it sounds like a girl’s."

He had to chuckle as he thought about Aya in drag. "Oh no, he’s definitely a man." He laughed again, and then winced when Iwaki thumped him in the ribs. "Ow, what’s that for?"

"Shut up so I can take a nap," his lover snapped before turning around. He just stared at Iwaki’s back before realizing that the man had to be a little jealous. Smiling in pleasure, he slid his arm around Iwaki’s chest and pulled him back.

"I can see why Kudoh didn’t try to take advantage of you, his boyfriend’s very lovely." He bit his lip to hold back on a laugh when Iwaki went stiff in his arms. "Red hair, pale skin, and these unbelievable eyes." When his lover tried to pull away he held on tightly and kissed him on the shoulder. "He’s almost as lovely as you, and I get the impression he’s not the type of person you can cheat on. The two of them seemed very much in love," he said as he remembered seeing them in the kitchenette, the way they seemed to communicate with each other with just a glance or inflection of speech. "Almost as much as us."

Iwaki was quiet for a few seconds and then stopped struggling. "Yohji did say that his lover was sexier than me."

"That’s impossible," he scoffed as he started nibbling on his lover’s ear. "Maybe a close runner-up, but no one can compare to my Iwaki-san," he purred.

"I think you’re a little biased," Iwaki chuckled softy. "A redhead with unbelievable eyes? That sounds rather exotic."

He tugged on his lover’s shoulder until he rolled over to face him. "I’d rather gorgeous and wonderful than exotic any day." Then he leaned down to kiss Iwaki, to prove his point. "You’re the loveliest person I’ve ever seen," he murmured against his lover’s lips.

"Kato…," Iwaki breathed, and then pulled him down. "Are you going to help me with this headache or not?"

"Of course, I’d never shirk my spousal duties." He settled on top of his lover, a slight groan slipping forth as Iwaki’s legs parted for him, their erections rubbing together. His underwear felt painfully tight as his body flared to life, as always when he was this close to the man he loved. "I won’t stop until you feel better," he said as he started to slide down his lover’s body.

"Ah…." Iwaki sighed in pleasure as he kissed his way down his chest, for a moment frowning as he realized how much weight his lover had lost during the shoot. He resolved to pay much better to Iwaki’s health from now on, to not let his love lie and assure him that he was just fine.

His hands grasped Iwaki’s underwear as he trailed a path of kisses across a flat stomach. Iwaki moaned as they were pulled down, and he knelt between his lover’s legs as he tossed them aside. "You’re definitely eager for me," he whispered in a husky voice as he lightly cupped his lover’s balls. "All slick and hard… I wonder if you taste as good as you look." He pumped his hand along Iwaki’s cock, sliding along with the aid of the precum dribbling out, and then bent to take it between his lips.

"Ah! Kato… ohhh…," Iwaki gasped as he took the cock deep into his mouth, as his damp fingers trailed downward. With his other hand he pulled down his own shorts, his cock so hard and swollen he couldn’t bear it being contained behind the tight cloth any longer. Then he devoted himself to making Iwaki writhe in pleasure, one hand holding his lover’s cock steady as his mouth moved up and down it, the other, now slick from the both of them, pressing against Iwaki’s tight opening.

He brought his lover to the brink as he stretched him, time and practice and knowledge aiding him as he pulled back at just the right moment, leaving Iwaki sprawled out on the bed beneath him, beautiful body covered with a fine sheen of sweat, hair damp and tousled, eyes closed as he breathed in ragged pants, a lovely flush all along his face and spreading down to his chest. Grey eyes peeked open as he sat there, and he smiled at his lover as he reached for the lube, pumping his own cock the entire time.

"I wish you could see yourself through my eyes right now," he told his lover, voice tight with longing and need. "You’re so beautiful." He drizzled some slick oil onto his hand and put on a show of stroking himself as he pushed Iwaki’s legs apart. "Look at what you do to me. No one else makes me this hard, this eager. All I want is to be buried deep inside Iwaki-san’s perfect body." He leaned forward, a smile spreading across his face when Iwaki drew a sharp breath as his legs were draped over his shoulders. "I can never hold myself back from you." Then he thrust forward in one smooth motion, burying himself to the hilt inside his lover’s luscious body.

"I..waki-san," he gasped as he was tightly gripped by velvet heat, his lover moaning in pleasure and rocking his hips up to take him in as deep as possible. "I love you," he managed to stutter out as his need took over, had him thrusting his hips in an increasing pace. All he wanted was to be inside Iwaki, to make both of them explode with pleasure.

"Love… you… Kato!" Iwaki cried out as he snapped his hips rather forcefully, driving hard against that special spot. He knew his lover’s body as well as his own, knew when to give him a hard, fast fuck that would leave Iwaki sated and utterly limp with bliss. The intense pleasure and satisfaction he derived from their lovemaking was only an added bonus of having Iwaki beneath him like this, of giving Iwaki whatever it was he needed.

The pace growing more and more furious, he kept driving forward, his hands slipping along Iwaki’s sweat-slick skin until reaching his cock and pumping it. His lover cried out his name again and came in shuddering waves, and as the velvet heat tightened even more around him, he couldn’t hold back any longer. All that mattered was that he’d given Iwaki his release, now he could take his own. He poured himself into his lover, body taut as he came, hands possessive on Iwaki’s body.

Finally spent, he fell forward, bracing himself on his arms at the last second. He stared at Iwaki’s face and was thoroughly warmed by the content smile he found there. "Are you okay?" he asked softly before leaning in for a kiss.

Iwaki kissed him back, shaking fingers brushing his bangs out of his face and settling on his shoulders. "Much better," he said with a yawn. "No more headache."

Feeling rather smug about that, he reached back for his briefs and used them to clean them both off, Iwaki lying rather docilely the entire time. His lover definitely appeared happy, but it was evident he was just as tired, if not more so now, than before.

Tossing the shorts aside, he rearranged the blankets over them and stretched out on his side. Once settled, he pulled Iwaki close. "Get some rest now. I’ll wake you in a little while for dinner."

"Thank you." Iwaki gave out a happy sigh and curled up against him, his breathing evening out in moments. Content that his lover was now resting peacefully, he just lay there in bed, Iwaki in his arms and filled with happiness.

› › › ›

Aya drifted awake, feeling hot and smothered. He tossed back the blanket covering him as he opened his eyes and stared out at the room. Omi was curled up on the floor, partially under the low table, and he could faintly hear music from the teen’s headset inbetween Ken’s snores. Everything appeared normal, so he let out a slow breath and closed his eyes.

"Mmmm, you okay?" Yohji whispered in his ear, voice groggy and thick with sleep. Mindful of the narrow couch, he carefully rolled over until he faced his lover. Yohji gave him a sleepy smile and brushed back his bangs. "You need a haircut, love. I can’t see anything but your mouth."

He smiled, suddenly warmed through by the endearment. He was yet to get used to hearing it, even though Yohji seemed to have taken great pains to call him it several times that evening.

"I don’t know…, I might grow it out." He tucked a strand behind his ear and watched his lover closely for a reaction. "Might cut the bangs a little, but… maybe it’s time for a change."

"You with long hair." A huge grin broke out on Yohji’s face. "I think I like that idea." His fingers trailed through an eartail and draped it over Aya’s shoulder. "Can I play with it?" he asked in a husky voice.

Aya pretended to think about that. "Maybe… if you’re very good." He almost smiled again when Yohji’s eyes widened in surprise, then were filled with a gleam of amusement.

"I think I can manage that." Yohji tilted up his chin for a kiss, one that damn near curled his toes and snatched away his breath. Oh yes, very good indeed…. When his hands scrambled at his lover’s shoulders to pull him closer, he came back to his senses and pushed him away instead with more than a little regret.

He glanced over his shoulder to find his teammates still asleep – or faking it. Omi had taken to sleeping with his headphones on ever since finding out about them, and Ken could sleep through practically anything but someone getting within a foot of him while he was unconscious, but as much as he wanted Yohji, he wasn’t in an exhibitionist mood right now. Not after this afternoon’s lovemaking and the fact that Omi had walked in on them *yet again*.

Yohji nibbled lightly on his ear. "You feel like karaoke tomorrow?"

He turned back to his lover and allowed himself to smile one more time. "I think I can be talked into it." Somehow… somehow it felt natural to tease Yohji like this, to smile and banter. It came surprisingly easily to him, urged on by the need to see his boyfriend smile back at him like that, eyes filled with surprise and enjoyment.

"I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer," Yohji promised and pulled him closer. Even though the air inside the van felt just shy of stifling, he wasn’t bothered with such close contact with another body. "Ayan… I think you’d look wonderful with long hair. I also think that if we don’t get out of this van soon, I’m going to tie up Manx and Birman and force them to live here while we take over one of their apartments."

He could understand Yohji’s frustration. Their living arrangement had become even more unbearable this afternoon. He wanted the freedom to explore the depths of their new relationship, to give in to the need and desire that filled him when Yohji called him ‘love’ or gave him a heated look – and two seconds later would be jerked back to their painful reality when Omi or Ken said something. Who did he have to kill to get some privacy? "We need to find ways to get Omi and Ken out of here more often," he growled softly in frustration.

"Maybe we can get then to take up golf or something," Yohji shot back with a grin. "Can you see Ken waving a golf club around just because he overshot a goal?"

"Hole, you mean," he corrected automatically.

"Whatever. Hang on a sec." Yohji pushed him away until he sat up, and then stretched out on his back. Then he pulled him back down until he rested against him. "There." His hand skimmed up Aya’s back, beneath the worn t-shit he was wearing. "I just wish we could be alone somewhere," he whispered into Aya’s ear. "It’s driving me nuts, finally having you and always having to watch what I say and do."

He tangled his fingers in Yohji’s hair, enjoying the feeling of softness as he settled even closer to his lover. Funny, how he so easily thought of the man in that way now. He should be more wary of this afternoon’s declaration of love – but he trusted Yohji. He believed him when he said he loved him. "This can’t last forever," he whispered.

"I know, but the wait is going to drive me nuts." Yohji nuzzled his temple and sighed. "I think… I know it’ll be expensive, but we really need to try and get away one night a week or something. I need some time alone with you. It wasn’t so bad before when…." He sighed and shook his head.

"I understand." He did, too. There was always the fear of being hurt before that made the lack of privacy bearable. No sense, after all, in making it even harder to take them breaking up by spending every second together. But now… now they needed that privacy so they could explore the depths of this new relationship, have the space to make the necessary adjustments. "All right, we’ll start booking hotel rooms." He didn’t like the thought of spending money they might need for an emergency and wondered if Omi could hack into some old accounts of his from his brief strays from Kritiker. The thought of using up their available cash didn’t sit well with him; something was wrong with Kritiker, something that had Manx and Birman worried, that left Weiß to deal with faulty information.

"I’ve got some money tucked away," Yohji said quietly. "Can’t think of anything better to spend it on."

"Okay. We’ll look around for someplace cheap, though."

Yohji smiled and hugged him close. "As long as it has a comfortable, clean bed, I don’t care where we stay." They kissed then, a brief caress that left them both content and frustrated. What he wouldn’t give to be able to kick Omi and Ken out right now….

With a heavy sigh, he rested his head on Yohji’s shoulder and told himself to go back to sleep. Tomorrow they’d get away for a bit, spend some time enjoying each other and seeing where today’s revelations led them. For the first time in too long, he wasn’t worried about the future – well, that not related to Kritiker. For the first time in too long, he no longer felt alone.

The feel of Yohji’s hand caressing its way up and down his back helped to soothe him enough that his eyes drifted shut and he felt himself grow sleepy. Snuggled firmly against his lover, he pushed all worrying thoughts aside and accepted the pleasure and comfort being offered. Tomorrow, they’d figure out what to do. They’d manage that better if they both got some sleep, so he gave in to the exhaustion.

› › › ›

Iwaki left a note for his lover and hurried from their trailer, toward the waiting cab. Kato would probably give him grief over going alone but he felt he… owed Yohji a visit. He was the one who Yohji had went out of his way and did several favors for, it should have been him returning the jacket, not Kato. Even if everyone else involved felt satisfied, his sense of honor urged him to offer his thanks and the dinner invitation in person before he could let the matter rest.

He’d have done it a couple of days ago, when he’d set out during his lunch break only to find that Yohji’s flowershop had moved on. Fortunately for him, the same make-up assistant who came to Kato’s aid had supplied him with its new location this morning, so now he could now personally repay the debt of honor he felt was still owed. His scenes were all done for the day, while Kato still had one more to go, so this was the perfect time. Hopefully he’d be back before nighttime, and could enjoy a nice, leisurely meal with his lover.

The cab crawled through the late afternoon traffic, but thankfully the flowershop van wasn’t too far from the studio. When they finally arrived, he tugged down the baseball cap even lower on his head before paying the driver and exiting. He seemed to have timed it just right, as there were a few young women walking away from the van and two young men in the process of putting various plants into a back compartment.

Walking over to the young men, neither of whom were Yohji, he cleared his throat to get their attention. "Excuse me, may I speak with Kudoh Yohji please?"

The older of the two, an athletic man with brown hair, went stiff as soon as he cleared his throat and gave him a suspicious look as soon as he mentioned Yohji’s name. His companion, appearing a few years younger, smiled at Iwaki, but he noticed the expression was a little cold. "I’m sorry, he’s not here right now. May I help you…?" The young man became quiet while he tried to decide if he should leave his name or not, and then the other man suddenly cursed out loud.

"Fuck, you’re Iw- ah, you’re him, you know." He appeared flustered as he glanced around and then stared at his coworker. "He’s with Aya’s *cousin*," he said, stressing the last word.

"Oh." The blond blinked and his smile grew even colder. "I’m sorry, sir, but Yohji’s gone out for the evening. Perhaps you should try back in another day or two."

Iwaki knew he’d be busy filming for the next few days, and had the sneaking suspicion that the van wouldn’t be here the next time he managed some time off. The shop certainly was very mobile. "Do you have a number where I can reach him?" he asked, hoping in some way to express his gratitude, and at this point about ready to settle for a phone call after all. "I’d like to speak to him, if possible."

The brown-haired man grunted as he picked up the display table. "Sorry, this thing isn’t exactly wired for phones," he said as he nodded in the direction of the van. Which was a ridiculous excuse when most people had cell phones. Iwaki got the impression that these two didn’t want him talking to Yohji, and didn’t have a clue why.

Taking a deep breath, he turned to face the blond man once more. "I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but I was hoping to-"

A familiar voice cut him off. "Hey you two, closing up shop already? Did we catch you about to sneak off to play hookey or what?" He turned to see Yohji walking toward the van, a big grin on his face and his sunglasses sliding down his nose. The man’s expression grew puzzled when he noticed him, and Yohji pushed his sunglasses onto his forehead and frowned. "Iwaki-san?"

The brown-haired young man instantly made a hushing sound and looked ready to drop the table. "Quiet, Yohji! We don’t want a repeat of the other day!" he snapped.

Yohji flashed him a grin and came to a stop in front of Iwaki. "Relax, Ken, no one’s here anymore, even if we should still be open for another half hour."

"Business was slow, and there’s a movie we want to catch," Ken snapped. "And don’t give me any crap, not after you opened the shop an hour late yesterday."

"Mornings are never the best time for business, you know that. Afternoons are when we make the most money." As the two men argued, the young blond sighed and finished packing away the few remaining plants and another man approached the van. Iwaki noticed with some interest that he had brilliant red hair and wondered if this was Yohji’s lover.

"What’s going on here?" the man asked, his voice unexpectedly deep. Yohji stopped arguing with Ken instantly and flashed Iwaki a smile.

"We’ve got company, Aya. I’d like for you to meet Iwaki-san." Yohji bowed a little before reaching out to grab the redhead’s arm and pull him closer to the group. "Iwaki, I’d like for you to meet Aya."

"Pleased to meet you," he said while bowing shallowly, all the while wondering why none of these men seemed to like using their family names. "I’ve heard many nice things about you."

Aya didn’t appear very pleased and didn’t return the bow. "What are you doing here?" he asked, his deep voice positively frosty. "Yohji’s jacket was returned."

"Ah, Aya-kun," the young blond interrupted while Iwaki tried to figure out the reason behind the redhead’s rudeness, "why don’t you take this inside? We really don’t need anyone to notice your guest."

"He’s not *my* guest." Aya glared first at his coworker, then at Iwaki, and finally at Yohji before stalking toward the van. "Come here before anyone recognizes you," he practically snarled, not bothering to look over his shoulder.

Iwaki stared after him for a moment and started when his shoulder was nudged. Yohji smiled at him and motioned toward the now open van door. "You better do what he says."

His mind whirling over what had happened during the last few minutes, he did was he was told. He had no clue why Yohji’s friends didn’t seem to like him, but at least Yohji was acting the same as that one night, and since he didn’t want to be recognized he thought it a good idea to go inside. He entered the van and looked about, trying to figure out if four young men really did live in here. The place was even smaller than his first apartment in Tokyo….

"Can I get you something to drink, Iwaki?" Yohji asked, dropping the honorific much as he had during their night of drinking. Feeling a little more comfortable, he nodded, and was told to sit down. Not so sure about the carpet, which was covered with someone’s sweatpants and t-shirt, he gingerly sat down in an overstuffed chair.

Sitting across from him, on the couch, was Aya. The man didn’t say anything but just stared at him, making him feel very uncomfortable. What had he done to offend him? They’d only met a few minutes ago. He stared back just as coldly while Yohji grabbed something from the fridge.

"Here." Yohji handed him an open can of green tea.

"Thank you." He took a sip to show his gratitude.

"Why are you here?" Aya asked again, his voice even colder than before. Yohji sat down beside him and handed him an open can as well, which he ignored to glare at Iwaki.

"I wished to express my thanks in person," Iwaki explained, and found it hard to keep his teeth from clenching. Setting aside the tea, he rose to his feet and gave Yohji a short bow. "Thank you for your assistance that night, and for returning my wallet to me. I should have returned your jacket as well, but wasn’t aware that Kato had intended to do just that." Apology out of the way, he sat back down.

Yohji languidly waved his hand about before letting it settle on Aya’s knee. "You didn’t have to come here just to thank me. You did that enough the one night, and I didn’t return your purse in person. We’re even." He turned to smile at his lover. "Right, Aya?" Aya just sat there and glared at Iwaki, prompting Yohji to sigh.

"I’m sorry, Yohji, but I feel there’s a debt still owing," Iwaki explained as he did his best to ignore Aya. "You used those lovely flowers and vase to return my wallet to me, and from what I understand, Kato affected your business the other day. Please, allow me to make amends."

"And how do you plan on doing that?" Aya asked, breaking his silence. The look he gave Iwaki was even more hostile than before, and his hand rested on top of Yohji’s. "We don’t need or want anything."

"Aya," Yohji said, a frown on his face as he stared at his lover, "Iwaki’s just trying to be polite. They stared at each other for a moment, and then Yohji suddenly smiled. He leaned over to whisper something in Aya’s ear while Iwaki took a sudden interest in his drink.

The van was quiet for a minute, and then Yohji pulled away from Aya and looked over at him. "We’re very grateful for your gratitude, but we really don’t need anything. We also don’t have the time to come down and visit the movie set."

He nodded as he held the can of tea cupped between his hands. "I imagine that it must be very busy, running your own business." Pushing aside his unease from Aya’s dislike of him, he smiled slightly and set out to finish what he’d come here for. "Kato and I have discussed how we’d like to repay you for your kindness. We’d like to invite you out to dinner."

"Dinner? You don’t have to do that, Iwaki-san, your thanks are enough. Besides, we wouldn’t want to impose you so." Despite his denial, Yohji seemed intrigued by the idea, but Aya just sat there and stared at him coldly. He barely resisted the urge to return the look and continued.

"It wouldn’t be an imposition," he explained. Glancing at Aya, he wondered if the man’s problem with him was over Kato’s visit last week. "We made reservations for Thursday night at a very nice and private restaurant. Perhaps you’ve heard of ‘Roots’?" Still a blank look from Aya, but Yohji stared at him with sudden interest. "The food is very good there and I promise we won’t be bothered."

Just as Aya opened his mouth, most likely to turn down the offer, Yohji gave his lover’s knee a squeeze. "We’d love to have dinner with you. What time?"

He felt almost as surprised as Aya looked. "Is eight o’clock all right? We’ll be busy filming until at least 6 o’clock, and will need some time to get ready and meet you."

"That’s fine, we’ll probably be busy working all afternoon in the shop. Eight o’clock it is. We’ll meet you there. Thank you very much, Iwaki. You don’t have to," Yohji said with a wide grin, "but we’ll take you up on the offer nonetheless."

He smiled when he was winked at, and the expression almost faltered in the face of the glare Aya was bestowing upon him. For a moment he wondered how Yohji put up with such a sullen boyfriend, but told himself it wasn’t his business. Besides, he was imposing on them with this visit. "I look forward to seeing you both on Thursday night. Now if you don’t mind, I need to leave. Thank you very much once again, Yohji." He bowed slightly before moving toward the door, which Yohji hurried to open for him. After exchanging good-byes with the smiling man, he left the van, noting that Ken and the young blond had finished putting everything away and were gone. Shaking his head at the thought of four people living in such a small place, he decided that maybe Aya had a very good reason to not be very happy.

› › › ›

Yohji nearly jumped out of his skin when he closed the door behind Iwaki and turned to find Aya standing right beside him. "Gods, love, are you trying to give me a heart-attack?"

Aya glared and leaned against the door. "Why the hell are we going to have dinner with them? Isn’t it bad enough that they’ve tracked us down again that we’re spending the evening with them? What if we have a mission?"

"We shouldn’t, remember? We’re on hiatus until Birman figures out what went wrong with the last one," he said as he tugged his lover back over to the couch.

Aya followed him rather grudgingly, still bearing the look of cold disdain that he’d worn during Iwaki’s visit. "Still, it’s not a good idea. We should be avoiding these people, not having dinner with them."

Falling onto the couch, he pulled Aya down beside him and wrapped an arm around his lover’s waist. "Listen, it’s one night. Judging from their visits, they’re not just going to forget about us until they feel they’ve met their obligations. So we’ll humor then by joining them for dinner, have a really, really nice meal, and set up shop somewhere else," he explained. "With luck, they’ll leave us alone after that."

His lover seemed to mull over that for a bit, his expression softening a little. Then he surprised Yohji with an intense glare. "You better not stick around after rescuing any more movie stars. They’re nothing but trouble."

Yohji couldn’t help it, he had to laugh over how serious Aya was. "I promise, Ayan, that I won’t let any more famous people follow me home." He tugged his lover closer and nuzzled his ear. "You can stop being all jealous now."

Aya instantly went stiff in his arms and pushed him away. "I’m not jealous, I’m upset that we’ve once again been tracked down, and you don’t seem to give a damn," he snapped.

Sighing, Yohji wanted to kick himself for saying that last bit out loud. Teasing Aya about being jealous suddenly didn’t seem like a good idea, but he was just so… pleased to see that Aya cared enough for him to try and drive Iwaki away. So, instead of arguing that his lover was indeed jealous as hell, he just smiled and tried to pull him back beside him. "Whatever your reason for being so upset, please don’t take it out on our guests during dinner, all right? At least not until after they pay for everything. Roots is not a cheap place to eat, from what I’ve heard."

Aya’s glare slowly changed into a thoughtful look. "I thought you recognized the place. Is that why you agreed?"

Chuckling a little nervously at being found out, Yohji started to comb his fingers through his lover’s hair, hoping to distract him a little. "Well, that and I wanted to make Iwaki stop feeling like he still owed us. I’ve heard that it has excellent food, and that it’s a very exclusive restaurant. You need more than just a reservation to eat there." He hoped fervently that Aya didn’t ask him how he knew about the place since he’d have to admit he’d heard about it during a brief foray into some of Kyoto’s… more alternative bars. He’d been searching for some relief back then, desperately hoping to find someone who would be able to handle him if he started to go all crazy on him, and one of his dates had mentioned the restaurant with a sort of reverential awe. Aya would definitely not want to hear about the bondage rooms above the dining area, or how patrons could enjoy themselves in said rooms after a lovely dinner. He spared a quick thought as to why Iwaki and Kato had picked such a place for them to eat, but then remembered their past careers.

He was getting a look that said that Aya didn’t completely believe him, so he smiled and tilted his boyfriend’s head. "Listen, it’ll be an excuse to get out of here for a few hours, a chance at a really nice dinner that we won’t have to pay for, and then we can go off by ourselves for the rest of the night. How does that sound?" he asked, his voice becoming huskier with each word as he leaned closer and closer to Aya.

His lover seemed to think about it for a moment, and then sighed. "This better be the last time we see either of those two in person. We can’t risk them drawing attention to us."

"I know, love. I’m sorry for dragging Weiss into this mess, but I really didn’t think this would all happen." Not that he was all that upset, as Kato’s visit had been the impetus for the two of them to admit their feelings.

Aya tugged gently on his hair. "You just like to play the hero, admit it."

He smiled at that and leaned in the last little bit so they could kiss. After a very enjoyable few minutes spent savoring his lover, and ending with Aya straddling his lap and appearing very well pleased, he chuckled and brushed back the long bangs falling onto Aya’s face. "All right, you got me there." He graced his lover with a wicked smile and snaked his hand up the back of Aya’s tight t-shirt. "Didn’t Ken and Omi say something about going to the movies?"

Aya gave him a heated look as he started to rock his hips forward. "I believe they did. Do you have any plans for the night?"

"Oh, just seeing how many times I can make you scream out my name. You game?"

Aya’s answer was a kiss passionate enough to damn near make him forget his own name. At that moment he was so utterly happy he felt afraid he was dreaming all of this, Aya in his arms and trying to peel off his shirt, their confessions the other day, hell, even the last couple of months. Part of him couldn’t believe that Aya really did love him and that he could be this happy. The rest of him… the rest of him was determined to enjoy this as much and as long as possible, and set about removing his lover’s clothes.

› › › ›

Kato smiled at the waitress as she placed a new drink down in front of him, while beside him Iwaki fidgeted ever so slightly. His lover waited for the young woman to leave before sighing deeply. "Where are they?"

"Maybe they ran into some traffic," he soothed, all the while wondering if they’d been stood up. If Yohji and Aya decided not to show up… well, they’d have a great dinner and maybe see if they couldn’t manage some time upstairs. After all, Iwaki owed him from the last time. He sipped his cocktail to stop himself from drooling.

Just then the waitress returned, this time leading Yohji and Aya. She showed them to the alcove and left with their drink order while the two men looked around the restaurant. Aya, dressed in black slacks and a purple silk shirt a shade or two lighter than his eyes, didn’t appear too happy to be here. Yohji, on the other hand, was smiling broadly, his arm casually around his lover’s waist. With his casual air, good looks, low slung brown leather pants and loose, laced down the front white linen shirt, he could pass for a movie star or a model.

After a moment’s hesitation, Aya slid into the booth opposite them, and Yohji quickly joined him. "Evening," Yohji drawled as he settled right next to his boyfriend. "Thanks for the invite, this place looks to live up to its reputation."

Kato leaned forward, his elbows on the tabletop. "We were worried you weren’t coming and would miss out on a wonderful dinner."

"We’re sorry," Aya answered quietly. "We should have left a little earlier."

Kato stared at him for a moment, surprised that it was Aya and not Yohji apologizing, and in a civil tone at that. He wondered if the redhead had had a change of heart over him and Iwaki and continued to stare, believing that at any minute, Aya would snap out a rude comment. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Yohji frowning over something, but then a hand suddenly squeezed his left thigh, rather painfully at that, and he turned to look at Iwaki. His lover was also frowning and, after another warning squeeze, removed his hand from Kato’s leg

Thankfully the waitress arrived with the drinks, ending a rather tense moment. Kato smirked as he sipped his drink, highly amused by the thought of Iwaki being jealous. As if his lover had anything to worry about in that regard. Besides, men usually fell at Iwaki’s feet, not his. Feeling a little jealous now himself, he shook his head slightly and listened as his lover inquired about ordering the chef’s special for all four of them.

Aya didn’t appear very happy at having his dinner ordered from him, but Yohji shared a look with him and he just frowned into his drink. Yohji’s arm stretched out along the back of the booth, right above Aya’s shoulders. "Whatever you think is best, Iwaki-san. You’re paying, after all." Yohji winked as his fingers brushed along the side of his lover’s arm.

"Then that’s what we’ll have," Iwaki told the waitress with a curt nod. She left after a bow, and then the four of them were alone in the alcove once more, none of them appearing to know what to say. Suddenly it didn’t seem like a good idea, this dinner meeting, even if it would take care of any obligations still owing in his or Iwaki’s part.

"I take it you had a busy day selling flowers?" he asked, trying to lighten the mood.

Aya continued to stare into his drink while Yohji shrugged. "We were pretty slow during the day, but once school let out, we were mobbed. Too bad the girls didn’t buy many flowers, though."

"Ah, sounds like we’re not the only one with ardent fans," Kato teased. "Maybe we should share horror stories some night."

"Yeah." Yohji grinned for a moment before sighing and shaking his head. "I doubt that Aya’s and mine will compare to yours. Famous actors trump florists any day."

"You have a point, and at least florists don’t have to worry about the paparazzi."

"I don’t exactly think that complaining about our fans or the news media is a good topic of discussion," Iwaki stated as he folded his arms over his chest. "I’d rather not think about them right now."

Kato winced slightly as he sipped his drink. Not the brightest of ideas, bring up the media during a nice dinner out. The paparazzi had burned them enough times that Iwaki didn’t care talking about them at any time. All of them fell quiet after that, and he noticed Yohji staring at Aya as if silently communicating. The redhead’s lips thinned and he ducked his head, his face now hidden behind his long bangs.

"So how is the movie going, if you don’t mind me asking?"

Kato almost spilled his drink at Yohji’s question, having grown used to the silence. As he set his drink down, Iwaki leaned back in the booth and brushed aside his bangs, a thoughtful look on his face. "Everything’s going fine. To be honest, I’m surprised how well they’re going since we’re filming in Kyoto." Now this was a topic that his lover usually didn’t mind talking about.

Aya spoke as he lifted his head, exposing his face. "That’s a good thing because I can’t see the book being filmed anywhere but here," he said in a quiet voice. When Yohji started to rub his shoulder, he began to speak a little louder and surer. "While I believe I’ve heard that it’s expensive to shoot on location, I can’t see the studio being able to recreate everything back in Tokyo."

Iwaki’s face lit up at the comment and he smiled slightly as he leaned forward. "Ah yes, I remember Yohji saying that you enjoyed the book. I must admit that I’m glad the studio is trying to be so faithful to the novel or I’d have reconsidered the role."

"I’ve heard that Isaka-san has been heavily involved in the movie’s production." Aya picked up his drink and rocked it back and forth in his hand, the ice clinking against the glass. He now appeared interested and mostly at ease, the cold disdain gone from his features. He was absolutely lovely without the habitual glare, no wonder Yohji was staring at him with a tender expression on his face. Kato guessed this is what the man saw in his reserved lover.

"She won’t allow the story to become corrupted," Iwaki said as the waitress arrived with their first course, toro tartar with caviar.

"I’m glad to hear that. The story is a very powerful one, it would be a shame to see its impact lessened in movie form," Aya murmured as he picked up a small spoonful of the appetizer. "I know of several good novels that were ruined that way."

As Iwaki and Aya talked more about the film, their manners growing less halting with each exchange, Kato arched his eyebrow and shared a wry look with Yohji. And here he’d been worried about the blond man trying to steal Iwaki from him when it was his lover who seemed to be doing all the charming. "I think we should order a bottle of wine."

Yohji nodded as his fingers resumed stroking his lover’s silk-clad arm. "That sounds good. We might need the alcohol to get those two to loosen up." He nodded in Aya and Iwaki’s direction.

Chuckling softly, Kato leaned out of the alcove slightly to try and attract their waitress’ attention.

› › › ›

Yohji savored another bite of his dessert, the rich creaminess of the tiramisu making him groan in appreciation. Beside him, Aya sat with his eyes closed, a spoonful of chocolate mousse in his mouth. He appeared enraptured at the taste, the spoon slowly sliding out and receiving one last lick before dipping down into the remaining mousse. Yohji suddenly felt rather jealous of a piece of silverware.

Across the table, Kato and Iwaki appeared to be enjoying their dessert with equal gusto. They were splitting an apple tart covered with homemade ice cream, and half the time feeding each other. They made a cute couple and it had been a fun night, dining with them. Once Aya and Iwaki had bonded over books, samurai and movies, things had gone splendidly. The two men sharing common interests and pasts – along with several bottles of wine – had helped to break the ice. He was proud of his lover tonight, of Aya’s culture and intelligence, and was pleased that Aya had set aside his misgivings long enough to show his true self, something he didn’t do very often and almost never when around strangers.

Rather disappointed to find that he was down to the last bite of the dessert, he enjoyed it before setting his fork down and sighing loudly. "I really don’t want to go home now," he said rather mournfully. "There’s nothing half as good as tonight’s dinner back there." Not to mention he’d had a little more wine than he should have, considering that he was driving. Aya was definitely too drunk to get them home, so they might have to find a nice café somewhere close by until he sobered up a little. But damn, it had been a great night and he didn’t regret not being a little more careful about his alcohol consumption.

With a sad, little sigh, Aya finished his dessert as well and leaned against Yohji, his head resting against his shoulder. Adoring the privacy of the booth and the fact that Aya was definitely smashed if he was acting this affectionate in public, he slid his arm around his lover’s shoulder and hugged him close. Aya didn’t even start or try to pull away when, moments later, the waitress appeared to see if there was anything else she could do for them.

"No thank you," Iwaki said, the words slightly slurred. "Everything was wonderful."

The young woman bowed in acknowledgement of the compliment. "Thank you." She paused for a moment, her eyes staring at her feet. "Kusonoki-sama regrets that she couldn’t see you tonight and extends the use of two of the rooms in apology. She hopes to be able to see you once again before you leave Kyoto." She reached into the pocket of her skirt and pulled out two keys. "Thank you very much." Bowing once more, she cleared the empty plates and left.

Yohji felt his mouth go dry at the sight of the keys and had to have a swallow of water. He’d heard about them but didn’t think he’d end up seeing one, let alone two, left on the table tonight. Glancing up at his hosts, he found Kato with a grin on his face, and a slight frown on Iwaki’s. "I take it the night isn’t quite over yet?"

Iwaki blushed slightly and set his fork down while Kato picked up one of the keys. "Ah, there’s a funny story about these things…." He looked up at Yohji. "Have you heard about them?"

Feeling Aya sit up straight beside him, Yohji hoped that his lover didn’t overreact upon finding out what was upstairs. "I’ve heard rumors that this place caters to people who prefer their privacy… and allows them outlets that they can’t always safely find elsewhere. Especially if they’re into a certain type of lifestyle." Iwaki blushed slightly but Kato’s grin widened, and he realised that the men must have used one of the rooms at some point.

"Kudoh, what the hell are you talking about?" Aya hissed beside him.

"Why am I not surprised that you know about the rooms?" Kato asked rhetorically as he flipped the key over and over in his hand. "I’m surprised Kotomi-san has extended the rooms for our use."

"Kato, I don’t think this is a good idea right now." Iwaki appeared to be growing more upset, so Yohji quickly picked up the remaining key. He didn’t want an opportunity like this to pass him by, not with Aya drunk and hopefully a little open to some experimentation. A room of their own… there was no way he’d be able to talk his lover into this if other people were involved, but a room of their own….

"I must thank you two for a truly wonderful night." He bowed over the table, the key clenched in his fist and Aya’s hand tightening around his right arm. "Any and all obligations have been met, in my opinion. If anything, I think I might owe you after such a lovely dinner." He smiled and looked up at the ceiling. "If you don’t mind, I’d like to take… Kusonoki-san? up on this generous offer." He might be a little bit rude in his desire to run upstairs, but Kato and Iwaki had been talking about leaving when they’d been awaiting their desserts, and he really wasn’t going to pass up on a chance like this. "Please keep us in mind if you ever need any flowers," he said with a wink as he slid out of the booth, Aya following him as he’d yet to let go of his arm.

Iwaki blinked in surprise, but Kato just smiled at them. "Thank you for sharing a nice evening with us. I look forward to seeing you two again."

"The same here. Thank you again." He bowed once more as Aya again hissed out a demand for an explanation. "Good luck on the movie, and good night."

"Good night." Kato waved goodbye while Iwaki just shook his head and smiled rather ruefully.

Practically dragging Aya to the restaurant’s lobby, where he remembered a stairway leading to the second level, Yohji smiled and showed the key to the large man standing beside it. The man looked at the key and nodded as he moved out of the way.

"Yohji, why the hell are we going upstairs and why did you rush out of there like that?" Aya asked as he put on the brakes and refused to go up another step. Judging from the dangerous look on his face, Yohji knew he’d better answer or Aya would leave him here.

"Look, Aya, just come up to the room and you’ll see what I’m so excited about. Please? I can’t really explain it very well." Not without getting thrown down the steps, that was. He prayed to whatever deity would hear him that his lover would just agreed to go along with him and not freak when they reached their assigned room.

Maybe one of them heard him or maybe Aya really was drunk, but after staring at him for a moment or two, Aya resumed going up the steps. Yohji smiled and slid his arm around his lover’s waist. "Just you wait and see," he said softly.

"I’ve a bad feeling about this, especially if you’re so excited," Aya said with an amused snort. "If there’s a room full of naked women up there, you’re going out the nearest window."

"What, you won’t gut me first?"

"I’ll save that for when you’re a crumpled mess lying out on the street," Aya replied as they made it up to the landing.

Yohji chuckled nervously as he looked for room… four, according to the small bronze tab attached to the key. "I promise that there will be no naked women." Please, oh please, let Aya be drunk enough for this, he prayed again as he found the right door and walked over to it.

› › › ›

Aya warily followed his boyfriend into the room. The first thing he noticed was the smell of leather, and upon looking around he soon noticed why the air was heavy with the scent. There was a… table-like contraption covered with the stuff, and a ridiculous amount of straps, buckles and other gear scattered about the small room. He recognized some of the bondage gear from his one and only trip to a S/M club back in Sendai, and some of the whips and restraining devices from his years in Weiss. There were indeed no naked women – but he didn’t think that Yohji was off the hook just yet.

Yohji seemed to be awaiting some sort of reaction from his, as he was standing beside the… table, smiling nervously. Aya arched an eyebrow and just waited for an explanation for all of this.

"Didn’t I say there wouldn’t be any naked women here?"

"Yes, you did." Aya walked, swaying slightly because of all the wine he’d foolishly drank that night, over to one of the walls and felt his cheeks heat up when he realized that there were several dildos hanging there. "You knew about this?" he asked in a quiet voice.

"Yeah, I did." Yohji slowly approached him. "I heard about it one night while I was out, that’s why I accepted Iwaki’s offer to have dinner here." Very carefully, as if afraid he’d be hit, Yohji slid his arms around Aya’s shoulders. "I really didn’t think we’d get a room up here but I had to see this place for myself."

Aya was quiet for a moment, his attention focused on the thick leather collar hanging in front of his face. He reached out to touch out, the metal studs cool beneath his fingertips. "But we’re up here, on your insistence. What are we supposed to do now?" he asked as he turned around to face his lover and pushed away the arms hugging him. "Do you actually think I’m going to stay here?"

"Aya, please!" Yohji grabbed him by the shoulders, not too tightly, and let out a slow breath. "All right, I should have said something, but I really *didn’t* think we’d end up here tonight! But now that we are…." His lover’s eyes suddenly became huge and shimmering with unshed tears. Aya felt the impulse to hit him and then flee before his resistance crumbled before the onslaught, but then Yohji’s fingers were sliding through his hair, causing his scalp to tingle. He felt slightly dizzy from the alcohol and now his lover’s touch was making it rather hard to think. "All I’m asking, Aya, is that you give it a try. Something a little different than having sex in a karaoke booth, something… more fun. Please? Can’t we just try this once?"

"I don’t know anything about this stuff, Yotan," he said, and it took him a moment to realize that the words weren’t the denial that he’d intended. But Yohji was downright pleading with him and a small part of him… a small part of him wondered what his inventive lover could do to him with all these things.

"I know a little," Yohji said, a smile spreading across his face as he pulled Aya into a hug. "Enough for it to be fun for both of us. What do you say? We might never get another opportunity like this."

Aya had long suspected that he wasn’t totally sane anymore, not since his parents’ deaths and the introduction of Kritiker in his life, but he knew that his sanity was definitely in doubt when he found himself nodding. But… he trusted Yohji, and he loved him. If Yohji wanted this, he felt safe enough with the man to go along. He might end up embarrassed as hell when he was sober enough to think this thing through properly, but right now he couldn’t find the strength to resist his lover.

"Thank you." Yohji tilted his face up and kissed him, long and slow and deep, so much that he was soon dizzy from more than alcohol. His body decided that it had no doubts whatsoever about this situation and started to respond, especially when Yohji pressed against him. At least they were someplace where no one would walk in on them….

Pulling away, his breathing ragged, Aya tried to glare at his lover. "This stops when I want it to, and you won’t tell *anybody* about this." He realized that Iwaki and Kato had to know what they’d be doing up here and for a moment that was almost enough to make him change his mind, but then Yohji smiled at him, his hands sliding down Aya’s back to cup his ass and pull him close.

"I won’t tell a soul, and just say the word… hmmm, ‘apples’ and I’ll stop. All right?"

He wanted to protest over the fact that it was assumed that he’d be the bottom tonight, then he thought about how he didn’t have a clue as to how to use most of the objects in the room and would probably hurt Yohji if he insisted on being in charge. "I’m insane for doing this," Aya muttered before leaning against his lover. "You better make this good, Yotan."

"Oh, I will," Yohji promised, his voice husky with desire. "First thing first, though." He suddenly moved away, leaving Aya swaying without support, and searched through the room for a minute. He found whatever it was he was looking for and slowly returned to Aya, something black in his hand.

Aya went still when he recognized the blindfold but didn’t say anything, instead he searched Yohji’s face for a few seconds. The love and tenderness he saw there kept him from protesting as his lover gave him a soft kiss before sliding the silk-lined leather mask over his eyes. Unable to see anything, he just closed his eyes.

"Now for the clothes," Yohji whispered in his ear, the hot air making him shiver slightly. He could sense it when his lover shifted back, and started when hands brushed down and up his arms, over his shoulders to skim down either side of his neck to the front of his shirt. "They’ll just get in the way, after all." Yohji took his time with each button and slowly pulled the shirt out of Aya’s pants, who was surprised to find his breathing accelerated and his cock hard by the time his lover slid the shirt off his shoulders and down his arms. He drew in a sharp breath when he heard Yohji walk away. "Shhh, it’s all right."

Moments later his lover was back, and warm, strong hands gently grasped his arms and slid something made out of thick leather around his wrists. He really was insane for allowing Yohji to handcuff him as well as blindfold him, but he trusted him. Yohji had promised him pleasure and to stop when he asked. He pressed his lips together to keep the safeword from slipping free due to nervousness and inexperience. Once his hands were bound, Yohji’s hands skimmed along the waistband of his pants.

"Such a good boy," Yohji crooned, and Aya’s temper flared at the ‘boy’ part – until his lover started to unbutton his pants. The anger faded beneath desire as his erection was freed from the confining fabric and warm hands pushed his pants and underwear down his legs. "Lift your right foot," Yohji told him, which he did so he could step out of the garments, and was ordered to repeat it with his left.

"Yohji, I’m-" He suddenly gasped as his balls were tugged the tiniest bit harsher than necessary.

"Quiet, Aya. You’ll only speak when I tell you too, all right? Or to say the safeword." Judging from the amusement in Yohji’s voice, his lover was definitely getting off on being the one in charge. Realizing that he couldn’t glare very effectively from behind a mask, Aya pressed his lips together in annoyance and stepped back, only to have his bound hands grabbed and find himself yanked forward.

"Yohji!"

"What did I just say, Ayan?" Yohji followed the question with a smack to his ass as he was pulled forward. Warmth pressed against his back, Yohji’s clothed body rubbing against him as his lover blew in his ear. "Please, Aya, let me do this my way. It’s a fantasy, just play along."

"I better get a turn at this one day," he growled, and told himself that at least Yohji wasn’t making him call him ‘master’ or anything. He better not, if he knew what was good for him.

"You will." Yohji’s voice was so deep with passion that Aya shivered to hear it, and then shivered again when his lover’s lips pressed against his neck. As Yohji’s talented mouth teased along his sensitive skin, his hands were raised into the air, above his head. The short chain binding them close together was hooked onto something, and he stood there, naked, blindfolded and restrained. Yet he didn’t feel any sense of panic, not when Yohji was pressed against his back, hard erection rubbing against his ass and hot mouth sucking on the spot of his neck right below his left ear. He moaned deep in his throat, the sound growing stronger as clever fingers traced teasing circles around his nipples.

"I’ll take it easy on you this time," Yohji breathed into Aya’s ear as his fingers pinched Aya’s left nipple and then rolled it between them. "Tonight I’ll make you feel so damn good that you’ll want to do this again and again." His hips rocked against Aya’s ass, grinded against him until his head lolled back onto Yohji’s shoulder.

The fingers tormented his sensitive nipples some more, tugging and pinching and rolling until his breath shuddered, Yohji’s tongue licking the bead of sweat that ran down the side of his face. "Do you like this?"

"Y-yes," Aya stuttered, another moan escaping him as those damn, wonderful fingers started to skim down his sweaty chest.

"And this?" Yohji asked again as his fingers lightly brushed along Aya’s cock. "Do you want me to touch you here? To suck you off until you come?"

"Yes," Aya hissed as his hips jerked forward. "Yotan…"

"Then you have to do something for me first," his lover told him, cutting off his plea. "I want you to take something without any complaints. I promise you, it’ll be just as good as that blowjob." Then Yohji was pulling away from him once more.

"Yohji! What are you-" Once again he was silenced by a smack to his ass, this one with more force behind it, enough to make his skin tingle in pain.

"I didn’t ask you anything just then, Aya. Now be good." Another smack, gentler than the last, and Yohji ran his hand soothingly over Aya’s ass before walking away. Aya had no choice but to remain still, trapped by the handcuffs, and thought dark thoughts about what he could do to his lover one day when their positions were reversed. He heard Yohji move about the room, heard the crinkle of plastic and the rustle of fabric, and then soon enough the warmth returned.

His face was tilted up for a kiss, Yohji’s bare arms sliding around him and pulling him close as his mouth was plundered. His lover was so insistent on being in charge of everything that he soon stopped trying to dominate the kiss and gave in, enjoying the feel of Yohji’s tongue plunging deep into his mouth and the man’s half naked body pressed against him. Fingers tightened in his hair and twisted his head to this side and that, Yohji seeming determined to taste every inch of his mouth. When he was just short of gasping for air, his lover pulled slightly away and trailed that demanding mouth down his neck, sucking harshly whenever it stilled over a certain spot. All the while, Yohji’s hands skimmed down his back, along either side of his spine, then spreading apart his cheeks and sliding inside.

"Ah!" Aya gasped, and Yohji left his neck alone to fall onto his knees, his hair brushing against Aya’s stomach. One of the hands pulled away, making him groan in disappointment.

"It’ll be all right. Spread your legs, love," Yohji urged him, and he did as he was told. Soon enough, the other hand returned, fingers slick as they rubbed against his opening. An eager whine escaped him as they pushed against him, desire welling hot in his belly at the thought of Yohji taking him like this, him unable to do anything but feel the pleasure his lover would create. One finger slid inside him just as Yohji pressed a kiss right below his navel.

His hands clenched into tight fists around the short length of chain connected to his cuffs, and he hung on for support as Yohji stretched him, two fingers now flicking inside him, scissoring apart but never going deep enough to hit that special spot inside him. Just as frustrating, Yohji kissed and licked all around his stomach and thighs, his hair brushing against Aya’s aching cock but not that wonderful mouth, as he’d been promised. "Yohji…" he growled, uncaring if he’d be spanked again.

Instead, Yohji pulled his fingers out and shifted away from him. "Ah, now’s the time when you pay me back for making you feel so good, Ayan." His lover was now behind him, there was the sound of something sliding wetly against something, and then Yohji’s slick hand was once more parting Aya’s ass. Aya braced himself to be entered, but instead of Yohji’s smooth cock something harder and covered with ridges was slowly pushed inside him.

"What are you doing?"

This time he was spanked, causing his muscles to clench around the rough shaft entering him. Yohji chuckled lowly as one of his hands skimmed around Aya’s hip to stroke his softening cock. "Relax, love. I’m not going any further until this is in all the way. It’s just a dildo, one a little thinner than me. Can you imagine when I take this out and replace it with my own cock, how tight you’ll feel even while prepared?"

"I don’t…." Aya bit his lip as the dildo inched on forward, his body relaxing against his will from the pleasure created by Yohji’s words. It might not be as thick as his lover but it felt longer, going further and further inside him. He forced himself to take a deep breath and remembered that he’d agreed to do this for Yohji, and that he’d have his own turn one day. He’d just never had a dildo inside him before and its bumpiness and hardness felt… odd. Then he sucked in a startled breath as it pressed against his prostate, sending shivers of bliss through his body.

"There, it’s all in." Yohji’s hand petted his back, and then some straps slid around his hips and between his legs. "This is to keep it in place," Yohji explained as he tightened them. Once done, he again settled in front of Aya, his hands stroking up and down the inside of his thighs. "There now, that isn’t too bad, is it?"

Since he’d been asked a question, Aya answered. "I don’t think I like it, Yohji." He tried hard not to move and cause the dildo to rub against that spot again, not entirely willing to be brought off by a piece of plastic.

"No?" He could imagine the pout on his lover’s face just from the sound of Yohji’s voice. "Well, how about now?" Yohji did something, and suddenly the dildo was vibrating inside him, directly against his sweet spot. Aya couldn’t hold back a ragged cry of pleasure and almost sobbed when the vibrations increased.

"Ah, I thought you’d like it," Yohji chuckled, his one hand grasping Aya’s cock while the other pressed something around its base. "We can’t have you end things too soon, though, can we?" Something clicked, something hard and restraining around Aya’s cock, pinching him slightly but he didn’t care, not when the dildo buzzed on maddeningly inside him.

Yohji, standing once more, pressed against Aya and slid his fingers through Aya’s hair. "Didn’t I say it would feel good? Aren’t you glad you listened to me, hmmm?"

"Yo-hji," he managed to stutter, his head falling forward to rest against Yohji’s shoulder. His lover chuckled quietly and lifted up his chin, and Aya could imagine the pleased smile on the man’s face. He could feel that smile on Yohji’s lips as he was kissed once more, though he wasn’t able to do much more than stand there and gasp as the vibrator rubbed against his prostate. Yohji didn’t seem to mind, however, as his tongue swept through Aya’s mouth.

"Let’s see, I promised something about a blowjob, didn’t I?" Yohji stared kissing his way down Aya’s neck, teething pressing deeply into his skin every few inches, another sensation added on top of everything else. Yohji’s hands stroked and teased down his ribs, almost tickling him with their light touch, nails scraping his skin for a few inches only to have rough palms soothe their way over the tingling patches as if in apology. So many feelings…. Aya’s hips jerked forward as the ecstasy kept building, on the verge of an orgasm that would never start. He tried to call out Yohji’s name and ask his lover to make it stop, but all that escaped was a drawn out whine.

He almost started to hyperventilate when Yohji’s mouth ever so slowly made its way down his stomach, his entire body shaking with need. There was another chuckle as Yohji lightly wrapped his hand around Aya’s engorged cock, warm breath hitting him in the most sensitive of places, strands of hair brushing against him until he didn’t know if he wanted to jerk his hips forward or back. He didn’t think he could take any more sensations, his body clamping tightly around the dildo as if to make it stop moving, and then all the warning he had that the torment was about to increase was large hands gripping his hips and pulling him forward. His aching cock was quickly engulfed in a hot, warm cavern that wrapped around him, making him cry out loudly. The sound echoed around the room, louder even than the blood rushing through his veins, as Yohji’s mouth slid along his length and started to suck on the tip of his cock.

Tears began to leak from Aya’s closed eyes from too much bliss for him to handle, to do anything but melt before. There was so much pleasure and need, the vibrator deep inside him and Yohji’s talented mouth blending together into one overwhelmingly intense sensation. He felt as if he’d burst at any moment, his skin stretched tight over the ecstasy burning inside him. He wanted to come so incredibly much, his nerves overloaded from everything but he couldn’t, not even when Yohji deepthroated him, not even when the vibrator moved even faster inside him, directly against his prostate. Feeling battered by the maddening bliss, a ragged sob escaped him, and then another one.

Yohji’s hands soothed along his hips as his lover shifted away from him, tormenting mouth sliding along the length of his swollen cock until just the head was surrounded by moist heat. Yohji’s fingers brushed against the base of his cock, and then suddenly the tight band was gone. Aya had a flash of his lover’s tongue brushing along the head of his cock and the vibrator, impossibly enough, speeding up another notch and then the ecstasy came crashing down on him, searing through him until his world was pure emotion.

He slowly came back to reality to find himself kneeling on the floor and resting against Yohji’s chest, his face pressed against his lover’s neck. The dildo was still inside him but no longer vibrating, and his arms and wrists ached. The rest of his body felt utterly boneless, his lips and mouth dry. Realizing that he was panting slightly, he forced himself to take a deep breath and then try to work up some saliva.

Yohji’s fingers caressed his face, tangled in his hair and forced him to look up. They brushed along his cheeks and then the blindfold was lifted, his eyes tearing at the sudden brightness. His lover smiled at him tenderly and then kissed him softly, a warm press of lips.

"Are you okay?" Yohji asked, hands busy massaging his shoulders.

It took him a moment to find his voice. "Yes." The buzz from the alcohol appeared to have vanished, buried beneath the languidness of release.

"Good." There was another gentle kiss, and then Yohji pulled him up onto his feet. Aya clung to his lover, his body still uncoordinated after what just happened and a little weak, plus any movement made the dildo shift inside him. He leaned against his lover and felt a hot hardness press against his thigh. Yohji didn’t seem to have come during his ordeal.

"The vibrator, Yohji," he mentioned as he was helped over to the table/bed, and glared weakly when his hip was lightly smacked.

"I haven’t forgotten it," his lover all but purred and practically lifted him up onto the flat surface. "We’re not done just yet, Ayan, so no more questions."

Aya landed on his side on top of the padded table, and moaned as he was rolled onto his back. He hissed and arched his spine, his legs bending at the knee and splaying open as he felt the dildo press deeper inside him.

Yohji pulled him by his hips to the end of the table, his legs scrambling for purchase and being lifted up onto his lover’s shoulders. "Are you hurting anywhere, Ayan?" Yohji asked in concern, his hands falling to the buckles holding the vibrator in place.

"No." His wrists still ached, slightly scuffed as they were by the handcuffs, but he wasn’t truly in any pain. Then he looked at his boyfriend, standing between his legs, one hand stroking the bulge restrained by the leather pants. "Yotan," he said nervously, remembering what he’d been told as the dildo had been pushed inside him.

"Just say the word when it gets to be too much," Yohji replied, his voice thick with need. "Gods, I want you so much now, love." He fumbled with the zipper on his pants, hands shaking as he managed to pull it down. His thick, reddened cock, slick with precome, practically popped out and wobbled. Aya could only stare at it as Yohji undid the straps around his hips, and he let out a sharp breath as the dildo was slowly pulled from his body, leaving an aching, empty sensation behind.

But that wouldn’t be for long. As he was pulled down to the very edge of the table, he could feel Yohji’s cock, hot and slick, rub against him. He looked up to stare into his lover’s eyes and felt a wave of heat course through him at the love and desire he found there. Just as Yohji slowly started to thrust inside him, he tossed his head back and moaned out his love’s name.

› › › ›

Kato chuckled as he walked up the stairs, Iwaki by his side. It seems that Kudoh hadn’t wasted any time in dragging his boyfriend up here to ‘play’. Someone was a wee bit eager. Then again, remembering the fun time he’d had up here with Iwaki on their last visit – well, save for that whole spanking thing – he really couldn’t blame the man.

"Looks like we’re over here," he told his lover as he turned left after stepping onto the second floor. He stared at Iwaki for a moment, slightly worried over how quiet he’d become since they’d paid for dinner and come upstairs. "Is everything all right?"

"Yes," his lover replied in a quiet voice. "I hope Yohji and his boyfriend don’t think this is too odd."

"With the way they tore up here?" Kato snorted. "I’d say your friend Kudoh was drooling too much to think it weird." He chuckled a little more as he unlocked the door and stepped inside the room – only to find himself shoved to the side and against the wall. "Iwaki!"

"Yes, Kato?" Iwaki pressed against his back, pinning him in place. "What did you say the last time we were here about being better prepared?" His lover’s voice was smooth with gloating and amusement. "Wasn’t it the assumption that you used to tie me up?"

He was about to put his greater strength to good use and reverse their positions when he felt a familiar hardness rub against his ass and Iwaki’s mouth took to nibbling on his neck. Suddenly this didn’t seem like such a bad position after all, and fair was fair. Tilting back his head, he let out a low moan. "I hope you don’t intend to spank me tonight."

"That depends on how well you behave," Iwaki practically purred. "Are you going to be a good boy and do everything I tell you to without question?"

He felt a thrill run through him at how… forceful Iwaki was acting. Iwaki was usually the calm one, the dignified half of their pair, even more so as of late. But now he was being physical and demanding, and Kato’s cock hardened as a result. "Yes, Iwaki-san."

"Good." Iwaki rocked his hips forward one more time and then stepped away. "Turn around but don’t go anywhere."

Doing as he was told, Kato watched as his lover walked backwards to the center of the room, his grey eyes shining with passion and a hungry smile on his lips. Oh yes, he had to let Iwaki be in control more often if things were starting out this good – and there weren’t any riding crops at hand. "Yes, Iwaki-san," he said, happily setting into his role of the submissive partner, something he’d fought against so much the last time. But fair was fair, he thought again. Iwaki had moved first this time.

"Such a good boy." Iwaki’s lips twitched at the words. "Now, undress. Slowly."

Kato gave his lover a smoldering look before eagerly doing as he was told. He made a big production of slowly untying the loose, white wrap shirt he’d worn that night and letting the sleeveless garment fall to the floor. When Iwaki didn’t chide him about being so careless about his clothes, he skimmed his hands along his chest, fingers pinching his already erect nipples as he met his lover’s gaze. Iwaki was staring at his face, not his body, and he felt a little sting of disappointment and anger at that. He put more effort into the strip tease then, his hands running up and down his chest, brushing along the waistband of his loose tan slacks and drawing emphasis to his erection, which tented the soft material. When Iwaki’s gaze dipped down and his breathing hitched, Kato smiled in satisfaction and began to tug on the pants’ zipper.

He made a big production of pulling it down, knowing his pants were loose enough to just fall down once he unzipped them. He held them up for a moment longer before allowing them to drop to the floor, standing there dressed only in his boxers. He rubbed his cock through the cotton material, wringing a groan from himself at the action, and then, his motions languid, he pushed the elastic waistband down, his cock springing free shortly before the underwear ended up on the floor. He couldn’t help but give himself a stroke or two once he was naked.

"Don’t touch yourself or I’ll be forced to bind your hands." Iwaki’s voice was steady, even though his face was flushed. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, Iwaki-san." Reminded of their game, Kato stood there, his arms hanging down at his sides as he waited for the next order.

He didn’t have to wait long. "Go fetch the collar with the small brass studs hanging up over there," Iwaki gestured in its direction, "and bring me all of the cock rings from there." Another gesture and then his lover went still once again, bangs falling onto his lovely face and hiding his eyes from Kato’s sight.

He hesitated for a moment but the thought of Iwaki spanking him again propelled him forward. That had been a little too embarrassing to repeat again, especially when there were so many other ways they could play. Besides, if he got through whatever it was his lover wanted to do to him, he could then remind him that it was his turn to play. After all, he’d allowed Iwaki some fun at the end that one time.

Removing the collar from its hook, he then walked over to where the cock rings were displayed and quickly stacked them on his fingers. His task finished, he returned to his waiting ‘master’.

Iwaki held up his right hand, palm first, so he put the cock rings on it first, and then the collar. "No, put the collar on yourself," he was told, Iwaki refusing to grasp the heavy strap of leather.

Feeling a little apprehensive over wearing the thing, Kato reluctantly followed the order and clasped the leather around his neck. As he did this, Iwaki examined the cock rings, holding up several before handing one back to him.

"And this too," Iwaki said, his smooth voice belying the bright passion in his eyes.

Kato calmed at the thought that he was affecting his lover this much and resolved to not worry about the orders from now on. Smiling slyly, he accepted the ring and, his movements slow enough to tantalize, slid it onto his dripping cock. He drew in a sharp breath as it settled around the base of his arousal, a slightly pinching presence.

At first he though that the shuddering breath he heard was his own, until he glanced at his lover for approval. Iwaki’s face gleamed with a sheen of sweat, his eyes dark with turbulent emotions as he stared at Kato’s cock before looking up. "Now I want you to undress me – but you can’t touch anything other than my clothes," Iwaki said as he eagerly moved forward.

He felt a flash of pain of being denied his obviously aroused lover’s body a bit longer but remembered that he’d agreed to obey orders. Besides, the more he played along, the more he could expect out of Iwaki when it was his lover’s turn to be the submissive one. "Yes, Iwaki-san," he replied as calmly as he slid his fingers down the front of Iwaki’s shirt, making sure to put all of his need and lust into his voice just then and smiling when his lover drew in a sharp breath.

It was so incredibly tempting to disobey the order and touch the smooth flesh exposed as he undid the linen shirt’s buttons. Just being this close to Iwaki, smelling him, feeling his body heat… the cock ring was a painful reminder that his wishes didn’t matter at this moment.

When he brushed the shirt off of Iwaki’s shoulders and allowed it to fall onto the ground, he was issued another set of orders. "Pick it up and fold it neatly. I don’t want my clothes to be wrinkled."

"Oh, but it’s fine for mine to get-" He stopped talking as Iwaki’s right hand slid through his hair and tugged him forward until they bumped into each other. Held immobile by the startling grip, he couldn’t do much more than let out a yelp of surprise when Iwaki’s left hand smacked his ass hard enough to sting.

"Do I need to order you to fetch the crop, Kato?" Iwaki asked him, his voice unexpectedly deep and once more containing a hint of gloating. "Didn’t you say you’d be good?"

"Yes, Iwaki-san," he stuttered, shocked and thrilled at this new facet of his lover. Thrill overcame shock as he was yanked forward once again, into a fierce kiss that lasted only as long as it took him to moan and relax against Iwaki. Then he found himself pushed backward, away from his lover.

"You don’t touch me until I tell you to," Iwaki informed him, more than a little breathless and lips swollen from the intensity of the kiss. "Now finish stripping me."

He couldn’t help it, he groaned a little in misery just then. To have Iwaki naked in front of him, obviously wanting him but forbidding him to touch…. Still, he had to finish what he’d started, he thought rather unhappily as he forced his hands to skim scant centimeters away from Iwaki’s chest, down to his grey trousers. Looking at his lover’s erection, he groaned again, his cock twitching at the thought of Iwaki’s beautiful body exposed before him.

His hands shook as he undid the pants’ button and pulled down the zipper. Hooking his fingers in the band of the tiny briefs Iwaki wore, he tugged them down long legs along with the pants. He was quicker than he’d been with his own garments, mainly because it was sheer torture to be this close to his lover and not allowed to touch. Kneeling down, he picked up the pants as Iwaki stepped out of them and folded them neatly, along with the tiny underwear and then the dress shirt lying on the floor. Not knowing what to do with them, he held them in his hands as he started to stand up.

Only to have a hand on his shoulder push him back down onto his knees. Iwaki’s voice was little more than a whisper when he spoke, but Kato still heard him. "Leave them on the floor, and stay down there." He did as he’d been bid and then looked up, his gaze locking with Iwaki’s. They stared at each other for several moments, both of their breaths growing harsh and their faces even more flushed, before Iwaki glanced aside. Deprived of his lover’s face, his gaze dipped lower until he was staring at the engorged, red cock bobbing in front of him.

Iwaki’s fingers were back in his hair, this time combing through the strands gently. "Do you see what you do to me, Kato?"

"Yes, Iwaki-san," he replied, his voice hoarse with longing and a bit of pain. His lover would probably torment him with toys now, maybe a dildo or a butt plug, perhaps some nipple clips as well. The best he could hope for would be for Iwaki to take him eventually, but right now… right now all he wanted was to touch his lover, to taste him. He adored the few times that Iwaki had fucked him but he didn’t think he could take that in this place, with it just being about sex and dominance. Since they’d declared their feelings for each other, Iwaki was only ever on top when he needed reassurance, or to express the strength of their love.

He started when the soothing touch urged him to look up. His breath caught in his throat at the emotions in his lover’s eyes, the love, desire and need he saw there. Iwaki gave him a shaky smile and then stepped forward. "I want your mouth on me, Kato. Show me…," Iwaki faltered, as if uncomfortable saying things that were so much in character of their AV pasts. Kato sometimes suspected his lover of being so quiet, relatively speaking, during sex because he tried to avoid bringing that aspect of their lives into their lovemaking. "Show me how much you want me," Iwaki said, his voice a faint whisper roughened with desire.

"Yes, Iwaki-san." Kato’s voice was scarcely louder, and he tried his best to convey with his eyes that this was about more than want. The sweet smile Iwaki gave him as he leaned forward showed him that he was successful, and then his lover arched his neck as he took him into his mouth.

How he adored the taste of Iwaki, the feel of him hot and almost too big in his mouth. He sucked on the cock’s tip for a moment and savored the taste, the way Iwaki gasped as his tongue flicked along his lover’s foreskin and then the exposed, sensitive skin at the top. So good…. His hands crept up Iwaki’s thighs, one arm wrapping around his lover’s waist for support as his hand cupped the balls dangling in front of him.

All of Iwaki was so smooth, so wonderful. He prolonged the blow job, enjoying much too much the feel of Iwaki in his mouth, the way his lover leaned weakly against him, hands tangled in his hair, the way Iwaki moaned and gasped, to let things end too soon. His fingers grew slick from the fluids dribbling down Iwaki’s cock and he skimmed them downward, between his lover’s legs. They slid between firm muscles and then stopped – even now he tried to follow the game and not push too far, and he groaned as Iwaki spread his legs even wider. As he deepthroated his lover’s cock, his fingers circled and teased and then pressed inward.

The way Iwaki cried out his name made him groan again, his cock twitching in pain at each moan, choked sound and gasp he wrung from the man he loved. He felt as if he could come from the sounds alone but the cock ring prevented that, made him ache more and more as his lover writhed against him, hips thrusting forward to drive deeper down his throat before snapping backwards to take his fingers in even more.

He was the only man to drive Iwaki this wild with desire and need, the only one to touch him like this. He was the only person to have touched him at all these last couple of years, the only one who would ever touch Iwaki so intimately for the rest of their lives. Torn between pleasure and pain, full of frustrated longing, he drove his lover over the edge, his fingers flicking against Iwaki’s prostate as his lips slid along Iwaki’s cock almost to the tip. Creamy fluid pulsed onto his tongue, his reward for knowing just how to bring Iwaki into bliss and he gladly drank it down, his fingers still working inside his lover. Iwaki collapsed against him, legs going limp as he started to slide toward the floor.

Kato picked up his dazed lover, half slung over his shoulder, and carried him over to the ‘bed’. Each step was torture, as hard as he was and with Iwaki in his arms, but he managed. Laying his lover down, he brushed back the sweaty bangs from Iwaki’s beautiful face and leaned forward for a kiss.

It took Iwaki a moment to recover enough to kiss him back, the caress tender and sweet. Reluctant to pull away, Iwaki’s hand soon pressing against his chest forced him to do just that, but he still touched him, refused to lose all contact with him.

Iwaki smiled, the expression even more tender than the kiss, before shaking his head and snorting softly. "Did I tell you to do all of that?"

"You didn’t tell me not to, Iwaki-san." He released his lover enough to caress his face. "I don’t know if I’d make a very good slave or a very bad one. I want you so damn that it’s all I can think about, enough so that I always push where you’re concerned."

Iwaki grasped his hand and entwined their fingers. "You make a terrible slave. You’re just too… *you* to be a good one," he said with an amused smile.

"I think Iwaki-san may have just insulted me," Kato whined, but he was smiling as well. "I guess we could always practice some more. I don’t care for it when we’re trying to show who’s ‘in charge’ but I adore giving you pleasure. I really like obeying orders like that last one."

His lover sighed and gave his hair a not so gentle tug. "Idiot. Why am I not surprised? I wish you were this ‘eager’ in regards to other things. Everything can’t be about pleasure and sex, you know."

"But Iwaki-san, you were the one to have all the pleasure," he wailed as he shifted backward and gestured at his swollen cock. "You’re always so mean to me," he sniffed rather dramatically before edging back to his lover’s side. He received a chilly glare for his performance before Iwaki leaned up on his arms and gave him such a wicked look that he forgot all about sniffling and appearing pitiful. When his lover looked at him like that… impossibly enough, his cock got even harder, forcing a moan of longing past his suddenly dry lips.

"I guess I should treat my ‘slave’ a bit better," Iwaki said, his voice as sultry as the gleam in his eyes. He reached out and stroked a finger along the leather and brass collar Kato wore. "And you’re still my slave, for as long as you wear this." He tilted his head to the side, his bangs falling back onto his face. "What should I do with you, I wonder…."

Kato licked his lips and squeaked, then swallowed and tried again to speak. "I’m… I’m sure Iwaki-san will think of something." The smile he got in return made him groan again, and he was certain he’d come right then if not for the damn ring.

Iwaki crooked his finger, his eyes heavy lidded and lips bearing a pleased smile that would do any cat proud. "Well, come here then and I’ll think of something you can do that’ll feel good for the both of us."

"Yes, Iwaki-san," Kato choked out as he climbed on top of the bed, so aroused he had some difficulty but not about to ignore that order for anything in the world.

› › › ›

Iwaki smiled at his lover walking beside him, still wearing the same silly grin from upstairs. Kato noticed his attention and the expression because a little less silly and a lot more smug, but he allowed that. He’d been wrong this evening; Kato did indeed make a very good slave – when the orders were something he’d more than happily do on his own. Still, it had been a great night and now he felt relaxed enough to just go back to the hotel and sleep, and didn’t care in the least about the arduous filming schedule that awaited him in the morning. His first battle scene, and it would be a long one.

Kato’s left arm draped over his shoulder as his lover nodded at the doorman. They stepped outside to wait for the cab, the night air nice and cool for once. Iwaki leaned against Kato, tired and drained and… happy. He hadn’t intended to use the special room upstairs again when they’d decided to have dinner here, but he was glad that they’d accepted the second invitation. This time, he and his lover had truly enjoyed themselves. He was still a little surprised by how easily Kato had given over control to him, but then again, all he’d really wanted was for the both of them to have a good time. They did have to try this again.

"Evening," a familiar voice drawled, and he looked up in time to see Yohji and Aya join them outside. Yohji had an extremely pleased smile on his face, while his boyfriend…. Aya looked half asleep and was clearly using Yohji for support, but he had a tiny smile on his lips.

Yohji handed a ticket to the valet, who left in a hurry to fetch his car. "I must thank you again for a wonderful night. If you ever want some free flowers, please think of us." He bowed his head, his boyfriend’s presence clearly preventing him from bending any further. Aya mumbled his thanks as well before resting his head on Yohji’s shoulder, his eyes drifting shut. A tender smile now on his lips, Yohji brushed back his lover’s fiery hair. "This was the best night we’ve had in… oh, ages. Maybe ever, even."

"I’m glad you two enjoyed yourselves," Iwaki told him. "I honestly don’t think I can thank you enough for all you’ve done for me, and am happy that you are so satisfied."

Kato hugged him and stepped forward. "Will you be all right driving home?"

"Perfectly fine." Yohji rubbed his hand up and down Aya’s arm, making his lover mumble something too softly to be understood. "Right now, we’re just tired."

"I don’t doubt that," Kato chuckled, and then the valet returned with Yohji’s car. "Good bye, and we’ll let you know how the movie turns out. Look for a pair of tickets to the premiere."

Yohji laughed as he helped settle his exhausted boyfriend in the car. "You’re just saying that because you want us to send you lots of flowers." He gave Kato and Iwaki a wink. "If we’re still around when it’s all finished, we’ll take you up on the offer, and even treat for dinner that night. Good luck." He waved and then slid into the car, and in moments was zooming down the road.

"Good thing there’s not much traffic right now," Kato remarked as they resumed their wait for the cab. "Not that I blame him, right now all I want to do is collapse in bed."

Iwaki faced his lover and leaned forward for a quick kiss. "Sleep sounds very good right now." He brushed aside Kato’s shirt and stroked the collar that they’d kept as a souvenir for the night. Roots’ manager hadn’t even blinked when they’d offered to buy it. "Maybe I’ll make you sleep at the bottom of my bed tonight, like a good slave."

Kato’s smile stirred a spark of passion in him, even after all they’d gotten into upstairs. "Whatever you want tonight, Iwaki-san. Just remember, tomorrow it’s your turn to wear this."

 

He wasn’t all that concerned about the fate awaiting him, not after tonight. Somehow, they’d both lost the desire to really be the ‘one in charge’. Maybe it would be a permanent thing, maybe not, but right now all that mattered was making each other happy. "In that case, I’ll just make you fluff the pillows for me before we go to bed as a reward for being so good."

His lover’s laughter echoed down the street as Kato pulled him close. "Just imagine how good I’ll be with a little more practice."

Oh, he could, and he smiled as he thought about Kato’s next few turns wearing the collar.

› › › ›

Omi sighed as he glanced at the couch. Today it was his and Aya’s turn to work the morning shift, but his friend didn’t show any sign of waking up. Considering how late Aya and Yohji had returned home last night it really wasn’t a surprise, but Aya always managed to wake up in time for work. Yohji really was being a bad influence on him.

He didn’t relish the idea of waking Aya up but he did need some help and didn’t think it was fair to bother Ken. Hoping that he wouldn’t get hit for disturbing his friend, he crept toward the couch. To make matters even worse, Aya was sleeping pressed against the back of the couch, Yohji lying beside him and looking about ready to fall onto the floor at any moment. He’d probably end up waking them both up and have to put up with Yohji’s bitching over lost sleep.

Reaching over his lazy friend, he was surprised to find his hand grabbed before it even touched Aya – by Yohji. Normally the man wouldn’t wake up for anything, but here he was, blinking bloodshot eyes and frowning. "Yohji-kun? Go back to sleep, I just need to wake Aya-kun up for work," Omi said quietly.

Yohji frowned some more but let go of Omi’s hand before turning to look at his lover. He had the gentlest of expressions on his face as he leaned down and kissed the top of Aya’s head. "I’m covering for him today, he needs some rest."

Omi wasn’t completely sure he’d heard it or not as shocked as he was over Yohji willingly taking over someone’s morning shift, but he thought there had been a bit of a gloating tone just then. "You’re actually going to work?"

Yohji gave him a dirty look and slowly got off the couch. He blushed when he noticed the bruises and scratch marks all over the older man’s back and chest. Checking on Aya, who didn’t even stir as Yohji got up, he stared when he noticed all the marks on the redhead’s neck, trailing down beneath the worn old t-shirt that served as part of his pajamas. The smile on his face definitely a bit smug, Yohji tugged up the blanket to cover his lover and gave Omi a gently push away from the couch. "Go on, let him sleep in for once and make me some coffee. There better be a cup waiting for me when I get out of the bathroom."

"I’m surprised you can move at all this early in the morning without any," Omi grumbled as he stepped into the kitchenette. He looked up in time to see Yohji flip him the finger before disappearing into the bathroom and had to stifle a laugh. Oh, he was going to have some fun teasing Yohji while they worked, and his friend would probably be off his form for a few hours and easy pickings. Yohji just wasn’t a morning person. Yet he was covering for Aya.

As strange as their relationship was, Omi didn’t doubt it wasn’t serious. Not if Yohji sacrificed sleeping in for his boyfriend, and Aya wasn’t bothered in the slightest by Yohji moving around him while he slept. Those were just two more signs that they truly did care a lot for each other. Which was good, considering the fact that they’d have some company tonight.

The coffee was ready and in a mug by the time Yohji finally dragged himself out of the bathroom. Omi merely handed it to him without saying a word and left the trailer to go set up the shop. A few minutes later, mug refilled and dressed in a pair of jeans and a shirt that looked an awful lot like one if Aya’s, Yohji joined him.

"Is there any possible way I can talk you into forgetting all about the shop and going back to bed?" Yohji asked, eyes hidden behind his sunglasses.

"Sorry, Yohji-kun but we need to sell the flowers before they wilt." He set down the pots of violets and stepped closer to his teammate. "We need to act normally," he said in a quiet voice. "Birman’s supposed to stop by later this evening, and she sounded worried about something. We have orders to carry on as if things are fine, though, and that means opening the shop."

Not looking too happy, Yohji swallowed his coffee and then lit a cigarette. "So we’ll have a lovely visitor tonight, na? Guess that’s a good enough reason to stick close to home for once."

"I think you and Aya sowed enough wild oats last night that you can stay home for a bit. So did you have a fun time?" Despite his anxiety over what had Birman so concerned, he truly did hope his friends had a nice night out and would have an interesting story or two to tell. Right now, he and Ken were living vicariously through their teammates.

Yohji smiled, cigarette drooping from his curved lips. "We had a wonderful time, but I don’t know if a certain chibi is old enough to hear all the details." He reached out and tousled Omi’s hair. "Ask me again when you’re grown up."

"Yohji! I’m almost eighteen," he wailed as he kicked his friend in the shin. "From now on I refuse to work with you in the mornings, you’re much too mean when you don’t get any sleep!"

Laughing, Yohji jumped back and took a drag from his cigarette. "Trust me, Omittchi, you’d rather have me working with you today than Aya. Poor boy won’t do anyone any good until he gets some rest." The smug look and tone were back, and Yohji seemed to zone off into some fantasy world for a moment.

"Maybe I don’t want to know after all," Omi commented as he combed his hair back into a semblance of order. This is why he usually wore a hat when working with Yohji and Ken. "Why don’t you go and get us some donuts or something while I set up?" That way Yohji wouldn’t be underfoot as he got things ready. "But I’m warning you, if you’re not back in a half an hour, I’m waking Aya up."

"Just let him get some rest," Yohji said, suddenly serious. "He really does need the sleep, and I think something nice and sugary will do him wonders when he wakes up." A content look on his face, Yohji wandered over to the trailer. "Let me get my keys and I’ll be right back. You want anything special?"

"A few jelly filled donuts would be nice," Omi told his friend, and couldn’t help but smile as Yohji entered the trailer. All right, maybe he was a little jealous over the man’s relationship with Aya but Yohji was the happiest he’d ever been. That made things fine in his book. Feeling better than he had in days, he occupied himself with setting out the flowers and the cash register, for the first time since the evening before not worrying about Birman’s impending visit.

› › › ›

Something wasn’t right. Dazed by sleep, Aya tried to get his tired brain to work and figure out what was wrong. His eyes didn’t seem to want to open but he forced them to anyway as he pushed down the blanket.

Yohji wasn’t with him on the couch, he realized after a few seconds. In fact, the only other person in the trailer seemed to be Ken, still sleeping over in his chair. Other details started to register to his rather dazed mind. Sunlight danced through the mostly closed curtains and a scent of something sweet filled the air. Not sure if he was imagining this or not, Aya rubbed his eyes… and heard a rustling sound.

Looking at his chest, he found a piece of paper pinned to his shirt. He could make out Yohji’s handwriting, and with a shaky hand he removed the note and smoothed out the paper.

‘Aya,

get some sleep. We’re swapping shifts today.

Yohji’

He stared at the note for a few minutes, and gradually the realization sunk in that he didn’t have to be awake any longer. With a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, he fell back on the couch and did what he’d been told. To hell with waking up early today, he was much too tired.

The next time he woke up, Ken was up and mumbling about something. Feeling much better than earlier, Aya rubbed his eyes and forced himself out of bed. A quick glance at the clock revealed that he didn’t have much time before he’d have to start Yohji’s shift. He couldn’t help but smile a little as he tottered off to the kitchen area. His lover had actually gotten up early to work….

"Oi, it’s about time you woke up. You want some coffee?"

He shook his head and reached around Ken for the teakettle. "Are those donuts?" he asked as he stared at the striped box resting on the counter.

Ken snorted and pushed the box toward him. "Yeah, seems that Yohji ran out to get some." He waved a note around before taking a bite of the jelly-filled donut in his other hand. "He threatened to break my legs if I ate the custard ones." Red jelly dribbled down his chin, only to be wiped up by and licked off a thick finger.

Aya shook his head again to try and make his brain get up to speed. Yohji had voluntarily switched shifts with him and made a donut run, then had bought him his favorite kind. He set the kettle down to look inside the box. There they were, two custard donuts. When had been the last time he’d enjoyed one, he wondered as he picked up one of them

Mouth salivating, he took a bite. Oh, it was nice and fresh and not too sweet. He leaned against the counter as he closed his eyes and savored the treat. He didn’t often go for something so decadent for breakfast, but this just hit the spot today. All too soon it was gone, and when he opened his eyes he found Ken staring at him.

"Yes?" he asked as he made himself some tea.

"I was just trying to remember the last time you crawled out of bed this late." Ken leaned against the trailer’s wall and scratched his chest. "You’re usually the early bird of the group. Have that wild of a night or what?"

Aya fussed with his tea, his head bowed over the mug and his hair falling down to hide the slight, content smile that curved his lips. Maybe something was wrong with him if he was smiling this much and willingly sleeping past noon. "We were out late," was all of an answer he’d give Ken, though. There was no reason for the man to know about anything that went on last night.

"No shit." Ken reached for another doughnut – but not the remaining custard. "I heard you guys come in. So tell me, what were you doing so late that required Yohji to patch you up with the med kit?" He pointed at Aya’s wrists, which were wrapped in bandages.

Aya cursed silently as he remembered about them. Yohji had insisted on wrapping his abraded wrists and tending to his various scrapes and bruises when they’d gotten home last night. None of the wounds – if they could even be called that – were serious, and his lover had fussed largely for nothing. Aya couldn’t help it that his skin tended bruise for *everything*, and he’d sported worse after a rough night of sex. Well, except for the wrists. That was the first time he’d allowed himself to be bound like that.

"We were having fun," he told Ken as he resigned himself to wearing something long-sleeved today. Oh well, he was used to it by now because of work, so much so he hadn’t thought anything about the gauze wrapped around his wrists when he woke up this morning.

Ken snorted in amusement, sending powdered sugar from his latest donut flying everywhere. "’Fun’? From the looks of it a vampire attacked you. I wonder if Yohji’s in as bad a shape."

His tea ready, Aya turned and gave his friend a warning glare. "It’s none of your business," he reminded Ken, his voice frosty. There was only so much speculation he could put up with, even from friends.

Ken’s expression went from amused to guarded in seconds. "Yeah, I guess you’re right, it’s none of my business."

He wanted to sigh at how quickly Ken’s mood had changed. Considering the fact that he was working with him today, he wanted Ken to be in a good mood, not sulking or worse. He hadn’t quite meant to freeze the man out like that, but he was tired and not willing to discuss the rather interesting turn his sex life had taken last night with anyone other than Yohji.

Taking a deep breath, he cradled his tea mug between his hands. "Yohji’s fine, and nothing bad happened last night. That’s all I’m going to say, all right?"

Ken nodded and reached for the pot of coffee, his expression not as closed off as it had been a few seconds ago. "All right." He shook his head. "I don’t mean to be a nosy bastard, Aya, honest. You gotta admit that it’s a little weird to see you and Yohji involved with each other, and then for you to come home all bruised. I’m not even going to mention the fact that Yohji covered your shift and bought you donuts." He managed a smile somehow and seemed more like his old self.

Aya couldn’t help but smile a little as he sipped his tea and thought about what Ken had said. "We appreciate the concern, and that you and Omi have been so understanding, but we’d appreciate even more a little bit of privacy." He was about ready to say the hell with it and tap into some emergency funds to rent an apartment for him and Yohji. Aya-chan didn’t need the money for hospital bills any more, he thought with a dull ache, and Kritiker could go fuck itself if it thought he’d live in this tin can for much longer.

"Trust me, we’re more than happy to let you guys have some space, as much as we can manage, that is." Ken kicked the ‘kitchen’ counter, causing the flimsy structure to shake. "You know, I sometimes used to mind about how small our apartments were back in Tokyo, but I’d trade this piece of shit for my old place any day."

"We all would," Aya pointed out as he left the kitchenette to find something to wear. He remembered an overlarge linen shirt of Yohji’s that should cover his wrists and still be light enough to wear during a hot summer day.

For some reason, Ken followed him over to the tiny cupboard that Yohji used for a closet. "I guess so, especially now. You and Yohji are probably going nuts here."

"We’re not happy." He flipped through the clothes until he found the shirt in question, and almost changed his mind when he noticed that it was a brighter blue than what he remembered. He decided to wear it anyway.

Turning to fetch a pair of soft, baggy black pants from his drawer, he found Ken blocking his way, an unusually serious expression on his face. "So tell me, Aya, why you guys are screwing around then. Why not back in Tokyo? Why now when things are all fucked up?"

Part of him wanted to push Ken aside and get dressed, but the look on Ken’s face stopped him. The man seemed desperate for an answer, and right now Aya didn’t want to deal with an upset Ken if he pissed him off by ignoring him.

So he took a deep breath and thought about the question. "I don’t know why we started this now. Maybe we finally realized that all we really have is each other." He thought about that some and shook his head. "That’s not quite correct. Maybe we realized how much we’d lost and that if we didn’t try something now, we’d lose even more." He detested trying to put his emotions into words, and being so tired still didn’t help. "Whatever it was, we were both in the right place to admit that we wanted each other." He folded his arms over his chest, careful not to wrinkle the shirt. "That’s all I’m going to say about the matter."

Ken seemed to think about what he said. "You two took a big risk. The last thing Weiss needs right now is for half of the team to be hating each other’s guts because they broke up."

"But we didn’t." Really, did Ken think they’d allow something like that affect everyone’s well-being? They’d all been torn apart over various things in the past year, but they were there for each other when it mattered. All Weiss really had was each other.

Appearing a bit mollified, Ken stepped backwards. "Yeah, well it still was a bit of a risk."

"Everything we do is a risk," Aya pointed out as he pulled his pants out of the drawer. "For once, we took a risk on making things better."

Ken made a derisive sound. "It could have blown up in your faces – in all our faces."

"But it didn’t." He was getting sick of this conversation. "Do you have a problem with my relationship with Yohji, Hidaka?"

His friend had the grace to look slightly ashamed. "Uhm, no. No!" Ken pressed against the couch in an effort to step backward. "I’m not bitching about you two being together, honest!" Then he took a shaky breath and scratched his head. "I guess… I don’t know, my thoughts about this is all messed up. Yeah, I’m worried about you two dating each other messing things up for Weiss but mainly… I guess I’m just… jealous." The last was said in a very quiet voice.

Aya didn’t have the time right now to help Ken straighten out his emotions. He doubted a month would be time enough for that, let alone ten minutes before he had to be out at work. "There’s not point in that, unless you care more than you should for either Yohji or me." When Ken frantically shook his head, he picked up his clean clothes and went to the bathroom. "Then you’re jealous over what we have. I suggest you wake up and see what’s right in front of you, then be a man and take a chance." Having had enough of the conversation, he slammed the bathroom door close and prepared to get ready for work. Really, for someone who hated to be called a ‘dumb jock’, Ken sure lived up to the epitaph at times.

And the last custard donut had better still be out there when he was finished, or Weiss would be short a person.

› › › ›

Yohji strolled down the sidewalk, a roll of new wrapping paper for the shop tucked beneath his left arm. He enjoyed the sunlight pouring down from the sky, the way it reflected off of the colored tiles here in an older part of the city. For once the day wasn’t too hot or muggy so he didn’t mind the long walk he had from the paper shop to where he’d parked his car. Besides, Gion was his favorite part of the city.

Coming across an alley crowded with people gathered around tables covered with sale items, he decided to take another way back to the parking garage. The shops back here were not as well-kept as the establishments on the main road, and there were a lot less people wandering around. He wasn’t worried, though. Anybody who tried anything with him would get their head beat in by a roll of paper, he thought with an amused chuckle.

At first he thought he was imagining it, but the farther he walked, the louder and clearer the music became. He was no expert at classical music but he’d been hanging around Aya long enough to recognize a violin being played with some skill. Following the sound, he tracked it down to a small bar with soot-covered windows. Not pausing to wonder if this was a smart thing to do, he entered the bar.

His eyes needed a moment to adjust to the dark interior, and he pushed his sunglasses up onto his head as he looked around. The place was clean… and not much else. It looked as if it hadn’t been redecorated since the War. Also, there wasn’t much to place, just a small bar along one wall where a man sat playing the violin. There were no other customers in the place. Yohji approached him, and shifted the roll under his arm so he could clap once the music stopped.

"That was pretty good," he said as he sat down, the roll of paper near at hand.

"Thank you." The violinist nodded in acknowledgment of the praise. He was a handsome fellow with the graceful hands of a true artist and a slightly withdrawn look on his face as if he was lost in thought. He had to do more than just play the violin, Yohji thought as he noted how the man’s dark clothes fit one hell of a toned body.

"You should hear him when he really puts on a show," the bartender said as he approached them. For a moment Yohji was confused over whether the bartender was a man or a woman because of the stranger’s fine-boned face, but upon closer inspection he decided his first impression had been correct. "What would you like?"

"Beefeater’s on ice," he ordered, deciding that his coworkers weren’t in that much of a hurry for the paper. Besides, technically he was off work right now. One drink wouldn’t hurt him.

The androgynous bartender arched an eyebrow as he reached for a glass. "Gin on ice, coming right up." As he fixed the drink, the violinist played another song.

"So what brings you in here?" the bartender as he set the drink in front of Yohji. "Other than Azami’s music, that is."

Yohji sipped his drink and sighed in appreciation. "I guess I decided something cold and wet would be good on a sunny day." He had another sip and smiled as he remembered many a hot summer day spent in a cool bar. "That certainly hits the spot."

The bartender leaned against the bar. "That bad of a day?"

He blinked at the question. "No, not really." Despite waking up early to cover Aya’s shift, the day had been pretty damn good. He’d enjoyed working with Omi and having the time to tease his friend, to spend a few hours having fun and laughing. Then the kiss Aya had given him when he’d shown up to work…. Yohji had to smile again. Oh yes, his lover had been very appreciative for the extra sleep, and once Birman was gone tonight, they’d check into a love motel for an hour or three-

Shit, he’d just remembered about Birman’s visit. He gulped down the rest of the drink, which was a waste of good gin, and then placed some money down on the bar – which the bartender pushed back toward him.

"The drink was on the house." The way he said it, Yohji didn’t think he’d be willing to argue so he picked up his money.

"Thanks a lot. I wish I could stay a little longer. The bartender gave him a curious look, as did the violin player, as he slid off the stool. "Sorry, I just remembered I have to be someplace and that I’ll catch hell if I’m late." He nodded at the musician. "Thanks for the great music." He looked around for a tip jar or something but didn’t see one so he shoved the money into his pocket.

The man just smiled and continued to play. "You should come back, Azami’s almost always here," the bartender said. "He always enjoys an appreciative audience."

"Thanks, I’ll remember that. And thanks for the drink." He waved as he left the dark bar, Azami’s music following him out the door. He made a mental note of the bar’s name and decided to stop by again, and maybe bring Aya as well. His lover would enjoy the music, he thought, and they’d have a nice, quiet night out. And the best part was, he highly doubted that any famous actors would be wandering into ‘Bar Ayame’ anytime soon.

› › › ›

Omi almost jumped when he heard the knock on the door. Rushing to answer it, he took a second to look out through the peephole to make sure it was Birman visiting them. Then he opened the door and ushered her inside. She almost knocked him over in her hurry to get out of sight.

"Sorry," she told him as she stood in the middle of the trailer. "Sorry I’m late, as well." She began to take off the thin, dark grey raincoat she was wearing.

"I’ve never had much of a problem waiting for a lovely lady," Yohji teased, and then winced in pain as Aya elbowed him in the ribs. They were sitting on the couch, and Ken was leaning against the wall beside them.

Birman’s eyes narrowed when she looked at Yohji and Aya, and Omi hoped she wasn’t here to yell at them about their relationship. He hadn’t been happy in telling her that two of his friends had fallen in love with each other, but had felt it would be best since their relationship would affect the team. Both men stared back at her, Yohji with his arm over Aya’s shoulders and Aya’s hand resting on Yohji’s knee. He wasn’t surprised that his friends weren’t trying to hide their feelings for each other or letting Birman intimidate them.

But after a few seconds she looked away, suddenly appearing exhausted. Her shoulders stooped, and the plain light grey dress she was wearing was wrinkled, as if she’d worn if for a while. Omi motioned toward the empty chair.

"Can I get you something to drink?" he asked as she sat down. "Some tea or something cold?"

"No thank you," Birman said as she waved aside his offer. "I want to make this quick." She looked over at the rest of Weiss, so he decided to join Aya and Yohji on the couch.

As he sat down, Aya leaned forward. "I take it you don’t have good news for us?" he asked, his hand still on Yohji’s knee. "What went wrong with the Kaiba mission?"

Birman took a deep breath and tucked back a strand of hair trailing down her cheek. "No, things are definitely not good. As for the Kaiba mission, the little I was able to find seems to indicate that there was indeed a security leak. Someone tipped them off that Weiss was coming for them."

Omi nodded, not surprised at the least at that information. There really was no other explanation for why there were more than twice the amount of guards than he and Aya had expected. Glancing at his teammates, he found Aya staring intently back at Birman, while Yohji and Ken didn’t appear very happy about the news.

"A leak? Who the hell ratted us out *this* time," Ken snarled as he pushed away from the wall. "Doesn’t Kritiker know what the hell ‘security’ means?"

Birman’s face flushed at the tirade but she stood her ground, not an easy thing to do against a furious Ken. "We do indeed know what that means, but it’s rather obvious that ours has been compromised." She took a deep breath, her hands fisted at her sides. "I’m not happy about this either, Siberian. I’ve started piecing together several things and the picture’s not looking very pretty right now."

"Meaning what?" Yohji asked as he pulled out a cigarette and placed it unlit between his lips. His jaw was clenched in anger but his voice was mostly calm. "You’ve discovered that someone’s selling secrets or just being really sloppy with work lately?"

Neither of which boded well for Weiss. Omi went over to Birman, standing next to Ken in case his friend did anything too rash. "Which is it, Birman? Considering the fact that Aya and I were nearly killed that night, we’ve a right to know."

Birman, usually always so collected and ever a professional, actually appeared uncertain. Her shoulders hunched over even more and her arms hugged her chest as if she was cold. "I don’t know. All I can tell is that someone familiar with Kritiker seems to be setting up our few remaining teams to fail." She took a deep breath and pulled herself together. "I’m on my way to see Manx. I haven’t informed anybody about this other than you four right now. I don’t know everything that’s going on but I’ve some suspicions, and I’m doing my best to make sure these bastards fail."

"We trust you," Omi told her. They did, both her and Manx and precious little else of Kritiker.

Her back ramrod slowly becoming straight, she once again appeared as the tough spy they all respected. She reached into her small purse and handed a file to Omi. "Here are a few of the scenarios that I’ve come up with over who’s behind this, and how to contact me in case of an emergency." She looked at all of them for a few seconds before her gaze rested on him. "Be careful. I’ve listed Weiss as inactive because of injuries you and Aya ‘sustained’ on that last mission , and also pending a psychoanalysis of Siberian." Ken let out an indignant squawk that Omi put an end to by stepping on his friend’s foot. "Do whatever you have to and stay safe, all right?"

"We will." At some point in the discussion Yohji and Aya had joined them, and now Aya was staring intently at Birman. "But what about my sister? Have you taken any precautions for her safety?"

"Yes, I have." For the first time since she’d arrived, Birman looked pleased about something. "Manx and I have kept her condition a secret from Kritiker, and as far as it’s aware, she’s in the coma ward of a hospital in Sapporo. Right now, she’s actually in Okinawa with Momoe-san. She’ll stay there until the danger is passed, or Momoe-san can find some excuse to get her out of the country."

Aya’s body visibly relaxed upon hearing that his sister was safe. "Thank you." He didn’t say the words very often – and especially not to Birman or Manx – but, as always, when they were said his gratitude was very clear.

"You’re welcome," Birman replied, her expression softening for a few fleeting seconds. "So right now worry about yourselves. I want you to continue on as normal until either you hear from me or have cause to believe you are in danger, is that understood?"

Omi held up the disc and nodded. "Understood. Be careful yourself, and we hope to hear from Manx and you soon."

"I hope so, too." She gave them all a slight smile and then was pulling on her coat while walking over to the door. Pausing only for a moment after she opened it, she was quickly on her way.

They stood there staring at the closed door for a few seconds, and then he went over to make sure it was locked, the disc held tightly in his hand. He turned around to see Yohji staring at Aya, an angry expression on his face.

"You said you ran into a little trouble that night, Aya. What’s this about you and Omi almost getting killed? Neither of you ever said it was that bad!"

Aya waved him aside as he started to pace through the trailer. "We made it out, that’s all that mattered." He looked at Omi. "Are you going to see what’s on that disc?"

He shivered as the reality of the situation sunk in. Something bad was happening to Kritiker if Birman had appeared so shook up and was leaving Weiss on its own. "Yes." He hastened over to his laptop.

Yohji, meanwhile, didn’t seem to want to let the argument die. "You and Omi deliberately downplayed to me how bad that mission was." He grabbed Aya’s shoulders, and Aya grasped his arm as if to make him let go, the sleeve of his shirt falling down to reveal his bandaged wrist. The two men stared at each other, as if oblivious to anything else.

Just as Omi though that they didn’t have time for this, Ken reached up and smacked his fist into the ceiling of the trailer several times, making things shake and producing a loud racket. Aya and Yohji let go of each other and faced him.

"Oi, now’s not the time, all right? Bitch about it later, after we find out what’s going on." Ken folded his arms over his chest and managed to look mature. "It’s the past, okay? All that matters right now is that they told Birman the truth. Later we can give them hell, Yohji." The look he gave Aya and Omi was not pleased, but at least he seemed in control of his temper.

"I hate to admit it, but you’re right," Yohji sighed as he ran a hand through his hair.

"Hey! I resent that!" So much for Ken keeping his temper in check, but as he approached Yohji, all the man did was laugh and hold up his hands in a placating manner.

"Come on, Kenken, you know you’d have said the same thing if I was the voice of reason." Yohji smiled at Ken until they both were chuckling.

Meanwhile, Aya had taken advantage of the situation to get out of Yohji’s reach and was now beside Omi. They shared a long-suffering look while waiting for the laptop to boot up. As he typed on the keyboard, Omi had to smile a little as he thought that, even when stuck in yet another bad situation, how little things really changed.

› › › ›

Kato watched as Suzuki finished adjusting Iwaki’s wig. "Let me blend this in a little better," the makeup woman said as she wielded a small sponge. He smiled at his lover when Iwaki blushed slightly as she patted make-up on his neck as well as his forehead, covering the slight bruise he’d left there last night.

He felt bad about doing that while they were filming, but really, who could blame him for being a little… over enthusiastic. They’d been so busy with work lately that last night had been his first chance to make Iwaki wear the collar. Having had to wait three days for that special treat, Iwaki was very lucky to only be sporting one hickey.

As Suzuki fussed and transformed Iwaki into a proper samurai warrior, shaved forehead and all, Kato slunk down into the trailer’s couch and tried not to think about how it wasn’t going to be fun when he filmed his scenes later on. While his lover got stuck wearing the ugly wig on such a humid day, he’d have to be wearing a costume made out of thick wool later on. He groaned when the news playing on the television droned on about how hot and humid it would be for the next few days. Why couldn’t they have filmed today’s scene yesterday or the day before, when things had been cooler?

"All done, Iwaki-san." Suzuki put away her makeup and bowed slightly. "Have a good day."

"Thank you, Suzuki-san," Iwaki said as he got out of his chair. Then he walked over to Kato and sat down on the couch. "When do you need to be in makeup?"

"Not for a little longer; my scene’s supposed to take place around noon." He sighed as he leaned forward to kiss his lover. "I really hope we get to the winter scenes soon, even if they are depressing. Filming in Kyoto during the summer is not my idea of fun!"

"I know." Iwaki gave him a tender smile and another kiss. They had to part after a few seconds for fear of ruining his makeup. "Let’s have some ice cream tonight. Maybe that will help."

"Or a nice soak with you before bed," Kato practically purred as he lightly caressed Iwaki’s cheek. It was then that the news channel stopped babbling about the weather and moved on to a report about a fire not far from the Shosei-en Garden.

"-more firefighters arriving on scene as the fire is resisting all efforts to be put out. At least the trailer was far enough away from other businesses to not pose much of a threat of setting them on fire-"

"What was that?" Iwaki asked as he pulled away. "Something about a trailer near the Shosei-en Garden? Isn’t that where Yohji and Aya were working?" he asked as he faced the television.

"Yeah, if they haven’t moved on yet." Kato leaned forward as his lover squinted at the screen. There was a scene of a small trailer glowing bright orange as flames consumed it, surrounded by several firemen with hoses. There was too much steam and smoke on the screen to be able to make out any distinguishing features, but he was filled with a sinking feeling. It was then that he noticed the script running across the top of the broadcast:

‘Mobile Flower Shop Engulfed in Flames – Fatalities Suspected’

› › › ›

Iwaki stepped out of the cab and waited impatiently for Kato to pay the driver. The stench of smoke was overwhelming, along with an acrid odor that made the back of his throat burn.

"Okay," Kato said and grasped his arm, and they started to walk slowly toward the crowd, careful to skirt around its edges and remain in the shadows. Now that the fire was out, people had gathered around the carnage, many of them young women in school uniforms. Several of them were crying as they stared at the remains of the trailer.

Iwaki forced himself to swallow past a tight throat as he realized that it was indeed Yohji’s home and shop that had burned. There went the faint hope that it had been another traveling florist shop, as silly as it had been. The fact that he didn’t see Yohji anywhere filled him with dread. "Do you see them?" he asked as his hand sought out Kato’s.

"No, I don’t." Kato squeezed his hand and then wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close.

They moved forward a little, both of them wearing hats and sunglasses even though the sun was starting to fade. They’d come here right after work had finished for the day, and during that time the fire had been put out and the trailer cooled down. Firemen in protective gear carefully examined the wreckage as everyone gathered around watched and talked quietly to each other. He just leaned against Kato, the both of them quiet as they watched the firemen continue their investigation.

He couldn’t help it, he let out a low moan when the first body bag was brought out a short while later and two men entered the burned trailer with more bags. The crowd started to murmur, and even standing away from most of the people he managed to catch most of what they were saying.

"…all four of them were home at the time…."

"…burned so hot they’re having trouble distinguishing the poor boys from everything else inside…."

"…no, not Omi-kun!" A young woman started to cry, her friends immediately gathering around her to offer comfort.

Iwaki pressed his face against his lover’s shoulder and tried not to think about Yohji and Aya burned beyond recognition. "They can’t be dead."

"I know." Kato hugged him tightly and kissed him on the forehead. "I think they’re still trying to figure out what happened. They might be wrong. Yohji and Aya might be out on a date and have no idea their home just burned down."

A nice fantasy but even though it hurt to admit it, Iwaki didn’t think his new friends were still alive. Not when another body was removed and the firefighters continued to search.

As they stood there and watched, unable to just walk away, a foreigner circled around the crowd not far from them. At first Iwaki felt a jolt of hope when he saw the man’s red hair and thought that maybe Aya was still alive, but even in the dimming light he soon could tell that the shade of red was entirely wrong and the hairstyle too long. When the man turned away from the fire to light a cigarette, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it wasn’t his new, quiet friend. No, this was a stranger, one who gave him a thoughtful look before staring at the trailer once more.

More young women arrived, crying loudly and huddling around their friends, and the foreigner stepped back a little more, close enough now that Iwaki could smell burning tobacco above everything else. Rather than pay attention to the grim scene before him he studied the man, wondered why he was here. Had he known Yohji and the others or did he just suffer from a morbid curiosity?

The foreigner stared at the trailer’s wreckage for several minutes and then stepped back, further into the shadows but didn’t leave.

"More people keep showing up. What, is it a bad night for television or what?" Kato asked, his voice rough. Maybe it was breathing in all the smoke but Iwaki caught a hint of emotions just then, noticed how his lover hugged him even closer. They hadn’t known Yohji or Aya long but they’d been happy to meet another gay couple that they could talk to and have a few drinks with, men who hadn’t seemed to care about what he and Kato did for a living. "I mean, I can understand why the girls are here, but what’s with these guys?"

He glanced over to where Kato was looking and noticed that three more men had arrived. One was an older man dressed in kimono and hakama of all things, his expression severe. Something about the way he moved reminded Iwaki of Aya. Behind him were two younger men, one a bit on the androgynous side and someone who carried what looked like a violin case strapped across his back. They stood back a bit from the crowd, over toward where the police and firemen were gathered.

They weren’t the only men in the crowd, either, he noticed. Some were high school students who appeared to be here because of the teenaged girls now crying and carrying on, and some appeared to have stopped while on their way home from work. His eyes widened as he saw two more foreigners amidst the crowd, one of them had hair in a pale green color. That reminded him of the redheaded stranger but when he turned to look at the man, he was gone.

Kato started coughing and he quickly forgot all about watching the crowd. "Are you all right?"

The cough continued for a few more moments. "Yeah." Kato took a shaky breath and then stepped away from trailer and the crowd gathered around it. "I think we better leave. All this smoke isn’t good for us."

Iwaki gave one last, long look at the trailer and reluctantly agreed. They needed to be able to speak clearly for the film, and to spend much longer breathing in the smoke and chemicals would impair their voices. Just then another body was brought out of the trailer, several of the girls crying out once more.

"Let’s go." He couldn’t stay here and wait for more bodies to be recovered. Judging from the reporters hanging out with the police, anything more he needed to know about the fire would be on the news or in the morning’s papers.

He still couldn’t quite believe that the fire had happened. With each step they took away from the burned trailer he expected to hear Yohji call out his name or come running over. He felt bitter over the fact that fate had crossed his path with two such interesting men and then had taken them away.

They walked down the street, away from the congestion caused by the crowd and all of the emergency vehicles. While searching for a cab, Iwaki noticed the longhaired foreigner from before. The man smiled at him as he tossed aside a cigarette.

"Excuse me," Iwaki asked, his voice a little hoarse. "Do you… know Kudoh and his friends?" He felt rude for asking but he wanted to know why the man was still around the burned trailer.

The foreigner laughed and raked a hand through his disheveled hair. "You could say that. We were… acquaintances."

Iwaki waited for the man to ask them a question but all he did was shove his hands into his pockets and started to walk away. As Kato raised his arm at a passing cab, the stranger looked over his shoulder. "You know, the funny thing about cats is that they have all of these annoying lives," he said in accented Japanese. "So you never know when they’ll wander into your life again." He laughed then, and a few more steps put him around a corner and out of sight.

A frown on his face, Iwaki stared down the street for a moment, until Kato tugged him toward the cab. "What was that about?"

"I don’t know," he told his lover. "I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t one bad dream."

"I know what you mean." Kato slid an arm around his waist and pulled him a little closer. His head started to hurt, which made him wish that they were alone and he could rest his head on his lover’s shoulder but didn’t dare to do it while in a cab. "Maybe we’ll wake up and everything will be fine."

"Hmmm." He closed his eyes, grateful that he had Kato, that he hadn’t lost him in the fire a few weeks ago. He was beginning to feel as if the element had some sort of grudge against him. "I can’t wait to go home," he said quietly, suddenly wishing that they were back in their home, just the two of them.

"We’ll take a nice break once the movie is finished," Kato said, a yawn mangling a few of the words. "We’ll spend several days in bed."

"That sounds wonderful." He searched out his lover’s hand and entwined their fingers together. "I know we just met them, but I’m going to miss them."

"Yeah." Kato lifted their hands up and kissed the back of his. "Me too."

The rest of the ride to the hotel was spent in silence.

› › › ›

Schuldig strolled into the apartment, the scent of smoke clinging to him. He needed to take a shower and change his clothes but first he wanted a few answers. Nagi and Farfarello, busy playing a video game, ignored him as he headed toward the small room Crawford had taken over as his office.

He found Crawford reading something on his laptop and leaned against the doorway as he waited to be acknowledged. He couldn’t do more than skim the precog’s thoughts but he could pick up the sense of intense concentration. So he played with strands of his hair, checked them for split ends as he waited for Crawford.

"Why am I reminded of images of chimpanzees spending their time grooming each other?"

Schuldig looked up from his hair and grinned. "Is that your subtle way of telling me you want me to help you get rid of a bad case of lice?"

Crawford was by far the most talented person he’d ever known at sighing, managing to portray immense suffering and annoyance with just one sound. The sigh just then was one of his best. "Please, let’s end this conversation before it degrades any further. What did you find out for me today, Schuldig?"

He stepped inside of the office and stood still as he made his report, his hands crossed behind his back. "Their trailer was almost entirely destroyed in the blaze, which the fire department is currently blaming on exploding propane tanks and the chemicals they used for their business. Four corpses have been recovered from the wreckage – badly destroyed corpses at that. The police will be lucky if they can identify them by dental records but it’s being assumed that Weiss is dead. Nakatsugawa’s men were there and they are suitably convinced of that fact. While badly damaged by the heat, Abyssinian’s sword was found and identified, along with Siberian’s weapons as well."

Crawford stared off into space for a few seconds. "I didn’t think that they’d go so far as to abandon their weapons."

"They seem to be very serious about disappearing this time," Schuldig pointed out as he relaxed his pose and scratched beneath his headband. "From what I picked up from their thoughts, they were smart enough to realize that if they wanted to get away safely, they had to make a few sacrifices." They had also seemed to relish a chance to leave their true identities behind, for various reasons.

"Finding out that Esset was searching for them must have been the necessary incentive to do what they had to do." There was the slightest hint of respect in Crawford’s voice. "They’re finally thinking for once and not just reacting."

"Then they must be smarter than we gave them credit for, after all. I’m not finding any sign of them." That bothered Schuldig a little, how well Weiss had vanished into thin air, especially upon so little warning. He hadn’t thought them that good and now had even more reason to want them dead. His duty taken care of, he decided to try and pry a few answers from his fearless leader. "So, now that I’ve done everything that you asked me to do, are you going to tell me why?"

"Because our survival depends upon it," was Crawford’s annoying, familiar answer.

He’d had enough of the cryptic shit. "Not good enough, Brad. You risk Schwarz by leaking Weiss’ whereabouts to Esset, and then you have me ‘tip’ Weiss off to that fact. That was a hell of chance you took and now four enemies are out of our reach." The more he thought about the last few days, the more furious became. After months of laying low, Crawford had taken a huge gamble by dragging in their former employers and siccing them on Weiss. "Why the hell didn’t you let Nakatsugawa’s Weiss take care of them, or have me draw their attention to the fact that they were closing in rather than involve Esset? That would have been safer." Try as he might, he couldn’t make any sense out of Crawford’s orders.

At first Crawford just sat there, the glare from the laptop’s screen reflecting on his glasses. He appeared perfectly impassive, not presenting Schuldig a clue as to what he was thinking. Just when Schuldig thought he was going to leave yet again with no answers, Crawford spoke, his voice as impassive as his appearance.

"We need Weiss alive if we’re to live more than a couple of years."

Schuldig waited a few moments to see if any more information was to be forthcoming. "That’s it? We need them alive if we don’t want to die?" There were times when he longed for Nagi’s gift so he could throttle Crawford and hope to survive doing so. "Okay, I bought that answer the first time around and look where it landed us. Now you’re telling me to stop messing with their minds and to let them live?" His hands clenched into fists. "You can do better, Crawford."

His leader didn’t seem very impressed with the speech. "Better how?"

Counting to ten, he reminded himself that Schwarz had no hope of surviving Crawford’s death, even if by some chance the bastard didn’t foresee his attack and stop him. "Tell me why you made me stop driving Siberian and Balinese insane." That pissed him off the most, especially when he thought about how close he was to sending both men over the edge. Especially when he thought about how delicious it would be to have them turn on their teammates, which they were close to doing. "Tell me why they’re not better off dead. They’ve been nothing but trouble for us the last couple of years." He stared angrily at his friend, daring him to remain quiet.

With another impressive sigh, Crawford leaned back in his chair, the glare on his glasses gone. The expression on his face was now troubled. "I ordered you to back off and make the Esset agents trailing Weiss to foolishly try and attack them because we need Weiss alive and sane." He held up his right hand, cutting off Schuldig’s complaint. "Hear me out first. Something in the future has changed and once again we’ll need them. While it would have been amusing to allow you your fun and for their enemies to attack them, I assure you that Schwarz will fare better if Weiss remains together. They probably would have survived without our intervention, but our future would suffer as a result. Our futures are connected; the better off they are, the better off Schwarz is as well."

All in all, it was more than he’d hope for in way of an explanation, but he knew that Crawford was still withholding information. However, he knew better than to press his luck right now. "The fact that you’re still hiding something is not very reassuring." He did some sighing of his own and stepped forward to rest his hands on the desk. "They were just getting fun, you know. I could have amused myself for months alone with Balinese and Abyssinian’s relationship."

"As much as I hate to ruin your fun, I’m afraid that the best possibilities for Schwarz’s future stem from those two staying together. Learn to live with your disappointment, Schuldig." He could tell that Crawford emphasized with his suffering.

"Fine," he sniffed, only half as annoyed as he pretended to be. "So what lies in store for us, oh great Oracle?"

Crawford tilted his head to the side, as if he was carefully considering the question. "Now that Esset is in Kyoto, we need to leave. We’ll be returning to Europe for some time."

Esset wouldn’t be here if not for Crawford, Schuldig thought rather nastily but was smart enough not to say aloud. Besides, there was no way to change the past. "And then?"

Pushing up his glasses, Crawford smiled, the expression genuine for once and containing a hint of malicious amusement. "We grow stronger, as does Weiss. And in that time, we learn to stop thinking of them as enemies."

Schuldig stared at his friend for a moment. Perhaps Farfarello wasn’t the only insane member of Schwarz. "Why do I have the impression that I’m not going to care too much for the future?"

"Because you’ll have to change, something you’re not very good at," Crawford replied, but there was no malice to the words. "We all will. But in the end we’ll be free. We won’t have to hide from Esset forever."

Now that was something to look forward to, Schuldig thought. "You could have at least allowed me and Farfarello to take out the Esset agents."

"But then Weiss would not have four convenient bodies on hand to pass off as their own, and Esset would then be on our trail. No, things worked out for the best. Let our former employers sniff around Japan in search of Weiss and clash with Nakatsugawa. They’ll be too busy fighting to be concerned about us."

Which, all in all, was for the best. Schwarz wasn’t ready to take on Esset just yet. "I guess there’s a method to your madness," Schuldig mumbled.

"There is indeed." Crawford sat up in his seat and returned his attention to the laptop. "Now if you don’t mind, please leave, and take your stench with you."

Schuldig waved his hand in front of his chest. "As my great leader commands me, so I hasten to obey. You going to scrub my back for me?"

Crawford didn’t even look up from the computer. "Not in this lifetime, Schuldig. Now go."

"I’m going." He sniffed again, this time as if greatly offended. "All the hard work I do, and the only recognition I get is for the fact that I stink." He waved as if to cut off Crawford’s reply, even though the man pretended as if he’d already left. "I’m utterly crushed, I’ll have you know."

Another sigh, more impressive than the last two, could be heard as he sauntered out of the room.

› › › ›

Eight months later….

Yohji strode down the narrow hallway, nodding to a few of the neighbors as he passed by, stepping around bicycles and running children. Once at his apartment, he placed the bag he was carrying under one arm to free up his hands so he could unlock the door. Stepping inside, he carefully locked the door behind him and toed off his shoes.

"Did you miss me?" he called out as he walked into the tiny apartment, taking the few steps necessary to reach the bed where Aya was curled up, a book in his hands and a stack of them on the floor nearby.

His lover looked up and smiled before setting the book aside. "Will you be terribly offended if I tell you I enjoyed having some quiet time to read?"

"Terribly, *terribly* offended," he complained as he sat down on the bed. After placing his bag on the floor, he reached out and removed the glasses Aya wore while reading. "You’ll have to make it up to me," he practically purred while leaning in for a kiss.

Aya didn’t disappoint, and with a couple of minutes they were both stretched out on the bed, Aya beneath him and kissing him breathless. With much regret and the need for air he pulled back, his hand brushing aside the shoulder length strands falling onto his lover’s face. "What do you say to spending the evening in bed?" he asked as he rocked his hips forward, grinding his erection against Aya’s.

The wicked grin his lover gave him had him leaning forward again, but Aya’s hand pressed against his chest stopped him from reaching his goal. "As tempting as that sounds, I don’t think Ken and Omi would appreciate us skipping out on dinner."

"Bah, those two would appreciate the alone time." He pouted as he sat back on his heels. "Please tell me we weren’t that sappy when we got together."

"I tend to think not, but I might be prejudiced." Aya sat up as well, his tousled hair falling around his face. While Yohji lamented the dye that hid its bright red color, he had to admit he adored how good Aya looked with long hair. "How about we go see them, eat dinner and then come back here to spend the rest of the night in bed?"

"I guess that’ll have to do." He sighed as he slid his arm around Aya’s waist. They could do with some time away from their tiny apartment. While it was a vast improvement over the damned trailer, the only thing that made living here bearable was Aya. Hong Kong was almost as crowded and as expensive as Tokyo, and Kritiker was much too busy to find them better accommodations.

"At least we’ll get a good meal," Aya pointed out before leaning over the bed to pick up the bag Yohji had brought home. "I see you bought something after all."

"Yeah, the sale was better than I expected." He grabbed the art supplies and put them on one of the shelves above the bed’s headboard. "Now I have lots of pens and sketchpads. Guess what that means?" He poked Aya in the ribs.

His lover batted his hand away and frowned. "Why do I always have to pose in the nude?"

Because he pounced on each and every opportunity to get the man he loved out of his clothes. "Because clothes get in the way of the human form. I have to have human anatomy down perfectly if I hope to be a good art teacher." He had to laugh as Aya’s frown deepened. "Hey, at least I let you read while I draw."

"You better, considering the amount of literature I have to learn." Aya shook his head, his frown fading away. "I guess teaching is an improvement over selling flowers."

"We can hope they place us in an all boys school," Yohji teased as he pulled his lover closer. "That way we’ll have less of a fan club pestering us."

"Or so we hope." Aya laughed, the sound not as rare as it had been a few months ago, and in a fluid movement he straddled Yohji’s lap. "You better not ask any of your students to model for you."

"No." He laughed himself as happiness bubbled up inside him and his arms wrapped around Aya’s waist. "I already have the perfect model: Fujimiya-sensei." He nuzzled Aya’s chest and hugged him tightly.

Aya hugged him back. "I don’t know whether to hope that Manx and Birman put Kritiker back together soon so we have something to do or to hope that they don’t. While this ‘break’ is very nice, I’m not sure how good of a teacher I’ll be."

"You’ll be just fine." He could understand his lover’s frustration. At first they’d enjoyed the quiet life Hong Kong afforded them after they’d fled Kyoto. Once Birman had tracked them down she’d given them orders to prepare for new identities while she and Manx tried to hold Kritiker together while under attack. They were out of the line of fire for once but boredom soon settled in. Ken and Omi realizing that they cared for each other as more than just friends provided some amusement, as did studying for careers in teaching, but they’d come to realize that they’d been assassins for too long to ever go back to normal lives. And none of them had any doubts that they’d be back to ‘work’ eventually.

"Funny how boring normal lives are," he commented quietly as he looked up at his lover.

"I know." There was a tender expression on Aya’s face as he combed his fingers through Yohji’s hair – and then it became critical. "I think you’re overdoing the bleach, Yotan."

"Eh?" He reached up to finger a lock of hair. "Don’t you think it looks just like Kato’s color?"

"No, it’s too light." Aya’s eyes narrowed as he rubbed Yohji’s hair between his fingers. "Yes, you’re definitely over-bleaching it. Keep it up and you’ll have to cut it all off."

He shuddered at the thought. "No, I don’t look so good with short hair." He felt his hair and had to admit that Aya might have a point. He could feel a few split ends. "Okay, maybe I’ll start darkening it like you do. Do you think I’ll look good as a brunet?"

Aya smiled. "I think you could pull it off." He leaned forward, his lips brushing against Yohji’s. "You know, we’ve a little time to kill before Omi and Ken are expecting us."

"Really now." Yohji smiled himself as his right hand skimmed up Aya’s back and tangled in burgundy strands of hair. "I wonder what we can do."

"Artists are supposed to be very creative. I’m certain you’ll think of something."

Sometimes he couldn’t get over how much Aya had changed in the last few months. All of them had, but Aya had become more open, more willing to be happy. He loved the man even more now. "Well then," he said, his voice husky with desire, "time to get naked, lover."

Aya sighed as he grabbed the bottom of his shirt. "Why am I not surprised? You’re always telling me to take off my clothes."

"Hmmm, because you bitched up a storm for me ruining your leather pants that one time," Yohji pointed out as he helped his lover undress. Then he smiled as a wicked thought occurred to him. "But if it’s clothes you want, I can think of a few costumes we could try out."

He let out a yelp when he was smacked on the ribs. "Stop being so perverted." Aya tossed his shirt aside, his hair even more tousled now. Yohji couldn’t help but lean forward and nuzzle the soft strands as he worked on removing his own shirt. They had to shift apart to get rid of their pants, but soon enough they were both stretched out on the bed, hands stroking each other’s naked body.

Aya sighed again, this time a happy little sound as he pressed against Yohji. "We’ve barely more than an hour to get ready and go to Ken and Omi’s apartment." He licked Yohji’s ear once he was done speaking.

"Is that your way of saying ‘make it a quickie’?" Yohji laughed as he rested his left leg atop of Aya’s and rocked his hips forward.

"Quick now, slow later." Aya moaned and grabbed ahold of Yohji’s hips, pulling him closer. "Whatever you want, later." His voice was so deep and quiet but Yohji heard the promise and smiled.

"Whatever I want?" His hands stroked down Aya’s back, skimming gently over the faint traces of bruises from their last ‘play’ session. "And if that’s you tied up, blindfolded and gagged? You with your legs spread apart and your ass on display for me to draw?" His hands stroked upward now to tangle in his lover’s hair. Aya’s breath came faster, his pale skin flushed as the words worked their magic. "I think… the cock ring and ribbed vibrator. I want to draw you as you writhe against the rope, all frustrated and begging to come."

"Yotan." Aya kissed him then, so fierce and hot he moaned in bliss. First he fumbled to turn on the radio atop the headboard so their neighbors would hear something other than them having sex, and then he reached for the ever-present lube. Aya’s hand bumped into his and helped him find it, then flipped off the top as he held the small container.

Quick and fast… something to hold them over until after dinner. "I’ll use the black rope this time," he panted as the cool gel slid over his fingers. "I’ll tie your legs bent together and then apart and make you crouch on top of the bed. I’ll sit behind you at first, so all I can see is your ass as it squirms with the vibrator buzzing inside of it and the rope tied all around your back." A small cry escaped him, both from thought of that image and the feel of Aya’s hand wrapping around his cock. "And your hair," he gasped. "Falling down around your shoulders. I’m never letting you cut it again." He couldn’t wait until it reached Aya’s ass or longer, a long veil against white skin.

Aya groaned as Yohji’s fingers pressed against him, circling his tight hole, and he shifted closer as he grabbed both of their cocks with his hands. "I want to blow you before you gag me. I want to suck you off and make you come." In contrast to the rushed words his hands moved slowly, stroking up and down and squeezing gently.

Yohji pushed a finger inside his lover as he shuddered in pleasure. "I won’t come in your mouth, though. I wanna pull out right before." He could picture his semen dripping all over Aya’s sweaty skin, trailing down his chin and splattered in the now dark hair and shuddered again. "I want to draw you like that, tied up and marked by me."

"Ah- will my hands be tied in front or back?" The way Aya gasped as he flicked his finger inside his lover in just the right spot…. Yohji knew neither of them were going to be able to hold out for much longer.

"I think… gods, Aya," he groaned as Aya’s hands started to move faster. "Tied in front," he managed to stutter, "but I won’t let you touch yourself. Not unless I tell you to. I might… might do that later so I can draw you like that."

"Yohji!" Aya cried out, his eyelids fluttering over his passion dark eyes, head tossing back as he came, body clenching around Yohji’s fingers. Yohji could only stare at him as he tried to burn that image into his mind to draw later, and a few more frantic strokes had him coming as well. He bit his lip to try and not scream his lover’s name as his head lolled forward, against Aya’s shoulder.

They both lay there panting, entwined with each other and unable to move to save their lives. Hell, if Schwarz or Esset burst through the door, just then Yohji thought he’d die a happy man at their hands. Then he thought some more – about what he had to look forward to later that night – and decided he’d find the strength to fight back somehow.

"We’re skipping coffee and dessert," Aya said, still a little out breath but his voice rather calm. "We’ll give them an hour and a half for dinner and then we’re back here." The way he spoke there was no doubt in Yohji’s mind that his boyfriend would be timing their dinner date.

He laughed softly as he rolled onto his back, his arms still around Aya. "You won’t hear any complaints from me. I can’t wait to get you back here." He smiled at his lover, and then could only stare as Aya started to lick his hand clean. "Oh hell, are you sure we can’t forget about the damn thing?" The sight was enough to make him hard again.

The look on Aya’s face was a mix of smugness and desire. "We’ll need the energy for later. Besides, we’ve nothing left to eat in this place."

Yohji grabbed his lover’s hand and finished cleaning it off. "I don’t know, you taste pretty good to me." They kissed again, with heat at first but then leisurely, just enjoying each other.

Of course it was Aya who pulled away while snatching some tissues from the box by the bed. "Dinner, then fun. But showers first." He looked over his shoulder. "You going to scrub my back for me?" he asked as he slid off the bed.

"Like I ever turn that offer down." Yohji hurried after his lover, into their bathroom. He didn’t care how small the rest of the place was, at least they could now shower together –if they were careful not to elbow or knee each other while moving around. For a moment he thought fondly of the last time he’d seen the damn trailer as the fire inside it started to spread and cast an orange glow through the windows. Oh how he wished he could have stayed long enough to watch as the propane tanks exploded. Nothing would have given him greater joy than to see that tin can be engulfed in flames.

Aya turned on the water and waited for it to warm up. "Omi was telling me that the movie comes out in two weeks. He wanted to know if wanted to go see it together."

Yohji wrapped his arms around Aya’s shoulders and kissed him on the temple. "That sounds good, even if those two will be too busy making out to see any of it." A chuckle escaped him as steam started to fill the small bathroom. "I think they’re getting us back for all the times they walked in on us."

"Please, we’ve done it that many times now and more, and we’re not all living together anymore." Aya snorted in amusement as he stepped into the shower. "They’re happy, though," he added, as if in explanation of why he put up with those two.

Yohji once again understood perfectly. Ken still had the occasional moment when they sparred together or when they got drunk but on the whole, he was better. He didn’t seem about to lose himself to the darkness anymore, and Omi was truly happy for the first time since they left Tokyo.

"Who would have thought we’d have a… I don’t know, a sorta happy ending," he mused as he soaped up his lover’s back. "I mean, we’re not all free from the shit but… things just seem easier to bear now." Asuka didn’t haunt him so much, other than the occasional guilty dream, and Aya was allowing himself the chance to act like a normal human being.

Of course Aya had to be the realistic – dare he say pessimistic – one. "Things aren’t completely fine. Sooner or later we’ll have to go back to work." He frowned as he massaged shampoo into Yohji’s hair.

"Killjoy," Yohji teased as his eyes closed in pleasure.

"Just keeping you grounded. Now rinse off and help me with my hair." Aya shifted over so Yohji could stand beneath the falling water.

"Yes, sir." He quickly obeyed his lover, a content smile on his face.

*******

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