Nothing Gold Can Stay

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Chapter 2

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Pacing about Omiís room, Yohji asked the same question for the fiftieth time. "Find anything yet?"

Greatly resisting the urge to throw his monitor at the man, Omi merely sighed instead. "No, nothing concrete just yet. Yohji, why donít you go watch tv or something." Or go drink, right now he wouldnít complain in the slightest if Kudoh went off and got drunk. He was a bit peeved at Aya for taking off and leaving him to deal with his upset and angry boyfriend. "Trust me, as soon as I know something, so will you." That said, Omi resumed his search for Ian Robertsonís itinerary.

Wishing that the chibi would let him smoke in the room, Yohji plopped down on the twin bed and thought up a bunch of inventive curses to call his lover. Damn Aya. Heíd thought nothing earlier of finishing his shift and finding the man gone, not until he noticed that his loverís work gear was missing as well. There went talking to Aya about whatever it was Kritiker wanted him to do tonight, and maybe try and supply him with some backup. It ate at him, that the person he loved most in the world was off doing something so dangerous, while he had to sit at home twiddling his thumbs. Hell, he couldnít even waste some time by working on his own mission, there was nothing to do until Omi found out when the target was arriving.

Maybe he could put a tracker on Aya. Slip something inside his coat that would trace his movements, making it impossible for this to happen again. But with his luck Aya would find it and then there would be one hell of a fight over his Ďpossessive tendenciesí. Oh, it was all well and good for him to get bitched out for wanting to keep the stubborn fool safe, but the redhead being a suicidal maniac was completely off limits. Damn damn damn.

And he didnít even get the chance to tease the pale man over his reaction to Megumi. How Yohji had wanted to crow over the fact that Aya Fujimiya, the Ice Prince himself, had actually been jealous. It was about fucking time. For the past four months heíd been fending off droves of people interested in his lover, now Aya had a taste of how it felt. For a moment Yohji wondered if he should come up with some method of punishment for Aya attacking the girl, just like the redhead did to him when he Ďdiscouragedí the manís suitors. Nah, heíd never be able to carry through with it, he just wasnít that malicious. All Aya had to do was look adorable, which was just about every second of the day as far as he was concerned, and heíd jumped all over his lover. Nope, Yohji would just have to settle for teasing the man into a frenzy and then dragging him off bed. If the bastard ever came back home, that was.

He let a series of delicious fantasies of what could happen when he did get Aya into bed flit through his head, until he felt a hand start to massage his crotch and thought that Omi might not appreciate him jerking off in the boyís bedroom. Down Kudoh, down. Sitting up with a groan, he once more started to pace the room.

"Anything yet?"

"KudohÖÖÖ.."

Blinking at the angry growl that could have come from Aya, Yohji walked over to the monitor. "Whatís wrong, kiddo?"

"Iíve been on this damn thing the past two nights and Iím getting nowhere, thatís what the problem is. All of the aliases are coming up false, nothing jibes right."

Yohji tried to decipher the last sentence, but gave up after a moment. "Here, let me see what you have going on there." Shoving Omi aside, he pulled up all the itineraries that the teenager had found. "You saying you think all of these are false?" The younger blond nodded. "Can we list them by the dates?"

Omi rubbed his eyes and forced himself to answer in a civil tone. "Yes." A few key strokes and he had the itineraries sorted to arrival dates. He watched as Yohji scanned the list for several minutes.

"I agree with you, they all seem fake. My money is on the mission happening Wednesday night."

"Wah?" Omi glanced back and forth between the computer and his friend. "Why Wednesday night?"

Yohji waved a hand at the screen. "Take a look." When the teenager did, for several minutes to no avail, the former detective sighed. "There are no flights for Wednesday night. Five are booked for tomorrow, two for Thursday, three for tonight and Friday, and so on for the next week. But none for Wednesday evening. Seems that they were afraid that we would stumble across something by accident, and didnít want to take the chance. Of course now they left a blaring hole in the itineraries. You just have to know what to look for." Yohji couldnít help but smirk at the stunned look the boy genius was giving him. "Iíll have you know Iím more than just a pretty face."

"Wow, Yotan, I am amazed." Taking in his friendís frown, Omi flushed slightly. "That wasnít meant to sound that bad. I guess I tend to forget that you once did things like this for a living. So Wednesday night, huh?"

"That would be my guess."

"Iíll let Kritiker know and keep an eye on things, now that the date is narrowed down see if I canít find Robertsonís real flight plan." He felt a load lift from his shoulders; it had been getting to him, the thought that the mission might fail because he couldnít come up with anything. Omi had even thought to enlist Ayaís help, to see if his power made any sense of flight arrangements.

Feeling awfully satisfied with himself at the moment, Yohji sat back down on the bed. "Well, now I have plans for the week. Hereís hoping Ken and I are right, and this thing will all be wrapped up in two nights." Green eyes narrowed at the sight of the boy flinching at the mention of their other teammate. "You okay, chibi? Something wrong between you and Ken?"

Turning around in his chair, Omi was surprised to hear himself sniff. "Come on, Yotan, surely you must have noticed that I didnít get anywhere with Ken during the vacation. Everything I tried he either countered or ignored, or ran away when it looked as if it was about to work. I know I was getting a reaction from him, or was I just imagining things?"

Thinking back on the week at the cabin, Yohji had to nod his head. "Yeah, you were getting to him alright. Never saw the boy look so hot and bothered. I thought for sure that you had him the night of the bonfire, he definitely wanted you then. I just donít know why he didnít follow through." Granted, he didnít think Hidaka had a fragment of his experience, but he knew the man had had a few lovers. And it certainly hadnít taken the brunet long to get himself deeply involved with that Yuriko chick. So why was he resisting Omi? Granted, underage boys who looked little older than twelve did nothing to push _his_ buttons, but Ken had flat out admitted he wanted Omi as a lover. What was holding him back? Yohji didnít understand people who didnít go after what they so clearly knew they wanted. Look at him and Aya. The second that he knew that he wanted the man and that the redhead had wanted him back, he hadnít stopped the pursuit until Aya was all his. Which was something he would never regret, the short-tempered idiotís suicidal tendencies aside.

"I guess we have to rethink Operation ĎGet the dumb jockí." Yohji looked up as Omi bounced on the bed next to him.

"Oh thank you, Yohji! I was hoping you werenít ready to give up just yet. What do you think I should do now?"

Sweatdropping, the older blond stalled for time. Great, now he was back to trying to figure out how to seduce the brunet. Ken so wasnít his type, it was almost painful to even think about the matter. "Uhm, give me a few days, chibi. I really need to think about this some more." Gods, and he better have Aya nearby, so he could purge the memory of imaging how to pick up Hidaka with something infinitely more enjoyable. "You have weird tastes in men, Omi. Let me make that clear right now." At the teenagerís glare, he held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "Nothing against the boy, but dear Kenkenís just not my type."

"Thatís good then, or Aya and I would have to hurt you." Omi bounced some more before laying down on the bed. He then asked another question in a small voice. "Is love supposed to be this difficult, Yohji? I mean, here I am, trying to get someone who likes me to admit to the fact, and itís like pulling teeth. And you and AyaÖ.." for a moment he didnít know how to continue, sure he had already said too much. "Well, you and Aya arenít exactly the poster children for a happy couple, what with the way you always fight. Is that normal? Will Ken and I argue like that as well?" If they every became a couple in the first place, Omi thought darkly.

Playing with a strand of hair, Yohji lay down next to his roommate. "I think youíve read one too many shojo mangas, Omittchi. Love is a lot more difficult in real life. You have all these fears and insecurities and issues to get past first." Unless your lover was a certain redhead, and then it seemed you never got past the damn things. That man needed some serious psychotherapy. But being quite happy with the whole living process, Yohji wasnít going to be the one to point that out to the man. "And for some couples, like Aya and I, fighting is perfectly normal. As long as we always make up. Somehow I doubt that you and Ken will be like that though, you guys are nowhere near as volatile as the two of us." Great, now he was back to thinking about his mule headed lover. Aya better damn well come back safe, or heíd kill the man himself. And the next time he saw Birman, there would be a few choice things for him to tell her. Like where she could stick those damn mission envelopes.

Yohji looked up when he heard the garage door open. Forgetting his train of thought, he rushed out of Omiís room and down the steps, the chibi hot on his heels. He came to a skidding halt in the kitchen and waited for his lover to show up. There was a heavy tread on the stairs, quite unlike Ayaís usual silent steps, and the door creaked open. It felt like Yohjiís heart leapt into his throat as he took in the blood-covered assassin. The stuff was smeared all over the pale face and throat, coated the leather coat and black pants, there were even clots in the crimson hair. "Fuck. Aya, what the hell happened to you?" Omi made a strangled sound behind him. Reaching out a long arm, Yohji yanked Aya close, literally tearing the katana out of a pair of gloved hands. Blood had made it stick to the leather.

Wrinkling his nose as he peeled the redhead out of the gore-soaked coat, Yohji quickly reassured himself that Aya was unharmed. The smaller man started to struggle against him, shoving a hand against his chest. "Iím fine. Want a shower." A gloved hand then jerked through the ragged hair, Yohji made a moue of disgust as another streak of blood showed up on Ayaís face. "Gods, love youíre covered with it." He removed the grey shades off of the manís face, and had a second shock of the night. Ayaís eyes had darkened once more, so deep a purple to be almost black. Before he could say anything the swordsman pushed past him, clearly intent on reaching the bathroom. "Take care of these." Yohji shoved the coat, shades and katana into a stunned Omiís arms as he took off after his lover.

He entered the bathroom right behind Aya, locking the door as he watched the other man peel off his gloves with some trouble. Next came the sweatshirt and pants, again clinging to his skin due to being saturated with blood. What the hell had the man done, knelt in it or something? Looking at the redheadís stunned and exhausted face, Yohji leaned against the sink as Aya crawled into a shower that he swore was pure hot water. Through the curtain he saw the slender figure brace its arms against the tiles as the water fell down on an upturned face. Pink spatters hit the curtain, all that blood slowly being washed away. Picking up the bloody garments, the blond set them soaking in the sink. Yohji gave the other man a half hour under the running water, he doubted at that point it was very hot anymore. "Aya love, time to come on out of there." Grabbing a towel, he waited for the water to be shut off, and when Aya shakily stepped out of the bath enveloped him in the cotton sheet.

Quickly drying him off, Yohji led his lover to their room. Aya immediately went for his sweatshirt, pulling that on before a pair of sweatpants. Then he made to crawl into bed, wet hair still trailing rivulets of water down his face and neck. "Hey kitten, we need to dry your hair, or youíll get sick." He leaned over to stop the man.

Aya immediately grabbed his hand and tossed it away. "Kudoh, leave me the fuck alone, I want to sleep." He was so tired, it felt that he had been drained to his very bones. The sooner he fell asleep, the quicker Aya could put this night behind him. But apparently Kudoh had other plans. He found himself jerked out of bed. "Leave me alone."

"No. You didnít even take your medicine." Yohji yanked Aya upright, keeping a hold on a thin wrist as he fumbled around for the medication bottles. Once he grabbed them he shoved the containers at his boyfriend, sitting down next to him. With a sigh Aya opened them and swallowed the pills without any water. That done he moved back up the bed, or at least tried to. Yohji was once more holding onto him as he glared. "What now?"

"I want some answers, thatís what. You come home covered with blood head to toe, Iím not going to let you get some sleep until you tell me what the hell happened. What went on tonight, Aya, what did they have you do?"

Shaking his head, the redhead looked longingly back at his pillow. "Canít we talk about this tomorrow?"

"No." Brushing back the wet bangs plastered to a pale forehead, Yohji refused to give in to the exhausted man. "Youíll just disappear again like you did today. I want to know exactly what happened tonight, fuck your promise to keep quiet. Something went down, you just donít get covered with that much blood and have none of it be yours. Itís not normal."

Aya flinched at the words, drawing in a deep breath. "All I did was the job they sent me to do."

Looked as if it was going to be another Ďdrag the truth from a stubborn idiotí session. Growling softly at the evasive answer, Yohji started to shake the smaller man. "Tell me, Aya. Iím not dropping this until you do."

Temper snapping, Aya finally decided to do just that. All he wanted was to sleep and forget, but if Kudoh wanted answers, heíd get them. Lucky man. In a bored voice he described his night. "You want to hear what happened? I killed people Yohji. Twenty seven to be exact. Two of them women. I walked into the place and didnít leave until they were all dead. What the hell did you think I did?"

Green eyes stared at him in shock. "But, why? So many, what did they do?"

"I donít know. All I was told to do was kill them, and I did. Another successful mission." Yohjiís expression started to turn into horror at the words spoken so coldly and calmly. "You want to know why I didnít say anything? Itís because of that. They donít tell me why they want them dead, and I donít ask. Sometimes it becomes clear when I show up, other times I have no idea why they deserved to have a murderer sent after them." Once started, it was almost impossible to stop the flood of words, even when he could see the effect they were having on his lover. Heíd wanted nothing more than to never see that look in Yohjiís eyes, but Aya knew that this day would have come eventually. Hadnít Schuldig told him so? Why was it that he could never hide his true nature for long?

It was so hard to understand what the man was saying, especially when Aya talked of killing like one would discuss running a few errands. Yohji was so incredibly upset, over the way the man was acting and at their employers for giving the redhead such an assignment in the first place. "You mean you just killed them?" A crimson head nodded. "Didnít you care if they were guilty of anything?" The head shook back and forth. There was an odd gleam in Ayaís dark eyes, almost like relief. Unbidden the words spilled forth from Yohjiís lips. "What the hell are you?" The almost black eyes drifted closed for a moment, as if in pain.

"A whore for the money, just like you said." Yohji swore in disgust and shoved Aya away from him. He needed a target for his shock and anger, and his loverís placid demeanor was a prime candidate. The pale man just laid where he fell.

"I knew you were a cold bastard, Aya, but I never guessed just how much. Youíre not human, are you? Just a killing machine. Hope they paid you enough, though Iím sure you got every penny out of them that you could." Feeling the need to be out of the room before he said something worse, Yohji swiftly stood up and left, his loverís anguish at what heíd said barely registering. He couldnít stand to look at that pale face, so beautiful, and hear those cold words anymore. It tore at him, all the effort heíd put into making Aya open up and be more human, ruined by one assignment. Heíd never make any headway while the man let Kritiker use him like that.

Curling up on the bed, Aya continued to lie there as the door was slammed shut. He started to cry, but he couldnít work up the energy to care as the tears slipped down his face. Grabbing a loose end of the comforter, Aya pulled it over him as he shivered in cold and loss. This must have been what heíd been dreading the past two days. It was all over, Yohji knew the truth now. ĎYouíre not human, are you?í The words bit into Ayaís psyche, making him curl up into an even tighter ball. They had been said in a tone of pure disgust and utter conviction. Heíd finally done it, horrified another murderer. There wasnít much lower than that now, was there? In the morning heíd move his things into the spare room, right now he just stayed on the bed, exhaustion pulling him into unconsciousness as Yohjiís voice echoed through his head.

*******

Flicking his cigarette into the air, Yohji sat on the roof, watching the red spark arc out before falling. "Shit". What the hell was he supposed to do now? Getting plastered was a very legitimate option, one that he considered more with each passing minute. He just didnít see what it would accomplish. It only meant that heíd forget about the awful mess that he had gotten himself in for a short while, and then have to muddle through it later with a hangover. And something told him heíd need his wits about him to repair the damage heíd just done to his relationship with a few careless words spoken in anger.

There was a sound behind him, the door being opened and footsteps coming his way. His heart fell when he realized that they were too loud to be Aya, or Omi for that matter. It could only be Ken. Turning around, Yohji caught sight of the athlete walking towards him, a six-pack of beer in his hands. For a moment he thought it was an hallucination, until the manís solid presence sat down next to him, placing a cold can in his hands. Not about to question anything at this point, Yohji tilted back his head and drained the beer like a pro. Glad to know being an alcoholic came in handy. Another beer was handed to him and swiftly went the way of the first. Lowering his head, the blond regarded his friend with weary eyes. "So what brings you up here?"

Ken shrugged his shoulders, taking a sip of his own drink. "We had wanted to know if Aya was okay, but pretty much assumed that when you didnít yell for Omi to patch the man up. So I guess now weíre curious about you." There hadnít been any screaming that the younger men had heard, just Yohji slamming doors behind him as he stomped up to the roof. It didnít strike them as a good sign, at least a loud fight usually led to an enthusiastic make up session between the two lovers. Theyíd decided to give their friends twenty minutes to calm down, and then heíd lost the coin toss with Omi over who would go check up on the dumb blond. Heíd expected to find Yohji all pissed off from another fight, not looking guilty and as if heíd just lost his best friend. When a few minutes passed by in silence Ken decided to brave the topic. "Aya told you about the mission, didnít he?"

"Huh? Wah?" Trying to get his brain in gear, all the older man could do was stare at Ken.

"The mission, thatís what you were fighting about earlier, wasnít it? It figures that it would be what set you off, considering how Aya came home. His clothes are in the washer now, and Omiís trying to clean up his sword. Most likely heíll be at it all night." Still, Ken would change places with the boy in a second. Heart to heart talks werenít exactly his forte, especially when the topic was Aya. "We knocked on your bedroom door, but there wasnít an answer." Pausing to finish off his beer, Ken crumpled the can and tossed it over his shoulder. "So what the hell happened? You learn something that you didnít like?"

Yohji blinked a few times, seriously wondering if he was dreaming this conversation. Surely two beers didnít have him drunk already? Maybe there had been something in them. "Hidaka, what the hell are you talking about?"

The brunet sighed as he opened another beer, thinking dark thoughts about thick-headed blonds. "Let me try this. What the hell did you think Aya did on those missions of his, Kudoh? Donít tell me you never thought that there was something funny about them." Taking in the blank look, Ken swore. "You didnít, did you? Too wrapped up in fucking anything that moved back then, werenít you?"

That got a reaction. "Shut the fuck up, Hidaka! What the hell do you know about what Aya does on his own?"

"If you had paid the man any close attention before you started sleeping with him, then perhaps you wouldnít have been so shocked tonight. He told you the truth, didnít he? Thatís what the fight was about. And those facts sent you up here." A blond head nodded. "Well, Omi and I figured it out a while ago, one night when we were both up late watching a game and he came back from a solo assignment. Aya was covered with as much blood then as tonight. You donít get that from just breaking into a place and stealing some information, though Iím sure heís done that before as well."

Rubbing his eyes, Yohji stared longingly at one of the remaining drinks. "So you figured it out just from that?"

"No, but it got us real curious, especially when Aya refused to say anything. So Omi hit the net, checking out any and all news around the dates of those jobs. Not much on the legitimate networks, but he uncovered enough rumors and conspiracy theories to piece it together. About certain businesses and people dying, the events being completely covered up. Background checks revealed a lot of the victims being involved in shady dealings, but not always. Sometimes there wouldnít be any bodies left to be found and sometimes there were, as if as a warning to someone. No wonder the man didnít want to talk about it, the little we found was not pretty." Ken chugged what was left in his can and divvied up the last two.

"And how did you take it?"

Yohjiís voice was strained, causing the younger man to stare at him for a few moments before answering. "To tell the truth, I didnít want to have anything more to do with him. I thought he was just a ruthless killer, and was even about to say so to his face." Ken knew that part of his over-reaction could be attributed to him having recently murdered Kase. Heíd still been in shock at the time, confused over what was wrong and what was right. It has been so easy to see Aya as being everything he was afraid of turning into. "But Omi talked me out of it. Oddly enough he wasnít affected at all. Merely kept saying that if Aya was doing something like this, there must be a very good reason for it. It started to make sense the way he described it." And it had been a relief of sorts, knowing that there was one member on the team who could make all the tough decisions, decide what was right or wrong and take the responsibility for them. Nothing could faze Fujimiya, not after the jobs that he had done. Brown eyes looked up to determine how his teammate was taking all of this, and found the man staring off into the distance. "You know why he does it, donít you?"

The blond man nodded. "Aya-chan. Iíve seen how much they pay him for the missions, there is no way he could turn all that money down, not with her medical bills as high as they are. It costs almost two hundred thousand yen a month to keep her in the hospital. WeiŖ doesnít always make that much a month, but it seems whenever we have a dry spell Manx or Birman come around with one of those damn envelopes for him." Yohji drained the last beer as well, and sent it sailing the way of his cigarette. "Iím a fucking idiot, arenít I?"

Smiling softly, Ken nodded his head. "Yeah, for not figuring it out before now. Kudoh, the great private investigator. What a joke." When he didnít get a laugh or an indignant reply, the brunet looked at Yohji worriedly. "That was what you meant, right?" The older man was silent, looking remarkably more guilty than before. "Oh hell, Yohji, what did you do now?"

"I wasnít thinking, Ken." Yohji paused to take a deep breath, yanking on his hair. "You had to be there, listening to him talk, like he was telling me how his day in the shop had went. All cold and distant. ĎI killed twenty-seven peopleí came out the same damn way he tells us heís ordering more roses. I just, I just couldnít handle it." He suddenly needed a cigarette, something to do that would make him feel better and maybe distract him for a few seconds.

"Kudoh, what the hell did you say to the man?"

It didnít help. Things were bad when a cigarette and a few beers did nothing to make him feel better. Ken growled out his name again, making him sigh as he looked up at the brunet. "I called him a monster. A cold-blooded killing machine. I just wasnít thinking." It sounded even worse when he said it out loud. Why the hell had he let his temper get the best of him? Yohji knew that those words must have torn his lover apart, but heíd been so angry over the situation, with Aya once more hiding something from him and the way Kritiker took advantage of the man, that they had just spilled from his lips.

Glancing down at the crushed can in his palm, Ken let out a curse as he violently threw it at the door leading downstairs. "Do you really need me to say how stupid it was for you to tell Aya of all people something like that?"

"No, why the hell do you think Iím sitting up here?" Yohji snapped. All he could think of was the look on his loverís face as he had left the man. "Oh fuck, what am I going to do?"

Shaking his head, the athlete didnít know what to say. He had never been an expert at these types of things in the first place. "Not a clue." The two of them sat in silence for several more minutes, listening to the sounds of the city around them. "You could try apologizing you know, just make sure that his sword isnít in the same room as you."

"Hmph." Having decided heíd wasted enough time up here, Yohji shakily got onto his feet. He managed to dredge up a shadow of his usual cocky grin. "That was a rhetorical question, Kenken. Things canít possibly be so bad that I take romantic advice from you."

"Thanks a lot, you ungrateful bastard! After I come up here and bring you some beer even," Ken huffed as he stood up as well. Yanking open the door, he stopped with it halfway as a hand touched his shoulder.

"Come on, Hidaka, you have to admit I have a point. Take a look at your lovelife right now. Itís non-existent, and youíre the one choosing to leave it like that. Donít tell me you havenít noticed the way Omiís been throwing himself at you lately." Kudoh rule number eight, when you didnít want to face your own problems, make fun of someone elseís. True to form, Ken glared at him and shook off his hand.

"Well can you blame me, what with the way you and Aya have been getting along lately? Besides, Omiís too young to know what he wants, itís just a phase." One that he hoped the boy got through very soon, it was so hard to ignore his friend, with having something he wanted waved right in front of his face.

Not in a hurry to go downstairs and grovel to his lover, Yohji decided to pursue this a little longer. For Omiís sake, of course. "Heís only two years younger than you, physically. Mentally I think heís the most mature of us all. Why donít you give him a chance? At least heís not a masochistic, sociopathic redheaded grouch."

"Because even though he might be smart, heís never really been in love before. Except for Ouka, and Iím not even convinced he truly loved her in any sense other than as a sister and a friend." Ken rested his head against the door, trying to figure out how this had gone from Yohjiís romantic troubles to his. "Which Iím not saying that he loves me. Iím just his current obsession. Give him a month and it will be someone from his classes. I donít want to be involved with him when that happens, it would hurt to much." He didnít think he could take another betrayal from someone he loved, that might break him for good. "Listen Kudoh, I know you mean well, but if you want to talk about relationships do it when yours isnít in so much trouble. Now go check up on Aya, thereís no telling what heís up to right now." That said, he went down the steps.

Yohji had no choice but to follow him. Stomach twisting, he made his way to his bedroom. At least the chibi had Ayaís sword, he wouldnít be skewered when he walked through the door. Entering the room, he found the redhead curled up in a ball in the middle of the bed, swathed in the comforter. "Hey kitten, you still awake?" Not receiving a response, he sat on the bed and pulled the blanket down. Aya was asleep, face strained and wet with tears. Feeling like a total heel, Yohji stroked a hand through the damp hair. The smaller man didnít even stir. "Guess you were wiped out from tonight, huh?" Getting up to turn off the light, he quickly stripped to his boxers and laid down next to Aya, holding him as close as possible. Not wanting to disturb the man, he figured heíd wait til the morning to apologize.

*******

Aya was walking through his old house, which technically was Aya-chanís right now. It was just as he remembered it from his childhood. Everything all neat and perfect, as a child he had been forbidden to touch anything. It had been like growing up in a museum. The redhead felt himself being tugged to his fatherís den, body dissolving and reforming there.

The scene before him was heartbreakingly familiar. A seven year old Ran stood in front of a large desk, head bowed and hands clasped behind him. His hair had been cut close to the scalp, the brownish red strands showing a recent application of his motherís henna mix. No matter how hard they had tried, they could never get it to dye black.

His father sat behind the desk, the usual scowl on his face. "I have a report here from Tanaka-sensei, noting your failure to properly remember German verb tenses. He feels that you arenít applying yourself adequately enough. Do you enjoy causing this family embarrassment? We have gone through great expense to arrange these tutors for you, and the only way you can repay us is by failing?"

He remembered this particular lecture. It had been not long after he had started studying the foreign languages, starting off with English and German. Tanaka-sensei had thought it best to begin the lessons with them, waiting to see how well he did before introducing Chinese and Russian as well. Young Ranís head had been filled with all the different rules and tenses, struggling to memorize the new languages while still becoming proficient in his own. Heíd suffered such terrible headaches, trying to assimilate everything.

As he stood there he watched his younger self shiver under the lecture, fingernails biting into tiny palms as the boy was threatened with the loss of his precious hour of play with Aya-chan. It was all too familiar; the verbal takedown, the disproving looks, his sister held over his head as a threat. Ran had suffered through many of these meetings, never once hearing a word of approval. Not being able to look upon the scene anymore, Aya closed his eyes, his hands covering his ears. "Enough. I donít want to see this, itís all in the past." Trying so hard to shut everything out, he started when he felt a hand comb through his hair. Spinning around he came face to face with Schuldig.

"Guten Abend, Knuddelhšschen. Imagine meeting you here." All he could do was stare at the German. Of course Schuldig would appear, after the night heíd had. The mission, Yohji hating him, yet another painful reminder of his childhood, and now this. "Go away, please." He didnít know if he could take anymore.

The smaller redhead flinched as a hand caressed his cheek, lifting his own to bat it away. <Remember our agreement, Abyssinian. You donít want to fight me, or your lover will suffer. Unless you want him to for what he said tonight.> Aya stilled, then slowly let his hand fall back down to his side. "I see, even though he thinks you are a monster, you still care for him. How touching. Iíve said it before, you love too much, my little tuberose." Schuldig stepped closer, resting his arms on Ayaís shoulders as the pale man trembled. "Didnít I say that it would only be a matter of time before he found out what you were and fled in disgust? He doesnít appreciate what you truly are."

"Stop it. Stop it and shut up." Looking down on Aya in concern, Schuldig quit talking and ran a hand through the ragged locks. The boy was dangerously close to the edge once more, he had best cease gloating over the Pennerís stupidity. A prime opportunity to shove a wedge between the lovers, and he had to back off for his heartís sake. But one look into the wild eyes, a swift scan of Ayaís mind convinced him of the necessity. Brushing back the over-long bangs, he placed a kiss on the smaller manís head. <Iím sorry.> Pansy-colored eyes stared back at him, and through their connection he felt Ayaís confusion over his actions and the fear that once more there would be pain, as in the last dream he remembered sharing with the telepath.

"Iím sorry, precious." He took advantage of the manís shock, pulling him close. <Donít worry, I wonít hurt you this time. Balinese has done more than enough harm to you for the night.>

"Then what do you want?" Aya wouldnít believe that Schu would pass up on the chance to mock him with sharp edged words, throwing the old prediction in his face. That sooner or later everyone saw him as some sort of freak or monster or failure. Heíd heard those words all his life, and each time he set out to disprove them he failed yet again. But he had to stay here and take it, or it would be Yohjiís life.

Maybe it was his imagination, but in the back of his mind he felt love and worry, perceptible under a heavy cloak of want. It didnít feel like it was coming from him. Frowning slightly, the telepath picked up on the echo as well. It seemed that when they were linked in a dream, Aya could sense the emotions he blocked from the man in real life. Schuldig started to say one thing, but as he felt the Japanese man start to pull back from him, anger slowly replacing the pain and uncertainty, he answered the question to throw Aya off balance. "You, I want you." That said, he pulled Aya in for a kiss.

At first the swordsman struggled against the embrace, until a picture of Yohjiís broken corpse flashed through his mind. <If you want the Schwanzlutscher dead, just keep fighting. It would be so easy to make him pay for hurting you, donít you think? And you can even tell yourself that it was all my fault. Arenít I the guilty one, after all?> Aya hitched a sob as he once more went still. Another minute later Schuldig lifted his head, ending the kiss. Running his thumb over a swollen lip, he regarded his tuberose with heavy lidded eyes. "Iím the only one who knows all your secrets, all the dark things you try to hide from the world, and am not disgusted. Weíre two of a kind, precious one. Nothing you do will ever make me leave you alone."

Opening his mouth to refute those statements, Aya found himself unable to speak. Just how much different was he from the German anymore? They were both killers, plain and simple. The only way they differed was that he did what he did in the name of Aya-chan and now Kudoh, while Schuldig did it forÖ. Memories swamped him, reminding him of the fact that Schu really hadnít had much of a choice in what he had become, the organization he worked for hadnít allowed that. It could be argued that he was even more of a monster than the older man, he hadnít been raised to be a murderer.

He looked up at Schu, thoughts all jumbled together. Aya didnít know what he was supposed to feel anymore, hate or sympathy or kinship. Taking advantage of the situation, Schuldig bent down to kiss him again. This time he traced a finger down a pale cheek, radiating pleasure with the touch. Moaning at the sensation, Aya felt his body relax. A feeling of dťjŗ vu filled him, he recognized this feeling, and something deep inside of his mind whispered that it would only get better from here on out. <Of course it will.> Aya couldnít tell whose voice said that, his or Schuís. His hands lifted to bury themselves in the long hair, finer than Yohjiís. At the thought of his lover the redhead felt a sense of alarm. This couldnít be happening. Heíd agreed to stop resisting Schuldig, not to give in to the pleasure. Inside of Aya panic warred with desire as a leg lifted to wrap around the other manís waist, his body arching to remain in contact with Schuís. No matter how much he tried he couldnít make himself break away from the embrace. He wasnít fighting the telepath anymore, now he was fighting himself.

*******

Yohji woke from a sound sleep, disoriented and bleary eyed. It took him a moment to figure out what had disturbed his rest. Aya was twisting about in his arms, chanting the word "nein" over and over. He was covered in sweat, face twisted in fear. Grabbing the other manís shoulders, Yohji shook him until dark purple eyes stared back at him, clouded at first but slowly becoming clear. In the dark it looked as if Aya was relieved to see him for a moment, then the pale face became impassive. The smaller man shook off his hands and rolled over, presenting him with a trembling back as he burrowed deeper into the duvet.

The blond sighed as he rubbed his face, stung by his loverís dismissal. He knew that this wasnít going to be easy, and hadnít been planning on begging for forgiveness in the middle of the night. But he couldnít let Aya go back to sleep still angry with him. "Hey love, have a nightmare?" No answer but the back going even stiffer. Yohji ran a hand down the bony spine, feeling Aya start at the touch. "Youíre shaking, whatís wrong?" Still nothing. Time for a little begging, his pride be damned. "Tell me, please."

"Why should the dreams of an inhuman killer concern you?" Aya had meant for a sarcastic tone, but all that came out was hurt and confusion. Heíd had enough of those emotions tonight, but he had been so shocked to wake from his nightmare with Schu to find Yohji lying next to him. If asked he would have bet everything that the man wouldnít get within ten meters of him ever again. "Why are you here?"

Aya shivered at the hand gently stroking down his back. "I came back to apologize and found you asleep. Kitten, Iím so sorry. I didnít mean to say those things, you shocked me." The redhead had begun to relax under the touch but went tense again at those words. Mentally cursing himself, Yohji tried again. "What I meant to say was that I was startled by how you talked to me. I could care less what you did tonight, you think you did something that the rest of us havenít done before? Weíre all assassins here, love. Some of us merely cling to empty justifications still." When the smaller manís muscles slowly loosened, Yohji spooned himself against the manís back. Aya didnít react negatively, so he slid a hand under the sweatshirt to press his palm against the otherís heartbeat. There was no protest over the action, but neither was there any encouragement. His lover remained silent.

Struggling to continue, Yohji searched out how to best say what he wanted. "I just didnít expect you to be so calm about it. Never paused to think that you would be more used to this than me. Itís new to me, love. I over-reacted, and the more you talked as if it was just another normal night for you, the angrier I got. You shouldnít be used to that. Kritiker shouldnít make you do those missions, they know you wonít refuse them. Instead of taking it out on them, I lashed out at you." Still no response from Aya. "Is this making any sense?" With a sigh Yohji pressed down with his hand until the pale man was lying on his back, staring up at him with a shuttered expression. "Iím sorry, I really am. Please say you believe me."

"Do you really think Iím not human?"

The question startled the blond, throwing him off track for a moment. "What? Hell no I donít think that. That was just something incredibly fucking stupid that slipped out in the heat of the moment. Aya, I think youíre beautiful, intelligent, fuck, youíre everything Iíve ever wanted in a person, well minus the temper maybe. Canít say it doesnít make things interesting thoughÖ." Yohjiís voice trailed off as he saw a hint of a smile curve his loverís lips at the temper comment. "Kitten, if anyoneís a beast here, itís me. Iím truly sorry if anything I said hurt you. Do you forgive me?" Aya nibbled on his bottom lip for a moment, a pale hand coming up to cover his face. When he lifted it away there was a hint of sadness in his eyes. For a second the older man feared the worst.

"When donít I?"

"Uhm, is that a yes?" Ayaís head nodded. Torn between being relieved that his lover had forgiven him and upset over the lingering sadness in the manís expression, Yohji leaned over to kiss him. Any doubts he had faded away as Aya enthusiastically kissed him back, pulling him down for a hug. After a few minutes Yohji struggled to free the redhead from his cocoon of blankets, shifting onto his back and pulling Aya on top of him. He frowned at the feel of the sweat-soaked clothes, recalling the nightmare. "Everything all right love? Youíre covered in sweat. What happened in that dream?"

Aya shook his head and hid his face in the crook of Yohjiís neck. "Please, Kudoh, donít ask." He didnít want to talk about it, of his despair and painful past, what Schu had made him feel. Quite simply he didnít have the energy for it, right now he just wanted Yohji to kiss and hold him as if he was something precious, not a monster or a freak.

It was slowly dawning on the blond that when it came to his boyfriend, he had to start picking which fights were to be left alone. As usual, Aya didnít want to talk about something that had him all upset. He could let it go or force the truth from the stubborn idiot. Which would be incredibly stupid, considering that heíd just been forgiven for another brainless action on his part. "Okay, I wonít." It was possible for him to learn something. Aya lifted his head to grace him with a grateful smile, almost all traces of melancholy gone from the dark eyes. This time it was the smaller man who initiated the kiss, one desperate with need.

Not about to question his luck, having a forgiving and willing Aya back in his arms, Yohji responded just as fervently. He yanked off the manís clothes and then his shorts before trading positions, settling between Ayaís legs. Teasing hands ran all over the pale skin, making the redhead twist and moan underneath him. When a golden finger traced down a delicate cheekbone, the smaller man flinched for a moment, but before Yohji could do anything he found his hand pressed against his loverís face. Some emotion flashed through the dark eyes before the lids closed and the playboy found himself being kissed once more. His other hand sought out the lubricant, which he promptly put to good use.

Aya gasped and broke off the kiss, choking out his name. It became a chant as Yohji pushed into the manís body, groaning at the tight heat clenching around his cock. "Oh, fuck, youíre so beautiful kitten. Made for me, I swear. Just. So. Tight." It was perfect. He started to thrust faster and faster, the sound of his name and a pair of pansy-colored eyes filled with love and desire staring at him fueling his need to claim Aya as his. The smaller manís hips rose to meet his, hands digging into his ass to urge him forward even deeper. "Iím try-ing, love," he gasped, chest tightening with the sense of need. It always took him by the throat, how much he had to have this, Aya under him and lost in pleasure. When the redhead came he let himself go over the edge as well, crying out the manís name so loud he had to have woken up the others. Falling forward until he rested on his elbows, Yohji stared down at his lover.

There was a flush of pink on the pale face, Ayaís eyes closed shut and his mouth panting. Short of breath himself, Yohji bent his head to nuzzle the manís neck. Thin arms wrapped around his shoulders, hugging him tight. About to mention how much he loved the swordsman, Yohji was startled to hear a question. "Iím yours?" Looking at his lover, he couldnít decide if that had been directed at him or not, but decided to treat it as if it was. "Damn straight, kitten. Donít tell me you have been missing the point of all those possessive displays of mine, I need to do them a little more often or what?" Dark violet eyes glared at him for a moment, but were completely lacking in any real heat. Brushing back Ayaís hair, Yohji kissed him on the nose. "Guess thereís nothing left to do but to prove it to you." He was starting to get hard already, something about just being in the pale manís presence always played havoc with his hormones.

Yohji sat up and pulled Aya into his lap. Not about to complain about Kudoh demonstrating just how much he wanted him, the redhead only moaned as a demanding mouth attacked his neck. Fingers buried deep in wavy blond hair, he let that mouth and a pair of hands bring him back to a frenzied peak as he squirmed in the older manís lap. It never even registered on his senses when he was shifted around, one arm around his hips and the other his shoulders, pressing him back and down on Yohjiís hard shaft. All that mattered was the thick member shoving into him, filling him with heat and pleasure, the lips and tongue and teeth on the back of his neck, the hand pumping him in time to the languid thrusts. Everything slowed down as he leaned his head back, resting it on sweaty shoulder as the scent of musk, cigarettes and spice surrounded him. Between kisses the blond groaned out endearments and dirty talk, tumbled together into nonsense that warmed him nonetheless. He came with Yohjiís name on his lips, the man completely consuming his senses. When it was his boyfriendís turn he shivered to hear his name growled so possessively.

Once the two of them were cleaned up and Aya at least swathed in the comforter, hands pressed against Yohjiís chest and his head tucked under the blondís chin, the pale man noted that his sense of trepidation had been replaced by one of weary resignation and sorrow. Too tired from the nightís events to figure the feeling out, he drifted asleep to the sound of Kudohís gentle snores, hoping that he wouldnít have any more dreams.

*******

"Verdammt!" Nagi looked up from his game in time to watch Schuldig storm out of the house, tugging his hair back into a ponytail and slamming the door shut behind him. It was quite a change from less than an hour ago when the man had run up to his room with a big grin on his face. Shrugging his shoulders, the telekinetic gave up any hope of trying to figure his teammate out. At least Schuldig had taken his foul temper out of the house this time, Nagi didnít know what he would do if the German started to needle him about his feelings for Tot anymore. The past two weeks had been very bad, and heíd lost count of how many times heíd slammed the man into a wall. It was amazing that the house was still standing.

He turned his head again when Crawford came out of his office, an empty coffee mug in hand. "I take it that Mastermind has just left the house?"

"Yes. He seemed a little upset over something."

"Hm." Nagi felt himself still as a pair of cold blue eyes regarded him for a moment. "I have a task for you."

"Yes sir?"

"I want you to find out absolutely everything there is to know about Aya/Ran Fujimiya. School reports, doctorís notes, whatever can be dug up about the man from the moment he was born until the present, even a background check on his family. And crack the Kritiker database, I think you will find a lot of the answers there."

Setting his game on pause, the teenager stood to his feet. "And what answers are those?"

Crawford stared down into his mug as if it was a scrying glass. "What it is about the man that could make Mastermind fall in love with him. I want you to start on the job right away."

Nagi didnít move, unable to get the first sentence out of his mind. "Are you telling me that Schuldig is in love with someone? Schuldig? With a normal?" The last word was said in a voice dripping with disapproval. And the telepath had the audacity to mock him for being infatuated with a member of Schreient?

The American lifted his head and tilted it to the side, normally impassive face marred by a slight furrow of dark brows. "Is he?" After having uttered the cryptic comment, Crawford silently walked into the kitchen. Letting out a puff of air, Nagi bent down to save his game. He wasnít the precog of the group, but something told him that he wouldnít be returning to play it anytime soon.

*******

Yohji let out a moan as a loud droning sound shattered the dream of Aya wearing only a collar and a pair of catís ears licking whipped cream off of his body. Coming to, he realized he hadnít quite imagined the whole thing as a certain redhead squirmed on top of him, trying to get free of the stranglehold he had on the man so as to shut off the alarm. "Ku-doh, let me go." The last came out as a squeak as he tightened his arms around Aya. "Not a chance, kitten. Mmm, you sure do make waking up fun." Yohji bent his head to nuzzle the hissing manís ear.

"Kudoh, we have to open the shop. Schtop ich." Not wanting to hear about work so early in the morning, the blond had decided on the best way to silence his lover. A nip to his questing tongue had him jerking his head back in a hurry though. "Ouch, watch the teeth, dammit."

Dark violet eyes glared at him, promising all sorts of violence if Aya wasnít freed soon. "Let go of me, we have to get up."

"Tough, I wanna play." A gold-toned hand ran teasing up a pale back and tangled in the hair at the nape of Ayaís neck. The redhead shivered in response, eyes drifting shut for a moment before snapping back open.

"Later, Kudoh. Now let go or else."

With a sigh Yohji hugged his lover tight, pressing the air out of the squirming swordsman. He recognized the threat in his loverís voice. "You promise?" When a scowling Aya nodded his head he kissed the man on the nose and let him go. "You know Iím going to take you up on the offer the first opportunity I get today."

Having scooted off the bed as quickly as possible when heíd been freed, Aya snagged his yukata and cautiously inched back towards his lover. He returned the gesture of affection and smoothly stepped away from a pair of reaching arms. "At least then the shop will be ready for the day. Iím getting a shower, _you_ stay here." Yohji had to smile at the comment as he reached for his cigarettes.

Just when he had finished his smoke Aya came back into the room. "That was quick." All he got in response was a grunt. Tossing back the sheets and stretching his arms as he stood up, Yohji crossed over to stand behind the smaller man in front of the closet. He reached out to snag a dark purple cashmere sweater of his. "Here, wear this, itíll look good on you." And it matched the color of Ayaís eyes this morning. The redhead looked over his shoulder at him for a moment but took the garment after pulling out a pair of black jeans. What a surprise there. Yohji stepped back to let the man walk past him and open his underwear drawer. Hm, red silk boxers today, one of the pairs that he had bought. The blond looked forward to stripping them off of his lover later.

When he was dressed Aya let himself be pulled into an embrace and returned a quick kiss. After admonishing the older man to behave and get ready, he walked out of the room, rolling up the sleeves of the sweater as he went, detouring by the nightstand to snatch up a pair of shades. Entering the kitchen, he found Omi waiting for him, cup of tea in hand. "Here you are, heard you getting a shower. I was beginning to get afraid that I would have to drag the two of you out of bed. I have to leave in a minute, but the club meeting shouldnít last long. Count on me being back in time for the lunch rush."

Aya nodded his thanks and took a sip of the hot beverage. His stomach, just starting to get upset from his medication, settled the slightest bit. Seeing the full pot resting on the counter, he quietly murmured a Ďthank youí to the boy.

"No problem, I know how much you need it in the morning." Slipping his backpack on, Omi took a moment to run a critical eye over his friend. The swordsman was too pale once again, and looked tired and drawn. And he was wearing those dark glasses; lately he never left the house without them on. The teenager felt a slight heat on his cheeks as he thought that part of the manís appearance could be attributed to the aftermath of the coupleís fight last night. Yohji had woken him up from a sound sleep, the blond had been that loud. For a moment Omi felt a stab of pity for Ken, and what heíd endured before switching rooms with Aya. "Everything okay, Ayan? You didnít get hurt during the mission last night, did you? Things all right between you and Yohji?"

"Iím fine. You need to leave or youíll be late." The older man watched in silent as Omi glanced at the time and let out a yip. He didnít want to talk about the previous evening, any of it. Aya didnít believe that Yohjiís apology had been false, heíd forgiven the man and it was time to move on. Schu and the mission didnít bear any thinking about, not right now. Pouring himself a second cup of tea, he was a bit surprised to see Yohji stroll into the kitchen. Usually the man took forever in the bathroom.

Catching the amazed expression on his kittenís face, Yohji smiled wickedly as he stopped in front of the man, pulling him away from the counter and against his body. "You donít have to look like that, you know. Like the world is coming to an end. I merely figured that the sooner we get started on setting up the shop, the sooner my Ďlaterí will come."

"Arenít you ever satisfied, Kudoh?" Aya shivered as calloused fingers ran up and down the side of his neck, pushing aside the high collar. He wrapped his arms around Yohjiís shoulders and tilted his face up.

"Never, love. Not when it comes to you at least."

"Huhn. We really do need to look into you being neutered, like Omi suggests."

Pushing up first his shades and then Ayaís, Yohji rubbed their noses together. "Didnít hear you complaining about anything last night. Might want to reconsider that plan before doing something so drastic." Wanting to get off a topic that made him inwardly cringe, he captured the smaller manís mouth and set out to prove just how beneficial his abundance of libido was. As if from a distance he heard the kitchen door open, but what was more important was Aya stiffening in his arms. Growling as the kiss was ended, he turned to snap at Omi for forgetting whatever it was heíd left behind. And was startled to see the rumpled, grumpy figure standing there with arms crossed over a narrow chest. "Stout! What the hell are you doing here? How did you get a key to the house?"

The longhaired man did a very good Fujimiya impression. "Hn. How the hell do you think I got the key? Kritiker gave it to me. Iím here to pick up some Ďequipmentí, got my ass rung out of bed so I could get it to the cleaners and back for tonight. You have any idea how long itís been since Iíve been up this early?" He ran a hand through his mussed hair, a frown on his normally cheerful face. As if a switch had been tossed Teddy straightened up and leered. "Oh well, at least I got to see some juicy stuff. You guys didnít have to stop for me, you know."

"Stout." Yohji held his lover close, he recognized that tone of voice and didnít want to have to clean up any more blood right now. "Get the stuff and leave. Bagís in the washroom."

Ignoring the snarled instructions, Teddy merely helped himself to some coffee and sat down at the table. "I have a few minutes. Besides, I really need the caffeine fix." Sparkling blue eyes regarded the couple for a moment. "You guys are just so cute together. Even got the almost matching sunglasses." He shifted his vision over to a scowling blond. "So I hear that you think Robertson will come in tomorrow night. That means your weekend is free. Which is good, Ďcause Iíve got tickets for the Eroica Trio this Saturday. Meet Koyu and I at Umi in the Shibuya district at five for an early dinner, then we will catch the show."

"Listen, Teddy, you just canít-"

"The Eroica Trio? What are they playing?" Yohji stopped the tirade that Aya had interrupted and blinked down at his boyfriend. Who was actually looking at their pest with something other than fury on his face.

Teddy smiled, knowing that heíd won. Kudoh might be in charge of certain Ďareasí of the coupleís relationship, but he knew that if he snagged Fujimiyaís interest the blond would have no choice but to give in. Somehow he doubted that Red was the real amorous type when he was pissed off. "Tchaikovsky, I believe, maybe Stravinsky. Koyuís the expert, he told me to buy them, so I bought them. Theyíre really good seats, too."

"Hn."

Yohji felt a wave of dread wash over him. That wasnít an angry Ďhní. Dammit, somehow Teddy had gotten to Aya. "Weíre really not going along with this, are we? Youíre talking about classical music, arenít you?" He hated classical music. Give him a good rock song any day, no sense listening to something that was hundreds of years old. When his lover nodded he opened his mouth to complain.

"The trio is composed of three attractive young women, Kudoh. You can sit there and drool while the rest of us appreciate the music." That comment earned Aya a scowl, which gradually relaxed into a contemplative look. "Just how good looking are they?" Yohji let out a yelp as a bony elbow scored a direct hit on his ribs.

Laughing as he stood up, Teddy made his way in the direction Aya had pointed out earlier. "I just love watching the two of you, could stay here all day. But I have to get going. See you later when I return the gear." The redhead took advantage of Yohjiís relaxed hold to step away and head down to the Koneko. After a minute the American returned with a dark garbage bag in his hands. "Itís still squishy, I donít think I want to know what is in here."

Rubbing his side, Yohji recalled what was in the bag, and the request he had made the day before. "Hey, Stout." When a pair of blue eyes turned his way, the blond continued on in a quiet voice. "About yesterday, tell Mickey not to bother. Got some answers from Aya after all, and I donít think itís something that your brother should be sticking his nose into. Sorry for asking in the first place."

Teddy slung the bag over his shoulder and wrinkled his nose. "Too late, Mickey already started, but he didnít come up with much. Just something about a test. I was going to mention it to you later." Turning to open the door, he missed how the older manís face paled suddenly. "You should have seen Mickey, he hates to be stumped on something. You didnít hear this from me, but I think a certain organization is in for a little cyber hacking. Ja."

Shaking off the fear he felt for his lover, Yohji lit a cigarette with trembling hands and made his way to the flower shop. He found Aya dragging some of the large plants towards the door. "Here love, let me get that. Iíll set up, you do the arrangements." For once he received no argument, and the next hour passed in relative quiet. When the first customer of the day left with a purchase, Yohji leaned against the redheadís worktable. "So, you have another mission for tonight, right? Thought you mentioned that the other day, and thatís why Teddy had to pick up your gear."

The pale man nodded, wary where the query was leading. Remembering what had happened last night and the conclusion he had reached, Yohji asked only two more questions. "Is it going to be like last night? Will you be in any danger?"

"No, itís not like last night." Aya wished it was. "Itís a lot simpler, just one man, no security to speak of. If things go well, it should only take me an hour or two total." He wouldnít think of what would happen if things went bad, and fervently wished that it wouldnít be the case tonight. "I should be fine." He watched the older man, waiting to see his reaction.

All Kudoh did was reach out a hand to first brush back his bangs and then tugged softly on an eartail. "Please be careful." Instead of being smacked away his hand was grabbed and rubbed against a high cheekbone. That action always brought a smile to his face. "You are such a cat, love. Iím gonna to do a DNA test on you one day and find out that youíre mostly feline. All thatís missing are the whiskers and ears."

Going along with the teasing, the smaller manís lips curved into a slight smile. "What about a tail?" Trust Yohji to make him forget about the sorrow that had inexplicably settled inside of him ever since last night. Even if only for a moment or two.

"I think," Yohji drawled in a seductive voice, "that it would just get in the way. You know, as soon as you finish the orders and Omi comes back we can get down to that Ďlaterí you promised me." He smiled as Aya glanced back at the greenhouse, a hint of a blush on his cheeks. "I know I am counting the minutes until I have you naked and bent over a table, me buried so deep inside of you." It was hard to suppress a moan as the smaller man licked his lips and a gleam of passion entered the dark eyes. Half tempted to just drag Aya back to the hot house then and there, Yohji was startled to find himself shoved away from the workstation. "Go away, Kudoh, thatís not happening until I get the flowers done." Dammit, he hated how his lover could read his mind sometime.

Once more stationed behind the register, the blond killed some time by reading a magazine and ringing up the few customers who wandered into the shop this early in the morning. One good thing about school being out for another week or two meant that there would be no fan club mobbing them in the afternoon. Some of the girls trickled in throughout the day, but most were away on vacations. Checking the clock ever couple of minutes, waiting for the time Omi said his meeting would last to, Yohji felt himself grow more and more impatient.

After what seemed a small eternity, the chibi finally showed up, cheerfully shouting out Ďtadaimaí. Instead of the expected Ďokaerií, all he got in return was an apron tossed in his face and the sight of Yohji dragging Aya back to the greenhouse. Shaking his head, Omi took over the cash register and hoped that the playboy was a little quieter today. Last thing he needed was any customers hearing Yohji scream out his loverís name at the top of his lungs again, that might scare a few away.

Back in the conservatory Yohji was simultaneously trying to kiss Aya breathless while tearing off the manís clothes. When his lover started to protest, all he did was cover Ayaís mouth and glare at him. "Itís Ďlaterí, and you promised. There is no way Iím going to be able to get through the day without having you right now." To illustrate his point he rocked his pelvis against the redheadís, letting the man feel his erection. "So get naked and bend over."

Aya bit the hand covering his mouth and growled. "How romantic." But the look on Yohjiís face had him complying anyways, it was the exact opposite of the one that had shattered him last night. Love and want was infinitely better than disgust. Pulling off his clothes, he paused in folding his sweater and placing it on a stool to raise an eyebrow. "What about you?" Yohji burst into action, not seeming to care where his clothes landed. He made sure to palm something from his pocket before his pants were sent flying. Before Aya could pull his shorts down, a pair of gold-skinned hands were on his, stopping the movement. "I wanna do that."

Running his hands down the long legs as he removed the boxers, then back up once they were off, Yohji couldnít stop staring at his lover. Aya was just too pale and beautiful for words. "Kudoh, we donít have the time for this, itís almost lunchtime."

"Such an impatient kitten." Yohji stood up and herded Aya back until he bumped into a table. Taking a moment to kiss the redhead, he drank in the feel of all that cool, smooth skin pressing against his own. Once they were short of breath Yohji grabbed hold of Ayaís hips and turned him around. "Fine by me if we speed things up, been wanting this since I woke up." One hand prepared his lover while the other stroked him hard, making the smaller man gasp out his name and shudder. When he felt that Aya was ready the blond slathered some of the lube on his shaft and pushed inside of the manís tight body.

"Gods, Ay-a." All the redhead could do was moan in response, bracing his forearms on the formica tabletop, Yohjiís thrusts making him stand on his toes. The older manís hand was wrapped around his cock, trapped between the table and his body. Yohji pounded into him with increasing speed, driving deeper with each thrust until he couldnít breath anymore, just gasp for air. All he saw were sparks from each time his lover brushed against his prostate. Chest tight, he exploded in a rush, sinking down on the table while Yohji kept thrusting, growling out his name over and over. Another minute and Aya felt a series of hot spurts fill him, Yohji crying out and shaking above him.

For a moment he let the man rest on top of him, but it wasnít very comfortable to be bent over a table, a hot sticky man pressing him down into the hard surface. "Kudoh." Something was mumbled into his ear and then blond pulled out of him, collapsing on the table next to him. Standing on a pair of shaky legs, Aya stood near Yohji until his heart calmed down and his breathing evened. "You areÖ." At a loss for words the pale man shook his head and wearily searched for something to clean himself up with.

"Indescribable? Amazing? The best lover in the world? It was great for me too, love." A pair of pansy-colored eyes were rolled in his direction, followed by a wad of paper towels. Wiping himself and the tabletop clean, Yohji started to pick up his clothes and out them on. When Aya was dressed and looking to depart, he dropped his shirt to grab the manís wrist and stop him. Ignoring the glower his action earned him, Yohji kissed his lover. "Ai shiteru. Should have said that last night, instead of all the shit that came out instead."

Once more shaking his head, Aya grabbed the hand tilting his face up and entwined their fingers together. "You donít have to mention that anymore." Tasting Yohjiís lips again, he tried to pull away and was prevented.

"We need to talk about it someday, Aya." About how Kritiker used him and how a few words could break the man down. Yohji didnít want to see his boyfriend taken advantage of anymore. And he wanted Aya to be able to move past the damage his father had done to his self-esteem. Somehow the older man knew that the two were connected, that the organization was using Ayaís need to succeed and appease just as much as to pay Aya-chanís medical bills. But taking in the shadows that appeared in the redheadís eyes, he didnít push at the moment. "Guess it will have to wait for another time. Omiís probably freaking out, all alone up front." He took a moment to adjust the collar of the cashmere sweater, covering the marks he had made last night. "Thanks for keeping your promise."

Aya snorted in response. "As if you wouldnít have pounced on me in the middle of the shop if I hadnít come back here."

Smiling at the image that sprung to mind, Yohji held the door open for the pale man to walk through. "Can you just picture it? Omi having a fit while some poor elderly woman walks into the shop and has a heart attack, seeing us going at it on the floor? Or worse, trying to join in?" That got him a slight smile, a lessening of the shadows. "Still think I need to be neutered?"

"Hell yes."

"Hmm, I must be slipping then." He mock grabbed at Ayaís wrist, pretending to try and drag him back into the greenhouse. "Still need to do a little more convincing." The slender man just danced out of his reach, gracing him with a raised eyebrow and a twist of the lips. About to give chase in earnest, it was Yohjiís turn to be grabbed and dragged away against his will, this time by Omi who hauled him up to the register. "Stay here and wait on the customers," the boy hissed out, frazzled from dealing with the start of the noon rush by himself. That said, he rushed off to help Aya with all their clientele.

When the rush finally died down, Omi stalked over to the older blond and planted himself in front of him, a frown on his face. "Canít you control yourself at all?"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Youíre always dragging poor Ayan off to molest him, not matter where you are or whatís going on. Didnít you get enough last night, it sure sounded like it!"

Flushing slightly, Yohji pulled out a cigarette and chewed on the filter. "Why am I always the one getting yelled at? It takes two to tango, if you know what I mean. Maybe you should go over and scream at Aya for a little bit." Which, being highly intelligent, Omi was sure not to do. Obviously there was a benefit for being known as a short-tempered homicidal swordsman. "But no, Iím always the bad guy."

"Because I donít see Aya hauling you off to the greenhouse, itís always the other way around! As if he stood a chance against an experienced pervert like you." Blinking his eyes at the statements, Yohji idly wondered if they were discussing the same redhead. He had more than enough bruises to prove that when Aya wasnít in the mood, he really wasnít in the mood. However, before he could snap back that Omi was just jealous and frustrated, a customer walked into the shop. It was a non-descript man in his forties, and for some reason Yohji swore heíd seen him before. The man quickly glanced around and headed straight for Aya. Looking back at Omi, he was startled to find the boy no longer angry but worried, staring after the stranger.

Watching the man more studiously, Yohji observed his lover frown ever so slightly at the customer, moving about quickly to assemble his request. He couldnít tell, what with the grey glasses, but it looked as if Aya was upset about something. Once the order was complete the redhead nodded in the direction of the register and hurried off to the storeroom. As soon as the man paid and left, Yohji went after his lover. He found him with an armload of ribbons and cellophane, clearly destined for the front of the shop. "There a problem, kitten?"

"No." Having gathered enough supplies, Aya turned to find his way blocked. "Kudoh." The growl failed to budge the blond. Giving a sigh as he recognized the look on Yohjiís face, the smaller man elaborated his answer. "I donít like that man. Something about him sets me on edge."

"He try anything with you?" There was no mistaking the possessiveness in the blondís voice.

Shaking his head, Aya replied no. Yohji treated him with an inscrutable look for a moment, then reached out to grab several of the thick rolls in his arms. "Well, let me know if he does, Iím just dying to find out how youíll make me pay for chucking a pot at some would be suitorís head."

"If itís this man, I wonít do or say a thing."

*******

"Thereís still some rice left, if you want it Aya-kun." Shaking his head, the quiet man gracefully rose from the table, placing his plate in the sink. Omi frowned a little, then turned to look at Yohji. Looking back and forth between the blond, the leftover food, and the redhead, it took a moment for the former detective to get the hint.

"Hey love, that wasnít much of a dinner, how Ďbout some dessert? I have more of that ice-cream you like so much."

"Iím not hungry." Aya filled a pot with water and set about doing the dishes while it heated up. Omi let out a little hmph of irritation, hating it when his nurturing urges were thwarted. Normally he would push the matter a little more, but the pale man was obviously tense about his mission that evening, and it wouldnít be a healthy thing to try and change his mind right now. Judging from the way Aya had returned last night, he most likely had cause to be upset. Still, Omi couldnít get Mastermindís voice out of his head, saying that when his teammate used his talent, he expended energy that needed to be replaced. And it was very clear that the redhead had used his talent at some point last night, what with the way his eyes had darkened. The teenager was very grateful that Aya had had on his shades earlier today when Aster had shown up, and that Yohji had decided to have his fun before the lunch rush and not after.

Omi sat there while Yohji stood up and walked over to his boyfriend, starting to massage the manís shoulders. Aya appeared grateful for the hands kneading his stiff muscles, and some of the tension left the slender build. While happy that the couple were no longer sniping at each other, loud shouts in the nights and being abandoned in the shop aside, the teenager was a bit jealous all the same. Heíd tried his best to get through to Ken in the past two weeks, and had failed miserably. Looking at the brunet from underneath his lashes, Omiís breath caught to see the same mixture of envious longing on the manís face as he watched the couple. Ken clearly wanted a relationship, why the hell was he being so stubborn and skittish? The youth was startled from his thoughts when the kitchen door burst open. "Tadaima!"

"Ah, Teddy, what are you doing here?" Omi fingered a chopstick, if the man made one more move on Ken he would find out the painful way just how dangerous a stick of wood could be.

"What, is no one happy to see me?"

"Do you really want us to answer that? And this isnít your damn house, why donít you try knocking instead of barging in?" Yohji stopped the massage in favor of lighting a cigarette. Aya had just gone all stiff anyways when the American had shown up, his hard work ruined. His boyfriend stepped away from the sink to take the bag that Teddy had brought.

Teddy handed it over with a smirk. "But if I knocked, Iíd miss out on all the delightful little make-out sessions between you and Red. Who would not want to see that?" Seeing the food on the table, he immediately sat down and helped himself. "You guys are such good cooks, you know that? I miss working at restaurants, used to have free meals all the time. Now I have to make them myself, and Iím a disaster in the kitchen." All of this was said as he shoveled shrimp fried rice into his mouth.

Not paying any attention to the foreigner, Aya opened the bag and shook out his coat. The cleaners had done a good job, all traces of blood were gone. "You got a thing for buckles there, Red? You seem the kinky type." Teddy was glared at for this observance, while Ken tried his best to swallow a laugh. With a nod of his head the swordsman quietly left the room, Yohji frowning after him. He hoped that Aya finished the mission quickly, he hated to see his lover this sad and upset.

"Okay, Stout, youíve finished your errand and eaten all our food, whatís next on the agenda?"

"Iíd tell you, but then Iíd have to kill you." The three assassins snorted in unison. "Hey, never underestimate the small ones. The chibi," a chin was jerked in Omiís directions, "will back me on this." Teddy got to his feet and raided the fridge for a can of soda. "Iíll be back in a day or two, what with the Robertson mission right around the corner. Be good little boys while Iím gone." He then breezed out as suddenly as he came in.

Ken just shook his head as he stared at the door. "That man is weird. Oh well, Iím gonna go watch a game on tv, anyone want to join me?" He looked warmly at Omi.

"Sorry, Ken-kun, but Iím going to be on my computer all night, making sure that Robertson is indeed showing up tomorrow. Think I have his alias tagged now." At the brunetís crestfallen expression he smiled apologetically. "Can I have a rain check?"

"Sure, Omi." At least the man still wanted to spend time with him. Now to get Ken over this annoying Ďjust friendsí phase and heíd be very happy.

Rolling his eyes at his younger teammates, Yohji made his way upstairs. Where, unsurprisingly enough, he found Aya in their room getting ready for his mission. "Itís still a little early, isnít it?"

Looking up from his buckles, Aya nodded his head. "Iím going to stop and see my imouto on the way." He wanted to make sure she was fine, there was a stab of pain in his chest every time he thought of her lately. Plus, taking in the fact that it was late in the evening, it was extremely unlikely that any psychiatrist would nab him. Coat all finished, he picked up his katana and walked over to his boyfriend. "Iíll be back late."

"Iíll be waiting up." Yohji carefully wrapped his arms around the leather clad man, and when not rebuffed kissed him on the lips. "Be careful, alright?" Aya just nodded his head and left the room. Sinking down on his bed, Yohji reflected on the fact that it would be one hell of a long evening, waiting for his lover to safely come home.

*******

Watching the lights go off in the house in succession, Aya waited until the only one left was in the den. Moving very quietly, he made his way to the rear door and used the key that Kritiker had supplied him. Fortunately it actually worked, unlike the code from last night. Which was a good thing, while his shield of warmth once more surrounded Aya, it was nowhere near as intense as it had been for the previous mission. Not that he needed it so much with this assignment, except for the wonderful sense of distance it supplied. What he most wanted right now was some luck.

Quietly making his way to the den, the assassin took a deep breath, needing to time this just right. After several minutes he felt something urge him into the room. In a flash of blinding speed he crossed over to the desk, surprising the man seated behind it, who had twisted to the side to gather some papers. Aya immediately made sure he couldnít make a sound, standing behind the man and forcing him back into his chair.

The target, a thirty-something man with cropped hair, went stiff as a leather gloved hand covered his mouth, the other one around his throat. "Donít make a sound, or your family will pay for it." The voice was deep and hushed, the accent bearing evidence of a good education somewhere here in Tokyo. Even now, with what was most likely his death here in the room with him, the man couldnít stop putting his investigative skills to work. Tears streamed down his face and he started to hyperventilate when the realization finally hit home. "Do you know why Iím here?"

He nodded. The hand across his mouth loosened enough to allow him to speak, but the one around his throat tightened, until he was only able to rasp out the question. "My family?"

"Wonít be harmed, as long as they do not interrupt us. My word on that." What were the chances that they had sent him an assassin who would keep his promise? Not that he had any choice right now. The man nodded his head, showing that he understood.

"You want the files, right? All of my notes?"

"Yes."

Brown eyes closed for a moment, thinking back on his latest investigation, the rumor of an organization that deployed assassins to take care of criminals that escaped justice. Heíd only just begun finding any real evidence that supported the urban legend, and now he was paying the ultimate price for it. "Everything is here on my pc, and in my briefcase over there." A hand was waved in the direction of the left side of his desk. "I didnít want to risk anyone running across my notes. I swear." A sudden thought occurred to him. "My wife, I swear I didnít tell her anything, she is never interested in my work, complains it takes too much time away from the kids, she doesnít want to he-mph." The hand was back over his mouth, causing his panic to rise. For several minutes he sat there, body trembling in fear of what was going to happen next.

"You know how this has to appear, donít you?" Again with the deep, quiet voice. The reporter imagined his killer as a large man, brutish and dark, like some villain out of a movie. Stop that, he ordered himself, panic was making him silly. Answer him before he gets mad, you canít afford to antagonize him. "Yes. You donít want it to look like a murder, do you?" Even with his death standing behind him, he felt proud of the fact that the brain heíd taken such pride in could still think, put the pieces together. No, the manís employers wouldnít like it to look as if heíd been killed, a suicide would be so much neater. Yet another man who had worked too hard, with too many bills piling up, taking his life. Nothing new now in days. And he did have the bills, thatís why heíd taken the chance to cover such an absurd story. If even a part of it was true, heíd have a career making scoop.

"Yes."

The hand around his throat loosened and searched at a drawer in his desk. As if knowing what was in there, the assassin pulled out a sharp letter opener that heíd just received as a gift this past week, from one of his editors. His breath caught in his throat. Was that how they had found out? He would have sworn that he could trust Watanabe, how wrong he had been. Trembling in shock and fear, he watched as the sharp object was placed in his hand, and then the limb lifted to his throat. "Please, my family, donít hurt them."

"Do this quietly, and there wonít be any need for me to harm them."

He gripped the knife tightly, suddenly just wanting to get this over with. If it meant his family lived, he wouldnít make a sound. As if in slow motion, he watched as a black gloved hand lifted his own, the letter opener bright with reflected light. The man relaxed his arm muscles, letting the assassin guide his aim. There was a flash of movement, and before he knew it he was choking on something that had been shoved through his throat, up into his mouth. There wasnít even any pain, just the choking sensation. The arms around him loosened, letting him fall forward. Head jerking to the side, the last thing that the reporter saw was his killer. A beautiful pale man, hair red like the blood that was spreading out on his desk beneath him. As his sight dimmed, he wondered briefly if the Christians and their talk of angels hadnít been correct. Either that or he was imagining things. Still arguing with himself over the vision before him, the man silently passed away.

Aya looked down at the dead body of his target. That had gone infinitely better than he had thought. Now to insert the computer disc Kritiker had given him that would wipe out anything pertaining to the organization from the manís hard drive, then take the documents in the briefcase, and he could leave. Hopefully without the manís family ever knowing he was here. His orders were clear, kill the target and anyone who witnessed the hit. Moving to complete the mission, Aya desperately hoped he would be able to keep his promise to the man. He didnít even know the targetís name, Kritiker had never supplied it and he didnít want to know. In a matter of minutes the computer was taken care of, and the papers safe inside his coat to be destroyed later. Feeling something stir inside of him, Aya spun around to face the door. As if it was a dream, he watched the door, waiting for it to open. A small part of his mind noticed that he wasnít surprised in the least to see who it was who walked into the room.

"Guten Abend, Kštzchen."

*******

 

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