Nothing Gold Can Stay

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Chapter 5

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Gradually becoming aware of a droning, high-pitched buzz, Yohji begrudgingly woke up. His neck felt stiff as all hell, he was hot and sweaty, and there was an unconscious redhead resting on him. Not an altogether unusual circumstance, but usually it happened to be that they were in bed sleeping, not sitting on the couch. Damn, but was he sore. It slowly came back to him, the events a few hours ago; the strange, half-remembered dream and finding Aya awake and agitated, suffering from a nightmare and another of those killer headaches of his. Why the hell wasnít the medication working? Was Aya that stressed out over the upcoming medical exams?

The person in question just remained on his lap, not aware at all of the buzzing sound that normally had him jumping out of bed so he could set up the shop. That wasnít a good sign. It meant that the headache had to have been really bad last night, and the bottle of whiskey on top of those pills probably didnít help matters at all. Groaning as he forced stiff muscles to move, Yohji carefully rose from the couch, holding a limp Aya tight in his arms. As soon as he set his lover down on the bed the man started shivering, so the blond tucked the covers tight around the slender form. Jerking a hand through his hair, Yohji cursed softly. There was no way Aya was going to be able to open the shop, guess it fell to him to take care of the Koneko no Sumu Ie. On a day when he wasnít scheduled to work until the afternoon. Just fucking great. "Iím gonna kill the bastards for putting you through hell, kitten. Nobody messes with you and my sleep like this."

Brushing back ragged crimson bangs, Yohji bent down to kiss Ayaís forehead and went to get a shower. When he came back twenty minutes later he found that the redhead hadnít moved at all. Tucking the blankets in even tighter, he made sure the curtains were drawn and got dressed. Soon enough he made his way to the kitchen, brewing a pot of coffee with twice as much grounds as usual. He needed the extra caffeine kick this morning. After two cups Yohji felt fortified enough to head into the shop and start setting things up. It took him a little longer than usual, the playboy was unable to remember the last time heíd opened the Koneko with no help at all. Usually Aya was with him when he had the morning shift. That was the only reason he agreed to work before noon at all.

Yohji paused in the middle of sweeping the floor, a faint memory emerging from the recess of his mind. For a moment a voice teased through his thoughts, feminine with a trace of an accent, warning him about choosing the past. It had something to do with that strange dream heíd had last night, of some woman in a garden muttering obscure warnings. There was another flash as well, this time of Aya drawing Mastermind towards a bed, kissing the foreign bastard. His hands clenched tight against the wooden handle, causing it to creak in stress. Where the fuck had that come from? Again he heard the womanís voice, telling him the consequences of him choosing the past.

Great, Aya had officially driven him insane. He knew it would only be a matter of time, what with trying to figure out what went on in the swordsmanís head, but he had to be certifiable to even imagine for a _moment_ that Aya would ever willingly sleep with the Bastard. Nope, that was never going to happen. Not in a million years, no matter how much Mastermind tried to make it so. The kitten was _his_. No one else got to play with him, ever. Yohji wasnít ever going to let go of the man; moody, sneaky, short-tempered, quiet bastard that Aya was. Hell, he got to keep the redhead just on the principal of what heíd been through the past several months alone. And not even Asuka had ever gotten him out of bed this early, unless it involved a bucket of ice-cold water. Heíd paid his dues, and got to keep the prize in reward.

Now to prevent Kritiker from driving Aya crazy, what with the shit theyíd pulled on him this week alone. First those missions, and now the doctor visits. No wonder his lover was acting like a basket case, having to just take whatever the organization they worked for dished out, no options at all. For a moment the blond fantasized about bundling up Aya and driving off to Villa White, staying there for the next month or two. Things had been so good during their week up there, Aya had actually relaxed and had some fun. Which the man sorely deserved and needed. Not all this shit.

Shop all ready for the day, Yohji walked over to the counter, checking out the orders. "Fuck." The stack was huge, there was no way heíd be able to do all the arrangements before they needed to be done. It took him forever to do just one, trying hard to make something that a customer would actually pay money for. Maybe he could get a few simple ones out of the way, but a lot of these were too formal for his limited skill. "Guess thereís no hope for it." Resolutely he made his way back up stairs.

And bypassed his bedroom door for the one opposite it. Entering the room, he sat down on the twin bed and commenced shaking its occupant awake. "Hey kiddo, need you to wake up. Come on, show me those baby blues." The teenager only mumbled something and hid underneath the sheet, but Yohji remained persistent. "Come on, Omi, need you to come downstairs." Nothing. Leaning over his teammate, he whispered in Omiís ear. "Ken wants to take you out to breakfast, chibi. Said something about the two of you and lots of maple syrup."

"Ken?" Omi wearily opened his eyes, hearing the brunetís name mentioned. And didnít see the person he was expecting and longing to. "What? Yohji?" As soon as the youth emerged from the sheets Yohji snatched at him and yanked him upright. "Ah! Yohji, what are you doing? Let go of me, you pervert! Aya!"

A pair of green eyes were rolled dramatically. "Just waking you up, chibi. Someone stay up a little late last night surfing for some porn or what? Doing a bit of research for when Ken finally comes to his senses?"

Brain not quite functioning properly, Omi tried to make sense of the situation. Yohji was sitting on his bed, wasnít about to molest him, and it wasnít even nine oíclock yet. "Whatís the emergency this time? Is Ken and Aya alright?" The playboy only ever woke up this early if there was something going on. He struggled against the tangled sheets, eager to face whatever it was dressed and on his feet.

Yohji grabbed a hold of his arm and held him still. "Itís nothing that bad. Aya had another migraine last night, a nasty one. No way the man is going to get out of bed anytime today, so I opened the shop instead of him. Got everything done but the orders." Green eyes sparkled at him, though shadowed by worry and lack of sleep. "Thatís where you come in, chibi. Sorry, but donít think I can manage them without some help."

Patting the long fingers wrapped completely around his forearm, Omi smiled reassuringly. "Itís okay, Yotan. Sleeping in would be nice, but Iíd rather help you out. Is Aya all right?" As soon as he was released the youth headed for the jeans heíd tossed off the night before. A clean shirt, comb through his hair, and he was mostly ready to face the day.

"Besides the fact that heís not supposed to be having these headaches anymore? Just fucking peachy. You think thereís any coincidence between the timing and the news of the doctor visits? Kritiker needs to back the hell off." And the next time he saw Manx or Birman, Yohji planned on telling them just that. He got off the bed and headed for the door. "There some strong coffee on, Iíll be down in a couple of minutes." Omi nodded his head as he watched the older man leave, then made for the bathroom himself.

Once in his room Yohji sat down next to his boyfriend, threading his fingers through the crimson hair. Aya had curled up in a ball under the blankets. It was a constant wonder to the blond how the man could sleep that covered during the summer. Hell, the only reason he could stand the comforter being over him during the night was the fact that Aya was usually between him and it, a cool presence to the touch.

For a moment Yohji wondered what was really bringing on the headaches. Stress was definitely a part of it, they tended to spike when things were bad with the redhead, but maybe that wasnít the only factor. And then you had to consider how cold the man was anymore, nothing seemed to warm him up. Was all of this due to his power? Aya had been predicting things more and more often the past couple of months, was this the result of it?

Unfortunately, there wasnít an easy way for him to find out. The only psychics that he knew of wanted to kill him on the spot. And it would most likely be a very bad idea to talk to Aya about it. The redhead didnít want to hear anything that suggested he wasnít normal, mention the word Ďfreakí and it was as if you had hit the man. Look at what had happened earlier in the week, when he had carelessly called Aya inhuman. "You never make things easy, do you love. Does the word Ďhigh maintenanceí ring a bell?" It was most likely a good thing that Aya was dead to the world, or he would have been decked over that comment. Smiling a little, Yohji leaned over and pressed his lips to a pale forehead. "Thatís okay, I think Iíll keep you anyways." He kissed his lover, pulling back far enough to watch the manís face as he flicked an eartail against Ayaís nose. There was a slight increase in the furrow between the crimson eyebrows, and the covers inched up a little. Aw, the kitten was just too cute. Might as well have a little fun now, the older man knew that given the pain and most likely a hangover as well, the redhead was going to be a nightmare to be around later. Giving Aya one more kiss, Yohji stood up and walked away.

He found Omi busy on the arrangements when he returned to the shop. "That looks great, kiddo. Donít know how you and Aya manage to do stuff like that." For his part Omi just smiled as he rolled his eyes, it had been a very frustrating several months trying to get the former detective up to the level of floral arrangement that he currently was at. Blue eyes followed the lanky form as Yohji unlocked the door and lifted up the shutters, announcing to Tokyo that the Koneko was open for business. Before retreating to the register, Yohji leaned in the doorway and had a smoke. "Damn, gonna be a muggy one today."

"Well at least it isnít as hot as it was last summer. I thought I was going to melt for most of the season." It had made one long for winter, just to escape the heat and humidity. And of course once that season had arrived, Omi had started to wish that summer would hurry back. He shook his head at how feckless he could be at times. At least on some matters. "So what are your plans for tonight, Yohji-kun? Going out? Or are you going to stay home instead?"

"Huh, Iím supposed to meet Masato later at a new club that is opening." Yohji wondered if he should call and cancel their evening out. If he knew Aya half as well as he should by this point, the man wasnít going to insist that he stay home and baby him. Not exactly his loverís style. "Iíll figure out later if Iím going or not. What about you?"

The youth blushed slightly. "I was hoping to try and talk Ken into going to a movie tonight. Thereís this science fiction one playing down the street that I think heíll like."

"And then try a move in the dark? Naughty chibi," Yohji leered. "I have a better movie theatre in mind. Why donít you take him to the one by the Ishii department store?"

It took Omi a moment to realize which one his friend was referring to. "Yohji! That- that place is _nasty_! How can you suggest that?"

Still leering at the younger blond, Yohji flicked away his cigarette and strolled over to the register. "Come on, maybe itíll get the boy all hot and heavy to see all that naked flesh writhing on the screen. It could give him a few ideas. And no one will mind if the two of you get it on while youíre watching. They might even suggest some pointers." Oh, it was too funny, watching the chibi do his best carp impression, all red in the face.

"I- oh, YOHJI!" Three mums and a roll of ribbon were tossed at the playboy with deadly accuracy. "Poor Aya, putting up with such a pervert like you. No wonder he has these headaches! Youíve probably dragged him off to that place yourself."

A customer entering the shop prevented Yohji from commenting on the improbability of that statement, considering the fact that he was still alive. The normal Friday pace soon took over, the two assassins busy with customers seeking flowers for the weekend, making arrangements and tending the plants. But not so busy that Yohji couldnít keep dropping a few Ďhelpfulí suggestions whenever he could. Omi blushed so often that several of the clientele commented that the heat must be getting to him, urging the teenager to take a break and cool off. The older blond would only chuckle when this happened, and was prepared to dodge whatever was at hand that his teammate would throw whenever the customers left.

*******

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, Ken wiped away some of the condensation and tried to decide if he should get a haircut that weekend. The bangs were a bit on the shaggy side, in his face almost as much as Ayaís were. Most likely would be a good idea to get them trimmed then, he didnít understand how the swordsman could still wield his katana so accurately when he was half blind. As if summoned by the thought, Aya burst into the bathroom.

"What the hell?" Ken jumped back as the door was thrown open, a very pale redhead stumbling over to the toilet. "Okay, Aya, this isnít funny anymore! What is with your sudden fascination to see me naked and wet?" He barely managed to catch his towel before it slid off his hips, and then almost lost it again as he stared at the other man in shock. Aya was kneeling on the floor, throwing up into the toilet. "Hey, uhm, are you alright?" There was no answer, just the other man racked with a case of the dry heaves.

After several minutes Aya slumped against the wall, skin pure white and clammy. The brunet had noticed while his friend was being ill that he wasnít dressed for work, in fact appeared to have just crawled out of bed. Aya had to be really sick if he wasnít down in the flower shop, he was scheduled for the open shift that morning. Glancing out the open door, Ken waited for Yohji to come in and take care of their leader. Nothing. Just the two of them, him holding the towel tightly around his waist and Aya, eyes closed and taking deep breaths through his mouth, as if trying hard not to throw up again.

Shit. Guess it was up to him then. Leaning over, Ken snagged a couple of tissues and carefully offered them to Aya. It took a moment for the pale man to notice them, once they were brushed against his nose the dark violet eyes snapped open in a violent glare. The look softened somewhat when he realized what the athlete was offering him. "Hn." Aya wiped at his mouth, but otherwise didnít move any from the floor or wall.

Ken debated if he should lend any other assistance. It wouldnít do to lose a hand or another body part trying to help pick the short-tempered man off of the floor. No matter how many liberties Aya let Yohji have with his personage ever since their relationship had started, the younger WeiŖ had quickly learned that it wasnít extended to them. Aya might bite their heads off a little less, talk to them a little more, but still didnít appreciate anyone but the older blond touching or being affectionate with him. Well, Omi could get away with a little, certainly more than he could, but that still wasnít saying much. "You need any help there?" That seemed a safe route to take.

The dark purple eyes again opened to glare at him. There was a slight shake back and forth of the red maned head, quickly arrested with a hiss and eyes closing once more. Ken assumed that Aya was having another of his headaches. Knowing that Aya couldnít quite help being such a cold bastard, what with the pain and all, Ken refused to let the refusal get to him. Instead he reached into the medicine cabinet, pulling out two of the bottles he found there. Next came filling up a paper cup of water, and the brunet then knelt in front of the hurting man. "Here, why donít you take these."

Aya stared at the medication for a moment, then held out a shaking hand for them to be deposited onto. Ken shook out one pill each from the bottles. He then handed over the water, half of which ended up spilled on the baggy sweatshirt Aya was wearing. Once the pills were swallowed he waited another couple of minutes, eyes never leaving the redheadís face. There was no lessoning of the lines of pain and stress, but after a while the eyelids drifted back open. For a moment the two men just stared at each other, Ken feeling more and more uncomfortable. Why did this have to happen to him? Yohji was the manís lover, he would have had Aya off the floor and tucked into bed in seconds, and Omi as the resident surgeon would have fussed and nagged and flitted about until the result was the same. But heíd never gotten along the greatest with the quiet man, not after the way they had met. Now here he was, uncomfortable as all hell and mostly naked, wondering what to do next.

As if reading his thoughts, Aya settled the matter for him. The redhead slowly forced his body upright, one arm clutching at his stomach, the other the wall for support. When it looked as if he was going to fall back down Ken snaked out a hand and grabbed a shoulder, keeping Aya on his feet. Once more treated to a grunt, Aya flashed those eyes in his direction, face set in a scowl, and then slowly walked away without a words. Surprised to not have been yelled at for his presumption, the soccer fanatic shook his head, a smile teasing at his mouth. It was shaping out to be a weird day, most definitely. He went to his bedroom to get ready for work, then had some breakfast.

Upon entering the Koneko he found out just how accurate that prediction was turning out to be. Omi was red-faced and flustered, tossing water reservoirs at a choking Yohji. Who seemed to be laughing way too hard to breathe. For a second he wondered if heíd entered a parallel universe, like on one of those American shows heíd seen. Omi was never this unprofessional while in the shop. "Uhm, everything all right here?"

Two pairs of eyes flashed over to him, and as impossible as it seemed the youth flushed even redder. Yohji actually fell onto the floor, clutching his sides as he sputtered out something about Ďnot forgetting about the butter trickí. At least that was what Ken thought the man had said. "Not to interrupt anything, Kudoh, but do you know your boyfriend was upstairs puking his guts out about twenty minutes ago?" The change was instantaneous, the older blond one moment on the floor and the next speeding up the stairs, face wiped of all traces of humor. Ken gazed quizzically at Omi.

Who for some reason seemed too embarrassed to meet his eyes. "Ayan had another of his migraines last night. Yohji and I had to get things ready this morning."

"Ah hell, Omi, and you were so looking forward to sleeping in." Ken frowned a little, staring at the circles under his friendís eyes. Of course Kudoh had dragged Omi out of bed, probably hadnít thought anything of it. It wasnít as if Aya was faking the illness, but if the redhead could open the shop all by himself, why the hell couldnít his lazy boyfriend? "Iím here now, if you want to go lie down for a couple of hours. Your shift doesnít start until two."

The boy smiled at him sunnily. "Thatís okay, Iím wide awake now. Had too much of Yohjiís special coffee." The blue eyes sparkled at him for a moment, then glanced away nervously. Omi set about cleaning up the mess he made, and to wait on a customer. When that was finished he drifted back over to the athlete and asked a question. "So, Ken-kun, you have any plans for the night?"

"Yeah, there is a game down at the sportís bar that I told a couple of guys I would come and watch after Iím done with my kids." The brunet stared on in amazement at the crestfallen expression that crossed over Omiís face for a fleeting second. There was no way he could have imagined that, not the way his chest was aching at the thought of causing his friend any pain. Before he could say anything Yohji came back into the shop.

"Ayaís conked out again, the medication must have taken quick." Yohji gazed longingly up at the ceiling for a moment, it was plain to see that he wished to have stayed upstairs with his lover instead of coming down to the Koneko. "I hope heís better in a little bit." He then proceeded to the front door, lighting a cigarette as he broodingly watched traffic pass by on the street. When a young woman came to the entrance way he tossed away the stick and held the door open with a bow. The woman giggled, flipping back her hair and smiling flirtatiously. Yohji happily made sure that she bought a huge bouquet of flowers before she left.

Tucking away the roll of tissue paper that he had wrapped the flowers in, he found Ken staring at him angrily. "Something wrong, Hidaka?"

"Why did you wake Omi up this morning? You should have just handled the shop yourself, or woke me instead. Itís his summer vacation, the last thing the boy needs is you making him work because of your own stupidity."

Suddenly pissed at what the other man was implying, Yohji stood up straight and looked down his nose at Ken. "And what the hell does that mean? We had some special orders, there was no way you or I were going to be able to assemble them, and I sure as hell wasnít going to disturb Aya. Omi at least isnít throwing up." He turned to go have another smoke, his nerves needing it, when Ken stepped into his way. "What the hell do you want now?"

"Bet you didnít even try to do the arrangements, it was just easier to dump the orders on Omi. And maybe if you werenít picking fights with your boyfriend so much, he would be feeling well enough to be down here right now. Canít you think of others at least once in your life, Kudoh?"

Feeling his hands clench into fists, the blond stopped himself from punching his coworker just in time. Oh no, he wasnít about to get into this right here. So Ken was miffed at him, probably more for Omiís sake than anyone elseís. But there was no reason for him to stand here and take it. "I wasnít supposed to be down here either until this afternoon, Hidaka. If I really hadnít given a shit I would have just gone back to bed or woken your ass up. But I didnít, so quit your bitching."

"As for whatís going on between me and Aya, you donít have a fucking clue. So be smart and mind your business." When the athlete looked as if he was going to say something else, Yohji jerked him close. "Maybe I should have woken you up first, but you arenít any better than me with the orders. Omi doesnít appear bothered that I got him out of bed, so back off. And keep in mind that you have no reason for this protective bullshit. Oh yes, thatís what it is, and I of all people should know" he said to a stunned Ken. "Youíre all over me like I would be to you if it you did something like this to Aya. But guess what, heís my boyfriend, and Omi is not yours. By your own stupid decision. So down with the hackles before I kick your ass, and start doing some thinking about just what the chibi really means to you." Feeling a bit better for finally getting some sense into Hidakaís thick head, Yohji let go of the younger man and walked away.

All Ken could do was stare after the blond, thinking of what he had just said.

*******

Collapsing on the bed, Aya curled up and continued to take deep breaths, refusing to throw up again. Firstly, he didnít have the energy to make it back to the bathroom, secondly there was nothing left in his stomach to bring back up. Clutching at his head, the pale man wondered how much of the pain was from the whiskey and how much a migraine. What the hell had he been thinking last night? Besides that he was going crazy. Whatever it was he didnít deserve to have woken up to so much pain and nausea.

At first he had been confused to find himself tucked into bed when his last hazy memory had involved Kudoh holding him close while they sat on the couch. Then all that had mattered was getting out of the bed and to the bathroom before he made a mess. While purging himself of what felt like everything heíd eaten the past week, Aya had recalled a bit more of the previous evening. Waking from a disturbing dream in pain, the awful emotions and images that had torn at him. Yohji finding him on the couch and offering comfort and assurances. It seemed like a dream, but he knew that it had actually happened that way. What he didnít understand was why.

Now he was feeling sleepy again, heavy lids drifting shut as the medication Ken had given him started to do its job. Dammit, he hated how weak and helpless these attacks left him. This one had to have been particularly bad, judging from the pain he felt and the worried expression on Hidakaís face. Guess he must look really awful for the brunet to be that afraid for him. For a moment he had another image of Ken flash through his mind, this time the younger manís face filled with a look of insane bliss. There was a brief flash of hurt through his head, and then unconsciousness.

When Aya woke an hour later he was aware of having dreamed of a hotel room, and the feeling of cold that pervaded his body. For a moment he thought that it was the previous night all over again, until he realized that it was too light in the room and that Yohji was gone. He felt a wave of despair wash through him before concentrating on the pain in his head to ground him. At least the headache had died down to a more bearable level, feeling as if heíd banged his head against a brick wall for a couple of hours as opposed to a dozen or more steel spikes being driven into it. A major improvement. Upon crawling out of bed he realized that the nausea however had not much abated. Win some, lose some. Removing his robe from the closet, he staggered down the hallway for the bathroom, intent on a hot shower. Maybe that would help to clear his head a little, and to rid him of the stench of vomit.

The shower was the highpoint of the morning, hot and steamy and long. Aya could feel some of his tension melt away, though he was forced to spend most of the time under the water leaning against a wall, still weak and dizzy. A little voice inside of his head called him all types of a fool and ordered that he get back in bed, but that was the last place he wanted to be right now. No more dreams. And definitely no more visions of him in a strange bed with a faceless person. Pain and nausea he was used to, they were much easier to deal with than images and emotions that threatened to drive him mad.

Once the water started to cool down he reluctantly left the stall, stepping out into a bathroom so filled with steam it was hard to breath. Aya didnít have the energy for anything other than a quick pat down, the yukata soaked up the water that still clung to him. Back in the bedroom he pulled on some silk boxers and a pair of grey cotton pants that he normally wore for practicing his katas. Which he had been neglecting to do so lately, what with the vacation and the missions, and now this. It wouldnít do to get out of shape and make a mistake one night, to let his guard down. As soon as he could hold his blade steadily in his hands he would be upstairs, of that there was no doubt in his mind. He could really use the peace of mind his practice sessions imparted to him.

Next came the orange sweater that his sister had given him. It had been her favorite color, and one that looked good on her, what with the dark hair and blue eyes. Aya could care less that it clashed with his own hair, what mattered was each time he put it on he could hear the girlís laughter. Could feel her presence for a precious second or two. As a finishing touch he wrapped one of Yohjiís cashmere scarves around his neck, still feeling cold. Catching a brief glimpse of himself in the mirror, the pale man had to admit that he looked like a fashion disaster. But he felt the slightest bit warmed, so to hell with his appearance. Before he left the room he made sure to grab his shades, needing some protection from the light that made his eyes and head ache even more.

Cautiously making his way downstairs, holding on to the railing so he didnít tumble down the steps, Aya made his way to the Koneko. He had some difficulty while walking through the kitchen, gagging at the smell of coffee and food. His stomach heaved in rebellion, and once more the little voice told him to get back in bed, phantom fingers combing through his hair. The sensation made him shiver, an echo of last night that had him focusing on the pain in his head as a distraction. It made his resolve to spend the day in the flower shop even stronger. There was no way he was going back to bed right now.

Aya had to pause on the steps leading to the shop, the world spinning around him. Upon entering the Koneko he came across a very stunned Omi, who could only gape at him as he shakily made his way to his worktable. "Aya-kun, are you sure you should be down here?"

"Hn." He sat down and was unable to control the impulse to rest his head on the hard surface. In a few minutes heíd start working, right now it had taken too much effort to just get there.

"Uh, Aya, you really donít look very well. Why donít you go back upstairs and lie down some more?" Great, now Tsukiyono was in league with the voice inside of his head. Traitors all around. Pansy colored eyes glared at the boy as dark thoughts filled Ayaís mind. Unfortunately the effort was mostly wasted, as Omi kept staring nervously at the door for some reason. So he rested his head back down on his arms. And resumed breathing through his mouth, stomach once more unsettled by the various scents assailing him.

Omi was filled with dread at the thought of the Kritiker agent Aster walking into the shop. It wouldnít be good for the man to see Aya like this, especially not if he was due for a physical. It would start the organization to wonder why the redhead was so pale and ill. Glancing about for Yohji, the teenager found the older blond busy flirting with two young women. He hurried over to the other side of the shop.

"No no, I really think you are more of the pink rose type. So soft and delicate and feminine, donít you agree?" Omi bit back on a gag, unable to believe that Yohji spent the day spouting lines like this to women who actually seemed to drink it up. "Wouldnít you say so, Omi?"

"We have some lovely pink roses, several varieties. Why donít I show them to you ladies." The young women frowned at him, clearly wanting Yohji to help them instead. For the playboyís part his eyebrows rose above his sunglasses as he looked questioningly at the young assassin. "Yotan, why donít you go assist _Aya_, heís in the back." As soon as he said the redheadís name Yohji whipped his head around, looking for his boyfriend. And started frowning as soon as he spotted him.

"Great idea there, chibi," Yohji gritted out. "Ladies, if you will excuse me, have to go help a colleague." Help carry the manís ass back upstairs ASAP. Heíd ask what the hell Aya had been thinking, coming downstairs like that, but knew that it wouldnít be worth the effort. It never was, trying to figure out the stubborn idiotís thoughts.

Stopping in front of the worktable he leaned a hip against it, slightly bumping the station. Aya quickly raised his head, letting out a hiss of pain. "Why arenít you in bed?"

"Not you too, Kudoh," Aya mumbled, settling his sunglasses more firmly on his face.

Yohji took in the pale face, drawn in pain, the slender form shaking, the way his lover was breathing through his mouth. "You do realize that youíd feel a hell of a lot better if you just slept for the day, donít you? So get your ass back to bed. Iím not about to let you be sick down here."

He realized that he could have phrased that better as soon as he saw Aya straighten up, arms crossing over his chest and crimson brows drawing down into a V. "Iím fine." Great, now it was down to a battle over who had the more stubborn nature, Ayaís mulishness raised by the over-protective comment.

So what his choices came to was either let the masochist work until he was so sick he passed out, and maybe make himself even more ill, have a screaming fight and drag him out, or play dirty. Yohji went for the last one. "Well then, canít work on an empty stomach, can you? Let me get you a bite to eat." As soon as he mentioned food Ayaís skin took on a green tinge. The smaller man tried to shake his head, but the motion caused him too much pain. Between the headache, the medicine, and the hangover, Yohji knew that the last thing Aya wanted to think about was eating. "I believe there is some leftover pizza upstairs, with lots of greasy pepperoni and sausage. Or I can run out and get you something, maybe a sandwich, or some hamburgers. With all the toppings. What about those pork dumplings down the street, Iíll even have a few with you-"

"KudohÖ."

"- or would you like something simpler? Maybe some sashimi, could get some sawara or eel or salmon, maybe sea urchin but that always reminds me of uncooked brains, so squishy and that-"

Biting back on a grin, Yohji watched as Aya scrambled for the washroom. The sick man almost collided into Ken and a customer in his haste to reach the room in time. The blond followed at a more leisurely pace.

"What that Aya? Why is he out of bed?"

"Yes that was and heíll be right back up there in a few minutes, trust me on it. You guys hold down the fort, Iíll be back in a little bit." Ken nodded his head and resumed making a simple wheat wreath for his customer, while Yohji went to check up on Aya. The swordsman was leaning over the sink, trying to throw up an empty stomach. He reached out to brush back the long bangs and an eartail, then kneaded his loverís shoulders until the heaving stop. Dark violet eyes met green in the mirror. "I hate you."

"I know, I know." Yohji held Aya for a moment, then herded him out of the washroom. The smaller man growled in protest, trying to return back to his table, but was soon gagging again as he took in a deep breath of all the flowersí scents. After that he didnít put up any more fight until they were up the one set of stairs and about to start up the second.

Aya twisted out of the older manís hold and sat down on the steps leading to the bedrooms. "Iím not going to bed."

"Dammit Aya, enough already. Youíve been sick how many times today, Iíve seen corpses with more color to them than you, and you can barely stand. Now shut up and cooperate for once."

"No."

About to argue some more, Yohji thought about the odd note in his loverís voice as he had refused. It sounded suspiciously like panic. "Tell me why then."

Resting his head against the railing, Aya closed his eyes and tried to put his feelings into words. "I donít want any more dreams, Yohji. I lie down, and it feels as if I am somewhere else. WithÖ. I donít know, and I donít want to think about that anymore. And when Iím in bed, I do." He knew he wasnít making any sense. But the redhead didnít think he could take waking up in their bed, wishing it was another one that he was in, feeling as if his reality was nothing more than a dream and the vague impressions that he remembered upon awaking were true. Right now it was too much to take, lying up there by himself, letting those dreams get ahold of him again.

For a minute there was silence, and then he found himself being yanked upright. "Kudoh," the redhead hissed out before realizing that he wasnít being dragged up the steps, but to the living room instead. Next he found himself deposited on the recliner and sternly told to stay there. Yohji left, only to return a couple of minutes later with the comforter from their bed. "Youíre not getting out of this chair for the rest of the day, do you understand me? I catch so much as a single toe of yours touching the floor and your ass is going to match your hair. And I wonít even enjoy beating it. Well, maybe not too much." The older man smiled at Aya as the down comforter was tucked around him. "But there are other things Iíd rather be doing to it."

Yohji leered at the smaller man, lips curving into a wider smile as Aya merely sighed and snuggled under the blanket. "You want any water or tea or something? Really need to get some fluids in you." When Aya grunted and closed his eyes, Yohji left for the kitchen. He helped himself to a sandwich while waiting for the water to boil, and when the tea was ready poured some honey in it. The blond also grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and carried the drinks out on one of Omiís trays. All he found of the other man was a tuft of crimson sticking out from the comforter. "You still awake under there, love?" He asked softly.

"Mmph."

"Want something to drink?"

A pale hand appeared, held open expectantly. Yohji set the mug of tea in it, watching as Aya emerged from his cocoon. Long fingers brushed back the ragged bangs and pulled off the grey shades. "Howís the head feeling?"

"Like Ken used it for soccer practice." Aya took a tentative sip, waiting for a reaction of some sort, then another. "You should get back to the shop."

"In a minute." Yohji sat on the chairís arm, combing through his loverís hair. "You had me worried last night, you know. Next time the dreams get that bad, wake me up." He didnít want Aya to ever repeat what heíd done the night before, mixing the pills with alcohol. If he thought for a moment the redhead had been trying to kill himself heíd have never left him alone, but Yohji also knew that sometimes, when the nightmares had you hurting that bad, one never stopped to think about the consequences of things. Like maybe what a handful of pills and a bottle of whiskey could really do to a body, besides easing the pain. "Okay?"

"Hn."

"Ay~a. Promise me."

The smaller man waited til he finished his tea before agreeing. Yohji took the mug away, filled it up again and placed it back in Ayaís hand before kissing him on the nose. And received a frown for his thanks. "Keep in mind, kitten, that I can be just as stubborn as you. You want anything else before I go back to work?"

Aya gingerly shook his head. As Yohji stood up he was asked a question. "What time are you meeting Tamema tonight?"

Turning around, the blond ran a hand through his hair, pulling out the gumband and then massaged his scalp. "Iím to meet him around nine, but was about to cancel and just stay home."

Closing his eyes, Aya thought about a night spent suffering his overprotective boyfriendís attention. "Go."

"You sure?" The pale man grunted his assent. "Cause itís no problem to stick around here. Though I need to get a new bottle of Jamesonís now."

"Kudoh, _go_."

Yohji gathered an eartail between his fingers and flicked it over a delicate cheekbone. "Well, if youíre sure, love. I was sorta looking forward to giving this new club a try." He knew that there was no way Aya would even consider going with him to the place until it had been open for a few months. One opening night had convinced the redhead of that. "I promise to behave and keep my hands to myself, and not flirt with anyone. Iíll be real good. Masato, however, is another story. I know heís been lusting after me. Maybe I better take the cactus with me to fend him off." After getting a slight smile from Aya and his hand batted away, the blond finally returned back to work.

*******

Schuldig sat in a dark corner of the cafť, eyes locked on the unassuming Japanese man seated at an outside table. Exercising his talent with care, he kept the agent from entering the flowershop until Balinese came back to work. Then he leaned back in his chair as Aster paid his bill and went to buy some flowers. The telepath knew that Bombay would wait on the man, careful not to give any impression that Abyssinian was anywhere other than the back of the shop, certainly not curled up above the shop, suffering from a Ďmigraineí. Kritiker would get a report that all was well with the assassins, never the wiser that one of their top undercover agents had been Ďmadeí. And he could now take it easy for the next few hours. It had been a long day.

Sipping from his coffee cup, Schuldig let his mind wander past the shields that he had set in place very early that morning. His tuberose was still in pain, but there wasnít much he could do other than block the awareness of it from his end. Once he had time to study and play with their link some more he could most likely relieve the majority of that pain in the future, but knew that things were too delicate to mess with at the moment. The old witch had been right, Aya was teetering on the edge, and his actions last night hadnít helped any. For once he had to be grateful for the man-whore, being there to reassure the poor kitty, and then again this afternoon, protecting Aya from his own obdurate nature.

But he wouldnít have to suffer being forced to sit back and watch for much longer. Not after last nightís dream. Aya was finally his. There was no way the two of them could be ever separated now, things had progressed much too far for that. All the German had to do was wait. Schreient were just now hearing about a rumor regarding a certain assassinís sibling, about her location in a Tokyo hospital. In another couple of days they would make their move, once assured that it wasnít a trap. After that it wouldnít be long until WeiŖ crossed paths with them once again, and this time Balinese would be confronted with the fact that his long dead love was not quite so gone. For a moment Schuldig wondered if the asshole had ever told his precious the whole truth about the blondís run-in with Neu several months ago. All it took was a simple thought and he knew that it wasnít the case, Balinese had kept the fact that heíd slept with the woman strictly to himself, or at least hadnít told his lover. Oh how much fun was that going to be, to fill Aya in on the truth.

Waiting until Aster was on his way home and the assassins occupied with a rush of customers, the telepath cautiously made his way over to the Koneko, going around back and picking the doorís lock. Once inside he stealthily made his way to the living room where a sleeping swordsman rested. Leaning over the still form, Schuldig stroked the pale face. When Aya started to drift awake at the touch he soothed the younger redhead, the slightest wisp of his power sending the man back to sleep. "Shh, it will be alright. Stop fussing so. I give you my word, it will all be right in the end." Ever so delicately he pushed back certain memories, not liking the strain they were taking on his heartís psyche. It was so strange, to feel this much concern and affection for someone else, but despite his cavalier attitude to Cassandra he was reluctant to cause any more harm. Aya was his now, heíd gotten what he wanted and would brook nothing harming the man. "Soon the dreams will be real, thereís no need to remember them now." He bent forward to kiss the manís mouth, tugging on a white chin until Ayaís lips parted, allowing him inside for a taste. Aya sleepily kissed him back. After a few leisurely minutes he pulled away, a content smile on his face. "Soon."

But for the present he had many things to see to, making sure that his little puppet was prepared, that Brad and Nagi didnít find out any more than they should, and in the immediate future that a couple of businessmen who wouldnít live for much longer. Time to pick up Farfie and have some fun. "Sweet dreams, precious."

*******

Yohji stopped by the living room before leaving for the night, checking in with Aya one more time. "So what do you think, love?" He held his arms out to the side, spinning around slowly so as to let the redhead get the full effect. Hereís hoping he didnít make the man have a relapse, overloaded with his innate sexiness.

"And somehow no one has ever mistaken you for a prostitute?"

He blew a raspberry at the smaller man. "Iíve said it before, Aya. You have no sense of adventure nor style." Yohji thought he looked pretty damn hot; new black leather pants that had red stitching all over them, a black velvet crop top with a red sheen to it, depending on the light and his movement. A gold choker with a cross dangling from it, his hair pulled back and shades completed the outfit. "Figured you would love it, what with all the black and that."

Aya had to admit that the blond did look good in black, the touch of red adding relief to the dark clothes. Of course Yohji had to buy things, though, that looked as if they were a size too small. "So now only depressed people will solicit you."

Sighing, Yohji walked over to the chair and straddled Ayaís lap, sinking down until he rested on top of the smaller manís legs. He then tilted the redheadís face up until it was centimeters from his. "Good thing Masato will be there to beat them off then, ne? Since you and the cactus are staying home." At Ayaís scowl he bridged the gap and kissed his lover, pushing with his tongue until the manís lips parted for him. It seemed that a couple of naps had done wonders for the pale manís headache, and he actually looked a little better. But there were still lines of pain on the beautiful face, and Aya refused any and all food.

Not that one could tell that the redhead wasnít feeling perfectly fine, what with the way he was kissing Yohji back. The older man growled and shifted about, seeking a better angle to delve the sweet mouth. Aya moaned and moved his head back, panting a little. "Kudoh, you need to get going." One of the manís hands lifted to trace over his lips as heavy lidded eyes gazed into his.

"Iím suddenly not very interested in going to some club. How Ďbout I stay home and make you forget all about that headache?" Aya just shook his head, wanting the blond to stay near but knowing he didnít feel up to what the man had in mind. From the way Yohji started to shift off of him, his boyfriend was aware of this as well.

"Maybe later, then. You stay home and rest, and we can pick up where we left off. Want me to give Masato any messages?"

Aya shook his head again, and when a hand stroked his cheek pressed it close. He bit his lip, not knowing what to say, unwilling to seem doubtful over the playboyís fidelity. Damn the dreams for shaking him up like this.

Once more Yohji seemed to read his mind. "Iíll be good, I promise. Just going to check the place out, have a few beers with a friend. Will most likely be back at some ungodly hour, like midnight or so." He leaned in for another kiss, this one a bit briefer, before leaving.

On his way to the garage the blond stopped for a word with Omi. The teenager was in the kitchen, preparing a pot of tea. "Keep an eye on him, okay? If Masato didnít sound like he needed a night out so bad, I would just say to hell with it and stick around."

"And drive poor Aya crazy within an hour, most likely. He hates it when you fuss over him." Of course Omi refused to believe that the standoffish man hated it when anyone else fussed over him. "Weíll be fine, why donít you go or youíll be late." Looking back in the direction of the living room one more time, Yohji finally did so. As he waved goodbye to the teenager he reflected for a moment on just how stupid Hidaka was, to leave the chibi at home like this. If he wasnít careful Omi just might give up on him before he finally acknowledged how he felt. "Donít do anything too crazy, I donít want to cut my night short to have to bail you and Aya out of jail."

"As if, Yotan! Weíll be bailing you out, if we feel like it!" Omi shouted at the departing figure, laughter bubbling in his throat. So what if Ken was out with some stupid friends watching some stupid sport. Or that Yohji was most likely going to get plastered. Him and Aya could have some fun on their own.

Setting the tea on a tray, he assembled a plate of various cookies and crackers, hoping to have something to tempt the sick man. It wasnít good for him to not eat all day, Omi wasnít going to let Aya get any thinner. All set, he walked into the living room, once again puzzling why his friend was curled up there instead of his and Yohjiís bedroom. When heíd asked the older blond about it he hadnít gotten any answer other than Ďbad dreamsí. Which didnít make much sense, but he knew better than to push. "Ayan, I have some fresh tea for you. And some cookies as well. Wonít you try something?"

Sighing at the image of Omi fussing over him all night long, just when heíd gotten rid of Yohji, Aya picked up the teacup and an almond cookie as well. Blue eyes remained fixed on him as he cautiously nibbled on the treat, waiting to see if his stomach would rebel. Seemed the damn thing was finally willing to behave, so he ate another one as well. He nodded his thanks to the boy, expecting Omi to leave the tray and head up to his room.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when the boy arranged a plate of treats for himself and sat down on the couch with that and a mug of tea. For some reason Aya had a very bad feeling about things. Just as he was wondering if maybe it wouldnít be so awful waiting for Yohji to come home up in his own room, Omi smiled at him. The premonition increased.

"How is your sister, Aya-kun?"

"Ö.fine."

"And work? I mean in the Koneko. Do you think we should order more of those ivy topiaries? Theyíve been selling, but they do take a lot of time and work. Maybe it would be better to stock up on something else."

"No, theyíre not a problem."

"What about the rest of the inventory? Should we start shifting things towards the fall yet, or give it a few more weeks?"

"It would be good to get a head start this year." Aya fidgeted with his teacup, very uncomfortable with the small talk. It wasnít like Omi to babble on like this.

"Any plans for you and Yohji to go away again? I thought I heard him mention something about hoping to make your weekends together a monthly thing."

"Hn." That was it, he suddenly didnít feel so uneasy about his bedroom. In fact it might be a very good idea to go there and lie down, remain blissfully unconscious until Kudoh returned. "Good night."

"Wait, Aya!" Omi quickly set his treats down, jumping up from the couch and rushing over to Ayaís chair, trying to prevent the older man from leaving. The redhead shifted away from his touch, sinking back down into the chair. Omi took up guard by sitting on the coffee table, blocking off his friendís escape. "I was hoping that we could have a nice little chat. We hardly ever talk to each other anymore."

Aya refrained from pointing out that heíd hardly ever talked to the boy in the first place. "What do you want to discuss?" Please oh please let it be about the shop, he thought anxiously.

"Uhm." The teenager glanced away for a moment, face breaking out in a blush. "Well, ah, I was hoping to talk about you and Yohji. And relationships in general."

For a moment Aya tried to decide if he could outrace Omi to his bedroom, but wasnít sure he could make it up the steps in a hurry without falling flat on his face. "Huhn."

Somehow reassured about the comment, the young blond leaned over to refill Ayaís teacup, then snagged a cookie to munch on. "Yeah, I wanted to ask a few questions, if you donít mind. See what you have to think about something."

"Talk to Kudoh." Oh no, he thought he knew where this was going. Damn the playboy for leaving him home alone to deal with this.

Blue eyes blinked at how fast the words had come out. "But I have already. And his suggestions arenít working at all. I mean, I get Kenís attention, but he never follows through with anything." Omi stopped for a moment and considered something. "You do know that I like Ken, donít you?"

_Everyone_ in the young menís immediate vicinity knew that they liked each other. Not trusting his voice, the redhead just nodded.

"Okay then, so what do you think I should do? What did you do to get Yohjiís attention, if you donít mind me asking."

Rubbing his temples, Aya spat out one word. "Nothing."

"Nothing?" Omi didnít look as if he believed it. "Nothing at all? Didnít you try any little tricks or anything, like touching him or nibbling on your lips?" Aya shook his head. "But werenít you interested in him? I canít see you being with him unless you wanted to, so how did you let Yohji know you liked him back?"

Hell, he had no clue how he had let Kudoh know heíd wanted him in the first place. "I didnít."

"But- but how did he know to try anything with you?"

"TsukiyonoÖ. this is _Kudoh_ youíre talking about."

The youthís mouth opened and closed a few times. This wasnít going how heíd imagined it to at all. Surely Aya of all people hadnít simply been swept off his feet. That just didnít seem possible. "Youíre telling me he just pounced on you? And you didnít do anything but let him? Not even play hard to get? You just gave in?"

No wonder he was going crazy. The strange feelings he couldnít shake, Kritiker picking at his brain again, Schu up to what he didnít have the slightest clue, the dreams. And on top of it all, Tsukiyono was pretty much saying he was easy. Highly ironic, considering how the boy had been throwing himself at Hidaka the past two weeks. Dammit, heíd like to see the boy stand up to someone like Yohji, hell bent on getting what he wanted. "I didnít kill him. Maybe that was how he knew."

Omi thought that the swordsman had a point there. "All right then, letís try a different track here. How do you suggest I go about seducing Ken?" He felt the blush creep back over his cheeks. On the other hand, however, his companion was appearing even paler. "Is your head hurting again, Aya-kun? Want me to get you some more medicine?"

No, what the redhead wanted was this conversation to be over with. "I donít have a clue, Omi."

"But, surely you have to have some idea or another. Donít tell me that all those times Yohji drags you off to the greenhouse it really is his idea?" He quickly shut up when Aya growled at him. "Ah, I mean you have to do something to let the man know that you, erm, are Ďin the moodí. Donít you?"

"I breathe." Aya thought that summed his and Kudohís sexual relationship up rather well, and once again made to get out of the chair. Only to stop at the sight of huge chibi eyes, looking at him pleadingly. Gods, he hated it when Omi looked at him like that. At the moment he very strongly believed that the boy was by far the most evilest of all the Takatoris. He settled back down and pulled the comforter up to his chin. "But thatís Yohji for you. What did the lech suggest you do?"

Not quite sure if he should repeat the advice, Omi haltingly did so. And got the very strong impression that Yohji was in for a surprise the next time he tried a few of his moves on his short-tempered lover, judging from the way the dark purple eyes narrowed. Aya thought over the advice for a moment or two. "You have to remember that Hidaka is nothing at all like Kudoh. He actually thinks of something other than sex all the time."

Yes, to Omiís great frustration. Not that all he wanted from the brunet was sex, but it would sure as hell make him feel a lot better, and give him an idea where he stood with the idiot. As something more than just friends. "So how do I get him to think about sex and me at the same time?"

"The problem seems to be that he already does, just wonít do anything about it. Thatís what you need to work on."

"I _know_ that. But how?"

What Aya really wanted to know was why the hell the boy was bothering him with this. Just about anyone else out there had to be better at figuring romance out than him. "Get him drunk. Make him jealous. Ignore him." Advice dispensed, he yanked the cover up over his head, determined to escape into oblivion.

However it was very hard to fall asleep when he could feel a pair of blue eyes still staring at him. Trying hard to ignore them, he heard Omiís plaintive voice. "Iím sorry, Aya, but there were a couple more questions that I wanted to ask you. If your head isnít bothering you." Deciding that he wanted to just get this conversation over with, Aya sighed and lowered the comforter.

Taking that as a yes, Omi continued. "Itís well, about what I do when I finally do get Ken to return my affections. The stuff that Yohji gave me wasnít very helpful with certain details." Concentrating on getting the question out, he failed to notice when the older man groaned, as if in pain. "Does it really hurt like they say? I mean, why do it if it does? Sex I mean. At least I hear it hurts if you are, uhm, the uke. Does it?"

For a moment Aya didnít know who he hated more, Kudoh or Hidaka. Both of them were idiots, for having started this mess and leaving him stuck with it. "Ask Yohji to explain it to you."

"But, he isnít the one, I mean, arenít youÖ" Omiís voice trailed off at the glare he was receiving. "Ah, never mind."

Sighing, Aya shook his head. Firmly convinced that he had finally gone over the edge, he set about answering Omiís question in as much as a monotone voice he could manage. All the while thinking of what he was going to do to the other two members of WeiŖ when he next saw them.

*******

Yohji tossed back the shot of a tequila and smiled blissfully. "Ah, that was just perfect." Masato nodded his head and waved the bartender over for another round.

"So I told you about my week from hell, what has you pounding back the liquor? A certain redhead, perchance?"

Looking over at his friend, Yohji waited until the drink arrived and was dispatched before answering. "Sort of. Itís not really his fault though. I left Aya at home, hurting from a bad headache. Which he most likely wouldnít be suffering if a damn organization and an asshole German would just leave us the hell alone." At the scruffy manís curious glance he shrugged his shoulders. "I donít like how our employers are treating him. As if he was some little robot for them to play with. And I want the Bastard dead as soon as I can lay my hands on him."

"Huh. Canít help much with the latter, other than keep my ears open and pass on anything I hear about him." Yohji smiled thankfully at the offer, there wasnít much that Rook couldnít find out through his network of contacts and friends. "But I think I understand a little about the first. They always were a bit strange towards your boy. Iíd like to know why." When the blond didnít answer him Masato just leaned back against the bar. He didnít blame the man for keeping quiet, though they had become fast friends there was still a lot they didnít know about each other. Rook had his own suspicions of why Kritiker guarded Aya so diligently, and wasnít about to voice them in a crowded club of all places.

So he changed the topic. "What do you think of the place?"

Green eyes scanned the club, packed with the prettiest and richest that Tokyo had to offer. "Nothing spectacular." It was much like many other clubs that he had been in before, all black walls and neon lights and scantily clad employees. Not that the last bit was at all bad, he thought with a leer as a cocktail waitress in a skimpy halter top walked past. Just nothing to make it stand out very much, besides some very good deejays working the music. "Aya would have killed me if I had dragged him here. Too crowded, too noisy, too stuck up." If it wasnít for the fact that he knew the guy working the door, a legacy of a couple of years spent doing some serious clubbing, Tamema would never have gotten in due to the strict dress code. Yohji had refrained from pointing out to the guy that though rumpled and shaggy, it was the most well dressed heíd ever seen the Crasher.

Masato blinked his eyes and reached into a back pocket. "Just remembered something. Here." Yohji took the plastic covered photo, having to squint in the dim light. He could just barely make out the image of his lover, crimson hair longer than heíd ever seen it, sporting a leather jacket covered with zippers and buckles, two of them opened to reveal pale shoulders. "Oh gods yes, I _have_ to get him to wear this thing for me. Thanks a lot."

"Always happy to feed a palís kink." The scruffy man grinned as his friend snorted and waved at the bartender once more. He was too damn sober still, it really had been a very bad week or so, what with the simple extortion case that Crasherís had been working on blowing up in their faces. The assignment had been salvaged, but just barely. Reminding himself that he was here to forget all about it, he indicated they wanted another double of tequila. "So weíve arrived and are making headway in being completely trashed by the end of the night, whatís next on the agenda?"

"Dancing."

"Great, who leads, you or me?"

Yohji couldnít help but laugh at the comment. This was why he liked the Crasher, Masato seemed to not take anything too seriously. It was a welcome change from his brooding lover and the ridiculous situations he found himself in lately. "We could always take turns, or flip a coin. But donít tell me the reason youíre ordering all those shots is just so you can get me drunk and take advantage of me. Iím not that easy."

Hazel eyes raked over the blond, taking in the outfit. "Thatís not what Iíve heard. But if you insist on breaking my heart we can make do with some of these pretty young ladies about us."

"Well I promised to behave, but donít see how a few dances will hurt." Shots taken care of, the two men made their way to the dance floor. Where it didnít take them long to find some willing partners. For a moment Yohji thought back on his single days, how heíd spend most of his nights in places like this, searching for a willing body to leave with. While he much preferred being in a relationship with Aya, even with all their problems and issues, it was nice to dance away a couple of hours in the presence of a beautiful woman. No commitments, no strings, just some fun. Granted a lot less fun than he was used to, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Heíd dance with a particular girl for a few songs after warning her he wasnít available, then him and Masato would switch partners, or drift away to find new ones. Particularly clingy dancers were left behind as they went to get more drinks, never to return to the same spot. Yohji knew why he was doing this, not wanting to lead the women on, but he raised an eyebrow at the older man in query when they were back at the bar. "I know I wonít cheat on Aya tonight, but there is no reason why you canít enjoy yourself. Iíll back off if you want some privacy." For a moment he wondered if they shouldnít order something less potent, he was definitely feeling the effects of all those shots. Everything was getting that faraway feel to it.

"Nah, really didnít come out tonight looking for a one-night stand, just some drinks and good company."

About to tease his friend if this decision had anything to with another member of Crashers, who was just back on the market after realizing his crush for the past couple of years was never going to want him back, Yohji jumped as a hand rubbed up and down his arm. Turning around he found himself staring into a familiar pair of brown eyes.

"Ah, Megumi, imagine running into you here." What he really wanted to do was curse, but Yohji offered that greeting and a smile instead.

"Iím not surprised to find you here, Yohji. You always did like to be among the first to check out a new club." Megumi was glad that she had decided to go out with her girlfriends that evening. And that she had worn her new green dress, the exact shade of the floristís eyes. It was so low cut and tight that the man couldnít help but let those eyes roam all over her body. Maybe, if he was really nice to her, she would take him home for a little fun that night, let him try to get her out of the dress. Not that he would succeed, not completely, Yohji had to make up for neglecting her this past week. "I thought you said you had plans."

The blond waved over to Masato. "I do, came here with a friend." After introducing the two of them, and all of Megumiís friends as well, Yohji found himself being tugged back to the dance floor. When the girlís friends followed, bringing Masato with them, he decided not to put up a fight. All he was planning on doing was some dancing, if it looked as if Nakashima was expecting more he would send Tamema a signal and they would be out of there.

Loud music ringing in his ears, packed on a crowded dance floor, Yohji held Megumi close. Due to the press of bodies there was little they could do beside rock back and forth against each other. For a minute he closed his eyes and imagined that it was Aya that he was holding. Long fingers trailed up and down his chest, a soft body pressing close. Losing himself in the moment and the alcohol, the playboyís eyes remained closed, his body moving on automatic. What he wouldnít give to have Aya here with him, out on the floor. Any excuse to have that pale body molded against his, all there for him to enjoy. It failed to register on his drunken senses when his head was pulled down. Nuzzling at the girlís ear, he briefly wondered why he smelled some floral shampoo as opposed to cherry scented. Just as he remembered that it was Nakashima and not his kitten that he was dancing with, he felt the young womanís mouth on his neck, sucking the salty skin.

It was too crowded to just push Megumi away, but he managed to get her to step back a little after a minute of maneuvering his arms between their bodies. Brown eyes stared at him in indignation, the pretty face turning ugly with anger and frustration. "Sorry, I need a drink." Yohji quickly fled to the sanctuary of the bar, only to stop at the counter and to find out that the girl had followed him.

"Whatís going on, Kudoh? Youíve been blowing me off ever since Iíve come back from Hong Kong. Before that you couldnít wait to spend some time with me, now itís as if seeing me is some horrible thing," Megumi hissed, furious at the man. This wasnít how things were supposed to be. Yohji was not supposed to be ignoring her, but working hard to please her. Just like he always had before her internship. She didnít love the man and didnít think he was interested in anything more than getting her into bed, but at least he had wanted her back then. Now there was nothing, it was like he was bored with her. That wasnít how things were to turn out. She was the one to do the rejecting. Her temper getting the better of her, Megumi grabbed the shot glass the bartender placed down next to the blond and tossed it in Yohjiís face. "You can just go to hell, I wonít waste any more of your time. There are plenty of other men who actually enjoy my presence." Turning around, she stalked away from the bar, her girlfriends gathering around her back.

Cursing at the sting of alcohol in his eyes, Yohji heard his friend chuckle and felt some napkins be placed in his hands. "Let me guess, the infamous Kudoh charm at work."

"Glad you find this so funny. Damn, never thought I would run into someone who would make Aya seem calm and rational. At least all he does is punch me, much prefer that to wasting good tequila." Bleary green eyes stared at the empty shot glass in disappointment. But it wouldnít be a good idea to order another one now. "To hell with it, Iím going home. You gonna stick around or what, Masato?"

"Nah, itís almost two oíclock. Think Iíll call it a night, had more than enough fun."

Checking his watch, Yohji let out a curse. Dammit, heíd lost complete track of time, what with the dancing and drinking. Heíd told Aya heíd be home a couple of hours ago. "Gods, this really isnít my night. Gotta get going." The blond waved goodbye to his friend, mentioning in parting that they had to do this again sometime soon. Masato responded back hopefully without the pissed-off woman. A grin on his face, Yohji left the club.

He did a very good impression of his loverís driving on the way home, getting there much sooner than usual. Once the car was parked Yohji jumped out and rushed upstairs to his bedroom. Throwing open the door, he found Aya curled up on his side of the bed, holding his pillow close. Smiling at the image he turned on the bedside lamp and ran a hand through the mussed crimson strands.

Aya came awake with a start, blinking dark purple eyes at him for a few moments before realizing who he was. "Kudoh, youíre late."

"I know, sorry about that. Lost track of time. Howís the head, feeling any better?"

The appendage in question nodded up and down. Aya sat up in bed, then scooted over to the edge. Repeating his actions from earlier, Yohji straddled the manís lap, tilting the pale face up for a kiss. And instantly hissed as he was punched rather painfully in the ribs. "What the hell was that for?"

The smaller man glared evilly at him for a few seconds. "Thanks to you deciding to help Omi out with his romantic troubles, I got stuck explaining the details of our Ďcourtshipí and the mechanics of gay sex to the boy. He even," Aya said louder, as Yohji started to laugh, "wanted to know what brand of lubricant we used, the exact amount, and which positions were best. This went on for at least an hour, Kudoh. Youíre going to pay for that." Heíd come up with something really good in another day or two. Of course the harder his boyfriend laughed, the more his resolve for revenge firmed.

"Oh gods, I wish I was actually here for that one. The chibi, asking _you_ for advice? Boy must be getting desperate." He chuckled a little more before once more tilting the scowling face upwards. "Guess I have to review your technique, make sure you didnít give him any bad advice." The kiss lasted for several minutes, both men groaning softly when it ended.

Aya watched as Yohji yanked off his top. "You taste like tequila. And smell like it as well, along with some type of perfume." He knew that heíd smelled that particular fragrance before, and was trying to remember where. But was distracted as his sweatshirt was gripped and pulled over his head. "Trust me, kitten, you donít want to know. Should have taken the damn plant with me after all." Before Aya could question the comment he found himself being kissed once again.

Pale hands drifted over a golden chest, skimming along the skin, making their way up Yohjiís neck. Where the sensitive fingers felt something slick. Pulling back a little, Aya caught sight of something red on his loverís neck, smeared lipstick all around a darkening bruise. It didnít take him very long to figure out how it had gotten there, the make-up or the hickey, and felt anger and hurt boiling inside him as Yohji nibbled on his ear. Now he could place the perfume. Nakashima always wore it when she came into the shop.

One moment tracing a delicate ear with his tongue, Yohji next found himself being hit once more that night. This time it was a vicious blow to his stomach, knocking both the air out of him and his body onto the floor. Gasping in pain, he caught a quick glimpse of Ayaís face, livid with fury, as the smaller man darted off the bed, pausing to snatch up his watch and the katana. "Come near me and Iíll kill you," was hissed out before his lover fled the room.

Yohji let out a groan as he rolled over onto his stomach, drawing up his knees in an effort to stand to his feet. It took him a couple of tries but finally he was able to do so. Cursing in pain and surprise, the blond made his way to the bathroom, feeling as if he was going to throw up. Once there he leaned over the sink, firmly telling his stomach to behave. This was ridiculous, Aya was supposed to be the sick one. And what the hell was that all about? One moment heís being kissed back with a passion, and before he knows it heís lying on the floor in agony, being issued death threats. Glancing up in the mirror, he caught sight of his face, drawn in pain. This was insane, Aya had finally lost it. And the minute he felt like he could breath and wasnít in danger of vomiting, heíd tell the man just that.

A smear of red caught his attention, standing out vibrantly on his neck. Upon further investigation he noticed the love bite as well. Suddenly Yohji remembered dancing with Megumi, her mouth on his neck as he had drunkenly swayed in time to the music. Fuck. This was not good. This was so not fucking good. No wonder Ayaíd decked him, man must be thinking heíd cheated on him tonight.

Well he most certainly hadnít, and he was going to set the record straight _right now_. Nausea all forgotten, Yohji made his way down the hall and up the steps to the exercise room, where he was more than willing to bet that Aya was. And stopped on the third step. Gods, what a fucking idiot he was. About to go confront his lover over his supposed infidelity up in the exercise room. Just like he had done a couple of months before. When Mastermind had fucked with his brain and doped him with the Sybil drug. After he had just had sex with some woman he barely knew, under said influence.

Aya didnít handle having other people in the workout room with him at the best of times anymore. But if he showed up there now, after the other man thinking he had cheated on him again, it would be worth his life and his loverís sanity most likely. Just fucking great. For a moment Yohji wondered if a certain telepath had set things up. How the hell was he going to get out of this mess? The longer Aya stewed in his own juices, the worse off for him it would be.

A sudden thought occurred to the playboy. He ran back to his room, picking up his phone. It took a moment to find the number he wanted, and then Yohji was dialing it, cursing the many rings. Please oh please donít let it go to voicemail. Just when he lost hope a gruff voice answered. "Itís late, what the hell do you want?"

"Masato? Itís Yohji. I need you to get your ass over here right now, Iím at home."

"Kudoh? What the hell has gotten into you? Iím just about to go to bed, shouldnít you be tucked in yours with your boyfriend?"

Yohji tore at his hair with his free hand, voice rising hysterically. "NO. Ayaís upstairs with his damn sword, most likely warming up before he comes back down and hacks me into bite-sized morsels. He thinks I cheated on him tonight, so get your fucking ass over here right now and tell him otherwise! Now!"

There was silence on the other end for a moment, then the Crasher spoke in a much clearer voice. "Why canít you tell him what happened yourself?"

"Itíll take too long to explain. Letís just say that the situation is royally fucked up. Iím begging you, get over here right this minute."

"Alright, Iím leaving now."

Feeling very grateful, Yohji went down to the kitchen to wait for his friend to show up. He divided the time between staring at the door and up at the ceiling, wondering what the hell was going on in Ayaís head. Most likely it wasnít very good. Yohji remembered the warning heíd been given the other day, about never being forgiven for cheating on the redhead. Damn Megumi and her tricks, the womanís need to be the center of attention. He barely liked the girl, and now his relationship was in serious jeopardy because of her. Just great.

After what seemed a small eternity, but was really only twenty minutes, Rook finally appeared. Hearing a slight knock on the door, Yohji leapt to his feet, yanking it open after fumbling with the locks. "Masato, I adore you. You are the greatest, for this I will knock out Honjyou and leave him in your bed, all wrapped up in ribbons and bows. Ayaís upstairs in the exercise room from the sounds of it. Heís armed, so be careful." Then he shoved the man towards the direction of the stairs.

Trying to get his bearings, not even having the chance to say a Ďhelloí or anything, Masato climbed up the steps. "Third floor, right?" At Yohjiís frantic nod he continued on, hearing the man follow him up to the second floor. When he reached his destination he found the door closed, but a gleam of light showing through the cracks that signaled that someone was inside. Taking a deep breath, the Crasher cautiously opened it, wondering if he should have brought his weapon.

*******

Step, step, slide, sword flowing up and across, parry before feint. Aya forced his tired body to got through the motions of the katas, seeking refuge in their familiarity. Seeking to achieve a state of pure movement, no emotions or thoughts. Trying so hard to forget about the last time he had done this. He had Yohjiís weapon and he was facing the door, there was no way the bastard was going to sneak up on him this time. If the blond attempted to do so he would be as good as dead, it was as simple as that. Aya was not going to let the man abuse him again, it was already bad enough that heíd ripped his heart into pieces.

/ Arenít you getting tired of having to forgive him yet? Heíll just hurt you again and again, donít you know that? You have to ask yourself if Kudoh is really worth all of this pain./ Schuldigís voice in his head, not leaving him alone. It rang through the pain, making tears stream down his face.

/ You ever cheat on me, Kudoh, and there will be no forgiveness, no second chances. Am I perfectly clear on this?/ Apparently he hadnít been, and the man had lied to his face hours earlier, telling him that Yohji would behave, would be good. Instead heíd been out fucking Nakashima. Had he even gone to the club at all?

Left leg forward, pivot, sword coming down. His body was shaking, marring the perfection of the exercise. Lunging forward his leg gave out, causing him fall. Cursing as he lay on the mat floor, Aya grabbed a handful of his bangs and yanked. Dammit, first Yohji and now his own body betraying him. Why did he have to be so weak? He never should have given in to the blondís attentions, then he wouldnít be in this situation. Lying on the floor as he cried, his heart this shattered thing in his chest. A weak, stupid fool.

<Shh, itís all right, precious.> Something stirred through Ayaís hair, the lightest touch along a cheekbone, continuing down his chest. Schuldigís voice again, soothing his hurt. Exhausted and in pain, Aya didnít fight back, mind too numb. <It will be okay, Iíll make it all better. Iíve never betrayed you, have I little tuberose?> Before Aya could figure out if he was imagining this or not the door opened, causing him to panic. Scrambling to sit upright, katana wavering in his hand, all he could do was stare at the figure, gradually realizing it wasnít Kudoh.

"Rook?"

"Heya, Fujimiya. Mind if I come in?" Masato slowly entered the room, stunned at the look of pain and fear that had been on his former teammateís face when he had first spied him. Heíd never seen the redhead so shaken. When he was about four meters away from the other hand the sword stopped trembling and was leveled in his direction. "Stop."

Masato did so, and then knelt on the floor, very careful to keep his hands in sight at all times. Something had the swordsman spooked, he didnít want to push anything. Aya looked as if he was ready to collapse, body shaking, eyes red, face wet with tears. But the blade remained perfectly still, aimed at his throat.

The two of them remained motionless, not a word spoken. The older man decided to break the silence. "Betcha youíre wondering why Iím here, huh?" No response. "I got this frantic call from your boyfriend." There was a hint of movement, quickly arrested. If Masato hadnít been watching Aya so closely he would never have seen it. "Something about you thinking heíd cheated on you tonight. Well, I canít vouch for what happened before we met at the club, or afterward even, but I do know that he wasnít fooling around with anyone while in my presence. Donít think the man left my eyesight for more than five minutes, so I feel pretty safe in saying that nothing went on tonight."

Aya remained quiet for another moment, then spoke in a harsh voice. "Then Iím imaging the hickey on his neck? Know itís not from me."

"Ah, that. Well, itís a rather funny story, at least from my perspective. Weíd had quite a few drinks at that point, more than we should have really, but well, I donít think either of us have had really a good week. Weíd been dancing all night long, but Yohji was very careful about not hanging with any one girl for too long, telling most of them that he had someone waiting for him at home and was just looking for a little exercise. Then he ran into this chick he knew, and back to the dance floor we went, him, her, her friends and me, us guys not really having any say in the matter. Place was packed at that point, everyone was in each otherís space. He didnít try anything, but she seemed bound and determined to get a response out of him. All the alcohol didnít help, but he put a stop to things pretty quick. Pissed the girl off, she followed him back to the bar and tossed a drink in his face, yelled some and left. Yohji decided at that point that he had enough, so we left as well. And considering the fact that I had just gotten home when he called, somehow I doubt he had any chance to hook back up with this chick after we parted company. So could you please put the sword down and go talk to him, heís ripping his hair out, thinking youíre going to leave him."

When the pale man didnít say anything, Masato sighed. "Aya, please, go speak to him. I want to go home and sleep, and I canít until the two of you work this out. Feel like itís partially my fault, I asked him to go out with me, and I was the one pushing most of the shots." Heíd forgotten how quiet and still the other man could get, and sincerely hoped it wouldnít be one of those times when Aya would suddenly burst into motion, spoiling for a fight. "He really loves you, I donít think Yohji would even think of cheating on you, let alone doing it." The room became quiet again.

"Come on here, say something Aya. That you believe Iím full of shit and covering for the guy, that you trust me and what I said, or even if youíre still going to kill Kudoh. Anything."

All Aya could do was shake his head, unsure of what he thought. Masato had never lied to him, why would he do so now, and for Yohji? Sure the men were friends, but had barely known each other for a month. No, what had him rendered still was two warring emotions, elation that Yohji hadnít cheated on him and this unshakable feeling that if the man hadnít already done so, he would again one day. And there wouldnít be a telepath to blame it on that time. He didnít know which one he was to trust, and was so tired of being filled with pain and doubt. Leave the man or go down to him, he was afraid that his heart would be broken either way.

<Heíll hurt you again, but this time it wasnít his fault. Itís more yours than anyoneís.> Pansy colored eyes blinked in shock, unable to accept that Schuldig had just defended Kudoh, albeit in a twisted way. Maybe he was imaging the voice in his head. Aya shivered as the phantom touch returned to his face, stroking down the trails his tears had made. Suddenly all the redhead wanted was to be safe in Kudohís arms, held tight by his lover.

Masato tensed when Aya gracefully rose to his feet, eyes never leaving the drawn blade. As he watched Aya crossed the room, picking up the sheath and what looked to be a watch. Which was Yohjiís, if he wasnít mistaken. Still not speaking, the pale man left the room. Not sure what decision his friend had made, the Crasher followed. Hoping for the best.

As soon as Aya stepped on the second floor he found Yohji waiting for him, leaning against the hallway wall as he smoked a cigarette. The blond straightened up, face filled with hope at the sight of him. When the smaller man didnít say or do anything the smile disappeared from the handsome face. "Aya, love, I swear I didnít even think of cheating on you tonight. I would never hurt you like that." Closing his eyes for a second, Aya held out the manís watch.

Yohji gingerly took the weapon, heart jumping at the sight of it. There was no way Aya would give it back if he didnít trust him again. The next thing he knew his arms were full of a trembling redhead. Kissing whatever part of his lover that he could, the playboy held on so tight he knew that Aya had to have a problem breathing. But the pale man never complained, just lifted his face up. Yohji was all too happy to kiss him until he really couldnít breath. "Love you, kitten, only you."

Green eyes looked up to spy Masato standing on the steps, watching them. Yohji nodded his head in thanks as Aya started to pull him to their bedroom. The scruffy man waved his hand in acknowledgement, made a thumbs up sign and then continued on downstairs.

Once in their room Aya set his katana down on the dresser, then turned around to kiss the blond again. Who promptly maneuvered them over to the bed, being careful to make sure that he landed on the furniture first, Aya tucked safely against his chest. For several minutes they devoured the otherís mouth, hands buried in each otherís hair as they fought the need for oxygen.

Gasping out his boyfriendís name, Yohji let his head fall back down on the bed. And moaned as Ayaís mouth moved down his neck. He held onto the crimson strands tightly, urging the mouth closer to his skin. There was a flick of a tongue and without warning teeth were biting deeply into his flesh. Letting out a whimper, Yohji didnít do anything to discourage Aya. Instead he tilted his back some more. Ayaís mouth took to sucking on the bite, and it dimly entered the older manís mind that his lover was working the mark that Megumi had left, making it his own. "Gods, kitten, yes."

The mouth continued down, lavishing kisses on his collarbone and nipples. Unable to stand it any more Yohji jerked the smaller man up, attacking the parted lips, needing the way Aya tasted more than anything. Very slowly, so as not to startle the his boyfriend, he rolled over until the redhead was under him. Hands stroking down a pale chest he kissed Aya fervently, rocking his pelvis into the other manís until they both were groaning.

Yohji tugged at his zipper as he trailed his lips and tongue down the alabaster column before him, leaving a brand or two of his own. He was Ayaís and Aya was his, it was as simple as that. And at that moment he had to prove that claim, reestablish what had almost been lost. As soon as his pants were gone he worked on the younger manís, grateful for loose cotton pants that just slid right off, along with the silk boxers. Once that white body was exposed in all its perfection he set about worshipping it with his hands and mouth.

Aya would catch his breath, inhale, exhale, and lose it all over again. It was more than just pleasure that Kudoh was giving him, each caress radiated warmth and love. He felt cherished by the older man, treated as something rare and lovely. For a moment Aya wished more than anything that that was true, that he was something other than a freak of a murderer. But Yohji was making him forget all of that as a peaked nipple was rolled between skilled fingers, as a tongue speared inside of his navel, making him squirm. It seemed that his lover was everywhere, stoking a fire in him until all the cold was chased away. He burned.

It was so sweet to hear his name mewled, to feel Aya writhing under him, holding him close. Yohji quickly grabbed some lube, desperate to be inside the beautiful form spread before him. He sucked on the inside of a pale thigh, leaving yet more proof of his ownership. When his slick fingers pressed inside his lover the man bucked, head tossed back as Aya pushed down on the digits, needing to take them in deeper. Moaning at the sight of his kitten wanton and spread before him, Yohji stroked the manís dripping shaft, driving Aya even wilder with passion. Unable to hold himself back any longer he prepared himself and settled between the long white legs, guiding himself into heaven.

"Oh gods, kitten. So perfect." A hand reached to tilt the smaller manís head up, wanting to see those beautiful eyes, have Aya focus his attention on him. When the dark orbs latched on to his Yohji slowly thrust in even deeper, biting back on a moan. "Only you. Only ever want to be in you, love. You were made for me, like I said, and I donít want anyone else. Not when I have you. And you have me. Forever." Aya didnít say anything, just yanked his head down for a searing kiss as long limbs wrapped around his waist so tight, urging him forward as much as he could go. Keeping his thrusts languid yet sure, refusing to hurry this moment, Yohji watched the redhead underneath him, wanting to memorize every second of this. The way Aya tossed back his head, mouth panting as he brushed against his prostrate, the way the dark purple eyes went glassy with pleasure, crimson bangs feathering down on the lovely face, each soft sound the man produced. The fear that maybe this time he really had lost his lover for good had torn at him, he didnít have a clue at how he would ever exist without Aya by his side, in his bed.

Fingers clutched at his hips, pulling him closer as Ayaís breath caught in his throat. Knowing that the man was nearing the edge, Yohji increased his pace, losing himself more with each now frantic plunge into the tight hot body beneath his. Dammit but the redhead always did this to him, shattered his control, preventing him from savoring the moment as lust and need took over. All he wanted was the moment that Ayaís walls collapsed from pleasure, when the man was bared to the world, body, heart and soul. Because of him, only for Yohji Kudoh to see.

Gasping out his loverís name, Ayaís body clenched as the orgasm ripped through him, breaking him into tiny pieces. Feeling himself squeezed almost painfully tight, Yohji couldnít hold back anymore, felt himself come as well in shuddering waves as he thrust as deeply as he could one last time. Eyes drifting closed, all the blond could do was lie on top of his lover, feeling Aya obstinately still cling to him, smell the manís skin as he buried his nose in the crook of the pale manís neck. How the hell his kitten could still manage to smell of roses when he hadnít spent more than five minutes in the flower shop that day was beyond him.

It took Yohji a minute to realize that Aya was trembling. Trying to lift himself up, he found himself clutched even tighter. Green eyes opened and took in the sight of the redheadís face drawn in pain and fear, instead of wearing the normally blissful expression that it usually did after sex. "Whatís wrong, love?"

When the smaller manís eyes were revealed he caught a flash of anxiety that slowly bled away. "Yohji?"

"Who else would it be?" The playboy stroked a golden hand over his loverís face, brushing back the sweaty bangs. For a moment he thought of teasing Aya about having someone else in his bed, but was afraid of resurrecting the just buried fight while there was a hint of fear on that pale visage. "Itís me. Itíll always be me."

"Was afraid it was another dream." Reassured that it wasnít, that it was Kudoh he was holding onto, Aya let his body relax. Now that the adrenaline from earlier was spent, he felt completely exhausted. Yohji stared down at him for a few more seconds, then shifted off of him, drawing a moan from his lips as the man slid out of his body. It was almost painful, losing that intimate contact. As the older man sat next to him Aya skimmed a hand down his front, grimacing at the cooling semen clinging to his abdomen and now fingers. He hated to be sticky and dirty. Before he could reach for some tissues Yohji captured his hand, drawing it into a lush mouth. Emerald orbs stared deep into his as the fingers were meticulously cleaned. When done the mouth moved down to his stomach, just as fastidiously licking up all traces of the sticky fluid. And from a pale thigh as well, meticulous and fervent in its task. That completed, Yohji lifted the pale hand he had just cleaned and ran it over his own body, licking the gathered semen from the fingers again and again until it was all gone.

Unsure of what to say or do, Aya only gazed back at Yohji. Who once more settled on top of him, kissing his lips softly before trailing them down his neck. "Your mine, Aya. But you keep forgetting that Iím yours as well. I donít want anyone else, youíre the only one I love." Once more his boyfriend looked him in the eye. "Why canít you believe that? You came back bearing Mastermindís marks a few weeks ago, never for a moment did I believe that you got them willingly. Why wonít you give me the same trust?" The blond hadnít wanted to continue this argument, but was afraid what leaving it alone would do to their relationship. "Why? Is it because of what happened during the Sybil mission? That wasnít me."

"I know, Yohji." Closing his eyes, Aya threaded his fingers through the honey blond locks and used that hold to draw Kudohís head down, until their foreheads touched. "I just- I just donít see how you can love me, and wait for you to realize that you donít. IÖ keep seeing you with someone else when I close my eyes."

A soft growl caused his eyes to open. "Listen to me for once, Aya. I love you. You are more than worthy of that emotion. I donít care what anyone else ever told you, or that ĎIím just a murdererí bullshit you got stuck in that pretty head of yours, but nothing is ever going to change those two facts. And the one of what I love I never let go of. Never willingly, at least. Iíd more than kill for you, Iíd do whatever it takes to keep you safe and with me. Including gladly keeping my hands and any other body part off of another person. I donít want someone else, not when I have you. So the next time you think of me cheating on you, remember this moment." That said, Yohji commenced kissing Aya with all of the skill and passion he could muster, rendering the smaller man breathless and not even stopping then. Finally pulling back, he smugly noticed how Aya panted for air, lips swollen from the attention, amethyst eyes devoid of doubt. "Never think that again. I love you, stubborn, sneaky bastard that you are. Never letting you go."

"KudohÖ" Letting his voice drift off, Aya just shook his head. For once the possessive words didnít grate against his pride, instead helped to calm his fears. Yohji truly never did let go of what he thought of as his. And the idiot called him stubborn. So instead he just said what he felt. "I love you. Guess weíre both crazy."

"Maybe theyíll lock us up in the same padded room, if we ask real nicely." Happy to see a hint of a smile on his loverís face, Yohji leaned over the slender figure to turn off the lamp, then wriggled about on the bed until the comforter was covering the both of them. Laying flat on his back he extended an arm in invitation. Aya wearily shifted over until he rested half on top of the older man. "Just think, the two of us alone together all day long, the floor one big mattress, never having to work again. Sounds like heaven to me." All he got back in form of a reply was a snort.

Content to have Yohjiís arms about him, breathing in Yohjiís scent with each inhale, Aya pushed aside the worries and fears gnawing at him as he loosened his hold on awareness. When a hand took to stroking through his hair he realized that the blond was singing, voice rough from cigarettes and alcohol, never in the same key for more than a few words.

Listen to an angel sing

Listen to the joy it brings

Huddled underneath a cloud

I would just shout out loud

Why do I suffer so?

Why do I want to go?

An angel says in disguise

"Until youíve learned the meaning of trust

Until you learn the meaning of light

Until you learn to rip off the night and day

Youíre never gonna be alright

So címon and take a stand

And kick until you think that you understand

Until you learn to rip on the night and day

Youíre never gonna be okay

Until you learn the meaning of light

Youíre never gonna be alright"

And what do you know about me?

How can you possibly see?

Without walking in my shoes

Youíll never taste enough of my blues

The rest of the song faded away, the lyrics becoming more and more indistinct with each breath he took. But the previous words reverberated in his head, oddly soothing him. Unlike the song from last night, that tore at something he couldnít name. Giving up on thinking, Aya surrendered to sleep. From so far away he heard another voice. <Heíll only hurt you again and again.>

*******

Song is ĎSufferingí by Satchel

*******

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