Nothing Gold Can Stay

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Chapter six

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Yohji found himself rudely interrupted from sleep by the damn alarm clock for yet another morning. The incessant droning sound was back. Evil, it was pure evil, shaking him from such peaceful dreams. Stretching out an arm, Yohji blindly searched for the comforter, wanting to pull it over his head to muffle that awful noise. Nothing, no soft warm fluffiness to be found. Nor, he belatedly realized, no semi-soft, sometimes warm kitten either. Letting out a groan the blond buried his head under his pillow.

Something then poked him rather sharply in the ribs. "Kudoh, wake up. Now." Hoping it was some horrid nightmare disturbing him and that it would just go away if he ignored it, Yohji pulled the pillow down about his head even tighter. The poke turned into a punch, making him yelp in pain. Finally sitting up he glared at his attacker while turning the alarm off. Who unsurprisingly turned out to be Aya. An Aya who still looked completely exhausted, dark circles under the dark violet eyes. When all Yohji did was stare at the man pale hands snatched the pillow from him and hit his face with it.

"Ow, dammit, what the hell is your problem this morning? Do I assault you when you first wake up?"

"Define the word Ďassaultí. In the technical sense, yes you do. Almost every single morning."

A leer appearing on lush lips, golden arms snaked out to draw the short-tempered man closer. "What a lovely idea, think Iíll get to work on that." Aya evaded the grasp and whapped Yohji again. "Dammit, Aya, whatís going on? Why did you wake me up, other than to abuse me?"

"We have to open the store."

"No, itís yours and Omiís turn. Ken and I run the afternoon shift." The playboy suddenly felt uneasy at the very slight, very evil smile gracing his loverís face. "Uh-oh."

Reaching into the closet for his yukata, Aya explained the situation to the older man. "Since you woke Omi up yesterday, I told him to sleep in today. That means you get to cover his shift."

"But I covered your shift yesterday! When do I get to sleep in?"

Yohji was just too cute, all frumpy and pouty, blond hair tussled from sleep and body gloriously naked. But Aya didnít let the sight get to him, Kudoh had to pay for last night. For the hour and a half of hell that he had been put through, thanks to Omi wanting to Ďask a few questionsí. "Tomorrow. Now if you donít want to do that sleeping on the couch, get out of bed and get ready. If I come back from my shower and find you asleep, you _will_ regret it." Threat issued, Aya made his way to the bathroom.

Knowing that his lover wouldnít be gone very long and would live up to that promise, Yohji first looked longingly down at his bed then sighed and grabbed his cigarettes. Walking over to the window he settled on the sill and had a smoke, enjoying the nicotine rushing through his veins. Might as well enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet while waiting for the killjoy to finish washing up. In about five minutes Aya returned, clad in his robe and hair still wet from the shower. Flicking the almost finished cigarette outside, Yohji pushed the smaller man down on the bed and commenced drying the crimson strands. The ritual helped to put the blond in a good mood, content with life even if he was up at some godless hour and not getting any sex. At least not yet.

When that task was done he leaned forward and rested his head on Ayaís shoulder, taking a deep breath. "Mmm, you always smell so good after a shower." About to kiss the back of a pale and tasty nape, Yohji was startled when the redhead suddenly slipped off the bed.

"We donít have the time for this, weíre running late as it is. Go get your shower."

Taking a good look at Aya, Yohji tried to decide if the man was still upset about last night, when he had thought that he had been cheated upon. Cautiously getting up from the bed he walked over to Aya, pressing forward as the redhead backed up against the wall. "What if I say we have the time, hmm?" Hands fisting in the cotton robe he held Aya still as he bent his head for a kiss. A part of him expected the younger man to flinch or put up some resistance.

He was partially surprised when his kitten kissed him back, no trace of hesitation evident in the manner that mouth attached to his. Yohji felt a sense of relief that Aya wasnít angry at him anymore. The emotion quickly turned into desire as long fingers threaded through his hair and a slender body melted in his arms. Maybe he could get that morning assault in after all. But before he could work the knotted belt open the man managed to slip away again. "Sorry, Yohji, but we really donít have the time." Checking out the clock, Yohji noticed that the statement was true. "But, the alarm just went off," he said, all confused.

"For the second time. I reset it earlier for another hour." There was a trace of guilt on the smaller assassinís face, his boyfriend knew how much Aya hated the thought of slacking off from work. Though if Aya felt he needed another hour of sleep, then most likely he needed a few more as well.

Crossing over to his lover, who regarded him warily, Yohji tilted up a pale face and studied the shadowed eyes. "Why donít you just go back to bed, love. I can manage the shop, been getting a lot of practice lately. You look like you still have a bit of a headache."

Not denying the fact, Aya calmly replied that he had some special orders to do that day. Rocking up on his toes to kiss the blond on the mouth, Aya turned around and headed over to the closet. He stopped to pull on a pair of boxers along the way, hanging his robe back on the door. Yohji merely stared after him for a minute, watching as the swordsman selected a sweater he had gotten him a couple of weeks ago. It was a deep sky blue, thick and soft and a touch too big. Seemed he couldnít get enough of the man looking so adorable in oversized shirts and hadnít been able to resist buying one a size too large. It was almost as good as Aya wearing something skin-tight and tended to prevent too many people from trying to hit on the redhead. Well, maybe just one or two of them, the damn lechers were very persistent. Khaki cargo pants completed the outfit, a welcome change from the usual all black or dark ensembles the quiet man usually wore. Once more crossing over and giving Aya a kiss, Yohji asked him to get a pot of coffee brewing while he started to get ready himself.

Fifteen minutes later the blond man entered the kitchen and found a plate of eggs waiting for him, just how he liked them after a night of drinking. Over easy. Which wasnít something that he could normally manage, usually Yohji broke the yolks when he made them while suffering a hangover. Next to the plate was a mug of coffee, the beverageís aroma filling the room. What wasnít there was a certain redhead. Nor was there any sign of another plate in the sink, soaking along with the pan. Quickly shoving the food into his mouth, Yohji made fast work of his breakfast and headed out the back door. Good thing Aya had him to look after the stubborn fool.

*******

Deciding that Yohji could put all of the Ďpracticeí that he had mentioned earlier to work and have the honors of setting up the shop, Aya quickly gathered the supplies he needed to get started on the arrangements. There was always a lot that needed to be done on the weekends, what with parties and other social events requiring floral arrangements. The redhead was hoping that once he got the orders out of the way he could return back to his bed for a quick nap before they were to meet up with Stout and his boyfriend that evening. He was still exhausted from yesterday, it usually took him a day or two to completely bounce back from one of his really bad migraines, and the misunderstanding last night hadnít helped things at all. Neither had pushing himself with the workout, hoping to vent some of his hurt and anger.

Shaking his head, Aya refused to think about the matter any more. Yohji hadnít cheated on him, unless Tamema had lied to his face. Which was something that the Crasher just wouldnít do. Neither would Yohji. What it came down to was a matter of trust, just like Kudoh had said. Whether or not he truly could trust his boyfriend, something told the redhead that the relationship wouldnít last for much longer if he let these nagging fears eat away at him. Fears that he still didnít completely understand. Aya had never worried about Yohji cheating on him before, why the sudden change? Growling softly at his circular thinking Aya firmly settled the matter once and for all. Kudoh wouldnít cheat on him, the man liked living way too much to do something that stupid. That was final. No more doubts. The sense of loss and anxiety that had been filling him the past week could go to hell, he wasnít going to heed it anymore.

Now if only his boyfriend would get his ass to work. If he found him back in bed, Kudoh was going to discover that there were other things besides infidelity that could cost him his life. Like sloth, for instance. If the lazy blond wasnít down here in ten more minutes, Aya was going to search him out.

With two minutes to spare Yohji showed up for his shift, carrying a small white box. Which was promptly set in front of the redhead. Aya regarded it suspiciously. "What is this and where the hell were you?"

"Getting some donuts from the cafť across the street. Thought we could use a little sugar high to get us through the shift." Opening the box up, Yohji picked up a cream-filled donut and waved it in front of his loverís face. During the past few months he had learned that Aya had quite a sweet tooth, and couldnít resist anything almond flavored or cream-filled. It might not be the manís beloved cream puffs but the pastry should do as a means of ensuring the stubborn fool actually ate something that day.

The treat was snatched out of his hands after being stared at for a few moments. Yohji smiled as dark violet eyes regarded the donut hungrily and then Aya started to nibble on it. Gods he could watch his kitten eat like that all day long. Well, maybe not all day, hell just after a few seconds he was ready to drag Aya back to the greenhouse and let him nibble on something else. As soon as the smaller man finished off his breakfast Yohji moved in for the kill.

Brushing back the long bangs, the playboy let his breath hit Ayaís sensitive neck, expecting the man to melt in his arms as he always did. For a second it seemed to be working and earning him a favorable response, when the redhead went stiff and pushed him away. "I know what you are trying to do, Kudoh. Save it for when Omi needs some new pointers and leave me the hell alone."

"What? How could-." This was impossible; Aya had never picked up on his tactics this swiftly before. Usually he only noticed he was being seduced when Yohji started to drag him back to the greenhouse or upstairs.

"Itís not working this time. Among other things last night, Omi told me about your little seduction techniques. Now go away and get the shop ready, it needs to open in fifteen minutes." Aya glared at him for a moment before resuming his work.

Yohji could only stare at his lover for a minute. "But AyaÖ"

"Go away."

Deciding to give it one more try Yohji pressed his body against the slender figure seated in front of him, letting the man feel just how in the mood he was. Bending his head to lick an adorned ear, the blond wrapped his arms tight about his loverís waist. "Can do a lot of things in fifteen minutes. Like make you feel all nice and warm, hmm kitten?"

Aya leaned back against his boyfriend, titling his head to the side. He let Yohji nuzzle his neck for a moment, and when the older man started to lift him from the stool nailed him good in the ribs. "I said no."

"But-"

"NO. Nor any antics in the greenhouse or storeroom or anywhere else during work, not for a whole week." When it looked as if the older man was going to argue with him Aya glared back threateningly. "Keep pushing and it will be two weeks. And if Tsukiyono _ever_ corners me again like he did last night, itíll be a month." That was the best revenge he could think of, hitting Yohji were it would really hurt. It had come to him in the shower when he had grimly thought about how his boyfriend would most likely pounce on him in the shop since heíd refused to have sex before work. Poor Kudoh was going to have to go eight whole hours without any sex. Should be entertaining to watch, and Aya stood a chance of actually getting some stuff done in the Koneko for once. Like go over the inventory for the fall, do some reorganizing, maybe crack open the books. There would be more than enough work to keep him busy and prevent him from regretting his choice of punishment. "Now set up the shop."

Thinking evil thoughts about his lover and even more evil ones about the chibi, Yohji reluctantly did as he was bid. No greenhouse trysts for an entire week. Dammit. Trust Aya to pick a punishment that would get to him the most. Well, maybe just a lot. Being completely cut off for a week would be unbearable. Yohji dejectedly pulled up the shutters and unlocked the door, quickly sweeping the sidewalk before dragging plants out for display. Why the hell was he the one paying for Ken and Omiís messed up romantic lives? All he was trying to do was help two friends get together, and now he was being persecuted. By a man who supposedly loved him. Who he bought donuts for and got out of bed early to cover his damn shifts. Life royally sucked. No hauling his kitten into the greenhouse for 168 hours, and if he knew the man half as well as he thought he did, Aya wasnít going to set foot in there a minute before all that time was up. He didnít know what it was about taking the man in the conservatory that pushed his buttons, whether the fact that someone could look in and see them, albeit only vaguely, the heat or the smell of all those flowers and the dirt, but the next week was going to be hell. Now that he was forbidden from having sex in there that was what he desperately craved. Plus there would now be no way to break up the boring tediousness of the shift.

Busy setting up the shop and sulking, the blond was startled when one pale hand held out a croissant and another a mug of coffee in front of him. "Stop sulking, Kudoh."

"I am not sulking," Yohji said bitingly, eyeing the offered treats warily. "What did you do, sprinkle some poison on them?" Or something even worse. Trust the man to kick him when he was down. Why heíd fallen for such a vindictive lover, Yohji would never know.

Sighing, Aya resisted the urge to smack the idiot. "No, Iím too much of a masochist to get rid of you so quickly." When that failed to provoke a response from the older man he set the coffee and snack on the counter. The redhead found himself relenting somewhat, never able to cope with disappointing Kudoh for long. "Fine." Guess Yohji took the punishment a bit harder than he had thought. "Just wanted you to know I said no sex during work. Didnít mention anything about none in the greenhouse at all, just not while weíre on the clock." Green eyes lighted up at that remark, Yohjiís good humor restored. If Aya had to guess heíd say that heíd be dragged back to the hothouse every day for the next week the second his shifts were over.

Feeling a bit better at the news Yohji hitched a hip up on the counter and pulled the redhead close. "I know, no sex, but that still leaves us a few options," he remarked at the beginning of a glare sent his way. Remembering the unlocked door he indulged himself with one brief kiss before letting Aya go. Yep, the man loved him, if some simple pouting worked to make Aya Fujimiya relent a little. Still, Omi was going to pay for his suffering. Half the fun of their work rendezvous was the possibility of their coworkers catching them at any time. Well, at least on his part.

Hands free now that Aya had backed away he picked up the coffee and croissant. The smaller man leaned against the counter beside him. Yohji nodded his head in the direction of the pastry box. "Thereís more donuts over there, better get them before the walking stomach and the sugar addict wake up and report for duty."

"Iím fine."

"Right, thatís probably the first thing youíve eaten since the other night. No wonder my clothes look so big on you. We need to fatten you up, love."

Weight shifting to rest against a bony shoulder, Aya shook his head. "Saving room for dinner tonight." At Yohjiís blank stare he elaborated. "Weíre meeting Stout and his boyfriend later, remember? Getting that date he extorted from you out of the way."

Green eyes blinked at that statement, their owner confused over Aya willingly submitting to the date. "What, you still want to go? Why donít we just call up the pest and tell him youíre not feeling well. Itís the truth, you still look like you need a couple more hours of sleep."

"I want this obligation out of the way as soon as possible, Kudoh. The longer we wait the more likely heís going to pull some insane stunt on us. So we go this evening and suffer through whatever Stout has planned." That said Aya pushed off the counter, determined to get back to his arrangements and finish them so he could go lie down before facing Stout later on. He felt that he would need all of his energy for that.

A customer entering the store prevented Yohji from taking chase and trying to talk some sense into his boyfriend. That signaled the start of the weekend rush, keeping him busy on the floor while Aya worked hard on the many orders. The pace didnít let up all morning, and it was with a sigh of relief that the playboy spied Omi and Ken show up around lunchtime. "Itís about time, fellas. You wouldnít believe how busy itís been today."

Aya glanced up from his table, where he was putting the finishing touches on a special request from a walk-in customer. Now that Omi was here he could leave any such others in the hands of the teenager. Once the arrangement was done he handed it to his client and started to clean up his station. The quiet man then walked over to the other assassins, taking off his apron as he did so.

"Aya-kun! You look a little better today. Did you get enough sleep last night?" Blue eyes stared accusingly at Yohji during that remark, almost certain that the redhead hadnít gone to bed without being molested first. Omiís scowl increased when he spotted the huge bruise on Yohjiís neck. That hadnít been there before the man had gone out for the night. The older blond just looked over the head of an elderly woman buying daisies and stuck out his tongue.

"The orders are done for the day. Iím going now." With that he turned around and left the shop. Kenís punishment would have to wait until Monday, it was too busy to do anything about it today. Aya stopped in the kitchen for a glass of juice, then made his way upstairs to his bedroom.

Back in the shop Ken had started to load the arrangements he needed to deliver into the van. "Man, itís gonna take forever to get all of these done. I hate running all over town; spend more time in traffic than anything."

Yohji didnít feel a whole hell of a lot of sympathy for the brunet. "Yeah, well you have three hours. I need you back here by then, have to get ready for a date tonight."

As the teenage girls around the playboy started to squeal and shout out questions about his plans and whom he was taking, Ken made a face. Yohji caught it and waved a finger at the athlete. "Ah-ah, Kenken. Youíve left early to play with your kids several times already this month, so itís my turn for once." Brown eyes looked pleadingly in Omiís direction. Ken had really wanted to sneak off a couple hours early again; one of his kidsí rivals was playing today and he had planned on watching the game, seeing if he couldnít find some weaknesses for his kids to exploit.

"Sorry, Ken. Yohji has a point. And since he got up to open the shop yesterday, he deserves a bit of a break today." Omi wasnít in much of a giving mood in regards to the brunet. Maybe if Ken had gone out with him last night and not to the stupid sports bar, he would have stuck up for the man. Defeated, the soccer fanatic walked towards the waiting van, shoulders drooping.

When there was a lull in the clientele an hour later Omi stopped his restocking of the lilies to ask Yohji a question. "Hey Yotan. Did we have company last night? Could have sworn I heard the kitchen door open and close."

"Mmph? Oh, yeah, I forgot something at the club, and Masato had picked it up and brought it here for me." There was no way he was informing the other two about his and Ayaís fight. Heíd just get scolded for upsetting the redhead when he wasnít feeling well. As if last night had been his fault. "Got a question for you now, chibi. What the hell had possessed you to ask Aya for advice last night? Are you nuts? Heís the last person you go to for help about a relationship, donít all of our fights register on you or what?"

"I still asked you, didnít I? Plus the stuff you told me hasnít been working out very well; I needed to get another opinion. And, uh, I had a few questions I wanted to ask of a, er, technical nature. Thought he would do a better job of answering them than you." Omi had to admit that it was nice to have all his questions answered without any teasing involved at all. It would have taken forever to get Yohji to help him, what with all the smart remarks the lanky man would have been sure to make. Not to mention the sexual innuendos.

Stalking over to his teammate and putting the boy in a headlock so as to ruffle Omiís hair, Yohji growled threateningly. "Well do me a favor and never do that again. Ayaís idea of seduction is not dismembering his dates. Canít imagine what he told you to do to get Kenís attention."

"Let go!" Struggling about the youth finally managed to get free by stomping on his assailantís foot. When a few meters out of reach he huffed and set his hair in order. "He told me to either get him drunk, ignore him, or make him jealous."

Rubbing his sore toes, Yohji considered the advice for a minute. It actually didnít sound too bad; he had even toyed with mentioning the jealous part to the kiddo. "Well, if you want any help with getting Hidaka drunk so you can take advantage of him, be sure to let me know." That said he went outside for a cigarette.

Still trying to straighten out his appearance, Omi thought about Ayaís words a little more. Maybe the quiet man had been on to something there. Only one way to tell, try out one or two of the suggestions.

*******

Feeling the mattress shift underneath him, Aya instantly woke up. Dark violet eyes opened to see a shirtless Yohji leaning over him, a leer on the manís handsome face. It took him a moment to shake off the vague dream he could barely recall and make sense of the sight before him. Heíd been standing in a garden, hadnít he? Waiting for its owner to show up but she never had. The words ĎIím so sorryí had kept echoing through the air. "Arenít you supposed to be working?" Not that the pale man was about to complain, it was so reassuring to have Yohji near, clearly not in any threat of danger. A sense of anxiety that he hadnít known that had been filling him fled Aya as he gazed wearily at the older assassin.

"You arenít the only one who got out of work a little early today. Now that weíre both off the clock how about we have some fun, hm?" The blond set about unwrapping his lover from the comforter, tugging on the bedding impatiently. "What are you, half caterpillar? Swear youíre cocooning here, love." Aya just hníed as he rolled over, assisting Yohjiís efforts. As soon as he was freed he was jerked up for a searing kiss.

Still half asleep, the swordsman didnít even try to resist his seduction. A skilled mouth took his breath away, making him shiver in pleasure and anticipation. It dimly registered on his addled senses when his jeans were unzipped and pushed down his hips, and only the fact that Yohji had to pull away from him to tear off his sweater brought that fact to his attention. Aya lifted his arms so it could be jerked over his head, then wrapped the limbs around his loverís neck. A smile graced his lips as he lightly fingered the dark bruise he had left on Kudohís neck the night before, tracing over the imprint of teeth. A golden hand lifted to stroke his neck in return, just about the same area he was now touching. "Fairís fair, kitten. I let you mark me, my turn now." Aya drew in a sharp breath as a set of teeth took to nibbling on the side of his neck, soon to be replaced by a sucking mouth. He went limp in the older manís arms, humming softly at the pleasurable sensation.

The mouth trailed down his neck to the collarbone, stopping to nibble and suck every few inches. "Huhn, I only left one on you, Kudoh." Yohji pulled away from his upper chest, a smile curving the lips that had just been torturing him so. Aya felt himself lowered to the bed, a hand cupping the back of his head ever so gently. "Yeah, but you donít have a set of claw marks going down your back like I do. I think weíre even now." The redhead just closed his eyes and hauled his loverís head down for a kiss. After a couple of minutes he grinded his hips upward, provoking a low moan from the older man as their erections rubbed against each other. Aya took to nibbling on Yohjiís ear as the manís hands skimmed down his sides to his hips, holding him still.

"Donít do that love, or this will be over before itís even started." Yohji felt ready to explode at any minute, so hard that he ached at the feel of Aya once more underneath him, the pale man now sucking on the skin right below his ear. A shaky hand fumbled about for the container of lubricant while the other stroked his loverís shaft, eager to make the man just as desperate as he was. Aya gave up on leaving him with another hickey to gasp out his name, pale hands clutching at his shoulders. Yohji urged the long legs around his waist to spread apart further as he pushed a slickened finger inside the redhead, twisting it about until Aya writhed against him.

When a second finger had been added and scissored about for a few endless moments Yohji pulled them out and starting to push into the smaller man, panting with the effort not to slam his way in. It didnít help that Aya was tilting his hips up while wrapping those long legs around his waist so tight he was going to be bruised. Shifting one of the pale limbs up onto his shoulder the blond rocked forth, earning another gasp. Yohji picked up the pace, being driven on by the low mewls his lover was producing, wanting to make him come before he did. Once more stroking Ayaís cock in time to his speeding thrusts, the older man smiled smugly when he drove his kitten over the edge. The expression didnít last long as the tight convulsions around his shaft dragged him over as well.

Holding himself up off of the slender man on a trembling set of arms, Yohji couldnít help but smile tenderly at the slight curve on Ayaís lips. He watched as the dark violet eyes drifted open, wondering idly when the manís eyes were going to return to normal, they had never been so dark for this amount of time. The thought soon vanished though when the pale man pulled him back down on top of him, hníing slightly as a golden head rested on his chest. Yohji was more than content just listening to his loverís heart slowly return to normal as Aya went back to sleep. Before he succumbed to the urge as well he sat up with a groan, reaching for some tissue to clean the two of them off with. Someone whom he wasnít going to mention could be a right grouchy bastard if he woke up all sticky. That taken care of the blond double checked the alarm and pulled a sleeping Aya into his arms, soon joining him in sleep.

*******

Old Man waited until the elevator door closed before turning to acknowledge Smoke. "Well?" A wrinkled hand reached out and keyed in an override, stopping the elevator car while preventing the alarm from going off.

"Iíve just been informed that a member of Schreiend has undertaken surveillance at the Magic Bus Hospital."

"That didnít take long." Old Man stroked his chin, eyes looking inward. "When do you think they will move?"

Smoke pulled a report out of her briefcase and handed it over to her elderly co-conspirator. "Late tomorrow night, maybe Monday morning. Most likely between the shift changes. Iíve arranged that the midnight security shift will be understaffed due to illness, and for a computer failure to occur. Even if Orchidee or his teammates think of investigating the matter, they will find nothing but bad timing to be the culprit of the girlís kidnapping."

"Hm." Weary eyes scanned the document. "Your precogs are being highly vague here, even more so than usual."

"I know," Smoke answered in a sigh, resisting the urge to chew in a hangnail in frustration. "Itís as if something is blocking their talent, all they can say for sure is that the girl will be taken but not harmed, and that Orchidee will remain in the organization."

Tucking the papers into his own briefcase, Old Man reached out and patted the womanís arm. "Itís most like the boyís fault, theyíve never been able to get that accurate a read on him. What about Dr. Arai, is everything set up with her? This is a prime opportunity to return Orchidee back to regular psychiatric evaluations, will she be up to the task?"

"I believe so." Smoke nodded her head.

"Good. Then all we can do now is be prepared and see if Orchidee will break out of his shell."

*******

Teddy sat at a low table, checking his watch for the eighth time. If him and Koyu had been stood up there was a certain pair of assassins whose lives were going to be sheer hell for the next several months. Here he had actually gotten his lover out of his apartment for the first time in what seemed ages for something other than work or shopping. They even had plans for the whole evening, an unheard of event ever since the man had lost his eyesight. To have the bastards crush Koyuís hopes would be to invite the wrath of Teddy Stout down on their heads. Wrath way past biblical proportions.

"Are you sure you told them the right time," the blind man inquired.

"Yeah, I know I did. Maybe they just got stuck in traffic or something." They better had. Or be dead. That would be just as acceptable.

Just then he saw their waiter slide open the doors to their private dining area, Kudoh and Red in tow. "Ah, thatís them now. Knew they wouldnít forget about tonight." Teddy patted Koyuís hand reassuringly, a little upset at the apprehensive look on the Japanese manís face. "Donít worry, like I said you and Aya should hit it off smashingly." Damn Aso for hurting the man. Koyu had been so full of life and humor before his assault, most of which had been snuffed out by the psychopath. Before his lover would never had even thought to be nervous about meeting someone else.

"There you guys are, sorry weíre late." Yohji sniffed in disdain at the low table when he came up to it, much preferring to sit on a chair and not the floor. "Just had to pick a traditional place, didnít you Stout?"

Remembering the manís voice from the one time heíd visited the flower shop, Koyu smiled nervously. "Iím sorry, Teddy chose this restaurant because it is one of my favorites." He knew how much his boyfriend was trying to make this an enjoyable evening for him, and felt a little guilty at having his preferences inflicted on their guests. But before he could apologize again he heard a yelp.

"Ow! Dammit, Aya, you always hit the same sore spot. We need to get you on some Prozac or something before you break all my bones."

While trying to make sense of that comment Koyu suddenly smelled lilies. "Our apologies for being late. Kudoh said you liked lilies. Iím Aya Fujimiya. The restaurant is fine." There was a rustle of paper on the table before him and when the blind man felt around he found the flowers, wrapped in tissue paper. He swore he heard a softly snarled ĎKudoh, sit and behaveí as he picked the bouquet up and sniffed it.

"Koyu Saito. So nice to finally meet you, Teddy has told me so much about you."

"Iím sure he has," Yohji muttered darkly. Easily seating himself on the floor, Aya tugged on his loverís arm until the lanky man flopped down beside him. When the blond looked as if to make another snide comment about where they were dining a crimson eyebrow was arched in warning. Getting the hint, Yohji wisely didnít say anything more about the restaurant. "Well, here we all are, finally. So, Saito, see that you havenít had those mental problems addressed yet. Still dating Teddy."

"Very funny, Kudoh." If it wasnít for the smile on his boyfriendís face Teddy would have ripped into the blond for that joke. Instead he just treated the man to a dirty look, narrowed eyes widening in delight as they took in a golden neck marred by quite an impressive bruise. Then saw a matching mark on a pale one. "Hey, Koyu. Think I figured out why the two are so late. Yohji has one hell of a hickey on his neck, and Aya as well. Looks as if they nibbled on each other before coming here. You guys have some fun and lose track of the time or what?" He started to chuckle at the synchronized glare he received from the couple.

Yohji protectively tucked his arms along his sides before snapping back at the man. "Ha ha. You know what, Teddy? I vote we leave your ass here and the three of us go out and grab some real food and have a good time on our own." Aya just frowned at him as he picked up a menu.

"Gee Kudoh, you are overwhelming me with the national pride there. Just shut up and eat your damn raw fish. What a wuss, someday Iím going to have to make you some haggis. Want to eat something really terrible, thatíll fit the bill."

"I am not a wuss, you snippy little cross-dresser," Yohji fired back. "I just happen to love this handy little invention called Ďfireí. Why the hell canít the food be cooked?"

"Eat it and maybe itíll put some hair on your chest. And itís a kilt, dammit, not a dress!"

Koyu leaned over the table, pretty sure that Fujimiya was sitting across from him. "Are they always like this?"

"Yes."

A bit taken back from the curt answer, the blind man sat back. Catching a glimpse of the closed expression on the strangerís face Aya leaned forward himself. "Theyíll be like this all night, better get used to it." Koyu smiled and shifted in his seat again.

"No wonder Teddy likes you two so much, nothing he loves better than a nice verbal spat. Though Kudoh seems to be doing well holding up his end of the conversation." Both men paused to listen to Yohji extol the virtues of prehistoric Asian culture, which was much more civilized than a bunch of hairy men running around in Europe who would spawn descendents that didnít know the difference between a skirt and pants. While Teddy came up with a suitable rebuttal the waiter approached the table again. Seeing the embattled pair, he wisely decided to walk to the other side and ask Aya and Koyu what they wanted to drink and if they were ready to order.

"Weíll take a carafe of nigori sake and the eight course omakase," Aya decided. If Kudoh was going to be so easily distracted he deserved to eat lots of raw fish.

Smiling, Koyu repeated the same order. When the man left he remarked that Aya at least had to like sashimi. Pansy colored eyes glancing sideways at his arguing boyfriend, Aya nodded his head. Then remembering that his dinner companion was blind, quietly said yes, he did. "This is a welcome change, we normally eat at Western restaurants." Most times it wasnít worth the hassle of putting up with Yohji ranting and raving about parasites and gas grills to get his choice of where they would dine.

"I know what you mean, itís an inherent danger in dating a foreigner. At least Teddy doesnít have anything against uncooked fish, he just likes lot of variety. Though it seems all we do anymore is eat out, since he canít cook and I-." Blushing slightly the blind man dropped his head, not finishing his sentence.

Wondering why it was that he had all these conversations thrust upon him lately, Aya asked a question. Anything to be distracted from hearing Teddyís diatribe about how under appreciated Scottish culture was. "Stout never said what you did for a living." He blushed a little himself, it suddenly occurring to him that maybe the man didnít work anymore. Aya really hated small talk, never having been very good at it. Anymore he could let Kudoh do all the necessary talking, much like Aya-chan used to do for him.

But Koyu didnít seem to mind the comment. "Iím a seiyuu. Donít do any real popular characters or products, but if you watch much tv Iím sure youíve heard me a time or two before. Which brings me to something Iíve wanted to say these past few minutes but was afraid would sound very weird, you have a very nice voice. Bet I could get quite a few jobs with a baritone like yours." He himself had a lovely tenor.

Unsure of how to take the compliment, the redhead just grunted and asked what work the other man had done. While Koyu was in the middle of going through his list the waiter approached, bringing four dishes of salmon tartar with caviar.

"- well at least Japan was defeated by a country a couple dozen times larger than itself, not itís small next door neighbor. How many times did England kick your ass? Your ancestors were probably too busy drinking and trying to figure out who was male and who wasnít to even know which end of the gun to Ė hey, whatís this? When did we order?"

"Ten minutes ago, Kudoh."

"It was during the whole Industrial revolution speech of TBís that the waiter came back," Koyu explained helpfully. Aya nodded his head and poured the two of them some sake, glaring when Yohji pinched him and held out his cup as well. The blond leaned over and whispered in his ear. "This stuff is giving me ideas, you know," referring to the cloudy white beverage.

"Hn. _Everything_ gives you ideas, Kudoh. Shut up and eat."

Regarding his first course with some distaste, Yohji quickly gulped the food down and washed the taste out of his mouth with the sake. Then he looked around the private room and got an idea. Waiting until Aya finished off his meal he reached out and pulled the smaller man in close, silencing any protest over the action with a deep, lingering kiss. Upon releasing the sputtering redhead he calmly smiled at Aya. "Maybe I wonít mind this too much after all, gotta love these secluded rooms. Bring on the next course."

Hiccupping with laughter, Teddy quietly explained what had happened to his boyfriend. "I knew you wouldnít be able to keep your hands to yourself for any length of time, Kudoh. Thatís part of the reason I booked us here, didnít want you frightening the other customers as you mauled Red." Aya glared at the both of them while refilling everyoneís cups, liking it much better when the two men were fighting with each other and not trading conspiratal grins. "Werenít you saying something about guns?" he asked in a soft voice.

Debate sparked off again, Yohji and Teddy started at it anew. Off to the side Koyu and Aya quietly continued their discussion. After finishing their talk about Koyuís work they moved on to flowers and then music, talking about the upcoming concert and various other events coming to Tokyo. Every so often they were interrupted by the waiter returning with another course and more sake, or a particularly loud volley from either Yohji or Teddy. Those two had moved on from history to politics, a disastrous change of topic. And of course Yohji pounced on his lover after each course was done. At first Aya gritted his teeth but soon good food, great conversation and lots of sake had him not caring about being all but pulled into the blondís lap and molested several times that evening.

By the end of the meal Aya was leaning against the older man, a lanky arm snug about his waist and his head resting on Yohjiís shoulder. Teddy had an arm about Koyu himself, partially in effort to remain sitting upright. Doing a quick mental count, Yohji was amazed at how much liquor the four of them had put away. Dinner hadnít been half bad after all, and this should count towards the next time Aya tried to drag him off to a sushi bar. "Yeah, well I still say America has a screwed up voting system. Everyone votes, but it doesnít really count. Whatís up with that?" His lover elbowed him softly in the ribs, growling out Ďshut upí. It took Teddy a moment to gather up his befuddled thoughts and when he did the waiter luckily chose that moment to present the foursome with the bill for the evening.

A set of green eyes widened in surprise when a grinning Teddy promptly turned over the check to Yohji. He waited until their server had left before protesting. "Whatís the deal here, Stout? Thought dinner was your idea."

"I picked up the concert tickets, you can pay for the meal." About to argue that he refused to pay for something that hadnít been cooked properly, the blond considered how Aya had a prime angle for nailing him in the side again. He slowly closed his mouth, glowering at the American. When he saw the total, not helped at all by the amount of alcohol ordered, the dirty look went up a notch. "You are so not getting any more free flowers for quite a while, pest."

"Oh, relax Kudoh, Iím sure youíll have a nice, well paying commission coming your way soon. Quit being such a tightwad. Now hurry up and leave some cash, we need to get to the concert hall immediately." Grumbling a little Yohji did just that, busy thinking of ways to get the short brunet back for this. Maybe he could hit Aya up for some suggestions; his kitten was very talented at that sort of thing. Once the check was settled everyone more or less rose to their feet, Koyu having to steady his drunk boyfriend a bit.

The couple followed Yohji and Aya out to the parking lot. "Oi, Kudoh, can we bum a lift off of you guys? Itíll take forever to get a cab."

It was hard for the playboy to suppress an evil smile. "One condition, Stout. You get to pick up the bar tab later." Yohji barely stopped himself from laughing at the look on Teddyís face. The man clearly wanted to tell him to go to hell but didnít want to do it in front of Saito. So Teddy just hmphed and nodded his head, long braids flapping about at the jerking motion.

The drive to the concert hall was uneventful, besides Stoutís comment about a certain Japanese man doing his frugal, i.e. really, really cheap bastards of ancestors proud. Everyone settled into their seats with just moments to spare before the concert started. Yohji took a few seconds to give the three women up on stage a quick perusal, captured Ayaís hand in one of his and pulled it discreetly onto his lap before putting on his sunglasses and promptly falling asleep. Heíd suffered through dinner, there was no way in hell the blond was going to sit through an hour and a half of classical music, of all things. Not when the trio up there were keeping their clothes on. Just before he drifted off he heard a lowly muttered threat that if he started snoring his ribs were going to be sore for a week.

Next thing Yohji knew he was being shaken awake as the people around him stood up and filed out of the concert hall. "It over already?"

Aya nodded his head, trying to pry his hand out of Kudohís. Koyu and Teddy stood waiting for them in the aisle. Bringing the pale hand in for a swift kiss, Yohji reluctantly let go of it and stretched as he stood up. "That was quick."

"I canít believe that you slept through the whole concert," Teddy remarked enviously. It had been no fun having to sit quietly and still all that time, while the blond had been luckily unconscious and Koyu and Red enraptured by the music. It would be worth his life to pull a stunt like that with his boyfriend right next to him. Blind or not Koyu would have picked up on it in an instant for some strange reason. He was really hoping the man and Aya hit it off, maybe then the two of them could go to all these stupid recitals while he got stay at home.

"Yeah, well what can I say, I was really tired." Yohji winked at his lover, who remained stony-faced. "Being nibbled on takes a lot out of a person."

"Aw, and here I imagined you as having all this stamina, Kudoh. Youíve dashed my sacred image of you and Red going at it non-stop."

Trying hard not to wrap his arms about the impassive redhead, what with them being out in public, Yohji smirked at his friend. "Donít worry, weíre just recharging."

"Youíre encouraging him," Aya hissed out, hugging his arms tight against his chest. The concert hallís air conditioning had him shivering. Yohji held the door to the parking garage open for him, bowing him through it. When they managed to get an elevator to themselves he gave in to the urge and embraced the smaller man, taking a moment to brush back the long bangs and tug on an eartail. Aya was too grateful for the warmth to do much more than snarl. Teddy smiled at the couple as he hooked his arm with Koyuís, having a legitimate excuse to hold on to the blind man in public.

"I look at it as not so much agreeing with him as just pausing in trying to make him see the proper reality of the situation," Koyu added to the discussion. "Thereís the real world, and then Teddyís."

The American huffed and knocked his shoulder into his boyfriend. "Youíre supposed to be defending me, donít you know. Traitor."

A hand blindly searched out where it thought Teddyís chin was, found and tilted said objective so an apologetic kiss could be given. "Sorry, TB, but you have to admit that when you have an idea in your head youíre pretty tenacious. Nothing can make you let go of it. Mickey and Iís hair should be pure white by now, what with putting up with some of the antics you think of." As soon as he was settled into Yohjiís car Koyu continued with his train of thought. "You wouldnít believe the things heís pulled. In fact he told me about this bet he started once, about someone at this disreputable bar he used to work at a few months past. It involved this reserved coworker of his and the manís insatiable boyfriend. Teddy, hush, Iím telling a story," he said to his lover, who was frantically tugging on his sleeve and saying Ďnot nowí. "Seemed he got the whole staff to have a pool going on the two men having sex in some back room or another, how long they would be in there and who would come out first. Teddy won that one, didnít you TB? Mickey told me that he thought for sure heíd lose a brother if the man ever found out; the man had a very short temper. Trust Teddy to pull a stunt like that, donít you think."

Yohji mumbled out a non-committal comment as he sunk lower and lower behind the wheel, praying that Aya didnít look over at him. Fortunately the redhead was too busy treating a reflected pair of blue eyes in the review mirror to a shi-ne glare. "I think Mickey was right," was all the pale assassin said. Teddy gulped and tried to hide behind Koyu.

*******

Gasping in pain, Crawford clutched at his head. It took several seconds for the vision to leave him, a jumbled mess that left him frustrated and not very clear as to what was going to happen. All he knew for sure was that a young woman was going to be abducted from the hospital by Schreiend. He recognized the girl as being both Aya Fujimiya and the future host for the convergence. It seemed that Fate was slowly moving the girl from the protective arms of her brother and Kritiker, eventually to end up in Essetís hands. What the precog could not figure out was what the rest of the vision had signified. Once again something was blocking him from his talent and he was getting thoroughly sick of that happening.

The American reached into his desk drawer and pulled out some pain relievers. He swallowed several with the aid of a cup of coffee, standing up as he set the cup back down on his desk. Crawford left his office and made his way upstairs to Nagiís bedroom. Once there he just walked into the shut room, not bothering to knock before he opened the door.

Nagi looked up from his computer screen as he entered. "Crawford, I was just going to come down to you. Iíve successfully cracked the Kritiker database and found those files that you wanted. You were right, the code name was Ďshadowí, only in German. And you wonít believe the amount of files that I found on Abyssinian. Reams of data, itíll take a couple of discs to download all-." The teenager let his voice drift off as dark blue eyes stared at him calmly, suddenly realizing that he was uncharacteristically babbling. Nagi couldnít help it; he had never thought that Kritiker had any talented agents, let alone so many. Even if they seemed to be lower level talent, from the little he had checked. Neither had the telekinetic ever expected to find one of their WeiŖ enemies to be talented as well. "I have the data for you."

"Very good." Crawford crossed over to the computer, checking out the monitor then pulling up a couple of screens. After several minutes he spoke. "I see. So they think heís clairvoyant. Very interesting." He continued to study the information for a while longer.

"Donít you think heís one?" Nagi asked, a frown on his face. Hadnít Crawford been the first one to bring up Abyssinian having power in the first place?

Nodding his head, the man adjusted his glasses. "Yes, I think he is. It would explain several things rather nicely. Iím just wondering-." Crawford leaned in to better read a file. "Just wondering if that is all he really is."

His young teammate looked at him in some puzzlement. "You think he has more than one talent? Is that possible?"

Crawford reminded himself just how short a time Prodigy had been with Schwarz. There was so much the boy didnít know about talents in general, the team had focused mainly on educating him about his own to spend much time teaching him about others. "Yes, itís possible to have more than one talent. But before I decide one way or another if Abyssinian is one of those rare individuals, I want to investigate what youíve found. Can you send this to my computer, I would much rather read through it down there."

The boy nodded his head. "I can do that right now."

"Good." The American turned around and left, not saying another word.

Nagi watched his leader depart then turned back to his computer. With a few keystrokes he started to send the various files to Crawfordís terminal, but made sure to copy each and ever one before they were on their way. It appeared that there was a lot of things he still needed to learn about talents, this would be as good a way as any. When his task was done he got up as well to fetch something to eat and drink. He thought it might be a long night.

On his way to the kitchen Nagi idly wondered if Schwarz was about to get another member. Surely Oracle wouldnít leave the man with WeiŖ, not now that they knew he was talented. Abyssinian shouldnít be left with a bunch of normals; it never went well when the two were allowed to mix. Besides, the teenager somehow doubted that Schuldig would allow that to continue much longer, now that he had a legitimate excuse to bring Abyssinian to them. Micro-waving a frozen dinner, Nagi thought that it might be nice to have another person in the house. Someone who would keep the telepath occupied and not such a pest. Not to mention the fact that it would be nice to have another Japanese person to talk to. It got wearying at times, living with a bunch of foreigners. He would have to make the effort to be courteous to the man from now on.

*******

"You call this a small, quiet bar Stout?" Aya inquired softly, his eyes surveying the establishment that Teddy had directed them towards. While technically small, it was packed full of people, foreigners and Japanese evenly dispersed amongst the place. Music could barely be heard over the din of chatter.

"Well, it usually is quiet, guess they have a new special going on for the summer." Teddy waved at the bartender, another foreigner who motioned to an empty table over in the corner. Nodding his thanks the longhaired man steered his companions over to it. "Just thought it would be a good place to have a few drinks at, where we could be assured to have a place to sit. Mickey knows the owner, used to bartend for him when we first moved to Tokyo a couple years back." In a few minutes a waitress came over. "What is everyone drinking?"

"Anything but whiskey," Aya quickly tossed out, an arm around his stomach. He didnít think heíd be delving into Yohjiís stash of Jameson any time soon.

A black eyebrow quirking at the comment, Teddy turned back to the waitress. "Tell Pete to make us whatever he comes up with, as long as it doesnít contain any whiskey." Order placed, he turned around to face the three men. "That was a really crazy time back then, the two of us crashing at all of these friendís places while Mickey tried to earn enough for an apartment of our own." For a moment he reflected sadly on the events that had precipitated that move before shaking off the sense of melancholy that overtook him whenever he thought of his father. "One of them lived in a rather shady district, over a bathhouse of all places. Poor Mickey turned bright red whenever he stepped out of the apartment, all of the girls had the biggest crush on him. They kept offering him free Ďscrub downsí." Having gotten a smile out of Koyu and Yohji but not Aya, who was still trying to figure out an appropriate way to pay Stout back for that bet, Teddy launched into some more stories.

Yohji countered by talking about past customers that would have driven a saint crazy. The two men quickly started a competition, trying to outdo each other with outrageous stories. Aya rolled his eyes while Koyu laughed more at the verbal antics of the two men than what they were actually saying. Several rounds of drinks were brought to the table and swiftly dispatched, some red and blue concoction that tasted like yellow cake batter but packed a whollop. Aya refused the latest one set in front of him, pushing it over to Yohji instead. Who was busy stroking a hand up and down his thigh. When it got too high heíd kick the blondís shin, the hand drifting back towards his knees only to roam upward again in a few minutes.

A pretty girl walked over to the jukebox stationed near their table, spending several minutes making a selection. Aya only noted her presence initially under the pretext that he thought it was a waste of money for the woman to pay for songs no one could hear. At least that was until she started to glance coyly over at the table. Especially at the corner that Teddy and Yohji were seated at. Burying his head in his hands, the pale man groaned Ďnot againí and started to wish heíd had that last drink after all. Anything to numb the approaching sense of doom he felt. The feeling intensified as she sashayed past the table, tossing an inviting look over her shoulder.

Pairs of blue and green eyes followed her for a few seconds before turning to look at each other. Yohji smiled smugly as he pulled Ayaís chair closer to his, surreptitiously sliding an arm around the manís waist. Damn, but it was always nice to be reminded just how much of a sexy bastard he was, especially when his kitten was playing hard to get. Teddy noted the expression and wrinkled his nose. "What are you grinning at, Kudoh? Hate to break it to you but she was flirting with me."

Sotto voiced, Koyu asked Aya what had just happened. Aya just as quietly answered him back. Meanwhile their two boyfriends started to argue over whom it was that look had been intended for.

"If she was looking at you it would have been in pure curiosity," Yohji fired back, "trying to figure out if you were a girl or a guy. Nope, it was definitely me she wanted."

Teddy rolled his eyes. "Hate to break it to you, but it was me she was checking out, and she had no doubt about my sex. Japanese girls just love gaijins, donít you know. Size does matter."

The playboy snorted. "Tell me about it, none of my dates have ever had any complaints in that regard. Right, love?" He got a scowl for that remark before Aya turned his back to him.

"Yeah, I can see how overwhelmed Red is. You know, I always thought all those hormones of yours were trying to make up for an inadequacy of sorts, you just try too hard."

Yohjiís mouth opened and closed for a moment as he sputtered. "Inadequate? Why you little transvestite, if I wasnít in a relationship right now Iíd show you just how Ďadequateí I am. Besides, the woman has to be able to guess youíre a guy to imagine your equipment in the first place!"

"All right, Kudoh, time to put your money where your mouth is. I say we go up there and find out just who she was after." Teddy shoved away from the table and got to his feet. "You coming or what?"

The blond pulled his lover around. "Hey kitten, you mind if I prove to this idiot just how mistaken he really is?" A pale hand waved him gone. Yohji stood up and stalked over to where the woman was seated at the bar, Teddy in tow.

"Whatís going on now," Koyu asked.

"Hn." Aya watched the exchange for a moment. "It looks as if Yohji was correct." There was a crestfallen expression on the Americanís face for a moment, before swiftly being replaced by a crafty look. He said something to Kudoh that had the man shaking his head firmly for a minute, until it stopped and a resolved look crossed the handsome features. Yohji turned around to spare a glance at Aya. A golden hand flew through a series of symbols and when the redhead nodded he faced Teddy again, walking back to the bar. "We may be here a while."

"What? Iím sorry, I donít understand what is happening."

Aya observed the two men for a couple of minutes, and taking in the brief message his boyfriend had sent him came up with a conclusion. "I think they are trying to see who can get the most women to be interested in them." Yohji had sent Ďdecoyí, Ďfive minutesí and Ďhave your backí. Guess the man was trying to reassure him that he wasnít serious about the phone number heíd just collected. Teddy scored one at the same time. The two men exchanged a look and went back to work. "Theyíll be at it all night."

There was a muffled sound coming from the blind man. Not sure what was going on with Koyu, Aya eyed him cautiously until he realized the other man was trying hard not to laugh out loud. He lost the battle. "Only Teddy can come up with something like that. Oh yes, theyíll definitely be there all night, Iím willing to venture neither one is going to concede this battle until every woman and man have been hit upon. Weíll never get to leave the place." At that point Koyu rubbed his head, not too happy with the idea of spending the next couple of hours in a loud, smoky bar overflowing with people. It got on his nerves, knowing that there were all these strangers around him and that he couldnít see them or tell who they were.

Feeling a headache come on as well, Aya debated a thought for a moment or two. "We can leave you know, I have a set of keys to the car."

Koyu smiled, clearly relishing the idea of leaving the bar. "But, what about Teddy and Kudoh? Do we tell them weíre going? How will they get home?"

"They have money." Aya said and gingerly cupped a hand under the blind manís elbow, helping him out of the chair and around the table. "Besides, they are the ones hitting on a bunch of strangers, I think weíre completely justified." Maybe a bit of panic upon the idiots finding him and Koyu gone would teach them a lesson. Not that the redhead was holding his breath, waiting for that to happen. The two morons would probably not notice that their boyfriends had abandoned them for another couple of hours.

*******

A woman stood in front of a huge cylindrical tank, filled with green liquid and what looked to be the suspended body of Japanese man. At her feet a young teenaged girl played with a stuffed bunny. The leader of Schreiendís eyes never left the distorted figure as she heard the hushed sound of footsteps approaching her. "What have you found out, Neu?"

"As far as I can tell, it doesnít seem to be a trap of any sorts. No undercover guards or booby traps, just the expected security around the girl. I donít think Kritiker has any idea at all that the information has been leaked." The visored woman spoke in a flat, uninflected tone of voice, her eyes riveted on the Masafumi Takatori as well.

Hell nodded her head. "Good, then we will move late tomorrow night. Abyssinian will pay for taking our beloved away from us. He will soon learn how it feels to have his heart torn from his body yet be forced to continue living."

"But not for long, right mister bunny? The nasty man will pay for harming Papa, yes he will." Tot giggled in anticipation.

"Yes he will. Soon. Him and the rest of WeiŖ," Hell said as she stroked the cool glass. "They all will suffer."

*******

"Here we are," Aya quietly spoke up as he guided Koyu into the coffeehouse. The other man had sheepishly announced that he wasnít ready to go home so early when they had made their way back to Yohjiís Seven. After thinking the matter over Aya had decided to head over here for some coffee. As usual just walking through the door helped to relax him from the tension that had been building in his muscles all night long, the music soothing and the scent of all the beverages divine. "The seat is to your right."

Once they were seated a waiter came over to take their order. The redhead noted that it was his usual server, a young man named Max. Who upon spying Koyu appeared very happy for some reason. "Itís nice to see you again, would you like your usual?" Aya nodded his head. "And yourÖ companion?"

"Can you make lattes?" When told yes the blind man ordered one with hazelnut. He listened to the sound of footsteps fading away before speaking to his new friend. "You come here a lot, Fujimiya?"

Aya glanced up at the question. "Yes." How odd, Yohji had asked that very same question when he had brought his lover here for the first time. Wasnít it obvious from the way Max regarded him? For a second there was a flash of pain in his head, a feeling of something snapping around him, the loss of constrictive ropes that he had never even felt before, but the sensations faded quickly. Rubbing at his temples he assumed that he had been pushing things too much, working and going out so soon after such a bad attack. "Why do you ask?" He suddenly felt the urge to hold Yohji, and fervently wished the idiot was here with him instead of playing games with Stout.

Koyu wrapped a strand of his overlong bangs around a finger, wondering if the other man could be that oblivious. There had been real puzzlement and curiosity in that question. Well, if Fujimiya couldnít tell something a blind man could, such as their waiter having a crush on him, what with the way he had spoken had made that rather obvious, who was he to enlighten him? No wonder Kudoh was as jealous and protective as Teddy painted him. "Just wondering, I have no clue what kind of place this is, and somehow I doubt that you are the type of person to patronize one of those chains."

"No, this is as far from a chain as you could possibly get." Aya felt a smile tug at his lips, distracting him from the aching pain and longing. The server chose at that minute to return, and when the pale man turned his face to thank him for the tea, the smile still on his lips, the waiter sputtered and blushed. Aya gazed after him curiously, trying to figure out what had caused that reaction. He saw some girl in a plaid skirt that looked an awful lot like one of Teddyís kilts pat the young man on the shoulder and give him a thumbs up sign. Shaking his head, the assassin returned his attention to his guest.

It was with a bit of a surprise that he realized how much he was enjoying Saitoís company. The man was quiet and intelligent, with a self-depreciating sense of humor. Very different from Kudoh and Stout. Not to mention the two of them shared many interests. The redhead had done more talking tonight than to anyone other than Yohji or Aya-chan in as long as he could remember. It was also a shock to be answered back the whole time. His sister couldnít, lying still on her bed in the grip of a coma. For a second the pain returned, only to retreat away as suddenly as it came. <Donít worry.>

Aya noticed that his hand was shaking as he lifted the teacup for a sip. What had he been thinking about? Oh yes, how nice it was to have someone to talk to, and to talk back to him. Yohji and him would carry on a conversation, but had so few little interests in common that it was mostly small talk, or about their teammates or mission. Not to mention that each discussion almost always ended up with Kudoh cutting it short and hauling him off to bed or wherever the manís perverted mind came up with. So this was an unusual and unexpected treat.

For his part Koyu was sipping his drink, enjoying how delicious it tasted. He wondered if Fujimiya would mind giving him the address to this place so Teddy, Mickey or his sister Kade could bring him here some day. The other manís silence didnít bother him, he got the impression that Teddyís friend wasnít used to talking very much. There was a sore rasp in that lovely baritone that made it apparent that it wasnít used for very long periods of time. What a shame. Finishing his coffee, the blind man spoke up. "What are my chances of getting a refill? This was delicious."

"One second." Aya waved to the waiter, who scurried to their table in a matter of seconds after making another latte. Koyu felt another cup be placed on the table, and once again the waiter sputtered and hawed at the quiet thanks he received. Oh the poor man had it bad. Especially if what Teddy said about the couple was true; it didnít seem like the two florists were going to break up any time soon.

Enjoying his coffee for a moment, Koyu once again broke the silence. "So, what would you like to talk about now? The concert? Two certain idiots who are probably still hitting on a barful of unsuspecting people and havenít noticed that weíve left yet?"

"Maybe one idiot in particular," Aya said as he leaned forward, arms resting on the tabletop. If Yohji had been there he would have been trembling in fear at the evil look on his loverís face. "I want you to tell me all about Teddy, if you wouldnít mind."

Koyu wondered if he had imagined the purr in the other manís voice. "Anything in particular about Teddy? Such as his likes and dislikes?"

"His dislikes, most definitely his dislikes." Nothing like getting some inside information on the pest, Aya thought with relish. He was finally going to get some ammunition to use against Stout.

Nope, he hadnít imagined that purr after all, Koyu thought. Seemed that his teddy bear had managed to antagonize the quiet man. Not a surprise there. Pausing to sip more of his coffee, the blind man started talking.

*******

Yohji threw open the kitchen door and barely paused to bolt it shut before running upstairs. He made it to his bedroom in record time, breathing slightly heavy from all the exertion. Again tossing open a door he flicked on the lights and felt relief wash through him when Aya sleepily sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. "Why the hell did you leave, you sneaky bastard," was yelled out loud as the blond dived for the bed.

The noise woke up both Omi and Ken, who dashed to the coupleís bedroom. Leaping through the doorway they found a drunken Kudoh sloppily kissing Aya all over the face while repeating Ďsorryí and Ďsneaky bastardí over and over again. "Uhm, guys, is everything ok?" Ken wasnít sure if he should be laughing or concerned.

Aya, pinned between the mattress and an idiot, managed to free a hand and wave away the younger two assassins. Somewhat relieved they took their leave, making sure to close the door behind them. The redhead assumed that a certain playboy was going to be bitched at for being so noisy in the morning, and was relieved that Omi and Ken had left. "Kudoh, get the hell off of me. Youíre slobbering all over my face."

Pulling back a little, Yohji gripped his loverís shoulders and shook the smaller man. "You have any idea how much you scared me when Teddy and I went back to the table and found you and Saito gone? Do you? I was afraid the Bastard had come and snatched you away until I found my car missing."

"Why didnít you call me?" Green eyes blinked in confusion, the pickled brain behind them slowly realizing that it had forgotten all about possessing a cell phone. Aya snarled in disgust, trying to get the leverage to toss his boyfriend off of him. Unfortunately Yohji still had a good grip on him, so all that happened was the older man rolled over and dragged Aya on top. "When exactly did you two idiots realize that Koyu and I were gone?"

"Hmm, about an hour ago. It took forever to get a cab, then Teddy and I argued over who was dropped off first. I won, was on the way." Yohji smiled at winning that battle, while Aya wrinkled his nose at the alcohol he could smell on the manís breath. "Whyíd you go?"

Aya rested his chin on the playboyís chest, hníing when a hand was stroked through his hair. "Didnít want to stay in a noisy place while you and Stout acted like a bunch of morons. Koyu agreed, so we left." He felt so at ease now that Kudoh was home. Ever since heíd dropped Saito off heíd been filled with tension, now it was slowly evaporating. Yohji was here, with him, all was well. A quick call to the hospital earlier had assured him that his sister was fine, at least as much as she ever was. The fact that the two anchors in his world were safe and in their places let Aya relax, to take down his guard the tiniest bit. He inched up to nuzzle at his loverís neck, breathing in the scent of cigarettes and sweat, spicy and purely Kudoh.

It was slowly sinking in on Yohjiís drunken mind that his kitten wasnít yelling or hitting him, which heíd seriously expected the man to do the second he stepped into the Koneko. Aya had to be pissed at the way the night had ended, yet here he was nibbling his way up to one of the blondís ears. Nowhere near inebriated enough to be too drunk to pass this opportunity up, Yohji slid his hands under the pale manís sweatshirt, stroking the smooth, soft skin he found underneath. In the middle of tugging on hoop earring with his teeth, Aya let go of it and moaned at the feeling of warmth massaging his back. He suddenly sat up and pulled the sweatshirt over his head, tossing it aside as he set about unbuttoning the tight shirt Yohji had worn out that evening. When that was done he sank back down on the manís chest, kissing him in desperation.

Not quite sure what to make of an uncharacteristically aggressive lover, Yohji decided that change was a good thing and held the squirming figure on top of him close, tongue delving deep into a sweet mouth. Aya sucked it into his, hands busy trying to open the other manís jeans. He needed Yohji so badly at the moment, had to be sure that the man was there with him and not leaving. No matter how hard he tried the fear wouldnít leave him. So he went for passion instead, burning away the dread.

"Please, Yohji." Please fuck him now, please never leave him, please always be there. Never being able to put his feelings into words, he was only able to get those two words out. But the older man heard the desperate pleading in his voice, saw the uncertainty and need in his eyes. Tenderly cupping the pale face between his hands Yohji gently kissed the frantic man on the forehead and nose. "Shh, whatever you want, love." The next kiss was a bit calmer than the first but just as passionate, Aya tangling his fingers in honey blond locks so Yohji couldnít pull away and end it.

After a few minutes Yohji rolled over, pressing his body against the slender manís, reassuring him about his presence with his solid weight. Kissing his way down a white neck he shoved his pants down his hips, wriggling his legs so as to get the damn things off. Once that was done he concentrated on the mewling man underneath him, his lips moving ever so slowly down the pale body as his hand reached for the lubricant. "Wanna stay here forever, just the two of us. Never let you out of my reach again." Aya moaned out his name and clutched at his arms, fingers digging into his muscles. Yohji grasped the two hands and threaded their fingers together, holding the limbs down on the mattress as he laved attention on a stiffening peak. "Never letting you go." Lightly sinking his teeth into the nipple caused the redhead to arch his chest and gasp. Sucking on the bitten flesh Yohji shifted over to the other one, slowly repeating the action before moving downward.

His tongue and lips caressed Ayaís stomach, pausing to nibble here and there. The slight chiming sound that was produced with each writhe and shiver let Yohji know that his kitten had taken the time to swap belly rings before falling asleep. He decided to reward the man for that thoughtful action, spending several minutes licking and nibbling around Ayaís navel, tongue spearing into the indentation every so often. Heíd reduced the quiet man to pleading again, however it wasnít until he couldnít stand it anymore, aching too hard with the need to be inside the slender body twisting about beneath his to even think clearly that he finally moved on.

Yohji had to let go of one of Ayaís hands to pull down the boxers, shifting about so they could travel along the long white legs and join the other clothes on the floor. That done he lightly traced a finger down the prominent blue vein traveling the length of the smaller manís shaft, watching as it twitched at the touch and his lover shuddered in need. Aya choked out another please, and eagerly Yohji bent down to take the cock into his mouth. His name was strangled out as he alternated pulling back and nibbling along the length and deepthroating the member. A slickened finger stealthily crept lower and joined in the teasing, circling the puckered ring before pushing in and swiftly darting out. When the swordsmanís breath came out in harsh pants it pushed back in, twisting about as it searched for that special spot. His boyfriendís body going stiff was all the warning Yohji needed as he pulled back a little, catching the shooting cum in his mouth as it pulsed out.

Wiping his lips as he sat back on his heels, a smug smile tugged at the corners of the blondís mouth. Aya laid sprawled on the bed, eyes closed and limbs akimbo, just trying to breathe. Gathering the limp figure in his arms Yohji held the man tight, feeling two shaky arms wrap around his shoulders. "How was that, kitten?"

Dark violet eyes opened and regarded him with the same amount of need and desperation that they had earlier. "Yohji, please." It wasnít enough, the pleasure didnít totally soothe his fears. Aya closed the distance between them, kissing the older man, trying to draw him in again. Groaning softly Yohji settled Aya higher onto his lap, hand fumbling for the tube he had dropped minutes before. Aya pulled away as first one finger then another entered him, only far enough so he could stare deep into emerald eyes. This was real, Yohji looking at him with love, part of him inside his body. When his hips were grabbed and lifted the younger man eagerly sank down on the hard shaft, pushing until it was as far inside him as it could go. The small spark of pain was ignored as Kudoh moaned his name and held him tight, hungry mouth seeking out his.

Oh gods, he felt as if would burst then and there. Yohji had to take several deep breaths as he broke off the kiss, burying his face in the crook of Ayaís neck. "Oh love, gods I, oh yes. Love you." He slowly started to rock his hips upwards, groaning again as Aya set an excruciatingly slow pace, drawing out the pleasure until he felt that he was one big exposed nerve, thrumming with bliss at each touch, each glide of that slender body along and around him. The sound of his name, interspersed with Ďpleaseí repeated again and again filled his ears until the sound of his thundering heart overwhelmed it. It felt as if lightening ripped through his body as he came, shuddering and a cry strangling in his throat. From a distance Yohji heard his name once more, felt Aya tense in his arms, felt a flood of warmth on his stomach. The two men leaned against each other for support, weak arms holding on as tightly as they could.

With a slight groan Yohji reclined back on the bed, Aya falling down with him. He felt the man tuck his head under his chin so he stroked a shaky hand through damp crimson strands. "Love you so much kitten."

Shifting about in the older manís arms, Aya curled up more securely on Yohjiís chest, basking in the manís warmth and scent. "Love you too." So much that his chest ached with the emotion. He snuggled closer, sighing as the blondís hold on him tightened. "Never go away."

An eartail was tugged on in affection. "Promised you I wouldnít. Besides, Iím not the one who abandons their lover in a strange bar." That earned him a weak jab in the ribs. One hand combing through the short-tempered manís hair, the other stroking down a pale back, Yohji hummed for a few seconds. "Iíll never break that promise to you, Aya. Nor any others that I make. Only for you." Lush lips twisted up in a smile. " Knightís honor."

"Never break yours, and Iíll never break mine." Aya felt his eyes drift shut, the promise appeasing the worm of dread that had taken residence in his heart this past week. "Just always be there."

A soft chuckle rumbled through the chest beneath him. "Told you before, the problem is gonna be getting rid of me. You want a shower, love? Gonna be all sticky if you donít." For the life of him Yohji didnít think he could move at the moment, but didnít want to be the one blamed in the morning.

"Kudoh, shut up and sleep."

"I live to obey my sweet-tempered, gracious little kitten. Ow! Dammit, we need to feed you more often so you stop mistaking me for a chew toy." Yohji rubbed his bitten shoulder as Aya just grunted and went to sleep. "Pretty damn bad when Iím tempted to wear armor to bed."

*******

Perched on the opposite buildingís rooftop, Schuldig smiled at Balineseís yelp of pain. Heh, it never paid to rub his tuberoseís fur the wrong way. One would think that the man-whore would have figured that by now. Talk about a slow learner. As soon as Ayaís sleep evened out he ghosted through the manís mind, pushing back the worry and sense of impending loss. Even chained and caged the catalystís power whispered to him, tugging on the threads he had tied to his soul three years ago. But it wouldnít do the precious boy any good, dear Aya-chan was as good as gone. Too many things depended on the girlís abduction, not the least his heartís safety. With each day the convergence drew near, the old bastards couldnít ever imagine that a catalyst was alive and well, perfect for their purposes.

"The angel sleeps now?"

Stretching out his arms to relieve the ache in his back, Schuldig nodded his head. "Ja. My angel sleeps, so off we go. Crawford should be expecting us." He took three steps away from the edge of the roof before he realized that the Irishman wasnít moving. "You coming, Farfie?"

A golden eye stared at the WeiŖís bedroom window. "I can see the glow from here, so bright. Godís pride and joy, sunk into mortality and sin. His tears will come soon, the skies will darken with them again."

"Itís called rain, Farfarello. Read the forecast tomorrow. Now come, Bradley-kins already suspects something, no sense in us being late and setting his suspicions off again."

Pausing for another second or two the madman reluctantly turned to leave. "Such a light, never to be seen in heaven again. Hell has won this round." As he reached the telepath he smiled hungrily. "Want to play again, when will I get some new toys?"

"Soon, donít worry your lovely knives will grow dull before the end of next week. The bastards believe in keeping us busy, paving the way for their long awaited future. Just wait another day or two." At his teammateís disappointed sigh he patted the man on the shoulder. "Poor Farfie, no patience at all. You know, I have a problem on my hands maybe you could help me with, give you something to do." Schuldig smiled evilly when a gleam of interest showed in the Irishmanís single eye. "This one will be a little tricky though, we have to break her first. Make her lose all her faith until she begs for the knife. What do you say?"

Farfarello nodded his head, licking his lips in anticipation. The devil always gave him such great sport, this one would be no exception, he could feel it in his bones. Sparing one last glance behind him he leaped over to the next building, blindly following the German.

*******

Cassandra stared at her cards, rocking back and forth. She had holed herself up in her dreamhouse, ignoring the star child when he had come calling that morning. He sought answers and she had none to give him. None that could change what had to be. As it was she had been so torn to warn him and send him on his way to protect his soul, but had resisted the urge with more strength than she has thought to possess. There could be no altering this, even if they were all damned by it. The Fates had seized the reins, bitter at the catalyst cutting through and reknotting their precious threads at his whim. Now he would have to play the role They dealt.

Death was the bottom card, flanked by the Two of Cups on the right and the Five of Wands on the left. At the center rested The Lovers. Above on the right was the Nine of Swords, on the left the Nine of Cups, flanking the Five of Pentacles. Loss and anxiety and difficult tests, the hope of love and commitment and happiness. The final outcome was loss. All there before her, arranged by her hand. The future crept upon the present, devouring it whole. The day had come, the true beginning, as all things must have their births. Cassandra wept to know that she would have to watch grow what she had helped to conceive.

*******

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