violet eyes

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chapter ten

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Stepping into Bacchus, Yohji winced as the volume of the sound system assaulted his ears. They really cranked up the music on the weekends. The bar was so packed the blond didnít understand why the establishment bothered, there really wasnít any room to dance. Outside waiting to get in was a line of people, and the doorman recognizing him as Redís guy was the only reason why he wasnít out there with them. It seemed that everyone wanted to be in the club tonight. And it wasnít just Bacchus that was busy, it was all the bars in the district.

Yohji had paid another visit to the bartender Nakatani earlier in the night. Heíd wanted to talk to the man some more about his friend Koyu Saito, the fourth victim. After a series of carefully leading questions, Yohji had found out that Saito had been an old boyfriend of Teddy Stout. Apparently he had been trying to re-establish their old relationship prior to his assault.

Objective reached, the blond had taken some time to stay and chat with the older man. All the bars that he had visited that night had been wall-to-wall people, and Yohji wasnít in a hurry to wade his way through yet another mob. Commenting on the situation to Nakatani, the assassin had been surprised at his response.

"Youíd think the attacks wouldíve scared people away, but itís been just the opposite. Right after they find the poor soul whoíd been taken, everybody shows up to have a few drinks, commiserate together, and play amateur detective. By the weekend, itís a mad house, the bars packed with people celebrating the fact that it wasnít them and swapping rumors on who they think did it. Middle of next week theyíll all be here drinking to forget, and towards the weekend theyíll be out thumbing their noses at the sick bastard doing it. I swear the thrill of maybe being next turns half these nutcases on. Then thereís the vigil, trying to figure out whoíd been taken, and if heíll end up dead. As long as the sick fuck is out there, itíll be the same thing every two weeks."

Not if Weiss has anything to say about it, the assassin thought to himself as he searched the crowd for two familiar faces. Making his way to the bar, Yohji spotted his first target. Deciding to get some payback to all the times him and Aya had been interrupted, Yohji stalked over to the unsuspecting man and partially flipped up his kilt.

Busy chatting with a regular, Teddy literally jumped in the air when he felt someone messing with his outfit. ĎNot again!í Turning around with his hand half raised, the American found a pair of green eyes gazing at him in amusement. Relief washed over the younger man as he recognized his assailant.

"Nice reflexes there, Teddy." Yohji had to practically yell in order to be heard over the music.

"Oh, itís you. Donít tell me you somehow mistook me for a red headed Japanese man. Might want to get those eyes checked out. Wouldnít want you to molest the wrong guy by accident."

"Not a chance of that happening. Especially when you come part and parcel with a bat wielding wild man."

"Just consider yourself lucky Mickey didnít see your cute way of saying hello. Heís been a bit overprotective tonight."

Looking about him as if expecting the bartender to show up any moment now, armed with the bat, Yohji yelled back. "I can imagine."

"If youíre looking for Red, heís on the other side of the bar."

"Thanks, but I actually wanted to talk to you first."

Caught off guard by the comment, Teddy first paused, and then batted his eyes at the blond. "Why Yohji sweetie, I never knew you cared. But isnít it a bit risky to carry on this torrid affair right in front of the kitten? You ask me, heís got a real nasty set of claws on him. Or does the thought of imminent death make you horny?"

Laughing, Yohji snagged one of the Americanís braids and yanked. "You really are trouble, you know that? And you donít need to warn me about the kittenís claws, Iíve seen them in action. Even felt them myself a time or two. I want to know where your boyfriend is. Weíd talked about getting together to hang out next week, and I was wondering if Tuesday would be okay."

"Heís not here tonight. But I donít see why Tuesday should be a problem, David works mostly weekends and has weeknights free, unless there is some network problem he has to deal with." Yohji nodded, remembering the other man mentioning that he worked with computer systems when theyíd met. "Want me to have him call you?"

The blond handed over a slip of paper with the number to his cell phone on it. "We never got a chance to exchange numbers Thursday night, what with all the excitement."

Tucking away the slip of paper, Teddy narrowed his eyes and looked up at the blond. "Iíll pass the message on, if you tell me something."

Suddenly wary, Yohji inquired what it was the American wanted to know.

"Oh relax, itís nothing top secret, like whatever youíre up to with David. Just wanted to know about those new hickeys your boy is sporting. What brought those on, other than wild animal passion?" Teddy raised his eyebrows at the way the blond was smirking back at him.

"If you really want to know, your boyfriend told me all about the little betting pool you had going on here dealing with Red and me. Figured it was probably too late for the bet, but what the hell. So did you win?"

Frowning at the other man in mock anger, Teddy shook his fist in front of green eyes. "I would have if you came through a day earlier. You better not let me down next time, though."

Yohji wasnít so sure he wanted to be anywhere near the longhaired man when Aya found out about another wager. "It might have escaped your attention, Teddy, but Red doesnít exactly have the best sense of humor. You sure this new bet of yours is a good idea?"

Smiling as he patted Yohji on the shoulder, Teddy cheerfully responded back. "Trust me on this one, the both of you will love it. I have to get back to work, so go find your boyfriend."

Doing as he was told, Yohji walked off with a heavy feeling of trepidation.

*******

Hand raised to cover a yawn, Aya settled into the passenger seat of Yohjiís Seven. It had been an incredibly busy night, and all he wanted to do was sleep. The red head had run nonstop his entire shift. He had barely been able to say five words to Yohji when the man had arrived in the bar after midnight. The blond had kept himself occupied until closing by chatting with some guys at the bar. Afterwards, he had helped the smaller man clean off his tables and pick up the chairs. It had been a quiet walk to the car.

"Still awake over there?"

"Hn."

"Iíll take that as a yes." Yohji glanced over at his companion, and found him curled up in the seat, head against the side window with his eyes closed. Grinning at how cute the younger man was, resting like that, he reached over and tugged on an eartail. "You have any idea how adorable you are, Kitten?"

Violet eyes snapped open to glare for a few seconds, and then drifted back close. ĎHuhn, Aya must really be exhausted to let that slip by so easily.í Trying to keep the red head awake during the ride home, Yohji employed a different tactic.

"You looked pretty busy back there. So did you get much of a chance to find anything out tonight?"

Aya stifled another yawn. "I /was/ busy tonight. Overheard a table talking about the incident Thursday night. They were going on about some things Mickey had done in the past, whenever anyone bothered Teddy. Omi should be happy to hear about it."

"It seems that I had a bit more productive of a night." Yohji went on, filling the red head in on his evening activities. Listening more to the sound of the playboyís voice than the actual words, Aya felt himself drifting off again. It had been an exhausting week, followed by an even more tiring day. Between the physical toil of working two hectic jobs, and the emotional turmoil from earlier, the red head felt completely wrung out. He just wanted to sleep for the next few days.

The next thing he became aware of was Yohji leaning over him, shaking his shoulder gently to wake him up. "Come on Aya, open up those pretty eyes of yours. Time for beddy-bye." Shaking his head groggily, the swordsman fumbled off his seat belt. Before he could grasp for the handle, his car door opened, and Yohji reached in to help him onto his feet.

Arms wrapped around his semi-conscious red head, Yohji steered the smaller man through the kitchen and towards the stairs. "This is what happens when you push yourself too hard, Kitten. Should have gotten a little more sleep this morning." A bit angry at the lack of concern the red head always directed towards himself, Yohji got him started on the first step. Following closely behind the smaller man, he had to admit while unhappy about the circumstances, it was nice being able to fuss over a too-exhausted-to-snarl-back Aya.

Aya slowly made his way up the steps. Halfway up, he paused, just feeling so tired. He started to lean against the railing, when he felt a warm hand pushing at the small of his back.

"Thatís a no-no. Move or youíll fall asleep on the steps. Just keep walking. Iím sure as hell not in any shape to carry you right now." Aya let himself be herded off to bed, too tired to argue. He couldnít even work up a spark of anger when the blond followed him into his bedroom. Stopping in front of his bed, he felt Yohji tugging at the belt of his coat.

Feebly protesting, the red head stepped back. "Yohji, Iím /really/ not in the mood right now. I want to sleep."

"Hush. Iím just making sure you donít collapse on the bed fully clothed. I doubt youíd be real comfortable sleeping in that outfit." Yohjiís hands were busy the whole time, peeling the smaller man out of the leather coat. He set to work on the shirt, fingers undoing the buttons. Aya directed a pathetically weak glare his way, which was just ignored. "Iím not in the habit of molesting the unconscious. No sport." Shirt undone, he worked it off the manís shoulders. Pausing a few seconds to appreciate the way Ayaís skin glowed in the darkness, Yohji started on the tight jeans.

"Stop." Moving away from the taller man, Aya nearly fell down on the bed. Yohji crossed his arms as he stood there, watching the man barely manage to regain his balance. So they were back to the one of the topics from the fight earlier. Heíd be upset if Aya didnít look so cute right at the moment, half dressed and blinking sleep heavy eyes. "You know Aya, you really should trust me by now. But fine, be this way. Try taking your pants off on your own."

Realising that the other man was not going to leave as long as he was dressed, Aya attempted to do just that. Undoing the fly and shoving the tight pants down his thighs, he noticed that something was wrong. He stood there, weaving from side to side, until he gradually realized that his boots were still on. Staring down in a dazed manner, he didnít see the hand that shoved him in the chest , knocking him back onto the bed.

"Baka. Weíll be here all night at this rate." Yohji set about removing the smaller manís shoes and pants. Task done, he arranged the exhausted man properly on the bed, and pulled up the blankets. The last thing Aya remembered before falling asleep was the blond stroking back his bangs, and placing a kiss on his forehead.

Straightening up, Yohji felt a tender smile upon his lips. Aya looked like another person when he was asleep, one more innocent and at peace. Stifling a yawn, he decided it was time he went to bed himself. Tempted to curl up beside his kitten, he glanced towards the direction of his empty room, and back down at the inviting bed full of sleeping Aya. It really wasnít that much of contest. Quickly stripping down to his boxers, Yohji crawled under the covers next to the red head. Pulling the younger man into his arms, he relaxed when Aya began to snuggle up to him. Briefly wondering how he was going to explain his presence in the morning, Yohji decided to just enjoy the feeling of a warm Aya cuddled in his arms, and worry about the price later.

*******

Ran was back on the beach. The sun was shining down, warming him up after a chilly swim in the ocean. The waves sounded louder today, crashing into the sand with such intensity Ran swore he could feel vibrations from the impacts. Catching something bright out of the corner of his eye, he turned around. Aya-chan, wearing a purple sundress, was twirling around on the sand as she recited a poem aloud.

"Love is not all: it is not meat or drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,

Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,

Or nagged by want past resolutionís power,

I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It well may be. I do not think I would"

Puzzling out the foreign words, Ran started towards his sister when a huge wave, cresting high above him, crashed down on him.

Shivering from the feeling of cold, imaginary salt water, Aya woke up. It slowly dawned on him that instead of cool cotton sheets, he was resting on a warm, bare skinned body. Opening his eyes, he found himself sprawled half on top of a still sleeping Yohji. His head was tucked underneath the manís chin, most of his upper body was resting on the blondís chest, and their legs were tangled together. The older man had his arms firmly wrapped around Aya. Not knowing what he was supposed to do, the younger man continued to just lay there.

The red head could clearly recall making his way half asleep up the stairs, and Yohji Ďhelpingí him out of his clothes. He knew he fell deeply asleep after that. So what was the blond doing in bed with him? Aya was relieved to realize that both men were still clad in their underwear. He didnít think anything had happened during the night. Still, if he found any new marks on him, Yohji better start running quick and never stop.

Slowly pushing himself off of the sleeping man, Aya stopped when he could observe Yohjiís face. The older man looked so different, without his ever-present sunglasses and cigarettes acting as masks to hide behind. Honey colored hair was spread out around his head, and the late morning sun cast a golden glow on his skin. A slight smile tilted upwards the corner of his lips. Aya continued to stare down upon the man.

As if aware of the gaze directed on him, Yohji opened emerald eyes to stare back at the younger man. The smile became more prominent as he took in the fact that Aya was awake, still in bed with him, and not trying to kill him. It was looking to be a great day.

"Morning, Kitten."

The hesitant gaze Aya had been bestowing on the blond darkened into a scowl. "Why do you keep calling me that, and what are you doing in my bed?"

"I call you that because it suits you." Looking to forestall an indignant Aya protesting about being called a fluffy, cute little mammal, Yohji tugged on a crimson strand of bangs. "As for being in bed, I was sleeping, at least until you woke me up. Please tell me its still not morning."

Aya briefly grinded his teeth. "I noticed you were sleeping, but why are you here, and not in your own bed where you belong?"

"Really, Aya, I didnít mind sharing my bed with you the other night." No response. "I was almost as tired as you last night, and couldnít see the sense of crawling into a cold, faraway bed when there was a nice warm one right here."

"But itís my bed, and I was in it."

Talk about being single-minded. Yohji wanted off the topic before it developed into a full-blown battle. "Is that anyway to say good morning? Here, Iíll show you the proper way." Slipping his fingers through that glorious hair, Yohji held the red head still as he lifted up from the pillow to plant a firm kiss on Ayaís lips. Pulling back ever slow slightly, he breathed "ohayoo goziamasu" against the otherís mouth. When he wasnít met with grievous bodily harm for his presumption, Yohji sank back into bed, pulling his kitten along with him. He deepened the kiss on the way down.

Anger beginning to diffuse, Aya tentatively returned the kiss. So Yohji had spent the night uninvited in his bed. It was worth it for another sleep free of nightmares. In the past three years he hadnít had two pain-free dreams concerning his sister in the same month, let alone the same week. The man hadnít tried anything while he was unconscious, as far as Aya could tell. And Yohjiís arms around him, while holding him close, werenít so tight that he couldnít break free. The blond was obviously still intent on gaining the swordsmanís trust, and was acting accordingly. Remembering his reaction to the red head instigating the kiss last night, Aya decided on how he was going to reward Yohji for his mostly good behavior.

Reveling in the fact that he was lounging in bed with his love in his arms, kissing him back, Yohji was more than happy. True, the situation would be made perfect if he could switch Ayaís bed for his more comfy one, and if their annoying underwear would disappear, but things were pretty good right now. Lost in his feeling of contentment, he at first dismissed the feel of Aya running his hands up the blondís sides as wishful thinking. The red head, short of that searing kiss in the car the previous evening, hadnít initiated anything during their make-out sessions.

As a shiver went through his body at the feather light touch to his nipples, Yohji realized that this was actually happening. Slender fingers teasingly ran back and forth over his chest and erect nipples. Body arching in attempt to force a more solid caress from those phantom digits, Yohji broke away from the kiss, gasping out the red headís name. Aya felt his mouth twist up in a smirk as he moved his lips down the blondís throat. Imitating all the things that had driven him wild before, he lightly bit down the older manís throat as his right hand tweaked a stiff bud. Yohji moaned deeply in response, as his arms tightened around the smaller man.

Trailing his way down the older manís throat and collarbone, Aya drank in the soft moans and pleas for the Ďkittení not to stop. Heartened by the blondís reactions to his touches, Aya bent his head down to lap and suckle on Yohjiís nipples, as one of his hands slowly traced its way to the manís hip.

Gods, but this was better than Yohji could ever have imagined. He had never enjoyed having the tables turned on him half as much as he was right now. Aya was returning the favor of all the times heíd been ravished by the older man, via the same techniques used on him. The blond had known that the man was a quick learner, but this was simplyÖ. mind-blowing. His kittenís hesitant manner was such a thrill, leaving Yohji to believe that heíd imagine the caress, until it was repeated in a more sure manner.

A tentative brush across his erection nearly sent Yohji over the edge. Knowing he wouldnít be able to hold on to his control with any more of those teasing touches, the blond tightened his grip on the smaller and flipped over, quickly switching places. Panting swiftly, he looked down at the smug smile on Ayaís face.

"Enjoying yourself, Kitten?"

"Just trying out a few things. Any complaints?"

First Aya taking the lead in bed, and now he was cracking a joke. If Yohji woke up and found out he had dreamed the whole thing, he was going to be very, very upset. Deciding to regain a little bit of his dignity back, he leaned down, nose to nose with the red head. "None at all. Very good technique there, Aya. A few more demonstrations, and youíll have it down perfect. Now pay attention."

Yohji bit down on the red headís lower lip, and then sucked on it tenderly. Flicking his tongue deep into Ayaís mouth, he lightly ran his fingers up and down the smaller manís chest. He soon had the man whining softly as he twisted under the assault of those almost ticklish caresses. "You did a good job on building anticipation, Kitten, but thereís a lot you havenít learned. Sometimes is not what you touch, but what you donít." To illustrate his point, his fingers moved in a teasing circle around the red heads nipples, brushing close by every now and then, only to shift farther away. After a torturous amount of time, he took pity on the younger man, who was mewling softly, and started to nip and lick his way down to that pale chest. Fastening his mouth on one of the waiting peaks, he rolled the other between long fingers. "But the lesson isnít finished yet," he continued, switching sides. His free hand traced down ribs to concave belly, pausing to twist and tug on the silver stud it found there. Tearing away from his favorite new toy, Yohji forced his hand down even further as Aya began softly chanting his name.

Aya violently jerked when he felt the slight touch brush ever so near his hard on, stroking lightly down first one inner thigh, and then up the other. Opening his eyes, he found green eyes staring at him intently. "Just say the word, and the lesson ends. Understand?" The younger man nodded briefly, and then found himself being kissed breathless once again. He couldnít do anything but moan into the blondís mouth as the touch came closer and closer, long fingers seeking up the legs of his shorts.

There was someone knocking on his bedroom door. "Aya, are you awake in there?" Aya and Yohji froze.

They heard an indistinct voice come from farther down the hall followed by Omiís "No, I heard someone moving around in here. Iím sure heís awake." Then louder, "Aya, itís almost lunchtime, and I made some food. How about I bring you up a tray?" There was a jiggling sound, coming from the doorknob.

"No!" That came out a little louder than heíd intended, but Aya had visions of Omi walking in and catching him and Yohji in bed together. From the frantic look the blond was directing towards the door, he was willing to bet it wasnít locked. "Omi, Iím up, just give me a few minutes to get ready, and Iíll come downstairs." Aya was ready to promise anything right now, just to prevent the young man from witnessing Yohji with his hand up the swordsmanís underwear.

"Okay, donít take too long, or the food will get cold. Why donít you see if you can wake Yohji up, while I head back down to make sure everything is ready?"

He agreed. Raising a hand to rub at his eyes, Aya overheard the blond mumbling something. It sounded distinctly like curses. Opening his eyes, he found the older man glaring at the door. Aware of the confused gaze, Yohji elaborated.

"What the /hell/ is it with everyone interrupting us? First it was your new friends, now our teammates are joining in. I swear I am going to strangle the next person who bothers us in the middle of something with my bare hands, long and slow." Catching the raised eyebrow and slight smile at the vehemence of his speech, Yohji grinned. "Come on, donít tell me itís not frustrating the hell out of you either. Our love life is starting to resemble something out of a bad comedy."

"Hn. Frustrating or not, I think we better get downstairs before he comes back up here."

Yohji grimaced, whether at that thought, or the fact that he had to stop what he had been doing, Aya couldnít tell. Smiling evilly, the older man suddenly swooped in for another searing kiss before pulling away and getting out of bed. Picking up his clothes, he tossed back at the gasping man, "Definitely frustrating." He walked over to the door, opening it slightly to check and see if the way is clear. About to make his getaway, he paused to glance back at Aya and blow him a kiss.

Stepping out of bed and heading to the closet, the swordsman reflected back on the morning. Yohji certainly made his move, and now the red head was left wondering what to do next. If this pace kept up, it wouldnít be too long before he was forced to choose between ending things or going all the way. Either choice filled him with apprehension. Sighing as he pulled on yet another turtleneck, he decided he would just have to cross that bridge when he came to it.

About to close the closet door, Aya paused as he spied an orange sweater. He hadnít been able to visit his sister for a couple of days, what with the mission and Yohji. Feeling guilty, he resolved to visit her right after his meal. As he recalled what had happened to his car, Aya glared darkly in the general vicinity of Yohjiís room. It appeared that a nice long walk was in his future.

Making his way downstairs a few minutes later, he found the kitchen table covered with food. A large pot was filled with steaming broth and tofu, and there were several platters of tempura-fried vegetables. No wonder Omi had been so determined to wake him up, the young blond had made some of the swordsmanís favorite food. Looking down into a pair of expectant blue eyes, he nodded slightly. "Thank you."

The youth smiled widely as the red head sat down at the table and began serving himself some rice. Ken, taking it as a sign that the food was now fair game, started to dig in as well. Walking into the room, Yohji found his teammates quietly eating. Wrinkling his nose a bit as he pulled up a chair, he directed a suffering look towards the teenager. "You had me dragged out of bed for this, chibi? Couldnít you have whipped up some waffles or something?"

Frowning at the older blond as he reached for some taro root, the teenager retorted back. "I make you waffles all the time. Today I decided to make something special for Aya since heís been working so hard. If you donít like it, you can eat elsewhere." He continued to glare at the older man until Yohji mumbled an apology. Mollified somewhat, he turned a concerned eye towards his silent friend. "Howís everything, Aya?"

Teacup in hand, Aya responded back with a slight smile. "Everything is delicious, Omi."

"Thank you. Be sure to eat everything, you need to keep your strength up. We donít want that cold of yours to get worse."

Puzzled silence met that last remark. Curiosity getting the better of him, Yohji asked Omi what made him think the other man had a cold.

"Well, heís been wearing all those sweaters and turtlenecks lately, I just assumed he has a sore throat. And it sounded like Aya was snoring a bit this morning, and he only does that when heís congested."

Overcome by a coughing fit as he choked on his tea, Aya was spared from having to respond. Yohji had to lift his coffee mug to his mouth in order to hide his smirk. Finally able to speak without chuckling, Yohji directed a mocking look towards his kitten. "You heard the man, Aya. Omi, do me a favor and pass me the sourpussís bowl. I think he needs a bit more tofu." It was all the green-eyed man could do to not burst out laughing at the glare his lover was directing towards him.

*******

It was always so quiet in Aya-chanís room. There was a peacefulness there, partly from that silence, but mostly due to the presence of the sleeping girl, that made Aya loathe to disturb it. After placing down a new arrangement of flowers and checking his sisterís physical condition, the young man had quietly settled in the chair next to her. It was some time before his deep voice, softened to little more than a whisper, filled the silent room.

After apologizing for not being there the past few days, Aya began to recount for his sister what had been going on in his life. The flower shop, his roommates, the new job and all the interesting people he had met lately, and Yohji. A good bit of the discussion was spent on the blond. Knowing it was just a trick of the light; Aya nevertheless swore it looked as if his beloved sibling had smiled upon hearing about the ongoing romantic battle.

It helped having someone to talk to about the mess, even if said person was a comatose teenage girl. The red head had no one else in his life that he trusted enough to reveal his inner self to. Maybe that was the reason his heart was so eagerly hoping that Yohji was sincere in his affections. Heíd been so shut off from everything after losing his first team. That loss, following so soon after the tragedy that struck his family, had made him start to hide all the gentler aspects of his personality away. If he kept it up, soon there would be nothing left other than Abyssinian. Yohji helped the swordsman remember what it was like to be Ran, and not Aya. Briefly, the red head wondered if that was what his recent dreams had been trying to explain to him. He only had them while in the older manís arms.

A light scuff at the door brought the man back to himself, and he realized what time it was. The nurse was waiting to carry out the evening administrations his sister required. Getting up from the chair, Aya bent over the sleeping form of his sibling. As he brushed back purplish bangs to plant a goodbye kiss on her forward, a slight smile drifted across his face. That action was one of Yohjiís favorite gestures of affection. The red head nodded at the nurse on his way out the door.

Arriving back at the Koneko, the aroma of pizza greeted the young man. It seemed that Ken had decided on take-out to meet his weekly dinner obligation. Stopping by the fridge to get a bottle of water, the red head was hailed by the youngest member of Weiss. The boy was in the process of gathering some necessary supplies.

"Aya-kun, youíre back! I was just about to call you. Weíre ready to eat in the den, while we go over all the information about the case." Catching the slight frown that had formed on the other manís face, Omi tilted his head to the side and offered back a weak grin. "I know, it really doesnít sound like a fun evening, does it?"

Aya helped the younger man with his armful of plates, napkins and soda bottles. Walking into the room, he set his share of the load down on the coffee table, and curled up on the couch. Ken was sitting in the spare armchair, eying the pizza wolfishly. "Yo, Kudoh, haul your ass in here or Iím gonna eat all the pepperoni and leave you with the mushroom slices."

"Iím coming, Iím coming." Busy combing his fingers through wet hair, it was obvious the older blond had just stepped out of the shower. Spying the empty spot next to Aya, he narrowly managed to beat Omi for the seat. "Age and beauty before youth and cuteness, everytime," he gloated. The teenager just stuck his tongue out as he settled on the floor.

"Just means Iím all the closer to the food."

"Yeah, and that means you get to serve us. Four slices of pepperoni, now." The youthís face fell slightly as the realization sunk in, and in revenge he gave the older man the smallest slices he could find. Meanwhile Ken was waving his plate at the chibi, eager for something to eat. Aya, used to his teammatesí antics, merely shifted in his seat until he could reach a pizza box himself, and snagged two slices. Falling back into the couch, he noticed the angry look Yohji was directing towards his meager dinner. He rewarded the man with a Ďdonít even think about ití scowl.

Omi waited until everyone was on their second helping before steering the scant conversation onto the case. Knowing the swordsmanís stand on the suspect bartender, Omi started out the discussion on all the other suspects. Which were decidedly few. Still, the four assassins spent over an hour going through the list, each one contributing the little bit of information they knew. By the end, all of the men were pretty much cleared.

Aware of what was coming next, Aya stood up and began to gather up the plates and empty pizza boxes. Omi quickly pitched in to help. Once in the kitchen, the red head began brewing some coffee. Snatching up the mugs and assorted snacks, the teenager returned to the den.

A few minutes later, Aya joined the others with a pot of fresh brewed coffee. He couldnít help but notice that somehow his space on the couch had been greatly reduced. Yohji was now sprawled out, his arms flung open on the back of the furniture. Pouring the coffee, he handed a mug to the playboy, who took it in his left hand. His other arm remained on Ayaís side of the couch. The red head shrugged minutely, and settled down.

"Well, did you guys happen to come across any new leads last night?" Omi glanced around the room. "How about you Ken, find anything while at the Velvet Room?"

The brunet winced at the mention of the club. Hearing a low chuckle coming from the couch, he glared over at the amused playboy. If Yohji knew what was going on at thatÖ. nuthouse, and had set up his teammateÖ.. Judging by the innocent expression directed his way, Ken realized the older man had known. ĎScrew pink hair dye, I know were I can get my hands on some nice brilliant purple hair color. Kudohís not going to be a blond for much longer.í

"Yeah, I managed to find out a few things last night." The chuckles were even louder now. Aya joined Ken in glaring at the man, while Omi gazed on in bewilderment. "As I was saying, there are a couple interesting facts I managed to learn last night. Kudoh, if you donít stop laughing right now, Iím gonna shove that mug down your throat."

"Sorry, Kenken." Yohji sounded anything but apologetic.

"Anyways. I did some digging on the two victims connected to the club. The second guy taken, Keitaro Torri, was often at the club visiting a friend of his. Man wasnít very popular, he had a reputation for not taking Ďnoí for an answer. Three guesses who had repeatedly refused him in the past."

Looking grim, Omi answered, "Teddy Stout."

"You got it in one. Although from what I understand, he also bothered a few other employees at Bacchus. But none of them have an older brother who threatened Torri about keeping his hands to himself before they got broken off at the wrist."

"What about the last victim, uh, Date, who was last seen alive leaving the fetish club?"

"Far as I can tell, no connection to either Stout, other than the fact that he liked hanging out at Bacchus from time to time. But he was a regular at the Velvet Room. He liked to socialize out with the members, trying to get one of them to sponsor him. I get the impression thatís not an easy thing to do, and he was being a bit of a pest going about it."

Yohji nodded his head. "Aso was telling me about guys like him. The members try to stay away from the wannabeís like him. You let one in the club, and they then try to sponsor all of their buddies."

"Well, the night he was snatched, he stopped by the Velvet Room, all excited about something. His friends said he was really happy, but wouldnít tell them why. After a few minutes he started to feel sick, and decided to go home early. We know what happened next."

"Probably drugged," Aya volunteered. He looked as if ready to say something, then suddenly leaned forward, grabbing the coffee pot. Somewhat perplexed, the two younger men nonetheless held out their mugs when the red head gestured with the pot. He skipped his own cup as he gingerly leaned back on the couch. His neck still tingled from where Yohjiís fingers had played with his hair and ran teasing caresses across the back.

"Anything else, Ken?"

The athlete grunted an affirmative as he stretched to grab a bag of chips. "Did either you or Yohji come across a ĎCarmení while going through the membersí database?" When both men nodded, Ken continued. "I overheard a couple of people talking about how much of a bastard this guy it. Supposed to have a bit of temper when dealing with anyone who doesnít belong to the club. The guys got real nervous and wouldnít speak to me when I started asking questions. It just seemed real suspicious."

"Heís on the list Omi came up with of members to be checked out. Didnít run into him on Thursday. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that heíll be there on Tuesday night."

"If the guy fits the physical profile and seems suspicious, give me a call right away. If Ken isnít free, Iíll come on down to tail the guy." Omi glowered back at the disapproving stares he was receiving. "We donít have that much time left. Itíll be the quickest way to find out the manís real identity, and I promise not to go into any bars. Unless you guys want me to take a crack at the database."

"Youíll give me some tracers before I leave Tuesday evening, and Iíll handle it." Kenís voice left no room for argument.

"Fine, fine. So any other new suspects?" Omiís query was met with silence. "Alright then, any new info on Mickey Stout?"

Yohji responded, as he shook out a cigarette from its pack one handed. "Was busy chatting last night with a friend of Koyu Saito, victim number four," he added, at Kenís muddled expression. "He told me something real interesting. It seems that Saito and Teddy were an item at one time, and that Saito had started hanging out at Bacchus again in an attempt to restart the relationship. Fellow wasnít too concerned about the fact that Teddy had moved on to someone new."

Omi was busy writing down notes. "So that is another solid connection to the American. What about the third guy, Rho Miata?"

"As far as I can tell, he was just a harmless flirt. Thatís all anybody ever volunteered about him. That and the fact that you could always count on him being down at Bacchus." Ken and Aya both nodded in agreement.

The young blond started checking off his notes. "So Miata most likely flirted with Teddy whenever the American waited on him. Saito was an ex trying to break Teddy up with his new boyfriend, and Torri was harassing him. Date so far seems an exception. Aya, any reason for Totsuka being assaulted, other than working with the Stouts?"

"Ö.."

"Aya-kun, spill."

"There might be. According to someone I work with, Teddy and Enjo were having a disagreement about something. Both of them were pretty upset about it."

Blue eyes gleaming, the young blond bent forward. "Any clue what it was about?"

"Seiichi thinks it was about Teddyís new boyfriend. Apparently Teddy is the first man Aso has been involved with, and Enjo was trying to caution him not to get too serious too fast. Heíd only been seeing the guy for a month or so."

"Wait a minute," Ken interrupted, a baffled look in his eyes. "Isnít this guy a member at the fetish club? You telling me he hasnít been gay until recently?"

Blowing smoke in the brunetís direction, it was Yohji who decided to answer him. "Just means the guy likes getting beat up by other men. Stuff that goes on in the Velvet Room doesnít always end in physical sex, Kenken."

Miffed by the condescending tone directed at him, Ken snapped back. "Oh so sorry, not all of us are as knowledgeable as you are in these matters. Figures mister Iíll-try-anything-at-least-once would have an answer."

Omi quickly jumped between the two men before the fight escalated. "Children, behave. Try and act your ages for once." Making sure both of them had calmed down, the teenager sat back down. "Okay now, so we can tie pretty much everyone back to Teddy Stout. Iíd say thatís a pretty good reason to finger Mickey as our number one suspect, barring any new leads. Yohji, I want you to put a tracer on the manís car tomorrow. Also, Iíll have a list of places for you to check out as potential crime scenes ready by morning. Judging from the interviews of the victims, they were held in a space big enough to echo, near either the subway or trains. They also commented on the smell of spirits or chemicals. That helps to narrow the search down, but youíll still have a busy day ahead of you."

Leaning forward to stub out his cigarette, the playboy glared at the younger man. "Why do I get the dubious honor of this assignment? Why canít Ken haul his ass all over the city tomorrow, climbing in and out of filthy old buildings?"

Ken couldnít resist smirking back at the indignant assassin. "Because I have to work in the shop tomorrow, remember? You switched the day with me over a week ago."

"Shit." That had been back when the blond had been desperate to avoid being alone with Aya for any long period of time. He had screwed himself out of a day with his kitten to himself, working in a clean flowershop. "Great, just fucking great."

"I knew youíd be happy to do it." Yohji couldnít tell if Omi was being sarcastic or oblivious.

"Thereís still one person you need to consider," Aya broke in.

"Huh? Whoís that?" Omi started flipping through his notes, checking to see if he overlooked something.

"What about David Aso? He is connected to Teddy."

"You canít be serious," Yohji scoffed. "The guy doesnít fit the type, he takes the hits, not gives them out. Did you see the guy during the fight Thursday night? He was too shocked to leave the table until it was all over. Besides, Teddy told me last night that he works on weekends, and thatís when the assaults take place."

"Heís tall enough to fit the physical description."

"Yeah, but heíd have to be a hell of a lot stronger than he looks."

"Itís possible. Besides, Iíve heard he has a habit of stopping in and checking up on his boyfriend, even on the weekends." Aya began to glare at the taller man. "Just because you like the man is no reason to not suspect him."

"Oh, and you keep defending Mickey because you canít stand the man." Yohji was countering Aya's glare with one of his own.

"Yohji, Aya has a point. We do need to be thorough. Iíll run a background check on him later. Now itís getting late, and I still have some stuff to do. Aya, would you mind helping me out with this research?" When the red head agreed, Omi commenced to gather up all his notes and head for his computer.

"Wait a minute, why canít Ken help you?" Yohji demanded, shooting a grinning brunet the evil eye. "Shouldnít he be helping out some more?"

"Donít worry, Iíll find something for him to do tomorrow night. Iíd just rather not have him around my computer for any length of time. Come on Aya."

About ready to hit something, Yohjiís frustration wasnít even the slightest bit appeased by the crestfallen expression on Kenís face. It was becoming rather obvious that once again the fates, and his teammates, were conspiring to separate him and Aya. ĎI need a drink before I choke someone.í

*******

 

The poem is "Love is Not All", by Edna St. Vincent Millay. For some reason it made me think of Weiss, what with the part of making friends with death due to lack of love, and it seemed something that maybe Aya-chan might like. Just chuck it up to Ayaís subconscious being every bit as subtle as his personality.

By the by, the song lyric used in chapter 8, about the red hair and black leather, is from a Richard Thompson song. The title is (maybe) "Vincent Lightning 1962", or along those lines (its so long I always screw up the title, even though itís a great song); it refers to a type of motorcycle. Just trying to get the legal stuff out of the way, in case anyone thinks of suing.

*******

 

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