violet eyes

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chapter 12

*******

Waving goodbye at the hostess, Yohji paused just outside the cafťís door to light a cigarette. Asuka was ahead of him, laughing as she strolled down the sidewalk, head tilted skyward to catch the falling raindrops on her tongue. Yohji couldnít do anything but stare after her for a minute, heart light and a smile on his face. Flipping up his coat collar, he set off after her.

No matter how fast he walked, he never seemed to catch up with her. Asuka was always just a few steps out of reach. As uneasiness washed over him, the blond called out his loverís name. It was if she couldnít hear him. Picking up his pace, Yohji was all but running after her, but couldnít get any closer to the walking woman. Feeling as if something was squeezing his heart, Yohji noticed a dark shadow descending upon his lover. When it receded, she was lying in a crumpled pile on the ground.

"Asuka!" Falling down next to her, he gingerly turned his lover over to face him. The woman was covered with blood, barely conscious. As the blond watched, her features slowly changed until he was staring at a battered red head. Hand shaking, Yohji tenderly brushed back the bangs of his new love.

Violet eyes locked on green, Aya opened his bruised mouth. "Yohji, itís always someone else who pays for your sins, isnít it?" Not knowing what to do, the blond just tightened his grip on the smaller man. The light in the violet orbs slowly started to fade, and soon the older man was left clutching a lifeless corpse. Tears streaming down his face, Yohji felt his heart shatter.

"AYA!"

Yohji came to, finding himself sitting up in his bed as he trembled violently. Judging from the soreness of his throat, he must have shouted that last bit out loud. "Shit shit shit." It took him a minute to grab a cigarette and light it, thatís how bad his hands were shaking. Body relaxing somewhat from the nicotine rush, the blond leaned back on the bed.

Shit. That had been a bad one. Although he generally suffered from nightmares over his old lover, it had been a while since any had affected him this strongly. And that last bit there, when Asuka had turned into Aya. That was new. Maybe that was why he was quaking so badly. Looking around him, it slowly dawned on the blond that he was alone. The kitten must have sneaked off to work again. Probably for the best, considering the way Yohji had woken up.

Stubbing out the cigarette in an ashtray on the nightstand, the blond unsteadily got to his feet. Damn, but he had to rid himself of the nightmare. Hopefully a hot shower, some coffee, and the sight of his lover, alive and well, would help him to manage that. Heading over to his dresser for a clean pair of underwear, he noticed a folded piece of paper resting on the top. Opening it up, he read the brief note.

"Fix the tires, or youíll be cut off."

Chuckling at the note, Yohji made his way to the bathroom, dream rapidly fading from his memory. Trust Aya to leave a note like that. If it was anybody else, the blond could assume the threat was directed towards his lovelife. But taking into account the fact that it was his red head that had penned it, it was an equally probable chance that it referred to body parts. ĎLife is never dull with that man around.í

******

Watching a satisfied customer left the Koneko, Aya went back to his worktable and the half-finished arrangement sitting there. Due to the small number of orders for the day, he had allowed his brunet coworker the morning off, on the understanding that it would be the other manís turn tomorrow. The swordsman was planning on visiting his sister and running a few errands the following day. The morning traffic was light enough that Aya could manage the orders and the few walk-in customers on his own. By noon, when the lunchtime crowd would arrive, Yohji should be down here to help him.

Fingers easily stripping the chrysanthemum of excess leaves, the red head let his thoughts drift. Last night had been, interesting, to say the least. Unexpected and intense also fit. Heíd never experienced anything like that before. Everytime he gave in to the blond, the other man made him feel such things that it was all the more harder to ignore the man later. Aya had to face the fact that he was finding himself all the deeper involved with Yohji each day. Might as well resolve himself to a relationship with the annoying playboy. As a smile teased up the corners of his mouth, the red head decided that there was no need to enlighten the older man to this fact anytime soon. It would be amusing to watch the efforts Yohji made in trying to win him over.

Finishing up the arrangement, Aya lifted his head in surprise when he heard footsteps. Coming his way with a mug in each hand was Yohji, at least a good hour earlier than the swordsman had expected him. Sunglasses pushed back on his forehead so the other man could see the amused glint in his eye, Yohji handed his lover one of the mugs. Lifting the dark ceramic cup to his face, the red head was slightly taken back to realize it was tea, and not coffee. While he often drank the bitter beverage for a caffeine boost, he much preferred his blends of tea. The older man must have brewed some special for him.

Yohji set his own cup down on the table as he surveyed the shop. No one besides the two men was there. Waiting for the younger man to finish his sip of tea, Yohji leaned over and captured the manís lips for a kiss. Shifting back after a few minutes, he wished Aya a good morning as he picked up his mug. He almost regretted taking a swallow of coffee, savoring the flavor of red head and tea that clung to his lips. "So whereís Ken at?"

"He needed to run some errands, so I let him go for a few hours. Should be back in time for the afternoon rush."

"Guess that means itís just the two of us then, neh?" Ayaís expectant gaze met Yohjiís suggestive leer. Failing to generate any other response from the red head, Yohji let out a sigh. "I hope youíll be happy to hear that I made a few phone calls, and someone should be stopping by with new tires later. Do you have any idea how much this is costing me?"

"Just means a few less nights of drunken debauchery for you. Remember it next time you decide to flatten my carís tires." The red head stepped away from the table, placing his finished arrangement in a cooler.

Watching him move, Yohji couldnít help but smirk. "Yeah, well I still think it was worth it in the end." After directing an irritated glance in return, Aya busied himself with cleaning up the plant clippings. "Ah, come on now, donít tell me you disagree. You werenít all that angry towards the end of the fight. Let me fill you in on something, there is nothing better than post-fight make-up sex." If there was one thing the blond was counting on in his relationship with the volatile younger man, it was lots and lots of make-up sex.

Glaring at the taller man, Aya growled threateningly. "Kudoh."

"See, Iíll be proving my point in a few more minutes. You really do live up to expectations, donít you Red?"

ĎMan must be delirious from sleep deprivation.í The red head knew he had to do something before an actual fight did break out. There was no way in hell he was going to sit through another of Omiís lectures on how much broken pottery ate into the flower shopís budget. As if Aya didnít know, being the one who balanced the books. Pressing against the taller man, Aya stood on his tiptoes and brushed his mouth against Yohjiís lips. It only took a second for the other man to respond. The two of them remained like that, clutching each other close as tongues battled, until they heard a chiming sound. Wiping his mouth as he leapt back, Aya turned and went to the front of the shop in order to greet the customer. Yohji could only gaze hungrily after the man. "Yep, gonna be starting a /lot/ of fights with the smaller man during work, thatís for sure," the assassin promised himself.

Yohji spent the next couple of hours playing a game that he absolutely adored. It was "Time to torture Aya in front of the customers". Whenever the smaller man was assisting a customer or working on an arrangement, Yohji would come up behind in. On the pretext of looking over his shoulder or offering to help him out, the blond would lightly brush his groin or hand across the manís backside. Sometimes he would breathe gently on Ayaís neck or ear, just to vary things a little. The one time he had run his hand down the otherís spine, the husband picking flowers had inquired if the red head had felt a chill. Yohjiís lower lip soon grew sore from biting into it to prevent himself from laughing out loud.

As soon as the shop would empty out, his kitten would pull Yohji towards him with a growl and try to make the older man as frustrated as he was. Only trained reflexes prevented some poor unsuspecting patron from walking in on them Ďin the actí. Although there were several close calls. The last, and one of the closest incidents, occurred when Ken finally came back to work. Too busy trying to keep his many purchases from sliding out of his grip, he missed the sight of his older teammates in a rather passionate embrace. Aya had his hands up Yohjiís shirt, rubbing the blondís back as well as holding him close. In return, the older man had one hand inching itís way down the back of the smaller manís pants while the other one was deep into crimson hair, tilting Ayaís face upward for a kiss that was leaving both of them dizzy. Realizing that they were no longer alone in the shop, the red head quickly hid behind his worktable as Yohji loudly announced he was going to check the cooler for restocking. He was in there for some time before he could rejoin the others without embarrassing himself.

*******

Busy setting out bowls for the noodle takeout they had ordered, Omi valiantly tried to hold back a yawn. He had stayed up later that usual, helping Ken tail the suspect Carmen back to his car so they could take down the license plate number. The teenager had rushed home afterwards, intent on starting a search for the suspectís identity and past, while the brunet carefully followed the man home. Once a tracer was safely attached to the car, Ken had returned and dragged the exhausted youth off to bed. Omi was eager to check out what his program had dug up, but would have to wait til dinner was finished.

"Late night, chibi?" Yohji asked as he slid into his seat. The younger blond nodded back as he sat down as well.

"Hopefully Iíll have something to show for it. I canít believe you found another suspect with such a strong connection to Teddy Stout."

"Yeah, you should be happy now that thereís someone else besides the guyís brother, huh Aya?" Ken barely paused in scooping noodles into his bowl to look up curiously at the quiet man.

"Hn."

"Knew you were going to say that."

"No big shocker there, Kenken. Fearless leader is a man of actions, not words." Shooting an amused glance at his kitten, Yohji wasnít all that stunned to find the man ignoring his teammates. What did surprise him though was to feel a foot run up the inside of his leg. So much so that he dropped his chopsticks.

Voice in no way indicating what his foot was up too, Aya innocently inquired, "Something wrong, Yohji?"

"Nope, everythingís just fine over here." The blond even scooted his chair closer to the table. Whoíd ever guess that the swordsman would be up for a game of footsie, let alone be so good at it?

"It seems like you and Ken will be busy checking out this Carmen fellow. I found out his real name is Tatsuhiko Furuya, and he runs his own supply company. Means he potentially has time and money on his hands. Hit the clubs and see if there are any other connections to him and the victims besides Teddy. We have very little time left before the target strikes again. Itís possible that it might even be as early as tomorrow night. That means you have to investigate the Velvet Room again, Ken." This last bit was mentioned in an apologetic tone.

"Look on the bright side Kenken, another opportunity for you to learn some more Ďinteresting thingsí. Imagine how much youíll be able to impress your next da-ahhh." Yohji broke off, biting his lip. The red headís foot was firmly in his lap, toes flicking erratically (and erotically) against an extremely sensitive part of his anatomy.

Ken eyed his friends. He had been about to kick the playboy when the tirade came to a sudden halt. Omi was too far away to have done anything, so that left Aya, who had a distinct cat-in-the-vat-of-cream expression on his face. "Thanks Aya, you saved me from having to smack some sense into the baka." He wondered what the red head had done to get the older man to shut up like that.

"Hn."

Dinner proceeded as usual, except for a more fidgety than normal Yohji. The man kept shifting in his seat and dropping things. "Iíll call you guys if I come up with anything during my search." Omi rose from the table and started to gather up the bowls and utensils. "Donít worry about the dishes, Iíll take care of them."

Pushing back from the table, Aya frowned at the young blond. "Did you find anything on David Aso?"

The youth was suddenly occupied with soaking the dishes in water. He hoped the steam explained him blushing. During the excitement last night, he had completely forgotten about that background search. "Sorry Aya, no hits as of yet." He promised himself he would find time to start the project tonight.

As soon at the red head left the room, Yohji rushed up and after him. Ken just rolled his eyes. "Great, another fight."

Opening his bedroom door, Aya stepped inside and waited. Sure enough, Yohji shortly came charging in. The red head let himself be shoved down onto his bed. "I thought you said nothing was wrong."

"You." The blond paused, obviously wracking his brains for a suitable epitaph. He was breathing a bit heavy. "You tease."

"This from the man who kept brushing his hand across my ass all day in the shop. Among other things. Just returning the favor."

"At least you were able to walk normally afterwards. Can you imagine the therapy Omiíd have to go through if he figured out what you were doing during dinner? Or Ken? Poor guy would have had a massive nosebleed and bled to death."

Aya was beginning to get apprehensive, what with the way Yohji was gazing down on him. He recognized that heavy lidded look by now. "I have to leave for work in a half hour, and I still need to get ready."

A wolfish grin on his face, Yohji brushed back crimson bangs and tilted the red headís face upwards. "Donít worry, thatís plenty of time. Besides, you have to get out of these clothes anyways."

"Hn." Wrapping his arms around the older man, Aya tugged him down closer.

*******

Pulling back from a quick goodbye kiss, Aya started out the car door. Due to Yohji's and his after-dinner activities, the red head was running extremely late. About to exit the car, he noticed a restraining hand on his arm. Turning around, he was confronted by a very concerned Yohji. "Listen Kitten, I know you can take care of yourself, but do me a favor and be careful tonight. Iíve had a bad feeling all day, and Iíd rather make sure it has nothing to do with you, okay?"

The blondís voice had been so serious that Aya felt compelled to agree. "I will. Watch out for yourself as well." Enduring another brush to his bangs, he backed out of the car. Once on the sidewalk, he noticed a petulant Teddy.

"Oh sure, go and spoil my fun for the evening. Some friend you are."

Deciding it was safest not to answer the man, Aya entered the bar without comment. Upon seeing the two men enter, Seiichi ambled on over. "I was wondering if you were going to show up tonight." Eying the pouting American, he couldnít help but ask Teddy what his problem was.

"Just found out that the spark is gone from a buddyís lovelife. They didnít even give me a chance to interrupt anything tonight."

"Oh relax, Red was just running late. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to be a pest in the future, Iím sure."

The longhaired man appeared to be cheered by this remark. As a sudden thought occurred to him, he shot a teasing look towards his silence coworker. "So Red, what were you doing to that caused you to be so late? Did Yohji want to play with his kitten tonight? Get your belly rubbed?"

Gritting his teeth, Aya focused his attention on setting up his tables, and not strangling the American. Taking in the manís stiff posture, Teddy burst out in laughter. "Bingo!"

Spooked by the venomous glare the red head was directing at his coworkers, Seiichi nervously tugged on his friendís sleeve. "Ah, Teddy, maybe it would be a good idea right now if we start getting ready also." When the man ignored the hint, too busy chuckling and making Ďhere kitty kittyí noises, he forcibly dragged the American away. "I really donít know how your brother puts up with you, he must be a saint. Or on very good drugs."

Ayaís evening did not get much better. Every time he and the foreign man crossed paths, Teddy would make little purring or meow sounds. Mickey would only shake his head in sympathy whenever the red head was at the bar. It wasnít just Teddy who was acting a bit odd that night, most of the customers were overly exuberant also. The assassin put it down to stress. Everyone was on edge as the weekend drew nearer, and looking for some means of escape. Aya was kept busy serving drinks and fending off grabby hands all night long.

Sometime after eleven oíclock, Aya was back by one of the server stations, taking a much-needed break. Unfortunately, Teddy and Seiichi decided to take their breaks right then as well. The red head didnít mind the brunet so much as the American, who was still cracking jokes at Ayaís expense. The red head had a headache from resisting the impulse to show Teddy what his spleen looked like. About to threaten the man with a painful death if he didnít find something else to amuse himself with, Aya realized that David was walking towards the group, carrying a heavy looking bag. Following the red headís look, Seiichi spied the tall man too, and patted Teddy on the shoulder. "Davidís here."

"Where?" Spotting his boyfriend, the young man let out a yelp and waved. "What are you doing here, sweetie? I wasnít expecting you til closing."

Bending down to briefly kiss his lover, the man straightened up with a rueful expression. "Sorry koi, but thereís been a change in plans. I got paged about a server going down, so I have to go do some work tonight. Figured Iíd stop by on my way and make sure Mickey gives you a ride home."

"But we were going to watch movies later. I even stopped by the store and rented a couple." The Americanís face was crestfallen.

"I know, I know. I guess Iíll have to make it up to you somehow." That brought out a bit of a smile. "Until then, this will have to do." Aso held up the bag he was carrying, the logo being from an expensive coffee shop. "I figured Iíd treat you and your friends to a little pick-me-up."

Teddy reached up and hugged the man around the neck. "You are just so sweet." He then proceeded to snatch the bag and start distributing the goodies. "Mocha cinnamon, thatís mine. Smells like vanilla, so that would be yours, Seiichi. Hereís Mickeyís grande with cream. Hey, whoís the green tea for?"

"That would be for Red." Glancing over at the silent man, David shrugged his shoulders. "I didnít know what your favorite was, but somehow you struck me as a tea drinker. Hope you donít mind."

Picking up the cup, Aya lifted the lid to take a sniff. It smelled pretty good. Taking a small sip, he realized that there was honey it it. A little sweet for his taste, but a welcome change from the water he had been drinking all night. Everybody was acting as if this was a pretty normal event, and he didnít taste anything wrong with the beverage. "Thank you."

"Is Yohji here?" The red head shook his head. "Oh well, someone else can enjoy his coffee then. I have to take off now koi, try not to get into too much trouble." Kissing his lover once again, David waved off the thanks and goodbyes from rest of the employees, and took off whistling. Aya jerked his head up, something flitting through his head at the familiar melody, but his concentration was broken when Seiichi tapped him on the shoulder.

"If Yohjiís not going to be here soon, would you mind if Hiro has his drink? Poor guy could use all the caffeine he can get." Aya nodded his head. Sipping at the warm beverage, he tried to remember what about the tall man had bothered him when he left.

*******

"Dammit. Letís try this again. There has to be something on this guy, I canít believe nothing is turning up." Initiating another search engine, Omi pounded on his keyboard in frustration. He couldnít believe that he was coming up with zero on Carmen. The guyís record was clean. Not spotless, which would have set off warning bells, but nothing more than a few speeding tickets and a drunken disorderly when he was much younger. That was it. His medical record was clean. The supply business he ran was involved in fabrics, and the few warehouses he owned or rented were showing full inventories. Granted, maybe that was falsified information, but the youth was finding little to raise his suspicions. One of the others could always investigate them in the morning, but he had a sinking feeling that they wouldnít find anything out of place. And the man had seemed like such a promising lead, tied to both Bacchus and the Velvet Room, with plenty of motive and know-how to go about the crimes.

That left them with only one suspect, and only another day or two at the most before the target struck again. Recalling Ayaís doubts about Mickey being the attacker, Omi started to wonder if Weiss was on the right track. Usually a mission involving this much work and effort went more smoothly, with the solution clear before the deadline. Maybe their number one (now looking like only one) lead wasnít as solid as they thought. The quiet swordsman normally had very good intuitions about these things, which was why he was field leader.

Thinking about the red head made Omi remember about his request. Minimizing the Carmen search screen, he pulled up the one he had running on David Aso. ĎAt least it will give me something to read while I wait on the results from the new search."

******

Hands rubbing his temples, Aya leaned against the bar as he waited for his drinks. The headache that had been building all shift long had reached migraine proportions. He was beginning to feel nauseous from the pain. Vision blurry, he closed his eyes and just rested for a minute, hoping that things would settle down.

"Hey Red, you okay?" Opening bleary violet eyes, it took the red head a moment or two to focus on the bartender. Trying to nod his head, he stopped the motion abruptly as pain spiked through his brain.

Mickey was concerned. Red was paler than normal, and had started sweating. The young manís lips were narrowed tightly in pain. "You look like shit. Why donít you sit down for a moment." As the slender man just stayed there, resting his head on the bar, Mickey gestured Kei over.

Taking one look at his newest employee, Kei could tell something was wrong. "Whatís the matter Matsumoto?"

"íM not feeling good." The pain was so intense Aya could barely think. The cigarette smoke and loud music was only making him feel worse. "Gotta get out of here."

Grabbing the sick man by the shoulder, Kei began maneuvering him towards the office. "No, need fresh air. Gonna be sick."

"Okay Red, Iíll take you outside." Guiding the red head towards the side emergency exit, Kei was soon joined by Seiichi.

"Something wrong?"

"Heís sick. Iím taking him outside for some fresh air. Why donít you stay with him for a couple minutes."

As the cold, fresh air hit his face, Aya felt slightly better. He rested back against the wall, taking shallow breaths. Seiichi hovered nearby, an anxious expression on his face. "Can I do something for you, Red? Maybe call Yohji and see if he can drive you home?"

Aya agreed, and whispered out the blondís cell phone number. He just wanted to stay in this quiet, dark place.

"All right, Iím going back in to call him. Stay here, Iíll have someone check up on you every couple minutes."

*******

Omiís teammates would have been shocked to hear the foul language he was uttering. For about the fifth time, Yohjiís phone account directed his call straight into voicemail. It was standard procedure for all of the assassins to have their cell phones on and as available as possible while on a mission. The only one who wasnít accessible by phone this time was Aya; his manager didnít allow his employees to use theirs while working. But there shouldnít be a problem contacting Yohji, unless something was wrong with his phone. That fact was causing Omi quite a bit of uneasiness, and somehow he doubted he could put it down to pure paranoia.

Giving up on contacting the older blond, Omi tried Kenís number. At least his phone was ringing. And ringing. Eventually the brunetís voicemail picked up the call. Teeth clenched in frustration, Omi left a brief message, filling the athlete in on the situation.

The youth hung up his phone, trying hard not to slam it down on his desk. He was torn between continuing the search and heading down to the bar district. Common sense eventually won out. Weiss needed all the information on the target that they could get, and his teammates should be fine on their own. Besides, judging by the targetís past actions, nothing should happen tonight.

*******

Feeling his cell vibrate with an incoming call, Ken deliberately ignored it. He had spent the better part of the night trying to find someone willing to talk about the suspect Carmen. It had been a frustrating evening, leading conversations onto the topic without causing any suspicions about why a reporter was interested in a particular fetish club member. By the time he could safely broach the subject, the interviewee was either bored with the discussion, or unwilling to talk anymore. Finally stumbling on a person eager to gossip about Carmen and Asoís feud, the brunet was not about to disrupt things by answering his phone. As soon as the interview was over, heíd check and see if the caller left a message. It was probably just Omi looking for an update, anyhow.

*******

Eyes closed, Aya had no idea how long he waited outside. The pain and nausea only grew worse. Every so often, someone would poke their head out the door and inquire about how he was feeling.

Seiichi returned after a while. "Iím sorry, but each time I try calling your boyfriend, I keep getting his voicemail. Iíve left a dozen messages by now. Maybe thereís something wrong with his phone. Do you want anyone else to give you a ride home? How about a cab?"

The swordsman didnít trust a stranger taking him home in his condition. "Yohji should be here soon. Iíll just wait outside."

"Feel up to coming back into the bar?" Seiichi really didnít like the idea of leaving his friend out here, sick as he was.

"No." The mere thought of returning inside made Ayaís stomach threaten to heave. "íS better out here."

"Okay, whatever you say. Weíll keep checking up on you."

Left alone once again, the red head tried to distract himself from the pain and queasiness of his stomach. He started concentrating on some of his favorite music, which normally worked in the past. As he mentally dredged up the melody to Kreislerís Leibelslied, one of his favorite violin pieces, he suddenly remembered what it was that had bothered him about David. The man had been whistling classical music as he had left the bar. It was another one of his favorite violin solos, Symphony Espagnol by Lalo. Groaning softly, he clutched at his head. One of the victims had mentioned his attacker whistling a Spanish sounding classical melody. ĎIt has to be David after all. He must have put something in my drink, no wonder Iím sick. I have to get inside and call Omi.í Pushing himself away from the wall, the slender man waved back and forth as vertigo overtook him.

It was too much for his abused stomach. Bracing himself against the wall, Aya started to throw up. Body shaking from the violent heaves, the pain in his head increased until his vision darkened. When his stomach was finally finished emptying itself, he tried straightening up. Upon hearing something move behind him, the red head whirled around by pure reflex. Weak as he was, he couldnít prevent the blow aimed at him. The sudden impact to his head had him briefly seeing stars, and then nothing at all.

*******

Yohjiís pace quickened as he entered Bacchus. The blond was filled with a tension that had only increased the longer he was away from his kitten. He was counting on sight of the red head to put him at ease. Really, this state of near panic he found himself in was unwarranted. Aya was working in a crowded bar of all places, it just wasnít possible for some psycho to come up, knock him unconscious and lug him out the front door. Even if it was a good possibility that said psycho worked there too. Yohji had extracted a promise from his lover that he wouldnít accept anything from the bartender. However, try as he did to spot the man, the blond couldnít find Aya.

Tension coiling tighter in his chest, Yohji spied Teddy coming his way. "Yohji, itís about time you showed up! Redís out in the alley, and if anything he looks even worse."

The blond could only look down on the server for a moment, utterly confused. "Teddy, what the hell are you talking about? Why is my boyfriend outside and not waiting tables?"

Teddy frowned up at the assassin. "Didnít you get the messages Seiichi left you? Red must have caught something; he got pretty sick a little bit ago. Weíve been trying to get ahold of you so you could take him home. Redís out back, claims the fresh air makes him feel better." Eyeing the pallor that overtook the older manís face, he quickly added. "Donít worry, weíve been checking up on him every couple minutes or so."

Suddenly recalling his nightmare that morning, Yohji started running for the side exit. There were a lot of angry shouts directed at his back as he violently shoved people out of the way. The only thing he could focus on was opening that door and finding his kitten waiting for him, sick and pissed off that he hadnít shown up sooner. Barreling out into the dark alley, he stopped when he realized it was empty.

Aya wasnít anywhere to be seen. Yohji shouted out the red headís name, only to be answered back by echoes. It was getting harder to breathe, what with the pain blooming in his chest. Seiichi found him standing in the alley, eyes wild and body trembling.

"You taking Red home now? Good." Not receiving a reply, the brunet stepped outside, looking for his co-worker. About to inquire how he was feeling, Seiichi noticed the sick man wasnít anywhere to be found. Suddenly uneasy, he asked the other man a question. "Yohji, whereís Red at?"

Yohji found himself propelled at the sound of the other manís voice. Storming back inside the club, he made his way over to the main bar.

Busy mixing drinks, Mickey suddenly felt himself jerked back and over the counter. Strong hands gripped his throat as emerald eyes grilled into him, glittering with fury. "Where the hell is he? What did you do to him?" Unable to breathe let alone speak, the American just half-laid over the counter.

Kei and Teddy grabbed onto the blond and pulled him off the bartender. "What the hell are you doing Kudoh?" the older man yelled as they dragged him away from the bar.

Shaking the men off of him, Yohji stalked back over to the bar. "Where the hell is he?" Reaching for the confused man, one of the blondís wrists was grasped by Seiichi. "Why are you attacking Mickey? Heís been in here the whole entire time." The blond looked down at the worried face besides him, and then over to panting foreigner. Mickey leaned against the bar with a hand at his throat, a perplexed expression on his face.

Yohji just stood there, eyeing the big man as Seiichi filled in his friends on Redís disappearance. Intent on Mickeyís face, he watched as the confusion was quickly replaced by concern and horror upon hearing that his co-worker was missing. Skilled in reading facial expressions from his years of private investigating, the blond realized that the man was truly shocked. That meant Mickey hadnít been involved in Ayaís kidnapping.

Raised voices caught the blondís attention. Kei was yelling at Seiichi, asking why he had left the sick man outside alone. The younger man was crying at the accusations. Calling out the managerís name, Yohji kept repeating it louder and louder until the man stopped berating his employee and glared up at him. "Stop blaming the poor guy, itís not his fault." It wasnít, either. It was all Yohjiís. Once more someone he loved was being made to pay for all his sins. Spinning around, the assassin again headed for a door. He had to get outside. He needed to go home, make sure that this wasnít some sick joke and that the red head wasnít waiting for him there.

Rushing down the sidewalk, Yohji tried to kick-start his brain. ĎThink dammit, who the hell else could of taken Aya? What if he just decided to wander off on his own, tired of waiting for you? Maybe heís perfectly alright.í The blond laughed bitterly at that thought. No, his subconscious had been trying to warn him all this time that something would happen to the red head, and heíd ignored it. When was he going to start listening to that voice inside him instead of watching his lovers be snatched away from him time and time again?

Feeling a hand upon his shoulder, the blond swung around, expression pulled back in a snarl. A stunned Ken took a step backwards. "Yohji, what the hell is up with you? Iíve been calling out your name for half a block now, ever since you walked right on past me." Not getting a response, the athlete tried again. "Is something wrong? Omiís been trying to call you for a while now."

"Omi?" That got a response from him.

"Yeah. There must be something wrong with your phone; he couldnít get through to you. He found out a few suspicious things while doing a search on your buddy David. We need to head over to Bacchus to warn Aya and keep an eye out for this guy."

"David? Omi thinks David is the target?" Yohji started to laugh again. It figured. Here heíd been defending the guy to Aya, only to have his Ďfriendí return the favor by kidnapping the red head. The nagging feeling that heíd been suppressing since last night rushed back. Along with the questions David had asked him, and the way heíd looked at him. The detective in him had recognized the odd intensity of those queries, the gleam of jealousy and hatred in those blue eyes, and heíd been too drunk and smug to comprehend it. %"I bet no one ignored you, with those looksÖ." "Heís the one, isnít he?" "What would you do if something happened to him?"% All along, the psycho had been right in front of his face, taunting him. And Yohjiíd been too self-assured that this time heíd protect the one heíd love, that there was nothing to worry about. Heíd been so smug, and now Aya was gone. %"Itís always someone else who pays for your sins, isnít it?"%

Ken was starting to seriously worry. "Kudoh, what the hell is up with you? Are you drunk or something? Ayaís going to kill you if he finds you like this during a mission."

Another burst of bitter laughter. "No, no heís not. Ayaís got his own problems right now. That bastardís got him already."

"WHAT?"

Sobering up, Yohji nodded grimly to his friend. "I just came from Bacchus. Aya got sick, seems like his coworkers couldnít get ahold of me also. The idiots let him wait all alone outside, and now heís gone. That bastard took him no more than five minutes before I got there. He did it just to hurt me." The blondís voice kept rising until he was all but shouting at the younger man. He turned around to face a brick wall, feeling the urge to tear apart something until it couldnít stop screaming.

"Yohji, calm down. People are staring." Racking his brains as he tried to come up with a plan, Ken just stood there as Yohji commenced punching the wall. Great, the blond was clearly losing it, and Weissís leader was in the hands of some nutcase.

"Stop that," the brunet hissed, grabbing the other manís hands before he broke them. "Okay, listen up. Iím going to Bacchus, see what I can learn there. You need to get back home, go talk to Omi and find out what heís come up with." A sudden thought occurred to Ken. "Aya was wearing his bracelet tonight, right?" He let out a long breath when Yohji nodded his head. Count on Aya following orders, at least on this. "So that means shortly after Aso gets him to wherever the hell he takes his victims and strips him, the alarm should go off. Either you or Omi give me a call when the tracer kicks in, and Iíll meet you there." Ken offered the older man a reassuring grin. "Donít worry about Aya, everything will be all right. Heís one guy who can handle himself. Besides, the target always takes his time with his victims. The most that will happen to Aya is that he might get banged up a little before we get there. I bet itíll be his pride thatís hurt the most from the fact of us rescuing him." The smile slowly faded as the other man just stared at him, a condescending look on his face. "Right?" The younger man suddenly didnít sound too sure of himself.

"Ken, Davidís already broken the pattern at least once. He snatched Aya a good day earlier than the others. And he did it because of me. His attacks have been getting more and more brutal each time. You really think that all heís going to do is beat Aya up a little?"

Head filled with visions of the raped and mutilated men David had attacked, Ken shivered as he felt himself grow cold.

*******

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