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Walking With The Dead

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter Nine

 

Ryo could think again. Barely. His mind wanted to reject the things it was being fed. The rationalizations and theories that Rowan was spouting; that Sai and Kento were adding their tentative opinions to. He wanted to close himself off to all of it and fall back into the haze of lethargy they'd yanked him bodily out of. At least then the pain hadn't been so intense. It was now.

Physically he ached. There was rough sex and there was rough sex, but what had happened this morning -- went beyond that. Seiji had said he wanted to punish him --- them. No, Seiji hadn't said it. Something else had said it, if Rowan were right. And that something else had methodically and maliciously done just that.

Mentally -- god, mentally he felt shattered. It could have been the downside of the drug. He had no experience with such things to compare. He vaguely recalled the second dosage. Recalled with fleeting images Seiji sitting on the side of the bed, the long line of his naked back a sinuous play of muscle and bone in the shadows, the smell of blood and sex strong in the air. The smell of the lighter was a faint odor in comparison. He hadn't seen what Seiji had been about, till he turned with the needle and the cold, cruel smile that he'd worn so much of late.

He turned his face wordlessly into Sai's shoulder, shuddering, because he'd thought it was Seiji. Because part of him still thought it had been. Because even though the hands had hurt, they had also known all the intimate things to do that would drive him mad.

Sai wrapped an arm around him, faltering in what he had been saying. Ryo hadn't been paying attention.

"You okay?" A whisper from Sai.

Ryo nodded. A lie. But one that they wanted to hear.

"But if she's like some thousand year old Egyptian ghost," Kento was asking. "How's she know all the stuff she knows about -- about everything here. She can drive, for Christ's sake. And she picked up on the credit card thing really fast."

"Same way she knew our names in hell. She picked it up from Seiji." Rowan summarized.

"It makes sense." Sai said. "It was a long time before she even became active again. A month maybe, where all she did was observe. It was my fault she got the chance to resurface, I suppose, the night I slipped him the medication."

"White Blaze knew it wasn't him right off." Kento said. "Too bad he hasn't been around the last few weeks."

"Should've figured it out the first time I jumped him." Rowan snorted. "Didn't have Seiji's moves. Was slow on the uptake, like she was having to access the simple reflexes."

"Why'd she take the power crystals?" Kento asked. "Think she can use Seiji's?"

"God. I hope not. I mean, the armor's attuned to us -- not just the shell. It shouldn't respond to somebody else. Right?" Rowan cast a hopeful glance at the others.

"We're fucked if she can." Kento said, not convinced.

"Hell, she fucked us pretty thoroughly without having to bother with it." Rowan said, then blanched at the poor choice of words and cast an apologetic glance towards Ryo and Sai.

"He was scared." Ryo murmured. "When I burst in -- he was scared. I saw it in his eyes."

They didn't know what to say in response to that. Rowan shifted nervously and Sai looked off through the window blindly. It was late afternoon now. Seiji had been gone for hours. Just gone and if Rowan was right, not coming back. It was a theft, Ryo thought dully. She'd stolen from them. From him. She'd taken Seiji.

"How do we get rid of her?" Kento dared the million dollar question.

"I don't know." Rowan said. "I can't begin to guess. Seiji would be a better one to tackle that question."

"Then how do we get Seiji back to ask him?" Kento voiced a second most distressing issue.

"We stop her from drugging him into oblivion." Rowan seemed certain of this. "But we've gotta find him first."

"He -- she -- could be anywhere." Sai reminded them, miserably.

"The city." Ryo said softly, echoes of Seiji's voice coming back to him. Of things said in-between things done. Or during. It was a thing he should have noticed before this. The propensity towards talk in the midst of foreplay and after. Seiji was not big on bedroom conversations. The thing that dwelled within him liked the banter.

"The city?" Sai echoed.

"He said he had -- things to take care of. With his lawyers and stuff."

 

*

 

Ryo threw up between the acts of pulling on his clothes and looking for his shoes. Rowan sat on the edge of the bathtub and waited for him to finish with a wet rag in hand and a bland, censureless expression on his face. Ryo snatched the rag with a foul expression and wiped off his face.

"M'sorrry. Everything's sorta --- fluttery."

"You don't have to go." Rowan reminded him. Rowan didn't point out that he looked like death warmed over, or that his hands were trembling in the most alarming manner or that he was limping when he walked, or that his wrists had bloody rings around them where he'd pulled too strenuously against the cuffs during the course of the morning. Not to mention the various other cuts and welts that had sprouted blood across his body. No, these were not things Ryo needed to hear at the moment. What Ryo needed to hear was that -- yes, they were gonna find Seiji; yes, they were gonna evict the thing that was presently lurking behind his eyes and that yes, things were gonna work out fine in the end. Only Rowan didn't like the feel of those uncertainties on his lips.

"To hell with that." Ryo snapped. "We're gonna find him and kick that thing's ass -- or whatever -- to get him free."

Rowan sighed, not asking exactly how they were supposed to do that without in the process kicking Seiji's ass. But the tenacity of the comment meant that Ryo was feeling more like himself again.

"Thank you, Ryo, for that bit of consistency in an otherwise mad world." He reached out and patted Ryo's shoulder. Ryo shrugged him off, glaring, most definitely in a foul mood.

"Don't treat me like a 10 year old, Rowan."

"I'm not." Rowan said reasonably. "I'm treating you like somebody coming down from a nasty trip. So chill, Recca."

"Fine." Ryo waved him away and struggled off his knees. Rowan didn't know which was bothering Ryo more the situation or the weakness.

So they drove into the city, enduring a miserably silent, miserably long drive. It was early evening by the time they saw the cluttered skyline that marked the metropolis. Seiji's lawyers were family lawyers. They worked for the family business. Or businesses. They had holdings on several continents, the results of two generations of profitable, foreign unions. Japanese. English. American. Seiji was a mongrel. But a wealthy one.

There was a new corporate building in the works. It had been squeezed in amidst all the other towering glass and metal monsters. It hardly dominated the skyline, but it was an impressive feat nonetheless. There were still signs of construction about. A good many floors had yet to be completed, but the top floors that housed the heart of the corporation were inhabited.

None of them had ever been there. Seiji didn't care enough about it to mention it in casual conversation. Rowan had seen an article about it in the paper and pointed it out to Seiji, who had shrugged non-committedly about the multi-million dollar thing that some of his money was going towards the construction of. Weird. Just weird not to care. And that had been their Seiji. The real honest to goodness one who'd rather hang out with their shiftless selves than circulate amongst the socially elite that his position would have allowed him access to. Who'd rather spend countless hours in a dojo as opposed to a board room. Who hardly ever spoke, unless he was spoken to and not even then sometimes. Who was acerbic when he did bother to comment, and condescending and occasionally an overall pain in the ass and who Rowan missed and desperately wanted back.

They cruised the parking garage looking for Seiji's new car. Found it eventually and felt a group surge of adrenaline tinged relief. He/she was here. First problem solved. Now on to the really tricky one.

They trooped warily into the lobby, ill at ease on spacious marble floors and tall, art deco columns that lined the huge space. Rowan's boots echoed on the glossy floor. Ryo's sneakers squeaked. Kento looked up at the vast slanted ceiling of the lobby, skylights showing the purpling sky outside, and gawked like a country boy thrust in the midst of the city for the first time. It was late enough for the lobby to be deserted, save for the one uniformed receptionist behind the central information desk.

He looked up at them with the bland disinterest of someone who had better things to do than occupy their time with the likes of them, who obviously did not belong in this place to begin with. He didn't ask what they wanted. Sai leaned his elbows on the counter and asked in his most polite voice.

"We're looking for a friend who's here. Might you help us please?"

The receptionist let out a put upon sigh and lifted his gaze to take in Sai, then the others standing behind him. Kento was smudged with car grease and dirt. Rowan had looked better, after spending a night in jail. Ryo looked like shit, plain and simple.

"His name and is he expecting you?"

"Umm, Seiji Date and no, he's not."

"Its a surprise." Rowan smiled winningly. "Its his birthday and we've got him a present."

The receptionist frowned and looked over something hidden behind the counter. "Mr. Date did come in this afternoon."

"Oh, goodie." Sai beamed. "Can we go and see him? He'll be ever so happy to get his present."

"Its been a long time coming." Rowan added, leaning one elbow on Sai's shoulder the other on the desk.

The man shrugged. "Top floor offices. Building closes to the public in thirty minutes, so be quick about it."

"Thank you so much. It won't take long." Sai promised.

They hit the elevators, piling into an elegant car. Soft music assaulted their ears. Ryo leaned into a corner, one arm wrapped about his ribs, fingers clutching his football jersey. The circles under his eyes made him seem even more bruised than he actually was, but his mouth was set in a grim line. The body language said 'afraid'. The expression spoke determination. Rowan could understand both emotions. Could feel them both in his gut. He just hid it better than Ryo.

Sai sidled close to Rowan and whispered, as if he thought there were eavesdropping ears in the elevator. "What do we do if he doesn't cooperate? If he makes a scene?"

"He won't. It would be out of character." Rowan said. Rowan hoped.

The numbers on the wall blinked in and out. 47. 48. 49. 50.

The car slid to a smooth stop. The doors whisked open with nary a sound and they were thrust out into a plush lobby. Neutral colors, modern furniture. Soft white light accenting the occasional splashes of color. There was a long lacquered cherry receptionist's desk guarding twin halls leading back into the bowls of the building. A pretty receptionist smiled up at them, much better at hiding her opinions than the man downstairs.

"We're looking for Seiji Date." Rowan asked before she could utter a meaningless, scripted greeting.

"Mr. Date is in conference at the moment. If you don't mind taking a seat in the lobby, I'll see that he's made aware that you're here."

"We do mind." Ryo growled, hardly at his most socially tactful at the moment.

The secretary blinked up at him. Sai smiled. "Its rather urgent."

"Where is he?" Ryo demanded bluntly. Rowan put an arm around his shoulders and bullied him back from the counter, saying over his shoulder.

"He doesn't get out much."

"Its very important." Sai explained. "A matter of life and death, even."

"Who's life and death?"

A handful of men appeared from the mouth of one of the hallways. Seiji stood out amongst them like a diamond in the midst of a scattering of onyx. Golden and exquisitely fashionable in jacket and silk shirt, as opposed to dark men in uniformly dark business suits.

"Yours." Kento growled.

There were uncertain looks exchanged.

"Mr. Date ---?" Someone asked.

Seiji smiled and held up a hand.

"They're acquaintances. They think they have a problem. Think nothing of their bad manners. They don't."

He breezed past, cutting between Kento and Sai as if they weren't there. The businessmen watched him go, ignoring the others as if they were too inconsequential to devote the eye strain.

Seiji hit the button for the elevator and Rowan tightened his fingers around Ryo's arm when he felt him tense, as if he might lunge forward. He didn't know if he trusted Ryo's sense of reason at the moment. He didn't know if he trusted him not to do something stupid right here in front of witnesses. Seiji might have been hoping for just such a thing. Seiji wasn't paying them much heed.

The doors opened. Seiji stepped in and they crowded in on his heels. And when the doors slid shut they were encased in steel walls of privacy at last.

"We know who you are. You're not gonna get away with this." Kento was up in Seiji's face. Seiji hardly blinked. Didn't move to step back. There were a few faint bruises on his face. A slightly swollen bottom lip that served to make him look sensuous instead of battered. All results of Rowan's blind rage. Seiji looked past Kento to Rowan. He didn't pay Ryo or Sai any heed at all.

"You're out of jail."

"Yeah." Rowan agreed. "Good try, though. You look a little worse for wear. Too bad I didn't do a more thorough job. I don't think Seiji would mind a few broken bones, a concussion, a little serious blood loss -- to be rid of you."

The blue eyes sparkled. The lips turned up in a smile. He laughed. An odd sound coming from Seiji. "Do you think it would be that easy?"

"Won't know till we find out, will we, bitch."

"I should have just killed you. I knew you'd figure it out. The rest of you would have been oblivious. Even you, sweet, wouldn't have been able to fathom it, you would have been too busy wallowing in your misery. You make such a nice pet." Seiji reached out towards Ryo. Ryo flinched, then caught himself and slapped the hand away.

"Fuck you." Rowan said it for him. Ryo's teeth were chattering in rage or something else.

"Maybe one day, if you hadn't of done this." Seiji indicated his marred face with a lazy flit of the hand. "Now, I'm afraid you'll just have to die."

The elevator door opened with a sweet chime that had them all starting. They were not at the ground floor lobby. It had opened on one of the unfinished floors. There were no real walls, just the skeletons of them. Beams and raw concrete jutted from floor and ceiling. Workmen's tables were scattered here and there, along with stacks of sheet rock and paneling. It was dark, save for a single hanging light at the elevator. Nothing but shadows and accidents waiting to happen.

They blinked out at it, caught off guard for a second, as anyone would have being shown this unexpected view of the building without her makeup. Then the haze of power made their skin crawl. A nimbus glow of palest green that made hair stand up on end and blood pump a little faster in the presence off. Nothing they hadn't sensed before. But they'd goddamn well hoped not to feel it now.

"Shit." Rowan cursed and shoved Sai out of the doors before him, diving and rolling himself as he felt the swipe of something large and powerful aimed for his head. His speed saved him. The sword bit into the elevator door and sliced through metal and concrete like it was butter. He sprawled inelegantly on his rear and stared up at Halo. At fucking traitorous armor that obviously didn't give a damn who was at the controls as long as the body and the soul it was attached to were present. He wondered when she'd figured out how to call it.

He couldn't see much of Seiji's face in the shadow of the helm, only the grim twist of satisfaction to his lips. It occurred to Rowan that if he resorted to the armor's more magical attacks he could bring this building down and that was not a pleasant notion. It also occurred to him that they had a chance in hell of surviving against the armor of Halo without comparable armor of their own. Smart bitch. Damned smart dead bitch.

Kento and Ryo were trapped in the elevator behind Seiji. Sai was crouching not far from Rowan. If they stayed together she'd kill them all. Since Killing Rowan was her main interest at the moment, he decided on a bit of suicidal selflessness.

"You want to take me out, you fucking bitch? Then come and get me." He sprinted into the shadows, out of Seiji's line of vision, preying he/she would take the bait and follow him. He heard Sai cry out and had a moment's terror that he/she was hesitating long enough to take out the others, then there was a crash of a temporary wall coming down and Seiji was there, having taken the direct route of cutting Rowan off. Rowan made an impromptu detour, skidding under the sword and rushing headlong into a broad space studded with nothing but supporting eye beams. It was an eerie shadow filled area. Not as much cover as he could have wished for. He couldn't hear Halo behind him. Seiji had always been able to move snake silent when he wanted to, even in full armor. He supposed the ghost was getting good at utilizing her host's skills.

Rowan had an intuition and he dove. The blade sliced through an eye-beam where he'd been. He scrambled up, out of breath and starting to feel the fear now as more than a background noise. It was starting to eat its way up his gut. It made him careless. His feet tangled in a coil of electrical wire. He went down again. Halo loomed over him. He saw the glint of a triumphant smile. Saw the flash of that damned big blade.

"Noooo!" Ryo was there somehow, putting his body between death and Rowan. Standing there with his arms outstretched trusting to fate or luck or lust --- that Seiji wouldn't just slice through him and Rowan both in one fell swoop.

The sword stopped a hairsbreadth from Ryo's shoulder. It hovered there as if it wanted to taste his flesh and blood.

"Don't do this." Ryo ground out through clenched teeth. "Don't let her do this, Seiji."

"Do you think I won't kill you, Ryo? Are you that much of a fool?"

He stood there. Rowan carefully crawled into a crouch behind him.

"Rowan -- go." Ryo said softly.

"No." He couldn't leave him to face this.

"I'll get him sooner or later." Seiji promised.

"You'll go through me to do it."

Seiji laughed. Rowan felt sick. The sword drooped. Seiji opened his hand and with a pulsing glow the outer armor faded. The sword dissipated with the rest and left Seiji in the sub-armor. It left his face bare. There was an amused expression on his face. A quizzical one. He reached out one hand and touched Ryo's face. Ryo didn't flinch. Stood firm and let himself be pulled a step closer, enough off balance that he had to put a hand on Seiji's chest.

"You're so naive, Ryo. But that's what we love about you." He/she let him go, looked past him for one brief moment at Rowan, then lashed out and backhanded him hard enough to send him crashing into a eye beam ten feet away. Ryo didn't get up from that. Just slid down the beam and crumpled at its base.

Rowan bolted. He had no choice. If Ryo had survived that, Seiji wasn't going to go to lengths to finish him off. He hoped. Rowan was a different matter. Rowan was number one on the hit list.

Must have been his winning personality and charm. A humorless grin crossed his lips as he darted into the forest of beams and cluttered construction materials. He was fast. He was agile. He was damned good at being quiet and subtle when it suited him. He was no match for Seiji in that armor.

He half saw a flash of green and white, half managed to spin out of the path of the blow and only got the tip end of the impact. Being grazed was still enough to slam him to the floor. He skidded into a pile of something hard and unforgiving. It felt like his shoulder might have been dislocated. It hurt like hell. He tasted blood. Felt a warm trickle of it running down his temple from his hairline.

Seiji stood over him, not even winded from the chase.

"You can't keep this up forever." Rowan glared up, holding his shoulder. "You keep pumping him full of drugs and you'll kill him eventually, then where will you be?"

"Don't you worry about that."

"Don't tell me what to fucking worry about. I can see why somebody went to the trouble to lock you away where you couldn't do harm. You had a bargain with him! You've overstayed your welcome."

"There were no boundaries set." Seiji leaned down and pulled Rowan up. Pressed him not ungently against a beam and held him there with a hand on his chest. "Don't pretend to know what passed between he and I. Don't pretend to pass judgment on me. What was done to me was not deserved. Anenhotep always did have an exaggerated sense of self importance."

"He sealed your soul away?" Keep him/her talking. Buy himself some time.

Seiji's mouth curved up into a smile. The eyes were cold as ice. "Infertility was a seen to be a punishment by the gods. Infidelity a crime to be punished by death. Practice both against a god-king and death might seem a blessing."

Fingers brushed Rowan's cheek, smearing the blood. They drifted down to his throat. "You want to banish me too, don't you, Rowan?"

"I -- want you gone from Seiji. I don't care where you go from there."

"Really? Would you offer up your own body?"

He blinked in surprise, caught off guard by such a question. Seiji laughed.

"That's all right. No need to search your soul for an honest answer. I find I've developed a taste for this body. But I'm afraid I can't allow your interference. I think I can get along better if you were not in this world to hinder me."

The fingers tightened about his neck. He brought his hands up to Seiji's wrist, but the strength was beyond him.

 

*

 

"Where are they? Where the bloody hell did they go?"

Sai was reduced to cursing. He hardly ever cursed. The situation, he felt, called for a little foul language. There were no lights up here. Only the occasional swinging light bulb, none of which, frustratingly enough, came on when the cord was pulled. Kento thought the power was cut off on the unfinished floors. Kento thought there must have been a master switch somewhere. Sai didn't care to waste the time looking for it. They'd lost Rowan and Seiji and Ryo somewhere in the midst of half finished walls and shadowed beam studded floor. The elevator was a crippled thing behind them, the only electrical light in the shadows, doors fused open by the damage done by Halo's sword.

Seiji had taken off after Rowan and Ryo had taken off after Seiji. All of them swallowed by the darkness. Sai wanted to scream. Or to hit something. Hard.

"Which way, Kento?"

"I don't know." Kento padded up to him, having veered off to explore the skeletal beginnings of an intersecting hallway.

"We have to find them."

"I know."

"He's going to hurt Rowan." Sai uttered it like it was a despicable taste in his mouth. Like something horrid that he had to spit out. Kento glanced at him worriedly in the darkness.

"I know, Sai."

There was a sound off to the right. An echoing clatter. Kento and Sai exchanged quick looks. Sai started that way. Kento paused to scoop up a length of metal piping.

"Sai." He hissed. "Here." He tossed it at Sai when he turned, then hefted another one for himself. A crude weapon at best considering what they faced, but it was better than nothing at all.

Through the shadows.

They might have missed them entirely if not for the pale beacon of Seiji's hair. They weren't moving a lot. Just standing there with Seiji pressing Rowan back against a jutting eye-beam. He had one hand on Rowan's neck. Both Rowan's hands were at his wrist. Sai opened his mouth to yell and Kento stopped him with a hand on his arm and a short, circling gesture of his hand. A You go that way. I'll go this, sort of motion. Sai understood. The warrior instinct -- the predatory one -- in him fought against unadulterated fear for something he loved. But Kento was right. Letting Seiji know they were coming was suicide. For all of them.

Kento circled left, disappearing into the shadow. Sai crept right. Rowan let out a strangled, desperate sound. Seiji didn't make an noise.

Kento sprang out of the shadows and all Sai really saw was the length of pipe slashing towards Seiji's head. To hit him on the sub-armor would have been useless. Even a blow to the head -- a normal, mundane blow at any rate -- would mean very little. But it would catch his attention. And Kento packed a nasty punch with those thick arms of his.

Seiji staggered forward, crashing into Rowan. Rowan sagged under him, knees giving out, hands at his neck, red faced and gasping for breath. Kento swung again and Seiji spun, blocking the blow. Sai swept in, and crashed his length of piping into the small of Seiji's back with all his might. "Go, Rowan!" he cried and couldn't spare the time to give Rowan the critical once over he deserved. All he saw was a flash of red running down his face and a dazed expression. He swung again and Seiji ignored him, ignored the blow to his shoulders in favor of grabbing Kento's pipe and using it to hurl Kento off his feet and into a stack of sheetrock. The sheet rock gave way, spilling onto the floor, throwing up a cloud of dust. Kento did not. He lay sprawled in the destruction, unmoving.

Sai gaped and gripped his pipe tighter. Rowan was still there. He'd moved away from Seiji, but he hadn't fled. He was swaying where he stood, next to a support beam. Sai wanted to scream at him. He screamed at Seiji instead.

"Why are you doing this?"

"I wasn't going to kill you." Seiji smiled at him. "You're not the dangerous one out of the bunch. But you force my hand."

"You don't want him. You want me." Rowan growled.

"Shut up, Rowan." Sai hissed at him and put himself between Seiji and Rowan.

"Look, Rowan, another one willing to sacrifice himself for you. What is it about you?"

"I'm not a body stealing bitch from hell is what."

Seiji tsked. Seiji slashed out a hand so fast that Sai only saw the afterimages of it. He felt the impact in his side. Felt the sickening crunch of ribs cracking even as he hit the floor and skidded through dust and debris. The clank of the pipe disappearing into the darkness echoed even after he'd come to a painful halt against a beam.

His vision spun. He heard Rowan scream or curse. The ringing in his ears was to overwhelming to differentiate. He saw Seiji lunge at Rowan and Rowan dart out of the path. The eye-beam behind Rowan twisted and screeched, torn out of its wielded support by the impact. Seiji didn't bother to go after Rowan, he wrenched the huge length of metal free and hurled it. Rowan hit the ground, missed by spare inches and the beam smashed into another support. The ceiling groaned. The floor seemed to shake.

From one moment to the next and world collapsed. Beams and concrete and twisted metal rained down. From somewhere fire alarms went off. A sprinkler began to shower water down and another and another until the shadows were filled with the glinting reflection of tiny drops of liquid.

Rowan was gone. Disappeared under the debris. Seiji stood there staring, water dripping off his armor, hair beginning to plaster itself to his skull.

Sai couldn't scream. He lay there and choked, shocked, consciousness swaying in and out of reach. No. No. No. No. No. Was all he could think; was all that got through the daze.

Seiji turned to look at him. That shuttered blue gaze swept across him and beyond. Then he strode past, as if Sai were beneath his notice. As if he had far better things to do. And he was gone and the tangled pile of debris was all that was left, dust strangled into submission by the sprinklers.

"Rowan ---" He managed to whisper before the dizziness overwhelmed him and he fainted.

 

*

 

Ryo came out of his stupor with a start. He jerked up right, swinging his head around so quickly that the nausea threatened to come back. He took a breath to calm his stomach; to let his head clear, then another. The water had brought him back. The floor was coated with a thin sheen of it. He was soaked through already. There was the annoying claxom of fire alarms echoing all around him.

He got up, staggered a step and put a hand to his head. It was hard to see but he thought it came away bloody. His head sure as hell felt like it had been split open.

What had happened? Where was Rowan? Where was Seiji?

No. Not Seiji. Not his Seiji at all. Not his Seiji for a long time. Not his Seiji for too many nights to dwell on.

Fool. Fool. Fool. He should have known. How could he not have known? What disservice had he done Seiji by letting it go on so long? Seiji would have known, if it had happened to him. Seiji wasn't blind, deaf and dumb.

"Rowan?" he called plaintively. His voice was swallowed up by the sirens and the patter of the sprinklers. He felt weak-kneed. He fought the feeling off with a vengeance. He started into the darkness, but movement caught his eye from behind. A figure moving through the shadows, heading for what might have been the door to the stairwell.

In the shadows, with the water making his hair dark, he almost couldn't recognize Seiji. He'd phased out of the sub-armor. Ryo ground his teeth and kept himself from calling out. He looked back once into the darkness of the unfinished floor, wishing he knew where the guys were, wishing he knew if they were okay -- but wishing even more not to loose track of Seiji and whatever it was that had taken up residence behind his eyes.

He padded after. Paused at the stairwell door for a heartbeat, guilt over deserting the others eating at him. But it didn't equal the fear of that bitch taking Seiji away -- of just disappearing and where they couldn't find her and couldn't save Seiji.

Please be okay. He sent a mental plea out to his friends and stepped through the door. The echo of Seiji's steps drifted up the stairwell. How many floors up were they? He hadn't bothered to look. The stairs seemed an endless spiral downwards. His wavering vision could have come from any number of things. He clutched the rail and padded silently down.

Seiji exited into the underground garage. Headed towards his car and stopped. Just stopped and stood there for a moment, head tilted as if he'd picked up a sound or a scent.

Ryo froze, at a loss, not having planned this far in advance. All he'd done was follow the gut instinct of pursuing Seiji. Of not letting her get Seiji out of his sight.

"What are you doing?" Seiji purred, without turning, casually reaching into his pocket for his keys and unlocking his car from a distance.

"Where are you going?" Ryo demanded.

"None of your business." Seiji glanced over his shoulder. The shoulders and back of his jacket were damp from dripping hair, but the rest of him was dry.

"You can't."

"I can't? Can't what? Kill you right here and now if I choose?"

Ryo shook his head. "I won't let you take him away."

Laughter. "You can't stop me, Ryo. You can't stop me from doing anything I want to."

He/she was right of course. Without the power crystal that summoned the armor of Wildfire, he couldn't make Seiji do a damned thing. Even if he'd had it, it would have been a damned uncertain thing.

Seiji crooked his finger at him, beckoning him closer. Ryo drew his brows and stubbornly stood his ground. Seiji shrugged.

"You'll miss this body, won't you?" He ran a hand languidly down the center of his chest and tummy. "It would hurt you never to see it again, wouldn't it, Ryo?"

He stared, angry at the threat; frightened by it.

"How good can you be?"

"What?" Ryo blinked at him.

"Simple question. Can you be obedient?"

Ryo stared, uncertain, mouth a tight line. "Why?"

A predatory smile. "If you're good, you can come."

"What?" he asked stupidly, off guard and baffled. He was good under pressure, he really was, but this situation was beginning to unravel him at the edges. He was having a hard time thinking on his feet.

Seiji got in the car. The engine purred to life. The top smoothly rolled back and he leaned an arm across the back of his seat to stare at Ryo.

"Get in."

He shook his head. "No. Why?"

"Because I like looking at you. Because we like fucking you. Because I know you'll be a good boy, for if you aren't we'll just part ways and you'll never find me -- us -- again. I can promise you that. Get in or not, it won't trouble me much either way."

Ryo stood there. Seiji shrugged and shifted the car into reverse. Ryo had to move or get backed over.

"Wait. Wait." He felt breathless. He couldn't think. He needed to find out where the guys were. He needed to tell someone what he was doing. He didn't think he'd be granted that grace. But the threat was too much.

"Okay."

He snagged the door and got into the car, dripping wet on fine leather seats. Seiji didn't seem to mind. His Seiji would have had kittens. His Seiji was in there somewhere. He'd seen a glimpse of him. He'd never have a chance to find him if she took him away.

 

 

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