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A Price For Madness

by P L Nunn

 

A continuation of the Violation story arc

 

He came awake with a jolt, heart pounding so hard that it threatened to batter its way out of his ribcage, bile already risen and stinging the back of his throat. He felt lightheaded, from the sudden awakening -- or from the intensity of the nightmare that faded even as his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room. Enough remained for him to guess what it had been about. A sibilant, teasing voice in his ear, a lean, hard arm encircling his throat, pulling him back into an unwanted embrace. The voice spoke endearments or obscenities in German. They were one and the same to the predator that lurked in his subconscious. Funny that he could understand the words in his dream yet had not had been able to discern them during the reality.

He leaned forward, over his knees, running fingers through sleep tousled hair, fighting back the overwhelming urge to vomit. He chased away the lingering memories and slammed the black lid of denial back down into place. With an effort of will he cleansed himself of it. With an effort of will, he stopped shaking and glanced at the clock radio.

4:15.

There was the faint sound of music drifting past the barrier of his door. He took a breath and swung his legs from under the sheets. Walked shirtless down the hall to the bath to relieve his bladder. Yohji's door was half open. The music came from there. The faint oddly tainted smell of pot seeped from the room, as did a stifled giggle.

Aya frowned, disapproving, pausing in the dim light leaking from the door. He did not like drugs. Of any sort. They dulled reflexes that might otherwise prolong a life. Even here, in this newest place they called home, they couldn't be too careful. He wouldn't say anything. Not now. The giggle had not been Yohji's and he had no wish for the embarrassment of walking in upon Yohji and one of his various conquests.

The door opened quite unexpectedly. Yohji stood there, a girl did, the both of them grinning like idiots, hanging off each other as if they could hardly stand without the support. They both looked as surprised as Aya at the encounter.

"Hey, Aya." Yohji slurred. The girl looked him up and down, her make-up a little smeared, her eyes openly interested. Yohji had lipstick on his mouth and a smudge of it on his neck just below his jaw.

"Hellooo, Aya. Wanna join us?" She cooed it, her voice low and sultry. She didn't know him. She merely mimicked Yohji.

"He's not into that." Yohji's said, smile turning lurid as the girl leaned closer against him. He was quite, quite drunk and giddy from the pot that was still burning in the room. His eyes flickered down Aya's torso, lingering momentarily on the top of the black, drawstring pajama bottoms that Aya wore, then his gaze was back on the girl. "He's not into anything."

Aya's lips tightened. He pushed back irritation, pushed back any interest at all in what Yohji was doing in the privacy of his own room. It made no difference as long as it didn't affect his proficiency at his job. Nothing mattered but that. His eyes lost any trace of emotion. He blotted the both of them out and walked past, silent, graceful. Cold.

Into the bathroom, with its antiquated claw-footed tub, its chipped tiles and sagging ceiling. It was an old building. But it was obscure. Inconspicuous was more important to them than cost. Rent was not an issue.

Privacy was. But sometimes it was forgotten within the folds of their association. Yohji staggered in without benefit of a knock. He didn't hesitate, just wove his way to the sink and leaned against it, waiting for Aya to finish, oblivious of Aya's glare and Aya's discomfort.

"Is she hot or what?" Yohji quipped and didn't wait for an answer before continuing. "Aren't you gonna ask?"

He was trapped with Yohji between him and the door. The only escape was to step into the tub to get around him. He was not reduced to that indignity yet.

"Ask what?" if he didn't inquire, Yohji might stand there indefinitely.

"Whether I'm just getting in or just going out?"

"No." He didn't care. Yohji saw it in his eyes and shook his head.

"No fun. No fun at all, Aya." He straightened and allowed enough room for Aya to squeeze past. They shifted places. Aya headed for the door.

"Fuck, Aya." A soft exclamation. Aya hesitated, glancing over his shoulder. Yohji was staring at his back.

"You're gonna have scars, man."

He stiffened a little. Scars were a small price to pay. Unfortunate, but not something that mattered in the long run. Thinking about what had caused them did. Yohji hadn't seen the extent of the wounds since the day he'd staggered back. Yohji had helped clean the blood and the filth off that day only because Aya had been too exhausted, both mentally and physically to prevent it. He'd kept them private since, but he'd had to have help with the dressings while the worst of them healed. He'd let Omi help only because Omi was -- safe. In a way that Yohji or Ken, who were older and more jaded, were not.

"It doesn't matter." He said it and it sounded defensive in his own ears. Yohji looked at him as if it did, which was baffling. He turned around and kept on his way. Slipped past Yohji's room with the girl none the wiser and back into the dark sanctuary of his own.

 


There was a mission. A simple one. Get in. Get specific information and get out. Ken and Yohji were to create a diversion and Aya was supposed to cover Omi while he downloaded the files. Only there was a catch. The building had more protection than they'd been led to believe. Either they had been set up, or somebody had gotten wind of the infiltration to security, because men with guns showed up and Ken and Yohji had their hands full keeping Aya's and Omi's escape route open.

It still would have gone fine if Swartz hadn't shown up. Might still even have worked out if it hadn't been Shuldig that Aya ran into in his attempts to keep Omi's position secure. Shuldig hadn't expected him either. The surprise in his eyes was clear testament to that. But the surprise had faded and that slick, smug smile of his had spread over his face in its place.

He'd said something. Some trivial, hurtful thing and Aya had lost focus. Aya had lost composure and all thought of the mission in the simple, mindless goal of slicing Shuldig into small, bloody pieces. Only Shuldig was fast and Aya had let something other than cold skill take him over. The need for revenge was a taste he was well familiar with. He let the passion take him over and it made him careless and it made him mindless of the mission and what he was supposed to be doing. That was Shuldig's fault, because he had cracked the stoicism and knew how to get past Aya's defenses. All it took was those eyes and that damned annoying voice to bring back images that Aya had spent that last six weeks making himself forget.

Which was how Omi got hurt. The computer room was up top over looking the factory floor, behind a shield of tinted glass. The first of the gunshots shattered the glass and Aya was too far away to even see the figures struggling in that room. He was too immersed in a life and death struggle with Shuldig to break away and find out even if he'd wanted to.

Explosions and gunshots and screams. Smoke filled the air. Shuldig made a quip. A nasty little parting remark and launched himself through an outside window already blasted out by the explosion. He started to go after, but somebody came out of the smoke and snagged his sword arm.

Yohji who was coughing, with smoke tears running down his cheeks.

"What happened?" he cried. "Where's Omi?"

Aya didn't know. He took one last look after Shuldig, then shrugged out from under Yohji's hand and hurried towards the stairs leading up to the computer room. He paused when he heard Ken's voice cry out. Squinted his eyes to see Ken darting across the factory floor towards the pile of debris that lay jumbled under the office window. There were bodies in that mess. At least two. He saw the skin of a bare leg, and a flash of golden brown hair. And blood.

A great deal of blood.

 


"Goddamnit, Aya. What the fuck is your problem?" Yohji slammed the flat of his palm against the wall. Leather covered flesh made a sharp slap that echoed in the hallway. Aya paused. One brief, angry glance over his shoulder, then continued up the stairs. The door to the roof banged open and swung lazily shut on its hinges. Yohji swore. Creatively and violently cursed and stalked up the steps after him. All he could see was Omi's face covered in blood, and Omi's shocked pain filled eyes as Ken was half carrying him across the dark lot to the car. He wanted to call Ken now and make sure the kid was all right, but cornering Aya and demanding rationalization was what truly fueled his anger now. What truly motivated him to chase Aya all the way home and rail at him until he retreated to his usual sanctuary of the roof.

No sanctuary now. Not while Yohji knew to track him there.

"He's fucking lucky to be alive, you asshole."

Aya didn't turn and glare. Aya was a black silhouette against the dawn sky, only the paleness of his arms standing out. He'd shed his coat and his katana downstairs. Probably just as well, Yohji not quite certain he wanted to deal with a unbalanced Aya who was armed with a three foot blade.

"What the fuck were you thinking? We had a plan, Damnit! You deviated deliberately and you almost got Omi killed because of it. You never fucking deviate from a plan. What the hell happened? You developed some new psychotic obsession now or what?"

Aya didn't speak. Didn't turn. Didn't acknowledge Yohji in any way, which infuriated Yohji to no ends. He could deal with anger, he could deal with screaming arguments, but he hated to be ignored.

He stalked up behind him, grabbed a shoulder and swung him around. Aya reacted badly to the handling. Aya slammed out an elbow as he turned, catching Yohji in the side. It didn't quite knock the breath out of him. It hurt. It made him madder than he already was. He had about three inches on Aya and about twenty pounds. He kept his grip on the shoulder of Aya's shirt and yanked hard in towards himself. Used his weight to fling Aya over his hip and onto the gravely surface of the roof. Aya landed well. Rolled and came up in a crouch, emotion glinting in his eyes now.

"Don't touch me."

"Oh, fuck you, Aya." Yohji hissed. "Goddamnit, I hate when you get like this and we can't fucking rely on you for shit. We'd do just as well without you, rather than have to deal with your craziness. Its like fucking PMS with you. You get sane then go fucking nuts on a regular basis."

"Shut up."

"You shut up. You tell me what the hell you were thinking. What the hell did Shuldig do to set you after him like that? To make you give the mission the finger and just go kamikaze?"

"Shut up!" Aya screamed it. Aya launched himself at Yohji, wild eyed and furious. Hit him mid-waist and almost took the both of them over the side of the roof. They just missed it. Hit the concrete barrier and rolled to an abrupt stop with Aya on top, his thumbs pressed into Yohji's throat. A serious hold. Aya meant business.

Yohji tried to wriggle out of it, tried to buck Aya off. He had his wire, but hesitated to use it on Aya. Even a crazy Aya. Not unless he didn't have a choice. Aya wasn't thinking straight. That was damned obvious. Aya had that white around the rim look in his eyes. That distant horror filled expression that he used to wear when he thought to deeply about what had happened to his parents and his sister -- the shit that had pushed him into this life.

"Stop it." He croaked, prying at Aya's fingers. "Aya ---" He got the toe of his boot high enough to crack it against the side of Aya's head. Hard impact. Steel toed boot. His favorite pair. Aya listed over to the side, letting up on trying to choke the life out of Yohji, one hand going to his ear. Yohji didn't hesitate in throwing all his weight into throwing Aya the rest of the way off. He did use the wire then; flung it out to encircle the wrist holding Aya's weight and jerked hard enough to break the skin and yank that support out from under him. Aya's shoulder hit the roof top. Yohji's weight hit Aya, his knee bearing down on the wire that twisted around the captured wrist, effectively pinning that arm beneath the both of them.

"Are you out of your mind?" He screamed down, which, when he thought about it was a damned stupid question. Aya was not taking this well. Yohji didn't figure he could hold him down for long. "I'm not the enemy, you prick!"

"Leave me alone --- god -- get off me!" Incoherent demand. Panic so bright in those violet eyes of Aya's that it almost seemed as if he were on the verge of tears. It occurred to Yohji that Aya wasn't really even seeing him. There was very little recognition in his eyes. It was as if he were looking at Yohji and seeing something else all together.

Of a sudden, Yohji rolled off, releasing the wire. Putting distance between himself and Aya. Crouching there staring, waiting for the sanity to come back, putting pieces together in his mind that had been lying scattered about for weeks now.

Aya backed against the edge of the roof, slouching against the concrete barrier. He lifted his bleeding wrist up gingerly.

"Sorry." Yohji admitted fault.

Aya stared, calming his breathing.

"What did he do to you? Shuldig?"

Aya flinched and Yohji knew he'd hit home.

"Nothing."

"Nothing? That why you freak out on us when you see him? That why you almost get Omi killed 'cause you're too busy trying to slice Shuldig up to do your job? What did he do to you, Aya? "

"Nothing." Harsher this time. Aya getting his composure back and going cold and emotionless. Aya looking through him like he wasn't there. Aya trying to deny a thing to himself as vehemently as he denied it to the rest of the world.

"You fucking liar." Yohji whispered. "Fine. Have it your way. But, its not like we're not gonna run into him again. I don't want you at my back if we do, understand? Not unless you learn to deal with whatever the hell it is about him that set you off."

Aya looked away from him. Got to his feet and let the broken wire drop to the ground. He walked past Yohji. The earring glinted in the scant light of dawn and the faint glow of the streetlights below.

"If you wanna talk about it ----?" Useless offer. Aya would never take him up on it. Aya held his hurts close to home and only the splitting ends of his mentality ever hinted there was a wrong.

The door to the roof gently closed. Yohji sat there, running both hands through his hair, taking a deep breath. Angry still, but not for the same thing. More the fool him for not seeing it sooner. They'd thought Swartz had only tortured Aya when they'd had him -- what -- six weeks past? It hadn't occurred to him that they might have done worse. Aya damn sure hadn't said.

He took a breath and reached into his pocket for the phone. He'd waited long enough to give Ken a call at the emergency room and find out how Omi was.


Omi's head hurt. Omi wasn't seeing all that clearly. He thought a little of that was the painkiller they'd given him at the hospital. An accident at the park, they'd told the nurse at the emergency room. Two kids out skate boarding late at night that had gotten a little too daring and taken a spill. They believed that. The score on his head wasn't from a bullet, it was from trying to avoid one and falling onto something hard and sharp. He was lucky it hadn't impaled him. He curled against the door and shut his eyes while Ken drove home. He had sliced his shin pretty badly too. It had taken twelve stitches. Twelve on his leg to go with the fourteen in his head.

He had expected Aya to be there. And instead of Aya he got Farfarello and a couple of hired goons. He still didn't know what had happened to Aya, why he hadn't been there to back him up when he should have been. Ken hadn't spoken much, other than to say that Yohji and Aya were home. Ken was pissed.

Omi drifted off and came back when the car door opened on him and he threatened to spill out. Ken caught him. Ken gave him a look that asked whether he was capable of walking in on his own steam. He replied that he was and promptly veered into the fender of the car, which made all balance flee. Ken got an arm around him. Ken took a good deal of his weight, which was comforting on the one hand and slightly disorienting on the other.

"The sidewalk's all funny." He remarked, staring down at it as they walked.

"I know." Ken agreed. "You're high as a kite and concussed. It's probably sprouting pink elephants."

Omi giggled. "No. It's just sort of --- wavering. Like that oil slick thingie you see down the road when its really hot."

"Right." Ken got him up the stairs at the front of the building, and propped him against the door to fish in his pocket for keys.

"You're going straight to bed, you know?" Ken said after he'd gotten the door open and Omi inside.

"I've gotta look at the information we got." Omi protested. He had the disk in his pocket. At least he thought he did. What a terrible waste if he'd lost it in the mix. He felt at his jacket and sure enough the thin, hard wafer of a disk was safely in place.

"No." Ken disagreed. "Doc said you had to lay down and stay down. They didn't want to let you go, remember?"

Omi did -- sort of. Mostly he remembered looking down in horror while the doctor stitched up the torn flesh of his leg. He'd felt rather faint after that.

"But we need to see what's on the disk."

"I can look."

"What if its encrypted? Its probably encrypted. You don't know how to crack an encryption code."

"I'll get Yohji to help."

"Yohji doesn't know either. All Yohji uses the computer for is to cruise for porn." Omi giggled after saying it. Ken gave him a look and steered him towards the stairs.

"No." Omi said stubbornly. "I just wanna take a quick look."

Ken stopped, letting out a frustrated breath. He pushed Omi's back against the stairwell wall and held up three fingers in front of his nose.

"How many?"

"What?"

"How many fingers?"

"Ummm-- 3?" They were wavering somewhat and just a little out of focus. The whole of the world was out of focus.

"Try again, Omi." Ken directed.

Omi concentrated and his head began to pound. "Two." He said and had to shut his eyes afterwards.

"Good guess. Gimme the disk. Me and Yohji will look at it."

"Okay." He relented. His head was beginning to protest the fact that his body was still vertical.

Ken got him upstairs and into bed. The world didn't stop spinning when he was flat on his back and staring up at a dark ceiling. It seemed to accelerate when he shut his eyes. He felt sick. He lay there with the vague contemplation of struggling up and making his way to the bathroom to throw up. His stomach couldn't quite decided its stance on the subject. The joyful side effects of a concussion, he thought dourly.

"Hey, kiddo, you okay?" Yohji stuck his head into Omi's room. Yohji had his hair back in a pony tail and had changed into sweat pants and a black tank top.

"'M okay." Omi mumbled.

"Head hurt?" Yohji surmised sympathetically.

"A little ----" he thought about it for a moment and went for honesty. "A lot. If you and Ken have trouble with the disk -- come and get me."

"Sure."

"Yohji?"

"Yeah?"

"What happened with Aya?" He wanted to know. He wanted to know why Aya had abandoned him, when Aya was generally so damned good about sticking to a plan.

"Got sidetracked." Yohji said after a moment. "He didn't mean to. He's sorry."

"He told you that?"

Another pause. "No, but he is. You know how he is."

Omi nodded, accepting it. Not to was unfathomable. There had to be trust among them. And remorse for mistakes. Other wise how could they function reasonably as a team who had no one to rely upon but themselves.

 

 

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