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A Price For Madness

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter 10

 

Omi clutched the steering wheel and listened to Aya's silence. It had started misting about an hour ago so the top was up, cacooning them in with the coppery smell of blood. Yohji's blood. There had been a great deal of it. Omi hated it when they bled. He couldn't stand to see any of his extended family hurt. Stupid profession to be in, if he felt that way. Little enough choice in the matter.

He'd have rather have been at the hospital, pacing nervously in the waiting room of the ER with Ken, but Aya couldn't stay. It was beyond Aya's capacity to stay there, with the anapestic smell and the sick and the dying and the hopeless and the grief. Aya had spent too much unrewarded time in such places to ever find comfort in them again. To ever be able to find anything but aversion.

He'd stayed as long as he could. Long enough to be assured that Yohji wasn't in danger of expiring; that a little minor emergency surgery performed in the ER would set things straight. It would be hours still before they were finished running tests and administering the things that hospital's administered in cases like this. Aya couldn't wait.

So Aya came up with the excuse of not letting the car sit out there all night with weapons of assassination resting in its innards. Had come up with the notion of going home and depositing said weapons in safe places and contacting the client to let him know the job had been completed and that funds were expected to be transferred. Reasonable enough excuse.

Omi knew Aya was seeking escape. Omi saw it in the tenseness of his face and the occasional nervous flicker of his eyes. Part of it was outright fear for Yohji. Omi saw that too. Had seen it at the quarry before Yohji had slithered back to consciousness, while they were ripping open his clothes to try and ascertain the extent of his wounds and coming up with blood, blood and more blood. Aya's hands had been shaking and his teeth close to chattering and such things were just not common place for Aya. Not that he let anyone see, at any rate. Not that he wouldn't deny if you called him on it. He hadn't been exactly happy with the nonsense things coming out of Yohji's mouth either. That was clear from the set of his lips and the slight color in his cheeks. Embarrassed and hating it. Yohji's babbling had been odd. It had sounded more like flirting. Like the things he said to women he was sniffing around when he was drunk and lacking in all the tact he might have exhibited sober. Only he'd been saying them to Aya. Omi might not have been there for all that Yohji noticed him.

He was curious. He might have asked Yohji about it, if he managed to work up enough nerve, but he'd never broach the curiosity with Aya. Not in a million years. So they drove home in silence, with Aya a brooding, silent shadow in the passenger seat. With Aya's thought very clearly elsewhere. Still worrying about Yohji, perhaps.

"Ken will call if anything changes." Omi reminded him, ever helpful. Ever concerned.

Aya gave him a cross look. Offended that Omi thought he needed reminding of that.

It was doing more than misting by the time they pulled into the alley behind the building. Aya took his katana and Ken's Bugnuks into hand. He had Yohji's wire in his coat pocket. Omi gathered his bow and his bolts and followed Aya inside. Through the darkened kitchen and down the hall into the rec-room where the faint light of the screen saver illuminated the room. Omi went to wake the computer up while Aya deposited the weapons on the coffee table. The leather coat followed, laid neatly over the edge of the sofa, before Aya began methodically wiping water off his sword blade and the stainless steel claws of the bugnuks. He was ever conscious of the tools of their trade.

"Message sent." Omi looked back and him and attempted a smile. "He'll get verification when the police follow our tip to the body."

A nod from Aya, who'd expected no less.

"I'm up for a cup of hot tea." Omi said. He needed a little warmth in his body. "You want one?"

A shrug and Aya put down the second of Ken's gloves. "Yes."

Omi padded into the kitchen, going for the stove and the kettle waiting there, filling it with a bit of water from the tap, hearing Aya follow him in as he turned on the stove and sat the kettle over the gas burner.

"Omi --" Aya said softly. "What's this?"

Omi turned, a question on his lips. He hesitated in uttering it when his eyes fell upon the box on the kitchen table. A neatly wrapped gift box with a car and a single red rose through the ribbons at the top.

"I -- I don't know." He whispered, the thumping of blood a sudden pressure behind his eyes. He slipped around next to Aya, wide eyed and wary.

"It wasn't here when we left."

"I know." Aya reached for the card. Carefully plucked it from its place nestled in the bow.

He flipped it open and one handprinted word glared up at them.

 

BOOM!

 

"Oh no." Omi whispered, even as Aya seized his arm and hurled him towards the back door. He clawed at the door handle, yanked it open and slammed through the outer screen door and into the ally with Aya on his heels. He wanted to stop and look behind him a few steps out into the rain slick alley, but Aya shoved him on.

"But -- What if it's not --?"

The world exploded before he got the chance to finish that desperate hope. The door hurled outwards. Glass and wood and bricks bombarded them. Aya wrapped his arms around him as they were flung forward, shielding Omi's body with his own. They hit the ground hard enough to knock all the breath from Omi's body. To smash elbows and knees and chin upon the questionable surface of the alleyway. A second explosion that was probably the gas line to the stove going. Omi shuddered under Aya's weight and lay there, dazed. He tasted blood in his mouth and hardly had the sense at the moment to connect it with the pain of a throbbing tongue. He couldn't think and could barely hear his own voice repeating Aya's name, over and over.

"Aya? Aya? You all right, Aya?"

Aya moved finally, shifted and tried to get his weight up and off of Omi. He failed at first attempt and had to lay there with his forehead pressed into Omi's neck while he collected himself. He rolled to the side and got one elbow under him, but his head was drooping and there was blood running down his cheek from the back of his neck. There were tears in the black turtleneck shirt he wore where he'd been hit by flying debris.

"Oh, God, Aya --" Omi crawled to his knees, hands tentatively touching Aya's shoulder, moving over his back to see if there was any serious damage. "You're hurt ---"

Something moved in the shadows. Something other than settling wreckage and crackling fire hissing in the rain.

"He's seen worse."

Aya's body went tense. Omi's did. He whirled, peering into the darkness. A tall, lean figure stepped out, long hair hanging lank and wet down the sides of his face. It took Omi a moment to place the familiar face with a name. Aya knew immediately. He heard a soft exhalation of breath from his injured comrade and on it was a name.

Shuldig.

"You son of a bitch." Omi whispered, furious beyond measure.

"Such words, for such a little boy." The Swartz slid forward, all grace and rolling movement even over debris littered ground. "I'd love to teach you a lesson -- but I'd rather teach him one. And I don't have the time to do it here."

Omi's brain went white with anger. Their home was blown to bits. All their things destroyed. And their cherished things were sparse. So few mementos that they could ever afford to take along with them to all the temporary sanctuaries that they gamely called home. And Shuldig had annihilated it all at a whim. Gone. Simply gone. And he wanted to do the same with Aya, because somehow, in the twisted avenues of his mind, he'd decided it was a righteous pastime.

Omi didn't think. If he had, he might have given second thought to attacking Shuldig hands on and without a weapon to his advantage. The both of them knew Shuldig could take him down without raising a sweat. It just didn't matter at the moment. Nothing mattered but venting helpless rage.

He rushed in, hoping to take the taller man off balance with a shoulder to his gut, but Shuldig sidestepped and slammed a fist almost casually down on the side of Omi's head. Then as Omi was staggering, seeing spectacular stars, Shuldig caught him with a backhanded swing that knocked him into the brick wall of the building facing theirs. He slumped down in a sprawl of nerveless limbs, dazed and numb and barely retaining enough consciousness to see Shuldig wipe his hands as if Omi had dirtied him somehow, then turn his attention to Aya.

Only Aya wasn't immobile anymore. Aya lurched up at him with a discarded wine bottle in hand and caught Shuldig across the cheek with the blunt end of the thing. Shuldig's head snapped back and he took an involuntary step sideways. He snarled something in German and darted back at Aya. He was just damned fast. Even at his best, Aya might have matched the German's speed on a good day only. If he'd had the katanna, things might have been different. If he hadn't just taken the brunt of that explosion, things might have been. As it was, Shuldig stepped in close enough to intercept a second swing, took the impact on his arm and slammed an elbow into Aya's jaw hard enough to make him stagger. Shuldig caught his arm, wrapping one arm about his upper arm and pressing his lower arm back by the wrist. It was a move likely to snap the joint if enough pressure was applied.

"Bad, bad boy." Shuldig twisted the arm until Aya had no choice but to let the bottle drop. Shuldig caught it before it hit the ground and flung it against the wall by Omi's head. It shattered, sending shards of glass down into Omi's hair. Aya went down, legs tangled in Shuldig's, arm still twisted at an unnatural angle. Shuldig came down on top of him with a knee to his gut that most certainly stole what air hadn't been knocked out of him by the explosion.

A fist tangled in Aya's hair and yanked his head up, then slammed it back down against the alleyway. "Damned inconsiderate of you to walk out on me when we had such a lovely thing going in that grimy little bar."

Again, the dull thud of impact when Aya's skull hit the ground. "It really pissed me off, Aya. You don't know how much. It'll take such a long time for you to make it up to me."

Aya made a hissing, angry sound, fingers tearing at Shuldig's hand in his hair, nails raking gauges in Shuldig's wrist. The German winced and slammed Aya's head back yet again, hard enough this time so that Aya's eyes rolled up and his hands folded limply to the ground near his head.

"I thought you'd learned better. I thought we'd gone over this, time and again. You don't fuck with me. I fuck with you. Or simply fuck you. Either way its a status quo thing. Got it? I'll reeducate you."

Omi felt sick. Felt the nausea rising in his gut and wanted nothing more than to bent over and expel the insurgence in his stomach onto the litter strewn ally pavement. He found the neck of the broken bottle instead. Numbly wrapped his fingers around it. Somewhere in the distance, he heard sirens. Heard the echoing roar of fire as it traveled up the guts of the building, finishing off everything that was theirs. He couldn't differentiate the rain from the tears.

He lunged forward, slicing the jagged edge of the bottle at Shuldig's back. Felt it tear through cloth and rip flesh. Shuldig howled in shock and pain and spun, reflexively kicking out at Omi's legs. Omi was too unsteady to avoid it. He went down; lost his hold on his only weapon and became the center of Shuldig's malice.

"You little bastard. I'll make you eat that bottle for this." He shifted off Aya, who wasn't moving, who lay there with his eyes half open, dazed and useless to Omi.

A screech of tires and lights shining hurtfully bright down the alley way. The flashing revolution of blue police lights on top of a shadowy car. Another slamming to a halt behind the first. Omi didn't even hesitate. He started screaming bloody murder.

Shuldig cursed and promised something dire in German. Whether it was directed at Aya or Omi, Omi had no idea. He really, truly didn't care at the moment. All that mattered was Shuldig was retreating at that help was coming down the alley with guns out.

"He's trying to kill us. Stop him!!" Omi jabbed a finger desperately at Shuldig's back, not imagining for a moment that the cops could apprehend him, but needing to give the German ample excuse to flee long and hard from the area. And to give Omi the time he needed to get Aya up and into the car and away from here before the cops came back or more came and they were trapped into answering questions they didn't want to explain.

"Aya? Aya, please -- I need your help." Omi pulled him up by the arm, crouched there holding him against his shoulder and wondering how in hell he was going to get him to the car. There was blood in his hair. A good deal of blood, that mixed with the rain and ran pale and pink down Omi's hand when he touched it. Fear chilled Omi's skin. Scalp wounds bled a lot, he told himself. Shuldig hadn't smashed his head against the ground hard enough to mash the back of his skull in -- had he? Shuldig hadn't wanted Aya dead. He'd said as much.

"Aya, please. We can't let the police question us. We've got to go, Aya. Now."

He tried to stand and pull the taller man up with him. He couldn't get the leverage. He slumped back down and sobbed, wrapping his arms around Aya's ribs and pressing his face into Aya's shoulder. This had not been a good night. It had been such a dreadful, bloody night. Two of them down and their home and all their things gone. They'd been making tentative plans of relocating, due to Shuldig's interest, but nothing concrete had been decided. They didn't at the moment have a place to go that he trusted. If Shuldig had found this house, he might very well know the other locations of their safehouses in the city.

"What do we do, Aya? Where do we go?" It came out a miserable whisper.

Aya shifted a little and murmured. "To the hospital. Get Yohji and Ken."

Omi blinked, brightening a little. "Aya? You awake?"

A bunching of muscles, an attempt at getting his legs under him and failing until Omi added his strength and his support. It was a weaving, lurching walk to the car. The hood was littered with debris, the canvas top riddled with a few small burn holes. He got Aya inside and ran around to the other, scrambling to get the keys in the ignition and bring the engine to life. It took two dozen blocks before his hands stopped shaking enough for him to be able to drive and use the phone at the same time. He didn't think Aya was conscious. At least he made no sound and Omi couldn't see his eyes in the dark.

Another twenty city blocks to the hospital. Ken was outside waiting. Ken waved him down and rushed up to the driver's side window pale faced and tense.

"You okay?"

Omi nodded. "How's Yohji --oh." He saw Yohji limp out from behind the column he'd been leaning against. Paler than Ken and exhausted looking. There were deep blue circles under his eyes and a waxyness to his lips that hinted at just how weak he was.

"Should he be walking?" Omi exclaimed.

Ken looked back and grimaced. "They didn't want him to -- but they didn't tell us it would kill him."

"We don't have a fucking lot of choice." Yohji muttered, walking around to the passenger side and struggling with the door. He crouched down with a grunt and a surge of obvious pain and put a hand to Aya's face. Turned his head and saw the smear of blood on the headrest. "Shit. He's bleeding."

"I know." Omi said miserably, tears beginning to leak out of his eyes again. "He --- He hit his head pretty hard on the pavement. Repeatedly."

"Shuldig." Yohji hissed. "I'm gonna fucking kill him."

"Get in line." Ken said grimly. "We got clean bandages for Yohji's wounds. We'll wrap it on the road."

"Aya?" Yohji gently slapped Aya's pale cheek. "Aya, wake up for a minute, will you?"

Aya made a displeased noise, and slitted his eyes open, focusing hazily on Yohji's face.

"Get up and get in back with me." Yohji was pulling him up, grunting with the effort until Ken came around and added his uninjured strength. It made a certain amount of sense. If they ran into trouble Ken needed to be shotgun. As soon as they'd bandaged Aya's head and Ken had resettled into the front passenger seat, Yohji nestled into the corner of the seat, stretching out his long legs and pulling Aya against him. Aya was jumbled enough not to resist it, or Yohji's arm around his shoulders. The silence from the backseat was contagious. They hadn't gone five minutes before Omi guessed both Aya and Yohji were out.

It was minutes more before Omi asked in a soft voice.

"Where to, Ken?"

"North East."

"Any destination?"

"No. Not at the moment. Just drive."

Hours of endless road once they'd gotten onto the highway. Ken took over a few hours into dawn and Omi drowsed in the passenger seat. Yohji and Aya might have been corpses in the back seat. Omi gently prodded Yohji's knee when Ken stopped at a roadside convenience store for soda's and snacks. Yohji roused and cast an annoyed glare at Omi for disturbing him.

"What?'

"Just checking to see if you were okay, is all." Omi said. "We're getting something to eat. You need to go to the bathroom or anything?"

Yohji thought about that, and a hand snaked down of its own accord to scratch at his crotch.

"Yeah." He decided.

They roused Aya and between Omi and Yohji, who was in no condition to support anybody, got a dangerously wobbly redhead into the john. Bad concussion, Omi figured. Maybe not even all Shuldig's doing. The debris that had missed Omi had only done so by the grace of Aya's body. A flying chunk of concrete, even a little one could have done serious damage. Yohji said he had an egg sized lump on the back of his skull. It was little wonder he hadn't made a better showing of himself against Shuldig.

Yohji popped an antibiotic and a handful of aspirin bought in the store. They gave Aya a few of the same for good measure and hit the road again. It was almost midnight before exhaustion took its toll and they had to pull over for the night at a fleabag motel off the side of the highway. A vacancy sign flickered lifelessly against the starless night.

"Two rooms."

The old woman dozing behind the counter barely looked up at them. She muttered a price and Ken pulled out a few bills. He signed some name or another and stomped back out with Omi on his heels.

"You want Yohji or Aya?" he asked, getting into the car and using the headlights to read the room numbers.

"I got Aya." Yohji said tiredly from the backseat. "You get the kid."

Ken chewed on the inside of his lip, but shrugged. "Whatever. If the two of you kick off during the night, with nobody not teetering on the edge to see -- its not my fault."

"I got Aya." Yohji repeated.

Aya was a little easier to rouse this time, almost twenty hours of straight sleep must have done him some good. He shook of Yohji's hand irritably and staggered into the dingy little motel room under his own steam. One full bed with a sagging mattress. Omi had the sudden nervous concern that his and Ken's room would be situated the same way. Yohji didn't seem to have a problem with it. Yohji shooed them out and shut the door behind them. Omi stood there with the faint buzzing nighttime bugs singing in his ears while Ken unlocked their own adjoining room.

One big bed. A single chair. A lamp with a flickering bulb. A dangerous looking bathroom.

"I wouldn't drink the water." Ken recommended after washing his hands. "It looks like it could kill rocks."

"Okay." Omi agreed. Numb. So tired that he couldn't see straight. Reeling from the blood and the destruction and the loss.

"You okay?" ken asked, frowning. He reached out a hand and brushed Omi's hair aside, thumb skimming over a sore spot on his brow. "Ouch." Ken said sympathetically when Omi wouldn't respond to the hurt.

"And look at your hands. You've scraped them all to hell."

Omi looked down, blinking. He'd been rather oblivious to all his own wounds. His palms looked like he'd scrubbed them across a cheese grater. His knees felt the same way.

"The -- the explosion knocked us down." He murmured.

"Yeah, looks like." Ken agreed. The thumb ran down to the swelling at the side of Omi's mouth. "You get a fat lip from it, too?"

"No. That's from Shuldig -- I think."

Ken's mouth tightened. He pulled his hand back and paced, angry and helpless to take it out on anyone.

"That fucking bastard! Crazy mutherfucker. What did he have to gain -- why?"

"I -- I think --" Omi's hands were shaking. He felt a bit of wetness gather at the corners of his eyes. " -- he --- hurt -- Aya a lot more than Aya told us -- when he had him. I think he might have -- r--r-raped him. I think maybe he w-w--wanted to do it a-ag--again. Maybe that's why Aya's been --like he has ever since then. I mean with him hurting himself and --and things."

Ken stood there, staring at nothing. Fists clenched so tight that a tiny bead of bright blood seeped between his knuckles.

"He's gonna be hard as hell to find." Ken said softly. "Tracking Schwartz --- that's not a healthy thing to do." He took a breath, forcing sanity in amidst all the rage. "And killing Shuldig -- he's a hard target. He's fucking good."

"Yeah." Omi agreed.

"Don't see any other way to get him off Aya's back."

"No." Omi tasted wetness in his mouth. "All our stuff is gone."

"We can get new stuff."

He nodded, miserable in his devastation. He wrapped his arms about himself, wishing Ken weren't there to see his weakness. Wishing he weren't such a girl, over loosing a few things. Wishing that somebody would make all the pain go away. Afraid to ask Ken for even a pat on the shoulder, because Ken had been acting like he'd had the plague since that --debacle at Deacon's Hill. And rightly so, because Omi had been a fool afterwards. And ken was looking at him now uncomfortably, a certain amount of skepticism in his eyes.

"I'm gonna go and clean these scrapes. We ought to check on them in an hour or two." Omi wiped the back of a hand across his face, smearing the wetness.

"Yeah." Ken agreed quietly, all the boisterous rage gone from his voice.

So Omi went into the tiny bathroom and took of shoes and shirt, and sat on the commode top with the little med kit that Yohji had in his glove compartment, picking the gravel out of his palms and his knees and dabbing iodine on afterwards. One knee was worse than the other, and he taped a pad of gauze over it to keep more dirt from getting in. He would have done the same with his palms, save for the fact that it would prohibit him from using his hands with any dexterity. The various scrapes, lumps and bruises were beginning ache.

Ken was sitting against the headboard of the bed, shoes off, but everything else in place, watching TV. The reception was terrible. There was no cable. He handed Omi an open can of soda and a trio of aspirin.

Wordlessly, Omi took them. He sat down on the other side of the bed and gingerly pulled his knees to his chest.

"So, what are we gonna do?" he asked softly, when he couldn't stand it any longer.

"I dunno. Yohji was all hot for Italy last I heard. I wouldn't mind it myself."

"Can we drive it?"

Ken shrugged. "Probably. Take a three or four days."

"I need to get on-line and make sure our funds are still secure." Omi said. "He blew up my computer."

"Yeah."

"He blew up everything."

Silence. Omi felt the misery rising again. Felt the weakness.

"I'm sorry." He muttered, turning his head a little to hide it.

"Fuck." Ken said and reached out for him. Caught him about the neck and pulled him into the circle of his arms. Omi wrapped his arms about Ken's waist and pressed his face against Ken's shirt. The tears slid down his face. Ken's fingers stroked his hair hesitantly.

"We'll bounce back. We always do. Don't worry about it."

He believed him. Ken's optimism was a godsend. Ken's comfort was. He went to sleep with the TV on, and his head on Ken's shoulder and for a short while, the uncertainty went away.


Yohji woke up to the sound of the door quietly opening and the sixth sense of someone watching him while his eyes were closed. He slitted them open and peered towards the rectangle of pale gray outside the door. The drab walls surrounding it were cast in shadow, and otherwise unremarkable and unfamiliar. He had only a vague notion of where he was. He didn't think he had a weapon at hand, then came to the conclusion that he didn't need one when his befuddled senses recognized Omi.

Aya's head was a warm weight upon his arm, Aya's face turned into his shoulder and Aya's fingers curling against the bare skin of his chest where his shirt had fallen open. The rest of Aya was at an angle, not quite pressing against the singular soreness that was Yohji's body.

Despite the lack of entwined limbs or too much bared flesh, it was still a compromising position for a man to be caught in with another man. He wouldn't have shifted out from under Aya if he could have, though. Not even to soothe Omi's sensibilities. Omi could damn well live with it.

"What?" He croaked. His throat felt parched and dry. His skin was hot despite the cool early morning air Omi was letting in through the open door. Fever. Wonderful.

"Just checking to see if you guys were all right." Omi said in a small, tired voice.

"You want a list of complaints?" Yohji inquired. With wakefulness came a great deal of unpleasentries.

"Ummmm ---" Omi shuffled his feet in the door, not certain if Yohji were being sarcastic or not. Yohji took pity and tried to curb his irritability.

"We'll live. I think. Where are we?"

"About twenty hours out from the city. I don't know the name of the town."

"Where are we going?"

"Italy."

"Ah. When are we leaving again?"

"A few hours. Its only three in the morning now."

"Okay. Come back then."

Omi nodded, hesitated with his hand on the door, as if he wanted to ask something, but then changed his mind and backed out, softly shutting the door behind him. Yohji sighed and shut his eyes, listening to the distant humm of the neon road sign, through the half open window.

Aya's hand moved, fingers spreading out on his chest, moving carefully down to skim the edges of the bandages that started at just above his rib line and wound to his hipbones. They hid one nasty puncture and four not so life threatening ones. Something had been ripped inside him, they said, and they'd gone in and sewn it up. He'd have hemorrhaged to death otherwise. He'd be sore as hell for a long time to come. He wished he had something stronger than aspirin now. Sorely wished for something to knock him out and just let him sleep for the duration of what promised to be a long drive if Italy were their destination.

"How's the head?" He murmured, eyes still shut, intensely aware of Aya's soft, inquisitive touch.

"S'okay." Aya's voice was a little slurred.

"Liar." Yohji accused.

"You're hot."

"Yeah, so I've been told. I always knew you thought as much."

Aya sighed, not in the frame of mind to appreciate Yohji's humor.

"You've got a fever. Did they give you something for that?"

A shrug. The movement hurt. "We're going to Venice after all."

"I heard." A little tremor of emotion at the heel end of that short statement. A breathless silence where misery lingered -- and guilt. Yohji felt in it the way Aya's fingers curled, and he retreated just a bit, distanced himself just a bit from the warm comfort they had burrowed into.

"Its not your fault." Yohji said, a little offended. He might have sat up, if the mere thought of the movement didn't pain him. As it was, he curled his arm to roll Aya a bit closer to him, to regain that affinity they'd found in blissful sleep.

A soft, disbelieving snort. Of course Aya would shoulder the blame. If it weren't for him, after all, Shuldig would have found other things to occupy himself. If Aya hadn't fucked up to begin with and let himself fall into the wrong hands, none of this would have ever happened. Yohji could almost hear the gears turning inside Aya's head.

"You moron." He murmured. "Do you know how fucked up you are to even contemplate such a thing? Its like saying that all those teenagers Phillipe butchered were at fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Its like blaming his poor dead sister for turning him into a killer or --- blaming yours for making you what you are. You gonna put that on Aya-chan's shoulders?"

"Shut up, Yohji."

"Make me."

Silence. Aya pressed his face into the curve of Yohji's neck.

"You think," Yohji whispered. "That I wouldn't be the first one to jump all over you, if you'd fucked up that badly? I would. With bells on."

The silence stretched out. Aya's breathing did. The long, slow breaths of sleep. Figured. Right when Yohji was trying to make a point. Right when he was on the cusp of winning an argument.

Oh well. There was always tomorrow. Or the next day. And when they'd healed, a little payback would be in order. Shuldig wasn't the only dangerous one out there. They were hunters, too. They just hadn't had their priorities in order before. That was gonna change.

He let himself sink deeper into the dubious comfort of sagging boxsprings. Let his body try to relax and forget the aches and pains that had become such a constant. It was only a few hours till they had to be up and on the road again. He might as well take full advantage of them.

Might as well let sleep and time heal the injuries so that when the time came, vengeance could be taken in full.

 

The End of A Price for Madness

 

 

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