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A Price For Madness

by P L Nunn


Part Two


It was 6:04 am, and Omi couldn't sleep. His head pounded even when he shut his eyes and tried to will the throbbing away. His leg itched abominably. He wanted to scrub at it with his nails so bad he had to grind his teeth to stop the reflexive motion. So he got up and wondered downstairs, taking the steps very carefully, one hand out for balance. The staris only swam a little bit in his vision. Not enough to impede his passage down them, or threaten a headlong topple down the narrow stairwell.

He was hungry. He couldn't remember eating anything since before the dreadful mission. He'd been too woozy from painkillers after he'd first gotten home and had refused Ken's offer to make him soup and tea. He had the taste for something sweet now. Like sugar coated breakfast cereal under milk. He'd probably throw it up the way his head was feeling, he mused dourly, but he was willing to give it a shot for the mere diversion of getting off his back and out of bed. So he headed down to the kitchen, which was on the ground floor of the old building.

Aya was up, sitting at the Formica kitchen table drinking tea and reading a neatly folded morning paper, his reading glasses perched on his nose, the top rims covered by his bangs. He looked up at Omi, free hand hesitating in its reach for his tea cup.

"Hey, Aya." Omi said, speaking softly for his own benefit. It felt like a hangover, he thought. Well, not that he'd had that many, but the very few he had experienced sort of felt like this.

"Should you be up?" Aya asked, just as quiet, staring at him levely from over the rims of his glasses.

"' m hungry." He said and shuffled over to the refrigerator for the milk.

"You should have soup." Aya said, after a moment's thought. Omi scowled, wondering why everyone always thought soup the remedy for all sickness.

"I'm concussed, I don't have the flu." He said, a little cranky and rightfully so.

Aya went silent for a few moments, not even a rustle of paper.

"You should be in bed." He finally spoke up again, very, very quiet.

"I don't want to be in bed." Omi reached for the box of his favorite cereal and the exertion, or reaching over his head or standing on tip toes to get to the top cabinet -- made his vision sort of spiral. He took a breath, having to press both hands on the counter top and hang his head for it to stop its frantic spinning.

Aya was behind him when his vision cleared, the cereal box in hand, a slight frown marring his expression.

"Go back upstairs, Omi. I'll bring you your cereal."

If he had not felt weak kneed and dizzy, Omi might have complained. As it was, he thought lying down right about now not a terribly misguided notion. He staggered upstairs with Aya behind him, flopped down on his rumpled bed and propped himself up on elbows while Aya sat bowl and spoon down on the bedside table.

Not a word from Aya all the way up. Not a word now as he turned to leave. He paused at the door, hand on the frame and half turned, his profile a silhouette against the dim light from the bulb down the hall.

"I'm ---- sorry."

Omi pushed himself up, interested of a sudden in something other than his hurts. Surprised at Aya's quiet admission.

"What happened?" He never had gotten a straight story on why he'd been left without back up.

Aya's lips tightened, still in profile. "Nothing. It won't happen again." Clearly he had not meant to delve into conversation about it.

"Okay." Omi accepted it. There was little choice but to, with Aya slipping out the door and shutting it behind him, leaving Omi in the shadows, with nothing but the dim light seeping through the shades to illuminate the room. He took a breath and another, restrained from lifting his leg and scratching at the stitches under the bandages. He reached for the cereal instead.

They couldn't crack the encryption. Omi knew they wouldn't be able to. Both Yohji and Ken made numerous trips to Omi's room that day to harass him with questions, when it would have made more sense just to let him in front of the computer undisturbed for a few hours to crack it himself. Of course they weren't ready to do that. They were busy playing mother hens -- mother hen assassins who were trying to find information regarding the itinerary of a very elusive target. Finally when he wondered down that night, claiming that he felt better -- he really, really felt better, and wouldn't it be reasonable to let him take a look at what they'd been working on? Ken frowned at him, peering at him with scrutiny in those dark serious eyes, wanting very much to deny him that chore. Yohji, who was less practical and obviously more frustrated with a day of useless attempts at cracking ingenious software encryption slipped out of the chair he'd pulled up to the desk before the computer station and ushered Omi into it.

"Go for it, kiddo." Was his encouragement.

"Don't overdo it." Came Ken's warning. They hovered over his shoulder, which was annoying. He felt Ken's breath against his hair which was a distraction. He wished they'd go away.

After an hour he almost had it. His head was splitting and his typing had reduced in speed considerably due to the keys wavering alarmingly in his vision, but he was almost in. Aya came down after he'd gotten it, summoned by Yohji's inelegant bellowing for him up the stairs. Omi lay back on the sofa with an arm over his eyes after he'd opened the files, letting the others gather around the computer.

He heard the sounds of their vague disappointment. After all that, and they still couldn't trace the whereabouts of the target.

"Oh, this is interesting." Ken said. Omi shifted his head to glance towards the cluster of his comrades.

"Look, his son is flying in tomorrow morning. Bet you money he'll be going to see his old man sooner or later."

"What, pick up his trail at the airport and see where it leads?" Yohji mused. "That sounds like a decent shot -- but what about this?" Yohji pointed to some unseen bit of information on the screen. "This is his mistress right? He's bound to want to see her. I'll follow her."

"Of course you'll follow her." Ken said dryly, knowing Yohji all to well.

"I'll take the son." Aya said.

The plane was coming in from Paris. The concord slid into the terminal like some great silver beast. An onslaught of passengers disembarked. A cornucopia of humanity of all shapes, sizes and colors. Aya's target was among them. A mediocre young man. Medium height. Medium build. Bland features. Dark hair, dark eyes. He blended with the majority of the people that flowed through this airport. Aya didn't. Aya might have stood out in a crowd, with his coloring and his looks, but he knew how to blend. He'd made an art of blending. Of not being noticed. There was a certain stillness that a body might achieve, a certain silence of body and spirit that made people overlook you. Especially in a place like this, where each individual was intent on traveling their own path, reaching the end of a destination or beginning the journey towards one. People were hardly ever aware of what went on outside of their own little worlds. For someone like Aya, in a profession like his, such ignorance was a blessing.

The young man he was tailing was not being cooperative. He did not make a beeline into the arms of a loving father. He stopped to eat first, lingering in the restaurant flirting with a frustrated waitress. Then he went into the city, apparently content to window shop as he strolled the busy streets. Aya followed, a patient, stoic shadow. He wondered into one of the big mega malls, where the crowds were so thick it was hard to move without rubbing shoulders with someone, where the noise was a clamoring, chaotic symphony that made one's head hurt.

It was a multi story mall. Eight levels of shopping heaven. A pair of shiny brass and glass elevators carried shoppers who cared not for climbing stairs, endlessly up and down. The tail stepped onto one and Aya watched as the doors closed, watched the young man press a button for the fourth floor, then slipped onto the car beside it to follow. A matronly woman with two handfuls of shopping bags, and a pair of giggly teenagers were already in the car. Someone else slipped in just as the doors were closing. Aya's attention was on the car sliding up the rails just above this one. A hand pressed against the glass wall of the car before his face, and he reflexively took a step back to distance himself, only there was no place to go in the small car. He looked up to see who the arm belonged to ---

--- and forgot to breath. Shock that made his heart thud in his chest and his nails bite into his palms assaulted him. He wanted to reach for a weapon that wasn't there. Wanted to slam his hands out and shove the offensive presence away, but in this car with these witnesses, he could do none of that. So he stood there and stared Shuldig in the eyes, fighting to keep his expression neutral and his hands at his side.

"Hello, Aya. Long time, no see." Shuldig was grinning. Shuldig had his hair in a tail at the back of his neck and was sporting a green silk jacket over a print silk shirt that reached mid-thigh.

Aya said nothing. He blinked slowly, his mind going curiously blank of anything but visions of Shuldig cut into little, bloody bits.

"I've missed you." Shuldig said, leaning closer, his breath a soft, malicious warmth against Aya's cheek. "I've missed fucking you."

He didn't bother to whisper it. The girls stopped their giggling conversation. The matron drew in a sharp breath and sidled away.

"First you break into the plant, then you tail our client's son. We can't allow that. He's paying us a lot of money. Who's paying you?"

The door opened on the next level. The women hurried out. More people crowded in, pressing Aya towards the back of the car. Forcing Shuldig close against him. His chest hurt. His vision had sparkly dots of color along the edges.

Shuldig put his hands on the glass wall on either side of Aya's head.

"I miss the feel of those beautiful lips wrapped around my cock. You give such good head, Aya."

People were staring. Shuldig smiled sweetly and added to the surprised onlookers. "And he swallows, too."

Aya had the strangest urge to start screaming and not stop. It pounded inside his head and in his gut with manic insistence.

The door opened. He didn't even look to see what floor it was. Just ducked out from under Shuldig's arms and pushed his way through the crowd to freedom. Thoughts of the man he was tailing were long gone. All he could manage to focus on was the blaring urge to get the hell out of this crowd. To find a place, where if Shuldig did choose to follow him, he could lash out and not create a scene. There was an escalator down a ways. He stalked towards that, mindless of the shoulders he slammed into on the way. He stepped onto the moving stairs and Shuldig slid in close behind him.

"What? Trying to avoid me?"

Aya clutched the rail, staring straight ahead, pretending Shuldig wasn't there. Pretending Shuldig had never done a thing to him to warrant the nausea at the back of his throat. There were too many shoppers ahead of him to push his way down the escalator.

"So you wanna go somewhere and get reacquainted? No Farfie this time -- just you and me? I'm so wanting to stick something up your tight little ass -- and it doesn't necessarily have to be my dick."

That was it. It didn't matter who was around or who saw. His mind blanked. He whirled in a sudden swelter of rage and violence and lashed out at the man behind him. Shuldig leapt backwards, knocking the people behind him down amid screams of protest. He kicked out at Aya, caught him in the shoulder and sent him stumbling a few steps down the escalator. The people below caught the brunt of that, and more cries of surprise issued forth.

Shuldig grinned and leapt over the railing, landed in the ornamental garden below and delivered a jutting byrd up to Aya. Aya snarled and catapulted himself after. He crushed a philodendron in landing. Women were screaming. People scattering at the two madmen in their midst.

Shuldig vanished in the crowd like he'd never been. Like he'd been nothing more than some demented hallucination. Aya stared into the flow of moving bodies. Too many colors. Too many people. His head was pounding. His heart beat like a trapped thing trying to escape his chest. His hands were shaking. He stared down at them in soundless awe. His hands never shook. His nerves never got out of hand. It just didn't happen.

He had the presence of mind to start walking. To escape the place where the commotion had been. To avoid mall security asking questions he couldn't answer. Somewhere along the way he remembered the tail. He leaned on the balcony overlooking the lower levels of the mall and shut his eyes. Gone now, no doubt. Even if the young man had still been in the mall, Shuldig had distracted Aya long enough for him to be lost in the press. Shuldig probably had men escorting his target's son away from this place and unwanted observation. Damn.

He'd been careless somewhere along the way not to have noticed his tail had someone following him other than himself. Frighteningly careless to let Shuldig come up on him like that. Even more so to allow Shuldig's presence to make him loose sight of the mission.

Again. Twice in two days and he'd lost it. Just lost his grip on reality, plain and simple, because Shuldig's face and Shuldig's voice made him remember things he'd rather forget, or better yet, pretend hadn't ever happened. Self delusion was a good thing, when it came down to protecting his sanity. Only now Shuldig's words were echoing in his head and they wouldn't go away and the urge to scream was back again and harder this time to fight off. He leaned his head on the rail, scrubbing hands through his hair.

Calm. Calm. Calm. Focus. Focus on what you have to do. Eventually the words got through. He reached into his jacket pocket. Got out the cellular and hit the quick dial for home. Ken picked up on the second ring.

"I lost the son." Aya reported without preamble.

"Shit." A pause then. "What happened?"

"Schwarz." Aya said, then severed the connection.

"Well I had no fucking luck either." Yohji popped the tab on a beer and flopped down on the couch in the rec room. The big screen TV was on some soccer game, which had half of Ken's attention, with the computer struggling for the other half. Nothing distracted Ken like a good game of soccer. Or a bad game, or a conversation about it, or the mention of some soccer player or another. Yohji liked sports as well as the next guy -- but there were more important things to occupy his attention. Like sex and the pursuit of sex. And pretty things and the pursuit of pretty things. He was an aesthetic. He admitted to the fact freely enough. He liked beautiful things. Beautiful fleshy things were the best. The mistress had been a pleasure to watch, but she hadn't had a visit from her very rich, very powerful keeper. It had been a waste of time. And Aya had lost the son, which was freakin' wonderful, considering that the target had probably not visited his mistress because his son was in town and expected to visit.

Aya wasn't giving much information. He'd come in reported like he had just taken a course in, How to give detailed descriptions in five words or less. With a minor in, How to piss off your team mates in the process.

He would have gotten brilliant scores in either class. Could have been freakin' valedictorian in the subjects.

"We ought to just back out of the job." Yohji said. "Its been an uphill battle all the way and dealing with Schwarz one man short is not going to be easy,"

"One man." Ken sniffed. "Might as well say two. Aya's screwed up twice now running into them. What is his problem?"

Yohji wished he could say for certain. All he had was supposition and gut feeling. "Shuldy messed with his head last month. He's having a hard time dealing."

Ken glanced over his shoulder, brows drawn. "Aya usually doesn't let stuff like that get to him. The only times he generally gets freaky emotional is when his sister's involved. She's okay, isn't she?"

"Last I heard."

Ken mulled that over, then got up and went to sit on the edge of the sofa by Yohji's crossed ankles. "I hate to say this -- but after what happened to Omi -- I'm not certain I trust him to watch my back. Not until he gets over whatever the hell is messin' with his concentration."

Yohji had stated the same thing a few nights past to Aya himself. And suspicions of what might have happened to Aya in Shuldig's care or not, Ken was right.

"Yeah, well with Omi out of it, we can always have him on com."

"He won't like that one bit." Ken said.

"Yeah, well, that's too fucking tough."

Which would have been fine and dandy had they found a lead. But nothing. Two days and nothing. The mistress was ignored, the son had disappeared off the face of the earth and there was no sign of the target. It was beginning to look like this job was a failure. They didn't have many failures to their credit. Aya had taken off yesterday and not come back till late. No body bothered to ask where he'd been. He had that closed off look on his face that disinvited conversation. Omi was getting better. He could walk without swaying. He claimed his head didn't hurt much at all, though Yohji rather doubted it. You didn't have that many stitches in your skull and not go through more than a few days major discomfort. Yohji was in a slump. They'd been taking turns watching the mistress. He'd just traded places with Ken. She was their last lead and she was coming up empty. Annoying.

It was past midnight and he was sitting propped in bed, listening to jazz and smoking excellent weed. Between the music and the pot, he managed to forget the frustrations of the past few days. It was just damned nice to lean his head back against the headboard and let the mellowing essence of the smoke wash away the stress.

There was a light knock on the door. It swung inwards from the soft impact and Aya stood there, looking a little wary and lot displeased with the faint haze of pot clinging to the room. Yohji sniffed, figuring that he'd opened the window to let the smell escape so it wouldn't infuse the hall and the other guys rooms, so if Aya wanted to come in here and bitch about what he was doing in the privacy of his own room, then Aya could go straight to hell.

"What?" Yohji said, a bit cross, expecting censure.

Aya stared for a moment, eyes focusing on nothing in particular, then he shook his head. "Nothing. Sorry."

He started to pull back. Yohji swung his legs over the side of the bed and padded towards the door.

"Hey, Aya. Nothing what? Sorry for what?"

Again, a negative shake of his head. Aya's hair was a little damp, his skin had that freshly scrubbed look, like he'd just stepped from a too hot shower. It made those black rimmed, violet eyes of his blare out of his face like a set of sparkling amethyst.

"Don't give me that. What did you want?"

Aya paused, looking as if he really would rather not have been there, faced down by Yohji in the hall.

"An opinion." He finally answered.

Yohji lifted a brow. "My opinion?"

An inclination of Aya's head. Yohji ushered him into his room. Shut the door and stood there waiting.

"You were right." Aya admitted softly and stood there in unhappy silence, leaving the statement hanging.

"About what?" Yohji prompted.

"I'm having problems dealing with ----- Schwarz -- and its affecting my ability to -- to function properly during missions."

Yohji couldn't have been more surprised if Aya had told him he was pregnant and expecting twins. Such an admission was startling to say the least from Aya, who hated to confide in anyone. Who hated to admit weaknesses.

"Well -- wow. Yeah, I sorta noticed."

Aya turned his eyes away, glance flickering over the jumbled paraphernalia cluttering Yohji's dresser. The Neagal art prints on his wall.

"I would rather not have another incident like what happened at the factory."

"Yeah. Me neither. What are you gonna do about it?"

The first real emotion crossed Aya's passive face. A brief wash of worry and consternation. "I don't know."

"Is it because of what Shuldig did?"

"No!" A sharp, reflexive denial. Aya didn't even mean to say it, it just came out, that was clear on his face, in his eyes. "Maybe." He added, a bare whisper behind the dissent.

"Listen, why don't we sit down and talk about this."


"No? Then why'd you come to me in the first place. Not talking isn't helping. You've got to have figured that out. Just sit down, Aya."

Aya relented. Yohji offered him the joint and Aya stared at it as if Yohji were offering him poison.

"Jeeze, it's just a joint. It'll relax you, nothing more. Haven't you ever smoked a joint before?"

Of course he knew the answer to that. Aya had been too straightlaced of a kid before tragedy had turned him cold, to ever walk the fringes of the wild side, and after -- little pleasantries like weed and booze and sex were the farthest thing from his mind.

"Just take a drag. It won't hurt you." Yohji smiled slyly, making a challenge of it. Aya narrowed his eyes and took the hand rolled stick between thumb and forefinger, placing it gingerly to his lips.

He inhaled. His eyes watered. He gagged and leaned forward coughing. It was probably the most inelegant thing Yohji had ever seen him do.

"A little at a time till you get used to it." Yohji suggested, taking the joint from Aya's fingers and taking another drag himself.

"He raped you, didn't he?" he asked it as calmly and as matter of factly as he could.

Aya's head came up. His eyes got shielded and dead. He couldn't form an answer. Yohji handed the joint back and Aya took it reflexively. Brought it to his lips with a visibly shaking hand and took a smaller drag. He only coughed a little. His body shuddered slowly, then his shoulders sagged. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, hair hanging down over his eyes. Yohji let him keep the joint. He had more.

"They." Aya said softly.

"What?" Yohji leaned down to hear.

"They did it. Shuldig and Farfarello." He took another drag and held the smoke in a long time before exhaling. "I can't stop dreaming about it." Soft admission. "So I don't sleep."

"Shit. I'm sorry, man. Why didn't you say something before this?"

Aya's gaze snapped up to lock on Yohji. Angry, wet eyes. The moisture could have been from the smoke. "Why? Why do you think? I couldn't --- I can't now. How could I let it happen?"

"They gave you a choice in the matter?"

"No, damn it, that's not what I meant?"

"Okay, what did you mean?"

"That - that --" his voice faltered. He sat there with trembling lips and large blind eyes, seeing something that was a month or more old and still haunted him. And probably would for a long time to come. The fact that he'd come here meant he was seriously hurting or confused or messed up or all of that combined. And Yohji didn't know what to do. He sat there with his arms wrapped around one knee and felt a spiraling pit of helplessness.

How did you help somebody deal with such a brutal thing? He didn't know if it were possible for him to do anything -- other than sit here and let Aya try to vocalize it -- to rationalize it in his own head.

"I-- messed up." Aya said softly. "I just messed up. I wasn't expecting them. I was expecting someone -- I could handle -- and I paid for it. It's my fault."

"That's bullshit. If you're talking about that Trenivon job where they nabbed you. It was all confusion after the explosion. There were just too many fucking goons around to keep track of and our Intel never mentioned Schwarz being there."

"Just like the factory." Aya said quietly. "I wasn't expecting him there either. Or at the mall. What he said -- I couldn't think, Yohji. I forgot all about the tail."

Yohji sighed and made the gesture of taking a drag with his empty fingers. Aya looked down at the forgotten joint and obediently lifted it to his lips. A little stoned already. That was clear from the look in his eyes. Yohji supposed it didn't take much for the uninitiated to get high. And a high Aya seemed to be more open than a straight one.

Aya finished the joint. Yohji lit another one and passed it on. Aya talked. Haltingly -- uncertainly about things that made Yohji cringe. Things that Yohji knew he had damn sure not meant to voice out loud when he'd come here tonight. Yohji went downstairs and grabbed a cold six pack of beer from the refrigerator and a bag of chips from the pantry. He was feeling the urge to snack. He was feeling the urge to kill a couple of Schwarz assassins. It made him mad as hell. Aya was always so closed off, so sealed behind his self-made walls of protection -- for him to come here, for him to force himself to vent even a fraction of what he must have been going through -- that said a lot about how harsh it had been. About how inhuman.

An hour from dawn and they were still sprawled in Yohji's room, talking intermittently, going through two six packs and numerous snack fixes. Yohji's stash of weed was seriously reduced. Aya was so fucked up Yohji was astonished he was still conscious. He knew for a fact that Aya didn't do much in the drinking department. Didn't drink, didn't smoke, sure as hell didn't fuck -- willingly. A prude if ever there was one.

But a cold, dangerous prude. Who was coldly, dangerously attractive. Cold because he had this air of the untouchable. Dangerous because he made a body stop and look even when a body knew they ought not. Even a body that didn't sway towards men had to pause and take note of Aya. Damned if Yohji could figure out how he'd come out of the genes that had produced the rest of his family. From the pictures Yohji had seen Aya's folks had hugged the line of normality. His sister was cute as a button. Damned cute girl. Would probably be cute when she was out of her teens and well into womanhood. Aya wasn't normal and he wasn't cute. He was just damned beautiful. Like somebody had stuck a supermodel in the midst of the family next door.

I'm sooo stoned. Yohji mused, draining the last dregs of the last can of beer. He was spending way too much time analyzing Aya's looks, instead of dwelling on his problem. It was a serious issue that meant a lot to how the team was going to function and he ought to be giving it more thought, instead of thinking about how good Aya smelled, and how if he listed over just a little more in his half conscious stupor, their arms would be touching, and god forbid that his head roll onto Yohji's shoulder.

God, he ought not to be thinking such things at all. Aya was a guy, no matter how good he looked and Yohji, despite all his sexual adventures had only ever done it once with a guy and he'd been fifteen and not the initiator and he hadn't liked it very much. Well, not the getting fucked part. He never had liked giving up that much control - - and being penetrated, no matter what position you were in, was giving somebody else the upper hand.

I wonder what it was like to fuck him? As soon as he thought it, he cringed. Cringed and shifted a little away as if a few inches of distance might wash away the taint. I absolutely do not want to know. Absolutely not. He shook his head as if to clear it of the haze of weed and beer.

"Aya?" he whispered. "It's almost morning. If we're gonna get any sleep, you better head back to your room ---- Aya?"

Yohji moved and the shift in his weight made the mattress sag. Aya slumped against him. Well and truly out. Low breathing, a fluttering of dark lashes against pale cheeks. Soft, soft hair against Yohji's bare arm. Aw, fuck.

It was his fault of course. Give the boy a couple of fat joints and a six pack of beer and expect him to bounce off the walls? Right.

Just ride with it. Its no big deal. Couple of hours from now and we'll both be up anyway. Just cope, Yohji. Cope, you've put up with worse.

Aya came awake by degrees. His head hurt. Throbbed dully and annoyingly even through the layers of sleep. But his body felt good. Comfortable. Warm. His bed was not usually so soft, nor, suspiciously enough, were there generally warm malleable things to cuddle with. Cuddling was not a thing Aya engaged in. He forced his eyes open, blinking away sleep to assess the situation. There was noonday sun coming through the window. Not his window. There was a gentle snoring coming from very close by. His head was nestled in the crock of somebody's shoulder and arm, his arm flung out over a tank top covered chest and his knee curled up and resting over a very warm and boxer clad groin.

Aya gasped. He blushed. He jerked knee away with such force that the body under it groaned and started.

"Ohhh, fuck, Aya -- that hurt." A very familiar, groggy voice complained. "Why'd you move, you were fine?"

Aya sat up with far too much alacrity. It made his head spin and his stomach rebel. He could not, at the moment, come up with an answer to Yohji's sleepy question. He wasn't certain it deserved one.

"What am I doing here?" he hissed.

Yohji blinked up at him, rubbing the back of one hand across his eyes, executing a wide, tonsil revealing yawn. "Hey, you're the one who came to me, remember? Smoked half my weed."

"I did not -- " Aya stopped in mid-denial, foggily recalling that maybe he had. Yohji snorted softly and threw an arm over his eyes.

"Either get out or lay back down, I don't care which, but I've got one mother of a hangover, so you have to do one or the other."

And he turned over and presumably went back to sleep.

As if it were common place to wake up with someone draped across him.

As if he didn't care that it had been another man; that it had been Aya.

Aya felt alarmingly sick. He rose as carefully and as quietly as he could and found that his feet were not all that stable under him. He had to catch at the door for balance. His vision swam and his head screamed denunciations at him. He could not remember clearly the last time he had experienced a hangover.

He opened the door and took a leaden step out into the hall and came face to face with Ken, who looked like he'd been up for hours, and was disgustingly bright eyed and disgustedly reeked of energy and good health. Aya glared. Ken stopped and stared at him, wide eyed. Stared past him into Yohji's room, then back again.

"Shut up." Aya suggested before Ken's mouth could open in question or suggestion or assumption. Aya forgot about Ken' existence in the sudden, vital urge to get to the bathroom and purge himself of whatever substances he had consumed last night.

"Sooooo -- you okay?" Ken was walking a dangerous line. He was loitering about the bathroom door, looking concerned. Aya haunched over the toilet bowl, lacking the strength at the moment to tell him to go away. His hands were shaking. His body was. He hated feeling this weak. He cursed Yohji for feeding him pot and beer.

Aya struggled up and Ken handed him a wet wash rag. Reluctantly he took it. He wiped off his face and stared miserably into the mirror.

"You and Yohji get drunk last night?" Ken wanted to know.

Aya rinsed the cloth and threw it in the hamper.

"His door was closed all night, I thought he was sleeping in with some chick he'd picked up,"

Aya tossed Ken a quick, dark glare.

"Sorry. Didn't know it was you."

"It wasn't." Aya snapped. He felt marginally better after vomiting, but his head still felt twice its normal size and his eyes felt like someone had scrubbed them with sandpaper, not to mention the tastes that lingered in his mouth. Thinking about it almost made him sick again.

"Okay. Okay." Ken held up both hands in a sign of surrender. "Fine, go wallow in misery by yourself, then."

Aya had every intention of doing just that. He stared at Ken until he backed out of the bathroom and gave Aya ample space to vacate without the discomfort of having to squeeze past another body. Aya didn't want to touch anything now, but soft clean sheets. He could not believe he had woken up wrapped around Yohji. How embarrassing. How uncomfortable. He wondered nervously if Yohji had been aware of it.

He hoped not. Vehemently hoped not. Yohji was too quick with the sly innuendo's as it was. He did not need fuel for the fire.



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