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A Price For Madness

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter Five

 

Yohji picked up the first woman that made herself available. He felt the stinging need to prove himself a man. A normal man, with normal wants and normal lusts. It helped -- temporarily. He found solace in her bed and that same familiar heaven that had always drawn him like a drug, between her legs. He lost himself to the seduction and the sex and woke up in the morning with a hangover and a stranger in a bed that wasn't his and never would be his even if he'd wanted it to be. Nothing so permanent as a serious relationship could be risked. Not without endangering her and probably him as well. His lot in life. His choices; live with it, or die with it. He'd always chosen life.

He went home feeling relatively good about himself and the state of his mind, both physically and mentally, until he saw Aya in the kitchen, drinking his morning tea and reading the morning paper.

A daily ritual. Aya was a creature of habit at heart. Aya had on those damned reading glasses that always served to make Yohji take a second, assessing glance at him, and a loose, open necked white shirt with sleeves long enough to partially cover the bandages on his right hand. Loose khakis and bare feet made him look like the cover shot out of a Banana Republic ad.

Two days since he'd gone physco and damaged himself and he acted like it had never happened. He was such a fucking, consummate actor. Yohji didn't say a thing to him, just breezed in and grabbed a cold soda out of the fridge and breezed back out to go up stairs and take a shower to wash away the residue of the night's entertainment. It didn't seem to offend Aya in the least. He never looked up from his paper.

Prick.

Ken and Omi were out scoping the schools, lingering on the fringes of conversation, listening for a hint of the best and the newest after school places to hang out. They could get away with it. Ken just barely, Omi with ease. Aya or Yohji could have worked a college crowd, but there was no way they wouldn't be picked out of a highschool lineup.

He wondered back downstairs, damp and fresh and clean, a dose of cold, cold water having doused the licentious thoughts Aya had forced into his mind. Aya was in the rec room, on the net, pecking away carefully with his left hand. The injured one was not so debilitated that he couldn't use it to control the mouse.

"What'dya doing?" Yohji broke his silence to lean on the back of Aya's chair.

"The filing of teeth, it seems is not an uncommon trait. There are records of at least seven individuals presently in mental institutions around the world with that identifying trademark. There are three that have been released within the last year with a similar self-imposed deformity."

"Really? You get names and pictures?"

Aya shrugged. "The records are secured. Omi's been working on it, but hasn't been able to get the files yet."

"Oh, you just fiddling then?" If Omi couldn't get something off a computer there was damned little chance of any of the rest of them figuring a way to weasel it out of the machine.

Aya shrugged again. Yohji leaned closer. He couldn't help it. He just wanted to see if Aya's hair smelled anything like it had a few nights ago. If it had just been timing and some sort of biological coincidence that had set Yohji's hormones to a raging crescendo.

There was nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing that wasn't Aya. Just a clean, fresh smell hinting at some botanical ingredient in the shampoo he used. It would probably be stronger wet. Maybe it hadn't been the smell at all, but that brief brush against the skin of his face. He turned his cheek and felt the silk of Aya's hair slide along his skin. He shut his eyes, short of breath of a sudden, heart palpitating in his chest.

Oh, yes, the touch did it. The touch made him want to yank Aya out of that chair and do indecent things. Immoral things. God, he was so fucking screwed up and the funny thing was, it didn't much bother him.

"What are you doing?" Aya was looking at him, fine brows drawn in irritation. He'd had to lean back a little in the chair to avoid colliding with Yohji's face when he turned.

Yohji smiled and said casually. "Reading over your shoulder. Why?"

Aya frowned. The gentle swell of his bottom lip more pronounced in his almost pout. Yohji's eyes focused there. Aya must have noticed it. He was too close not to. Those intriguing lips parted a little in what might have been surprise -- might have been confusion -- and was most certainly indicative of Aya momentarily being caught off his guard. Then he snapped them shut and they thinned out in a tight line of disapproval.

"Well, stop it." He murmured and turned back around. There was a faint stain of blush on the creamy complexion of his face. Yohji caught it before he turned. Yohji lifted both brows in a sudden, blossoming intrigue.

There were blushes and there were blushes. Women blushed easily. He was a master of causing such occurrences with sly innuendo or blatant flattery. There were pissed off blushes, there were embarrassed blushes and there were embarrassed because of an interest blush. The shy ones blushed the easiest. The ones that were interested but too demure or too naive to admit it. He'd seen Aya embarrassed, he'd embarrassed him himself on enough public occasions to know that that wasn't one of those. He sure as hell didn't turn red when he was angry, otherwise he'd be walking around pink faced all the time, which left the very fascinating third category. An interesting notion that made Yohji straighten up with a thoughtful, bemused expression on his face.

"Yeah. Sure. Whatever."

Aya gave him a look. A prelude to disregarding his existence. Yohji was in a good enough mood for it not to matter. He'd had sex. He'd had the glimmering of interest in an arena hereforeto considered off limits. Maybe it was his imagination. Maybe it wasn't. It was insane even dwelling on it.

Well, maybe not insane. Preposterous, perhaps. He liked that word better. It made him feel a bit more the rebel and a bit less the pervert.


They went clubbing that night, making the odorous rounds of all the teen hot spots in efforts to pick up tidbits of interesting information, in the hopes of seeing a glimpse of some off color character hanging in the shadows watching his preferred prey. This guy had to discover his new hunting grounds much the way they were going about it, listening to the talk of his victims. He'd be too conspicuous to hang around the schools, what with the teeth and his apparent age. So he had to pick up his info in other places.

They'd split up and made the rounds. The music was unbearable. If Yohji had to listen to one more boy band or one more fluffy teen queen songstress, he was going to go on a killing spree himself. He had a headache that despite being on the job, he'd finally had to drown out with alcohol. He didn't know weather to feel flattered or just exasperated by constantly having to show id every time he wanted a beer.

They all ended up, deep into the early morning hours at one of the more popular clubs, the trendily named, "Its All That." Yohji despised the place. He hated the glaring neon and the poppy music, the molded plastic decor and the glittering, seventies lights. He was experiencing a jazz phase himself, and had found himself more and more visiting dark, smoky clubs, infused with the smooth, mellowing tones of live jazz bands.

Teenaged girls kept hitting on him. Some of them were damned mature looking. Damned tempting little morsels, but there were certain things that he'd made off limits to himself and underage sex was one of them. He resigned himself to flirting with the more intriguing ones and sending the others off with his "I'd break your heart, so don't even try" look. As opposed to the I'm so cold, you'd loose fingers if you touched me, look that Aya had been practicing all night.

He'd hooked up with Aya about midnight and they'd scoped out the last few clubs on their list before ending up here, one of the only places still open. Ken and Omi were already mixed in the crowd. Yohji had seen Omi dancing out on the crowded floor, while Ken was talking with a group of jock looking types who were on the prowl for chicks.

"So, do you go to college around here?" A heavily made up girl with long, sun bleached hair sidled up to him. She was a little short and a little to rotund for his tastes, even if she'd been out of high school. He finished off the last of his beer and shrugged.

"Not around here."

"Oh. What college do you go to?"

"I didn't say that I did."

"My last boyfriend was a college guy."

"I'm happy for you."

"So, like, can you buy me a beer?"

"Baby, I don't contribute to the delinquency of minors."

He started towards the bar to refill his own empty glass. Aya was there, all in black with a small gold hoop in his ear and a thin gold chain around his neck with a small, ornate wooden cross dangling from it. He had a coke in front of him and was being talked at by a girl perched on a stool next to him at the bar. It was a one sided conversation. Yohji's hanger on had picked up a friend and the two of them were shooting questions at him like they did it for a profession.

"So what kind of car do you drive?"

"How old are you?"

"What are you studying in college."

The one was stuck on the college thing.

"Are you here with anyone?"

"Do you like high school girls?"

"Beer." He signaled to the bartender, who graciously remembered him and did not ask for the id yet one more time.

"Don't you have a curfew or something?" Yohji asked, turning his back to the bar while his beer was being drawn.

"Its a Friday night." The one girl said, an implied Duh, in her tone.

"Yeah, well don't you have a boyfriend or something to be out fooling around with?"

"I did." The girl said defensively. "But he dumped me for a college girl."

"If I had a boyfriend," the second girl said eagerly. "I'd make him take me out to Deacon's hill. They say somebody saw the makeout point killer there tonight. I think it'd be cool to like be there if something happened."

Yohji tilted his head in mock disbelief. "Get out of here. Somebody saw him tonight? Who?"

He felt, rather than saw Aya's attention slid over to the two girls.

"This girl who's best friends with a girl who's boyfriend took her there to -- you know -- fool around. She says they were in his car making out and he had the head lights on cause she was freaked out about all the stuff going on and they saw this guy with this big knife or something run towards them in the lights from the car. Well the boy gunned the engine and backed up way fast -- even dented his car on a tree or something and they got out of there, like pronto."

"Deacon's hill? Where's that."

The two girls exchanged looks uncertainly, then the first one said. "I think south of town, out past some old church. I'm not real sure exactly. So, what, do you wanna go or something?"

Yohji smiled his best sexy smile and leaned over to drape an arm around Aya's shoulders. "Maybe, but I've got a date. Ain't he pretty?"

The girls blinked at him. Aya did, but couldn't quite respond the way Yohji knew he was dying to without making a scene. It got rid of his admirer's though. They sort of blushed and made excuses and melted into the crowd. Aya shrugged out from under Yohji's arm with a scowl. The frown turned thoughtful though.

"If it was him and he didn't score. He'll go back tomorrow night."

"Probably." Yohji paid for his beer and grinned. "Damn, figures I don't get a bit of decent information until the very end of the night, after having to put up with this crap all night long."

Aya lifted a brow at him. "You being a connoisseur of more sophisticated entertainment's."

"Damned right. I'm gonna go and see if Omi or Ken heard any of the same rumors?"

Aya nodded. The cell phone in his jacket rang with just a high enough pitch to be heard through the overall din of the club. Yohji hesitated, wondering who the hell would be calling Aya at this time in the middle of the night. Very few people had that number.

Aya put the phone to his ear, covering his other ear with his other hand to drown out some of the noise.

"Yes?"

He waited. Nothing. After a moment, he pressed his lips together and flipped the cover shut.

"What was that?"

"Nothing. Wrong number."

"They say anything?"

"No. Go talk to Ken. Maybe we can get out of here before sunrise, after all."

"Yeah, wouldn't that be something." He slipped into the crowd, weeding his way adeptly through crammed bodies. As he was going, he thought he heard the faint ringing of Aya's phone again. Then it was lost to the crowd.


"What?" Aya was a little less polite this time. Silence regarded him from the other end of the line. If there was the sound of human breathing, he couldn't hear it over the din of the club. All he could hear was the bland harmony of synchronized singers accompanied by the thump of bass loud enough to make his head pound. His hand throbbed in time with the beating of his heart. It hurt like hell under the bandages. A heated little source of agony at the end of his arm. It hadn't been so bad when he'd first started out this evening. He thought about taking Yohji's path to numb the annoyance, but he hadn't the head for alcohol that Yohji did and he hated not having his wits about him in a place where he wasn't in control of every aspect of his world.

The silence continued.

"I'm not playing this game." He said and severed the connection. The girl at the end of the bar who'd been talking at him for the last twenty minutes or so, tilted her head and leaned towards him, showing off an impressive array of cleavage. She didn't look like a high school girl. She looked every bit of legal, as Yohji liked to say.

"He wasn't really your date, was he?"

Aya lifted a brow, debating on whether answering would open up something he wasn't ready to fend off at the moment.

"No." He agreed with her observation.

"I didn't think so."

He refrained from commenting, casually scanning the crowd for any of his comrades.

The phone rang again. He clenched his teeth in annoyance and debated about just letting it ring. Or turning it off.

"Your cell phone's ringing." The girl pointed out helpfully. He ignored her and pulled it out of his pocket. "Who is this?"

He didn't say anything else, just listened, expecting the silence or a dial tone or something other than the obviously electronically disguised voice that purred at him from the other end of the line.

"You look good tonight."

He took a breath, stomach lurching despite itself.

"How do you know that?" he asked softly, fighting to keep his voice calm, staring around the bar covertly for anyone else with a phone to their ear.

Silence. Agitating, annoying, frightening silence. He snapped the cover down and slammed the phone down on the bar. His hand was shaking. He pressed it flat to the shining bar top to stop it.

It rang again and it took an effort of will not to fling the thing across the room. Instead he calmly opened the connection, severed it and then shut the ringer off.

He didn't like the game. He didn't like the idea of somebody watching him. It made his shoulders itch, the notion of someone's eyes on his back. He turned around and glared into the oblivious crowd. No one was paying him much heed but the girl at the bar and the bar tender who'd been casually hitting on him most of the night.

He didn't want to be here anymore. He didn't feel -- safe -- here of a sudden. Why he didn't, baffled him. He was not incapable of taking care of himself. Far from it. There was hardly a predator out there that was as dangerous as he could be and yet -- he couldn't stop the trembling in his hands. He couldn't stop the cold little shivers of disquiet that made his stomach flip flop and his skin twitch. He let his head dip, hair falling down to hide his eyes as he gathered his wits, as he painstakingly restored his calm composure.

"You okay?" The girl sidled up next to him, sliding her hand along his arm and onto his back. He wasn't expecting the touch. It was unwelcome and startling and he shrugged it off with something akin to violence. She took a step back, blinking at him.

"Hey, I just asked." She was offended. He hadn't meant to do that.

"I'm sorry." He murmured and it was reparation enough, for she pressed back up next to him, bringing with her a scent of smoke and alcohol and some cheap perfume. It was abhorrent when he wanted distance from the world at large.

"What happened to your hand?" she slid her hand down the sleek silk of his shirt to brush her fingertips over the bandages that peeked out from under unbuttoned cuffs. Her nails were red and shiny with layers of enamel. Like the color of a rose. Or blood. He stiffened, pupils going large, vision tunneling.

A hand fell down upon his shoulder, roughly spinning him around. A large, obviously drunken young man glared indignantly at him. The girl let out an exasperated sound.

"Man, you hittin' on my girl?"

"Donnie --" The girl complained.

It was too much. The thick fingers biting into his shoulder were intolerable. The angry face, with its horrid breath and its ridiculous accusations pushed him over the edge. He shot out an arm, elbow held rigid, heel of his hand connecting with the center of the jealous boyfriend's chest. The young man staggered backwards, gasping for breath. He withstood the blow better than Aya might have expected. He surged back with a roar, arms clumsily outstretched.

Aya silently cursed; dodged and all hell broke loose.

It was a young crowd. A good number of them were high on booze or some more illegal substances. The place was ripe for violence. Aya was ripe for it, nerves stretched taut. He was handicapped though. The first time he blocked a blow with his bandaged hand, it felt like somebody had shoved a red hot poker into the wound. It sobered him even as the rest of the room blossomed into chaos. It had been stupid to create such a monster. He hadn't the slightest notion what he'd been thinking. The same thing perhaps, that had been going through his head when he'd shredded his hand.

"Oh, god, Aya." Omi stumbled up against him, near the bar, covering his head as someone shattered a bottle over someone else's head and glass shards littered the air. "What the heck started this?"

Aya didn't feel the need to enlighten him.

"Let's get out of here." He suggested and Omi nodded, large eyed and scanning the seething brawl for sign of Ken or Yohji. Knowing the two of them, they were probably in the thick of it. Wading in to find them seemed a reckless idea.

A good many other patrons had also retreated to the sidewalk outside and stood mulling in mixture of somewhat dazed confusion and aborted adrenaline rush. The street was mostly deserted and sheened with a light coating of rain. The air was heavy with it, though it wasn't misting now. A streetlamp buzzed rhythmically over their heads, competing with the neon flicker of the club's sign.

"Aya, your hand's bleeding." Omi exclaimed.

Aya lifted his right hand. The white of the bandages was starting to soak through with crimson. It hurt terribly. Busted stitches, one had to assume.

"It's okay." He murmured, tilting his head to the side as the distant sound of sirens pierced the silence of an otherwise sleeping city. "Police."

Omi frowned at that. Frowned at him for his dismissal of what Omi obviously thought of as not okay.

"They need to get out of there." Omi said.

They most certainly did. Getting hauled off to jail for something as inconsequential as a bar brawl would not be in any their best interest. Anonymity from the authorities had always been the wisest practice. Especially now that they'd expanded their arena of operations.

"Fuck." He hissed, as flashing lights and shrill sirens approached from down the street. He caught Omi's arm and hauled him back into the camouflage of the crowd outside the building. Most people were surging forward to watch the law come in a bust up the free for all inside.

Somebody pressed up against Aya's other side and he glanced around from under his hair to Ken's bleeding scowl. Ken had a trickle of red running from a split in his lip down the line of his chin. There was a strange mixture of disgust and elation on his face.

"Where's Yohji?" Omi asked, leaning past Aya to inspect Ken's damage.

"How in hell should I know? Kickin' ass inside?"

"About to get arrested inside." Aya elaborated dryly.

"Don't even, Aya." Ken gave him a look. "You fucking started it."

Omi blinked owlishly up at him, skepticism clearly in his eyes.

"Aya didn't --"

"Did so." Ken snapped. "I was standing right there talking with these guys when you started hittin' on the one's girlfriend and he stalked on over to stop it."

"I was not hitting on any one's girlfriend." Aya informed him calmly.

"Yeah, whatever. You hit him.'

"He laid hands on me."

"You hit him."

"I disengaged his hands from me."

"Whatever." Ken gave him a glare that might have had a smile hidden somewhere in its depths.

There was a blaring of a car horn. Yohji's sleek little sports car pulled up sedately to the curb. Yohji himself leaned casually across the passenger seat and beckoned. "C'mon, girls, time to go."

Yohji didn't have battle scars. Yohji looked energized and exhilarated. He lit up a cigarette as they were piling in and grinned over at Aya in the passenger seat.

"Not a bad night after all."

"You would say that." Omi leaned over the back seat.

"My car's down the street on the left." Ken said.

"Somebody nailed you good, Ken." Yohji glanced at Ken's bleeding lip in the rear view mirror.

"Yeah, while I was watching your stupid back."

"Awww, that's so sweet."

"Fuck off." But Ken sounded contented. As Yohji did. Aya sighed and sank deeper into the seat, cradling his hand in his lap.

"Deacon's Hill? Either of you hear of it?"

"I've heard of it." Omi said. "Why?"

"He tried to make a hit there tonight."

"No shit?" Ken lurched forward, hanging off the back of Aya's seat. "He get anybody?"

"Nope." Yohji grinned around the cigarette. "Which means we're there tomorrow night."

Yohji dropped Ken and Omi off at Ken's car. They drove back home in silence only broken by the mellow tones of one of Yohji's cd's. Yohji rolled down the window to let the smoke out and hummed along with the music, occasionally flicking ash outside.

"You pop some stitches on your hand?"

Aya curled his fingers a little at the question, feeling the misalignment of flesh, the slow leak of blood.

"Probably."

"You wanna go and have it looked at?"

"No. I'll see to it tomorrow morning."

Yohji nodded.

They got home before Ken and Omi did. Ken had mentioned something about coffee and donuts. Yohji pulled into the alley around back to park, sneaking into the premium spot by the back entrance. Aya had keyed the security system off and was inside the narrow back hall before Yohji finished putting the top up and locking the car. He turned a light on at the bottom of the stairs and hesitated a moment, contemplating going downstairs and getting on the computer right away to find out if there were any available info in Deacon's hill. The hand was throbbing too much. Getting up stairs and unwrapping his bloody bandages seemed a higher priority at the moment.

He went into his room first, and sat down on the bed in the dark to pull off his boots one handed. He leaned back for a second to force a few calm, serene breaths. To wash off the chaos of the night. The bed spread where his left hand rested with wet. Slightly warm wetness that for a brief moment he could not begin to fathom. He lifted his hand curiously, looking towards the shadows in the ceiling for a leak. But rainwater leaking down wouldn't be warm, would it?

He took a breath and leaned over to the bedside lamp.

Light flooded the darkness. Aya's stomach lurched, then tried to come right up his throat. He stumbled back so fast from the bed and what was upon it, he hit the lamp table and send it tumbling. The lamp crashed to the floor, the bulb shattered and the room plunged back into gloom.

He hardly stopped to think. Just went for the desk against the wall and the katana in its rack sitting upon it. Had that blade in his hand and cleared of its sheath even as Yohji was asking what had happened from the bottom of the stairs.

Aya, you okay?

Not in the least.

He scanned the shadows for something to bloody his blade with. And found nothing moving, save Yohji who stuck his head in the room and demanded to know what was wrong.

Aya didn't answer. Couldn't quite at the moment, staring with narrowed, angry/shocked/haunted eyes at the bed.

"What the hell is wrong, Damnit?" Yohji saw the glint of the blade. Yohji skirted around Aya carefully and switched on the reading lamp on the other side of the room. Then he gasped and cursed and swung around himself looking for the culprit of the nasty little present lying in the center of Aya's bed.

The dead thing hadn't been dead long. The body still had a trace of warmth. The blood did. Aya couldn't touch it. Yohji laid a hand in the fur to ascertain the state of the thing and the cause. Slit throat. Glassy feline eyes stared up at Aya calmly. Aya felt sick. He backed a step up against the desk and stood there trying to keep his teeth from chattering. Trying to force the bile back down his throat. He thought he'd seen this animal before scavenging in the dumpster in the alley out back. He'd tossed scraps out to it a couple of times. He thought Omi had. It had been people shy, but getting better.

"There's a note." Yohji saw past the still furry thing to the blood stained piece of paper on Aya's pillow.

Aya blinked away tears that he could hardly muster for human life and stared at the paper in Yohji's hand. Yohji stared at him and he angrily fought the impulse lift his hand and wipe the wetness away. Yohji looked down at the paper and his eyes narrowed. Grimly, he handed it to Aya.

Reluctantly Aya took it.

 

Don't hang up on me, baby.

I don't like it.

 

He read it again, then carefully put it down on the desk behind him. Looked up and met Yohji's eyes and stated the obvious.

"He got past our security system."

"Not long ago either. Shit, he could have been leaving as we were coming in."

Which was not a comforting thing. They had a damned good security system protecting this building. That somebody had breezed in without raising an alarm was as disconcerting as the thing they'd left for Aya.

"Or he's still here." Aya said.

Yohji frowned, looked around and frowned again. "I'm not getting that vibe, but let's do a run through anyways."

Yohji's vibe was correct. There was nothing alive in the building but the two of them. They ended up downstairs in the kitchen, Aya's naked sword on the tabletop, Yohji tensely pacing the floor, angry and indignant.

"If was him on the fucking phone tonight, wasn't it?"

Aya shrugged. It was hard, holding himself in check. Almost impossible to stop his hands from shaking. He couldn't remember a day in the last few months where he hadn't had a spell of it. Where something hadn't triggered something inside his head, some memory he was trying to suppress, some sound, some sight, some touch, that made his hands shake or his stomach lurch or caused his thoughts to shut down, leaving him glassy eyed and dazed for a heartbeat or two. He hated it. He couldn't seem to stop it.

He felt himself drifting off now, staring at the bare steel of the katana like it was some hypnotist's watch. A hand slammed down on the table between the sword and him. Hard.

He started, looking up in a moment of sheerest bewilderment at Yohji's angry face. At Yohji's glittering green eyes.

"What the fuck is going on here, Aya?"

"I don't know."

"Flowers. Phone calls. Nasty little gifts left in your damned bed. What else?"

"The other night -- when I was at one of the makeout spots -- he left another rose in my car."

Yohji's jaw dropped. "And you didn't say anything? How'd he know where you were? Shit, he followed you."

"And I didn't notice." Aya pointed out the more appalling fact. Yohji took a second to absorb that.

"You didn't notice. He got past our security. He's good."

Another shrug from Aya.

"Aya -- who the hell is it?"

Silence. He ran the fingers of his left hand through his hair; leaning his forehead into his palm, trying to keep from screaming. How many people were that good that had fixations on him? God help him if there were more than a handful. The one that came foremost to mind made him want to vomit. That scraggly old alley cat had meowed at him from the top of the dumpster this afternoon when he'd left to go prowl. He closed his eyes and tried to focus.

"Aya?"

He felt Yohji move up to stand next to his chair. Felt the brush of Yohji's shirt as he lifted his hand, then changed his mind and let it drop back to his side.

"Will you -- get rid of the -- cat for me?" He didn't want to do it. He didn't know if he could go back up there and sleep tonight. Stupid of him. Cowardly. Hysterical. Those words reared up to snap at him.

"Yeah." Yohji agreed and he felt a flighty little surge of relief. He could trust Yohji to do that. He could trust Yohji to deal with something that he couldn't.

Yohji made a decision and put his hand on Aya's shoulder. A careful, slow touch of not so much comfort -- Aya would have shied from that -- but camaraderie. It was just enough to make something dried up and shriveled inside him yearn for a little bit more. He sagged a bit, leaning his shoulder up against the warmth and solidity of Yohji's stomach. Yohji's hand drifted up to his neck, fingers sliding slowly into his hair, exerting just enough gentle pressure to urge Aya's head against him.

It felt -- nice. The comfort he dreaded and repelled seeped up on him like some stealthy predator that caught him in its jaws and wouldn't let him go. It felt like those hazy moments between sleeping and full wakefulness when he'd woken up curled next to Yohji after their night of drinking and smoking pot, when all had been right with the world and he had felt warm and safe and very much in a place he wanted to be.

Yohji's warm fingers brushed the skin at the back of his neck, kneading muscles so tense they made Aya's skull pound. Aya let out a small breathy sigh into Yohji's shirt at the sheer pleasure of it.

"You're gonna kill yourself if you don't relax, Aya." A whispered recrimination. Yohji's voice sounded a little shaky.

The sound of the back door opening made him straighten up and take stock of himself. Made Yohji take a hasty, almost guilty step backwards and stare accusingly towards the kitchen door and Ken and Omi who were cheerfully striding in with a box of donuts and a cup holder full of coffee in hand.

"Fresh donuts." Ken exclaimed. "We had to wait for the next batch, but it was worth ---" he stopped mid-sentence, staring at the sword on the table. At Aya and Yohji's faces.

"What?" Omi asked.

And Yohji told them, while Aya thought dark and murderous things to keep away the uncertainty and the dismay. At the moment, it was the only thing he knew to do.

 

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