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A Price For Madness

by P L Nunn


Chapter Six


Omi was up all night resetting codes on the security system, trying to trace where the intruder had gotten in and how and attempting to block such a passage again. Ken did the hardwiring, adding a few nasty little touches to the doors and windows that Omi linked up with what he assured them was a tamper proof security program.

They'd thought the old one had been adequate. They'd been so dreadfully wrong.

"We're gonna have to pick up and move." Ken stated what they all knew at heart. "We're compromised here."

Dreary thought. They hadn't been here that long. It had been a comfortable house.

Aya crashed on the coach in the rec. room with his sheathed sword on the floor beside him and the formally white bandages on his hand all crusty pink and red. He hadn't let anybody look at it. Had gone all defensive and stand-offish and just damned touchy. Like he was trying his best to replace the concern in their eyes with contempt. Like he thought he deserved the latter more by far than the former.

Yohji thought that was the case. Yohji thought Aya was blaming himself. Or hating himself. Or something equally frustrating and hard to combat. Getting a word or two of decent, honest conversation out him was a lost cause. He was at odds with himself and the world until he slipped into sleep and then he just looked exhausted and vulnerable.

Yohji padded downstairs at about five in the morning when everyone else was asleep and he should have been after the night they'd had, and just leaned in the doorway to the rec. room and stared. He'd had another one of those Aya oriented dreams that had woken him hard as a rock and covered in sweat. He thought it had involved a very warm, very agreeable Aya with his head buried between Yohji's legs and his mouth doing indecent -- excruciatingly wonderful things. Things he thought the non-dream Aya would have a stroke if anyone ever mentioned him doing. He glanced at the sword on the floor and corrected his assessment; things Aya would gut a body for suggesting he do.

Yohji sighed and made his way back upstairs by the dim light of the hall lamp. No use lamenting what would never happen. No use dwelling on it --

-- but damn if he couldn't stop remembering the way Aya had melted against him in the kitchen. The way, for that one brief moment, he'd wanted Yohji's presence and his support. Wanted, Damnit! Yohji knew want when he saw it. He damned sure knew when he'd gotten through somebody's defenses -- when he'd gotten to the soft heart of the matter. And for those few heartbeats last night before Omi's and Ken's inopportune appearance, he'd almost been there with Aya. Almost had him where he wanted him ----

-- now wasn't that a fucked up way of thinking? Opportunistic to say the least. Selfish, definitely. Aya was down and here he comes, like a wolf on the scent of wounded prey, looking for an opportunity for a little fresh meat. He smacked a hand against his forehead and cursed under his breath.

I am not that fucking cold. I'm not. And its Aya I'm talking about here, not some pick up at a latenight bar. Only problem was he didn't know which he wanted to do more, back up a team-mate; or fuck him.

He was frightfully certain, that at present, with the building pressure that seemed determined to center between his legs everytime he dwelled too long on Aya, that it was the latter. Not that the backing up and protecting didn't run a close race, there were just some things that seeped past reason and responsibility despite all the good intentions in the world, and raging libido was one of them.

He needed something to take his mind off it. He needed a diversion. Please, please let tonight at Deacon's hill pan out. He wanted a little blood on his hands, because sometimes the letting of blood, the thrill of violence, was as much of a high as sex.

"I don't see why it has to be me and I'm officially stating my opposition to this plan right now."

Omi glared at Yohji, then past him at Ken who was trying to keep the grin off his face and failing rather miserably. Yohji was staring at him with a curious, amused light in his eyes, his head tilted, his glasses pushed down low on the bridge of his nose.

"But its a good plan, kiddo. Its an inspired plan --and you look -- hot."

"I do not look hot!!" Omi wailed and tore off the strawberry blonde wig that almost perfectly matched his own hair and flung it at Yohji in a fit of embarrassed anger. "I look like a fourteen year old ---- girl!" he shouted.

Yohji lifted a brow, cast a look over at Ken, who had on a football jacket and a pair of patched jeans and looked nothing so much like a highschool jock out for a night's entertainment. With his fourteen year old girlfriend.

"You look every bit of fifteen." Yohji thought he was being funny. Omi just knew it. "And if I didn't have this thing about pedifilia, I'd ask Ken to trade places tonight, and you could be my date."

"Fuck you." Omi uttered the uncharacteristic curse and blushed afterwards. Yohji just shrugged and picked up the wig, handing it sedately back.

"Take it all out on the bastard if he goes for the bait you two are setting out for him tonight."

"I hate this." Omi muttered and reset the wig on his head, tucking stray bits of hair under it.

"So, did you have to shave your legs or what?" Yohji asked and ran before Omi could find something heavier and more deadly to throw at him. The humiliating thing was, he hadn't had to. He was girlishly smooth and he hated it. He had on a pleated skirt and an oversized sweater, ankle socks and girly sneakers and he horribly, miserably fit the part.

Omi was not in a good mood. Omi was pissed and embarrassed and thankfully Ken refrained from any inflammatory comments as they drove out to Deacon's hill.

Aya was already there. Ensconced somewhere in or about the old abandoned church next to the field the kids were now using as their out of the way, and entirely too spooky make-out point. There was an unconsecrated graveyard outside the church. Most of the headstones were overturned or gone. Stolen by kids out for a bit of gothic decoration to grace their yards or rooms. There was a line of old oak trees flanking the dirt road that led to the church and the hill beyond, and a fledgling woodland growing up all around the area. The church itself was mostly enveloped by ivy and equally parasitic plant growth.

Omi had seen it during the day when they'd scoped it out early that afternoon. At night it was a totally different story. At night it was ominous and frightening and he could not for the life of him imagine why anyone would want to come here in the pursuit of romance.

"I don't like this place." Omi muttered as Ken rolled to a stop over uneven grass and crumbling bits of stone. There were a few other darkened cars about. Not occupied, which meant the kids were out exploring the various nooks and crannies, grottos and abandoned crypts that were scattered about the overgrown grounds. Could have been worse. There were three cars, which meant three sets of kids that it was Yohji and Aya's job to shadow and keep out of danger.

"Yeah, spooky." Ken agreed and cut the engine and the lights and sat there with his hands loosely on the wheel while both their eyes adjusted to the night. They got out into calf high grass which left wet, cold streaks on Omi's legs. He shivered and shoved his hands in the pockets of his letter jacket. The comforting feel of his cross bow under the jacket at his back made him feel better.

They made a circuit of the church, and the graveyard with its remaining tombstones and sunken graves, like any curious teens might. Then followed one of the narrow, vine covered paths into the depths of the grounds. There was a couple of kids on a stone bench, making out, not too far in. Ken's arm snaked around Omi's shoulders as they passed, evicting nothing more than vaguely oblivious notice from the heated couple. He kept it there, a loosely draped weight that forced Omi's side to touch his as they walked. It was part of the cover. No reason not to play it to the hilt.

There was a crypt further in, with the iron gate torn from its hinges and the inside gaping and dark. Two pairs of kids had spread out a blanket on the stone slab outside the door. They were in various stages of casual making out, more interested in the weed they were smoking than hot and heavy sex at the moment.

They got invited over to share and Ken politely declined with a shrug and a meaningful glance towards Omi, as if they had more important things to do. Which of course they did. If these kids belonged to the cars by the church, then they had gotten lucky. Easy for Aya and Yohji to keep track of. Easy for Ken and Omi to concentrate on luring out their prey without the worry of some other unlucky couple of kids getting victimized.

Omi lifted a hand to his ear and casually adjusted the tiny receiver clipped about his lobe.

"Aya?" he murmured into the collar of his jacket. "We've spotted three sets. You got them?"

"Affirmative. You just passed me."

Comforting. Aya was blending with the wood somewhere.


"I'm on the other." All the kidding gone from his tone. All business now that they were in play.

They wound their way deeper into the snarled wood, following a path that hadn't seen maintenance in probably half a century. There was a big old house that had been taken over by the forest up at the top of the hill. The deacon's house, the record's showed. This had once been a prosperous church, with a prosperous flock. Their spiritual leader had lived well. The house was gutted and burned now. A mere shell, more dismal than the church below. There was a dry, crumbling fountain at the foot of the path leading up to the house. Graffiti marred it even more so than nature. Marks left by lovers, who wanted time to remember them even if they forgot weeks or months afterwards.

There was a shifting of leaves and bramble in the wood. Omi caught his breath, trying not to focus his attention that way. Ken pulled him down onto the rim of the fountain, encircling him within his arms like an amorous boyfriend, bending his head close.

"You hear?" warm lips against his ear. Ken was half peering over his shoulder, his hands roaming up under Omi's jacket, unsnapping the cross bow there and sliding it around to Omi's tummy where he could get ahold of it easily. It wasn't loaded. He had a brace on his arm with a selection of bolts.

The shuffling sound of footsteps. Closer. Closer. Then pausing, as if whoever it was had discovered them sitting there and hesitated, observing them.

Too long, and they were floundering. Ken moved his hands up to Omi's face, whispering.

"Make it look real for him." And pressed his lips against Omi's in what might have been a chaste kiss if Omi hadn't opened his mouth to ask just how they were supposed to make it look real. He got the warm taste of Ken's lips instead, and the shocked exhalation of Ken's breath. The flick of Ken's tongue and the slick, wet inside of Ken's lips and Omi was stunned to the depths of his soul. Quite literally floored by the sensation and the unexpected --- pleasure -- it brought with it. Other than one disastrous, aborted relationship that never should have been to begin with, Omi's social life was sorely stunted. Omi had only once ever kissed a girl and tongues and warm, wet insides of mouths had most certainly not been involved.

He sort of forgot the cross bow in his absorption in the moment. He clutched at Ken's jacket and let out a little bewildered moan into Ken's mouth, the business at hand rather far from his thoughts.

"Wha do we have here?" A loud voice jeered and Ken broke away from Omi with a frantic, wary look in his eyes and a silent fuck on his lips. Omi lost balance and went ungracefully backwards into the dry fountain bed. The cross bow scattered in the thick leaves.

"What the fuck do you want?" Ken was saying, on his feet and glaring at three staggering young men who smelled of pot and beer and bravado.

"Man, you got you a nice little piece of ass there." One of them slurred. "Gonna nail her right here in the woods?"

"Can we watch?"

"Can we have a piece?"

They were completely smashed. Completely looking for trouble. Completely unexpected.

"Omi?" a small voice in his ear. Yohji. "You okay?"

"Yeah." He murmured, searching the leaves for the cross bow. "Three more kids."

"Back off." Ken was saying, trying to diffuse the situation. "You guys don't clear out, I'm not gonna get anywhere."

They laughed at that. "Maybe she'll like one o' us better."

"Maybe she won't." Ken said softly, dangerously.

"Little girl back there did." One of the boys jerked a thumb back the way they'd come through the woods. "Her boyfriend didn't seem to mind. Ran away jus' like a little girl, thinkin' we was the make-out point killer and all."

"What girl?" Ken cast an alarmed look back to Omi. Omi swore under his breath. How many damned kids had come crammed into three lousy cars anyway.

"You hear that?" he whispered into his jacket mike.

Two soft affirmatives in his ear.

There was a sudden piercing female scream from the depths of the woods. Long and hysterical and hoarse.

"Son of a bitch!!" Ken cried and grabbed the arm of the closest boy. "Where'd you leave her, you asshole?"

The boy stared into the forest, spooked. "Th -- that way."

Ken took off into the woods at a dead run, trusting Omi to take care for himself. The boys mulled about uncertainly. The screams leaked away. Omi found the cross bow and snatched a bolt from his sleeve. Notched it into place and sprang out of the fountain.

"Where you going?" Somebody made a grab for his arm. He whirled and shoved the business end of the bow up under the offender's chin.

"Don't even think it."

The hands removed themselves post haste. Omi bolted into the forest after Ken. There was no path here. Just vines and trees that grew close enough together to hinder quick passage. His bare legs were being mauled by creeping vines with prickly thorns.

"Ken." He took the chance and cried, lost now that there were no screams to guide him. He saw the vast, ominous shadow of the house above him. Three walls standing with the faint glow of moonlight shining through the holes where the windows once had been.

"Ken?" he called again and something rushed out at him from the darkness. Impact about the hips that knocked him sprawling, sent the bow flying from his fingers as his back hit the ground and sent the breath from his lungs with a whoosh of air. Weight pressed down on his belly, darkness reared over his head. Something glinted in the scant bits of moonlight that escaped the forest canopy. A wicked curved knife arced down.

Omi let out a squeak of breathless dismay and caught the descending arm. He hadn't the breath to scream for help. So he struggled against the shadows above him. Squirmed to get out from under the weight that trapped him.

"Little girl. Pretty little girl. Nasty little girl doing what she shouldn't out in the woods. Daddy will have to punish her. He will. He will." A singsong chant hissed from the sharp toothed mouth over him. The face was hideous and pockmarked. Twisted with rage and madness and indignation.

He couldn't hold the arm. The knife came down and with a surge of adrenaline enhanced strength Omi threw the man off balance and rolled away.

"Ken." He cried. "Aya. Yohji!! I'm in trouble here!!"

Where was the damned bow? Lost in the darkness. Well, he wasn't without weapons. He palmed another cross bow bolt.

"Little bitch!!" the man rushed at him, artless in his rage. The blade was avoidable, now that Omi had his wits about him. He was faster. He just needed to get close enough to jam the head of his bolt up through his attacker's ribs.

"You sick ---" he couldn't even come up with words for what this man was. "Is this how you get off? Killing defenseless kids? Well I'm not gonna let you do it anymore."

The head tilted. The knife changed hands. Once, twice. "You're not a little girl."

"No." Omi agreed. Somewhere along the way or in the tussle he'd lost the wig.

The madman laughed. "Little boys are just as bad."

"Go to hell." Omi cried and lunged. Under the knife swing, jabbing the bolt in with all his strength, feeling it pierce flesh and still it wasn't sharp enough, or he was wasn't strong enough to drive it up through the heart. It hurt though. The madman screamed and jerked away, swatting at the bolt lodged in his flesh.

"Bitch. Bitch. Bitch." He screamed, made a wild swing and the blade sliced through Omi's jacket and sweater and pierced the skin beneath it. An unnervingly sharp blade, that. Or an unusually strong arm wielding it. If he'd have stayed to pursue this, Omi knew without a shadow of a doubt that that blade would have tasted more of his blood. He felt it running down his left arm now, dripping from his fingertips. The madman was immersed in his own pain and his own injuries though and with that parting slash he darted past Omi and into the darkness. The shadows ate him up.

Another shadow descended upon him. A silent, black clad one with a length of steel decidedly more deadly than the one Omi had just faced.


Omi lifted his right arm and pointed. "He's injured."

And Aya was off. It didn't occur to Omi until afterwards that Aya wasn't in the best fighting shape of his life, with his right hand handicapped. It didn't matter anyway. The madman had melted into the woods. Gone.

Just gone.

He'd left blood in his wake, but not that much. The girl had taken more damage from the three highschool jocks than the serial killer. She'd run and fallen down into the cavernous basement of the old house. He hadn't followed her, instead going after easier prey.

Omi hadn't proved that easy. By the time the cops got there Weiss had melted away as completely as their prey.

"This is the last time I'm ever dressing up like this." Omi complained, wincing as Yohji cleaned the shallow slice on his upper arm.

"Oww. That hurts."

"Sheesh, I don't know what your problem is, you're acting like a girl over this little scratch."

Omi glowered and sat there enduring while Ken stood at the stove frying eggs and bacon and potatoes with chopped onions and peppers.

"So, can you ID him?" Yohji asked.

"Absolutely." It had not been a face to forget. "I'm gonna start looking for a match as soon as you finish this. There are some other things I wanna check too, some things he said."

"Breakfast first." Ken said without turning. It was every bit of 4 in the morning and none of them could have slept if their lives depended on it. So close. They'd been so damned close.

Yohji finished bandaging Omi's arm and stood, stretching. His long black coat was slung over the back of his chair. He had various weapons scattered on the table top. He gathered them all up and started out the kitchen door.

"I'm gonna go see what Aya's found out." Aya was in the midst of monitoring the police activity downstairs.

"Make sure those three jerks get what they deserve." Ken reminded him. They'd made sure the girl that had been raped got to the other kids okay. They'd made damn sure the tires on the boy's car were flat when they'd tried to flee the scene. The girl hadn't seemed to have a problem telling the police all. Maybe too much. She'd mentioned Ken and given a fair description, but the cops so far were just figuring that some of the kids that had been out that night had slipped away in the confusion.

Yohji disappeared and Omi sat at the table in a sudden rash of uncertainty. He stared at Ken's back and felt his face go hot. For a little while tonight, he'd lost track of everything. Of what he was supposed to be doing, of what he was supposed to be thinking and he couldn't comprehend it. And Ken was standing there frying eggs like nothing had happened. Maybe nothing had.

Omi bit his lip and made pattern's on the table with his fingertips.



"What -- what happened out there tonight?"

Silence, except for the sound of the spatula scraping along the bottom of the pan; of sizzling eggs and bacon.

"What do you mean?"

Omi pushed his chair back in a fit of nerves and stood, padded over to the counter and stared up at Ken because talking to his back was making him crazy.

"You know. You know -- at the fountain and stuff." He wanted to understand. He needed an honest understanding to set his mind at ease.

"Nothing. Nothing happened. Just keeping our cover is all."

"Oh." Was that all? That simple and he hadn't realized it. Boys weren't supposed to kiss boys and like it.

"You liked it?" the spatula stopped mid motion and Omi's face turned so hot he thought his head would explode. Had he said that out loud? Oh god, he'd said that out loud."

"I didn't mean that." He blurted. "What I meant was that I hated it and you weren't supposed to stick your tongue in my mouth and it's just wrong and -- and that's what I meant to say."

"Well, you weren't supposed to open your mouth. And I didn't stick my tongue anywhere -- it just sort of got in the way. And --- fuck, fuck, fuck --- can we not talk about this anymore? It never happened, okay. And if you tell Yohji neither one of us will ever hear the end of it, so -- so just forget about it, okay, Omi?" Ken turned pleading dark eyes on him. Desperate eyes. Ken was scared and worried and it made Omi guilty that he'd caused it. He didn't want Ken angry at him, or to maybe start shutting him out. Ken was the only person he could really, really talk to about things. Yohji was too cynical and jaded and Aya -- well Aya was just Aya and being such didn't invite close personal interaction. He needed Ken to be there and in sudden terror of loosing that one and only close confidant that he had, he nodded ardently.

"Okay, it was nothing. It's past."

Ken's shoulders relaxed a little. Ken nodded and started scooping eggs out of the pan and onto a platter. "Go get Aya and Yohji, I don't want this getting cold."

Omi had been going through pictures for two days now. Every prison file, every mental hospital file that he could get his hands on and he'd yet to make an ID. Which meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. There were more hardcase crazies out there than a body could shake a stick at. Omi had only begun to chip away at the tip of the thing. Omi was determined. Omi was spooked in a big way over what had happened that night. Yohji was pissed and frustrated. Ken very distinctly didn't have a vocal opinion of it yet, unusual in itself, and Aya was too busy obsessing over his stalker to give the thing his full interest.

A fucking efficient lot they were at the moment, what with Yohji's current preoccupation added to the mix.

"Go to sleep kiddo." Yohji told Omi as the young man sat slouched in front of the computer after what Yohji thought was a twenty hour stint of searching. "Even if you saw him now, you'd probably be too zonked to recognize him. Get some sleep."

"Okay." After two days of working on this, Omi didn't have much resistance left in him. He stumbled off towards his bed.

Aya hadn't slept in his since they'd found the gift from his secret admirer there. Aya was sitting on the floor with his back against the couch, every newspaper printed in the city and the outlying regions in front of him, scanning for articles that might hold a glimmer of connection to their boy.

"You too." Yohji decided on taking the mother hen route. Aya gave him an unappreciative glance and looked back down to the papers.

"We replaced your mattress, changed your sheets -- are you ever planning on sleeping in your own bed again?"

Aya's lips tightened. He didn't look up. He didn't bother to answer.

"Its just -- I've sacked on this couch before and its not the most comfortable in the world."

"Yohji, what does it matter to you where I sleep?" Aya fixed him with a cold, violet gaze. It was his go away, you're bothering me, look. Yohji was used to it.

Yohji sniffed in offense and flopped down on the coach, putting his feet up on the coffee table next to Aya's elbows. Aya gave him another displeased look.

"Hey, my shoes are off. And its your back. I don't care where you sleep, touchy fuck."

Another glance, not so annoyed this time and Aya turned back to the newspapers. The loose cotton shirt he wore was unbuttoned and as a result dipped away from his neck and one shoulder. Yohji found his eyes drawn to that graceful curve of muscle and bone. Only pale perfect skin was visible, but Yohji knew that further down there were the pale marks of scarring. Aya was careful not to show them. Careful to ignore their existence and the existence of what had caused them. Yohji wondered if he'd even managed to convince himself by now that it had never happened. Probably. Aya was stubborn like that. The king of denial, if something really irked him.

"You find anything?"

"No." Down to single syllable answers. Yohji shook his head and wondered if it was worth the energy to get up and get a cigarette.

"Yeah, well. He's probably in deep hiding right now. Maybe died from the bolt the kid stuck in him. Wouldn't that be a lucky break?"

"Not unless we find a body. We don't get paid without confirmation."

Always the pragmatist, Aya. The best one out of the lot of them in managing money.


He waited for an answer before going on. Aya finally looked up at him impatiently and prompted.


"You get any more calls or anything?"

Aya's whole body went tense. Fascinating process to watch really, how his hands stiffened and from there it just seeped up his arms to his shoulders and his back, like his blood had suddenly just hardened in his veins.



"Don't worry about it, Yohji.'

"Sorry. Gotta. What effects you, effects all of us. I know you don't want to hear that, but its true."

"Yohji -- go away."

"God, you're hard to get along with."

Aya blinked at him slowly, staring at him as if he were quite insane not to have noticed the trait before this. "I'll let you know, all right?" he conceded.

"And tense. God, look at you ---" Any excuse to touch that tempting expanse of bare skin. He put his hand on Aya's shoulder in a brotherly fashion, gave it a squeeze and the muscles were every bit as taught as they'd been last night. And please, please let Aya be even a fraction as receptive.

Aya growled at him instead and pulled away.

"Yohji --" Warningly.

Yohji was feeling reckless at the moment. Besides, Aya's katana wasn't within sight, so there was a relative degree of safety. He plunged into the gaping jaws of death and put both hands firmly on either side of Aya's neck, pressing down with just enough strength to keep Aya from whirling about and dislodging him.

"What -- are -- you -- doing?"

"Its therapeutic. You need it." He dug his fingers into taught flesh, into the indention between the big muscle of the shoulder and the area above the collar bone. Aya shuddered a little, the one hand holding the news paper drooping.

"Yohji -- stop."

"Doesn't it feel good?"

A wispy breath for answer. An uncertain opening and closing of Aya's mouth. Yohji worked his way closer to the base of Aya's neck, fingers brushing against soft hair. If Aya turned around, Yohji wondered how he'd react to the growing erection in his pants. With great resentment, most likely.

"Its okay. I'm not an enemy. We can help each other out now and again. Who else is gonna do it?" Reasoning voice. Calm voice, like he'd use to coax a frightened animal or a shy child.

Aya's head sank forward, acceptance, surrender, acknowledgment of Yohji's reasoning. Who the hell knew? Yohji took the chance and ran with it, shifting so that he had a leg on either side of Aya, so that he had the leverage to work his magic.

Massage was an art. It could be therapeutic, it could be seductive, it could downright verge on sex if one utilized it right. Yohji was a master. He'd taken the time to learn how to push all the right buttons, and work all the right places. If a woman let a man give her a backrub sex was very likely on the horizon. He'd never given one to a man before. Same basic theory. Aya had surrendered something to Yohji when he'd consented to this. There was trust involved and pleasure in one form or another to be given. It was a damned lucrative beginning.

He worked his way down Aya's shoulders, to his upper arms and back up, then followed the line of his spine down his back. The shirt was in the way of course. He wanted to get rid of it so bad he could taste it. Wanted his palms spread out over smooth bare skin. He'd teased Omi about not having to shave his legs. Well Aya was a man grown and he was still as smooth as any woman when it came to body hair. You could hardly see it at all on his forearms.

He took a risk and leaned forward, bringing his lips close to Aya's ear, asking in that same calm, reasoning tone of voice. "Let me slip this down, okay?"

Aya shivered at the touch of his breath. Drew in a shaky breath and didn't say yea or nay on the subject. Yohji, being the optimist that he was, took that silence as an affirmative. Oh, he was careful in the maneuvering of it. Masterful even. Slipped his hands back up to Aya's shoulders and gradually worked them back down, lowering the collar of the shirt little by little. Letting it slide along Aya's back like a whisper and following it with the light touch of his hands. That was all sex, in the trailing caress. It stopped being a massage for that brief moment as he allowed himself the luxury of running his fingertips down the slim line of Aya's back, past the faint scars that were just fucking crimes against all that creamy skin.

He didn't know whether Aya noticed the difference. Aya was resting his weight on the table, elbows locked, head lowered, the thick mass of his bangs and eartails falling to obscure his eyes. He was trembling a little. Yohji spread out his palms, adding pressure to his touch again, thinking that it was very probable, that at this moment Aya might have allowed more than a mere massage. Aya was responsive as hell to the little things; Yohji's knuckles across the back of his neck, his breath when he leaned close enough to get the scent of Aya's hair. He thought this seduction, all but unplanned, might have been a grand success -- if there weren't other issues at hand. Other concerns that a body had to consider if one wanted more than a casual fling. And it could hardly be casual with Aya. He couldn't up and leave in the morning when he was through and never lay eyes on him again. In fact the thought was rather abhorrent to him. Hurting Aya, who liked to think he was bullet proof, and who in fact was most certainly not, was not a thing to be lightly contemplated.

"Aya? How many times since your parents were killed have you allowed yourself the simple pleasure of a little human contact --- a little comfort?"

Muscles that had gone soft and relaxed, tensed. Yohji chewed on his lip and backed down, hands never ceasing what they were about.

"That wasn't a challenge or anything. Don't go all icy on me."

"I'm not." Sulky, quiet disagreement.

Yohji grinned. It was his own stupidity, his own degenerate sense of cynical honesty that shot him down. "It's a shame that no one ever got to appreciate you."

Aya drew in a sharp breath and pushed himself up unexpectedly. Yohji had to sit back. The moment was lost. The only gratification Yohji got was the sight of Aya's hard, puckered nipples, before he pulled the shirt back up onto his shoulders. His eyes were huge and dilated like a sleepy cat rudely awoken, but even as Yohji watched the pupils contracted and Aya got his focus back an slammed his shields back down into place.

"I'm tired. Go away, Yohji, so I can sleep."

Yohji went away.


Aya could suddenly breath again. Could think rationally. Could control his body of his own volition, instead of having it go lethargic and weak because of Yohji and his damned skillful hands. He cradled his forehead in his palm, curling his fingers in his bangs and tried to collect himself. Tried to comprehend the incomprehensible ---

--- And failed

It irked him to no ends; that lack of control, that complete flight of conscious thought. But it had felt -- good -- what Yohji had been doing, at least while Yohji had had his mouth shut. He'd lost track of things during it and Aya hated the sensation of floundering.

It wasn't a thing that Yohji usually did, the putting of hands on him. It rather baffled him, the recent habit of it. It should have offended all his standards and sensibilities -- should have left him quite liberally insulted -- and bizarrly enough -- didn't. It just -- didn't. Which brought him back to the feeling of floundering in unknown depths.

He sat there and tormented himself until the headache that Yohji had almost banished, seeped back. He might almost wish Yohji hadn't been chased away -- until he came to his senses and reinstated the discipline that he desperately needed to live by.

He flipped a page on the paper under his elbow, wanting to get through one more publication before he gave up and let sleep claim him. He'd bought a local paper from every town, hamlet, suburb and county within a hundred miles of the city. Everything available at the newsstand, in hopes of finding a mention of something that might give a clue as to what their prey was doing. They'd been monitoring hospitals for word of something coming in with a wound like the one Omi had delivered. Nothing.

He flipped a page and scanned the headlines. Failure.

He dragged the rather thin collection of newsprint that made up the local paper of some small town well outside the city limits. Casually flipped the pages and stopped, chewing his lip thoughtfully at the small, bold print of an article on the third page.

Stolen car found abandoned three miles outside of West River Wharf. A painfully brief article about a car reported stolen by some local widow a week ago, showing up on the side of the road, out of gas, with suspicious bloodstains on the interior. The local sheriff had no clues who the blood belonged to, but suspected city kids out to cause trouble in their small peaceful community were to blame.

The car had been discovered the morning after the debacle at Deacon's Hill.

West River Wharf. He'd never heard of the town. He'd picked up the paper without even looking at it. He pushed himself up with his good hand and took the paper over to the computer, hoping the town was modernized enough that their newspaper had on-line archives.

He was in luck. They had a shiny new website. Nothing new about the car. He glanced over a few statistics about the town. A small industrial community, supported by two factories sitting on either side of the river. West River and East River Wharf were basically two halves of the same community, only separated by a broad expanse of water. There wasn't much there, but the factories. The fishing had been fouled years ago by the waste product dumped into the waters. Why would their prey go there? If it was him, then it seemed to be his area of operations. He'd stolen the car a week ago and yet returned, indicating that it hadn't been a random thing.

He rubbed his eyes and took a breath to energize his failing body, deciding that a little deeper digging was in order. He ended up having to pad into the kitchen for a cup of strong black coffee. Despite a distaste for the drink, the caffeine could not be done without, and nothing else would supply it as quickly and efficiently. He forced a few swallows down and the taste alone chased some of the weariness away.

He started scanning past editions of the paper. Any odd occurrences, any unusual crimes, any teenagers reporting attacks. Nothing recent. It was a boring little town.

He propped his chin in his hand and stared at the screen. They weren't dealing with a sane mind here. An insane one might reflexively retreat to a familiar territory. Maybe this man had originated from West River Wharf. Maybe he was lurking around his home. Or a place that had been his home in the past.

He typed in a search for murder. Nothing in many years. A wife had shot a cheating husband seven years back when she'd caught him in the marital bed with her next door neighbor.

The one before that hadn't even taken place in West River Wharf. June of 1978. The year of his own birth. Katherine Mary Phillipe, 17 at the time had been murdered while she was away from home attending school in the city. While on an outing with friends, she had been attacked and murdered. Her body had been found in a quarry just outside the city limits.

Aya leaned forward in sudden exhilaration as he read the rest of the article. The quarry the girl had been murdered it seemed had been a popular teen make out point. And still was. If he was not mistaken, that quarry had been the site of one of the murders that had taken place years ago.

There was a picture of the funeral. A blurry black and white photo of a group of solemn dark clad people. They might have looked brow-beaten and somber at any occasion.

The family and friends. The father, brother, a cousin or two and various family acquaintances. The killer had told Omi that nasty little girls doing what they shouldn't out in the woods needed to be punished. That Daddy would have to punish them. Had the daughter's death driven the father over the edge of reason?

He wondered if Omi could look at a blurry, long distance photograph taken some 23 years past and recognize the face. He did a search for it and immediately something came up.

An obituary. The man had died of lung cancer in 1985. Wonderful. A promising lead -- a much too coincidental lead -- down the drain.

He hissed in frustration and saved the photo anyway to show Omi in the morning. The morning? It was already well past dawn. In a few hours Ken, always an early riser would be up, puttering around the kitchen, and not long after Omi would be down here back on the computer. If he didn't seek a bit of sleep now, he'd never get it. At least not without going upstairs and the thought of that made him more than a little uneasy. Stupid of him. He knew it. He couldn't make the aversion to that room that used to be his go away. It had been violated. Someone distasteful had been inside it, had fouled it. Had taken some insubstantial bit of privacy and slashed it to shreds. It was just as well they would have to move, he didn't know how long he could avoid it without the others seriously annoying him about it.

He went to sleep and his dreams were not pleasent.


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