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Title: Past, Present... Future

 

Author: TalithaX

Rating: PG-13 (language)

Status: Complete... Gifted fic to P L Nunn

Feedback: ... Would be lovely, thank you.

Email Address: charlton@cobweb.com.au

Disclaimers: 'Kay. Standard ramble. Not mine. Blah, blah, blah.

Summary: Set a couple of hours after the final chapter of Pam's

wonderful 'Shadow Games', this, I suppose, is just my 'take' on how things

may have progressed.

Notes:

 

As already mentioned, this is a gifted fic to Pam, one that she has kindly

granted permission to me to share with this list. Again, this is just *my*

'take' on what may have happened next and is *not* to be confused with being

a part of 'Shadow Games' proper.

 

Narrated by Yoji & self beta'd.

 

So... uh... yeah. If you like it, thank Pam for being both my inspiration

and for insisting I post!

 

Ciao

TalithaX

 

 

 

==========================

Past, Present... Future

~ a, gifted, Shadow Games interlude ~

by TalithaX

=========================

 

~*~

 

Despite the effort I occasionally put in to pretending otherwise, I'm not

actually as stupid as some people like to think I am. Sure, I may not be

the sharpest pencil in the case, but I do well enough. I suspect, assuming

I honestly had nothing better to do with my time and there was no wet paint

around to watch drying, I could even sit down and successfully complete a

crossword puzzle. The fact that I can quite happily live out my entire life

without ever attempting a crossword notwithstanding, I *could* do one. If,

you know, I wanted to.

 

So, yeah. I *get* lots of things.

 

Good versus bad. How to extricate myself, both physically and verbally,

from tricky situations. The odd spot of -- relevant, no more and no less --

history. Enough math to keep the debt collector off my back and smokes

constantly in my pocket. The ability to accept, with pity, reluctance, and

humility, that it's okay to love someone while simultaneously accepting that

 

 

there will *always* be a small part of that person they'll take considerable

pains to (their word, not yours) 'protect' you from.

 

All in all, I consider myself both reasonably well adjusted and adequately

knowledgeable on things that, let's face it, matter.

 

What I do not get, however -- and I'm not entirely convinced that some sixty

year boffin (who's never had a proper job in his life because he's still

working his way through obtaining every university degree known to man)

would be able to get his head around this particularly quandary either -- is

the whole assassin by night, florist by day thing.

 

I mean...

 

What gives with that, huh?

 

I just so don't get it. Are the beauty and purity -- and blah, blah, more

hippy, new age nonsense, blah -- of the flowers, 'Mother Nature's Gift To

Her Troubled Children' meant to make up for the blood, the horror, and the

killing? Or... Or what? If you, the poor sucker who's decided for

whatever reason to shoulder both the sins and the weight of the world, are

kept busy during daylight hours playing with pretty flowers, you'll be saved

from your inner demons?

 

God knows if there was actually an explanation floating around that I, for

one, would love to hear it. As it is though...

 

Go freakin' figure.

 

"Thank you for your custom. Have a lovely day."

 

Looking up from the daisy I've been systematically stripping of its

petals -- 'he loves me, he loves me not, I hate him, I hate him not, I know

what I'm doing, I have no idea what I'm doing' -- I glance across the store

at Chloé as a feeling of déjà vu settles over me. Ignoring the fact that

twenty minutes ago I wouldn't have known Chloé if I'd fallen over him -- and

quite possibly wouldn't have lived to tell the tale if I *had* -- the scene

is so achingly familiar that I can hardly believe I'm actually standing

here, that I'm a part of it.

 

Flowers. A night job that is a taboo subject within the four walls of the

shop. Aya wearing an apron and, his face a picture of concentration,

fussing over an exquisite bouquet of lilies. A young female customer

glancing around the shop, the glitter of appreciation in her eyes aimed at

things other than the vibrant blooms. Ken...

 

Ken walking through the front door and shooting me an impatient, exasperated

look. "You coming or what?" he queries loudly, rolling his eyes as, sidling

out from behind the counter, Chloé snatches up a long stemmed red rose and

presents it to the customer with a small bow.

 

Watching her blush almost as crimson as the rose and giggle flirtatiously, I

can't help but see a bit of myself in Chloé's actions and have to control

the urge to laugh. It's almost like being...

 

Never mind.

 

"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming," I drawl, surreptitiously kicking the petals of my

massacred daisy under the counter and shoving the denuded stem in my pocket.

"Want anything while we're out?" I ask, directing my question more at Aya

than any of the others as I start to make my way across to Ken.

 

"No thank you," Aya replies politely, glancing up from his bouquet, his face

still the same, deliberately blank mask it's been ever since I dared --

after sleeping away most of the morning on his sofa -- step foot in the

shop. "It was, however, kind of you to ask."

 

"Mmm... I'm a regular boy scout," I mutter dismissively, winking at Chloé -

who's looking over the customer's head at me as though it's somewhat of a

crushing disappointment to him that I haven't yet left. "Oh well. See you

then."

 

Neither Aya nor Chloé deigning to reply, I shrug and, Ken still holding it

open, stroll through the door onto the street. "While it'd be a lie to say

it particularly bothered me, I don't think Chloé likes me very much," I

comment as, letting the door bang closed, Ken gestures me towards a white

Mercedes van that's parked on the road in front of the shop.

 

"Don't take it personally," Ken replies, smiling and slinging his arm

affectionately around my shoulders. "Until he gets to know them, I think

Chloé dislikes near on everyone. I wouldn't lose any sleep over it if I

were you."

 

"Oddly enough, I didn't plan too," I respond, standing back from the van's

passenger door as, releasing me, Ken unlocks it with the remote. "What

happens when he gets to know you though, does he thaw out and become the

life and soul of the party?"

 

"Not having reached that point with him myself, despite having known him for

months now, I hasten to add, I think he has three main opinions," Ken

explains, grinning as he walks around to the driver's side. Climbing into

the van, he waits until I've joined him in the van before starting the

engine and continuing. "As for what they happen to be? Well, begrudging

tolerance is one, continued dislike with a side helping of distaste another,

and then, if you're one of the few chosen ones, there's always the option

that he'll actually decide that he likes you. Aya, I *think*, although

don't quote me on it, has managed to somehow fall into the 'like' category.

*How*, mind you, I don't know."

 

"Lucky Aya," I retort, pulling my seatbelt on and idly hoping that

delivering flowers doesn't take as long as it used to seem to. While I may

not have anything better to do with my time at the moment, I'm not exactly

sure I want to spend a lot of it playing the role of floral courier either.

"Hey, on a vaguely related note, what's with Chloé's name anyway? Please

don't tell me he's another one taking on his sister's name in order to

constantly remind himself why it is that he's here. If he is then I'm here

to tell you now that I think it's safe to say those two deserve each other

and that, well, I think I'll be on my way now."

 

"I can't say I've ever quite looked at it that way before," Ken laughs,

pulling, after the most cursory of glances in the rear vision mirror, away

from the curb, "but, yeah, if it was the case you'd definitely be right. In

fact, I'd probably be right behind you. As for why he chooses to go by the

name Chloé, though? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Oh, and before

you ask again, no, there's no wronged sister floating around that I'm aware

of."

 

"I'm relieved to hear it," I reply, settling back in my seat and staring out

the window at the unfamiliar scenery -- quaint row houses, red double decker

buses, black cabs, billboards advertising products and services that I've

never heard of before -- as it flies past.

 

The... human side of things aside, could I honestly live here? Do I *want*

to live here? Hell... What *exactly* am I doing here?

 

"You'll get used to Chloé," Ken states matter-of-factly, glancing across at

me and smiling happily. "He's a little... different... and I'm telling you

right now to steer clear of vines and the like when he's around, but, yeah,

he's okay. Actually, everyone's okay and, yeah, I think you'll like them."

 

"*Assuming* I stick around," I murmur, shrugging dismissively. "Just

because I'm here now doesn't mean I've made up my mind to stay."

 

"But... Where else have you got to go?" Ken queries, quickly returning his

attention to the world outside the windscreen so as to hide his expression

of disappointment from me. "I... I thought..."

 

"Without ever having actually understood this particular statement, the

world is my oyster now," I interrupt, gesturing airily out the window. "So

long as it's not Japan, I can go wherever I damn please."

 

"But... I thought..." Realizing that he's repeating himself, Ken trails off

and drums his fingers on the steering wheel. "Aya's here," he adds bluntly

after a few seconds, once again glancing across at me.

 

"Whoopee for Aya," I mutter, wanting to deflect the argument Ken's no doubt

busily forming in his head and making a snap decision to change the topic.

"Hey, England's old and full of tourist type things to do, isn't it? Maybe

I'll just tour around for a while. You know, check out Big Ben and those

huge, ancient rock things."

 

"Huge, ancient rock things?" Ken repeats dubiously, looking puzzled. "Oh!

You mean Stonehenge?"

 

"Whatever," I smirk, frantically searching my brain for any small snippet of

information that I know about England in order to keep Ken's attention away

from, well, things that could be considered of far more importance.

"Stones, rocks... Something like that. Now, given that you've been here

for a while now, what else is there?"

 

"Well, if you're intent on wanting to behave like some sort of geriatric

tourist, there's always Buckingham Palace and Madame..."

 

Listening to Ken rattle off his list of tourist attractions, I congratulate

myself on a deflection well played and, solely because I don't want to think

about it myself, forcefully ignore the main question that's at hand here.

 

And that's...

 

What is it that I *do* I want?

 

~*~*~*~

==========================

Past, Present... Future

~ a, gifted, Shadow Games interlude ~

by TalithaX

=========================

 

Along with the odd as fuck, killer by night, creator of artistic blooms

during the day deal, there's something else that I can't for the life of me

get my head around.

 

And that's the names of the stores.

 

Kitten this, kitten that.

 

Just... What the fuck?

 

Don't get me wrong, I like kittens well enough. They're cute and their

insane antics can provide hours of inane amusement. That said, unless

they're eating them, hatching them, or trying to dig them up, I have no idea

what they've got to do with flowers. Or ridding the world of 'dark beasts'

either, for that matter. Rodents, small birds, yeah, but 'dark beasts'?

Somehow I just happen to think not.

 

It's just... peculiar. Or, failing that, the Powers That Be have a twisted

sense of humor and they find it ironic or something.

Fluffy-wuffy-ittty-bitty kittens... and flowers... and assassins.

 

Like, yeah. Whatever.

 

There are times when I honestly feel as there's some omniscient being

somewhere having a good old laugh at my expense.

 

Kitten's House.

 

Again. Just go freakin' figure.

 

"You don't have to say it," Ken mutters, opening the door to the shop and

waiting for me to finish my much-needed smoke, " as I know already. The

name sucks and, no, I don't know why we've been lumbered with it."

 

"Penance," I murmur, dropping my butt on to the pavement and grinding it out

with the heel of my boot. "Either that or the mysterious KR actually hates

you. But, hey, a kitty themed flower shop is a kitty themed flower shop,

right? Same old, same old, by the looks of things."

 

"You're right," Ken sighs, flicking ash of my shoulder as I stroll past him

and into the store, "it's penance. It has to be."

 

"You can all relax now, we're back," I sing out, looking around the shop

and, to my dismay, seeing no sign of Aya. Chloé and Free are standing

behind the counter, their attention fixed firmly on the laptop computer set

up in front of them but, nope, definitely no Aya. "Miss me?"

 

"However did you guess?" Chloé replies blithely, looking up from the

computer screen, his pale blue eyes giving me a patently disinterested once

over. "What a relief. Looks like we can cancel the search party," he

continues in a monotone, sharing a quick glance with Free before returning

his attention to the computer.

 

Refusing to so much as *consider* letting Chloé get to me, I stroll across

and half lean over the counter. "No one likes a smart ass," I smirk,

running my finger over the collection of floral stickers that decorate the

laptop's casing. "Nice art work, by the way. Very manly."

 

"In case it's escaped your limited attention, this just happens to be a

flower shop," Chloé retorts, not bothering to look up from the screen.

"Look around you. See the flowers? Now, and forgive me if this is asking

too much, think about it for a second... Hmm? Getting it yet? *If* we

need to work from the shop, we need the equipment to blend in so as not to

raise suspicion..."

 

"As I just said," I mutter, trying to turn a blind eye to the fact that I

was effectively just put in my place, "no one like's a smart ass. Now, as

much as I'm enjoying our little chat, where's Aya? I thought he said he was

going to be in the shop all day."

 

"Aya spilt a vase of water over himself and had to go back to his flat to

change," Free explains calmly. "Due to the lateness of the afternoon and

the fact that I have the time to remain here, we told him that he did not

have to come back if he did not want to."

 

"What are you working on?" Ken queries, shooting both Free and Chloé a

suspicious look. "And where are Yuki and Michel? Aren't they supposed to

be here helping?"

 

"We've given them the afternoon off too," Chloé replies, frowning down at

whatever he's got up on screen and swiftly typing something on the keyboard.

"They saw something that they didn't need to and..."

 

"*What* did they see?" Ken demands, cutting Chloé off as, unpacking the van

forgotten about, he storms across to the counter. "Come on, spill."

 

"It is perfectly okay," Free murmurs, moving around the counter so as to

block Ken's access to the computer. "We have everything under control."

 

Free's attention on Ken, and Chloé's on the computer, I see my opportunity

and grab it with both hands. Slipping around the counter, I sidle up

alongside Chloé and help myself to a good look at what he's got up on

screen.

 

And...

 

This *so* had better not be what it looks like. If it is though, then to

hell with playing nice and making new friends as, one thing's for certain,

it's going to be on for one and all.

 

"Sick pervert," I hiss, making to grab the laptop in order to shut it down.

 

"What? No!" Chloé exclaims, stepping in front of me and hurriedly shifting

the computer further along the counter. "Don't touch it! I've put a lot of

effort into creating this virus and if you do anything to disrupt it then

I'm going to kill you."

 

"Give it here, you bastard," I snarl, trying again for the computer and

scoring myself a forceful shove in the chest from Chloé for my efforts.

"You... You disgust me!"

 

"And right now you're not doing much for me either," Chloé shoots back,

glowering at me balefully. "Listen, Yoji..."

 

"Oh. My. God," Ken whispers faintly, finally succeeding in pushing past

Free and seeing for himself what's on the laptop's screen. "Chloé, Free...

Just what the fuck is this, huh? Your idea of some sort of warped joke or

something?"

 

"However did you guess?" Chloé snaps, giving both Ken and myself a disgusted

look. "I mean, absolutely. My life's just been incomplete without having

my own copy of this... repugnant act." Pausing, his expression changes to

one of contempt and, positioning himself directly in front of the computer,

he shares a guarded, worried look with Free. "Fools."

 

"It is not either Ken or Yoji's fault that they immediately leapt to the

wrong conclusion," Free interjects in his usual, I'm beginning to think

*constantly*, calm way. "Nor is it, I am sure, something they ever wished

to be reminded of."

 

"They're not the only ones," Chloé mutters, his attention once again drawn

to the computer screen and the small window of continuously scrolling data

he's got contained within the website that's up on it. "Free, you explain.

I've got to keep watch on this."

 

"As you wish," Free replies, nodding his acceptance. "As you can see from

the website, an enterprising individual has decided to sell DVD copies of...

the Reaper's final... show. Unfortunately Yuki and Michel stumbled across

this late this afternoon while engaged in their routine search for loose

ends that we may have missed."

 

"Shit," Ken swears, banging his hands down flat on the countertop for

emphasis. "Shit, shit, shit! They weren't to know about this."

 

"No, they were not," Free murmurs, his expression changing fleetingly to one

of dismay. "As you can imagine, they were both most distressed by

seeing..."

 

"Yeah, I bet they were," Ken mutters, cutting Free off and running his

fingers through his hair, mussing it up. "Christ! What a fucking mess.

Does Aya know that they... uh... now know?"

 

"He does, yes," Free confirms. "He went to check on them while they were

still busily telling themselves that they were not seeing what it was they

thought they were..."

 

"Fuck." The word slipping out of my mouth, I meet Ken's eyes and shrug

helplessly. As good as living in denial as Aya is, there's no doubt this,

this *shame*, would have hit him hard. "Is... Is that why he isn't here

now?"

 

Clearly hesitating over replying, Free shares another look with Chloé before

giving a curt nod. "The shock of not only knowing that someone was wishing

to profit from his... misfortune... coupled with Yuki and Michel's reaction

upset him, yes."

 

"Of course it would have fucking upset him," Ken mutters drily, scowling at

the computer as, digging in the pocket of his jeans, he retrieves a set of

keys. "I take it you're creating a virus to take out the sick fucker's site

and everyone in his address book too, yeah?"

 

"You've got it in one," Chloé states, a truly malevolent smile tugging on

his lips. "This worm is designed to leave a trail of computer destruction

in its wake. Firmly being of the opinion that they've asked for it anyway,

by the time it's finished working its way through their address book and

then their hard drive, their computer will be good for nothing other than

the scrap heap."

 

"Excellent," Ken responds, the cold, thin-lipped smile crossing his face

mirroring Chloé's. "And you're right, the perverts deserve all that they

get. Hey, Yoji... Catch!"

 

"Huh?" Only just managing to react in time, I catch the keys Ken throws at

me and, raising my eyebrow, look at him inquiringly. "Um... Thanks for

these but... ah... care to tell me what I'm supposed to do with them?"

 

"You're going to use them to go and see how Aya's doing," Ken replies,

waving me towards the door. "Go on. The old fashioned brass key will get

you into the building while the shiny silver one will get you into his flat.

I could be wrong, and he *might* let you in himself, but, well, better be

safe than sorry, right?"

 

"Why do you have a key to Aya's flat?" Chloé queries, beating me to asking

him the exact same question myself and giving Ken an odd look. "More to the

point, does he *know* you've got it?"

 

"Given that there's very few places that I can't break into," Ken murmurs,

shrugging, "having a key just makes it easier when I want to go and offer

him some unsolicited and very much unwanted advice. Don't worry, Chloé. I

*don't* have a key to your rooms." Pausing, he grins brightly and starts to

move -- out of Chloé's reach -- towards the door. "I just climb through

your bedroom window when I want to get in. You've got a nice bed, by the

way. Very comfy..."

 

Looking as though he can't quite decide between crying, laughing, or

throwing up, Chloé gives a haughty, disdainful sniff but otherwise doesn't

deign to rise to Ken's baiting.

 

"Come on, Yoji!" Ken laughs, opening the door. "Someone needs to go and

remind Aya that he's not as alone as he'd perhaps like to think he is and,

as much as I'd love to do it, I've got flowers to put away."

 

"Swap you?" I murmur hopefully, wandering slowly over to join Ken. "How

about I put the flowers away and *you* go bang your head against Aya's wall

or... alternatively... his thick skull?"

 

While it's no laughing matter, and the last thing I want is for Aya to be

hurting, I just know that he isn't going to welcome my presence and that,

regardless of how much I want to be able to help him, there's an

exceptionally good chance that all that will happen is that we'll simply end

up annoying the hell out of each other.

 

"Nah. Been there and done that recently," Ken replies as we walk out onto

the street. "What's more, there's a small part of me that's still smarting

from it too. You though... Look at you. All tanned and relaxed from your

time in Spain... If you ask me it's about time you came crashing back down

to reality."

 

"I'm going to remember this," I sigh, staring down at the keys in my hand,

"mark my word on it. What you're making me do, Ken, is cruel, and you know

it."

 

"Admit it, you've missed both me *and* the sense of satisfaction that comes

with finally getting through to Aya," Ken retorts cheerfully, walking over

to the van and opening the back. "Now, shoo... Aya, whether he'll admit it

or not, needs you."

 

"Cruel," I repeat, shaking my head as I start to walk towards the brownstone

building next door to the Kitten's House. "If we end up killing each other

then it's on your head."

 

"If you two had been going to kill each other you would have done it years

ago," Ken snickers. "Assuming you survive, I'll see you later, yeah?"

 

"Yeah," I mutter, sounding as enthusiastic as I feel. "Just don't hold your

breath or anything as this might take a while."

 

Reaching the front door to the brownstone, I sigh resignedly and, after

unlocking it, walk into the cool, airy foyer. Reluctantly accepting that

procrastinating and dragging my feet isn't going to achieve anything, I

quickly bound up the stairs to Aya's second floor flat and, before nerves

get the better of me, hammer forcefully on his door.

 

"Hey, Aya! You in there?"

 

When -- surprise, sur-fucking-prise -- my shouted inquiry heralds no

response, I unlock his door and step hesitantly into his flat.

 

"Hola?" I call out, sharing one of my few words of Spanish with Aya in the

vain hope it might appeal to his better nature and circumvent him from going

straight for the jugular. "Aya?"

 

Okay. Fine. Don't answer me then. See if I care.

 

Not finding Aya in either the kitchen-living area or the bathroom, the

process of elimination points me in the direction of the bedroom and, taking

a deep breath for luck, I poke my head around the door.

 

And... Yep. Here we go.

 

Sitting on the edge of his bed, a towel and what looks to be a change of

clothes clutched to his chest, Aya looks as abjectly miserable and

devastated as it's possible to look without giving in and curling,

whimpering, into the fetal position. His eyes red and puffy, it's obvious

that he's been crying, that this shock to his system has been the equivalent

of the final, tenaciously held on to straw.

 

Regardless of the fact that I *know* what's to come isn't going to be

pleasant, looking at him, I'm suddenly glad that I'm here. That, despite

his defenses being reinforced and close to impenetrable when he's hurting

like this, really, if there's even the slightest chance that I can help him,

then, well, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

 

"Aya..." I murmur, stepping further into the room. "I know you don't

want..."

 

"How'd you get in here?" Aya interrupts hoarsely, looking up and blinking

shadowed eyes at me. "I... I locked the door for a reason."

 

"I let myself in," I reply, flashing one of my most disarming smiles at Aya

even though I know full well that I'm wasting my energy. "I *did* try

knocking, but..."

 

"Seeing as you were capable of letting yourself in, you can now turn around

and let yourself back out again," Aya mutters, dredging up the energy from

somewhere to scowl at me. "I need to get back to the shop anyway."

 

"You don't, actually," I respond, still smiling and struggling to effect a

casual -- 'hell, yeah, I know what I'm doing, not a problem' -- manner.

"Free, Chloé, and Ken have the store under control so, really, you've got

the rest of the day to yourself."

 

"I need to get back to the shop," Aya repeats, hugging his bundle of

clothing a little closer to his chest but making no actual attempt to stand

up. "It... It's Free's day off and he shouldn't have to be covering for

me."

 

"He didn't seem bothered by it to me," I reply, shrugging as I walk across

to the bed. "Mind you, I'm not quite sure *what* it would take to

bother..."

 

"Look, Yoji," Aya states flatly, cutting me off again, "no offence, but will

you please just leave me the fuck alone? I'm fine."

 

"Excuse me for thinking otherwise," I murmur, crouching down in front of Aya

and looking up at him. "Besides, if I'm not here I'll be expected to help

shift flowers around and, well, having endured four hours of deliveries with

Ken already, I'm kinda over the whole flower thing for the time being."

 

Narrowing his eyes, Aya meets my gaze reluctantly, his 'now you're *really*

annoying me' scowl intensifying. "I'm going to shower and then return to

the shop," he responds dully. "*You* can do whatever the hell you want."

 

Fine. Whatever. We'll do it his stubborn, pig headed way.

 

"I saw the website," I murmur, dropping my bombshell without preamble. "And

I also know that Yuki and Michel saw it too. If you really must know, I

also, when I saw it, leapt spectacularly to the wrong conclusion and

promptly called Chloé a sick pervert. Which, as I'm sure you can imagine,

scored me yet another black mark in his book. One more and I'll probably

end up having a rose shoved somewhere uncomfortable. But, hey..."

 

It slowly dawning on me that Aya's letting me ramble on and on without

telling me to shut up, I trail off and hesitantly place my hand on his knee.

"Aya? It... It's okay, you know," I continue softly, watching as he blinks

back silent, and no doubt in his mind, *futile*, tears. "Come on. Don't

let it get to you. Chloé and Free have probably already finished taking out

the website and..."

 

"It's *not* getting to me," Aya retorts quietly, blinking back tears and,

with a frown, staring down at my hand. "It's... It's *not*! It was weeks

ago and... and I'm fully over it. I'm just... displeased... about Yuki and

Michel having to see it, that is all."

 

"It's all right, you know, to feel bothered by it," I murmur, knowing that

I'm playing with fire here but not knowing what else to do. "Contrary to

that opinion I'm sure you subscribe to, Aya, you *are* only human and, let's

face it, what you went through was horrific. You were..."

 

Stopping myself just in time from letting slip with the dreaded 'R' word, I

change tack slightly and, squeezing my hand around Aya's knee, continue.

"Aya... You were... tortured... and, seriously, it's okay if..."

 

"No!" Aya exclaims, jerking his knee away from my hand and, his entire

posture radiating defensiveness, glaring at me. "It is not fucking okay.

What happened was... unfortunate... but it happened. Shit, as you're so

fond of saying, however, happens. I'm alive, the Reaper isn't. End of

story. I'm sorry if you think I'm in denial or whatever, but it's my life

and I don't want to talk about it. Now... Please. Just leave. When I

said I wanted you here this morning I didn't mean I wanted you in my face."

 

"Denial?" I snort, standing up and shaking my head. As exasperated as I am

by Aya's behavior, I nonetheless know that I may as well just give up now as

pushing him on the subject would only result in things getting a hell of a

lot less pretty than they already are. "Talk about an understatement. But,

fine, you win. I came to help you but, hey, if you don't want to listen to

me then that's your damn prerogative. Come on though, the least I can do

before waving the white flag and admitting defeat is run you a bath."

 

"Whatever," Aya mutters sullenly, picking aimlessly at his towel. "If it

means you leaving me alone you can do what you like."

 

"I never said I was leaving," I reply, wasting a forced grin on him as I

walk out of the bedroom and down the corridor to the bathroom. Putting the

plug in the scrupulously clean, antique claw-footed bath, I turn the taps on

before, after checking that the water temperature seems about right,

returning to the bedroom. *Why* exactly I do this isn't something I really

know the answer to. Masochism? The fact that I hate seeing Aya hurting

like this and, in a warped sort of sense, would rather let him sharpen his

claws on me than just leave him to his own devices? Love, pure and simple?

Insanity?

==========================

Past, Present... Future

~ a, gifted, Shadow Games interlude ~

by TalithaX

=========================

 

 

Walking through the bedroom door, I find Aya still sitting on the edge of

the bed, his eyes glittering this time though not with tears but what I take

to be either anger or steely determination. His -- security blanket --

bundle of clothes placed neatly on the bedside table, he appears -- oh-oh --

to be waiting for me.

 

"Hey. The bath will..."

 

"Tell me why you're so concerned, Yoji," Aya interrupts, a hint of...

contempt... coming through in his otherwise deceptively mild, disinterested

tone of voice. "Are you afraid that what happened has left me feeling...

delicate... and that now that you're here you're not going to 'get any', is

that it? Come on. You can tell me."

 

Fuck me. Being in denial is one thing, but being entirely out of his

freakin' mind is something else again.

 

"You're talking shit," I sigh, slightly taken aback by the fact that he

could even think such a thing. As wonderful as sex is, if he seriously

thinks... Oh God. Let's just not go there. "If you think I came all this

way just for a piece of your ass then you're sadly mistaken."

 

"So, what? I disgust you now, is that it?" Aya replies calmly, his *too*

composed manner bordering on being downright creepy. "Don't worry, you can

say it and I won't mind. Given that *I* wouldn't want me either, it's not

like I'd be able to blame you or hold it against you."

 

This is not happening.

 

"Of course I want you, you stupid redhead," I grind out, not knowing what to

do with my hands and settling for running them both through my hair in a

classic, nervous gesture. "That said, I'm not about to jump you now and..."

 

"Why not?" Aya queries flatly, cutting me off and patting the mattress next

to him in the most unsexy 'come hither' gesture I've ever seen. "You said I

don't have to go back to the shop and we're both here, so what's stopping

us, huh? If you want me, I'm here."

 

"With an offer like that," I mutter, striding across to the bed on legs

that, really, want to be running as fast as they can in the opposite

direction, "how could I possibly refuse?"

 

Although I don't want to be doing this -- in fact, for perhaps once in my

life sex is just about the furthest thing from my mind at this exact point

in time -- I know that if I say no Aya will take it as a personal affront

and, given his current state, that's just about the last thing I want.

Besides, maybe if we do it it'll help him.

 

Somehow.

 

Hopefully.

 

Sex, or perhaps more specifically, human contact, *can* be comforting, but,

I don't know, I'm just not sure about this. Aya, once he's set his mind on

something, will do whatever it takes to achieve his goal, and...

 

And, please don't let this be a mistake.

 

"Good," Aya murmurs coolly, kicking his shoes off and squirming back on the

mattress. "Let's do it then."

 

Yeah. Let's.

 

... Before nerves and or common sense gets the better of me.

 

Grabbing Aya by the shoulders, I push him down on the bed and, with my shoes

still on, settle myself over him, straddling his thighs. Although he allows

this passively enough, his entire body goes rigid -- and not in a good way,

either -- beneath me, and his breath catches in his throat. Clearly hell

bent on pushing ahead though, he doesn't say anything and, reaching up,

pulls my head down in order to kiss me. Our lips connecting, it's not

pleasure that floods me so much as a moment of undeniable clarity.

 

Aya doesn't want this any more than I do. He might see it as an obstacle --

or possibly even a *failing* -- that he has to overcome, and he'd definitely

let me take whatever I wanted from him, but he doesn't *want* it. In fact,

I think pushing ahead would take more from him than it would give.

 

Pulling back from the kiss, I stumble off the bed and, forcefully ignoring

how dithery I feel, shake my head. "Not like this, Aya," I murmur as,

sitting up, he looks at me through curiously blank eyes. No recrimination,

no annoyance, no... nothing. "Not like this," I repeat, for some reason

feeling the urge to fill the silence in with the sound of my own voice.

"It's not that I don't want you, as I do... Hell, I'm beginning to come to

terms with the fact I'll *always* want you and... And it's not that you

disgust me, as you don't. But, Aya... Please. I'm here for you, don't get

me wrong, but if we do this I think I'll just end up hating myself and

you... you'd still be hurting anyway and..."

 

Nodding curtly, Aya stands up and retrieves his pile of clothes from the

bedside table. "Perhaps... it is for the best," he whispers, hugging his

bundle and once again avoiding my gaze.

 

"It is, I know it is," I reply, looking at the towel in his arms and very

nearly having a fit when I realize that the bath is still filling. "Shit!

The bath! I... I'll be back!"

 

Spinning around, I bolt to the bathroom, making it just in time to see the

water start to lap at the bath's rim. "Am I good, or what?" I murmur under

my breath, turning the taps off and, after pushing my sleeve up, pulling the

plug out in order to get the water down to a more manageable level.

 

"Still prone to blowing your own trumpet, I see," Aya comments from the

doorway, his voice startling me slightly and causing me to jerk my head up.

While still hardly looking what you've call 'with it', a dim light shines in

Aya's eyes and he even finds it in himself to flash a patently forced

half-smile at me.

 

"Someone has to," I smile, putting the plug back in and straightening up.

"Now, here... Enjoy, and think happy thoughts."

 

"I told you that I was going to have a shower," Aya replies, depositing his

clothing on the vanity unit and, or so it appears to me anyway, making a

point of avoiding his reflection in the mirror that hangs above it.

 

"Have a shower then," I retort, shrugging as I make to walk out of the

bathroom. "I thought you might like a bath but, hey, it's your call."

 

"Mmm..." Aya mumbles noncommittally, watching me as I start to pull the door

closed behind me. "Yoji, you'll... still be here when I've finished?"

 

"Given that, as I said before, I've had my fun with flowers for the day,

yeah, I'll be here," I reply, carefully pulling the door shut and meandering

down to the kitchen.

 

Wanting a smoke, but not wanting to either go downstairs or risk pissing Aya

off by smoking in the middle of his flat, I open the kitchen window and

half-lean out of it. Ferreting a cigarette out of my pocket, I've barely

got it lit before the sound of the shower running reaches my ears, making me

laugh fondly. Typical, set in his ways, Aya. Although he likes baths, God

forbid he bend to my supposed will or anything. Honestly. Some things just

never change.

 

Once my cigarette has been finished -- and all the telltale signs have been

industriously cleaned up, of course -- I turn my attention to acquainting

myself with the incredibly inadequate offerings contained within Aya's

refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. No coffee. No biscuits, hell, no

snacks of any description. If I wanted a carrot or five -- what, were they

cheap in bulk or something? -- I'd be fine, but other than that... Pah.

 

One thing's for sure, if I'm going to be hanging around here then something

has to be done about Aya's food shopping habits quick smart. I mean,

fuck... As it stands I'd probably starve to death and dehydrate while he,

in his mind anyway, ate and drank perfectly adequately, if not pleasurably.

And this, needless to say, just isn't on. We need coffee, for starters,

preferably a coffee-machine as well, and beer, definitely beer. Then

there's peanuts and rice crackers and, well, some chocolate of some

description wouldn't go astray either.

 

Er...

 

Assuming, of course, that I make up my mind once and for all to stay.

 

Seeing as there's fuck all else on offer, I set about making a pot of tea --

anything to keep my mind on other things than what I'm going to do

tomorrow... and the day after that... and, yeah, the day after that too --

and have just finished when Aya strolls through the door into the living

area. Dressed in faded denim jeans and a crisp, oversized white shirt, and

with his feet bare and his hair still damp, he's so beautiful, so Goddamn

otherworldly, that he quite literally takes my breath away.

 

So damaged and closed, yet at the same time so perfect and compelling. He's

like...

 

Nothing. Aya is like nothing else on earth.

 

"Good timing," I call out, pouring the tea into two mugs and carrying them

over to the bench that separates the kitchen from the rest of the living

area. "Here. I've made you a drink."

 

"You'd better not have put sugar in it," Aya replies, taking the mug and

peering at it suspiciously. "If you have..."

 

"Not wanting to run the risk of having you chase me out of your flat," I

interrupt, picking my own mug back up and wandering across to the sofa, "no,

yours doesn't have any sugar in it. But, hey, if you don't believe me, feel

free to make your own."

 

"I suppose I can risk it," Aya murmurs, following me into the not exactly

'lived in' looking living area and clearly hesitating over where to sit.

 

Knowing -- God help us both -- how his mind works, I know what he'll be

thinking is, if he sits on the armchair he'll look as though he's avoiding

me, while sitting next to me on the sofa would probably be as good as

admitting that he's not as okay as he's trying to pretend he is. And, to

Aya, yes, this is a dilemma.

 

One that I think I know the answer to.

 

"Come sit with me," I offer, effectively putting him on the spot. "I

promise not to bite."

 

Sighing, Aya obligingly enough walks over to the sofa and takes a seat as

far away from me as he can possibly manage. Not having made it this far to

simply give up now, I rapidly reach the conclusion that throwing caution to

the winds is the way to go and, scooting up the sofa, drape my arm around

Aya's shoulders. Although he stiffens at this, the invasion of his personal

space, he makes no move to pull away and after a few, weighted, seconds,

actually relaxes against me.

 

"Don't take this however as an open invitation to talk at me," Aya murmurs

quietly, the true meaning behind his words coming through both loud and

clear.

 

... While I'll allow this, and may actually be grateful for the fact that

you're here, holding me, don't push your luck. I'm feeling fragile, and I

hate it, hate that that fucker is still capable of reaching out from beyond

the grave to touch me, but I'll be fine, I... I have to be. But, yeah, if

you want to just hold me and not pry, then... then I'm not going to stop

you...

 

"Who said anything about wanting to talk at you?" I query lightly,

tightening my grip around his shoulders as, settling himself, he closes his

free hand around my thigh. "I just want to sit here... and stare at that

spot opposite the sofa where, really, there should be a television."

 

"There are... spare... sets around," Aya replies haltingly, frowning as he

stares across at the spot I'm talking about. "If you like, I... I can get

one to put there."

 

"We'll see," I whisper, oddly touched at the ease at which he offered to

allow a television set into his flat for me. "But... Shhh... Come on,

let's just sit and drink our tea."

 

No longer feeling the pressing urge to chase away the silence with the sound

of my own voice, quietness descends on the room and, lost in our own

thoughts, we sit comfortably together as outside day gradually gives way to

night. Aya, after finishing his tea -- without complaint as to the flavor,

I might add -- dozes off, his head a remembered, comforting weight against

my shoulder. The shadowy darkness of the room, along with the sense of

peace I'm feeling, nearly sees me joining him, and my eyes are just drooping

closed as someone starts hammering forcefully on the door.

 

Waking with a start, Aya jerks his head up and, once he's got his bearings

about him, glares in the direction of the front door.

 

"Do you want me to get rid of them?" I murmur, making to stand up.

 

Stopping me by tightening his hand around my thigh, Aya shakes his head.

"Maybe they'll think we're asleep and just go away."

 

"Aya, Yoji! We know you're in there," Ken shouts, hammering a bit more on

the poor door for good measure. "So, come on, *move*. We want to come in."

 

"Or not," I mutter drily, giving Aya's hand a squeeze before clambering to

my feet and walking across to the door. "Leave it to me though, I'm sure I

can get rid of them."

 

Opening the door, I've only just had time to deduce that *everyone* -- as in

Ken, Chloé, Free, *and* Michel and Yuki, the two adolescents I haven't been

introduced to yet -- is waiting to come in before three white shopping bags

are shoved into my hands... by *someone*... and, just like that, I'm reduced

to being little more than a doorman-slash-pack-horse.

 

Nonplussed, to say the least, I kick the door shut as everyone sets about

immediately making themselves at home in Aya's flat. Ken puts the lights on

before heading, with Free and... Michel?... in tow, towards the kitchen,

while Chloé, who's carrying a high-gloss, black ceramic vase full of red and

white roses, strolls across the room in order to settle his 'gift' on the

coffee-table. The other adolescent, who I take to be Yuki because he looks

to be Japanese, makes a beeline for Aya -- who, incidentally, is sitting

bolt upright on the sofa and looking as though he's fighting shock -- and,

with a relieved sigh, sits down next to him.

 

"Come on, Yoji, we need those bags in the kitchen," Ken calls out, already

down on his hands and knees and ferreting with intent through the cupboard

under the sink for Christ knows what.

 

"Of course you do," I murmur, dutifully walking over and dumping my bags on

the bench. "Now, as... positively delightful... as it is to see you all,

what's going on, huh?"

 

"Yuki and Michel wanted to see Aya," Ken replies, pulling out a large frying

pan from the cupboard with a triumphant grin, "and, well, the rest of us

decided that we may as well come along too. I mean, we've all got to eat

and here struck us as a good a place as any to have dinner..."

 

"You do not mind, do you?" a small voice asks from behind me. "We do not

want to be a nuisance, only we wished to see Aya, and Ken said that this

would be okay."

 

Turning around... and looking down... I find Michel looking up at me, his

large pale green eyes radiating concern. "I am Michel," he continues,

extending his right hand and waiting for me to take it, "and I am very

pleased to make your acquaintance."

 

"Yoji," I reply, taking his hand and giving it a quick shake, "and I'm

pleased to meet you too. As for minding that you're here? Of course not.

I'm sure Aya's... just delighted to see you all."

 

A blinding smile banishing his worried look, Michel nods happily and,

letting go of my hand, he retreats around the bench into the kitchen.

Searching through the pile of shopping bags littering just about every

available surface, he eventually finds what he's looking for and presents me

with a can of Bud. "Ken said that this is what you like to drink, yes?"

 

"Yes," I laugh, taking the can from him and popping the tab. "Thank you.

It was very kind of you to..."

 

"I don't know how you can bring yourself to drink that sewer water myself,"

Chloé comments, giving the can a disdainful glance as he strolls into the

kitchen and helps himself to two wine glasses from a cupboard before pulling

both a bottle of Australian Riesling and a corkscrew out from a bag.

 

"You don't know what you're missing out," I retort, taking a long mouthful

of the beer and very nearly choking on it when Chloé wrinkles his nose and

pulls a face. "Ah... Chloé," I continue, feeling as though I really should

say this and that now's probably as reasonable a time as any to get it over

and done with, "about calling you a sick pervert, I'm sorry, okay?"

 

"As you should be," Chloé murmurs snootily, uncorking the bottle and pouring

out two glasses of wine. He then, the urge to continue speaking to me

clearly not exactly troubling him, picks up the glasses and, returning to

the living area, hands one to Aya.

 

The desire to flick the bird at his back being tempered by the fact I'm not

sure I really want to antagonize him, I'm saved from having to make a snap

decision by a hand closing gently around my shoulder.

 

"While, granted, it may not have sounded like it," Free states calmly,

releasing my shoulder as I turn around to look at him, "that was Chloé's way

of saying that he has already forgiven you."

 

"Thanks for translating for me," I reply, shaking my head and grinning as I

start to walk back over to the sofa. If nothing else, Aya and Ken's new

team are certainly... interesting.

 

"For those of you that don't yet know," Ken declares, still banging pots and

pans around in the kitchen like a man possessed, "we're having paella, you

know, to make Yoji feel at home after his sojourn in Spain. If this

disagrees with anyone then... well, tell someone who cares."

 

"Sounds good to me," I reply, only just slamming the brakes on in time as,

not looking where he's going, Michel, with Coke can in hand, barrels in

front of me. He then, after handing the drink to Yuki, barrels back to the

kitchen and, all the time beaming with good humor, promptly perches himself

up on the bench in order, no doubt, to keep an eye on everyone

simultaneously.

 

Despite visibly flinching at this, this affront to his stringent opinions on

hygiene, Aya doesn't say anything and I mentally congratulate him on his

restraint.

 

"How are you holding up?" I whisper, squeezing myself onto the sofa and

causing both Aya and Yuki to move up in order to accommodate me.

 

"I'm..." Pausing, Aya suddenly smiles, and it's the first genuine smile

I've seen cross his face in far too long. "I'm good," he murmurs simply.

"This is unexpected, but I'm glad that everyone's here. They're good

people, Yoji, and I'm sure that in time you'll come to see this for

yourself."

 

Just like Ken's comment this morning -- "Actually, everyone's okay and,

yeah, I think you'll like them." -- it's as though he's already accepted

that I've made up my mind to stay.

 

Interesting.

 

"Hey!" Ken exclaims, waving a blue colored Vodka Cruiser in the air and

banging his free hand down on the bench. "Now that I've got everyone's

attention, how about a toast, huh? You know, to welcome Yoji."

 

Nodding, Aya stands up and raises his glass. "Yes," he states clearly as

everyone -- even Chloé -- raises their drink in toast.

 

"To Yoji. Welcome... home."

 

And, just like that, I know that he's right.

 

That I am indeed home. It may be both a new home and one that may be in

need of constant work and effort, but, yeah, it's definitely a home.

 

One that I feel blessed to have.

 

~ end ~

 

If you liked this fiction and want to read more of TalithaX's work, check out her other Weiss Kreuz Fiction here. She has the best Side B Arc - (Yoji included) that I've yet to read. I highly recommend it

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