Whatever It Takes




// Get some lovin' you want some get some. Get some lovin' you need some get some. //


The irony of the inane lyrics being repeated ad nauseam over the pulsating dance music is, I'm quietly confident, lost on the majority of Illusion's drug fucked, vacantly happy patrons.




In a culture that exists solely for the futile pursuit of hedonistic pleasure and casual, emotionless sex?


I don't think so.


Slurring declarations of love in the ear of someone who's essentially a stranger, little more than an object to be fucked and discarded, whilst simultaneously ripping open a condom packet and scrabbling around for the lube doesn't, contrary to the belief of many, count.


Love you... You're so fucking hot... Oh, baby, you're so tight, so fucking good... Love you, love you, love you...


... Uh. What's your name again?


It's like you check both your heart and your soul in with your coat when you enter a place like this. The half-comatose, seen-it-all-before-and-then-some doorman stamps your hand and, just like that, you're immediately reduced to being little more than a body, again, an object who has one and one only purpose in life. Names and the world outside the club's four walls become meaningless, a figment of some mundane individual's drab and dreary imagination. Reality, in general, ceases to exist. War, love, famine, hate, friendship, death, faith, pain, debt - anything of any meaning is rendered instantly meaningless.


As club names go, Illusion is one of the more apt. Better than Bliss at any rate. Even the club names mean nothing though. They're all the same. Same music, same buff, half-naked bodies, same predatory glint in everyone's eyes, same heavy scent of Amyl, sex, and sweat hanging in the air. Same darkened back room that the voyeuristic and exhibitionistic alike gravitate to in order to get their cheap, numbing, thrills from.


Same neatly divided cliques and stereotypes. The users and the pushers. The fashion victims in their carefully chosen outfits that they've spent the better part of the day parading in front of the mirror and perfecting. The jaded middle-aged couple standing by the bar and surveying the crowd in search of a third cock to put some spice back into their lackluster sex life. The tourists, in both the literal sense of the word and those who, finally having raised the courage to venture into a gay bar, stand alongside the dance floor with their eyes all but popping out of their head. The old pervert who nurses one drink all night and sits in the corner surreptitiously jerking off under the table.


Same goal driving everyone. Same end result.


The night before last I went to Pagan. If not for the door stamps -- a rose entwined pentagram for Pagan, Tinkerbell for Illusion -- being different I could easily think they were one and the same. Not that it matters in the slightest. For all I care I could be anywhere. Pagan. Crystal Palace. Illusion. Fantasia. Vixens...


... Pushed up against a wall with my trousers around my ankles while some faceless, nameless stranger fucks me.


It doesn't matter.


In fact, nothing other than the fact that I'm here courtesy of my own free will matters a damn.


I'm here because I choose to be. End of story.


When he -- the stranger who views me as nothing more than a conquest, an accommodating body for him to have his way with -- crosses my path and gives me the come on, I follow him willingly. No questions asked. No names shared. We'll share our bodies but not our lives, our secrets, our true identities.


We're here for the same thing, after all. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.


No strings attached sex. Mindless and numbing sex. Sex devoid of so much as a hint of emotion. An orgasm that means nothing to no one and is forgotten about before you've even started pulling your clothes back on.


The names of the clubs change, but that's all. Everything else is almost reassuring in its consistency. I've only been frequenting the places for a little less than three weeks and already I feel as though I could write the definite guide in relation to what to expect from them.


Music - sex. Drugs - sex. Alcohol - sex.


Sex - music. Sex - drugs. Sex - alcohol.




Why pay for a whore when you can fuck yourself into oblivion for only the cost of a door fee? Cheap at half the price, really. And, should you wish to, you can even pour alcohol down your throat and dance. Bonus.


I despise it. All of it. From the stupid ultraviolet light shows and pulsating Western dance music to the over familiar hands that ghost over my body as though it's their God given right to touch me. I hate it all. The smell, the noise, the debauched behavior of men who should really know better, the man I inevitably end up with, *everything*. Hardly surprisingly, I even hate myself.


Kimura was right in his estimate of me.


I *am* a whore, my meager talents on offer to anyone who wants them. I can kill or I can fuck. Put a katana in my hand or push me to my knees. Either or. I don't care. Given that I enjoy neither activity it doesn't matter what my opinions on the subject are. Regardless of what it does to me in the process, I'll do whatever it takes to obtain the result *I* desire... The result *I've* decided *I* desire above all others. My choice. My ass. My mouth. My disintegrating heart.


My excuse for a life.


If the end result means prostituting myself to strangers to give credence to my decision then, well, so be it. If it has to be done then it has to be done. I may be a convincing liar but I can't very well just lie to myself. If I'm wanting to give the impression of indulging in a spot of boredom induced fucking around then, there's no help for it, this is where, night after night, I have to be. Besides, slinking in stinking of sex carries more weight than even the most carefully played out of lies. Actions speaking louder than words, he wouldn't believe me otherwise.


And he has to.


He has to believe me.


Although it's something I never want him finding out, I'm putting myself through this hell solely for Yohji's greater good. Knowing me -- possibly, to his detriment, better than I know myself -- too well, he'd never take my blasÈ declarations at face value and it's for him that I'm here forcing myself to gather proof. Wanting him to hate me, to realize that I'm nothing more than a weight around his neck, I'm also here to make it as easy as I possibly can for him.


Given everything he's done for me, how it's solely down to him that I'm even still here, it's...


Well, it's the very least I can do.


I may be an adept liar. I may even have perfected the art of being cold and calculating. I know in myself though that this is the only way. I can't simply tell Yohji that I'm tired of his love and that I no longer love him because I know, no matter how much effort I put into it, I wouldn't be able to sound convincing. Nor do I have it in me to successfully convey my reasons for wanting to push him away. Reaching the conclusion was hard enough in itself without actually having to give voice to it. There are times, even now that I've successfully turned myself in to little more than a common slut, that I still find myself wavering. I force myself to push ahead though. Again, I have to. My mind is made up. The further I'm capable of pushing him away the better.


While I never thought it was something I was capable of, I love Yohji with every battered and scarred emotion I have to offer. It's not enough though. Nowhere near enough. He deserves more than I could ever give him. He mightn't think it, but he does. I love him and I don't want to be having to do this, but, really, I have no other option. For his own well being he needs to give up on me. The first bullet he took -- in my name -- on my behalf was bad enough. The second however was far too close a call. My memories consisting of a myriad horrific images to choose from, it's the sight of Yohji crumbling to the ground, blood pouring out of his side, that currently holds the number one spot in my nightmares. He could have died. His love for me being so -- foolish -- great, he put my life before his and took the bullet that had my name on it.


Even as he lay bleeding in my arms I knew that he'd -- *we'd* -- made a mistake. Love makes a person do irrational, dangerous things that anyone in their sane mind wouldn't even contemplate. For me, a deadly fuck-up with questionable morals who he just happens to misguidedly love, he would have willingly sacrificed his life.




He'd do it again too. I know it.


And it just isn't something I can allow.


My hands are stained with enough blood, both innocent and deserving, without Yohji's adding to it. I didn't really care for Botan in the slightest yet to this day I carry his death with me. If Yohji was to choose my life over his he'd be as good as hammering the final nail in my coffin anyway as I simply wouldn't be able to live with myself. I just wouldn't. My life is no more important than his and it's seriously flawed of him to think otherwise. I can live with the constant threat that hangs over all of our heads and I can deal with knowing that on any given mission -- any one of us -- Yohji may not make it back. They're just facts of life that are essentially out of my control. I can fight and I can do everything in my power to protect those who need protecting, but that's all. I can't cheat death and I sure as hell can't stop it. As clinical and unfeeling as it is, we all need to look out for ourselves first and foremost before we can even contemplate the fate of others.


It's just how it is.


Yohji watching my back over his is an accident waiting to happen. He's good, but I know that I'm better. Again, it's just how it is. I'm a survivor; someone who can look after himself whatever the situation. I'm also more -- detached -- self-absorbed. I do what I have to do because there's no other way. I hunt those that the law turns a blind eye to and I force myself to make choices that, deep down, I don't really want to have to make. After all, someone has to.


In an ideal world I wouldn't be standing here waiting for a stranger to decide that I'm his best bet for the night. No. I'd be at home, lying in the arms of -- my savior -- the only man I know I'll ever truly love.


Unfortunately, however, there's no such thing as an ideal world.


Truth be told I don't even have it in me to successfully imagine what one would possibly be like. I'm here because I want my lover to hate me. Simple, really. My own feelings don't... *can't*... enter into it. I know I'll love him to my dying days but that's my cross to bear and mine alone. Denied love is preferable to mourning yet another pointless death. For his own good Yohji has to wake up to the fact that he's better off not loving me, that I'm just not worth all the care and attention he lavishes on me. Once he's free I'm sure he'll even realize this for himself.


It hurts, but I can do it.


Having done it before, I *know* I can. Despite it having been my only reason for living for so long, I was able to let Aya-chan go without even allowing myself the closure of seeing her -- *alive* again -- laughing and smiling with my own eyes. What's more, I haven't regretted my decision for a second. Learning the sordid fate of her big brother wouldn't have helped her healing process in the slightest. Nor would have seeing for herself what he'd become. Her life, and this is something I've never once doubted, is better for my not being in it.


Yohji may never forget me but so long as he ends up believing that I no longer love him and that he's better off away from me, it will all be worth it.


It will be. I've made my mind up.


A lingering presence at my back making me turn around, I find a man staring at me expectantly. Although it's hugely irrelevant, he's attractive in a bland, instantly forgettable sort of way and I force myself to give him an encouraging smile. A little taller than me and a little heavier, he could be anyone. Yeah, whatever. Dressed in expensive looking gray suit trousers and a fitted black t-shirt emblazoned with 'FCUK London' across the chest in white, I decide both that he's most likely a businessman stuck in the city for the night and that, well, he'll do.


Quite frankly though, Kimura's doppelganger could be standing in front of me and I'd still go with him. My lack of care being so all consuming, my sex life is merely a case of first in, first served. Appearances, occupations or bank balances mean nothing and, basically, who ever comes on to me first gets the dubious honor of my company for the evening. It's that simple.


Personally, given that I don't play the game and don't dance, smile, or give any indication of looking like I comprehend the concept of a 'good time' whatsoever, I don't know why any of these men even bother to give me a second look. They do though -- go figure -- and the longest I've had to wait in any of these despicable clubs is fifteen minutes before a sucker dutifully comes along and propositions me.


Show time.


"Can I buy you a drink?" the man smiles, looking me up and down as though I was an expensive item in a store he was contemplating purchasing.


"I'm fine," I reply flatly, returning his inquiring gaze and wishing that we didn't have to go through this pointless charade of making small talk. He could simply grunt 'fuck?' at me and lewdly grab his crotch and the end result would be the same. These men can have my body but I'll be damned if I'll play their game of making puerile conversation. They don't care about me and I don't care about them. To pretend otherwise is nothing other than farcical.


Not knowing whether to take my response as a dismissal or not, the man decides to try again. "What's your name?" he queries, running his fingers nervously through his short black hair and, again, looking me up and down.


"Does it matter?" I murmur, leaning forward so as to -- feign interest -- speak directly in his ear. "If it helps you can call me whatever you want."


... Never let it be said that I'm ever anything less than the consummate professional in any and every thing that I choose do.


"I'm staying at a motel near by," the man replies, his fear of rejection giving way to a relieved, triumphant smile. "How would you feel about joining me there?"


"Lead the way," I purr, stepping back and eyeing him lazily. His smile broadens under my gaze, giving me the unwelcome impression that the poor fool probably thinks that this is his lucky night.


Honestly, they're all the same.


"My name's Toshio," he grins, grabbing my hand as though he thinks I'm going to get away and pulling me towards the exit, "in case you're at all interested. I live in Kyoto but I'm here in Tokyo to attend a business meeting. What about you?"


"Does it really matter?" I sigh, hating this part of the performance even more than the sex. The ones that want to talk are the worst. No. That's not entirely true. The ones that want to talk about their lovers that are out of town and who they're fucking around on behind their back would have to be worst. One even had a framed picture of his boyfriend on his bedside table that he felt obliged to point out to me. Refraining from telling him what little I thought of him was harder than tolerating his touch on my body. I once said to Yohji that I didn't understand the obsessive fascination with sex and -- even now -- I still don't.


When I've done it, when Yohji has written me off for the bad joke that I am, I don't particularly care if I never have sex again. I don't know. Perhaps I've got it completely and utterly wrong, but I just fail to see the point of it without there being love or at the very least genuine affection involved. God knows not one of my meaningless conquests has done a solitary thing for me other than draw out the inevitable, numbing orgasm.


"It doesn't have to matter to me if it doesn't matter to you," Toshio replies over his shoulder as we stop to retrieve our coats. "Having spent the last ten minutes raising the courage to talk to you, I can't believe you're actually coming with me and am happy to play it however you want to play it."




You're so beautiful... So hot... You could have anyone... Are you a model?... Oh baby, where have you been all my life?... If you were mine I'd never let you out of my sight...


Again, they're all so predictable in their unimaginative sameness.


"You flatter me," I murmur, flashing Toshio another forced smile as I pull my coat on and start to move towards the door. "I'm nothing special," I continue, shrugging dismissively as he joins me, the truth slipping carelessly out of my mouth before I can stop it. "Truly. I'm not."


"Well I think you're beautiful," Toshio beams, his eyes glittering appreciatively, "and I'm honored that you've decided to come with me."


"Again, you flatter me," I mutter, only just controlling the urge to flinch as Toshio links his arm around mine and gives me a gentle bump with his hip. The role I've chosen to play not giving me a choice, I tolerate his gratuitous, proprietary public display of affection and 'bump' him back. I even manage a soft, hollow laugh. Given that I don't even allow Yohji to touch me in public and would quite like to break Toshio's fingers I think, really, that I'm doing an outstanding job of remaining in character.


As usual. No change there, then.


"C'mon," Toshio declares breathlessly, tugging on my arm to hurry me up. "You're so hot that I can't wait to get you naked and into bed. I bet you're a right little wild cat between the sheets too."


Oh, please. If Toshio turns out to be one of those men who gets off on the sound of his own voice then I might just have to find a way to work a gag into the act. How having 'suck it bitch' or any of those other less than charming *commands* grunted at you is supposed to help get you in the mood is one of those things that just completely escapes me. Then again, to be perfectly honest, when it comes to sex I simply don't understand half of it. I've tried to get my head around it, hell, I've even done considerable -- literary -- research into the subject, but nothing helps.


For example, rape as a fantasy?






How could anyone actually fantasize about being raped? Not only that, but how could anyone get off on watching another person being systematically used and degraded?


Even just thinking about it is enough to make me feel sick to the stomach. Sixteen months have passed since I was rescued from Kimura and all it takes is for my arms to be held behind my back for me to break out in a cold sweat. The threat doesn't even need to be real and I still freeze, both my mind and body wanting to immediately shut down in fear. I know it's a failing, something I should take charge of and put behind me once and for all, but it's like it's a conditioned response, something I effectively have no real control over.




That's what it all boils down to. I have to be in control - *always*. These men I'm whoring myself to can use my body so long as I'm unrestrained and know that I can get away if I have to. I've thought about taking the next step and forcing myself -- just to prove that I can -- to participate in a BDSM scene but I simply can't do it. It's the one thing I just can't bring myself to do. Not even accepting that a safe word would still give me a degree of control can make me view the idea favorably. I can let strangers have my body because I want to push my lover away and I can kill in cold blood. What I can't do however is willingly, submissively, hand over control to another.


I trust Yohji with my life yet I can't trust him enough to so much as tie my wrists to the bed head. As irrational and as illogical as I know it to be, it's a lingering fear that I simply can't shake. I don't like it, and God knows it's a weakness, but I just can't help it. The thought of losing control, of not being able to stop hands from pinching and stroking me, it just...


It just terrifies me.


It's not the risk of pain, I can take that, it's more the threat of being naked and completely reliant on the mercy of another that quite literally freaks me out. As much as I'm loathe to admit it, it's my number one, perhaps my *only*, fear. The consequences being too shocking to contemplate, I'll fight to the death before I allow anyone to enslave me like that again.


"You're awfully quiet," Toshio comments, giving me a friendly nudge in the ribs. "Not having second thoughts, are you?"


Second thoughts? Christ. I doubt I'd even be capable of having a second thought if my life depended on it.


"No, of course not," I murmur, shaking my head and biting back a sigh. "I'm just thinking about what's to come, that's all."


"That's okay then," Toshio replies, flashing another happy smile at me as he falls hook, line and sinker for my tired, practiced response. "You won't regret it, I promise," he adds, his smile being replaced by a decidedly wolfish grin. "No one's ever had cause for complaint before."


"I'm sure they haven't," I respond, only just managing to sound slightly more interested in Toshio's alleged prowess than I feel. "Are we nearly there? I'm... You know..."


... Wanting to get this over and done with as quickly as is conceivably possible.


"Trust me, I *know*," Toshio growls, finally releasing my arm and, taking a step back, gesturing at the foyer of a motel that I can honestly say I've never even noticed as being here before. "Luckily we're here. Come on. We're just a short elevator ride away from..." Trailing off, he laughs throatily and, under the disinterested gaze of the elegantly dressed doorman, surreptitiously pinches my ass. "... bliss..."


Quashing the instinctive reaction of knocking him to the ground before spinning on my heels and stalking off, I echo his laugh and follow him past the doorman and into motel. God knows I don't want to, but, well, what else is new? Whatever follows won't be something I haven't already done before. Just as whatever drivel comes out of his mouth won't be something I haven't heard copious times before either.


In the realms of what I'm willing to put myself through, I've now done it all. Eighteen nights equaling twelve different men. If not for missions interfering in my plans I suspect the count would be eighteen, one a night since reaching my decision. The fact that many would class my behavior as normal isn't something I care to think about.


The first time was the hardest, the man's perfunctorily handling of my body coming as more of a shock than I would have liked. He didn't hurt me or attempt anything that I hadn't already braced myself for, but it was still... different... to what I was used to.


Since the very beginning Yohji has always treated me as though I was something exceptionally delicate that had to be handled with both extreme care and attention. God knows, given what Kimura personally ensured I was capable of taking, he didn't have to. But he did. Always. He was always thoughtful, always gentle, always letting me know in subtle ways that I was in charge, that he'd never hurt me. As experienced as he is, he never once made me feel inadequate or as though he was doing me some sort of favor by deigning to touch me. Yohji, and I honestly believe he achieved this without even really trying, never failed to make me feel special. Nor did he ever make me feel as though my limited repertoire in the bedroom wasn't enough for him.


Simple things.


All he had to do was kiss me or hug me tighter in his sleep for my world to instantly appear just that little less dark. He was even capable of making me feel clean, as though I wasn't forever tainted by what Kimura had tried his hardest to reduce me to. Most importantly, when I was with Yohji I felt loved. Sometimes, albeit all too infrequently, I even felt as though there was a chance I deserved it.




Ever formal in what I do, I'm already viewing my relationship with Yohji in the past tense. I feel as though it should help somehow, but it doesn't. For now at least, until Kritiker make up their mind as to what is to become of the train wreck that is now Weiss, I still go home to find him waiting up for me, his tired expression teetering between sadness and -- already -- defeat. He's tried talking to me, but I just brush him off with airy declarations of wanting to experiment and needing some time to myself.


... "I'm sorry if you don't like it but it's something I feel as though I have to do. Don't forget you had years of doing this and I think you've got a nerve looking down your nose at me for wanting to experience new things."


And, because he both loves me and has so thoroughly adapted to always putting my needs before his own, he accepts my lies and forces himself to put on a brave face. I want him to yell at me or try to shake me, but -- the hold I have over him being so all-powerful -- he does nothing. I'm slowly destroying our love, our *trust*... everything we've so arrogantly taken for granted for so long now... and, no doubt not wanting to upset my delicate equilibrium, Yohji is simply letting me. Knowing that he's probably making himself believe that this is just a stage I'm going through, that I'll soon come to my senses and give him back the stability he so craves, is like a constant, crushing weight hanging over my head. All I want, for everyone's sakes, is for it to just be over. Only then can the desperately needed moving forward begin.


Not knowing how long I can keep this behavior up before it starts to negatively impact on my effectiveness during missions, perhaps tonight might just be the night where everything comes to a head. If I go home and corner Yohji with the lie that he no longer does anything for me, that I've had enough of trying to pretend otherwise, maybe I'll be able to succeed in putting our relationship out of its misery.


It's definitely worth a try if nothing else.


Especially seeing as there's only so much of being pawed at and slobbered on by strangers that I can take.


Speaking of which... Clearly I need to pay more attention and not let my mind wander.


"Ah... Toshio," I mutter, backing into the waiting elevator and thankfully dislodging his mouth from the base of my throat in the process, "we're nearly to your room, yes? Surely you can wait just that little bit longer."


"Spoilsport," Toshio mock pouts, putting on a show of licking his lips. "I just wanted to know if you taste as good as you look..."


Oh God...


Don't. Please. Just, don't.


... 'Am I lickable or something?'


... 'Lickable... Desirable... Memorable... Loveable...'




I don't want to remember that time. Not now and most definitely not here. To sully a precious memory like that by bringing it into such a sordid arena is just unforgivable.




And Toshio's still dribbling on.


"And, oh yeah, baby, you are *well* lickable. I just want to..."


... 'Whether you've ever thought of them yourself, my love, you're a lot of things.'


Oh hell yeah. I'm a lot of things all right.


Whore. Killer. Clinical. Detached. Hard hearted. Manipulative. Determined.


There's even a chance I may finally be going mad. It wouldn't surprise me greatly. Perhaps it's even inevitable, the final outcome of a life gone to hell since Kritiker decided in all their wisdom to drag us away from Souzou. Sometimes I even think that Ken may already be there.


"When I've finished with you you'll be begging for more..."


That's it. I've made my mind up. Tonight it ends. Whatever it takes to get Yohji to believe I don't want him, I'll do it. If it means screaming at him to wake up to himself then so be it. I just can't keep this charade up any longer. While I'm prepared to lose Yohji I nonetheless want, not that I really have any right, to keep what few pleasant memories I have as intact and as untarnished as possible.


Although, my decision having been reached and set in stone, I could now walk away from Toshio, I won't and will see what I've started through. Illogically, to back out of our unspoken 'deal' now would be, in a sense, both cruel and unreasonable. Never having given him any reason to doubt that I'm not the same as him, a man ruled solely by his libido, going through with it is simply the easiest way of saving face. Besides, again, it's not as though it's anything new to me. Nor is it Toshio's fault that I find him and his kind obnoxious.


Apples and oranges. Swings and roundabouts.


Who knows? If my life had continued meandering along as it had been, before Takatori had an epiphany that saw the word 'scapegoat' tattooed in blood on father's forehead, perhaps I would have -- willingly -- ended up at this exact same point entirely of my own accord. Doubtful, maybe, but certainly not impossible. Although it feels like a lifetime or three ago, I was actually normal once. If I concentrate really hard I can sometimes even remember what it was like. School, looking out for my little sister, homework, friends, family... Simple, good times. Uncomplicated.


Normal is as normal does though, I suppose. The life I have now *is* normal to me. Even this, this relentless fucking of strangers, isn't completely outside of Kritiker's -- and subsequently my own -- purview. Assume the role, see the mission through, do whatever it takes, failure is not an option, the result cancels out the means. Fight. Fuck. Steal. Lie. Assume the identity. Kill. Play nice. Play dead. Play the role to perfection. Play at being a functional member of society.


Play at having no heart.


Whatever it takes.


"So, Toshio, what room number?" I murmur, flicking an invisible switch in my head and slipping back into character. "Please tell me it's close. All your talk, it's made me..."


"We're here, we're here," Toshio interrupts, his voice thick with desire as he fumbles over pulling a door pass out of his pocket. "I know they say patience is a virtue but in this case they're *so* wrong," he continues, unlocking the door and, grabbing my hand, pulling me into the room.


I've barely managed to kick the door closed before he's on me again, his hands scrabbling over my chest and shoulders, my clothing clearly running interference in whatever it is he has planned for me. "Want... you... naked..." he gasps, flashing a happy grin at me as he finally succeeds in pushing my coat off my shoulders. "Wanna see you... all of you."


The inclination to reply in kind not exactly being forthcoming, I remain silent and -- actions speaking louder than words -- reach for Toshio's t-shirt. Speed apparently being of the essence, he bats my hands away and yanks the t-shirt over his head, throwing it carelessly on the floor before swiftly reaching for the buttons on my shirt.


"So, my beautiful, nameless one, what can I do for you?" Toshio murmurs breathily in my ear. "What do you like?"


What -- little -- I like not being something Toshio could ever give me, I give a wan smile and shrug. "I like whatever you like," I reply, mustering the energy required to feign an appreciative glance at his torso. "So, you tell me what I can do for you."


His hands stilling on the final button of my shirt, Toshio cocks his head to one side and peers at me, a hint of suspicion flickering across his flushed face. "If you... ah... charge, do you mind if I pay now, before things go any further," he states matter-of-factly. "I don't care. Hell, you name a price and I'll gladly pay it. I'd just like to know now, that's all."


Damn. So much for believing my own publicity in regards to my acting abilities.


"I'm free for the taking," I murmur, swatting his hand away and, undoing the last button, shrugging out of my shirt. "I'm merely..." Pausing, I sigh theatrically and hook my thumbs in the belt loops of my leather trousers. "... obliging..."


Nodding mutely, Toshio's eyes widen at the sight of the scarring on my waist. "Wow..."


Don't tell me, let me guess, you used to be a goth but you're all right now... Cool... Surely that's not a name?... That's... ah... different... Hey, wanna see the scar from where I fell off my bike when I was seven?


Come on, Toshio. Pass comment, fuck me, get it over and done with.


Whatever it takes.


I can do this.




The sound of Toshio's truly inspired snoring assuring me that he's passed out in a state of post-coital, orgasmic bliss, I wriggle out from beneath the dead weight of his arm flung over my chest and swing my legs over the edge of the mattress. He mumbles something in his sleep but doesn't wake. For no other reason than I don't want the chill of the air-conditioning waking him, I pull the comforter up over Toshio before picking up my clothes and slipping into the bathroom.


While I'd like nothing more than to have a shower, I know that I can't, that I have to carry the stench of his spilt desire home on me. My skin crawls as I pull my clothes on but, yet again, it's nothing I haven't experienced before. Same old, same old. Toshio was no better or worse than any of the others but I still resent the lingering memory of his touch. In particular, although the detached part of me views it as unmistakable proof, a slap in the face that can be neither missed nor dismissed, I resent the rapidly blossoming love bite Toshio felt compelled to suck into the side of the throat. I could have stopped him. Of course. I didn't though. I just, even as he sucked at my neck and rubbed his erection against my hip like an over eager dog, lay there planning my next move. Quite frankly, for all I was interested in Toshio's ministrations I could have just as easily been lying on my bed back at the apartment, writing a shopping list in my head.


In a way I feel sorry both for Toshio and for having used him. I have no doubt that he's happy with his side of the deal, but still... To him we used each other to fulfill a mutual need while to me he was nothing more than the last in a long line of stepping stones that I've walked all over in the name of my goal. I may not know him but I'm sure that he deserves better.


Dressed, I make the mistake of pausing to look in the mirror. The reflection that stares back at me is that of a hollow eyed, lank haired -- fucked, literally -- stranger. Writers and poets wax lyrical about pale skin being a thing of beauty but all I look is sick, my paleness succeeding only in making me appear washed out and wan. I know that the lighting in motel bathrooms is notoriously harsh but even taking that into consideration I still look ill, like someone who's been out of it for so long that they've forgotten what it's like to live. Having intentionally left my shirt half unbuttoned to show it off, Toshio's love bite stands out starkly against the whiteness of my flesh and only serves to add to my ghoulish appearance. With my ghostly pallor, black clothes and now my bruised throat, I give the impression of harboring delusions of wanting to be a vampire. How Toshio or any of the men before him found me beautiful is quite seriously beyond me. What I'm staring at is more to be avoided and perhaps pitied than desired.


Shaking my head, I turn the light off and walk out of the bathroom. Sprawled across the mattress and still snoring, Toshio remains dead to the world. Pausing by the door, I look at him and feel nothing. So long as my punters were all of the vanilla persuasion, there's just no help for it, I really could make it as a whore. Suck, fuck, leave. Then again, for all I know this, this *nothingness*, could be just how everyone feels as they walk away from a one-night-stand.


Silently wishing Toshio a happy life, I leave the room, carefully making sure that the door is shut firm behind me before starting to walk towards the elevator. A well-dressed, elderly woman walking down the corridor shoots me a disapproving look and makes 'tsking' sounds under her breath. Shamed by her open censure -- 'the filthy, perverted, idle youth of today' -- I find that I can't look her in the eye and bow my head. Having no one to blame for this state of affairs other than myself, the old lady's reaction shouldn't bother me but it does. First impressions holding so much weight, she only had to look at me to know instinctively that I'm bad news.


Deciding to give the elevator a miss for fear of being trapped in a confined space with others who might feel compelled to peer down their noses at me, I take the stairs and hurry out of the motel. The doorman smirks as he holds the door open for me and it takes a concentrated effort to ignore him. Like the old woman, it's clear what he thinks of me. Tonight for some reason I'm keenly aware of the wanton picture I must paint and I hate it. I know the reasons behind what I'm putting myself through but those who are stereotyping me wouldn't have a clue. To them I'm just, for the want of a better description, common.


I doubt I could crawl further backwards if I tried.




My only hope is that I *have* crawled as far back as I have to go to achieve my aim. If I haven't then I honestly don't know where I can go to from this point.


Then again, whatever it takes. If I have to keep crawling away from everything I've ever loved and wanted until I'm so far in the dark that I can no longer see so much as hint of light then -- for the greater good -- so be it.


Whatever it takes.




Parking the car in the garage, I note with no real degree of surprise that Ken's bike isn't in its designated spot and, not for the first time, wonder just where it is that he goes every night. We've lived in this dump for a little over three weeks now and I don't think Ken has spent a single night here. If there's a mission he hangs around just long enough to do his bit before simply shooting through. I've thought about activating the GPS on his bike or perhaps even following him but so far, too intent on my own sick game of night clubbing it and fucking around, I haven't gotten around to doing either. Looking worse for wear and as though he's chewed through a few more inches of his tether, he reappears by mid morning at the latest and, well, that's just it. He doesn't volunteer any information and we don't ask.


If Omi knows anything about Ken's nocturnal disappearing act then, like just about everything these days, he's keeping it to himself. I once thought that their relationship would withstand just about everything, that their love for each other was strong enough to keep them together through anything the world could throw at them, but it looks like I was wrong. I suspect, if anything, they now talk even less than Yohji and I do. Like too many things, remembering what they used to have together actually carries its own twinge of physical pain.


As for Yohji's opinions on the subject... Well, having other things to worry about, I seriously don't think he even cares one way or the other whether Ken's around or not.


For reasons as varied as how we came to be thrown together in the first place, Weiss are disintegrating at the seams. Although Kritiker refuse to admit it, their decision to take us from Souzou and put us on the road like some sort of traveling freak show was really, to my way of thinking anyway, the beginning of the end. Maybe we *didn't* deserve the happiness and maybe we *were* becoming complacent (although I failed to ever see any proof of this myself), but I still think Kritiker made a mistake. Quite a considerable one at that. They could have redeemed themselves slightly by letting us return to Souzou -- to lick our wounds and regroup -- after we'd done everything and more that had been asked of us, but no. Given that it's currently doubling as a convalescent home for injured or stressed out Kritiker agents, I find it almost ironic that our request to return, even if for only a week or two, was denied. God knows it's not like we wouldn't have fitted right in.


If we happen to be part of some bigger picture that we're being kept in the dark about then I seriously think Kritiker need to stop playing their cards so close to their chest before it's too late. We may be all but owned by the agency but, contrary to the opinion of some members of the Kritiker hierarchy, they don't control us. Not completely at any rate. While we may very rarely show it, we're still capable of both independent thought and action. And, right now, given how empty and directionless we're all feeling, simply leaving us to our own devices is just about the worst thing Kritiker could possibly have done.


I think... No. I *know* that they have to be up to something, that the reason we're currently in limbo is because they're not quite ready for us yet. Singapura has been recalled to Germany for the time being and, because Manx is hardly ever around, there's not even anyone we can turn to for a straight answer. On top of everything else, it's enough to send my frustration levels skyrocketing. Whatever they've got up their sleeve I wish they'd just hit us with it and put us out of our collective misery. Given the stagnant state of our current existence I very much doubt it could be any worse than what it is they're already putting us through. That said, craving the change, I don't really care what the assignment -- *when* they deign to give it to us -- turns out to be.


Just about anything would have to be better than this.


For the first time Kritiker haven't bothered to give us a cover, a day job to wile away the hours before melting into the darkness and hunting the unlucky 'dark beast' whose card has been marked by a, hopefully altruistic, higher body. No flower shop, no garden and no cramped and claustrophobic van. Hell, no flowers period. While I never thought this would be the case, I miss them. The flowers that is, not the repellent van. If I ever have to step foot in a motor home again then it'll still be too soon.


Four people, regardless of what they've been through together and how they feel about each other, simply shouldn't be made to live in a barely glorified doghouse on wheels. They just shouldn't. While the van may not have caused our problems nor did it exactly help them. Offering little in the way of privacy and personal space, I have to profess to being slightly surprised that we managed to survive it as well as we did. We argued a lot though, about petty things that held no meaning and that we'd always been able to brush aside in the past. Ken hated Yohji's smoking. Yohji hated there being only one television set and Ken's insistence that, if there was a game of soccer on somewhere, *anywhere*, he had to watch it. I hated, amongst a myriad other, equally as meaningless things, the sound of the television set *and* the sound of Omi tapping away on the computer keyboard for all hours of the night. Omi in turn hated how tetchy we were all becoming and, wanting to keep out of everyone's way in case he inadvertently pushed buttons, turned his attention more and more frequently to the computer.


The longer the road back to Tokyo got, and the more Kritiker extended the 'tour', the harder it all became. By the time we were finally allowed to wave the despicable vehicle goodbye we'd have been lucky if we'd been managing three hours of sleep a night between us, the nightmares caused -- amongst other things -- by our mock battle to the death plaguing and destroying everyone's rest.


It not being something I particularly wanted to keep count of, I have no idea how many nights Ken and I steadfastly ignored each other's presence while, scrunched in too small bunks, we tried to soothe away our lover's nightmares, their remembered pain. Even now, four months on, the nightmares still haunt them, their cries, plaintive for Omi and panicked for Yohji, ringing out through the apartment on a far too frequent a basis. Not that I think either of them sleep much. Even Yohji, despite there being no reason to, is up in the early hours of the morning now, the need for his dual addictions of caffeine and nicotine being greater than that of his need for sleep. As for Ken, if he sleeps at all, which logic dictates he has to, then, well, he simply has to be doing it somewhere else. Where that somewhere might be however is anyone's guess.


Again, there's really no other way of looking at it other than that we're disintegrating. The only thing that's keeping a tenuous hold on Weiss still barely functioning as a team are our missions. Only in order to kill