“You know him?” Sister Hisa asked the reasonable question. Yoji couldn’t give her a reasonable answer. Yoji couldn’t make his thoughts form a coherent whole without some effort. Just like it took effort to tear his eyes away from that damned stunning face on the clinic table.
“No.” He finally said, making himself turn away, bringing a hand up to rub at a neck gone achy and sore. Tense. Muscles hard as rock from stress he hadn’t even seen coming. His head was starting to hurt, maybe from reaction setting in finally from the excitement of the night.
“Did you tell him your name?” she asked.
He shook his head and the sister frowned. She didn’t push. She never pushed and it always made Yoji speak more than he might have intended.
“I dunno, maybe – – maybe there’s something sorta familiar about him.”
Something familiar that hit him to the core of his being, yet was undefined and distant. Those eyes . . . hadn’t he dreamed very recently about those eyes floating above lips that had been wrapped most pleasantly around his cock? Oh, god.
Yoji shuddered and leaned over the sink, the headache progressing to very slight nausea. It was coincidence. It was just him making too many half assed assumptions about things he knew absolutely nothing about. And he had other things to worry about, like men with guns and no hesitation about using them trailing him here and bringing sister Hisa trouble she didn’t need and couldn’t handle. He didn’t trust that they hadn’t caught a glimpse of him wrestling their victim into the backseat of a cab. He didn’t trust that the cabby would keep his mouth shut or that anyone would believe the story about the bar fight. There had been a lot of blood.
He swallowed three Tylenol with water and tromped upstairs to wash off the blood with a quick shower. Sister Hisa took his clothes and those they’d taken from their patient downstairs to soak in solution that would hopefully dissolve most of the red. He followed her down, uncomfortable being upstairs alone with a stranger who knew his name, a stranger who bared an odd resemblance to the face that dominated his dreams and his nightmares.
“I’m sorry I brought him here.” He admitted. “I should have taken him to the ER. If they’d traced him there, they’d have had a lot more trouble getting to him. If they trace him here . . . less witnesses.”
“You think they will?” she turned alarmed eyes to him.
“I don’t know. They were taking a lot of effort to gun him down. They might want to tie up loose ends.”
“But – – why? It was just a nightclub, wasn’t it?”
“Maybe. There was stuff going on upstairs that wouldn’t sit well with the law. Listen, we need to get him out of plain view, in case they do come here looking.”
“And if someone does?”
“You tell the truth – – mostly.” He leaned forward and took her thin shoulders in hand. “You saw him. You fixed him best you could and he left. You sent him on his way and that’s the last you know of him.”
She stared up at him, worry clear in her eyes. Sister Hisa very likely hadn’t uttered a lie in more years than Yoji had been alive. She wasn’t happy about the prospect now. “And the man who brought him in? If they ask about you?”
He took a breath, hating to pile lie upon lie. The more untruths and the greater the chance of getting caught in it. “You didn’t know him. They left together.”
She shook her head, the frown lines deep crevices in her face. “I don’t like this. We should call the police.”
Yoji had a bad feeling about that option. It made the nausea come back. “No. I’m thinking – – no. Just a gut instinct, Sister, but lets leave them out of it.”
“He shouldn’t be left up there alone for too long.” She said, changing lanes of a sudden in her uneasiness. “He’ll be dizzy if he wakes up and if he tries to stand on his own . . .” She stared at him, waiting, which meant she wanted alone time and wanted it here in the encased shadows of the basement. Yoji nodded and retreated, unwillingly climbing the creaky stairs back to the clinic and its occupant.
He got back upstairs just in time to hear the clatter of disaster in the making. The man on the table had come to and was proving sister Hisa right as he tried to roll off the table and his legs refused to hold his weight, taking him and the small equipment cart next to him crashing towards the floor. Yoji swore under his breath and rushed forward, trying to catch cart and man before both were flat on the floor. A clenched fist sailed towards him for his efforts, but the left handed aim was off and the force behind it too weak to carry the blow through more than half way. Yoji jerked back regardless, crouched a few feet away from a damned pissed off looking redhead.
“Hey, hold on there, nobodies gonna hurt you – – -” he tried reason.
“You son of a bitch.” The curse came out hoarse and low voiced, full of so much vehemence that Yoji actually gaped in surprise that it was directed so obviously at him. Maybe the guy thought Yoji was one of the men who’d shot him. Maybe he was just delirious.
“It wasn’t me that shot you, understand – – I helped you.” Yoji leaned forward, holding out his hands in conciliatory gesture. The man hissed and lunged at him. There was very little artistry in the attack, no thought past the rage in those violet eyes, and Yoji instinctively caught the hand aiming for his face and twisted the thumb painfully backwards, effectively dropping his attacker back to the floor in the jumble of scattered medical supplies, his hand twisted sharply in Yoji’s grip. Yoji had the uneasy feeling that if he hadn’t been injured and out of his head with concussion and blood loss, subduing him would not have been quite so easy.
“Calm the hell down.” He said sharply. “I don’t want to hurt you, understand? We’re trying to help you. You were shot. Twice. Here and here.” Yoji tapped his own shoulder with his free hand, then the side of his head. “You’ve lost a helluva lot of blood and you’re probably carrying one bitch of a concussion – – so you fighting with me isn’t helping things, got it?”
Those unnerving eyes glared up at him from under half lowered lashes. The body was trembling, the hand in Yoji’s grasp shaking badly. All the color had drained from the man’s face, even the fevered flush of his cheeks and Yoji thought he just might be on the verge of fainting again. He let go his grip on the man’s hand, carefully, holding up his own once more to show his lack of violent intent.
“Trust me, we’re not gonna hurt you. We just need to know a little about you. You didn’t have any ID on you – – what’s your name? Can you tell me that?”
The eyes widened a little, confusion seeping over anger. “What?” It was a whisper barely heard and so full of honest befuddlement that Yoji felt pity for the guy. He knew very well how it felt to wake up confused and ignorant in a strange place with strange people.
“What’s your name?” Yoji asked gently. “Do you remember that?”
With the anger gone, the guy looked a lot younger and lot more vulnerable than he had a moment before. He stared up at Yoji in complete incomprehension, eyes darting around the room beyond him as if he expected pink elephants to sprout from the walls. His lids fluttered shut, body loosing the guarded tenseness of consciousness.
Shit. Yoji shook his good shoulder, trying to drag out awareness a few moments longer. The lashes trembled, gracing him with a teasing view of too damn pretty eyes.
“Stay with me. What’s your name?”
” . . . Aya.”
“No shit?” Yoji let out a huff of breath, wondering why he wasn’t more shocked. Appalled maybe, but hardly shocked that the name matched the eyes. Asuka had asked him enough times upon waking who Aya was. He’d always assumed it was a woman. It was a woman’s name and in the dreams he’d damn sure been doing the sorts of things he would do to a woman, but then again the details had never been clear. All he’d ever had were the faint ghosts of memory. Feelings of lust, satisfaction, anger . . . loss.
And then again, this could all be one big mental hoax his mind was playing on him. He hadn’t felt particularly fucked up in a while so he was probably overdue.
“What happened?” Sister Hisa stood in the doorway, mouth tight with worry, looking about as if she expected gunmen lurking in the shadows.
“You were right.” Yoji sighed. “He got up. He got dizzy. He fell down.”
“Is he all right?” She went into nurse mode, hurrying over and crouching down next to the injured man – – to Aya, and putting a hand to his cheek. He didn’t flinch, back to being blissfully unaware.
“Yeah. He’s a little flighty. He told me his name.”
She looked at him, waiting.
“Aya. He said it was Aya. Odd name for a guy. Go figure.”
She kept staring, putting pieces together that Yoji would have just as soon left jumbled until he could begin to sort them himself.
“He knows you?” She finally suggested, tentatively.
“Maybe.” He admitted, folding his hands on his thighs, shoulders slumping in weariness. He was tired. He’d been up all damned day and spent the night doing things an honest man ought not be about. He didn’t want to think about the content of his dreams come to life in an unexpected package. A damned pretty package, but male all the same. He didn’t want to think about the fact that despite all that, he wasn’t repulsed. That before he’d even guessed, he’d looked at this man and considered things a normal, heterosexual male just didn’t contemplate. And maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t the first time such thoughts had crossed his mind, he’d just been too immersed in the life he’d wanted to make with Asuka to admit them, much less dwell upon them.
“If he does, its all a blank to me, Hisa. Let’s get him up, and while we’re at it, might as well get him under wraps.”
“Where?” she asked and Yoji dropped his head and groaned. There was the sister’s room and the few beds she had on the second floor that she offered as shelter to those in need and there was the third floor with its mostly unfinished rooms and its one working bath and Yoji’s own personal space. He really didn’t trust Sister Hisa alone on the second floor with a stranger, no matter how familiar his name or the glitter of his eyes.
“Third floor. My room where I can keep an eye on him.”
She let her eyes roam ceilingward, not looking forward to getting Aya up two flights of stairs.
“We need to wake him up again.” Yoji declared, and silently hoped if they managed to achieve that, that he didn’t go psycho again.
He didn’t, though even half conscious the help he rendered was marginal. Sister Hisa was no lightweight though, and shored up her share of the weight under Aya’s good shoulder, while Yoji wrapped an arm about his waist and tried to go as gentle as he could on the other injured side. It had to hurt like hell, but Aya didn’t make a sound of protest. They got him upstairs and onto Yoji’s bed.
“Just hold on a sec while I go and get the cot.” Yoji said breathlessly, having no intention of giving up his nice soft bed.
“You do that,” Sister Hisa was arranging Aya’s limbs in a suspiciously permanent position on Yoji’s bed. “You’ll need to stay close by tonight. Try to wake him every hour for the rest of the night, until we’re sure this concussion doesn’t turn into something more serious. Sometimes it takes hours for cerebral swelling to reach its worst.”
Yoji paused in the doorway, scowling. “Then its better he sleep on the cot. I know for a fact that its damned hard to get a good night’s sleep on that.”
The sister arched a brow at him, stern disappointment in the lines of her mouth. “Be generous, Yoji.”
He swore under his breath, damned and determined not to feel guilty over wanting his own bed. It wasn’t like an unconscious man would notice the difference.
“I thought I was being generous dragging his ass back here.” He grumbled, stalking out into the hall to pull the army cot out of the clinic’s junk room. Sister Hisa puttered around a little longer, checking to make sure her stitches had held on the trip upstairs, adjusting bandages, telling Yoji that if their patient woke up complaining of pain to wake her and she’d get something a little stronger than Tylenol out of the locked medicine cabinet. Yoji looked banefully at the narrow army cot and thought that after a night of sleeping on that, he’d probably need some of the same.
When she’d gone, Yoji waited until the creaking sound of her descent had faded before checking on the gun he’d taken from Aya in the alley. It was safely where he’d stashed it. He wanted it within reach, but certainly not within plain sight, should Aya awake in the night with more of the same angry, offensive attitude he’d already exhibited. Had Aya simply been dazed and defensive, reacting blindly to pain in a sheerly animalistic fashion, or had it been something else entirely?
“Where is this?”
Yoji started from the doctoring of the cot, not expecting the whispered question, not expecting Aya to be awake. Looking over at him, he hardly seemed that way, lashes resting against his cheeks, body lax and limp, but his lips were trembling a little and the fingertips of one hand that sister Hisa had laid across his chest scratching just a little at the layer of bandages she’d wound around his shoulder.
Yoji took a breath, spooked. By so many things. Not knowing how to bridge the subject to this person he’d stumbled upon of names known and faces seen in dreams. So he answered the practical question instead.
“In a clinic. Well, top floor of the clinic my landlady runs, which is where I live. She patched you up. Dug a bullet out of your shoulder.” He was running on. He knew he was, but nerves made his mouth run like water. He stopped when Aya didn’t respond and figured he’d drifted back into unconsciousness.
He leaned over to get the second best pillow off his bed and hesitated, looking down at the pale, perfect face on his best pillow. He had been right, the hair had lightened to a near red when dry, but a dark enough shade to make the skin seem all the paler and the bandage a stark slash of white against it. So damned gorgeous.
Yoji shook his head, annoyed at the direction his thoughts were flowing. Embarrassed over it. He tossed the pillow onto the cot and flopped down angrily, making the legs creak. As tired as he was, he doubted he’d get much rest tonight. He lay on his back, staring at the spiderweb cracks in the ceiling plaster, trying to force some shred of memory with an effort that he hadn’t put forth in longer than he cared to admit. For so damned long it just hadn’t seemed to matter. For so damned long he hadn’t thought about all the things he might have been and might have had, distracted by the here and now of the present. It didn’t work any better now than it had then. They’d told him, all those doctors in the hospital, that if and when his memory came back, it would do it on its own time. Asuka had reinforced that time and again when he’d stress over it too long. Hell, maybe she’d just as soon have had him not remember. Maybe she’d been afraid of what it would mean for them if he did have a life and friends and family somewhere waiting. Little had she known that it wouldn’t even take the discovery of some old love to break them apart. All it had really took was a dissatisfaction that to this day, Yoji couldn’t quite put his finger on.
He tossed about on the cot, never able to find a comfortable position. He might have dozed fitfully for a while, before his bladder woke him and he rose stiffly to relieve it. He figured he ought to follow sister Hisa’s orders while he was up and see if he couldn’t rouse Aya.
He laid his hand on the good shoulder, on skin smooth and soft and fever hot. The muscle underneath was hard and solid, creating a sinful combination of textile allure. Yoji snatched his hand away, feeling vaguely amoral. He swallowed and called out instead.
“Aya? You need to wake up for a moment, hear? C’mon, can you hear me?” Please hear, because touching him was just to damned disturbing.
The eye lashes trembled. In the near dark of the streetlight coming in from the window, the violet of his eyes was murky and dark. The painful incomprehension was still clear to see. He looked up at Yoji with drawn brows, the wheels behind his eyes turning frantically as he tried to make sense of the situation.
“Yoji . . . what happened?” His voice was a little slurred, as if he were drunk.
There it was again, his name, spoken with sure familiarity, even though he thought Aya was tottering on the verge of delirium.
“I told you. Don’t you remember?”
Aya’s hand snaked out, quicker than Yoji would have thought possible in his condition, and caught Yoji’s wrist. Not a painful grip by any means, but more of a desperate one.
“Yoji, where . . .?”
“Told you that, too. At a clinic. In Kyoto.” He added that last, just in case that ‘where’ was a little more clueless than it seemed. “You were shot, remember? At a nightclub. Jumped out a window . . .? Any of that ringing bells?”
Aya’s fingers loosened, eyes shifting away from Yoji to the blankness of the wall, brows beetling just a little as he sifted through that information. Yoji caught the glimmer of expression as comprehension dawned., as scattered facts linked together to form a comprehensive whole.
Yoji backed the few steps to the cot, sitting down on its edge, legs a little shaky as he contemplated asking the important question. He’d been waiting almost two years for somebody to come along and help fill in the blanks, so it made no sense to be so damned frightened to utter the words. He took a breath and said them.
“Soooo – – you know my name. Do we know each other?”
He thought Aya flinched a little. His head turned marginally and for as long as he lay there in silence, it was as likely he’d passed back out as it was he was staring at Yoji from under his lashes.
“You don’t remember?” There was hesitation in the question and a certain degree of mistrust.
“Umm. Me and faces, ya know?” Yoji shrugged, smiling to make light of it, but it sounded flat to his own ears, so he shook his head, smile faltering and admitted. “I’m not real up on past history. I had an accident, I guess close to two years ago and woke up without a clue. Clean slate, so to speak.”
“I dunno. Just woke up in a hospital one day. They didn’t know either.”
“You know, you’re damned good at evading my questions with one’s of your own.”
Aya didn’t utter a sound, silently staring at him, face gone carefully neutral. Yoji let out a frustrated breath and said. “Outside of Tokyo in Funabashi. Now would you answer my question?”
But Aya had stopped paying him heed, eyes narrowed in sudden speculation, fingers curled into a fist on his chest. Whatever was going on behind his eyes, it wasn’t nice, Yoji thought.
“That son of a bitch.” Aya whispered. “That little lying son of a bitch.”
“Who?” Yoji asked and Aya’s eyes snapped back to him, widening momentarily with an array of naked emotion. Dismay fading to uncertainty fading to the shuttered wariness that he’d started with.
“No one’s a son of a bitch? So, you just utter curses at random? Suffering from a little case of Tourette’s syndrome, are you?”
The good arm came up, covering his eyes and beneath it, a mouth generous in the laxness of sleep tightened to a thin line of anger or pain. It was likely a good deal of the latter, considering.
“You hurting?” Yoji ventured. “I can get you something for the pain?”
“No.” It was barely a spoken word, just a movement of Aya’s lips beneath his arm.
“Oh?” Yoji felt just a little attack of peevishness coming on. He’d told this man close kept facts about himself and not gotten a shred of answer to his own question. “I suppose you like pain.”
No answer. Yoji sat there, narrow eyed and indignant for a long while until he finally figured that the other man had slipped back into unconsciousness. He rose after a bit and lifted the face sheltering arm without resistance, replacing it atop Aya’s chest. There was the faint residue of moisture on the skin from where it had rested across his eyes. Pain tears, he supposed. Assuming it was anything more was unsettling.
He lay back down for a while, but trying to achieve sleep was ridiculous. It was close to dawn and his nerves were strung taut. He was pissed off and he was scared, though admitting the latter was a difficult thing. But reasonable. Perfectly reasonable when the unknown loomed over head and was uncooperative to boot.
Damned evasive bastard. Blood loss and concussion were conveniently annoying excuses to avoid being pressed for answers. He knew things – – Yoji knew he knew things – – and for some reason he wasn’t sharing. He wanted to stalk over there and strangle him, which was the only encouraging thing about the whole situation, because wanting to strangle him was a damn sight better than thinking about how pretty his eyes were, or how nice his skin felt under Yoji’s hand or god forbid connecting him to any number of the wet dreams that had graced Yoji’s sleep during the span of time he actually could remember.
Restless in his agitation, he opened the window and slipped out onto the creaky fire escape to smoke. He sat there, back against the wall, feet hanging off the edge through the rusty bars of the railing and let the nicotine calm his nerves. It took two cigarettes to do the job. He watched the gradual lightening of the sky while he sat there, but the bulky silhouettes of near by buildings hid the actual sun topping the horizon. Sister Hisa would be up soon and fixing coffee. He realized he was hungry. He’d missed supper last night and food had been the last thing on his mind once he’d stumbled across Aya.
Aya. Guess he better check on him once more before going downstairs and reporting to the sister that he’d mostly followed her directions on hourly wake up calls. He stubbed his butt out and tossed it into the ally below, then climbed back in through the window. He shook Aya’s foot through the blanket. Aya blinked up at him blearily, skin palled in the wan light of early morning.
“Good.” Yoji said shortly, stepping back. “Just checking.” He marched downstairs and into a darkened kitchen. He’d beat the sister down. Now that was a first. He spooned coffee into the machine and filled it to the brim with water, figuring he’d need a good infusion of caffeine this morning if he expected to function coherently after less than a few hours actual sleep.
He had scarfed down a cup and a half of sugared coffee and a half bowl of cereal by the time sister Hisa came down. She lifted a brow at him being there so early, before the draw of the coffee pulled her to the counter and a cup of the black stuff.
“So?” She asked, sitting down across from Yoji.
“He’s okay. I guess. Woke him up before I came down. You can go upstairs and check on him, if you want.”
“I will. Getting some juice into him will help. He lost a good deal of blood last night.”
“Knock yourself out.”
She frowned. “What’s wrong?”
What was wrong? That was a good question. Other than the fact that the possible key to his past wasn’t talking, there was that little problem about gunmen and his possible attraction to other men. He didn’t blurt all that out. He forced a grim smile and shrugged.
“He’s not being real communicative.”
“He’s been shot, dear. Twice.” She reminded him.
“Hummph.” Maybe that was an adequate excuse. Maybe. But that wasn’t the feeling he got. He didn’t think it was shock or disorientation that had kept Aya from answering what Yoji had thought to be a very simple question. There’d been wheels turning behind those eyes last night.
Sister Hisa gathered fresh bandages and supplies along with a glass of juice and saucer of fruit that she thought an injured man could tolerate and went upstairs, leaving Yoji at the kitchen table to finish the dregs of the coffee. He wanted another smoke. Three before the sun had even gotten very far from the horizon was more than he usually required. He tried to make a pack last three or four days, being not completely ignorant of the warnings Asuka and now sister Hisa preached at him about. Besides, smokes weren’t cheap and he had better things to spend his money on, a good portion of his work was practically charity, after all.
He sat for a while longer, wasting time. He wondered if he dare show his face back at Zero G. He honestly doubted he’d been seen outside the club, but he had been asking questions at the bar, and the bouncer upstairs might remember him in connection to the asshole who’s face he’d broken on the balcony. But, it was a damned popular club. A lot of people filed in and out, the lighting was dubious at best and it was his best lead. He knew for a fact that at least one of the kids had been there, so his choices in going back and ferreting out a little more information were limited. What in hell Aya had been doing there was a complete mystery that Aya wasn’t helping with. He hadn’t had Id when Yoji had made a casual search of his jacket, but sister Hisa might have made a more thorough examination when she was washing away the blood.
He rose, heading for the basement. The clothes were folded on the laundry table next to the machines. The jacket she had done what she could with, but cleaning blood stained into white leather was a difficult task. The hole in the back was surprisingly clean edged, small enough to be snug around a fingertip idly inserted. The tiny creases in the soft leather were pink veined. There was a tag inside the jacket with English lettering. The name of a tailor ship in – – London? Yoji’s grasp of written English was marginal, but he could get by. The silk shirt had a similar tag. It was sinfully soft, and hand stitched. The buttons were small, leather covered beads. Not locally made for sure and probably not locally bought, which told him nothing other than that Aya got around.
There was a little pile of belongings next to the clothing. Things Yoji hadn’t cared about in his hasty search, or hadn’t noted. A cell phone, with no numbers programmed in. An expensive money clip around a slim wad of bills. A hotel key card with the name of one of the international chains on one side. That was it. Nothing remotely helpful other than the small telling clues that said that the man upstairs had expensive taste.
He stood for a while under the single low watt bulb suspended haphazardly from the ceiling, fingering the soft textured surface of the jacket. The scent of blood had been washed free from the other clothing, but the jacket still carried the scent. That and the very faint hint of underlying sweat and subtle cologne. Familiar scent, though the name escaped him. He lifted the collar to his face, inhaling . . .
. . . and a flashflood jumble of incoherent visions assaulted him. Dark room, heat, himself pressing another body hard against a wall, his face pressed into the curve of a neck, inhaling a mixture of sweat and shampoo scent and faint cologne, clutching hard at the leg wrapped around his hip, thrusting desperately into a welcoming body . . . in a comfortable room, with the faint blur of television in the background and the surreal knowledge of other people close enough by to make the danger of leaning over and pressing his lips against the pulse below an earlobe pieced, but minus earring all the more thrilling – – violet eyes turned on him, narrowed in silent warning and the same eyes closed and fluttering in pain? pleasure? the next moment and flashing anger the next . . .
Yoji blinked, dropping the jacket, thoughts reeling numbly, knees feeling vaguely watery and weak. He stumbled back, hip hitting the edge of the washing machine and leaned there, trying to force his scattered thoughts into a cohesive whole.
“God . . . God.” He ran a shaking hand through his hair, scrunching his fingers in the length of it pulled back from his brow. Okay then, this was a new experience, the assault of visions that usually only came to him at night in his dreams. Only unlike the dreams, these images weren’t fading, weren’t growing dim and indistinct as awareness came upon him. Whether they had any basis in reality was another question. He couldn’t answer it. He was afraid to answer it, but he thought the man upstairs just might be able to.
It took a good deal of will power to get himself moving in an upward trajectory. Up the creaky stairs out of the basement, through the kitchen and to the stairs at the back of the clinic leading to the upper floors. He had a reprieve on the second floor landing when he encountered sister Hisa on the way down.
“I think he’ll be fine.” She told him. “He’ll sport a headache for a while, but its not life threatening. His biggest problem now, is making sure infection doesn’t set in and recovering from the blood loss.”
“Hnn.” Yoji fidgeted, casting dark glances upstairs.
“He asked about you.” Hisa said and Yoji swung his gaze back down to her thin face.
“Did he? What?”
“Why you were at that club last night.”
“And you told him what?”
She frowned, studying him and his no doubt unhappy expression. “You didn’t tell me to lie to him. I told him the truth. The bare bones of it anyway. That you were looking for a missing girl. Should I not have?”
Yoji honestly didn’t know the answer to that. He didn’t know what to think about Aya ferreting information out of sister Hisa instead of asking him, but he knew it pissed him off.
“I guess it doesn’t matter.” He said lightly, forcing an easy smile for her as he started up the stairs towards the third floor, leaving her behind him.
Morning sun graced the room more thoroughly than it had when he’d left. New paint and spackle hadn’t been quite enough to hide the fact that the ceiling had sagged in places over the years, and that the floor was warped from too much exposure to moisture and time. An old room, in an old building, with creaky pipes and second hand furniture. Still, for the rent he was paying, it was amazingly generous. Aya didn’t look like he belonged. Lying in Yoji’s bed, with a bandage around his head and another about his shoulder, he looked as out of place as a fine Greek statue in the midst of the slums. Why that thought crossed his mind, Yoji didn’t know, but it stopped him in his tracks at the door and made him stare with ill-concealed speculation at the man occupying his own personal space.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he whispered.
He didn’t expect an answer. He didn’t think Aya was awake enough to have heard, but as he walked into the room, opening a drawer and looking for a clean shirt to put on over a not so clean tank top, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled minutely with the sensation of being watched. He pulled out a long sleeve green print that he’d bought at a thrift shop. The cotton was soft and well worn and it felt good against the chill of the morning. He slipped it on, not bothering with the buttons and turned, leaning against the dresser. In the wan morning light, Aya’s face looked pale and almost fragile, but that might have been due to a missing pint of blood or two. It was a habit of Aya’s, Yoji thought, to take advantage of girlishly long lashes to hide the emotion in his eyes. Funny how he picked up on that with absolute surety after only being the victim of it for a handful of minutes, if you wanted to get technical and only count the time Aya had actually been conscious.
“How’s that head?” He uttered a generic question for lack of one that wouldn’t upset him when it wasn’t answered. It was like asking how the weather was, or did you see the game last night? “The sister offer you something for it?”
No answer, just that careful guarded observation. Yoji grimaced and wished for a cigarette. “You know, a little gratitude wouldn’t be out of place. I saved your ungrateful hide last night, you antisocial prick.”
The lashes lifted a little, the mouth twitched with what might have been annoyance, or amusement or pain. Yoji couldn’t translate it in his present state of agitation. Damned if Aya didn’t piss him off, which led him to wonder why he wasn’t having little visions of strangling him instead of the other uncomfortable stuff. That he could understand.
“She said you were looking for someone. Is that what you do?” Aya asked it quietly, as if Yoji hadn’t just finished bitching at him. It threw Yoji off his guard and shook his hold on the righteous anger.
“Well . . . yeah. There are a lot of people – – of kids – – that go missing and not a lot of help for those that don’t have much money to pay to find them. I do what I can.”
“Are you good at it?”
Yoji blinked. “Yes and why the hell am I answering all your questions and you won’t give me a straight answer? What were you doing at the club, armed, jumping out windows with guys trying to kill you?”
Silence for a moment, a lowering of lashes, a careful schooling of features, then, “You don’t need to know.”
Yoji glared, the fires of his banked irritation flaring back up so suddenly that he couldn’t immediately form the makings of an appropriate scathing come back.
“You don’t WANT to know.” Aya amended, as if he saw the angry gears turning and wanted to head off the outburst.
“Yoji cursed under his breath, hands forming fists at his sides. Where do you know me from?”
A longer pause, a painful one and at the end of it Aya made an attempt to get up, groaning in obvious pain but ignoring it, swinging one leg over the side of the bed and pushing himself laboriously up with his uninjured arm.
“What the fuck are you trying to do . . .”
“I have to leave. You don’t want me here.”
Yoji stared, hesitating putting his hands on Aya to keep him down. “Yeah, maybe I don’t. It still doesn’t answer my question.”
Something lay under the outward calm of that statement. Some hurt that lay under the eaves of Aya’s self-control, dusty and walled over by the fine craftsmanship of the facade built around it. Aya flashed him a look from under the fall of hair and lashes, but it didn’t last, covered by a grimace as he made it to his feet and stood there, testing out the limits of his balance.
“Maybe you don’t want to know that either.” He said when he’d assured himself his legs could hold him.
Yoji hissed. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Aya – – Play God much?”
He snapped, catching hold of Aya’s arm jerking him around to face him, but the sudden change in trajectory proved more than Aya could handle as first one knee gave way, then the other and he started to crumple. Reflex made Yoji catch him, arm about waist, Aya’s bare skin sliding down his own tank top clad chest, Aya’s face pressed to his shoulder. For a heartbeat, Aya’s good hand clutched at him, fingers curling in his shirt, almost, if one were imaginative, seeming to hug him close. Shock overcame anger and Yoji stood there, splay legged, supporting the weight that leaned into him, shivering at the harsh tickle of breath against his neck, the brush of hair on his cheek, the feel of desperate fingers at his back.
Another thump of the heart and another – – too long – – not long enough – – and then Aya seemed to regain control, hand loosening its grip on Yoji’s shirt, getting his legs under him and trying to put distance between them.
“Bathroom. I need the bathroom.” He whispered, not looking at Yoji’s face, eyes fixed on some neutral point between Yoji’s shoulders and the floor.
Yoji took a breath and nodded, keeping a hand under his arm to shore up questionable strength. He stood outside, back against the door jamb while Aya took care of business, all the while trying to calm the frustration, the anger, the disappointment, which was a better pastime by far than thinking about the solid feel of hard, lean muscles under bare skin.
After a while, the door opened and Aya leaned there, good hand against the jamb, hair a little damp from water splashed on his face. By the way he moved, slow and very, very careful, it was clear that a great deal of effort was going towards retaining dignity and being not reduced to requiring assistance to simply walk across the floor. Yoji lifted a brow, waiting, maybe even secretly hoping for strength to give out and all important dignity to be lost. But Aya made it to the bed – Yoji’s bed – and sat down. Gingerly he lifted a hand to the bandages at his shoulder, sliding them over the curve of it towards his back and wincing a little as he touched on a sore area.
“You got it out?” he asked.
“Sister Hisa did.” Yoji shrugged. “What? You want it or something?”
“I need my clothes.”
“Yeah? What for?” He felt contrary. He wanted a straight answer out of Aya even if it were for something irrelevant.
Aya looked up at him, a muscle in his jaw twitching minutely. “I want to get dressed.”
Yoji let a lazy smile touch his lips, completely false, completely smug. “Three floors down in the basement. Help yourself.” He waved a hand in the general direction of the door. Aya’s lips tightened, his eyes grew positively chilly. He took a breath and pushed himself up, all long legs and slim hips and lean swimmer’s torso. There were tiny smears of blood on the white of his briefs, which neither Yoji or sister Hisa had been willing to remove in order to wash with the rest of his clothes. He took a step towards the door and Yoji hissed and cussed under his breath, disgusted at the fact that he was getting outmaneuvered in his own apartment.
“Sit the fuck down. I’ll go get them.” He stalked out, thumping down the stairs. He heard the chatter of voices from the clinic when he reached that floor and saw that the sister already had patients waiting to be seen. Hisa was in the clinic with an old local drunk, who they saw quite frequently at the clinic, patching a gash on the man’s permanently grimy hand. She looked up and noted Yoji’s presence and he nodded, assuring her that everything was all right and to go back with what she was doing. He went down into the basement and got Aya’s belongings, hiding the shoulder holster inside the clothing so no one would see it and wonder when he passed by on the way back upstairs.
She caught him halfway up the first flight, and he paused, looking down the well at the rawboned angles of her silhouette at the bottom of the stairs..
“He wants to go.” He answered the unasked question, knowing damn well she’d seen him slip by and what he’d carried.
“In his condition? Sheer stupidity.” She never had been tactful in stating her views.
“I’ll relate that.” He said, and kept climbing. No reason to debate it with her when it wasn’t his call.
Aya was where he’d left him, back against the metal headboard, sheet pulled over his legs to ward off the chill. Yoji silently tossed the clothing on the bed at his feet, retreating afterwards to the pack of smokes on the dresser and the window cill leading to the fire escape. He tempted the wrath of sister Hisa and didn’t climb outside to light up, instead pulling his one chair close and straddling it, blowing smoke out the open window, dangling the arm holding the cigarette outside in the cool fall air.
He watched Aya pull his clothing on, pulling nicotine into his lungs fast and furious in his agitation. Find a memory. Force one out into the open whether it wanted to come or not, that didn’t involve meaningless flashes of sex or violence that might or might not have ever happened. Look at this man who damned well knew his name, who damned well had known him, regardless of what he’d admit and shake loose one of those elusive memories that had buried itself in the locked recesses of his mind because of an accident he couldn’t remember, close to two years past.
Aya was slow about it, wincing when he had to use the arm attached to the wounded shoulder. He got the pants mostly on sitting down, rising stiffly to pull them the rest of the way up and struggled with the button one handed. He got to the shirt and eyed the bullet hole with narrowed gaze before slipping it on. Yoji actually heard a little groan of protest from him as he maneuvered the one arm through the sleeve. He got two of the buttons midway up and ignored the rest. When he reached the empty shoulder holster nestled inside the jacket he paused, looking up for the first time to meet Yoji’s eyes.
“Do you have my gun?”
Honestly, for all he might remember, it could have been lost in the ally outside the club. Yoji could have lied and said that, out of spite, out of the desire to have one less gun out there in the hands of someone he knew – – deep down in his gut knew – – wouldn’t hesitate to use it.
Yoji lifted a brow at him and asked instead. “What do you need it for?”
Aya let out a breath of frustration, a hint of pain in the set of his mouth, in the way he held his body. He was tired, he hurt and he hid it damned well and still Yoji saw it and processed it and knew it for what it was.
Aya stared waiting and Yoji stared back, sucking down another lazy lung full of smoke before finally shrugging. “Answer my question and maybe I’ll remember where it is.”
“Fuck you, Yoji.” Aya hissed in exasperation, then snapped his mouth shut with an audible click of teeth, forcing a calming breath. “We worked together. A long time ago. I know your name, I know your face, I can’t tell you the story of your life. I can’t tell you what you want to know. It never mattered enough to me to find out, understand.? Now get me my damned gun and let me get the hell out of here before I bring you trouble you don’t need.”
There were more words strung together in one outburst of breath than he’d said the entire time he’d been here. And they hurt. He could have hit Yoji in the gut and achieved the same, odd lurch in his stomach and theft of breath. Cold and impatient those words and the look on his face mirrored them. The only response Yoji could think of involved arguing the point and that smacked too much of whining and begging when you got right down to it and his pride wouldn’t allow him that route. So he rose, trying very hard not to let the disappointment show and fetched Aya’s gun from the place he’d hidden it. He separated clip from gun before handing it over, a reasonable precaution which Aya noted with a raised brow, but made no comment on. Where ever he was going, he’d have other clips, unless he ran into trouble on the way there, in which case he was screwed. So be it. At the moment, Yoji wanted him gone as much as Aya seemed to want to go.
Yoji lifted a hand towards the door, a clear invitation to leave, and Aya moved that way, but he paused, hand on the jamb, not quite looking over his shoulder and said.
“Don’t go back to that club. You don’t want that sort of attention.”
God, that was laughable advice. The concern was hard to believe after what Aya had told him.
“I’ll do what I have to do.” Yoji replied stiffly and Aya did turn to look at him then.
“Fool.” Aya hissed at him, and there was anger and some small bit of desperation in his eyes and just maybe fear. “If the disappearance of the people you’re looking for had anything to do with that club or the people behind it, then you’re wasting your time.”
“Because they’re dead, understand? No maybes. And if you stick your nose in to far, you’re dead, too. Find something else to do, Yoji, this is out of your league.”