Although he was not a superstitious man, and even though May 13th, Friday,
was an especially pleasant day, Yohji at last came to the conclusion that
he was cursed and the hands of all women were set against him.
With his playboy nature and reputation with the ladies, it wasn’t a decision he came to with ease. But the evidence was mounting against him. It had been three weeks since his last date. Even longer since he’d gotten lucky. Yohji was becoming embarrassed to turn missions down on the pretext of a hot date. The sentences that spilled from his mouth were increasingly foolish, at least to his own ears. “There’s no women involved; I have no interest in the case.” It was true to his nature, but flimsy when he said it. And worse, it was ridiculous to prowl the streets in hopefulness when nothing awaited but the certainty of an empty bed at home. Yet he had his face to maintain; he couldn’t afford to lose his reputation as a ladies’ man in front of the others.
Yohji knew women. You could say he’d made them his hobby, aside from criminology. Once you had gotten in the bad graces of a woman, within the week the rest of them knew and their hearts were locked to you. Just like the ripples surging out from a dropped stone, their network was silent and incontrovertible.
What had he done to fail them in such a manner?
He propped himself on the windowsill and lit another cigarette. The window was cracked open an inch or so at the bottom, and the smoke drifting from the tip of his cigarette was drawn out into the cold air. He blew patterns on the window with his breath and drew idle words with his free hand. It was drizzling outside, a gray day that matched his mood and the cropped sweater he’d thrown on that morning. Women had abandoned him. Things could not go on this way.
Omi’s voice broke him from the partial, self-pitying reverie. He shifted, propping himself by elbows on the sill, cigarette dangling at his lip. The youngest member of Weiss stood at the head of the living room giving him the Eye, head tilted, hands askew on his slim hips. He was clad teenager-style in ripped, faded jeans cinched at the waist with a sweater, and a long-sleeved denim shirt cut sharply at the waistline had been thrown over a midriff top, baring a swatch of honey-colored skin. Yohji roused from his personal hell of introspection to admire the slender, delectable vision the boy presented.
Then thwapped himself sharply upside the mental head. What the hell was he thinking? Omi was underage. However toothsome, he was off limits.
“Hm? Omi?” he responded, flicking his cigarette out the crack in the window.
Omi’s mild eyes sparked. “Mou! Yohji-kun!” The boy was looking at him with expectancy in the set of his features.
Yohji blinked. Had he forgotten something?
“Are you going to take me, or not?”
Yohji coughed behind his hand, hiding the sudden color in his cheeks. Living as he did with his mind always *there,* all sorts of innuendo were never more than a short step away, if even. Omi’s phrasing had been unfortunate. He was too innocent for the double meaning of his words to sink in. And Yohji wasn’t above appreciating the varied charms of his Weiss members’ lean graceful bodies. He had always been big on trying everything once - more than that, if it pleased him. And as much as women did please him, he could admit that he sometimes found men equally so.
“Where to?” Yohji pasted a pleasant smile on his face, hoping to make it more of an inquiry and less the admission of his forgetfulness.
“Yohji-kuuu~un.” The boy’s tone was imploring now. “Don’t tell me you don’t remember.”
“I’m sorry, Omi. I forgot,” Yohji said, contrite. “Where was I supposed to take you?” He did regret letting Omi down, where with Aya or Ken it would be a matter of course. As was their nature, the lapse would be remembered by one or the other and reciprocated at a later date.
“You promised to take me to the mall for the opening of the new computer store,” Omi prompted, wide eyes turned on him, beginning to wobble. “I wanted to check out some new software. And they’re having a raffle. My bike is in the shop.”
Yohji felt at once like a heel and resentful of being manipulated. Omi *had* to know he was trying to twist Yohji around his little finger.
“Oi,” Yohji growled, pushing up from the sill, “don’t try a woman’s tricks on me, Omi. It’ll take more than that.” How much more, he suppressed his mind from thinking. Likewise the thought that Omi could pull off a woman’s trick without the conscious knowledge that he *was* being so manipulative. There was more innocence about Omi than any of his ersatz dates.
Omi looked startled. Then his smile flowered as Yohji kept moving, grabbing his coat and throwing it over one arm.
“Well?” Yohji paused, quirking a grin at him. “Are you coming, or not?”
By May 16th, Kudou Yohji was in love, and at harmony once more with the fickle Western goddess of love.
“Omi-kun, it’s all thanks to you,” Yohji grinned, giving the boy an affectionate tousling of his hair. Kawaii boy. Thanks to him and his trip to the computer store, he had met Hirodate Sayuri, and she had been positively enthralled by the cute Omi....so enabling Yohji to play the handsome, dashing oniisan.
Ah, he was so wicked.
But for the sake of love...
“Dou itashimashite,” Omi smiled up at him, for once not protesting the brotherly condescension of a hand on his head.
Yohji slid his hand down the silky strands of Omi’s hair, fascinated by its texture. Omi’s head tilted and as he smoothed a sidelock past one temple, the slight shift of the boy’s head combined with Yohji’s direction to turn into more of a caress than anything else. The blue eyes that met his were not startled, but more wistful than anything.
“Yohji-kun?” Omi whispered, questioning.
Green met blue, a bit surprised. Did Omi know what he was asking for? Or was he just puzzled to find Yohji touching his face like this?
“I’m sorry, Omi,” Yohji murmured ruefully, pulling away. “I didn’t mean...”
“What did you mean?” Omi interrupted, catching his fingers before he could withdraw completely.
Now the green eyes were startled. “Omi,” he pronounced, surprised.
“I’m sorry... I...” Omi flushed and turned away, letting go of his hand.
“No. It’s okay.” With careful fingers, Yohji touched that golden-brown tousle again. So soft... He’d been tired lately of women who hairsprayed and styled their hair to death. Omi’s hair was silken and clean, smelling faintly of ginger lily.
Omi turned back to him, still flushed. With tremulous eyes, he leaned into the light caress. Yohji looked at that half-parted mouth, the bottom lip full and a little pouty, and took stock of what he was doing. This was preparation for a kiss.
Yohji removed his hand immediately, feeling embarrassed. What was he doing? Messing with the kid’s head? It was true he’d been a lover of men in the past, but now...
Well, now he had Sayuri. And however tempting any of his teammates might be, it would disrupt the dynamics between comrades for him to send out signals to Omi. Or any of them. It would be a tease.
Large blue eyes took in his expression. “Yohji-kun, I’m sorry!” Omi said hurriedly, then turned and fled the room.
Yohji watched him go, chagrined, rubbing a hand against the back of his head. “I’m an ass.”
The week of May 26th, Kudou Yohji swore off of women completely. Sayuri had dumped him so hard, she had, as Omi put it, “left skid marks.”
Ken and Aya didn’t know the gory details of her humiliating public break-up, and Omi spared him by making sure they didn’t find out. He stopped flirting with the women and girls who frequented the Koneko Flower Shop and spent a lot of time scowling, instead. He cut back to a cigarette a day and that deepened his bad attitude.
Then he realized his expression was comically similar to Aya’s habitual one, and focused all of his ill will into his flower arrangements. The flowers did not giggle or simper at him and, best of all, did not scream at him in a public park, accuse him of cozening them into bed with bad intentions, and stage an exit reeking of high drama. They even accepted it with calm when he went back to smoking a quarter of a pack a day.
“Yohji-kun,” Omi approached him with a frazzled expression. “Isn’t there something that can be done?”
“About what?” Yohji looked up, cigarette dangling from his lips. He pushed up his sunglasses with one finger and slouched over the arrangement he was working on.
Omi took a breath. “Yohji-kun, what’s the name of the arrangement you’re working on?”
“ ‘Vindictive Woman under a Bloody Moon,’ ” Yohji replied without thinking. He shook his head. “Iie, it’s ‘Red Kimono at Matsuri.’”
Omi gave him a patient look. “This isn’t like you, Yohji-kun.” Then he moved off, attending to another area of shop business. His words had been so gentle that only after several minutes did he realize it was Omi’s way of a reprimand. He was affecting the shop’s productivity, and Omi had probably been covering for him by fixing his arrangements to get them into decent enough shape to sell.
Hell, he wasn’t cut out to be a florist.
Omi was right. It wasn’t like him. And Yohji had the niggling feeling that this wasn’t about Sayuri at all; that her public break-up had been the catalyst for something that had been festering in him for awhile. It was what contributed to his bad temper. Yet it was something he didn’t want to think about, not about himself, and so he worked himself into a worse mood every day. He pushed up abruptly from his stool and made his way out back, pulling out a fresh cigarette. His shaking fingers nearly had trouble while lighting it. This wasn’t just about Asuka.
He’d had a string of unsuccessful girlfriends even before Asuka had showed up. But the circumstances of Asuka’s death, crystallized so recently in the dreadful re-enactment with Maki, had closed something up within him. Analyzing himself, he could say from a shrink’s point of view he was acting under the premise that ‘perhaps all women are fragile like that; they will die and leave me alone.’ Another outlook could be, ‘I have failed them, and as a man, I am unable to have a complete relationship with a woman for that failure.’
Or, Yohji decided, it could be just that he thought about things too damned much. And maybe he just really needed a good lay.
The thought of seeking a companion merely for sex was not unfamiliar - he *had* done it before - but it wasn’t what he was looking for right now. As that thought slowly percolated, Yohji wondered what he truly was looking for.
“Did you lose something?”
“Are - ?” Yohji turned his head and it was Omi’s leggy grace moving towards him, hampered by a couple of trash bags. Had he said that out loud? “...Here. Let me help you.”
“Thanks,” Omi accepted with a shy smile, tugging with his freed hand at the baseball cap set backwards on his head.
They heaved the trash into the large bin their little shop shared with four others on the block. Omi looked up at him. “What did you lose, Yohji-kun?”
Where to start...? “It’s not what I’ve lost, Omi,” he smiled into the wide, upturned blue eyes. The boy was so beautiful. “It’s just what I haven’t found yet.”
Omi tugged at his hand. “Let’s go back inside, Yohji-kun,” he urged. As he fell into step with the taller man’s lanky strides, he craned his head up to look at him again. “We’re all looking for something, Yohji-kun. But sometimes even when you find it, you don’t realize you have.”
Such a seemingly innocent remark. Yohji felt a sensation click within him, two ragged halves pulling into completion. He grabbed Omi’s shoulder, halting him. “What did you mean by that?”
Omi’s blue-blue eyes were wide and confused. “Nani? Yohji-kun?”
Yohji’s green ones moved over his face, searching. “Forget it,” he muttered after a moment. He turned away, ready to return to the store. Whatever he’d been looking for, Omi’s face hadn’t shown any sign of it.
“Matte - ”
Omi’s fingers plucked at his sleeve, then he felt the warm line of a body pressing against his back. “Matte, Yohji-kun.”
He was startled. “Omi?”
“Just for a minute,” Omi whispered, arms tightening. “I know you don’t feel this way. But please, a little longer.”
Yohji closed his eyes, just accepting it. Whether tendered in friendship or hopes of something more, it was good just to feel another’s warmth pressing against him. It asked nothing and sought only to share. The moment lengthened until Yohji felt necessity enfold him; it was up to him to break this or take it a step further. He moved and felt Omi’s silent protest in the way the boy’s body shifted against his, gravitating closer.
He took Omi by the arms, tilted his head up, and ran a thumb along the appealing, clean line of that lower lip until Omi’s eyes opened, one winking at him until the other unveiled.
Yohji paused. He had to be sure. Anything Omi gave him must be freely offered.
Omi lifted his chin a little more, breath a wordless offering, eyes inviting with their silent depth.
Yohji bridged the gap and kissed him.
With the advent of May 28th, Kudou Yohji had his hands full with another problem entirely, and women were the furthest thing from his mind.
In the place of a dearth of women and the starvation of a heart pining for warmth, his hands - his lap - were swarming with willing sixteen-year old boy. Yohji wasn’t precisely going out of his mind with frustration. In dark corners, or when the shop was theirs, or at night they kissed and clung together and heavy caresses passed between them. Omi’s soft mouth and pliant body encouraged him to go on until his desires outstripped the line was unwilling to cross. In the moments he had to himself, Yohji made sure to spend his lust manually, so that it wouldn’t overwhelm him when he was with his boy.
Even more than the vibrant sense Omi had reawakened in him, any time they couldn’t touch, words flowed between them. They talked together the way he’d never before talked with a woman, except moments he’d shared with Asuka. He was honest to Omi without fearing his image would be marred in those upturned blue eyes.
There were problems, of course. Complications seemed to dog Yohji’s footsteps no matter what he did. Omi didn’t seem to care who knew about them - be it Weiss or the schoolgirls at the shop or a passing stranger on the street. Yohji had had to do a bit of fast talking to keep Omi from blurting it out to Ken or Aya - or even Manx. The boy’s eyes had welled with enormous potential for hurt. Simply put, Yohji was at heart a private man. His womanizing and flirting was a means to get a rise out of his teammates, and to get out of missions that disgusted him or held no interest. But the things that were truly close to his heart, he guarded jealously, unable to share.
Yohji wasn’t even sure himself why. He wanted to keep Omi as his alone; what was between them like a carpet in Snow Country untrodden. No one could judge them or look down on what was between them.
But what was between them? Yohji closed his eyes; pinched the bridge of his nose. Part of him was at peace with Omi; part of him was enflamed. But Omi was so young. He hadn’t reached his majority yet. Yohji felt guilty even touching his lips, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to spread the length of his body against Omi’s bare skin. Or from wanting to protect him from the life they all lived.
“Yohji,” the sweet alto called out, “I made tea.” The door from the back of the shop swung open and Yohji straightened his lanky body on the stool. They were stuck in the mid-morning lull. Ken had gone for takeout; Aya had vanished. Omi set cups down, poured tea, and leaned against him.
Putting his arm around the boy, Yohji turned his face against honey-brown hair. Omi always smelled good. It was nice to be alone together. Things were comfortable between them.
It scared him.
“Sales have gone up,” Omi commented, looking around the shop. “We’re entering the wedding season again.”
Yohji made a noncommittal noise and lipped the boy’s ear. Sometimes he felt like talking, sometimes not.
“Yohji,” Omi laughed, pushing at his arm. “Don’t make me spill my tea.”
“Hei, hei,” Yohji desisted. But felt like going further. There were times when he didn’t care how old Omi was and wanted to let his caresses grow rough and urgent. Right now he wanted to slip his hand into the band of the boy’s pants; play the other one over the muscles of Omi’s belly, and listen to his breath grow sharp and needy. And that scared him, too.
“Something in me wants to break away from you,” Yohji said, planting his lips in the curve of the boy’s neck to soften the words.
Omi sipped at his tea. Silence gathered between them for a moment. “You’re scared, aren’t you, Yohji-kun?” he said at last, his voice small and quiet.
Yohji nodded, slow. “I’m afraid to depend on you. And scared of how much I want you.”
Omi turned, setting his cup down, and slipped both arms around him. “...terrified of losing me...” the words drifted to him, a ragged whisper smothered by Omi’s mouth against his shirt.
“That’s right,” Yohji agreed, hugging him back fiercely. It was frightening, how thoroughly Omi understood him. Because the words Omi was speaking were his own feelings, said as if he spoke for Yohji. And he *was* afraid of losing him, to some killer or another.
Above all, he was afraid of falling for him. Because that was the point at which Yohji couldn’t take it back.
It started as merely rubbing his hand in soothing circles over Omi’s back. Omi nestled closer, his murmur a soft encouragement to Yohji’s ears. Gradually, pulling back enough for room, eyes met in silent recognition and slid closed and they began to kiss. Slow at first, capturing the feel of this moment, touching Omi in the circle of his arms, the mesh and slide of their lips electric as velvet charged. Yohji pulled the boy roughly close as his mouth explored deep, fingers splaying far down his back until they fanned over Omi’s tailbone. The boy moaned quietly, a thrum against his tongue, and wriggled closer with fingers digging into Yohji’s back.
Yohji struggled not to pull Omi against him, into his pelvis. But he cupped those perfect, rounded buttocks so near him and their teeth grated with the force.
“Ahh!” Omi arched against him, displaying the line of his throat.
Yohji nipped his way up to it, tongue tracing the exposed jugular. Thrill was coursing through him. This was dangerously close to the line. He was caught up in the pull of Omi’s warm body, his fragrant skin and sweet-tasting mouth so near and consuming him. His resolve.
“Yohji - ” Omi strained that slender body against his. Blue eyes flew open as Yohji’s erection pressed hard through his jeans against Omi’s waist. His eyes fell to half-mast again and he raised his mouth. “Yohji...”
Yohji gave himself to the wordless plea and bent his head, nudging Omi’s lips open. His hands clasped firm on that pert ass, pulling him close, eating at Omi’s mouth and pressing firm against his flat belly. He wanted badly to move his hips and begin what meant inevitable conclusion between them, demanding rhythm together.
Omi’s hands had crept under his shirt, warm against bare skin. Yohji pulled away.
“We can’t,” he shook his head.
Omi blinked. “Why not?” He moved his hands over Yohji’s back, coaxing.
Yohji’s hands loosened, moving to settle on the boy’s waist. “We can’t, Omi. Look at where we are.”
The boy turned an appealing shade of pink. “The flower shop. Gomen, Yohji-kun.” He tilted his head, an inviting look. “Maybe later?”
Yohji shook his head. “I’m sorry, Omi.”
Omi’s look turned stricken. “What do you mean?” He backed up, hands sliding from Yohji’s shirt, hurt scrawled over him. “Y-Yohji-kun... I thought...”
Quickly, he cut him off. “Omi-kun, how old are you?”
Thrown off by the shift, Omi just looked at him. “Sixteen.”
Comprehension dawned over the sweet features. “Is that all? Yohji-kun no baka!” The moment lengthened. Yohji couldn’t say anything. He *couldn’t.* Realization transformed to anger; Omi swept the teacups up and disappeared into the back of the store. “If you consider me a child, perhaps I should act like one!”
Yohji got up with a curse. He’d put his foot in it. Even though it was true, comfort - and understanding between them - was necessary.
The shop’s bell jingled as the door opened. A young woman walked into the shop, dressed smartly in a business suit with skirt and low heels. Yohji cursed again, to himself. He put on his best smile and glided forward to take care of the lady.
When the transaction was complete and Yohji hurried into the back of the shop, Omi was gone.
On May 29th, Kudou Yohji was ready to give up and admit defeat. He’d been routed, foot, horse, and castle, by his boy.
Omi was ignoring him; wouldn’t look to him, hardly spoke beyond the necessary, and hadn’t yet been caught alone with him since that time. And Yohji had certainly tried. The boy had even gone so far as to turn down two missions that Yohji had shown willingness to join.
Yohji was coming to grips with the fact that he’d made an ass of himself, and had inadvertently hurt Omi - and worse, now he didn’t know how to undo it. The boy - boy! when he’d been on missions that threatened his life, when he’d killed on those missions, and had likely lived enough for three ‘boys’ his age, how could Yohji consign him to that status? But that was what he’d done, and he had hurt Omi in the process.
Perhaps those two small numbers that made up his age didn’t have to amount to much. But that was what had held him back. In doing so, he had hurt what mattered. How truly worthless he was.
*“So....do you think I’ll ever be able to find love?”*
From that time, Ken’s words returned to him. In this place, how could they - how *dared* they? And here he was, being foolish in turning aside a chance, however slight. Omi’s reaction had been the rejection of a deeper hurt. In giving that treatment to his age, Yohji was confining him to the status of less than an equal. Not a partner or anything permanent, but a momentary comfort.
He had to make this right with Omi.
....Flowers probably wouldn’t work.
Ken paused in the act of passing by; gave him a quizzical look. “Yohji?”
“Huh?” Yohji looked up, flicking ash. A large clump fell from the cigarette; must’ve been awhile since his last drag.
“Yes, we work in a flower shop. But it’s a bit odd to daydream about it, don’t you think?” Ken’s glance was peculiar.
“Huh?” Yohji repeated, startled. Had he said that last out loud? No wonder Ken was looking at him strangely. He allowed a sheepish grin to creep over his face and rose up from his chair to grab another cup of black coffee. That was a sign he was truly troubled, if he was distracted enough to speak out loud.
Waiting for Manx to come and brief them on their latest mission was occasionally a pain in the ass. Sometimes the woman took her own sweet time about things. Aya wasn’t here yet, and Omi would show up at the last minute, eyes dropped, a hasty apology tendered with his back turned to Yohji. This was worse than any treatment he’d gotten by a woman scorned.
Yohji returned to his chair and folded himself into it, prepared to wait. Who knew how long?
“Yohji,” Ken said all at once, startling him.
His head lifted. Ash made a slow trajectory from the tip of his cigarette.
“Why don’t you just make up with Omi?” Ken asked him, leaning against the wall. “It would make getting along a lot easier.”
“Nani?” Now Yohji was slightly dumbfounded. Had things gotten so obvious, that Ken was commenting? -- No, that would be when Aya did.
“Whatever you’re done to offend him, it’s best to make up,” Ken folded his arms, giving Yohji his profile. “It’s disrupting his performance. That puts the team at risk.”
Yohji bowed his head, acknowledging the shame. He’d been so wrapped up in the effect of Omi’s hurt on *him* that he hadn’t stopped to consider the more important ripples. Above all, disrupting the team was an unforgivable thing. He was obligated to patch up this rift for that, aside from his other feelings, at once.
“Suman,” Yohji accepted responsibility. “I’ll make things right.”
“Be careful with Omi,” Ken gave him a warning eye. “He’s strong, but his feelings are strong, too.”
Yohji nodded, golden-brown hair brushing against his face to hide his eyes. It was those strong feelings that he’d wounded.
When his emotion was so concentrated on another person, this was something he couldn’t give up.
He had to make things right, not just for Weiss.
He’d felt this way before, and hadn’t recognized it. Now it was too precious to pass by. And Yohji was coming to realize that letting Omi slip through his fingertips, this tenuous thing between them unexplored, would seal up a part within him for good. The way it had been when Asuka died.
The click of high heels gave sharp report of Manx’s approach, coming down the stairs. The woman pushed aside the shadows with a flick of a switch, giving them both a cool nod and a smile. Behind her, Omi was poised, chin lifted towards Ken. He seemed ready to duck away if the slightest word escaped Yohji’s lips. The man felt a painful flush suffuse his cheeks. It was his behavior that had hurt Omi so; his fault alone that the balance of their team was in disharmony. Ken was right to take him to task.
“Aya’s not here yet?” Manx surveyed the room. “No matter. It’s a two-person job.” She popped in the tape.
After watching the briefing, Yohji leaned back on his elbows and sighed. Aya had put in a silent appearance sometime during the tape’s play, and he looked over at the closed, sharp profile of the man. This mission was certainly for only two men, and one of them needed computer expertise - Omi. The other was up to them - and Yohji had a suspicion his teammates would defer and hesitate until he’d picked up the gauntlet.
But would Omi withdraw? Or would he accept Yohji as a necessary evil of completing the mission?
“Well,” Manx broke the silence, “let me make this easier for you. Omi, we need your skills for this mission.”
The boy gave a brief nod. “Hai.”
With a click of her heels, Manx squared off and faced him. "Yohji, you'll fill the other position."
"Datte--" Omi began, and was silenced by a quick, quelling look from the woman.
"This is Persia's request," she stated, and turned to go. That itself was unusual enough to make them agree. Normally, the mission was joined by those who were willing to work it.
Omi's eyes glanced over Yohji, fleeting, a rock only skimming a still pond for fear of being swallowed. "Hai," he repeated, a slump almost taking his shoulders, before he straightened and left the room. His voice lingered, a quiet, necessary breach of his imposed silence. "Please be ready this evening, Yohji-kun."
Stung, Yohji pushed himself out of his chair. A flush reddened his cheeks, shame and a trace of anger, as he caught Ken's gaze and tore away. He knew the responsibility was his, and it was his burden to fix things. Where before it might have been possible to follow Omi with easy banter and discuss the details of the mission, now all he could do was comply and see him later. Hopefully he'd be able to fix things between them *before* they put their lives in each other's hands.
"Yosh', yosh'..." Yohji exhaled, doing his utmost to be quiet as he settled into position.
Downloading data was vital for this mission, so it was Yohji's job to cover Omi's position until he had finished. Ideally, they were supposed to get out with no one the wiser. But if necessary, he was supposed to take out anyone who threatened Omi's safety.
Yohji grinned and snapped a length of monofilament. That was just fine with him.
Under cover of night, Omi had already crept into the target's dwelling. Yohji had only found it necessary to take out *two* guards so far. A grin crept over his face. It suited him to be protective, in certain cases. If a woman were in distress, he'd act as fast -- but this was different. With Omi threatened, Yohji found himself acting almost before he'd registered the problem.
He tapped his fingers against the siding, eyes taking in the glow and flicker coming from the window below. If anyone noticed the monitor was on in that room -- no matter. The target was away, so with any luck it would be as easy as initial reconnaissance had indicated.
A cluster of lights lit up the side of the house he was pressed against and Yohji froze. Caught!? He held still; turned his head.
No. It was a string of cars, coming up the driveway. He stiffened. That could mean only one thing. The target was returning early. He and Omi had to get out; with the reinforcements of the man's bodyguards, they would have to make the subtle escape, and not risk getting caught. Another night would do just as well.
Yohji slipped around the side of the house and into the room Omi had infiltrated. The cathode glow bathed his face, making him even paler. He did not look up as Yohji came in, but his fingers went faster.
"It's an emergency," Yohji said, pained by the ignoring attitude, even in such a situation. They hadn't been able to settle matters before taking on this mission, because Omi had shown up at the last minute again.
"I'm almost done!" Omi said firmly, face drawn in tense lines.
"It doesn't matter; we have to go now!"
Omi finally looked at him -- he felt a jolt - as their eyes connected for the first time in days. His lips compressed. "I'm almost done, Yohji-kun."
Yohji suppressed an exasperated noise. Once Omi's fingers were clicking away, there was little anyone could do to interrupt the stubborn concentration that took hold of him when he was at the computer. Frustrating, and right now, deadly inconvenient. Already the blue eyes had returned to the steady glow of the screen, fingers tick-ticking over the keyboard.
"Omi. The target has returned. And neither of us can afford to be caught."
Omi's jaw tightened. "Five more minutes of download."
"Five more minutes we don't have!" Yohji snapped. "Would you want to inconvenience Ken and Aya by having them come to free us? Worse yet, some of these men are the type to shoot first and belabor the thought of questioning later."
"Four minutes and forty-eight seconds," Omi returned, refusing to look at him.
"Bakayarou!" Yohji told him in a hiss of explosive breath, swirling out of the room. If Omi was hell-bent on staying, then he could not leave. He'd do whatever he could to keep Omi safe.
He crouched in the dubious shelter of the corner of the house, eyes trained on the walk to the bedroom's outside door. There were two ways into the target's bedroom; a door from the walk that connected the living room balcony with the bedroom balcony, and the inside door. It was very insecure, but the man had surrounded himself with bodyguards. He thought he was safe.
The man usually approached his bedroom from the inside. Omi's back was to the outside door, so he'd see the man coming if he came in. It made Yohji's skin feel tight, just considering the risk Omi was putting himself in. What was he doing? Was he trying to prove a point?
No. Yohji examined the toe of his boot, stomach tight. He was doing his job. Just like any of them would've done.
A 'wheet' whizzed past his ear and thunking noises drew his attention to the side and he stared, almost absent, at the depressions of splintered wood in the siding of the house, three bullets in a row stitching close to him. Yohji threw himself to the ground. He'd been spotted. Those were silencer bullets, because there'd been no roar of gunfire. Yohji hurled himself back into the bedroom, bullets spitting at him and burying in the door instead.
"NOW, Omi!" he hissed, and the boy's startled-pale face jerked up. "I draw the line at staying past being shot at."
"They're shooting already?" Omi said in disbelief. He half-rose from his chair. "I'm not done--"
"You can finish later, or not at all," Yohji said, adamant, grasping his wrist and hauling the boy towards the inside door. With so many bodyguards outside and on the alert now, their best bet was to go into the house and surprise them. And hopefully get out somehow.
"Shitshitshitshit..." Yohji's cursing was a low-level mantra. He spoke mostly to himself. "How the hell are we going to get out of here?" At the same time, he pulled Omi towards the inner door, the boy quickly ejecting the disk and shoving it into his pocket.
"We get out through the kitchen."
"Huh?" Yohji glanced back at him. Omi's tense face was focused inward. He recalled that Omi's trapdoor brain gobbled up the blueprints of every target building before a mission. "You see an exit route?"
Omi gave him a grim smile. "Yeah. The garbage chute."
Now was no time to be fastidious. He gave Omi a tense nod and eased the inside door open. Nothing shot at him. A good sign so far. They covered each other entering the hallway, then Omi jerked his head to the right.
"I'll lead," his lips shaped the words, breath barely riding them.
Yohji opened his mouth to object and shut it. There wasn't time for debate, and only one of them knew where he was going. Unspooling a coil of monofilament wire, he followed as Omi crept through the hallways. From outside, shouts penetrated through the house walls. They definitely didn't expect them to be inside the house.
Omi froze at the bend ahead of him and a few needle darts flew through the air, deadly-sharp and unerring. They hurried on. A guard was slumped against the wall, one dart torn through his throat to forestall a last warning cry.
Yohji began to think they might get out of this unscathed, yet.
They crept into the living room. Yohji could see the kitchen just beyond.
"You see?" Omi half-turned, profile a little smug. "We're fine--"
"HEY!" A man lurched up from the couch, fumbling a gun up and pointed.
Gunfire cracked in the air. Omi's eyes went enormous. Had he been too late? NO! No, he'd known his wire wouldn't reach the man in time, to disarm or kill. He'd lunged -- Yohji stumbled. His legs wanted to buckle. Omi's face was so ghastly pale. No. No, no.
"NO!" Omi yelled. Needle-darts flew past him in a swift arc, toppling the man over. Omi was moving for him. Yokata -- he was perfectly fine. "Yohji -- oh gods -- we've got to get out of here now."
Yohji staggered again. Why did his chest feel so tight? He looked down and red flowers were blooming over his tight black tee-shirt. The world wobbled again.
He'd really liked that shirt.
Omi wedged himself under Yohji's arm and they walked stiff-legged for the kitchen, Omi mostly dragging the bigger man. "You're okay?" Yohji managed to voice, ignoring the tight band of fire encircling his whole side.
"I'm fine," Omi's face was still averted, and etched with tension. "Yohji... stupid, what a stupid thing to do!"
"But you're okay."
"This is going to hurt," Omi warned, worried face pulled tight with strain as they paused by the garbage chute. He pulled on the wide metal bar, exposing the maw of darkness that fed deep below.
Taking the strained young face in both hands, Yohji kissed him. Unhurried but quick, he tasted Omi's startled mouth with deep concentration. Then he struggled his way onto the cold metal lip of the chute as Omi held it open, and loosed himself into freefall.
His side burned. Yohji twisted to make sure his legs would impact first. Above him, Yohji could hear the quiet whimper, Omi's sole articulation of fear at such utter dark.
Darkness. Blood seeping across his skin, felt but unseen. White sparks bursting against his open -- closed? -- staring eyes.
Yohji struggled against being sucked under. He had to stay awake; he had to help Omi get them out of this.
He hit bottom and blacked out.
It was a soft call, from immeasurable distance.
He grasped after it, moving towards the voice like a sun-starved flower into light.
It was a familiar voice. Diffused light was everywhere as he sat up.
The hazy outlines of a slender shape resolved into a woman, her pretty face smiling. Yohji squinted. "Maki?" Her face was blurred. He shook his head. How could he make such a mistake? "Asuka."
She tilted her head; gave him a smile.
The call came again.
Asuka turned her head sharply, as if seeking the source of the cry. Yohji blinked in confusion. "Asuka, you weren't calling me?"
Asuka's smile was sad. He lifted a hand out to her; she shook her head, turning again and pointing. Light as moonbeams, she drifted away from the bedside.
With a start, his eyes flew open. He wasn't sitting up, after all. Yohji took a moment to realize he was lying in bed, bare chest swathed in bandages, and a golden-haired cherub with sparkling blue eyes was leaning over him, seated on the edge of his bed.
"So I *am* in heaven," he murmured, reaching for a slender thigh.
Omi swatted his hand. "Baka!" His face lit up with relief. "Birman?"
Yohji blinked at the *other* face hovering over him, and scowled with resentment. She was interrupting a Moment; didn't she see that? Women were supposed to be sensitive to things like that. Then again, Birman couldn't be noted for her sensitivity, only her marksmanship and ability to manipulate. In fact, bluntness was more her forte.
"So you're alive," Birman raised a brow. "Good for you. We might have had two useless operatives thanks to that stunt of yours."
"MY stunt!?" Yohji bellowed. "I saved--"
"You should've been more concerned with saving both your hides," Birman interrupted. "Now we're going to have to send Ken or Aya to cover Omi, thanks to the chance that was lost."
"Someone should've done better surveillance," Yohji retorted. "Who was to predict he'd come back early?"
"Actually," Birman's attitude softened, "you've made the job easier. The man Omi killed in the living room was the target. We only need to send someone into the house with all those police -- and a good cover story -- and we should be able to retrieve the data in no time."
"Well, then don't bitch at me," Yohji grumbled, settling back onto his pillow. "I'm a recuperating man."
"Next time you get an urge to dance around with bullets, think of your teammates first," Birman told him.
"How was that MY fault!?" Yohji yelled as she retreated from the room, smirking.
"Yohji-kun," Omi placed a hand on his arm and he forgot Birman instantly. The blue eyes were clear and sorrowful. "Suman ne. It was my fault you got hurt. Birman just blamed you because--"
"Yare, yare," Yohji grinned up at him. "Don't even think about it. The only thing in my mind was making sure you were okay."
Tears welled up in the boy's eyes. "But I've been so awful to you."
"Yeah, and I've been stupid," Yohji reached up to touch him. Omi grabbed at his hand. "We can both forgive it, can't we?"
Omi's expression wavered and resolved into a watery smile. "Un!" He nodded several times. "I -- Yohji, I'm so sorry. It doesn't matter if we don't...I mean, I don't mind if we just..."
"Hey," Yohji interrupted him, "I said I'd been stupid, didn't I? I treated you like a kid even when I didn't want to. I thought I was being considerate but I was just hurting you."
Omi looked at him uncertainly.
Yohji shifted. "I'd sit up to kiss you, but my side hurts like hell."
His smile was a riotous blossom. "Yohji-kun!" He leaned over, braced above Yohji by the thinnest of margins, and pressed their lips together with enthusiasm.
"Mmm." Yohji slipped an arm around the boyish angel. There was still a vagueness of unreality about this whole scene that made him crush Omi close, exploring his mouth with a detail that would recall it even if he broke free of the dream. Omi made an eager noise and his tongue brushed back, pressing into Yohji's mouth with rhythm.
Yohji's side flared a protest as he shifted, intending to caress Omi with more seriousness. He must've made a muffled noise, because Omi broke away with his blue eyes dilated, breath coming faster.
"Gomen!" Omi apologized again. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
"Oh, hurt me more," Yohji leered.
Omi's cheeks went red and he twisted away. "Yohji-kun!"
"Not that I don't want to," Yohji mused, "but we'd have to be awfully creative to be capable without disturbing the wound."
"Yohji!" Omi gurgled.
Yohji grinned, a wicked expression. "And that wouldn't make for a very good first time."
Omi's face went blank.
"How do you know it's my first?" His voice was soft as his fingers pressed at Yohji's in a fold of the coverlet.
"Isn't it?" Yohji tilted his head, equally soft.
A quick, clipped nod. "Y-yes."
"And you want it to be with me?" Yohji marveled at the innocently-presented treasure he was being given.
"Only you," Omi answered, even quieter. "I - you're the only person I've ever wanted this much, Yohji-kun. And when you knocked me aside, at that time - "
"I didn't want to lose you." Yohji spoke for himself and Omi too. Their hearts were perfectly united on this.
Omi nodded. "You scared me, Yohji-kun."
"Hey, hey!" Yohji reached up, framing Omi's face in his hands. "What did you think I was gonna do? Die on you?"
Omi bit his lip, then summoned up a thin smile.
A knock on the door made them break away. Omi stood up from the edge of the bed, giving Yohji a sheepish smile. "You know..."
"It's okay, I know," Yohji reassured him. He lifted his voice and made it appropriately surly. "What?"
Ken's dark head poked through the door. "Damn, he's alive." He pushed the door open fully and grinned at Yohji. "Bakayarou. You really made Omi worry, you know. He came through the door dragging your sorry ass, covered in tears and your blood."
Yohji raised an eyebrow at Omi.
Omi studied his shoelaces intently.
"Oh, you're conscious," Aya's mellifluous voice preceded him as the lanky swordsman entered the room. "Good. Maybe now Omi can leave your bedside so that we can finish the mission."
Omi, Yohji, AND Ken shot him very dirty looks.
Omi bolted up from the covers, sweat-soaked, taking in the night surroundings with gradual frightened eyes.
On that spring May night, Tsukiyono Omi's nightmares began with regularity.
Breathing hard, he slipped out of bed and down the hallway. He had to make sure. It was horribly supersitious, but he had to make sure Yohji-kun was okay.
Omi cracked the door and looked inside, seeking the familiar heap of bedclothes and soft snores that meant Yohji was in occupancy. The room was very quiet and he pushed the door wider, making his way over to the bed with slipper-shod silent feet.
The lump twitched and rolled over, then an oval face was turned to him, golden-brown hair tumbled around it in moon-sheened waves. Yohji's lashes were dark smudges against his cheeks. He was asleep.
Omi let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding, and knelt by the bedside. Yohji's hand was trapped somewhere within the mass of bedclothes, so he touched the man's face instead. Slow, even breath tickled his fingers. It was reassuring.
He let his head rest against the mattress, relief welling up inside. Every night, the terror snapped him out of sleep. It never attacked him, only Yohji-kun. And every night he woke up seized in the jaws of superstitious fear, heart trapped in his throat and urging him to check on Yohji, to make sure he really was okay.
If he were to push aside the bedding, the bandage would still be there, protecting Yohji's sewed-up gunshot wound while it healed. He had been very fortunate. Birman had said it had gone through while missing any vital organs, and that he would heal with only a scar for remembrance. But Omi's mind still crackled with the instant that Yohji had shoved him out of the way, his handsome face going slack with shock as the bullet thundered through the air. And drilled through his body.
There had been a lot of blood.
He wanted to rub his cheek against the sleeping face, but he was afraid he'd wake Yohji-kun. And the man needed his sleep. He had actually gotten out of bed today to tend the cashbox at the flower shop, and all the women had fussed over him. Yohji was genially impartial with his flirting. Omi didn't care, because the only heat in Yohji's eyes was when that intent green gaze seared in his direction.
"You're up late," a whisper reached his ears.
With a start, Omi turned his head. Yohji's eyes were open and darkened with night, looking straight at him with a faint smile on his face.
"Y-Yohji-kun! I didn't mean to wake you," he stammered, flustered. This was the first time Yohji had woken during his night-time vigils.
"It's okay. Did you come to keep me warm?" His smile stretched wider.
"Yohji-kun," Omi said reproachfully, "you're still recovering."
"But I feel better every day," Yohji stretched like a cat under his coverlet, and it slipped partially off his chest. The older man wasn't wearing a shirt. Omi flushed. He wondered if...
"I should go back to bed," Omi demurred.
"But you're already here," Yohji said encouragingly, patting the bed beside him. "Come on. I'm not going to molest you while you sleep."
"What if you molest me when I'm *not* asleep?" Omi shot back, eyes and tone perfectly innocent.
Yohji's eyes widened. "Why you-- come here!" He half-lunged out of bed, seizing Omi.
Omi allowed himself to be drawn down, laughing. Then his eyes rounded and his body went still as Yohji's mouth pressed down on his. He closed his eyes and a shudder traveled through him as Yohji's tongue found entrance, and teased at him. "Ahh..." His arms went around the bare shoulders. Ohh, he wanted this so much.
Whispering silk brushed against his leg and he realized Yohji was wearing pajama bottoms. He tightened his grip and kissed back, tongue twining with the slick invader, lifting a leg to twine similarly over the thigh pressed so close to his.
"Ahh..." Yohji broke the kiss and nuzzled his ear. "Nightmares gone, Omi? Have we driven them away?"
"Of course," Omi said simply, then clutched a broad shoulder as Yohji's mouth lingered over his ear. He shuddered again. Lips sought out the sensitivities of the crease of his neck. "I'm *here.*"
Yohji's mouth dwelled on his collarbone. "Will you sleep with me tonight?"
Omi clung to him; tried to pull Yohji on top of him as the man began to systematically torment his nipples. "Yohji-kun... ahh... I've waited for you to ask."
Yohji's mouth was on his, softly. "So what now?"
Omi tried not to squirm and bit back a groan as Yohji shifted, partially covering his body. "Yo-you're kidding, right?" Or cruelly teasing him! True, he might be inexperienced when it came to something like this, and he knew he'd be woefully clumsy compared to Yohji's easy skill, but he knew enough to know what came next. "Yohji!"
Yohji shifted again - but away from him. Omi voiced his discontent and slid his hands up smooth bare skin. Yohji's voice was a murmur in his ear. "I do want to, but..." He stopped, sounding massively embarrassed.
Omi pushed at his shoulders, wanting to see his eyes. "Not this again." Dread balled up in his stomach. What if, even after all this, Yohji still thought he was a kid to be protected? He wanted so badly to prove otherwise.
"No - no, Omi, it's not that! I..." Yohji halted again and pushed thick hair out of his eyes. The night-shadowed wells were sincere. "My side hurts." He sounded so embarrassed.
Omi blinked. Oh. "Oh!" He blushed with mortification. How inconsiderate could he be? "Gomen nasai!" And here he was, trying to entice Yohji into doing something he just wasn't fit for yet...
"No, it's okay," Yohji moved to the side. "I do want you to stay, it's just that I can't... Well, I wouldn’t be able to take care of you properly. So we should wait."
"Wakatta," Omi interrupted, snuggling up against him. "It's okay. That's all I want, too." Well, to be truthful he wanted substantially more. But he would 'settle' for the happy prospect of just being next to Yohji, all night long. And if he woke from nightmares... At least he'd have an easier time making sure Yohji was safe and breathing warmly next to him.
"Oyasumi." A kiss brushed over his browline.
"Un, oyasumi," Omi tucked himself against the lean body, fitting head under Yohji's chin. *Ai shiteru.*
As the month of June unfolded, Tsukiyono Omi wanted to proclaim his happiness to the world.
His past didn't trouble him as much anymore, the nagging sensation of needing to seek out answers for the shadowed gaps in his mind. He was focused on something in the present, and it was far more important than a past that had given up its grip on a tenuous reality. Yohji had made a complete recovery, despite the ominous nightly warnings.
Omi was certain that Yohji loved him.
He was acutely aware of the fact that Yohji didn’t treat him as he had any of the girlfriends or casual relationships that had preceded this...their love? Would it be presumptuous of him to call it that? But Omi was flushed with the overriding sensations of first love, and he knew it, and he felt that Yohji was caught in its grip too. Yohji had never acted this way towards any of his flirtations, or his women, or even Sayuri whom he’d professed to be so in love with.
Since Yohji had caught him that one night after the nightmare, they’d slept together every following evening. Even just sleeping, it was new and more than just comfortable to be in Yohji’s arms for such a long time, bodies pressed together warm and interlocking, two pieces forming a delightful new whole. He’d never been happier.
True, he wished they could be out of Weiss and making some other kind of life besides the walk of assassins. But even though the past had dwindled in his priorities of the here-and-now, there was still the overriding need to know. He knew, buried dim within him, there were memories that he couldn’t trigger alone. Manx and Persia held -- *withheld, denying pieces of his own self* -- the keys to some of that past. And only by working for Weiss, he knew, would he discover the sum total of whatever it was he’d lost. That was a chance he couldn’t let go.
And he knew Yohji couldn’t just leave behind him the overriding need for some kind of balancing scale, justice for victims. He didn’t have an angry past like Aya, and his motivations weren’t the same as Ken’s, but like all of them, there could be no easy means of walking away.
“Yohji!” Omi’s face lit up as the older man walked into the flower shop from the store room, arms overflowing with blooms. It was amazing that no one else had figured things out, the way his emotions were scrawled over his face when the other man was nearby.
“Yo,” Yohji couldn’t even wave, occupied as his arms were, but he nodded and flakes of ash sifted from the tip of his cigarette.
Omi scrambled up from his stool to help. “What’re all those for? We’ve got plenty,” he nodded around the shop.
“Ken took a special order,” Yohji scowled, “and shoved it off on me, since he and Aya are on a job tonight.”
“When’s it due?” Omi asked.
“Mou, Ken-kun no hidoi!” he laughed, his grin widening at Yohji’s answering sour expression. “It’s okay. I’ll help you.”
“Hmm, well I’d better get something nice later for being so good,” Yohji grumbled.
Omi put on his best blank, innocent expression. “Anything I can do?” He was baiting Yohji. They both knew it. The fun part was all in the reaction, though...he wasn’t treating Omi like a kid any longer, but both of them seemed hesitant to take that last step that would be the ultimate transition of their relationship.
Yohji’s slow-spreading grin was all sensuality, and no small part of wickedness. “Omi,” his voice lowered to an intimate tone, “do you even need to ask?” He set the flowers down and drew him close with an arm around his waist.
Omi braced himself against Yohji’s chest, glancing up into those intent green eyes from beneath lowered lids with what he *hoped* was an answering sensual look. “I don’t ask, I only hope,” he asserted.
That provoked a real grin from Yohji. “I’m all the way healed,” he stated unnecessarily, glancing down at his own chest. In answer, Omi traced his fingers over the white shirt where the healed pucker of the bullet wound had been.
His eyes darkened with grief. No matter how much Yohji could try to convince him otherwise, it was *his* fault that he’d been hurt. That was where his nightmares began, and ended. Then Omi felt his chin being tipped up, and met a pair of sincere green eyes.
“I don’t want you to keep thinking about that,” Yohji told him. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Omi shivered and pressed close against the lean body, wanting only convergence. Yohji obliged him with a tighter grip, hands sliding soothingly over Omi’s back. “I want to be closer to you,” he exhaled, turning his face into the crisp white shirt. “Yohji-kun, I want...” He stopped, not wanting to say too much.
“Baka,” Yohji grinned, smoothing a hand over his nape. “Why do you think I mentioned I was healed? Not to make you feel guilty. I was hoping we could have tonight all to ourselves.”
“Oh.” Omi’s eyes flew open. He felt Yohji’s grip shift lower, moving in massaging circles over his lower back, creating areas of liquid fire. He ached to feel those hands touch his bottom.
The hands stopped.
“Yohji-kun!” he protested, not wanting that hot-and-cold attitude to extend this far. Rather, he hadn’t taken things far enough!
“Why does it always have to be in a flower shop?” Yohji murmured in his ear. “There are better places for this, Omi.”
“H-hai.” He flushed. He was too impatient for this, when earlier they both had been so hesitant. Besides...
“Shimatta!” Yohji wailed, extricating himself from Omi, “that arrangement is due in an hour!”
“It’s okay!” Omi turned to flip through the order form. “No problem. We can do this if we both work hard.”
“And then, there’s the play that comes after we’ve worked so hard,” Yohji turned that melting grin on him.
It made his insides puddle low into his belly. He’d seen Yohji flash a hundred-watt grin at girls before, but there was a difference he could pinpoint, tailor-made for him.
Omi responded with a cheerful smile. “Of course! But you have to buy me dinner first.”
Yohji blinked. Then he threw his head back with laughter.