Title: Sinners

Author: Ladya C. Maxine

Rating: R

Summary: see chapter one

Warnings: see chapter one

Disclaimer: I do not own Beyblade or any of its characters. All original characters belong solely to me. I am not making any money off of this. I write only to entertain.

A/N: Well fuck me! It is chapter 22! Two chapters for the price of one update? Oh, I'm too kind. There'd better be a crater on Venus named after me; an Apollo-esque, bare-chested Renaissance sculptor sculpting my likeliness into a block of flawlessly white marble, which he will then deliver in person to my front steps, along with a box of chocolate Valentines (didn't get enough yesterday); and, already in the mail, an invitation to appear on Oprah and discuss my awesomeness in front of an enraptured global audience, because I am that divine a person. You're welcome.

Okay, okay. So maybe I'm just making up for leaving you guys waiting for so long. Again. I worked hard through the night (read: farted around my room a bit, returning to the computer every now and then to type a few sentences before falling asleep at around eight in the morning (I am nocturnal)) and am now the proud producer of a 2-for-1 special.

So, my cherished acolytes, voilà! Ici un peu slashy-goodness avec le beginning du revenge qu'est une bitch! (Believe it or not, I graduated high school with an 8 in French. My, what a difference three years make. Je suis très disappointed in moi-même.)

Saturday, January 29, 2004

Time: 22.45

"What the hell do you think you're playing at?" Tala demanded, releasing Hiwatari's arm once they were in the kitchen. Hiwatari had only allowed himself to be pulled off the couch, away from Brooklyn, because he needed to refill his half-empty glass. "Where ... I don't even know where to start!"

"How about explaining your poor taste in foot fashion?" Hiwatari asked, staring at Tala's mismatching shoes. "Or is this some form of foot fetish?"

Hiwatari reached for the bottle he'd left in the middle of the table, but Tala swiped it first and hurled it across the room, where it shattered against the wall in a spray of shards and red wine. Hiwatari looked disappointed at the loss, but shrugged it off.

"You seem peeved," he said calmly, settling on licking the lingering taste of fine wine from his lips. "What is the matter? Started the day off with the wrong shoe on the wrong foot? Ah, you literally did."

"You sick son of a bitch!" Tala hissed, wishing he'd thrown the bottle at the man's head. "What did you do to him? How dare you bring him into my home and take advantage of him?!"

"Should I have taken advantage of him somewhere else? But you can stop glaring now: I haven't touched him."

"He was pressed up against you!"

"Well then, he was touching me."

"Why are you arguing?" asked a timid voice from the doorway.

Hiding behind the doorframe, Brooklyn was peering in with one eye, watching them nervously.

The blanket was still draped over his shoulders, pooling on the ground behind him. The shirt he was wearing (which had been taken from Tala's closet) hung from his skinny frame, making him look even smaller than the blanket already made him. His dishevelled hair was still damp from the bath that had washed away all fluids and filth from his body, but the injuries remained: his black eye; scratched and bitten neck and shoulders; bruised wrists and ankles; rug-burned elbows and knees. Old scars that had long healed gleamed smoothly in the light as he dared to enter. He walked with a bad limp, but not because of any leg injury. He was slightly off-balance, but not drunk. He'd left his wine glass and the bag of sweets he'd been enjoying on the couch, but there was still some traces of powdered sugar at the corners of his mouth and in the split in his lower lip, which he nervously licked at.

He looked like a lost orphan—which he was, technically, except he appeared to have shed twenty years since Tala last heard him. His posture, his voice, his expressions: everything about him gave the impression of a child trapped in a man's body.

He seemed fascinated by Tala, but could not work up the courage to approach him.

"Did I do something bad?" he asked Hiwatari, watching the remaining wine streaks trickle and dry on the wall. "Did I do that?"

"We're not arguing," Hiwatari said, filling his glass with water from the tap. "Mother accidentally swallowed a bullhorn when she was your age, so she just talks very loud all the time."

"Stop calling me that," Tala snapped, lowering his voice to prove Hiwatari wrong.

"He's just surprised to see you," Hiwatari explained to Brooklyn. Having already accepted the younger man's present state of mind, he spoke less eloquently to him; dropping his usual rhetoric in favour of simple and straightforward sentences that Brooklyn could understand. "He thinks I did something bad to you."

"No!" Brooklyn said, shaking his head at Tala. He grabbed Hiwatari by the waist, hugging him tightly. "Father would never! He saved me from the bad hands. Please, don't be angry with him!"

The sight of a human being willingly touching Hiwatari was unreal. Hiwatari did not reciprocate the contact, but he did not try to shake it off either. The only thrill he seemed to get out of it was Tala's incredulous reaction.

"Bad hands?" Tala asked, mind trying to sort through the insanity of the moment.

"Tell him," Hiwatari said to Brooklyn. "He'll believe you sooner than me."

Biting his cut lower lip, Brooklyn buried his face in Hiwatari's chest. His pale cheeks reddened.

"What's the first thing you can remember?" Hiwatari prodded, forcing him to turn back around and face Tala.

" ... Hands," Brooklyn said, gripping Hiwatari's forearms and wrapping them around him. He spoke with an empty look in his eyes, disassociating himself from his own account. "Bad hands touching me in bad places ... And pushing ... Pushing me down into a small, dark place."

His eyes suddenly darkened and he craned his head back, trying to touch lips, but Hiwatari pulled away.

"No," he said firmly, tapping Brooklyn's hip to snap him out of it. "What else can you remember about what happened? A face?"

Blinking, Brooklyn's eyes lost their lustful glaze. He seemed unaware of what he'd just attempted to do.

"No," he said, innocently leaning back against the body behind him. "It had no face. Just a hat ... And a voice."

"And what did this voice tell you?" Hiwatari asked, swatting at Brooklyn's hands, which kept playing with the hem of the borrowed shirt and causing it to ride up, risking exposure of bruised thighs and more.

"It said it was going to heal me, but that we had to go somewhere private first before playing doctor ... " Again, Brooklyn twisted in Hiwatari's grip, only able to continue talking while he distracted himself with the falsified nametag pinned to Hiwatari's lapel. "But the hands hurt me more ... The voice kept telling me to stop crying, but the hands kept hurting me ... I tried fighting, and the hands hit me." He touched his bruised eye. "I stopped fighting and they started touching me under my clothes. I cried some more, but they were too busy taking my clothes off to hit me ... "

Brooklyn hiccoughed. His teary eyes were growing dark again as he looked up at Hiwatari.

"The voice said I was a naughty boy and ... and that naughty boys liked it rough ... But I didn't like it, Father." He cupped Hiwatari's face, almost touching mouths as he whispered, "I didn't want to like it. I didn't want it at all ... Father, why did the voice say I wanted it? Why did the hands try to take it?"

"Because you weren't strong enough," Hiwatari said, his hands on the edge of the counter, supporting both his and Brooklyn's weight. "You're weak, and weakness entices dominance."

Stung, Brooklyn stepped away from him, running his hands through his hair.

"I tried to fight, Father," he said softly, eyes downcast. "I tried to be strong and brave."

" ... You fought back, and that's brave enough."

Tala surprised himself. He hadn't meant to get drawn into this, but his heart was slowly bleeding out for the sorry sight of a broken man unable to even feel sorry for himself.

"R-Really?" Brooklyn asked. "You think so?"

Taking hold of Tala's hand, he studied its unblemished skin with curious fingers.

"Your hands are nice," he said. "They're soft. They've never hurt anyone ... Was I really that brave?"

"What happened to the voice, Brooklyn?" Tala asked. "How did you get away from the hands?"

Brooklyn wiped his tears and smiled at Hiwatari, who was watching the interaction with much interest.

"Father saved me."


Tala's pessimistic reaction brought a smirk to the bluenette's face.

"Yes," Brooklyn nodded, beaming. "He pulled the hands away and told the voice to stop talking. He took me out of the dark place and told me to close my eyes and cover my ears. He went away for a bit, but then he came back for me and agreed to take me home, where the hands would never be able to hurt me again."

Hands slipped into Tala's open coat, around his back, pressing their bodies together. Tala gasped softly, arching his tender back away from the arms, but he was distracted by Brooklyn's eyes, which had gone deep blue again.

"Your hands won't hurt me, will they?" he asked huskily, brushing cheeks with Tala. "You'll never hurt me, will you, Mother?"

Brooklyn's searching lips didn't make it as he was eased off Tala, who slumped back against the counter, breathing heavily from the close contact. He could only watch as Brooklyn transferred his uncontrollable desire back onto Hiwatari.

"Please," he whispered, gripping the front of Hiwatari's shirt. "Please, Father, kiss me? Just one, please?"

"If you get one, will you go to sleep and let us talk in peace?" Hiwatari asked, pinning Brooklyn's grasping hands to his sides.

Brooklyn nodded, closing his eyes and moaning gratefully as Hiwatari finally obliged.

Tala felt sick, not because of the kiss itself, but because he couldn't stop staring, squirming on the spot as he watched the two former rivals hungrily devour the other's mouth. It shouldn't look so ... erotic, a mass murderer and what was essentially a man-child locking lips, but only by looking away could Tala keep himself in control.

"Good night, Father," Brooklyn whispered, cheeks flushed as Hiwatari released him. He came back over and hugged Tala, his eyes the picture of youthful innocence, though his skin was still hot from the kiss. "I've missed you, Mother."

He left, considerately closing the door behind him to give them some privacy.

"Have you completely lost your mind, Hiwatari?" Tala managed to ask.

Hiwatari, who'd by now taken a seat at the table, rested his chin in his palm, no traces of having been in any way affected by the kiss. Though he would never be able to prove it, Tala believed the man's mind to be elsewhere, even though the red eyes were fixed firmly on him.

"Am I being accused of something here?" Hiwatari asked, bored.

"You ... He clearly needs professional help and you're exploiting him!"

Hiwatari blinked, having lost track of the conversation whilst watching Tala's lips, but he had an answer for everything, of course.

"I did not instigate, nor encourage, his sporadic insatiability," he said, though he couldn't keep the smile off his face as his eyes strayed towards the door. "But I can't really punish him for it, can I? Forgive him, Mother, for he knows not what he does. It's his coping mechanism. I saw you when he was holding you. It was difficult to not give in for those few seconds, wasn't it? I've managed to hold out for several hours, if only out of respect for you and your home. But yes, if I had brought him back to my place I would have given in to the temptation."

"Exploitation," Tala persisted.

"He's a grown man," Hiwatari said, tapping with the toe of his shoe against the table leg in a repetitive manner. "He can do what he wants."

"His mind is that of a child. He cannot be held accountable for his actions."

"Well, since I've been labelled as insane myself, I can't be held accountable for my actions either, but you're unfairly accusing me of the attempted statutory rape of an adult. Double standards much, officer?"

"You must have played some role in this."

"I'm good, but even I cannot determined how much memory a person can repress," Hiwatari said, crossing one leg over the other and leaning back, left arm slung over the back of the chair. He was wearing the building's doorman uniform and there was a jingle of stolen keys whenever he moved. "It was all too much for him. Unable to face reality any longer, he has retreated to early childhood, presumably the happier years when his mother was still alive and his father kept his hands to himself. Thinking he's in control again, he uses sex, which had once been used to oppress him, to now empower and reassure himself."

"And asking him to call you 'Father' helps ... how?"

"Officer Ivanov, you're stubborn cynicism is trying. I never so much as suggested he call me anything. I was surprised when he first referred to me as such, actually. I saved him from the trunk of that car. In his eyes, I'm his hero, and who do young boys consider to be real life heroes? Their fathers. Ergo, my actions seem to have given him the impression that I sired him. It was he who also first asked about Mother's location. I toyed with the word, directing it at you in a satirical manner, but when you stepped in to comfort him after I had rebutted him he recognized that as the nature of a maternal guardian. Like it or not, you've misguided the poor boy into believing that, despite biological unfeasibility and stretching the limits of gender bender to breaking point, you are his mother ... Is gay adoption not yet legal in this country?"

Tala refused to pinch the bridge of his nose in front of this man. He'd rather let the budding headache develop than let Hiwatari know he was getting to him so early on.

"What happened between you and Murakami?" he asked, telling himself to just go ahead and get the un-pleasantries over with. (Whatever would remain wouldn't be any more enjoyable, but with any luck sufferable.) "Spare me the details."

"In all honesty, he's an unexpected element in the day's events. He was the victim of circumstance—No, he was the victim of his own doing, who just so happened to pick the wrong boy off the street to bring home to fuck. It must have been some time since he'd managed to land himself such a delicacy, so he was understandably selfish. He lashed out first, thinking I intended to share his catch. I acted purely in self-defence."

"You, the greater evil, only killed in self-defence? Really, Hiwatari, it's so unlike you to feel the need to justify the taking of a human life. Feeling guilty?"

Hiwatari's fingers and hands were so adept to wielding pointy objects that, despite not being in possession of a knife or a scalpel, they mimicked the twirling motion of an invisible blade, moving supplely in a hypnotizing routine as his even sharper mind continued to come up with ways to slice through Tala's words.

Besides, they both knew he was incapable of guilt, along with most other (positive) human emotions.

"And it's somewhat unlike you to not really care about Murakami's death," Hiwatari said, seeing Tala's sardonic question and a raising him a dead-on observation. "Three weeks ago you would have lectured me on the value of a life, no matter how worthless its actual price."

"Having dealt with and lamented the loss of so many innocent lives over the past couple of weeks there's little left in me to mourn a paedophile's death," Tala said thoughtlessly, barely even hearing himself.

Hiwatari's hearing was just as sharp as his mind.

"Tsk-tsk," he chuckled, moving from imaginary knife-twirling to strumming his fingers on the table. Tala had never seen him exhibit so many ticks and tweaks in such a short time. There was something restless about him tonight. "Indifference already setting in, then? Just another body, right, officer?"

Tala's knuckles turned white as he gripped the back of the chair, shocked by his own callousness.

"That's not ... I'm not saying you had a right to kill him!"

"You're not, but neither are you thinking that Murakami's death has deprived the world of a outstanding citizen. If someone had to die, who would you rather it be: a young man who has known nothing but suffering, or a dirty old man who has done nothing but inflict the suffering on the young man?"

"Don't you mean three old men?" Tala asked, throwing the crumpled paper from his pocket at Hiwatari, who caught it one-handed. "Murakami had no history of killing his victims. Are you saying that, had you not killed them first, Carlyle Kingston would have murdered his own son with the butler's help?"

Tala hated to think that he was beginning to understand the man, but he could tell by the change in tone that this was the subject Hiwatari had been wanting to talk about all along. Reading the solved anagram, Hiwatari smiled.

"I wanted to go with something more risqué than simply 'Yuri loves Tala", but I could not think up an elegant pseudonym that could instead incorporate the words 'wishes to unceremoniously ravage' without being too obvious."

"Why?" Tala asked

Hiwatari deliberately misunderstood the question.

"Just as you do not mourn the loss of Murakami, you have not a tear to shed for Carlyle Kingston and Kiba Ozawa. Angry as you are about me inviting Brooklyn to stay here with you, you are secretly relieved that Brooklyn is currently fast asleep in your bed because it means he isn't spending the night hogtied to his father's. Thanks to me, he never will be again."

"Why?" Tala repeated.

Hiwatari had to know what he was asking, so he made sure to steer clear of the proper answer. He was telling the truth, but not what Tala wanted to hear. Before he'd get to that, he had to vent his reasoning to someone, and, against Tala's wishes, that someone was him.

"Carlyle ruined Brooklyn for me," Hiwatari said, his eyes laughing at Tala's growing impatience. "Had it not been for him I would have had a worthy rival to contend with. It was so rare, finding someone of equal intelligence, but Brooklyn could not enjoy the stimulant of our rivalry. He tried pushing me academically at first, but when I pushed back with the slightest of pressure he did what he'd been trained to do: submit. I had invested in a fulfilling challenge in Brooklyn, and suffered deep intellectual loss thanks to Carlyle. He owed me dearly, and now his debt has been paid.

"Yes, I killed them. I had been looking for suitable targets when I read in the morning paper that the millionaire Carlyle Kingston would be in Tokyo to close a multi-billion contract with the pharmaceutical industry. I knew Brooklyn would be there, and, I am embarrassed to admit, while I had anticipated his horror at his father's murder, I had not expected him to be as fast as he was. He got away long enough to catch the attention of a roaming rapist, but he had the phone with him, which emits a frequency that is easily picked up by a simple tracking device. I needed only follow the directions to the garage and pick up my runaway witness."

There. A relevant element of the answer to Tala's question.


"Why the butler as well? He was having his way with Brooklyn in the bathroom when I arrived. Having made my point to Carlyle, I simply knocked on the door. I had to knock rather loudly to be heard over Brooklyn's cries, but eventually the butler, thinking his allotted time was up, answered. You understand that he had to die, I assume. If I had only killed the father and left it at that, Brooklyn would have transferred his trust and loyalty onto his butler, the only other person he had left. With the father gone, the butler would be free to help himself to a generous serving of young flesh, finally able to fully satisfy his hunger, instead of having to make do with what the master threw him every once in a while, like table scratching. Whilst you, the protectors of the people, would carry out your investigation into his father's death, the butler would chivalrously drive Brooklyn to the station—only allowing him out of the car after strengthening their convoluted bond with a quick oral session—for interrogation. And there you'd be, the empathetic sponge that you are, soaking up the shamed tears he'd cry; absorbing the waves of self-pity and low self-esteem that would roll off him as he spoke about the discovery of his father's corpse, claiming to have been fast asleep in his own room (instead of bent over the toilet) during his father's final throes of death, because the butler had warned him that the truth would separate them and then he'd truly be alone in a hateful world. And we wouldn't want that, would we?"

Tala did not even waste his breath speaking. Pulling up a chair, he sat down directly opposite the man, crossed his arms, and glared as strongly as he could with such a throbbing headache. He did not react when a foot caressed his inner leg under the table.

"Honestly, you are being so dull today," Hiwatari sighed, sitting up to plant his elbows on the table. He laced his fingers together and watched Tala from over the top of his knuckles, returning the hard stare with a far superior one. "Why? Why stage the scene to make it look like Dox's modus operandi? That is a question your inferiors are allowed to ask, but not you, Officer Ivanov. You must have touched upon the answer already."

"You really did it to get Dox's attention? To piss him off?"

"Stop questioning your answers. You are right: make a proud statement of it."

"Why are you after Dox?"

"Why are you?"

"To bring him to justice."

" ... Hm. That's not why I'm doing it, but good luck to your cause."

"Are you working with him?"

"Now you're just being stupid."

"Then why the phone? Why purchase a phone and pay for a subscription, using a false name? Who were you planning to call before Brooklyn took the phone?"

"I never intended to call anyone. I wholly intended for Brooklyn to take the phone. The whole point of the phone was to provide Brooklyn with a means of contacting you. Your number is the only number saved in its memory. I needed him to alert you to set the plan into motion. I could have waited until the bodies were discovered on Monday, but that would have coincided with the discovery of Dox's own victim and my goal is to interfere with his own upcoming plans."

The thought of two murderers going head to head in the middle of the city was chilling.

"Why? Why do you suddenly care who Dox targets? Who are you trying to save?"

Hiwatari stood and stretched.

"If my plan works, you need never have to know," he said. His answer was casual, but Tala had never seen him this focussed and determined before, which was saying something.

"And if it doesn't?" Tala asked, remaining in his chair. "If Dox goes ahead and kills anyway, what will be the repercussions?"

"Wrath," Hiwatari answered, going back to elusiveness. "I have plans for the upcoming days, so I will leave you and Brooklyn to bond over this weekend. The two of you make an attractive pair."

Tala scoffed.

"Oh, is that a blessing? Or just your fantasy?"

"It will make for many arousing nights, once we've done away with all these other distractions."

"You better not be implying what I think you are," Tala said, cheeks heating up at the thought. "And what am I supposed to do with him now, which does not include a threesome?"

"Of course," Hiwatari pretended to reconsider, "I could spare you the inconvenience of having to put up with his sensuousness by abandoning him in a dark alley far from here. Some predator with better luck than Murakami might steal off with him, or the police will find and capture him and submit him to hours of gruelling questioning in their continuous refusal to believe his innocence, but at least he won't be a thorn in your side, right?"

Damn this man and his manipulative sensibilities. Damn himself for putting others before him all the time.

"How long do you think I can harbour a wanted suspect in my own home?"

"Not much longer," Hiwatari said as he crossed the narrow room. "Once I have dealt with Dox it will become obvious that Brooklyn is not the culprit and he will be free to return home."

"But until then, I could go to jail if I get caught!" Tala said, holding the door closed when Hiwatari started to open it.

"Then you can count your lucky stars that you've enraptured me so," Hiwatari said, abandoning the door in favour of pinning Tala against it, as if suddenly realizing that he'd gone this entire visit without molesting him once. "I have refined the art of entering and escaping: I'd get you out of there by the time it'd take your defeated lawyer to get through the security checkpoints. Brooklyn will not incriminate himself: he has no desire to leave this place and face the big, bad world just yet. Your only challenge is to make sure no one comes by for an unexpected visit."

"Yes, that won't be a problem," Tala said, earning himself a nip on the tip of his ear for his sarcasm, "seeing how good I am at keeping you out of my apartment—Does Brooklyn still have the phone?" he suddenly remembered. "They could trace it straight to me."

"Your underestimation of my intelligence is insulting," Hiwatari said, unable to capture Tala's lips since he kept talking. "I took the phone off him and discarded it before even heading in this direction. They can look, but the search will take them to Osaka, where they'll find the phone stuffed in the backseat pocket on a high speed train."

Problem solved as far as he was concerned, Hiwatari pressed up hard against Tala, taking advantage of his quick gasp to steal a fervent kiss that made Tala grab at the strong shoulders to keep himself upright. Allowing him seconds to catch his breath before the next tongue assault, Hiwatari trailed his mouth down his neck, going straight for that traitorous spot that was Tala's ultimate weakness.

'Think of Bryan, think of Bryan, think of Bryan,' Tala chanted to himself. 'I love Bryan, I love Bryan, I love Bryan ... '

"Can you imagine my lips here and Brooklyn's here?" Hiwatari purred, cupping Tala between the legs. "Two mouths, licking and teasing you delirious? Four hands, stroking and plunging? Me above you, and Brooklyn beneath you? Or just the two of you, caressing and suckling each other while I watch?"

Tala shuddered as he rubbed against the hand.

'Think of Bryan ... I love Bryan ... Think ... Can't think ... '

He bit his own fist, trying hard not to picture the scenarios being whispered into his ear.

"I won't ... use Brooklyn," he panted, pushing back against the other.

"He will gladly use you, and be used by you," Hiwatari said smoothly, but, unlike with Brooklyn, this closeness to Tala did not leave him unaffected. He was working Tala hard and fast, but the sound of Tala's heavy breathing was more arousing to the bluenette than the act itself.

"And what about you?" Tala's eyes rolled back as he arched his back and stood on tiptoes, unable to fight it anymore.

"I will not use you so selfishly." Hiwatari rocked against him, grunting with every superficial thrust against Tala. He all but growled the next few lines. "I will just fuck you, as you like it. The question is: would you like it?"


And then the hand stopped.

"Wh-What?" Tala asked, extremely hot and bothered at the delay, aching for release.

He shivered when Hiwatari's lips brushed against his neck, but it wasn't enough.

"Fuck you, Hiwatari," he moaned, dropping his head back against the door. "Finish i-it already."

"You reek of soap."

Not the most threatening of statements, but something about the way Hiwatari said it made it sound like a death sentence.

"What, is this a turnoff?" Tala asked, mind still too muddled to think of anything except the uncomfortable bulge in his pants. "I'm not allowed to take any more baths ... ?"

Shit! After all that had happened today; the terrified calls, the short-lived kidnapping, the mislabelled murders, the futile searching, the twisted revelations, the irresistible lust, he had actually forgotten that he'd meant to be avoiding Hiwatari for one now-endangered reason: Johnny McGregor.

'Stay calm,' he said, moving as one would if confronted by a wild lion. 'He can only smell the soap. As long as that's all he can detect he can't do anything.'

Hiwatari's hand loudly planted itself next to his head, making him jump.

"I appreciate good hygiene as much as the next civilized man, but I did not realize just how suspiciously poignant your attempts at a cover-up were until now. You are hiding something from me," he said, speaking in a slow, dangerous manner. The red eyes seared as they continued their penetrating search, mapping every inch of his face, looking for a lapse, a tweak to give away the answer. "Whose scent have you been trying to erase so feverishly? Brooklyn's is to be expected, but who was before that?"

"I don't know what you're—"

"I smell the American's, which I will put down to professional contact. Who else?

'Bryan ... ' Tala thought, alarmed, remembering their earlier embrace.

"The Captain's," Hiwatari said, as if reading Tala's mind. "But I will also turn a blind eye this time and pretend that your conduct with him was merely professional. His scent is recent, like your colleagues'. Before that, however, you tried to scrub away something else. Who are you protecting?"

Tala had to support himself by placing his hands on his knees when Hiwatari released him. Tremors of unsatisfied desires still shook him, but they were being replaced by genuine shivers of fear.

"You're wasting your time," he said, blinking through the sweat-beaded eyelashes and hair. "What happened to those big plans you have for the weekend?"

His big plans, which could possibly decide Dox's fate and thus the fate of the case as well as the public safety of Japan, no longer seemed important to Hiwatari. Despite having sat with calculating excitement on his ambitious plans all this time, Hiwatari had just dropped everything in favour of solving this mystery.

"I just bought a new soap that stronger than the one I normally use," Tala said, trying to talk his way out of this before Hiwatari discovered the truth.

Not listening to him, Hiwatari delicately sniffed the side of his neck, causing goosebumps. But the masking sweetness of the soap used in all those baths was too much for even Hiwatari's keen senses. What the soap had not eradicated, the time that had passed since the assault had. Unable to identify the scent, he stepped back. Tala didn't know what he was up to, but at least he was now able to release his breath, which he'd been holding the whole time.

"Told you," he said, trying to sound victorious.

The kitchen clock ticked.

The fridge hummed.

Hiwatari tilted his head to one side, causing his grey bangs to fall before one eye. The other kept staring at Tala, never blinking.

"You missed a call of mine yesterday," he said, making Tala look up with guilty eyes. "It wasn't of importance, so I did not think it imperative to mention it. Where is the phone I gave you?"

"In my bag," Tala said without thinking. He knew what the next demand would be.

"Show me."

His bluff had been called, forcing him to abandon one life for another, which was not strengthening his credibility.

" ... A-Actually, I left it at the station."

"You are lying. Badly."

"What's it matter where the phone is?"

They both he couldn't produce the phone, but Hiwatari was determined to debunk his claims on his own grounds.

"Why did you flinch?"


"When Brooklyn hugged you earlier."

How did the man notice such minute things? He had barely and very briefly winced when Brooklyn had unknowingly applied pressure to the bruise on his back.

"I wasn't expecting it," he said.

"You were in pain."

"I was—Aah!" Tala cried, suddenly pulled into a one-armed hug. The arm around him pressed into the bruise, locating the source of his pain. "Let go!"

"Is the person you're protecting worth the pain?" Hiwatari asked, not loosening his hold on him.

He was in agony. He wanted it to stop.

"Please, just let go!"

This was so different from before. No arousal, just panic.

"Who is it?" Hiwatari demanded.

He was trying to get away from the pain, but the hands wouldn't let go.

... running water ...


Tala's struggle turned violent, making the pain a hundred times worse as he wrestled against the hands. Struggled, but could not overcome.

... gripping hands ...

"Let me go ... Let me go, please!"

Why couldn't he get away? What was going to happen if he didn't get away?

' ... relax ... you must have done this hundreds of times before ... '

White tiles. Red blood.

"Not with you! I won't do it with you! Not again!"

Running water. Helplessly trapped. Hands using his crippling weakness against him.

"I don't want to! You can't make me!"

Hands restraining him right now, pushing him down.

"Fuck you! Let me go! Fuck you!"

' ... I already did ... and we'll do it again ... and again ... '

His back was on the floor. The hands held him down firmly.

... running water ... bloody water ...

' ... and again ... and again ... feels good ... '

"No, it doesn't ... I bled ... I didn't want it ... McGregor, stop touching me!"

The hands let him go.

Freed, he began to calm down as the convincingly nightmarish scene began to melt away, dissolving into his tears as they streaked his flushed cheeks.

He wasn't in the showers—he was in the kitchen.

He wasn't lying on the floor—he was lying on the table.

He wasn't staring up into McGregor's eyes—he was staring up into Hiwatari's.

"S-Shit," Tala stuttered, realizing his fatal slipup. "Hiwatari, it's not what ... "

Leaning over Tala, the man wasn't moving. His face was emotionless. His eyes were cold.

"The pain ... I didn't mean ... because of the pain I ... wasn't thinking straight ... "

The eyes narrowed. Hands reached out and lifted Tala into a sitting position.

"It ... I was lying ... Can't you tell when I'm lying?" he asked. "Please ... Say something."

Face to face, Hiwatari took one more look, deep into Tala's eyes.

The refrigerator stopped humming.

Hiwatari found it, the absolute truth. The kitchen light reflected in his eyes as he took a step back; it looked as though a violent flash had just streaked through the red irises. Something in the man snapped, severing his last few connections with humanity. Without even needing to look, Hiwatari pulled the largest cutting knife from the block.

'Idiot! Johnny, you fucking idiot!' Tala thought, watching the fire burning brighter and brighter in the red eyes. 'This is too dangerous! You don't know what you've done!'

Hiwatari's hand was on the door handle.

Tala leapt off the table, falling to his knees to grip the black trousers.

"I beg you! I will do anything; give you anything, just don't do it! Stop already! Stop killing, for God's sake!"

The knife gleamed, passing just inches from Tala's eyes as Hiwatari lowered himself onto his haunches. Looking up in the face above his, Tala could have just as well been staring at a complete stranger.

"Hiwatari?" he asked softly, trying to kindle a spark of recognition. "Listen to me ... "

But Hiwatari couldn't hear him. He was listening to other voices; reacting only to the ones in his head. They could be his conscience; they could be imaginary; they could even be his usual thoughts, but whatever they were, they now had full control over him and they were murderous.

It wasn't immediately clear who told him to tilt Tala's head back and kiss him, though.

"Kai?" Tala whispered when the lips finally lifted off his.

The name roused the man, but taking in Tala's tearful eyes, his shaking form, made him grip the knife's handle tighter. In his attempt to break through to Hiwatari, Tala had inadvertently struck the final nail into Johnny McGregor's coffin.

"He made you cry, just for me to hear his challenge."

That wasn't Hiwatari's voice: it had never sounded so deep, so ominous.

"He made you bleed, just to get my attention."

What was this thing that now possessed him? Whose hard eyes were those?

"He wishes me to retaliate?"

The carving knife spun with deadly accuracy in his hand, now gripped backwards.

"Then I will grant him his final wish."

'I can't stop him ... ' Tala thought, doing nothing even as Hiwatari stood. He watched the man open the kitchen door. 'No matter what I do, I'll never be able to stop him ... He'll kill him ... He's really going to kill Johnny ... '

The door slammed shut. A few seconds later, it opened again.

" ... Mother?"

Brooklyn poked his head inside, his hair more tousled than before. The commotion had woken him. Seeing Tala in an equally shaken state, he came over and joined him on the floor, rubbing sleepy eyes. He placed a bunch of keys in Tala's hand.

"You left them in the front door," he said, yawning. "Why did Father leave? Did you two have another fight?"

Tala stared at the keys, seeing only the large knife in Hiwatari's hands.

'He's gone to kill him. He's gone to kill Johnny.'

Pulling the cuff of his sleeves over his hand, Brooklyn gently dabbed at the tears still seeping from the corners of Tala's eyes.

"He's dead," Tala said, unable to overcome his disbelief. "McGregor's as good as dead ... because of me. It's my fault."

"It's alright. You didn't do anything wrong," Brooklyn said, not grasping the seriousness of the situation. "Remember what you told me? As long as you fight and try your best, it's always alright."

Touching his lips with trembling fingers, Tala shook his head.

"I wasn't strong enough."

"Well ... Father's strong enough for the both of us," Brooklyn said. "He saved me. He can save you too. Don't worry: whatever's the problem, he'll fix it."

"Not fix Tala said, allowing an arm to pull their shoulders together. "He's not going to fix the problem: he's going to kill it."

Brooklyn frowned, tucking his knees to his chest. He took hold of Tala's hand, offering comfort in his presence.

The clock ticked loudly.

Every second that passed was one second closer to McGregor's death. Johnny would not live to see morning.

"But it's not right to kill. He'll be doing something really bad ... Father must love you very much to do something that bad," Brooklyn said.

"He loves doing bad things." Tala buried his face in his hand, remembering his eagerness to participate in Hiwatari's love of sinful things with shame. "He loves it more than anything."

"More than you?"

Tala met the teal eyes.

" ... I don't know, but ... "

"If he loves you he won't do anything to make you sad."

' ... I will make you smile ... '

Content that he'd made his voice, Brooklyn pulled his knees to his chest, smiling brightly at Tala as he watched him struggle to make a choice. His smile fell when Tala suddenly got to his feet.

"Are you going too?" he asked, following Tala out of the kitchen. "Where are you going?"

Straightening his clothes, Tala refused to reconsider his actions.

"To fix my own problems," he said, gripping the keys. "And if your Father 'loves' me in any way he will not get in my way."

Hugging himself, Brooklyn waved him off at the door.

"Come home soon," he said, happy to have helped in some small way. "But, Mother, why are you wearing two different shoes?"

Tbc ...

A/N: What ho? What's this I see on the next page? Could it be ... chapter 23?!

... No, it isn't. Now I know why I never update more than one chapter at a time: my brain feels like mulch. Place your bets: how long will it be until the next update?

On your mark ... Get set ... Wait and stew impatiently! Mwuahahahaha!!

P.S. Johnny McGregor: time to start running. Run, bitch-boy, run!

Read & Review, please.