A cellphone vibrated on the nightstand, humming softly against the wooden surface. A hand reached over, grabbing at nothing a few times before finally clutching the phone and flipping it open.

Akihito didn't even say anything, just waited for the other end to start the conversation. Early morning was really no time for phone etiquette; it was time for sleep, but apparently, the caller didn't much appreciate the normal hours of activity and rest.

"Akihito? Aki? Are you there?" Hayashi-san's high-pitched voice questioned desperately. Ugh. Shut up. It was obvious the man was in a crowded place as he was literally screaming into the phone over the mish-mash of conversations in the background.

"Yeah... Do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Great! Yeah, I know it's late," late? It was too fucking early, "but can you pick up another project?"

The fucker, what did he think of his employees, his slaves or something waiting on his every beck and call? Actually, that wasn't far off from the truth. Akihito glanced at his watch, a tough looking analog with chronometers he'd gotten himself for his birthday (happy birthday to himself). Four AM. Four. A.M. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. Akihito groaned as he focused his attention back to his employer's incessant begging.

"I really need you to pick up a project involving that Sion club again. See, I heard from some… people that you've infiltrated there before" yeah and got raped doing it "and came out alive" at the expense of his camera "so I'm wondering if you would-"

"Are you insane? I've already got one on the ministry of foreign affairs and another one with that guy from the double homicide murder scene."

"Detective Saogi," Mr. Hayashi interjected with irritation.

An exasperated sigh. "Whatever."

"But that's just two. Come on, be a sweetheart and-" Sweetheart? What the hell? Dumb fag. Akihito flipped the phone cover down and tossed the phone on the nightstand.

The shrill of the alarm clock woke him again, and groggily, Akihito reluctantly pulled himself out from beneath the covers, his legs first, into an awkward sitting position at the edge of the bed. For a good two, three minutes, he sat there, staring at the odd shadow cast by the light from the balcony. Then, it clicked.

"What now..." From the shadow alone he knew; it was Asami.

"I hear you refused an offer to take some photos at Sion, a hobby of your new employer, I presume," Asami finally spoke. What the… that was only…Akihito did a quick calculation in his head… two hours ago.

"Word certainly travels fast," Akihito mumbled as he finally stood up, stumbling his way into the bathroom, "no, seriously, where do you get all this… stuff?"

"How I obtain my intel is strictly private, I'm afraid. That aside, I thought you'd jump at a chance to screw me over. You used to practically stalk me."

"I never stalked you, Asami." Akihito was already squeezing toothpaste from a shriveled tube onto a toothbrush whose bristles were bent slightly back. I really need to get a new one, he told himself. He always told himself but forgot anyway. He gave a sideways glance at Asami before shoving the old toothbrush into his mouth. On second thought, he took the toothbrush out of his mouth and said, "And… I don't do goose chases, Asami."

"I'm rather disappointed. Have you given up?" Asami asked as he lit a cigarette. At six fucking o'clock in the morning, the man's smoking a goddamn cigarette. Absolutely incredible. Akihito scowled. Whatever. It wasn't as if he really cared. His apartment had already adapted a faint smell of cold cigarettes anyway. Asami could die of lung cancer or whatever else he wanted. Maybe getting that voice box of his removed would make him a better man. But he had to admit, Asami had a really sexy voice. What am I thinking… Akihito mentally slapped himself for that.

"I'm just biding my time." Then he pointed at the cigarette with the foamy end of his toothbrush, "What I dun get ish," Akihito began, foam bubbling in his mouth, "why you laak shmoking sho musch."

"You look like a rabid dog, Akihito. And is that relevant? The bigger mystery is how you live with your apartment smelling of fixer and other… chemicals. I noticed you renovated a dark room into this… cave. I've been telling you, I can buy you a bigger flat."

"I'm quite happy where I am, thank you very much. And about the chemicals, some of them are flammable, so… watch out with your lighter. The last thing I need is for my apartment to burn up. The landlord, the bastard, would really find a reason to kick me out then." Akihito paused, "Why are you here at the crack of dawn anyway?"

"Because you're short on cash."

Akihito gurgled water then spit it out, wiping his mouth with a towel that was hanging on the doorknob.

"Listen," he turned around to face Asami, "I'm not short on cash."

"Indeed, Akihito. That's why your landlord's threatened to kick you out twice already in the past three months," Asami gently tapped the ash on his cigarette into the tray, "Anyway. You've got it wrong, I think. I'm not the one paying you, but if you manage to get these shots, I think plenty of papers would be willing to play some big hands to get their hands on it."

"So I'm a tool of political/economic convenience. Not to mention a fuck toy."


"Don't answer that," he interrupted, putting his hand up, "who do you want me to get?"

"Just a few. Company executives. Deep pockets."

"Kind of like yours."

"They don't even come near my league."

"You forget, Asami, that you're the only person even in your league."

Asami raised a brow but continued anyway, "They supposedly signed themselves onto me, but there's been some under-the-table deals going on with yakuza from Kyoto."

"A turf war?" Akihito asked, somewhat intrigued, but Asami only shrugged. "Fine. Don't tell me."

"You don't really want to get anymore involved do you? Do what you're good at and stick to photography."

"You're admitting I take good shots."

"I never said you didn't. Besides, if you didn't take good shots, there would never have been the fateful first encounter, would it?"

"Point taken."Great, Akihito snorted, he's giving me advice on my life plan and planning to take over all Japan as if Tokyo wasn't enough already, "Besides my photography skills, you haven't told me any names."

"I wasn't sure you'd say yes."

"Listen, I haven't got all morning. Names." His voice was laced with irritation.

"Yamada Hotaru, the…"

"Chief executive of Seiko Electronics."

"You're not surprised." Rather, it was Asami who was surprised.

"It's a part of my life bringing down aristocratic outlaws." Akihito sighed. Asami really took him for a child sometimes. "Continue," he said as he rummaged through his closet, trying to find a decent shirt, one that wasn't absurdly wrinkled and somewhat stain-free. Asami was watching him, he knew. After all, all he was wearing were his checkered boxers.

"Sato Taiki, vice president of Watanabe Pharmaceutical, and Yamada Takashi, the heir to Orient hotel and resort company." His gaze followed Akihito's tight ass in those awful checkered boxers.

"Huh. Big names." Akihito said as managed to find a shirt with an expression of triumph. The simplest things really did it for the boy.

"Would I list any less?"

That fucker and his ego, Akihito thought. Someday, somebody was going to come along and pop Asami's bubble. God, he'd like a thousand years just to see that day come by… that is, if he didn't die on one of his more daring stake-outs.

Asami dropped his cigarette into the ashtray on the small desk at the corner of the room. Akihito didn't smoke (ironically, Asami detested smoking in his choice of lovers), but several of his friends did, and it was a necessity whenever they came over.

Along with the ashtray, several canisters of films and a camera were on the desk. There was also a small delivery package yet opened and the corner of a picture protruding from underneath it. From the corner, it was clear that the photo was black and white, something Akihito didn't do very often. Asami glanced over at Akihito, making sure the boy wasn't looking, and, while Akihito pulled a shirt over his head, Asami peeked at the picture.

He wasn't sure where the picture was taken, but it was a photo of himself sitting in a booth alone, the lights dim with half empty glasses around a round table, as if he was lingering after a meeting. With a smirk, he covered the picture again, wondering how many secret photos Akihito had taken of him.

He approached Akihito, who was buttoning a loose pair of jeans with its knees torn out and the back of the bottoms frayed from stepping on it over concrete surfaces, yet another childlike aspect of Akihito.

Akihito looked up at see the familiar lustful glint in Asami's eyes. Jesus Christ, how could someone at Asami's age be horny at the crack of dawn. The man had a hyper-active endocrine system or something. A medical condition. Takaba was sure of it. A male version of… nymphomaniac or something.

Asami stood about a breath away from Akihito, skirmishing around his personal space. Akihito frowned, in no mood for sex in the morning, and stepped sideways, only to be stopped by a large hand on his chest, and gently being herded backwards and pinned to the wall, a leg fixed between his thighs and under the groin, pressing tightly, rubbing softly.

Akihito could have punched himself when a soft, but undeniable moan escaped his throat. It was a sultry and moist noise, tinted with desire not yet fully awakened. He hated it when carnal instincts overpowered his conscience. It was as if Asami push some secret override button in Akihito.

A hand moved under his shirt, slipping beneath the hemline, onto slick, toned abdomen, tracing the crest up the center, around the belly button, resting just under his chest for a moment before slowly sliding up again.

Takaba could tell Asami was in a different mood today, gentler then usual (then again, how gentle was he on a regular basis). His kiss wasn't forceful, but started with slow, soft nips at Akihito's lower lip until Akihito finally caved in and opened his lips just slightly. He hated it and loved it; hated that he was yielding, loved that he was never being forced. As much as he didn't want to admit, the only time he had been forced was the first time. Recalling that fateful encounter filled his mind with vivid images, further enhanced by a wet tongue carving deeper into his jaw line, Akihito shuddered, a shiver running down his spine. He arched his back, but Asami drew away, daring him to follow.

Akihito looked up at Asami with a frown, unsatisfied. Every time it was like this, torturous teaching, and he opened his mouth to protest, but Asami placed a finger over the pouting lips and dropped his head for a kiss. Their tongues met timidly, as if new to each other, but soon, Asami's lips and his tongue seemed to crush Akihito's. Akihito slipped a hand between them and reached for Asami's tie, loosened it with his finger, and it dropped to the floor.

Asami pulled back to help Akihito pull off his shirt and their balance shifted, as if they were doing some twisted form of tango, and Akihito found himself propped up against the wall. From this angle, Akihito could see the alarm clock.

"Shit, I gotta go." Akihito began to pull away, trying to reach for his shirt, but was held back by Asami, who whispered softly into his partner's ear.

"Forget about it."

"Forget about it? I'm not like you, I… Ah…Wait… I have to… aah…" Asami reached down and groped Akihito's groin, "not now…"

"What would you do?" A condescending chuckle. "Go out with a hard on?" Asami muffled his lover's complaints with a soft but long kiss, leaving Akihito breathless.

Akihito knew that Asami was a master at undressing his partners; they found themselves naked, not even knowing how they had ended up that way, just as Akihito found himself now. Somewhere in the course of the kiss, the touching, the heat and sweat, the kaleidoscope of sensations, his jeans were kicked aside and Asami had turned him around, facing the wall.

"You… asshole…" Definitely not one of Akihito's favorite position, but before he could protest, Asami slipped in one finger.

"Glad to know you know your anatomy."

"…fuck you…"

"I intend to." A second finger. A hand snaked across his chest. Lips brushed against his shoulder, traveled up the neck then around to the curve of the jaw.

"Aaahh…" Akihito gritted his teeth when a third finger pushed inside. "Just get it over with already." A bead of sweat dripped onto the tip of his nose.

"Don't be in such a hurry, we've still got time," Asami bent over, whispering in Akihito's ears. He licked the edge, making his lover shudder beneath him.

"Maybe you do-" Asami suddenly slipped the fingers out, leaving Akihito with an empty feeling. He grazed the tip of his length against Akihito, teasing him.


"Are you begging for me now?"

It was difficult for him to talk, his thoughts jumbled up in arousal. "Hurry."

"I can't hear you, you should articulate yourself clearly. Tell me what you want."

"Like hell I will."

Asami reached around and rubbed the tip of Akihito's hard cock between his fingers. It was already starting to get slick and moist as Asami stroked it, but he stroked it slow enough that it made Akihito want to lean forward. He was stopped by Asami's other hand, which was fixed over his stomach, holding him back. "Say it."

God that voice was just too goddamn sexy. "I want it."

"Want what?"

"I want you."

"That's not enough."

"God, Asami, I want you to fuck me."

"Of course you do." The tip slid into where the fingers had just been. It left him feeling full, but just when he thought it was over, Asami pushed in farther.

"Holy mother of-" Akihito panted then whimpered slightly at the mix of pain and ecstasy. "Aaah, that hurts, Asami."

"But you like it that way."

The first movements were slow and tempered, controlled and rhythmic, like following a metronome, but they soon turned frantic, savage, unbridled and uncontrolled. Asami thrust harder each time, nailing the prostate grand every time, and Akihito met every thrust with a hunger that only intensified by the second. Akihito clenched his teeth, but Asami turned him around while Akihito's groin was still impaled on him and kissed him, breaking through the barrier.

Akihito was caught with his back against the wall, supported only by Asami's strong body. Akihito's hands gripped Asami's shoulder, and he could feel the ridges of muscle beneath his fingertips and through the cloth. His other hand dug into Asami's hair and fisted a handful of thick, dark locks.

The fingers digging into his back was encouragement enough to Asami. Akihito rarely held on to him like this while they fucked, that was one good thing about their position, facing each other, Akihito against the wall, not touching the ground, levitating on sensations alone.

"Aren't I heavy?"

"The burden of love, I suppose." Asami whispered back and took Akihito's lips into his own.

"You really do come and go quickly." Akihito murmured as he stepped out of the shower, a towel covering his lower half. The hair that Akihito had ruffled was already back to its normal slick state. OCD freak. Asami was fixing his tie, the only article of clothing that had come off of him. How did he manage to do that? Akihito, on his part, had ended up completely naked. "Anyway, I'm late, thanks to you."

"Should I give you a ride?" Asami asked. Even without looking at the man, Akihito knew that there was probably a smirk on that cheeky bastard's face.

Akihito immediately turned his head and gave him an 'are you insane?' look. So predictable, Asami mused. He had asked with the intention of getting that response but couldn't help but feel just a tiny but rejected; who was he kidding…

"I don't need a ride in your… your limo." Akihito sputtered, but even as he did so.

"It's a BMW." Asami corrected.

"Same difference," Akihito retorted as he rolled his eyes.

"I don't understand why you're so adamant about not being seen around me."

"Oh please. Don't give me that load of bull. Who'd want to be seen around someone like you. Think about it." Then he remembered what Asami had come to him for, "By the way, what kind of pictures do you want? I mean, are they meeting somewhere or-"

"Have you heard of Eclectic?"

"Low-profile club, politicians, celebrities…"

"It's similar to Sion. Privacy, confidentiality, service, etc etc."

"How am I-" Akihito broke in, only to be interrupted by a hand.

"The manager owes me some favors."

Akihito eyed him with suspicion, "Does he really owe you favors? Or are you blackmailing him?"

Asami gave him a mind-your-own-business look then continued, "He'll know I sent you. Work there for two weeks and get to know the layout. Next Saturday, the executives and my dear friends from Kyoto are having a rendezvous."

"I have work during the day as well, Asami. In case you noticed, which you probably did since I know for a fact you pour an incredible amount of resources in keeping tabs on me, I got a steady job."

"Of course, you'll be getting paid for those two weeks."

Akihito sighed. This man just didn't get it. "No rapes." Another look from Asami. "What? I'm completely serious. I remember that time I went into Sion and…"

"You were on a stakeout."

Akihito gaped at Asami, "And how much different is that from what I'm about to do at the other place?"

"I own Sion, Akihito."

"WOoooo, big difference."

"You're trying my patience, Akihito."

"You always say that."

"Very true, but regarding rape, I'd break the neck of anyone who touches you," Asami reached and wrapped his arm around Akihito's waist, "Don't forget, you're mine," and planted a kiss just beneath nape of his neck.

"Just get out of my apartment." Akihito uncurled the arm around him. Asami looked back before he walked out.

"Don't get yourself killed."

"Just…just go."

Akihito heard the door creak open and close and shook his head. He had done three unforgivable things this morning. 1) he took a job from Asami. 2) he let Asami fuck him. 3) he was late because of the above two unforgivable actions. But he had to admit, he was somewhat proud that Asami had come to him for that job. It gave him this… fuzzy (that was the best word Akihito could come up with) and warm feeling inside. He didn't just want to be a hole for sexual release. He wanted to be useful to Asami in something other than sex. That wasn't enough.

Akihito glanced at his watch. He was already late anyway, might as well make it REALLY late just to piss of Hayashi-san for calling him in the morning. He wandered into the cramped living room and rummaged through the pile of laundry on the sofa (which had taken a spotted look from the mysterious stains that just kept appearing and appearing) and fished out two socks. Grabbing his wallet and cell phone, he put on his shoes and checked around the house; doing a quick visual sweep of the apartment before he left was something he'd gotten into the habit of doing ever since he'd met Asami. He couldn't count the number of times he'd been broken into on account of his proximity to the man.

When Akihito opened the door, two large figures lunged at him. Just blurs of muffled shouts and screams and thrashing followed. He backed into the bedroom, the two men in pursuit, and grabbed the lamp from the night stand, yanking it from the plug.

Without a second though, he threw it at them. Hell with the lamp. One of them ducked to dodge the lamp, but it struck the other, who had been standing behind his companion, on the head. While he screamed in pain, his partner drew a knife. Aww. Come on.

Akihito glanced around the room, looking around desperately for something to use… his camera. The flash on the camera. He moved sideways, toward the desk where the camera was. When close enough, Takaba grabbed the camera and took three consecutive photos, with the flash and temporarily blinded the man. He lunged toward Takaba blindly with his knife and managed to plunge the blade in Akihito's upper arm.

"Shit!" Akihito gritted his teeth, dropping his camera, which fell with a dull crack. That made him wince. His precious camera. But it was no time to think of his camera's wellbeing when his own life was at stake. Akihito clutched his arm and kicked the man in the side, taking the time to try and escape.

He ran out between the two men into the living room, but as he reached for the door, the man that had been hit in the head with the lamp grabbed him from behind and placed him in a headlock, chocking him. Akihito bit down. Hard.

"You fucking little brat!" He lifted Akihito into the air then threw him down. Akihito gasped, the air knocked out of him; he felt like a staged victim in those fake American wrestling shows. A knee fell hard in his stomach. All he needed now was a chair smashed over his head.

He must've struggled after that, he couldn't be sure. A sharp jab, a blade, slashed into his thigh as he kicked his legs, thrashing wildly. The stronger one landed on him, holding his arm out for his partner, who took out a syringe.

"What the fuck-" Akihito cursed as he felt the prick of the needle in his arm.

"Hold still unless you want to break the needle."

"Like hell I will!" He thrashed about like a madman, trying to shake off the attacker, but with no avail. Suddenly, they let him go, but he found he could hardly stand, the room spun around him like a merry-go-round, the voices swirling together in one long strand of noise. He fought to keep his eyes open, but his eyelids were already drooping. He felt his limbs go numb, starting from the tips of his finger and toes, past his elbows and knees, and he felt himself fall into the clutch of the attacker.

Asami removed the stopper of the crystal scotch bottle. A local rile-up had caused some troubles in the Shinjuku area and he had been up and about all day trying to settle the problem. Hot-headed idiots. Couldn't keep their cool for nothing. He poured himself half a glass of the amber liquid and with the glass in his hands, looked over the balcony at the city below him.

He found that the blurry neon signs that flashed hypnotically, the oversized television screens that covered the walls of department stores, and the red and white headlights of the cars had a rather calming effect on him.

He sipped the drink and settled into the recliner. Four AM. It had been a while since he'd come home so late on a weekday. Three AM was acceptable. In fact, that was around the hour he'd visited Akihito uninvited a while ago, that day when he'd almost run over the boy in the streets. During weekends, it was common to be out late and usually later, but it was a Monday night, or a Tuesday morning now, to be exact.

He had just settled on the leather recliner, propping up his feet, when his cell phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID: Eclectic. His muscles tightened. He usually knew who to be expecting calls from and the club wasn't on that mental list. With an ominous sense of foreboding, he flipped open the phone.

"Asami speaking."

"Ah…sir, this is-"

"I already know."

"Well, your photographer has not dropped by yet… I was… just wondering whether you had changed your mind…" the voice on the other end was uncertain.

Asami stood up immediately. It wasn't like Akihito to neglect an assignment; despite his recklessness, he was quick to get things done regardless of who offered him the job. "No one came by?"

"Well… no, sir." Silence. "Sir?"

Asami hung up and called up his bodyguards, who were always waiting downstairs. "Is there a problem, sir?"

"Get the car ready,"

"Right away, sir."

"And contact Takaba's apartment, his cellphone, his employer and his acquaintances. Find out where he's been and where he was last seen. "

The elevator couldn't have gone any slower. Asami felt like he was moving down a warp hole where time had slowed down and flowed like molasses. When he finally reached ground floor, several of his guards were already waiting as was the car. "Have you reached them?"

"None of his acquaintances saw him today. Apparently he did not show up at work."

"The apartment?"

"No one's picking up, sir."

"And the cell phone?"

"It appears to be off. Either that or he's in an area with no signal."

"Dammit," Asami cursed under his breath as he entered the car awaiting him. Of all the days, it had to be today. "To the apartment first," he said.

The driver didn't need to ask whose it was. As the black car drove out, a line of cars followed. It almost looked like a rushed funeral procession.

Asami contemplated what could have gone wrong. No doubt this could all be a false alarm, Takaba being a pain in the ass, but with the rendezvous with the corporations and Kyoto yakuza coming up, he doubted it. There had been an undeniable tension these past few weeks in the underground, and this, Asami was sure, had something to do with it.

The car finally stopped and he rushed out, followed by his men. He practically flew up the stairs, skipping 2, 3 steps with his long, powerful strides. The neighbors were all asleep and Asami stood before the familiar place, and put his hand on the doorknob and paused. It was unlocked. He blasted it open, his men and him rushing in to find a battlefield left inside. The coffee table was knocked over on its side. The room was a far cry from what it had been in the morning. There were drops of blood, one couldn't quite make out what had happened except for the directions that the drops fell. The camera was on the floor, cracked down the side, and, knowing how Takaba treated his prized possession, that alone would have been proof enough that something was definitely off. The black and white photo was near the camera, a few drops of blood dotting its surface.

"Shit." Asami cursed under his breath. He looked around the room again. His eyes rested on the broken camera and picked it up. "Check the camera. Have the films developed."


"Just do it."

There were murmuring voices as Akihito woke from unconsciousness. He realized that he was tied with his back against a thick column. He looked around slowly. Except for a few lights, the place was dark, but from the way there were tire marks on the floors, as well as white painted lines, he could tell it was some sort of old parking lot, mostly likely underground.

The pain in his arm and thigh were sharp and yet numb at the same time. They weren't wrapped or anything, raw, bare, open wounds throbbing more and more as the grogginess in his head ebbed away with the remaining traces of the drug.

His shirt was when near the arm wound and his jeans were stiff from the dried blood. In his mouth, he could taste the gritty, rusty flavor from his own blood, something he was all too familiar with. The pain from the stabs, on the other hand, were getting sharper and he groaned softly. The two men that had attacked him were in the middle of a conversation, irritation in their voices

"What are we doing here anyway? This parking lot is a shitty hideout if you ask me. And you? Why the hell do I have to work with a street crap like you?"

"Nobody asked for your opinion. It's a good place, underground, abandoned, so shut up."

"Can I really torture him?"

What the fuck…

"Don't mutilate him though. Either way, you're one sick bastard to look forward to stuff like that."

"What can I say, being a sadist is tough."

These guys were fucking insane.

Suddenly, the conversation stopped and they were looking at him..

"Hey, look here, our photographer's awake." The taller one with multiple tattoos, the sadist, approached him and tapped him with his foot. He had an undoubtedly typical Yakuza aura about him, with tattoos down the underside of his arm.

"Can you talk?" The other one followed, this one was shorter but had a more alert look about him, probably not as strong but somehow more dangerous, sharper in the mind. His appearance was clean cut, different from his companion. In fact, he looked nothing like a yakuza.

"Listen, friend, I'll keep it simple for you. All you gotta do is tell us what you know. Then we'll let you go."

All bullshit, of course.

Here, Takaba passed two judgments. One, he had to pretend he knew more than he did… since he really didn't know anything about the situation. It might get him tortured, but it was better than getting his brains blown out right then and there on the spot. And two, he should prepare himself for a world of hurt should they decide to... he really didn't want to imagine anything beforehand…

"It's not so hard, is it? Just a few words. What did Asami want from you? Was it about the Saturday rendezvous. We know you're part of the plan."

What plan? Takaba gave them a solemn glare

"Are you mute or something?" the midget (that was what Takaba decided to call him) turned toward the giant (another of Takaba's dubbed names).

"Looks like it, don't it?" The big man held his foot just above where he'd stabbed the thigh, "But if I do this" he pressed down, hard.

Takaba stifled a scream and grimaced, biting down on his lower lips

"Hurts, no?"

Akihito grinned in reply, a sick, twisted grin. He'd been in worse situations and if he couldn't get out of this one, he figured, he didn't deserve to be a freelancer.

"What about here?" He kicked the stab wound on the arm. Again, Takaba refused to scream simply because, for some reason, that seemed to piss off a lot of sadistic people.

"Look, here's the deal, you tell us what Asami told you and you go free."

Takaba looked up at him, smirked, then looked down again.

"You bitch!" he stood up and began kicking Akihito, in the stomach, his chest, he kicked him across the face. "Talk!"

"Calm down! What the fuck are you doing?" His partner held him back.

"The bastard won't talk!"

"It's only been fifteen goddamned minutes! Shut up and we'll just wear him out."

"Get the fucking acid!"

"Shut up, I'm in charge here. Go outside, get a breather."

"What? Fuck no!"

"Get. The. Fuck. Out. If you can't interrogate fifteen minutes without losing your cool, you're useless."

"You can't do this."

"I can, and I will. Out."

The bigger man trudged out, hanging his arms like a gorilla would. He kicked the door to the stairwell open, mumbling curses. The metal door closed behind him with a loud thud, its echo ringing soundly in the empty parking lot.

Already this pair was not getting off to a good start.

"Forgive him, he's got a short fuse." He pulled up a chair in front of Takaba, "Anyhow, back to our conversation. You know, I think you're pretty close to Asami, but I don't think you know much about the situation. That's the impression I get anyway. We probably won't kill you, but you never know. Anyway, what I want to know is, what's a runt photographer like you doing caught up in this mess, eh?"

Takaba glanced up at him and smiled, a condescending smile, the kind of smile you'd give to a loser on the streets.

"Listen, I don't much have a patience either, you know, and I really do like to do some hands on interrogation, if you know what I mean. Pulling fingernails, drilling holes, you know, the whole nine yards. Have I mentioned I like serrated edges on knives? They're great. I mean, really, they cut skin just like that." He snapped his fingers, "and amputations are quite entertaining as well. Finger by finger. But the best one…" he paused, "the best one is still the chemical burn I'd say. Nothing like watching flesh melt away, but we won't do that just yet. I don't know, maybe wait a day or two, while you piss on yourself and dehydrate. Have you ever pissed on yourself? The odor leaves quite an impression, especially if it's your own. Then wow, man, it can stink. What about shock? Ever gone into shock? Not to mention those stab wounds you have. I'd say give it twenty more hours, infection can really hurt. Pouring acid on that would be amazing. But if you somehow, say, piss us off real bad, the tool's are gonna come out of the bag real soon."

This guy is insane, Takaba thought, no really, this guy is Hannibal Lector kind of insane. This guy is Saw kind of insane. His mind flashed to a scene in that new Bond movie where the antagonist was slamming the hell outta Bond's balls. It was rather random really, thinking about action thriller movies while this guy talked to him about torturing him, and he couldn't help but liken himself to a POW under interrogation. Akihito was hardly listening as the man "properly" introduced himself and his partner outside, then continued for about an hour about torture methods.

"I'd rape you, but my taste just don't run in fags, but my friend outside, that guy would fuck a cow if you told him to. And he won't be sweet like your lover," he put his hand under Takaba's chin, "although, you're somewhat attractive. Yeah, we know about you and Asami. Wonders what that bastard sees in a kid like you. What are you? Twenty? Anyway, we could invite some friends for a house party, eh? Make that hole of yours bleed. We'll save that for later." He stood up and stretched, "Take care of yourself, we'll be back later."

Takaba shifted when the man finally walked out, these guys had obviously never done kidnapping before. They hadn't taken his watch, first off, and that was crucial, to make the victim lose his sense of time, and … long and behold, his cell phone was in his back pocket, shoved deep down, but they hadn't noticed because of his baggy pants. Even so, they really should have searched him. Rookies. They didn't know jack about abduction.

With his index and middle finger, he maneuvered the phone out of the pocket and turned it on. They must not have been far underground because the phone still had a faint signal. Mistake number two on their part. The first speed dial was, naturally, Asami. He couldn't call obviously, but he could send him a short message. As a new generation, Akihito could maneuver his way through his phone without looking and managed to type a short sentence.

Don't reply.

Knowing Asami, he could probably track the phone's exact location. Takaba carefully put the phone on silent, even on vibrate wouldn't word, should it start vibrating while his captors were present. Takaba glanced at his watch again, half an hour had passed since they had left him alone

"Track Takaba's phone, it's on now." Asami direct his bodyguard as they rushed down the stairwell. It was finally a chance to find Takaba before things got any more complicated. The thing was, he hadn't expected Akihito's involvement to be traced so quickly. But if they had really known Takaba's role in this, they would probably have waited until the night of the meeting to take action again the young photographer. The best bet was, as his "mistress," as Takaba was frequently referred to as, they probably assumed that he had a significant role in the inner workings. And knowing Akihito, he would probably let them assume such. The brat. Sometimes, he really astonished Asami with the things he pulled off, like during their first encounter.

Asami waited in the car, until a voice came on at the other end of the line, "Sir, we've got the location. It's an abandoned parking lot-"

"Save the detail for later. How long?"

"About forty five minutes, sir."

"Make it thirty."

"Yes, sir." The car jolted slightly as the driver pushed down on the gas pedal and Asami felt himself pressed momentarily into the seat.

Akihito waited. Occasionally, he would twist his body to glance at the watch. Another half and hour had gone by since he had last sent the message. So far, he had no idea where he was. Hell, he could be on a different island for all he knew. Would Asami find him? It was truly an enigma; he knew Asami would come for him. Despite how cold and detached the man tended to be (he was, after all, no social creature), he knew for certain that Asami would come. Then he heard voices, both of them, from the stairwell until the door blasted open.

"Did you miss us?" the midget smirked.

"Let's get to work, kid." The two opened a metal case and from a distance, he could see some syringes and tiny vials, "these, my friend, are truth serums."

What the…

"Apparently the higher ups want some-"

"Just shut up and get it ready."

"Fuck you, man. Anyway, they figured they'd save ourselves the blood and gore and get straight to the facts, eh?" he said as he tapped the air from the syringe, holding it up against the yellow light. "This is a good dosage for you I think. Start out slow, you know? They usually cave in pretty fast. Hold him down. I need an arm."

The giant practically sat on him and held him down, ripping off the sleeve off his shirt on the uninjured side, exposing the skin to the needle. Akihito felt a sharp prick then seconds later, the giant stood up.

"It should take about five minutes for the effects to start showing, enjoy your sanity for that time. After this, say goodbye to control." This is where the two kidnappers had gone incredibly wrong.

First off, they overestimated the effectiveness of the so-called "truth serums." Akihito had worked with the police on too many occasions to be so foolish. If and when truth serums did work, it was usually a mix of the drug's effect and an exaggerated sense of loss of control just because the person thought he was under control. More or less a semi-placebo effect. What really went wrong was far different.

A few minutes into their "interrogation," Akihito's body began to feel cold and frigid, and he himself passed it off as nothing serious. What he didn't realize was that, whatever the substance was, his body was rejecting the drug and minimizing circulation. His skin felt oddly prickly and every time they smacked him across the head, he felt as thought someone had crashed a cymbal and held his head between the two vibrating plates.

What the hell is this stuff... Takaba shook his head, trying to clear away at the muddiness. He could compare what he felt now to someone shoving cotton into his brain and packing it together.

The two kidnappers, on the other hand, didn't even notice at first, only irritated that Akihito hadn't muttered a single word.

It was about twenty minutes later that they noticed his skin, which was turning pale and felt oddly cold, not too cold, but enough to make anyone speculate. His face was dangerously white and bleached, lips tinted a purplish blue. He was shivering and his eyes no longer darted side to side and merely focused on what was before him.

The midget guy snapped his fingers in front of Akihito, who only blinked, but a fraction of a second too late in his responses.

"What the hell's wrong with him?"

"I dunno, this isn't what the drug is supposed to do. Shit." The giant was stood up abruptly, frustrated at the lack of progress.

"Just try to get as much information as possible before he completely passes out." The short guy knelt down and held Takaba's head up, "Listen here, just tell us what you know and…" he paused and smiled at the twisted grin on Takaba's lips, "What's so funny?"

"I don't know jack about what you're asking me. That's what's funny." Takaba answered, his speech muddled and inarticulate. He was laughing now and doing so hysterically.

But the other wasn't amused at all. In fact, the smile instantly dropped form his face and he stood. Without a second though, he pulled the pistol out from his partner's holster and pointed it at Takaba's head.

"What are you gonna do? Kill me? Yeah. That's a great idea," Akihito taunted, every word sticky and drawn out, "Killing your hostage. Just ab-so-fucking-lutely brilliant." Takaba smirked, his eyes on the small dark hole of the barrel.

"SHUT UP!" the short guy was seething, "You'd better start talking or-"

"I told you already, I don't-"

He pointed the gun down at Takaba's leg and pulled the trigger. Blood splattered as the bullet shredded though his leg and lodged itself near the inner muscle the thigh.

It took a second to register what had happened in Akihtio's mind with the drug slowing everything down to slow motion. Everything felt surreal. Did he just shoot me? He looked down. Wait, was that a hole through his jeans? It's turning awful dark around it…

"Oh… oh my God. Fuck!" he looked up at the pistol then at the man. It caught on, "Aaaah! Fuck! You psycho! You just fucking shot me!" Takaba gritted his teeth, panting heavily. Blood was starting to soak his jeans as blood pulsed out from the entry wound. His face was twisted with pain and disbelief and glared up at the man, who crouched, putting himself at eyelevel with Takaba.

He put the barrel of the gun against Takaba's neck and asked quietly, "That's right I just shot you. Now tell me. Do you know, I mean, do you really know what would happen if I shot your neck right now? Since you're not much in a position to think about it. Your head would just barely hang by some skin, a piece of your trachea maybe. Your spinal cord would be instantly cut, but see, that's no fun for me."

"You're fucking insane." Takaba managed to say through gritted teeth.

"Oh, I know. And I'll tell you a bit more about it later, but let's get back to you, since you're the topic of conversation. You know, I should just shoot you in the stomach, let all that acid melt away at your gut. That's quite the sight actually once you get over the gore of it."

"You need some serious mental help."

"SHUT UP!" he said, placing the barrel at Takaba's forehead, "You see, I can blow your head off if I really get annoyed. Or I can shoot your dick off, finish it off with some messy amputation. Three, four more cartridges, you know? How about it?"

Takaba responded by spitting on the guy's face. His senses maybe have been dulled, but his normally rebellious personality was still there.

The man smiled at his victim, wiping the spit with the back of his hand. Suddenly, the smile was gone and he slapped Takaba, the red hand print lingering long after the actual hit. It stung, but the pain was nothing compared to what was burning inside his thigh.

"You're not taking me very seriously, are you kid? No, I don't think you are." He grunted as he stood up again, "And I really, I mean really don't like people that don't take me seriously, you know?" he raised his foot over where the bullet had entered the thigh and grinded his heels into it. This pain, Takaba couldn't suppress. He screamed. And screamed. All the while the guy pressed and twisted his foot into the leg.

Asami stepped out of the car, "Is this it?" He was thoroughly irritated. Tokyo traffic really, really got on his nerves sometimes. Especially today. A usual forty-five minute route taking twice as long? No wonder people died so frequently in ambulances in Tokyo.

The building was gray and bleak, the lower walls covered with graffiti. Most of the paint had chipped off and the windows were either shattered or missing altogether. How this building had avoided demolition was a mystery.

"In the underground parking lot, sir." The men were prepared, their pistols out, safety unlocked. The door was rusted with layers of previous paint layers visible under the corrosion. For a moment, they stood outside until they heard a faint screaming front inside, muffled by the doors.

"Now!" The lock was shot open and the men, ran down the iron rung staircase, caring little about the noise they were making. The scream was clearly audible and no doubt it was Akihito's. Asami warned himself, to calm down, but hearing the screams, he found his blood boiling. The fact that someone had dared to inflict pain on his Akihito was unforgivable. His possessiveness and, at the same time, protectiveness over Akihito was something that Asami felt he could drown in, a pool of obsession threatening to asphyxiate him.

"You little fucker! You'd better start spitting out some good information, 'cause next time, I'm gonna blow you somewhere else."

Takaba was breathing heavily from the pain. His thigh burned where he'd been shot and he glared at the guy, who had finally taken his foot off the wound. Akihito stared blankly at the bloody shoe; the red liquid was strangely mesmerizing on surface of the shoe, satiny and glossy.

"Fuck." Akihito paused, trying to catch his breath from screaming, "You."

"You're still not getting it," he whispered and raised the pistol at Takaba again.

The second door leading into the parking lot flew open, Asami and another man leading the rest. Asami saw the blood just starting to pull around Akihito's thigh. One of the two kidnappers was starting to draw his pistol and the other…

Akihito looked up at Asami as the second bullet sliced through his shoulder. His expression of relief and panic was instantly replaced by one of pain and shock, his eyes shut tight, his teeth clenched down.

The next events happened so quickly, it frightened Akihito. The slow motion button just flipped off, and now some mysterious person had pushed fast forward. A bullet nailed the man standing next to Akihito square in the back of the head, his forehead seems to explode, gore and blood everywhere. Instant death. The body simply fell. Just a dead, hollow thud as he hit the ground, heavy and weighted as though the body was weighed down with lead. None of that Hollywood style, where the knees collapsed first. He fell like a domino pushed over by a finger. Except, he wasn't a domino; he was a human.

The other man was on the ground, chocking on his own blood. One of Asami's men stood over the man and contemplated something for a minute, then nailed him almost point-blank in the face.

There was no movie shoot-out, just the small-scale massacre of two men.

From where the bullet had shredded through his shoulder, the red spot around it was gradually spreading farther. His thigh, on the other hand, was in a worse condition. Asami rushed to Akihito, cutting the duct tape with a blade. "Akihito!"

"Asami…" his voice was hoarse and trembling. It was such a contrast from the usual fierce voice that it was as if Akihito had lost something. He tried to smile, but found he couldn't, his face contorted with pain, his pupils dilated.

"Shh. Don't say anything. You don't have to say anything." Asami held the sleeve of his shirt in his teeth and tore the cloth. He took the strip and wrapped it around Akihito's leg, improvising a tourniquet to slow the bleeding. The shoulder on the other hand was more difficult. He tore the other sleeve off to try and slow the bleeding, but the best he could do was apply pressure, the shoulder wound still welling blood.

Asami picked up the fragile body, it felt light and thin. His skin was too cold, like the bluish lips and pale face. Akihito wasn't ever heavy, but there was a strange limpness to the Akihito that he held now; the clear, bright eyes were out of focus, trying to fix its view at something but not quite coordinating. The blood spread across the shirt, blood traveling down the length of his arm, to the tip of his fingers, leaving a solitary trail of blood drops.

"Out! Now!"

The flight up the stairs seemed too long, even the twenty meters to the car were too far. Asami had managed to tighten the cloth around Akihito's thigh but even so, the shoulder entry was tricky. Being so close to the heart, it seemed to bleed at the same rhythm as Akihito's heartbeat. The hot, sticky blood trickled onto the luxurious leather seats.


"It's alright, just hang on, Akihito" he put a finger up to Akihito's lip, "we're almost there."

Akihito grimaced and nodded, biting his lips, which were already swollen and bleeding. The ride to the hospital was torture for Asami, every time there was a bump, Akihito winced. Holding his lover in his hand yet unable to relieve any pain, he felt helpless and all of a sudden weak. A man like him, in a situation like this, was solely relying on arriving at the hospital at the right time. It was absurd, absolutely ridiculously, but true.

Akihito's hair was matted with cold sweat and his skin, too, was wet from perspiration. The tips of his fingers were turning true, and he was struggling to keep his eyes open, fighting unconsciousness. His eyes were hazy, his pupils dilated. Akihito breathed in short, shallow breathes, like his pulse, which seemed to flutter weakly.

The car screeched into the emergency driveway, and Asami rushed out. The hospital had been called before hand, a patient with multiple gunshots due to arrive. A crew was waiting for him already, Asami watched helplessly as they pulled an oxygen mask over his small lover's face, IVs already piercing his skin and restoring fluid to the veins, which were in danger of collapsing form the blood loss.

"He's going into shock! More oxygen!"

"The IV! Where are the O blood transfusion?!"

"Press harder on the shoulder wound!"

The chaos surrounding the boy alienated him from his side. He could only watch from afar as they wheeled him behind the double doors, a crowd of doctors surrounding the all too fragile being. While Akihito was in the operating room, Asami turned his mind to other things. He had left half a dozen men at the site with orders to find out who or what organization they worked for. So far, they had not made much headway.

One of his bodyguards came up to him.


"What do you have so far?"

"We're almost certain it's linked to the corporations, but-"

Asami interrupted, "I'm not interested in almost certain things. First tell me what is certain, and then talk about speculations.

"Takaba Akihito was held bound to the column for about 24 hours. The best bet is that this… interrogation fell apart. The chemical injected was a type of truth serum, but it was incompatible and Takaba's body rejected it, resulting in a chemically induced state similar to shock, which was then aggravated by the excessive bleeding from the gun shot wounds."

"The doctors are aware of this?"

"Yes, sir."

"Anything else?"

"We have the kidnappers' names, but so far, we haven't been able to connect them with any higher ups."

"Is that what you have far?"

"We're interrogating possible collaborators."

"Keep up the work."

"Yes, sir."

Asami leaned against the white wall of the hospital hallway. He was a complete mess. His left sleeve was torn off, the white linen cloth of his shirt was stiff from dried blood, stiff as if it had been starched but dyed red, and his hair was disheveled, hardly the usual cool and composed image he had.

He waited. And waited. And waited.

Sometimes leaning against a wall. Then pacing. He never went outside for a smoke though, afraid that the doctor might come out just then. At times, he sat on one of the plastic chairs with his head in his hands.

Three hours he passed that way, glancing at his watch all too often. Sometimes, he just stared at the second hand and counted with it, imagining Akihito's death and erasing the possibility from his thoughts.

One of the surgeons finally came out, undoing his mask. There were splatters of blood on his light green scrubs. Akihito's blood, thought Asami, and he couldn't help but grimace slightly as he stood abruptly from the plastic chair, his back aching.

"He'll take some time to recover, especially with the effect that the chemical drug had on him. He was already going into shock beforehand, making surgery difficult during the first stages, but he'll definitely recover. For now, he's on Percocet, which is quite a strong analgesic, but he'll still be in a lot of pain once he wakes up, which should be pretty soon. We couldn't anesthetize him for long with another drug in him."

"But he's alright?" Asami knew he sounded desperate, but the truth of the matter was that he was desperate.

"He was very fortunate. The tissues around the entry wound are slightly extended, but they should close in soon since they're only temporal cavities. There were some muscle tissue damages, but nothing permanent. None of the bones are hit, and the stab wounds were not severe, only still slightly infected, but they're the least of his worries though."

"Where is he now?"

"This way." Asami followed the doctor through down a narrower hallway until he stopped, "He's inside," the doctor said as he opened the door slowly. Sure enough, there he was. "Just ask if you need anything and… there's a bathroom with a shower in the room as well."

Asami nodded, his eyes fixed on the fragile figure laying on the bed. Akihito looked barely alive, and only the beeping of the machine assure him of that. There were multiple IVs hanging from a pole beside the bed, dripping regularly almost like the second hand of a clock. He found he was afraid to touch the boy, afraid that Akihito might shatter and break apart into dust, that he might liquefy and seep into the clean white sheets.

"Akihito…" he whispered as he took a seat beside the bed. He held Akihito's small hand in his, caressing the small fingers. They were cleaned but dry blood was still beneath the fingernails.

Those fuckers were going to die for this. For every stitch, for every drop of the IV, they were going to pay a heavy price. That he knew. No doubt. Zero uncertainty. But before all that, before his thoughts of vengeance and revenge, he stared at the sleeping face, and gently ran a finger against Akihito's cheek. He imagined what it would have been like had Akihito not survived. For sure, he would have unleashed a fury worse than the gods of deaths themselves, but he pushed the thought from his mind. He didn't even want to imagine that. Not a life without Akihito.

There was a small knock on the door, and reluctantly, Asami stood, the chair squeaking softly as he pushed it back. When he opened the door, one of his men was holding a black duffel bag. "A change of clothes, sir."

"I never asked for this."

"We though you might need it sir."

He nodded, "Tomorrow, we start again."

"Of course, sir."

Asami took the bag and closed the door. He did have to get ready for the coming day, and he couldn't stay like this.

In the bathroom, Asami stripped from his filthy clothes. But they weren't really filthy simply because it was Akihito's blood. Had it been anybody else's, he might have considered it unworthy to be on his clothes, but not Akihito's. It just ached somewhere in the center of his chest to know that Akihito had bled because even a single drop of blood was too much.

The hot water melted away the dirt and the grit. It dissolved the blood and carried it away down into the pipes in murky, crimson water that swirled around the black hole Asami was staring at. Asami only wished his guilt could be sucked into that void with it.

Water trickled down his back, his legs and eased away some of the tension in his muscles. He had gone about thirty-six hours without sleep and the relief was gladly welcomed, standing under the steady stream of water, contemplating the events to come as steam rose up around him.

He couldn't just have the executives assassinated; things weren't that simple. They had others backing them up. He couldn't start an all-out war with the Kyoto yakuza, that'd be just about the worst thing he could do. He shook his head, turning the water off and stood in the shower, steam still rising around him. Every drip trickling down his body, he could feel, and he let the air cool around him before stepping out finally. With Akihito outside, he noticed how quickly he dried and dressed himself.

He stepped out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him quietly. Akihito was still asleep, his chest falling and rising and falling again rhythmically. The monitor beeped regularly, and the consistency of his heartbeat was, to Asami, Akihito's way of reassuring him.

What am I thinking… he hated himself when he became too sentimental, too emotional, too… human. That was why he usually treated Akihito the way he did. He didn't want to be human, because, if he was, he wouldn't be able to keep his life in order. Akihito was different from him. So starkly different. It was like comparing a… a grenade with a sniper. One was quick, spontaneous, unpredictable; its detonation an estimation of crude, whole seconds with incalculable effects, not knowing which way the explosion would fall. The other was quiet, invisible, deadly, and deadly accurate, success depended on millimeter by millimeter.

Asami hung his jacket over the back of the chair and his tie just over it. He really didn't need it; besides, he didn't much enjoy wearing those ties. He felt like a dog of the society wearing them, a clone, an artificial product. Asami sighed and sat down, pulling the chair closer to the bed. He was almost afraid to touch Akihito, afraid that he might shatter his lover. Akihito was so pale now that he looked like a porcelain doll, as if someone had bleached out his vibrancy along with his color.

Even now, his mind was replaying the moment when he had charged into the underground parking lot. Akihito's initial expression, before the bullet tore into his shoulder. It was relief and shock, as if Akihito hadn't been sure that Asami would come for him or not. That fact that Akihito had obviously doubted pained him the most. He wanted to be the first person Akihito turned to. It was selfish, he knew. He probably wasn't even capable of being Akihito's comfort and occasional shoulder, but he wanted it anyway. With this thought he fell asleep, uncertain of himself.

When Asami finally woke, he realized that he had slept about twelve hours straight. In a chair. As he stood, his back cracked, as did his neck. Ha. Hadn't done that for a while. Akihito was still asleep and Asami found himself bathed in relief. It was as though he had been afraid that he would wake up to see the bed empty. He leaned over Akihito and kissed him, more like, brushed his lips against Akihito's. With that, he grabbed his jacket and the duffel bag and stepped out of the room. He had some heads and dicks to slice off.

Two of his men was standing outside, keeping watch.

"Good morning, sir."

"Anything new?" he asked as he quickly fixed his tie.

"No, sir."

"Then let's get going."

"Yes, sir."

They followed close behind him. He already knew that his men were waiting outside.

Sure enough, his men were indeed prepared, and, from their expression, he knew that he looked different. His hair wasn't pristinely perfect, his shirt was slightly wrinkled, and he didn't even have his jacket on, simply holding it in his arm, folded.

"Where to, sir?"

"Why don't we pay a friendly visit to our favorite executives?"

"Which one first?"

"Yamada Hotaru, Seiko Electronics."

"Yes, sir."

Akihito wasn't quite awake, but he wasn't quite asleep either. Caught somewhere between the tangible, real world and his dream. He had felt ghost hands drift across his cheeks and phantom lips slip against his, but he wasn't sure, and somewhere amidst his half-awake contemplations, he passed them off as illusory dreams that he had made up to comfort himself.

Asami and his men stood around Yamada Hotaru's bed. The fatass was still sleeping soundly. Fatasses could really sleep soundly; all that useless blubber just blocked out awareness or something.

"Any of you men have a cigarette on hand?" It was a redundant question, really, since he knew for a fact that some, if not most, of them smoked.

"Yes, sir." One of them held out the box where Asami pulled one out and leaned forward as the man lit it. It always felt nice to be smoking when he was interrogating somebody. Apparently holding the cigarette right over their faces really intimidated them.

"Grab him and turn the lights on." Asami's voice was frigid and cold as he lit the cigarette. It wasn't his brand and tasted different but he didn't really care. The bedroom lights flickered on as the men grabbed the slightly plump old man and dragged him out of bed onto the floor on his knees. Asami circled him, like a hawk eyeing its break. He hadn't even said anything, but the man was half-sobbing already. Pathetic.

"Do you know what you've just done?"

The man opened his mouth to speak but Asami put up a hand, "Before you speak, think about it, hm? I mean really think about it."

"I-I-I wa-wasn't p-p-p-part of it, I swear!" he was trembling, bumbling, stuttering, the fat on his double, wait, no, triple chin jiggling. Aw… gross…

"Oh really? Well then, tell me. Who?"

"Th-the others!"

Asami pretended to ponder then spoke again, "You know, that's…um… that's really interesting because… I just dropped by the "others" and got the same. Exact. Fucking. Answer." This was all bull shit, of course, but the fatass was trying to slime his way out. What he hated worse that pathetic, stuttering fatasses were stuttering fatass traitors. "What do you make of them? Cause the thing is, I remember a couple years ago, we made this agreement, you see?"

"What's that got to…"

"Don't play dumb with me." Asami said as he crouched before the man, holding the cigarette just over the man's right eye, "or maybe you really are that stupid."

"Alright! Alright! I didn't have a choice!" he screamed as he stared into the glowing ashes at the edge of the cigarette.

"And why is that?"

"They have my wife as hostage until the contract!"

"And is it like this for the others as well?" Asami smiled as the man looked up, realizing that he had been tricked and caught at the same time.

"They have Sato's daughter and Yamada Takashi's fiancé as well!"

Asami looked around for a moment. "Well that's a problem, isn't it?" he crouched, "You see, you happen to live in Tokyo. That means that you are under my jurisdiction. Did you stop and think of that? And because this is my territory, I don't like people messing with anything or anyone in my territory. So I'll take care of this not because I like you or anything, but because it just ticks me off to see losers like you playing into someone else's hands." Asami stood up, dropped the cigarette on the wooden floor and smudged it with his heel. "Release him. I don't want to waste any more time with this bastard."

The two who had been holding the man roughly by the arms, let him go but roughly. Asami didn't even look back; honestly, he wanted to be there when Akihito woke up. He wanted to see even the faintest smile, but he had made up his mind. It was because of Akihito's close proximity to Asami that his lover had been involved. Something like what had happened yesterday was something Asami wasn't sure if he himself would be able to endure again. But if it did happen again, then… it was his responsibility to carry the burden and make it work, no matter the prices he might pay.

He hadn't let it on, but the entire drive to the hospital, his hands were trembling, just barely, as he held a too cold Akihito in his arms. When he'd walked in on the torture scene, he had felt as though a curtain of darkness had descended the moment the gun went off and Akihito's body convulsed in wretched pain.

"Sir, what are we going to do?" a voice interrupted his waking nightmare.

"We need to get the family members back first. Negotiations can't start if I don't have any card to play."

Akihito woke to a faint beeping in the background. It had started as a barely audible, a faint calling, but the sound grew slowly until he finally registered what the sound was. His heart beat. Why was he not surprised… Outside, he heard footsteps approaching, then the door opened just barely. Footsteps shuffled inside and the door creaked shut again.


A hand pressed at the edge of the mattress and he groaned. He didn't recognize the voice at all. It wasn't any of his friends. Not his parents. Not even… Asami. Who was that? He opened his eyes, staring up at a blank white ceiling with white lights. He turned his head just barely to see two men, or rather, two blurry figures. These two men definitely weren't Asami's men.

"We're from the organized crime division of Tokyo police," the one with his hand on the door knob said finally flipping out his badge. Big deal, Akihito snorted softly. "We need ask you a few questions."

…What? Questions now? That's rare… wait… Ah, damn…I can't even focus on the goddamn wall…

"I'm detective Tarumoto and this is my partner," one of the detectives motioned to another man behind him, "detective Saitou. Takaba-san, you should by now know that the organized crime division managed to set into action a way to put an end to Asami's 'reign,' for lack of a better word, over the Tokyo underground. Your incident came to out attention." He paused, "I understand you are somehow involved with Asami and-"

"We're here to ask for your cooperation." The other detective, detective Saitou or something like that, who had been silent suddenly spoke up, "Let's cut to the chase, shall we?" he raised an eyebrow at his partner.

Akihito couldn't help but smile at the naivety of these detectives. He used his good arm and motion the detective closer. The detective stepped forward. Closer. He bent down. Closer. Akihito pulled at his tie until he could see his reflection in the detective's cold, calculating eyes, "Listen to me, you fucking idiot...you'll never… ever… bring that man down…"

"Actually, it doesn't seem far off, and Kyoto yakuza has agreed to participate in the project," the detective looked quite please with himself as he stood up and fixed his tie.

Whoa… did I just hear that right? Fear crossed his eyes. Think, Akihito, think!

Akihito closed his eyes, trying to put the pieces together. So these two men that he'd never met before were from the police department, and he had been part of some twisted plot to bring Asami down. He'd been used, used just like the two men who had abducted him. Speaking of which…

"What about the two… kidnappers?"

"Sacrifices had to be made," Detective Saitou spoken answered coldly. He had no qualms about two men dying.

Akihito could have puked that moment. If he had anything in his stomach, that is. The fact that these dogs of the state could be so inhumane sickened him; they were worse than Asami, at least Asami never threw away the lives of his men. At least Asami broke down the chains of society around him. Akihito had never agreed to this disgusting conspiracy; he hadn't even been aware of it, and now they were trying to "count him in" or something?

Slick, cunning bastards.

"I suppose so…" he answered quietly. These people were dangerous, that much he could tell. It didn't matter that they were detectives or not; they had set off a dangerous chain of events in the underground world. "Are you planning to arrest him or something?"

"Oh no, it'll be a quick assassination."

"I see," Takaba paused again, unsure of what to say, "what can I do… to help?"

Two can play the game of deception.

"You see, Takaba-san, all these years, we have yet to successfully dispatch a mole to relate information on Asami. Considering your proximity to Asami-"

"You… want me to spy… on him?" Takaba closed his eyes. It was getting harder and harder to keep a conversation going. Every word that he spoke drained him more and more.

"Well, that wouldn't exactly be the-" Detective Tarumoto injected but was cut off by Takaba.

"Detective… if you want my cooperation… spare me the euphemisms."

The detective winced slightly, "Of course."

"And I want you to know… I'm not doing this out of generosity… I've got… some old scores to settle."

"Then you agree to the plan?"

"Yes… but if I ever… ever…get the impression… that I am being used… I will drop out," he paused then added, "immediately."

"Of course. We will come back tomorrow then." They bowed slightly and made their way out of the room. Rude bastards, breaking into a patient's room…

They hadn't revealed everything, but from the way they were acting around him, it wasn't hard to figure out what they had done so far. His kidnapping had been their plan, gone slightly wrong. They had used him to bait Asami, and now they wanted use him against Asami. Did he look that stupid and naïve?

A strange fear suddenly gripped Akihito. If this had all been a rouse and a trap for Asami and two men from the police had come to recruit him, then, Akihito realized, it could turn into one colossal misunderstanding. Of course, he always spouted how he would watch Asami fall one day from all his shining glory, but he didn't really want to see the man fall like this. In fact… he didn't want him to fall at all. He liked and wanted Asami on top of the world… and on top of him. Both metaphorically and… physically.

Akihito glanced around the room. His cell phone was on top of a small table at the corner of the room, probably about ten steps from the bed, but the small distance, That small distance, Takaba knew, would take effort as he'd never known before.

There were three IV drops in his arms. These would have to go. He picked at the tapes and yanked them out, one by one, until, all there was left were sticky residue from the bandages and three pricks with tiny drops of blood. The moment he tried to shift his weight, jagged waves of pain gripped him at the shoulders and thigh, like hands holding him down, tempting him not to go. His vision turned black as if sparks were going off at the back of his eyes.

Slowly, he sat up, swallowing the pain bit by bit, breathing his way through everything. With his free arm, he pushed the covers back. I can do it. I have to do this. He gritted his teeth and slowly swung his leg slowly off the bed until he was sitting at the edge. His thigh and shoulder throbbed, pulsing blood to the wounds. Holding the edge of the bed with his good arm, he balanced himself, the metal railing at the edge cold and icy under his trembling fingers. Now, for the first step.

He took his first step with the wounded leg, and the moment the foot hit the floor, he knew it had been a bad idea. The leg gave out, as though it were held together by cartilage, not bone, and as he fell, his arm banged against the edge of the bed and he almost screamed but restrained himself. He couldn't make a sound now, they would probably drag him back to bed, strap him down, and tranquilize him or something. He considered calling the nurse and just asking her to bring the cell phone to her but pushed the idea from his mind. He really didn't want anyone to know he had made a call to Asami.

He sat crumpled on the floor, trying to push back the first drops of tears already welling at the corner of his eyes. If he had to crawl his way, so be it. Inch by inch, he dragged himself over the cold floor, anchoring himself with his elbow and pulling himself forward like a slug. Even a slug could have moved faster than he did.

Anchor, pull, slide. Anchor, pull, slide. Anchor, pull, slide. Stop, catch your breath. Again. Anchor, pull…

Three or four times, he stopped to catch his breath. This was more strenuous than any chase he'd had in his dangerous career.

It took him nearly half an hour to make it to the table, inch by inch, until his wounds had torn slightly again and the blood started to soak through the clean, white bandages. The stitches felt as through they were picking into his skin and the bullet wounds were screaming at him to stop, like demons dragging someone down to hell.

He fumbled his hand over the table until his hand finally felt the familiar plastic and grabbed it triumphantly. Yes! The cellphone had bloody handprints on it, but he ignored it and held the first speed dial number. "Come on, come on, come on, answer the fucking phone, Asami, answer the fucking phone."

Asami felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and glanced at the caller ID.

Incoming call…

Takaba Akihito

"Akihito, you shouldn't be-"

"Asami? Asami! Listen to me," Akihito's voice was throaty and desperate, but it was definitely a whisper, implying that he didn't want to be heard by anybody, "stop whatever you're doing right now. Just- just stop. It's a rouse, do you understand? A trap. For you!"

"What is?"

"This whole thing. It's just," Akihito gasped, paused then continued, "the police are in on this and the, fuck, the Kyoto yakuza are cooperating with them. You have to stop before they get to you." Over the phone, Akihito's breathing sounded uneven and coarse, jerky almost.

"Akihito, where are you now?"

"I'm still in the hospital."

"And how do you know this?"

"They came by."

"Who did?"

"The police, two detectives from the organized crime division."

Asami covered the mouth piece of the cell phone and directed to the driver again, "Change directions, back to the hospital, now!"

Akihito was definitely panicking, and there had to be more to this then what he was letting on.

"This is big, Asami, this is big. It'd be easier if it were just some other group, but you can't fight everyone, you can't fight everyone."

"Akihito, I'm going back to get you. Do not-"

"No, you can't! Don't come, Asami, you have to listen to me," he croaked, "If you come, then…oh shit…" his voice died away.

"Akihito! Akihito!" there was no sound except for a busy signal, an ominous beeping. "Fuck!"

"Well, well, well. You really did it, Takaba-san. Didn't think a kid had it in him to be so loyal and… devoted… to Asami. What guts, eh? What nerves you have… But then again, you're infamous for that," Detective Saitou clicked his tongue from the door way. Detective Tarumoto walked inside; he was holding a pistol, its end elongated with the cylindrical tube of a silencer. Just beyond the doorway, there were two men dead on the floor, a red hole at the center of their foreheads. The wall behind them was splattered with blood.

"We were just going to leave them unconscious, but… decided against it."

"Those are Asami's men."


Yes? Don't just say yes as if it's nothing!

"I thought you were police."

"We are. It's just… the same rules don't quite apply to us, that's all. There's a lot of things that value more than the lives couple of Asami's bodyguards. Like… oh I don't know… bringing down Asami himself."

"You're disgusting, detective."

"That's alright. I don't really give a damn since it doesn't really matter. Whether you like it or not, you're helping us."

"I'd rather die then work with you."

"Oh no, you misunderstood. We're not asking for your voluntary cooperation, you blew that one. We're just going to use you to bait him since I know for a fact he's coming. Since… what more to aggravate a man than hold his lover captive, hm? The first kidnapping was set up, of course. We did hope that your men wouldn't kill them since one of them was a fellow detective; the other was from the Kyoto yakuza. But, as I said before, sacrifices had to be made, and mark my words, more will have to die."

"What do you have planned for Asami? You can't bring a man of his stature down that easily. He's got influence that someone like you could never ever have, let alone dream of it. Besides, this is hospital, how much could you-"

"This wing of the hospital's already been evacuated to the other side so that we won't have any unnecessary intrusions. I've told you already; we're not incompetent like the common police. Really, you should thank some of your detective friends you know." Detective Saitou leaned against the foot of the bed, glancing at the three IV drops that were hanging loosely from the stand, "Did you do that?"

"Wait, hold on. What do you mean by thanking my detective friends?" He didn't have any connections in the police. Not any that he knew of at least, since detective Yamazaki had been the only one he'd dealt with.

"You don't know? Jesus, kid, I don't know what some of those people see in you, Asami included. There're some detectives that don't want you dead, which is what I had planned at first."

Akihito's scrunched his eyebrows, suspicious and confused.

"I mean it, kid, they told me not to kill you, but of course, that doesn't exclude other things."

"You're worse than any yakuza in Japan."

"I'm afraid you're wrong; I'm under the law."

"It makes no fucking difference. I'm talking about being a human."

Akihito caught Detective Tarumoto's eyes in the background, who quickly looked away, as if afraid to face those strong, pure eyes.

"You know what I think, detective Saitou? I think you've got a fucking inferiority complex."

Something snapped in the detective. Shit, big mistake.

"You wouldn't" Saitou turned his head slowly, "care to repeat that… would you?"

"You. Have. An. In-fe-rio-ri-ty. Complex." Akihito repeated, stressing every syllable, just to piss the detective off. If he was screwed, might as well make a scene of it. "I bet you have something against Asami, isn't it?"

Saitou stopped leaning against and walked towards Akihito, who glared at him from his spot against the wall. Without warning, he grabbed the arm that was stabbed, the same side with the injured shoulder. The pain that shot felt as though his arm was being twisted and torn off. Akihito screamed as he was dragged to the center of the small room. The man practically pounced on him to hold him down. He pressed his hand down on Akihito's wind pipe.

Detective Tarumoto was fiddling with his gun still while Saitou stared down at him with a sick twist at the corners of his lips. "Tell me, how does it feel like being Asami's lover?"

"I'm not… gaah… his lover."

"Indeed you're not. You see, some of my men have been rather curious about other men lately, Isn't that right?" he asked his partner, who grimaced at Saitou with disgust.

"I have a wife and two children."

"Shame," he pretended to be disappointed, "Well, I know others that are rather anxious about a man's asshole," there was this awful glint in his eyes, "and I was thinking, Akihito, who better to relieve the curiosity than Asami's personal fuck-toy? I don't think curiosity actually killed the cat, you know."

"So now you're a rapist."

"No, I'm just the innocent bystander, it's Hideaki outside who'll be raping you." He stood up, holding Akihito's phone in his hand. "Bring Hideaki inside, Tarumoto."

Tarumoto stopped leaning against the bed and walked over to the door, pausing slightly then opening it. "Saitou wants you."

Akihito heard a low chuckle as another detective came in. He had a big stature around the shoulders especially, standing a bit taller than Tarumoto.

"No need to be gentle, Hideaki, he's half-broken anyways."

Akihito tried to back away as the man approached him. There was nothing but cruelty and lust in the man's eyes.

Saitou was scrolling through the numbers in Akihito's phone, looking for Asami's name, "Hold on, don't start just yet, we need to have a little chat before you start on him. Oh and, uh, hold him up for a second." He stopped when he found the number and clicked, switching the phone to speaker mode, the familiar ring echoed faintly in the room as Akihito held his breath.

He wasn't given any time to think though when the man named Hideaki pick him up by the arms. He was gripping his fingers just over the stitches and none to gentle about it either.

"Akihito! Akihito! Is that-" Asami's voice buzzed through the phone.

"Asami!" Akihito scream, "Don't come here, Asa-" He wasn't given a chance to anymore as Saitou slapped him in the face.

"Keep you mouth shut. Yes, Asami, he's here," Saitou answered, putting the phone on speaker mode and setting it down on the bed, "We haven't done anything to him… yet, so no need to worry."

"Saitou…" Asami's voice was low and dangerous, even over the fuzzy distortions of the phone.

"Don't sound so bitter now," Saitou responded as he nodded to Hideaki, giving him the go.

"Saitou, don't you dare touch him."

"You don't have to worry about me, Asami, it's one of my subordinates you have to worry about," Saitou picked up the phone against and reversed it back from speaker mode, "You know, I've always wondered what you'd do if you ever got a lover-"

"I'm warning you."

"But then I realized, I don't really have to wonder since he's right here in front of me… about to get raped," Saitou's voice was frigid and sharp as Hideaki pushed Akihito to the ground and practically ripped Akihito's hospital trousers off. Akihito grunted, trying to crawl away from him, but he felt rough hands grab him by the waist and drag him back, like a hook reeling in its victim.

"Saitou, if you so much as touch him-"

"What would you do? Can't do anything about it, can you?"

Akihito screamed as Hideaki pushed into him roughly. A hoarse and desperate scream. There was no pleasure in this; it had nothing to do with romance or even fucking. He wasn't being raped for carnal satisfaction. No, he was being violated just for the purpose of spiting Asami. It was humiliating, having Asami listen to his agony as he was raped by another man. It was revolting, this burning flesh buried inside him. It was like a parasite, feeding off his self-hate and humiliation and disgrace. This wasn't Asami. He felt nothing, nothing but sheer disgust.

"Stop! Hurts… Jesus Christ, fuck…" His lower lips were bleeding as he bit down on them harder while he tried to crawl away, only to be pulled in closer, harder. He felt as though he was being shredded and torn apart inside out, as if he could spit out blood from the terror of the moment. To add to that, his bullet wounds had reopened now and the bandages were starting to get wet and soggy from the blood. Even with the burning sensation in his arm and leg, Akihito tried once again to push away, but his rapist yanked his hair and pinned him down, hard. Akihito bit his lips again, trying to hold back halting gasps of agony.

"Do you hear that, Asami? Let me get you closer to him." Saitou held the phone near Akihito's head.

Akihito was whimpering and sobbing, whispering Asami's name softly through the gasps and grunts of trying to hold back the cries of torment and anguish. "Fuck… Asami… I'm so sorry… Asami… Asami… Forgive me… Asami…"

"He's calling for you, Asami."

"Fuck!" Asami gripped the phone in his hands. It was absolutely unacceptable, unbearable, hearing Akihito in such agony. The desperate voice calling his name softly, even apologizing to him through the torment carved away at Asami's gut. It wasn't Akihito who should be asking for forgiveness. No, there would be no forgiveness from this point out. Every hand that touched Akihito was going to be cut off, every eye gouged out. No one touched Akihito. He rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hands. He wanted to rip out Saitou's eyes, to tear his limbs off one by one, to make him feel the same wretchedness that Akihito felt now only multiplied and afflict suffering ten fold.

"The two left at the hospital are not responding, sir."

"They're probably dead." Asami answered. He couldn't stay this way. Control. Control yourself, Asami. That was what he needed, and he would seize it. "It's almost guaranteed they have the entire hospital locked down and evacuated already. I know that Saitou bastard." Asami quickly unbuttoned his shirt in the backseat, preparing to harness bullet-proof vest under his shirt.

"Does this involve the police, sir?" the driver asked without turning back.

"The police and the Kyoto yakuza, the executives were just pawns."

"What about Takaba-kun, sir?"

"He's still in there. I doubt they'd kill him," he answered, strapping the vest down, "but he's obviously a bait."

"Will you take it, sir?"

"Arata, that's not a matter of question."

Asami was already pulling the sleeves of the white button back on and buttoning the shirt.

"The earset."

The driver produced a small earpiece and handed it to Asami without looking back. Asami put it on and shook it head to make sure it was secure in his ear.

"How many minutes?"

"Five, sir."

"Everyone hear me? Alright. Be ready for heavy fire." He began his quick, precise instructions. If there was anything he was good at, it was urban tactics. True, he was an economics major, but beyond that, he had other talents. He spoke with articulation as deadly as his aim as he checked the magazines in his pistols then slipped them into either side of his holster. His third gun was a slightly heavier kind, the first he would use at the entrance. After all, breaking through the initial blockade would be the hardest, and probably the most costly, part. "How many minutes?"

"Three and a half, sir."

"Still time then. When we pull up, get out on the side away from the hospital. Cover for the ones that will be entering. For those remaining outside, you task is to make sure that Saitou's group does not outflank the group that entered. Understood? The last two groups are to enter through the other wing, all the patients have been evacuated there, but there will still be a fair mount of resistance. Report every man down. We need to keep a count of how many active men we have." He turned his attention to the driver, "Time."

"Two minutes, sir."

"When I get off, leave immediately."

"But, sir-"

"Drive around the perimeter until I say otherwise."

"Yes, sir."

He saw the hospital in the distance, "Everyone set?"

Hideaki pretty much chucked an unconscious Akihito aside, zipping his pants up. There was blood smudged and trickled between Akihito's thigh, along with the sticky semen that had mixed with it. The boy was impotent or something; he never responded the entire time and passed out instead. Oh well, it was probably better not to have too much resistance anyway. No biggie, he had done it with drugged girls before back in high school and this seemed hardly any different.

"You done?"


"How was it?"

"It was okay."

Saitou glanced over at Akihito, "Goddamn it, Hideaki. At least pull his pants back up. Nobody wants to see your leftover handiwork."

"Haha. Why don't you fuck him?" Hideaki asked, bending down to yank the Akihito's trousers up.

"My tastes just don't run in men. Besides, all the women in Tokyo would commit suicide if I did."

"Pft, whatever," Hideaki snorted, standing up straight again.

This conversation was pointless, Tarumoto thought as he listened out of disgust. Tarumoto never said it aloud, but Saito really did have an inferiority complex. He ordered Tarumoto around even if he would have done the same things with or without command. At first he was just irritated, but now, Tarumoto realized; Saito had some serious mental problems. As did Hideaki.

There was a small knock on the door, interrupting their conversation. Saitou opened the door slightly.

"Sir, they're here."

"Are the entrances secured?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good," he turned to Tarumoto, "stay here and keep an eye on him."

"What?! Come on, it's not as if he'll escape or anything. Look at him! He's out cold." Tarumoto protested; he didn't want to be left out of something as big as this.

"I said stay here and watch him," Saitou nodded at him and walked out, Hideaki behind with a smug expression on his face.

Yeah, yeah. Have fun while Saitou uses you to cover for himself.

"Tch." Tarumoto tossed his pistol on the bed, where it bounced once and settled into the rumpled white sheets. "This is fucking ridiculous."

He cursed under his breath and looked over at Akihito, who was still unconscious. His frail body was in a sloppy heap the way Hideaki had left it, crumpled to the floor like a shriveled flower that had been uprooted and left to dry in the sun, its petals bleached white.

Tarumoto pitied the boy; after all, Takaba probably never realized just how dangerous of a position he was in as Asami's rumored lover. He was a prime target of anyone looking to strike a weak point in Asami.

Indeed, the boy was no doubt attractive, even with his chestnut hair ruffled and matted with sweat, his eyes closed with dark bags under them. They stood out even more against the pale skin.

What the hell am I thinking? Tarumoto shook his head. Now wasn't the time to be pitying an enemy (nor lusting after one)… but… how could he possibly consider something so delicate, so innocent as an enemy?

Tarumoto sighed, somewhere inside him, he was fighting a war of morals and ethics and ideals. He had joined the police force twelve years ago with a degree in forensic science, a naïve rookie no doubt, thinking that he would vanquish the evil and clear up some of the shit in the world. But once inside, things were so black and white. Inside, he discovered that the inner workings of the state were no different from the yakuza, just as filthy, as corrupt. He shook hands with the devil countless times, painting a fake plaster smile every morning as he went to work.

Then he got involved with the yakuza, the very type of people he wanted to destroy. What a hypocrite he'd become. At first, they were small bribes to overlook small crimes and fights. Then, as he rose through the ranks, the sins became greater. Covering up drug traffic, providing intelligence, manipulating parole dates. Two years ago, he was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo. He thought he could run away, but they used him even more. Now, he wasn't sure who he was working for. The Tokyo Organized Crime Division or the Kyoto yakuza. He was at a masquerade, switching masks every so often, painting them the next, but never taking one off.

To survive, he had become part of the same vicious circle that he had thought to destroy. He married. Had two children, both in elementary school. He recalled they worshipped him; he even went to school for career day to talk about being a detective just last week. His biggest fear was that he would discover his even darker side; being a detective in the organized crime area wasn't at all clean. Like today.

As for Saitou, he was becoming more and more erratic, volatile. Asami seemed to have interesting effects on people. One of them being that he drew other the dark side of men. And the Saitou that Tarumoto was seeing now was insane and sick, obsessed and possessed by thirst, a drive for revenge. Raping the boy had been one thing, but doing it while letting his lover hear the whispered pleas of forgiveness… Tarumoto sighed as he crouched next to Akihito.

It was pitiful and knowing he shouldn't be doing so, he slid an arm under Akihito's shoulder and another under the knees and gently picked up the boy, who unconsciously whimpered in pain at the lightest touch as Tarumoto placed him on the bed.

"You pitiful creature…"

The cars screeched into the driveway, doors swinging open and closing as men on both sides readied themselves. Already, bullets ricocheted off the cars, leaving dents and cracking faint spider webs on the bullet resistant windows. The footsteps were hurried yet organized, like a death ceremony choreographed before hand, a method to the madness.

Asami made a sign for the selected to follow him inside, "Cover us!"

They made a run for the door, concrete chipping away at their feet. Bullets shattered the windows of the hospital, and the shards seemed to explode into the air. Asami shot at the locked door and pushed it open with his shoulder.

"Get inside! Now!"

Inside, unlike for the mayhem outside, was quiet and peaceful, like the calm before a storm. The lobby was empty except for the overturned chairs and papers strewn on the floor. Deserted and desolate. They had been in a hurry to evacuate this wing of the hospital, it seemed.

Asami motioned at the reception desk. Check behind it. Nothing. They continued through the hallway, past the empty rooms, knocking down doors one by one. The entire first hallway had been cleared completely empty. Asami looked behind him; the rest of his men had just broken through the initial barricade and were now filing in.

"What the hell…" A small pop and smoke filled their surrounding. Bullets ripped through the air, shouting, screaming. Men groaned as their flesh was penetrated and fell. Others managed to lie low. The firing had stopped, both sides unsure where to fire. The smoke was starting to clear away now and he could tell that even the other side was just confused. Smoke screens were a double-edged sword.

"Saitou, you fucking idiot." Asami cursed under his breath as a cloudy figure lunged at him. Through the smoke, he spotted the dull glint of a blade. Shifting his weight to the right, the knife missed and he grabbed the arm and twisted it back. The elbow turned awkwardly, followed by a dull crack and tearing noise. While the attacker screamed, Asami kneed him in the stomach and with his free hand, struck him in the neck with the side of his hand. The struggling body went limp in his hands and he let it drop.

"Keep calm, they can see just as much as we can," he whispered, pulling out another pistol from under his left arm. A bullet ripped just past Asami head, "Fuckers."

Then, another smoke grenade popped, again leaving everyone confused and disoriented. This time, though, Asami was prepared, he charged through the barricade, knowing he had to make two more turns to reach Akihito's room, if he was still being kept there, that is.

He whispered into the ear set, "Keep them occupied." Now, he was running farther and farther from the center of commotion and the smoke with thinning. He turned the first corner. No one. With the pistol half empty, he continued on down the hallway. Just one more turn and Akihito's room would be at the end of the next hallway. Just one more turn.

Tarumoto knew that the situation could escalate into something monumental, uncontrollable. He knew Saitou's way of doing things and usually, they were far from pleasant. Saitou, after all, was a pragmatist, an obsessive and deranged one at that. If Asami did get past the barricade, Saitou could very well turn unpredictable and even end up killing Akihito, just to leave his final mark before Asami killed him.

And the more he thought about it, the more plausible the scenario became. His employees in the Kyoto yakuza would be furious. That would even begin to describe their reaction should Saitou kill Asami's lover. Of all the men in the world, Asami was the one that you did not want to piss off. Killing Akihito would do just that, and honestly, the boy shouldn't have to die just for getting mixed up in the wrong mess. He glanced back at Akihito and made up his mind.

Tucking the pistol into his holster, Tarumoto carefully wrapped Akihito in the white sheets and lifted the light body. Now that he had gone against Saitou, Tarumoto was just as much an enemy to the man as Asami and his men were. In other words, he was behind enemy lines.

Slowly, he turned the door knob, having to bend down and maneuver his hands around the handle since neither hand was free. Had Akihito been in a better condition, he could have had just tossed the boy over his shoulders, but he was in no shape for that.

The door slid open. Tarumoto held his breath as he checked the hallway. Empty. Now, if Saitou was heading toward the entrance, then most likely, he turned left.

Tarumoto would never run faster in his life. He bolted to the right, knowing where all the men were positioned, he took the hallways he knew were unoccupied, a zigzag race through the hospital labyrinth. Every time he turned a corner, he held his breath. Last thing he needed was to have his cover blown. This was probably a very, very stupid mistake. Now he was involved with Asami a lot closer than he wanted to be.

Kid, you owe me big time for this.

All the while, he was afraid he would run into Saitou. For the others, he could make up a story about how he was ordered to evacuate the boy. Finally, he reached the back door and ran out into the parking lot.

The sun nearly blinded his eyes as he ran out to his car. The handle was hot and he ignored it as he opened the door to the passenger seat first, carefully putting Akihito into a comfortable position. He raced around the front to his side. If he was discovered now, he would probably be summarily executed. No question about it.

The engine revved as he turned the keys, and Tarumoto stepped on the gas pedal a bit too hard and jerked forward. Forget seat belts, he had to get out and get out fast. The parking lot entry/exit was closed off, but the lot's only boundary was a sidewalk and he drove over it. Akihito moaned as the car bumped up and down. "Sorry, kid."

Now he had to think of a place to go where he and Akihito would be safe. There was an abandoned airfield at the edge of Tokyo toward the north. There were empty warehouses there, frequently used for illegal exchanges and Asami was sure to know where it was. It had been closed for a year now. A usually quiet and isolated area to begin with, the area had been under construction, but stopped after the company had some disagreement. He wasn't sure and neither did it matter.

Any hotel could blow their cover, obviously, and he doubted that walking into any of Asami's territories was anything wise either. Tarumoto made his mind up at the next turn. In moments like this, he really hated Tokyo traffic.

Saitou was walking towards the entrance when he stopped, "On second thought, we should probably bring Akihito with us."

"Won't he be a hindrance, sir?" the Hideaki asked, puzzled at the sudden change of mind.

"No, he'll be leverage over Asami," Saitou answered as he turned around. It would be interesting to see how Asami reacted to seeing his beloved unconscious and broken.

"But isn't this rather dangerous?"

"Dangerous?" Saitou paused, his hand on the door knob, "It's all a game anyway."

"A game?"

"Yes, a game. Imagine the look on Asami's face when he sees his precious-" He opened the door, expecting to see Akihito and Tarumoto inside, but the room was empty, deserted. He stopped dead.

"Is something wrong?"

"Have everyone search the building. Make sure nobody leaves. Find them."

"Yes, sir," Hideaki sprinted off, all too happy to get away from the ticking bomb of Saitou. The man looked as though he might explode of fury and release his wrath upon all Tokyo. They had just lost their trump and were left empty-handed in this game of cards.

Saitou closed the door. He had to think of a way to distract Asami long enough to find the boy. He wasn't about to call reinforcements, his pride and arrogance would never let him do such a thing. He couldn't believe it. Tarumoto was usually so obedient. What had gone wrong? He had been betrayed. Never in his wildest nightmares could he have imagined such a turn of events. He had suspected others in the law enforcement to turn against him but Tarumoto? Never. The man was quick and smart and practical? Why? Why would he turn from him?

He would have to make do without the traitor. It was probably for the better anyway, getting rid of the boy before Asami could get to him. He would simply tell Asami that Akihito had been taken elsewhere. Then, if he came out of this alive, Tarumoto would be given his just punishment; if Asami happened to be the victor, he would probably kill the son of bitch traitor to get Akihito back.


He heard the familiar, sickening voice call his name and turned around, "Ah... Asami," he smiled as though seeing an old friend, "it's been a while, hasn't it?"

"Cut the crap, Saitou, where's Akihito?" Asami's voice was coated with a steely edge, biting and dangerous and low. His gun was raised at Saitou, his finger ready to pull the trigger.

"Someone's awfully trigger-happy today. I'd watch out with that if I were you," Saitou was determined to play out this game of deception until the end; if he told that Akihito was elsewhere, Asami might just decide to kill him and divert his attention to finding Akihito, and no doubt he would succeed. After all, Tarumoto had turned against Saitou, "he's right inside, but should you decide to kill me… I don't know what consequences are. You understand my dilemma, don't you, Asami?"

"You've gone far enough with this joke of yours."

"Oh, no. This is all part my revenge."

"You still think I killed your father, your idol, your hero?"

"You did kill him."

"You just don't learn do you?"

"I'm carrying out his legacy by bringing you down. That's what he wanted," Saitou had a strange expression over his face, as if he were possessed, "and as his son, I'll fulfill it."

Asami sighed, dropping his arms. From a distance, he could hear the footsteps of his men; they were coming toward the hall.

"Saitou… You never realized it, did you?"

"There's nothing to realize."

Asami sighed, reaching into the front pocket for a cigarette. The box was slightly crushed, but the inside content was little damaged. He took out the small lighter and lit it, breathing in a draft of smoke.

"What did you think your father was, some kind of super-cop bringing down the yakuza?" he mocked Saitou, "He was yakuza but a good man, really, raised awful children, you included, but he really was a good man. Very useful even until the end."

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Are you dense, Saitou? Evidently so. You've stuffed that demented mind of yours with so much denial and fantasy. He was mole, Saitou. An informant! Whatever else you want to call it."

"Shut up!"

"There you go again with the denial, Saitou."

"Shut up!"

"You've already known about it, anyway. Don't pretend you didn't. I mean, this obsession is part of it, isn't it? Your father fell to shame and disgrace, and you are trying to redeem him."

"If you don't shut your-"

"But there's no such thing as redemption when you've come this far, and that is why" Asami paused, checking the magazine in the pistol and clicking it back into the bottom of the grip again, "you have to die." He had noticed Saitou gripping the door knob a bit too hard, his right thumb twitching involuntarily.

"What are you doing?"

"You don't know where Akihito is, do you?"

"He's in-"

"I've already said this, but since your father and I were rather close, I'll repeat it just for you. Who took him?"

"Ta-Tarumoto has him."


"I don't know where!" Saitou was panicking, looking frantically around for any of his guards.

"Then you're useless."

A gunshot cracked through the empty hallway. The thud of a limp body followed.

Akihito wasn't sure whether to open his eyes or not when he finally woke from unconsciousness. He was sitting upright in what felt like a very firm couch. Too hard for his taste, but he wasn't about to complain about a seat. He already knew that he was no longer in the hospital. For one, the scent of smoke, cigarette smoke, new leather, and plastic just barely tinted the air he breathed.

He opened his eyes slowly and realized that he was in a car, parked in a vast open field on something that looked like a runway. An airport runway? That didn't make much sense. Sighing, he looked down at himself. The white sheet that covered him had random spots of blood from where it had rubbed against the bandages. The wounds were sore and pulsed and throbbed as though someone was rhythmically beating at them to the rhythm of his heartbeat. But it was kind of strange. He didn't actually feel the pain. Well. Actually. Rewind that. He did but at the same time he didn't. It was more like he knew that he should be in pain.

His mind felt like someone had completely pulverized his brain, shook it too many times like a snow globe, watching the fake snow flakes of sanity settle back down calmly then shaking it all over again.

Akihito blinked. His eyes felt dry and cracked as though someone had sucked the liquid out of it. Then the thought just muddled away from him; he couldn't hold his mind unto anything but one. Asami. When was the last time he'd seen the man? It felt like ages ago. Two days? Three days? What time was it anyway? The shadows outside were long and stretched and the sky had taken a reddish, orange glow. So what was it? Seven? Eight? Wait. Stop. The parking lot. Then… the hospital room… Right. The hospital room. What happened after that again? Right… the… the rape… Asami's voice…

A finger tapped against the window, and the sound jarred him and froze his thoughts. He was a fish in a tank and someone was banging on the glass walls. He turned his head slowly to register a vaguely familiar face. The man opened the door and Akihito shifted away from him, wincing as he did so.

"Relax," the hand brushed lightly against his forehead, "I'm not going to hurt you." The tone was gentle and soft and it reminded him of the car ride to the hospital with Asami. The man… what was his name… his name… Tarumoto, that's right. He reached forward at the glove department and rummaged through the mess of papers and small boxes and took out a small box. "Do they hurt?"

Akihito nodded, his throat felt too parched to speak and sounded raspy and dry, coarse, "Somewhat."

Tarumoto nodded, "Here," he popped out two pills, took out the water bottle from the cup holder and twisted off the cap.

"What are they?"

"They're just painkillers."

Akihito looked at him, suspicious; anyone would have to be crazy to trust an enemy. "What do you want?"

"I'm not too sure myself," Tarumoto answered as he took hold of Akihito's good hand and placed the two pills in the small palm. "I'm not going to drug you, you know. If I'd wanted to, I could have done it while you were unconscious."

Akihito breathed in sharply.

"That's not saying that I would," Tarumoto added, "listen, if you don't want to take the pain killers, that's completely up to you. I'm not going to force you to swallow two pills."

Reluctantly, he put the pills into his mouth and took the water bottle that Tarumoto gave him. The water was lukewarm from having been in the heat for a long time. It was a relief though. The liquid trickled down the throat, and he could feel it settle into a stomach. Then, he felt the sudden urge to puke but suppressed it. Those opiate based painkillers they gave out at the hospitals did that sometimes. Ugh.

"Do you know Asami's phone number?"

"…" Here it comes, Takaba thought.

"Call him," Tarumoto handed him his phone, it was clean and black unlike the one that Akihito had left in the hospital room, "tell him to pick you up; the problem at the hospital was resolved a long time ago, but I had to wait for you to wake up."

"I'm not going to be bait again," Akihito whispered, staring at the phone in his hand, "I couldn't bear to do that to him. I just couldn't."

"You're not," Tarumoto sighed, "just call him." He stood up, reached behind him to produce a pistol seemingly out of nowhere and handed it to Akihito, "be careful, it's loaded."

"What is this?"

"A gun. A handgun, as a matter of fact."

"Well, I know that. I meant this scheme. What kind of trick are you trying to pull?"

"I'm not pulling anything."

"Right, you're not." Akihito couldn't let go of any misgivings. This could be some last minute effort to kill Asami. "I'm supposed to believe a turncoat detective."

Ouch, Tarumoto winced. That one hit too close to home.

"Listen, Takaba, I bolted from the hospital. Saitou probably would have killed me, but I'm pretty sure he's already dead. I just want to get you off my hands, and the only way this is going to happen is to give you to Asami. So call him already, will you? He's got his men combing through the entire city of Tokyo for you. Hell, he'd turn the world inside out to find you. Call him."

Akihito stared into Tarumoto's dark eyes. He didn't seem like he was lying. If he was, then he was a really good liar. Then he remembered the short-lived glimpse of the odd expression Tarumoto had had in the white hospital room, looking away from Akihito, grimacing in disgust at the rape. Maybe this guy wasn't so bad after all. Akihito flipped open the phone. Slowly, he pressed the soft, rubber buttons, wondering if he was doing the right thing. His heart pounded so much that he could feel the pulsing in his ears.

"How can he not be anywhere!" Asami rubbed his temples and let out an exasperate sigh. He had been going from place to place, but so far, nothing. He had spent half a day searching for Akihito. The man that had taken him had not even made an attempt at contacting him; he wasn't even sure what the motives were. The car stopped before Akihito's apartment. He had already come by here before, but he was coming back for, really, no reason at all.

"Wait here," he directed the driver as he shut the car door.

"Yes, sir."

The rusty stairs that wound up to the second floor creaked beneath the soles of his shoes. There were two middle-aged women chatting happily in the hallway. The glanced at Asami and went back to their conversation, ignoring the man. It was strange. How everything else could go on as usual even though Akihito was missing, nowhere to be found.

The door was unlocked, as he had left it. It smelled of… a strange, euphoric mix of fixer and soap, the same smell in Akihito's hair. There was a bit of cigarette scent mixed in as well, along with the faint trace of cologne; these were Asami's impressions on the small apartment.

He wandered into the bedroom and glanced over at the small desk; the cigarette he had smoked two days ago, or was that three, was still in the ashtray. Asami leaned against the doorway into the bedroom and lit another cigarette. To be honest, he didn't particularly enjoy smoking, but he wanted to leave his mark on the apartment before he left.

The cigarette wasn't even a quarter gone when Asami walked over to the ashtray and smudged it out. That was enough for the moment. Then Asami remembered how one time, he had caught Takaba smoking about half a year ago. It was from a pack that he had left behind by accident. He never did that again.

He remembered Akihito on his couch alone, gazing aimlessly at some stupid game show with those airhead celebrities, far from amused. Asami had plucked it from his mouth and covered it with a kiss instead. No need for Takaba to start down that road. Later, he discovered that Akihito's photos had been rejected on account of another politician pulling some strings. After an entire two months of stakeout collecting evidence after evidence. Every relevant newspaper rejected it. He took it to the police after that and they just laughed at him. The police station was the most corrupt place of all, after all. Akihito hadn't taken a single photo for two weeks, and dust had gathered on his camera. The makeshift darkroom had been destroyed. When Asami walked in, smoke was gently seeping from between his lips; it looked like his soul was drifting away.

Akihito's fingers trembled as he pushed in the last three digits of the number. He considered many times not finishing the number. At last, he pressed the small green button. His hand was shaky from anticipation as the number dialed and he heard the siren-like ringing.

It rang twice before Asami finally picked up, and there was an awkward, dead silence as though both sides were afraid to shatter their hopes. It was as though both sides already knew each other, at least, almost knew.

The caller ID had no name attached to it, just an anonymous number. Asami hesitated. This could be another threat, another bait that he had no choice but to take. The other end was silent, as if they were holding their breath just as he was.

"…Who is this?"

Asami's voice was like the waking call that Akihito had been waiting for in his nightmare."Asami…" Akihito whispered.

"Where are you?"

"I-I'm at…"

"Akihito? Answer me. Where are you?"

"I'm not really sure, an empty airfield. There's a…" Akihito looked around, "there's a big building, a warehouse of something… where they keep the planes, I guess, and a watch tower… the place looks abandoned though."

Asami knew the location; he had done a few transactions at there before. "Are you safe?"

"Yeah… I am… at least…I think I am…"

From the other end of the line, Akihito could hear Asami's sigh of relief. That was rare; it cracked a smile from Akihito.

"What does he want?"

"I don't know…I don't think he wants anything…"

"What? Come on, Akihito, nobody wants nothing."

"All he said was for you to come."

"Is that all?"


Asami was silent. He was contemplating, calculating, disbelieving. It seemed absurd and at the same time logical that the runaway detective intended to simply hand over Akihito.

"Let me talk to him."

Akihito paused, "Okay," he held out the phone to Tarumoto, "he wants to talk to you."

Tarumoto took the phone, "Asami-san?"

"You're Saitou's partner, aren't you?"

"Well, I wouldn't quite say that. I wasn't on the best of terms with him anyway He was obsessed over you."

"He's dead."

"I figured," Tarumoto felt a weight lift from him at the confirmation, "Just pick him up. I'll hand him over here at the airfield."

"Under what conditions?"

"There are no conditions, Asami-san, just come pick him up. Don't make this difficult; I don't have any bad intentions towards either of you."

"What do you want? Safety? Refuge?"

"It's a bit late to ask for that now."

"Put Akihito on the line."

Akihito took the phone again, "Asami?"

"I'm coming to get you. Don't do anything rash," Asami warned him.

Akihito couldn't help but laugh softly, "What do you take me for, a child?"

"No, you're my lover." With that, Asami hung up.

Akihito was blushing furiously when he handed the phone back to Tarumoto, who had an amused grin on his face at the sudden, unexpected reaction that Akihito had had. "What did he say?"

"He's coming."


Akihito looked up at Tarumoto, "Why are you doing this?"

"I don't know," he answered. "Another one of those divine mysteries." He was standing a few steps from Akihito, who was still sitting in the passenger seat. After all, Akihito could hardly stand up. "What I don't get is how a photographer like you got involved with someone like him. I mean, he's a dangerous guy, and that's a huge understatement."

"I was taking photos of him."

"Say what?"

"I was taking photos of him. It was a job from a detective friend of mine."

"That's very… stupid and bold and brave of you," Tarumoto answered.

"Yeah, it was. I got caught," Akihito laughed, "Can you believe it? Well, the first time, I jumped off a roof to escape. The second time… I was sold out by the detective."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I'm glad he caught me."

Tarumoto looked up at Akihito, a bit surprised at the response, "You would probably never have gone through this if you weren't with him."

"But it's worth it, don't you think?"

Tarumoto shrugged, shoving his hands in his pocket.

Four men sat around a table in a conference room at Park Hyatt Hotel Tokyo, dressed in black suits. The tension was so thick and high, a razor blade could have sliced the room in half. Indeed, none of the four had a pleasant expression on their faces. In fact, one of them looked as if he might burst out screaming, which he subsequently did.

"I knew that Saitou bastard would blow everything! He was insane to begin with! Why the hell did we-"

"Oshiro. Calm down, we can still recover from this."

"We can't do anything more about the hospital episode; we need to move on." Nakamura asked. In his hands were black and white pictures of Takaba, in his apartment, on the streets, in the subway, and from his demeanor, it was obvious that he was the one in charge. "Takaba Akihito, interesting fellow. Tarumoto has him hidden, and he's already arranged the exchange."

"What? Why are we returning the boy?"

"Because, as Tarumoto said, we've exhausted that option. Asami isn't the kind of man to be aggravated this way."

"That's true. This cannot turn into a turf war; we would lose for sure. After all, we are no longer in Kyoto. Also, Asami has resources here that we can't even begin to fathom. But why is Tarumoto-"

"He's been with us long enough to be considered an asset. Not indispensable, but an asset nonetheless."

"This is ridiculous!"

"He's right though. We should probably drop targeting the lover and start going directly for Asami. We can't kill him though. Start with his pawns. The police, the politicians, the executives. This time, kidnap the family members for real."

"Give it time." Nakamura twirled a pen between his fingers, "We'll have to lie under the radar for at least half a year, even then it might be too soon. If we act now, it'll give away our involvement with Saitou. He knows we cooperated, but as far as he's concerned, we were the sidekicks, not the other way around. Keep the lover under surveillance just in case though. And here," Nakamura tossed a pile of profiles on the table as he stood up, "are the ones I want monitored. They're small fry compared to what we'll be getting to later. Now, if you will excuse me." He didn't really need to be excused though, considering that the others were his subordinates.

Tarumoto glanced at Akihito to make sure the boy was asleep and looked down at the small screen of his cell phone.

Go through with

the exchange.


Tarumoto breathed a sigh of relief. He had arranged the hand-over with Asami without confirmation of Nakamura, the Kyoto yakuza's leading man. He dialed the number again; the man was probably expecting a call after the hospital incident anyway.

"Ah, Tarumoto-san, you finally called."

"I was occupied with the…boy."

"Yes, he's quite a handful, isn't he?" the chuckle at the other line was far from amused, "It's a pity he was such a nuisance, but I expected nothing less from Asami's lover. He always chose the feisty ones. When is the exchange?"

"I'm expecting Asami to arrive in about half an hour."

"Good, make sure you get on his good side."

"That…" he glanced at the sleeping figure, "might not be possible…"

"You didn't rape the boy, did you?"

"Well, no, but I was there, sir."

"I wish you luck facing Asami."

That wasn't even funny.

"Thank you, Nakamura-san."

"I always did like your sense of humor. Report to me after the hand-over."

"Yes, sir." But the phone was already beeping the usual busy signal. All yakuza bosses had terrible phone etiquette.

"How much longer?"

"Twenty-five minutes, sir."

"Hm." Asami nodded. He had been making a series of phone calls making preparations. He called the hospital ahead of time and sent up someone to Akihito's apartment to clean up the mess (and replace some of the crappy furnitures).

Asami was already making another call when the driver glanced back, "Have them look into the detective. Tarumoto. Check his background, his records, everything. I'd at least like to know what kind of man Akihito was with for eight hours. I want the report on my desk by the time I get home after dropping Akihito off at the hospital. Have I made myself clear?" A mumur of a response from the phone. "Be sure not to rile up the police to much; they might be a bit stingy with their files after the hospital incident. There's enough chaos already." Another murmur. "No, I don't want guards right outside of Akihito's room when he arrives. He is not to see them. At all." Pause. "I've already went through this. Twenty-hour surveillance." Another pause. "You're starting to get on my nerves."

The call ended quickly after that.


"Uh…Twenty-three minutes, sir."

Tarumoto leaned back on the beige hood of his old Toyota. It probably wasn't the most fitting vehicle for a yakuza boss's lover, but from the way the kid was drifting in and out of sleep, it didn't really seem to matter. He had been surprised to know that Asami's lover had been a… boy. Asami could probably have any woman he wanted, but he had chosen the most stubborn of the stubborn. He remembered what Nakamura had said. Something about liking feisty ones.

His mind drifted back to Akihito's pleas to Asami while he was being raped by Hideaki. He had begged for forgiveness. But what for? If anyone should be begging for forgiveness, it should be him and the others that had set out to stamp out his light. In those pleas, there had been a sense of… He couldn't even describe it. It was more than love. It was trust, humiliation, devotion, tenderness. It was anguish, grief, yearning, fervor. The boy's emotions were… intense. If he reached out a hand into the boy, he was sure that it would scald him and form blisters. One could really get caught up staring at his golden eyes and lose his track. Like he had.

He finally broke out of his thoughts when he felt solids eyes staring at him from behind. Those golden eyes again. God, even though he stood tall above the boy, under those eyes, he felt small inside.

"How long did I sleep for?"

"Not much, about forty minutes or so."

"When is…" silence.

"I'd give him half an hour more." It was amusing. The love between Akihito and Asami was humorously… adolescent. He imagined saying that to Asami and shuddered and laughed at the same time.

"Have you ever loved anyone?"

Rather an unexpected question. "I'm married."

"Oh. But that doesn't mean that…what I meant to say was…"

"Don't worry, I know what you meant. And yes, I do love my wife."

"And are you happy?"

"Of course."

Akihito stopped asking any questions after that. He did ask about three more times how much time had passed then went back to his private thoughts. When he first saw the boy, he had imagined him to be unruly and thoughtless, just a childish fancy, but he could sort of see what Asami must have seen in him. He glanced at his watch again; Asami should be arriving any minute in his BMW, ready to carry his princess away.

"How long?" the fourth time he had asked.

"He's here..."

Akihito turned his head to see the familiar black car approach the spot where they were parked.

"Help me up."

"But you're still-"

Akihito shook his head. "I won't face him like him. I can't."

Asami stepped out of the car, his eyes fixed on the small, white figure just twenty or so steps from where he stood. His legs urged him to move, to swallow his pride and run for his lover, but he controlled his childish impulse and walked slowly towards Akihito and the detective. Besides, he still had misgivings about this overly generous detective.

"Asami!" God, that voice. That celestial voice. It made the past three days worth everything.

Akihito was standing supported by both Tarumoto and the car. But he knew what the boy meant to say. He was too proud to be sitting just as Asami was too proud to rush to him. They both knew it.

Asami stopped about two steps from them, and Tarumoto acknowledged him with a nod. To which he responded, "Detective Tarumoto. I must say, I'm rather astounded by your actions."

What a prick. "I shocked myself as well."

"I'd imagine so." He glanced at Akihito then said, "And I'm grateful for what you did for Akihito."

Huh? Did he just hear that right? "There's really nothing to be grateful for. Saitou was quite beyond himself at that point."

"Indeed he was, but if there ever comes a time…"

"I'll be sure to seek the right man." And that was that. They had little to say to each other. But Akihito… his eyes were fixed on Asami, anchored to him.

Akihito was standing defiantly, his head held up, his back as straight as he could muster although an inch of movement tugged at his wounds painfully.

"Asami," he reached out his good hand, because that was all that he could do at that point. It trembled subtly, but Asami took it into his own firmly. He pulled Akihito gently closer and lifted him smoothly into his arms, one slow sweep off the ground. Akihito made no protest as Asami turned to leave. He gave Tarumoto a small smile. Tarumoto tried but couldn't smile back.

I'm a hypocrite, Akihito, a masquerader with too many masks. You have seen two, but there are so many more…

He stayed and watched the two lovers drive away and disappear beyond the gate of the airfield.

They will sink your world, sand by sand, dirt by dirt. And Akihito, you will descend willingly… because Asami will fall.