Disclaimer: I own very little.

A/N: I'm still not entirely sure about this one, but... Ah, well. This was born from something I wrote in my notebook when I was supposed to take notes in Physics class. Go me.

Fun fact: the word count is exactly 5,555.

Walking Home

It wasn't a bad part of the town, oh no. In fact, it was safe enough for a middle school student to walk around on their own as darkness began to fall – even if the said student was fairly small for their age.

One such person was indeed walking down the street, cheerfully talking in a cell phone as they did so. A closer examination revealed the person was most likely male, although one couldn't be entirely sure for his delicate features and high voice. The voice was currently laughing at something the person at the other end of the line had said, a nice and melodic sound.

"Oh, no, really, you shouldn't do something like that!" the boy said suddenly, frowning a bit. "I don't care if you're going to get into trouble anyway; the very least you can do is not go looking for it! And yes, I am telling you what to do. I didn't make you go to high school just for you to get yourself kicked out desu!" He listened for a moment to whatever the other person said. "Don't start that with me, Jin," he then said, not so cheerful anymore. "You can't scare me like you do to everybody else. And I don't nag, I'm just doing my duty as a boyfriend."

A moment of silence followed as the other person spoke, the brisk steps the only sound to be heard for a while. Then, a huffed, "Oh, don't be ridiculous, Jin," could be heard. "I'll be just fine and you know it, you're only trying to change the subject. I'm only a couple of blocks away from home. It's not like I'm going to –"

Something the other person said made the boy roll his eyes. "Oh, don't be an idiot. I'm not going to wait here for you to show up; I'll be out on my own for a lot less time if I just walk home. What's with you today, anyway? You aren't –"

Unfortunately to the boy, due to the argument he had failed to notice the figure coming up behind him. His sentence was left unfinished as someone struck his head, the cell phone falling from his suddenly nerveless fingers.

"What the fuck was that, Taichi?" a somewhat startled voice asked from the phone. "Taichi, say something! …To the Hell with it, I'm coming there."

There were some light sounds of steps as the assaulter moved about the unconscious boy. Then, nothing could be heard aside from a few swear words from the phone line, with nobody to hear them.

Dan slowly came to. His first thought was that he was not on the street anymore, the second being that he was in a bed that was not his own. His third thought was the realisation that he knew the bed very well nevertheless, and a feeling of relief filled him. He was with Jin. He was safe.

"About the time you woke up, idiot." Dan opened his eyes to find Akutsu looking at him, a frown marring the older boy's face. "I guess I ought to have taken you to the fucking hospital, but since you were breathing okay I figured I'd wait until you were awake to reassure them it's not bloody me who beat you up."

Dan smiled weakly. "They wouldn't think that desu."

Akutsu snorted. "Taichi, they would and you know it. I don't exactly look like the fucking most reliable guy ever."

"That's only because they don't know you desu!" Dan said confidently, smiling at Akutsu. He sat up, then froze. "…My head feels too light desu," he said.

Akutsu didn't say anything. Instead, he simply handed Dan a small mirror the younger boy vaguely recognized as belonging to Akutsu's mother. Warily looking into it, he gasped, his hand automatically going towards his head. "My hair!"

"Don't look so fucking shocked," Akutsu growled. "You could have been raped or murdered just as well. If some damn freak wanted only your hair, you should be bloody well relieved."

"I guess you're right desu," Dan sighed, running a hand mournfully through his now very short hair. It had been down to his shoulders before. "…I look pretty stupid now, though."

"Better looking stupid than looking dead," grunted the older boy. "And you don't look that idiotic." He glanced at Dan in a not unkind way, the closest he would ever come to saying that Dan looked just as pretty as always in his eyes. "You could actually listen to me every now and then, you know," he then added.

"Oh, Jin, don't start again desu," Dan sighed. "If I'd stood and waited for you like you told me to I would have been an even easier target for whoever was crazy enough to want my hair!"

"Damn right I'm starting again," Akutsu replied. "Who do you think they're going to blame if you're found raped and torn on some fucking side alley? Damn it, Taichi, you're not going to walk around on your own anymore!"

"Then how am I supposed to make my way home?" asked Dan. "Nobody in the tennis club lives near me, and I'm not dropping out of the club just because you're paranoid." To be honest, he was getting more than a bit scared. His head still hurt, too. However, he also didn't like it when Akutsu treated him like a kid.

"I'll fucking walk you home if that's the problem," Akutsu replied, glaring at Dan. The younger boy knew, though, that the anger in the golden eyes was not directed at him.

"…Please do." Dan's smile wavered only the slightest bit.

"Fine." Akutsu stood up, offering Dan a hand up. "Come on. I know it's late, but you should go to a damn hospital to make sure you don't have a fucking concussion."

"Yes desu." Dan pulled himself up with Akutsu's support. However, even as he, too, was standing, he didn't let go of the older boy's hand.

Akutsu didn't let go, either.

Sengoku's way home passed his old middle school. Though they rarely had scheduled a meeting of any kind, whenever he passed the gates he made sure to check whether Dan was leaving school, too. He did thus this time, too. To his surprise, while the younger boy was nowhere to be seen, another familiar figure was leaning against the fence.

"Akutsu?" he asked, surprised. "Why are you still so near the school? I thought you were in the going home early club."

"I am," replied the taller teen. "This's not my school, though. What the fuck is it to you, anyway?" He glared sharply at Sengoku, who just grinned. Two years of such glares had made the redhead mostly immune.

"Oh, nothing," Sengoku said. "Just, you know, glad to see you like spending time with Dan-kun so much you even walk him home."

Akutsu snorted. "This has nothing to do with spending time with him," he claimed. "I'm just making sure the brat doesn't get himself killed or something."

"Still, for you it's an improvement not to want somebody to die." Sengoku's grin widened. "You know what? I think I'll tag along just to see the two of you all lovey-dovey."

Akutsu muttered a curse. However, any further comments were forgotten as a cheerful voice called out, "Jin! Oi, Jin!"

Sengoku turned to look at Dan, his grin turning into a shocked look as he saw the younger boy. "Dan-kun? What have you done to your hair?" he asked.

"Sengoku-senpai?" Dan froze, looking a bit nervous. "Ah – I had a little accident desu…"

"Accident?" Sengoku stared. Dan's former long pretty hair was now gone, in its place a mess that was even shorter than Sengoku's own. "What kind of an accident? You look – you look horrible, Dan-kun!"

"I know that, Sengoku-senpai," Dan replied miserably. "Like I said, it was an accident, okay? Nothing important, though, I promise desu."

"But – but it's your hair!" Sengoku still tried to say. "It took you years to grow it out!"

"Just shut up about it, Sengoku," Akutsu growled. "Taichi already said it's nothing, so stop bothering him about it."

"But what happened?" Sengoku asked. "If you didn't cut it on purpose, someone else did it. Who was it and why?"

"What part of 'shut up' do you not understand, Sengoku?" Akutsu snapped. Sengoku could have just imagined it, but it seemed the older boy moved a bit closer to Dan. This was definitely suspicious.

"Fine," sighed Sengoku, starting to walk beside Dan, who apparently hoped moving would bring an end to the subject. Akutsu was still glaring at him as they both fell in step with Dan, whose chatter sounded more nervous than cheerful like usual. Oh, yes. Something was definitely out of ordinary.

"So how's the team doing nowadays?" asked Sengoku. "Still upholding the Yamabuki pride?"

"We're doing our best, Sengoku-senpai!" Dan replied, obviously relieved he was giving up on the subject of hair. "Our doubles aren't strong enough yet but we're getting there! And as for singles –" He talked on, and Sengoku listened, half genuinely interested, half wanting to make Dan relax.

Suddenly Akutsu, who had been mostly quiet, said, "Don't turn to look, but some creep's following us." Dan tensed, as did Sengoku. This did not bode well. Especially Dan's reaction to the apparently random comment…

"That's it, isn't it?" Sengoku asked quietly, very much hoping he'd be wrong. "Some creep attacked you and cut your hair."

"Yes desu," whispered Dan. "I don't know why anyone would do that desu…"

"You go on with the brat, Sengoku," Akutsu said. "I'll wait around the next corner and catch the bastard. You two don't stop for any reason before Taichi's safely home, got it?"

"Always knew you cared, Jin-chan," Sengoku said with a tight-lipped smile. Dan would make it safely home, he'd make sure about that. No creepy stalker would stop him.

"Don't fucking call me that." They turned around a corner, and after a couple of steps, Akutsu stopped, waving for them to go on. Sengoku did so, taking a secure hold of Dan's arm. Damn, but the kid was thin.

They hadn't gotten far, though, as Akutsu caught up with them. "The damn bastard guessed something," he said darkly, adding a few curses for a good measure. "When I get my hands at him…"

"You'll have me to help," Sengoku promised. Smiling soothingly at Dan, he then said, "Don't worry, Dan-kun. Between Akutsu and I, the creep won't get close to you."

"Thank you Sengoku-senpai desu." Dan smiled nervously. "I'm glad to have such great senpai-tachi desu!" His voice wavered, though. If and when the bastard got caught, he would regret even looking at the kid.

Finally Dan was safely home. Sengoku waved him off as the boy went inside, then turned to Akutsu. "Since when?"

"He was attacked a few days ago," Akutsu replied. "I've walked him to and from school ever since." Fumbling for a cigarette and lighting it, he then drew something from his pocket. Giving it to Sengoku, he growled, "I got this yesterday."

Sengoku took the object, finding it to be an envelope. Opening it, he found a short note and a thin braid woven of familiar blue hair. "Damn, this is sick," he commented, then read the note. "'He is mine.' Who does the bastard thing he is?"

"Fuck if I know." Akutsu sucked furiously at his cigarette. "If he thinks he can get anywhere near Taichi again, though, he's got fucking another thing coming."

"Protective, huh?" Sengoku smiled faintly. "Shouldn't you tell the police?"

"And get told it's just a prank?" Akutsu snorted. "Hell no. It's not like I can't keep my bitch safe by myself."

"Please don't use that word about Dan-kun," Sengoku said. "We both know he's more to you than that. It's not masculine pride that's got you so protective." Glancing at Akutsu, he added, "Well… not only masculine pride."

"Just shut up, Sengoku." Akutsu glared at him. "I'm not in the fucking mood right now."

"You're not? That's good. I don't think Dan-kun would be in the mood right now, either."

"Fuck off, Sengoku." Akutsu started walking away from Dan's house. However, Sengoku couldn't help but notice he glanced back several times as though unsure whether he should leave after all.

Love, Sengoku concluded, was a strange thing.

The envelope was ordinary, the kind that was available at almost any stationery shop. Akutsu's name was written on it with messy kanji. It had no stamp on it, nor address – meaning the culprit had brought it personally.

Akutsu wished he could have been more surprised.

Angrily he tore the envelope open, finding inside another thin braid and a note.

"Give up," the note said.

Gritting his teeth, Akutsu crumbled the note. Like hell he'd give up on Taichi.

"'Give up.' 'Leave him to me.' 'Stop following him around.' 'Hands off my property.'" Sengoku raised his eyes from the pile of threatening notes. "Akutsu, we have to tell the police."

"Like they would do anything," the older boy snorted. "I've enough of a reputation that they'd just brush it off as a gang war or something. In the worst case they'd assume I'm doing this myself for some damn reason."

"Well, you can only blame yourself if the police don't trust you." Sengoku continued reading the notes. "You haven't told Dan-kun." It was not a question.

"Of course not, you idiot." Akutsu glared at Sengoku. "He's panicky enough as it is. If he knew about this he'd never calm down for a moment."

"Good. He doesn't need any more reasons to worry." The redhead glanced at the notes again. "Is this all of them?"

"All but today's." Akutsu held up another envelope. "The same damn braid as always, and a crazy note." Taking the braid to himself, he tossed the envelope containing the note to Sengoku. "Read it. Crazy as ever."

"'These are my tokens,'" Sengoku read. "Crazy, yeah – like hair would make Dan-kun any less yours. Especially as the bastard's sending it to you little by little."

"Damn right." Akutsu drew a box from under his bed, opening it and putting the braid inside. Sengoku managed to see the other braids, all gently set in straight rows, before Akutsu closed the box again. "I wish I could get my hands at that bastard," growled Akutsu.

"As do I," sighed Sengoku. "Too bad he hasn't shown up lately. No one's allowed to make my kouhai freak out like this."

"I'll catch him yet," Akutsu vowed. "And then I'll rip his balls off and present them to Taichi."

"I'm sure Dan-kun would appreciate more just the knowledge that he doesn't have to be afraid anymore," Sengoku pointed out dryly. "…I'll help you dispose of the corpse, though."

Akutsu smiled grimly. "If there's enough left."

It was stupid, Akutsu thought, leaning against the wall of Sengoku's room, and completely useless. However, Dan was apparently happy, and that was good. In fact, he was now happier than Akutsu'd seen him even once since the incident, which was definitely good.

"Ah, come look at this, Akutsu!" Sengoku laughed, pointing at the screen of his computer. "Doesn't this suit Dan-kun perfectly?"

Semi-interested, Akutsu pushed himself off the wall to walk closer. Looking at the picture on the screen, he snorted. It was Dan, in this very same room, laughing at something. The only point of interest was that there was a bright pink streak on his hair.

"It was a dare," Dan explained. "We both agreed to look into Sengoku-senpai's sister's collection of hair mascara and pick the colour farthest from our own hair. See?" He stole the mouse from Sengoku, clicking at a link to the next picture. Sengoku was grinning in it, a neon green streak as his decoration.

Akutsu smirked. "You both look like idiots," he huffed. "When exactly was this, anyway?" It was stupid, of course, but he couldn't help but feel almost jealous at the thought of Dan spending time with Sengoku – and having fun, even! – without him around.

"It was… let me see." Sengoku looked thoughtful. "The last time Dan-kun came over…"

"I remember it desu." Dan sounded odd, now, and Akutsu turned to look at him. He was almost startled at how pale the youngest boy looked. "It was that day… On the way home I…" He trailed off. However, the way his hand nervously stroked his short hair was all the information either of the older boys needed.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Dan-kun!" Sengoku exclaimed, sounding genuinely sorry. "I didn't mean to remind you of that!" It was painfully obvious the redhead was trying to do some very fast thinking. "Oh! I know!" he soon exclaimed. "Let's go bother my Mum! She's just baked cookies yesterday and they're really great!"

It was almost painful to watch, Akutsu thought, how a fourteen-year-old's eyes could fill with so much delight at the mention of cookies. Then again, this was Dan in question. From Dan, many things he might consider insufferable coming from others were simply reasons why he was so adorable.

Pretty soon Dan seemed to have forgotten the issue entirely. Later, as he was cheerfully chatting with Sengoku's mother, Akutsu was drawn aside by Sengoku. Without a word, the redhead shoved an envelope in his hand. It looked all too familiar.

Akutsu really wasn't surprised to find yet another braid inside the envelope. He pocketed it without a word, Sengoku not protesting. Then he drew the accompanying note from the envelope to read it.

"When I run out of tokens," the note read. Akutsu even turned the note around, hoping – perhaps somewhat stupidly – that it would be continued on the other side, to no avail. That was all there was.

"Damn that bastard," growled Akutsu, resisting the temptation to crumble the note in his hands. "So now he's targeting you, too?"

"Apparently." Sengoku nodded seriously. "…Don't tell Dan-kun."

"I'm not a fucking idiot, Sengoku," Akutsu snorted. "If the bastard follows the pattern, though, there should be another waiting for me when I get home. Maybe it'll have the second half."

"I sure hope so," muttered Sengoku. "This is getting really worrying. If he knows I'm involved, too, he must have been keeping an eye on us."

"Which means we'll catch him sooner or later," Akutsu replied.

Sengoku just nodded, determined.

No one was allowed to hurt Dan.

Akutsu stared at the note. Then he growled a curse and crumbled the entire envelope in his hand. Fumbling for a cell phone, he called Sengoku.

"'When I run out of tokens'?" asked Sengoku right away.

"'I'll come and take him instead,'" finished Akutsu, seething with rage.

Sengoku watched silently as Akutsu carefully gathered all the blue hair into his hands, apparently measuring them. "Maybe we should open the braids," he said. "Being braided may make them seem thicker than they are."

"Not when the braids are this fucking thin," Akutsu replied. Looking at the hair held in his hands, he then loosened his grip, again looking like he was measuring something. "There's this much missing, still."

"Which means we still have some time to catch whoever is the bastard behind all this," Sengoku said, not for a moment doubting that Akutsu's estimate was the most accurate there was. The older boy had certainly been more in contact with Dan's hair than Sengoku himself.

"Of course we have fucking time," Akutsu said – well, more like growled. "We have all the time in the world. I'm not letting that bastard go anywhere near Taichi again."

"Believe me," Sengoku replied seriously, "you are not the only one with that goal."

Akutsu didn't even bother looking at the caller ID as he pressed the button on his phone. Only one person had that ring tone on his cell. "What is it now, Taichi?" he asked.

"J-Jin?" Damn, the brat sounded scared. Somebody was going to die for this. "Jin, I just got to my locker and… Jin, somebody has been here!"

Akutsu ran a hand through his hair. "Calm down, Taichi," he sighed. "How the fuck do you know that? What's happened?"

"There's an envelope in my locker," Dan replied. "There's nothing on it but my name and…" Was that a sniffle? Damn. "I opened it desu… It had some hair inside, and I think it's my hair, and there's also a strange note …"

"What'd the note say?" Akutsu asked, trying to stay calm despite the rage that was boiling inside him. The bastard had got to the club house, too. Apparently he couldn't trust Taichi to be safe anywhere, now.

"It says 'Only three left' desu… What does this mean, Jin?"

"Look, Taichi, I'm sure it's just a stupid prank," Akutsu said. "You don't know it's your hair, anyway, do you? Lots of people have the same hair colour. Hell, it sometimes seems blue's almost more common than black hair, nowadays. Don't pay any mind to it."

"But I'm scared, Jin!" sniffled the brat. "Somebody's been here desu!"

"Then make sure somebody stays behind for a while once practice ends, okay? I'll come pick you up. Whoever pulled that prank will regret it if they dare come anywhere near again, got it?"

"Y-yes desu." Again, a sniffle. Damn, the bastard was going to hope he had never been born. "B-but I know it's mine… There's the streak on it I had that night…"

Akutsu cursed under his breath. Of course the bastard would have picked something he knew Dan would recognize. "Well, calm down, okay, Taichi?" he said. "I'll come there as soon as I'm done with my detention today. Ask your vice-captain to stay behind after practice or something."

"You're having a detention?" Dan's voice immediately changed. Well, who would have guessed. The distraction worked better than well. "Jin! Haven't I told you often enough –"

Akutsu took the phone off his ear, letting Dan rant. The brat was the only person who would get away with saying such things to him. Not even his mother dared lecture like that, yet Dan had never once seemed to doubt his right to do so. Which was, Akutsu mused, one of the reasons that had led them to a situation where he indeed had the right. Not that Akutsu would have ever told him that, of course.

However, even lecturing was better than the teary voice.

Again, the same ring tone reached his ears just as the detention ended. It was loud and happy and cheerful, so very much like the brat himself, and it annoyed people greatly – even now, the teacher was glaring at him – which was of course Akutsu's only reason for using it. He would never get so sappy as to pick something that reminded him of the brat. Oh, no.

"Yes?" he asked, walking not-so-lazily out of the classroom. "You still alive, Taichi?"

"Yeah, more or less," he heard a somewhat nervous voice from the other end. "Practice's over but Yamada-kun is here. Apparently there are still people who'll take the opportunity to make fun of their captain's hideous hair rather than go home."

"Aw, don't talk like that, Dan-buchou," Akutsu heard somebody saying in the background. "Your hair will grow soon enough and then you can do anything you want with it – even fill it with pink streaks if you want."

"Thanks for the reassurance, Yamada-kun." Akutsu could hear not only the smile in the brat's voice, but also that the smile was somewhat teary. It was, however, not what he paid most attention to.

"Taichi, start running, now!" he ordered sharply. "Get as far from him as you can!"

"Huh?" Luckily, the brat trusted him almost too much for his own good. Akutsu heard some hasty footsteps and a shocked yell from Yamada before he heard the hasty, "Why?"

"Don't you get it, Taichi?" growled Akutsu. "He shouldn't know about the streak! You put it on your hair as a joke when you were over at Sengoku's and got attacked on your way home! When the fuck could he have seen it?"

"You don't mean –" The shock was evident in Dan's voice.

"I do mean!" Akutsu was running, himself, now. He had to get there and fast. Dan had much more stamina than a couple of years ago, but Yamada was also a tennis player and could most likely keep up fairly easily. "You and Sengoku were the only ones there and only I've seen the damn picture. The only one besides us who'd know is the one who attacked you!"

"But it can't be," muttered Dan, then asked, "What do I do desu?"

"Just keep running," Akutsu said. "Don't go anywhere outside the fucking school grounds unless you absolutely must or I won't find you; just keep out of his reach until I get there, okay? I'll call Sengoku."

Not waiting for the brat's response, Akutsu ended the call, dialled Sengoku's number and briefly told him the situation. After getting just about enough of a response that he knew he could trust Sengoku to arrive he ended that call, too, not needing any distractions. A tennis club member… oh, the bastard would pay when Akutsu finally got his hands at him.

Akutsu doubted he had ever crossed the distance between the Yamabuki high school and middle school as fast. Once he reached the school grounds he looked around, trying to spot Dan. Thankfully, Dan spotted him instead, as he suddenly heard a frantic call of, "Jin!"

Akutsu turned towards the voice, seeing Dan running towards him with a frightened expression, Yamada following him too close for comfort. As soon as Dan was close enough, Akutsu grasped on his wrist and drew the brat behind his back, standing up as a barrier between Dan and Yamada.

"Don't come the fuck nearer," he growled, glaring at Yamada. "The brat is mine, got it?"

"Wow, you are slow, aren't you?" asked the other boy, sounding quite cocky. The bastard. "I thought I made it clear enough just who he belongs to."

"That's only for Taichi himself to decide," spat Akutsu. "You're insane if you think attacking him will make any difference."

"For him to decide? Don't make me laugh." Yamada stepped forward. Akutsu tensed, ready to leap if need be. He could take the bastard easily enough, sure, but he wasn't about to leave Dan unguarded just yet. "He's just a little bitch who needs someone to tell him what to do. That's what you do, isn't it?" he asked then. "Fucking him to submission?"

"Look, idiot, I don't have to resort to things like that just to have a fuck," Akutsu replied. "If Taichi was nothing more than that, do you really think I'd want him to be fucking associated with me?" He felt Dan shiver a bit and squeezed the kid's hand soothingly. The last thing they needed was a nervous breakdown.

"How can you say such things, Yamada-kun?" he then heard a quiet voice behind him. "How – I never thought you were like this!"

"Of course you didn't, Dan-buchou." There was absolutely no respect in the word. "You can't see anything that's in front of your nose. Everybody knows you're the captain only because Banji's playing favourites. Your only good point is your pretty face."

Akutsu was going to protest, to tell that Dan could whip the idiot's ass in tennis ten times over – this was about his own pride, too, after all, with all the time he'd put into coaching the brat – as he tensed and was silent instead. Yamada had drawn something from his pocket – something sharp and metallic.

Akutsu muttered a curse, feeling Dan shiver behind him. The bastard had a knife. This could get messy unless Sengoku showed up soon.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

…Preferably with the entire high school tennis club, while he was at it.

Yamada grimaced as a wall of older boys suddenly separated him from Dan. Akutsu smirked. Way to go, Sengoku. Apparently the old team still remembered Dan fairly well. And Dan had a way of making people like himself.

The boys all eyed Yamada warily, not approaching him yet – a wise tactic, Akutsu concluded, seeing how they were unarmed and Yamada obviously was not. However, if they hesitated for too long, Yamada might attack anyway and somebody'd get hurt.

Good thing Akutsu was not entirely unprepared.

"Oi, Sengoku," he said, getting the redhead's attention. "You look after Taichi."

To Sengoku's credit he didn't ask questions. Instead, he just nodded and left his place in the protective barrier, taking Dan by hand and leading him further away. Good. The brat had better not get close. Akutsu didn't want to have to worry about him when he was beating someone.

Akutsu made his way past the tennis club, glaring at Yamada. This idiot had caused Dan so much fear and grief? Well, he'd definitely pay for it, and dearly so.

"Don't come any nearer," Yamada hissed. "I'm warning you, I have a knife!"

"I can see that, you fucking idiot," Akutsu replied. "That still doesn't change the fact you're going down."

Growling, Yamada attacked. Akutsu was ready.

In retrospect, it could have taken more time – Akutsu certainly wouldn't have protested at a chance to enjoy beating the idiot for some more. Nevertheless, the idiot was on the ground, badly bruised. Akutsu glanced at the knife, then snorted and broke it with his heel. Fucking idiot. Just being armed didn't necessarily mean you were on the winning side, especially when all you had to go against years of fighting experience was insanity.

"Jin!" he heard Dan's voice, half still frightened, half relieved. "Are you all right, Jin?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" snorted Akutsu. "He wasn't much of an opponent, the bastard. Are you all right?" he then asked, eyeing the brat sharply from head to toe, searching for any injuries. Had he found any, he would have made Yamada pay tenfold, but thankfully, none could be seen. He kicked the boy lying on the ground once more for a good measure and then walked to Dan's side. "Now, calm down," he murmured so lowly that nobody else – aside from Sengoku, who hung nearby, probably on purpose, the curious bastard – heard him. "Everything's all right now."

Dan sniffled a bit. "I'm pathetic, aren't I?" he asked with a wavering smile. "Even at this age, I get so scared…"

"You had every reason to be scared," Sengoku piped up. "He's physically bigger and stronger than you, and clearly not right in the head. I'd definitely be scared, too, if a gigantic madman was stalking me."

"You heard him, Taichi," Akutsu grunted. "Now forget the bastard. We'll call the police and let him to their hands."

"I'll call Banji, okay?" Sengoku offered. "He'll inform the rest of the team. You'd best go home and rest as soon as you can, Dan-kun. You definitely need it after all this stress."

Dan nodded wordlessly. Then, however, he looked up at Akutsu, asking with a very quiet voice, "Walk me home?"

Akutsu looked down at the teary brown eyes and decided that, fuck Sengoku and the whole tennis club, this was Dan. In a somewhat awkward gesture of caring he drew the other boy closer into a hug. "You don't have to fucking ask," he murmured.

Dan nodded against his chest and wrapped a pair of thin arms around Akutsu's waist.

Yamada was, they discovered later, anything but right in the head. Akutsu muttered a curse at that information – he could have told them that ages ago. Nevertheless, he was glad to hear the bastard wouldn't get anywhere Dan again. The brat had become jumpy enough as it was.

Little by little, though, Dan seemed to forget the entire incident. Soon the only reminder of it was his hair, which was still miserably short and very hard to manage. However Dan tried to style it, it just wouldn't look right.

"This is hopeless," he sighed one day, glaring at the mirror as though it was his reflection's fault it didn't look like he wished. "I'll never be presentable again desu."

"Oh, just shut up," huffed Akutsu. "Better no hair than no head, right?"

"Probably," replied Dan with a frown. "But how are you still interested in me?" he asked, turning towards Akutsu and walking closer to the taller boy, who was currently sitting on Dan's bed. "My only somewhat good point used to be my appearance but now I'm not even pretty anymore."

Someone else might have started telling him how he was still very attractive and whatnot. Akutsu, on the other hand, was not one for sweet talk. Therefore, he simply said, "You are an idiot, Taichi," grasped on the smaller boy's hand, and pulled him down onto the bed as well. "You," he said lowly as he pushed Dan on his back, "are mine, remember? And that's enough of a fucking reason for me."

Dan didn't say anything at that, just smiled a bit.

Akutsu, too, found himself smiling. Indeed, even after all this drama, Dan was still his.

And, Akutsu thought as he leant down to kiss the younger boy rather thoroughly, he was not about to let go.