Takaba seems to bounce back from every horrible experience he has to suffer through – but human resilience can only stretch so far.

Hong Kong is very similar to Tokyo. Sometimes, when he's standing in the heart of Shinjuku, he would look up and the skyscrapers, neon lights, and oversized billboards would blur together. The push-and-shove of people, milling and aimless, focused and hurried, moved around him and bumped past him; he felt like a tiny, solitary island lapped by water. In times such as those, it was hard to tell that he had escaped. There was always a moment of confusion and dizziness as he returned to reality, a crash of a wave that left him blinking and breathless. Takaba would duck his head each time, gasping and shuddering and walking away fast, avoiding the looks of suspicious obaa-sans and giggling schoolgirls who probably wondered why he had stood still in the middle of a busy street.

His apartment was lit orange by the falling sun behind his half-closed blinds. He dropped his luggage by the door and closed it.


The pungent smell of fixer drifted from his darkroom and his cameras glistened and gleamed even in the low light.

I'm back.

He had been abroad three weeks for this photo shoot and he hoped that the phone wouldn't ring as the clock crept towards seven; there were still six minutes left.

For a moment, he toyed with the idea of not picking up when the time came…

His answering machine picks up on the sixth ring. Takaba knows that allowing that to happen to his seven o'clock calls is Very Bad but, he had decided, today he would stand his ground. He knows that the grunt that tails him would be pounding at the door in less than a minute and he suddenly develops a headache: he really didn't want to explain to his irritated neighbour – again – why he was regularly visited by the yakuza.

"Takaba-san! Takaba-san, please, I know you are there!" Although he uses keigo, the most polite form of Japanese, Takaba only shivers at his loud and sinister voice: "Takaba-san, please open the door otherwise I will have to call Asami-sama." Takaba doesn't know what the man would say after that because he always opens the door.

"Yes, sorry, I was in the shower." It's a lie. Takaba's still wearing the same clothes that he came home in.

The man doesn't even blink; "Asami-sama would like you to join him tonight at ten."

I'm sorry, I have a deadline I have to meet. Sorry, my friends have invited me to a party. Sorry, my grandmother just died and I need to …

A beat. "Yes, of course." He feels sick. Sorry, I really don't want to go. Takaba sometimes wonders what the man would say to that.

At six fifty-nine, he let his telephone ring five times before he dove to pick it up.

He fought back the shiver that threatened to shake down his spine when he heard the deep rolling voice on the other end of the line.

Takaba had become very adept at keeping his voice light, "Yes, I just got back now. Tonight? Of course, I don't have any other plans. Yeah, see you soon."

He wonders what would happen if he said he was busy. He would probably know I was lying, he thinks dully. Takaba has never allowed himself to consider why he doesn't tell Asami that he doesn't want to go.

At ten, Takaba made his way down the stairs of his apartment building and waited at the gate. The night was cold and he shivered as wind gusted past and chilled him to the bone.

Soon, a sleek black car rolled to a smooth stop in front of him. He watched as Asami stepped out from the rear passenger seat and ran his sharp eyes down Takaba critically.

"Akihito," he said as he walked to him.

"Hey," Takaba answered, making his voice sound energetic.

Asami stopped so close in front of him that he could feel the heat pulsating off of the man through his perfectly tailored suit and it was all he could do to stand in place and not to flail backwards and away. Takaba shivered when Asami put his hand on his waist as he guided him into the car.

They didn't speak during the drive to club; the tinted windows smothered them in darkness and Takaba felt the silence like a solid, heavy, cloying mass on his shoulders and in his lungs like the cigarette smoke that lingered in the air. It rolled against him, waver after wave, pushing into his lungs and choking him.

The car was wide enough that there was some space between them. Not enough, never enough. Asami, thank God, has usually never tried to touch him during the drive. But that doesn't mean he won't try this time. Takaba has never heard of anyone dying from anxiety before and his panicked mind wondered if his name would be published anywhere if he did.

Takaba shivered when he cast a glance at the other man as they drove past a particularly bright light that managed to fight its way past the heavily tinted windows and into the darkness, enflaming Asami's scorching golden eyes that stared straight at him.

The car parked in the underground parking lot in a spot reserved for Asami. Takaba waited quietly as the driver first opened the door for Asami then walked to the other side of the vehicle and opened the door for him. He didn't bother nodding at the driver; he couldn't look him in the eye. Does he know why I'm here? He wondered almost hysterically. Does he know what's going happen? He walked towards Asami.

Asami stood close enough to him to wrap his arm around Takaba in the elevator even though it was spacious and they were the only two passengers.

Takaba flicked his eyes up to Asami and found himself caught in his stare.

"You're tense."

Of course I'm tense! Wouldn't you be tense if you had to – against your will – again- His train of thought was cut off as Asami shifted so that he could wrap both arms loosely around his waist.

"You've been working too much recently."

Takaba laughed and tried not to squirm in the embrace as he tried to come up with a cheerful response, "You know that I have to work hard right now. I need a good portfolio if I want to be competitive in the Shinsho photography contest and this is the perfect opportunity to get some greats shots." He chattered on about his work, how excited he was about his future prospects, his new camera – anything he could think of to keep his mind off of his anxiety to keep a constant buzz of noise in the air that droned out the noise in his head and to prevent giving Asami any opening to say or do anything.

The elevator ride was so smooth that Takaba didn't realize that they had stopped until a chime sounded and he jerked his head to the opening doors, only to be greeted by a smartly dressed maitre'd who blinked once in surprise at the sight of two men wrapped in an obviously intimate embrace before bowing deeply and welcoming them to the restaurant. Flushing scarlet, Takaba hunched his shoulders a little and mostly stared at the floor of what seemed to be an pricey place as they were led past other classy looking diners to their out-of-the-way table in the corner, next to a potted fern plant. For a moment, Takabe felt self-conscious and underdressed in his plain white shirt and slacks but in the next instant, he decided quite viciously that he would be happiest if the restaurant kicked him out so that he would have a legitimate excuse to leave for the night.

He let Asami order for him because the menu was in Italian and despite his best efforts to emulate Asami's pronunciation, he just couldn't quite make himself understood to their waiter. He kept the chatter going as they waited for their food.

"So yeah, it was really cool to shoot pictures of those mountains. I haven't really done any serious scenic shots before and it's a lot different from portraits or glamour shots for magazines. I'm really liking that this contest makes us submit a wide range of material – did you know that last year's winner got a contract with the BBC? Oh, and the year before that, the photographer got picked up by some fashion house in Europe! With that kind of dough, I can probably afford that new camera by Olympus…"

"I thought that you only used Canon cameras for your professional shoots?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, the Canons are the best I have but…"

And so the conversation went. Asami kept the questions focused on him as if he were genuinely interested. And gradually, as both the public setting and the topic helped to ease away a lot of Takaba's tension, he found that he could just enjoy the pleasant conversation.

Takaba hadn't eaten since breakfast and he was looking forward to his roasted lamb and risotto. However, when he paused in his narrative about a shady politician and took the first bite of the delicious smelling meat, he found his stomach clenching and the food turning heavy and lumpy in his mouth when he realized that Asami was watching him intensely for his reaction.

"Is it good?" he asked.

Takaba swallows thickly, the high-strung tension returning to the air, and felt the meat slide in a painful mass down his throat, threatening to choke him, similar to the feeling of swallowing a large pill without water.

"Yeah," he said and smiles a bit weakly.

Asami frowned, "You don't have to force yourself. I remember that you said that you like Italian food and I know you've been scrimping on your food costs recently so –"

"Wait. How do you know I've been saving up?"

Asami just raised an eyebrow at him from across the table, as if saying, "What do you think?"

He felt a sickening lurch as his stomach dropped to the floor.

"You – you were having me followed when I was out working?" his voice came out in a furious hiss so he wouldn't attract the attention of the other tables, "How could you – I mean – why would you do that? Don't I already have to put up with a gorilla when I'm in Tokyo? I don't like –"

With a serious expression Asami cut in, "It's not a matter of what you like or dislike; I humour you in all things but this. This concerns your safety and wellbeing. Do you want another… accident to happen?"

Takaba snapped his mouth closed so quickly, his teeth clicked and rattled. His previous anger and indignance were swiftly replacing by a haunting fear. Even though he hated himself for it, he couldn't suppress the full body shiver and the hunching of his shoulders as he tried to retreat from thinking about Hong Kong, about the rush of the sea, about Fei Long, about. About. The Russians, his traitorous mind whispered. His hands formed claws on the cushioned hand rest of his chair as he fought the urge to touch his throat. No, that was the last thing he wanted to happen again. But no matter what, the last thing on his mind is my 'wellbeing', Takaba thought darkly, otherwise he wouldn't make me… not when I still haven't…

The rest of the dinner was quiet and Takaba only picked at his food.

When the meal was finished and the desert wine which made Takaba languid and drowsy was taken away, the maitre d' personally came to escort them back to the elevator. Asami didn't bother acknowledging the other man's existence but when the man executed a deep and elegant bow to them, a slightly wine-drunk Takaba gave him a flustered bow in response and glared and elbowed Asami once the doors closed. All he got was an amused smirk in return, the bastard.

Looking away quickly, the silence allowed the noise in Takaba's slightly drunk mind to swirled to a feverish pitch. Wildly, he thought that maybe this was it – they would call it a night once the elevator doors opened. Asami would leave for his nightly pursuits or whatever illegal activity he was up to these days, and Takaba would return to his apartment…

"Thanks for dinner," he says a little shyly with his face still lightly flushing from the alcohol and he peeks up at Asami through his lashes, "I do love Italian and it's nice to eat something other than ramen and corner-store curry."

Asami smiles as him and brushes his bangs from his face, his touch firm but gentle and lacking any suggestion of sex. He strokes the skin between his eyebrows for a moment before he wraps his arms around Takaba and bends and kisses him on the corner of his lips. His weight is solid, warm, and not at all threatening.

"As long as you're happy. Are you sure you don't want my driver to drop you off tonight?"

Takaba shakes his head, "No, I really just want to take a taxi. Please?"

Asami sighs, "Fine. Here, I'll have him hail you a one."

The elevator chimed and they stepped out, with Takaba leaning slightly on Asami. The car was already waiting for them, right in front of the doors. The driver moved to first open the door for Asami but Asami waived him off and gestured for him to open the door closest to Takaba instead so that Asami could help the swaying man into the car.

For Takaba, the urge to resist, refuse, and escape was overpowering; his unwillingness to be led into the vehicle was physical – was visceral – and he tasted some stomach acid on his tongue as he pushed back against Asami. Asami took his behaviour to be a result of drunkenness and softly shushed him and rubbed smooth circles on his back to quiet him down and coax his trembling form into the vehicle. Only after Takaba was well situated did he enter the car.

The driver zoomed off towards Asami's favourite Tokyo apartment.

Asami's penthouse could have been the pullout spread of a interior decorating magazine. Incontrovertibly elegant and modern, the apartment was filled with sleek lines, black lacquered wood and polished steel. The floor to ceiling windows had an incredible view of the skyline and that alone was probably worth more than Takaba's annual salary. Takaba always felt that the apartment fit well with the man that lived in it; Takaba had visited this place several times since he had returned from Hong Kong but he had never felt comfortable here.

Without bothering to turn on the lights, he toed his shoes off and padded into the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the refrigerator to try to clear his head whilst Asami went to put his suit jacket away. He leaned into the sink with his weight resting on his elbows to minimize the effect of his shaking. He unscrewed the cap as carefully as he could but he still splashed some of the water onto the cuffs of his shirt and he swore as he shook his hands vigorously to get rid of the droplets. Taking a long drink, he choked a little at the end and ended up coughing violently. The bottle of water fell into the sink. He took a few ragged breathes to calm himself but suddenly tensed when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Asami standing very close next to him.

"Are you alright?"

Takaba flattened himself against the counter behind him and started to edge away towards the living room to try to put some space between them.

"Y-yeah. I just choked." He focused on the spot on the wall above Asami's left shoulder so he wouldn't have look into his eyes. A man with an arsenal at his disposal, Asami's eyes were his most deadly weapons.

For every step that he took back, Asami stalked forward with the lumbering and deadly grace of a large predator, his heat - his sexuality was as raw and violent and insistent as a tidal wave, crashing again and again and again into Takaba, and froze him into place with his arms raised slightly in front of him in a useless defence and his back pressed firmly against one of the large windows.

"What's wrong with you tonight? You're so jumpy…" he whispered quietly against his ear, sliding even closer.

Takaba made the mistake of staring into Asami's burning eyes as he drew back and felt a conflagration light on his nerves; he could feel his skin starting to goose pimple, could feel himself becoming more sensitized. It was like the aftermath of burning oneself with steam: the skin was left painfully tingling.

He hated himself for this: although he was mentally resistant and disgusted, his body would still respond to the stimulus. He shuddered again, and gave in.

Asami raised his hands to cup Takaba's face gently and gave him a soft kiss, nothing too demanding. Using one hand, he ran the tips of his fingers down Takaba: stroking Takaba's neck; palming his chest through his shirt; and teasing his hipbone with a scratch of his nails through his pants before settling to rest at the curve of his waist. Takaba shuddered at the simple contact and couldn't keep a quiet pant from escaping.

Asami smirked, grasped his chin with his other hand and kissed him with no reservations. All of a sudden, Takaba's senses became flooded with Asami. His tongue did sensual and demanding dances in Takaba's mouth, leaving him short of breath. Even as he gasped into Asami's shirt, he received no respite to even breathe; Asami kissed him behind one ear and down his neck, making him arch embarrassingly towards him for more. He licked the hollow of Takaba's throat and nipped at his Adam's apple with his lips whilst his fingers made short work of the buttons of Takaba's shirt.

He licked the bridge of Takaba's collarbone and blew on it before giving it a tender kiss and Takaba shuddered like a dried leaf. Then, without warning, he scraped his teeth like he wanted to bite down to his bone whilst simultaneously pulling Takaba forward so that their erections ground against each other. The pleasure was electric and it made Takaba's cock twitch like it was straining to tear through his pants.

"Get undressed," Asami said.

When Asami fucked him again hard and fast, he wrought desperate sobbing passion from him. Mindlessly, he cried out and clawed at his own chest to try to distract himself from the consuming pleasure. The action only seemed to provide further incentive for Asami to drive harder and faster into him. Takaba gave a keening wail and drew his hands protectively to his throat and closed his eyes to try to ride out the spike of pleasure.

Suddenly, he felt Asami knock his hands away and replace them with a chokehold of his own. Restricting and controlling his breathing so that when he most desperately needed air, he was left wanting like a drowning man. He was always given enough to have the strength to struggle for more. Takaba hated this more than anything else. Asami wanted to erase the marks left on him by Hong Kong but his sensual and controlled hold nevertheless reminded him of darker memories. It made him feel completely disgusted with himself and his body.

Asami sometimes tightened the hold so that Takaba could get almost no air at all; he would hold it until he felt Takaba's struggling become more violent and desperate and then, only then, would he grant him a few precious seconds to breathe.

Asami tightens his grip on Takaba's throat again continues to thrust deep into him. His body is wracked with passion and his cock is so hard that the head is shiny from pre-cum and poking at his stomach. Soon, Takaba can't breathe and spots appear in his vision. Instead of writhing and clawing to signal his distress, he moves his hips in a counter-point to Asami's thrusts and tries to tighten his walls whenever Asami pulls out. The reaction is almost immediate, Asami exhales a deep breathe and collapses for a moment on top of Takaba, his hands spasmodically tightening even further as he rides his orgasm. The devil's voice rang in his ear as the darkness set in and he was dragged under, "Takaba… Takaba? Taka – "

But Takaba can't help that his hands gripped Asami's arm in desperation when he tightened his hold. He couldn't prevent his wide eyes from rolling back into his head, his clawing, his twisting, his panic - he breathes, coming all over his stomach.

Later, much later, when they were both exhausted and panting on the bed, Takaba made himself move to sit up and turn away from Asami.


Takaba froze, "I'm just going to take a shower."

There was a pause from behind him. Then, "Stay."

He clenched his hands into the wrinkled sheets. If he didn't wash himself soon, he would claw himself bloody to try to erase the memories, "I'm just going to take a shower."

When he returned, Asami was sitting up in the bed. He watched Takaba put on his clothes. Before Takaba could leave the bedroom, he heard a quiet voice behind him say, "Stay with me."

Takaba hunched his shoulders, "I can't." He left.

Author's Note: Whew. This story was drafted quite a long time ago but was only completed now. This marks the first time I've ever tried to write in a sex-scene. Please let me know what you guys think.