Title: The Justice

Chapter: 2/?

Fandom: Prince of Tennis

Pairing(s): eventual Atobe/Tezuka, Sanada/Oshitari (with some past Atobe/Oshitari and Sanada/Tezuka, as well as a bit of OT4 in the future), Akutsu/Sengoku

Genre: AU, action, suspense, thriller

Rating: Mature (R-NC17)

Warnings: it's a lawyer AU, so it mentions crimes: murder, rape, drugs, others; also, some swearing; sexual content in later chapters (will be warned for accordingly)

Disclaimer: I don't own The Prince of Tennis manga, anime or any other media related to the original work. I am not associated with the authors. I make no profit writing this story; I'm doing it for fun.

Summary: Lawyer AU. The courtroom is a battlefield, where the defence and the prosecution fight battles to deliver Justice. A chain of seemingly coincidental events sets in motion something deadly for all the clueless participants. BL, Atobe/Tezuka, Sanada/Oshitari, Akutsu/Sengoku.

A/N: A new chapter after a year~! That must be something of a record.

Sengoku Kiyosumi was known in the world of lawyers as "lucky Sengoku" for a reason. Somehow, he was always capable of negotiating deals in favour of his clients, no matter how hard the case would initially present itself as. That was why the Atobe Corporation was determined to keep him at all costs, paying him more than he would earn anywhere else since he had actually never won a case in his life. What mattered to the corporation was that he had never lost a case, either, which fit right into the company's policy. They didn't care how he did it, they simply expected him to have the charges against his clients dropped before the first trial at the latest.

Of course, he always succeeded in the end, even if the accusing party was in no mood for negotiations in the beginning of the procedures. He could even say that he was a specialist in hopeless cases. That was, after all, why the corporation had assigned him one Akutsu Jin three months ago.

The guy was a nutter, as far as Sengoku was concerned. Their first meeting had been downright scary, with Akutsu's reactions varying from glaring at him as he introduced himself, to threatening him with his fists, all during the course of five minutes, in which Sengoku had only been doing as much as trying to explain to him what charges there were against him and what the best course of action would be.

Usually, Sengoku had been able to befriend his clients, who, after all, wanted to get off the hook just as much as he wanted them off of it. Needless to say, that was out of question with the violent Akutsu, whose attitude didn't seem to change at all, even as they reluctantly got to know each other better during the weeks since their first meeting, and as the date of the first trial drew closer.

'You need to understand that without a proper apology, that guy won't even hear you out,' Sengoku said one beautiful morning in his favourite café, where he had invited Akutsu in order to try and reason with him. Up until then, all of his efforts - including the delicious iced coffee he'd bought for his client - had been in vain. Either Akutsu Jin had a particularly thick skull that didn't let any info get through, or he had been hit on his head one time too many during one of the countless brawls he had participated in. Either way, nothing Sengoku would say seemed to sink into his brain.

'Don't you tell me what to do, idiot,' Akutsu hissed at him. At least he recognized the fact that the lawyer was on his side, which made him contain most of his violent tendencies. That didn't use to be the case when they had first met; the lawyer could still remember the sound of a glass thrown his way by his client, shattering on the wall mere centimetres from his own head. The incident had been vaguely traumatizing. 'I'm not apologizing. Only pansies do that.'

'Better a pansy out here than a tough guy in prison,' Sengoku said, exasperated. Seriously, the guy had way too much pride for a street punk. 'You seem to forget that this is a serious breach of the conditions of your parole, and if the other guy presses charges, you have no chance. Face it, even if you had your reasons for beating him up, the court is unlikely to let you off. You've been tried for similar incidents before, you've been sentenced once but got out on good behaviour. He is the son of your mother's boss, never charged with anything. He's got the advantage in court, not you,' the lawyer explained, wondering briefly where his unusual amount of patience had come from.

'Listen, I don't care. That guy deserved it and I'm not apologizing. I don't care if I'm going back to prison, it's not that bad there anyway,' said Akutsu, shrugging.

It was surreal, Sengoku thought, how there he was, sitting in a high-class café with a noted delinquent, caring more about the guy's fate than he himself seemed to. They even looked surreal in each other's company, Sengoku in his pristine navy blue suit, with only the top button of his shirt open and his tie loosened to give him a more relaxed feeling, and Akutsu in his sleeveless top that showed off his muscled arms and an intricate tattoo of a dragon's head on his shoulder, and a pair of baggy jeans, with his longish hair dyed silver and styled to stand up. Yeah, they definitely made an unlikely pair.

Sengoku sighed. How could he get through to that guy, when they were from completely different worlds? Akutsu, who only gave a damn about the laws of the street, probably really believed he was in the right. Sengoku was also inclined to believe him, since it was easier to act from that point. He disliked his client's supposed victim, that much was certain.

He shuddered at the memory of that man. Usually, his opponents for negotiations were people who simply wanted to be compensated for the damage done to them by his clients. This man, Shimazu Yoshiaki, seemed to marvel at the thought of Akutsu grovelling at his feet, asking for forgiveness. He was not interested in anything Sengoku had to say until Akutsu apologized, and only then would he even consider a deal, and he had a particularly nasty aura about him as he was saying that. It wasn't supposed to go like this, but seeing as the man would not change his mind, Sengoku was working hard on his client.

'What did that guy do to you to drive you into this situation, anyway? I mean, it must have been pretty serious if you're willing to go to prison for this,' Sengoku wondered out loud, watching Akutsu drink his hazelnut iced coffee with an enraged expression, as if the beverage had insulted him personally. It was, to an extent, adorable, but not as much as it was amusing.

'You wouldn't believe me anyway. I'm a convicted criminal, remember? It's my word against his, and it's not like the bastard's in any hurry to tell the truth,' Akutsu replied with contempt, much to Sengoku's surprise, as he hadn't actually expected an answer of any kind.

'You can always try me, you know. I am here to help you, whether you believe it or not,' the lawyer said sincerely. Maybe he did think Akutsu had some serious mental problems, but he was still the guy's defence attorney, and he wasn't about to make light of anything that could be in favour to his client.

'Maybe I will tell you,' Akutsu said, his tone mocking as he sneered at Sengoku. 'But first, you'd have to sleep with me, pretty-face,' he drawled unpleasantly and got up to his feet. 'I'm going. You're boring, ginger,' he announced and left the café, ignoring Sengoku's protests.

Really, Sengoku thought, I'm going to murder that buffoon.

It had been three days since they last met in the café next to the Atobe Corp. building and it seemed Akutsu had taken to ignoring Sengoku's calls. Twice already was the redhead ready to go to his client's place, but company business kept him occupied. This time, however, he was sure nothing was to call him back to the company. He'd finished most of his paperwork that needed urgent attention. He had even given his secretary a day off, because that way, she wouldn't be able to remind him of any prior arrangements he'd forgotten about.

This afternoon, he only had one appointment, and he was not cancelling it no matter what.

Akutsu, as it turned out, lived in a particularly lousy neighbourhood. It was already getting dark when he arrived there, so Sengoku was rather glad that he had dismissed the idea of going to his client's place formally dressed and chose to wear a more casual attire, which was still out of place where he'd found himself. He had been bothered twice before he managed to find the right apartment block, once by an old, unpleasantly smelling beggar and once by a youngster who tried to mug him. Sengoku supposed he was lucky he used to be a boxing champion during his high school days.

Anyway, somehow, he managed to reach the right building. He entered it a little hesitantly, since it didn't look much more inviting than a drunkard's den, but what other choice did he have? He needed to talk some sense into his bastard of a client.

Finding the right door on the third floor (the building, of course, didn't have an elevator, so he was considerably exhausted after the effort of climbing a hundred stairs; at that moment, he swore to himself that he would start jogging for sure, to improve his pitiful condition), he knocked three times. When there was no reply, he pushed the doorbell, intent on not letting go until he had some desired results. The buzz was shrill, and it seemed to be pretty irritating to the inhabitant of the flat on the other side of the door, since Sengoku heard some loud swearing and a crash of something falling.

Then, the door opened and the lawyer had the first glimpse of his client after three days of no contact.

Akutsu was naked, save for a bed sheet tied at his waist; his silver-dyed hair was down and his tattoo was actually of a whole, mighty red dragon, spreading all across his broad back, contrasting sharply against deathly pale skin. Sengoku would have gaped at him in a mixture of surprise and reluctant awe, but he had no chance.

'What the fuck are you doing here?' Akutsu growled, but pulled him roughly inside his flat by the collar of his t-shirt and shut the door closed behind him.

'You didn't deem it necessary to pick up when I called you many times, so I decided to come and check up on you,' Sengoku replied calmly, even though he was almost certain Akutsu was going to punch him. Or do something equally painful to him. 'Nice place you have here,' he added, looking around the tiny, cluttered hall. The only interesting thing about it was the huge mirror behind Akutsu, which enabled him to see the whole intricate tattoo on his client's back. He decided not to admire it too openly.

'You're out of your fucking mind,' Akutsu told him angrily, still holding onto the collar of his t-shirt, making breathing slightly difficult. 'You have no idea what kind of people live around here. You could have been killed for your fancy phone or your stupid clothes!'

'The only person attempting to kill me,' Sengoku said, rising his eyebrow, 'is you.'

Akutsu let go of him, but he looked positively furious. Sengoku wondered what was wrong with him... or rather, what was more wrong with him now than it usually was, but he didn't feel as if asking about it would be the best idea at the moment. Instead, he started casually removing his shoes.

'Well, now that we cleared this up,' he said, giving Akutsu a smile, 'let us move on to some more pressing subjects. Like your trial, which is unfortunately drawing closer and which you will, without a doubt, lose sorely because you refuse to stop being a stubborn bastard. Anywhere in here I can take a seat?'

'Kitchen,' muttered Akutsu and led him to a small, untidy kitchenette. At least he could take a seat on the one chair that wasn't broken, and set some papers he'd taken with him on the table. 'Wait here. You move your ass from here, I'll kill you,' Akutsu warned and quickly left to another room.

Sengoku wasn't sure if he should take Akutsu's threat seriously or not; he didn't really believe his client would hurt him, no matter how angry he was with him, because honestly, he could have done that many times before and he never did. However, he thought it in his best interest to keep the other man in a somewhat good mood, since he hoped it would make it easier to talk him into taking some necessary steps in his case.

He curiously looked around the small kitchen; it was filthy and had all the markings of being owned by a single man who had no idea how to cook, clean and wash the dishes, or who simply didn't care enough to be bothered by the mess. The sink was full of dirty plates, some of which looked weeks old; this might have been the reason for the rather unpleasant stench in the air. This or the fact that nobody had emptied the dustbin for a long time. Honestly, if the whole flat looked like this, Sengoku could understand why Akutsu preferred to go to prison. It surely was cleaner there.

With a sigh, he got up and approached the sink cautiously. He found a dishcloth under a particularly impressive tower of plates; a bottle of wash-up liquid stood inconspicuously to the side, still sealed. Sengoku opened it and got to work, overcoming his initial disgust at the putrid smell that filled the tiny space as he moved the filthy pile.

He was almost done when he thought he heard a female voice over the running water, so he turned it off; indeed, a woman was shouting obscurities in the hall. Mindless of Akutsu's warning, Sengoku went to look what was going on, the dishcloth still in his wet hands; he couldn't help it, he was a curious guy by nature.

He came face to face with a girl; she was scantily dressed and might have been pretty, but it was hard to tell with the rather overdone make up and the expression of anger that contorted her features. When she saw Sengoku, she paused, shocked, and then regarded Akutsu, looking even more furious.

'So you're ditching me for some pretty boy? Didn't know you were a fag, Akutsu!' She mocked. 'Well have fun with your little boy toy! You suck in bed anyway!' She made a rude gesture in the general direction where Akutsu stood, and then she stormed off from the small apartment, slamming the door closed behind her.

'Err...' Said Sengoku lamely, wishing he could vanish without a trace; he was pretty sure that Akutsu was, in fact, going to be true to his word and kill him, possibly in a very painful way.

However, Akutsu was full of surprises. 'Screw that bitch. She's the one who sucks in bed,' he said indifferently, shrugging. 'What the fuck are you doing, ginger? Washing the fucking dishes? You're insane. Or do you think that if you clean my mess, I will be so grateful that I'll gladly do whatever you ask me to? Because I won't. I don't fucking care about the fucking mess.'

'Nah. It was just bothering me,' Sengoku said somewhat defiantly. 'You should clean up once in a while, though,' he added as an afterthought.

'Don't you tell me what to do,' Akutsu growled irritably. 'Just sit your ass in the fucking kitchen and wait there. I need a shower, that bitch threw an opened can of beer at me.'

'I can see that,' the lawyer replied, but he was talking to himself, since Akutsu had already gone too the bathroom.

The day was getting more interesting with every minute, indeed.

At least Akutsu was more willing to listen to whatever he had to say after he had a shower, which was one positive thing in the sea of negativities. Sengoku really needed his client to understand the situation, but the man simply refused to cooperate. It was all the more frustrating, because the lawyer's career could be threatened if the outcome of the whole ordeal wasn't positive; after all, this annoying guy who didn't seem to care at all about his future was a childhood friend of somebody who had connections at the top of the Corporation. If Sengoku screwed this up, he was done with.

Maybe thinking about his career when his client was facing a long sentence in prison was rather selfish, but the problem was, Akutsu didn't seem to care and it irritated Sengoku very much. Here he was, working his ass off, trying to make Shimazu change his mind about the whole thing (to no avail, unfortunately), and his client ignored his efforts, dismissing it all like some irrelevant, bothersome problem that would eventually go away on its own.

'By the way, you can't just stop accepting my calls,' the lawyer said, looking up from the papers at Akutsu, who was preparing coffee or something, still topless, but at least wearing pants. He didn't even bother to dry his hair. 'You need to be in contact with me, or you will have additional charges pressed against you. They're all too willing to accuse you of attempted escape or something, you don't want to give them basis for that, do you?'

'I don't really care,' Akutsu replied, sounding bored. 'You want tea or coffee?' He asked, and his tone suggested that Sengoku better wanted one or the other if he preferred to remain unhurt.

'Uh... tea, I suppose,' the redhead decided, although he was in no mood for any drinks, with the exception of the alcoholic ones. 'Listen, now. I know you enjoy being difficult and badass, but this is getting ridiculous. Shimazu said he'd agree to a deal if you apologized for what you've done. That's the only thing you have to do, the rest is up to me. I can get you out of this, but you have to co-operate!'

Akutsu chuckled. 'You seem to enjoy telling me what to do, don't you?' He asked, apparently amused. All of a sudden, though, he turned to face Sengoku, slamming a fist to the wall next to the lawyer's head with enough force to hurt himself. With the corner of his eye, Sengoku could catch a glance at the blood oozing out of the man's injured hand, but he didn't dare say a word or even look away from Akutsu's face, from the grimace of rage that adorned it.

'I'm fucking fed up with your shit,' Akutsu said in a low, dangerous voice, barely above a whisper. 'I'm not apologizing to that bastard, and it's not your fucking business. You think I don't know what you care about? The money you're getting for this is all that matters to you. I know your kind and I don't give a fuck about your money. You're not telling me what to do, pretty face, if you don't want me to mess you up.'

Sengoku cleverly remained silent. This was the closest Akutsu had been to seriously hurting him and he was not going to risk anything happening. He supposed he might have underestimated his client, believing him to be mad and not overly bright. He wished now that he was back at his office, drinking coffee and making fun of Oshitari's new-found, unhealthy obsession with kimchi, without a care in the world.

His luck had to run out at one point or another.

'What, you say nothing for a change?' Akutsu asked and backed off, before breaking out into laughter that didn't sound particularly sane. 'You finally scared of me? Good! You should be! But you shouldn't stop talking, ginger, what do you think you're getting paid for? Your pretty face?'

'Calm down,' Sengoku said softly. 'You're bleeding. I'll bandage it if you want.'

He wondered if Akutsu would punch him for this, but no blow came; instead, the other man threw him a first-aid kit from one of the kitchen cupboards, still laughing. Rummaging through it without a word, Sengoku thanked his good luck for hopefully letting him survive this, possibly unscathed, in advance. He wasn't really that afraid of his client; he was quite positive that when it came to exchanging blows, he would be able to at least give back as much as he received, since he remembered most of his experiences from boxing trainings in high school. He preferred to avoid that, though; getting into a brawl with the man he was supposed to be defending from going to prison didn't place high on his mental list of reasonable things to do as an attorney.

He found a small bottle of iodine (half-empty, as he noted dully) and a packet of gauze; he couldn't locate any bandages in the kit, but he supposed he could work with what he had. Akutsu helpfully offered him his hand, still clenched into a fist, bleeding at the knuckles. Shaking his head at the general weirdness of this situation, Sengoku started cleaning the wounds.

'It stings,' Akutsu complained in a low hiss. Sengoku rose an eyebrow at that, but didn't comment, deciding that his opinion on men who acted like overgrown children because of a small wound that stung when cleaned wouldn't be met with much enthusiasm.

'It's iodine, of course it stings,' the lawyer said instead, gently prodding at the wound with the gauze. 'Next time, control your outbursts, then I won't have to fix any injuries and nothing will sting.'

'Shut up,' Akutsu muttered. 'It's none of your business.'

'Oh, but it is. It's me that puts you back together, see?' Sengoku discarded the gauze and grinned. 'There, almost done, at least it won't sting anymore. Let me just stick on a plaster...' He reached for said item into the kit.

The plaster had a print of smiling, colourful bears. Amazingly, Akutsu didn't protest against it very much, although he did glare at it rather darkly. Sengoku didn't comment on that, either. He was slowly learning when it was better to keep his mouth shut in the company of his lovely, friendly client; that lazy bum Oshitari would be surprised, since he always kept saying that Sengoku's inability to shut up would be the cause of his sudden, violent death one day. As if he really had room to say that, he was probably the biggest chatterbox in the Corporation himself! And he had a penchant for teasing Atobe Keigo of all people. As far as Sengoku was concerned, it was Oshitari who played with fire, not him.

Well, okay, he also played with fire. A lot. A pale, silver-haired, tattooed fire that was making his life slightly more miserable than it ought to be.

'So, you definitely won't be apologizing,' Sengoku said, sighing, after some time of companionable silence. 'That's pretty tough. Not lucky at all. Shimazu won't listen to me, then.' He shook his head, ignoring Akutsu, who was glaring at him for no reason at all. 'Well, I can always try appealing to the judge. He's not very likely to let us off on a deal, but maybe he would be inclined to lessen the punishment if I used the right arguments... Let me tell you one thing, though,' he looked straight at his client. 'I'm so going to get fired because of you.'

'You can still drop my case,' said Akutsu. 'I don't care. It's not like I'm paying you or anything.'

'Nah, I think I'll stick with you to the end. Maybe you'll change your mind,' Sengoku replied and laughed softly.

'I won't,' Akutsu declared. 'What are you laughing at? You hit your head or something?'

'No, no. It's just... it's funny. You're the most troublesome client I've ever had, you didn't even want to be my client to begin with. You threaten to hurt me all the time and you're a general pain in the ass, but I really want to help you. You see?' Sengoku chuckled again. 'Man, I should have chosen a different career path.'

'You should have signed yourself into a mental institution,' Akutsu said, eyeing him as though he was the mental one between the two of them. 'It would have saved me lots of trouble. And I would have had a girl tonight.' He glared some more.

'Yeah, well, sorry about that? You left me no choice but to come here, though,' Sengoku actually felt sheepish. After all, he had invaded his client's privacy. Coming over to his apartment, barging in and washing his dirty dishes wasn't very professional. At least he could always call it "his signature, unconventional methods" and go on, like he always did. His superiors would probably accept his explanation.

Of course, that was under the condition that he succeeded. Somehow, he didn't really think this was going to be the case right now.

'I need to get going,' he said, getting up. Man, the chairs in that kitchenette were comfortable, even though they didn't look it at all. 'You be a good boy and behave, and pick up if I call you again, alright?'

'Don't you tell me what to do,' replied Akutsu, which was very predictable. And then, 'I'll go with you. You're not going to walk around here with that pretty face of yours. No discussions,' he added sharply when he saw Sengoku open his mouth.

'But it's okay, really!' Sengoku protested either way, ignoring the fact that the man's glare intensified. 'You can't get into any more fights anyway, and I can take care of myself. I'm petty good at...' He never did get to tell Akutsu what exactly he was good at, since at that exact moment, the other man shoved him hard against the wall and, ignoring the lawyer's struggle, kissed him on the lips.

It was surprisingly soft at first, and Sengoku was too shocked to react, and Akutsu used this to his advantage, deepening the kiss, pushing his tongue into Sengoku's mouth; that, finally, made Sengoku realize what was going on and he reacted by biting on the invading tongue, hard. The metallic taste of blood filled his mouth, but Akutsu didn't back off. Instead, he growled and kissed Sengoku harder still, bruising, his painful grip on the smaller man unrelenting.

Sengoku felt his knees go weak; he steadied himself by grasping Akutsu's arms. He wasn't enjoying the kiss. Akutsu was hurting him and he had trouble breathing, and everything was spinning, and why was he kissing back?... It was too much, he was going to die like this, he needed to run, he needed to escape, he needed Akutsu to keep kissing him like that...

All of a sudden, the pressure was gone as Akutsu stepped back and glared at Sengoku even more murderously than ever before; then, he stormed off of the kitchen quickly. The bewildered redhead heard a string of curses and a slam of doors being shut, presumably in the bathroom, because the noises were followed by the sound of pouring water. Taking the opportunity, Sengoku gathered his papers (ignoring some which fell on the floor; it's not like they were all that important anyway), grabbed his shoes from the hall and ran for his life.

He needed a drink and he needed it badly, and there was no better person to drink with than one Oshitari Yuushi, also known as "that lazy bum" throughout the Atobe Corporation. He chose that guy simply because Oshitari never asked annoying questions, too concentrated on whining about his own problems (how could he have any, though?) and failures (about the existence of those, Sengoku had no doubts). When he called, Oshitari protested a bit, like he always did, and then agreed to meet him in their usual bar.

The place was totally high class, the luxury being something Sengoku was already used to. He'd been attending premises like this with his lawyer colleagues, usually to have a drink or two and chat about whatever. He'd never had problems so big that he felt the need to drink himself into oblivion before now. Well, there always had to be a first time. He believed the bar's staff would be discrete if he did manage to get himself wasted. Hopefully. Otherwise, it would be bad for his reputation.

Even though soon, he knew, there wouldn't be much left of his reputation whatsoever.

'You look awful,' Oshitari said in the way of greeting, taking a seat on the stool closest to Sengoku's. The redhead thought that if that wasn't the pot calling the kettle black, he didn't know what was. Oshitari had dark circles under his eyes, his hair was tied in a loose ponytail for the first time since they'd met, and he was wearing tight jeans and an oversized t-shirt. He also wasn't wearing his glasses, which were admittedly only for show, but he was still rarely seen in public without them.

All in all, he was lucky the staff here knew him so well, if they didn't, they probably wouldn't have let him in. He looked like a homeless guy or something. A clean one, true, but homeless anyway.

Having ordered himself a drink, Oshitari looked Sengoku over carefully. 'Seriously, you look like shit. What's wrong, a tough break-up?'

'With my hand?' Sengoku muttered, shaking his head. 'Some people don't have time for relationships, Oshitari, unlike you.'

'Yeah, yeah... As if you weren't just as idle about work as I am,' replied Oshitari. 'Whatever. You should be happy. Relationships suck. You might get hit on the head with a frying pan if you're not careful, and then your mother would get you an oversized bear for prosecution, and instead of everything ending swiftly with one stupid trial, it would drag on and on forever for three fucking months,' he said miserably.

'Sounds tough,' Sengoku admitted. 'That your case?' He asked, genuinely curious. He had to admit, though, that he also did it to get Oshitari to rant, because once that happened, nothing would be able to stop it.

'Yeah. Wife hits husband for the lipstick on his shirt. Turns out it was actually hers. Enter one mother-in-law from hell and there you are, a great family comedy. Only not really, because all of a sudden, one irritating, bulky prosecutor shows up, and everything gets so complicated, since the guy's too good. Like seriously, he's awesome, wish I had half of his talent. Anyway, that big oaf manages to tear down half of my line of defence during the first trial, and it sucks, but that's not even the worst of it,' Oshitari sighed. Sengoku was impressed, seeing him babble this much without having even started on his alcohol yet. 'Not only does Atobe have more progress on a hard case against the fucking god of fucking prosecution than I do on the simplest case ever, no, it couldn't just end like that. You know what the worst thing is?'

A realization hit Sengoku then. 'You've been drinking at home.'

'Of course I've been drinking. Atobe fired me,' announced the supposed genius, then chuckled bitterly. 'See, doesn't that suck? He fucked me one day and then he fired me the next. You haven't heard about it? Geez, you really must be pretty busy with your client. It's all over the company, probably. Atobe's giving my spot to whoever prepares a better line of defence for this case before next week. If you hurry up, you still have a chance, you're good at deals...'

'What? You're drunk, Oshitari. There's no way Atobe's done that. You're important to the Corporation, remember? Because you're the genius?' Sengoku said, looking at the other man in disbelief, trying to take it all in. He finished his drink (third already), still staring, expecting Oshitari to start laughing or to call it all a great joke. Yet, Oshitari did nothing of the kind.

Instead, he just sighed. 'Funny, I used to think the same thing. Also, I used to think he was my friend. Guess we're all so horribly wrong,' he did laugh now, albeit bitterly.

'Well, shouldn't you be looking for another job? It's surprising that there isn't a line forming to snatch you away, now that you're not in Atobe Corp., though,' Sengoku said, trying to lift the atmosphere a little bit. He patted Oshitari awkwardly on the shoulder, wondering how suddenly, his own problems seemed small by comparison.

'I'm useless. Who's going to take me in when I can't even win a simple case? It's all because of that damn oversized bear bastard...' Complained Oshitari, laying his head on the counter. He didn't even seem in the mood for drinking anymore. 'Nobody cares that I got fucking drugged on the first trial, or that I was hit by a car before the second one, and about all that other stuff. They're all just "Oshitari sucks" and "why the hell do you call that thing a genius", and they're right. I guess I'll have to sell my apartment and my car, and my t-shirt collection... and I'll go work in a kimchi shop as a waiter, and when they fire me as well, I'll be homeless and live on the street, and some thugs will rape me and take everything I will still own, and then they'll kill me. I don't want to die!...'

'How did you even manage to arrive here if you're this wasted, Yuushi?...' Sengoku asked, slightly impressed at the accomplishment, but mostly worried. 'No, wait, don't tell me. I'm going to get you home,' he said, shaking his head.

And, despite Oshitari's loud, obnoxious protests, he did just that.

Oshitari Yuushi had had his fair share of bad days in his life, especially over the last three months. Everything in the world seemed to have formed a well-thought out, perfectly executed conspiracy against his pretty much innocent self, a conspiracy which aimed to lose him his job, his reputation and, in the end, his life. It had started with one little mistake on his part – he underestimated the case he was working on, and the people involved in it. A simple case of domestic violence, which was supposed to be resolved during one trial, turned instead into a full-blown war in court, a war that he, unprepared for an event of such proportions, was destined to lose - battle by battle.

He didn't even remember how the downfall had started. One morning, he woke up, took a shower, got dressed, ate a big breakfast and went to the court to win a trial. Halfway through, something went terribly wrong and he got drugged by drinking a cup of tea from an inconspicuous elderly lady that had seemed so taken with him. Only later did he find out that the lady was the enemy. But by then, he already knew that everybody around him was, actually, an enemy.

The trial was postponed twice more after that.

The second time couldn't be helped; Oshitari had been hit by a car on his way to the court-house. The driver was never caught and the lawyer spent six days in the hospital on observation (mostly because Atobe was freaking out). Sanada had had the nerve to send him a get-well card, and Oshitari felt a surge of wild satisfaction as he watched it soak in the hospital toilet and imagined it go down the drain.

Then, the trial was postponed again because mysteriously, the victim and more than a half of his witnesses had claimed illnesses, which were confirmed by their doctors. Because nothing could be done about that, Judge Katou was forced to set a new date, which she did – for the next week.

It was her last decision as a judge. She was found in her apartment the next day, dead. Apparently, she died naturally in her sleep.

Oshitari had hated her when she was alive, and she had hated him with an equal passion. She was keen on calling him the biggest threat to womankind, while he would casually drop in some jibes about her old age or her spinsterhood into his otherwise polite conversations with her. She had been a feminist, a vicious fighter for woman rights, and men like Oshitari, who charmed females with their tricky smiles, didn't deserve any warm feelings from her.

Yet, during the few years they knew each other, Judge Katou Ayako and attorney Oshitari Yuushi had managed to form a reluctant companionship. They both weren't willing to admit it, but such was the truth. However, this relationship, based on their respect for each other's work and expertise, didn't translate to any kind of favouritism in the courtroom; quite the opposite, Judge Katou was as much an opponent for Oshitari as the prosecution attorney, and he had to do his best, to try his hardest and give it his all, in order to win the trials for his clients. Judge Katou would say that this way, she forced Oshitari to snap out of his laziness and made him into a better person – or at least a much better lawyer.

But she was gone. Oshitari knew he would miss her invaluable advice and her brazen sense of humour. At her funeral, he realised that she taught him a lot more than the law school had.

Next week at the trial, a new judge was introduced to the case. Judge Takashima, a forty-something year old man from somewhere in Kansai, was of a strong conviction that women should have no rights other than to give birth to children and take care of the house while their husbands – their masters – go and work to support their families. He was a traditionalist in the worst meaning of the word, a chauvinistic, misogynistic bastard so vocal with his opinions that even Oshitari, who didn't particularly care either way, found it hard to stomach.

Additionally to his strong opinions, which often played a big part in the trials he led, Judge Takashima also had a political background that made him basically abandon any quest for truth a man of his position should have; he used his post to pursue his irrational, personal vendetta against women who dared not to fit into his system of values.

Upon learning that he was supposed to convince Takashima of his client's innocence, Oshitari was all but ready to ask for a sword in order to commit a spectacular suicide in front of the whole courtroom. It was a disaster; his efforts won him nothing but a sneer from the judge and a weird look from Sanada, who didn't seem to really understand what was going on all around him.

That second trial wasn't the last in the case, but it was the last for Oshitari. Later, at night, Atobe came to his apartment to yell at him. He went wild with his accusations and name-calling, as if everything had been Oshitari's fault, as if he had been losing on purpose. They argued, they brawled like angry teenagers, then they kissed and touched and had sex, and it was just like when they were still at school, when they were still in love, and by the time the next morning came, Oshitari was out of his job.

The hangover was the worst, Oshitari concluded, waking up sometime in the afternoon after his drinking session. He could vaguely remember talking to Sengoku; for whatever reason, just a recollection of the other man's vivid orange-red hair made him want to throw up, so he crawled his way to the bathroom, where the urge magically vanished. However, that was when the noise started and it was unbearable, as terrible as an air-raid warning and rising in volume with each minute, until Oshitari thought he would go crazy right at the spot. Before he could go crazy, however, everything went quiet, the blessed silence ringing in his ears, making him feel nauseous all over again. Luckily, he was still in the bathroom, so he proceeded to hug the toilet seat, and he remained in that position for quite a long time.

When the contents of his stomach had been returned to the outside world in a rather unsightly fashion, the awfully loud alarm resounded again in the small space of the bathroom. This time, Oshitari managed to locate the source of the noise, correctly assuming that it wasn't an air-raid warning, but rather, his phone ringing like crazy in the pocket of his jeans. Marvelling at the fact that he had inexplicably ended up sleeping in his jeans, he forced himself to make the giant effort of reaching to the pocket with his free hand (the one that he wasn't using to propping himself in a more-or-less sitting position on the floor) and bringing it up to his ear after hitting the "accept" button.

'Man, I was worried you'd died,' said a familiar voice, all too cheerful even through the audible relief. Sengoku, no doubt. The red-haired frenzy. 'How are you feeling? Do you need me to bring you some aspirin?'

'No. I just need you to shut up,' replied Oshitari, disregarding any notions of common courtesy. He was tired, sore and painfully unemployed. He was well within his rights to be cranky. 'Or you can dye that awful hair of yours, it's making me sick.'

'That makes no sense, you can't even see me! Anyway, I'm going to be at your place in five. Want me to pick something up from the store?' Asked Sengoku, still much too cheerful to Oshitari's liking. It made him want to murder something fluffy and cute. Possibly even a kitten. He liked kittens. But now, because of Sengoku, he wanted to slaughter one.

'Your brain,' he muttered and turned off the phone. Resisting the urge to throw it into the toilet, where it could acquaint itself with the previously emptied contents of his stomach, Oshitari just put it back into his back pocket and made an enormous effort to get up to his feet. Swaying back and forth, he succeeded in not falling over while flushing the toilet. In a very risky manoeuvre, he turned around to face the sink and tried to avoid looking at the mirror at the same time. He failed. An ugly, tired, pale face came into his view, terrifying him for a second before he realised it was his own face he was seeing and not that of a monster from horror films. Calming down, he proceeded to brush his teeth and to generally wash himself as best as he could without being able to steady himself too much.

True to his word, Sengoku did come over, a bag of groceries in one hand and a flask of pills in the other, plus a stupid grin on his face. Lucky bastard with no problems in the world. Oshitari decided he wouldn't harm any kittens; Sengoku would probably be more than enough to satisfy him.

Or not.

'Don't you dare blame me for your condition, Oshitari,' Sengoku warned him jokingly as ways of greeting. 'You're going to want this,' he added, passing him the flask of aspirin, ignoring the glare of instant death that Oshitari was giving him. He probably got used to such glares after that Akutsu guy he was defending in court.

'Do something with your hair. It offends me,' Oshitari complained unreasonably, taking two pills and drinking some water to go with them. He hoped his stomach would cooperate. He didn't fancy another hugging session with the toilet seat.

'You're speaking like Atobe,' Sengoku pointed out, shaking his head as he comfortably installed himself in Oshitari's big, spacious kitchen. 'Although he's being offended by anything these days. That case against Tezuka is keeping him on edge. One wrong move and he's going to fall,' he sighed, removing the contents of his bag onto the counter. 'Want a fresh leek salad for lunch? It's light and won't disturb your stomach all that much.'

'You're disturbing my stomach,' Oshitari said. He sat down in the corner of the kitchen, hiding there from the sunlight that crept inside through the big windows. He wondered what had possessed him when he was buying the apartment; he was very easily drunk and very prone to hangovers, and this was definitely not a hangover-friendly place. 'Whatever. You can make me a stew from unborn babies, for all I care. I'm going to throw up anyway.'

'That's rather disgusting, don't you think? Unborn babies stew, I mean. Where would I even buy the ingredients? Nah, I'll stick with leek salad. Less calories,' Sengoku winked and began to work on the meal. Oshitari, meanwhile, didn't know if he should be offended by the implication of himself needing a diet, or disgusted by the smell of food that made something twist and turn inside his stomach.

His body chose the latter for him, so he ran to the bathroom without excusing himself – if the motion could even be called running. Of all things, it looked more like he was crawling on the walls, hugging them for support on his way. This way, he did manage to get to his desired location quickly enough. He spent a good thirty minutes inside, feeling very, very bad.

The leek salad did agree with his stomach some time later. So did the green tea and the rice cookies. Oshitari, still weak from his hangover, but recovering admirably thanks to the medicine and water supply, found it in himself to actually be grateful to Sengoku for what the other lawyer was doing for him. They weren't really friends, more like colleagues and occasional drink buddies, if anything, so the redhead had no obligation to help him out in this embarrassing situation. Yet, here he was, despite Oshitari's initial attempts to drive him away, grinning like an idiot while washing the dishes.

Who the hell washed the dishes manually when there was a perfectly usable dishwasher available? Oshitari wondered if he would have to learn to do this kind of stuff, now that he was unemployed. Dishwashers used up a lot of water and some electricity, after all. Would he be able to afford it? Or anything else in his apartment, for that matter? He didn't think so. He didn't want to move out, though. He liked it in there. It was spacious and tastefully furnished, it had all the little luxuries that made life that much easier, and it was his place. He felt safe there. He didn't think he could feel this good anywhere else.

'I'll have to go now,' Sengoku said as he finished. He set the last dish on the dryer and wiped his hands on the dishcloth. 'I have a meeting with my client,' he sighed, as if he wasn't really looking forward to that. 'Oh, by the way. You do know that Atobe expects you back at work on Monday? He's giving you the rest of the week off to investigate some stuff, but he threatens you with death by means of strangulation if you're late by even one minute in the office on Monday.'

'He fired me,' Oshitari said doubtfully.

'Yeah. He also fired me, Akutagawa, Sakaki-san, the repairman for the air-conditioning, the whole team of janitors... Oh, and the pizza deliveryman,' said Sengoku, shrugging his shoulders indifferently.

'He can't do that,' Oshitari noted, blinking.

'Well, he did. Twice, actually,' replied the redhead. He seemed to be trying hard not to laugh. His lower lip was twitching. 'He's a ticking bomb, that guy. Bound to blow up at least once a day. It's because he's frustrated. Despite having the upper hand in the courtroom, he still can't win that Tezuka guy's attention. Must be driving him crazy.'

'Rumours in the office travel amazingly fast,' muttered Oshitari, trying to process all the information. 'Does everybody in the company know that Atobe's head over heels in love with that guy?'

'Well, not till now, but thanks for the confirmation,' Sengoku finally grinned at him. 'Anyway, you're not fired. You're going to be worked into your grave in Atobe Corporation, whether you like it or not. So just investigate whatever Atobe wants you to investigate, and stop acting like a drama queen. And for everyone's sake, start wearing make-up or at least sleep normally. You honestly look like a zombie.'

Oshitari decided not to mention that he had no idea what it was he was supposed to investigate. He would work on that later. Sengoku was somewhat right. He needed lots of sleep to recover his impeccable beauty. He didn't feel right without it.

Yes. Sleep it is.

Sanada Genichirou may not have been the brightest man when it came to some things, but he could definitely see when something in his field of expertise was not going the way it was supposed to. The ridiculous case he was working on should have been over and done with three months ago, on that first trial that went bad halfway through, and yet it kept dragging on forever. The stream of supposed accidents that seemed to only happen to the defence attorney, Oshitari Yuushi, and the way that nobody seemed to connect the dots when the lack of coincidence became obvious arose his suspicion.

In his heart, Sanada was more of an investigator than a prosecutor. Finding a mystery that nobody was keen to solve, he immediately and naturally set out to solve it himself. He didn't inform anyone of his self-appointed side task.

Akutsu Jin come to the appointment with his lawyer. He also rejected all of his calls. When Sengoku showed up to check out his apartment, he found that even though the door was open, the man wasn't there. His phone was left on the kitchen table.

Even though Sengoku waited for hours, Akutsu never showed up that night.

Tezuka Kunimitsu received an email from a strange address. The contents of the message made him run to the bathroom and throw up. That night, he couldn't sleep or concentrate on work. Curled up on the couch in his office with the lights turned off, he stared at the door, pretending that he wasn't afraid of the slightest movement of the shadows on the smooth surface.

Oshitari Yuushi slept peacefully, not for a moment realising what was beginning around him. The man watching the live video feed from the camera hidden in the lawyer's bedroom ripped open a new packet of popcorn. The night was uneventful, just like many nights before.

Sleep, Yuushi, sleep. While you still can.