Disclaimer: I do not own Ai no Kusabi or any of its characters.
Ai no Kusabi, Sensō no Ha: Wedge of Love, Blade of War
The sun was losing its battle to keep the sky.
Within Jupiter's dome this shift in light painted towering buildings amber. Beyond the dome's filtered air, out in the ghetto's sprawl, the exhaust of ancient vehicles and burning garbage hung in a dark haze that turned the clouds surrounding the failing sun bloody.
Tanned forearms rested on the balcony's wall; a cigarette dangled between long fingers. The forbidden fag had been pried from its hidden space behind a loose moulding to ward off nicotine's ache and in rebellion of the pure air of Eos. The smoldering cigarette rose to sensual lips, their beauty marred by a dark bruise at the corner of a mouth too tempting and coarse to ever be safe.
Riki pulled the rich smoke into his lungs and held it as long as he could, relishing the burn.
Fucker should be more careful in his count.
On top of everything else, in response to his latest act of vandalism, Iason had revoked his smoking privileges. Riki had endured his withdrawal as long as he could, but the restriction of his movement and the silent, lonely apartment had overcome him.
This is the last one.
Dark tufted ears flickered and flattened at this uncomfortable truth. He dared stash only when things were going smoothly enough Iason let his guard down.
Such moments were few and far between.
You're lingering too long. If he comes home and smells it on you, you'll be punished again.
An unseen hand gripped Riki's low belly and twisted into a tight fist. He released a smoky breath. Only a keen observer would have seen how the vapor shuddered towards the end of his exhale. Riki felt his lean tail unconsciously slink between his thighs.
His handsome face remained stoic until he flicked his traitorous tail outwards, denying its fearful retreat. Strong features contorted when the pain of this movement sparked up his spine. An angry growl rumbled in the back of his throat.
It had been seven days since his last "taming."
Even with all the healing agents Raoul had prescribed and Katze had smoothed into his battered hide, the marks were still visible, his limbs stiff.
More cautiously now, Ricki curled his black tail over the outside of a lean calf. He felt Eos' false breezes pull lightly at his furry ears. It tickled soft fingers over exposed skin. Normally his "master's" penchant for keeping him bare galled him but, at the moment, the thought of anything against his tender flesh made Riki's already tight body tense.
Another pull, and soon a second smoky sigh slipped out of Iason's "stray." Leaning forward, Riki shifted his weight against the low wall. Sharp eyes peered over and not for the first time, he wondered what it would be like simply to step up and step off.
More than a hundred stories before I hit pavement.
How long would the sense of freedom last before darkness claimed him?
Riki kept his start controlled, but he cursed viciously beneath his breath as the cigarette slipped between his fingers. A dark brow creased as he watched it fall.
This fucking hellhole is making me soft.
Out on the streets he would have never allowed anyone to creep up on him this way. Never mind that the neuter had almost no scent, a half dozen other senses should have warned him.
Turning around slowly, Riki kept his feature's still. He was in no hurry now that he knew who had broken his reverie.
Katze stood at the balcony's entrance. His clipped ears perked sharply forward.
Iason's "dog" had been coming in to keep the house running since Riki had broken the apartment's latest furniture.
Outside of these walls Katze's persona exuded his Doberman half-genes: the air around him crackled with intensity. Here however, stripped of his suit, dressed only in a pale kilt to cover the disgrace of his lack, Katze's eyes alone betrayed his difference.
Riki marveled at how much the garb Iason insisted Katze wear when he served seemed to bring out the former-furniture's facial scar. When suited, the jagged mark fiercened the racketeer's countenance, but here it struck Riki as pitiful. He would never say this, however, regardless of how diminished Katze appeared, knowing that even so, Iason had gifted the canine-hybrid with the right to punish.
While never cruel, Katze had no issues dealing out what he felt was merited violence.
Besides, who am I to call anyone pitiful?
The tip of Riki's tail flickered. He was only too aware of how he appeared at this moment, collared, naked, a pet ring on his dick, covered in fading bruises, internally trembling for something as simple as sneaking a fucking cigarette.
The sense of self-loathing that filled Riki's chest was far thicker than the smoke he'd inhaled and he suddenly found it difficult to breathe.
"You shouldn't' fucking sneak up on me like that, Katze." Riki's dark eyes focused at last on the still figure standing in the arched doorway. The stoop-shouldered, furniture posture that Katze had been holding shifted as the hound-hybrid evenly met his gaze. Katze straightened and sniffed.
"And you shouldn't be sneaking cigarettes, Riki." Katze's eyes narrowed. " Iason's still pissed, you know. Are you really so hell bent on using what's left of your nine lives in within a span of two weeks?"
A smirk twisted Riki's bruised mouth. He felt his spirit spark at Katze's question. "Maybe… And it's four and a half lives for feline hybrids, Katze. You should know that."
"Go take a shower and rinse your mouth out; Master Iason will be home soon." Katze turned without further comment, preparing to head back inside. He didn't feel like bantering. He was angry at having to leave his station and come cook dinner for his old master and his master's incorrigible pet.
Though Kaze would never admit it to anyone, shifting back and forth from between the world of the black market and that of Iason's household was incredibly wearing. Having to humble himself back to the station of furniture, even if only for a few hours, stirred him in ways he did not wish to understand. Such service coated him with a residue that stained him for days and Katze knew in his other position, he could not afford such affections.
Riki felt his hackles rise when he realized that Katze had just dismissed him. He watched the former-furniture head back into the apartment. The stump of Katze's tail barely protruded through the small slit, cut in the back of the kilt to accommodate it.
It was bad enough that the guy had gotten his balls chopped, but Riki couldn't imagine going through life without his tail any less. Seeing the clipped stub in the past had often filled Iason's pet with a sick sensation of pity.
But not today.
"Careful who you turn your back on, Katze."
Pushing off from the balcony's edge, Riki drifted behind. He watched rust-colored ears twitch backwards, so he knew that Katze heard him, even if the other didn't respond.
Normally he held no malice for his master's dog, but the pain and isolation of his last few days had changed this. He suddenly felt a murderous jealousy fill him.
Sure Katze had had lost his rocks and his tail, part of his ears too. And, yes, maybe he had to suffer the indignity of waiting on a pet again…
But in a few short hours, he'll be out of here and back on the streets. Meanwhile, I'll still be stuck, rotting, in this goddamned place.
Katze walked into one of the apartment's vast rooms. Riki held back, watching. He felt his envy increase as Katze stepped over to Iason's lavish bar and with the touch of a single manicured finger the panels slid open: Iason had installed the print reader after his last furious bender.
A moment later the liquor cabinet stood locked against Riki once more and Katze had crossed over the polished tiles to stand before him. Two capsules taken from a vial were offered in an open palm; Katze's other held a bottle of herb-enhanced water.
Gazing down at the pills Riki frowned, although he longed for them desperately: anything to take the edge off the ache in his limbs and his soul.
When he at last reached a hand towards them, Katze started forward, a quick, sharp motion that implied violence. Riki winced, stumbling backwards. His stiff limbs cried out in protest, even as they instinctively shifted and assembled themselves into a posture for fight.
However, Katze did not advance. His scarred face held serious eyes; lips curled into a mirthless grin. His pointed ears lay flat against his head.
"You'd be wise to temper your threats until you're healed enough to follow them through."
Stepping forward Katze tucked the bottled water under an arm and pried one of Riki's now un-resisting fists open. He dropped the tablets into the palm and then closed the fingers back around them, restoring Riki's close-fingered club.
Cautious, as always, he moved back a safe enough distance that he could react if his master's pet decided to belatedly lash out. He held the bottle out again, a peace offering this time.
"Master Iason said you were to take these for your discomfort; the water will help your taste, more than any brushing you can do. You know better than I how acute his tongue is."
A furious color darkened Riki's cheeks. It was not the comment that caused him to color, but that Katze had so easily revealed his compromised state. Despite his blush, Riki straightened and snatched the drink. He popped the pills in his mouth and cracked the bottle. The Elite drugs started soothing before he'd even finished his last swallow.
Unblinking gray eyes watched Riki's every motion. When he was sure the pills had been downed, Katze gave a curt nod of approval and his ears swiveled forward. He then turned to head into the kitchen. "Go take your shower."
"What the hell's up your ass today, Katze?" Riki's own ears were flat; his pride still stinging. Though juvenile, he grasped at the most wounding words he could think of. "Or maybe your problem is what's not."
Slowed by the drugs, Riki's reaction time was hindered even more than before. He was stunned when Katze's hard body crashed against his and pushed him back until his bare shoulders slammed against the nearest wall. The bottle flew from his hand, hit the tile, and shattered. Despite his body's anguish, Riki felt his adrenaline surge and rejoiced in the hit, even as the forearm levered against his throat threatened to cut off his air.
"What's up my ass, Riki, is that I have seven shipments coming in within the next three hours and I'm stuck here playing nursemaid to a spoiled pet."
Though his volume was at the level of casual conversation, there was no mistaking the growl in Katze's tone, or the instinctive snarl that caused his scar to tic. What took Riki's breath away, however, more than the increased pressure Katze exerted to emphasize his displeasure, was the black-marketeer's next words.
"Do you ever, in that alley-cat head of yours, stop and think about what you do for even a moment? You hate your master for his arrogance, but you're no better."
Riki's hands grasped, he was beginning to see spots. His tail had become suddenly limber and swished in furious protest. Riki cursed the neural bands Iason had affixed to his wrists to keep his claws permanently retracted. Strong fingers gripped Katze's lean arm, dug in regardless, and pushed back.
Katze's arm fell away easily: his fury spent. He did not want to waste any more of his energy on his master's dense stray.
A cough jarred Riki and his fingers flew up and curled around his collar, pulling it away from where it had cut into his neck. Dark eyes, wide with shock watched as Katze turned, ears flat and began to move once more towards the kitchen.
"You're crazy, Dog! I don't know what the fuck you're talking about!" Riki couldn't keep the feline hiss from his voice.
Katze's didn't turn; his sorrel head gave a frustrated shake.
"The furniture you broke, Riki. He was less than a month out of training. What did he do to earn such misuse?"
"You rail against Master Iason's abuse of power; you consider yourself a victim of his whims…" Katze allowed his charges to drop off, the remainder unsaid. After a heavy pause he spoke so quietly Rick felt his flattened ears twist forward to catch the words.
"Furniture is designed to endure, Riki. Do you know what happened after the movers hauled him away?"
Riki's hands fell from his collar. His swishing tail stilled. He didn't know, hadn't thought to consider, hadn't cared. A thousand thoughts filled him. His black ears flickered uncomfortably. Out on the streets he'd done what he'd needed to in order to survive. He had been unmerciful, but he'd never before been as purposely malicious as he had with Yaun, the latest in a long line of furniture he'd metaphorically shredded. A black flower of conviction bloomed in his gut.
"Strange words coming from someone who survives selling flesh!" Riki flung the retort like a spear, but Katze's armor, invisible, impenetrable, was back in place.
"Tell me Riki, how have I treated you?" Katze did not wait for the answer. He knew it already.
"As I said, furniture endures. I am here, I accept my position. It's not much, but I do my best to carry it out without cruelty. Though god damn, Riki, you don't make it easy."
Katze had kept his back turned. He didn't cast a glance to see if his words had finally begun to sink in to the thick skull beneath the feline-hybrid's midnight mane. He didn't need to: Riki's silence spoke volumes. The Doberman sighed.
"I will tell you once last time to go bathe. I have to start dinner and I don't want it to be late. It would be a poor start to his evening if Master Iason was to find himself displeased with both of us."
Riki imagined that if Katze had been still-suited, he would have made his habitual adjustment to some nonexistent crease before moving. Kilted as he was, Iason's dog just straightened his spine; his stubbed tail gave a quick twitch. Riki watched Katze move with a sober grace off to the kitchen.
He had no desire to obey the former-furniture's orders, but after Katze's words…
Black ears flickered in disgust with himself. Ricki looked down at the shattered bottle and knew that when he returned the floor would be spotless, every shard accounted for. That was how Katze survived.
Riki sighed himself now. The adrenaline in his trauma-taxed system wore off quickly these days. The drug rendered his limbs heavy, but this weight was not his greatest burden at the moment. He turned and silently headed off to the shower, knowing that no matter how he scrubbed, even if he abolished the scent of smoke from his skin, since becoming Iason's pet he had become tarnished in ways that could never be so simply washed away.
This is my first Ai no Kusabi fic. I appreciate your feedback.