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Everything to Lose

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He stared at his trembling hands as they lay upon his desk on either side of the police report. They vibrated like something living was inside them, a rattlesnake tail, waiting to lash out. He curled them into fists, trapping the fury. He would keep it, until the time was right. Then he'd unleash it upon the one who had caused this unprecedented thing to happen, this pain that ripped at his heart.

But first, he had to find out just who that was.




The waiting room was quiet despite the number of people in it. Takato sat with Akihito's mother and friends, trying to place what had happened into some kind of framework that made sense. The screeching tires, the headlights aimed straight for them, Akihito shouting and shoving him out of the way, and just when he'd thought they'd escaped, gunfire and Akihito falling, holes in his chest, shock on his face. He'd froze, unable to dial his phone.

A passerby had called while he'd held his friend in his arms and watched the life slowly drain from him as he'd futilely tried to hold it in with his hands. Hands that now shook as he buried his face in them. Not to shed tears. Men don't cry, he knew, at least where people can see. But he cried on the inside where the tears burned him, their tracks tracing his failure.

An arm was gently laid across his shoulders. He recognized Akihito's mother's perfume, a very light floral scent, one he remembered Akihito picking out for her birthday. He was ashamed for wanting to turn his face into her shoulder for comfort when she was the one who needed support.

Her voice was soft though her words were firm. "Stop beating yourself up, Takato. I'm glad you were with him. You couldn't have done any more than you did, and what you did saved him. The doctor said the fact that you put pressure on his wound kept him from bleeding to death."

"I should have –"

"Takato, my son would want me to punch you if you continued this."

He uncovered his eyes and saw the tiny fist she shook under his nose and it surprised a short laugh out of him. People always compared Akihito and his father because of the photography. But most didn't realize that his stubbornness and heart came from his mother.

His mouth opened to answer, when a hush fell around the room that made him pause. Glancing around he saw faces turned to the long hallway to the right and he wondered whose surgeon had just shown up. But when he turned his head he didn't see the mint green of someone who held everyone's hopes in his hands, but the black of death.

Takato recognized the man from that unforgettable New Year's Eve. But even as frightening as he'd looked then, it was nothing like the ominous presence coming toward them now.

His long dark overcoat swirled about his legs like a living mantle of smoke, covering him in shadow. But that shadow was pale in comparison to the darkness in those eyes. They were pits, and Takato felt that if he were sucked into them he'd not stop falling until reaching the coldest depths of hell.

The man came to a halt before them, those eyes resting on Takato. Takato made himself return the look, feeling himself being judged, needing the harsh truth that would be measured out.

The mood was broken when Takaba-san gracefully rose to her feet and placed herself between them.

"You're a friend of my son's?" She softly laid a hand upon the man's arm. Takato tensed, sensing that touching this man was akin to touching a tiger. Those dark eyes retreated behind a façade of politeness, softening just a little as they turned to Akihito's mother.

"He probably wouldn't think so."

"You're Asami-san?"

The man's eyes widened slightly and he nodded once. "Asami Ryuichi. He's mentioned me?"

Takaba-san smiled very slightly. "He talks about you enough that I got the picture. You're not easy on him. But then, he sometimes needs to be hammered to get an idea through his stubborn head. Not, however, to the point of breaking him."

Takato thought he'd never seen anyone as brave as she, hurling dagger-like words at such a man.

Asami didn't flinch. "I am what I am. And he is mine. If he doesn't yet understand that, he will."

"You believe in him then, that he'll survive."

Asami's eyes were hard. "He will live. There is no other option."

"Will you wait here with us then?"

"No." He was curt, but then relented. "Thank you, but no. There's no need to wait because he will get through this. I came to speak to Takato." The dark eyes were focused on him again, demanding something, everything. "Come, we'll talk outside."

Takato stood, pulled toward the man despite his fear. It would be a distraction at least while he waited. He knew Akihito was strong but he wasn't as sure that he would make it as this guy was. It was soothing in a way to be in the presence of such faith.

Asami turned to leave.

"Asami-san." There was steel in the deceptively gentle voice.

He paused and turned back.

"You wondered if he understood that he was yours. I believe he knows this inside. But I wonder if you recognize that the reverse is also true."

Asami stared at her a moment and said nothing, then he nodded his farewell and strode down the hall, Takato in his wake. Takato wondered though, if that nod had just been one of dismissal.




Outside they stood in the chill night air while Asami retrieved his Dunhills from inside his cashmere overcoat and lit one up. He seemed to relax slightly just having it between his lips.

Takato stared at those lips as they pulled on the cigarette. Asami's eyes flickered to him briefly in amusement before they chilled again. He blushed slightly. He wasn't attracted to men, but this one made him wonder what it might be like if he were.

Asami finally pulled the butt from his mouth and let it dangle from one hand. "They're alike, he and his mother. That was unexpected." Then as he looked across the cars parked in front of the building, he simply commanded without further niceties. "Tell me what happened. I have the police report, but I want to hear it from you."

"I – I don't remember much."

"You remember more than you realize. What was the first thing you noticed amiss?"

He swallowed. "The car. It was coming down the street way too fast, and it looked like it was headed straight for us."

"A Mercedes, the report said."

He nodded. "I saw the hood ornament. It was a sedan. I saw two doors on the side. I didn't see any plates, but then I wasn't looking. We just thought the guy was drunk. At least, I did."

That got him a look. "Takaba didn't?"

"No. I think he sensed something else. He said 'Takato get out of here,' urgent-like. He knew trouble was coming."

"Perhaps he knew who it was then," Asami mused, once again staring into the space in front of him.

"I'm not sure if he did. But he knew it wasn't good." He paused, not wanted to tell the next part.

Asami flicked his hand at him impatiently to continue. Takato thought about Akihito laying under the surgeon's knives, and tried to put aside his shame.

"I... froze. Like a deer in headlights. I couldn't move. If I had maybe we could have..." His voice trailed off limply.

"What's done is done." The terse response cut into his distress. "While you wallow in self-recrimination his attackers roam free. Continue."

That stung but he recognized the truth behind it. Still, when he spoke it was with some temper behind it. "You weren't there. You don't know what it was like." But even as he spoke he knew that was a lie and the hard eyes that turned upon him made him back up a step.

"Okay maybe you do. But I bet it wouldn't be new to you and scare the crap out of you." The eyes on him were relentless. He gave in. "I'm only doing this for him, you know. Because I failed him before. And because he's my friend."

"I don't care why you're doing it, just talk."

"I can't imagine Akihito liking you."

"He doesn't."

He didn't know what to say to that, so he fell back into the report of what had happened earlier that evening. "Okay. Well, um, the car was coming toward us and I froze, but Akihito managed to drag me toward an alley and once I was moving we ran like hell. The alley was too narrow for the car and I thought we were safe but the back door opened up and this tall guy got out and reached into his coat for something and I didn't realize at first it was a gun, but then he fired, twice, and then for some reason he turned and shouted at someone, the driver maybe, and got into the car and left. I think he saw someone coming. And I was staring after them until I realized Akihito had jumped in front of me because then he fell toward me and I saw the blood on him. There was so much..." He wiped his hands on his jeans, still feeling the sticky liquid. "It was bad –"

Asami cut him off. It was a kindness, though Takato was sure he didn't intend it that way. "The man. Tell me about him."

Takato let his mind shift away from the horror he'd felt. "I didn't see much. He had short hair, kind of light. He looked foreign, Western."

Asami looked thoughtful. "What language did he shout in? Japanese?"

"No. No, I couldn't tell. It wasn't English, or anything like that. More like Eastern European. Russian maybe."

"Russian. How interesting."

Takato couldn't believe it. "Interesting!? You sound like someone commenting on flowers at a dinner party. I thought you cared about Akihito! You're standing there demanding facts like it's going to do something for him. He needs people at his side now. His mother needs his friends."

Asami turned on him with a ferocity that made him swallow any further words. "Just what do you think his mother would want of me?" he snarled. "For me to sit there holding her hand and making everyone uncomfortable? Or maybe instead finding the son of a bitch who did this so she didn't have to worry about him doing the same thing to Takaba next week? Takaba has the city's best surgeon now. His bills are paid for. Now it's his fight. Maybe you in your great wisdom know her better, but somehow I think the woman I just met would rather I be doing what I am than trying to coddle her."

Takato was taken aback, not only to realize what the man had done for the family, but to see the cold exterior break and let out a fury that was even as he watched being tightly reined in again. The man's control was incredible.

Then it came in a flash of guilt. Asami was as upset as the rest of them, maybe more. He was just doing this for a distraction. The guy wanted to punish whoever did this to Akihito, sure, but he was doing it now because the sitting and waiting to see how Akihito would fare was unbearable. Action was better than helplessness.

"Let me help you."

Asami looked at him coldly. "Tell me everything you remember, and that's help enough from a brat like you."

"I'll know him if I see him again."

"So what? Where I'm going is no place for you."

"You could use me as bait. Put around that I got a good glimpse of the guy who did it. Then he'd come after me right?"

"Trying to assuage your guilt?"

"Trying to do the same damned thing you're doing and forget about what's happening in that hospital for a few hours. And if it helps catch the guy, even better."

"You do realize, Takato, that I'm not interested in simply catching him?" Asami's voice had become silky smooth and it raised the hairs on the back of his neck. "Are you willing to be a party to that?"

He wasn't sure he liked the idea of it, but then, Akihito was fighting for his life because of that person and he didn't want to guy to succeed the next time. He took a deep breath and pushed his clamoring doubts away. "I'm willing. I'm tired of people hurting Akihito. Maybe this will make them think twice."

Asami turned his head to consider him, and he felt like the eyes drilled into his core. He raised his chin and stared back defiantly. He must have passed the test, because Asami nodded and walked away saying, "I might be able to use you. Let's go."

He squared his shoulders and followed.




They rode in the limo toward Sion. Takato had heard of the place, everyone had, but he'd never imagined he'd be walking into it someday. Between that and the car he was feeling a little out of place. From time to time on the ride over he glanced at his companion, but the man was usually on the phone discussing some detail about his business. He seemed to be shifting his schedule around. None of it was related to Akihito, so he stopped trying to listen and pulled his own phone out.

"Kou? It's Takato."

"Where the hell are you? Did that guy do something to you? He looked creepy, in a good-looking kind of way. Like that model last year."

Takato rolled his eyes. "I'm fine. I'm helping him with something and I'll be back as soon as I can. Just call if you hear anything, will you? I want to know..." he glanced toward Asami and saw that he was being watched, "we want to know if anything changes."

"No problem. But –"

"Thanks, Kou. Later."

He hung up and stuck his phone back into his pocket. For some reason he felt the need to defend his friend. "He isn't the brightest guy, but he means what he says, and he'll stand by you."

Asami merely said, "That would be important in a friend."

That was an odd way to put it. "Aren't your friends like that?"

Now the eyes considering him were amused. "I can't afford any in my business. You needn't feel sorry for me. I don't require any friends for my amusement."

It was a bit pitiful in his opinion, but he didn't say that. "They're not just for amusement. They're there to help you out and be supportive when you're going through rough times." But in looking at Asami he knew such support had never been needed. And the look he received told him Asami felt the same. "It doesn't mean you need to have their support. It's just, well, nice to know people care. Don't you feel happier knowing Akihito cares about you?"

But Asami appeared to no longer be paying attention, as he lit up another cigarette and stared out the window.



They rolled to a stop in front of the club, a tall respectable-looking building for that part of town. Takato moved to get out, but Asami's hand on his arm stopped him. "You need to look more convincing for the part you're to play."

Before he could stop him, Asami's hand had moved up to the back of his neck and his lips were on Takato's. Shock made him immobile until the thought of him being kissed by a man sunk in and he started struggling with everything he had. But Asami's grip was too strong, and his kiss was relentless. His jaw was forced open and the man's tongue darted into his mouth, stroking it, taking it. Takato vowed then and there never to let a woman feel as helpless as he felt at that moment. He wasn't exactly repulsed, but it left him cold and angry.

Asami pulled back and stared at him in exasperation. "How exactly will we convince them that you're taking Takaba's place as my lover if you look like a cold fish?"

"I didn't know that was part of the deal! I never said I wanted to be kissed by a guy. Especially you."

A finely curved eyebrow went up. "You mean another man would be fine? Should I ask my driver?"

"I mean you're Akihito's...." It sunk in just what that meant now. His jaw dropped a little. He blushed at understanding the more intimate details of his friend's relationship with this man.

Asami watched him, eyes narrowing. "Or perhaps Takaba would be fine?"

Takato shoved away from him. "He's my friend. Do you like imagining the sexual escapades of your friends? Oh, I forgot, you don't have any. No surprise there. Well here's a newsflash. It's embarrassing. Goddammit you're annoying! How the hell does he put up with you?"

A slight shrug of the shoulders met the question. "He doesn't."

Nothing the man said made anything any clearer. "I don't get you. If he doesn't want you, why are you all he talks about? If you don't want him, why are you...?"

Asami didn't say anything, he just straightened his tie and got out of the limo. Takato saw him standing stiffly on the pavement and tried to understand. What the hell? Is it that you do want him, except that you just won't admit it? And neither will he really from what I can tell. So you guys just keep hurting each other because you're both so damned stubborn? That sounded like Akihito. And from what he'd seen it wouldn't surprise him if Asami was the same way. The stiff back he saw told him he was on the right track. He wasn't one to interfere, but this was frustrating as hell. Maybe, this time, he would have do something.

But first, the reason he'd come along... Taking a deep breath and reminding himself this was for Akihito, he got out of the car and put his arm around Asami's waist and gazed up endearingly. "Let's go inside, sugar. I'll see if I recognize the man, and you'll give me all you promised."

Asami shot him a disgusted look and muttered, "You know, you suck at being gay. You're probably the last man on earth that I'd ever date."

"Sweetie, you should see the look of hope on your bodyguard's face now. You're such a tease."

Asami turned his head to glare at the monstrous blond man behind him, who raised his hands and backed away.

"Baaaaaby. I can't wait any more."

A devilish gleam appeared in Asami's eyes. "Of course you can't." He dipped his head and roughly kissed him, grabbing Takato's ass and grinding their hips together. Neither one was hard but it made for a good show.

Their lips parted by the merest fraction of an inch.

"Bastard," Takato whispered.

"Tuna," Asami murmured back.

Arms around each other, they walked into the club.




A pair of binoculars on a nearby roof were lowered, and their owner tried to puzzle out what he'd seen. But that wasn't his job, just to report it, so he placed a call and described it.

"It was the other kid from the alley. I'm sure of it. Did we get the wrong one?"

The man at the other end of the line hesitated, then told him to continue watching, that he'd send a couple more men over and if they had to shoot another one it was no big deal. He shrugged his shoulders and obeyed. It was no big deal to him either.




Inside the club Takato found himself settled in a corner of Asami's office and ignored while the man gathered forces. He decided to call Kou, but neither had anything new to say. Not about that.

"Kou. What do you think about Akihito and Asami?" he spoke softly, glancing across the room at Asami's desk, trying not to be overheard.

"What do you mean? Akihito's one of my best friends. I don't know the other guy."

"Yeah, but do you think Akihito likes him?"

"Well they must be friends, right? Or the guy wouldn't have shown up here. Akihito sure complains about him a lot, but you know how he is when someone gets under his skin. I guess they just fight a lot. That doesn't mean Akihito doesn't like him."

As usual, Kou didn't have a clue something else was going on. Well, he wasn't going to bring it up now. That was something Akihito could tell him.

"Kou, it's been an awful long time since surgery started. Isn't that a bad sign?"

"Nah, I don't think so. A new surgeon showed up right after you left and took over, so he might be doing things differently. The nurses said the guy's the best though. Akihito's mom started crying after she talked to him, but she just said he's a good man."

Takato knew she hadn't been talking about the doctor.

"Okay, well keep me posted. Tell Takaba-san that we're there with her in thought."

"Sure thing. What are you doing, anyway?"

"Just trying to take care of Akihito in our own way."

"Need any help?"

"I just need to know that you're there and will let us know any news as soon as you hear it, and that you're taking care of Takaba-san."

"You can count on me!"

Takato smiled at his friend's enthusiasm. "I know I can. Thanks for being such a great friend, Kou."

"Yeah. You too, buddy."

There was a slightly awkward silence, because they just didn't say that kind of thing.

"I'll talk to you ..." "I'll call you..." they said at the same time, then they started laughing and said goodbye.

Takato glanced over at Asami only to see him staring at him. He tried to remember what he'd said exactly because he couldn't tell if he'd been overheard.

"Any news?" the man asked casually, his eyes not leaving Takato's.

"The new surgeon arrived. Akihito's still in surgery. His mother cried after talking to the surgeon and said you were a good man. Thank you for doing that for him. I know she'd thank you as well."

"I didn't do it for either of you."

"I know why you did it. I wonder if you do."

"You think I'm in love?" Asami scoffed.

"I think you care about him. From the way he acts I doubt you've ever told him though, because you think he'd throw it back in your face. It hurts, when that happens. So it's frightening to take a chance like that. I understand. But if you haven't told him and he doesn't make it, you'll hate yourself for it."

Asami folded his hands across his stomach and regarded him with no little exasperation. "Are you trying to goad me into a confession?"

"Yes. Is it working?"

Asami snorted. "No. You're very like him in some ways. Only he kisses better." His eyes softened slightly. "Much better."

"Tell him."

"Why should I?"

"Doesn't his happiness mean anything to you?"

"It... does. But his anger is so entertaining."

"Hell, if that's all you can still tease him. We do it all the time because it's funny watching him go off on a rant. And what about your happiness? Wouldn't you be happier being honest?"

"Are you trying to be my friend, Takato?" Asami asked in apparent disbelief.

"Someone has to."

This time Asami genuinely laughed. "I have everything set up. Let's go over what you're going to do." His smile disappeared. "I can't guarantee they'll take the bait just yet, but the reports I've received suggest they're watching me. We'll see how foolish they are."




Takato left Sion an hour later. Once out on the steps he made a small scene.

"I don't want to go back to his apartment! He doesn't own me. I'm going drinking and I'll see him again when I want to." He tossed his head and strode briskly away from the club, toward an even darker part of town.

Several sets of eyes were on him, and one of the people watching placed a call.

"Give him some time to get further away. Make sure he's not followed, then grab him at the first chance," he heard. "We need to find out what's going on." He relayed the message.

None of Asami's men were going after the kid. It looked like they didn't care about some punk who was screwing their boss. He was probably an embarrassment they wanted to get rid of. For that matter, Asami didn't seem to care either. This would be a piece of cake.




Takato tried to look like he was just off to bar hop the rest of the night away as he followed the path Asami had made him memorize. It was almost 04:00 and the streets were pretty empty compared to how filled they'd been earlier in the night. He knew Asami's men were watching him, but he couldn't help be nervous. What if someone just shot him from somewhere? Sure, he was wearing Kevlar, but he hadn't really thought this through. Had he been an idiot or what? He stopped in his tracks, then quickly started walking again. A moving target was harder to hit. He wasn't walking so nonchalantly any longer though.

His phone rang. A glance at the screen told him it was Asami. "Having second thoughts Takato?"

Takato tried not to glance nervously around. "Yeah, sort of. I just realized how vulnerable I was. But I'm going through with it. For Akihito."

"Good. You're coming up to the alley I told you about. Turn there and they should make a move. They've been following you since you left Sion. I didn't think it would be this easy, but they must be underestimating us. Fools. This will all be over with soon."

Takato felt better just for hearing Asami tell him that all this had been anticipated. He realized he trusted the man to get him through this. He's a good leader, he thought. "Asami.... thanks."

There was a pause, then a sarcastic "That's what friends are for," before the call was disconnected.

Takato smiled and hurried on, more confident. He was starting to understand, and knew the sarcasm for what it was.




Asami'd had it figured. Within seconds of Takato's strolling into the alley behind the designated clubs two men came up behind him. He glanced back at them in not-so-feigned alarm and took off running, trying to get to his destination before they decided to shoot instead of chase him anymore.

It had been a long night though and he was tired, more than he'd counted on. His breath was already coming in gasps as he heard their feet pounding right behind him and he didn't see the building Asami had described.

A red light, that was all he needed. A single bare red light bulb above a door that would be open. His eyes scanned desperately as he felt his energy running out, his feet slipping on rough pavement.

Red. He'd never wanted to see that color so much in his life. Everything was golds and blue neon and greens and whites. He slipped on some garbage and almost went down, careening off the wall and back into the center of the alley.

Red, please, red... Nothing. There was nothing. He was starting to wonder if he'd missed a turn. He didn't know how much longer he could keep going. At least they hadn't started shooting yet.

Then the narrow path curved slightly and there it was, red beacon over a dark opening that looked like the gates to paradise.

Energy he wasn't aware he had burst through him. He'd reached his limit minutes ago but he flew like death itself was after him and he darted through the doorway. A hand jerked him to the side in the dark and against a broad chest. "Well done," said a quiet voice he'd been looking forward to hearing again. He didn't feel the least bit ashamed for leaning against the man and catching his breath, and Asami let him lean there. He almost laughed when he realized death hadn't been behind him, but waiting. Luckily it wasn't waiting for him.

The door slammed behind his pursuers and a dim light flooded the room. Seven men with guns drawn stood around two, all of them blinking, and the two realized they'd been had. They stood there nervously, back to back, guns in hand, a temporary standoff.

One of Asami's assistants, the one with glasses, stood outside the circle. "What you've done wasn't very wise. Now you have another choice. We want information. This can be as easy for you or as hard as you want to make it. We generously give you a minute to think it over before you'll give Asami-sama your decision."

Asami's quiet voice drew his attention. "Takato. You don't want to stay for this. My driver will get you a ride back to Sion or the hospital or wherever you want to go."

Tired as he was, Takato stepped back and stood on his own two feet. "I earned the right to stay."

"You did. But what happens from here on out is something you're probably better off not knowing."

"You're going to kill them? They're not the ones who shot Akihito."

Asami didn't quite answer. "But they helped, and they know who did. They're not getting away with what they've done. They've not only hurt Takaba, but they've challenged me on my own turf. I can't let it go."

He understood then how naïve he'd been. "You're mafia."

"Not exactly. I follow no rules but my own. But if you want to think of me that way you may."

Takato briefly considered his situation. It didn't take long. He was angry and wanted some revenge for Akihito and himself, but organized crime was a world he didn't want to enter. It was too easy to get lost in it, and too hard to find a way out. It quite honestly scared the hell out of him. Looking up at Asami, who was gazing at him impassively, he nodded. "I'll wait for you at the car."

Asami nodded back. "This shouldn't take long."

He looked back just as he was leaving the building. Asami was walking toward the surrounded men with the smooth gait of a beast about to take down some prey. He shuddered and ducked out the door, and made his way to the BMW where he sat in the back seat and tried not to imagine what was happening inside that building. But the fact that he was half-erect hadn't escaped him. Akihito, I see the draw, I really do, but what have you got yourself into?


(To be concluded in Part 2)

Chapter Text

The motion of the car woke him. He blushed to find himself leaning against Asami's shoulder and quickly sat up, ignoring the amused glance in his direction. The dark streets outside weren't any he recognized, but it looked like they were nearing the waterfront. "Where are we going?"

A cigarette dangled from Asami's lips as he spoke. "The bay. Evidently they have a ship there. It's how they got into the country. They'll know by now that something has gone wrong and be trying to get out as quickly as possible, so we're going to cut them off at the dock where they're likely gathered."

"Do you know who it is now?"

"Yes. It's who I thought, as soon as you mentioned the accent."

Asami reached up and pulled the cigarette from his lips, exposing the white cuff of his shirt sleeve. Takato noticed some dark red blotches on it. He averted his eyes. "Do you know why he's doing it?"

"He's actually not here, the ringleader. But his number two man is, the one who shot Akihito, along with several of his subordinates. We're going to hit them hard so he thinks twice about trying this again. And then I hope to hear back from an old... friend of both of ours in Hong Kong and let him hit him harder. I have the feeling that he's the cause of this and he won't like that one bit."

"Of both of ours...?" Takato stopped in shock. "That long-haired Chinese? He's your friend?! After what he did to Akihito? And me and Kou, I might add."

"You and Kou were in no danger. He had nothing to gain from hurting you."

It sure didn't seem like that at the time. "And Akihito? I know that guy was mixed up in Akihito disappearing last August."

"He was in no danger either, not from Feilong. But from the Russian, yes. I thought the Russian had learned. But apparently he needs a more painful lesson. He's about to get one."

Asami's phone rang. He smiled grimly as he looked at it and saw who was calling, but his tone was almost lighthearted when he answered. "Feilong. I hope I didn't wake you from your beauty sleep. I know how important your girlish figure is to you..." He held the phone away from his ear and smirked until the voice calmed.

"He's still in surgery," he said more seriously. "Of course I got him the best, but evidently the bullets passed through some organs, including his intestines, and you know how dangerous that can be."

That was the first Takato had heard of that. He was a little peeved, and a little more worried for Akihito now.

"I'll have Takato here call you as soon as he hears anything. He's one of Akihito's friends, you remember? I'm sure he'd love to renew your acquaintance."

Takato flipped him off.

"He just indicated he would."

Takato just shook his head and laughed.

"Yes, apparently we've been invaded by Russians, working under one Mikhail Arbatov." He held the phone from his ear again. "You really need to watch that temper, Feilong. However, I thought that would interest you. Perhaps you could remind him that such actions are inappropriate. He's about to receive a lesson about that from me, but I thought you could make it more personal since he's still in Macao. If you're too squeamish to, of course I'll send men to do it."

Asami listened for a moment. "He might want to hurt me, but I thought it more likely the actions were centered on you. He hated Takaba for drawing your attention, and for perhaps still holding it."

Asami's eyes turned fierce. "At any rate, he's about to lose whatever men he sent up here. I look forward to hearing from you. .... Ah. I will." He snapped the phone shut and said with no little satisfaction, "Arbatov will pay."

Takato didn't quite understand what he'd heard. "This Feilong, he likes Akihito now?"

"You know how Takaba is. He worms his way into people's lives and before they know it, even the coldest bastards have something invested in keeping him safe."

"Is that so?" He almost laughed at hearing Asami describe himself.

"Don't be such a brat. We're almost there. You will lock the doors and wait in the car. Do you understand?"

"I'm not a child."

"If you don't want to be involved you'll do as I say, Takato."

"Look, I'm not planning on crashing your party. I really don't want any part of it, okay? But you can damned well speak to me as an adult. I think I deserve that much for what I did tonight."

Asami considered him as they came to a stop on the docks next to a large tanker. "In my world, anyone who isn't part of it is a child because you choose to close your eyes to the realities of your lives. You were a part of it tonight, but then you chose to back away. And that's fine." He leaned forward as if he were going to kiss Takato, silencing his protests with just his nearness. "I don't care if you want me to do all the dirty work. But you're closing your eyes, Takato, to the blood on my sleeve. What does that make you?"

Takato's cheeks heated and he shot back, "It makes me someone who wants to like the guy my best friend is in love with. And the guy who's in love with my best friend even though he won't admit it! What does that make you?"

Asami's eyes widened. "You puppy. If I had time I'd show you just what I'm made of."

Takato folded his arms over his chest. "Promises, promises. But you don't have time, do you, because you're so busy taking care of Akihito. I see you. You don't have to show me a thing."

A knock on the car's window stopped the conversation. Asami hit a switch to lower it.

"Boss, it's set."

He nodded and raised the window. "We'll discuss this further when I get back." He opened the door and started to step out of the car.


The man paused and looked back. "What?"

"Be careful. I don't want to have to explain to Akihito why you're not there when he wakes up."

"You don't have to worry about me. I always survive."

It was as arrogant as a man could get, yet somehow Takato knew it was only the truth.




Takato sat in the black silence of the back seat of the car. He'd come along so he didn't have to wait, and yet here he was doing just that. His ears strained to hear something, anything, but the soundproofing on the car was well made. Occasionally there'd be a brief flash of light, and maybe what sounded like a pop, but nothing else. He had no idea what was going on.

Akihito would have got out and gone onto the ship to find out. Takato wasn't that stupid. Or brave. Not unless a friend's life was in danger, and the only thing he had close to a friend in this situation was the danger.

The minutes ticked on. He thought about calling Kou, but decided it would just make him more nervous. Instead he sat and thought about some of the things that hadn't quite sunk in from that day.

So. Akihito is gay. He was surprised he wasn't more surprised, but really, it had been there all along if he had bothered to think about it. It wasn't really something a guy did though, think of his friends that way. Akihito never really said anything that gave him away. He never even would have guessed if Asami hadn't dropped that 'He is mine.' bombshell. Funny how Akihito's mother already seemed to know. Couldn't ever hide anything from her.

Before this, Akihito had just been obsessed with Asami and sometimes he wouldn't shut up about him. But knowing it was supposed to be more... Their relationship didn't seem good, but then maybe Akihito wasn't too happy about falling for a guy, and a mobster at that. His sense of justice had to be offended.

Still, he had that love of danger, and didn't mind bending the law when it suited him. The two seemed to be adrenalin junkies, almost made for each other. He hoped it didn't get them killed. He didn't know if he could take another night like this one.

He peered out the window again but still saw nothing. God this is boring. The car was bare of anything to read or look at. He crouched and leaned slightly into the front seat. Maybe there was something in the glove compartment.

He was reaching for the latch when a body slammed into the windshield from above, sending fracture lines racing through the safety glass. The bloody face of the man was inches from his own. If his bladder had held anything it would have emptied. It was the man who'd shot Akihito.

He jerked into the back seat pressing himself into the corner, trying to make himself small and unnoticeable, his heart thudding in his throat. His eyes never left the body, but when it didn't move, his mind started working again.

What the fuck, did Asami throw him off the deck of the ship? He peered out the window facing the boat, trying to see, but it was too dark. He looked back toward the front of the car. The guy still wasn't moving. Well, sure, after that fall he had to be dead. Takato wasn't about to get out of the car to find out. It was gross, but Asami could clean it up. He settled back into the seat, trying not to look at the mess on the front of the car. It wasn't like he was upset. The bastard deserved it. But still...

Takato decided he needed to think about other things. Like the date he'd been on last week. She'd been sweet. Kimiko. He'd planned to call her this weekend. Hopefully he still had her number. He'd just lit his phone to check when he heard something odd. It sounded like the wind going through a tunnel, just really faint. He tilted his head, trying to hear more clearly, and his eyes inadvertently lifted.

The man on the windshield was staring at him, a crazed smile on his face. He was saying something, crooning it. Takato could read it on his lips. "I see you..."

Hairs rose on his arms. The phone fell from his hands. No. This was just like the alley, only Takaba wasn't there to save him.

The man's eyes were still on him but his hands were groping around, and Takato knew he was looking for his gun. Fear was pushing everything from his brain. His heart was beating frantically. He made himself think. The front glass wouldn't hold against bullets, fractured as it was. So he could sit there or he could run. The guy couldn't chase him, not in the shape he was in. He had to run.

His fingers fumbled with the door, jerking at the handle, swearing when it wouldn't budge. It was locked. They'd engaged the fucking safety locks. He'd have to go through the front seat.

He scrambled into the front passenger seat, trying not to see the leering face just inches away laughing at his distress, trying not to listen to the words singing his death. His sweat-slicked fingers pulled at the lock and slid uselessly off it. He heard a crow of triumph and turned his head in time to see a gun being pointed at him.

Everything slowed to a crawl as the two of them stared at each other.

Oh God. Oh Aki. How could you have stepped into this for me? Did you just not understand?

Tears pricked his eyes. He didn't want to die. But he didn't know what to do. Terror crushed him down and he slid from the seat, trying to get under the dashboard for cover. A bullet crashed through the glass above him, hitting the seat where he'd been a second before. The gunman began kicking the shattered glass with his boots.

Fuck. Fuck! Think damn you! A second shot blasted through the car but it must have missed because he felt nothing. He had another second of life. The life that Aki had saved earlier that night and here he was wasting it. Aki, what do I do, man? What would you do?

He thought he felt a familiar arm around him. Aki. Here. Helping him. When he should be fighting for his own life. And the fear left him, leaving nothing but fury, driving him upward through the hole where the windshield had been, straight into the other man's body.

They hit the pavement, hard. Takato ended up on the bottom. He couldn't breathe. The other guy lay there and groaned and Takato shoved at him, kicking, still trying to catch his breath.

He managed to roll out from under him, gasping, and saw the gun. It was lying off to the side, shiny with blood and sweat. He crawled to it, and his hands trembled as he awkwardly picked it up. He'd never held one, but it felt good, real good. It gave him power. He felt like a god. A few minutes ago he'd been about to die, helpless. Now he was the one holding death. And he wanted to deal it out.

The Russian saw him and tried to crawl away. He pointed the gun at his head.

But he had to know. The gun dropped a little. "Why? What did we ever do to you? Why?" His voice broke.

The Russian spat and laughed and spoke in broken Japanese. "Why? Why not? What's one more whore?"

A red haze of anger fell across his eyes and he raised the gun and looked down the barrel, his finger tightening on the trigger. But there were two men in his sights now, one dark, one light, and one was coolly destroying the other with his fists. The gun fell again as he recognized Asami.

He inched backward in the face of such wrath. There was no sound, except for the occasional grunts when blows connected. This was Asami, but not the man he'd seen all evening. There was a naked rage in his eyes, all the more frightening for his silence. There was no talking, none of the sarcasm and the words Asami used as weapons. Just a killing machine, almost an animal, systematically taking the man in front of him apart with his bare hands with a ferocity that shook Takato to his core.

The Russian sunk his teeth into Asami's arm to try to stop the pummeling and Asami gouged the man's eyes out with his finger and thumb, sending him to his knees, reeling in pain and screaming. There wasn't a shred of mercy in Asami's face, just a burning hatred.

Akihito, you can't have seen this and still love him, can you...?

Blood covered the two of them by the time the man finally fell at Asami's feet, broken and whimpering. Asami bent, gently lifted the Russian's head and whispered something, then with a twist broke his neck.

Takato's vomit sprayed the pavement in front of him.

"Dispose of that in the bay," he heard. "Burn the ship."

He was bent over double, still heaving. The gun was removed from his grasp. A hand was laid on the back of his neck, but the thought of what those hands had just done to the other neck made him slap it away and he lurched to his feet and stumbled back a few steps.

Asami's eyes and face carefully blanked of all emotion. His words were cool. "Pull yourself together. We need to get out of here."

Takato wiped his mouth on his shirt and nodded. He started back to the car only to realize it couldn't be driven.

"Not that one. We'll take one of my men's." Asami took his arm in hand, and this time he didn't shake him off. The night had just become too much. He was lost, and he let Asami lead him away.




Asami had them taken to his apartment since it too was on the bay. He made Takato strip, as did he, and he stuffed their clothes into a trash bag and gave it to one of the guards who'd accompanied them. "Arrange for a cleaning here once we've left."

Takato knew he didn't mean normal housekeeping, but one to remove all traces of blood.

He was dragged into the shower where the shock of hot water finally brought him back to his senses. His thoughts raced as he tried to wash the night from him.

Asami was soaping up beside him. He noted the man's raging hard on. It made him a bit sick, until he remembered his own earlier that evening at the little action he'd seen. He was as vile as the man next to him. He was just glad there was absolutely no attraction between the two of them because he knew this man wouldn't take no for an answer.

And that's probably what had happened with Akihito. Asami taking and possessing him, Akihito fighting with everything he had. God, could it have been rape? He didn't think it could have been, if Akihito had fallen for the guy. They were just two opposites, yet so very alike. They could bang heads against each other for the rest of their lives. Or not, if they were made to come to their senses. Knowing them it was probably part of the attraction though.

But is that what Akihito needed? Someone like this. His queasy gut told him that he should steer Akihito away from this dangerous man. It wasn't up to him though. It was clear that whatever their relationship had started out as, now both cared about each other in some strange way. He didn't think it could ever be anything normal, but then maybe they didn't want that.

Anyway, did he have the right to interfere? It's not like he held any moral high ground here. Besides, he wasn't even sure what he'd be interfering with.

But as a friend he thought he should, even if it wouldn't do much good in the face of two such men. If anything though, he could make sure both thought about what they were doing.

With a jolt he realized he was thinking of Asami as a friend. It made him uneasy, to say the least. Yet was Asami that different from him? He made himself really think about what he'd seen less than an hour ago. A furious man destroying someone. Why? That was the important question. He'd seen the man coldly handling business all night. But he hadn't seen rage until that moment, when the Russian had laughed about killing one more whore.

It was a moment when he'd wanted to kill too, because he loved Akihito. And he'd treated Asami like a monster simply because he'd felt the same thing. The only difference between them was in degree.

He stepped back from under the spray of water. "I'm sorry."

Asami's hands paused while washing his hair. He didn't turn. "For what?"

"For my reaction on the docks. It wasn't what I really feel. I was scared out of my wits, overwhelmed by everything."

The shoulders in front of him shrugged. "A kid like you shouldn't have to go through something like that. I can see where it would be upsetting."

"Upsetting yes. But it wasn't me reacting to you, Asami. It was me reacting to me because I saw that I wanted to do the same thing you did, and I would have killed him only you did it first. I never thought I would have something like that in me."

Asami reached out and turned the water off. "And now you despise yourself?"

"And you? No. Not now. I understand where it came from, for both of us. I want to make sure you understand it too."

"What makes you think I don't?" Asami was irritated again.

Takato, surprised, watched the water droplets run down the perfectly sculpted back in front of him. Perfect except for one scar on the upper left. "I guess I figured since you don't admit it to anyone else, you aren't admitting it to yourself. If you know, don't you think it's time you said something?"

Asami finally turned around and leaned against the tiles while brushing the wet hair from his eyes. "You're not going to let this go, are you?"

"No. I've decided I don't have the right to tell you or Akihito what to feel..."

"How generous of you."

"... but as a friend, both yours and his," He ignored Asami's rising eyebrows. "I'll be damned if I see the two of you hiding what you feel from each other and banging heads anymore."

"But banging heads can be so much fun. I only regret that you're so straight, not to mention frigid, or we could try it ourselves. I saw you checking me out earlier. Could you be interested, Takato?"

He glared up at the laughing eyes. "I really don't understand Akihito's taste in men!" He stalked from the bathroom, half in play. "I meant what I said!" he shouted back.

His grand exit was a bit spoiled by Asami coming out of the shower to find him standing helplessly naked in the bedroom because he had nothing to wear.




They arrived back at the hospital to find it pretty much unchanged. Kou ran up to him, demanding to know what happened, and where he got the nice threads. He just shrugged his shoulders. "We just wanted to make sure Akihito was safe now. The clothes are his." He jerked his head toward Asami.

Asami had moved over to Akihito's mother, taking the seat beside her when it was vacated after he glared at the occupant. "He'll be safe now, Takaba-san."

She thanked him carefully for all he'd done. Takato watched with amused interest as Asami was made more uncomfortable by this than he had been by anything else that evening. Asami's eyes shifted and met his, and they filled with a shared laughter.

God, I can see how Akihito would fall in love with him. He's like a raging storm, completely unpredictable, but you can't take your eyes from the wild beauty of it.

What the hell am I thinking? I seriously need to get laid.

He turned away to hide his sudden confusion and saw the surgeon walking tiredly toward them. The room fell deadly quiet, except for Asami standing and helping Akihito's mother cross the floor with his arm for support. Takato thought the support might be mutual.

They spoke too quietly for anyone else to hear, except when Takaba-san broke down and wept, saying "Thank you, thank you," over and over. Tears filled Takato's eyes too. Kou started bawling like he was drunk, and Takato laughed, as much from relief as at Kou's drama. Everyone started talking and the word passed.

There was extensive damage to a section of his intestines and it had been removed. Part of his liver had been damaged as well and they'd repaired all they could. There was still a danger of it not working up to normal levels but the doctor felt it wasn't life threatening. His spleen had been removed. The bullets hadn't struck any other organs and the structural damage had been repaired. Takaba'd have to remain in the hospital for quite a time under observation however, to give him a chance to heal. But it was likely he'd make it.


Love welled up inside him for his friend. Akihito had been his best friend for so long, and he'd saved Takato's life twice that night. The joy he felt made his tears pour out onto his cheeks and he wasn't the least ashamed of it.

The tears shut off when he remembered his promise to call Feilong, and sniffing, he walked over to Asami.

"Can I use your phone? Mine got trashed in the car." It was handed over silently, along with a handkerchief.


Asami nodded and turned back to the doctor.

He opened the contact list, noting with surprise that his home and cell numbers appeared on it. What the hell? When did he have time for that? Feilong's number was further below. He sniffed and dialed it with a grimace.

"You have news?"

"He's OK." Takato couldn't keep the happiness from his voice. "He's going to be OK. He just came out of surgery. He'll be in intensive care for a while, but he's alive and the doctor thinks he has a good chance of making it."

He heard a soft sigh on the line. "I'm very glad to hear that. Tao has said he wishes to send a gift so one will be arriving from him. Please also give Akihito my best wishes when you speak to him."

This was just unreal. The man actually sounded glad. "Sure. No problem. I'll tell him."

"What about the other matter?"

"It's... taken care of. Believe me. It's over with. I was there."

"Were you? Interesting, that he'd take you along. And that he's letting you borrow his phone. I suggest you don't let him pull you into his web though. You're not cut out for it."

It annoyed him, that his shortcomings were apparently so obvious to everyone. "Actually, I've already figured that out on my own, thank you."

"Takato, I regret that you had to be involved in any of this. I hope you know what a good friend you have in Akihito."

"Of course I know that Feilong, or I wouldn't have done what I did tonight. He saved my life. Twice."

Kou was suddenly in front of him. "Feilong? Did you say Feilong? You're talking to that long-haired freak?"

Feilong laughed. "Give Kou a kiss for me. He's so delightfully entertaining. He's more than welcome to visit any time, if he's willing to share my bed."

"I'm not saying that!"

"Give me that phone!" Kou tried to pull it away but he slapped him off.

"Shut up a minute, Kou."

"Spoilsport. Is Asami there? May I speak with him?"

Takato looked around. Asami was gone. "He was but he's not anymore. If I see him I'll let him know."

"Do. Thank you for calling, Takato. I do care about what happens to Akihito, and will make sure that he is in no danger from anyone within my reach. Goodbye."

When he hung up, Takato shook off Kou's grip. "Leave it. I'll explain later." He ran outside but Asami wasn't there. His driver was though, and he said Asami-sama was still inside. He went back in and wandered through the corridors trying to find the guy until he heard some nurses outside post-op.

"He just ignored us and went in. And then took my phone and called the owner to make us leave him alone when we complained. Do you believe it?"

"If he knows the owner I'm not arguing. I want to keep my job."

"I'd like to be that phone. I'll buy it from you..."

Takato ducked past them to look through the square windowpane in the door. Asami was across the room, sitting next to one of the beds. Takato couldn't see Akihito's face, but it was obviously him. Asami was holding Akihito's hand and talking to him.

"Young man. You are not allowed to be here. One invasion is enough today." It was one of the nurses.

He bowed a short apology and gestured through the door. "Is Takaba-san awake?"

The nurse looked through the glass at the couple and sighed. "No. He can't hear a thing. But it's not stopping that man. He obviously had something important to say. You see that a lot, after someone almost loses a loved one. Hopefully he'll repeat it when the boy is awake."

Takato smiled. "He will. I'll see to it. I'd like to wait out here for him if it's alright."

The nurse must have felt some sympathy for any friend of Asami's because she nodded. "Just don't go inside."




Asami stopped in surprise when he walked from the room and saw Takato leaning against the wall, waiting for him.

"Well done," Takato said, returning Asami's phone.

"I don't need you to tell me that," Asami replied with a scowl.

"Yes you do. I want to encourage such behavior."

They headed down the hall. "As if I care about a brat's opinion. I wasn't telling him what you think I was."

"Of course you weren't."

"I was explaining that I'd watch out for his idiotic friend while he recovered so he didn't have to worry about you."

"That's just another example of your kind and generous nature. You surely must love him to care for those he loves."

"I have to wonder how you've lived to be 23." Asami dialed his cell and told someone to deliver breakfast for twelve people to the surgery's waiting room.

Takato grinned.

"What? I'm hungry."

"And you're not fooling anyone."




Akihito didn't wake up for two days. He opened his eyes briefly off and on, but he didn't recognize anyone until the second day when he just said "Mom?" and there were tears all around again. He improved rapidly after that and was soon moved to a private room. He was never alone though and Takato didn't get a chance to talk to him about what he'd planned to, something that would have to be discussed in private.

Takato hadn't seen Asami at the hospital since that breakfast over a week ago and he was starting to get peeved, until he came by early one morning before work on the chance that Akihito would be alone and noticed a familiar limo pulling away. He stopped at the nurses station and asked.

"Oh yes, Asami-sama is quite attentive to his young friend. He comes in every night and sits with Takaba-san until morning. It isn't normally allowed, but he has special permission from the owner. It's very heartwarming, but a little bit sad. He never waits until Takaba-san wakes up in the morning, but leaves before we make our morning rounds."

What the hell, Asami? That was disheartening. It looked like he was going to have to interfere after all.

"Is Takaba up now? May I see him? It's the only chance I'll have all week with the way work is."

The nurse looked up and down the hallway. No one was in sight. "Alright then, but be quick. You really shouldn't be here, and I have the feeling you don't have the owner on your side."

He hurried down the hall and ducked into Akihito's room. His friend was sitting up today with the help of the raised bed, and his color was improved. A mostly empty breakfast tray was in front of him.


Akihito looked up in surprise, then smiled. "Takato! What the heck are you doing here at 06:30?"

"I have a long day at work and I wanted to see you. You're looking pretty good!" No time like the present. "It must be all those late night visits you've been getting, huh?"

The smile slipped from Akihito's face. "What do you mean, Takato?"

"Well he's your boyfriend, right? It must cheer you up to have him around. It's only natural."

Akihito leaned back on his bed and sighed. "You're not very subtle. What do you know?"

"Didn't your mom tell you about him?"

"She told me. She told me plenty. Mostly good. She didn't say he came out and declared himself though."

Takato took a chair that had been left by the bed. "'He is mine.' were his words, I think. But no one was really listening except me and your mom. Kou thinks he's part of the modeling conspiracy."

Akihito snorted, then winced and held his chest.

"Sorry Akihito. You're doing so well I forgot you were hurt. Listen, I need to talk to you about Asami and that night you were in surgery. It doesn't sound like he's talked to you at all, and you need to know what happened. And, well, I need to know some things too, even though it's none of my business. Is that okay?"

"Actually, Takato, you don't need to tell me." Akihito blushed and turned his face away.

"Sure I do. It involves the both of us."

"No, what I mean is, I've heard it already."

"Akihito, look at me. Are you saying you've spoken to Asami? The nurses said he never comes in here when you're awake."

Akihito nodded. "He doesn't know I am. I didn't know he was there at first, but I woke up one night and there he was, talking to me. But at the first sign of me moving he clammed up, so I haven't moved since. He's told me what happened. All of it Takato, including what you did for me." Akihito did look at him then, and his eyes were fierce and shimmering. "I didn't want you to do something like that."


"I feel really bad for putting you in danger again."

"Shut up with that. You saved me. But you probably don't know you did it twice. But I'll save that for another time, other than saying thank you. I wonder what he actually told you though."

Akihito blinked. Evidently the notion of Asami lying was beyond him. So he told Takato what he'd heard about that night, and Takato was astonished that Asami's descriptions had been pretty raw and honest. But then he hadn't known he'd been heard. By the time Akihito finished he was sniffing tears away.

"Takato, it's the first time he's ever really talked to me. But he won't do it while I'm really there. I don't know which is worse, this or the way it was before."

Takato leaned down and carefully hugged his friend. He'd done it lots of times, but this was the first since the shooting so he tried to be extra gentle. He pulled back a little, sitting on the bed.

"Akihito, there are a couple of things I still need to ask you. Can I?"

At his friend's hesitant nod he began.

"Do you really understand how violent he can be? I mean seriously, he literally ripped that guy apart for shooting you."

"I understand." Akihito's eyes were old. Takato didn't like the look of that.

"Is he violent toward you?!"

The answer was slow in coming. "Not...No. He isn't violent, but he was... he is... " Akihito's hands waved helplessly. "He isn't violent with me. But I've seen him be with others."

"Are you afraid of him?"

"Not anymore."

Hmmm. Well, he'd been afraid of Asami himself, but now he knew he was pretty safe unless he did something to Akihito, which Asami knew he'd never do.

"Can you live with that, knowing he's like that? I'm not telling you you should or shouldn't. I just have trouble seeing you accepting anything like that."

"I don't like it. But, when he fights it's always with criminals, so honestly I couldn't care less what he does to them. And Takato, despite what you saw, he doesn't kill easily. In fact he usually goes out of his way not to kill. The fact that he did that night tells me that something made him lose control. And from what you've said ..."

"It was you."


"The guy who shot us said something like 'What's another dead whore?' and Asami lost it. And Akihito," he took a deep breath, "So did I."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I had a gun, and... and I was going to kill him. And I would have, but Asami got in the way and did it first. I don't think he tried to save me from it. He didn't seem to notice me until it was over."

"He noticed you. He talked about it, but he didn't see it the way you did. He said that he'd thrown the guy off the ship, then saw where he landed and knew you'd be unprepared to deal with it, so he ran outside. That made me feel really good, that he was taking care of you."

Akihito took his hand. "Then he said he didn't think the Russian would still be alive after that, but when he came out of the ship the man was firing into the car where you were and he thought you'd been killed, and that really made him mad because he was supposed to be protecting you. But then you shot up out of the front window and knocked the Russian on his ass and he said that he understood then what you meant about friends." Akihito looked at him curiously. "What did you say?"

Takato shrugged. "Just something about how having friends makes you happier and I was trying to be his."

His friend's smile lit the room. "Thank you, Takato. I don't think he has any friends."

"Because he doesn't want any. But he has one, like it or not," he said gruffly. "As long as he doesn't hurt you."

"Ah, well, that will be a short-lived friendship then," Akihito laughed. "He's always pissing me off."

"Oh, that. I told him he should keep doing that because it's too fun to stop."


"Yeah, we all do that. It's hilarious when you go off on a rant."

"You..." Akihito's face was turning bright red, and Takato realized that might not be the best thing in his condition.

"Joking! I'm joking. Calm down. I was just kidding you." Distraction needed. "Listen. About Asami, if you really want to have a better relationship with him, I'll help. We can figure something out here, you and me, OK? Come on, let's plan this out. An ambush. We'll beat him at his own game."

Akihito's color was back to normal. "Part of me doesn't want to stop hearing from him every night. I'm finally starting to know him, Takato. But this can't go on. Heck, it's almost like necrophilia."

"I'm going to use that on him," he said with a grin. "OK then, we're just going to confront him."




Asami showed up as usual around 01:00. When Takato approached the hospital room he cursed silently upon seeing the blond bodyguard waiting in the hall. It wasn't a major problem though. He just couldn't listen outside the room and wait for a good moment.

So he waved at the guy and went straight into the room, setting another chair right next to Asami's and settling into it. To say Asami was surprised was an understatement.

"I saw your car the other morning." Takato spoke quietly, as if he thought Akihito was asleep. "So I asked the nurse what was up. She told me about your visits. What's the deal, Asami? You only like guys who don't respond now? Isn't there a word for that, necrophilia or something?" He hoped Akihito wouldn't ruin anything by giggling. His boy stayed perfectly still though.

"If I preferred that I'd have been trying to seduce you Takato, since you have all the charm of a corpse." Asami spoke softly as well.

"A tuna then a corpse. Thanks. I feel so confident about my next date now."

"Just go out with a sushi chef. He'd be quite comfortable with a dead fish."

No point continuing this line of conversation. "So you're finally talking to him, huh?" He nodded at his 'sleeping friend'. "This isn't quite what I meant when I suggested it, but it's a step in the right direction. What have you been talking about?" he asked curiously.

"None of your business," Asami replied with a not-so-nice smile.

"He wants to talk to you."

Asami stopped his games. "I'm not... That's not a good idea."

"Why not?"

"What are you, a junior psychiatrist now?"

"No, I told you, a friend. And I'm trying to make you think about what you're doing instead of just reacting and doing it."

"I never do things on impulse."

Takato stared him down about that one, and Asami relented. "Usually. Of course, that wasn't planned. But it was necessary."

"It was. I've talked a bit to Akihito about you though, and it seems you're impulsive about a lot of things where he's concerned."

Asami considered him out of narrowed eyes. "Ah, this makes sense now. You're speaking as a friend, only as his friend, not mine. Warning me off?"

Takato shook his head in frustration. "No dammit. I'm speaking as both your friends. Asami, I realize I'm pretty damned different from you. But there's a lot I respect about you, and some things that I even like. Yeah, if you were to really hurt Akihito I'd hurt you. And you know, I think, that I mean that. But if Akihito were to really hurt you I'd beat the crap out of him too. And you know what? I'm about this close to beating the crap out of both of you."

Asami relaxed into his chair. After a moment, he said, "I enjoy you."

That was all. But Takato felt sublimely happy at those words, knowing their like was rarely uttered.

"Would that be so hard to say to Akihito?"

Asami considered the figure on the bed. "No. It wouldn't."

"Good. Here's your chance. Because Akihito's awake and he's been listening to us talk." He jumped from his chair. Asami's look of outrage was a little much to sit next to. "And he has some things to say to you too." Asami said nothing, just rose and picked up his coat.

Takato thought desperately. "Asami, didn't you tell me that I was a child, that all of us were who weren't in your world because we weren't willing to see the realities of our lives? Aren't you the one closing your eyes now?"

Asami stared at him, but he stared back, willing the man to at least try.

Please, Asami.

Akihito had his eyes open now, and was looking back and forth between the two of them. "Asami, please."

Takato saw the hard stare falter at the sound of Akihito's voice. And Asami saw that Takato read him. He nodded once, and turned and laid his overcoat across the foot of the bed.

Takato knew he was just in the way now, so he turned to Akihito to tell him goodbye, only Akihito wasn't seeing him. His eyes were fixed on the man standing by his bed, as Asami's eyes were fixed on his. Takato knew then that nothing would ever come between these two. He quietly left the room.




Asami stared down at the fragile figure, who despite his brush with death still radiated life more brilliantly than anyone else Asami knew. He'd felt... relieved, yes, but that didn't described the depth of what had run through him when he'd heard Akihito would make it. He'd known that Akihito would fight, but he'd also known that sometimes no matter how hard you fight, you lose. Or at least other people did.

But Akihito had come through for him once again. And now here he was, waiting for him to say something, and he still didn't know quite what to say.


This time he answered. "Yes?"

But Akihito didn't say anymore. Asami understood. He sat down in the chair by the bed. "It's the same for me." Impossible to understand, impossible to say.

Akihito looked grateful. "We didn't exactly have a good start."

"I liked it."

"You would!"

Shit. He was supposed to be trying not to antagonize him for once. "But I can see where you might not have enjoyed it as much. Bondage and drugs on the first date are a little harsh."

Akihito's glare softened into laughter. "Do ya think?"

He shrugged. But the laughter pleased him. Akihito didn't laugh with him much.

"Asami, you once told me I didn't mean that much."

And he'd regretted saying that in his anger. But he wasn't one to look back. "I did. Once."

Akihito looked at him speculatively. "So maybe it's not true now?"

This was making him extremely uncomfortable. "It's... not."

Akihito sighed. "So do you think maybe we could try for something a little more normal?"

"Is that really what you want?"

The hand on the bed before him curled as it plucked at the sheet under it. He reached out and took it in his own, running his thumb across the too dry flesh. He'd have to bring some lotion in for him so the skin didn't crack. Akihito's fingers curled around his.

"Yes," the boy finally answered. "It may not be possible, but it's what I want."

He looked up and into Akihito's eyes, which were teary as usual, and knew that Takato was right. It was all worth it. It was worth everything. "Then you will have it."




Takato went to the hospital cafeteria and grabbed some bad-tasting tea, and sat for a while staring at nurses to kill time. He wondered if it was too late to call Kimiko.

His mind shifted to the two he'd just left. He still didn't know much about their past together, but they were really obsessed with each other now, totally in love. Normal couples like that would be shacked up or married. But those two were like fire and dynamite. They'd need some tending.

He finally decided he'd given them enough time to explode or succeed, and headed back upstairs. When he got there he cracked the door open slightly and peeked in. They were talking softly, Asami sitting by the bed, elbows on his thighs, Akihito lying calmly in his bed, eyes fixed on the other. He couldn't hear what was being said, which was a good sign. But Akihito seemed to look happy, and Asami, well, he seemed a little more relaxed. He thought maybe he didn't need to stick around anymore that day. He let the door quietly close.

The bodyguard outside the room asked, "Is everything OK?

He smiled. "Yeah, I think it really is." He turned to leave, then paused. "Ask him to call me, would you?" He continued on out of the hospital, knowing his message would be delivered.

They wouldn't exactly be buddies, but Takato felt like they had something to offer each other. And he was never one to let down a friend.

He called Kimiko on the way home and woke her up, but she didn't mind so much when he told her he couldn't stop thinking about her. They made a date for that Saturday night.