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Beauty with the Beast

Chapter Text

This story should begin with once upon a time, but it doesn't. This story has happened in many different ways in many different places to many different people. Yet, each story is unique in its own way. This one is as well.

The story begins before either of the main characters were born. It begins with a young man marrying a young woman, both happy and excited for the future. A few years pass and the young man has become a successful businessman, finally owning his first business, a small but superb club called Sion, named after his Welsh wife. Two years later, his wife dies due to complications in childbirth, along with the little baby. The man, distraught, throws himself into work to try and ease the pain and forget. Years pass, and he adopts the son of his business partner, who died with his wife in a car crash. The young child reminds the man of what he has lost, and unable to bear it, leaves the raising of his new child to those who work for him. A few days after the boy's eighteenth birthday, the man is struck with a heart attack, leaving the now huge Sion corporation to his young son. The boy, knowing only the stark world of business, ruthlessly leads the company to even further heights, expanding even to the underworld of the city of Tokyo. By the age of twenty, he has made Sion known to all walks of life throughout Japan.

During a typhoon, after the man has exited his limo at his apartment, a little old woman walks in front of him and asks for help carrying her soaked grocery bags several blocks away to her apartment, offering a candle in return. His limo long gone, the man has no desire to help, especially when there is nothing to benefit from the action. He pushes past the old woman, striding firmly and quickly to his apartment, work on his mind. The woman calls again, but the man doesn't turn around. Once he reaches the top floor of the complex and enters his living room, he finds the old woman there, standing in front of the expansive window. Angry, the man quickly strides to the woman, but before he can reach her, she has become a beautiful young woman, with sadness in her eyes and down-turned mouth. The man, shocked at first, tries again to move towards her, but finds he cannot move at all. The woman tells him he failed, that he hasn't even a shred of human emotion or compassion; that he is nothing but a selfish beast. She places a curse on the man; rather than changing his appearance, the curse causes all those whom he interacts with to respond in the same way he acted towards them. She leaves him the candle, telling him that so long as it is lit, there is still a chance that the curse can be broken, but he only has ten years before the light goes out. In that time he must not only be able to feel and express his love, he will have to find someone who can truly love him back.

After she has disappeared, the man thinks nothing of the curse. He believes it to be nonsense, or that if it is real, that nothing bad will come of it; he wants those under him to work with the same determination as he has. He places the candle in a storage room and goes back to his work. It is only as he tries to find a lover that it dawns on him how his curse becomes a curse. Unable to express even the slightest amount of care or affection, he only receives coldness in return. Over and over again this happens, until eventually, he gives up, living only for work and power. At home, the candle now in a prominent place in his room, he watches it slowly, slowly melt the wax away, until the light has only a few months left to shine.

Chapter Text

Takaba Akihito threw down the want ads he had scoured and bumped his head against his living room wall a few times. Having recently moved to Tokyo, and having the job he was promised being given to someone else, he had been trying to find work for two weeks now. While photography was his specialty, he would take even a cooking or cleaning job now, but all that was available were those high end jobs where you needed a degree in that field to even be considered for the position. He didn't want to sink so low as to have to do fast food, but if that's what it took to get paid, then that's what he would have to do.

'Just one more day,' he thought as he went to make himself some breakfast out of what little food he had left. 'I'll wait one more day, and if I can't find anything, then I'll apply at McDonald's.'

After eating a slice of toast and some dry cereal, Akihito went outside to look for help wanted signs in windows. By noon, he was tired and hungry, so he went over to his friend Kou's place to eat lunch with him and his other friend, Takato. They had all gone to the same college, and had kept in touch afterward. Kou and Takato had been in Tokyo for a long time now, so they already had jobs, and were trying to help Akihito find one as well. It was also an excuse to get Akihito to come get food from them so he wouldn't starve, but they would never say that aloud.

As the three of them sat around the small table eating sandwiches, Takato began the conversation.

"Hey, Aki, how's the search going?"

"Same as ever," Akihito replied grumpily, taking a swig of milk.

"Dang," Kou chimed in. "That catering job would have been great, you know?"

"Right? But apparently I don't 'fit the qualifications.'" Akihito quoted, then stuffed some chips into his mouth.

"The heck kinda qualifications are there that you wouldn't meet, man?!" Kou exclaimed, dropping his sandwich on the table.

"Probably the 'someone who isn't wanted by a creepy thug' kind," Akihito supplied, finishing off his sandwich and downing the rest of his milk.

"Man, that Sakazaki is messed up," Takato stated. "I mean, the dude sees you once at a club and then starts practically stalking you. You're still getting offers to work at one of his places, right?"

"Yeah, but they all head straight for the incinerator," Akihito replied as he gathered his dishes and began washing them.

"But really, if this 'work for me or don't work at all' stuff keeps going on, you're gonna be in some real trouble," Kou worried as he put the food away.

"Seriously," Akihito continued. "But there has to be at least SOMETHING he doesn't have sway over, right?"

"I dunno, man, dude's got some serious power it seems like," Kou replied. "You might have to end up going to something under an even worse guy, ya know? But at least he won't know about you, so you should be good, right?"

"'He?' 'He' who?" Akihito asked as Takato hit Kou on the head.

Takato and Akihito had a small staring contest before Takato sighed and rubbed his forehead with one hand. "There's this guy named Asami Ryuichi. He owns like the whole city, pretty much everyone knows about him. He's also rumored to be part of the dark side of Tokyo, a big part, worse than Sakazaki. But Kou is right, if you end up in one of his establishments, which is unlikely since they are all super high class, then Sakazaki can't touch you."

"If it's a choice between two different gangsters, then I'll take the less-creeper one," Akihito stated as he sat down on the couch. "I'm still gonna look for something unrelated to either of them, though."

"Good luck, man," Kou said as he clapped a hand on Akihito's shoulder.

After talking for a while longer, Akihito left to continue his job hunt. By the time he started to head home, the sun was starting to set. As he was passing by one of the many clubs in Shinjuku, he noticed a line of people coming out of a side entrance. Curious, he asked the person at the end of the line what was going on.

"They're hiring for tons of positions here, everything from busboy to waiter to cook. They're even hiring a few technicians," the guy answered. "Apparently there were some major problems with the previous staff, so they all got cleared out; I heard it was embezzlement or something."

Akihito's eyes lit up as he got in he back of the line, wishing he had on fancier clothes. At least he had several copies of his resume on hand.

The line moved slowly forward, and by the time he had gotten inside, almost two hours had passed. Even so, there were still at least fifteen people in front of him in line. After another half hour, though, there were only two people left before it was Akihito's turn.

'Most of the positions must be filled already,' he worried. 'They all got barely any time to try and impress whoever is in there.'

The two remaining people before Akihito both were out of the room in barely one minute each. Taking a deep breath to steel himself, he walked confidently into the interview room.

As the door shut behind him, the glasses-wearing man who sat behind the desk gestured for Akihito to take a seat in the available chair in front of the desk.

"Before I ask for any of your information, you should know that the only position left is a camera repairman," the man told Akihito once he had sat down. "The cameras used in this establishment are very high-end and thus, we will only hire someone with excellent knowledge in them."

"That's perfect!" Akihito grinned as he began pulling out his resume. "I not only graduated in photojournalism, I also repair my own cameras. Here, take a look!"

As the man took the proffered document, Akihito cheered on the inside. This would be perfect if he got it!

After the man read through the whole resume ('Dang, he reads fast!' Akihito thought), he stood and strode towards Akihito. Now standing as well, Akihito shook the man's hand.

"Well then, let's conduct a proper interview. My name is Kirishima Kei, and I would like to ask a few more questions."

"Okay. Ah, I'm Takaba Akihito," Aki added, embarrassed.

As the interview progressed, Akihito was informed that the reason why they needed a constant repairman was that not only were there so many cameras that almost certainly one a day wouldn't work, but that on the really crowded and rowdy nights, several could be damaged. By the end, Akihito was told to expect a reply tomorrow as to whether he would get the job or not.

Feeling that it went extremely well, Akihito walked home with a smile on his face and a laugh on his tongue.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Akihito was awakened by his phone going off. Drowsily, he felt around the small bedside table until he found the small device, answering as he brought it to his ear.

"Yo," he mumbled as he squirmed to get comfy again.

"Dude, I got your message!" was the excited reply.

"Kou, why are you up so early?" Akihito asked, followed by a huge yawn.

"It's ten in the morning, man," Kou chided.

"Ugh," was all Akihito could manage before he gathered himself and sat up. "I was out late last night, ya know? And I sleep later than this all the time."

"Not if you get this new job you won't," Kou exclaimed. "Well, actually, since you would be working at a club, you might be out all night. Or would they want you there during non-business hours? Some of both? What about..."

As he listened to Kou muse aloud, Akihito got out of bed and started brushing his teeth in the small bathroom.

"...that would be so cool! But really unrealistic, right Aki?"

A distracted "uh huh," garbled through the toothpaste foam, caused Kou to catch on.

"K fine, I gotta get to work anyway, good luck man!" Kou cheered.

"Why ah fyu shtahtin' so wate?" Aki asked, then spat into the sink.

"Dunno, they just called last night to say I didn't have to be there at nine," Kou answered, and through the phone Akihito could hear the sudden background silence from entering a building.

"Weird. Anyway, thanks for the call, and don't make too many mistakes, yeah?" Akihito teased as he started the shower to let the water warm up.

"Shut it," Kou answered. "Seeya later, jerk."

"Yup!" Akihito exclaimed, a huge smile on his face. "Bye~."

They both hung up, and Akihito hopped into the shower, letting it wake him up.

After the shower, he dried off, combed his hair so it was free of tangles, but still a bit wild, and got dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans. As he was eating a bowl of Lucky Charms for breakfast, there was a knock at the door. He wolfed down the last few bites, then quickly went to get the door.

He wished he hadn't.

"Hello, Akihito," Sakazaki purred as Akihito tried to shut the door in his face. The man blocked it with an arm, leaning in even closer to Akihito's face.

"Go away, pervert!" Akihito grunted as he continued to try and force the door shut.

Sakazaki's eyes narrowed slightly, and he pushed the door open as he stepped into the apartment. "Come now, Akihito, that's a little harsh, isn't it? I'm only giving you an opportunity to live in comfort. Is that so bad?"

"Yeah, it freakin' is," Akihito responded as he stepped away from the gangster. "Your definition of comfort and mine are apparently completely different. How about you find someone that actually likes you?"

Suddenly, Akihito found himself pressed against the wall, a fist in his shirt and Sakazaki's face inches from his own.

"Listen up," the man snarled, "I will have you, whether it be willingly or not. You've got until the end of the week, and if you haven't come to me by then, I will come for you."

With that, Akihito was released, sliding to the ground. He watched Sakazaki leave, slamming the door behind him as he went.

Akihito got up slowly, muttering curses under his breath. He grumpily washed his dishes, then started up his computer and edited a few of the photos he had stored. After doing that for an hour, he went to the internet to search for more want ads, but before he could even type in the search, his phone rang.

"Hey, this is Takaba."

"Hello, Takaba-san," the voice on the other end of the line said, "this is Kirishima Kei. I am calling to inform you about the job you applied for yesterday."

"Alright," Akihito answered, trying to seem nonchalant while inside he was cheering and praying at the same time.

"I regret to inform you that you did not receive the position."

Akihito's stomach dropped, disappointment flooding him. It would have been the perfect job!

"However, we would like to offer you a position as a live-in housekeeper for Asami-sama, the owner of Sion," Kirishima continued. "With your credentials and a clean background check, we believe you would be perfect for the position. It would involve the upkeep and cleaning of Asami-sama's penthouse apartment, as he doesn't like to leave it to the staff there. Would you be interested in taking the position?"

For a moment, AKihito just sat there, trying to be either disappointed or glad, rather than both at the same time. After a bit of thought, though, he answered.

"Yeah, I think I would," he finally said. "Could I meet up with you again to get some more info on it?"

Honestly, he was glad to have the chance to move away from Sakazaki's clutches, so even if this one wasn't as desirable as the camera job, it was still pretty great in its own way.

After finding a good time to meet later that day, Akihito settled back into the couch and relished in the feeling of not being unemployed.

Chapter Text

By the time Akihito arrived at the giant high-rise that afternoon, he had already called not only Kou and Takato, but also his parents back home. He spent almost two hours talking with his mom, who was overjoyed that Akihito's city life was going well. This made Akihito realize that he needed to call home more often; he had done it maybe once in the entire month he had been there.

Later that night, he was planning on meeting with his friends to celebrate, unless he had to start that night; he was still a bit uncertain as to what different kinds of work he would be doing. Thus, why he was meeting with Kirishima now. Akihito straightened his clothes, then walked into the most luxurious waiting room (and any room) he had ever seen. A huge chandelier, plush chairs and couches, gleaming tables, giant flower arrangements, and golden walls were just the start of it. Akihito immediately felt daunted and out of place.

"Akihito-san," a voice to his left called. Turning, he saw Kirishima walking towards him.

They shook hands, then sat down at the nearest coffee table.

"Alright, as I go through the job aspects, feel free to ask questions about anything you would like more clarification on," Kirishima started. Akihito nodded, and he continued. "To start with, your main duties will be basic cleaning, such as floors, dishes, bathrooms, and so on. On your resume, you listed that you had plenty of experience in these aspects. As such, I expect you to clean to the smallest detail, from the floorboards to the lights. All cleaning materials you need will be provided, and when you need more of anything, either send in the request to me or go to buy it yourself and you will be reimbursed. That said, if you do need to buy your own, please make sure that they are of the highest quality."

"Alright. So basically, keep anything and everything spotless," Akihito stated.

"Exactly," Kirishima responded. "Also, when alerted, you need to be able to prepare a meal for Asami-sama. Due to his varying hours, you could be called on at any time, be it 3 in the afternoon or 4 in the morning; thus why we are offering you housing. Well, that, and the fact that the apartment is so large that you will likely be working for most of the day, leaving you with time only for work, meals, and sleep; by living here, you will not need to spend any commuting time or risk the chance of over-exhaustion on your way home. It's a safety precaution, basically."

"Ah, that clears up one of my questions," Akihito cut in, "but I do have one more; why...oh, how do I phrase this? Um, this job is very different from anything dealing with the club, so why the sudden, uh, change?"

A look of understanding came into Kirishima's eyes as he realized what Akihito was trying to get at.

"Well, as you likely heard, we had to do some restructuring in the club; in order to keep not only the club in business, but the company as well, all available hands that could be spared were moved to more urgent positions where possible. The previous person in charge of keeping Asami-sama's penthouse in order had been trying to do both his cleaning duties and new duties at the same time; while he is very capable, we realized that allocating him to solely his new duties and hiring a new employee for upkeep would end up with better results. The decision was made between the time I had been conducting interviews and the time I called to inform you of the new position."

"Oh, that makes sense. That's rough, having to hire so many people at once," Akihito sympathized, causing Kirishima to give a small chuckle.

"Indeed it is. Getting back to the topic at hand, I'll explain a bit about how you will need to conduct yourself. Most of the time you will be alone and can work freely. When Asami-sama is there, though, you will need to stay close enough to be of service should he require anything of you; your job is assuring his comfort, after all. Over time, you will learn his preferences, which will allow you to anticipate what he wants. A warning, though; Asami-sama is highly capable, and as such, does not like to be treated as though he cannot do something. With this in mind, you will need to find a balance between not enough and too much."

"Okay..." Akihito assented hesitantly. 'And I thought that cleaning would be bad.'

Kirishima noticed his slight trepidation and added, "Luckily for you, Asami-sama only likes a bare minimum of things to be done for him. Just look for the small things that he does."

"Haha," Akihito chuckled a bit tonelessly.

After Kirishima finished explaining the job to Akihito (through which he learned that whenever he wasn't working, he was able to spend any free time he had as he pleased, so long as he had a phone for contact, and he got two days a month off), they went up to the penthouse suite to give Akihito a tour of his new 'workplace.'

It was gigantic.

As they went through room after room, the daunting reality of how laborious this job really was hit deep. It literally would take him at least 3 hours on the floors alone, not to mention dusting, windows, bathrooms, laundry (which he was also in charge of, apparently), kitchen, etc. He was also shown his room and told to move in as soon as possible.

Before they left, Kirishima handed Akihito a key card, that would get him not just into the apartment, but to the top floor itself; he would have to swipe it in the elevator before he could select the floor. As Kirishima turned to leave, Akihito asked one more question.

"Why doesn't he like the building staff to clean his place? I mean, the security is so tight that not much could happen anyway, so it seems a bit odd."

Kirishima paused, staying still for several seconds, before turning halfway back.

"It's not my place to say," was all Akihito got before Kirishima turned and was out the door.

Chapter Text

As he watched Kirishima leave, Akihito stood still, confused at what just happened. He thought it was a pretty innocent question, but apparently not.

Shrugging, Akihito looked at the clock and decided he had enough of the day left to at least start packing. Leaving the penthouse, as he rode down the elevator, he remembered Sakazaki's threat, and decided that the sooner he moved the better. He would postpone any celebrating with friends until he was safely squared away high above Tokyo. He sent a text out to Kou and Takato, telling them his change in plans and asking for help moving. He would fill them in about his new job later, when they could actually talk, rather then sending out lengthy texts.

Once he got home, Akihito started packing, blasting music all the while. He was at for several hours, finishing just as his friends arrived. They had brought him some of his favorite ramen in early celebration, and after they ate, they packed all of Akihito's relatively few belongings into Takato's car. That took another hour, and it was around ten in the evening by the time they reached the high-rise. They spent the next hour unloading everything, only installing the playstation Akihito owned so they could play for a while before they had to leave.

By midnight, Akihito was alone and exhausted. After a quick shower, he hopped onto the queen-sized bed; luckily it had clean sheets on it already, as his previous twin-sized ones wouldn't fit. And dang, they were nice sheets! Their silky softness and warmth quickly lulled him to sleep.

He woke around nine in the morning, his phone alarm blaring some annoying jingle that forced him awake no matter how much he wanted to go back to sleep. Turning off the alarm, Akihito stretched languidly, then went to brush his teeth and get ready for the day. Once fully dressed in some comfortable clothes that he didn't mind getting dirty, he grabbed the checklist Kirishima had provided him yesterday and went to the kitchen to grab a quick breakfast before he started cleaning.

As he walked through the apartment, Akihito once again marveled at the magnificence of it all. It took him some time before he could even find the kitchen, it was so grand. Once there, though, he searched the cupboards to find a bowl and spoon so he could eat the cereal he brought from his place; at least he wouldn't go hungry trying to find where the food was kept. With the (probably really expensive) bowl and spoon in hand, he started in on his meal of Lucky Charms.

After everything was either eaten or cleaned, Akihito picked up the list again and scanned what all he needed to do before he could go celebrate with his friends. He sighed at the amount of work scheduled for the day, then took a deep breath, shook himself, and started.

As the sun set several hours later, Akihito had just one thing left on his to-do list; grocery shopping. The needed items were written on a note on the kitchen counter, and luckily there wasn't much he had to get. He figured he could easily pick up all of them on his way back from a celebratory dinner with Kou and Takato at a good sushi restaurant, so he pocketed the list and headed out.

The restaurant was within walking distance of the high rise, and he was there within ten minutes. His friends had yet to arrive, so he waited at one of the tables inside. It was while he was taking a drink of water when he saw some of Sakazaki's men heading toward toward the restaurant. Choking on his water, Akihito quickly got up and left with a group of adults who had finished, hoping to leave without being noticed. After walking with the group for a few hundred feet, he ducked into an alleyway and glanced back toward the restaurant; he saw the men go in, and knew he had little time to get away.

The high rise was close, but Akihito decided to cut a road over and round it from the back, hoping that the thugs wouldn't know which way he went. He jogged for most of the way, but glanced out at the road in front of the high rise to make sure no goons were there; seeing none, he dashed around the corner and into the high rise, slowing only slightly as he headed toward the elevator. He ignored all the disdainful looks he received and got inside the elevator, sliding his key card and pushing the button for the top floor. As the doors slid shut, Akihito looked back out through the giant windows at the front of the building and saw two goons go running past.

Once the doors had shut, Akihito leaned tiredly against the back wall as the elevator rose quickly, his thoughts swirling.

'Why had they come today? I was supposed to have until the end of the week before they came after me, and it's only Thursday. Was it because I moved? If he knew that fast, how else has he been stalking me?'

As his skin raised in goosebumps and a chill ran down his spine at the possible activities of his stalker, the elevator door opened and Akihito walked down the short hallway to the penthouse door. Once inside, he collapsed on the comfiest couch he had ever felt and called Takato's cell phone.

"Hey, Aki!" came the answer after a few rings. "Sorry we're late, we'll be there in like ten minutes."

"Wait, don't go there," Akihito responded, both worry and relief warring for dominance. "Suckyzaki's goons are tailing me, so I gotta call it off."

"Dang, that sucks!" Kou cut in.

"Right? Anyway, I don't know how long they are going to look for me, but to be safe, we probably better wait for a while before we get together," Akihito suggested with a sigh. "I don't want you guys in danger too, ya know? It's a miracle he hasn't gone after you guys to get to me yet."

"Aw, we can handle it, man!" Kou replied. "At least let us come see you tonight!"

"I really don't think that's a good idea, Kou," Akihito responded.

"But it's like you said, they probably don't associate us with you, so we can come so long as you don't show your mug, right?" Takato added.

"Well..." Akihito started, then stopped as he saw the grocery list poking out of his pocket. After a small pause, he continued. "Actually, that would work, but I need you guys to do something for me before you come."

"Yes!" Kou cheered, while Takato asked, "What do you need?"

"I was supposed to grab some groceries while I was out, so if you guys could get them, that would be awesome; I'll repay you, so please?" Akihito pleaded.

"Of course, man!" Kou exclaimed. "What all do you need us to get?"

"I'll text you the list in a bit, but a gas station market won't cut it, it's some pretty expensive stuff." Akihito stated as he looked over the list again.

"Gotcha," Takato replied.

After talking for a bit more, Akihito hung up and sent the text message, then went to the kitchen to start making some dinner for the three of them. It was only as he was finishing the meal that he realized that he might not be allowed to ask his friends over. At least he had used only his food to cook.

Once his friends arrived, and after they stopped ogling the fancy penthouse, they put the food away and took their dinner to Akihito's room. Akihito paid Takato back, barely able to cover it with the amount of cash he had on hand, and took the receipt to give to Kirishima or whoever later. The next few hours they ate, played video games, and talked about Akihito's new job. While they already knew what his new job was, they didn't know much of anything else; they were so busy moving Akihito last night that they never really talked about it.

By eleven o' clock, they were all wiped out. Kou and Takato gave a few words of encouragement, then left for their own beds. Akihito finished cleaning up their small mess, then went to the kitchen to wash the used dishes. As he was finishing, he heard the front door open. Placing the final dish out to dry, he dried his hands on the nearby hand-towel, wondering what his mysterious, possibly paranoid boss would look and be like. Akihito turned to face the hallway leading to the front door, a polite smile on his face.

That didn't last long.

Akihito's mouth opened in a little 'oh' of surprise at the sight of the man before him. All lean muscle, none bulging like a body builder's, the man looked like a solid wall of person in an extremely nice three-piece suit. Dark black hair and slightly tanned skin contrasted yet complemented each other perfectly. His height put him at least a head taller than Akihito, and from the lofty setting shone bright golden eyes, staring back at Akihito, seeming to see more than what was just on the outside. A shiver ran through Akihito, those eyes delving into his very person and leaving nothing unseen. The shiver brought him back to himself, and he hurriedly gave a bow and introduced himself.

"H-hello, I-I'm Takaba Akihito," was the stuttered utterance. He went on, slowly losing the stutter. "I-I am your new cleaner. I will do my best to assure your comfort here. Thank you for the work."

Akihito stayed bowed longer then needed, using it as a way to avoid looking at the man. A few seconds passed before he heard a bored "Asami Ryuichi, thanks for your time," and then footsteps leading back toward the rest of the penthouse.

Miffed, Akihito straightened and watched Asami go. If he had to deal with that for the rest of his job, he was really going to dread it. Deciding the place was clean enough, Akihito went back to his room to shower and settle down for the night.

As he lay in bed, his thoughts were swirling about what his life would be like now, particularly with having to deal with stiff ole Asami. He was immensely grateful that he wouldn't be spending much time with the man. But as he thought about it, he realized that just because Asami acted that way didn't mean it had to affect Akihito; in fact, he could even try to help the man lighten up a bit.

With new resolve and plans for the day ahead, Akihito fell asleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning, before Akihito started on any of his 'chores,' he wrote down a list of things he would try and do to help make Asami loosen up a bit. He was a bit unsure as to why he was so set on trying to help the man when he had just barely met him, but figured 'nice working environment' and 'supposed to help Asami' were good reasons, particularly the second one; that was his job, wasn't it?

After a quick breakfast, Akihito started in on his first job that day; dusting EVERYTHING. 'And I thought this was a pain in my apartment,' he thought to himself as he struggled to move a precariously balanced antique vase. 'At least I have a step stool for the high places.'

By the time he had finished, his stomach was grumbling loudly. As he made his lunch, he also started a slow-cooker soup; even if Asami had dinner before he came home, at least this way, there would be something ready to warm him up.

When mid-afternoon came, Akihito was starting to feel a bit sore from all of the new activity; sure, he got enough exercise, but this was constant and used different muscles. By nightfall, he was so sore he just wanted to take a nice long bath, but he still had one more thing to do; replace the sheets on the two beds. He decided to do Asami's first in case he came home soon, but with how large the bed was, he knew it would take a while to get it looking good. Taking a deep breath and stretching his back, he grabbed the sheets and set off for Asami's room.

While he had most of the layout down by now, he still got lost on his way to the room. Having somehow ended up in the kitchen, he checked once more on the soup; still nice and warm and delicious. Turning around, he went down the hallway that he knew led to the bedrooms. After two wrong rooms, he finally found the right one, pushing inside and setting the sheets on a chair. Grabbing the fitted bottom sheet, he started putting it on the bed, pulling it tight so there were no wrinkles. As he was in the middle of putting on the top sheet, though, he noticed a dim light coming through a bedside cabinet. Realizing that he had missed there while cleaning, he quickly finished up with the sheets and went to get the duster.

After getting the wrong room only once this time, Akihito went into Asami's bedroom and opened the small bedside cabinet. Inside he found a very small candle, barely an inch tall; yet, there wasn't any melted wax around the base. It looked as though it had just been lit, yet Akihito was the only one in the penthouse all day, except for Asami early in the morning, and the candle should be melted away by now if he had lit it. The light it gave off was strange, too; it was so bright at times that it was hard to look at. How did it stay lit in the closed cupboard? Was there enough of a gap for oxygen to get through? And why was it there in the first place? And why did he care so much?

As question after question arose in his mind, Akihito just stared at the candle for a good five minutes; coming to his senses as he heard the front door open. He quickly dusted the inside of the cabinet, carefully moving the candle away, then closed the small door and began working on the top just as Asami came in.

They both stood still for a moment, but at seeing the slight frown on Asami's face, Akihito quickly bowed low.

"I'm sorry for intruding, I was just finishing the last of my work for today," Akihito quickly uttered, staying in his bow the whole time. He risked a glance up, though, before he continued. "I made some soup if you would like; it's already warm and ready to eat." Asami's face now free of any negative emotion (or anything other than his piercing gaze, really), Akihito straightened a little. "Would you like me to get it for you?"

After a small pause, during which Akihito's unease at Asami's stare only grew, Asami nodded, then moved into the room, heading toward the closet. Akihito blushed at the sight of a now-jacketless Asami, although he did wonder what the leather 'x' on his back was for. Asami glanced back at Akihito, and Akihito jolted back to reality. With an 'I'll be right back,' Akihito left the room to go and get the soup.

Having put the duster away, Akihito went to the kitchen and got out a bowl and spoon, and after he filled the bowl, he put the items on a small tray and carefully carried it back to Asami's room. It took a little time to balance the tray on one hand as he knocked on the door with the other, but after managing it, he patiently waited for a reply.

Hearing a 'come in,' Akihito carefully opened the door to the sight of Asami in a bath robe and shorts, the sight of which caused Akihito to stumble. Managing to not drop anything, Akihito quickly looked away as he walked towards Asami. Once the tray was out of his hands, Akihito turned to leave the room, quickly heading back to the laundry room to grab his sheets. After that was done, Akihito ran a hot bath; as he sank into the water, he tried his best to think of something other than 'shirtless Asami.' The odd candle thus took presidence, as nothing else interesting had happened.

After mulling about it for a while, Akihito got out of the bath and dried himself off, then got into comfortable pajamas and slipped into bed.

For the next week, Akihito continued to try to get Asami to open up to him. He learned that Asami always had at least one snifter of scotch every time he came home, so Akihito would prepare it as soon as Asami came in the door (at least when he was still awake; Asami often came home way late). Akihito also tried to be up in time to make Asami some breakfast, but the man was always gone by the time Akihito got up. It seemed like the man never slept.

In any case, by the end of the next week, Akihito felt like his various actions had at least made the man not as aloof as he had been. At least he didn't pause anymore once he saw Akihito. So, when he saw Asami Friday evening, Akihito worked up his courage while pouring the scotch, and after handing it to the silent man, he cleared his throat and began to ask the question that had been on his mind ever since he first came to the apartment.

"Um, Asami, can I ask you something?"

Asami looked up from the newspaper he was reading and gave a minute nod, his eyes now fixed on Akihito. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, Akihito swallowed, his eyes flickering away, then continued.

"Well, I was just wondering why you hired me for this job instead of having the staff here take care of everything?" As he finished, Akihito looked back at Asami and waited for a response.

After a moment more, Asami looked back down at the newspaper in his hands and said, "I prefer to have as few people as possible in my living space, and there is more security in my employing someone rather than having some random employee come in. The same can be said for why you are a live-in employee; the more you are here, the less chance you have of meeting with a business rival, and it's convenient."

Stunned after hearing the most he had ever heard from Asami, Akihito answered with a simple, "Ah, okay, thanks," and waited there for a moment more to see if Asami would say anything else. When nothing happened, Akihito excused himself and went to his room to get ready for bed. Before he could do anything, though, his phone rang.

"Hey"

"Aki, dude, you're never gonna believe this!" came the excited voice of Kou.

"What's up?"

"I was walking to the train station in Shinjuku today, and as I passed by the club that you interviewed at, I saw a guy working on some outdoor security camera. Guess who it was."

"Like I'd know, Kou," Akihito replied.

"You do know, I'll give you a hint," Kou countered. "He is blonde, gaudy, and has a goatee."

"Freak, it was Mitarai?!" Akihito exclaimed, "Jerk always takes the good jobs!"

"Seriously. I almost think he's stalking you too," Kou jibed.

"Not funny, man. If I didn't get this job, I'd be dead meat now," Akihito shot back. "I guess that's one good thing Mitarai's done."

"Right? Speaking of creepy stalkers, when d'you think it'll be safe to meet up again?" Kou asked.

"Not for a while; I'm getting freaky messages on my phone now. Dude can't take a hint," Akihito answered, a shiver running down his spine as he remembered the last message he had gotten.

"Dang," Kou sighed. "That guy's so messed up. Hope he stops soon, though. Anyway, I gotta go, I have an early start tomorrow."

"It's a Saturday, what are you gonna do?" Akihito asked as he started warming up the shower water.

"Oh right! I got a date with that cute girl I told you about a while ago!" Kou exclaimed.

"Nice! Good luck!" Akihito cheered. "Seeya, Kou."

"Hopefully sometime soon, yo. Bye!"

After he ended the call, Akihito tossed his phone on his bed and took a quick shower before climbing into bed. He was getting used to the work, but man did it get exhausting. He fell asleep thinking that Asami was a bit paranoid.

Chapter Text

For the next several weeks, Akihito continued to try and get Asami to open up a bit; despite his best efforts, little progress was made. Every time he tried to talk to the man, things would get quickly awkward and Akihito quickly ended the encounter. He didn't know what it was about Asami that made Aki mute and succinct, it just happened every time. Asami wasn't mean or overbearing; rather, he was extremely low-maintenance, hardly ever asking Aki for anything. So why was Akihito so nervous around him? While he could never figure it out, his will to have a better relationship with his 'roommate' remained undaunted.

After learning when Asami's birthday was after googling him, Akihito made a small cake of the only flavor Kirishima reluctantly told him that Asami might like; scotch. Well, to be exact, it was butterscotch since Akihito couldn't find any scotch cake recipes, but he thought it would be close enough. The man only took two bites, though, before he left it alone, leaving Akihito mostly disheartened but partially ecstatic that Asami even tried the cake, let alone took two bites.

Also, on some of his less-strenuous days, Akihito would have enough energy left to massage Asami's shoulders. Granted, those times were rare, it took a while for Asami to even let him try, and Akihito was pretty sure he wasn't all that effective, but it's the thought that counts, right? At least he could get a little bit of conversation from Asami when he did it.

Unfortunately, Asami was rarely home at times when Akihito was awake, so most days after work Akihito would spend either alone or playing games in his room with Kou and Takato (he hadn't told them that he was working for Asami, knowing they would freak). While Aki loved being able to see his friends, he was starting to get a bit stir-crazy staying indoors for such a long time; however, Sakazaki was still having his goons leave messages on Aki's cell phone, so Aki didn't dare leave the building. At least the penthouse had a great view and various amenities that Akihito was allowed to use, such as an indoor pool and a weights room. Aki's favorite part, though, was the all-you-can-eat buffet one floor down that he was allowed to go to for free, and it was super fancy too. Aki was sure that it would normally cost a fortune to eat there, but all he had to do was swipe his penthouse key card.

It was while he was at this buffet one evening when he got an unwelcome visitor. He had just started in on a large fruit tart when someone sat in the seat across from his. Looking up, he saw Mitarai's leering face, ruining his appetite.

Sighing, Akihito put the tart down and decided he'd better get it over with.

"Why are you here, Mitarai?"

Mock surprise covered the other's face. "Why Akihito, you don't know? I got a job working for Sion industries, and they are holding a thank-you dinner for the employees. I thought you applied to work here too? Oh wait, I took the only job you could do, didn't I?"

By this point, Mitarai sported a triumphant grin.

"Quit acting like Sudoh, it makes you worse than you already are," Akihito countered. Mitarai's grin quickly faded.

"Hey! I know I'm no saint, but neither are you, kid," Mitarai stated, "and Sudoh's even worse. Guy's so prissy and such a teacher's pet, I can't stand him. Anyway, what are you doing here? I know you can't afford it."

"I work here," Akihito responded with a smirk, then took another bite of the tart.

"That's bull, you ain't no businessman," Mitarai countered, but then realization lit his eyes. "Wait, are you like a busboy? You're not in a uniform or anything."

"No, I don't work in the restaurant, I work in the penthouse," Akihito stated, then stuffed the rest of the tart in his mouth.

"What? What do you do there? Fix the security cameras?" Mitarai questioned, clearly confused.

"No, but that would be great. Speaking of, how is it down in the club?" Akihito hedged, not wanting to say he was a housekeeper and be teased even more.

Mitarai went on for a good twenty minutes about how great the job was, and while Akihito liked learning about the camera aspect of it, he definitely quickly grew tired of hearing the condescension that was laced throughout. Luckily, a text from Kirishima came in, giving Aki the excuse to leave. That, and the place was closing soon.

After arriving at the penthouse, Akihito went straight to the kitchen to whip up some pancakes, just as Kirishima asked. He was tempted to put chocolate chips in them, but he knew enough about Asami at this point to not do so. A shame, really, because he made excellent chocolate chip pancakes.

'I wonder why he's coming home so early?' he thought as he flipped one of the cakes. 'It's barely ten, the earliest I've seen him come in is around midnight.'

After most of the batter was used, there was enough left for one normal and one tiny pancake. Deciding to try the pancake art method, he poured some of the batter into the pan, let it sit for a bit, then added the rest. After flipping it over, he was a bit disappointed in how it came out; at least you could tell it was...something. He had been going for the letter 'A,' but now it looked like a weird heart. Sticking that one on the bottom of the stack, he had just barely placed them on the table when Asami walked into the kitchen.

After greeting each other, Akihito started washing the dishes; there was never enough to need to run the dishwasher, so he did them all by hand. The time passed in silence, Asami eating while reading something that looked like a report, Akihito trying to clean the dishes well but quickly. After drying the last item, Akihito turned to head off to his room when he noticed Asami holding a pancake, looking a bit confused.

Going pale and then blushing, Akihito quickly rushed over to explain. "I'm sorry about that pancake, I tried to make an 'A' appear in the middle, but the batter ran together and it ended up looking like that!"

An askance 'hm' was his only answer, along with a seemingly-long look, before Asami put the pancake down and poured only a little syrup on it. Relieved that Asami seemed satisfied with that answer, Akihito fled to his room...only to find he missed his door and got Asami's instead. Facepalming, he turned to leave, but noticed that the cupboard which held the candle was open; apparently he forgot to close it when he finished looking at the candle that day (it had somehow become a habit to check on it). He turned back and went to the cupboard, but before he could close it, he was suddenly pulled backwards by the collar of his shirt.

Asami slammed him into the wall, fire in his eyes. "What were you doing?"

Akihito's pallid face gained a bit of color as he tried to explain, terrified but kind of ticked. "I-I was cleaning earlier and forgot to close the cupboard, I'm sor-"

"Why were you even in there in the first place? You're not supposed to go through other people's things," Asami interrupted, fury still written on his face.

At that, Akihito got even more ticked. "Well I am if it's my job! I was told to clean everything thoroughly, not to avoid cupboards and cases!"

Suddenly thrown to the floor, Akihito gasped for breath as Asami leaned down over him. He could have sworn he saw Asami's eyes flash before he said, "This is one you don't need to touch; there will be no second offense."

At that, Asami turned and walked back to the cupboard while Akihito got to his feet and left for his room. Once there, he started getting ready for bed, one question on his mind; 'What was so important about that candle?'

Chapter Text

The following morning Akihito slept in, relishing the feeling of a day off. After he'd gotten dressed and had breakfast, he played video games fora few hours, but by noon he was fidgety and couldn't pay attention to the screen. Glancing through the window at the gorgeous Saturday outside, he sighed as he ran his hands through his hair.

'This sucks! I haven't been outside for over a month! Stupid Sakazaki. I wanna go get some new shots.'

Heading to his room to grab some of his cameras, he checked them over while he ate a sandwich; there were no ingredients to make anything else. He was running low and the next 'shipment' wasn't coming until Monday. While he could eat at the buffet, he at least needed ingredients to make Asami some dinner.

After looking from the gigantic window to the fridge and back several times, he made his decision; he would disguise himself and go to the nearby store to get a few bags of food...and maybe take a few pictures on the way.

Full of excitement (and maybe some mischief; he was definitely getting an adrenaline rush from this), Akihito went to his room to find the needed costume pieces; a yukata overcoat, giant glasses, a face mask, and a head wrap. Making sure to grab his cellphone for any 'emergency Asami care,' Akihito left the building for the first time in nearly two months.

Taking a deep breath, he stood still for a moment just outside the entrance. 'This is fantastic! How did I make it this long without fresh air? Well, fresh-ish, Tokyo's air definitely isn't mountain clear, but still.'

Trying to not continuously look around for any potential stalker goons, Akihito walked the few blocks to a nearby market...but there was a nice park just across the street. 'I could get some great shots there...'. He lingered there for about a minute before he shook his head and strode purposely into the market.

As it was a Saturday, the place was crowded, but luckily there wasn't some huge sale going on; those days got PACKED. He would know, he's had to go to them several times in the past. Now, though, not only did he not have to pay for rent, he also didn't have to pay for food. He came to a stop at a sudden realization; 'I actually don't spend like any money anymore...maybe I can finally afford that new camera and scope...'

His mind wandered as he walked the aisles to get everything he needed, pausing to pick up some of his favorite sweets. 'The expensive foreign stuff is good, but sometimes I miss having pocky and wasabi ice cream.' Eventually making it to the checkout stand, he stood in line behind a few people and tried to figure out how he was going to get it all home. Luckily nothing could really squish easily so he could pack the bags full, but they were still heavy.

As he left the store, he took one more lingering look at the park, then slowly headed back to the penthouse. He got there before the ice cream got melty, which he counted as a victory. He left the receipt on the counter (he paid for his snacks separately) and let the lingering adrenaline slowly dissipate. Laughing softly, he put the rest of the groceries away, already planning another trip out to the park for another day.

Over the next two weeks Akihito would 'sneak' out of the apartment when he had free time and head off to somewhere for an hour or two. The park was his first destination, the camera store next, and the third time he even met up with Kou and Takato. One night Asami even asked him why he was going outside dressed like that (apparently one of the guards had seen footage or Aki from one of the security cameras, had told his manager, who told Kirishima, who told Asami; it took a while to get that out of Asami), so Aki told him he had a creepy stalker after him. At first Asami seemed concerned (that was new!) and angry (that, unfortunately, was not new; his back still probably had some bruises on it), but when Aki told him that the guy (didn't even want to say his name at this point) had been after him since before he began working for Asami, the man immediately relaxed and went back to reading his ever-present papers. 'Seriously, dude never stops working! And he's freakin' paranoid.'

A few days later, after talking with Kirishima about having friends over since apparently the guard reported that too ('who's the new guy?'), Akihito again was running low on groceries. Feeling little trepidation by this point, Aki disguised himself again and set out to the nearby market, camera in tow. It was sunset by this time, and he wanted to get a few shots of the sky with the park in the foreground. Reaching the park, he walked around a bit to find where the best angle would be, took a few shots, and then found a new location. His light was all but gone by the time he stopped, and after packing everything up, he set off for the lighted street and market.

But he never made it.

Before he could take even two steps, his arms were grabbed and twisted behind his back. A split second later, a chloroform-laced cloth was placed to his mouth and nose. Akihito managed to get a knee into someone's groin, but the chloroform kicked in too fast for him to do anything more.

Chapter Text

Hours later, Akihito awoke feeling so many different things it was hard to differentiate them. Nausea was definitely one of them, as was a headache and pain in his arms; but he wasn't uncomfortable. Whatever he was lying on was really soft, and if it weren't for the need to throw up he would have stayed there.

He only made it a few steps before it all came up, splattering over the puke-green carpet. At least it would match. Desperately needing a drink of water, he looked around for a bathroom only to find that he couldn't reach it anyway; he was chained to the bed by his wrists. And naked. 'Oh freakin' no.'

Urgency quickly filled him, and after testing his bonds (and wondering why the chains were so long; he'd think about that later), he did a quick survey of the room; it had three doors, all out of reach from where he was; two windows, but way too high up to do anything with them; and a table, an armoire, and the bed. The table had nothing useful in it, just some paper, a few pens, and a ruler. The armoire held clothes that were all to large for him, but at least they were better than nothing. Using a tie as a belt and rolling up the cuffs, he had just managed to get the pants on and was about to look at the shirts when one of the doors opened.

It was a good thing he couldn't make it to the bathroom.

A barely-covered Sakazaki walked into the room, toweling off his hair. Akihito quickly went to the desk and picked up the ruler and a pen; they were the best weapons he'd get. By this time Sakazaki was smiling at Akihito.

"I told you I'd have you, Aki," he leered, starting to walk towards Akihito's position by the bed. "I don't know how you've evaded me for so long, but you will repay me for tha-!"

The squelch made when Sakazaki stepped in the puddle of vomit was victoriously disgusting, as was Sakazaki slipping and falling right into it. Thank goodness for wasabi ice cream. Akihito struggled to not laugh despite the dangerous situation. He did, however, run over and kick Sakazaki in the stomach, groin, and head (in that order). Needless to say, all of the cleaning he'd been doing in the giant apartment had built up some muscle, and Sakazaki was out like a light.

Grabbing the towel that Sakazaki had been using to dry his hair, Akihito pushed the bed over to one of the windows, wrapped the towel around his leg, and kicked through the window. While a few pieces of glass managed to scratch him, there wasn't anything serious. Picking up one of the thin shards, he began trying to pick the lock on his cuffs. It made an awful noise, but he eventually got both of them off. Sticking his tongue out at Sakazaki, Akihito quickly checked the two unknown doors, finding first the closet and then the hallway.

And then he ran. He didn't want to risk the elevator, so he took the stairs, risking the extra time spent getting out of the building. Practically jumping from one landing to the next, he eventually came to the ground floor, where he could either go out through the lobby or the emergency exit. If he went through the lobby, a shirtless boy was bound to catch attention. The fire alarm, though, could actually help him if it caused enough panic. Pushing the door open, he ran out into the early morning of Tokyo.

Taking a few precious seconds to check his location, he started running towards the penthouse over five kilometers away. He got many strange looks from those he passed; how could he not, being shirtless, barefoot, bleeding, and running like a madman? At least there weren't many people to gawk (or call the police on him). Constantly looking over his shoulder, he tried to take an indirect route, but there was no way he would run through an alleyway barefoot if he could help it. After getting halfway with seeing no one following him, Akihito slowed slightly and began to not look back as much. A flash of light from behind, though, sent him sprinting at top speed.

Several turns and panic attacks later, Akihito finally made it back to Asami's building...only to realize that he had neither his key card nor his cell phone. He was sure the concierge would call the cops on him if he asked to make a phone call, and he didn't even know Kirishima's number anyway. He couldn't stay hiding in the lobby forever, though, but both Kou's and Takato's places were too far away.

Before he could make a decision, though, he saw Asami come out of the elevator. Steeling himself, Aki ran out in front of Asami before he could reach the door.

"Hey, um, Asami...I kinda need some help..."

Flushing from Asami's questioning stare aimed at his bare chest, Akihito continued. "U-um, you see, you know that stalker I told you about? W-well, the guy sorta kidnapped me for a few hours and I lost my key card for the apartment and-"

"You mean this card?" Asami asked as he held up Akihito's card, wallet, and phone.

"Wait, how did you..."

"I found them on the floor near the door," Asami responded, "along with a grocery list."

Akihito's first reaction was to facepalm, but right after his hand connected with his forehead, he realized how lucky it actually was. Feeling a huge weight lift off his shoulders, he looked back at Asami.

"Thank goodness! I thought it was with the rest of the stuff that creeper took from me." Smiling up at Asami, Akihito reached out to take his things, but Asami pulled them away. Confused, Akihito was about to ask why when Asami spoke again.

"Would you mind telling me the name of your 'stalker,' Akihito?"

Hearing the doubt in Asami's voice, Akihito's temper flared. "What the heck, man? Do you think I'm leaking secrets or something? Would I come back like this if I was? Quit being so paranoid that everyone is out to get you!"

Asami's eyes narrowed in anger. "Just tell me his name, Akihito."

Akihito rose to the challenge. "And what if I don't want to?"

Before Asami could respond, Kirishima, who had been with the car, interrupted. "Excuse me, Asami-sama, I have some urgent documents that need your attention, as well as the report you asked for." After handing a folder to Asami, he turned to Akihito and said, "Takaba-san, please head upstairs and get dressed; you should know where the medical supplies are kept. Please do as much work as you are able."

Asami handed Akihito's belongings to Kirishima as he continued to read over the report, his face showing some emotion that Akihito couldn't place but sent shivers down his spine. Kirishima then gave Akihito his things, then walked off with Asami. Akihito watched them for a moment before quickly heading upstairs to take a much-needed shower and to bandage his raw feet.

'Today is going to suck.'

Chapter Text

After a LONG bath, Akihito bandaged up his raw feet and got himself an early lunch, the sight of the food reminding him that he still needed to get more groceries. Sighing, he texted Kirishima with a list of what he would need; he was NOT going outside. While he ate, he looked over the list of things he was supposed to do today; at least tomorrow was his day off, or supposed to be anyway. He would almost certainly have to take care of what he didn't finish today, tomorrow. And he couldn't just take today off and move all of his work to tomorrow, as there were several things that had to be done today, like laundry; he was on his last pair of clothes at this point. With another sigh, he washed his dishes and went to gather up the clothes.

By the time Asami came back that night, Akihito was almost done with his last job for the day, the rest able to wait until tomorrow. Gingerly walking towards the alcohol cabinet, he was reaching for the scotch on the top shelf when Asami grabbed it instead, standing right behind him. Startled, Akihito nearly dropped the tumbler he had picked up on the way to the cabinet. Heart beating hard, he turned around to look at Asami, who looked back at him for a moment before turning his attention to opening the scotch.

"U-um, thank you," he stuttered once his heartbeat had slowed some. Asami merely gave a slight nod before taking the glass from Akihito and pouring in the scotch.

"Do you need anything to eat?" Akihito asked once Asami was settled into his leather lounge chair with his newspaper.

"I'm fine," Asami answered, then glanced up from the paper and looked at Akihito, who suddenly felt rooted to the ground by the stare. "How are your feet?"

Shocked that Asami cared enough to ask, Akihito gaped for a bit before regaining some composure. "Well, they hurt, but they aren't cut or anything, so that's good. But, uh, I couldn't vacuum or mop today, sorry, I'll do it tomorrow."

"That's fine," came the response, and Akihito had just enough time to sigh in relief before Asami continued, "but I would like to know why you always seem so timid around me, when Kirishima has told me you are very energetic and just oozing happiness."

Akihito looked down at the floor and played with the duster he had been using prior to Asami coming home. "I-I think it's 'cuz I really don't wanna offend you and lose the job, maybe?" At that, he glanced up at Asami through his eyelashes, a half-smile on his face, his shoulders shrugging slightly. "And, ya know, you just kind of ooze 'respect me' all the time."

"None of my other employees act so nervously around me, though, and they get the same treatment as you do," Asami pointed out, still staring.

"Yeah, well, they must have different personality types or something, I'm not exactly a 'businessman' type of guy," Akihito responded, a bit annoyed. 'You act like all people are the same.'

"True enough," was all Akihito got before Asami finally looked away to his newspaper, which somehow made Akihito even more ticked.

'"True enough"? Just because I don't want to be a businessman doesn't mean I couldn't be, jerk.'

Walking off as best as he could, Akihito made it to the door of his room before he saw Asami's door and thought about going in and secretly looking at the candle, appeasing his need to tick the man off without the man actually knowing and thus killing him. Before he could touch the doorknob, though, Asami's voice came down the hallway, "Don't go there, Akihito."

Jumping a foot into the air, Akihito whipped around to see only the empty hallway. 'How the heck did he...?'

Shivering, he went into his own room and locked the door behind him.

The next day, after a conversation with Kirishima about what happened, Akihito finished up his chores and by mid-afternoon was free to do as he wished. Before he could think of what to do, though, he heard the front door open. Looking towards it showed him Asami removing his overcoat and shoes. 'Why is he here so early?!'

"Um, hey, Asami, you're usually not here at this time of day...get off work early?" Akihito greeted with as best a smile as he could manage.

"Yes," Asami responded as he walked to the living room where Akihito was seated on a couch. Sitting down on the other end, he continued. "It's been a while since I've had some time off, so I've decided to take a half-day and come home to relax."

"Ah," Akihito replied, unable to think of anything better to say. Standing, he pressed on, "Well, would you like me to get you something?"

"Popcorn."

After a double take, Akihito slowly went to the kitchen to pop a bag of popcorn. 'I had no idea a guy like him would eat something like this.'

As he started the microwave, Akihito heard Asami's voice once more. "Any movies you would recommend?"

Completely dumbfounded at this point, Akihito stuttered out the name of one of his favorite horror movies as he waited for the popcorn to finish. Once it was ready, he poured it into a bowl and added a good bit of salt before taking it back to the living room. He found Asami turning the television to the DVD input, so he put the popcorn down on a coffee table and knelt to grab the movie kept in the cabinets under the television. Sticking it in, he went to close the blinds against the sinking sun, leaving the room in darkness other than what light came from the tv.

Unsure what to do next, he started for the hallway to the bedrooms when Asami called him back. Slowly walking to the couch, he sat on the far end from Asami and started the movie.

By the end of the movie, Akihito found that he had consumed the entire bowl of popcorn by himself; he completely forgot about Asami being there too. Getting up to turn off the player and tv and to turn on the lights, he turned around and started to apologize. Before he could get more than a few words out, though, Asami waved him off.

"It's fine. Interesting movie choice, though, I wouldn't have thought you to be into horror," Asami stated as he got up and went to the alcohol cabinet.

"Yeah, most people don't, but I like the adrenaline rush, you know?" Akihito responded as he grabbed the empty popcorn bowl and went to wash it.

"Makes sense," Asami agreed as he poured two glasses of scotch. "Would you like to have a drink with me?"

Surprised yet again, Akihito gave his answer without thinking too much. "Y-yeah, sure." He finished drying the bowl before heading back to the living room couch, where Asami handed him his glass. Asami then picked up the newspaper and started reading while sipping the scotch.

Holding his glass in both hands, Akihito looked over at the newspaper. "What's so interesting in there? You read it every night, so there's gotta be something good, right?"

Glancing at Akihito, Asami responded. "I look at the business section mostly. It helps keep me up to date on the businesses around me."

"Huh, can you really get all that much from that? That info seems like it wouldn't be that easy to get," Akihito asked.

The smile Asami gave him was only a little condescending and a lot happy. "Once you know what to look for it is that easy."

For the next hour they talked about not only the business section but also on several other parts of the newspaper, and to Akihito's surprise he found it really interesting. He didn't even think about how they had never had a real conversation like this before until after they parted and went to their own rooms.

Before taking a bath and turning in for the night, Akihito removed the bandages on his feet to find that they were healing pretty well and would hopefully stop hurting fairly soon. While in the bath, he thought over the strange events of the day, finding that by the end he had totally lost his nervousness around Asami and was actually having a good time. 'Maybe he isn't such a stiff after all.'

For the next week, whenever Asami came home Akihito made sure to try to engage in conversations with the man, and by the end of the week he found that it was very easy to talk with Asami; the guy was just really reserved and Akihito had to break past that. It certainly made Aki's day better now that he was at ease with Asami. Maybe he could even tell Asami about Sakazaki soon.

Chapter Text

On Saturday morning, Akihito went down to the lobby to meet with Kirishima, who was dropping off some groceries and didn't have time to go up to the apartment. Figuring he was safe inside the lavish lobby so long as he stayed far away from the windows, Akihito stood near the elevator as he waited for Kirishima to arrive.

Looking around, he could see how much he stuck out amid all of the actual patrons and even most of the employees; he didn't want to dress fancy, nor did he need to. Even so, it still felt a little awkward being the only one not decked out. Luckily Kirishima soon arrived and he was able to get out of there.

...except his card wasn't working on the elevator. After trying it several times, he decided to contact security to see if they could get him up, and if that didn't work, then they could call someone in to fix the keypad. He did NOT want to walk up all those stairs, especially carrying four full bags of groceries while having still-sore feet.

He had to wait for nearly fifteen minutes before someone showed up; luckily there wasn't much that needed to be frozen or refrigerated. Picking up the bags he had set down at the start of his wait, he turned to the security officer.

He tried very hard not to groan and roll his eyes, though he was pretty sure Sudoh got the message anyway. 'No wonder Asami's been finding out so much about my personal life! Freakin' tattle tale!'

"Hello, Akihito, enjoying being a maid?" Sudoh taunted as he approached Akihito.

"Better than getting fat off donuts just sitting around watching a black-and-white still shot for hours," Akihito retorted. "I wonder which will fail first, your eyes or your heart?"

Glaring, Sudoh quietly responded, "Your brain was the first thing to go, shrimp. Oh wait, it wasn't ever there in the first place, my bad." He then turned to the elevator to see if his card would work.

"At least I never had to suck up to the professors to get a passing grade," Akihito muttered softly, knowing Sudoh heard it by the way his hand tightened around the card.

Turning around, Sudoh plastered a wry smile on his face. "Well, sorry, brat, but my card can't get you up there either; looks like you'll have to take the stairs. Have fun!"

He then turned and walked back to where the security office was, leaving Aki supremely ticked.

'There's more than one way to get around this,' he thought as he walked to the reception desk. Upon seeing the friendly Momohara Ai behind the counter, his face brightened considerably.

"Hey, Ai-chan, I need some help, could you do me a favor?" he asked as he arrived at the counter.

Ai turned to face him and gave him a bright smile. "Anything for the guy who saved me from a mugging. What can I do?"

"My key card won't work on the elevator, so I'm wondering if you can swipe yours to get me to the buffet floor so I don't have to take all those stairs?" Akihito asked with a pleading grin on his face.

"Sure thing! Let me just double check that you are still working here, okay?" she responded, then grabbed a phone and dialed a number. "I have to call Kirishima-san for this one, since you have a separate manager from the rest of the staff here."

"Also why you don't have a card to the penthouse," Akihito added as he waited for the phone conversation to begin and end. Once Ai had put the phone down, she smiled and grabbed a card. "You're all good to go! Let's see if it's just the penthouse that won't read or if it's the whole elevator. I saw security come to check, but I have't heard anything back from them yet."

'Really? Who would've guessed that?' he thought before responding. "Great. I really hope it's just the penthouse cards it's misreading...although, now that I think about it, shouldn't the 'security' card have access to all floors?"

"Huh, you're right," she agreed, "but let's at least try this one, just in case."

They reached the elevator with the groceries in tow, and Ai tried her card. A small green light lit up and the doors soon opened.

"Alright, it worked!" they both cheered. Akihito then walked into the elevator where the light for the restaurant floor was already lit. Turning around, he commented, "I wish the cards weren't level-specific though, you know?"

"It adds to both businessmen' and guests' privacy, but it can cause troubles like these. Anyway, good luck Akihito-kun!" she responded as the doors started to shut.

"Thanks again, and you too!" he called right before the doors shut.

Leaning back against the wall, Akihito waited as the elevator rose high above the streets of Tokyo. 'Either Sudoh's card was a dud or he didn't even try.'

Reaching the buffet, Akihito skirted around the edges, making his way to the stairs; hopefully his card would work on the entrance there. With how tall the ceiling of the buffet was, though, he still had around a hundred steps to climb before he made it to the door to the apartment.

Swiping his card and praying it would work, he heard a distinctive 'click.' Sighing in relief, he pushed the door open and quickly set the groceries down so he could take off his shoes. 'Oh man, my arms are killing me!'

After stretching his arms out for a moment, he grabbed the groceries and went to the kitchen to put them away, then started in on the rest of his work for the day. By the time Asami came home around ten that night, Akihito had finished a bath and was putting on new bandages on his feet. He looked up as Asami went to sit in his chair, newspaper and cigarette in hand.

"Hey, sorry about this, I'll get you some scotch in just a second," Akihito explained as he tried to quickly finish, but he was in the middle of the second foot and if he wanted to get it done well, he would have to spend a little more time.

"It's fine," Asami responded. "Your feet are looking better, though."

Surprised, Akihito looked up at Asami who was still reading the paper. "Um, I don't remember you seeing them..."

"It was rather obvious when you came into the foyer that morning," Asami replied, taking a drag on the cigarette.

Thinking back to his half-naked state, Akihito blushed. "Ah, okay. Um, yeah, they are feeling better, don't hurt nearly as much as they did."

"Good," Asami stated.

Shrugging, Akihito went back to bandaging his foot. Once it was finished, he put away the supplies and washed his hand before pouring a glass of scotch for the man and a beer for himself; although the expensive stuff was okay, he still preferred a simple beer. He handed Asami his glass and then sat down on the couch, giving both of them access to the small square coffee table that created a corner between the pieces of furniture. Akihito picked up the funnies section that Asami had pulled out and set on the table for him, but before he could start reading them, Asami began talking again.

"By the way, Akihito, I heard a very interesting piece of news today," he began. Akihito winced.

"Yeah, my card didn't work in the elevator, sorry I didn't tell you earlier, but Kirishima should have known about it," Akihito defended.

"Not that. I heard you were flirting with another employee while on the job," Asami amended as he looked over at Aki.

"What, Sudoh?! Ew, that is SO nasty on so many levels man," Akihito practically gagged.

Asami sighed. "Not him, the receptionist."

Understanding lit Aki's eyes and he quickly tried to correct the misunderstanding. "Oh, no, that was me asking her to get me upstairs since Security Sudoh's card wouldn't work either. She even called Kirishima to make sure I was good to come upstairs!"

"Was that all you were doing?" Asami pressed.

A bit ticked now, Akihito defended, "Um, yeah that's all I was doing. She's a friend I met a while back and that's it, she's already seeing someone anyway. Besides, being friendly with people isn't a crime, you know."

"Alright, fine," Asami acquiesced, turning back to his paper.

Rolling his eyes, Akihito turned back to his paper. 'Forgot how paranoid he is.'

Chapter Text

When he told Asami about his hobby, he never would have dreamed of seeing something like this.

It had been two months since he had started working for Asami, and he felt like he had a pretty good grasp on what Asami liked and didn't like. Conversation came easily now, and they pretty much had a routine going. Asami came home early much more often than usual; apparently some big project he had been working on was completed. Akihito would have dinner almost done when Asami would get there, and the man would then set the table. After the meal, Akihito would wash the dishes and Asami would dry them, then they both would head to the sitting area where Akihito would get Asami a glass of scotch. Akihito would occasionally have a beer, but most nights he went without. They would then discuss whatever news was in the paper, and afterward would head off to bed.

On Asami's next day off, however, things got changed up. Telling Akihito that he would have to spend the day with him, Asami had awakened Akihito at the crack of dawn, then forced him into some fancy car before being driven off to the middle of nowhere. While nowhere happened to be gorgeous and Akihito had gotten tons of fantastic shots, he still was grumpy from lack of sleep. When Asami brought out their picnic lunch of (super-expensive) bentos, though, Akihito lit up and dug in; it was even better than the food at the buffet. After lunch, they went to a small amusement park, and while Akihito was confused about this whole escapade, he decided to make the most of it. He rode every ride at least twice before they finally left, his belly stuffed with funnel cakes and french fries.

On their way back to the penthouse, Akihito tried for the umpteenth time that day to ask Asami what the purpose all of this was; he had been expecting to work, and instead, he had basically played all day with Asami usually participating on the sidelines. Asami dodged the question, though, leaving Akihito confused and slightly annoyed. Once they made it to the penthouse, Akihito moved to head toward the kitchen to prepare dinner for Asami, but before he could take a step, Asami had grabbed his shoulder.

"I have something I need to show you," the man said as he began to lead a very confused Akihito down the hallway to the back rooms. Before they got too far, though, Asami suddenly stopped, turned around to face Akihito, and in a flash had the boy blindfolded.

"What the heck man!?" he cried as he tried to grab the blindfold, but Asami held his hands in a tight grip. It didn't hurt, but he struggled anyway. 'What is up with him today?'

"You'll see in a moment," was all the reply he got as Asami tugged him along somewhere. He knew the layout well by now, but Asami still managed to get him confused by the time they stopped. Akihito heard a door open before Asami pulled the blindfold off.

As he opened his eyes, Akihito muttered "I hope it's worth it yo-"

He never got the rest of it out.

For a good ten minutes, Akihito was speechless as he walked through the best collection of cameras he had ever seen. The huge room held too many cameras to count, from preserved antiques to brand-spankin' new models. Through the door in the back was a darkroom, complete with all the necessary items as well as the extra bells and whistles. Yesterday, all of this space was devoted to a guest bedroom and bathroom; he had cleaned it several times, so there was no doubt about it.

When he was finally able to speak, his voice was so low it was almost as if he were talking to himself. "How in the world did you get all of this done in a day? How...why?"

Turning to face Asami with wide eyes, Akihito saw the biggest smile he had ever seen Asami make. "Do you like it?"

"Uh, yeah, it's amazing! But why?"

Asami chuckled a little before he answered. "I figured if you were basically stuck here you might as well have something to do that actually interests you."

Akihito's eyes got even wider in disbelief. "Wait, you mean you did all this so that I wouldn't be bored? How freakin' rich are you man?"

"Pretty freakin' rich," Asami replied with a smirk before turning around and walking out of the room.

'Holy...how much money does the guy have that he'd do this on a whim?' After staring at the open space where Asami had just been, Akihito turned around and continued to explore the room.

The following day Akihito spent holed up in that room, spending his entire day off in there except for food and the bathroom. He was finally able to develop the shots he had taken on some of his forays, as well as spend time drooling over some of the rarest cameras out there. He still thought Asami was crazy for buying all of it, but he was very happy for it and would use it well.

That was the other thing he did while in the room; think about Asami. Almost every action he did reminded him that Asami had done all of this, that he could never have seen or done some of the things if it weren't for Asami. He started thinking back on other things the man had done; the day he spent with Akihito, the patient way he taught Akihito about the business world, the movie he had watched with Akihito even though the stoic man clearly didn't like it. The more Akihito thought about it, the fonder he became, remembering things he had thought nothing of before, like the occasional sparkle in Asami's eyes and the fact that Asami didn't mind him using his name without an honorific. Even Kirishima said 'Asami-sama,' and he was right at the top of the organization.

A goofy smile radiated from Akihito's face as he thought more and more about Asami, so much so that he had stopped cleaning the camera he had in his hands, it being long forgotten.

'How in the world did I ever think him to be stiff and boring? He's like a cat looking for affection, too embarrassed to say it out loud but makes it obvious anyway.' Then a memory of how angry Asami could get entered his mind. 'Well, maybe a large cat...like a panther? Yeah, that's perfect! Asami the panther!'

Chuckling to himself, Akihito looked down at the camera he still held and wondered what he could do in return for Asami that he didn't already do as part of his job or their routine. Nothing came to mind; the man already had everything. The only thing Akihito had to offer was his knowledge of cameras. He could see if Asami would be interested, though. It was worth a shot.

Right after Akihito decided to try it, there was a small knock on the door before Asami walked in. 'How does he always have such good timing!?'

Taking a deep breath, Akihito strode over to Asami and asked whether Asami was interested in the cameras at all. Apparently he was; he paid rapt attention to everything Akihito said and even asked questions about the more difficult processes. The only thing that stopped their conversation was the rumbling of hunger coming from Akihito's stomach. They laughed on their way to the kitchen, where Akihito made some grilled cheese sandwiches for them both. It was late enough by the end of dinner that they both decided to hit the sack. Akihito fell asleep almost immediately.

Yet, despite the hours he spent thinking on it, Akihito still hadn't noticed how far his feelings towards Asami went.

Chapter Text

A few days had passed, and the nagging feeling of needing to repay Asami somehow hadn't gone away. Every time Aki walked into the camera room, the little stab of guilt got bigger and bigger. But he just couldn't think of what Asami might want that he didn't have already.

This was on his mind as he vacuumed Asami's room, distracting him from the itch to pull out that weird candle. He had pulled it out several times since Asami's warning, and he honestly had no idea how the darn thing did what it did. It was perfectly normal wax, not plastic, and by the heat it gave off and how it flickered Aki knew that it was a real flame; yet, the darn thing had hardly shrunk at all, and it was tiny to begin with. He didn't dare try to put it out, though holding back the curiosity almost killed him. He had tried doing an internet search to see if there was anything like it elsewhere, but nothing came up. It remained a puzzle that he couldn't help but try and solve.

As he was vacuuming the huge walk-in closet, Akihito looked around and finally noticed how empty it actually was. Sure, there were like twenty different suits, five tuxes, and several pairs of shoes he didn't know the names of, but there was almost nothing else. The space was barely taken up, all of the items likely would fit in just a larger-than-normal closet, or at least a smaller walk-in. And pretty much everything but the ties and vests were all in black; even the few pairs of semi-casual clothes he had weren't all that cheerful. That's when Aki realized how he could repay Asami; the man desperately needed more clothes for when he wasn't working, although those times were rare, but still. He had to take longer vacations sometimes, right?

So, after Akihito finished all the cleaning for the day, he went back to the closet to see what sizes the man wore so he'd know what to look for. Still too wary to go outside again, he went back to his room and started doing a search on his computer. After seeing how expensive the brands Asami wore were (even with all he's been earning he still couldn't get one shirt), Akihito turned to some of the stores and brands he liked. True, they weren't silk-lined-velvet or whatever, but they were still very comfortable and lasted for a while, and didn't look bad either.

After picking out several things he thought would look good on Asami (he was tempted to get something in neon pink, but he didn't want to pay that much for a laugh), Akihito placed his order and went to make dinner.

The package arrived about a week later, but since nothing went to Asami's penthouse without being checked first, Aki would have to go down to security to get it and explain why he didn't want Asami to know about it. He wasn't looking forward to seeing Sudoh again, but he hoped that the jerk would be off for the day.

He had no such luck. When he walked into the dark room full of video screens, he could easily see the perfectly styled blonde head of hair that was Sudoh's trademark.

"Ah, there he is, the little maid," Sudoh grinned as he walked towards Akihito.

"Just shut it, ugly," Akihito replied as he looked around for the package, not seeing it anywhere in the room. He missed the sneer and eye-twitch that Sudoh quickly masked.

"Do you even want your package?" Sudoh taunted.

"Tch, fine, where is it?" Aki asked, trying hard to not rise to the challenge.

"It was too big to bring in here," Sudoh explained, leading the way out of the rather small room, "so it's in an unused storage room down the hall."

They quietly walked down the hall to the only door without a nameplate. The bright green letters of the employee exit glowed brightly in the dim hall as Sudoh unlocked the door and led Akihito in

...to Sakazaki's waiting arms. Akihito's eyes grew wide as he began to struggle, but he was soon tied up and gagged. Craning his head back, he saw Sudoh's cruelly laughing face.

"Have fun being where you belong, pet," Sudoh taunted as he turned and left.

Suddenly pulled by his hair, he came face to face with the goateed gangster.

"You're not getting away this time, pretty boy, you know why? 'Cuz if you do, those two friends of yours are going to pay for it."

All the blood in Aki's body seemed to drain away. Of course Sakazaki would know about Kou and Takato, if Sudoh was in league with him. Sudoh had seen Aki with his friends several times, had even ratted about it.

"So, you're going to be a good boy and come with me without any trouble, right?' Sakazaki asked, victory shining in his cruel eyes.

Bowing his head, Akihito let himself be picked up and squished into a nearby food crate. He could feel the crate being picked up, and after being set down, hear and feel an engine come to life.

There was some hope, though. Asami would surely wonder what had happened, why he had suddenly disappeared. People don't just do that. But, Sudoh, being in security, could easily cover Sakazaki's tracks. Maybe there was even a plan in place to explain Aki's sudden disappearance.

He couldn't stop the tears.

Chapter Text

Aki had no idea how long he'd been in the crate. He had no way to stretch out, and he really needed a bathroom. He had tried to keep track of all the twists and turns, but there were so many that he'd lost track. He was almost certain that they weren't in Tokyo anymore.

After he had stopped crying and counting turns, Aki turned his attention to try and think of some sort of way to get himself out of this mess. He couldn't fight or run, that would just get his friends hurt or worse. His best bet would be somehow contacting Asami and letting him know what was up, but even then he might never find Aki. That was still a chance, though.

After an eternity that passed too quickly, Akihito felt the car stop. Terror rising once again, he tried to steel himself for what was to come. The crate was roughly lifted, and he was jostled about for several minutes until it was finally set down. Nails creaked as they were removed from the lid, and before Aki could move, someone dragged him out and threw him onto a bed.

"Sorry, pretty boy," a deep voice behind Aki said as he was being tied face-down to the bed, "Sakazaki-sama has business to attend to right now and can't be here. In the meantime, make yourself at home."

"Oh yeah, I can do that perfectly from this position, thanks for that," he sarcastically responded, trying his best to hide his nerves. "Any chance this bed has a toilet built in?"

"You're free to go anytime you please, it's not my problem," the man answered as he finished the last strap. As he left, he turned back and sneered "Have fun, pretty boy!" before shutting and locking the door.

'Oh freak oh freak oh freak oh freak oh freak!' Akihito thought as he internally panicked. Looking around the room as best he could, he found three doors, two of which were opened to a bathroom and a closet, the last (and most important) one led to the hallway and was locked. There were no windows, but he'd bet he was either very high up or deep underground. Either way, neither one would help much.

Nor would the bathroom if he could never reach it. He needed to go REALLY badly, and while he was glad he still had all his clothes, he didn't want to wet himself and spend who knows how long in smelly, sticky pants. That would just make the situation that much more unpleasant.

It was a long time before anything else happened. It was eerie that nothing was being done to him; he wasn't drugged or beaten to a pulp, just left to lay there and imagine all the things that could potentially happen to him. He was trying to maintain at least some positivity, but the more time that passed, the less hope he had.

Suddenly, there was a high-pitched buzzing noise coming from above him, followed by static and a curse. Cringing, Akihito looked around once it was quiet to see if he could find whatever caused that noise. Craning his neck, he finally found a speaker in he headboard of the bed.

"Hello, Akihito," a horribly familiar voice sounded out, "how are you doing? Enjoying the accommodations?"

"Yeah, they're great!" Aki bit out, his annoyance cutting through his fear. "Totally 5-star service you've got here, what with the inability to move and all. Obviously means that I don't have to do anything at all, so where is the goon with the portable toilet? He's slacking off ya know."

"Aw, are you uncomfortable?" came the mocking reply. "I'll get him right on that for you, baby. Can't have the bed be all messy now, can we?"

Akihito heard a faint 'beep' and moments later, a man with a bedpan came in and with a grimace, helped Akihito 'go.' Once that was over and the man was gone, Aki relaxed a bit in relief before tensing again at Sakazaki's voice.

"Better now? I'm sorry I can't be with you right now, I have some unavoidable business that needed to be done today, but I promise I'll be there soon so we can have some fun together."

Shuddering, Aki replied, "Your definition of 'fun' and mine must be very different, unless you mean that I get to kick you where the sun don't shine again, then yeah, it'll be real fun."

"Shut it, boy," snarled the voice. "You won't find a better man out there that wants you, so why won't you just accept me?"

"Why would I EVER choose you, you creepy stalker rapist?" Aki yelled. "I'm freaking tied to a bed and caged in a room! Why would you think that would make me like you?"

"You know why you're like that right now, Aki. If you had just come with me before then none of this would have happened."

Akihito scoffed, "Like heck it wouldn't. You would have done this whether I came before or not! You've always wanted to do this, to cage and abuse me; you've never once tried to actually know me like a normal person would!"

"Enough!" Sakazaki yelled, silencing Akihito. "When I get there I will put you in your place, you little rat. I've only ever wanted you for your looks, everything else about you is rotten, but I will take care of that sweet body you have whether you want it or not. Your opinion doesn't matter at all."

With a small 'beep,' it was quiet once more. Only one thing ran through Aki's head: 'Asami! Help!'

Chapter Text

Trying desperately to think of something he could do, Akihito lay still so as to conserve energy for if/when he could fight back. He couldn't stop the shivers of fear that ran through him, though. He broke out into a cold sweat after a few minutes, making him shiver even harder.

With no clock to tell him the passage of time, Aki waited for something to happen. He was both glad and scared when nothing had happened in what seemed like hours; on one hand, it meant nothing was happening to him, but on the other hand, it meant that he had to wait while knowing something terrible was coming. So, when the sound of the door opening reached his ears, Aki practically jumped out of his skin. But then he saw who it was.

Mitarai.

Poor terrified Akihito didn't know what to make of him. 'Wait, what? Mitarai? Was he working for Sakazaki too? Oh yeah, he was part of the camera maintenance crew...but wait, that was only at the club, he didn't have anything to do with Asami's building. But why is he here then?'

Aki watched as Mitarai looked around quickly before rushing into the room, straight towards Aki. The boy was about to yell 'get off!' but before he could, Mitarai covered his mouth with his hand.

"Don't you dare make a sound, Akihito," Mitarai hissed at the boy. "I'm taking a big risk here helping you, you know." The goatee'd man then took his hand away, pulled out a knife, and started slicing at the ropes binding Akihito to the bed.

For a moment, all Aki could do was stare in astonishment. Once he caught up to the situation, he asked in a whisper, "Why are you here, Mitarai?"

"Didn't I tell you to shut it?" the man whispered back as he continued working. "I'm here 'cuz I saw you dragged off. I've been trying to get photos of Sakazaki's illegal business for a while now, even infiltrated this place via a security systems tune-up gig. I put the cameras in this place on a video loop." Mitarai's voice had gone from worried to smug very quickly.

"That doesn't explain why you're helping me," Akihito continued. "I know you better than to think you'd do this 'cuz you're worried about me."

"Hey, I like you at least a little, kid," Mitarai objected as the rope around Aki's right wrist broke.

"And...?" Aki pushed, grabbing another knife Mitarai handed him and starting to work on his other wrist.

Mitarai moved to the rope on his right leg, smirking at Akihito before getting back to work. "And I'm expecting a really big reward later. I'm betting you're super close to Asami since you work in his place."

For once, Akihito was grateful for Mitarai's reporter's insight.

In the past, Mitarai had inferred several things about others that they would rather have kept hidden. He would always use his knowledge to tease his classmates and friends endlessly. Akihito hated it when it happened to him, but hated it more when he saw it happen to others. Yet, to Aki's knowledge, he'd never used it to actually hurt someone. The man was a jerk, true, but at least a pretty harmless one.

They worked at the remaining ropes quickly, and once the final one was cut, Mitarai gave Akihito a rundown on how to get to the exit before taking off, not willing to risk his hide any further.

"Figures," Aki mumbled under his breath, but really was grateful for everything the man did already.

Glancing out the door to make sure no one was there, Akihito took off running. As expected of the hideout, the place was a maze. Mitarai's instructions helped, but Aki still felt lost. Luckily, he never ran into anyone. After a while, though, the silence started to worry him. 'Where are all the goons? I know there should be at least one guy here, but I can't find anybody!'

When he finally found what looked like the front door, he started hearing activity from outside. A little relief coursed through him, along with a lot of nervousness. 'How am I going to get out if everyone is outside? There's no other way out other than maybe a secret passage somewhere! It would be stupid to not have one.'

Before he could decide what to do, the door literally blew off it's hinges, slamming against the wall opposite it. Luckily, Akihito had been watching from a side hallway and it had missed him, but the flying debris caused a few cuts and scrapes. Once he looked back up again, he saw Sakazaki slumped against the now-destroyed door. Shocked, Akihito looked towards the doorway, where a disheveled Asami stood. A few stray strands of dark hair falling in his eyes and sweat upon his brow, the man was the best thing Akihito had ever seen.

Legs weak with relief, Aki couldn't hold back his voice, "Asami! You're here! Thank goodness, you're here!" Asami turned to look at Aki then. The boy saw a mix of relief and uncertainty upon the man's face as he quickly strode to where Akihito stood frozen. Right before Asami could reach him, Akihito heard a loud 'bang.'

Asami collapsed right in front of him.

"Hahahaha, serves you right!" Aki heard as he knelt down by a heavily-bleeding Asami and pressed his hands to the gunshot wound in the man's chest. Looking up, he saw Sakazaki holding a gun aimed right at them. Squeezing his eyes shut, the boy waited for the final shot. He flinched when he heard the gun go off, but after a moment he still hadn't felt anything. Confused, he looked up again to see that Sakazaki's gun had jammed and blown up; Aki quickly looked away from the gruesome scene and put his attention back on Asami.

"Asami, Asami, come on, you're gonna be okay, just hold on!" Aki begged as he put as much pressure as he could on the wound.

The man looked up at Aki, his eyes slightly unfocused, and smirked. "It's okay, Aki, I'll be okay. This can't keep me down."

"Like heck, Asami! You've been freakin' shot in the chest!" Aki burst out before remembering that he was supposed to be encouraging Asami to live rather than face the facts.

Asami chuckled, then coughed hard. "Iss happen' b'fore, n' I'm st'll here," Asami slurred out.

"No way, really?!" Akihito asked disbelievingly. "Wait, that doesn't matter now. Do you have a phone on you so I can call 911 or something?"

"Fun? Yeah, I've hd loss o' fun wif you, Aki. Luv you soooo mch, prty boy."

'Freak, he's getting delirious!' "I love you too Asami, so stay awake for me, okay? Please stay awake!"

Before Aki could do anything else, he felt a sharp flash of pain in the back of his head before losing consciousness.

Chapter Text

When Akihito woke up, his head hurt like none other and he had absolutely no desire to open his eyes. He was really comfortable where he was, lying on something so soft it was unreal. He groaned and snuggled back into the soft thing, trying to drift back to sleep, but the feeling that something wasn't quite right eventually forced him to open his eyes and look around.

'Why in the world am I in Asami's bed?' the boy wondered as he took in the site of the darkened room that he had cleaned so many times. It took him a moment to take in the sight of Asami slumped in a chair, asleep, his head resting on the bed.

'What the heck is going on?!' he thought frantically as he reached out to shake the man awake. "Asami, hey Asami, are you okay?"

At the first touch of Aki's hand, the man is instantly awake, giving the room a quick once-over before settling his eyes on Akihito. Aki swore he saw the man smile before he started speaking. "You're finally awake, Akihito. How are you feeling?"

"Um, fine, my head hurts, but fine. Why am I in your room?" Aki asked in utter confusion.

"It's much easier for me to take care of you in here compared to your room," the man answered matter-of-factly. "There's more room in here, and I'm sure you're more comfortable."

"Take care of me? What happened?" Aki queried, still weirded out.

"You got a concussion," Asami answered, then stared into the boy's eyes. "What is the last thing you can remember?"

"Um, I was heading to pick up yo...um...a package." Akihito didn't want to tell him that he had gotten a gift for him, but he had almost spilled the beans. He hoped that Asami would pass off his pause as part of his cloudy memories instead.

"Hm...what day was that?" Asami then asked, still staring intently at Aki. It was giving the boy goosebumps.

"Friday?" he answered uncertainly. Asami then relaxed and Aki really saw a smile before the man spoke.

"Good, then you haven't lost much. When you feel up to it, try to remember the things that happened after that."

Still tired and kind of out of it, Aki nodded as he closed his eyes and fell back to sleep, feeling something soft brush his forehead.

The boy pretty much slept for the next week, and wished that was what he was doing for two weeks after that. Asami forbade him from watching television or using his cell phone or reading or doing anything other than listening to music or staring at the wall. He wasn't even allowed to just look at pictures on his cameras or anything. The poor boy was bored out of his mind. He bore with it, though, because apparently if he didn't rest his mind properly, it could make the recovery process take years instead of weeks.

Meanwhile, Asami was freaking the heck out of Akihito. He was always there with him, at least when he was awake. Apparently the only times Asami left were when Aki was sleeping. The rest of the time he would be doing his work right there at a desk in the bedroom. What was really strange, though, was the Asami was touching Akihito all the time. Usually it was holding his hand or massaging his head, but the man never broke contact for long. Aki even thought the he could feel him kiss his cheeks or his forehead as he was falling asleep, but he was usually so far gone at that point that he couldn't be sure.

With all that time to just think, though, Aki had been focusing on remembering what happened to him. He remembered meeting with Sudoh, getting kidnapped, talking with Sakazaki and even being freed by Mitarai, but he couldn't remember anything after that. Even those things he did remember felt like a dream he'd had rather than a reality he'd been in.

One day, the boy was once more going through his memories while Asami was going through a mountain of paperwork. 'Okay, package, Sudoh, Sakazaki, kidnapped, Sakazaki, Mitarai, boom...wait, boom? That's new.'

"Hey Asami," Aki started, gaining the man's attention immediately, "was there an explosion or something that happened then?"

A pleased smile appeared on Asami's face, "Well, technically not an explosion, as nothing blew up, but yes, something similar did happen."

"Sweet! I'm getting closer!" Akihito crowed, and then a thought came to him. "Wait a second. If you know that, then doesn't that mean you were there by that point? Why can't you just tell me what happened then?"

Asami turned his gaze back to his papers. "Because my perspective was different than yours. I could end up placing false memories if I told you what I saw, especially since I didn't see everything you likely did."

"Gah, seriously!?" Akihito cried, flopping back on the pillows of his bed. "What the heck happened to make you so...." He cut off at the realization of what he was about to say.

Asami stared intently at the young man. "So...?"

"U-um, so...expressive?" Akihito supplied. 'Better than saying he's clingy and kinda lovey-dovey...wait, lovey-dovey? Is that what this is? Oh my gosh that's what this is!'

Aki could feel his face practically burst into flames while he watched Asami's expression go from an askance raised eyebrow to just full-on confusion.

"Are you alright, Aki?" the older man asked, reaching a hand out to touch the boy's forehead.

"I-I, um, uh...." All the boy could think of was the feel of Asami's hand on his face. "W-wait, when did you start calling me Aki?"

"Hm? Is there a problem with that?" Asami responded smoothly, a smirk spreading on his perfect face. 'Why is he so freaking good looking?'

"No! Not at all, that's fine, totally fine," Aki rushed to say. Asami's smirk only deepened.

"Mm, then I don't have to hold back," Asami murmured, leaning in so his face was close to the boy's.

"H-h-hold back from what!?" Aki cried as he jerked back. "Just because I said I like you doesn't me-"

His eyes widened as he realized what he just said. 'Wait, WHAT? What in the...there's no way that I...but I...and he....' The memories of what had happened finally fell into place. Asami bursting through a doorway and then getting shot, then Sakazai's gun blowing up as Aki tried to help Asami, Asami losing consciousness as he confessed, him confessing back, then a sharp pain to his head. He was pretty sure that was it, but he wasn't really focusing on that anymore.

Asami brought his attention back. "See, you remembered. Now quit making me wait." He leaned in for a kiss, but Aki dodged it.

"Wait wait wait wait! Hold on a sec," Akihito panicked, pushing Asami back. The man frowned so Aki spoke quickly, "You were just losing it then, how do I know you really meant it?"

Asami just looked at him.

"Okay, okay, stupid question, but how do you know that I meant it?"

"Aki, you can't lie. You get nervous and either laugh guiltily or get angry," Asami responded.

"No I-!" Akihito began before Asami shut him up with a kiss.

Akihito broke it after a few moments, breathing hard. "I-I doubt that you're supposed to do anything strenuous, mister 'I got shot in the chest!'"

"Funny, I don't find this strenuous at all. It's actually rather relaxing," the man replied smoothly.

"Like heck! Let me see it!" Aki stubbornly insisted. Asami did so with another raised eyebrow and a smirk. The boy found out why when the man's torso was revealed. 'Why did I just ask him to basically strip?'

Forcing his eyes away from Asami's abs, Akihito focused on the bandages covering a small portion of the man's chest. He sighed when he didn't see any blood. Looking back at Asami's face, Akihito questioned, "Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine, Aki," he replied with a gentle smile.

"You sure? You've been acting really strange, you know?" Akihito questioned further. "You didn't lose so much blood that your brain got damaged, did it?"

Asami chuckled, giving Akihito butterflies in his stomach. "I'm sure. I have just finally learned how to love and have compassion."

"Wait, whaaaaat? The heck's that supposed to mean? How do you not know how to be nice to people?" Aki asked, confused and suspicious that he was being played with.

"When nobody ever shows it towards you, how are you supposed to learn it?" Asami replied. "I grew up in a very loveless environment, Aki. I never saw the man who adopted me except at work, and even then it was rare. All I was brought up to know was the cold world of business. In fact, I was so cold that, though it sounds strange, I had a curse placed on me."

At that, Aki pulled away a little, sure now that something had happened to the man's head. Asami continued, "Don't give me that look, I can prove it to you. You remember that candle I had? The one that never went out? That was basically a timer; I had until the candle burnt itself out to learn how to love and show love, as well as get it in return."

"Okaaaaay, then what was the curse?" Aki asked, still suspicious.

"The way I treated others would be the way I was treated. In other words, I couldn't keep a significant other," Asami answered. "I didn't mind it at first, but it wore on me after a time. By the time I met you, I had already resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't ever be able to have someone special to me; there were only a few months left after all."

"Wait a second, if the curse was that others treated you the way you treated them, then how do I know I wasn't just influenced by you to feel this way?" Aki asked, hurt at the realization.

"Silly boy, I learned that love from you," Asami responded, ruffling Aki's hair.

"But how could I show you lo...kindness if I could only act the way you acted towards me?" Aki questioned, still confused.

"Because I did my best to let you be you," Asami answered. "I let you do your own thing rather than act upon you and thus influence you. I also attempted to be kind to the best of my knowledge of how to do so."

"But it still doesn't make sense!" Akihito insisted. "Even if the time ran out, you still could've learned how to like someone; the curse didn't prevent that."

"No, it didn't, but if the deadline had passed before I learned to love someone, then I could never be sure if that person's love was real or not. They would be forced to act the way I did towards them, meaning they wouldn't be able to be their true selves and react the way they normally would to the situation."

"Oh. Ouch," Aki mumbled. "Why did the witch or whatever put the curse on you give you a timeline anyway if all she wanted was you to be kind to people?"

"That, I don't know," Asami admitted.

"Huh, weird," Aki muttered, but then he smiled. "Anyways, you basically learned how to be human?"

Asami smiled back, "Essentially, yes."

"Go witch fairy lady!" Aki crowed. "Everyone benefits from a non-robot Asami!"

"You don't believe me, do you?" Asami scowled.

"I'm on the fence right now; still think you might have hit your head or something," Aki admitted with a teasing smile.

"Hm. Well, it doesn't matter," Asami concluded. "What matters now is how we continue from here. What would you like to do now, Aki?"

Akihito looked at the man, still shirtless, lounging on the bed, one hand now tracing up and down Aki's arm.

"U-um, I, I..." Akihito stuttered, eyes locked with Asami's. "Um, uh...sleep! Yeah, I'm super tired after all that, and my head kinda hurts, so I wanna go back to sleep, please!"

Asami raised an askance eyebrow at the boy's nervous babble. "Alright, you little fibber, I'll let you rest for now, but I'm not going to be this lenient for long."

The man just laughed at Aki's now-scarlet face.