This is slash fiction based on the anime Weiss Kreuz, owned by Project Weiss. It is part of the Gay Utopia project, originally published in 2007 . A map of the Gay Utopia is here.
 

AyaOrganic

Aya, by Vom Marlowe

 
Yoji woke up and stared at the ceiling. It was those ugly little popcorn tiles. Hospital, bound to be. He glanced around. Yep. Uncomfortable tippy hospital bed, ugly white shears on the windows, TV mounted on the wall, funny machine hookups in the corner. He thought about getting up, but he felt like he’d been run over by a truck.

What the hell had happened? He tried to remember. They’d been sent in as point team to clear out a newly found, ancient Takatori bolt hole. They hadn’t found any guards, though. Not that he could recall.

“And how are we today?” A woman appeared. A very cheerful woman, beaming with smiles, wearing a pink and yellow smock over her scrubs with — were those little ducks? In party hats?

The Magic Bus hospital must have been full. Or something.

“How are we feeling?” she asked. She plumped at his blankets and grabbed his wrist.

“Hey!”

“Just a moment,” she burbled, looking at her watch.

He must be in the pediatric ward or something. He closed his eyes and tried not to groan — his stomach was a wreck, and he felt bruised all over. He would not throw up on the nurse. He would NOT.

“My name is Doctor Anderson,” she said after a moment.

This was the doctor? Yoji blinked.

“We just need to run a few tests.”

Well, that much was normal. Kritiker did love their tests.

“Okay,” Yoji said. “But give me my smokes in the meantime, would you sugar?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Kudoh, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“Why the hell — I mean, how come?” Yoji asked. Kritiker couldn’t care less if he smoked, hospital or no.

“It wouldn’t be good for us, now would it?”

He stared at her blankly. “What?”

She patted his arm. “Not a good idea in your condition.”

“Condition?” Yoji parroted. “What condition?”

She sighed and pulled one of those wheelie chair stools over. He saw a stethoscope poking from the pocket of her cheerful ducky smock and a tag that read, Dr. A Anderson, Genetics, KRFHDL with her photo and a hologram thingy. “Mr. Kudoh, I’m afraid to say that we’ve discussed this before, but you were a bit — resistant to the idea.”

What idea? Yoji stared at her in horror. He’d had a nightmare in which — No. That was a nightmare. Just a new one in a string of lousy nighttime horror shows he could look forward to when he shut his eyes.

“You do remember,” she said, rather kindly. “Well, let’s check your other vitals, now, shall we?”

Yoji snuck one very tired, very achy arm under the sheets of his bed and checked. Oh god. It was real. Way too real.

His dick…was gone.

Yoji screamed.

The doctor pushed a button on the bed. Nothing happened.

Yoji kept screaming. Unlike his usual nightmares, he was able to get up out of the bed and stagger, butt revealed to the world by the terrible hospital gown and barefooted on the ice cold hospital floor.

The door swung open. Aya appeared.

“AYA!”

Aya turned to the nurse — doctor — whatever, and barked, “You! OUT!”

“Mr. Fujimiya, we talked about this and — “

“And stress is dangerous. OUT!”

She fled.

Yoji staggered over to Aya and grabbed him by the elbows. “Look, man, please. Wake me up.”

Aya patted his shoulder. “Come sit down.”

What? “Aya? Is that….you?”

“It’s me.” Aya glared his ‘I’m not actually in a killing mood but I could get there at any time if you keep this up’ glare, and Yoji went to sit down. That was more like it. He didn’t like dream Ayas who behaved weird.

“I’m sorry,” Aya said quietly.

Yoji gaped.

“They were supposed to tell you more gently, but as I understand it — “ he waved his hand impatiently. “Never mind. The important thing is you’re here, and you’re safe.”

“Where the fuck am I?”

“Kritiker’s research facility.”

“I’m in the loony bin?” Yoji asked weakly.

“No,” Aya said. He sighed and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry, Yoji. You’re in the maternity ward. You’re pregnant.”

When Yoji woke up again, Aya was sitting by his bedside, reading. Yoji stared for a while, just because he could. Aya looked tired but not upset. Which was odd, because this was a hospital and Aya absolutely loathed hospitals.

Fortunately the insane doctor and her ducky smock were nowhere to be seen.

Aya glanced up and smiled. “Doing okay?”

“I want a smoke,” Yoji muttered.

“Not on the menu anymore,” Aya said. “How about some water?” Aya poured water from a jug on the side table into a plastic cup.

“I gotta pee,” Yoji said. When he sat up, his body felt weird. In fact, needing to pee felt weird. And Aya was still weird, because he took Yoji’s elbow and helped him out of the too tall hospital bed and over to the tiny bathroom. Yoji shut the door in his face and leaned against the wall.

This could NOT be happening. Except it seemed to be.

Yoji peed and tried not to cry. He had to sit down on the toilet for crying out loud. His dick was just — nowhere to be found.

When he was done and had washed his hands he ripped off his gown and checked himself out. Yes, he had girl parts…down there. Yes, he had breasts. They were small, petite little breasts. Yoji would not really have given himself a second look if he’d checked himself out at a club. He did NOT just think that.

He peered in the mirror. Something about the line of his chin was off — it was softer around his jaw. He set one foot on the sink and tried to angle his hips so he could see his new crotch better. Clit, yes, new holes, yes.

Aya opened the door.

Yoji yelped and leaped back and nearly fell, but Aya grabbed him. And predictably, scowled.

“Hey! Private bathroom time!” Yoji said.

“You were taking too long.”

“It takes as long as it takes, man.”

Aya grunted. “Would you like some help?”

“I do not need help to pee!”

Aya rolled his eyes. “I meant, would you like some help investigating your body’s changes?”

Yoji sat down on the floor, hard. It was cold and uncomfortable. Which meant it might not actually be a dream after all. Usually his nightmares didn’t bother with minor nastiness like cold floors, and went instead for slaughtered relatives, mutilated friends, and reanimated corpses.

Aya crouched beside him. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Why?” Why was Aya sorry? It was awful, yes, but he would get his dick back. Somehow. If he had to personally strangle every doctor on Kritiker’s staff, he would.

“It’s mine.”

“What?”

Aya placed his hand on Yoji’s shoulder. What was with all this touching? Yoji liked to be touched, but Aya didn’t touch people. Ever. Aya stroked his shoulder and said, to the floor. “It’s my baby you’re carrying.”

“What?”

“I’m the father, Yoji.”

Yoji stared at him. Soft dark red bangs hid Aya’s eyes, but his shoulders were stiff. He kept stroking Yoji’s shoulder, which felt kind of nice, actually. Yoji remembered that he was naked. Maybe he should put some clothes back on. Or something. “Can I have some pants?”

“Of course,” Aya murmured. “Of course.”

Which was very not like Aya. Maybe this was a dream? Yoji hoped for a moment and then abandoned it. No.

Aya returned with a soft pair of purple pants. They looked like scrubs. Purple, for the love of god.

Yoji pulled them on and felt a little better. At least the visual evidence of his…absence was not so apparent. “Can I have a shirt, too?”

Aya blinked. “Oh. Yes. Certainly.” Then he pulled his sweater off over his head and handed it to Yoji.

“It’s orange,” Yoji said morosely.

“Most of my sweaters are orange,” Aya said. He sounded apologetic. It was just too weird.

“Right,” Yoji said. He tugged the sweater over his head. It smelled like Aya and he felt kind of better, even if he looked like he’d just stepped out of a kiddie TV program. Or possibly a reality TV show on fashion disasters.

“Um, Aya, why are you petting me?”

Aya stopped. He also looked uncertain, which was an odd look for Aya. “I — do you mind it?”

“No,” Yoji said, angling a little closer. “It’s kind of nice.”

Aya looked relieved. “Good.” He went back to stroking Yoji’s shoulder and then scooted a little so he was behind Yoji. He rubbed soft circles on his shoulders and slowly began to massage. That felt even better.

Yoji yawned and snuggled his butt closer to Aya. He felt very tired. All this pregnancy talk took it out of a guy. Also, peeing like a girl. But he wanted his question answered. “But how come?”

“How come what?” Aya asked in a soft burred voice. He shifted a bit to massage Yoji’s lower back, which ached. Yoji nearly melted.

“How come you’re petting me?”

“I told you.”

“No you didn’t.”

Aya slipped his hands under the sweater and worked at a few kinks in Yoji’s spine. If it were anyone but Aya, Yoji would’ve suspected it as a move in the seduction game. But it was Aya, and Yoji was a guy, or at least not really a girl, and pregnant, or confused or something.

When Aya still didn’t answer, Yoji looked over his shoulder at him. Aya was staring intently at his hands. “Aya, come on. You can be a cold bastard, but you’re usually straight with me.”

Aya found a knot and put his muscles into it. Bliss. Yoji’s eyes slid shut. “I told you, Yoji, it’s my baby.”

“Can’t be. We’ve never had sex. I’d remember something like that. Besides, it doesn’t explain why you’re petting me. You never pet people.”

Aya stopped massaging his back. Yoji reached behind him and grabbed his hand. Aya started up again.

“The books say — it’s very important for the father of the baby to be supportive.”

Yoji was very glad he couldn’t see his own face in the mirror, and he was doubly glad Aya couldn’t see it.

“Also, they say that when a woman is pregnant, sometimes she feels vulnerable about her sexuality and that it’s important to remind her that you do find her and her body’s changes attractive.”

Yoji turned around and peered into Aya’s eyes. “Shit. It’s really your baby?”

Aya might not touch people, but he would do anything — anything — for his family.

“Yes,” Aya said. “Masafumi had plans that involved the Fujimiya DNA and he created a potion, keyed to your DNA, and…”

“That little bottle with my name on it.” Yoji vaguely remembered a bottle labeled “KUDOH, TEST RUN #34” in sharpie marker. He hadn’t drunk it though.

“What happened?”

Aya tucked his arm around Yoji. This was just too weird. Being a girl was almost less weird than being around a touchy feeling Aya. “When Omi was investigating some computer equipment, he accidentally triggered a small explosion and you were sprayed with a compound.”

“A trap?”

“Yes.”

“For me, specifically?”

“Yes. I’m sorry Yoji.”

Yoji rested his head against Aya’s shoulder. This was too too weird. “So, now I’m pregnant. With your baby.”

“Yes. You’re also — well.”

“What?”

“Female.”

Right. Because you couldn’t get pregnant if you had a dick, and what was a little gender manipulation for a guy who used to turn people into tentacles and monsters?

“Yoji, I’ve been thinking.”

Oh good. Aya was good at planning. And he’d been awake for longer than Yoji, and he must know more about the supposed test results that Kritiker had run on him, and…stuff. Aya would have lots of ideas about how to fix this.

“Yeah?” Yoji said, hopefully.

“I think we should get married.”

Yoji stared at the ceiling of his room at the Koneko and thought about Aya. Damn that Aya.

Without looking, he picked up his stereo remote and increased the volume. Janis Joplin rattled the windows a little now. There, that was better.

Plus, it would piss off Ken, and that could only be a bonus today. Ken had given him a hard time about eating men’s bitter chocolate Pocky. For god’s sake. He’d been good, hadn’t he? He’d found something else to stick in his mouth besides a cigarette and all he got for the trouble was a lot of grief. Aya bitched about the sugar content, Omi bitched about the — well, okay Omi hadn’t bitched, but he’d looked his sad chibi-eyed look — and Ken had laughed his ass off about the type of candy. Yoji liked men’s flavor dark chocolate. Jesus.

He just could not win today.

Yoji grabbed another stick and shifted a little on the bed. His ankle was sore and his elbow. He probably shouldn’t have tackled Aya, but he’d been — what was the word? Overwrought. Yeah. Overwrought.

Anyone would be at a declaration of marriage, instead of a sensible mission plan.

Yoji knew — knew — that Aya was a little…odd about his family, but this was going too far. Come to think of it, maybe killing an entire clan for the death of your parents set a kind of a precedent, but really, killing Takatoris made sense. Marrying Yoji did not. NOT.

Get a couple of boobs and a little critter inside and suddenly, poof, Aya thought he wasn’t just Yoji anymore, he was a Fujimiya-to-be. Or something. Irritating.

It had been kind of fun to watch Aya go ballistic on the nursing staff, though. Not that Yoji would ever admit that aloud. They’d poured into the room after all the shouting. When they’d approached Yoji with a syringe full of sedative, Aya’d just taken them all down. Wearing only jeans and armed with a copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, he’d knocked out every nurse and doctor that made it through the door. Not even any broken bones. You had to admire that kind of precision, really. Not that it was sexy. It wasn’t. And Aya sure as hell wasn’t sexy. No.

The wall next to his head started to pound. Ken, protesting the volume, or maybe the choice of music. Yoji smiled and ate more Pocky. Then he turned up the volume some more.

Okay, he didn’t have his dick. He had a psychotic would be husband. He’d just been fired from his well paying night job and major personal hobby because of sexual discrimination. And he was pregnant. But he wasn’t helpless.

He wiggled his toes under the edge of his lush black, 600 thread count Egyptian cotton comforter and plotted.

Yoji’s little chat with Manx was going from bad to worse. He saw her reach below the desk top. And why? Because he demanded to know what the fuck Masafumi had intended with his little potion. He leapt the desk and kicked her chair out of reach of the under desk panic button.

She catapulted out of her chair and attacked him, which was a surprise to say the least. He hadn’t even touched her.

They grappled for a bit, kicking, punching, and fighting, then Yoji slammed Manx into the wall and wrenched her arm up and in.

Manx gasped. “Yoji! I said I can’t tell you.”

Yoji leaned in close, twisting the arm just a little harder. “It’s been days since I’ve had a cigarette, it’s been weeks since I had an orgasm, and oh yeah, my dick is history. Spill, Manx, right now.”

She squeaked. He waited.

“I thought you didn’t hurt women, Kudoh.”

“I thought you said women were ineffective fighters. Right before you fired me.”

“I just meant — desk work would be more suited to you right now. Intel’s been wanting to get you in their division for years. They figured now was their chance.”

“How come?”

“Because you’re a really good detective.” Nice way to change the subject there, Manx.

Yoji let go of her arm and took two quick steps back. Manx slid to the floor and rubbed her elbow.

“Your self defense training really sucks,” Yoji said.

She glared up at him through her absurd red hairdo. “I can defend myself just fine, thank you. You’re just — sneaky.”

Yoji rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah. Because villains are never, ever sneaky. Get some training, Manx, before the next one takes you out.”

He sat down on the floor across from her and took out some chocolate. He handed over half the bar. She took it warily. “Peace offering?”

“Bribe,” Yoji said. He bit into his. Bliss.

“Does your — husband know about your candy habit?”

“Not married.”

“Oh.”

“You sound surprised,” Yoji noted.

“It’s just that — never mind.” Manx ate her half of the candy bar in tiny, lady-like bites.

Yoji may have lost his dick, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to get delicate about food of all things. He gnawed on his, crunching through the almonds, enjoying the bite of the dried cherry bits.

“I can’t believe you attacked me,” she said finally.

“I can’t believe you let them take my dick,” Yoji countered.

“I had nothing to do with it,” Manx said, but guiltily. Oh yeah. Manx and Kritiker were in this up to their plucked little eyebrows.

Yoji finished his chocolate and thought about his options. He’d expected Manx to give him a hard time, but not this hard a time. He could dance around for a while, see if something slipped. But he was starting to get a headache, he was hungry, and he had to pee again.

Fuck it.

“Want me to tell my husband you kicked me in the stomach?” he asked finally.

All the blood drained from Manx’s face. “You wouldn’t,” she whispered.

“You’re just lucky I blocked it,” Yoji countered.

Her hands were shaking. What in the world had Aya said to them? Yoji wanted to know, badly. Maybe they were just afraid he’d lose his temper and gut them all. But Yoji didn’t think so. Kritiker would just use a SWAT team and be done with it. Even Aya couldn’t dodge a dedicated sniper.

“Look, Yoji, I really didn’t do anything.”

“Yeah, I get that,” Yoji said. “But sometimes it’s like a sin of omission. I bet you could have done something, but you didn’t. So talk. Before I call Aya.”

Manx shivered. She twisted her hands together and then tugged down her too short skirt. Why did she wear red? It clashed with her hair. Yoji closed his eyes and tried to focus. He got so damn tired after his…change that he’d lose his concentration if he wasn’t careful.

“You should really ask Aya.”

“Aya isn’t here,” Yoji pointed out. “Yet.”

“It’s just that — “ Manx stared at the ugly office beige carpet and plucked at it with one long nail. “Masafumi had this theory.”

“And?”

“And it was stupid,” she muttered. “But Esset bought it, and Kritiker….”

“Kritiker bought it because Esset bought it,” Yoji said.

“Yes.”

“What’s the theory?”

“That the Fujimiya genes are uniquely powerful.”

“You mean Ayachan?” Yoji asked.

“No,” Manx said slowly. “You know how — careless your husband can be.”

“Not married,” Yoji said automatically.

“He runs straight into gunfire, leaps off buildings, kills lots of people with that sword.”

“I kill lots of people,” Yoji pointed out.

“Yes,” she said and plucked at the carpet some more.

“He gets injured,” Yoji said.

“Not as often as he should. Not as severely. Anyone else would be dead.”

“So the Takatori dude thought Aya was special. And?”

“And he wanted to increase that special quality.”

Yoji had a bad feeling about this. A very bad feeling.

“He tinkered with Fujimiya genes?” Yoji asked.

Manx shook her head. “Masafumi was crazy, often, but he was a pretty good scientist. He knew that the genes were complicated. The abilities could have been tied to any number of — well. The best way to go about increasing the special qualities is through a dedicated…”

She trailed off.

Yoji leaned forward. “A dedicated…?”

“A dedicated breeding program,” Manx said, very fast. “Fujimiya genes are probably dominant, he thought, but he wanted to make sure that the match would be solid and at least as high in, um, desirable properties.”

“Desirable properties?”

“Yes,” Manx said. “Like dexterity, intelligence, extreme intuition.”

Yoji was staring at her. “So he thought that the Kudoh genes would be a good match?”

“Yes,” Manx sounded much too relieved. That couldn’t be good. Nor could it be the whole story.

“What the hell does that mean? They’d be a good match for Fujimiya genes but only if they happen to be girl-Kudoh? I don’t get it. Why didn’t he just try to hook me up with Ayachan?”

That would be the obvious solution.

Manx waved her hands. Her nail polish glittered. “Oh, who knows? The man was insane.”

“I thought you said Kritiker bought this theory,” Yoji said cautiously.

“They do. Sometimes, I’m sorry to say, Kritiker can be a little insane themselves.”

True. Still, Yoji smelled something iffy. “But what about — “

“Look, Kudoh, I’ll be straight with you.”

Really? That’d be a first.

Manx stared at the carpet again and he saw her fingers tremble. She laid them flat on the ground until they were entirely still, but she still didn’t meet his eyes. “You’re right, Yoji. Kritiker knew — I –knew about Masafumi’s insane theories about the Fujimiya genes, but….” She took a deep breath. “We didn’t say anything.”

“You let me in the old Takatori bolt hole, knowing full well Masafumi had cooked up some shit to turn me into a girl and knock me up with Aya’s kid?!?”

“In my own defense, I really thought Kritiker was wrong.”

“There would be no potion, and hey, extra bonus, you wouldn’t have to stick your neck out for me. Congratulations, Manx.”

Manx finally looked up. Her eyes were a little bloodshot. More out of fear of the wrath of Aya than any concern for Yoji. “Congratulations on what?”

“I won’t tell Aya about this little incident today so long as my doctor report is good. But I want a favor.”

She nodded. “What?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

Yoji stood and stalked out of the safehouse. Fucking Kritiker.

Aya scrubbed briskly at the small stains on the clay pots. If he was careful, he could reuse these in a small group planting. Lavender in the center, something short around the base. Pansies maybe, or violas, if they had any in soft violet tones. It could be a theme. He set one pot aside to soak and attacked the mineral stains on the next.

Behind him, he heard the door open. Omi, come to gather fresh plants for opening the shop.

“Omi,” Aya said, “I’ve got a new batch of the specialty roses in the cooler.”

“I’m not Omi. More’s the pity, some days.”

Aya whipped around.

Yoji slouched over to the workbench, gnawing on a partially shredded pencil.

Aya thought his heart would stop. He — she — was so lovely. All that long golden grace, the open warmth he knew he would never have himself. Grumpy from lack of coffee, by the look of it.

“What?” Yoji muttered.

What to say? Your hips are even more amazing now you’re wearing tight jeans? No, good way to get killed. How about, I can tell you’re not wearing a bra, even under the florist apron? No.

“Coffee?” Aya asked instead.

Yoji grunted.

Aya made coffee. He did not add any sugar but did pour in cream. Organically grown, hormone free, free range, double pasteurized cream. Fat was important for proper natal development. Yoji was too skinny as it was.

Yoji slurped down coffee and puttered. Yoji wasn’t as lazy as he appeared. Oh, he’d mope around and slump over the counter and laugh too loud, but he’d be tying ribbons onto bouquets while he did it, or dance happy little dances with the insane school girls while he swept. He just had so much fun, it never seemed like he got anything done.

And, of course, often Yoji didn’t get as much flower work done. He excelled at the cash register, though, and Aya never had to redo the cash receipts on the days Yoji ran the till.

Through his eyelashes, Aya watched Yoji make some simple ribbon bows, elbows braced on the table, mouth working on the elderly pencil.

Aya missed Yoji. Oh, of course he missed the other man’s scent, gone for good now. And the way Yoji’s hands could work so cleverly to tie a knot, stake a plant, or hold closed a wound for stitching. The way his eyes twinkled when he gave Aya a hard time.

Mostly, Aya missed the warmth that always seemed to surround Yoji. That golden, silly glow that warmed the old Ran inside. That made him want to snort in derision, or make smart remarks, or even cuff Yoji one on the head.

But Aya knew this was all his fault. And he felt guilty, oh yes. He wanted Yoji back — original flavor Yoji with all his faults, all his habits and addictions and smirk, and yes, dick. But mostly, under the stinking swamp of guilt, Aya felt traitorously, horribly happy.

Because right now, Yoji was tied to him. And would be, always.

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”

“What?” Aya said.

Yoji glared. “What’s up your butt now?”

Aya scrambled. “You aren’t scheduled for this shift. Omi doesn’t skip, but I’ve been concerned about Ken’s attendance lately.”

“It’s Tuesday, fearless leader,” Yoji said. He tossed the stack of finished bows into a box and got out another color ribbon. “I’ve worked beginning shift every Tuesday for years.”

Aya thought about explaining, but you weren’t pregnant then, but decided against it. Everyone complained about Aya’s rages, but Yoji was no slouch in the angry department when he wanted to be. When she wanted to be.

“You got in late last night,” Aya said quietly. “I thought you might sleep in.”

With whoever warmed your bed, he didn’t add, though it must’ve shown in his eyes, because Yoji said, “What? Are you jealous?”

“Yes,” Aya said. Because why lie?

Yoji stared. Aya seemed perfectly serious, but his life had been just a touch…weird lately and he felt it best to double check everything.

“You,” he said. “Jealous?”

“Yes, of course,” Aya said.

Yoji chomped the pencil so hard he felt his teeth mark the wood.

Aya did that thing where he looked up at Yoji through his eyelashes. Yoji’d always wondered whether Aya did it on purpose. His first instinct was no, but Aya could be tricky.

“You’re jealous,” Yoji repeated.

Aya nodded. He looked a bit feral when his bangs fell in front of his eyes like that. “Did you enjoy your time with her — or was it a man this time?”

“It was my gynecologist, actually,” Yoji said.

Aya blinked. “You’re sleeping with Dr. Anderson?”

“That ducky chick? Hell no. No, this is Dr. Anthopolous.” Yoji leaned a hip against the counter. “It’s amazing just how little I trust Kritiker these days.”

“It was really your doctor?” Aya frowned, and a glare began. “Doctors haven’t made house calls since the fifties.”

Yoji gave up. Aya was going to be difficult and Yoji just could not handle any more problems right now. As much as he’d like to gloat a little over Aya being jealous, whatever the fuck that meant, or enjoy seeing Aya being uncomfortable for a change — especially since he had to pee again — but he’d had enough trouble to last him a lifetime. Maybe if he just told Aya the truth, Aya’d go give Kritiker a hard time instead of bugging him. A guy could hope. Plus, it’d be sort of fun to watch.

“They’ll make housecalls if you pay enough,” Yoji said. He shut his eyes. He was just so fucking tired. And he’d gone to bed at ten o’clock last night. Ten! The great Yoji Kudoh, king of the night life, had fallen and then some.

“What did the doctor say?” Aya asked softly. His voice came much closer. “Yoji? Are you all right? Yoji?”

Yoji opened his eyes. Aya was two inches away, hand raised. Yoji leaped back. “I’m fine. Just, you know, tired.”

“Are you sleeping well?” Aya asked.

Yoji shrugged. “As well as ever. I’m fine.” He wasn’t a fucking invalid. He was just…a girl.

“I’ll cover this shift, Yoji. Why don’t you go lie down for a while?”

“Fuck that,” Yoji said. He strode around Aya and to the coolers. “New specialty roses today, right?”

Yoji entered the cooler. It was really cold today. He found the roses no problem. He couldn’t tell if they’d been dethorned so he crouched down by the bucket.

“Yoji!”

“Shouldn’t you be watching the store?” Yoji asked. The roses were all dethorned. Good. He could set them in some glass vases and have new stock for the –

“Fuck the store,” Aya said. “I told you I’d cover your shift. Go upstairs and rest.”

Yoji picked up the bucket by the handle, using his leg muscles to lift, just the way the doctor has shown him. “Thanks, mom, but I’m fine,” he drawled.

Aya stood in the door and of course didn’t budge.

“Aya! Move, would you?”

“No.” The death glare was slowly growing in Aya’s eyes. “Set down the roses.”

Fuck it. Yoji dropped the bucket and roses splashed all over Aya’s tidy floor. Water splooshed into the corners. Aya’s glare didn’t get worse. He just stepped away from the door frame so Yoji could pass by.

Yoji poked him in the chest. “Have you been taken over by fucking pod people?”

And then Omi popped up behind Aya and squeaked. “Oh my gosh! Look at all this water! What happened? Yoji! What are you doing here?”

“I work here!” Yoji shouted. “Has everybody lost their fucking mind?”

Omi jumped back. “Oh! I didn’t realize you guys were having a couple talk. I’ll just watch the front!”

Yoji leaned around Aya and shouted, “We’re not having a couple talk, dammit! We’re not a couple! We’ve never so much as kissed!”

But Omi was gone.

“Well,” Aya said, “that should give the early crowd something to talk about.”

Yoji kicked the dumped rose bucket as hard as he could. Peach and cream tea roses scattered across the floor. The bucket spun around and around. Yoji closed his eyes. “I hate my fucking life.”

“Did you eat breakfast?” Aya asked.

“And you!” Yoji shouted. “Quit with the food interrogation! I eat what I like! I sleep when I like! I sleep with whoever the hell I damn well like!”

Aya shut the cooler door with a click and leaned against it. The feral between the bangs look was back. “Not anymore.”

“Oh for the love of god,” Yoji said. “I got a potion splashed on me. I do not belong to you! It was an act of an insane scientist!”

Aya didn’t move. “Yoji — “

“No! I mean it.” He was tired of Manx and her games, the idiocy from the gynecologist, the insanity of his life. And Aya, standing there calm as could be, forbidding him this and that and every other fucking thing. He kicked the bucket again. Kicked over another one for good measure. “It was random! Completely utterly fucking random!”

Aya cocked his head. “Not really.”

“It was a fucking diabolical scheme!” Yoji shouted. Wham! Another bucket — this one full of those shitty low-end half assed chrysanthemums — tipped over. “Cooked up by a total lunatic! It was as random as it gets! He just picked me because I’ve
dexterity — “

“Is that what Manx said?”

Yoji took out a batch of alstrumeria with one good kick. “Hell yeah, dexterity, intuition. Some shit.”

The big buckets of day lilies loomed –

“And you believed them?”

Yoji stopped. “What?”

“You believed that explanation?”

“Uh, yeah.” Yoji looked around. Ooops. He’d really kind of wrecked the cooler, hadn’t he? It was gonna be a bitch to clean up.

Aya sighed. “I see.”

Yoji picked up the empty bucket and set it upside down. He sat down and put his head in his hands.

“I’m sorry, Yoji.”

Yoji shrugged. “Not your fault. Fucking, Takatoris, eh?”

Aya knelt in front of him. “It is, though.”

“What?”

“I think, Yoji,” Aya said, to Yoji’s knees, “that if you were a little less tired, you’d have figured it out by now.”

“Uh, figured what out? Wait!” Yoji grabbed Aya by the shoulders. “You know how to get my dick back?”

Aya met his eyes. “No. But it’s my fault it’s gone.”

Everything went a little hazy. “What?”

“I know the real reason Masafumi targeted you.”

“What? Really? Why?” Yoji asked.

Aya leaned forward and kissed him.

Aya didn’t kiss the way Yoji expected. He’d have thought Aya’d be a cold, chaste kisser. If he’d ever thought about it, which he hadn’t. No.

Yoji leaned into the kiss, felt Aya tilt his head back with those strong, callused fingers. Aya’s tongue was licking inside his mouth and he found himself leaning forward, tasting Aya right back.

Aya slid a hand behind his back, urged him forward. Yoji went eagerly. For the first time since he’d — since the — whatever, he felt good. This was it. This was perfect. He leaned into Aya and found himself tugged down onto the floor. He knelt across from Aya, water soaking into the knees of his jeans, moaning into Aya’s mouth.

Aya had a hand under his shirt, sliding up and down his spine, and that was heaven. Amazing. Almost as good as that fucking backrub. Yoji tumbled Aya all the way back onto the floor and crawled on top of him.

He tugged at Aya’s shirt. It came off easily. Thank god. And then Yoji was kissing Aya’s exposed neck, nipping at his collarbones, burying his own fingers in Aya’s hair.

Aya untucked Yoji’s shirt. Yoji ripped it off over his head impatiently and tossed it behind them. He hadn’t had any in much much too long. And they were going to get to the good part and soon.

Yoji kissed Aya, felt Aya’s mouth open, felt Aya’s tongue war against his own. And it was so fucking good. Yoji had to break off to catch his breath and used the time to try to get Aya’s jeans off.

“Yoji,” Aya said. Aya sounded pretty damn out of breath himself.

Yoji dipped down to kiss him again and finally wrenched the stupid ugly belt buckle open. Who wore those things anyway?

“Yoji,” Aya said again. “I can’t — “

“What?” Yoji muttered into his mouth.

“How do you take your bra off?”

Yoji sat up. He stared down at Aya. Aya’s lips were wet, his face flushed, his hair mussed and damp from the spilled flowers. In fact all of Aya had to be pretty wet. He was lying on wet concrete. And wasn’t –

Aya sat up and wrapped his arms around Yoji before Yoji could finish his thought. Aya kissed him fiercely and it was as good as before and Yoji tumbled Aya back down. This time Aya’s fingers went for Yoji’s own belt buckle and Yoji balanced on one arm and shimmied out of his jeans as best he could. Aya tossed them away and the jeans landed with a soft wet splat on some Gerbera daisies.

Yoji got Aya’s jeans off. Well, off enough anyway. Aya kicked them down the rest of the way and Yoji was leaning into the kisses.

It couldn’t be that hard to figure out right? It couldn’t be that different. Yoji reached beneath himself, found Aya’s fingers already there. Their fingers tangled, briefly, Aya stroking the inside of Yoji’s thighs gently.

“Yoji, we need — “

“We don’t need anything, dammit. Either I’m pregnant or I’m not. Fuck me already.”

Yoji felt Aya’s hands slide up his now fat hips, stroke all the way upwards to the stupid, sensible bra Yoji’d bought on his fucking gynecologist’s orders. Yoji lost patience. He didn’t want some kind of — he just wanted –

He grabbed Aya’s dick in his hands and held it at his entrance. He eased down on it, and it felt too much, too thick, too much, and Aya was saying something, but Yoji just couldn’t hear anything. He panted and seated himself.

When he opened his eyes, Aya was stretched out on the floor beneath him, arms above his head, fingers gripping the ledge of the fertilizer shelf so hard his knuckles were white. Aya’s eyes were shut, his mouth open, and he looked like he was about to die. Oh fucking hell, no. Not before Yoji got some, by god.

“Aya,” Yoji panted. “Aya.”

Aya’s eyes opened and he looked up into Yoji’s, and it was just as feral, just as deadly, as Yoji’d ever seen him. Aya thrust his hips up and went even deeper and Yoji groaned. It felt good, really good.

Aya moved, slowly at first, then into a solid, relentless rhythm. Yoji met each stroke, braced himself on Aya’s chest with his hands, felt all that sleek skin beneath him, felt Aya’s heart pounding, felt each solid breath Aya took.

And he was getting there — not fast, not perfect, but Aya was doing something just at the end of each thrust, and it was getting him there, and Yoji felt the slow spiral up. So different from his old body, but so good. He tried shifting the angle a bit, closed his eyes to feel it even better. There, just there, and he was going up the long slow climb towards –

Aya shuddered beneath him and collapsed, panting. Yoji stared down at him. “Did you just come?!?”

“I’m sorry,” Aya panted.

“You’re sorry? You’re sorry?” Yoji leaned down until he was inches from Aya’s flushed face and growled, “I’ve been in this fucking girl’s body for days now and I haven’t had a single, fucking orgasm, you prick. Do you know how many things I’ve tried and nothing — fucking nothing works. You jerk.”

“I’m sorry,” Aya panted, eyes half shut.

“Do not even think about falling asleep.” Yoji leaned closer. “Hey! Wake up.”

“Ng,” Aya said.

“Hey!” Yoji glared. “I was getting close — wake up.”

But Aya’s eyes were all the way shut. He had a soft smile on his face, too. Sacked out naked on the shop’s cooler floor.

Yoji crossed his arms across his not very ample chest and snarled. It was just not his day. Week. Month. Whatever.

He stood, stumbled a little. Ow. His legs were very sore now thank you and he wasn’t sure his hips had been really designed for that kind of angle or workout. He fished out his now wet jeans. Picked some flower petals off them and pulled them on.

He put his hands on his hips and glared down at Aya. Who was snoring.

Dammit. He’d been close. Just another few minutes for sure. Fine. Fine. He threw his hands up in the air and stomped off. Maybe he’d give the toys another go.

And promptly ran into Ken in the hallway.

Ken held his hands up, palms out, and backed away, mouth open. Yoji glanced down. Oh. He hadn’t bothered with the shirt. He waved to Ken and strolled past. Fuck it. Just….fuck it.

Yoji was curled up in bed with the heavy Compleat Poisoner when Aya dropped by. Yoji pretended not to see him in the doorway and shifted deeper under the covers and held the book up higher.

“Nice try, Yoji,” Aya said.

Yoji grunted and kept reading. Until he felt Aya sit on the bed.

“I’m pissed at you. Scram.”

Aya sighed. “I owe you an apology, Yoji. I know I said I was sorry earlier, but I’m afraid you didn’t believe me.” He trailed off.

Yoji tossed the book to the foot of the bed. It thumped there on a stack of others. “No shit, Sherlock.”

“I really am very sorry,” Aya said again. He hunched his shoulders. “If I’d known Masafumi — “

“Oh, is this about the whole random picking me thing?” Yoji asked, leaning back against the cushions and picking up a Tootsie pop. He ripped off the wrapper and stuck it in his mouth. “I told you, don’t worry about it.”

Aya blinked. “But — “

“I’m not pissed about that. It’s not like you didn’t do your damndest to kill that whole fucking insane lot of them. Not your fault Masafumi was batshit crazy.”

“Yes, but — “ Aya said.

Yoji pointed his Tootsie roll at Aya. “I said, I’m not pissed about that.”

“But you do seem angry,” Aya said softly. “I realize that this change must — “

Yoji tossed the candy to the floor and grabbed Aya’s shoulders. He felt Aya tense beneath his fingers but Aya didn’t move away. “I’m pissed because you welshed on me.”

Aya opened his mouth, “But I thought — I mean, you must — “

Yoji leaned closer. “This is all your fault, Fujimiya.”

Aya nodded dazedly.

“Fix it, right now,” Yoji breathed into his ear.

Aya leaned forward and closed the gap between them. Then Aya’s mouth was on his, where it felt just right, and Aya’s hands stroked long through his hair and down his back and –

“Um, guys?” Omi said. “Guys? I hate to interrupt but — “

With one hand, Aya threaded his fingers through Yoji’s hair and tilted his head back, the other wrapped around Yoji’s waist and gently guided him down on the bed.

“It’s just that Manx — well, I’ll just tell her you, um, can’t be reached, then, shall I?”

Yoji heard the door shut. Aya’s fingers were at his belt again, tugging the jeans off and down, and –

“Oh, you showered,” Aya said. Did he sound disappointed?

Yoji laughed. “Yes, I did.” And failed miserably to get the adjustable shower-head to do anything worthwhile, dammit.

Then he felt those long lovely ear tails brushing his thighs. Those fingers gripped his knees up and out, and Aya kissed him. Mouth wet and open, tongue soft. Right where he needed it.

Yoji nearly arched right off the bed. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Like that.”

Aya mouthed him gently, tongue laving right around his clit, and it wasn’t like his fingers, it was softer, too soft but –

Aya spread him open with one hand and slid the first finger of his other hand in and up and –

Yoji’s eyes rolled back in his head. Right there, right there. He felt the orgasm run through him, felt his insides clench, and it was good, so good, but it wasn’t enough.

Yoji panted at the ceiling. When he looked down, Aya was still crouched between his legs, mouth licking gently at his thighs, fingers massaging small circles on the muscles of his hips.

Aya met his gaze and lowed his head again, violet eyes gleaming feral. His fingers shifted, slippery and perfect. Yoji grabbed the covers of the bed in his hands so he didn’t yank Aya bald and gave himself up to it.

When Yoji woke up, he had his nose buried in a pillow, the room positively reeked of sex, and he felt like he’d melted. Moving was just not an option.

But something was wrong.

Why?

He’d finally come until his body was sated, finally felt the deep release inside that said enough. His back wasn’t sore, either. He had vague memories of Aya giving him another of those luscious backrubs while he drifted off.

He managed to prop himself on his elbows and peer around blearily. Oh. That’s what was wrong.

Aya was pulling on jeans.

“Hey,” Yoji croaked. Okay, he hadn’t figured himself for a screamer. Should’ve really. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Hey, Aya.”

Aya looked at him, but — disappointingly — continued to dress.

“Come back here,” Yoji said. “M’tired.”

Aya smiled. Actually smiled. “Yes. Just sleep Yoji.”

“No, come back here.” Yoji wanted to pat the bed beside him but he was much too tired. All those orgasms.

Aya approached the bed and stroked a hand down Yoji’s back. Yoji nearly purred. Maybe he did purr. His body melted into the touch by its own accord, and Yoji found himself sprawled face down on the bed all the way, stretching under those wonderful fingers. “Ayaaaaaaa.”

Aya brushed a kiss to his forehead and stood. “Just rest, Yoji.”

Yoji glared over his shoulder. “Hey!”

“I have to go.”

“Stay,” Yoji argued.

“I can’t.”

“How come?”

Aya frowned. The tension was back in his face briefly. “Manx.”

And then Aya was gone.

Yoji rolled over in bed and stared at the ceiling. Dammit. He could take care of himself. What was Aya thinking? He yawned. They’d have to argue about it very soon. Just as soon as he had the energy.

He stretched his hand out and patted the bedspread, searching for his cigs. Oh right. No smokes. His hand found his jeans and he tugged them over. Might as well get up.

Yoji padded down the stairs in his bare feet. He felt…good. Rested, relaxed, almost happy.

He moseyed into the kitchen and stopped. Ken stood by the kitchen table, eating pizza. Omi washed dishes at the sink. There was no Manx. And no Aya. Yoji frowned. “Am I missing something?”

“What?” Ken asked around a mouthful of pizza. Gross.

Actually, though, pizza sounded kind of good. Yoji flipped open the pizza box. Ken knocked it closed.

“Your boyfriend said no,” Ken said.

“You just want the rest for yourself!”

“No fighting!” Omi said. “Yoji there’s a plate for you in the fridge.”

Oooooh. Yoji opened it. There was a plate. A deep blue ceramic plate. On it, arranged in a tidy circle, were vegetables carved into flowers. And butterflies. Turnip chrysanthemums, tomato roses, cute carrot marigolds. Yoji gaped at the plate for a while. No way in hell was he eating that.

“Aya left it for you,” Omi said over his shoulder.

“Aya did?” Yoji asked.

“Yes.” Omi bustled away. “Better eat it up. Those don’t last, you know.”

Yoji didn’t know. He’d never eaten origami vegetables in his life. Or whatever they were. He finally dragged the plate out and sort of poked at it. Had Aya had it delivered from that swank grocery store? He’d been threatening to improve Yoji’s ‘nutritional intake’ for a while now. Looked like he’d made good on the threat.

He popped a carrot marigold in his mouth. Not bad. Some delicate sauce flavored it a bit. He tried a little pink and white striped butterfly next. Huh. Pretty good.

There were, hidden under a couple of cunningly cut cucumber leaves, two small dumplings stuffed with chicken.

Ken looked over and Yoji drew the plate closer to himself. Just because it was weird, herbivorous food didn’t mean he was willing to share. He found he’d bared his teeth when Ken leaned back and put up his hands.

“Hey man,” Ken said, “I already promised Aya.”

“Promised Aya what?” Yoji said around a mouthful of peach colored daikon daisies.

“Not to eat the food he made for you.”

Yoji choked. “What?”

Omi thumped him on the back. “Yoji! Be careful!”

Yoji coughed and gasped for a bit. “Aya made this?”

“Sure.” Ken shrugged. “He’s pretty good with a knife.”

Yoji stared at the plate of flowers. There were only three left. Probably the purple beet and white daikon irises had been intended as garnishes. Yoji ate them anyway. Huh. It was odd to think of Aya cooking. Very, very odd.

“Where did he go anyway?” Yoji asked. He’d been completely distracted from his original purpose by the siren call of food. Yoji propped his elbows on the table and shoved the plate back lazily. He’d have to thank Aya properly. Mmmm. That would be fun.

“Europe, maybe,” Ken said.

“Ken!” Omi said over his shoulder. How many dishes could one kid do? “It was not Europe!”

“Boston’s in Europe, isn’t it?”

“Boston is in the states!”

“Aya went out of the country?” Yoji no longer felt lazy and sated. He felt almost worried. No. That was his hormones talking.

“That’s what he and Manx agreed on,” Omi said.

“Probably another private job,” Ken said. “He’s got a family on the way after all.” Then he snickered.

Everything got a bit blurry after that. Yoji wound up back in the hospital for stitches on his knuckles — twelve of them, dammit, and on his good hand, too. Ken kept himself scarce for a few days. When he re-emerged, he still had a shiner. Omi got a chance to wring his hands and nag. Only Aya missed out on the fun.

After a week, Yoji went from being worried to being pissed. When a second week passed without a word, Yoji went from pissed to depressed.

Yoji glared at the contents of his closet. He wanted to go out and be appreciated by someone of the opposite gender. Or same gender. Or, whatever. By someone who would not mind that he was a girl, basically.

He was pretty certain that Aya was gay. He’d never seen Aya kissing a guy, but the one time he’d spotted Aya in anything even remotely resembling date-like clothing, he’d been eating dinner with a blond dude in a local upscale restaurant. Since Aya did not do friendship, Yoji figured they were fuck-buddies. Well, and there had been significant eye contact going on.

Which meant that Aya liked guys. Yoji’s own view was that sex was awesome so why limit yourself? But he was pretty sure that Aya, unlike himself, had strong preferences in such things.

Which meant that Aya had, well, probably been humoring Yoji. Or doing what he felt was the right thing. It’d be just like Aya to decide that they ought to get married and devote the rest of their lives to each other just because a Takatori slipped him potion. Dumb.

But nobody claimed Aya was sanity-central when it came to Fujimiya genes. Not even Aya.

Being pregnant with a Fujimiya made Yoji an honorary Fujimiya in Aya’s eyes. And that was that. Gender preferences be damned. Do the right thing. Blah blah blah.

It was just…fucking depressing.

Yoji knew he wasn’t the hottest woman out there. He knew women. He was a fucking connoisseur of women. So he knew his hips were fat, he was getting a bit of a belly, his boobs were too small, and his hair was…kind of out of fashion for a girl.

But dammit, he wasn’t terrible.

Not terrible enough to leave the country over.

He tried on a pink tank that had fit last week. He didn’t like pink, but he’d looked hot in it in the store. And it was more magenta than pink. Of course, now it made his belly look pudgy. He whipped it over his head and tossed it towards the hamper. The green tank failed to show off his eyes, the blue one showed off his bra straps, and the shelf-bra tank was not supportive, no matter what the tag said.

He rooted around in the back for guy clothes. He’d liked it when women wore his shirts. Maybe…but no. They all sucked. His new boobs just did not fit and after he ripped the seams of his favorite cropped turtleneck he gave up. He stole quietly into Aya’s room. If Aya hadn’t wanted him in here, Yoji figured, he’d have locked the door before he left. Right?

And Aya had a lovely stash of sweaters. Mostly hideously orange, okay, but still. Yoji stole a fetching green one. It covered his belly and was tight on his hips, but he didn’t care. He pulled on his brand new pair of three inch heeled boots.

Better, much better.

Then he added his watch, a couple strokes of eyeliner, and pulled his hair back with a new hair band thingie. They were all the rage this season, he hated having hair in his eyes, and his body didn’t like shades the way his old one did. Possibly because he spent a lot less time hungover.

Yoji bounced down the steps and out of the Koneko. He was bored, bored, bored. And he was not waiting for anyone, dammit, especially not for Aya I’m Doing The Right Thing For My Family And Becoming A Paid Killer For Them Even Though They Didn’t Ask Me To.

He sniffed and walked to the bar all his ex-girlfriends had raved about. He’d avoided it like the plague because it served wimpy drinks and had purple leather barstools. But it was a place to start. Maybe he could hook up with one of them. He cheered a little at the thought.

Bars, Yoji reflected as he leaned his elbows on his tiny table and tried to rest his sore feet, were just not as much fun sober.

They smelled, for one thing. Stale perfume, grease, really tacky aftershave, not to mention spilled beer, stale wine, and vomit. Gross. Really gross. He’d had to leave the first bar because he nearly hurled when he used the ladies. Bleh.

The tonic and lime he’d gotten was flat. It tasted nasty. It had a zillion empty calories. There’d only been two lousy ice cubes and they were already melted. He shook his glass morosely and hoped someone would hit on him.

Not, mind you, the assholes bellied up to the bar. Or the skeezy guys flocking the barely legal girls at the big corner table. Or –

“Hey, sweetheart.”

Oh fuck. Not that guy again. He had grabby hands and he smelled. Yoji was not desperate enough to succumb to a barfly like that. He just wanted a little harmless flirting, maybe some ego-boosting conversation, ideally from someone who understood the basic social conventions.

“Not interested,” he said firmly into his drink. He made no eye contact, didn’t even turn. “Please go away.”

“Awww, come on, sweetheart. Let me buy you a drink.”

Gross hands wrapped around him. Yoji felt his stomach pitch. Always tetchy lately, his stomach was not fond of the bar scent and rebelled at the guy’s beer breath. He curled his hand into a fist and knocked his elbow straight back into the asshole’s gut. “I said, I’m not interested,” he said.

The guy crumpled to the floor. “What a bitch!”

Yoji closed his eyes. Couldn’t he even have a nice, quiet little non-alcoholic drink?

The guy leaped up and the barman came around the bar, and Yoji expected it all to be settled. Two minutes later, he was being ushered out the door. He’d been 86’d. He hadn’t even punched the asshole. And the guy had started it. What did they expect, that he’d let some random weirdo grope his breasts? He didn’t even grope his breasts. Too bloody sore.

He slouched down the street, more depressed than ever, and kicked hard at a passing blowing newspaper. What a shitty day. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a shadow detach itself and begin to follow him. Oh, wonderful.

Yoji shut his eyes and hoped the day would miraculously change.

He stepped more quickly and dodged into an alley. Maybe the person would pass on by. But the shadow came into the alley.

“I’m armed,” Yoji said loudly.

“Glad to hear it,” Aya said.

Yoji gaped at him. Aya was wearing a dark trench coat and a charcoal suit. His ear tails were gone. He was wearing dress shoes.

“What the hell happened to you?”

Aya waved his hand dismissively. “Are you all right?”

“What?”

“Are you all right, Yoji? Did that — person hurt you?”

“In the bar?” Yoji said. “What about him?”

“Did he hurt you?”

“Oh. No. Not really. What are you doing here? Did you follow me from the bar?” Yoji didn’t remember seeing him there. And he’d sure as hell remember this Aya, oh yes. Drool worthy clothes. Fine wool suit. He even had a watch on. Yoji angled his head, trying to figure out what kind. Bulgari, maybe?

Yoji realized he’d lost track of the conversation again. “What did you say?”

“I said,” Aya repeated patiently, “that if he hurt you, I’d be happy to go back and gut him.”

“No,” Yoji said absently. “I don’t think he did.”

“If you’re not certain, perhaps I should just in case,” Aya murmured.

“What?” Yoji reached out his hand and stroked it down the lapel of the suit. Yes, very nice wool indeed. Soft. Also, Aya smelled nice. Not bar-like at all. He couldn’t have been in there very long.

Aya smiled, and his eyebrows crinkled the way they did sometimes when his sister was teasing him mercilessly.

“Let’s go home, Yoji.”

Yoji stepped closer, stroked his hand down the fine silk shirt, tugged a bit on the tie, breathed in the scent of clean Aya.

“Yoji.” A hand held him at his waist. He ignored it and leaned up to kiss that too red, too delicious mouth.

“Yoji, we should wait,” Aya murmured.

Yoji rocked back down. Oh. Right. He closed his eyes. “Sorry,” he muttered.

A hand skimmed into his hair and tugged off the band that held it back. “Don’t be sorry.”

Yoji turned and stomped out of the alley. He felt Aya follow behind him, silent as a cat with those leather soled shoes.

Aya skipped up until he was striding next to him and Yoji tried not to be surprised that Aya would be skipping. When Aya grabbed his hand and tucked it into his coat pocket, as close as could be, Yoji stopped.

Aya just raised an eyebrow.

Yoji glared at him. Aya’d run away to another country to get away from him. And he was gay. So he hadn’t enjoyed the sex, because Yoji was a girl, even though he really was a man. Or something.

“Is something wrong, Yoji?”

“Never mind,” Yoji muttered.

“What were you doing in that bar?” Aya asked quietly.

“Getting out of the fucking house.” Yoji started walking again. He tried to tug his hand out of Aya’s coat pocket but of course it was useless. Aya had his hand and wasn’t letting go.

“I hate being a girl,” he finally burst out.

Aya nodded.

“Thanks for fucking agreeing with me,” Yoji snarled. “I know you’re gay, dammit.”

Aya stopped. Turned. He frowned at Yoji. “I’m not gay, Yoji.”

“Are too.” With a great deal of effort, Yoji wrenched his hand out of Aya’s grip. Maybe Aya just let him do it.

Aya sighed. “Do you remember the part where we had sex?”

“You can have sex with a girl and still be gay.”

Aya shrugged. “Maybe. You’d know more about that than me.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

Aya pinched his nose. He looked tired. “It means you’re more experienced than me, Yoji.”

“Are you saying I’m a slut?”

Aya threw up his hands. “I’m saying you’re always telling people that you are a sex expert. Expert on sexuality. King of the bedroom.”

Queen now, Yoji thought grumpily. Or would be, if he ever got any. He crossed his arms on his chest and glared back.

“Yoji,” Aya said. “Where did you get the idea that I’m gay?”

Yoji sniffed. “I saw you.”

Aya looked confused. “Saw me? When?”

“With that guy,” Yoji said. He realized he was speaking through clenched teeth and tried to relax his jaw. “At the Manhattan Club.”

“Oh.” Aya blinked. Then he blushed.

Yoji leaned forward, almost amused. “Ha! You can’t deny it!”

Aya blushed some more and stuck both hands in his pocket. “You’re right. I can’t deny it. But I can explain.”

“Ha!” Yoji said again. “Yeah, right!”

“I’d rather not talk about this here.”

Yoji smiled bitterly. “You’d rather not talk at all.”

Aya raised his hand over his head. What? Yoji turned. A cab pulled up to the curb. Aya tugged on Yoji’s hand. “Get in. We’ll discuss this at home.”

Yoji got in but he poked Aya in the chest. “Hey,” he hissed, “just because I’ve got indoor plumbing now doesn’t mean you get to treat me like a girl. I expect a full and detailed explanation, pronto, with no bullshit.”

Aya nodded and then kissed him.

Yoji shoved him hard in the chest. “What’s with you?”

Aya leaned in again. “I missed you.”

Yoji scooted over to his side of the cab. He pointed a finger. “Stay over there. I mean it.”

Aya looked amused. “Of course, Yoji.”

Yoji crossed his arms and stared through the windshield all the way back to the Koneko. When Aya reached for his wallet, Yoji snarled. Fortunately for Aya, he just shrugged. Yoji paid the cabbie and stalked up the stairs.

He stormed into his room and tried to slam the door shut. Aya, of course, had already slipped inside and shut it. Typical.

Yoji flopped back onto his bed and put his arm over his eyes. This was not his day. Aya sat down beside him.

“Why were you there?” Aya asked quietly.

“I told you, I just wanted to get the fuck out of the house.” Yoji felt sort of defeated. More than sort of. Tired. Worn out. Aya was a force of nature, and Yoji was going to get blasted down like a too weak tree in a hurricane.

“Did you have a drink?”

“Of course I had a drink.” Yoji sat up. Aya was staring at his hands. “But I didn’t have a drink. What do you take me for?”

Aya sighed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No kidding.” Yoji flopped back down and put his arm over his eyes again. “I hate my life.”

“I’m sorry,” Aya said.

“I told you to quit that. I don’t want your apology for some random Takatori shit. Fuckers are insane. So drop it already.”

He felt the bed shift a little, but didn’t hear Aya move. Soft fingers brushed his shoulders. Tugged gently. Yoji rolled over and buried his nose in the pillow. He grumbled, but quietly, when Aya raised the sweater and set to work on his back. Long soft strokes at first, then deeper kneading, loosening the kinks in his back, his too tight hips, his aching calves and sore ankles.

Yoji was blissed out. Pissed, but comfortable. That was Aya for you. He yawned.

“I never got to explain what I meant,” Aya said.

Yoji groaned. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“I know you don’t.” Aya shifted his weight and sat on Yoji’s butt. He heard Aya toss the trenchcoat aside, felt Aya lean forward and go to work on his sore shoulders.

“Ng,” Yoji said.

Aya found the spot on his neck that had seized up and not let go since Aya’d gone…wherever. Yoji moaned.

“You weren’t a random target,” Aya said.

Yoji groaned. “Not again.”

Aya plowed on. “Masafumi — “ hatred dripped from his voice, “was very observant of my…tastes.”

Yoji stared blearily into his pillow. “What?”

Aya sighed. “He picked you because he thought I would be — well, more likely to continue what he’d begun.”

Yoji tried to roll over. Aya held him still and worked on the tense bits around his jaw. “I can’t think when you do that,” Yoji said.

“It’s all right. Just relax.”

“What the hell did you mean?”

Aya’s fingers finally stilled. “Masafumi knew I would be willing to have — “

Yoji did roll over. He stared up at Aya, whose eyes were closed. “You’d be willing to have what?”

Aya remained silent. Perfect.

“What, Aya? Sexual congress? Give me a break.”

“Children.”

“What?”

“He knew I would be willing to have children, with you.”

Yoji snorted. “Aya. You have a thing about family. You’d never hurt your kid, no matter the mother. Father. Whatever.”

Aya shook his head. “No, no, Yoji. I mean, I would be willing to have children. As in more than one.”

Yoji’s mouth opened. Nothing came out. He closed it. “You’re insane.”

Aya shrugged. “Yes, very likely.”

“I mean — psychotic.”

“Yes.”

“You think I’d be a girl — I mean, pregnant, whatever — more than once? Throwing up? I have to pee all the time! And I’ve even read that when you give birth, they have to — I mean, no way.”

Aya just shrugged.

Yoji closed his eyes. “Masafumi figured out you’d like kids.”

“No,” Aya said patiently, “Masafumi figured out I’d like to have kids with you, idiot.”

Yoji began to laugh. “And he couldn’t find a girl you’d like, so he had to do it the fucking hard way?”

Aya just sat there, motionless. Yoji really missed the eartails. What had Aya been thinking of, cutting them off?

“See! I told you!” Yoji said. “Gay, right?”

“Kudoh-sexual,” Aya informed him primly.

“You…but what about the blond guy?”

Aya leaned forward and kissed Yoji. It was good. Very good. Yoji’s muscles already felt all melty from the backrub and now Aya was caressing the inside of his mouth with his tongue and doing wicked, wicked things with his fingers. Aya broke off the kiss.

“He looked sort of like you,” he gasped.

Yoji blinked. “Really?”

“No. That’s why I dumped him.” Aya kissed Yoji again.

Yoji got impatient with the kissing. It had been months — well, weeks, anyway. “Get this suit off. Right now.”

“Yes, Yoji.” Aya disrobed one-handed. He used the other to caress Yoji’s face. Yoji let him.

“Masafumi picked me for the potion because you had the hots for me?”

“Mm-hm.” Aya went to work on Yoji’s pants. Then he had to stop and take off the boots. “These are new.”

“How do you know they’re new?”

“I’d remember these,” Aya said.

“You have a shoe fetish?”

Aya skimmed his hand down Yoji’s underwear and tugged it off.

Yoji tried to help by tugging off the sweater, but Aya stopped. “No. Leave it.”

Yoji grinned. “It’s yours.”

“I know.”

Aya kissed him, long and low. It felt amazing. Yoji lost himself in it, felt normal for the first time in weeks. Better than normal. “Aya. Please.”

Aya licked his ear. Oh god.

“Will you — “ Yoji gasped. “The thing — “

“Whatever you like, Yoji.”

Yoji grabbed Aya’s hips and rocked up, bared his neck for Aya’s kissing and bites. “The thing — with the tongue.”

Aya disappeared down the bed. Yoji felt his mouth right there. Wet, open, seeking. And a finger, two fingers. Stroking, right there. Perfect. His whole body spasmed. “Ngh.”

He heard something faintly.

Yoji blinked. His ears were sort of…ringing. He sat up a little. “What?”

He watched Aya’s mouth move. He set his head back down on the pillow and listened to his heart pound. Oops. Too much orgasm.

After a little bit, he heard Aya again. “Yoji?”

“Sorry.”

“Mmm,” Aya said, but he didn’t sound upset. He sounded smug.

God it was good to be a girl some days.

“Thank you,” Aya murmured.

Then he was kissing Yoji. Yoji recognized the taste and gasped. Himself — except, different. He wrapped his arms around Aya and then wrapped his legs around him for good measure.

Aya rocked his hips and Yoji felt the tip of his cock. “God, yes. Aya. I need it. Now.”

Aya kissed him into the pillow and slid in, one long steady slide. He slid out again, thrust in hard, no warning except for his tensing biceps. Yoji shivered and bit his neck, felt Aya’s control start to slide as his rhythm went a little wild. “Yes,” Yoji hissed. “Missed you.”

And Aya pounded hard, reckless, shook for one last minute, and collapsed, heavy as anything right on Yoji. Yoji grinned into the red hair and felt a little smug himself.

Aya curled up a little closer. Yoji’s breathing was deep and soft. His eyelashes made soft fans of honey gold against his cheek. Aya leaned on one elbow and watched him sleeping.

Yoji’s jaw was subtly different. Aya didn’t think it was because he was a woman now; Aya was pretty sure it was a recent change. The line was a little softer, the edge of the jaw rounded a bit.

Aya tugged the blanket down a bit, so he could see better. Yoji made a cute little snuffling noise and snuggled deeper into the pillow. He grumbled and shifted. Aya slid the blanket down more.

Yoji’s shoulders were sleek with muscle. He could see the wings of the shoulder blades, the biker tat on his bicep, but it was as though everything were done lighter. Not softer, not really. The muscles were more slender, less defined. The hair was as soft as always, and Aya couldn’t help himself. He stroked Yoji’s nape, exposed that little arrow of hair, played with the strands.

Yoji sighed in his sleep. Aya brushed his fingers deeper into Yoji’s hair, stroked the strands back from his forehead, massaged around his ears. The earring was still there. Aya made a note to himself about it, but kept going, easing Yoji oh so gently onto his back. Aya rubbed long strokes down Yoji’s collarbone, a little under his armpits, stroking the lymph glands the way the books suggested. Yoji remained dead to the world, completely out of it as only orgasm induced slumber seemed to make him.

Aya smiled quietly to himself. He laid his hand over Yoji’s still smooth belly. The abs weren’t six pack anymore. Now they were a gentle female curve, rounding into wide hips. He stroked down and back up. Yoji’s breasts were just as gorgeous as they’d been when he’d first set eyes on them. The same creamy gold as the rest of his skin, with dusky rose nipples, wider now than they’d been at first. A bit heavier, not quite so much like those poetic firm apples. No, rounder, hanging lower with gravity. Aya weighed one in his hand, curbed his thumb over the top. Yoji shifted a little.

Aya glanced up. Green eyes watched him sleepily.

“What?” Yoji asked. His voice was low and relaxed.

Aya shook his head, but he didn’t remove his hand.

Yoji shrugged his shoulders deeper into the pillows. Then he raised one lazy hand and tugged at Aya’s hair. “I can’t believe you cut your ear tails.”

Aya laughed. It was such a Yoji thing to say. He leaned down and kissed Yoji’s nose.

“I mean it,” Yoji grumbled. “I liked them.”

“They had to go. Undercover,” Aya said.

Yoji sniffed. “Just registering my sartorial disapproval.”

“Noted.”

“You checking me out or something?” A line formed between Yoji’s eyebrows.

“Yes,” Aya said. He thumbed Yoji’s nipple again, dipped down to kiss Yoji’s breast, open mouthed and wet, licking with his tongue, sucking a bit. Yoji gasped and grabbed his hair and Aya backed off.

“Shit.” Yoji said. “Sorry. Just — ” He shook his head.

“Too sore?” Aya asked.

“No.” Yoji leaned up on his elbows, looked at his own breasts. “Too weird. I’m a girl.”

Aya shrugged.

“That doesn’t bug you?”

“No.”

“You prefer me that way?”

Aya raised one eyebrow. So far Yoji had skipped all the hormone-induced terrifying emotional outbursts the books talked about. “I prefer you any way I can get you.”

Yoji rolled his eyes. “Yes, I got that speech already, thank you. A straight answer would be nice. No pun intended.”

Aya leaned down and kissed Yoji’s lips this time, open mouth, and with lots of tongue. He leaned into Yoji’s ear. “I can’t believe you’re pregnant.”

Aya nibbled at Yoji’s earring. Tomorrow, he was going shopping, for certain. Yes. “I — like that.”

Yoji jerked back, startled. “What, that I’m pregnant?”

“Oh yes.” Aya leaned in again, licked at the ear. “Very much.”

“You have a thing about this?” Yoji sounded positively horrified.

“Yes,” Aya admitted. He licked down the line of Yoji’s ear to his jaw. “Your jaw is softer. It’s the pregnancy. So lovely.”

Yoji sat up and Aya was disappointed to see him, her really, pull the blanket over his lap. Yoji reached behind him for something on the bedside table, scrabbled with his hand for a minute. “Fuck, I forgot,” Yoji muttered. “I don’t smoke anymore. Fuck.”

Aya looked down. He knew he was making Yoji uncomfortable. He hadn’t expected that. Yoji was so sexual — in every way — that Aya hadn’t really thought about anything about except how much he’d love to have a lapful of warm, eager Yoji when he got home. He should’ve known it wouldn’t be that simple. It was never simple.

Yoji shoved a stick of fruit flavored gum in his mouth and chewed aggressively for a minute, all the while staring at Aya. Finally he said, “You really do like it.”

“Yes.”

“Huh.” Yoji spit out the gum and stuck it to the bedpost. “It really doesn’t bother you.”

“What doesn’t?”

Yoji waved his hand at himself, herself. Poked his own breast. “The boobs. And stuff.”

Aya shook his head.

“They’re getting weirder,” Yoji said.

Aya cocked his head. “In what way?”

“Squishier.” He glared down at them. “Not so perky.”

Aya just leaned forward and nuzzled at Yoji’s chest. He felt Yoji smack him lightly on the back of his head. Then Yoji tugged him up. Aya closed his eyes for Yoji’s kiss. Yoji was such an amazing kisser. Not that Aya had kissed very many people. But it was probably not standard to lose brain cells. Yoji shoved him backward and Aya went gladly. Yoji was on top of him, squirming a little, kissing into his mouth, making those sounds.

“Did you just whimper?” Yoji asked.

Aya leaned up and licked Yoji’s jaw.

“Guess that means you did,” Yoji said. He didn’t look concerned anymore. Aya was glad. He liked his Yoji sleepy and dangerous.

Yoji grabbed Aya’s hair and held him still. Aya let himself be kissed. He found himself wrapping his legs around Yoji’s back, trying to tug him close.

Yoji breathed the words a few inches away. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were begging to be fucked, Aya.”

Aya heard himself whimper.

Yoji grinned, then the smile turned wry. “Sorry about that, baby. I don’t have the right equipment anymore.”

Yoji bit his neck and Aya closed his eyes. He ran his hands down Yoji’s hips, felt that round swell of hips, the lovely lush ass, wrapped his legs tighter and angled them, arching his own hips up. “You could get some,” Aya panted.

Yoji quit biting his neck, so Aya tugged him even closer. When that didn’t work, Aya opened his eyes.

Yoji was staring at him, wide eyed. “What?”

Aya shivered and looked away. “Never mind.”

“No….” Yoji said, drawling the word out like it went on forever. “I don’t think so. Are you saying you would like me to?”

Aya shut his eyes and shivered some more.

Yoji kissed him, gently at first and then full tongue, holding his hair too tight, using his teeth on Aya’s lips in quick, gentle bites, until Aya was panting. Then he stopped. Yoji licked his ear this time, and then sat up. “I’d dearly love to fuck you, Aya.”

Aya stared at Yoji. Yoji sat on him, with Aya’s dick nestled against his ass, comfortable as though he was sitting in an armchair. “You would?”

“Oh yes.”

Aya blinked. He could feel himself blushing. “I like you very much the way you are, Yoji.”

“Yeah, I get that.” Yoji crossed his arms on his chest. It looked a good deal sexier with the breasts than it used it to without. “But I used to be a guy. Fucking is…me fucking you.”

Aya nodded. “I fell in love with you, when you were a man,” he said quietly. “I would love — I always wanted…”

Yoji nodded. “Yeah, but then came the Takatoris and poof, no more Yoji-dick.”

Aya nodded, dazed.

“But not today, baby.” Yoji hopped out of bed.

Aya sat up in confusion. “What?”

“I’m starving.” Yoji picked up some pants from the floor and tugged them on. “Shit. Do you have any idea how much of a pain underwires are? Jesus. Who the fuck invented them? Torture devices, I’m telling you.”

“Perhaps…some without the wires?” Aya suggested, at a loss.

“No. The ones without are worse, if you can believe it.” Yoji whipped the inside out bra around his chest at lightning speed, clasped it, whirled it around and tugged the straps up. “Aya! Come on, I’m dying here.”

Aya searched for his own pants. While he looked, Yoji tossed a pair of black pants at his head. He caught them. They seemed a bit short.

“Aya. Before I keel over.”

Aya tugged on the pants. His flagging erection was obvious and the pants ended at the knees.

“They’re capris,” Yoji said impatiently. “Food, Aya. Now.”

If this was the Kudoh version of mood swings, it was a major improvement over the descriptions in the pregnancy books. He picked up his wallet and keys and ran out the door. Yoji was just disappearing down the stairs. Sex, it appeared, was off the menu at the moment.

“Hey Omi,” Aya heard faintly from down the hall. “Is that fruit stand open nights?”

Aya sighed. The fruit stand wasn’t, but the specialty grocery with the organic produce might be. Good thing he’d made a comprehensive list with locations and hours of major cuisines and where to find them and stuffed it in the glove compartment, just in case.

Yoji stared morosely at the packages on the shelf. He had his hands stuck firmly in his pockets. He hoped he could keep them there. Still…. Cherry. Vanilla. Clove. Menthol, but he wasn’t interested in that shit. Marshmallow and jasmine and yerba santa. Those sounded pretty innocuous.

He sighed. Aya would gut him. If he found out. But the boyfriend was gone again, ninja’d into the night after supper last Thursday, hadn’t been heard from since.

Manx knew where Aya was, but she wasn’t telling.

Yoji picked up a package, read the contents. This one was mostly rose petals. Yoji couldn’t stop himself from snorting. Safe, yeah right, what with the shit the floral trade doped the roses with to keep them alive. He set that box back on the shelf.

But vanilla. That sounded good, actually. Tasty, almost. The cherry was positively calling his name.

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

Yoji jumped. He still wasn’t used to being addressed as a girl. Much less a ma’am. He grinned at the speaker, used the old Kudoh charm and sparkled his eyes, showed off his dimples.

The short woman in the blue polyester store uniform frowned at him, uncharmed. “They still contain carbon monoxide.”

Yoji blinked. “What?”

She looked down at his stomach, which was still mostly flat for gods sakes, and back up into his eyes. “The herbals. Not good for your baby.” Her lips pursed. “Or you, for that matter.”

What, did he have a sign posted on his forehead? Pregnant and thinking of doing evil?

He must’ve been scowling because she just raised her eyebrows at him. “You can bring them to the counter, sweetie, but I don’t have to ring you up.”

“Hey!” Yoji said. “Maybe I’m buying them for a friend.”

She just walked away, turned a corner, opened a cold storage door and pulled something out. She returned. Handed it over. He stared down at the small container in his hand. ‘Healthy mom shake!’ it proclaimed in cheerful letters. ‘Chocolate flavor! With over twenty vitamins and minerals for the health of your baby — and you! Satisfies without guilt!’

“This cannot be my life,” Yoji said.

“On the house,” the woman said. “Trust me, the craving’s worse if you’re standing in front of the cigarettes. They sort of call out to you.”

Yoji fled before he got any more input from random strangers. Sometimes he wondered if Aya’d hired local people to keep an eye on him while he was out of town. Yoji wouldn’t put it past him, except that when he went out of the city to test his theory, strangers offered him their seats on the bus. He fucking did not glow.

“Omi!” Yoji shouted. He’d been holding it together. Just another few hours of this mess and he could be on the road, eating up the blacktop, wind in his hair. “Omi!”

Omi popped out of the kitchen, looking worried. “Yoji! Should I call a doctor?”

What was with everyone? He wasn’t deathly ill. For chrissakes. “Where the hell is the car?”

Omi cocked his head. “What do you mean?” He kept on wiping the dish he held in his hand with a dishtowel.

“The Porsche!” Yoji shouted. “You know, white? Belongs to Aya? Costs a fucking fortune? Has a goddamn top unlike some cars I could name that are cooler, even if they don’t have exactly the same crash test — “

“Oh,” Omi interrupted him. “They should have delivered the other one already. Maybe it didn’t fit in the garage.”

Yoji stopped ranting. “What?”

“Aya called and said they’d deliver it today. And you know, take away the old one. He traded it in.” Omi seemed blissfully unconcerned.

Yoji stared at Omi. Omi just did not have the sneakiness the rest of Weiss had. Well, not mostly. Not about this sort of thing anyway. He hoped. “Aya had a new car delivered?”

“Sure. Another Porsche. Keys in the kitchen.”

Oh. Huh. Well. All right. Yoji trodded into the kitchen, determined to get in his quiet, Sunday afternoon drive even if it was Tuesday. He had a six o’clock appointment with the doctor and he couldn’t be certain he’d still be allowed near a steering wheel after that. The doctor was getting difficult about risk taking behaviors. Probably Aya had been talking to him. Long distance.

If only Aya had been talking to Yoji. Aya’d managed to call everyone — even Ken — on his cell, but for some reason, when Yoji called Aya, it went to voicemail. No matter what the time.

Asshole.

Yoji found the familiar black tabbed key with the leather fob and rearing horse shield, except newer and shinier, hanging on the key rack. He went out the door and to the side street. They hadn’t parked it in the garage, because probably the delivery guys were afraid of dinging such a new –

He stopped. Then he pulled the cell phone from his pocket and pushed speed dial. When he got voicemail, he said, “Fucking pick up, Aya. I know you’re screening your calls. The fuck is the matter with you? Bait and switch the 928 for a fucking minivan? That’s low even for you. And not answering your phone? Even lower, man.”

Yoji closed his eyes and stared at the blackness. He tried to dredge up something. Righteous anger. Bewilderment. Amusement, even. All he had left was crushing exhaustion. Not the car. Come on. Couldn’t any part of his life remain the same? Or even, you know, remain not horrible?

“I want a divorce,” Yoji said finally into the dead silence of the voice mail recording on the cell.

“Yoji?”

Yoji dropped the phone and spun around. Aya stood at the mouth of the Koneko alley, looking concerned as hell.

“Yoji are you all right?”

Yoji threw the car keys straight at his head.

Aya caught them in one hand. He paced forward slowly. Yoji knew that walk. It meant Aya was still in mission-mode, ready to kill anyone and everyone. Aya glanced up at the fire escapes, eyed the end of the alley. Checking for possible targets, looking for enemies.

When he didn’t find any, because hey, the only dark beasts around here were them, he turned to Yoji.

“Is something wrong with the new car?” Aya asked.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Mission,” Aya said. He stepped closer, one hand outstretched.

Yoji stepped back. “Right. Great. Perfect. I got that from Manx already. For some unknown reason — hey, maybe because I am pregnant with your goddamn baby and we’re sleeping together — I thought I might get details. But oh no. Turn into a girl, get kicked from the team, and poof, no more security clearance.”

“Yoji — “

“Because we all know that only Y chromosomes can keep a secret.” Yoji rolled his eyes and stalked away.

A hand grabbed his arm. “Yoji,” Aya said softly.

Yoji turned around and slugged him. Aya’s head popped back, but he didn’t let go of Yoji’s arm.

Aya shook his head a bit to clear it, and soft red hair shimmied in the alley like rubies.

“You cut your hair!” Yoji said. “Again!”

Aya tugged Yoji a little closer, but Yoji dug in his heels. Oh hell no.

“It was for the mission,” Aya said softly. “I — “

“Oh the fucking mission. It’s always the mission isn’t it?” Yoji kicked very low and hit Aya on the vulnerable join of ankle and foot.

Aya grunted and stepped into Yoji instead of back. They wrestled. Yoji kicked with abandon, drove a fist right where Aya ought to be, hit dead air, and spun forward and around. Aya flowed into him, and it was just like always. They were sparring, feet slipping a little on the gravel, moving into each other and away. Yoji felt awake again. Alive and good. He nearly laughed at the feeling. Aya almost caught him on the chin, but he threw his head back. When Aya retreated, Yoji stepped forward, into him, beckoning with one hand, grinning.

Aya’s eyes gleamed and shone with that fierce light he got when fighting. Not with Ken or Omi, but on the floor, out in the world, or sparring with Yoji. Yoji loved it. The brick wall of the Koneko was only a few feet away and Yoji took his chance.

He flowed into Aya’s space, turned them around with an arm hold, let Aya hook a foot behind his knee, twisted, shoved, and wound up exactly where he wanted to be.

Leaning straight into Aya, who was plastered back to the harsh brick wall. Yoji leaned up, grabbed a fistful of too short, ruby red hair, and tugged Aya’s face down. Then he was kissing Aya, inhaling him, getting that taste, scent, Aya-essence. He groaned, loud, into Aya’s mouth.

Hands crept up his back, braced him. They tried to turn him.

“Nuh-uh,” Yoji gasped into Aya’s mouth. “My turn.”

Aya made a soft keening sound. Yoji just tugged harder on the hair, and Aya melted. It was harder than it should be, Aya’s was taller now, and Yoji too short, for a proper good fuck against the wall, but Yoji thought he could manage just fine, if he –

“Um — hello?”

Yoji ripped hard at the stupid belt Aya was wearing. What idiot in his right mind wore belts? “No more belts,” he panted, as he unbuckled it.

“Ng,” Aya agreed, and tilted his hips into Yoji’s hands.

“Uh, guys?”

Yoji got the belt undone, slid the tab out, went for the button –

“Yo, Aya!” A voice shouted from about two feet away. “Did you know your girlfriend’s got her hand down your pants in a fucking alley?”

Aya arched his neck. He looked positively debauched, and the way he rhythmically thrust his hips into Yoji’s hand just made it that much sweeter.

He opened his eyes and violet gleamed like fire. “Fuck off, Ken. Or I’ll gut you.”

“Sheesh. Try to do a guy a favor and — “

Yoji tuned him out. He slid to his knees and tugged the fly open. Then Aya’s cock was in his hand, his mouth was on him, and he was in heaven. Aya’s hands slid down through his hair to clutch at his shoulders. He slumped against the wall within seconds, gasping, hoarse-voiced chanting softly under his breath a litany of “Yoji, Yoji, Yoji.”

Yoji licked a bit of come from his lips and stood. Aya’s eyes were shut, his face open the way he only got after a solid bout of sex. He was still making soft noises, coming down from it. He touched Aya’s cheek, and Aya started a bit. Heavy lidded eyes met his.

“Get my car back, Aya,” Yoji said quietly.

“No,” Aya said and closed his eyes again.

“I can’t take much more of this,” Yoji said. “I mean it, Aya. Get my car back.”

“No,” Aya repeated. “Won’t.”

“It’s very important to me,” Yoji finally said. “I need a car.”

“Not that car,” Aya said, sex-voiced and slow. “Not Seven. Not the 928, either.”

“Yes, Aya,” Yoji said.

“No.”

“I hate to interrupt this charming reunion,” said a voice about a foot behind them. “But Abyssinian, you owe me your — “

Yoji had Manx against the wall with a knife at her jugular. “Hey,” he said. “So nice of you to drop by.”

“Should you really be dropping your guard to have sex in any alley, Yoji?”

“Who said I dropped my guard?” He pressed the knife point in, just a little, above the vein, so a long slide of blood trickled down her neck. “And leave Aya the hell alone. He doesn’t belong to you.”

“And he does to you?” Manx pursed her absurd little bow shaped lips. When had he ever found that sexy?

Yoji pressed the knife in a little, too angry to answer. Fucking Kritiker, they never learned–

“Yes,” Aya purred. “I do belong to Yoji.”

He stood up from the wall and buckled his belt. Then he came and looked over Yoji’s shoulder. His breath was very warm on Yoji’s neck, soft little breeze, wafting gently at the hair around his ears.

“What were you thinking, Manx, sneaking up on Yoji like that?”

“It was a test,” Manx said. Her eyes were so wide her eyeliner cracked.

“I think you flunked,” Aya said. “Yoji, I brought you some things from the trip. Want to come inside and see?”

Yoji lifted the knife a little, Manx surged forward, but Yoji just moved the knife so it pressed against her breastbone and she slumped against the wall again. “Remember what I said when we talked before?”

She shivered. “Which part?”

“All of it.” Yoji stepped back and Manx slid down the wall to sit on the alley pavement, getting grime all over her little red dress. He tossed the knife so it clattered next to her. He grinned. Then he stuck his hands in his pockets, and went after Aya, whistling.

Aya took the stairs two at a time. Sex did make him cheerful. He yanked the door to his room open and heard Yoji treading the stairs behind him. Yoji’s footfalls sounded different. Not wrong, but off, subtly. Aya pulled the duffle from under his desk and sat it on the bed.

Yoji sat down on the bed and flopped back. He had dark circles under his eyes. Aya paused in opening the duffle. Kritiker had said — but when had Kritiker ever done him a truly good turn? Aya sighed. Yoji was slowly relaxing, his breathing deepening; Aya could see the soft rise and fall of his chest, hear the clearer sound of his breathing since he’d quit smoking. Aya zipped the duffle shut and set it on the floor. He’d let Yoji sleep. But when he set the duffle on the floor, he must’ve shifted the bed, just a little, because Yoji jumped and sat up.

“I’m ‘wake,” he muttered.

“It’s all right,” Aya said. “Go back to sleep.”

“Can’t.” Yoji yawned so wide Aya could see his tonsils. “Doctor. Also, we were having a fight. Remember?”

Aya leaned against the desk and smiled. “After that? No.”

“Car, Aya.” Yoji flopped back down and stared at the ceiling. Aya came and sat beside him. Ah. He’d hoped, sort of, that the sex meant the argument had been set aside — at least for a while. He sighed.

“I can’t let you drive the Seven again,” he said.

“Let?!” Yoji was up and in his face in a second.

Green eyes blazed, two inches from his own. “Let? I’m not yours to fucking let! The Seven is MINE, dammit, and I only authorized you to send it to the refit place, not fucking — “

“Poor choice of words,” Aya murmured.

“No shit,” Yoji said, heating up more. “The Seven is still my car!”

“Yoji,” Aya murmured. “Yoji, please calm down a — “

“Don’t you fucking tell me to be calm,” Yoji hissed, climbing into Aya’s lap.

Well, this was certainly…different. Aya was torn between tumbling back with Yoji on top of him, kissing Yoji senseless, and dying of lust.

Yoji gripped his shirt. “I mean it,” Yoji went on.

Aya realized he’d sort of lost track of what Yoji had been saying. That was bad. Yes, the sex was marvelous, and maybe he could have some more real soon, but he was not budging on this point.

“No,” he said simply.

Yoji’s eyes widened and he took a deep breath. He leaned in, ready to blast Aya or possibly just throttle him.

Aya knew he only had one chance. “Irefusetoloseanymorefamilytocaraccidents,” Aya said.

“Oh.”

Aya opened his eyes. When had he closed them? He realized he was shivering and he couldn’t meet Yoji’s eyes. He looked at Yoji’s hands clutching his shirt instead. Yoji’d taken to wearing some sort of beautiful tiger-tail bracelets and carved rings on each finger. The thick silver was in innocuous shapes: flowers, fleur de lis, stars, but all of the shapes were sharp and pointy and would make a nasty cut if Yoji slammed his hand into someone.

Aya toyed with one shaped like a butterfly. He thought it was tacky. The flaming sun was tackier, though. Who thought this was attractive jewelry? He sniffed.

“Aya.”

And that one. Was that a sea turtle? No…it was a sea turtle and a little, baby sea turtle.

“Aya, baby, look at me.”

Aya looked up, reluctantly.

Yoji wasn’t angry any more, or he didn’t seem to be. He cocked his head to the side and smiled, a little wry. “You don’t want me to risk the baby,” he said softly.

Aya went back to examining Yoji’s ugly rings. An elephant? Who made rings with elephant heads on them?

There was a long pause, then one of the be-ringed hands tilted his chin back up. Aya turned his face away, but Yoji just grabbed his chin and forced him back. “That’s it, isn’t it?”

“I won’t risk either of you,” Aya said finally. What else could he say? “We — I — Not again.”

Yoji nodded slowly. “I see.” He tapped Aya on the nose. “And you — what about you?”

Aya frowned. “I gave up both of our cars, Yoji. You won’t need to worry that –“

Yoji rolled his eyes. “Hello, Aya. Professional killer. As occupations go, it has kind of a high fatality rate, don’t you think?”

“Oh, but — the missions aren’t that bad.” Aya shrugged. “It’s no trouble and we do need an income.”

“If you think I’m giving up the cars without a fight, you are very much mistaken,” Yoji said.

He leaned forward a little more. Aya drew him close, felt those delicious breasts brush against him, but Yoji winced back almost at once.

“Sore?” Aya murmured.

“Forget it.” Yoji scrambled off his lap and was across the room before Aya could stop him. Aya got slowly to his feet and prowled a little closer.

“Hey!” Yoji held up one hand like a traffic cop. “I mean it.”

His voice was stern, but the shivers, little squirming, and the scent of arousal had told a very different story. “It’s only fair,” Aya said. “I got my homecoming. Don’t you think you should have one, too?”

He leaned into Yoji; Yoji turned his head to the side and panted.

Aya smiled.

He let his hand toy with the hem of Yoji’s shirt. Kissed Yoji’s gold earring. They would really need to open the –

“No, wait,” Yoji said. He sounded out of breath.

Aya leaned back. “Why?” He didn’t mind stopping for his own sake, but Yoji seemed much more comfortable if they enjoyed each other sexually, and he was certain Yoji was still a bit uncomfortable about the situation, and could be deterring him for reasons Unfounded and based on more idiotic notions, not to mention hormone induced insecurity.

“Doctor,” Yoji gasped.

“What?” Aya stared at Yoji, totally non-plussed. He’d certainly heard that some doctors told their patients to abstain, but this –

“Appointment,” Yoji gasped. “Can’t — “ He waved his hands. “Some kind of — not supposed to — “

“Oh, of course,” Aya said. He stepped back. It was rather difficult. Yoji looked almost debauched, hair tousled, leaning against the desk, face flushed, panting.

“Perhaps a distraction until after the appointment?” he offered.

“What a good idea,” Yoji said. He pounced on the duffle bag and dragged it onto the bed.

Aya resisted the urge to yell at him for lifting things.

Yoji had it open and the presents lined up in a row. Aya was glad he’d had them all wrapped in the stores and not waited until he got home.

Yoji was ripping the bows off; when he couldn’t get one open he gnawed at it with his teeth for a second. Then he sat on the bed and pulled up his boots. Aya wasn’t surprised to see him pull another knife from his boot. But he was surprised to see Yoji delicately cut off the wrapping paper with it. He blinked.

“What?” Yoji muttered. “Don’t tell you me don’t save it?”

Aya just shook his head.

“Besides, this is really cool paper.”

“Thank you.” Aya’d found he had wanted to choose the wrapping for the presents himself. It was stupid, and he knew Manx’s airport security would freak, but he didn’t care. He’d liked the soft, green Italian ivy pattern. He thought Yoji might, too. Yoji would deny all he wanted, but he had the soul of an artist. He just hid it behind obnoxious flirting and absurd fashion.

Yoji set the paper aside and stared at the box. He lifted it to his ear. “Can I shake it?”

“What?”

“Is it breakable, Aya?” Yoji was giving him the you are so dumb look.

“No, it’s not breakable.”

Yoji shook it hard and it rattled, just a little. “Hmm. But maybe I should open this other one. It’s got even prettier — hey!”

Aya stuck that one back in the duffle. They were not opening that one yet.

“I was going to open that!”

“After the appointment,” Aya said.

Yoji looked murderous. And Aya should know. He’d seen Yoji kill plenty of people with just that expression on his face. “Aya — “

“It’s — I’d rather save it for later,” Aya said.

Suddenly Yoji sat back on the bed and grinned. “Did you know you’re blushing?”

Aya glared.

“It’s cute. The way you blush.” Yoji picked up the first unwrapped box. “But, if you insist, we’ll wait. As soon as the doc has vamoosed, I’m opening it, so get over it. Hmm.”

Aya had to look anywhere but at Yoji when Yoji opened the box. “Huh,” he heard him say.

At least it wasn’t an unhappy ‘huh’. Aya glanced up.

Yoji had the small black velvet box balanced on his palm. “It’s not a ring, right?”

Aya shook his head.

“Hm.” Yoji popped it open. “I never was any good at waiting — Aya!”

Aya leaned closer to get a better view of Yoji’s face. “Shit, Aya, what the hell?”

Yoji just stared down into the box. Maybe they’d been a mistake. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.

“There’s only one.” Yoji sounded a little puzzled. “Because you know I only have one pierced?”

“No,” Aya said. “Because I have one pierced.”

Yoji’s head whipped around. His mouth was open and the box dangled from his hand. “You would change your earring?!?!”

Aya nodded.

“For me?!?!”

Aya nodded again.

“Because I’m — “

Aya leaned forward and plucked the earring off the little velvet backing. “Because I love you.” He added a glare.

“Oh.”

Yoji blinked for a bit.

Aya reached forward and brushed Yoji’s hair aside. It was so soft, caramel gold and longer than last he’d been home. Yoji must not have gotten it trimmed. He carefully removed the simple loop and set it aside. Then he slid the post in, attached the back.

“Is it too heavy?” he asked.

“Weighs a fucking ton,” Yoji muttered, “and no wonder, considering the size of the rocks. Aya what the hell were you thinking?”

The rose looked very beautiful in Yoji’s ear. The way the drop fell, with the second rose, and then the pearl. He smiled. “I like it.”

Yoji rolled his eyes. But he looked pleased. He shrugged his shoulders a couple times, then waved his hand at Aya and coughed. “Um, your turn?”

Aya nodded. He’d kept the other one in a separate box. He handed the box to Yoji, who looked at it. He gave Aya a thoughtful look and set it on the bed. He knelt forward and removed Ayachan’s earring. Aya’s head felt too light. He knew his sister had barely noticed the earring, but he’d never been able to take it off. Too precious. Even when Ayachan was fine, getting into trouble, and skipping homework and –

Yoji’s clever fingers slid the new earring’s post in. He attached it, and clipped it tight. Aya’s head felt different. He tried to hide his expression, but his bangs were too short.

Yoji chuckled softly. “I told you to stop cutting your hair.”

Aya looked up. Yoji touched the new earring with one finger and Aya felt it tremble, swing a little. It was heavy. But it was a good weight. The metal had been cold from the box, but Yoji had held it in his palm before attaching it, so it was warm. Warm and heavy.

Yoji’s smile was soft, wry, and warm. “I like it.”

Aya nodded. “Me, too.” And kissed him.

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