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First time Aya and I had sex was in an alley. It's funny how I couldn't help saying "first" when so far it's been the only time and it might never happen again, but I had hopes. Sometimes, I had hope. Kudou Yoji: incurable romantic.

Like hell.

Our mission had gone bad, and we'd been split off from Ken and Omi, running for our lives from a bunch of guys who shouldn't have been there. Running around had been our modus operandi at the time since Kitten in the House had been shot to hell and Kritiker hadn't decided where to put us yet, so we'd all been edgy anyway.

Both of us bloody from our kills, Aya and I found an alley to hide in. To my surprise, he covered my body with his a bit against the wall, trying to make us a smaller target or something. It seemed almost chivalrous, which would give anyone a laugh, but it gave me kind of a nice feeling to think he cared about something, maybe even possibly me. It had been so weird to see him talk with such feeling to Sakura as he thanked her for protecting his sister from Schwarz and the elders, the ice prince nowhere in sight.

I could talk about nice emotions and stuff, but with the two of us pressed against the wall, hearts pounding, breathing hard, tense and waiting, adrenaline pumping, still buzzed from killing, I could hear my dick talking a lot easier than my heart or brain. So close to me, he smelled of sweat and blood and leather and metal, and I wanted to lick him. I wanted to taste him. Wanted him for such a long time.... I couldn't believe he stayed with us now that his sister had woken up and he'd gotten his vengeance.

Even better, I could feel him hard against me too, which got rid of any ideas of me being deluded about him.

When people stopped running around past the alley for a while I finally couldn't wait anymore. If I had to get punched, I wanted it to be worth it. I grabbed and pushed him against the wall, then kissed him and fumbled with the fasteners on his coat. He struggled in some confusion for about half a minute before he got on board with the whole sex train, kissing back and scrabbling at his coat and then his pants himself, undoing it much easier than I did, letting down his own defenses.

Going down on my knees, sucking him down completely while his hips bucked and his gloved hands pulled my hair... it only seemed to take seconds to get here, where I'd wanted to be for years. When I looked up I saw him biting his lower lip to try to keep in the sounds he wanted to make and saw his eyes half-closed in helpless pleasure. It was all too fast, really, but I couldn't help feeling vitally alive on my aching knees in this stinking alley in near darkness with him melting against me while people with guns could come back at any time. I could almost come like this. His fingers clenched harder in my hair as he came, murmuring my name, and I swallowed him down.

Once I finished, I stood up to press him against the wall and nuzzle a bit, still not satisfied but also wanting to see if he'd try to hit me once the afterglow faded. I had great cocksucking talent, but Aya was a species of one, uniquely weird. But he just leaned against me, breathing hard, and softly asked, "Yoji, what can I do for you?"

It nearly killed me. I'd kind of figured that if he did let someone touch him, he'd get off and then leave. Having a tiny bit of sense left about where we were and how bad the situation could be if anyone came back, I whispered, "Hands. You could use your hands," and quickly undid my coat and pants.

I've gotten more skillful handjobs than what he gave me--he seemed inexperienced--but the enthusiasm and care he showed made up for a lot. His sword calluses did things for me too.... Besides, with how hyped and sensitive I felt from the situation, setting, and company, I didn't need much help getting off. So good.... At least I had enough brains to aim for the wall instead of messing us up more than we already were.

For a while we just breathed together. Then Aya whispered, "What the hell was that, and if you say 'sex' I'll hit you." He didn't look angry, just dazed, as he refastened his clothes.

Good idea, one that I followed. Chilly night out here. "That wasn't sex?"

"You know what I mean. Why now--"

Our headsets came on about the same time with Omi nervously asking our status and telling us to come in. Area cleared. It saved me from having to answer questions right at that moment.

Actually, it saved me in the car too as we drove back because Aya spent most of the ride in the shotgun seat looking dazed and thoughtful. Nice look on him. This Aya silence I didn't mind at all.

Once we parked, Aya said, "I liked it," leading me to another near death moment as I realized I had no idea what I'd thought to do with him next. I'd wanted him for a long time and liked him when he wasn't being an asshole, but what came next? I hadn't exactly planned the alley thing. He took on a wry and somewhat annoyed look, then opened the car door and went into the safe house we'd been staying in.

It doesn't sound exactly ideal, but I remember it as one of the last few good nights any of us had. Because the next morning we got our new orders and new cover. We'd be florists with a mobile business traveling Japan in a very small trailer. We asked our handlers several times if they really meant that, because it made no fucking sense.

Killed whatever I'd started with Aya and stopped him from asking me about it pretty quickly though, because living within the team inside that trailer went hellish fast. The trailer was small, way too small. I remember Aya getting into one of the bunks and trying to fold himself so he'd be comfortable. Omi, Ken, and me had laughed at first watching him until we began to see what a giant problem Aya and I would have trying to sleep when we were too damned tall and long to fit the sleeping compartments. Ken and Omi ended up with bunks while Aya and I switched between the couch and the floor because, unfortunately, the couch wasn't big enough for two people even if they were very friendly with each other. Having eternally aching backs didn't make either of us any easier to live with. We all got to hear each other having nightmares and erotic dreams and learned to ignore any nighttime moaning or writhing as too fucking embarrassing to be woken from or talked about later.

The four of us going from city to city killing people, never putting down roots, always traveling, left us adrift. Being in each other's faces with no space left us on edge. We fucking lived in each other's pockets and started hating each other for always being right there even as we four needed each other right there because we were the only thing we had.

Omi tried to be more cheerful, but it got to looking very brittle very fast. Ken's usual boisterousness wore on all of us, so his temper started getting more hair-trigger. Aya's initial thoughtful and nearly affectionate looks toward me after our alley night became ever more remote to me and the rest of us as he put up layers of internal distance, as if he fought to give himself some sense of personal space inside his head that our living conditions refused to give us in real life. Walls of ice. He gave that to all of us, but it hurt me more, not that I had any right to complain when I bitched and snapped at them as much as they did at me. Besides, I worried that someday he'd go so deeply inside himself that we'd never be able to find him again. I tried to see it as encouraging when he went out for long walks, because maybe if he stayed outside he would be able to decompress for a while.

The missions kept getting worse and worse, sicker and sicker, bam bam bam, one right after another with no breathing room. We'd all come out feeling bruised and disturbed from the one where we had to pretend to slaughter each other to make the trap look good. Each new version of Persia seemed to be crazier and less reliable than the last one. Manx was killed, Birman committed suicide with Aya's gun after being tortured.... It seemed like almost everyone on any team Aya had been on before us turned up and turned out to be murderous and insane, and then his katana was destroyed. The replacement from Kritiker worked well enough, and Aya professed its balance and quality to be good, but I knew it couldn't be the same. I also knew Aya felt deeply uneasy about Omi getting closer to the Takatori family. Ken seemed to be enjoying the killing too much, and me....

Well, I was returning early to the trailer after another date in which I had to fight the temptation to strangle the woman I'd been with. Fuck, I felt tired and dirty and disgusting. I'm supposed to fucking protect women, not do... this sick shit.

We were all falling apart. If Kritiker didn't reel us in soon, we'd be as bugfuck and uncontrollable as... most of the members of Aya's old teams. We couldn't keep living like this.

When I let myself into the trailer, I was surprised to see that the couch was empty. Aya refused to take the floor when he knew I'd be out with someone, and I could be bitchy about it but couldn't really blame him. At least, I didn't blame him inside. Outside, I bitched about it like we all bitched about everything.

"You might as well take the couch," Aya said softly somewhere in the near darkness. "I won't be using it."

I didn't like the sound of that. I fumbled in the dark until I found the edge of the tiny table we used for our tiny kitchen. "Turn on the light."

"Didn't want to wake Omi and Ken." His voice sounded dead.

"How long have you been sitting here?"

"I don't know. Yoji."

I'd turned on the little light, not caring if Omi and Ken lost a little sleep. Looking bone-tired, Aya had his bangs in his face and a teacup clutched in his hand. He wouldn't look at me or let go of the cup when I tried to get it away from him, and cold tea slopped over the edge onto my fingers. How long had he been sitting here staring into darkness and pretending to drink?

We definitely couldn't keep living like this.

"You weren't supposed to come back so early." Then he looked at me and said, "You look like hell."

"You're one to talk. Get a jacket. We're going outside."

That sparked some life in him. "You don't command me."

"Aya, please."

Somehow the "please" reached him as I hoped it would. "All right. Let go of me."

I did that and let him get a jacket and shoes on. He went outside on his own with me behind him. A nearby streetlight gave us a bit of weird color in the night.

He shivered a little in the breeze. We'd all been getting thinner out of tiredness and disgust at trying to cook in the trailer. Although we ate out now and then, it felt kind of pathetic. Listen to us, all giving up.

I missed his long earring. One night when things weren't so bad and we had a quiet moment together, him on the couch and me on the floor, he confessed to me that Kritiker had told him that his sister would be safe and under protection as long as he stayed away from her. If they left together, Kritiker couldn't make any promises about their safety from the enemies Aya had made while in their employment and insinuated that maybe parts of Kritiker itself might be part of the dangers. He said he couldn't bear to wear it anymore and see a constant reminder of what he could never have. Kritiker needed killing so badly, but who knew which members to take out?

"Was it a nightmare?" I asked when I got tired of the silence.


"Give me a line here, Aya. Please."

"What? I should confess just because we... once...." He closed his eyes and pushed his hair out of his face. "Yes. It was."

"Tell me about it?"

"It's stupid."

"It bothered you, so I want to hear about it. Besides, our nightmares are special."

He snorted. "Special. Yes, we're such special people...." Once he got going, the details came out fast and dry, a recitation to get it over with. "I was in the dark, walking on unsteady objects that squelched wetly beneath my feet. I seemed to be walking on piles because my feet didn't touch the floor. Finally I found a wall and felt my way along it until I reached a doorframe. Groping found me a doorknob, but one set so much lower than it should have been. It felt sticky, and something flaked off onto my bare hands. I felt sticky too. When a light came on, I wasn't too surprised to see that I stood in a room filled with bloody corpses and body parts in several stages of decay, with my body and clothing smeared with their fluids, and I knew they were my victims." He put his arms around himself. "And I knew that I deserved to be there with them like that."

Shit, I needed a cigarette. "I've had some a little like that, yeah. You get that one a lot?"


"You ever think that our lives are being run by sick morons?"

At that, Aya almost smiled. "I've thought that for years. I've been vocal about it."

As he was about few things. "I've had enough of that shit. Tomorrow we talk to Omi about getting us the fuck out of here. We're falling apart."

"You catch me in the aftermath of one nightmare and figure I've become a danger to myself and others so Weiß must be recalled?" So much pride and insecurity mixed in there. Sometimes I could read him damned well.

I managed not to say anything about how it's not always about him and instead answered, "I'm becoming a danger to myself and others too, all right! Ken too. Sometimes I think he'll snap and kill us all one day."

"...oh." He looked so lost and young that I wanted to hold him.

"Do you want to keep living like this? I don't. Nobody deserves this, Aya. Nobody."

"Not even us?" His mouth had that small, dark, bitter twist I hated to see.

"Not even us." Then I did hold him, and once again he only fought from instinct for a moment before letting me, his heart slowing and calming the longer I had him. I didn't figure I deserved sex after my little show earlier, and he seemed way too tired anyway, but I could hold him. In fact, I could hold him without feeling even the slightest urge to put my hands around his neck and squeeze. That was so damned precious. I nuzzled his soft hair, tea-scented this time, and sighed in contentment. It had been getting longer and I liked it. He murmured something that sounded like "They say you never forget...."

I didn't hate him or want to push him away, and he seemed to be in a reciprocal mood. We had peace and space. He was here, with me. This was how things should be.

But even the fuzziest moment had to end sometime. My ass was freezing out here, and he was shivering too. "Let's go back to bed, then tomorrow we tell Omi to tell Kritiker they're wasting their resources. How 'bout it?"

"It sounds like a plan. I think I could sleep now."

"Good." I let him go. As he went inside, something nagged at me. "What you were saying. 'They say you never forget' what?"

It might have been a small smile that crossed his lips as he said, "They say you never forget your first," and closed the door to the trailer in my shocked face.

I'd taken Aya's virginity after an assassination mission in a dirty alley as a quickie blowjob? Shit.

Then again, he didn't seem upset about it.

When I walked into the trailer I saw that he'd turned out the light. And taken the couch. "Dammit, Aya."

That might have almost been a laugh in the darkness. Not that he got off the couch, the bastard. But as I settled down in a nest of blankets and pillows on the floor his hand ruffled my hair.

"If I'm around," I said, "I'm getting the couch sometimes."

"When you're around. But we're not staying here much longer, are we?"

Yeah. I smiled.