Aya saw the sword descending towards his head and threw himself to the side, letting his body's survival instincts take over. The blade whistled through the air millimeters from his ear; he flipped backwards, his own katana at the ready, hoping to strike before his attacker recovered and end this quickly.
The first flaw in this plan came when his body somehow shifted and he fell gracelessly out of his somersault, landing on his ass.
His opponent, one of Minobe's bodyguards, looked surprised-- as well he should, considering he should have been holding his guts in his hands by now. Aya growled, leaping to his feet--
And immediately toppled over again, tripping over his boots and seemingly his own body. The bodyguard started to snicker.
This would not do.
Aya pushed himself up, more carefully this time, ignoring the way his shirt pulled oddly across his chest and his belt had settled lower, along with his pants. Whatever had gone wrong could be dealt with after the mission. Right now, he had to kill Minobe, and to do that he had to get past the bodyguard.
He braced himself, gripping his katana with both hands, facing the bodyguard who for some reason wouldn't stop grinning, and found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
The bodyguard's face twisted into a sneer. "Think I won't shoot a girl?"
Aya frowned, confused. And then a flash of light arced out of the air, wrapping around the gun and yanking it away. The bodyguard yelped, his hand scored by the wire, and Aya lunged forward and buried his katana in the man's gut up to the hilt.
And, once again, lost his balance and sat down hard.
Yoji rushed in. "What's wrong? Are you hurt holy God you've got tits."
"What are you talking about?" Aya growled, pushing himself to his feet. "Are you high?"
Only when Yoji's eyes widened even further did he realize that his voice was a full octave higher than it should have been.
Slowly Aya looked down at his chest. Two loose lumps of flesh strained against his tight shirt where there had been no flesh before.
With a growing sense of dread, he slowly slid his hand down the front of his pants, ignoring Yoji's fascinated and horrified stare.
Nothing there, just a smooth curve. Aya stopped his downward motion before he could really shock himself. Or sexually harass himself.
Aya closed his-- her-- eyes and said fervently, feelingly, "Shit."
He didn't open his eyes when he heard Yoji calling Omi, his voice sounding strangely choked; he was too busy trying to disappear into the ground.
Omi ran, though he kept an eye out for any guards that might still be around. Yoji had sounded so strange.... Omi nearly skidded past the right door.
Yoji was smoking like a chimney, sucking on his cigarette as if his life depended on it, but he stood upright and seemed uninjured, just disturbed. Aya stood too, but he stared at the floor and seemed somehow... diminished. Please let Aya be okay. Aya had his arms crossed over his stomach, under his-- under his--
Breasts. Breasts large enough to seriously strain the fabric of Aya's shirt.
"What happened?" Omi asked.
"Hell if we know," Yoji said.
Aya glanced up, looking miserable and confused, then returned his eyes to the floor. He was beautiful. Still beautiful, but beautiful now in a different way. It made Omi's heart turn. Omi had loved Ouka, but Aya affected him on another level... not that he expected anything to ever come of it, not when he was verging on 18 but looked 12. Aya no doubt saw him as a kind of younger brother and might not even be capable of being attracted to a guy.
But those breasts were.... How could Aya be so large while being so thin? Then again, what with the whole turning into a woman thing, the size of Aya's breasts was hardly the strangest part. Not that they were freakishly large. They looked really nice. Really nice.
It was a good thing that Omi had come to terms with the fact that he was attracted to both men and women ages ago, or he'd be even more screwed up looking at Aya now than he already was. He glanced at a probably traumatized Yoji and hid a smile.
But what was he thinking? Aya needed help and support. Being Aya, he'd never think to ask for it. Thus, Omi had to just give it.
He wanted to touch Aya's arm with a comforting hand but didn't know how the gesture would be taken, so he just said, "We're cleaning up now, so we're almost ready to go. We'll get back home, figure this out, and fix it, Aya. Don't worry."
"Thank you, Omi," Aya answered softly, his voice different as well. Amazing. And disturbing.
When Ken caught up and took a good look, he was obviously bursting with the urge to say something but stayed silent. Good thing for him, since if he'd said something stupid, Omi would have decked him. Yoji would be bad enough once he got over the shock, but no one could govern Yoji's mouth. Not even Yoji.
For a long time no one spoke, not during the ride, not when they reached the trailer. Omi said only the raw minimum over the connection as they tried to reach Manx. Once Manx, via their video connection, saw Aya, she went silent too. Aya was scowling at his now too large boots, avoiding the others' curious stares.
After sitting in their mission room for a while, Aya finally muttered, "This is the stupidest power ever." Talking might be better than brooding. At least it would be different.
"Yeah, pretty much," Ken said.
Omi, eyeing Aya, said, "I think it's cool."
Yoji shook his head. "So you're sure it's a power, Manx? Like the kind Schwarz have?"
"Well," Manx said. "Not exactly."
Ken snorted, and Yoji said, "Tell us the truth, Manx. Did you have any idea that Aya was going to turn into a werewench?"
Aya's head snapped up, eyes already narrowing in betrayal.
"Not a clue," Manx said quickly. Aya wasn't convinced. "Kritiker doesn't deal with this kind of thing. We've only recently seen that such powers exist."
"Great," Ken said. "Weiß finally gets a power, and it's the power of feminine wiles. That's a help."
"No, this is good!" Omi protested. "If enemies are trying to seduce Yoji, Aya can turn into a girl--"
Yoji interrupted, "--and flash his rack at me! That's brilliant!"
Yoji rolled his eyes. "No sense of humor."
"None at all," Aya snapped.
"Nice rack, though."
Aya growled again, then asked, "Will I change back, Manx? Am I--" He hesitated. "Am I stuck like this?" He didn't want to think that far ahead, but he had no choice.
Manx spread her hands. "I'd be inclined to say it's temporary, if only because we don't know of any power that only works once. But Aya, we've never seen something like this before. You're in uncharted territory." She paused. "What were you doing when you changed?"
Aya really wanted to get out of his shirt, but he knew he couldn't do that here without earning further annoying comments from Yoji. If only his-- the breasts would stop swaying for a moment. How the hell did women live with these things?
"Nothing. The usual," Aya said irritably. He bent to take off his boots and stared at his smaller feet.
"Killing people," Yoji supplied.
"Did you feel anything?" she asked.
"No," Aya answered, then shook his head. "This isn't getting us anywhere."
"It's important to figure out what happened," Omi said.
"With any luck, I'll wake up tomorrow as myself again."
"If we're not lucky?"
"You know, like usual?" Yoji added.
"Then we figure out what we do next," Aya answered. "Right now, my clothes are all either too tight or too loose, and the thought of killing you all is looking very attractive, so I'm going to bed."
"Aya, avoiding this won't help," Omi said. Omi meant well.
Omi was very lucky that Aya's physical changes made him more likely to trip over his own feet than succeed in hurting anybody. "This won't be 'avoiding'. This will be 'sleep'. In the morning it might become avoiding."
"I would have thought that being a woman would make you calmer and more nurturing," Yoji said.
"Being a eunuch might do the same for you. I'm game to find out."
"Whoa, Aya." Ken grabbed him and received two handfuls....
"They're so there! I didn't aim for them!"
Aya shook him off and said, "I'm going to bed before the situation degenerates further." He stalked out, certain that they'd talk about him while he was gone. After all, they'd talked about him while he was there.
"I just had a terrible thought," Yoji said. "Aya on the rag."
Aya was definitely better off away from the room.
He showered the blood and sweat off as quickly as he could, unwilling to touch himself more than he had to. He didn't look down. Being like this felt like being mutilated and being forced to molest some poor girl at the same time. The bizarreness of his situation was just starting to hit him. With the life he'd led, he'd thought he could take pretty much anything in stride, but this... was just too weird. He didn't have words. And everyone was treating it like just another problem to solve, or worse, take advantage of. Oh, Aya's a girl now. How can we work with this?
Fuck, Yoji was right about the breasts. They were huge.
Yoji would have shot himself soon after realizing that his dick had disappeared.
Aya didn't let himself wonder where his had disappeared to.
Nothing fit, so Aya wore a large T-shirt and no underwear to bed. To his bunk, really. Living in this damned trailer, he didn't even have a room to himself to hide in, so he put his pillow over his head to block out the sound of the murmurings from the next room.
Tomorrow he'd be a man again. He concentrated on it. It would be so.
When Aya woke up, his arm brushed one of his nipples through his shirt and sent waves of feeling coursing through the wrong places, lower and deeper. "Fuck," he spat. He was still a woman, and he was apparently horny, and he was in no way prepared to deal with either.
Relieving himself was a nightmare. Now he really understood castration anxiety. At least this body knew what it had to do and did it.
Everyone else had already woken up-- the other bunks were empty-- so Aya could be alone while gathering clothing to try to face the day with. He settled on boxers that were held up partly by a pair of pants he belted tightly in at his waist, a T-shirt under his turtleneck sweater, and sandals. He rolled up his sleeves and pants legs, took a deep breath, and walked out to face breakfast and his teammates.
And tripped. This would not do. He'd learned to be aware of his movements during sword training. He could fix this. Just because he was a woman didn't mean he had to be a klutz. Once he truly felt the differences in his center of gravity, he started to adjust. Better. Much better.
Yoji opened his mouth as soon as Aya walked in, so Aya forestalled him with "Yes, I'm still a woman. And I'm going shopping."
"There are so many things I could say to that, I'm not even going to bother," Yoji said with an insolent grin.
"I don't know how long this will last, and I don't have my own living space anymore, so I might as well make myself as comfortable inside this... situation as I can."
"It's called a 'body,' Aya." Yoji raised an eyebrow. "And a really nice one too...."
"I could go with you," Omi said. "Help out. You have enough stress without dealing with salespeople."
"Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I'm moody."
"No, you're moody because you're Aya," Yoji said. Ken just said nothing and kept his hand in front of his mouth.
Aya would deal with Ken later too. "You're not coming along, Yoji."
"What? I just want to be helpful!"
"So I can?" Omi asked, almost bouncing.
"Yes. You're helpful." Aya's sister or Sakura might have been a better choice, but he hadn't seen them since Esset fell. Sakura wanted things from him he couldn't give her, while Aya... Aya had a chance at a normal life at last now that she'd woken up from her coma, and she didn't need an assassin brother tainting it with blood and darkness. She also didn't need to hear that her brother could turn into a sister.
But being back in Tokyo left him so tempted to see her sometimes.... No. This way was best.
Yoji said, "You know, I actually have some experience in this sort of thing--"
Aya stared at him. "Involuntarily transforming into a woman?"
"Shopping for women's clothes, dumbass."
Ken said sweetly, "Something you want to tell us, Yoji?"
"For gifts," Yoji snapped. Ken and Omi sniggered, and Yoji rolled his eyes and subsided into sulky silence. Aya started to make himself breakfast, glad of the reprieve.
The breasts-- he refused to think of them as his-- kept bobbing around distractingly as he moved. He scowled down at them, trying to keep them in place by sheer force of will. It didn't seem to have much effect.
First on his shopping list: some kind of restraining device.
People kept staring at him, which only made him feel like more of a freak. Omi put a hand on his arm. "It's because you're pretty and strangely dressed. Don't worry about it."
"I just want to get this all over with." How long could it take?
Then Aya saw the masses of women's undergarments and knew true despair. "Sizes," he muttered. "Of course they come in different sizes."
Omi had strayed off somewhere but Aya didn't mind. Better that Omi didn't see him panic. He'd survived situations that would have killed other people or crushed their spirits, and he'd taken deadly vengeance against the man who'd demolished his family. Shopping for underwear would not destroy him.
"--my sister," Omi said as he led an older woman over.
"It really is an amazing weight loss," the woman said as she looked at Aya's clothing. Aya fought the urge to back up.
"It was an intense diet and exercise regime," Omi answered, all innocence. "But now she doesn't know what sizes she should wear."
"That's easily fixed. Please come along with me." She started walking toward the back without once glancing back to see if Aya followed. Seeing Omi make a shooing motion, Aya did follow, if reluctantly. At least he saw now why Omi had wanted to go to a small shop instead of a chain store.
"Take off your top," the woman said once they'd reached a changing booth.
"Excuse me?" Aya asked, outraged.
"Omi told me you're shy, but it's fine. I just have to measure you."
"I only have a T-shirt on under this."
"You're not-- with how big you-- All right." The pleasant, even glaze of customer appreciation returned to her face.
Aya sighed and removed his sweater, thankful that he'd worn the T-shirt under it in an effort to restrain the breasts a bit. This woman might be old enough to be his mother--don't think of that-- but he still didn't see the need to bare his chest to her. He didn't often bare his chest to others when he was male.
He tried not to squirm as she applied her measuring tape. The breasts were absurdly sensitive and seemed to enjoy the handling. How the hell did women get anything done? As she turned her attention to his waist, she murmured, "An intense exercise regimen, yes," which made him feel obscurely better. But later he still had to see how much strength he'd lost and whether he could still handle his katana. The thought of not being able to fight chilled his blood; what else was he good at?
When he left the booth, he even knew his new shoe size. It would make things much easier. Then he saw Yoji fingering something lacy, and he scowled.
"You should get some pretty things," Yoji said.
"Why would I need something with lace? I already feel like more than enough of a girl."
Yoji picked up something pink and frilly. "This is nice."
The man had no taste. "It's pink. I'm a redhead." Was he actually considering these things? "I have to shoot myself now."
He would get some sedate and tasteful things in white or beige. Omi had said that he'd need a sports bra. When Aya had asked how he'd known that, Omi had colored slightly, mentioned gym class, and changed the subject.
"Get something pretty," Yoji said, wrinkling his nose at Aya's choices.
"Who am I trying to impress? Next you'll tell me I need to wear makeup, which I am not doing, thank you."
"Why not? Omi could show you how."
Aya paused at that thought, then dismissed it. "I'm not going to be like this for long. There's no point in learning an entirely new lifestyle."
"You need to buy at least one skirt."
"Why? I prefer to keep my ass covered."
"I prefer--" Yoji stopped abruptly when Aya jabbed him hard in the stomach with the end of a hanger.
Aya combed through the bras looking for something suitable and muttered, "Does any of this come without underwire?" With how sensitive the breasts were, he didn't want something hard beneath them.
Yoji grinned and moved closer to look at the tags. "Not at your size. My, oh my, Aya. You're my kind of girl."
Aya elbowed him in the stomach hard. "Any kind of girl is your kind of girl. Go home."
"I'm here to offer moral support."
"You offer neither. I won't shop if you're here."
"You're cute when you're pissed off."
Aya turned away from the bras, crossed his arms... under the breasts, and stared at Yoji. "I won't shop for your entertainment."
Omi appeared. "Yoji, stop tormenting Aya! He'll never buy anything while you're here!"
"That's right," Aya said, "I won't buy a thing, not a stitch. No underwear for you to wonder about. I'll just keep wearing my own things and look like I'm drowning in them."
"You don't play fair," Yoji whined.
"Tough," Omi said.
"Fine, fine, but I'll want a report later."
"Yeah, yeah," Omi said, unimpressed. It saved Aya from having to lie.
Bad enough that most of the clothing seemed to be designed to make a woman look like a bimbo or somebody's mother, but.... Aya growled as he looked at himself in the changing room booth's mirror. "Omi, I was just measured. I know exactly what size I am. This pair of pants claims to be the same size, brand, and cut as this other pair of pants but they don't fit. The same applies to this bra as opposed to this other bra. What kind of shoddy, half-assed workmanship is this?"
From the other side of the door came "Why do you think women spend so much time shopping for clothes?"
"Because they enjoyed it, I thought."
"You have so much to learn. You want me to get you some different ones?"
Would the humiliations never end? Aya didn't particularly want someone fetching clothes for him, but to leave the booth to go foraging for other sizes he'd have to put all of the womanly regalia back on, then strip them off again once he got back. It would be more efficient to let Omi work for him. "Yes."
Clad in some of his new clothing, Aya felt a little less clumsy and constricted. The new boots especially helped. Mastering walking involved more hip action than he'd originally expected, yet he seemed to be picking it up now that he didn't have to concentrate on keeping his shoes on by sheer will. He hated the press of wires but had to admit that they restrained the breasts' unwelcome swing. He'd chosen a boyish style for his shirt and pants--for obvious reasons--and wore a new long coat he could use for missions.
As much as buying the coat felt like a betrayal of his own body, like giving up on returning to normal, practicality won. He didn't know how long he'd be like this, and his katana needed to be disguised.
Omi gawked as Aya wandered the floor of the store he'd bought most of his mission wear from. The women's fashions looked less practical than the men's did, but he still felt drawn here. It was good to be back in Tokyo.
"Is there something you want to say?" Aya asked Omi as he picked up a pair of black gloves that had studs along the knuckles.
"I know you have a kinky side. I just didn't know where you went to satisfy it."
"Straps are practical," Aya answered as he took down a black leather shirt that fastened at the neck that way and ran a finger along one of the buckles.
"For what, easy access?" Omi shook his head. "I wish I could pull this look off."
"You can do whatever you like."
"And look like a pinup for a child porn magazine."
"As if you don't already?"
"I know you're upset about what's going on so I won't hold that against you. Otherwise, I might say that losing your dick doesn't mean you have to be one."
Aya snorted. "Sorry."
"You sure you don't want to try a skirt?"
Aya had a weird urge to be shocking--or maybe the urge to render Yoji speechless wasn't so weird--and he had a sudden image of himself in artfully torn stockings, high-heeled boots that laced to the knees, that skirt over there made of long vinyl strips that would reveal and conceal depending on his movements, a tight shirt, black eyeliner, and black or red lipstick. Some look that was feminine, sexy, but also dangerous and aggressive, utterly unlike the frilly, condescending garments Yoji had pressed on him.
"I'm losing my mind," Aya muttered to himself.
"Wouldn't be the first time," Omi answered cheerfully.
"Are you gonna show Yoji those shirts?" Omi asked as they left.
"Only if he begs nicely. Maybe not even then." At least he'd left the stockings, heels, and skirt behind. He hadn't completely taken leave of his senses. The pair of boots he'd bought had a heel reminiscent of the heel height on boots he usually wore. "I might just taunt him with possibilities."
"That'll only turn him on."
"If I ignore him, I turn him on. If I discourage him, I turn him on. If I encourage him, I turn him on. Is there any way to win here?"
"Maybe if you left the country? No, then he'd idealize you while you were gone, and it would be worse."
Aya noticed a woman watching him and looked back. She leaned enticingly against a motorcycle, her hips cocked forward, her eyes smoldering with attitude and what might have been appreciation. He liked her aggression.
Omi laughed. "If Yoji were here...."
"He'd want to watch."
"You just checked out that lesbian. And you put more swing into your walk."
"It's good to see that I'm not the only person going insane."
"Sure, sure. But he'd be laughing over how you had to become a woman to become a sexual being or something."
"Yoji doesn't know anything."
"Really," Omi purred, his wide eyes looking a little less wide, almost sultry.
"And I'm not telling you. My sexuality has nothing to do with anything."
"C'mon, Aya. It's not like I wanna know just because I wanna know. It's all about knowledge."
"It's all about you being a teenage boy."
"Said from the grand height of, what, 20 years of age? And don't be so sexist. Hey, don't hit me!"
Aya stumbled into the kitchen, set his sheathed katana on the table, and rested his head against the refrigerator. Pathetic. He hadn't lost quite as much strength as he'd feared he might have, but he'd lost enough to make his katana work awkward. He'd lost height and reach and tired faster as he'd struggled with what felt like the greater weight and length of his own damned sword. Watching his wrist shake during the extensions had made his heart clench. He needed remedial weight training immediately. At least the sports bra had restrained the exuberance of the breasts, though moving the rest of his body around while having what felt like a tourniquet fastened around the top of his chest hadn't helped his performance either.
He stared down at his new gloves and thought that he might start to wear them all the time just so he didn't have to be shocked every time he saw his smaller, shapely hands.
"Hey, Aya, what's wrong?" Omi asked. He really had abysmal timing.
"I'm fine," Aya answered, but his voice shook as much as his fatigued, unnatural limbs.
"You're handling this really well, you know."
Aya coughed; years ago, it might have been a laugh. Sure he was handling this well. But he said, "Yoji would have killed himself."
"Immediately." Omi took him by the arm and sat him down. He'd noticed that Omi had been much freer with him since he'd turned into a she.
He could scar Omi's budding sexuality just by existing.
"You're so tense," Omi said. "You want a back rub? It's not a scam, I swear."
It was Omi. "All right."
"Take off your shirt."
"It'll help, and I know you have a bra on under it."
"How do you figure that?"
"You're not, uhm, swinging."
"I hate my life." But he took off his shirt.
Omi's hands on him hurt a bit at first but the feeling melted into something else after a little while. Aya fought back a groan. He'd known his shoulders were a mess from worry and the unaccustomed weight of the bra straps but hadn't known how much until the tension loosened. And here came the lust again. How did people ever get the idea that women were frigid?
Worse, this was Omi. Omi could plan an infiltration, hack into a government's computers, and execute targets with the best of them, but sexualizing him felt as wrong as sexualizing a fluffy baby animal. After all, with his big eyes, shaggy blond hair, and aggressive cuteness, Omi so resembled one.
Except that Aya realized that Omi was excited. He glanced up at Omi from under his lashes, and Omi colored and said, "It's not about you being a woman now. I always liked you." His voice sounded husky.
All right, Aya could scar Omi's budding sexuality in different ways than he'd expected. "I see."
"I'm sorry. I know you don't think about me like that. I didn't mean to impose."
"Yes, you have to stop forcing your back rubs and affection on me, Omi. You're evil, and you must be stopped." Aya couldn't hold back a groan on the next movement of Omi's hands. "An artist too...."
"Damn, you're so tight, Aya."
"Stop what you're--" Yoji yelled as he burst in. "Oh, uhm."
Ken smacked the back of his head. "You nut."
When Aya understood what Yoji had assumed, he had to ask. "Did you think I couldn't defend myself from Omi's sexual predations?"
"Don't scoff, Aya. I'm a fierce beast," Omi said.
"He's cute. He's subtle," Yoji said.
"While you're blatant and insulting, and thus safe?" Aya stood. "I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. There's too much testosterone in this room."
As he left, he looked back to see Omi smacking Yoji. At least his change disturbed everyone else too.
Somebody needed to kick Yoji's ass. Omi figured that it might as well be him. "Do you know what you interrupted?" he growled as he landed a none-too-gentle blow.
Yoji tried to fend him off. "I thought I did, but I was wrong."
"I had Aya relaxed for a few minutes, you... you.... What are the odds of that happening again?"
"Oh yeah, relaxed and melting under your hands. I'm sure you're a selfless martyr."
Ken looked amused. "Yoji, this is Omi you're talking about."
"Who's had a kind of crush on Aya for ages, and now Aya's a woman and accessible."
"That doesn't make any sense," Omi said. "If his gender was the problem, how could I have had a crush on him for ages?"
"Yeah? Then why weren't you all over him ages ago?" Undeterred by logic or his own self-contradiction, Yoji lit a cigarette and leaned against the wall, his whole pose saying that he was sure he'd won.
"Has he ever allowed any of us anywhere near him before?"
"Well, he's doing it a little now. He needs help, I'm offering, and sometimes he's accepting." Omi remembered heated, smooth skin under his hands and the pleasure of watching Aya's tension flow away. "It's still helping whether I don't mind doing it or not."
Ken made a small sound. Yoji asked, "What?"
"You're fighting over Aya like she's a girl you're both interested in."
"And he's Omi."
"So even the manipulative stuff is for our own good because he has good intentions?"
He was not manipulative! "What's wrong with trying to help Aya feel better when he's having a hard time?" Omi asked. When Yoji sighed, Omi said, "Look, let's not fight." Then he grinned. "Apologize for thinking the worst of me, and we'll call it even."
Ken shook his head and smirked. Omi smacked Yoji on the arm again.
Yoji almost choked on his cigarette. "Will you stop doing that already? Fine, fine. I give. Besides, I don't want to lose sight of the important thing here."
"Which is?" Ken asked.
"That we got to see Aya in his bra."
While letting the hot water beat the aches out, Aya considered his body. It looked female, but he wondered if the changes were only skin deep. Since he didn't know what had transformed him, he couldn't say how thorough a job it had done. Some things suggested that he had the hormones that went with the form, and he even smelled different, but.... Maybe he could explore things and take the edge off the seemingly ever-present sexual ache, the equivalent of giving his body a cookie to make it shut up.
It was almost funny that he felt like he should be asking someone's permission to touch. Almost. Completely avoiding the blank area where his dick and testicles had once been, he set his hand between his legs and moved his fingers a little. How weird it seemed to feel sensation from body parts that shouldn't belong to him. He definitely had folds and one more hole than he should have, and it all liked the attention. Liked it a great deal, especially when he rubbed this bit of flesh a certain way. So he kept doing that.
Even arousal felt different. As a man, his arousal had been more linear, traveling a straight line to completion. This seemed to spiral, building in its own way, and he didn't know if it would end.
Pleasure and that ache swelled, suffusing him. This body knew what it wanted, and the fingers he slid inside as he became bolder with it didn't satisfy it enough. It wanted something bigger and thicker....
Well, it wouldn't get it, no matter how alluring the thought of walking back out to the kitchen, tearing one of his teammates' clothes off, and using him was. Yoji wouldn't even mind.... That wasn't the point. Aya might not be able to figure out how to get his own body back, but he refused to let this one rule his life.
Ignoring the continuing ache and throb, he washed his hands, toweled himself off, and put on his new pajama top and bottoms. The purple silk seemed to caress his sensitized skin. Dammit. Why he'd let Omi convince him to make this purchase, he didn't know.
As he passed Yoji, he saw Yoji's nostrils flare just a little. Aya's glare dared him to make a comment, but he didn't.
Aya tried to make himself comfortable in his bunk and thought very hard. Tomorrow he would be himself again. Tomorrow he would be a man again. He would.
"Damn," Aya muttered when he woke up still female.
"Good morning, babe," Yoji said, then squawked as Aya hit him hard in the face with a pillow. The blow nearly bent Yoji's sunglasses.
"What!" Yoji yelled in outrage. "Day off? Why does he get a vacation?"
Testily Omi said, "If you want to explain to the girls why he is now a she--"
"Just say that he's on vacation and this is Aya's sister Aya! It's almost the truth!"
Aya ate breakfast silently, ignoring Yoji as he stormed into the small living area with Omi trailing after. The boy was right, and he certainly wouldn't miss the gaggle of schoolgirls that always swarmed the trailer during open hours, but he would have appreciated the simple, repetitive work today. Flowers were... uncomplicated. Soothing. Utterly unlike people.
Yoji dropped into the chair across from him with a huff and slammed his mug down. Coffee slopped over the side, pooling on the table. Aya met his glare blankly and kept eating.
"And what are you going to do all day?" Yoji demanded.
Aya swallowed, wiped his mouth, and said, "Train."
"You're about as fun as a car crash."
"I need to completely re-learn how to move," Aya said tersely. "Not to mention get my strength back to--" What, normal? "--to a level I'm comfortable with. Believe me, I would rather be selling flowers."
"Yeah, whatever." Yoji sipped his coffee, unconcerned, and Aya suppressed a sigh. When it came to anything non-mission-related, Yoji had the attention span of a gnat. At least it stopped the questions and challenges, and the attempt to defend Aya's virgin purity last night had made him forget about prying through Aya's purchases, so it could be useful sometimes.
"White hunters of the night, deny these evil beasts their tomorrow!"
The image of the faux Persia vanished, and Manx's face reappeared on the screen. "Aya, you're sitting this one out?"
Aya blinked. "Why should I?"
Manx opened her mouth, then shut it again. Yoji quirked an eyebrow and drawled, "'Cause of those?"
Aya glowered, and Ken said, "No one could accuse you of being a feminist, Yoji."
"I just meant you're not used to them," Yoji said quickly. "It. The whole, you know, package." He paused. "Pardon the term."
"I'll be fine."
"Actually," Omi began, "he might have a point--"
"I'll. Be. Fine," Aya repeated, scowling.
Omi met his glare without flinching. "If you risk your life, you're risking ours too. Are you fine with that?"
He resisted the temptation to snap again; it was, after all, a valid question. "I've been training," he said evenly. "I'm ready."
Omi held his gaze for a long moment, then nodded. "Okay then."
Manx coughed discreetly, reminding the others of her virtual presence. "Secure wireless video isn't cheap, people. Let's move on, shall we? So it's a group effort after all. The target will be alone in his office tonight...."
The target wasn't just alone in his office. The target was dead in his office.
And as Aya relayed this information over the comm in his headset, a flash of white outside the window gave him a pretty good idea as to the culprit.
Omi was saying something; Aya jabbed his comm again, cutting him off, and hissed, "Stay alert. Farfarello's here. The others may be too."
A muffled curse from Yoji. "Where are you?"
"He was outside Kuroki's window. Cut him off--"
"Not a good idea."
Aya looked up, startled and furious that he'd let someone sneak up on him, and came face to face with a very familiar smirk. Then, as the smirk faded to something more like a gape, he remembered his... situation... and felt his face heat.
Schuldig cracked up.
It was too much. To be laughed at and tormented by his friends was one thing, but the man who had kidnapped his sister, who had tried to kill him on more than one occasion-- well, Aya did the only thing he could do. He swung.
And, unfortunately, missed.
Or rather, Schuldig dodged; by the time the katana sliced through the space where his neck had been, it simply wasn't there anymore. Aya didn't miss a beat, just spun and attacked again, and once again Schuldig jumped out of range. Schuldig wasn't trying to fight back. He wasn't doing anything except laughing hysterically.
"Shut up!" Aya yelled as he struck again. Rage and humiliation warred within him. Rage seemed to be winning. Schuldig, predictably, paid him no heed.
At least Schuldig wouldn't ask what had happened. By now the telepath probably knew every sordid detail.
He heard the sound of running feet behind him, and then Yoji said, "What the--"
"Go after the others," Aya snapped without ceasing his attack. Finding two out of four here laid even odds on four out of four.
Yoji blinked, then shook his head. "Got the situation in hand, huh?"
"I'm hoping he'll asphyxiate. Go."
Yoji looked startled, as he often did when Aya displayed brief flashes of humor, but disappeared after one last backward glance.
The telepath was still dancing around his blade, grinning, blue eyes sparkling with mirth. Aya gritted his teeth and tried to blank his mind, to move from readable thought to sheer instinct, to let his body take over.
Unfortunately, his body hadn't been too reliable of late. It was slower than he was used to, infinitesimally so, but enough to make a difference; Schuldig ducked each swing easily, his inhuman speed and bizarre reflexes making up whatever ground his telepathy didn't, and finally Aya growled, swung wildly, and found himself spun around into Schuldig's arms.
Aya struggled futilely, trying to break free; Schuldig simply tightened his embrace. A low chuckle sounded in Aya's ear, and Schuldig murmured, "Well, this is new and interesting."
Aya rolled his eyes, and the telepath snickered again. "You're imagining many different ways of killing me right now." He paused. "I'm impressed, Fujimiya. That's quite an imagination you have."
"I'm inspired," Aya muttered, straining forward, away, with a distinct lack of success. Schuldig held tight, running his hands over Aya's new topography, and Aya squirmed, outraged. The breasts really were ridiculously responsive. It couldn't be normal. "Are you going to kill me any time soon?"
Schuldig's laugh held genuine humor, and was all the more disturbing for it. "What, and put you out of your misery? This is way too much fun for that."
Aya's eyes widened at the possible implications, and Schuldig giggled. He was really starting to hate that sound.... "Don't worry, Fujimiya, you're not my type... anymore." As Aya's mind processed this disturbing information, Schuldig dropped a kiss on top of his head, and then, with a last fleeting grope, he was gone.
Aya spun around, grabbing his katana from where it had fallen.
Schuldig was nowhere to be seen.
As his teammates came running up, Aya grimly added one more name to his list of people to kill. His death list had been so much shorter when he'd still been a man.
Since his body's response to Schuldig's groping worried the hell out of him, Aya decided that he had to get the perspective of someone more knowledgeable than he was on being a woman. The next time Manx came by the trailer, he drew her aside. "I have to ask you a question in private."
"This should be good. All right." Manx walked outside, with him following, then asked, "What is it?"
"I'm wondering if this body is normal." She smirked, and he amended, "Of course, how I ended up with it isn't normal, but... the breasts are more sensitive than I think they should be, and I'm...." How should he say this?
He gritted his teeth, swallowed his pride, and said, "I seem to be in a constant state of heat." At the look on Manx's face, he asked, "What?"
Her smirk deepened. "Aya, every girl faces a time in her life when she becomes a woman. There are signs...."
It took Aya a moment, but once he understood what she meant, his gut clenched. "Oh, shit. How long do I have until it starts?"
"It sounds like you're in the week before. It could be any time soon."
He really needed to get out of this body.
That night, Aya changed back.
He was wrapped in the grip of some dark, sweaty dream, something about a faceless body and his own brand new girl parts, when he jerked awake, climaxed, and discovered he once again had a dick.
Which meant he would have to do laundry in the morning, but that was a price he was willing to pay.
Aya lay still for a long time, staring at the ceiling, afraid to move and accidentally trigger another transformation. When nothing happened, he slowly ran a hand over his gloriously flat chest.
And then he smiled.
He wanted to jump out of bed right away, to share the good news, but the others wouldn't thank him for waking them up. They'd find out in the morning, and with any luck he'd never have to think about this unfortunate... incident... again.
He kicked the soiled sheet to the foot of his bunk, pulled off his pajamas and traded them for a pair of boxers and an undershirt, and rolled over and fell back asleep, still smiling.
And when he woke later that morning, he was a woman again.
Omi popped up to visit once Aya had punched a hole in the wall but wisely said nothing while under Aya's glare.
"And of course they make the woman do the shopping. How typical." Schuldig stood nearby, fondling some fruit. Did he have to molest everything around him?
So much for finding peace in mundane activity. "You--" Aya would attack the telepath with his grocery basket if he had to.
~ You won't attack me here, will you? In front of the children? ~ Schuldig asked directly inside his brain. The sarcasm was obvious; unfortunately, he also had a point. Aya scowled.
"What do you want?" As if simply being female in public didn't attract enough unwanted attention, he had to deal with this?
No one should be allowed to look that self-satisfied. "Who says I want anything? I can't just bump into an old friend-- okay, mortal enemy, but, you know, it doesn't have to be that way."
Aya took a wary step back. "I thought you said I'm not your type anymore."
"To fuck, no. To stalk-- well, that's an entirely different game...."
"Get away from me."
"What's the word I'm looking for? Oh yeah... make me."
"That's two words."
"Can't put anything past you."
He was bantering with a professional killer in the vegetable aisle. "Go away, Schuldig."
"Oh, hey, if you say it often enough it might eventually work. Care to wager on it? I'm building a nest egg, you know."
"Miss, is this man bothering you?" a stranger asked from nearby, probably thinking himself gallant.
Rendered speechless with horror, Aya just stared. He really could kill himself now.
Schuldig grinned briefly, then fixed the man with a practiced scowl. "Back off," he cried dramatically. "This is between the two of us."
"The lady obviously doesn't want your attention." The stranger's chest was puffed up to alarming proportions. He was also staring at Aya's breasts. Aya resisted the urge to punch him.
Schuldig glanced back with an amused grin. Lady? he mouthed, raising an eyebrow.
Aya seethed. While his would-be rescuer was still busy posturing, he simply spun on his heel and stalked away. He was almost at the end of the aisle when he heard Schuldig call after him, "But, Aya, what about all the times we made love?"
Aya stopped in his tracks.
He stood there, frozen in mid-step and feeling his heart stutter in his chest, some distant part of him thinking how ironic it would be for him to die here; that after everything he'd been through, his end would come like this-- trapped in a woman's body and shamed in public by a telepathic German sadist.
He couldn't die yet. He still had to kill Schuldig very slowly and painfully.
Then he could have a heart attack.
Schuldig pressed on, obviously delighted by his new ammunition. "All the nights we spent together, everything we shared, that was real! You can't just turn your back on that!"
People were openly staring now. Aya fixed a few with his death glare, and they hurriedly looked away.
With a superhuman effort, he forced his legs to start moving again. One. Two. Walking away. Couldn't kill Schuldig. Not in public. Not without his katana.
"You're the best I've ever been with! I've never had a better fuck in my life!"
Aya stopped again and turned around. Schuldig was a very good actor; he looked every inch the desperate ex-boyfriend, down to the malicious glint in his eyes. Only Aya knew it came not from jealousy and longing, but from the sheer joy of tormenting his victim.
Aya met that glint head on and said calmly, "Thank you. Unfortunately I can't say the same for you."
Then he turned around again and started towards the cashiers, feeling curiously lightheaded.
To his relief, Schuldig didn't continue the charade; perhaps Aya had genuinely succeeded in startling him. He concentrated on emptying his basket, ignoring the stares of-- well, pretty much everyone in the shop.
The sudden voice in his head made him jump. Schuldig sounded amused.
~ Well-played, Fujimiya. You might just be worth my while after all. ~
Aya closed his eyes.
Author's Note: Aya's a C. People have worried.