His head hurt.
Youji groaned, pulling a pillow over his head. Fuck! What did I do last night? He hadn't woken up with a hangover like this since he was Omi's age. "Kill me," he muttered, feeling his stomach turn. "Please." He fought the urge to throw up.
Told Aya I wouldn't make a mess…
He blinked. Aya…?
Youji sat up, wincing as his head protested violently against the movement. "Aya?" The room was empty; his teammate was nowhere to be seen. "Fuck. He didn't stay up all night after - "
The second groan was louder and more drawn-out than the first. Youji fell back down onto the bed, scrubbing both hands over his face. Holy shit. Holy fucking shit.
What the hell had he been thinking?
"I hit on Aya." It was like a death sentence. He could just picture himself in front of a jury with Aya glaring at him from the judge's stand, eyes cold with that 'You dare to touch me?' look in them. Then Ken and Omi would drag him off to carry out the sentence while Youji screamed 'I was drunk!' over and over at the top of his lungs as if it would make a difference.
"Shit!" He was screwed. "What the hell was I thinking, kissing Aya like it was - "
That was where he stopped again, mid-thought.
Hold on just a second…
It wasn't some half-drunken illusion; he remembered that part very clearly. He had leaned down to kiss Aya - fine; whatever: he wanted Aya. But the next part floored him. He had a very vivid memory of Aya turning his face up - letting Youji kiss him. Helping him, even. And then, he was completely certain, the redhead had kissed him right back! Things had gone very well after that; Youji felt a pleasant shiver go down his spine as he remembered the feeling.
And then it ended.
No explanation, no stumbling back with the assurance that it was all a mistake… nothing. Aya had just abruptly gone cold, turned away, and told him to go to bed.
Go to bed! That particular rejection still chafed. What did Aya think he was? Some blustering high school kid who couldn't handle more than a few swallows of alcohol? It wasn't like people did things they really didn't want to do when they were drunk. Sure, it loosened your inhibitions a little, but still…
Shut the hell up, Youji told his thoughts, almost savagely. He frowned at the ceiling. It didn't have anything to do with me. Aya came to his senses and realized he was making a mistake - that's all.
The redhead wouldn't be in a good mood that morning, then. He slipped up and lost control… I wouldn't be surprised if he kills me to ensure my silence. Any kind of weakness made Aya irritable.
And if being pulled into a kiss with someone you didn't want yourself with wasn't a weakness, he'd eat Omi's baseball cap - brim and all.
Well, maybe there was a way around most of it. A good deal of Aya's irritation at his own 'weakness' came from the fact that other people were aware of it. Youji was the only one who could possibly have witnessed this particular moment of shame, and he'd been drunk. All he had to do in order to spare Aya further agitation was pretend he'd been in a stupor and didn't remember any of it.
Oh yeah. I'm really good at playing dumb. Youji shoved aside the covers and sat up. I've been doing it since we got here, and I did so well I even fooled myself.
He might as well face it. I'm a certified idiot.
How and when, he wondered, had he fallen for Aya? One minute it was just a passing attraction, and the next… What? Infatuation? Fascination? Excessive respect?
Well, there he was with a hangover, just getting over a cold rejection, and all he could think about was not inconveniencing the very person who'd rejected him!
This is going to make things awkward…
Youji sighed, and dug his fingers into the roots of his hair. What did this mean when it came to the team? If they ever made it back home again, would things just go back to normal? Would the others notice? Doubt it. Omi was naïve and Ken was oblivious. But after a while… if he started changing…
He pushed aside those thoughts, and stood. There wasn't much point avoiding the upcoming confrontation; he'd have to face off with Aya sooner or later. Might as well get it over with. Pausing to get over a moment of nausea, he opened the door and walked out into the rest of their living space.
Which was empty.
Youji stared for a moment, then laughed. Figures he'd be gone, after I spent all that time agonizing about what would happen when I came out here. Knowing Aya, he might even have done it with that in mind.
The question is… where is he?
The blond shrugged, then wandered into the section with all the storage units. There has to be something edible around here. With Aya, you never knew how long he'd take, and with the nausea fading, Youji found himself suddenly very hungry.
People really get up early here. Omi watched through the opening under the small alley where Vena and Ilene's tunnel led to. It was fascinating to get a close look at the streets of ancient Rome. I wonder which emperor we're under. Maybe I should ask someone; it'd be interesting to know.
He'd been down there since the night before - mostly sleeping, but he had to wake up and get a look at the people of Rome as soon as the faint glow from the tunnel's entrance told him it was morning. Vena and Ilene had still been sleeping when he crept away.
That was probably about an hour ago, though.
"Omi?" Ilene came up beside him. "Sorry to bother you," she apologized. "One of the other slaves asked me to tell you that Lord Siloneus was looking for you. It's probably not a good idea to make him wait too long."
"He is?" Omi didn't smile, even though he really wanted to. Ken's looking for me? I wonder why. "I'd better go," he told her, moving to leave the area underneath the entrance so he could crawl back through the tunnel.
Vena met him when he came back into the single room that was directly beneath the slave quarters. "He wasn't angry with you," she told him. "He looked like he was in a good mood - according to Calo, anyway. You must have pleased him."
"That's good," Omi said absently - then the meaning of her words hit him and he flushed.
"Cute," she commented, lifting herself up into the room where the slaves more or less lived. "You're a little confusing, Omi. You took what happened to you last night like you'd done it all your life, but all I have to do is mention it and you blush like a virgin."
Somebody was bound to notice that… "I just have trouble talking about it, that's all."
"If you say so." Vena shrugged. "I think Lord Siloneus wanted you in his chambers." A little smile played on her face. "And I hate to add this, considering what you just told me, but… probably in more ways than one."
Omi climbed out of the hidden room and replaced the panel. "I shouldn't keep him waiting, then," he said, ignoring her comment. "He might get irritable." Knowing Ken, the 'might' should probably be a 'will' in that sentence.
"Good luck." She winked at him.
Omi was blushing again when he left the slave quarters.
Ken must be wondering why I didn't come back last night. He wandered through the hallways, trying to remember the way to the bedroom. Actually… I'm kind of wondering that myself. If he had gone back… would they have done more than just kiss? Or would Ken shrug it off as the necessary deception it was. I think I was afraid to find out which, Omi considered. At least if he never says anything, I had one night to pretend it was real.
The room was quiet when he got there. Omi knocked on the marble lightly, not sure if he was expected to just walk in. "Ken?" he called out, keeping his voice quiet.
There was some rustling from the other side of the room, and the older boy came out to meet him. "There you are," he said - not too irritably. "I was looking for you."
"I heard." Omi smiled, feeling more at ease now that he was with Ken. "Vena and Ilene showed me a hidden room underneath the slave quarters - you can see the streets from under there. I was watching people pass by outside. It's really kind of amazing when you think about it - I mean, we're actually in ancient Rome."
"I'm thinking a little more about how we can get out of it." Ken suddenly frowned. "Who are Vena and Ilene?"
"They're friends of mine - two of the slaves here," Omi explained. "They've been helping me get settled. I met them when I was being prepared for…" His face suddenly caught fire. "You know. Last night."
Ken didn't seem to be paying attention. "Are they pretty?"
Why is he asking me about this? "Uh… passing pretty, I guess." He actually hadn't noticed, and at the moment, he didn't care much. I guess what happened last night really didn't mean anything, if he hasn't mentioned it yet.
"Oh." Ken seemed to relax. "Well, you should come inside instead of standing out here in the doorway," he said suddenly, steering Omi into the back part of the room. "Did you find out anything interesting?"
"Not really." Omi shook his head, pushing aside some disappointment. "It's hard to find out things from the slaves. Most of them don't know much beyond the fact that the name of the place where they live is Rome, and they should address pretty much everyone who isn't a slave as 'master'."
"I'd learn more if people weren't afraid to talk to me," Ken grumbled. "I wonder where Youji and Aya are. Our positions are really limited - we could use their help."
"I know." Omi wasn't sure if he should mention how much that thought worried him. "They could be anywhere. I wish we were free to go out and look for them."
"Someone would have a heart attack if I just up and left," Ken commented drily. "And they'd definitely go ballistic if you did. I guess we're stuck here - we'll have to hope they can find us."
"Yeah." He still didn't like it.
"Enough of that." Omi had only a second of Ken impatiently shifting positions as a warning, and then the taller boy's fingers brushed his cheek, tilting his face back up.
His breath caught. Ken… what's he doing? Their eyes met; that strange look was back in Ken's deep, blue-green gaze. The same look that had sent Omi's heart into a pace twice as fast as its normal rate - the look he'd had just before… just before…
Ken leaned forward a little, slowly, as if he expected the younger boy to shy away. "Omi," he said, in a quietly controlled voice. "There's something I wanted to ask you."
It was a beautiful day out, but it couldn't improve Aya's mood.
Frustration was strongest. He had left the shop almost at dawn, with the intention of starting a fairly pointless search for Ken. Aya was normally contemptuous of anything that wasted his time, but he wanted some fresh air and the search gave him an excuse.
And, he had to admit, if he happened to find Ken, he would at least have company other than Youji.
The blond had gotten to him. No denying that. Aya couldn't even remember when he'd last thought where his preferences lay, but it was irrelevant by that point. His preference was Youji. He wanted the taller man - as a lover, as a partner… No one had made him feel that way. It was a sudden intrusion of fire in a part of himself he thought had long-since frozen.
And it made him angry.
I never wanted such an intrusion. It had just happened, and he was forced to deal with it. He wasn't angry with Youji. What was there to be angry about there? Because he was charming and charismatic and damnably attractive? That would be pure idiocy. Because he didn't - couldn't - feel the same way about Aya? Idiocy again. A person couldn't help the way they were or how they felt.
Ironically, that was the problem with Aya as well.
He couldn’t keep himself from wanting Youji.
But he couldn't crack his own cold shield to be warm enough to attract him, either.
The answer was simple: suffer in silence. Aya wasn't capable of opening himself up for rejection. It was like pounding on solid steel, trying to let down those defenses. He'd had them up for so long that the idea of even trying to lower them was both frightening and painful. It was just… just… inconceivable. Impossible. It didn't work like that.
Aya pressed his hands together stiffly. His fingers were trembling.
Stop thinking about it.
It was better - and wiser - to concentrate on the upcoming mission. Not the assassination of the emperor - yet - but rather the murder of Siloneus. Considering Omi's position, it would most likely not be a good idea to attack the noble in his bedroom at night. It wouldn't be particularly hard for him to discover just how effective a chained boy could be as a shield.
We'll need some way to get him out of there first.
That meant it was about time to return to the shop and see if Youji was feeling well enough to discuss it. They'd want something in place before Aristaeus died - which could be any time. Omi would have to be made aware that they were planning to attack that night.
Even with his thoughts so occupied, Aya still had to force himself to re-enter the room where he knew Youji would be waiting.
Aya turned his head. The blond was leaning against the wall, arms crossed. "I was about to go looking for you. Maybe we should start leaving notes when we go out."
No mention of the previous night. Aya relaxed slightly. Relief was stronger than that slight disappointment. "You slept too long," was all he said in response.
"One of my more annoying habits." Youji shrugged. "Where were you?"
He didn't remember. It's good that he doesn't. "Looking for Ken. Of course, I found nothing."
"It was pointless to search in the first place," Aya commented. "But I did try."
Youji nodded. "I'll take a turn myself later on."
The silence that followed was awkward - at least, it seemed so to Aya. Perhaps the taller man felt differently; he remembered nothing, after all. It might have been better for me if I'd drowned myself in alcohol as well. That way, even if he did still remember, he could cast some of the blame on his impaired judgement.
Whether he wanted to or not, he had to accept the fact that he'd been fully accepting of that kiss - and of everything it meant, as well. Yes, damnit! I wanted it. I still want it. I'd gladly accept it if there was a chance it might be returned.
Aya broke the silence first; it was suffocating him. "Have you thought at all about Omi?"
"A lot, actually." Youji shrugged. "I'm worried. What did you mean specifically?"
"How we'll get him out of there while we kill Siloneus." Aya turned away. "His wrists will probably be chained; he'll be a hindrance, and might get injured."
"Fuck." Youji frowned. "Could we give him a signal? We could get someone to tell him we'll make some noise and he gets himself out of there when he hears it."
"It won't be safe to pass him our names."
"Well, he'll know what to do." The blond shrugged. "It'll be a surprise."
Aya nodded. "It makes sense."
Another awkward silence.
"Damn it…" Youji ran a hand through his hair. "All right. I'm done. I'm ready to confess."
Aya didn't turn back. "Confess to what?"
The next statement made him freeze where he stood.
"Ask me?" Omi's voice was close to breathless. "What?"
Ken felt his tongue freeze up. What did I want to ask? He hadn't really had a clear idea when he'd made his bold move; now, staring at the younger boy's expectant blue eyes, he found himself at a loss. 'Want to fool around?' 'Are you picturing me naked right now?' 'Can I fix your virginity problem?'
How did you ask that kind of question?
"I…" He let that trail off.
Omi blinked, obviously puzzled by his hesitation. "I thought you wanted to ask me something, Ken," he said, keeping his tone soft. He shifted a little closer - unconsciously, maybe - drawing dangerously close to the point where they'd be touching. It was almost possible to feel his skin - almost.
Torture. Ken licked his lips absently, wondering if he should take advantage. "I wanted to ask… if you…" God… Omi was so close… He forgot to finish the sentence, face flushed with a mix of confusion and lust.
"If I what?" Omi's eyes were half-lidded; his words seemed to brush over Ken's lips. His voice was low, with a promising undertone to it. "Ken…"
It seemed he'd figured out Ken's unspoken request.
"Omi…" It was too much to wait on speech. He decided to give up on words and impulsively closed the distance between them, capturing the younger boy's lips in a slow, hungry kiss. Yes… I want this. Just like this.
"Mmm." Omi melted into the kiss, sliding his arms firmly around Ken's waist and pulling himself practically inside the older boy's personal space. He was inexperienced, and hesitant in some ways, but… oh, god, was he enthusiastic! He eagerly returned Ken's touch, breaking the kisses for little gasps and half-purring sounds that set Ken's nerves on fire.
He was so helplessly responsive to touch! Ken had no qualms about deepening the kiss, parting Omi's lips to add more intimacy to it, and punctuating this with demanding fingers roaming about the smooth expanse of pale skin offered to him. "I want you," he breathed against that soft mouth, more bold in the midst of urgent passion than he had been before it.
"Ken…" Omi had to murmur his response between fervent kisses. "This is what… this is what I… I… oh…" His fingers tightened almost convulsively in the white fabric of Ken's clothing, but slight, almost unconscious movements of his hips said that the action was of need, not fear.
Yes… Ken was too impatient to wait. He grasped Omi's shoulders firmly and pushed him back onto the bed, pressing their bodies together more tightly. It was impossible to keep himself from gasping against the younger boy's mouth as he did; it felt so good.
We just… fit. He couldn't remember having a lover who'd felt so right against him.
Omi's whole body stiffened and shuddered slightly, as if wracked by a shiver that ran all the way through him. He feels it too. Ken attacked his partner's neck, starting with soft kisses at the corner of his jaw. Omi sucked in a breath sharply, and his fingers dug into the taller boy's shoulders.
He likes that… Ken filed the thought away for later, fingertips dancing over the younger boy's hips. The softness of his skin gave way to unwelcome cloth. That needs to come off, the athlete decided, tugging the material down sharply over Omi's thighs.
"Ken!" The shorter boy stiffened suddenly, and Ken felt the heat of his blush.
That reigned him in, if only slightly. "Okay, Omi?" He forced himself to slow, biting back that impatient urge to plunge right in and satisfy his own lust. His fingers still brushed over Omi's hips and thighs possessively. All mine… He is all mine.
Omi's hands cupped his face; they were trembling a little. "Okay," he agreed, a touch breathlessly. His voice was steady; there was no sign of hesitation or uncertainty in his gaze. "I want this, Ken," he clarified, voice slipping back into that husky tone.
God! "You're too sexy," Ken whispered back, letting one hand slip to Omi's inner thigh. The younger boy's breath caught. "We'll start simple," he said, almost into a hungry kiss. "I won't push it. Just feeling good is perfect." He trailed his hand up slowly between Omi's legs.
"Ah!" The younger boy broke from the kiss, head falling back, caught up in passion. "Ken… oh…" His back arched and he bucked into the touch helplessly. "That's… that's good… that's so… ohh…"
He's incredible… "Oh god, Omi, I want you!" Ken shoved aside his clothes with no grace whatsoever, unable to tear his eyes away. Omi's cheeks were flushed, eyes glazed in passion, totally lost in sensation. He couldn't wait any more. Grabbing Omi's hand, he guided the fingers to the center of his own almost painful arousal, groaning as they moved reflexively. "Omi… Omi, you're beautiful… sexy… god…" Ken ground their bodies together, increasing his pace as he did.
"Ken… Ken…" The younger boy's head tossed furiously, flushed and lost completely in the touch of his partner's hand. His hips thrust helplessly, and he was desperately rubbing his hand against Ken, as if it would speed his own orgasm. "Please… Ken, please… ahh…"
"Oh god!" Ken groaned. Beneath him, Omi spasmed in release, little cries escaping him as he spent himself in his lover's hand. The sight, and the feel of Omi's fingers twitching convulsively around him was enough to push Ken over the edge as well; he came with a startling violence, burying his face in the crook of Omi's neck to muffle his choked yelps.
It's never been so… so… oh, Omi…
He moved himself to the side, sparing Omi from having all of his weight pressing down on him. The younger boy's breathing was starting to slow back to normal and there was a sated sort of calmness settling between them. Ken felt like he could sleep; it had been a late night, and he was so comfortable, curled up with Omi…
"Ken." The shorter boy barely breathed his name, almost reverently. "Ken," he said again, as if he was sounding it out. His hands lazily traced over his partner's back.
"Mmm?" He was too comfortable to move, and those wandering fingers felt nice.
Omi sighed, eyelids drooping. "I love you," he whispered, very softly, almost too quietly to be heard.
Ken felt like the blood in his veins had turned to ice.
That wasn't right. He moved his head quickly to look at Omi's face, already relaxed in sleep. He's not supposed to love me! This is supposed to be just a thing… just us… just this…
Just sex. Ken winced. It sounded so bad! But I can't love Omi - I can't love him. I don't. He felt panic rising, and tried to force it down. This wasn't what he'd thought… Oh god. How am I supposed to tell him? He's going to be so hurt…
He looked down at Omi again; the younger boy was so peaceful - happy in his dreams. No one should have to hurt him like that! It's not right… But there he was, getting ready to tell him that he'd just slept with him but didn't love him back.
Ken stared helplessly at his sleeping lover. What am I supposed to do now?