Chapter 21

Fuji walked toward the park Tony had asked to meet him at, Ryoma right beside him. He’d suggested that the freshman go home or go hang out with Momo, but Ryoma had just given him a look. Since Fuji hadn’t really felt the need to leave Ryoma behind, he’d shrugged and allowed him to follow.

As they walked, Fuji had time to think about everything that had happened. He’d hired Tony to scare Rick, to hurt him a little, not to almost kill him. What had pressed Tony into giving the kill command? He knew Tony had trouble controlling his blood-lust sometimes, but he was contracted as an assassin often enough that he shouldn’t have been tempted by Rick. At the same time, Tony had seemed a bit more interested in the target than normal. He’d even asked Fuji what Rick had done, which was incredibly unusual for him. Fuji had assumed that Tony believed Rick to be too soft, too innocent, but maybe he’d gotten it backwards. Maybe the reason for Tony’s curiosity was that Rick had intrigued him.

Fuji sighed. If he’d known that Tony was going to react so violently toward Rick, he would have put someone else in his place. Tony wouldn’t fuck with him, because Fuji scared him, but Fuji had been foolish to think Tony could restrain frowned. He didn’t want Tony anywhere near Ryoma because he was afraid Tony might view him as a potential target. But Fuji knew better than to hide his lover away; that would only pique Tony’s curiosity. For the first time, he wondered if bringing Tony to Japan had been a mistake. He shook his head to clear it; he just had to trust that Tony’s fear of him would keep him away from Ryoma.

“Why are we meeting him at the park?” Ryoma asked.

The sound of his voice startled Fuji and he nearly missed a step, but didn’t. Fuji reached out a hand and grabbed Ryoma’s; his hand was warm and solid. Neither one of them suffered from sweaty palms, which Fuji was grateful for. “He thinks a public area is safe.”

Ryoma frowned up at him. “Safe? Safe from what?”

The smile that came over Fuji’s face then was a bit feral. “From me.”

Ryoma pushed his cap to the side so he could get a better look at Fuji’s face. “Hmm. Why is he afraid of you?”

“I thought you didn’t want to know details about my life,” Fuji said, gently teasing.

Ryoma curled his lip into a pout, managing the look for all of about two seconds before sighing. When he spoke, his tone was serious. “I don’t need to know the really deep stuff when it doesn’t concern me. But you brought Tony here and I need to know enough about him to keep myself safe.”

Fuji gave him a sidelong glance. “What makes you think you won’t be safe?”

Ryoma stared at him blankly. “He nearly killed Rick. Rick isn’t an easy target. I need to know how dangerous he is so it doesn’t happen to me.”

Fuji sighed, brushing his hair back behind his ear from where the wind had pulled it loose. “I hired Tony to deal with Rick. He’s not going to target you.”

Ryoma looked at him for a long moment. “I need to know why he’s scared of you, Syuusuke, so that I will know without a doubt when I face him that he won’t try and cross you and come after me.” He glanced down at the ground, his hat sliding back into place. “I can’t survive another Rick.”

Fuji squeezed his hand in reassurance. “He’s not another Rick, but I understand. He’s scared of me because he watched me interrogate someone.” There, he’d said it. The one thing he didn’t want anyone to know he’d done; the one thing he still had nightmares about because part of him wondered what it would be like to do it again, to watch someone else as he tortured them. He swallowed, looking straight ahead. He wasn’t sure he could handle what he might find in Ryoma’s eyes.

Ryoma was silent for a long time, long enough that Fuji was starting to feel that his fears were well-founded. When he spoke again, his voice was soft. “He’s not afraid of you because you interrogated someone. He’s afraid of you because he saw that you enjoyed it.”

Fuji closed his eyes and nodded sharply. He didn’t trust himself to speak.

“The person you interrogated-what did they do?” Ryoma asked, reserved.

“He was hiding the location of a slave trader Tony was contracted to kill.”

“Slave trader?” There was no doubt about it; Ryoma was disgusted by the thought.

Truthfully, so was Fuji. There were just some things you did not do to another human being, and one of them was sell them into servitude. The conditions those slaves had been in…well, he didn’t want to think about it. “Yeah,” he said.

Ryoma was silent again. Right when it was starting to become awkward, he asked, “Is he the only person you’ve interrogated?” There was something Fuji couldn’t quite place in his tone, but he didn’t like the way it sounded.

“Yes. Just him.” As the silence stretched between them, Fuji added, “It was the reason I became an information specialist and contractor.”

Ryoma gave him an unreadable look. “If you enjoyed it, then why-”

Fuji interrupted. “Then why give it up?” He turned solemnly to the freshman beside him. “Because when I allow myself to get lost like that, I’m nothing but a monster. I won’t play monster, Ryoma. I won’t allow myself to be consumed.”

“Hmm. So it’s all about control,” Ryoma said, his normal mischievousness back in his voice.

Fuji smiled down at him, trying to disguise how relieved he felt. Ryoma hadn’t pressed him into talking about the details. It was bad enough he had to remember it; had to remind himself every day that kind of thing was off-limits for him. He’d told Ryoma the truth; he didn’t want to turn into a monster, but he knew the potential lay inside him. He’d lied to Rick when he’d said he hadn’t run from his monster, because he had. And he would keep on running. “It’s always about control,” he said. He stopped walking and drew Ryoma close to him, leaning down to kiss him soundly on the lips. When he drew back, Fuji motioned to the park entrance. “We’re here.”

Ryoma blinked stupidly for a moment, then rolled his eyes and walked past him into the park. He headed straight for the picnic area, making beeline for the drink machine.

Fuji looked after him in fond exasperation. Trust Ryoma to insist on accompanying him and then immediately go off by himself to buy Fanta. He heard a slight rustle of cloth and before he could move, there was a man wrapped around him, a gun digging into the small of his back. He rolled his eyes. “Ah. Tony. I’ve been expecting you.”

Tony let him go and stepped away, shaking his head in disgust as the gun he’d held disappeared into the folds of his clothes. “I could kill you. You know I could kill you, but it doesn’t faze you. Aren’t you scared of anything?”

Fuji started at Tony. The blonde American was six feet tall, forcing Fuji to have to tilt his head a bit to meet his eyes. Tony’s eyes were a dull brown; a perfect color to hide his emotions. He had one of those baby faces where he’d easily be mistaken for twelve if he wasn’t so tall, despite the fact that he was a solid twenty-nine. He was slender in a way that was almost effeminate, but the hard lines of his hips were purely male. He moved with an almost feline grace; something he’d picked up from the years he’d spent as an assassin. “Hello to you too, Tony,” Fuji said, forcing his tone into pleasantness. Tony picking a public park to meet at had been smart.

“Fuji…why did you insist on bringing me to Japan? I can’t do any good here.”

Fuji’s mask slipped for a moment. “Precisely,” he said, voice hard.

“I screwed up. I know that. But why Japan? Why after-”

“Why did you give the kill command?” Fuji asked mildly.

Tony started at him. He sighed. “I don’t have a reason that won’t piss you off.”

Fuji shrugged; he’d expected that much. “That’s why you’re in Japan.”

“Because I pissed you off,” Tony said, voice flat with disbelief.

Ryoma had made his way back from the drink machine and was standing a short distance away, staring at the two men, Fanta in hand. “Ne, Syuusuke, is this him?”

Fuji walked to Ryoma and slid a hand around his waist, pulling him close. He needed Tony to understand that his lover was off limits. “Yes, this is Tony.” He looked at the assassin. “This is Echizen Ryoma. He’s the reason I sent you after Rick.”

Tony gave the freshman an assessing look. “He’s the lover you told me about?”

“Mm.”

“Seems kinda scrawny.”

“Hey-”

Fuji covered Ryoma’s mouth with his hand, stifling the protest before it could get started. Ignoring Tony’s presence, he leaned down to whisper in Ryoma’s ear, his lips almost touching them he was so close. “Do not bait him. Do not give him a reason to feel insulted or slighted. The moment you do, he’ll look at you as a target. Do not believe for one second that you will be able to get away with saying anything cocky to him.” He pressed his hand a bit harder against Ryoma’s face and let his voice go hard; to the point that promised pain if he wasn’t obeyed. “But more than any of that, do not press me on this, Ryoma. If you can’t obey me, he will kill you and nothing I can do will save you. Do you understand?”

Ryoma nodded, his body going stiff in Fuji’s arms. He’d never seen Fuji this serious about anything. For the first time that day, he wished he’d done what Fuji had suggested and gone home.

Fuji released his hold on Ryoma and turned back to Tony, smile in place. “He’s not as scrawny as he looks.”

Tony shrugged. “Whatever. He’s obviously your toy, so it doesn’t really matter what I think.”

“You’re right. It doesn’t.”

“I’m in Japan. Now what?”

Fuji tilted his head as he considered the question. Truthfully, he’d already decided what Tony would be doing, but he liked giving the illusion of choice. “Would you prefer to work for me or Hayashi Sora while you’re here?”

Tony blanched. “You. No one in their right mind would go near Sora if they didn’t have to.”

Fuji smiled as a thought struck him. “Then it’ll be good for you to know she’s put a hands-off out for Ryoma here.” He tightened his arm possessively around Ryoma’s waist; the freshman laid his head on Fuji’s shoulder in response. Fuji gave a mental sigh of relief. No one would go against Sora, not even Tony.

Tony’s eyes widened. “You went to her for that? What time limit did you set?”

Fuji allowed himself to drop his mask as he smiled, blue eyes sharp, at the assassin. “I didn’t.”

At that, Tony actually backed up a step. “I wouldn’t touch anyone close to you, Fuji. I’d like to keep my sanity. But Sora…to cross her…”

“It’s unthinkable,” Ryoma said, shivering despite the heat.

Tony looked at Ryoma for the first time as if he were viewing him as a person and not just a piece of property. “You’ve met her.”

Ryoma nodded. “She’s terrifying.” He huddled closer to Fuji, not ashamed of the fact he was seeking his protection.

Fuji squeezed the freshman, but couldn’t help thinking that he didn’t find Sora all that scary. She was dangerous, but so was he. Dangerous in different ways of course, but he just couldn’t see her as terrifying. “I’m not afraid of her,” he said. Somehow he felt it was important to make that clear.

Tony looked at him and shuddered, a flicker of fear crossing his face. “That’s what makes you scary,” he said. His gaze went to Ryoma, his expression one of complete distaste. “How can you let him touch you?” he asked.

Fuji’s arm tightened on Ryoma’s waist, afraid he was going to have to step in, but Ryoma just stared at the assassin.

“Well?” Tony demanded, tapping a foot impatiently.

Ryoma shrugged. “Because I love him.”

“Even knowing what he is and what he’s done?” Tony’s disbelief was palpable.

“Of course,” Ryoma said, looking at Tony as if he thought it was absurd to think otherwise.

Fuji smiled then. He turned to Tony. “Get an apartment near Seigaku. Your identification is Tony Sanders right now, a senior transferring into our school. You’ll be guarding us under the premise of being a student.”

Tony made a disgusted noise. “I’m twenty-nine.”

“You can pass for eighteen,” Fuji said, voice hard.

“Jesus, Fuji. Japan I get. But high school?” Tony’s face wrinkled in displeasure, his tone almost petulant.

Fuji smirked. “Your worst nightmare come to life.”

Tony shuddered, then glared at Fuji. “You bastard. You know exactly how much I hated high school.”

It went unsaid that Tony had been terrified of school because he’d been badly bullied; it was the reason he’d trained as an assassin. Fuji let go of Ryoma, taking a couple steps forward so that he was invading Tony’s personal space. He hid his surprise when the assassin held his ground-Tony disliked anyone being within touching distance. “You fucked up, Tony. I don’t forgive failure.”

“For anyone?” Tony’s eyes flicked towards Ryoma.

Ryoma answered for him. “If you think I’m exempt from Fuji’s displeasure, you don’t know him very well.” He stepped up beside Fuji, making sure to stand far enough away not to crowd Tony any further. He was taking his lover’s advice to heart; distressing this guy seemed like a bad idea. “I pay for my mistakes in different ways, but never think for a second that I don’t pay for them.”

Tony frowned down at him, then looked at Fuji. “What does he mean?”

Fuji smiled, stepping back. “Did you really think I’d take a lover and be okay with him going against my wishes?”

Tony looked thoughtful, but nodded. “Yeah, I did.”

Ryoma snorted.

Tony looked at him, trying to decide if he had been insulted or not.

“Ryoma,” Fuji said in warning.

Ryoma stepped back, lowering his head in submission. “Sorry, Syuusuke.” He tried not to flinch, but he had come within a hairs-breadth of doing exactly what Fuji had warned him not to. Something in him always made him want to test the people around them; to see if they really were as big and bad as they seemed. He scowled at himself; he’d almost blown it over something stupid.

Tony looked at Ryoma in confusion, having forgotten all about the potential insult. “You back down, just like that?”

Ryoma nodded, saying nothing. He wasn’t sure he trusted himself to speak.

Fuji smiled, bringing Tony’s attention back to him. “It’s always about control, Tony. Why would my personal life be any different?”

Tony stood there, staring between the two of them. He shook his head. “I don’t get you or your lover, Fuji. But I’ll do what you say. I’ll see you at school-” his face twisted into a grimace. “Tomorrow.”

Fuji nodded, then watched Tony walk away. At least he’d gotten it through to the assassin that Ryoma was off limits. He turned to the freshman. “I told you not to bait him.”

“Che. Couldn’t help it.”

Fuji rolled his eyes. The sad thing about it was the truth in it. Ryoma really couldn’t help baiting people. “You know, sometimes I think you do things to get me to punish you on purpose.”

Ryoma didn’t bother hiding the flinch that thought caused. Nothing in the world would make him actively seek punishment from Fuji.

“No?” Fuji asked.

Ryoma shook his head, his gaze focused on the ground.

“Hmm. Then maybe I’m not hurting you enough to keep you satisfied. Think that’s it?”

Ryoma dared a quick glance up and saw that Fuji was teasing him. He grinned. “I’m always up for pain, Syuusuke. You know that.”

Fuji smiled. Suddenly he couldn’t wait to get Ryoma alone.

Chapter 20     Chapter Index     Chapter 22

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