Shikkai was in a sour mood when he returned from Maeda's haunt; sometimes it was impossible to get the foul taste of the little man out of his mouth. As he desealed the door to his apartment, he remembered the stash of Lucid he'd put aside for such times. There was nothing important that needed doing for the rest of the day, and he deserved some time off every now and again.
His small apartment seemed empty, but he could hear soft sounds from the bathroom. Aishuu was home already, then. He wondered how the metal moulding had gone. He'd been so annoyed by the favours he'd done for Maeda, that he'd almost forgotten why he'd done them. He hoped it was worth the effort.
"Aishuu?" He tossed himself on his bed and waited for the boy, who he knew would come out when he was ready.
"Yeah, yeah." Aishuu was grumbling, but he appeared soon enough in the bathroom doorway, leaning against the doorframe, his mouth pulled into a pout. The metal moulding had worked well; sleek silver coated his face diagonally from his left temple down across to his right cheek, skirting neatly around his eye. The moulding moved smoothly with his expressions, as familiar as ever, and yet completely alien at the same time.
"It's perfect." Shikkai climbed to his feet, shrugging his shoulders. That dealt with, he could hit some Lucid and relax for the night.
"Ya think? Worth your favours?" Aishuu was watching him intently. The boy had taken out his icy contacts, Shikkai saw with relief.
"Yeah. It'll keep them from banging down our door. That's worth anything right now." Shikkai dug around in his bottom drawer, finding the release to detach it completely so he could remove it and reach his stash.
"Anything? So what were your favours? Sounded nasty." Aishuu was trying to sound offhand, but Shikkai could hear the menace, and worry, in the boy's voice. Worry for him? What was the point?
"Nothing much. I know what you're thinking, and I told you, I don't pimp anyone for him." Shikkai's fingers closed around the small box, finally, and he pulled it out with a sigh.
"Yeah, but do you pimp yourself?" Aishuu's face looked almost savage. Shikkai rose to his feet, shaking his head.
"Forget it, okay? I'm taking the night off, too, and that includes you not being pesky." He sat on the bed and opened the box, pulling out the small hummer that would break down the Lucid cubes, and the needlegun that would shoot the drug into his system.
"Huh?" Aishuu blinked in surprise, his questions seemingly forgotten in the sudden change of conversation. "What do you mean?"
"A night of lucidity." Shikkai grinned, holding up a snapcap of cubes. "Want some?" He saw the automatic expression of disgust that crossed Aishuu's face, and shook his head, returning his attention to the cubes.
"It.. what's it like?" Aishuu sounded hesitant now.
"Lucid? Well.." Shikkai dropped a cube into the hummer, slammed its base into the top of the needlegun, and hit the button that made the magic happen. "You feel really happy, and really peaceful. You take a step back from reality and everything just seems so much better when you're looking at it from further away." He grinned, watching the pale purple liquid that swirled into the needlegun. "And it's recreational, so there's no addiction."
He raised the gun to his neck, and looked up. Aishuu's face was a mix of conflicting emotions. He looked just like so many other first timers Shikkai had seen; so afraid, yet wanting to know what the secret was that everyone else seemed to find in it. But there was pain as well.
"Why do you hate drugs so much?" he asked as he pulled the trigger.
"Oh.." Aishuu pulled hair into his face, falling silent. By the time he finally answered, Shikkai had almost forgotten he'd asked, and the words came as a surprise.
"Kou, she.. well, she took Haze, you know that. Once a week, regular. And everytime she'd either make me go away while she was on it, or else I had to spin. She'd turn off all the lights and just lie on the bed the whole time." Aishuu frowned, shaking more hair into his face. "I'd only pretend to spin, I'd just sit there and listen.. sometimes she'd cry through it all. Sometimes she said maybe she'd stop, and then it'd be two weeks, or three.. but then she'd just cry even more. And she always went back. She hated it."
Shikkai closed his eyes, feeling the first rush of the Lucid already, the first tingles at the edges of his fingers, his toes. He tried to picture Kou, lying in the darkness, crying.
"That's the addiction. That's the worst type of drug to take." He opened his eyes, seeing the pain on Aishuu's face, and felt a sudden urge to kiss it away. He wrapped his arms around himself to hold him where he was; that had to be the Lucid talking. "I hate addictions. They fuck you over. This.. this is just a way to get away from pain for awhile."
Aishuu stared at him, and he stared back.
"Show me." The boy said finally, defiance in his voice, and Shikkai stared even harder.
"You mean it?"
"Yeah." Aishuu walked over, sitting down next to Shikkai. "Do it."
Shikkai glanced at him once more, then shrugged, reaching for the snapcap. He pulled out another cube, dropped it into the hummer, and attached the needlegun again.
"How long does it take?" Aishuu watched the little machine vibrating in Shikkai's hands.
"Almost straightaway. The needlegun snapshots it straight into your system." Shikkai put the hummer aside, turning to Aishuu. He raised the gun, pressing it against Aishuu's neck, and the boy shivered. Shikkai stared into those stormy violet eyes, one framed by silver, both overflowing with emotions.
"It matches your eyes," he said as he pulled the trigger, watching the purple disappear from the gun, flowing straight into Aishuu.
Aishuu jumped a little, pulling away from the gun. His fingers twined nervously in his lap, and he lowered his gaze to them. Shikkai grinned, and turned to pack everything away again. Better now than later, and it'd give the Lucid a chance to start hitting Aishuu. Then they could spend all night laughing if they wanted; it wouldn't matter.
The box gone from sight and the drawer safely back in place, Shikkai moved back to the bed, feeling the Lucid seeping into his veins. He imagined he could almost see it, a swirling purple that writhed down inside his arms and legs, coiled around inside his head, his chest, wrapping him in something soft and comfortable.
"It feels.. weird," Aishuu said softly, raising his eyes to look at Shikkai again. They were looking glassy already. Shikkai grinned; first timers always felt it fast and hard.
"But good, am I right?" Shikkai pushed gently at Aishuu's chest, and the boy fell back on the bed with a surprised yelp. He tried to get up again, but he couldn't seem to manage it.
"Yeah!" Aishuu laughed, letting his head drop back. He stared up at the ceiling, his laughter trailing off, his gaze going distant. Shikkai smirked; the boy would probably be lost in tracing imaginary patterns across the roof for hours.
Shikkai closed his eyes, letting the warmth surround him entirely. It was so easy to get lost in something, anything, no matter how small. He found himself fascinated by his own breathing; how soft and shallow it sounded, and how he could stop it and start it at his own will. How deep and powerful he could make it, and how if he kept on breathing in, he could fill until he felt he'd burst.. or maybe float up into the air. Maybe he'd float away and nobody would be able to catch him. He'd float up past the slums, past the corps and up out of the city and find out what was above everything else.
Aishuu's laughter snapped Shikkai back to the present, and he opened his eyes, wondering how long he'd been floating. Everything seemed hazy, his apartment all soft and distant around the edges. Except for Aishuu.
The boy was curled up against the wall behind the bed, his eyes on Shikkai's face, his mouth wide open in laughter. He was larger than life, almost radiating the brilliance of his existence, his edges seeming crisp and sharply outlined. He was there, all rumpled blue and soft white and startling purple.
"Shikkai!" His voice was so sweet it almost hurt Shikkai's ears to hear it. "You look so funny! All puffed up and red in the face! What are you doing?"
"Floating," he replied automatically, and Aishuu laughed even harder.
"But you're not going very far!" Locks of blue hair whapped against Aishuu's face as he shook his head, and even the soft sound of that roared in Shikkai's ears.
"Hey, I'm still learning!" Shikkai found himself laughing as well, but his own laughter was distant, soft compared to Aishuu's.
"Do you have any music? I want to listen to something. There's all these cool patterns on your roof and I bet some music would be perfect with 'em.."
"Sure." Shikkai climbed to his feet, wondering if music would be louder than Aishuu, or if that sharp voice would cut straight into him even over that. He moved to his disc player, dropping in whatever came to hand; a popular disc someone had given him as part return for a favour. He hit play, and then remembered the vis-player a customer had helped him hook up to it. If Aishuu liked the roof patterns, he'd love these.
He switched it on as well, then turned to look at the boy. The sound of a bass guitar was thrumming out the speakers, and the vis-player warmed up to it, casting soft waves of colour into the air over the bed. Aishuu gasped, his attention caught. As more instruments kicked in, the waves became wilder, adding more colours, and shifting shapes, and with the singer's voice, the middle of the patterns went wild.
Aishuu's head dropped back against the wall behind the bed, his eyes following the patterns, his mouth open in surprise. Shikkai laughed, flopping himself across the bottom of the bed, and rolled over to stare at the patterns as well. He found his mind caught up by them, fascinated by the swirls and intricate designs that were forming and then vanishing into each other, chased by and chasing the wild torment of the music. But above it all he could still hear Aishuu's every noise, every breath and slight movement.
Shikkai was still surprised, however, when some unknown time later he felt gentle fingers playing with his hair. He shifted slightly to look up, and saw that Aishuu had leaned forward, his focus shifting from the patterns to Shikkai. His expression was just as fascinated as he toyed with Shikkai's bright red locks, wrapping them around his fingers and letting them slide across his palms.
Aishuu's pale fingers seemed to crackle with energy. Shikkai stared at them, and then past them to the glowing crescent of silver that hugged Aishuu's face, and the pair of eyes staring forth from it. Something in them caught him, and he found himself twisting up and around, until he was kneeling in front of the boy, their gazes level.
"Shikkai.." Aishuu reached out one hand, palm forward, his expression unsure, and Shikkai met the palm with his lips, kissing it. Aishuu started, his fingers twitching. Then the hand slipped around to the back of Shikkai's neck, pulling him forward, and Shikkai found his lips pressed against Aishuu's, as soft and innocent as they'd always looked. Shikkai closed his eyes as the sensations overwhelmed him. He let himself taste, and listen; the sharp, almost electric tang of Aishuu's mouth, the rustle of his fingers in hair and clothing, the shallowness of his breathing.
When they stopped, it was to gasp for air, staring at each other. Aishuu's hair framed his face, wild and tangled, and his expression matched it. Shikkai didn't even bother to wonder what they were doing, or why; he was past that, and he could only feel. He reached for the boy again, pressing their bodies together as well this time, letting his fingers comb through the tangles of hair, letting his sudden erection press against Aishuu, finding a matching hardness to grind against.
Aishuu pulled back again, his wide eyes full of surprise now. Shikkai's melted, confused senses registed the surprise, registed Aishuu's innocence, and reminded him not to break it. Not to ruin the childlike boy that was staring trustingly up at him.
"Is this.." Aishuu's whisper trailed off, fading into a soft moan, and his eyes closed briefly. A hesitant hand reached up to touch Shikkai's face, and then those vibrant eyes, so much more real than anything else, were holding Shikkai in thrall again. "Love me..?" Aishuu's words were half question, half plea.
"Gods, Aishuu." Shikkai groaned; the Lucid pumped purple lust and adrenaline through him, and he ached to ravish the glowing boy in front of him, let them both get lost in something wild. But something inside held him back; something reminded him just how young and naive Aishuu was. And how that was the reason Shikkai wanted him so much, really.
Soft, shaking hands slid down his chest, and he caught his breath as they brushed against his nipples, like tiny sparks of lightning ripping through the thin cloth of his shirt. He shook his head, trying briefly to find his sanity. He couldn't be wild. Which meant he'd better not let Aishuu touch him again; he'd lose his control if those sparks hit him even once more.
"Don't tease me, kid. Let me tease you." He knocked the boy's hands away, and reached for him, pulling Aishuu into a deep kiss, letting his fingers explore the silky texture of the boy's tangled hair, and slide down his back, tracing the ridges of his spine. Shikkai's tongue discovered Aishuu's, and they swam around each other, over each other, drowning in saliva.
His fingers moved again, pushing aside Aishuu's clothing, to trace the soft contours of his bare skin beneath, so strange against his hypersensitive fingers. Aishuu's body arched against him, a shocked gasp escaping him into Shikkai's mouth, and Shikkai swallowed it, wondering if it would sound forever in his stomach. He abandoned the kiss in favour of Aishuu's pale neck, sucking and licking, his ears ringing with the sound of Aishuu's pleasure.
He moved slowly, carefully stripping off the boy's shirt as he went, and tossing it into the dark haze that the world had become around them. The boy seemed to glow in contrast, a haze of soft white surrounding him, more alive than he had any right to be. And Shikkai submitted to it, exploring every bared inch of skin, touching and kissing, drinking the light into himself until he thought he might well be glowing too.
Aishuu was a writhing, panting creature beneath Shikkai, eyes closed, lost in a passion he'd probably never known. Shikkai gently eased the boy's pants off, freeing his erection, and tossed the clothing aside, forgotten already. He wrapped gentle fingers around Aishuu's cock, squeezing, and Aishuu's eyes flew open, a whimper rising in his throat.
"Gods.." he choked out, his wild gaze leaping pleadingly to meet Shikkai's, before he closed his eyes again. Shikkai saw the mad desire that consumed his face, and he grinned. The power he held over the boy glowed inside him a moment, and then he gave in to the memory of those pleading eyes, his mouth suddenly salivating as if craving the taste. He lowered his head, taking Aishuu's cock firmly into his mouth, sucking hard and wrapping his tongue around the head.
Aishuu almost howled, his hips thrusting desperately. Shikkai thought to tease him a little longer, but already the boy was coming in his mouth, fast and furious, and he swallowed, letting it stream thickly down his throat, running his tongue over and around Aishuu's cock until it relaxed again.
Shikkai raised his head, wiping his lips. Aishuu's expression was stunned, delighted, and sated. Sweat coated his thin body, and his hair spread around him on the bed like an electric halo.
"Shikkai.." he murmured, curling up against the wall again. He reached his hand out to Shikkai, like a trusting child, his eyes fluttering closed. Shikkai took the hand, and kissed it, fighting off the trappings of Lucid for a moment.
"In a minute," he said, picking up the covers and tucking them around the boy. He walked into the bathroom, hearing Aishuu's breathing slowing already, as he drifted into sleep. Shikkai was still hard, needing release, and he stood over the toilet, letting his pants drop. He closed his eyes, gripping his cock in one hand, and imagined Aishuu's hands holding him, Aishuu's mouth sucking him off.
He came quickly, and the aching was gone, but not entirely satisfied. He craved Aishuu now, but he didn't want to think about it, didn't want to try and understand it. He let the Lucid take him over again, and he returned to the main room, slipping into his bed and curling up around Aishuu. He closed his eyes, comforted by a warm body next to his, and let sleep pull him down into oblivion.
Shikkai awoke early the next morning, confused at the unfamiliarity of sharing his bed with someone. He sat up with a start, before he remembered what had happened the night before.
He looked down; Aishuu was snuggled up close to him, and even as he watched, the boy snuggled closer, a faint frown marring his sleeping face. Shikkai reached down and gently stroked the boy's cheek, and the frown vanished again.
The Lucid had left his mind calm, and he wondered idly about what he'd done. By taking Aishuu's innocence, by introducing him to the sexual side of the adult world, would he have ruined the very thing about the boy which had appealed to him? Or would it make him more appealing?
He still craved the boy. Watching Aishuu sleeping, so childlike and trusting, made his groin ache, and something else inside him, too. It had been a long time since he'd bothered to be involved with someone else, and even then, it had not been quite like this. All of his relationships had been based on mutual lust and not much else. He shared beds, but never anything more. It was too important to him that he only belonged to himself.
When was it that Aishuu had managed to get closer to him? He'd been trying to keep that safe distance between them, but somehow the boy had broken his way through one barrier after another. Or maybe crept through would be more appropriate.
Shikkai shook his head, climbing carefully out of the bed. Regardless, he felt good this morning, and congenial as well. Aishuu looked like he'd sleep for awhile yet; Shikkai might as well go and do the morning run. It'd give the boy some time alone when he finally awoke, too. Shikkai had enjoyed the night for its own merits, but no doubt Aishuu would be confused as hell. He'd leave the boy to think about it on his own.
He dressed quickly, slipping into his new clothes, enjoying the feel of them. Once his coat was packed with everything he needed, he walked back over to the bed, and giving in to impulse, leant over and kissed Aishuu on the forehead.
The boy wriggled slightly, and then one eye half opened, blearily staring up at him.
"Go back to sleep, Aishuu." Shikkai brushed back some of the tangle of blue hair that covered the boy's face. "I'm doing the morning run today."
"'Kay." Aishuu frowned a moment, but his eye closed again and he slipped back into sleep quickly, the frown vanishing. Shikkai grinned; Aishuu just wasn't meant to be a morning person. He turned and left the apartment, sealing the door shut quietly behind him.
The run was as smooth as ever, and Shikkai enjoyed himself, his good mood making everything more fun than usual. He returned to his apartment just before midday, and he wondered briefly if Aishuu was even awake yet. He could imagine the boy sleeping the whole day away, given a chance.
The bed was empty, however, and Shikkai glanced around the room. He spied Aishuu quickly enough; the boy was sitting in the only comfortable chair Shikkai owned, his eyes closed and a kit on his lap. He was deep in the cyberlooms.
Shikkai closed the door and hung up his coat, then moved across the room. He leaned over to tap on the kit's viewscreen and let Aishuu know he was home, but his fingers froze above it as he recognised the image on the screen. A crosshatching of threads, stamped with an ominous W in the middle. A WeaveLock threadcage.
Shikkai began to feel lightheaded, and he gasped, realising he'd forgotten to breath for a long moment. He knelt next to the boy, staring at the viewscreen. A threadcage; he considered them the cruelest type of security on the looms. Once they locked you in, there was no jacking out. Your mind was stuck in the cyberlooms until your body shrivelled up and died. And who the hell cared enough for a hacker to trace them in the looms and risk trying to unlock the cage?
He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. Inhale, exhale. There had to be a way. He'd never heard much more than speculation about unlocking cages, but someone had surely done it. They had to have! He cursed Aishuu for being stupid enough to get caught, and he cursed himself for being stupid enough to care. But he wasn't going to lose the boy now.
He stood up slowly, trying to calm his sudden rage, and walked over to the datathread. He tapped in Maeda's thread, and it was soon answered by an unfamiliar flunky.
"Yeah." The boy looked bored.
"I need to speak with Maeda. This is Shikkai."
"Everyone needs to speak with Maeda. You got something pressing, you better prove it."
"Just tell him it's me. I need a favour." He paused, realising this would be the third favour he'd pulled from Maeda in less than a week. Things were starting to look bad. "Tell him I'm willing to pay."
"Sure." The boy made no effort to hide what he thought of that, but he hit the hold switch, and Shikkai stared at the blank screen impatiently, trying to stand still. Time ticked over, his nerves twitching and protesting this lack of action with each minute, until finally, Maeda's face appeared.
"Demon. This is a rare pleasure. Your lovely face twice in two days." Maeda didn't look all that pleased, though. His eyes were hard, harder than usual.
"I'm sorry, Maeda. I wouldn't be bothering you with this if I could get it anywhere else. But you've got all the best contacts that I just don't have access to." He hoped that sounded as contrite and flattering as he meant it to.
"And just what is this special thing that you need?"
"I need a hacker." He paused, knowing this was going to hurt. "One who can break a threadcage."
"A threadcage?!" Maeda's eyes widened as far as they were able, and then he laughed, a thin, scratchy sound. "You really think someone like that exists? And even if they did, how in the hell would you afford it? Hackers like that cost more than cheap sexual favours, Demon." Maeda looked amused, perhaps hoping for a reaction, but Shikkai kept his face calm.
"I know. I've got credit. I'll figure something out. Can you give me someone? I don't know how long I've got."
"Hmph. You know they always leave them for days to get weakened." Maeda tapped his fingers against his chin. "What has your little puppy been up to?"
"Being an idiot," Shikkai replied automatically.
"Then let him stay one. I told you he was wrong for this business." Maeda's eyes narrowed, shrewdly.
"I can't." Shikkai cursed his flippant reply. He needed Maeda on Aishuu's side for this. "I need this one. You know how long I've worked without flunkies. I've finally found one that I can work with. I'm not going to go and lose all that hard work I've put into training him."
"You need to be less picky, then." But Maeda's gaze softened slightly, and he chuckled. "I can give you someone, but he's not cheap, Demon. And I don't know if he can do cages, but he's the best I've seen."
"Sounds fine." Shikkai offered an easy smile. The part of his mind that had kept him alive on the streets so long was raging at the very idea of spending so much credit, but he couldn't let Aishuu go and still be able to live with himself. He'd intervened where Aishuu might have killed himself once before; it had been to save the boy's life, right? Then how could he just let it go again?
"Alright. I'll thread him in a minute. If he can do it, he'll thread you. And don't worry," Maeda smirked at him, "we'll be quick about it. But you'd better be quick in return. I could do with a nice stockup of Discord."
"Sure." Shikkai kept his smile in place. Damn Maeda. He knew Discord was about the most expensive on the market right now. And stocking Maeda up would leave his own stocks practically empty. "I'll get it to you once I've dealt with this."
"I'll hold you to that." Maeda cut the thread, and Shikkai shivered, moving back to where Aishuu's limp body sat, all of him there except the most important part; his mind. Shikkai swore at the boy, kicking absently at the bottom of the chair. Maeda's hacker had better be damned good.