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Cage: Part 17

Later, when he was sure Aishuu was asleep, Shikkai eased out of the boy's grasp, and moved across the room to sit in one of the slouch chairs, where he could still see Aishuu. He didn't want to move too far from the boy right now, but he needed to talk to someone. Needed to vent this disbelief, anger, this frustration, somehow.

He tapped up Kami's weave on his spindle, and waiting impatiently for the hacker's sharp face to appear on the small screen.

"Well, you look like complete shit." Kami greeted him cheerfully, and he growled at the hacker.

"How much do you know? About Aishuu?" he shot back, in no mood for banter.

"I have an idea. Tell me if I'm right or not." Kami raised an eyebrow. Shikkai glanced at the sleeping boy on the bed.

"He's a lab experiment. They made him for his loom abilities." Shikkai cut off as he saw the knowing look cross Kami's face. And the anger.

"So it was.. Gods, I hate being right all the time." Kami's attempt at humour had a bitter edge to it.

"How did you -- how could you -- " he stopped, the anger that washed over him leaving him just as quickly. Even if Kami had told them this, would they had believed him? And would it have been any better that way? "Shit. This is really fucked up, Kami."

"You're telling me." Kami rolled his eyes. "How'd he take it?"

"How d'you think?" Shikkai sighed, rubbing his eyes, feeling worn down and out of energy. "He's sleeping. He's pointing all that anger inwards, like always. And I'm just trying to tell him it doesn't matter."

"He believe you?"

"He wants to."

"Well that's a start." Kami flashed him a quick grin. "I know it's nasty, but I think he will be okay. I think that's something else they put in them. They're strong, they bounce back from most things. He's just a little more emotional."

"And how many have you seen to judge?" Shikkai couldn't help but snap that one.

"As many as you have." Kami shrugged his shoulders. "I've just done a little more reading on it." He chuckled, then sighed. "When he gets over this part of it, he's gonna be really pissed off, you know."

"Gods, I can't even think that far." Shikkai looked over at Aishuu's sleeping form; how did you get over something like that, anyway? He could tell Aishuu that it didn't matter all he wanted, but he still knew how much it must hurt, could only imagine how hard it would be to believe in yourself when everything you'd believed about yourself so far was a lie.

"Well, he will. And with his temper, I have a feeling he's gonna want to take them on, head to head. Are you going to be ready for that?"

"Ready? What the fuck am I supposed to do about it?" Shikkai shuddered. Aishuu versus WeaveLock. He didn't want to imagine the outcome of that battle.

"Help him. And make sure he doesn't do it stupidly. You know you won't be able to stop him." Kami smirked, a little of the worry fading from his face.

"Fuck. Yeah, I know." Shikkai sighed; after this, he decided, he was going to get some sleep himself. There was just too much to deal with. "Just.." he hesitated, still hating to beg anything from the hacker. But he needed Kami. "You'll help too, won't you? Don't leave him now."

Kami laughed, but it wasn't mocking, and somehow it reassured Shikkai.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world, Demon. Besides, I've grown kinda fond of you two. Can't have you fucking up and wasting your lives on someone like WeaveLock, now can I?"

"Shikkai?" The soft voice intruded on Shikkai's sleep, and he tried his best to ignore it; he'd hardly slept in days, and he needed it. But a firm hand shook his shoulder, jolting his only days-old wounds. "Shikkai, wake up."

"What?" His eyes cracked open enough to make out the form of a small glowing boy leaning over him. Glowing..?

"Aishuu?" He sat up, his eyes finally opening properly, the last dredges of sleep flittering away completely. Aishuu was sitting on the bed next to him, and he could see at once that something had changed. The boy sat straight, his shoulders back, instead of his usual slouching; his hair, which had grown past his shoulders in the time they'd been living there, was pulled sharply back from his face and knotted in a ponytail; his face itself was calm, in control. Adult.

It had been days since they'd uncovered the truth from WeaveLock, and in that time, Aishuu hadn't left their bed; curled up and staring at the ceiling for hours, he'd take food if given it, and talk if spoken to, but for the most part he was unresponsive, barely there. Shikkai hadn't know what to do for the boy, except to hold him close and reassure him that things would be okay, that it didn't matter that he was different. But whenever talk turned to anything they'd uncovered from WeaveLock, Aishuu would stop responding, his eyes turning distant, or perhaps inwards.

Shikkai, when he'd been able to stop worrying long enough to sleep for a few hours, had slept next to Aishuu, but it had been like sleeping next to a lifeless body. Yet now, in the time since he'd last managed to fall asleep, something had changed. Aishuu had grown up. And in a way, it hurt his heart to see it. The boy's very nature was childlike, innocent and naive; to take away his childishness was to ruin him. But WeaveLock had done it as easily as they'd made him a child in the first place.

"I'm sorry for worrying you lately. I know this hasn't been easy to deal with." Aishuu's hands rested in his lap, and Shikkai reached out to take them. Aishuu flinched, then relented, his fingers curling around Shikkai's.

"More so for you than me, I think." Shikkai spoke the words softly, testing Aishuu's control; wondering how much of a mask it was. Aishuu turned his head away slightly, but his face remained calm.

"Maybe so. I've.. thought about it. I'll deal with it as best I can. I hope you can too. I'm.. I'm going to fight WeaveLock. I'm going to get them back for it. I'm not going to let them do it to anyone else, ever. I want.." He hesitated, then pulled his hands free from Shikkai's. "I want you to go home. I don't think they'll follow you down there anymore, but I asked Gyro to find you someplace different to work. If you keep your hair black, and with your scars.." He reached up a hesitant hand, running it through Shikkai's hair, then moved away again. "I know you like it red, you like being the Demon.. I'll make them forget about you, I promise. It'll all blow over."

Shikkai stared at him for a long moment, unable to believe that Aishuu really thought he would be better off back where he came from. Better off away from Aishuu. The boy stood slowly, still not looking at him, and he reached out, grabbing for him.

"No." He said firmly, catching the boy's arm and squeezing it gently. Aishuu winced, and he remembered the cuts; all the fresh wounds that crisscrossed the boy's arms. He let go, and Aishuu pulled out of reach, turning his back.

"What do you mean, no?" The boy's voice was flat.

"I mean no, I will not leave you. I will not let you fight them alone." He climbed out of bed, moving around in front of Aishuu, wanting to meet that blank gaze and get past it, past his attempt to take care of himself. Maybe he could, but Shikkai didn't want him to.

"I don't want you caught up in this anymore, Shikkai. It's too much. It's too dangerous." Aishuu's words were defiant, but his gaze was still cold, calm, adult. It was so wrong on him.

"Don't you think it's a bit late for that? And even if I could get out now, why the hell would I want to? Do you really think I'm going to leave you? Or let you leave me?"

Aishuu started to turn away again, and Shikkai caught the boy's wrists this time, forcing him to stay facing him.

"Don't do this to me, Aishuu. I'm not letting you go."

"Will you stop it!" Aishuu suddenly exclaimed, yanking his wrists free, pushing forcefully against Shikkai's chest. Shikkai stumbled back slightly, surprise catching him at Aishuu's furious expression.

"Stop always being right! Stop always being in charge! I'm not a child anymore, I can make decisions for myself, I can take control of my own life! So let me be in control for once! I'm sick to death of being coddled!" Aishuu spun away again, thin arms wrapping around himself, carefully tied hair falling loose into his face the way it always used to.

Shikkai stared at his tense back. What was he supposed to say to that? He didn't want Aishuu to take control. He wanted to take care of the boy. Aishuu was so naive, so unknowing of the world; all he would end up doing was hurting himself. But.. was that what Aishuu wanted? To know, to learn? To lose his precious innocence?

"Aishuu --" he cut himself off, suddenly having no idea what to say.

"I know I'm young. And I don't know anything yet. I know you like me like this. But I'm tired of it. It just hurts. Everytime I find out what life's really like.. it hurts me more for not knowing it was coming. I want to grow up." Aishuu peered over his shoulder at Shikkai, and Shikkai couldn't help but feel a moment of relief at the sight of Aishuu's face, its calm mask finally gone, the unsurety and boyishness back again. And then he mentally kicked himself; was he not listening to a word Aishuu was saying?

"Alright," he said softly, raising his hands in defeat. "I wish you could see how good it is to hold on to that for as long as you can, but.. grow up. Take control. Just don't you dare think putting me out of your life is an option."

"I can't just.. I'm scared to have you here. I don't care what happens to me anymore, but I don't want anything to happen to you." Aishuu straightened his shoulders, scrabbling to brush his hair back behind his ears again. Like he was grasping at that elusive adulthood. Shikkai stepped forward, wrapping his arms around Aishuu, holding him just the way he was, young and unsure, even if the boy didn't want to be that way.

"All the more reason for me to stay. That way you can make sure nothing happens to me. And then it won't happen to you either." Shikkai kissed the top of his head.

"You don't understand --"

"I do." Shikkai turned Aishuu in his grasp, but gently now. "Do you remember how you felt when Kou died?" He saw the instant flash of pain that crossed Aishuu's face. "I'm not going to let you make me feel that same way."

Aishuu closed his eyes, and the pain slowly faded from his face. He opened his mouth, closed it again; his face struggled with a dozen emotions, but slowly he shut them down, somehow catching that calm he'd held earlier.

"Alright. Stay and help me, then. Watch my back. But don't you dare make me feel that, either. I can't take it again."

"I won't. We'll make them pay for it, instead. That I've promised you from the start." Shikkai waited, and finally Aishuu's eyes opened again, bright and suddenly glowing.

"I know. And I intend to make you keep that promise." A tentative smile crossed his face, somehow different; a weary smile, that knew too much. And Shikkai knew it was already too late to hold onto Aishuu's innocence.

"Aishuu, you're not ready for this!" Shikkai stared in disbelief at the boy seated calmly in front of him, already jacked into the looms and yet somehow still aware of the physical world around him.

"I am." His purple eyes were wide open and blank, staring beyond Shikkai at something only Aishuu could see. But they flicked up to meet Shikkai's gaze briefly, full of determination, before returning to their vacantness.

"Kami.." Shikkai turned desperately to the hacker, who sat across from Aishuu, watching him closely. "He's not ready, right?"

"Well.." Kami shrugged his shoulders helplessly at Shikkai. "Skill-wise, I think he is." The hacker smirked as Shikkai glared at him, then shook his head. "Mentally, though.. I don't think he's ready to face them."

"I'll never be mentally ready for it, so it doesn't matter." Aishuu turned his blank eyes on Kami, who looked away with another shrug. "This is the guy who decided my life and my sister's death.. who watched every moment of our existence without caring about any of it. If I can get him.."

"Then what? Will you stop being crazy like this?" Shikkai sat down next to Kami, feeling helpless. When he'd agreed to help Aishuu fight back against WeaveLock, he hadn't expected it to start this soon. But Aishuu had found the name of the man who'd created them, and now he had a personal vendetta.

"No. I'll just start being more careful about it."

Kami burst out laughing, and Shikkai glared at him again.

"C'mon, Demon, he's got the skill and he's determined enough. He'll be okay after this. 'Sides, I'll be watching him, what could go wrong?"

"I'm going too then." Shikkai spoke firmly.

"No." Aishuu sat up very straight in his chair, eyes focused properly on Shikkai now.

"Try and stop me."

"I'll eject you if I have to."

"Aishuu. This was part of our deal. You promised me something, too." Shikkai stood up, and crossed the room to stand in front of Aishuu. "And if it's that dangerous, protect me. Maybe then you might protect yourself too." He leaned over the boy's chair and kissed the top of his head. "Growing up doesn't mean you have to do everything by yourself." He spoke those last words softly, and Aishuu looked up at him, finally.

"Does it mean I have to keep my promises?" Amusement glinted in the boy's eyes for a moment.


"Maybe I should stay a child then." The boy laughed at Shikkai's suddenly souring expression, and Shikkai felt the annoyance leave him almost at once. It was the first time he'd heard Aishuu laugh since he'd learned the truth.

"Come then. If I'm being crazy, let's do it all the way. But if anything dangerous happens, I'll eject you without even thinking about it."

"Fine." Shikkai sat down next to Kami again; it was enough to get Aishuu to agree to let him go along. Not that the boy's forbidding him would've stopped him, but it was easier this way. Now they could get this final revenge together.

It seemed they sat there for hours, tense and unsure, before suddenly Aishuu sat up, alert.

"He's in. Get in here now." And the boy closed his eyes, cutting off his connection to the physical world.

Shikkai and Kami stared at one another for a moment, and then they were both scrabbling for their kits, jacking in as fast as they could.

Shikkai shook himself as the looms coalesced into place around him, and stared at the two unfamiliar avatars in front of him; one pure white, one black as the looms, save for a childish chalk outline. But even as he watched, the pure white avatar faded into Aishuu's normal appearance. The boy looked down at his hands, then up at Shikkai.

"Put your normal avatar on. I want him to know it's us." Aishuu glanced at Kami and grinned. "Don't worry, you can keep your anonymity."

"How kind of you." Kami chuckled, orange squiggles flickering inside his avatar.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Shikkai asked, but he was already switching to his normal avatar; he understood Aishuu's motives, at least. And he didn't think much was going to stop the boy getting what he wanted right now.

"I'm sure." Aishuu closed his eyes, and then reached out his hands to each of them. "Hold on to me. We're going to face him."

Shikkai took a deep breath, watching as Kami took one hand without even pausing to think. Were they really going to do this? Go up against Aishuu's creator? And were they going to survive?

But he knew the answer to the first two questions, at least. He took Aishuu's other hand and closed his eyes.

When Aishuu let go of him, Shikkai opened his eyes again. They were somewhere new and completely unfamiliar to him now; a loomzone that looked almost like a real place, save for the calmness and coziness that was almost palpable in the walls, the coded furniture.. designed to be so comforting it was almost stifling.

Aishuu stood next to him, with Kami on his other side. On the far side of the room, the figure of a young man stood with his back to them, etching crazily on the psuedo-wall he faced; patterns that glowed and then faded, designs that made no sense to Shikkai. Abruptly, he halted, one arm still in the air, halfway through a drawing, and then he turned, slowly.

He was tall, too young to be what Aishuu had made him out to be, and too attractive to be believed. Shikkai wondered just how different the man must look in real life.

A slow smile crossed his face, a knowing smile.

"Aishuu, my little prodigy. I knew you'd find your way in here somehow. They swore the security was rock solid, but I know you better than that."

"Zaemon. Don't speak of me like I'm some kind of faithful technopet." Aishuu's hands clenched into fists, but his face remained calm.

"No, no. Not a technopet. You're much more useful." Zaemon smiled. "Look at the boundaries you've crossed to come back to me here, after all. Just think of all we could do with you.."

"Just think of all I could do to you." Aishuu scowled. "But first, I want to know why you did it to us."

"Did what? Gave you lives to live? Gave you powers to exploit? Gave you a chance when you otherwise never would have been?" Zaemon shrugged his shoulders languidly, leaning back against the wall behind him. "Which part don't you understand?"

"The part where you gave us memories of so much hatred. The part where you locked us in a false existence. The part where you killed my sister."

"Would you rather I gave you memories of nothing but bliss? Would you feel more real for it? I doubt it. I wanted you to be real, Aishuu. And I never wanted you in those sims. I knew we could take care of you on the streets. But your sister.. well, she went and ruined it for all of you. She proved otherwise. Unsafe on the streets.. it's was just unfortunate that she had to be dealt with the way she did. You, on the other hand.." Zaemon spread his hands in front of him, palms up. "Anything is possible now."

"You think I came here to join you? To help you?" Aishuu's calm mask was slipping, Shikkai could see, and he reached out a warning hand, grasping the boy's arm. But Aishuu shook him off, even as Zaemon switched his gaze to meet Shikkai's.

"No, I think you came here for revenge. I know you all too well." He spoke to Aishuu, but the man's gaze remained locked with Shikkai's, and Shikkai felt caught by it, unable to look away. "But it doesn't have to be that way. She wasn't your sister, Aishuu. You know that now. Do you think your revenge for her matters anymore? I could teach you so much.." His gaze returned to Aishuu, and Shikkai felt broken as it left him. Broken and cold. He could hardly feel his avatar any longer.

"Shikkai!" Kami's voice rang in his ears, and suddenly Aishuu was whirling to face him, violet flashing eyes all he could see.

"Give him back!" Aishuu's voiced roared, defeaning, and Shikkai closed his eyes against the sudden flash of light that threatened to blind him. He heard a loud -crack- and suddenly he felt warmth flooding through him, freeing his body, letting him feel again. He opened his eyes, and was surprised to find himself on his knees.

The light was gone, but Aishuu seemed larger than before, and Zaemon was no longer leaning against the wall; now he was dangling in the air, pressed forcefully against it.

"Don't try that again." Aishuu warned. "I won't let you live to regret it a second time."

"But isn't that what you came here to do? Kill me? What difference does it make what I do then?" Zaemon smiled again, a too-perfect smile on his too-perfect face.

"You're right." Aishuu took a step forward, and Zaemon held up one hand.

"Wait. I have a parting gift for you, then."

"Aishuu, don't --" Kami spoke urgently, but before he could finish, Zaemon had drawn a tiny design in the air, and then clapped his hands together.

The space in front of him began to glow, and then another figure appeared, suffused with light. Shikkai squinted against it, but as the light began to fade and the figure became real, he found himself staring. Aishuu took a step backwards, towards him.

"Hello, Aishuu." Kou smiled at them, her expression gentle. "Did you miss me?"

"Kou.." Aishuu choked the word out, stumbling backwards. He ran into Shikkai and sank to his knees in front of him. "No.. you're not real. You're just some program he made to fuck me over.."

"Do you really think so?" Kou linked her hands behind her back, tilting her head to one side thoughtfully. "No, you know better. Did you think they only took my body to get rid of it? You know what corps are like. They made every part of me, even my brain.. why couldn't they just extract it and put it somewhere else?"

"With a few modifications, of course." Zaemon was standing on his own two feet again, looking smug. "If you think I brought Kou back just to make you happy, you can think again. I want you back here, Aishuu. And if I can't get you back, she will. Her powers are stronger than yours.. she's been using them since before you even existed." He patted Kou on the head, like a proud owner, and she smiled at them, but the smile was full of malice, completely at odds with her sweet face.

"Kou.. gods, I can't.." Aishuu grabbed at Shikkai's legs, suddenly looking like the helpless and frightened boy he'd been to begin with. "Help me, Shikkai.."

"Shikkai.." Kou took a step towards them. "Of all the people my brother might have run to, I never would've expected you. Still, that pretty face of yours.. I can't say I blame him." She moved closer still, and Shikkai tried to step back, but Aishuu was still clinging to his legs.

"You're not Kou. Kou would never be like this." Shikkai knelt, grabbing Aishuu by the shoulders, trying to pull him to his feet. "Get up, Aishuu. You think Kou would ever want to hurt you? Your sister's dead. Why don't you fight what he's doing to her?"

"You know so little, Shikkai. Why are you here?" Kou was almost in front of them now, and Shikkai finally managed to get Aishuu to stand up. But the boy was still frozen in his grip, unwilling to do more than stand there shaking.

"I promised him his revenge." Shikkai stared into the purple eyes burning into his, so similar to Aishuu's. He saw Kou in there, and he understood why Aishuu would not move. Somehow, it was her.

"How much would you sacrifice for him?" She raised her hands slowly, threateningly, and Shikkai shivered; he knew how strong Aishuu was. What then could Kou do to him in here? But he had to answer.

"Everything." He clutched Aishuu to his chest and waited for her response. But she only smiled.

"Good." Then suddenly she turned, one hand outstretched -- towards Kami. "You, stay out of the way!" Light flashed from her fingers, and suddenly Kami was wrapped and bound in silver, entangled in a threadcage.

"Bitch!" he swore, but Kou just laughed.

"Aishuu.." she turned away from Kami, her eyes glowing now, and reached for Aishuu, still cradled in Shikkai's arms. Shikkai tried to hold him tight, but Kou was stronger, and she pulled him free, one hand grasping his forehead, keeping him standing directly in front of her. They stared at each other for a long moment.

"Kou.. I just wanted.." Aishuu shook his head helplessly.

"Don't fight me now, Aishuu."

Shikkai jumped forward, trying to get between them; knowing it was helpless, yet needing to do something. Kou's hand froze him halfway there, and she leaned close to him, her expression manic.

"If you want to live through this, don't interfere now, Demon." She pushed him away, and he fell, stumbling to the ground, and found himself unable to move.

Kou took Aishuu's head in both her hands now, and pressed her own forehead against it. Light enfolded the two of them, and the boy began to scream, a desperate, agonised scream, full of pain.

"Aishuu!!" Shikkai tried desperately to get up, to fight back, somehow, but he was stuck in place. The light grew brighter, and Aishuu's screams grew louder, higher pitched, taking on a frantic note. In the centre of the brightness, Kou's figure seemed to shake, seemed to become less real somehow.

Then the light became too bright to stare at, and Shikkai had to look away, as a brilliant flash enfolded the room.

When he looked back, Aishuu stood alone in the middle of the room, both hands gripping his head, as he staggered backwards.

"No! It hurts!" he screamed, dropping to his knees.

Shikkai tried again to get up, but he was still held. Did Kou still have power then? But what the hell had happened? She was gone, wasn't she? Hadn't Aishuu beaten her somehow?

"You!" Aishuu was standing again, suddenly, and his figure seemed to loom over Zaemon, whose satisfied expression was fading to one of confusion. "You idiot! Did you think a little reprogramming was going to make us do your bidding? You may have created hundreds of human brains, but don't ever think you really understand them."

"What?" Zaemon stepped backwards, finding the wall against his back again. "What do you mean?"

"You made me, you broke me, you hounded me for three years, and then you killed me. You were a fool for ever reactivating me. No amount of your stupid alterations would ever make me hurt my own brother for the likes of you."

"Kou?!" Zaemon and Shikkai spoke at the same time, their voices echoing disbelief.

"You'll never understand. That's why we can't let you keep doing this to them anymore." Aishuu reached out one hand, towards Zaemon, and even as the man tried to move, to duck away, light flashed out towards him, freezing him in place. He stared at Aishuu, unable to move, and the boy smiled, an expression of gleeful anger that sat like a grotesque mask on his face.

"Die, please." Aishuu slowly clenched his open hand into a fist, and Zaemon started screaming, his avatar seeming to fold in on itself. Aishuu squeezed his hand tightly shut, and Zaemon let out one last piercing yell, before his avatar vanished in a flash of light.

Aishuu turned around slowly, dusting his hands together like a job well done. Then his eyes met Shikkai's. But they weren't his eyes.

"K.. Kou?" Shikkai found himself able to move again, and he scrambled backwards, terrified beyond anything he'd ever felt; nothing made sense, least of all this Kou-mind in Aishuu's body that acted completely unlike the Kou he'd known.

"I told you you'd live through this if you didn't interfere, Shikkai. This a friend, I presume?" Aishuu jerked his head in Kami's direction, and Shikkai nodded helplessly.

"Time we all got out of here then, I think." Aishuu snapped his fingers, and blackness overtook Shikkai.

When Shikkai opened his eyes he was back in their apartment, a kit still on his lap. He pulled the jack off and pushed the kit away in disgust, and only then did he dare raise his eyes.

Aishuu sat across from him, composed and adult, his expression amused, his eyes foreign.

"Kou." Shikkai said it softly, still not entirely believing. But Aishuu nodded, a smile crossing his lips.

"Very good." He -- she -- looked around the apartment. "Now this is new. I don't recall you living somewhere so upperclass."

"We had to get out. They came after Aishuu.." Shikkai shook his head. "What have you done with him?"

"Don't worry, he's still up here." Kou tapped her head. "I'll give him back to you soon. I don't want to be in control of his body all that long. It's too.. strange." She shivered, then grinned. "But it's nice to be out."

"You've changed, Kou."

"He changed me." A frown crossed her face. "He did reprogram me, that bastard. He just doesn't know the human brain well enough, I guess. I think I could get the old me back, if I tried.. but not while I'm stuck in here."


"Where do you think I'm going to go? I'm afraid Aishuu's going to have to play host for awhile. I don't dare go back in the looms yet.. not while there's still uproar over what we've just done. Later, if I can find another way out.." Kou shrugged her shoulders.

"How the hell did you get inside him in the first place?" Shikkai shivered at the idea of Kou inside Aishuu's head, always knowing, always watching. Would he be able to feel totally alone with the boy ever again? How long was this going to last?

"A little loom magic. We're all just bits and bytes, you know. I can move anywhere I want, I suppose. It just takes a little effort." Her gaze switched to Kami, sitting silent next to Shikkai. "So who are you?"

"Nobody important. A hacker." Kami returned her gaze coolly.

"Aishuu doesn't take unimportant people to events like that."

"I've been training him."

"Ah. Resourceful, then." She paused, thinking. "I'm sure you have contacts. Can you get me out of here? Into a real body of my own?"

"I don't know." Kami looked unsure, a little wary. "I'm not sure if it's possible on the streets yet."

"But you can try."

"Of course." Kami grinned. "For a price."

Shikkai stared at him in disbelief, but Kou burst out laughing.

"Ah, I like you. We'll make plans." She turned her attention back to Shikkai. "I'll be watching you. But we -- him and I -- we're one, for now. I think we're going to fight them. And I guess that means you won't mind if I do this, either." She got up and crossed the room to him, her walk completely unnatural on Aishuu's body.

"I used to always want to.." She leaned over and kissed him gently on the lips. He froze -- her kiss was as foreign as her eyes, yet the taste of those lips, that mouth, was as familiar as ever. He closed his eyes and tried to understand what was going on.

Abruptly she broke the kiss, and sighed, sinking to her knees, eyes closed.

"Ai.. Kou?" Before Shikkai could do more than lean forward to grab her, those wide eyes opened again. And this time it was Aishuu looking up at him, violet sparkling with happiness.

"Shikkai! She's alive! Kou's alive!" There were tears in his eyes now, and he scrambled into Shikkai's lap, wrapping his arms around his neck.

"I know." Shikkai craddled Aishuu in his arms; he was back, he was real, and most importantly, he was very much alive. They'd faced up against Aishuu's revenge, and beaten it; even if they'd gotten a little unexpected help.

"And.. and we did it." Aishuu pulled back again, looking up at Shikkai, tears streaking down his face; but his smile was almost blinding.

"I know. You got your revenge. It's all done with." Shikkai could only hope Aishuu would be satisfied with this, at least for awhile.

"Are you kidding? The fight's only just begun! We're going to fight them together!" And he laughed, his expression determination with a touch of Kou's manic.

"Together. That includes me, too." Shikkai pressed his lips against Aishuu's, silencing him, possessing him, and trying to forget that Kou was in there somewhere, watching them. If he couldn't stop Aishuu fighting, then he was going to do everything to help him.

"Of course," Aishuu said softly, as their lips parted. "Always. I wouldn't let it be any other way." He pulled Shikkai in for another kiss, and Shikkai knew that no matter what craziness the boy came up with, they'd get through it somehow together. The fun was only just beginning.

~ fin ~