When Akihito just can't figure Asami out, he grows tired of the status quo and slips away from Asami's grasp.
“No, sir. I’m afraid two other people managed to book a flight in the two hour time gap.”
Asami raised an eyebrow. It was rare that anyone should book a flight in such short notice, but he replied nonchalantly, “I see.”
“Would you like to see the passenger list, sir?”
“No, it’s fine. I doubt an extra passenger could be much of a threat.” It didn’t really matter that anyone else was on the flight as long as he could get out of London; if it was Merrett, the man might be foolish enough to set up last minute attempts at him to try and save his ass. Something that probably wasn’t going to work anyway.
The car drove directly onto the runway trails from the outer gate so that he would bypass the tedious airport processes. It was hard not to stand out when one had four rather intimidating bodyguards trailing behind him, not to mention himself, and most times, he had no need to be any more conspicuous than he already was.
Takaba had been asleep for about twenty minutes when he woke again, and this time, to a headache throbbing from the temples down to the back his head. He had gone a week without a headache and now was certainly not the best time. The unfamiliar cabin pressure wasn’t helping much either with the all too familiar buzz ringing in his ears. He pinched his nose and breathed out, hoping to equalize the pressure and ease the dull pain on his sinus and eardrums.
The plane was probably already cruising however many thousand feet off the air, it didn’t matter. The superficial details never did. After all, what it came down to was the pulsing and hammering in his head, rushing up the arteries that lined his neck. He sat up and grimaced as his back popped and grinded, feeling a bit older than he really was and his head swirling from the sudden motion.
Takaba sat still for a moment, letting the black spots in his vision fade away as a sense of balance restored to his ears. The light in the cabin was dimmed and he looked around at the cabin to see another person sitting three rows behind him, with a good length, paperback novel in his hand. The man glanced up at him then went back to his reading.
What’s his problem?
Takaba shrugged as he reached down to pull his backpack out from beneath the seat. The pill bottle was somewhere inside…hopefully… If it wasn’t…he was going to have a very difficult two hours to Berlin. He tried the first outer pocket, then the second layer, moving on the side pockets. Frustrated and a bit panicked, he dug into the back pouches and searched around the best he could until he finally gave up.
Shit… he groaned inwardly. He could see the pale yellow bottle sitting on the kitchen table where he had left it…Akihito, you fucking IDIOT…why? Why did you have to leave it there? Why?
He reached up and pressed the call button and waited until the same stewardess came out to him, “Can I help you?” She smiled a bit too brightly for someone having to work while most people were sleeping. Airplane employees were strange like that… then again, it wasn’t as if his sleep pattern was anything within the range of normal.
“Err…do you have any…um…anything for a headache?”
She smiled at him with a concerned look over her make-up covered face, dry power bunching around her dimples, “We have Tylenol, aspirin, and ibuprofen.”
I’d like your entire inventory, please.
“Um…the Tylenol. 500mg. Extra strength or PM if you have them.” If there was anything Takaba knew other than his cameras, it was medicine. Headache and pain relievers, to be specific.
As she turned to walk away, he added, “And water please. Lots of water.”
“I’ll be sure to remember that.” She disappeared down the aisle behind a curtain. Takaba could hear the metal cabinet open and close and the dull clicks of her heels against the cabin carpet approach. She left a small package with two capsules of 500mg Tylenol and a bottle of water on the pull down tray. “Anything else, sir?” At least it wasn’t one of those flimsy airplane cups.
“No, this is fine. Thank you.” He managed the best smile without jarring his facial muscles. He glanced down at the wrapped package again. PM. Yes…he might be able to get some sleep if he could just tone down the pain enough to put him to sleep.
He waited until she was gone to rip open the package and shake out two white pills, desperate like a drug addict on the verge of withdrawal. He paused for a moment, realizing how pathetic he must have looked. What the hell…The doctor had said something about not dosing himself too much, but two pills was the standard. Something about liver problems and such, but the details were rather fuzzy. Not like he cared anyway.
He snorted at himself, overdose…I’d have to be an infant or something.
Nothing to worry about. Besides, overdose was the very last thing on his mind. Not with a thousand imaginary pellets ricocheting off the inside of his skull while an imaginary drill grinded holes into the side of his head. It felt like he’d stuck his head inside a bell on a church steeple and some Notre-dame fucker was ringing them incessantly. Stupid Disney movies.
Shut. The. Fuck. Up. He couldn’t even listen to himself think.
As the liquid washed down the bitter pills and wet his dry throat, he sighed softly. Just a matter of time. Just a matter of time, he told himself as tiny pebbles of sweat gathered around his forehead, climbing down the side of his face and cheeks when they gathered into large enough drops. His nose was moist from the sweat pooling out slowly from miniscule pores. Slowly, he stood up, holding on to the edge of the seats for what little balance they could offer.
God that headache was killing him, at least, it felt like it was, sending jagged waves of pain to his nerve receptors, fire burning across the synapses of his cells like lightning, white spontaneous flashes blinking at the back of his eye. He could imagine himself as a blind man caught in traffic who had just opened his eyes for the first time to see headlights and blinkers flashing at him as they zoomed past, leaving him in a cloud of dust and smoke. Chaos and confusion. That’s what it came down to.
The bathrooms were all the way down the aisle towards the back and it was tempting to go forward and use the bathrooms reserved for the first and business class, on account that they were about fifteen rows closer to him.
Hell, there probably weren’t many first class passengers anyway. Right?
With slow steps, he made his way forward; occasionally, the other passenger glanced up at him with a rather irritated look, but what did he know? Let him feel the pain. Takaba eased forward until he reached the curtain that separated the economy and first class. Slowly he opened it noiselessly and slipped in. He spotted four or five other passengers in their larger, more comfortable seats before slipping inside the cramped quarters of the bathroom.
Asami looked back at the sound of the bathroom doors closing. None of his men had gotten up to go relieve themselves. It didn’t really matter whether they used the bathroom or not. Asami wasn’t petty enough to fuss over such trivial details. Not worth the effort. Not worth the time. Period.
His mind was on Merrett. That son-of-a-bitch. Perhaps it was partly Asami’s fault for underestimating the Englishman; he should have taken more precautions before his trip to London. He couldn’t have the man killed despite what he tried to do to Asami, which was just that, killing, but he could certainly bring down rather easily.
Start with his contacts and “friendships,” or rather, business partnerships. All under the table, of course. Shake enough hands, deliver enough bribes and the man would be isolated in no time. Afghanistan, Columbia, Peru, Nigeria, South Africa. Cut off his routes, and his personal friends in London, the ones that covered for him. Once Merrett started losing his chips, they would soon fold their cards and leave the table. No point in playing when they had nothing to gain.
Personal loyalty? What a joke. This was the twenty-first century, not the feudal ages. There were no predetermined lords. The only thing a man lived up to was what he built up with his own hands. And very little had Merrett built.
Another matter he needed to attend to. Something a bit more difficult. A bit more tricky, sensitive. It was a matter that required more than his financial wit. A fragile glass piece waiting to be tipped over and shattered.
Tennison, the gallery owner, seemed to know more than he had let on. It was obvious from his tone, the way he took a stance, not defensive, not aggressive, but there was an intriguing vagueness there. He had tensed when Asami whispered those words to him.
Asami flexed his fingers. Calm down, Asami. There was good bet that Tennison and Akihito were lovers. Now that he thought about it, there was very little doubt to this inconvenient little truth. Why else would Tennison have flinched at his touch? The man knew about him and he knew about the man. There had been a tacit acknowledgement of the opposite’s identity and status.
If there was anything Merrett deserved to die for. It was this. London was no longer a safe harbor for Asami, at least not for another three or four months, after which all the investigative frenzy would settle down. That’s what happened when people kicked up dust. It very often left movements constricted, eyes blinded. That made it difficult for Asami. And rather….aggravated him.
This was what he hated most, a carrot dangled before him, just barely out of reach, taunting him, mocking him, daring him to come and get it.
Mark my words, Akihito…I’ll have you, ALL of you.
After relieving himself, Akihito washed his hand in the tiny bathroom sink, holding the stingy faucet down with his elbow to keep the thin trickle of water flowing. Thing number two he didn’t like about airplanes: The bathrooms and everything in the bathrooms were miniaturized when clearly every passenger was usually a full grown adult. Leave it to the engineers to get it right.
He smirked despite the headache, which was only getting worse by the second. Humoring yourself, Akihito?
He glanced up at the mirror, leaning forward over the sink, his fingers wet and slippery.
Jesus Christ, I look awful…but at least…a thin smile crept up painfully…I can somewhat see myself now…
Even so, the contrast between his jet black hair, so black it killed the light, against his face, pale and white, was appalling. He looked like he was an anorexic teenage girl or something, not that he was anywhere near that skinny, but…
Lost weight again, eh?
Not really surprising considering his weight history. For two years he fluctuated between lean and underweight, swinging back and forth like a pendulum between healthy and sickly; it was as if he was on chemotherapy or something along those lines. But it wasn’t radiation that was killing him now. It was his corrupt self, carving away inside out like parasites clinging to the insides of his intestines, draining him while he didn’t even notice.
The plane jolted suddenly knocking him off his feet. His knees tangled over the toilet and his head slammed into a small notch on the wall.
“Fuck.” He grimaced. His head was really hurting now. Powerful jabs coursed through the cracks of his brain, spreading poison that seeped into the cells.
Jesus fucking Christ.
Leave it God to kick up a migraine.
“This is the captain of the flight. We’re encountering some minor disturbances in the atmosphere. If you would please return to your seats at this moment for your safety. Thank you.”
And leave it to the pilot to fuck up his privacy.
Takaba felt something hot and sticky and wet trickle down the side of his forehead, a warm liquid licking down on his skin. Without thinking he reached up and touched it and looked at the red, stained fingers. Blood. His pulse thumped against the inner walls of his cranium, hammering closely with its some constant and unrelenting reverberations, just nailing at him.
“Sir? Are you alright, sir?” the female voice reached him through the door, muffled but too high-pitched for his sensitive ears.
“I’ll be out soon, thank you.” He croaked back as best he could.
“Sir, could you open the door. Sir-”
“I’m fine.” Leave. Me. The. Fuck. Alone.
Asami felt the plane shake, a mild whiplash following. One reason why he didn’t like small to medium sized plane. They can’t handle the turbulence. His cup tilted to its side and fell, spilling the amber liquid over the right leg of his suit. The cup rolled off onto the carpet floor.
He clicked his tongue. The suit could be replaced easily, but it was just plain annoying to have to clean off the liquid. He pulled up the tray and stood. One of his men made to stand, but he raised his hand subtly. The captain made his usual return-to-your-seat comment, which was just another way of the airline company saying sit-down-so-we-don’t-get-sued.
There was a stewardess before a door, knocking and speaking with a bit of panic in her voice.
“Could you open the door, sir. It’s not safe to be-” the person on the other side of the door kicked it hard, with a crash, as if to say leave-me-the-fuck-alone. Asami raised his eyebrows at the woman. She looked back at him with a concerned expression, her brows creased and furrowed between her eyes.
“He’s been inside for more than ten minutes.”
Oh? Asami knocked on the door quietly. Sometimes diplomacy worked. And it must have because this time, a soft, pained voice replied.
It didn’t matter what language it was, but the voice was still the same, unchanged after two years. He could have been deaf and that voice, he still would have heard. Asami froze, his senses momentarily paralyzed as if phantoms had locked onto his limbs, holding them tight and immovable.
How could it…how could Akihito have ended up on this flight? The chances that he was one of the other passengers that he had overlooked before was so minute, so microscopic. Asami whispered quietly to the stewardess, dropping his voice to barely more than silent mouthing, “Who’s inside?”
“He’s photographer from TIMES. He asked for some headache pills about fifteen minutes ago, and I’m afraid he’s not exactly well…”
“What’s his name?”
“Um….” The stewardess thought, “Mr. Takana? Oh, Mr. Sei…Tanaka.”
So that’s it, huh?
“I’ll take care of this.”
“I know him.”
The stewardess nodded and rushed off to the back, the curtain rustling behind her.
Asami drew a deep breath and placed his palm on the door. If Akihito knew it was him, he would probably never open the door, even if it meant suffocating or starving himself in the cramped bathroom. Knowing him, he would hold on until the last drop of energy had been spent, and even then, some miracle would keep him going. Energizer bunny couldn’t par with this boy.
Takaba heard hushed whispered beyond the door. He couldn’t make out the voices but then he heard the stewardess walk away and relaxed…finally…some peace…
And his half-second tranquility shattered.
“Akihito, listen to me.”
Asami… the voice was heavenly in his ears, divine and celestial. Oh god…what have I done…
“Are you listening?” silence “Please do.”
“Remember that time when you almost got hit by my car?”
Of course. It was such a surprise.
A soft chuckle followed, “When I bumped into you, it was the highlight of my day.”
Akihito couldn’t help but let out a short breath. I could never tell.
“I didn’t act much like it, did I?”
Well, no…not really…
“With the phone plastered to my ears, pretending to ignore you…”
You were pretending?
“I know, pretty childish of me, wasn’t it?”
I can kind of understand…
“Those little things…they must have hurt, didn’t they?”
Akihito looked up at the door. What are you saying… the lock beckoned at him.
“Not knowing where we stood.”
There was a long silence between them, the door still shut tight.
“I love you, Akihito.”
I love you, Asami…
“Is it too late now? To apologize?”
Don’t apologize… for anything… Takaba’s hand reached for the lock and turned it.
The red light switched to green, ironically reading “VACANT” because it was so much more than that.
Their hand touched the door from both sides and pushed it open, the barrier between then broken apart, pushed aside, torn down.
Asami’s hands fell around Akihito’s small body. It felt smaller than it had more than two years ago. Almost three now. But it belonged. It fit. More than a lock and key, more than puzzles, it just… fit. He buried his nose into the black hair and breathed Akihito, his arms tight around his lover. His lover. His lover.
Akihito clutched at Asami’s chest, grasping the shirt. The same smell…
God, how he’d missed this scent. And everything else about him. The possessive arms he felt around him, the firm chest he could lay his head on. Those hands, that held him close, held him tight. It felt so right. It felt so…
He saw through the crack in the curtain.
With everything he had, Akihito shifted his weight, turning them around so that his back was to the curtain. He looked up at Asami, not knowing if he’d ever see that face again.
“I love you.” And no regrets, Asami…
Akihito’s body jerked twice simultaneously with the two gunshots. The passenger that had been seated three rows behind Akihito’s seat stood with a stupefied look. He had missed. Shot the wrong man. Shot the right man’s lover. The assassin pointed the barrel of his gun to the side of his head and the trigger clicked back, a spray of blood rushing out from the other side.
http://www.thegunzone.com/091101/goldfinger.html (bullet holes do NOT threaten an airplane!!)
“Asami…” Akihito reached up and touched his lover’s face, his hands gentle against the cheek. “I’ll be fine... Really, I will.” He cracked a crude smile. Funny how migraines just vanish when there’s two bullets lodged somewhere in your body. He coughed and winced at the pain, one bullet embedded just below the shoulder, the other deeper, closer towards the heart.
“I know you will.” Asami kneeled, setting Akihito down, his back lifted up against his arm, “Be strong for me, alright?”
A coarse laugh escaped Akihito’s lips, “I am strong. You know that…” he coughed, a trickle of blood filling his mouth, “You know that…better than me…” he spoke haltingly, each painful phrase strained with each exhale. With each breath, blood was slowly filling the space in his left lung, drowning half of him. He held Asami’s hand as hard as he could, taking comfort in the warmth, “I’m so sorry…for leaving…”
“Shh…don’t talk, not now…” His hands were drenched with Akihito's blood as he held the frail body in his arms.
“I’m sorry…for hurting you…” A tear fell from his amber eyes, “I’m sorry…Asami…”
“Don’t apologize…” he squeezed Akihito’s hand, firmly grasping the slender fingers in his. “Don’t talk. You’ll be fine. Do you understand? You’ll fine.”
“know… because...I'm with you…” his eyes began to lose their sharp focus.
“That’s right.” His hand wrapped tighter around Akihito’s, “You’re with me now Stay with me, Akihito. I beg you. Stay with me!”
“I will…I always will…I promise…”
The surgeon pulled off his gloves, the rubber coming off with a snap, and threw them into the biohazard bin, running his hands under the sink.
The boy had one hell of a guardian angel standing behind him.