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The dream had the scratchy, dark quality of an old nior detective movie. What little light there was in the room seemed to be tinted blue. Yohji was sitting up in bed, talking on his cellphone. He was talking to Aya-chan. He'd never spoken to the girl before, but knew her voice anyway. It was similar to Sakura's, but older and more refined.

"Don't go," Aya-chan pleaded. "It was so hard to reach you. I need --" Static. "-- She needs you."

He could see Aya-chan pacing. He was sitting in his bedroom with the phone to his ear, but he could see Aya-chan in a library across the city. She was pacing, and she wasn't alone. There was a woman sitting on the floor, slouched against a self of books. At first all he could see was long, strong legs, then full breasts, then her face. God. Her face. It was Asuka. Not Neu. Neu never looked scared, determined, or defiant. It was Asuka, but she was... Not dead anymore somehow. And it had something to do with Aya-chan somehow.

"We need you. Please help." Dial tone.

The darkness returned to normal. Yohji was still sitting in bed with the phone in his hand, but all he could see was his bedroom wall.

It was unnerving. More than a little creepy. Yohji was pretty sure that hadn't exactly been a dream, or at least not one that was all in his head.

His dreams of Asuka were never that kind.

Yohji put down his phone and got out of bed, trying to decide if he could find the library he'd seen on his own. Trying to decide if he should tell Aya about this and whether Aya would even believe him if he did.

Fuck it. He was just going to go. He got dressed, grabbed his phone again, keys and wallet, and left. Wasn't the first time he'd bailed in the middle of the night. He drove to what he thought was the library he'd seen and tried the door.

The door opened for him. The library was closed, emergency lights were on. There was the sound of running footsteps. Aya-chan stood by the railing on the second floor. She was wearing a white dress.

"Thank you for coming so soon!" Aya-chan said. She turned her head. "Asuka, come here please?"

So yeah, not a dream. Nice to have confirmation he wasn't going crazier? Yohji started to look around for the way upstairs but stopped dead when Aya-chan called for Asuka. His chest felt tight. It was hard to breathe.

Hope and panic were really two sides of one coin.

"She's really...?" His voice sounded rough, a little choked.

"Please..." Aya-chan wheedled.

"Stop." That single syllable of fierce irritation? That was Asuka. There was the sound of someone moving. "Kudoh, for once in your led-by-your-dick life will you listen to ME and not your pecker or your bleeding heart? Don't come any closer. She's a demon. I'm a vampire."

That was definitely Asuka. Yohji didn't think he'd ever been so happy to be roundly told off. It took him a second to get past that to what she was actually saying.

Once upon a time, he thought bemusedly, he wouldn't have believed it. Yohji had seen a lot since then.

"Don't actually think I care, beautiful," he called up, spreading his hands in a 'what can you do?' sort of gesture. Please. Please come out, he begged silently inside his own head. "If he didn't already own it, I'd have sold my soul to the devil to have you back."

Aya-chan whimpered and backed away from the railing.

"Yeah? How about you stop being so selfish?" There was a tremor in Asuka's voice. She forced it steady. "I have enough shit on my shoes. Don't want to step it by hurting you anymore than I already have."

"You won't. You wouldn't," Yohji said softly. He didn't think he had a right to pray, but he hoped desperately she didn't mean what it sounded like.

Because Asuka had never hurt him, not deliberately. But Neu had.
"Please, baby. You're right, I'm a selfish jackass. But I've missed you."

There was an angry little growl from the darkness. "You are trying too damn hard. Will you fucking listen, Kudoh? I'm not saying you got to go, or I am going, I am say keep your fucking distance."

"Let me see you. If I stay here, come out," he said, his tone a plea rather than a demand. Yohji could, probably, manage staying down where he was for now. But he needed this.

Neu had been the body without the self. This, the voice, the tone, the words, was Asuka's self, but coming from empty darkness it felt like the start of one of his nightmares. Like she'd disappear.

"Yeah. That was the plan." Soft sounds of movement. "You try to get close, I am gone." She moved to stand in front of Aya-chan. Her hair was still long like Neu's, but the way she moved, the expression on her face, the love in her eyes when she looked at him -- it was Asuka. "Hi."

"Hi," he managed, voice rough again. Yohji's green eyes looked a little wet, reflecting some of the dim light. Full of love and desperate, pained hope. "Long time no see, gorgeous."

"Wish it had been a little longer. I'm sorry for what I did. So sorry." Asuka's voice sounded too choked to go on. She covered her eyes with her hand.

Aya-chan slowly stepped forward to put her hand on Asuka's shoulder. "You can go to him. I won't let you hurt him."

Shit. "That's... if you mean what I think you mean, that wasn't you in any way that matters," Yohji choked out, raking a hand through his hair.

He took a sharp breath at Aya-chan's promise. Please please please. He lifted a hand towards her.

"Yohji..." She shook her head. When Asuka moved her had, Yohji would be able to see her eyes filled with blood tears.

It was painfully reminiscent of the nightmares again, Asuka bloody and pale. Yohji swallowed hard.

"Asuka... please? Even just for a minute. It's hard to believe you're real."

"Can't. I can hear your heart beat. Smell you. It's taking all I got not to..."

"Even if you went to him and drank from him, I wouldn't let you drink enough to hurt him," Aya-chan said softly.

Asuka roughly shoved off Aya-chan's arm.

Yohji took a breath and straightened, cocking his head in a challenging way.

"Sorry, thought I was talking to that ball-busting bitch Murase Asuka, not a weepy fugitive from an Anne Rice novel."

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