Title: Strange Attractors
Author: freeradical9

E-mail: freeradical9 (at) gmail (.) com
Webpage: http://freeradical9.livejournal.com

Pairing: Nii/Hakkai
Rating: NC-17
AU, science, bondage, explicit M/M.  Did I forget to mention science?
Nii finds something interesting in the lab.


A/N: Written for the prompt:  Hakkai/Nii. AU, and no non/con, please....Vine bondage a big, big plus.  Previously posted to Vom_marlowe's amazing Saiyuki anonymous kink meme.  I "signed up" for this prompt a few months ago, and only just recently managed to finish this piece.  To provide a bit of explanation, a while back Wikipedia had a piece of trivia (which has since been removed) stating that Cho Hakkai's college scholarship was to study physics and theology.  I've no idea what the source of this information was, or even if it's true, but the hint at a science background was the inspiration for fic.


Sincere appreciation goes out to Avierra for suggestions and observations that made the story better.  ^_^




The theft of the laboratory supplies was the first clue.


It was Nii's technician--the bland, thirty-something man in charge of managing the everyday running of the lab, who brought the situation to Nii's attention.  He came in to Nii's office forearmed with a list of specific chemicals and supplies that seemed to be vanishing from the laboratory at a faster than expected rate.  The thefts had been going on, he asserted, for nearly six months.


Nii barely listened to the evidence, disinclined to do much about it.  The thefts were occurring in small amounts, and none of the missing materials was terribly costly.  It would have been a waste of Nii's valuable time to worry about chasing down whichever graduate student was responsible.


That, he pointed out, was the technician's job. 


Nii put the matter out of his mind.  ...Until the university purchasing department contacted him about two weeks later.  The department had been doing end-of-the year audits, and an administrative assistant had found three equipment purchase requests on which Nii's signature appeared to be forged.  The oldest of them was dated eleven months ago.  Unsurprisingly, no one in Nii's laboratory admitted to signing the purchase requests--and yet none of the items had been stolen.  All three pieces of equipment were found sitting on storage shelf, still packed in Styrofoam in the original cardboard shipping containers.


"Our ultralow freezer needs defrosting," Nii said breezily to the technician at that point.  "Transfer everything into temporary storage, and check the inventory while you're at it.  I want to get rid of anything that's out of date."


The process took about two days.  The technician came into Nii's office, holding an Excel spreadsheet and wearing a frown. 


"Professor Nii," he said hesitantly, laying the papers down on Nii's desk.  "I've done as you asked, and marked the items in need of disposal.  Everything else seems to be in order.  Except...."


Nii raised an eyebrow as the technician faltered to a halt.  "Except?"


The man drew in a breath.  "There were twelve new cell lines stored away in an unmarked cryovial box in that freezer.  I've asked the lab personnel, and no one seems to know anything about the box or the biological samples inside."


Nii's hands tented in front of his face.  "Really?" he purred.  "How very unexpected."


"Top shelf of the freezer, rack number five." The technician pointed to an empty square on the spreadsheet.  "There's not supposed to be anything in that spot, but that's where I found the unlabeled box."  He paused, and with an uncharacteristic show of initiative, he said, "Professor, do you suppose these preserved cells are related to the extra equipment and to the missing supplies?"


Nii sat back in his chair and eyed the technician with some amusement.  "Are you implying," he said dryly, "That somebody is sneaking into the building after hours, breaking into my laboratory, and using my equipment and supplies for performing scientific experiments without my knowledge?  ...And leaving the results behind for us to find?"


The technician blinked, and then flushed.  "Right."  He collected his papers from Nii's desk.  "I guess it's just somebody's sloppy record keeping.  I'll dispose of the box, then."


Nii gave a calculated pause.  "It would be a shame to toss the samples if they're valuable.  Wait a few days while I go through some old laboratory notebooks.  I might be able to find out who they belong to, after all."


That night, Nii worked late in his office, staying until the lights went out in the adjoining laboratory, signaling that the last of his graduate students had gone home.  Nii waited another half-hour, then walked out into the empty lab.


It took him about fifteen minutes to find the hidden laboratory notebooks.


There were five of them, stacked flat and held in place with two sets of bookends, placed on top of an overhead ceiling tile with edges slightly more worn than the tiles around it. There were no identifying markings anywhere that might indicate to whom the books might belong.  All of the notebooks, however, were written in the same neat, flowing hand.  The volumes contained the meticulous record of the work of nearly three years--all of which appeared to have been done in this very lab.


Nii's quick perusal of the books rapidly turned into an intrigued skimming, then into a careful reading line-by-line.  He was just opening the cover of the last notebook, when he became aware that he was no longer alone.


"I suppose," Nii said at length to the room at large, "that you would be terribly upset if I destroyed these."  As if to emphasize his point, he picked up the nearest flint striker from the workbench and lit up a Bunsen burner, hefting the most recent notebook over the open flame.


There had been no hint of sound.  No opening of the door, no beeping of the electronic door lock, or the metallic sounds of a dislodged ventilation grate.  ...Not even the sound of approaching footsteps on the tile floor.  Nonetheless, Nii immediately felt two sharp objects, as thin and as keen as knife blades, flick around his neck to rest over the pulse-point at his throat.


"Set the book down," breathed an unfamiliar voice beside his ear, sounding surprisingly unruffled in spite of the situation.  It was a male voice, and sounded young--perhaps only a little older than the average graduate student.  Given what Nii had pieced together from reading the notebooks, that would be just about right.  "It would be unfortunate if there were an accident."


"True," Nii replied, just as easily.  He turned the notebook over in his hand.  "This is nearly six months worth of data, and paper burns so very easily."


The points at Nii's throat dug in a little deeper.  The scent of soap, mixed with a subtle indefinable musk tickled at his nose.  "Unfortunately for you," his assailant said, "I have a vested interest in keeping that work undamaged.  I'll ask nicely just one more time.  Set down my notebook, please."


It was a bit difficult to breathe around the gouging pressure at his throat.  At any moment Nii thought he might start to feel a trickle of blood start down his neck.  Nii didn't allow it to distract him.  "Your notebook?  We seem to have a difference of opinion on that matter.  These books are mine.  I can do with them as I please."


The words drew a soft chuckle from behind him.  "I'm reasonably well acquainted with your handwriting.  It doesn't match."


"I didn't say that I wrote them," Nii clarified.  He heard a rustle of cloth, felt a subtle flash of heat as the other, through accident or design, brushed briefly up against his back.  Nii took a moment to marshal his thoughts.  "I actually own them.  From what I've read, this work was all done in my laboratory, using my equipment and my supplies.  As a general rule, that means these notebooks are the property of the lab, and therefore rightfully belong to me."  He waited a moment to allow what he had said to sink in, then added, "Isn't that right, Cho Hakkai?"


There was a pause.  The voice, when it came again, was ironic.  "Should I be impressed by your uncanny deductive reasoning or awed by your mind reading abilities?  I can't imagine any other reason why you should know who I am."


"Professor Hwan and I were colleagues at MIT."  As much as Nii was tempted to test the limits of surprise to chance a glimpse at his captor, he chose instead to remain still, avoiding any motion that might be misinterpreted.  "As it happens, I had the occasion to read the unfinished Ph.D. thesis you wrote under her mentorship. It was quite a fascinating piece of work--a very original blending of chaos theory, quantum mechanics, and molecular biology.  Of course, that was before the...accident."


The silence stretched.  If Nii listened closely, he could hear the other's quiet breathing near his ear, barely audible over the white noise hum of lab equipment motors and the soft roar of the still-lit Bunsen burner flame.  At length, that calm voice spoke again.  "I was unaware that you were familiar with the incident."


"Oh?  I'm surprised that you didn't hear about the aftermath, but I suppose that it happened after you'd vanished.  Did you really think you could blow up a 14 billion dollar supercollider and there wouldn't be any shockwaves in the scientific community?  There was a full-scale inquiry into the matter, a lengthy investigation into faulty safety practices and ethical misconduct concerning the project you were working on.  The government hearings lasted nearly a year.  I was part of the investigation panel."


"You were on a scientific ethics panel?  That's...amusing.  I've seen your little resurrection project hidden away in the basement.  Grave robbing is illegal you know.  If it were discovered, they might even take away your Nobel prize."


"Hmm.  You have been watching my lab closely, haven't you?  Do you plan to blow the whistle on me, Mr. Thief?"  It seemed unlikely--Nii's laboratory was state-of-the-art, and such places were few and far between.  If Nii's lab were to be shut down, where would that leave Hakkai?  ...Without a place to carry out his work, most certainly. 


To be on the safe side, however, Nii switched back to the previous subject.  "Tell me, did you get exposed to the radiation before you blew up the facility?  Or was it an unfortunate by-product of the explosion?  Actually, what I really want to know is, what are you planning to do with your scientific results?  Since it appears that your first hypothesis is already well supported--that exposure to a certain type of energy triggers a molecular chain reaction that can transform a human being into a youkai."


"It is...unwise...to bait me," Hakkai said after a moment.  "If you know about the accident, you'll understand, then, the somewhat desperate nature of my situation."


"I understand what drives you to continue your scientific work.  From the content of the notebooks, one can only assume that Dr. Jekyll is doing his level best to be rid of Mr. Hyde."


The claws at Nii's throat tensed fractionally, then abruptly withdrew.  Somewhat to Nii's surprise, Hakkai remained standing where he was, and did not move away.


"Yes, well.  Not Dr. Jekyll, alas," Hakkai's voice was faintly self-mocking.  "My thesis work was never finished.  ...And it doesn't look like there's much chance that it will ever be completed now."


Sensing his chance, Nii set down the notebook on the workbench, and slowly turned around in his chair.


He'd seen pictures of Cho Hakkai before the accident.  There had been several, as part of the investigation files.  Nii remembered thinking at the time the young man was...unimpressive.  Handsome, certainly.  Good-natured as well--in the photos he was always cheerful, always smiling.  Really, it was not unlike the news interviews with the distraught neighbors of serial killers, who protested in bewildered shock, "But he seemed so nice...."


There were no pictures from after the incident, of course.  Police and FBI teams and even Homeland Security had combed over the rubble and had sent out search parties in a fifty-mile radius, but had found not even a trace.  In fact, Nii suspected that he might just be the first individual to catch an unobstructed glimpse of Cho Hakkai in nearly three years.


"Oh," he breathed in fascination, as the sight triggered a heady wave of arousal.  "My."


Youkai, yes.  With the wicked body weaponry and feral grace endemic to their kind.  ...But Cho Hakkai had not been born that way.  Of his mismatched eyes, the one that was yellow marked him as a heretical being--a created youkai.  There was leashed power in his gaze, in his stance.  It made any youkai of Nii's previous acquaintance seem meek and tame by comparison.


"I think," Nii managed to say, "...that I would like very much to keep you for a pet."


The fine dark eyebrows arched upward.  "Excuse me?"


"I'm owed, you see," Nii continued smoothly.  "For all the stolen laboratory supplies and three pieces of equipment that apparently no one but you seems to use.  That should be a reasonable exchange.  I think you should stay here with me."


Surprise gave way to sardonic humor.  "You must be joking.  Any debt that might have accumulated over the past three years has been more than paid.  ...Or did you really think that your research students were that lucky?"


The words clicked into place.  Nii's lab had been particularly lucky for some time now.  His students had come up with a new discovery just about every other month.  "You've been helping them," he said, impressed in spite of himself.  "Guiding them by leaving hints, teaching without being seen.  ...And not one of them ever realized."


"Mmm.  Yes."  There was no warning at all, but suddenly Hakkai moved.  A taloned hand touched Nii's jaw with deceptive gentleness, and the scientist caught his breath as he found himself staring into those riveting eyes, one green, one gold, hovering a bare handbreadth away.  "...And neither did you.  So, the way I see it, you actually owe me, for three years of back salary."


It was hard to breathe caught in the gaze of those exceptional eyes.  When Nii managed to inhale, the soap-and-musk scent of the youkai filled his nostrils, causing an almost painful tightening in his loins.  It was something of a struggle to keep his voice steady, as he said, "A salary requires a legally-binding contract, which you seem to lack, at the moment."


The expressive mouth curved upward, showing an intoxicating glint of fang.  "Then call it a consulting fee."


The temptation became too much.  "Of course.  A consulting fee."  Nii's left hand twisted against the waistband of Hakkai's pants, while the right pressed forward and down, stroking over Hakkai's groin.  Nii was gratified to feel the shallow rise of interested flesh, which stiffened still further under his touch.


Hakkai caught his breath, taking a half-step backwards, pulling against Nii's grip on his belt.  His eyes narrowed dangerously.  "Just what do you think you're doing?"


Nii ignored the words.  He raised his hand to rest in the center of Hakkai's chest.  A too-rapid heartbeat fluttered against his palm.  "It must have been difficult for you," he murmured, "spending all that time in isolation, away from the touch that this form craves."


Hakkai looked away, laughing softly.  It sounded forced, to Nii's ear.  "You don't really know very much about youkai."


"On the contrary," Nii replied.  "One of my major sources of private funding comes from a youkai investor overseas.  It's important to keep her happy.  And so I am very much aware of the sensual nature of youkai, and how...insatiable the demands of that form can be."  He twisted open the belt and the fastenings on Hakkai's pants, and when he didn't get any resistance, slipped his hand inside.


It was almost too easy.  The youkai's head tilted back on an indrawn breath, dark eyelashes fluttering closed.  Nii nuzzled along the smooth angle of the offered jaw-line as he stroked the trapped heat of Hakkai's cock. When he drew the youkai's length free of the enfolding cloth, Hakkai gave a faint, breathy moan.


"Step back," Nii murmured, pressing up against him, feeling the youkai's body heat through his open lab coat.  "Just a little more."  Hakkai came up sharply against a black epoxy lab bench, the edge of the work surface digging into his ass.  "There," Nii murmured in satisfaction.  "Perfect.  Don't move."


He dropped to his knees on the tile floor, leaning forward and opening his mouth to draw him in. 


Hakkai gasped, clawed hands flying up to grip at the lab bench.  "Eating in the lab is a safety violation," he insisted in a somewhat unsteady tone.


Nii took him all the way to the back of his throat, then slowly eased away again, eliciting another moan as his tongue flicked over the salty slit.  "It's my lab.  Besides, if I don't swallow, it's not breaking the rules now, is it?"  He repeated the gesture, long and slow, savoring the reaction it produced.


"Why are you doing this?" Hakkai asked, unable to keep the desperate edge from his voice as Nii mouthed skillfully around him.


Nii paused just long enough to answer.  "I assure you, my motivations are entirely selfish."  He glanced sideways at the haphazard pile of abandoned notebooks.  "I wanted you by the time I reached page five." 


With that remark, all further conversation ceased.  The quiet of the lab was disturbed only by soft, wet sounds as Nii sucked and licked and teased...and by Hakkai's harsh breathing and the occasional whimper as he fought in vain against a rising tide of surrender.


"Oh!" Hakkai gasped out suddenly, his whole body tensing and starting to arch.  Nii took the cue and released the suction abruptly, using his hand in place of his mouth as Hakkai's hard cock pulsed and shot a spatter of fluid across the tiles of the floor.  He orgasmed beautifully and in absolute silence, head thrown back, his body shaking with the force of it.  Nii massaged gently at hypersensitized flesh with his fingertips even after the intense crest of it had faded.  To his delight, the continued ministrations wrung forth further shudders and wordless exclamations.  Hakkai had to close his hand over Nii's to force the scientist to stop.


"Enough," he said firmly, panting as he glared at Nii.  "That's quite enough."


"Mmm.  As you wish.  Was that adequate compensation for your work?"


"For three years?  Hardly.  But I'll admit it was a pretty good start."


Nii shifted on the tile floor, preparing to stand up while Hakkai regained his breath.  Nii was surprised when, after a moment, a taloned hand was offered in assistance.  A bit bemused, he took it, and Hakkai pulled him to his feet.  Nii was certain it was no accident when the back of one of Hakkai's wrists brushed up firmly against Nii's prominent erection. 


"You seem to be inconvenienced. Perhaps we should do something about this now?  It wouldn't be right to ignore the situation."


Nii's cock jumped at the merest suggestion.  "Oh, yes," he replied fervently.  "That would be nice."


Without any hesitation, Hakkai let his pants and underwear drop, kicking off shoes and stepping free of the tangle of cloth, so that he was completely naked from the waist down.  Nii found himself staring, half-mesmerized by the graceful winding shadows of the vines twined over his flanks.  Hakkai laughed softly when he saw it, drawing Nii's attention back to his face.  "You like them?" he murmured slyly, glancing down at the patterns of dark leaves.  "Perhaps you'd like to share."


He took a step forward, and Nii suddenly felt one of the laboratory chairs slam unexpectedly into the back of his legs, the piece of furniture moving as if under its own volition.  Nii had good reflexes and superb balance, and for a moment he caught himself, teetering against gravity.  Then a clawed hand landed in the center of Nii's chest, toppling him backward into the chair's embrace.


No sooner was he seated against the hard plastic, when he felt a flurry of touch--over his arms, across his chest, around his legs.  Strong ropes, like snakes, slithered over his body, winding around his arms and legs and twisting his hands up behind his back.  In a matter of seconds, he was completely immobilized.  It took him a moment of stunned comprehension to realize that he was being held by the vines.


"Fascinating," Nii murmured, as he watched the tendrils crawl over his skin like sentient things.  "How on Earth does it work?"


"I've no idea," Hakkai replied, fixing him with an intent expression.  "If I ever find a scientific explanation, I'll be sure to let you know."


He reached out then, the point of one talon tracing the underside of Nii's jaw.  When he got to the end of Nii's chin, he reversed the stroke, trailing the sharp nail in a leisurely fashion downward against Nii's throat.  Nii's cock tightened in his pants, and he nearly forgot to breathe for a moment.  As the tip of Hakkai's claw traced down over his Adam's apple, Nii involuntarily swallowed hard.


"It's the danger that excites you, isn't it," Hakkai observed in enlightenment.  Wicked claws flicked out expertly, severing buttons all the way down the front of Nii's shirt.  "...The idea that I could gut you in a heartbeat and you'd be powerless to do anything about it."  A hand glided over the bared navel, and Nii cursed as his cock jumped in response.


The fastenings holding Nii's pants together went the same way as the buttons of his shirt.  Nii's hard length surged eagerly free of the shredded zipper, and Hakkai smiled down knowingly.  He reached up over Nii's head, and deftly plucked a bottle of sterile glycerin off the workbench shelf.  "I'd wondered why you'd hardly ever slept with any of your students.  I guess they're not threatening enough to interest you."  The youkai upended the open bottle over his fingers, allowing the clear fluid to glide down over his hand. 


Nii found himself staring at the glycerin-coated talons, and his cock began to ache.  "I wouldn't use too much of that, if I were you."


Hakkai gave him a sidelong look.  "You should be more worried about the claws.  It's dangerous, you know, to be so intimate with a youkai."  Hakkai reached down, and the pads of his fingers swept around Nii's shaft, leaving a cool, slick trail.  The back of one sharp nail slid from root to tip, and Nii had to strangle back a moan.  "Very dangerous.  One could loose important body parts so very easily."


"In my experience, youkai have excellent fine motor control," Nii replied, managing to his voice fairly steady.


"Perhaps," Hakkai gave him an indecipherable look, as the backs of his long nails continued to stroke at Nii's cock.  "Of course, you might want to consider, that might not be true for youkai who weren't always youkai."  The edge of a talon scraped just a little too deep, causing Nii to flinch and curse.  "You seem to like that, though."


The pads of his fingers briefly returned to apply more of the slick, clear fluid, spreading an especially liberal amount over the head.  Then he stepped forward, straddling Nii's lap, making eye contact as he lowered himself until the tip of Nii's cock touched the underside of one smooth ass cheek.  Nii felt himself swell, stiffening in anticipation, and he saw Hakkai's mismatched eyes darken in amusement.


"You're really into this, aren't you?" he murmured.  He reached down and touched Nii, guiding his dick into position, never breaking eye contact.  "I wouldn't want to keep you waiting."  He lowered himself still further, and Nii inhaled sharply, feeling a flush of heat rise in his face as the head of his cock pushed in, forcing that tight ring of muscle.  Hakkai tipped his head back with a languid sigh, gradually sinking lower, muscles relaxing as he took in even more of Nii's taut heat.  "Oh yes," he breathed.  "Just like that."


Nii's focus narrowed entirely to the warm wetness enveloping him, the smooth muscle gripping him and sliding around him in a long, slick stroke.  He found himself moaning aloud, hating himself for vocalizing, but needing the release of sound as he was enveloped in that tight heat.  Hakkai paused long enough in his descent to lean forward with a low chuckle, tongue darting out to lick along one earlobe.  Nii's hands twisted to intercept him, but his bonds held firm, the vines slithering teasingly up beneath the arms of his lab coat, under his shirt and across his chest to brush sensuously over his nipples.  A tendril looped between his legs to squeeze lightly at his balls and stroke against the base of his dick.


"Even like this, I could open an artery, you know," Hakkai said softly, hovering agonizingly about three-quarters of the way down Nii's shaft.  Nii felt the scrape of fangs against his neck, the scratch of talons raking lightly over the femoral artery running down the inside of his thighs.  "It would be a pleasant way to go, at least, bleeding out in the throes of climax."


"You wouldn't," Nii said with certainty--although the effect was spoiled slightly by his panting after breath.  "I'm a world-famous scientist, as I'm sure you know.  Kill me, and the resulting media firestorm would turn you into a hunted fugitive."


"In case you've forgotten, I've been hunted before," Hakkai murmured quietly.  His sharp teeth closed lightly over Nii's windpipe as if to prove his ambivalence, and Nii's pulse spiked in response.  "In my experience, law enforcement is woefully inept," he added, so close that his lips brushed against Nii's throat.  "I doubt very much that I'd be caught."


"I caught you," Nii observed.


In a heartbeat, Nii found himself staring deep into that riveting pair of human and non-human eyes.  "You flatter yourself.  I made a choice.  I could have walked away and let you burn the books."


"But you didn't.  Your attachment to your work was your undoing."


Hakkai straightened, and the corners of his expressive mouth turned upwards, once again showing off the sexy glint of fangs.  "I think you should re-evaluate your ideas about exactly who has been caught."  The vines tightened, chafing at Nii's wrists and ankles and all over his body, as Hakkai rocked his hips forward, forcing him deeper and eliciting a ragged gasp.  "Tell me again, exactly who is the one who's tied up at the moment?"


"Nnngh," was all Nii managed, as Hakkai rolled his hips once, twice...and again.  He was sinking lower, taking Nii's shaft in completely down to the very last inch.  The silken friction as he continued to rock in Nii's lap was unraveling almost all semblance of coherent thought.  "Ahhnnnh."


"Mmm," Hakkai purred.  "Quite."


Fully impaled on Nii's swollen length, Hakkai moved thoughtfully a few more times.  It wasn't enough.  Nii twitched, aching to draw back, to thrust upwards and bury himself repeatedly in the unbearable sweetness between Hakkai's thighs.  He could do nothing however, held immobile by the tight constriction of his bonds that made any such movement impossible.  Nii found himself growling in frustration, straining against the unyielding strands of the vines.


"Patience," the youkai said, in breathless amusement.  "It's been a while for me, and I'd prefer not to rush things right now."  Still, he took pity on Nii's discomfiture, and began to move in earnest--gradually at first, then with renewed confidence.  The constricted heat of his body enveloped Nii's engorged cock, the powerful and erotic motion provoking bliss and causing Nii to moan with abandon.


Taloned hands crept up over Nii's shoulders, tangling in his spiky hair as Hakkai found a slow, deep rhythm.  Hakkai's taut nipples were about even with Nii's nose, and the scientist managed to twist forward against the vines just enough to bite at them through the thin fabric of Hakkai's shirt.  The hard nips drew a warning growl from the youkai.  Rather than pushing Nii's head away, however, he responded by canting his hips and grinding down to fuck himself harder on Nii's cock.  The rough friction of it caused Nii to buck upwards as rapture tingled through his loins, suffusing his whole body with pleasure.  "Uhhhhhnn...."


"Close," Hakkai said, and it was almost a hiss.  "So close."  He adjusted the angle of his hips ever so slightly as he rocked forward in Nii's lap again and again.  Without any warning at all, he made an odd, high sound in the back of his throat, and abruptly froze in place.


Held helpless by the vines, unable to thrust or find completion, Nii drew in a sharp breath and gave a curse.  But the next moment the air left his lungs explosively as Hakkai's body tightened around him, quivering in a series of rhythmic contractions that milked at Nii's painfully hard dick and tipped him over the edge of arousal into shuddering, blinding climax.  Nii came harder than he had in years, the intensity of it arching him off the chair against slackening vines as his cock pumped desperately, driving his seed deep.  Awareness of everything else slipped away from him, as each and every nerve ending quivered with ecstasy of release.


Some time later, when Nii had recovered sufficiently to open his eyes again, he found that Hakkai had vanished completely, leaving no trace behind to show he had ever been there at all.  It came as no surprise to Nii that all five of the laboratory notebooks were gone as well--the workspace beside the cooling Bunsen burner was empty. 


Nii couldn't help but feel a brief stir of admiration.  It seemed as if he'd just been had.


"Well," he murmured to the empty lab, "Aren't you just a manipulative beast?"


Not really desiring to move just yet, he let the plastic of the lab chair take his full weight.  His gaze drifted sideways, to the boxy gray outline of the ultralow freezer standing upright in the corner.  This wasn't over, he knew.


"Top shelf, rack number five," he mused into the quiet.  The twelve cell lines in their unmarked box.  Nii knew what they were now.  Each vial of cells carried a separate, mapped genetic mutation.  Any one of those vials individually was an impressive, painstaking piece of scientific work.  But together...together the vials contained the keys to the differences in DNA structure separating humans from youkai. 


Valuable, indeed.  Irreplaceable, in fact.  ...And unlike the notebooks, they were not nearly so easy to store or to transport. 


Nii allowed himself a subtle smile.


"I expect that you'll be back."



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