Balance

*******

Chapter 6

*******

Oh, how he ached. Yohjiís whole body was one big protest of pain. Between the beating heíd taken from Ken, in which the man had focused mainly on his lower body but had delivered a few hard blows to his head as well, and from sleeping in this gods-awful chair, there was a lot for it to protest over. What he really needed was a nice long soak in a tub of hot water and a bottle of pain medication. He shifted around in his seat, trying to find a slightly more comfortable position, when he heard a low moan.

Standing on his feet, the blond quickly rushed over to the sleeping figure in bed. Aya was curled up on his side, clutching something as he again moaned softly. Yohji recognized the fact that the swordsman was in the midst of a nightmare. Heíd slept with the man long enough to have experienced this event many times, just as heíd woken Aya up with his own bad dreams. Occupational hazard when you were an assassin, doubly so when in a relationship with another one. But the blond had just learned something the day before that made the sight of Aya trapped in a nightmare very disturbing. Schwarzís Mastermind had taken to tormenting the redhead via his dreams, and that in all probability was what was happening now.

"Aya, love, come on and wake up." That didnít get any results. Mindful of the sleeping figureís many injuries, which were suffered at his hands, he gently shook the manís shoulder. At first it didnít seem to have an effect, then suddenly there was a hissing metallic sound and something came flying up from the bed to smack into his face before sailing across the room. Too startled to move, the blow was immediately followed by a kiss of ice along his throat that bloomed into a burning sensation. Shocked green eyes gazed down onto blinking violet ones as Aya held his katana against Yohjiís neck. Maybe it hadnít been such a good idea to wake the kitten after all.

*******

Once again submerged in darkness, Aya felt more than saw the landscape slowly shift around him. Overcome by a sense of vertigo, he closed his eyes for several heartbeats. When he opened them he found himself sitting in a European style street cafť, with Schuldig seated across from him. Not a good thing.

<Really Kštzchen, you need to learn how to appreciate me.>

"Then drop dead. I promise to bring flowers to your grave every day." Once again he found himself trapped by some force that prevented him from attacking or escaping the German.

"Hah hah. I see someone is developing a nasty sense of humor. I must be rubbing off on you more than I suspected." Catching the furious gaze directed his way, Schuldig laughed in earnest. "Come now, that wasnít meant to offend. I told you we were very much alike. Thatís just more proof I was telling the truth."

Aya couldnít suppress a snort. "You /never/ tell the truth. Everything you say is twisted in some way or another."

"No need to be so insulting, meine weiŖe Kamelie." Schuldig leaned across the table to cup Ayaís cheek. Being in control of the dream, he held the smaller redheadís body immobile as he caressed pale skin. "But Iíll forgive you, after all youíve been under a lot of stress lately. Not everyday one is raped by their lover, is it?"

Gritting his teeth, Aya tried to ignore the pleasure radiating out from where the telepath was stroking his face. The bastard was once again using his powers to make him feel like this. Things were so much easier when the German had shown up in his dreams just to taunt and threaten him. Now there were these gestures of affection, waves of bliss, and the oddly tender look in those pale green eyes when Schuldig visited him. It was very disconcerting, and he knew the other man had some sort of evil intention behind all of his actions. "Itís not every day that a fucked up telepath drugs oneís lover, mentally plants a suggestion for the man to rape one, and then have the gall to show up in oneís dreams either."

"Nope, that would only happen to you, Fujimiya."

"Hn, all thanks to you. Even had to get your claws into Siberian, didnít you."

Schuldig leaned even closer, his other hand coming up to play with silky crimson hair. "Balinese spoiled my fun, the Wichser. Now Iíll have to get my kitty fix this way, instead of using poor Siberianís body. Another thing for you to thank him for. Has he come crawling on his belly offering an apology yet?"

It was so hard to keep his eyes open, they kept threatening to close so he could better concentrate on the sensations the German was creating. Aya was beginning to become frightened. Schuldig had only once before treated him like this, until yesterday the man had never provoked anything but pain, anger and hate in him. Even though he knew it was just the manís talent twisting his nervous center to make him feel pleasure, his body was reacting as if it was a lover touching him, not a hated enemy. He tried focusing on what the longhaired man had been saying. "What does Kudoh have to apologize for? Itís all your fault. And I know better than to expect you to be sorry for anything. Especially with the way you get off on feeling my pain."

Chuckling softly, the telepath made the table disappear, and in a blink of an eye Aya found himself curled up on the manís lap. "Not quite true. I get off on everything you feel, Knuddelhšschen, not just the pain and anger. You feel everything so deeply and powerfully. Itís the difference of intensity between a kiss and an orgasm, comparing other peopleís emotions to yours. Until lately you had never felt any sort of pleasure. If youíd never let Balinese touch you, youíd still be mein weiŖ Veilchen, and this wouldnít be happening. By whoring yourself out to the man, you set yourself up for what went on the other night. I warned you about that, but you never listen, do you?"

Running his hands all over the pliant body in his lap, Schuldig calculated just how far he could press the swordsman. The man was deeply shaken after having a lover treat him so brutally, and an enemy making him feel so good. It was all part of Mastermindís plan to twist Abyssinianís psyche into accepting him. To turn the redheadís hate into desire, so he could touch and caress the lovely man in real life without having to freeze his body immobile. That sort of rape didnít interest him. But to make his Kštzchen truly want him, and to willingly turn his back on his teammates, now that would be something. To have that blinding intensity focused solely on him, blocking out the rest of the world. There was no one quite like the Japanese man; his aura was so breathtakingly unique. It indicated that there was something very special about his Kštzchen, something that made him worth all this effort. Abyssinian proved his worthiness yet again by the way he fought off the compulsion, by refusing to give in to what his body was feeling. It would take a lot more work, but the German was hoping to breach a few barriers with this dream. Alternating pain and pleasure was a tried and true way to break a person, and very enjoyable.

The sweet little fool was mentally chanting ĎI feel nothingí over and over again, violet eyes focused over the telepathís shoulders. Smiling at the challenge seated on top of him, Schuldig tilted up the delicate face and started to kiss Ayaís lips. He moaned when the swordsman purposely flashed pictures of his murdered parents, of his sisterís broken body, and the rape from the other night in his head, desperate to fight off the pleasure the German was awakening. Oh, the boy was just too fucking delicious for words. Pulling the smaller man closer, Schuldig deepened the kiss. Then he felt a tug on Abyssinianís awareness.

<"Aya, love, come on and wake up.">

<Donít tell me you let the Schwanzlutscher back into your bed already, Knuddelhšschen.>

Trying to strengthen his hold on the smaller man, Schuldig snarled as back in the real world Balinese must have started to physically jolt Aya awake. He couldnít forcibly restrain the man here without risking damage to his mind. In a few seconds the telepath was left alone in the dreamscape, viciously cursing the blond Penner for disrupting his plans before a successful conclusion. And damn Crawford for refusing to let him kill the prick. Calming down after venting some of his frustration, the Germanís habitual smirk once again took up residence on his lips. In the end, it wasnít much of a setback. He could just resume things the next time Abyssinian went to bed. That was the nice thing about dreams, everyone had to sleep sooner or later.

*******

Mind still wrapped up in his internal battle against Schuldig, Aya blinked as his eyes tried to focus on the sight in front of him. Yohji half leaned over the bed, blood trickling down a split cheek and from where Ayaís katana bit into his throat. Hn. The blond must have awoken him during his nightmare. A small part of him, still hurting from the manís mistreatment, urged him to carry through with the stroke. He actually pressed the blade ever so slightly more into that golden flesh, causing another trickle of blood to appear. After a second he returned the katana to his side, looking about his nightstand for a Kleenex to wipe the blood away. The scabbard was on the other side of the room.

Yohji felt his knees go weak, and he almost collapsed on the bed. Ayaíd had every opportunity to kill him right there, but had decided not to. He was determined to take that as a good sign. Shaking slightly he reached down to pick up the scabbard and hand it to his silent lover. Violet eyes regarded him coolly as the redhead accepted the case and sheathed his blade. The older man let out a sigh of relief as the katana was placed aside.

"Was it Schuldig again?" he inquired, the sound of his voice startling the smaller man ever so slightly.

Aya nodded his head, and glanced about for his book. It was early morning, and he had no intention of going back to sleep. Not if there was any chance of the telepath waiting for him to dream again. His body still tingled from the bastardís caresses, this was a new complication that he wasnít prepared to deal with right now. Noticing the manís searching gaze, Yohji walked over to a shelf to grab the book that had been thrown at him last night. "Think youíre looking for this. Care to tell me what the prick wanted?"

Taking the book, the redhead just ignored the question. Yohjiíd gotten all the answers heíd been willing to give last night. Threats wouldnít work today, not in his current mood. Some things were easier to just not think about.

"It had to be pretty bad, you donít usually try to decapitate the person waking you up," Yohji pushed, waiting for an explanation. There was a disturbed gleam deep in those amethyst orbs that terrified him. It meant that Schuldig was getting to his lover on some level.

"I donít usually get woken up by someone who just raped me." It was easier for Aya to fall back into his familiar defenses of anger and indifference than to deal with the mess his life had become. But something inside of him cringed at the crestfallen expression on the blondís face at that comment, in return making the anger flare up brighter. "You might not have done the deed consciously, Kudoh, but donít expect me to just forgive and take you back with open arms. You let yourself get distracted during a dangerous assignment, you bear some culpability."

Yohji knew that Aya was taking refuge in the emotions that he felt the safest with, but it still hurt to hear those words. "I know itís going to take a lot of work to gain your trust back, Aya. If I thought it would help you heal Iíd let you take that sword of yours to me again and finish the job you started a few minutes ago. But you decided it wasnít worth it. So donít forget itís that German bastard whoís truly responsible."

The redhead flipped through his book, determined not to respond. He wasnít about to let Yohji draw him out. It felt too good right now to be angry, burning away the last of the feelings that Schuldig had awakened. A couple of pages later, he heard the older man sigh as he made his way to the door. "Iíll brew some coffee for you, doubt you want to go to back to sleep right now."

Trying to concentrate on the book, the redhead gave up after the words started to blur. Deciding that spending one day in bed was more than enough, he got up and grabbed a button down shirt to wear over his pajama bottoms. Later on heíd take a bath and change his bandages, but he didnít feel like finding out just how bad heíd been sliced by Yohjiís wire right now. His right leg wasnít bearing much pressure, so he half limped half hopped down the hall, holding on to the wall for support. The steps didnít prove as much as a challenge as he thought, and in a few minutes he entered the kitchen.

"Aya-kun, what are you doing out of bed?" Omi asked, from his seat at the table. Heíd gotten up early in hopes of spending the day working on the mission and his special project, and had been startled to find Yohji up as well and /cooking/. The blond usually refused to go anywhere near the stove, but was busy making scrambled eggs as fresh coffee brewed. And now Aya was hopping into the kitchen, just barely managing his seat before falling down. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Yohji take a step away from the stove, as if to help the wounded man, but then stop himself. The youth noticed that the older blond was sporting bandages on his cheek and throat. Refusing to be distracted from the swordsman, Omi resolved to find out how Yohji had received those injuries later. Ken had battered the man enough yesterday.

"You should still be in bed, not walking around on that leg. If youíre hungry I can bring you a plate of food in a few minutes.

Violet eyes regarded him coolly, then that deep voice asked in a distant manner where the teenager was in regards to mission.

"I started a search last night on the names of the dealers, just have to check and see whatís come up. Hopefully Ken and Yohji can track them down and ask some questions later tonight. Iím trying to find out who is backing the manufacture of the drug." During this speech Yohji set a plate of food and a cup of coffee in front of his teammates. The redhead refused to look at the blond while he did this.

"Then Iíll help you with the research. No difference between sitting in a chair and lying in bed all day. Something is telling me we donít have that much time left to complete the assignment. Schwarz wouldnít be messing with us like this if things werenít close to completion."

Omi was about to argue, but felt his resistance wither in the face of the manís icy determination. Besides, Aya sometimes had these leaps of intuition that proved infallible. That may very well prove to be the case right now. "You can use my work pc to help with the cross-checking." The redhead dipped his head in acknowledgement as Omi tried his breakfast. Yohji actually cooked some pretty mean scrambled eggs. It wasnít until his plate was empty that he realized that neither of the older men had touched their food. Aya just refilled his mug with the coffee pot the playboy had placed near him, while Yohji smoked a cigarette. "Hey, the eggs were really good. You should try them, Aya-kun. Weíll have to get Yotan to cook breakfast more often." His cheerful statement fell flat as Aya continued to ignore the food and his lover. "You need to eat if you want to heal quickly."

"Iíll eat later. Letís get started on work." The swordsmanís tone of voice brooked no argument. Tossing Yohji a sympathetic glance, he got up to help the redhead stand on his feet. Aya refused his help, determined to stand on his own.

Jaw tightening at his kittenís display of stubbornness, Yohji put out his cigarette in his eggs. Giving the younger men a few minutes to get settled in, the blond brewed another pot of coffee and poured it into a thermos before following them downstairs. He paused to snatch a couple of pillows on his way. So Aya had decided to freeze him out, to just act as if he wasnít there. Fingering his scratched throat, the playboy decided that there were worst ways for the redhead to treat him, and that he shouldnít be surprised over the fact. Aya Fujimiya was either fire or ice, out for blood or chillingly distant. But Yohji Kudoh hadnít spent seven weeks trying to remind the man how to be human, on handing over his heart without hesitation, to be ignored. Heíd get his lover to forgive him and take him back if it was the last thing he did.

Coming down the spiral staircase, the blond found Aya seated at the computer, lips pressed tight as he adjusted his injured leg. "Here, thought you might need these." Yohji placed one of the pillows on the spare chair the smaller manís leg was stretched out on, and the other one on the back of the seat Aya was sitting in. "And some more coffee, with cream and sugar," he added, placing the thermos beside the keyboard. Glancing at the fussing man out of the corner of a violet eye, the redhead didnít say a word, just adjusted the pillow supporting his back and went back to his search.

Not wanting to leave the silent manís presence right away, Yohji drifted over to the couch were Omi was busy on his laptop. "Watcha got there, chibi? Business or pleasure? Manx will murder you if she finds you checking out internet porn while on an assignment."

"Weíre not all as perverted as you, Yohji-kun," was the familiar retort. "Iím working on a special project, a back up of sorts. Probably be best if you donít know anything about it." Omi tore his eyes away from the screen to offer the man a smile, only to find the older manís attention focused on their leader. The pain and longing in those green eyes made him pat the manís arm in a gesture of sympathy.

Glad that there was one person in the room who didnít think he was pond scum personified, Yohji smiled back nervously as he fumbled for a cigarette. "Anything you want me to do right now, chibi? Feel bad to be doing nothing while you and Aya are busy working."

"Nothing at the moment. If our searches come up with something weíll let you know, but thatís it for now." Taking in the slight frown on his friendís face, the teenager added, "It would be nice if you checked in on us every now-and-then. Maybe bring some food and snacks."

"I think I can manage that. Well, if you guys are fine for the moment, Iím going to head upstairs and take a hot bath. I donít think thereís a spot that /doesnít/ hurt right now."

Watching the lanky man walk away, Omi swore he heard Aya humming softly.

*******

"Thanks Yohji, a sugar rush is just what I need right now," Omi said through a mouthful of cookie.

"No problem, kiddo. Any updates on your progress?" Yohji tried to act all nonchalant as he placed a plate of the almond cookies next to Aya. Heíd just spent the last hour and a half driving to a certain department store to pick up desserts he knew the redhead loved.

"Weíve found the addresses of the two dealers after establishing their real names. Theyíve changed and moved around a lot lately, so it was a little tricky. But Aya and I compiled enough background data so you and Ken shouldnít have too hard of a problem meeting up with them. Narrowed the search for the company producing the drug to just three possibilities, not bad all in all." Omi too was watching the silent redhead, waiting to see his reaction to Yohjiís latest peace offering.

All day long the blond had been running up and down the steps, fetching this and that for the two men. And all day long Aya had been ignoring him. Among other things, Yohji had made a special run to a cafť for a cup of tea the swordsman favored, gotten takeout from his favorite restaurant, brought down his walkman and several cdís, and now the cookies. Each time the guilt-ridden man would hang around, chatting with Omi as he anxiously waited to see if Aya would accept the gift and acknowledge him. The redhead had eaten the takeout, but only after his stomach grumbled so loudly that the teenager complained about it distracting him. The tea and cd player sat to the side, along with another thermos of coffee.

Both men held their breath as a pale hand reached for a cookie. Aya nibbled on it as he continued checking the search engines for more information. "No luck as of yet on finding the European backers of the Tayago corporation. Itís a bit suspicious."

"Okay, Aya-kun, Iíll try a couple different tricks, see if I donít have better luck," Omi replied as he shared a grin with Yohji.

Waving a handful of paper the youth had just given him, Yohji started up the stairs. "Iíll go chat with Ken, see which of these guys he wants to follow around tonight. Weíll probably be leaving soon, you guys need anything else?" Omi shook his head as Aya kept on working while munching on another cookie. After a minute the green eyed man continued up the steps.

Once Yohji was out of earshot, Omi walked over to Aya. "How long do you plan on ignoring him like that? You know it isnít good for the team, plus itís kinda pathetic to see him acting like this. Like a whipped puppy or something."

Leaning back on his chair, the redhead focused weary eyes on the serious youth. "Iím tired of Yohji screwing up and me paying the price for it. So heís feeling guilty, good. He should be. Maybe me not forgiving him for a bit and letting him suffer will teach him a lesson for once."

"You have a point, but how can we tell just how much he was responsible for with Mastermind being involved? I donít think Yohji is going to forget what happened any quicker than you. It would be a real shame to see you end something as special that the two of you have over what might not even be the manís fault. Unless you are saying that you no longer lover Yotan, which I donít think is the case. Heís not dead. You guys love each other, so stop making him so miserable. Trust me, he felt bad enough when he woke up and found out what heíd done. There is no way heíd have done that willingly. Take it out on Schuldig, who deserves it. You know heís going to take advantage of this situation."

Aya rubbed his eyes, partially from the tired ache in them and partially to block the sight of Omiís earnest face and sad eyes. Things were just too complicated to think about right now, what with Schuldigís change of tactics, the new mission and Schwarzís involvement, and now outside interest in his love life.

Here he was, getting romantic advice from a sixteen year old assassin whose only girlfriend had happened to be his own sister. And the youth was trying to help /him/ out? That was it; heíd hit his limit of weird things for the day. An amorous Schuldig, a groveling Yohji, and now Omiís latest meddling. All it would take was Ken coming down the steps in a pink dress and heíd need to ask Farfarello about medication. "Iím getting a bath. There isnít much more we can do until the others come back with some concrete information."

"Youíll need help with your wounds. Some of them have to be looked at and re-bandaged."

Aya just nodded as he limped over to the steps. His leg seemed slightly better after another day of rest. Still, he was sweating from the effort and pain of climbing up two flights of steps to the bathroom. Once inside, he collapsed on the tubís rim as he filled it up with hot water. There was no way heíd be able to scrub off in the shower before soaking. Stripping off his shirt and pants, the redhead gingerly started to peel off his bandages. There were several that would require some soaking before heíd be able to remove them.

Settling into the hot water, Aya surveyed the damage. His arms and legs were crisscrossed with a lattice of cuts, mostly superficial but several deep enough to call for stitches. His chest and back had fared a bit better, but then they hadnít been covered with the wire as long as his extremities had been. There would be an ugly scar left to remind him of the gunshot wound on his right thigh, and the left side of his chest was a mass of bruises, new and old. It felt so nice to rest in the steaming bath, but it wasnít long before he started to nod off. Sitting up, the redhead gingerly scrubbed at his skin, trying to clean it without opening any of the cuts. It was a bit of work to wash his hair, but worthwhile to finally feel clean.

He wrapped a towel around his waist for the short trip back to his room, then grabbed a silvery grey cotton yukata patterned with purple and gold irises to wear until Omi finished bandaging him back up. In the middle of drying his hair with the towel, the redhead didnít think anything of his door opening after a short knock, since he was expecting the teenager. Once the scent of cigarettes registered though, he dropped the damp cloth and glared up at Yohji through disheveled bangs. "What are /you/ doing here?"

"Omiís on the phone with a school buddy, some sort of emergency over a class project, so he sent me instead." Yohji set down a roll of gauze, medical tape, scissors and anti-biotic cream on the bed next to Aya. He owed the chibi for informing him that the swordsman needed help with his injuries, and for coming up with the excuse letting him be here now. "If itís too much for you to put up with, I can get Ken to help you instead." The blond kept his tone neutral, careful to not voice the challenge of that statement. If Aya got the slightest hint he was being manipulated this wouldnít work. The two blonds were counting on the silent manís refusal to appear weak allowing Yohji to stay.

Eyeing the taller man for several heartbeats, Aya made a show of reaching back, grabbing his katana and placing at his side. The message was clear; if Yohji tried anything the swordsman wouldnít stop as he had in the morning.

"Alright then, let me get your back first." Moving slowly, Yohji tugged on the neck of the robe. Aya shrugged his shoulders and let the material fall down to his waist, facing away from the blond. Getting a good look at the bruises and lacerations heíd inflicted on his lover, the older man gently touched a finger to a thin cut. "Aya, I am so sorry. Please believe me when I say Iíd never willingly do something like this to you." Not expecting a response, the blond quickly set to work, placing gauze over the worst of the wounds and ointment on the rest. He moved on to the quiet manís arms, which needed more attention. It was so hard to concentrate on what he was doing, all he wanted to do was to stroke and taste that exposed skin, to try and melt his loverís iciness. Part of the attraction he felt for the younger man was his distant nature, the innate challenge he posed just by breathing. Yohjiís solutions to their fights before had always been sex; the theory that you couldnít stay mad at someone behaving so intimately with you always serving him well in the past. But that wouldnít work in this case; in fact it would only worsen matters. So here he was left floundering, wondering what to do next.

Shifting around to face his lover, Yohji found his right hand stopped scant centimeters from the pale chest by an iron grip.

"I can get the rest." Aya replied coldly, his other hand pulling up the robe to cover himself.

Yohji leaned back and nodded his head, not even trying to argue with the redhead. "Iíll go get ready. Omi said to let him know if the thigh seems the slightest bit infected, heíll give you a shot to clear it up." Without thinking, his hand reached out to comb back the wet bangs that clung to his loverís face.

Aya stilled at the gesture, more from the feeling of peace it imparted than anything else. For a brief second things returned to how theyíd been before the start of this disastrous mission, and the redhead was surprised to feel himself longing for those days of contentment.

Mistaking the reaction for something else, the older man decided it heíd better leave before Aya recovered and came after him with a drawn katana. He was almost at the door when a quiet voice called out to him.

"KudohÖ." The swordsman wasnít sure what he wanted to say, so he went with the safest thing in his jumbled mind. "Be careful."

Heart lightening at the first truly positive sign heíd received from the slender man all day, the blond relied back with a husky "I will" and closed the door behind him.

*******

Yohji sunk down in the seat of his car, green eyes intent on Ryoma Negishi, better known as Roy Nama to the patrons of Tardus, walking past him to a new BMW parked down the street. The man was finally leaving his apartment, and the assassin was hoping it was to meet up with his supplier before heading down to the club. Once he had proof that the man was in fact selling ĎSybilí, Negishiís rap sheet aside, the blond could detain the Ďdark beastí and get WeiŖ the answers they desperately needed.

The shiny newness of the foreign car made it easy for the former detective to follow his target. Several miles into the tail, Yohji was startled to find himself in a better section of town than heíd thought to be witnessing a drug buy. He drove past the parking BMW, down the block where he pulled over and saw Nama entering a small park situated between two small corporate buildings. One of which interestingly enough belonged to the company Tayago.

Pretending he was waiting for a bus, Yohji glanced behind him into the park. He could dimly see two figures in the evening darkness, one appearing a bit agitated. Before he could turn around and check it out better, there was a shot and a cut-off scream.

"Shit!" The blond spun into action, dashing into the small clearing as he wondered why none of the handful of people on the street were reacting to the gunshot. Pulling out a foot or two of his wire, the lanky assassin was stopped short by the sight of Schuldig standing over Namaís dead body, gun in hand pointing directly at him. "Ah, just the Schwanzlutscher I wanted to see.

*******

Crawford bent over at his desk, pain stabbing through his skull from his latest vision. "Dammit! Iím going to kill the bastard. NAGI! Nagi, get in here, now!" Trying to calm himself by drawing deep breaths, the American counted four of them before the Japanese youth appeared.

"Yes?"

"Nagi, I need you to take Farfarello and go here," Crawford explained as he quickly scribbled an address down. "Once there you must eliminate Obariís dealer. Siberian will be there, but engage him as little as possible. Just silence the dealer, understood?"

"Isnít Schuldig supposed to be taking care of the two men tonight?"

"Heís just let himself become distracted. No time for questions, just go, now." The telekinetic nodded his head as he went to gather the Irishman. Crawford didnít spare the boy another thought, busy collecting himself so he could go stop that German asshole from killing Balinese. Why the hell had he decided to send Mastermind out on the assignment?

*******

Body tense, Yohji tried to decide if he had enough space to attempt an attack on the telepath. Schuldig could be so fucking quick, heíd have to get out of the gunís range while tossing out his wires. Maybe if he duckedÖ.

<Go ahead and try it, you Wichser. Youíll never make it in time. Havenít you paid any attention during our previous fights?>

"You know what they say about hope springing eternal. Have to screw up sometime, donít you?" Blurring into action, the blond rolled the opposite way heíd been thinking of, whipping out his wires to catch the German fuck. Everything seemed to be going so well unto a kick to his head sent him flying back into a wall.

"Tsk. Tsk. That was truly lame. Didnít need to be Crawford to see that one coming." Deft fingers plucked his watch from his wrist, as the Japanese man tried to gather his dazed wits. "Think itís time to continue our conversation from the other day."

"The one where we discussed how much of a sick fuck you ar-aah." Schuldig punched the lanky man viciously in the diaphragm, smirking at the gasping sounds he made, body doubled over.

"Do you really think it wise to piss me of even more like that? Youíre enough of a nuisance as it is, donít add to things." The German drove his knee into the blondís stomach. <It wasnít polite of you to interrupt my little session with the Kštzchen this morning. We were having such fun, too. Love how sweet he tastes, with that bite of spice that leaves your tongue tingling, donít you?>

Still trying to breath properly, Yohjiís emerald eyes glared at the smirking foreigner. "As if youíd ever know. Aya would kill you if you got that close to him."

"Maybe, in the real world, unless I have a good threat ready like the other night. Iím still working on that. But in Abyssinianís dreams heís my little Knuddelhšschen, there for me to enjoy." Grabbing the WeiŖ by his hair, Schuldig smacked his head into the wall several times. <Oh, he didnít tell you about the other night in the bar either, did he? Just like the dreams my little tuberose and I share, huh. Why do you think he never told you about them until you confronted him? He so loves it when I fuck him during those visits. Donít you just adore those sounds he makes when youíre thrusting into him?> He tormented the blond with images of the two redheads screwing each other, of Aya calling out his name as the German pounded into that white body.

Senseless with rage, Yohji shoved the telepath off of him, fists swinging about wildly until they connected with the stunned German. Schuldigís sunglasses went flying off his head with one of the blows, and he shortly found himself knocked to the ground with the blondís hands clenching around his throat. "Ayaís /mine/, you fucker. Itís all lies."

Using his talent to send a jolt of pain into the furious manís brain, the telepath quickly reversed their positions. He directed several blows to Yohjiís face, blackening an eye and re-opening the split cheek in the process. "Arschloch," Schuldig snarled. "Such a possessive little kitty, arenít you? Half-breed bastard that you are. Actually improved your lot in life when you became Kritikerís willing whore, ja? Youíre just trash, Balinese, trying your best to hold on to something you know youíll never be worthy of. Just love the pathetic little complex you have over your lovers leaving you. Thatís why youíve always kicked them out of your bed in the morning, just beating them to the punch. But now you have someone you never deserved in the first place, and youíre so desperate to keep Abyssinian at your side that youíll do anything at all. While thinking how much better than me you are. Got some news for ya, youíre no better at all. Thatís what got you so scared."

<Fuck Oracle and his orders. This ends now, Kudoh. No more interference from you, no more games.> The redhead stood up and fumbled for his gun, as Yohji tried to force his beaten body to move. <Youíll be in hell, and Iíll be fucking the Kštzchen. Wonít take him long to forget all about a piece of shit like you, especially after the past week.> "Would love to say itís been nice knowing you, but youíve just been a major pain in my ass."

Bringing the weapon to bear on the blond, Schuldig let out a yelp at the bullet that whizzed past his face. <Drop the gun or Iíll kill you myself, Mastermind.>

<What the fuck are you doing here, Crawford?> About to point the gun at Yohjiís heart, the telepath saw Oracle walking towards him, gun aimed at his head.

<Stopping you from killing us all. Iíll pull the trigger, donít doubt that for a second. If Iím going down at least Iíll have the satisfaction of taking you out first. Your orders were to remove the two drug dealers before they could tell WeiŖ anything, but youíve fucked things up royally by playing the jealous idiot. Now back home before Schwarz is out a telepath.>

Snarling once again, Schuldig lowered the gun as he kicked the blond assassin in the gut. "Just a matter of time, Schwanzlutscher, before youíre dead and Abyssinian is all mine. And youíll do half the work for me."

It took Yohji several minutes to comprehend that he was all alone, save for Namaís cooling body. That the German bastard had left him alive. Struggling to his feet, he made his way back to his car after picking up his watch. Along the way he felt his stomach rebel from the abuse and he paused to throw up. The few people he passed assumed he was drunk, what with his shoulder length hair obscuring his beaten face. Once inside the car he pulled his phone out of his jacket. It took several tries, but he finally dialed the right number, frantic to warn Ken of Schwartzís presence.

*******

Clenching and unclenching his fist, Ken waited for his target to leave the soapland heíd been tracked to. The brunet hadnít had an opportunity to grab the dealer before, Uehara had always been surrounded by other people. If he didnít get the man alone soon, Ken would have to wait til the end of the night when the man went home to interrogate him. The assassin would attract too much attention in a club, what with his bruised and swollen face. Yohji might have broken Mastermindís hold on him, but that didnít mean he had to thank the blond. He was sure the older man could have come up with another tactic that didnít involve him paying back the soccer player for the past weekís transgressions.

Fifteen minutes later, Kenchō Uehara left the parlor, a disgruntled look on his face. Trailing the dealer, he waited for the right time before quickly coming up on the spiked blond and shoving him into a dark alley. Two stray cats took off at the commotion, as Ken hustled the man towards a dumpster, gloved hand covering a screaming mouth. Once he was sure they were well hidden from sight, he moved his hand down to the dealerís throat and squeezed. "You try screaming anymore and Iíll break your neck, understand Asahi?" The frightened manís eyes widen upon hearing his real name.

"What do you want? Money? Take my wallet, just let me go." He could always get more, it wasnít worth his life.

Shaking his head in disgust, Ken popped the claws of his bugnuks. "What I want are some answers, and I could care less about killing you to get them. I want to know all about ĎSybilí. Whoís supplying you with the drugs? Where do they come from? And donít even think to try and lie to me. We saw you dealing the stuff the other night."

Eyeing the sharp blades that were pressing gently against his stomach, slicing into his leather jacket, Uehara debated his choices. He wasnít sure how long heíd live if he gave the young man the information he wanted, but on the other hand there was a feral gleam in those brown eyes that said he wouldnít live more than a few seconds if he refused. "This buddy of mine named Nama offered me some quick cash if I helped push some drugs. Didnít tell me much more than that. All I know is that I meet this one guy, usually at this park a couple blocks uptown for the drugs. Got a phone call changing the location tonight, somebody in a funny accent. Was supposed to meet him here, but he never showed. Donít know anything else. I get the stuff and my money, go down to Tardus and sell the packets. Someone must be keeping an eye on things, cause as soon as Iím low, I get another call about a pickup."

"Whoís this supplier?"

"Donít know, comes across as some big wig. Like heís a company president instead of a drug supplier."

"Whereís this park at?" Ken pushed the weapons in the slightest bit deeper, drawing blood. Uehara was dead as soon as he got all the info out of him, Kritiker wanted everyone involved with the drug eliminated. After seeing the effects of ĎSybilí on his friends, the brunet didnít have much of a problem with that. "Donít make me repeat the question."

"Right between the Tayago and Motoda office buildings onÖ"

Feeling a tingle between his shoulder blades, the assassin dove in time for the knife to catch his speaking target in the throat. Looking up, he found Farfarello smiling at him, licking a blade as another was thrown in his direction. Rolling aside, the weapon barely missed him.

"Enough, Berserker. Time to head back." Ken noticed a youth who must be Prodigy standing on the roof behind the Irishman, and from the madmanís struggles, assumed the telekinetic was forcibly dragging his partner along with him. Standing up, the brunet pondered chasing after the two Schwarz. Heíd be outnumbered, which wasnít a good thing. Still, it was very odd how theyíd left without much of a fight. Gazing back at his dead informant, he felt a vibration in his inner coat pocket that signaled his phone was ringing. "This better be good."

*******

"How is he, Ken," Omi inquired worriedly, running to the passenger side of the sportster. The brunet, after receiving the phone call, had dashed over to Yohjiís location and drove the car and its owner home. Heíd called his teammates to inform them of the situation on while on the way.

"A bit dazed, but otherwise okay." Reaching in to haul the lanky man out of the vehicle, Ken lent a supportive shoulder to the grumbling man as they left the garage.

"Iím fine, felt worse after a training session or two. Gonna kill the bastard. Excuse me, The Bastard. Think itís official now."

Omi resolved to check the man thoroughly for signs of a concussion. He wasnít making perfect sense at the moment, but the hacker was willing to bet he was complaining about Schuldig. Who seemed to be developing quite a vendetta against the assassin team. "Get him to his room, there doesnít seem to be too much to patch up." The boy trailed the older men up the stairs.

All three of them were startled to find the door to Yohjiís room open, and their leader waiting inside. Aya was seated on the couch, and upon his entrance treated the blond with an assessing glance. Other than that, the redhead was still, and perfectly quiet.

"Okay, Yohji-kun. You should know the drill by now. Look me in the eye." After several seconds of staring at the manís pupils, Omi pronounced that the man was not concussed. "Letís check the other injuries. I think your cheek is going to need a couple stitches now, unless you want a scar." He quickly did the task. Checking Yohjiís jaw, the chibi stated that he might want to stick with soft foods for the next day or two.

While Omi and Ken were occupied with removing the playboyís coat and shirt, Aya finally spoke up. "What happened?"

Seeing as how Yohji was wincing and Ďouch-ingí as the blue eyed youth poked his ribs and abdomen, Ken decided to answer first. "I was in the middle of interrogating Uehara when Prodigy and Berserker showed up and killed the man. Besides throwing a knife at me, the two didnít try anything else and left. Thatís when I got the call from Yohji, warning me that Schwarz might show up."

Omi interrupted the debriefing to state that there were no serious injuries, but that Yohji would need to take it easy for a day. Nodding his head in response, the swordsman looked expectantly at his lover. Glad to have the quiet man focus on him without any animosity for the first time that day, the blond lounged back onto his pillows. "Didnít even get a chance to talk to Nama, Schuldig killed him before that. Then The Bastard started to in on me." Looking deeply into a pair of violet eyes, Yohji added the next bit. "He was all set to kill me, when someone showed up and stopped him. Couldnít see whom from where I was lying, but Iím willing to bet it was Crawford. Whoever it was had a damn good aim, and was able to reign Mastermind in. It appears that your theory has some merit."

"What theory?" Ken asked, eyes flicking back and forth between the two men.

"That for some reason Schwarz, well excepting Mastermind, doesnít want us dead, at least right now. Which is why they are messing with us more than usual." Yohji answered back, his eyes never leaving Ayaís.

"Oh. Guess that makes sense after what happened tonight. Must say, think I preferred it better when they were trying to kill us." The brunet smiled sheepishly at his teammates. He didnít think anyone disagreed with that last statement. Noticing the little exchange going on between the older men, he nudged Omi in the ribs and jerked his head towards the door.

"Well, you should be fine if you donít push things for the next day or so, Yohji. Hereís some steroids to help with all the swelling. Iíll need to double check your abdomen in the morning, but donít hesitate to get me if you feel any stabbing pain." Omi put the pills on the nightstand, amused at how the older blond wasnít even paying attention to him. Something was going on between the two lovers, and he knew they were holding back information from him and Ken. But as long as they were speaking to each other without Aya trying to kill the playboy, he was willing to let it go for another day.

Waiting until the younger men had left the room, Yohji continued the discussion. "He really wanted me dead tonight, Aya. Seemed to think that with me out of the way heíd have you all to himself. When are you going to let Ken and Omi know? This obsession the German prick has with you is getting out of control. Itís only a matter of time before he drags them back in as well."

Aya stabbed his fingers through his hair, wanting nothing more in the world than to have Schuldig skewered on the end of his katana. "I donít want them to know, Kudoh. Ken might try something stupid and Omi would tell Manx in an effort to protect everyone. And I donít trust Kritiker with this, theyíve always been too accepting of the fact that one of their operatives has an enemy telepath inside his head on a regular basis. They put more effort into analyzing the situation instead of preventing it."

"You think theyíre using you for something, donít you."

"Yes. Iíve spent more time with shrinks dissecting every little thing Schuldig tells me, as if they are searching for some clue in what he says than being taught how to block him out. Which never works. Iím not about to start another round now."

"I can understand that, but Schuldig doesnít seem happy to just fuck with your mind now. This isnít about throwing you off of your game anymore Aya; the man wants you. The more you fight him, the more heís going to retaliate back. How are we going to deal with that?"

Aya glared at the reclining man for a minute, about to issue a scathing retort over that Ďweí when he paused in thought. The telepath had dragged Yohji right into the mess, creating some sort of bizarre triangle. If he hadnít given in to his feelings for the blond, Kudoh would never had been drugged or beaten by Ken and Schuldig. He was almost as much to blame as Mastermind in that regard. There had been ample enough warnings over what would happen if heíd let anybody close to him.

Watching his loverís face change from an icy glare to a pensive nature, Yohji had an inkling of what the redhead was thinking about. Aya was very good at taking the blame for the actions of others. He wondered how much of that masochistic streak had been encouraged by the sadistic telepath. Scooting to the end of the bed, he leaned over and very gently grasped the pale hands resting on the smaller manís lap.

"Everything thatís happened lately is That Bastardís fault, not yours. Donít for a second let him convince you otherwise. You were never his in the first place, he has no right to act the way he has." Aya just sat there, a porcelain doll in his absolute stillness.

Thinking back to what the German had said to him, the blond added, "And youíre not mine either, not like the way Iíve been treating you. I love you with all my heart, and I would never willingly hurt you, but there is a part of me thatís acted as if you were a possession, just like he does. Thatís rather sobering to discover. So tell me if we fight him together or if you want me out of the picture. Maybe heíll back down if weíre not together anymore." Yohji watched, his heart in his throat, as violet eyes focused inwards, weighing options. The whole ride home Schuldigís words had rung inside of his head. The man was a consummate liar, but knew that the best lies often contained a kernel of truth. And heíd finally recognized what it was. If he kept holding on so tightly to Aya, he would do something he would regret, and that time have no one to blame but himself. Maybe even do something desperate enough to drive the redhead to his enemy, as had been predicted.

For his part, the swordsman was trying to figure out if he could successfully fight the Schwarz telepath by himself. Yohji had been used against him, and most likely that would happen again. But just breaking things off with the man wouldnít make him stop loving him, and Schuldig would keep picking away at that soft spot. Kenís phone call earlier, informing them that he was bringing back a wounded Yohji, had shaken the redhead up badly. That once again he was losing someone he loved. Someone who had hurt him. Torn between conflicting emotions, Aya folded in half, arms wrapped around his waist and head resting on his knees.

Yohji sighed, and began stroking the smaller manís hair. "Not exactly the best time to be asking a question like that, heh kitten? Youíre exhausted and I feel like I just went a round with the whole American Olympic boxing team." He kept up the caressing touch, not sure if heíd ever have another chance to feel those silky strands run through his fingers again. After a minute Aya straightened up, and got off the couch. Yohji watched in amazement as the redhead settled down on the side of the bed heíd taken over when they became lovers. "Uh, okay, guess Iíll go sleep in your room then." Gods, it was going to hurt, sleeping on Ayaís slab of a mattress in his condition.

"Kudoh, shut up and get in bed." Not sure if he was hearing things, the blond just sat at the foot of his bed. Pulling the comforter up to his chin, the smaller man cracked open an eye and glared in that direction. "Donít think youíre in the condition to try anything tonight, and I donít want to sleep alone." Deciding that was enough of an explanation, the violet eye drifted shut as Aya snuggled deeper into the comfortable bed. At the moment he didnít know what he loved more, Kudoh or the featherbed.

Still not certain what exactly was going on, Yohji sat for another minute, and decided since he didnít see a katana anywhere in reach maybe it would be safe to join his lover. He got up to turn off the lights before sitting back down to undress. Wincing as he bent over to pull off his shoes and pants, he crawled back to the top of the bed in his boxers and slid under the covers. Aya shifted a bit away from him, so the blond made sure to leave plenty of space between them. Not convinced if he was pressing his luck or not, he tentatively inquired "Uhm, so was that a yes or no?"

"Hn." Just as the older man was going to give up and go to sleep, "Ask me again in the morning."

*******

Schuldig glanced across the room at his enraged leader. Crawford could not be described as anything other than /pissed/. Making sure to that the desk was between him and the American, he decided to get the conversation started. Maybe a little screaming would help lower the precogís blood pressure. Bradley-poo looked as if he was about to burst an artery or two. "Want to tell me why you interrupted my fun tonight?"

Knowing that the other man was purposely trying to goad him, Crawford took several deep breaths. The first couple attempts came out more as snorts, but gradually the urge to bash the Germanís head against the wall until it was a bloody pulp abated. "What part of ĎWe need WeiŖ alive if we want to live past the next yearí canít you comprehend? Along with your orders to efficiently kill the two dealers /without/ engaging Siberian and Balinese."

"I didnít engage Siberian."

Count to ten, the precog thought. You need him alive as well. After a pause, "Only because you were too busy trying to kill Balinese. Thanks to your lack of control, the kittens have some information they never should have received. A supposedly simple mission is now that much more complicated. What the hell were you thinking, or is it too much of an assumption to believe your brain was involved at all?"

<Maybe if you told me exactly why I canít kill that Penner or any of the other white kitties Iíd have a bit more incentive to pay attention to what I can and canít do.>

"How does cutting off your nuts so you donít think with your dick anymore sound as incentive? You have this assumption, Schuldig, that you have some sort of choice in this matter. You /donít/. You obey me and Esset, or youíre dead." It was always nice to remind people just how short of a leash they were on. But push too hard, and the telepath would purposely act contrary in spite. And he needed the infuriating man if he was going to break his team free from their Ďemployersí. "I canít tell you the reason right now, only that I am working on a future that ensures Schwarzís survival. After the mission is done, maybe I can tell you more then." Once he was sure Schuldig hated Esset too much to betray him. "But not now. Not with you acting so erratically. So let me spell it out one more time. You are to leave Balinese and Abyssinian alone for the rest of this job. No more dream visits, no excuses to engage the men outside of a direct confrontation between WeiŖ and Schwarz, no more attempts on Balineseís life."

<And what do I get out of it if I do? You need me, /Bradley/, or being the cold bastard you are youíd have killed me in that park.>

Crawford considered just how badly he wanted to be free of Esset. The urge was so overwhelming to just shot the prick right now. Employing all of his legendary control, he asked the telepath what he wanted.

"Abyssinian."

What a surprise. "I may be a lot of things, Schuldig, but Iím not a pimp. Why do you want Fujimiya this badly? Heís a foul-tempered shit whoíll gut you the first chance he gets."

<Because of his mind. You have no idea of the rush I get when he focuses on me, even in hate and disgust. It blocks out everything else. Even better than being around you. I want that intensity to be completely mine. That and heís a pretty hot piece of ass. Donít tell me thatís escaped your attention. Or have you been to busy checking out little Bombay again?>

Gritting his teeth, the precog refused to let the man provoke a reaction out of him. "I donít know what you expect from me."

"You see the future, mein FŁhrer. I want you to let me know when would be the best time to make a move, the most successful tactic to use. Such a simple thing, no?"

"I canít just choose what I see, you know that."

"Ja, but itís on something thatís so important to your precious plan. Youíve already admitted to having seen things before over this matter. Iím positive youíll be receiving a vision or two soon. Be sure to let me know, thatís a good boy."

Deep breaths no longer working, Crawford appeased his fury by thinking of all the ways he could kill the German after he no longer needed him. "Fine." Schuldig smirked and headed for the door. "Wait. You can make up for your earlier transgressions by spending the night guarding Gotō. WeiŖ should be piecing things together quite quickly now, thanks to you. So you get to spend tonight making sure nothing disrupts his work, and tomorrow night as well. Unless you want to renege on our deal?Ē And that way the telepath couldnít contact Abyssinian as well. A suitable punishment. The Americanís lips curved up in the briefest of smiles as the longhaired man stormed out of the room, muttering obscenities under his breath.

*******

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