Bleed

by nekojita

*******

Disclaimer:  *Sigh*.  Nope, last I checked, I still don't own all the pretty boys, so there : p.  But Arai and Cass are mine.

*******

It became quite obvious to Schuldig that Jack the Ripper had stopped his killing spree one whore too soon. He’d give anything at the moment to resurrect the serial killer and unleash him on the bitch sitting across the room from his tuberose. Arai was dead. It was as simple as that. Now to hold Aya together mentally until he could arrange the sadistic psychiatrist’s demise.

"… other languages that you’ve studied. I find it remarkable that you know so many, and according to your file here, you are highly proficient at all of them. I mean, most Japanese people and even I have enough of a problem with English, even after learning it in school. You must be something special, to be able to adapt your mind to understanding them all. Quite a… unique individual. Very strange. I don’t know of anyone who can speak so many languages fluently, especially another Japanese. Most people I know don’t want to be tainted- oh, I don’t think I meant to use that word, what I mean is, well, they somehow think it makes you less of a proper person, knowing all those foreign languages. You must have a very unusual brain, to be able to grasp all the strange concepts that one must when studying a foreign language. Very interesting."

"You also must have made your family proud, being such an eager child to learn." There was a predatory grin on the woman’s face, each question a careful barb that worked its way into her patient’s psyche, playing on his dislike of being considered abnormal. "I see that your father hired tutors to teach you from a rather early age. It must have been such an… honor to have an intelligent child in the family. I imagine that you made your father a very happy man, being able to show off his studious and talented son. I know that most sons strive to please their fathers; I imagine it was very easy for such a _talented_ boy like you to prove your worth as the Fujimiya heir." As the topic of his relationship with his father was brought up, Aya clenched his hands together tighter and tighter. "Yes, he must have been very proud of you, what father wouldn’t be?"

"Do you have a favorite? Language, I mean." Dr. Arai was seated behind her desk, dressed in a navy blue tailored pantsuit. Sunlight filtered into the woman’s office, located in the Magic Bus hospital, making the tastefully decorated room seem warm and inviting, all glowing oak wood and warm browns from the furniture and books that covered the walls. It had been clearly designed to put her patients at ease, and was just as clearly failing miserably in that attempt with her latest.

Aya was seated in the leather chair opposite Arai’s desk, resisting the urge to curl up in the chair. The action would have screamed out loud how much on the defensive the woman was putting him, and would not be allowed. "English." He knew by now that the doctor would not leave him alone until he answered, which he did in as few words as possible. Schuldig’s presence in his mind kept him seated in the chair and appearing outwardly calm while Arai messed with his head. For the past five weeks, he had been coming here, every Thursday afternoon, forced by Kritiker to subjugate himself to mental and emotional torture. Only Schuldig’s voice in his head, calming him down and masking his emotions, made the situation bearable. His answer given, Aya waited to see how the woman twisted the answer on him, what failings she would point out now. Dr. Arai was very talented herself, in that regard.

"Really? English? I wouldn’t have thought that. Why is that so?"

"…Shakespeare, Plath, Blake, Joyce, among others."

Refusing to let the quiet man’s reticence bother her, Arai pushed on. "Ah, I see you have a thing for English speaking poets and writers. We’ll have to discuss why those exact ones at a later time, they have written some rather depressing works. But there are great writers in other languages. Sartre, Tolstoy and Schiller, to name a few. How do you feel about German? Considering, after all, the organization that you work for, and your team’s name. You must hear German almost as often as you hear English."

The redhead was silent for a moment. ‘Schu, what is she after now?’

Schuldig didn’t think it would be wise to point out the times that Aya had spoken German to a fellow Kritiker employee, which had happened after events he had been tied to, in one way or another. He’d finally gotten Aya to the point where the man grudgingly accepted him and didn’t hate him back, no sense in picking at old wounds and raising his ire. <It might be a way for her to mention me. Kritiker is very eager to find out if we’ve had any contact lately.>

‘Hn.’ Aya didn’t need to hear that; it would mean that there was no hope of these sessions ending anytime soon. The thought chilled him, and he was hard pressed to prevent himself from shivering. Then it was as if a pair of arms was encircling Aya, trying to soothe his frazzled nerves. Today’s session was turning out to be a particularly bad one. He so hated to be reminded about the childhood lessons his father had forced him to endure once his aptitude for languages had become known. Aya was to have put that skill to use working at his father’s bank, dealing with the international customers for the man as a glorified translator, instead of the heir to the family position. His father had regarded him as unfit for any position other than that. The man had never been proud of him a single day of his life. Aya had been too much of a freak. <No you weren’t, and still aren’t. Don’t let her lies get to you.>

"Fujimiya? Did you hear my question?"

Aya nodded his head, and mentally told Schu to quit distracting him. He had to come up with something to say, or the doctor would be upset. Failure to answer her would lead to a letter from Kritiker, stating his employer’s displeasure at his refusal to take these sessions seriously, and threatening him with suspension until he cooperated. Which was an unbearable thought, as it meant that he wouldn’t be able to make sure that Yohji was not hurt during a mission. "I enjoy those writers as well, and several other German ones. I just don’t give the language much thought besides that."

Not about to drop the matter, Arai leaned forward in her chair, dark brown eyes narrowing as she carefully watched the redhead. She knew that she was affecting the man, even if her empathy failed to break past the shields he had placed around his thoughts and emotions, judging from the way a pair of pale hands clutched at each other. "I guess you must be very well read. Most intelligent introverts such as yourself are. I understand you would read to your departed sister all the time, while she was in the coma." Ah, there was a brief spike of pain, the same as always when she mentioned the girl. Maybe it would be wise to follow that line of questioning now, since it provoked the best result. "I imagine that you don’t have many opportunities to read now, since you can no longer visit the girl. If only she hadn’t been taken. You must regret that happening very much, losing the last person you loved. To feel as if you failed her. I understand that your group has a past of sorts with the terrorists who took your sister. Some people have no sense of honor, to make a poor, defenseless girl pay for her brother’s actions." There was another flash of pain, and a touch of anger and hate as well. It was a delicious balm to the empath’s senses.

Pressing on with her attack, the psychiatrist settled back in her chair and switched topics once again, to better throw Orchidee off balance. "But we were talking about German; pardon me for digressing from the subject. Considering who our employers are, it makes sense to have a small knowledge of the language. Did you find that knowledge helpful to you at all when Mastermind used to visit your dreams? My notes say that you could never recall what language he spoke to you; maybe it was German after all. That could account for your dislike of the language. When was the last time he talked to you in your sleep?"

"More than a year ago, when I was… on break from Kritiker."

Dammit, Arai thought, that checked with what her records said, and the man wasn’t so shaken up that she could pick up on whether he was lying or not. She needed to get those shields down, somehow. "And he didn’t try to invade your dreams when you ran into him a few months ago? During the…" she made a big production of checking her notes, senses honed on the redhead for the slightest tell tale reaction on his part. "Ah, here it is, the mission involving the drug, Sybil?"

"No."

She still couldn’t pick up anything. "Very interesting. We will have to discuss one day your theory on why Mastermind has decided to leave you alone. After all, he must have been eager to talk with a Japanese man who can understand his native tongue. So few people in this country can speak the language. No wonder he found you so fascinating and unique. I myself have never met anyone like you. Add to that, the fact that you are a murderer… pardon me, assassin, _just like_ he is, and one would think there would be a stronger bond between the two of you." With each sentence, the man’s head dropped the slightest fraction forward, the long crimson bangs hiding his face more with each movement. Still, it wasn’t the reaction Arai had been hoping for, so she changed tactics. She’d come back to the Mastermind topic another day, one when she was getting more of a response. "I wonder if the condition is hereditary, and if your sister possessed the same skill. Of being able to learn so many languages, I mean. Did she?"

"…I don’t know."

"Really? And here I thought you were very involved with your sibling. Always looking after her, doing your best to protect her, or at least trying to. You couldn’t always be there, obviously. I mean, what with the day of the explosion at your father’s corporation, and last month, of course. Still, as your father’s heir, you must have had more responsibilities placed on your shoulders than Aya had. Maybe she never had the chance to develop the skills. Now she never will. It’s sad, for such potential to be lost. If only she had been kept safe that day. She might have grown up to be quite an amazing woman." Everything she said was calculated to wound Fujimiya, to create infinitesimal cracks in his mental barriers until they collapsed. Pointing out his failure to protect his sibling, as well as his unusual looks and skills were among the best ways to do so. "Such a lovely young girl, it is a very great shame. At least you are alive, to carry on the family name."

<Don’t let the bitch get to you, Aya. She’s taking potshots in the dark, trying to get a reaction from you. Your sister is still alive, and there was nothing you could have done either day to save her.> Schuldig found himself in the unfamiliar role of a comforter, trying to soothe his heart’s agitated mind. As soon as the session was over, he was going to have a nice long talk with Farfie about the progress with their plans for ridding the world of a certain shrink. No one hurt Aya like this; both she and Kritiker were going to pay.

‘How much longer, Schu?’ He felt the younger redhead’s hurt and exhaustion, and sent out another mental caress.

<Ten more minutes, Knuddelhäschen.> Aya didn’t even react to the name, a telling sign of how disturbed he was. The past fifty minutes had been one constant jab after another; first starting with his failure to bond with his teammates, shifting to his training as a florist and a few painful minutes discussing his team in Sendai, complete with his ‘failure’ to protect them, then the previous topic about what he had studied as a child. Now the topic of his sister. Arai was being a bit unsubtle today, what with the repeated bashings of ‘freak, failure, failure, freak’, and now back to the ‘failure’ part. All this was highly repetitive, but too effective for the telepath’s liking. She had no right upsetting Aya this much before a mission; what the hell was Kritiker thinking, unleashing the bitch on the swordsman?

For his part, Aya lifted his head and fixed his gaze on the silver pen resting on top of Arai’s desk, determined to hold out these last few minutes. If the past few sessions were any indication, she would spend the last remaining minutes bringing up every one of his personality flaws, stressing again and again how he constantly failed those around him. He let the abuse flow through him, a skill he had learned during his childhood, suffering it as the price he had to pay in order to leave the room in another eight minutes.

"…have to move on with your life, I can’t stress this enough. Devote the time and energy you spent on your comatose sibling towards your team and job; there is no reason why you couldn’t be in charge of your own team at some point in the future. Kritiker has taken care of you the past couple of years, and all they expect in return is that you give them your best effort. It’s not as if you are trained for anything other than the profession you are currently involved in, besides that of your father’s business. Which is not an option for you at this time, since Ran Fujimiya is dead, and with as distinctive looks as you possess, you would be recognized the moment you searched for employment in that sector…"

Hn, it was the ‘you are a murderous failure of a freak who should be more grateful to your employers’ speech. The same one he’d been treated to the last three sessions. <The material does seem to be getting a little bit stale. I think you are frustrating the bitch to no end by not giving her a reaction of any sort. She expected to have you blubbering on the floor by now.> Careful to school his expression to one of pained attention, Aya sent a weary assent back to the telepath. ‘Why is she doing this, Schu? I haven’t failed Kritiker on a mission since Hikage.’

Kritiker was doing this because the man was working for an organization that desperately wanted to get their hands on a broken, docile, powerful precog, the latter of which they assumed Aya to be. But Schuldig couldn’t say that; Aya was still in denial about his power. <The bitch is twisted, and is using whatever she can to fuck with your mind. Like your sister and your childhood. Be the stubborn little tuberose that I know and love, and don’t buy into her shit. Wait, time’s up, you’re free for the week.>

Aya flowed to his feet, the graceful movement distracting Arai’s cruel tirade. "I will take your comments under advisement."

"Please sit back down, Fujimiya. I know your hour is up, but I feel we have a few more points that need to be discussed, such as-"

"I have a mission to prepare for tonight; this will have to wait." For the first time since his sister had been kidnapped, Aya was grateful for the unpleasant task ahead of him that night. The job might not be needed to supply him with the money to pay for Aya-chan’s medical bills at the moment, or supply a means for him to seek revenge or find the girl, but right now he was very thankful for the reprieve it was providing him. <Hee, you’ve got her all flustered now, she knows she can’t make you stay if you have a mission tonight. She’s so pissed off, she could bite through nails at the moment.> Stopping himself just as he was about to nod his head in agreement with Schuldig, Aya merely walked over to the door.

"I expect to see you on time next week, Fujimiya. And every week afterwards, until Kritiker feels these sessions are no longer needed." Trust Dr. Arai to remind him that the reprieve was short-lived. Aya didn’t want to think of how she’d make him pay for this in his next session. Schuldig took the opportunity to repeat the conclusion he’d come to about the doctor a while earlier to the pale man, who once again found himself in agreement with the German. ‘Yes, it is a shame the two couldn’t meet. Now get going, Schu.’ The arrangement they had reached involved Schuldig only being in his head during the psychiatric appointments; with this one over, Aya wanted the man gone and his thoughts to himself. ‘Go, now.’

<You’re welcome, little tuberose. Don’t worry, I’ll be back next week. Have fun slaying the dark beasts tonight.> There was a cold ache in Aya’s head as the telepath departed, matching the one that filled his slender form, making him half wish that the man hadn’t left after all. Things were bad when Schuldig leaving him alone could upset him, even the tiniest little bit. Yet another facet of how fucked up Aya’s life had become the past couple of years.

It was so hard to keep his pace slow as he walked to the elevator, and from there to the front door; he couldn’t show just how much he desired to flee the damn hospital. Aya kept his face passive and his steps even as he headed to the small park across from the building. He’d normally stopped by the park after a visit to his sister, so it wouldn’t be seen as odd for him to do so now, just force of habit. Once he was sure that a grove of trees would block him from the sight of anyone observing him, he started to run towards the bench where Yohji would be waiting for him. They had decided not to keep meeting in the coffee shop after the first session, afraid of drawing attention to themselves. Here at least, they were just two young men, killing a late summer afternoon in the park.

Coming to the secluded pocket that had become their meeting place, Aya felt something in his chest tighten as he spied Yohji smoking a cigarette and glancing down at his watch. When the blond caught sight of him, the lanky man quickly tossed the cigarette away and stood to his feet. Aya didn’t stop until he slammed into his lover, clutching Yohji close as he buried his face in the crook of a golden neck.

Large hands stroked through his hair and down his back. "Guess it would be pretty stupid to ask how things went, ne?"  Not willing to say anything, Aya just held onto the man even tighter, mind busy telling himself that someone he loved was still safe and well, even holding a blood-stained freak like himself close. Yohji didn’t care what he was or wasn’t, just loved him back just as much as Aya loved him. "Come on, kitten, let’s get you home."

*******

Not receiving an answer, Yohji tilted up Aya’s face and kissed the pale man on the lips, and was shocked at the intensity with which his lover responded to him. Aya latched his arms around the blond’s neck and sucked his tongue into his mouth, all the while pressing against him. It felt as if his kitten wanted to crawl inside him or something, or was too afraid to let him go. When he broke off the kiss in order to breathe, Yohji made sure to hold the smaller man tight, making it clear that he wasn’t pushing Aya away. "Love… you make me wish it was pouring down rain at the moment. But we really need to get home; I left Ken alone in the shop.

Aya didn’t say a word, just nodded his head and made sure to hold one of the playboy’s hands tight as they walked to the car. Dammit, the shrink must have fucked with the man’s mind pretty badly today; this was the most upset he’d ever seen Aya, other than finding his sister gone or a Takatori in the room. Each time the swordsman left one of his sessions, he returned more agitated than the last. Yohji didn’t want to think how he’d be in a couple more weeks. When they reached his car, he looked about, and finding the parking lot empty, except for a woman and a couple of kids, he kissed Aya once more before holding the door open for his lover.

When he slid behind the steering wheel, the lanky man regretted the fact that his car was a manual, which made holding hands a mite difficult while driving. As soon as he was out on the road and done with shifting for a few minutes, he reached out and brushed back the crimson bangs masking Aya’s face, his hand then cupping a delicate cheekbone. "You want to talk about it?"

"No."

Figured. Aya never did. Instead, he seemed to prefer bottling everything up inside. If he wasn’t afraid of the man setting things sparking again, Yohji might have pressed the issue, but decided it would be best at the moment just to get home in one piece. One day he was going to have to confront Aya about what happened during the sessions, but that wouldn’t be right now. He wanted his boyfriend to be focused for the mission tonight, and a knockdown drag-out fight would accomplish anything but that. It might even set off one of his migraines, which wouldn’t be a good thing.

"Well, while you were being psychoanalyzed by a sadist, as if I couldn’t tell Kritiker that you’re a moody, blood thirsty little psychopath and save them a lot of money and you some time, I got to dodge bird shit and flying balls." The whole trip home, Yohji kept talking, recounting his afternoon in the park, touching Aya when he could. It was all a distraction of sorts, focusing the pale man’s attention on anything other than what the doctor had said to him. Yohji was getting too damn good at this sort of thing, from having way too much practice. The sessions had to end, and soon. If they were meant to stabilize Aya’s psyche, which he seriously doubted, especially after seeing what they’d done to the man this past month, they were failing miserably.

When they reached the Koneko, Yohji pulled into the garage. Aya jumped out of the car and headed for the kitchen, checking back over his shoulder to make sure that the blond was following him. When he stepped into the room, Yohji found his head being jerked down for another kiss. "Mmm, love, you taste so good, but I have to go down and help Ken. Why don’t you go curl up upstairs and get some sleep?" He knew the redhead had been up most of the night because of the bad dreams; Aya almost never got any sleep on Wednesday or Thursday nights. He’d tried to stay awake with his lover, only to fall asleep at some point, and woke to a cold bed and Aya perched on the windowsill, staring out at the city.

"No, I’ll come help out."

"Aya, go to bed. You got, what, two hours of sleep last night, if even that much, and you haven’t exactly been sleeping very well lately anyway. Tonight’s mission is going to be rough, so rest while you can." From the stubborn set to that beautiful pale face, Yohji could tell that Aya was going to ignore him. Dammit, and Omi wouldn’t cancel the mission or make Aya sit it out; they’d all at one time or another fought while sleep-deprived, so it wasn’t enough of a reason to exclude their field leader. Since Omi would be too busy trying to steal some data to direct Ken and his actions, Aya would be needed.

Besides, if Kritiker found out that the psych sessions were affecting Aya that badly… Yohji had this terrible fear that one day Weiß would be informed that their quietest member was going to be called away for more evaluations or something, and then he’d never come back. The organization would most likely jump at the chance to admit Aya for ‘a couple of days’, for either rest or his ‘mental health’, and never let him back out again. His hands bunching into fists, Yohji thought that he’d tear apart the damn hospital apart brick by brick, until he found out where his lover was.

"Aya, please, get some rest." All the man did was shift closer to him. The past several weeks, Aya had hated letting Yohji out of his sight, afraid of losing him as he lost Aya-chan. And it was always worse after a visit to the shrink. Yohji had hoped in vain that the smaller man would remain in the apartment while he was working in the shop, but obviously that wasn’t going to happen today. Only one thing left to do; Ken was going to kill him later on for this. Too bad. "Okay then, we’ll both go get some rest; I could use a little more sleep myself."

Violet eyes stared back at him in wonder, than Aya shook his head. "But Hidaka is down there by himself, we shoul-"

Yohji stopped his lover with a kiss, cupping the man’s face between his hands while he rocked their hips together. It only took a few seconds for Aya to give in and start tugging him towards their room. That was even more proof of how disturbed Aya was that day; he almost never permitted slacking off from work, especially for sex or sleep. And this better damn well be a mix of both, if he was going to have an irate athlete after his hide. Ken should be able to manage the shop on his own for a couple more hours, then Omi would be back from his club meeting. All that mattered was getting Aya up into bed, and exhausting him enough that he stayed there. It was such a good thing that he was willing to make sacrifices on his boyfriend’s behalf, Yohji thought to himself. Really, it was a very noble thing to do.

Once they managed to make it to their bedroom, Yohji found his thoughts narrowing down to getting Aya out of the black sweater and jeans he was wearing, and onto the bed as soon as possible. The seduction might have started out with the intention of seeing to the younger man’s needs, but right now he was lost to anything other than being buried in that graceful body, attaining the sense of pleasure that only seemed to get better and better each time they made love. Yohji violently tugged off the thick sweater, tearing the shoulder seam as it was pulled over Aya’s head. Then he shoved the smaller man on to the bed with a growl, eying the splayed, slender limbs for a moment as he stripped off his own shirt; then grabbed at the waistband of Aya’s pants, yanked them open and pushed them down those long legs.

It only took a few more seconds before his pants were lying on the ground as well, and then he descended upon his lover, pushing the man deeper into the mattress. He ravaged Aya with his hands and mouth, bruising the pale skin with his need to make his lover mewl and moan out his name. Instead of protesting the rough treatment, Aya clutched at him, holding him close and whispering ‘please’ over and over again, when he had the breath to talk.

Mouth fastened on Aya’s neck, Yohji drank in each and every moan he wrung from the quiet man, feeling the vibrations against his lips as his fingers worked at preparing his lover. Growling with impatience, he withdrew them, barely pausing to coat his aching cock before shoving into the redhead; Aya’s eyes tightened in pain, but he wrapped his arms and legs tighter about the blond, thrusting his hips upward to take Yohji in even deeper.

He was lost in a haze of bliss and pleasure, everything so tight and perfect around him. Aya’s flesh was intoxicating, making his lips and tongue tingle as Yohji roamed over the pale skin. Fingers threaded through his hair jerked his head up for a searing kiss, before they broke apart, panting and moaning. Pistoning his hips into Aya, Yohji locked his eyes on the indigo ones before him, needing that connection almost as much as the physical one that had him drowning in pleasure. They continued to stare at each other, until Aya tossed his head back and cried out the older man’s name, and Yohji buried his head in the crook of his lover’s neck, needing to taste him once more before being ripped apart by his own orgasm.

When the world felt solid about him once more, Yohji lifted his head, looking down upon his love. One of Aya’s hands blindly stroked through his sweaty hair; he caught it with one of his and pressed the palm to his lips before bending down and kissing Aya’s eyelids. When he pulled back, Aya opened his eyes the slightest bit, the lids heavy with pleasure and exhaustion. "Love you, kitten." The act always seemed incomplete until he uttered those words, and Yohji waited for his boyfriend to whisper them back.

All he got this time was a tender smile and a mumbled something that most likely was meant to be ‘I love you’ - if Aya had finished it before drifting off to sleep. Not about to complain about the words lack of clarity, Yohji smiled and tugged on an eartail, earning the quick wrinkling of a pale nose. "Don’t worry, I’ll just make you repeat that later." As if he didn’t look for any excuse to hear Aya say that he loved him as well. Forcing his sore body to move, he sat up and reached for some tissues to clean up the two of them.

Aya started to toss about even before he finished the task, only calming back down when Yohji curled up beside him and pulled the smaller man against him. Stroking his hands over the pale skin, he muttered apologies against his love’s temple for the various bruises. This had been happening a lot more frequently during their lovemaking the past few weeks; the frenzied need to possess each other that left the both of them drained and bruised. It hurt him so much to see Aya in distress, that his brain completely switched off and all he cared about was making Aya forget about anything and everything but his presence and pleasure. He knew it was the same for the swordsman; that all Aya wanted was Yohji in him, irrevocable proof that he was there and real, and not about to vanish as the man’s sister had.

Still, no matter how intense the bliss, he always felt a tinge of guilt afterwards. Yohji wanted desperately to make everything all right for his boyfriend, and not do anything to add to his pain. "You drive me crazy, love, you really do. How the hell can I need you so much?" Aya just slept on, oblivious as usual to the havoc he had wreaked on Yohji’s life by making him love again, filling him with the need to keep a suicidal, stubborn little kitten safe and whole. Ah well, there were worse fates out there, though none were as likely to make him completely grey before he was thirty. If they both lived that long.

Disturbed by the sudden dark turn his thoughts had taken, Yohji pulled Aya closer to him and closed his eyes. His lover wasn’t the only one who’d been suffering from nightmares lately. Ever since the Wunder X mission, the blond had been plagued by dreams featuring Asuka, staring at him with a look of betrayal in her eyes. The dream was always the same; him pleading with the dead woman to understand that he loved someone else who needed him far more than the independent woman ever had, even if the stubborn fool would never admit it. It was all Neu’s fault; why did that bitch have to look so much like his first love? She confused the hell out of him, and even worse, gave him hope that maybe, just maybe, Asuka was still alive. That, impossibly enough, she might have become a member of Schreient.

Yohji kept such thoughts to himself, not wanting to upset Aya. The man knew that he still felt something for his old partner, even if what he had with the redhead was so much more intense. The last thing Aya needed was to feel that Yohji didn’t love or want him. But the doubts wouldn’t go away, and he didn’t know what to do. Yohji feared what would happen the next time Weiß had to face Schreient, which they invariably would, if only to get Aya-chan back. He wondered if he could really fight Neu; if he could see her as anything other than Asuka brought back from the dead.

Drifting off to sleep, Yohji prayed that the dreams would stay away for once, for both of them. All he wanted was to rest here beside a sleeping Aya. The man didn’t need any more heartache, not after the loss of his sister; and now that damn shrink was messing with his head. Recalling how the pale man had appeared after the session, and the desperate way Aya had held him tight during sex, Yohji came to a sudden conclusion. He would have to do something to make Kritiker back off. Only one plan came to mind; one that he should be able to implement tonight. Aya would have his head for it, most likely, but he could live with that if it meant the man didn’t have to suffer the psych sessions. Yohji fell asleep, feeling as if he was doing the right thing for once. Everything would be fine, after tonight.

*******

Aya found himself walking in a garden, a strong wind blowing petals past his face. For a moment his hair blinded him, and when he tucked the strands behind his ear and blinked open his eyes, he found the grey woman standing before him. "Hello, Cassandra." For an instant, there was a flash of pain as he wondered how he knew her name, but something in his mind made him think of something else. "The sea, it sounds so much closer now, as if waves could crash down on us at any moment." A memory stirred; of a cliff overlooking darkness, and this woman and Schu leading him away from it. The pain built some more. There was a flash of a barely remembered dream, forcibly repressed.

"Hurts, does it? Everything does. Everything hurts. Pain lies to one, a smiling Loki that fools you into thinking that it is all gone, when all that has happened is you have gotten used to it. Then the cruel thing digs its claws in deeper, rending your soul once more." Cassandra stared at Aya, her eyes wild with madness, her grey hair matted into dreadlocks. "Everything hurts. So deep it digs, always and ever, until you bleed."

"Cassandra, are you… alright?" Aya winced when he asked the question; he didn’t think the woman had ever been ‘alright’, but he couldn’t recall her ever being this mad before. Yet, in the last few dreams he’d had of her, she had sounded almost sane.

The woman started to laugh, an awful sound like breaking glass, which reminded him of the few times he’d heard Berserker laugh out loud. Then she whirled around, running deeper into the garden. Aya gave chase, following her until she collapsed in front of a cluster of irises. Among the lilac colored blooms were four so dark a purple, they appeared black. "What’s wrong?"

The psychic ignored him, clapping her hands together as she pointed to the dark flowers. "Four black birds! Flying in the breeze. Oh, an omen, an omen. One for sorrow. One is always sorrow, the foundation of everything. Nothing but sorrow, sorrow and death and blood." A small hand lashed out and shredded the flower. "Oh, killed it I have, yet there is always one more left to count. One, until the void. Nothingness or sorrow, no other choice is there."

Cassandra reached out and touched another dark bloom, stroking the petals before shredding them as well. "Two is for joy, or so they say. But never until sorrow has been there first. It’s not the constant that one is, naughty naughty bird. All joy is, is sorrow doubled. Vicious thing, to give one hope so. It deserves to have its neck wrung." Cassandra did not relent on her attack on the iris until it was dark tatters on the wind. Aya felt a cold chill down his spine as she moved on to the next one.

"Three for girl. But the girl is gone. Gone. Gone." Grey eyes fastened on violet. "She won’t come back, you know. Even if you find her, she is gone. But you will meet her again, your threads are still tied together. Other concerns you should have, you will not find her until the convergence, so stop your worrying. Everything goes away at some point; one and zero, that is all there is. One and one and one, oh she hurts you so."

"Where is she?" The woman had to be talking about his sister. "Why won’t I be able to find her?" Aya grabbed Cassandra by the shoulders and shook her. "I want her back."

The woman’s voice rang out once more with her broken laugh, and she shrugged off his hands. "You chose, little star. You chose your heart over your soul, back on the cliff. Decided which one to live for. The one over the void. Now you will bleed. Blood will flow in and out, a never-ending beat. Bleed you will. Bleed will your heart. Naughty Loki, wedded to one. Pain and sorrow. Deceitful things, the more you hurt, the more you can tolerate, and that which doesn’t destroy you feels as if a surcease from the two." Cassandra snatched the last ‘black bird’, and handed it to Aya. "Four for boy. Two and two, joy and joy. Or one and one and one and one. So much sorrow. You decide which, but not before you both bleed. You and the Knight. And the Magician as well, tied as you are to each other. One heart now. Always one. Yet what was one is two now, you and him."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"There will be blood. I’ve seen it, yet told none. Awake you need to be, such a stubborn, stubborn star. The pain masks your true self, told you it was Loki, did I. You bow down to it, and let it hide that which you don’t want to see. But you must, the convergence fast approaches. They know now, what is needed to make their dream flesh, or so they think." Cassandra snatched back the flower, and brushed it along a stunned Aya’s cheek. "I told them three, instead of four. Now they set their plans in motion, but I started first. It’s already too late, it will be their turn to suffer one and none." Aya felt his headache build again, as he tried to make sense of the woman’s babble. There was a meaning to all of this; there always was, but for once he had no clue.

"So four will bleed, and then you two who are one, or one who are two. Another choice for you, which will it be? Blood is needed to call forth the light and bind it. No more shadows for you." Tossing aside the flower, Cassandra placed a kiss on Aya’s forehead. "I’m sorry, I can’t let you hide in the darkness anymore, you must face it. Even if it is still caged, you must acknowledge it. Power must be given a name, and you will need every bit of it. So comes the second oldest sacrifice, but it will hold back the oldest, if you name it and bring it into the light. There will be one bird for the fourth, but you will make sure there is not none."

Aya was suddenly possessed by an urge to bash his head against something very solid, and not stop until he was unconscious. This dream was making him long for the ones he had with Schu; at least all the telepath did was torment him or confuse him with pleasure. "If I go mad, it will all be your fault. Which is saying quite a lot, considering I deal with Kudoh and Schu on an almost daily basis." He glared at the woman, who only smiled at him and patted his cheek.

"Ah, rude as always. No manners have you, but at least you have a pretty face. I can ignore the nonsense that you spout, with such pretty eyes."

Gritting his teeth, Aya stood to his feet. _He_ spouted nonsense? The woman was even more infuriating than his two lovers. "I think I’d like to wake up now, before I do something I regret." Like see if shaking the grey woman silly would maybe knock her brain back into working order. It sure as hell couldn’t do any more damage to her. "Unless you want to say something that actually makes sense."

"I’ve said all I can, all I will, at the moment. The words matter not, it is the truth behind them, and the actions they describe. Be strong tonight, strong and fast. The Knight will bleed for you, and you for him, before the night is done. The second oldest sacrifice, and the strongest binding. Now go."

About to demand more of an answer from Cassandra, suddenly chilled by the thought that something would happen to Yohji, Aya had barely opened his mouth before something was pressed into his hand, and with a whirl of grey, the woman was gone. Lips pressing into a thin line with anger and fear, violet eyes looked down, and widened in surprise. Instead of the ‘black bird’ he’d expected to find in his hand, Aya could only stare at the rose the mad woman had gifted him with. The petals were the purest white, except for the very edges, which were an intense red. It looked as if the flower had been dipped in blood. As Aya lifted the flower for a closer inspection, it shifted about in his hand, the sharp thorns adorning the green stem biting deep into his palm. Blood dripped from the wounds, onto the ground, and Cassandra’s voice rang out once more. "You will all bleed."

*******

Omi opened the door of the Koneko, and abruptly found himself walking into a madhouse. A horde of girls were congregated around the register, where a beleaguered Ken attempted in vain to pay all of them some attention. As soon as one girl spotted the young blond and shrieked his name, Omi found himself under attack. In between the constant flirting and demands for flowers, he searched about for either of his other teammates, but didn’t spot them in the shop.

It made sense that Aya was not working; it had become rather apparent after the first psychiatric session the redhead had attended that he wasn’t fit for anyone’s company, other than Yohji’s, and was consequently given the afternoon off. Yohji, however, should have been down here, since Aya would have been back from the doctor’s a couple of hours ago. He hoped that something hadn’t happened, and that both men were fine. Having no choice in the matter, Omi waited on the girls, and as surreptitiously as he could, tossed them out of the shop. The moment the shop emptied out, he locked the door and switched the sign to read ‘closed’. "Bloody hell, what happened today, Ken-kun? Where is Yohji at?"

The brunet, busy pulling down the metal shutters, shot him a furious look. "That’s what I want to know! He left around lunch to take Aya to the hospital, and never came back! I could swear that I heard the Seven drive past the shop, but I never had the time to see if they came back here or not." As soon as the shop was locked down, Ken spun on his heels and stormed off in the direction of the garage. Omi swiftly followed, having a sneaky suspicion he knew where the man was. The suspicion was confirmed when they found Yohji’s sportster parked alongside Aya’s Porsche.

"I’m gonna _kill_ him," Ken gritted out between clenched teeth. "The bastard threw me to the wolves so he could fuck around with Aya. Yohji’s dead."

Omi barely managed to grab ahold of the athlete’s arm before Ken left the garage, intent on murdering a certain playboy. "Wait, Ken-kun. Maybe Aya wasn’t feeling well after his session, and Yohji just wanted to stay near him and make sure he was all right. You know how he’s been the past few weeks."

The explanation seemed to cool some of Ken’s ire. "… yeah, Aya has been even more depressed than usual, lately. I know I hate the yearly psych evaluations; look at this, tell me what you think about that, what do you feel when you are slitting some guy’s throat, how are your dreams, all that type of bullshit." Ken shuddered in horror. "I can only imagine how Aya must feel, having to go through that every week now. Man, I hope we find his sister soon, so he can stop going and be in a decent mood for once. Well, semi-decent."

Reflecting on his quiet teammate, Ken shuddered again. Aya was even more silent and withdrawn than usual, barely speaking to anyone other than Yohji. He’d even managed to frighten that Tomoe girl away; she hadn’t come by the flower shop for a couple of weeks now. "I thought these sessions were supposed to make him better, to help him deal with his sister’s loss. All they seem to do is make him even worse. But that’s still no excuse for Yohji leaving me in the shop all by myself."

"Well, the both of them looked as if they needed some more sleep this morning; maybe they decided that they should take a nap, what with the mission tonight."

"But it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be all worn out, left to deal with a bunch of hormone crazed teenage girls by myself?" Stomping up the steps, Ken didn’t give Omi a chance to rationalize that. There had been no sign of the older men on the lower floor, so it was time to check out their bedroom. God help them if he found them going at it in there.

Not bothering with the courtesy of knocking, Ken merely twisted the knob and pushed the door open. About to start yelling at the couple, his voice caught in his throat when he saw the two men on the bed. Sure enough, there had been sex involved, with the clothes strewn about and the scent of musk in the air, but both men were now deep asleep.

Omi bumped into Ken’s back. "Wha-"

"Shh," the older boy hissed out, his hands coming around to yank Omi forward and to clamp around the blond’s mouth. The little bit of Aya that could be seen above the comforter, just the top part of his head, really, shifted about and was tucked under Yohji’s chin. Green eyes drifted open, clearing after they stared at Ken and Omi for a few seconds. The playboy raised a finger to his lips, the other hand tugged his boyfriend closer, a pleading look on his face. Ken nodded his head, and then took great care to mouth the words ‘you owe me, big time,’ to his teammate before shooing Omi out the door and carefully closing it behind him.

Dammit, Ken thought to himself, he must be getting soft in his old age or something. He just hadn’t been able to follow through with his plan, which had been dragging Yohji butt naked out of bed and tossing him into a cold shower, once he’d seen the couple snuggled together like that. Omi had spoken the truth; the two men had appeared exhausted earlier today. That must be why he wasn’t following through with one of his favorite pastimes, tormenting Kudoh. "Well, since we closed the shop a little early, I believe I’ll have a nap of my own. You think the plants will be fine, left out for the night?" He didn’t want to go back downstairs and clean things up and put them away, not after the day he’d had.

Omi patted his friend’s shoulder and smiled. "I don’t see any harm in that; it looked pretty clean down there, anyway. You get some rest as well, and I’ll wake you guys up after I order some takeout, in a couple of hours." He would be spending that time in front of his computer, trying to figure out if there had been any changes in their targets’ itinerary this evening.

"That sounds good to me. Try to get a little rest yourself, Omi."

Waving at the brunet, Omi went to his bedroom and started to pull up some files. In a few minutes he’d start concentrating on the mission; right now, he wanted to find out what Dr. Arai had to say about Aya’s visit with her today. He wanted to stay on top of that situation, just in case it became necessary for Yohji to take Aya away and for him to deal with a certain psychiatrist that seemed to delight in hurting one of his own. Normally a very sensitive and caring person, Omi found himself wondering more and more each day if there was a way he could hack into Kritiker’s system and issue an order for one of the organization’s teams to take the woman out. He wasn’t going to let one of his family suffer for much longer.

*******

Kirie Arai stared at her computer screen, and then deleted the paragraph that she had just typed. It wouldn’t do to send that bit in her report; even if tonight’s mission had interfered with her plans for Orchidee today, Kritiker would most likely not take very well a scathing diatribe over the way they handed out missions. It was a bit unrealistic to expect the organization to refuse to assign Weiß any jobs on the days she had Orchidee in for a session.

Dammit to hell, the man’s impressive mental shields aside, she knew she’d been getting to Fujimiya. If only she’d had him in the office for a little longer. There had been one or two physical cues that she had picked up on, and the lack of emotional reactions was another telling sign. He had to be putting a lot of effort into masking almost all feelings from her; if Arai wasn’t disturbing him on some level, that wouldn’t be the case. She would just have to keep working the sessions in the direction she had taken during the last few ones. And there were two new facets to add to the hour as well; she had her orders to pursue Orchidee’s connection with Esset’s Mastermind, and there had been the slightest of reactions when she had discussed Fujimiya’s relationship with his teammates.

Sending the edited letter out, Arai then shut down her computer and started to close her office for the night. She was always too tired from dealing with Orchidee to see any other patients after the man. All she wanted to do was go home and soak in the tub. In a matter of minutes, she was ready to leave, and with a curt nod to her secretary, the empath proceeded to leave the hospital.

As Arai walked towards her car in the garage, she absentmindedly rubbed a certain spot on her hand. Maybe when she got home, she would allow herself a rare shot of alcohol. Some habits were best avoided, but the woman felt the need for something to help her relax and rewind, and a cup of tea wasn’t going to cut it. A nice soak, a little scotch, and hopefully she could come up with some new insight on how to deal with a rather stubborn talent. She had to break the man; her career in Kritiker would effectively stall out if she failed at the task given to her. Not to mention the loss of the satisfaction she would feel upon breaking Orchidee’s shields. Oh, she could only imagine all the repressed emotions he hid behind those dense walls. It would be quite a rush, once she managed that feat.

On the drive home, Arai suddenly remembered that she didn’t have any scotch left in her apartment. Deciding it would just be easier to park in the garage at the apartment complex, and then walk to the nearest liquor store, she did just that. Besides, she had been sitting in a chair for most of the day; a little exercise would do her good, and help loosen up some of the tight muscles.

A block away from the store, she stood at a particularly long red light, waiting for traffic to let up enough so she could cross. "They never fade away, do they?"

The voice was oddly familiar. Turning around, Arai found herself staring at a pale, white haired foreigner, the handsome face marked with several scars. "Oh, it’s you again. What did you say?"

"The stains of your sins. I see that they haven’t faded. Don’t you know that only one thing can wipe them away?"

There was an odd lilt to the man’s voice that she found hypnotic. No matter how hard the empath tried, she could not sense anything coming from the stranger. "Who the hell are you?"

"Call me Jei." A pale hand reached out for hers; in fact, the very one that she had taken to rubbing lately, in an attempt to remove a stain that only she could see. He then pulled her away from the curb, closer to the outside of a bank. At the touch, Arai felt something, but it was like quicksilver, flowing away each time she tried to grab ahold of it. Distracted by the elusive emotion, she let the man press her against a stone wall. Jei faced her, his back to the crowd, and the world narrowed down to just the two of them.

"Do you want the stain to go away?"

"What? How do you know about that? Who the hell are you?"

The foreigner smiled at her, and the elusive emotion intensified. "Jei. Tell me, do you want it gone?"

"Of course I want it gone. Did you have something to do with it, you bastard?" Arai tried to gather her anger and unleash it on the odd man, but something prevented her from doing so. Her body and mind didn’t appear to want to cooperate at the moment, and she found herself nodding her head instead of lashing out.

"Good." Jei shifted closer to her, and there was a flash of silver in his hand. "It’s through your own sins that you were marked, and no fault of mine. I warned you about touching the fallen one, and now it is too late. But first… we deal with your mark of Cain. That which only blood will wash away."

She suddenly realized that the flash of silver was a razorblade, but Arai couldn’t make her body move. Somehow, Jei must have picked up on her unease, since he smiled at her beautifully. "Don’t worry, little witch, it won’t hurt at all. See?" He trailed the sharp blade along his forearm, cutting through the white bandages wrapped around the limb. Arai felt her world go awash in ecstasy; it was as if she were the one being cut, but there was only bliss, and not pain. Jei’s face echoed this sentiment; it dawned on her that she must be feeling his emotions.

There was a sudden wash of vertigo, almost painful for the fact that it separated her from that intense, utterly delightful emotion that the man radiated as the blade cut into his flesh. The next thing the empath knew, her hand was grasped once again, and the razor descended upon her skin, right on the spot of blood that would never come clean. Bracing herself for the pain, all Arai felt the same ecstasy as before, only this time, it originated from her. It made her wish that the blade would run all over her skin; this was the best buzz she’d had in ages.

All too soon the man pulled back from her, running the razor blade over his tongue, tasting their blood. He then unwound some of the bandages from his uncut arm, and wrapped them around her hand. "So pleasurable, yes? Makes you want to revel in sin, just so you can wash the taint away. Such a good thing that you are soaked with it then, we will have so much fun washing you clean. We will make God envious of our joy, little witch. You are mine now." Jei placed the blade in her bandaged hand. "I’ll be back; we can play some more then." A group of people suddenly rushed past the bank, and the pale foreigner was lost in the crowd.

Arai stood there for a moment, the blade in her hand, before shaking her head and placing the weapon in her purse. About to cross the street to the liquor store, she felt the languid ease with which her body moved, and decided she didn’t need that bottle of scotch anymore. Not after what Jei had shown her. No, she would go home instead, and enjoy that hot bath. And maybe distract herself from work by playing with her new gift, and seeing if she couldn’t provoke the same reaction on her own. Oh, she wanted to taste that buzz again and again.

*******

Chewing on his soba noodles, Yohji glanced over at his lover. Aya was staring at the printouts that Omi had scattered about the kitchen table, his carton of takeout mostly untouched. At least he looked better than he had earlier today; the shadows under his eyes had lessened, and his cold, professional demeanor clearly said that he was already falling into mission mode for the night. And that meant if he tried to force Aya to eat something, he’d likely be glared to death. Good thing he was developing a Kevlar hide, when it came to his lover’s venomous looks. He reached out a hand, grabbed the almost full carton of noodles, and placed them in front of the pale man. Right on cue, Aya looked his way and glared at him. Nice to see he could predict the man’s reactions so well.

"You said Hirai’s office is over here, Omi?" Aya focused his attention back on the blueprints stretched out before him, and ignored the food. It looked as if this would take a little more effort than the playboy had at first thought.

"Yes, Aya-kun. He should be arriving at the warehouse right after we get into place; from what I’ve found, there will be a shipment of guns coming in early tomorrow morning, and he’ll have to get his men ready for them." Omi pulled out a more detailed blueprint of the warehouse Weiß was to infiltrate tonight. "There will most likely be guards here, here, and," the dart in the teenager’s hand hovered over the paper for a moment, "…uhm, here as well. It will be a bit difficult getting in and capturing Hirai. Let’s hope that he doesn’t decide to change his habits at any point tonight."

The redhead surveyed the darts for a moment, and what part of the building they marked, and shifted the last one over a few centimeters. "It’s going to be very difficult." For a moment, Aya stared off into space, then he rubbed at his eyes, a frown on his face. When his hands dropped, Yohji swore the violet orbs were a shade darker than they’d been before. Shit.

"Okay, Ken and Aya will distract the guards; there is too much ammunition in the place for them to be firing shots at random, so we should be fine. Yohji, you are to get Hirai; we need him dead before we can break apart the smuggling ring any further." Kritiker, via Birman, had been rather stringent in expressing just how vital Hirai’s death was to their plan to tear apart Tokyo’s most efficient and ruthless smuggling ring. Remembering his resolution from earlier in the day, Yohji came up with a plan. Beside him, Aya stiffened, the pale face tight with pain.

"I think I should take care out Hirai; it would-"

"You heard the chibi," Yohji cut in swiftly, refusing to let his plan go down in flames before he could even implement it. "I get the target for once, you get to be all bloody and dirty by the end of the night." Green eyes sought out blue, as Yohji tried to telepathically convey just how much he didn’t want the plan to be altered.

Omi was torn over which man he should listen to. Obviously, Aya’s power was telling him it would be better if the swordsman took out the target, yet Yohji knew that as well, and clearly felt it was in the team’s best interest not to heed the warning. Biting his lip, Omi decided to let the original plan stand. It was a sound one, and there was no reason why Aya would be better to take out Hirai than Yohji. "He’s right, Aya-kun. Yohji has the target."

Aya was clearly not happy about that decision, but knew that he couldn’t alter it, not with Omi insisting on not budging. Omi and Yohji both worried for a moment that the redhead might go off on his own. "It will be tricky enough; with me trying to sneak into the office and download the data, I won’t be able to provide much backup. Ken and you will need to watch each other’s backs." Aya stared back at the youth, still unhappy, but unable to explain why he wanted the plans to be changed.

"Alright then, how about we meet back down here in a half hour? Yohji will drive tonight." Omi waited for the other three men to nod their heads, and then fled the room, hoping to avoid any more discussion about the plan. Ken spared Aya a confused look for a moment, and then followed.

Alone in the kitchen, Yohji shoved Aya back into his chair and then straddled the man’s lap. When his boyfriend opened his mouth to yell at him, the blond quickly filled it with the neglected noodles. "Don’t you know that kittens need to eat every now and then, if they hope to have the energy to slay a bunch of dark beasts?"

Chewing and swallowing the mouthful, Aya jerked his head back, trying to avoid the full chopsticks. "Kudoh, stop it and get the hell off of me. I’m goi-mph." The glare went up to shi-ne intensity as Aya got another helping of food.

"Now we can handle this two ways. You can eat the food on your own, and be pissed off at me for a few hours, or I force feed you, make us late for the mission, and you don’t talk to me for, oh, I’d imagine a week, at least. Which means that once I make you forgive me, which I will be working very, _very_ hard on, we get to make up for that lost week’s worth of sex. You think your ass is up to it, love?"

Ah, his kitten was just so cute when he growled like that. Yohji barely blocked the punch to his ribs in time, and kept a grip on the slender wrist. Maybe Aya would be mad at him for more than just a few hours. Oh well, the man always forgave him in the end; it just meant that Yohji would have to eat out for the next couple of months or so. "Is that a yes snarl or a no snarl?"

"Kudoh…" Aya scowled at him for a few seconds, and then closed his eyes. "I can feed myself, you bastard."

"One couldn’t tell, what with how little you’ve been eating lately." Bending his head to kiss Aya on the nose, the older man agilely jumped to his feet while shoving the container of food into the man’s hands. "You know I torture you because I love you, right?" All he got back for his concern was another scowl, as Aya methodically polished off his dinner. Keeping an eye on the stubborn fool, Yohji finished his food as well, then went to the fridge for a beer. He needed one to calm his nerves before the mission. When he closed the fridge and turned around, Aya was gone. At least his noodles were gone as well, so the blond enjoyed his drink before facing his pissed off lover up in their room. "We who are about to die," he said, raising the can in a salute before chugging it. "Ah, well, he’s gonna be pissed as all hell at me by the end of the night, so he’ll forgot all about this."

Heading to his bedroom after a stop in the bathroom, Yohji cautiously opened the door. When nothing was thrown at him, he entered the room. His working clothes were laid out on the bed, and over by the window, Aya was buckling the collar around his neck, then pulling on his gloves. "So, does the silent treatment start now?" When the pale man refused to answer, Yohji sighed and started to pull off his jeans and t-shirt. The funny thing was, he’d probably look back at this moment, and Aya’s silent treatment longingly, when they returned home after the mission. "You know you had to eat something; it wouldn’t do to pass out in the middle of a fight."

"I’m not a fucking child, Kudoh," Aya snapped, as he yanked on his coat.

No, you just act like it an awful lot, Yohji thought to himself, but knew better than to ever say it out loud. He happened to like living. Dammit, he knew that Aya wasn’t at his best at the moment, what with his sister being kidnapped and Kritiker playing head games. He just wished that the man he loved didn’t treat him like a bastard for making sure that he didn’t make himself sick with self-neglect and worry. It made Yohji think fondly of this afternoon, when Aya had needed him so badly, and had been unafraid to show it. That didn’t happen very often, and usually he was left to deal with a major grouch afterwards. Such as now.

With another sigh, Yohji tugged on his cropped top and low cut pants. He sat on the bed to pull on his boots, then slid into his jacket. Just as he was zipping the long coat closed, Aya tapped his shoulder and spun him around. At first thinking that he was about to be punched, Yohji was stunned to have his head yanked down for a kiss. Damn, one would think he’d be used to Aya switching gears on him like this by now. Deepening the kiss, he pulled the slender man tightly against him, never mind how uncomfortable it was to be hugging a person wearing so many metal buckles. It was only when he heard Ken stomping past their bedroom on his way to the kitchen, that the blond let go of Aya. "You know, I’m going to have to start being more forceful from now on, if that’s what I get for it."

Aya punched him lightly in the ribs. "Idiot. I just…" The swordsman buried his face in the crook of Yohji’s neck for a moment. "Be careful. Don’t do anything stupid. I won’t be happy with you if you do." Looking up at his boyfriend, pain and worry glowed in the violet eyes. Yohji brushed back the crimson bangs and pressed a kiss to Aya’s forehead.

"I won’t do anything stupid. Now what do you say to going downstairs, so we can get back here all the quicker. I’m feeling the urge to do some major ravishing. You feel like being ravished, kitten?" Aya just frowned at him and then shook his head, stepping away to pick up his sword. "I’ll take that as an enthusiastic yes, and plan on you being here." Tugging on his gloves, Yohji smiled at his lover, then settled his shades on his face. Aya mirrored the action, sliding a pair of grey lenses over his eyes.

The two of them made their way downstairs, where Ken and Omi were waiting. Once they were all together, they went over the blueprints once more, then left for the mission. Aya trailed behind Yohji, the frown still on his face. Something was going to happen tonight, he could feel it.

*******

Crawford was in his study, going over the latest email from Esset. It seemed that Weiß had been ordered to wipe out Hirai’s smuggling ring, and that Schwarz was to allow this to happen. At least until the operation was all but broken; then his team was to step in and claim the cache of weapons for their organization. That meant another opportunity to clash with the kitties. Which should be very interesting, observing how Abyssinian’s power reacted to the situation; thanks to Mastermind’s meddling, the ill wight should not be able to affect Schwarz as he had in the past. Yes, it was going to be very amusing, this mission.

The precog’s power chose that moment to activate, and Crawford clutched his head in agony. There was a confusing wash of images; faces familiar and not, and lots of blood. Gasping, it took the man several minutes to recover from the episode, and to try and piece together what the vision had shown him. Weiß was to move tonight, but things would not go well. What would happen, he could not exactly tell, since it clearly involved Abyssinian. One thing was certain; one of the kitties would be blooded that night. Yet, nothing in the vision showed any danger to his future plans. If anything, it had only made them that much more definite.

Cursing the other precog’s ability to block his power, Crawford shakily rose to his feet. He needed some caffeine, and then he had to get back to work. Weiß would only be partially successful with their assignment tonight, leaving Schwarz the perfect opportunity to successfully complete theirs. The immediate future did indeed hold another showdown between the two teams, and another splash of blood. That part was a bit clearer in his mind, and Crawford smiled. Ah, Weiß would be faced with a painful truth or two after that confrontation, and his team rendered all the safer. Things were starting to turn in Schwarz’s favor.

*******

Aya crept through the dark warehouse, conscious of Siberian at his back and the large group of men wandering about. Hirai should be arriving soon, to supervise the incoming shipment of weapons. Over his headset, he could hear Bombay report that he had safely made it to the target’s office, and was about to start downloading the files Kritiker needed. Balinese breathed over the comms that he had found a nice little spot to hide in, one that gave him a perfect view of the door. With half of Weiß in place, it was up to Siberian and him to remain hidden until Hirai showed up, and to create a diversion by taking out as many of the man’s employees as possible. Balinese would kill the target, and once Bombay had all the necessary files, they could retreat back home.

He should have been focused but calm; everything was proceeding as planned. Yet Aya couldn’t force himself to relax. The familiar dread and sorrow that he’d felt a few weeks ago, prior to his sister’s abduction, had returned right before they had left for the mission. The emotions disturbed him; Aya didn’t think he could take another loss at the moment. There was a pain in his head, the sensation of some part of him pushing against strong bindings, and he could almost smell and taste the coppery tang of blood.

"He’s here. Let’s go, Abyssinian." Hidaka’s voice broke through his thoughts, and Aya found himself following the brunet. They stopped behind some crates, and watched as the target talked to another man. The sense of dread and loss overwhelmed the swordsman, and he shivered as Siberian growled over the comms. "Balinese, get ready, we’re about to get this started."

Aya wanted to cry out and abort the mission, but Ken was already moving towards the smugglers. It was too late to do anything. Something coiled inside of him, a terrible, powerful inferno, struggling against its cage. Unsheathing his sword, Aya ran after Siberian, feeling heat creep through his body. It was already too late.

*******

Schuldig felt his attention be drawn away from the television program he was watching. Disturbed, and not quite sure why, he focused his mind inward for a solution. One came when he investigated the connection between him and his tuberose. Aya was on the mission Kritiker had assigned Weiß, and the catalyst’s power was struggling to protect its wielder. With a mild curse, he started to loosen the chains around it, so as to make sure his heart was protected, and wasn’t prepared for how it surged forward, desperate to be free. Slamming most of it back into its cage, Schuldig felt the metaphorical ground be yanked out from under his feet, and he fell into darkness.

Tumbling down onto something hard, the telepath opened his eyes, and found himself lying on the floor in Cassandra’s dream cottage. "What is going on here, you old witch?" The grey woman stood in front of him, her back to the loom, a silver knife in her hand.

*******

From his hiding spot, Yohji watched as Aya and Ken burst into action. His eyes were drawn to the black clad redhead, unsheathed katana held above his head. The man was poetry in motion, a flash of crimson, silver and shadow that wove in and out among the smugglers, dispensing death. Aya’s motions were in stark contrast to Ken’s, what with the athlete’s hack and slash fighting style. The swordsman seemed to make no wasted movements; it was as if he was participating in a choreographed battle, each step planned ahead of time for maximum efficiency.

Yohji didn’t often get to see his lover in action; normally he was too busy participating in the mission to do so. It stunned him to see just how skilled the smaller man was. Aya had to be killing three guards to each of Ken’s, and unlike their younger teammate, none of the smugglers had yet touched the redhead. Yohji wondered if Aya’s talent was behind his amazing fighting ability. Whatever the reason, he was just happy that his love was safely cutting a swath through the armed men, most of them sporting knives, chains and lengths of pipe. It wouldn’t do to set off any of the more unstable explosives scattered about the warehouse, so the guns mainly remained in their holsters.

A voice sounded in the blond’s ear. "Balinese, what is going on?"

"Abyssinian and Siberian are taking out the target’s men. What’s happening on your end?"

"The download is taking longer than I thought, and a lot of files seem to be missing."

Yohji gritted his teeth for a moment, as a stocky man armed with a chain swung it at Aya. The swordsman blocked it with his blade, and dispatched his attacker with ease. "Not good, Bombay. I think we’ll need to get out- wait a sec, Hirai is starting to leave. Time to get to work." Severing the connection, Yohji darted from his hiding place, mind busy trying to figure out just how he was going to pull this off.

There were quite a number of men still fighting his two teammates, and a couple of them eagerly turned their attention to him. He guessed that they were trying to block him from their boss, and doing a pretty good job of it. Not that Yohji minded at all; he took his time killing them, all the while making it look as if he was expending more of an effort than he was.

Yohji wanted Hirai to escape. Omi was busy upstairs getting the info they needed, so it wouldn’t be that much of a setback if the man wasn’t killed tonight. Granted, it would make Weiß’s job a bit harder, wiping out Hirai’s organization, but maybe if the group failed to complete all of their objectives, Kritiker might start to have some doubts about Aya’s power. Or at the very least, they could be led to believe the psych sessions were affecting the man’s ability to perform, and put a halt to them. He was basically grasping at straws here, but Yohji felt that he had to do something. He couldn’t just sit back and watch the man he loved fall to pieces.

Moving toward the target, who was starting to back out of the warehouse, along with the man he had been talking to before the attack, Aya’s voice cut over the comm. "Balinese, _don’t_." The redhead’s voice was harsh and pleading at the same time. Yohji ignored it, keeping an eye on the bodyguard to Hirai’s left. He would engage the man, and stretch out the fight long enough for the target to escape. Focused on his hastily assembled plans, Yohji never noticed the flash of silver in Hirai’s right hand.

*******

"Cass, what are you up to, you crazy bitch?" Schuldig found his eyes flitting back and forth from the knife the other psychic held, and the mad grey eyes that stared back at him. He didn’t need this at the moment; he could feel Aya’s power escaping its cage once again, could feel its heat flooding the both of them. While he was grateful for the fact that it would help to protect the younger redhead, Schuldig was disturbed over what had set it off this time. This shouldn’t be happening.

"Can’t stop, can’t stop, can’t stop. It needs to be free, is called forth by spilled blood. Painful Loki will cloak it no more, Death needs to face his true reflection in a pool of crimson." The woman whirled around, and with the sharp knife, slashed at the dark cloak spread over the loom.

Schuldig let out a cry and jumped to his feet, intent on stopping her before she completely freed Aya’s power. "You’re fucking insane! If it escapes its chains, the elders will be aware that a catalyst is alive. I won’t let you do this to us!" He struggled with the woman, but was thwarted by the strength madness lent to Cassandra. More rents appeared on the dark material.

*******

Aya felt the strongest wave of heat yet that evening, and without conscious thought gathered it to him. A part of his mind was screaming at him, filling his thoughts with pain, but he hugged the heat to him all the tighter. Yohji was about to be hurt, he couldn’t let that happen. Ignoring the voice telling him to stop what he was doing, he focused instead on what the heat was purring to him. He had to prevent Yohji from doing something very, very stupid. The future suddenly held a complete lack of golden threads, unless he did something about it.

Visions assaulted him, showing him what he needed to do. Voicing a warning that he knew Kudoh would ignore, Aya concentrated on clearing a path to his lover’s side. Slashing his way through a human wall, the heat whispered to him that he wouldn’t make it there in time. Surrendering to the voice as he never had in the past, he chose the threads that would best ensure that he got to Yohji all the quicker. Aya forced his body to move forward, felt various weapons strike him as he sacrificed personal safety for speed. All that mattered was reaching Yohji in time.

*******

Letting out a curse, Yohji realized that he had underestimated the bodyguard. The man raised an arm wrapped with a chain and blocked the bit of wire that should have wrapped around his throat. He kicked at the man, trying to throw him off balance, and abandoned the thread of wire in his hands, immediately pulling out a new one from his watch. Guess it wouldn’t take that much acting on his part to let the target escape after all.

Attention focused on the man he was fighting, he didn’t give much thought to Hirai, who should have been busy running for his life. At least, not until he heard his lover’s agonized voice in his headset. "Yohji, guard your back." The blond ignored it for a moment, intent on taking his opponent down. It was a precious few seconds before he could react to the warning, spinning around to see what threat Aya had told him about. And saw a flash of silver arcing his way. Lashing out with another kick, Yohji managed to avoid the slash to his spine, but felt a trail of fire move up his left thigh. It stopped at his groin, a painful burn that had him trembling. Falling backwards, he looked up in time to see a smile on Hirai’s face, then a sharp blade punctured the man’s chest. Aya, bloodied and battered, grey shades tilted on his pale face, stared at him over the target’s shoulder.

His vision darkening, Yohji felt himself slowly crumple to the ground. "Dammit, Aya, now you ruined everything."

*******

 Aya watched as the man he loved collapsed, and shoved Hirai’s corpse to the side. He fell beside Yohji, staring for a few seconds at the pool of blood spreading across the floor. The heat that filled him started to retreat, leaving him with one final vision of golden threads dimming to black. Snarling out loud, he once more grasped the heat, refusing to let it retreat to its cage, as he always had in the past. He pushed past the darkness and pain that usually filled his mind at such times, refusing to let denial block him from the one thing he needed to save Yohji.

Fumbling with the belt of his coat, Aya quickly wrapped the length of leather about the blond’s leg, right next to his groin. Hirai had wounded Yohji in the thigh, instead of severing the fool’s spine as he had seen in the vision. While not instantly fatal, the wound had hit the femoral artery, and Yohji was bleeding to death. His lover had already lost so much blood, maybe too much. Tightening the belt as much as he could, Aya still felt the gold threads dimming. Gathering the remaining heat left to him, he started to push it along those fading strands, forcing the energy back into Kudoh, making sure that the man’s heart continued to beat. Aya’s world contracted to the sound of Yohji’s heartbeat, and the sense of delicate strands of gold.

*******

Aya’s despair and pain washed through Schuldig, and he stopped fighting with Cassandra. "What the hell is going on? Kudoh’s dying? Why didn’t you say anything?" While he would normally be happy to find out that the man-whore didn’t have long to live, he knew that the man’s death would completely shatter his heart. Aya couldn’t take losing another person that he loved, not so soon after his sister was snatched away. The catalyst’s mind would shatter into a million pieces, and he would be plunged into darkness alongside the man. That wasn’t acceptable.

"Dammit, you alte Hexe, why are you letting this happen? You should have warned me!" He would have done something to keep the blond idiot alive, if only because Aya needed him at the moment. It confused him that Cassandra had said nothing. Surely she must have seen this event, why had she allowed it to take place?

Schuldig felt it as Aya reached for his power, refusing to let it go and for his mind to blank once more on its presence. At the moment, it was the only thing keeping Balinese alive. The power coiled about itself and purred, waiting for the last of its restraints to break loose. Its wielder was consciously calling on it, his actions no longer cloaked by denial or madness, and soon it would be free to shine forth. Then the world would be aware of the fact that there was a catalyst to be searched out and captured, and certain organizations would not rest until Aya was found and broken. Schuldig felt another wave of despair, and knew that this time, it originated from himself.

The next thing he was aware of was a flash of pain. He snapped out of his thoughts to find Cassandra holding a bloody knife in one hand, and his wounded hand in the other. She positioned his bleeding palm above the loom, and let the red drops fall on the dark fabric. "Ah, it’s done, done, done. Blood has washed away the darkness, now it will bind. The star’s light is no longer fettered with shadows, blood has whispered his power’s name to him, and Death has seen his true reflection. But now we must cloak the light from the view of others, lest they hunger for the brilliance. Time to bind it once more. Three have bled tonight, and will bleed once more. Tied you are, by more than threads and love now."

"You knew this would happen, didn’t you?" Schuldig stared at the woman in shock and anger, unaware of how his blood was mending the torn cloak. "Why?"

For a second, Cassandra appeared almost sane. "The convergence draws near. He must be made ready for it." Then the madness returned. "Painful Loki had to be burned away with crimson, no more deceit from him. Death has been made aware. Last we met, we awakened him, and pulled him from the ledge. But the darkness he brought back with him is now gone. They’ll pay now; the cost is one and none. They’ll pay, and he will make sure that they do. Finally, they will pay."

The woman glanced at the cloak, then at the hand she held. "Blood has burned and bound, it is not needed at the moment now. Go, and guard your heart. But be careful of how you answer him; the truth has washed over him in a crimson tide, but he is still fragile. Another tie has been forged; poor star, betrayed again, yet it could not be avoided. He is too stubborn, his nature is a two edged sword. It will safeguard the Knight, now that it has harmed him. Go now."

"I would kill you now, if I didn’t know how happy that would make you," Schuldig growled. The bitch was messing with him and Aya, had let this situation come to pass. He would be very busy, making sure that Kritiker didn’t discover the truth of what had happened tonight. "I’ll be back soon though, and we will have a nice, long talk."

Grey eyes met his, and Cassandra nodded her head. "Yes, yes, evil one, mutter your threats and go. He needs you now, you waste time here. But come back soon, so we can talk about the third black bird’s reversed aspect. No sense that she not bleed as well. Go."

Schuldig felt a force grab ahold of him and push him out of the woman’s mind. Shocked yet again that night at the power the old witch was displaying, he found himself waking up on the couch in Schwarz’s safehouse. "Mastermind, if you’ve finally snapped, I will give you to Farfarello as a Christmas present, all dressed up as a priest."

"I love you too, Bradley-poo." Schuldig groaned as he opened up his eyes. "Now get out of my way, I have work to do."

Crawford regarded him coolly for a moment, and then stood to the side. "I hope that Abyssinian appreciates all the effort you expend on his behalf. Though he does keep you out of other mischief, so I guess that is good. Be back by tomorrow night, Schwarz has work to do."

"I live to obey, mein Führer. By the way, you didn’t happen to have any visions lately, now did you?"

The precog smiled, a not very comforting expression. "Wouldn’t you like to know, Schuldig. I suggest you get going now, I get the impression you are going to have a busy night." With that the man left.

Muttering a series of unappreciative remarks about clairvoyants, Schuldig got off the couch and made his way to the door. He was beginning to hate hospitals. Feeling an ache in his left hand, he absentmindedly rubbed it against his thigh. When the pain didn’t fade away, he examined the appendage, and gasped at what he saw. A crisscross of red lines faded to silver before his eyes, a star branded onto his flesh.

*******

About to yell at Aya for deserting his back, Ken turned around in time to see Yohji being attacked by the target. Aya killed Hirai a moment later, but not before the knife struck the blond. Ken barely spared a thought for the man he was gutting as he watched one of his teammates fall to the ground. "Bombay! Abort the mission, Balinese is down! I repeat, Balinese is down." With a burst of speed and fury, Ken slaughtered the men between him and the older members of Weiß.

After a minute or two, he reached Yohji’s side, face blanching at the pool of blood underneath the man. A bleeding and bruised Aya had just finished fashioning a tourniquet, and the blood flow slowed to a trickle. Still, things looked very, very bad. Yohji was as pale as his lover, and as Ken watched, his minute trembling slowed to a halt. Aya bent down and clasped the blond’s face between his hands, muttering over and over, "you won’t die, I won’t let you."

There were a couple more shouts, and the repeated soft thunk that signaled the use of Omi’s crossbow. The sound of running feet heralded the archer’s presence, and Ken heard the boy gasp at the sight of Kudoh lying in a pool of blood. "Oh gods, what happened?" Omi fell to his knees, mindless of the blood, and checked for Yohji’s pulse. "Alive, he’s still alive. We need to get him out of here, right now."

Ken bit back a snarl at that obvious statement as Omi reached into his pocket and pulled out a cellphone. While the teenager called the Magic Bus Hospital to inform them that a critically wounded Kritiker agent was being brought in, Ken reached down to gather Yohji in his arms. Aya rose with his lover, his hand sliding down the man’s body to grasp a large, ashen hand. "We’ll get him to the hospital in time, don’t worry, Aya. He’ll be fine." The brunet winced at how false his voice sounded, but soon realized that the swordsman hadn’t heard a word of it. Instead, Aya kept repeating his litany on how Yohji wasn’t allowed to die.

It was a grim run back to the Seven, and Ken heaved a sigh of relief when Aya slid into the back seat, motioning for Yohji to be given to him. At least the redhead wasn’t insisting on driving, or most likely they would all end up dead. Omi himself sat behind the steering wheel, and Ken was forced to acknowledge that he must have been taking lessons from Aya when the car started to move. He had to have whiplash from how fast the youth took off.

Looking back over his shoulder, Ken found Aya cuddling an unconscious Yohji to his chest, his lips pressed against the lanky man’s temple. "You won’t die, I won’t let you." Seeing Yohji’s shallow breaths, the chant seemed to be working. Then Ken rubbed at his eyes. Maybe it was his imagination, or the highway lights, but the athlete could swear that Aya was faintly glowing in the darkness.

*******

One beat, then another. And another. Aya’s world narrowed down to only hearing that sound, his sight filled only with golden threads almost swallowed by darkness. From far away, he heard the purring voice cry out in anger and sadness as it was almost completely cloaked once more. But a fragment of the heat remained, and he pushed it along the strands, using it to make sure that Yohji’s heart kept up with its slow beating. So far the heat held out, kept the darkness at bay. Aya prayed to whatever would hear him that it continued to do so. Unable to smell anything but blood, he nuzzled Yohji’s head as he held the man closer. He knew now what the heat was, could now remember each time he had used it in the past. He knew what he was pouring into his lover. It was his essence, a part of himself that he had hid from for so long. But he couldn’t now, not anymore. Yohji needed it to live, and he could deny the man nothing. From its cage, Aya heard the power purr in delight, recognized at last, and acknowledged the voice as his own.

*******

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