chapter five


Yohji opened his eyes and found a pair of violet ones staring at him. Aya was sitting up in bed beside him with legs tucked beneath him and hands crossed on his lap. His lover didn’t say a word as Yohji struggled to sit up, the pain in his leg only a dull ache for once. Aya helped to arrange his pillows and then rose from the bed, crossing the room to grab his robe.

Waiting for the silent redhead to walk past the bed, Yohji reached out and pulled Aya down beside him. "Hey, good morning." He bent his head to kiss Aya, humming in pleasure as the man threaded slender fingers into his hair and kissed him back. Well that settled one question: Aya wasn’t mad at him. But that left a whole slew of options for Yohji to puzzle through as he attempted to figure out yet another weird Fujimiya mood. Aya didn’t often watch him as he slept; when he did, he almost never let on about it to Yohji, not to mention that he usually got some sort of greeting from his boyfriend upon awakening.

Aya finally wished him a quiet "good morning" in return then tried to leave the bed. Having none of that, Yohji yanked him back down and trapped him on the bed by rolling on top of the smaller man, being mindful of his ribs. Aya glared up at him as he briefly struggled, going still when Yohji faked a whimper of pain. Heh, maybe he really should let himself get wounded more often. Though the look he was receiving as Aya just lay there promised Yohji a world of pain the moment he was all healed.

"Kudoh, get off me. I need to open the shop."

Hmm, his kitten hadn’t sworn there, so Yohji had hopes that Aya wasn’t too upset with him. "In a minute. What’s bothering you this morning?"


"Ay~a, I’m not moving until you give me an answer." Of course the man didn’t say a word. "You see, there’s this little invention called ‘conversation’. It involves you opening your mouth and, here’s the hard part, actually talking. When a person asks you a question, you then answer them. You picking up on this yet?" He was either going to die for this or piss Aya off enough to talk, one or the other. Yohji had spent a good part of last night thinking, and he’d decided there were going to be some serious changes happening in this relationship, one of them being to make Aya actually, gods forbid, talk to him.

Judging from the shi-ne glare directed his way, Yohji gloomily figured that Aya was opting for the first alternative. Dammit, why did the man have to be so short-tempered and homicidal? "All jokes aside, love, I’m perfectly serious about this. I want to know what’s wrong."

"… nothing’s wrong, Yohji." Aya closed his eyes and went limp beneath him. Suspicious that this was a trick on his lover’s part, Yohji didn’t move in the slightest.

"Did you have a bad dream? I know you tossed a bit last night, you weren’t talking to _him_ again, were you?"

Growling softly, Aya opened his eyes and resumed glaring at Yohji. "No, I didn’t see Sch- Mastermind last night. I slept, woke up about a half hour ago, waited for you to wake to make sure you’re alright, and now I have to get ready for work. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want another fight. Get the hell off me."

Wow, that had actually been several sentences there. Perhaps this would be easier than he thought. With a seductive smile on his lips, Yohji leaned down to reward Aya for his talkative nature. "You’ve got a little bit of time. I worry when you don’t say anything, love, so humor me and talk a little." Closing the distance between them, Yohji kissed Aya tenderly, waiting for the man to part his lips so he could deepen the kiss. Aya growled once more but opened his mouth, and Yohji delved inside, loving the way his boyfriend tasted. Gods, he wanted the man so incredibly much it hurt. But what else was new?

He rolled onto his back, making sure to drag Aya with him. The smaller man nestled against him, never letting their lips break apart for a second. Yohji could feel Aya’s building excitement rubbing against his own and moaned out loud. He snapped his hips upward only to moan again, this time in pain from his bullet wound. Trying too late to stifle the sound, he started to curse when Aya pulled away, a frown on his lovely face.

"Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t-"

"Kudoh, you can forget about sex until your leg’s healed." Damn, Aya said it. "I’m not facing the doctors and telling them how you pulled out your stitches."

"Hell no you won’t, that would involve you actually talking to someone," Yohji snapped. When Aya started to scowl, he rubbed a hand over his eyes and yanked on a long strand of honey blond hair. "I’m sorry, kitten, I didn’t mean to snap at you." But he’d meant what he’d said. Trying to control his temper, Yohji took a deep breath, stroked his hand over a pale cheek and couldn’t help but smile when Aya turned his face into the caress as usual.

For a moment he debated whether or not he could entice his lover into a mutual jerk-off session, or maybe even a blowjob, but then he remembered what he wanted to discuss with Aya that morning. It would be best to get that out of the way and then worry about sex. Besides, if he did ask for a handjob or more, Aya would probably think that he mentioned everything else in an attempt to facilitate his request. Why the man’s thinking had to be so damn paranoid and convoluted was beyond him, but the Bastard probably was largely to blame for that. The German had been allowed to fuck with Aya’s head for too long.

Sighing, Yohji twined an eartail on his fingers and tugged gently. "You sure know how to spoil a guy’s fun. We’d be giving the doctors one hell of an education if we told them what we get into on a regular basis." He smiled at Aya, who tried glaring at him for a second before giving up and resting his chin on Yohji’s chest as he hn’ed. "I have a question for you." An elegant crimson eyebrow was arched, silent permission for him to continue.

"You mentioned something about an opera a couple weeks back." He only remembered it because it had pretty much been the only topic Aya had talked about the whole day, being far too busy brooding over his missing sister and impending visit with Dr. Arai. Yohji now had a bit more sympathy for his lover’s dark moods on the days before and after his visits with the Bitch thanks to the other day, and he wasn’t looking forward to Aya’s next session. "Are there still tickets available?"

Aya stared at him in wonder for a few seconds and then nodded his head. "They just went on sale last week, I’m sure there are some good seats left." It was evident the reserved man wanted to inquire about Yohji’s curiosity, but he remained silent.

"Okay then, I’ll order two tickets today. We’ll make a night of it: fancy dinner, opera," he could barely suppress a shudder of horror when saying that word, "then coffee and dessert afterwards. We’ll have fun," Yohji lied. Aya would have fun, he’d have trouble not running from the concert hall screaming when the singers broke out in song.

A pale hand came to rest on his forehead as Aya stared at him intently. "You’re not feverish, maybe you’re reacting to the medication."

"Dammit Aya, I’m serious here," Yohji snarled.

"Kudoh, you just said you were taking me to the opera, under no compulsion that I know of. I think we should go back to the hospital right now." The sad thing was that Aya was perfectly serious. Yohji was having a hard time keeping the man in bed with him.

Were things really so bad that Aya didn’t believe he wanted to spend the night out with him? "Would you stop squirming? You’re not helping with the whole ‘don’t tear out the stitches’ thing, I’ll have you know." The redhead stopped struggling and settled for just glaring potently. Not that that was much of an improvement. "Thank you. Now I’m not delusional or sick, I’m trying to take you out for a nice evening on the town. We can do something else if you don’t want to go to the opera." Yohji tried not to sound too hopeful at the end there.

A pair of violet eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why do you want to take me out?" Aya’s voice hinted that he was waiting for some catch.

How did he explain to the stubborn fool that he’d spent a good portion of the night thinking about their relationship and had been appalled at what he’d found? No wonder Mastermind was able to twist Aya’s thoughts to an extent largely unnoticed by him. The last real date they’d been out on was with Teddy and Koyu, and before that… hell, they really hadn’t done anything together outside of a few clubs and missions, except for the vacation, since the first month or so of their relationship. Yohji couldn’t even recall the last time they’d had a serious discussion about anything other than work or their teammates’ absurd behavior.

"Because… we haven’t done anything in what seems like forever. I thought you might appreciate a fun night out." Things were going to change, Yohji was determined about that. He was going to start paying attention to Aya other than trying to get the man into bed or the greenhouse, and Aya was actually going to start talking to him. Gods, how the hell had he so completely missed how much the Bastard was fucking with his lover?

"What do you want in return, Kudoh? Sex?"

"Aya… gods I want to strangle you right now." Yohji glared at the redhead, gritting his teeth together at the man’s unappreciative manner. "I want to go out with you and have you act like a human being. I want you to smile, if that’s at all possible, and I want you to be happy. Most importantly, I want you to talk to me. We don’t talk anymore."

Aya rested his chin back on Yohji’s chest and sighed. "We never talked, Yohji," he remarked in a quiet voice.

"I thought…." No, they probably never had, or else Yohji wouldn’t be grasping at straws trying to recall one meaningful conversation that they’d had. No, why bother talking when he could entice Aya off for some fun, and then he had to keep the mood light to make sure Aya was willing for more fun, and that meant keeping the talking to a minimum and mindless. Any heavy topics, such as their childhoods and so forth had been discussed in brief little snippets, serious moments tucked in here and there. Life was too short; _their_ lives were way too short not to just enjoy the moment, and Yohji had believed that wholeheartedly. "No, we never talked. But I want to, Aya. I want to talk, and I want to hear what you’ve got to say. Even if I have to put up with a night of caterwauling."

He was treated to a suspicious look once more. "Why bother going if you hate it so much?"

"Because you want to go, or you’d never have said a word about it. We’re in a relationship here, Aya, and that means give and take. I give in when you want to go somewhere-"

"And I do the same for you? We’ve been over this before, Kudoh, and all that happens is that I get dragged off to one of your clubs, be pawed at all night while you drink everything behind the bar, and you’re the only one having fun. I’d rather stay home." Aya started to rise once more, only to be yanked down harshly enough to knock the wind out of him.

Yohji did some glaring of his own. "I thought," he growled out, "that we could go to a dinner and a movie on my nights out. We haven’t done that in ages."

Aya continued to glare at him for another minute then the look became progressively weaker. "No, we haven’t," came out softly. "Why are you doing this, Yohji?"

"I’ve realized I’ve been an idiot these past couple months. Aya… I love you, I really do. But it’s so damn hard getting you to open up that I… I just give up. You’re so quiet and distant most of the time, unless we’re having sex. Then it’s as if every part of your being is focused on me, and that’s so amazingly mind-blowing to know that at that moment I’m all that matters in your world, that you’re letting me do something that I know you won’t let anyone else do. That you let me in, if even that little bit. So I settled for that, and well, went a little overboard." Yohji grinned sheepishly at his lover and earned a raised eyebrow that he was sure was for the ‘little’ comment.

"But there should be more than just sex in a relationship, and I’m trying now, maybe a little late, but I’m trying. Can you do the same?"

His kitten closed his eyes and tucked his head under Yohji’s chin. After a long silence, Aya spoke haltingly. "It’s harder, what you’re talking about."

"I know," Yohji said, his voice husky as he stroked a hand through Aya’s hair. "I guess that’s why we’ve been taking the easy way out all this time. Don’t you think it’s time we tried something different?"

"Is that the type of relationship you had with Asuka?"

What was with Aya’s sudden fixation with his old lover? Yohji wondered if the Bastard was behind this as well. "We… well, we didn’t need to talk. We knew all about each other, and we were so busy working all the time that the chance to just sit down and chat never really happened." He remembered his slip to Arai the other day. ‘Regret’. He certainly had a lot of those in regards to the dead woman, and Yohji was determined not to suffer the same fate with Aya. He’d had his wake-up call, several of them in fact, and he was resolved not to lose the person he loved this time. "Aya, gods forbid that something ever happens to one of us, but I don’t want whoever’s left to be filled with regret over all the things we never said or did. I just want us to be happy."

There was no response from the other man, and for a few minutes Yohji despaired of getting his point across. Aya could be so damn stubborn about some things, and he didn’t like change. Not after having his life blow up before his eyes, in one case literally, so many times.

About to sigh and say he’d just been kidding, Yohji was surprised when Aya raised his head and stared down at him for several heartbeats, his eyes shining with intense emotion. Then the redhead bent down and kissed him on the lips, a fleeting taste of sweetness before moving down his neck and chest, causing Yohji to arch off the bed when a warm, wet tongue and sharp teeth toyed with his nipples, sucking and nipping and licking until he groaned Aya’s name out loud. The tongue delved into his navel, forcing Yohji to fall back on the bed as he chuckled softly at the ticklish touch, and before he could say anything his pants were pulled down and a hand stroked his cock, which had been stirring back to life from Aya’s kisses.

"Gods, love, you don’t… you… ah. Gods." He groaned again as Aya pinned his hips to the bed and took the tip of his shaft into that warm mouth, the man’s tongue flicking along the head of his sensitive organ. Unable to thrust into Aya’s mouth, he gripped handfuls of crimson hair and pulled downward, wishing his lover would stop teasing him so. Violet eyes locked on his as Aya looked up to him, filled with mischief and desire. The tongue tormented him until Yohji felt like crying, and he yelled out loud when he was finally deep-throated.

Oh gods, so warm and moist and good, it was so good, the delicious suction had him trying to buck his hips, never mind Aya’s hands on them or the pain from his injury. He wanted this to last forever, but when Aya started to hum Yohji lost it, coming into his lover’s mouth in waves that seemed to pulse on forever. Aya gagged slightly and pulled away, creamy seed running down his chin. Yohji stared as the man lifted a finger to swipe away the fluid then licked it clean.

Reaching out with shaking arms, Yohji managed to grab an eartail and use it to pull Aya up to him, latching on to the pale man’s mouth savagely, needing to taste the both of them. Aya returned the kiss with equal passion, but when Yohji reached down into his boyfriend’s boxers, the man suddenly pulled away. "Aya, let me take care of you." He wanted Aya flushed and calling out his name so badly he could taste it.

Aya shook his head and stood up. "I don’t have the time." Leaning in to give Yohji another kiss, he caught the blond’s hands and held them tight, preventing them from grabbing him. "I can’t always talk, Yohji. I can’t always say what… what I want to, or what I’m feeling, like right now, so I show instead. But I’ll try."

Wondering if he’d just cheated himself out of future blowjobs, Yohji chuckled weakly and tugged at his bound hands. "Can’t ask for more than that, can I? But Aya, you-" He was stopped by another kiss.

"I have to get a shower." Aya stared at him with passion dark eyes, a hint of a smile on his lips, the first one that Yohji had seen in days. "I’ll take care of it then, thinking of you, how good you taste, the feel of your skin on mine, you inside me, so hot and hard…" Yohji moaned as Aya paused to lick his lips, remembering how that tongue had felt on him moments ago. "And if you get out of bed while I’m in the shop, memories are all either of us are going to have while you recover from what I do to you, am I clear?" The deep voice was calm and serious, the passion fading into a glare that let Yohji know that Aya wasn’t playing anymore.

"Crystal." He bent forward for one more kiss before falling back against his pillows.

Aya released his hands and stepped backwards. "Do you need anything?" From tease to threat to solicitude in a manner of seconds, no wonder Yohji could never figure his kitten out.

"Nah, I’ll be fine until you’re done with your shower." At the moment, the threat aside, he was pretty damn content. Aya had heard what he’d said and seemed to accept it, and he’d had some sort of sex, the first in several days. Yohji’s thigh ached a little, but he could ignore the dull throb.

"Hn." Aya gathered up his robe and headed for the bathroom. Yohji watched his lover leave, a smile on his face as he watched the graceful man walk away. For the first time since waking up in the hospital he felt relaxed and carefree. Now if only he and Aya could catch a break and things remained like this for a short while.


Ken fidgeted for a moment, tugging at his blue and white jersey as he stalled for time. He still had two more minutes, and he refused to step foot inside Dr. Arai’s office until it was officially ten o’clock. Nope, he wasn’t putting up with any unnecessary psychobabble bullshit. Damn Yohji for getting him dragged into this.

When his watch beeped, he knocked on the door twice.

"Come in."

Swallowing with a suddenly dry throat, he did just that, pushing open the door and peering about the psychiatrist’s office. It was flooded with light that reflected off paneled walls and was scented by leather from the furniture and books that lined one wall. Sitting behind a large desk was a woman in her thirties, wearing a red blazer, black hair cropped close to her head. She rose to her feet and bowed slightly. "Ken Hidaka, I presume?"

"Yeah. I mean, yes." He bowed as well and sat in a leather chair that Arai motioned to. "You’re Dr. Arai?" The woman was pretty in a sharp-edged fashion. She didn’t look like the type who, as Teddy had put it, enjoyed ripping off men’s dicks and beating them with them. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as he feared.

"So, I’m sure that you’re aware of why you’re here. I’d like to talk to you about your teammates, if you don’t mind." The doctor leaned forward onto her desk, her eyes intent on Ken.


The thin lips tightened for a moment then relaxed back into the friendly smile Arai had been cultivating. Ken wanted to tell her that he wasn’t Yohji, and it would take a hell of a lot more than a woman smiling at him to get him to relax. "What is your interpretation of what happened during the last mission? Oh, and let me reassure you that I’m cleared know all about Weiß and your activities. I’m not sure if your teammate Abyssinian has said much about our sessions, so I want to make that clear. You’re free to mention whatever you want."

"Ah, thanks." Fidgeting with the long sleeves of his jersey, Ken sighed as he sank back into the leather seat. "Well, it was a bad mission, not much more to say other than that. Someone got hurt. We’re lucky that Yohji, uhm, that’s-"

"Balinese, I know. Please continue."

"Yeah, well, it’s a good thing that Yohji didn’t die. He was bleeding pretty bad."

Arai pulled out a notepad and started to jot things down. "Ah yes, I saw Balinese the other day. I must say, he seemed in rather good shape considering he did almost die. Quite the amazing constitution, I must say."

The woman didn’t know half of it. After having lived next door to the man all this time, Ken was very familiar with Kudoh’s ‘constitution’. It was a wonder the man’s lovers could get out of bed in the morning. Poor Aya, to be stuck with a pervert like that. "Yohji’s… always been… robust. I don’t know where he gets the energy."

"Yes, it’s amazing, considering his lifestyle. The smoking, drinking and, well, all his flings. Do you think he might’ve been distracted by something that night? Perhaps he’d been out drinking too much the night before, or taken something he shouldn’t."

"Yohji wouldn’t screw up a mission by doing that," Ken gritted out. "He wouldn’t place us in jeopardy by being hungover or high." Yohji wouldn’t put Aya in danger like that, and the redhead would kill his boyfriend if he thought for a moment that Yohji was endangering Weiß.

There was the scratching of a pen for a moment, and Arai cleared her throat. "Then what do you think distracted him? Surely something must have gone wrong for him to be injured so badly."

Not liking the direction the questions were taking, Ken stopped playing with his shirt and looked her in the eye. "I honestly don’t know. I was a bit busy at the time, trying to take out as many guards as I could. I didn’t see anything until it was all over, and by then Aya had things under control." More or less. "He killed the target and slowed Yohji’s bleeding."



"I see. He’s quite competent, isn’t he?" Arai stopped writing long enough to stare at Ken, making him want to fidget again.

"I guess." Realizing that the answer didn’t exactly display any confidence in his teammate, Ken tried again. "Yes, he is. Aya won’t rest until he successfully completes a mission, no matter what the cost to himself. He’s salvaged a mission many a time and saved all of our hides. We all look out for each other." Some more than others.

"So you have no doubts about your two teammates? No problems working with them again?"

"No, none at all. Or with Omi, either. I trust my friends with my life. The other night was just a fluke. We can’t always get away scot-free." Though Ken couldn’t forget about how Aya had seemed to know about Yohji’s injury ahead of time. Was he just imagining things? Obsessing over nothing? Surely the dumb blond would’ve died if Aya hadn’t been there to take out the target and staunch his wound. Wasn’t the result all that mattered?

Arai resumed writing, her head bent over her desk. Ken enjoyed the respite, hoping that she’d just keep scribbling away and forget all about him. He was getting a headache from watching his answers so carefully.

"Bad luck, ne? I guess that’s understandable. No one can be lucky all the time. Not even Weiß. You do live a bit of a charmed life though, from what I’ve found out. Your team has a very impressive record, one of the best in Kritiker if rumor is correct, ever since you became a four-man team. To what do you attribute your success?"

"We all work well together." He’d never thought much about it, how Weiß almost never failed on a mission anymore. Not since Aya joined. What was it about the short-tempered swordsman that had helped the team to gel?

"That must take a lot of effort, considering how different you are from each other. None of you share the same background, and you have very few interests in common, from what I can make of your records. It must be true what they say about opposites attracting each other."

Like Yohji and Aya. Man, you couldn’t get much different than those two. But they did love each other, so much so that it made his heart ache to see them together. Why couldn’t he have the same for himself? Ken wished desperately that he could be that happy, that Omi and he would spend their days inseparable from each other, fighting and making up and having sex in the greenhouse just for the hell of it. A seed of anger flared to life in his chest.

The tapping of a pen against a desk reminded him that now wasn’t the time to lose himself in thought. "Oh, yeah, I guess we’re all so different that we have no choice but to get along; it’s either that or kill each other."

"Yes, but it must be hard, especially when you live with each other. Surely you wish there were things you could change about your teammates? That they’d be more considerate, more outgoing, so on and so forth."

"I wish Yohji would clean up after himself more, and that Aya wouldn’t be such a moody bastard all the time." Not that he had to put up with the redhead that much anymore, that was Yohji’s job now. One the man did willingly, and who could blame him? He had a gorgeous lover who let him get away with practically murder. The over-sexed bastard.

Arai flipped through her notebook. "What about Bombay? Is there anything you’d change about him?"

"No, not a thing." Well, maybe make Omi a couple years older, more like his own age. That way Ken would be able to convince himself that the teen had something other than a schoolboy crush on him. It was so painful having something in his reach and not being able to trust its sincerity. Ken snorted as he rubbed his wrist. It figured that Yohji would be the lucky one and know that his love wanted him. Aya would’ve killed the playboy long before now if that wasn’t the case.

"Let me say a few words, and you tell me the first thing you think of, alright?" Ken nodded his head. "Weiß."

"White, burden, blood." Wow, where had that last come from? He hated these tests, hated just blurting things out like this.


"Kindness, warmth, happiness." Secretive. Ken bit back on the last word just in time, wondering what he thought Omi was hiding from him. But lately he couldn’t shake the suspicion that more was going on than he knew about.


"Playboy, lazy, bastard. He gets away with everything." While everyone else paid the price. Yohji got to lounge around in bed with Aya catering to him while he had to sit here and put up with this shit.


"Red, temper, graceful, deadly. Out of reach." Of everyone but Yohji. Sometimes Ken believed that Aya let the whole damn world fade away from him without a care, except the man’s lover. Especially after Aya-chan had been abducted.


His hands clenched into fists. "Bastard. Dead. He’s dead, I’m gonna fucking gut him wide open." He couldn’t control the hate he felt upon hearing the telepath’s name. Oh how he wanted to make the prick pay for what he’d done to him and the others.

Arai wrote something down quickly and then set her pen aside. "One doesn’t need to be a psychiatrist to tell that you hate the man. Not that I can blame you. It must be awful to have someone in your head like that, making you do things you’d never thought of doing before." The woman’s tone was soothing, concern just seemed to radiate off her.

"Yeah, it was bad. The worst of it is that you can’t fight back. How do you prevent a telepath from getting inside your head?" The ordeals made Ken feel worthless and weak. He hadn’t been able to stop himself from carrying out Mastermind’s orders, hadn’t been able to do a damn thing. It had taken his teammates to stop him and snap him out of it. It had taken Yohji to smack some sense back into him.

"I can’t imagine what you went through. Why do you think he picked you to control? Why not the others?"

Aya was easy; Mastermind wanted him, but not by force apparently. The telepath just wanted Yohji dead, but something seemed to stay his hand. As for Omi… "I don’t know. The man’s a psycho, there’s no telling why he does anything."

"Such as torment your team. Any other Kritiker team that has faced Schwarz has been is killed, but not Weiß. Any clue as to why he lets you live?"

"Because he likes to play with us." With Aya in particular. And there had been one other team to survive meeting Mastermind: Teddy and Mickey. Who were friends of Aya. Why did everything come down to Aya? What was the man’s attraction for a telepath?

Ken shifted about in his seat, feeling as if the answer was just outside his reach. What was it about Aya that helped meld the team together, yet also made them the favorite toy of a bunch of psychopathic freaks? Stuff like this hadn’t happened before the redhead had joined Weiß.

Arai rested her chin on one of her hands as she spun her pen around on her desk. "Yes, it certainly seems like that, but why Weiß? Why not another team? You must be special in some way to attract his attention. Maybe because you’re so successful? Or something about your pasts?"

It was Aya that attracted Mastermind’s attention, and had done so for years. Aya had joined the team and brought his problems with him. According to Yohji, the prick had been after the redhead for the past three years and considered Aya his. What was it about the man that attracted Schuldig so much? Yeah he was gorgeous, but so were a lot of other people and they had better personalities to boot. "Maybe we provide them with the most challenge."

"Ah yes, possibly. At least, as much of a challenge as a team of normal people can against one comprised of various psychics. I don’t understand how that’s possible, but Weiß should be grateful nonetheless. I can’t imagine how you’d fight a paranormal and hope to survive otherwise."

"Usually we end up getting our butts kicked." Like when Berserker had wiped the floor with Omi and him. Or when Berserker and Mastermind had taken on the whole team, and they’d barely touched the two men before Ouka was shot and they fled. No, they really didn’t stand a chance against them. Only Aya had faced two of Schwarz alone, Oracle and Berserker, and survived. Granted, Persia had shown up to save his ass, but he’d fared better against them than any other member of Weiß. Against a psychotic who didn’t feel pain and a precog…

Ken sucked in a breath as the pieces finally clicked. Who could predict things ahead of time. Like Aya had, warning Weiß not to enter the kitchen back at Sōdō. Like he had warned Yohji to watch his back the other night, and had moved to the blond’s side _before_ he’d been injured.

"Yes, it’s a shame you don’t have any powers of your own. It must be so frustrating to feel so helpless."

The thought was insane, but didn’t it make sense? Weiß was so successful because they had a precog on their team, helping to ensure their missions were successful. That was why Mastermind was so interested in Aya; he surely wouldn’t bother so much over a normal person. Ken felt his hands clench into fists as if to free his bugnuks at the thought. Aya was a fucking freak, just like the rest of Schwarz. No wonder the man was so weird.


But he was also a friend, someone who watched his back and covered his shifts so he could go play with his kids. Did Aya know what he was? Was it possible for him not to? He sure as hell made no mention of having a power; maybe Ken was just imagining things. Though the fact that Aya was a precog would explain so many mysteries. Unsure of what he was supposed to think or feel about this latest development, Ken rubbed his eyes and wished he was anywhere but in this office. He needed some fresh air and space to think.

"Siberian, did you hear me?"

Snapping out of his thoughts, Ken shook his head and stared at Arai. The woman appeared a bit perturbed about something, and blushing, he realized that he’d been ignoring her. Great, Hidaka, piss off your shrink. Never mind the fact that the woman can have you locked away forever if she feels like it.

"Sorry, what you were saying got me thinking."

"Oh, about what?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "About how lucky Weiß is to have survived all we have. Maybe I should start playing the lottery or something."

The doctor didn’t seem amused by this. But he’d promised not to breathe a word about Aya and Mastermind to anyone from Kritiker, and he was going to keep that promise. No matter what the man was or wasn’t.

"Yes, maybe you should." The air of concern that had been emanating from the woman immediately vanished, and Ken found himself shivering for some reason. "Well, let’s move on then, shall we? I want to focus on you now. Tell me what you felt during your last mission."


Omi forced his eyes to remain open as his teacher droned on and on about various economic systems from around the world. It was times like these that he seriously wondered why he bothered with school. He could be doing so many more worthwhile things than this. Like sleeping; last night had been a late one, as he and Ken had spent it watching a bunch of smugglers play cards and noting the various underworld figures that had paid the organization’s new boss a visit.

A quick glance at his watch revealed that Ken should be in the middle of his session with Dr. Arai. Omi hoped his friend was doing alright, and that he wouldn’t let anything slip to the woman. They’d talked a little last night during the mission and had agreed to be on their guard around the psychiatrist. They didn’t want Kritiker to find out anything about Yohji or Aya.

<Ah, that’s so sweet of you, chibi. But there’s no need to worry, I have everything under control.>

The tip of Omi’s mechanical pencil snapped as he pressed it hard against his desk. ‘Mastermind?’

<No, this is God speaking. You’re having a calling, you Idiot. I want you to renounce all your worldly goods and spend your days walking around and spreading the word of how Britney Spears is really the anti-Christ. Hell, Farfie even has all her cds. Oh, the horror.>

Clamping his jaw shut before he started to swear out loud, Omi closed his eyes and counted to ten. ‘Is there a point to this, other than to drive me insane?’

<Just reassuring you that dear Kenken won’t let anything slip to Arai that I don’t want him to, so worry about yourself. Not that you have much to stress over, I think you’re more than a match for that bitch. Oh, and you’re about to have a pop quiz during the last ten minutes of class. Hope you read the assignment last night.>

Omi wondered how the hell Aya had kept even a tenuous grasp on sanity after spending three years with Mastermind in his head. No wonder the redhead was so messed up.

<Don’t even go there, Bombay, not unless you want to arrive for your appointment in an ambulance, blood pouring from your ears. I’m not real happy with you in the first place for failing to keep Balinese on a shorter leash. You should have prevented him from putting his grand scheme in motion and causing all this work for us. Pay better attention in the future, or I’ll make sure he’s too busy drooling and trying to remember what his name is to even think up any more trouble. Now I’m off to keep the Dummkopf from ruining things.>

The alien presence in his mind departed as quickly as it had come, leaving Omi furious and tense. Leave it to Schuldig to have the last word. Rubbing his temples, he made his headache fade away a bit by thinking of various ways to dismember the telepath. He longed for the day the fantasy could come true.

Trying to focus his attention back on his class, Omi broke out in a cold sweat when the impact of Mastermind’s words sunk in. How the hell was the man ensuring that Ken didn’t give anything away?


Schuldig lay on his bed, a smile teasing at the corners of his mouth. Siberian and the bitch had been so easy to manipulate; sweet little Bombay really had been worried about nothing. The jock had revealed nothing to Arai beside his feelings of love and lust for his younger teammate, some envy and annoyance initially directed Aya’s way, and a lot of anger for the man-whore. It had taken only a slight tweak of the seed he’d planted in the man’s mind a couple of months ago, and then he’d been able to sit back and enjoy the show. Arai hadn’t discovered the truth, while Siberian had caught the glimmer of it.

Once he’d figured things out, or thought he had, the assassin’s mind had been torn between hate and disgust for his redheaded teammate because of his talent and his genuine feelings of friendship and concern. It should be interesting to watch the two impulses battle it out over the next few days, but even if Siberian’s true feelings won out, the damage would be done. Aya would have a taste of what it felt like to be hated for being a talent, and the pain would be even greater for the fact that it was one of his dear teammates who was making him suffer.

Smiling in earnest now, Schuldig brushed a strand of his hair along his neck. He’d avoided Aya’s mind since their little meeting yesterday, judging it to be wise to give his little tuberose some space. But he’d see the man tonight and be able to work this new development to his advantage.

For a moment the scent of cherry blossoms filled the room, and Schuldig breathed in deeply as he thought about the vision that had overtaken them yesterday. Of him making love to a wounded Aya in a small house amidst a grove of cherry trees. Aya’s power had been behind that, showing a glimpse of a future that it deemed irrevocable. Schuldig knew with every fiber of his being that it would come to pass, one way or another. It seemed that Crawford’s vision had been correct after all. But why that particular vision, and not the one of Cassandra’s, of the two of them in a Tokyo hotel, he didn’t have a clue.

Nor could he figure out Crawford’s sudden helpfulness in all matters regarding Aya. Hell, the man hadn’t even batted an eye when he’d asked if Farfie could go see the bitch doctor tonight instead of taking part in the mission. Schuldig knew the man wanted Schwarz to gain an ill wight, but an accommodating Oracle was a plotting one. The man was up to something, he just didn’t know what.

Soon would come the day when he had his precious heart by his side, and he wouldn’t need to put up with a bunch of damn conspiring precogs. Tonight he’d gauge Aya’s reaction to finding out about how insidious the mental tampering had gotten, and plan from there. It should only take one more dream to ensure that Aya could never hate him again and to work on changing the catalyst’s mind about which team he really belonged with. Schuldig chuckled in pleasure.


Aya blew at a lock of his bangs, trying to get the crimson strand to move away from his eyes. It had been a hectic morning so far in the Koneko, especially since he was the only one working. He’d barely gotten the store ready in time to open, no thanks to Yohji’s discussion.

Why was the man pushing for a change in their relationship all of a sudden? Did it have something to do with Schuldig? It was highly suspicious that Yohji wanted to be so damn talkative right after the latest incident. But Aya couldn’t find it in himself to complain about the proposed changes.

What if they could have something based on more than sex and companionship? It scared him to open up to the playboy, but Aya did want more. He didn’t want to live in doubt any longer about whether or not Yohji returned his feelings. The uncertainty was too painful. Though the thought of actually talking…

With another breath at his hair, Aya started to restock the vases, preparing for the lunch rush. Ken should be back soon, hopefully before it got very busy, and the two of them should be able to manage things on their own. Yohji had offered to sit behind the register, but he wasn’t having any of that. The stubborn fool needed to heal, and it would be best if he did so in the peace and quiet of their room. A slight smile touched Aya’s face as he thought about the irony of the situation. Normally Yohji was desperate to remain in bed, not to leave it.

One of the vases was decorated with cherry blossoms, and Aya paused in his work to cradle the porcelain between his hands. For a moment he could smell the fragrant blooms and could feel Schu’s hair falling about his face as the man leaned down to kiss him… Dammit, why was the bastard getting to him like this? Feeling a headache form, Aya set the vase down and rubbed at his temples.

Exactly when had he stopped hating Schuldig? The emotion had all but overwhelmed him during the Tayago mission, but sometime after that it… just bled away to nothingness. It was gone and try as he might, Aya couldn’t bring it back to life. Whenever he thought of how much the telepath had hurt him in the past, his thoughts shifted to how the man had pulled him back from madness after his sister had been taken, and how Schu continued to keep him sane during those long hours with Dr. Arai. He should have known something was up when he willingly let Schu into his head for those sessions.

The right decision would be to block the telepath as much as possible, to refuse his aid during the psychiatric appointments. But Aya was still trapped by his promise not to fight in the dreams, and he knew Schu well enough by now to know that the bastard would use that oath against him. How could he not hate someone as manipulative as Mastermind?

The door chime sounding warned Aya that his break was over. Gathering an armful of vases, he returned to the front of the Koneko to greet the customer. While he was working on an arrangement for the elderly woman, Ken returned from his appointment. The brunet’s face was flushed, and he was breathing heavily as if he had run from the hospital. Brown eyes stared at Aya intently for a moment then Ken reached for an apron and started to fuss around the register. About to leave the shop so he could take Yohji his lunch, Aya just nodded his head in greeting.

It turned out to be a busy lunch for them, and the two men didn’t have much chance to talk, other than to call out prices and ask for various items. The rush kept them occupied, and when it was over they had to restock before the fan girls arrived. Concentrating on his work, Aya moved about the store, shifting various flowers from the coolers in back to the ones up front, restocking ribbons and tissue before he swept the floor. For his part, Ken straightened out the display stands.

It was while the athlete was trying to move some of the more expensive vases to a higher shelf, so that the fan club didn’t hit them with their backpacks and such, that one of the crystal vases slipped from his hand. Aya, who had been sweeping behind him, reacted without thinking and caught the heavy glass. Not saying a word about the man’s clumsiness, he handed it to Ken with a scowl on his face. His breath caught in his throat as he noticed the evil stare his teammate directed his way.

"Thanks, Aya. Did you see that one coming?"

Unsure what Ken meant, he shook his head and glared back, uncomfortable with the whole situation. Ken still stared at him as if he was an enemy or something, eyes narrowed in suspicion and his lips pressed tightly together.

"Be more careful next time," he growled as he stepped back, refusing to get into a fight with the idiot. Resuming his sweeping, Aya glanced out of the corner of his eye at Ken only to find the man still scowling at him. The next hour passed by in silence as the two men did their best to ignore each other. Aya put Ken’s bad temper down as being the result of spending an hour in Arai’s presence. The gods knew that he wasn’t ever in a good mood after his visits. Not unless Yohji did something to distract him.

When class let out the Koneko was literally mobbed. It seemed as if thousands of girls filled the small shop, all of them asking why it had been closed for a couple of days and where Yohji and Omi were. Having made himself hoarse with all the snarling and shouting ‘buy something or leave’, Aya strategically retreated to the back of the shop, busying himself with orders as Ken was left to placate the horde of hysterical teenagers. He had the man’s back when out on a mission, but this was a different matter entirely. His nerves were on edge from the constant touches the girls inflicted on him.

The idiots followed him to the back, constantly asking why he had a cast on his arm, and when Yohji and Omi were going to show up. Having had enough for one day, Aya fixed the young girls around him with a shi-ne glare and stalked over to them, forcing the stunned females to back up. When he reached the middle of the shop he stormed over to the door and threw it open. "We’re closing, _leave_."

"But Aya-san, we haven’t finished looking…"

"Ah, I want Yohji to see me in my new dress, I can’t leave now…"

"Omi-kun promised me he’d arrange some lilies for me the next time I stopped by…"

"_Get_. _Out_."

It seemed to do the trick, and with a great deal of pouting and whining the girls did just that. The second the last one stepped out of the door Aya locked it and pulled down the metal shutters. When he turned around he found Ken staring at him again. "We need to get ready for tonight," he explained quietly.

The other assassin merely stared at him for a moment then sighed as he tugged on the sleeve of his jersey. "Great, another night of skulking in the shadows, being bored out of our minds." Then Ken’s eyes narrowed again. "Or will we? You think we’ll have any trouble tonight, Aya?"

"I doubt it," was the hushed reply as Aya started to count the cash in the drawer. He didn’t have a bad feeling about the night’s assignment and was looking forward to a night out underneath the stars, of being able to focus on work and to forget about his troubles for a short while.

"Well, you would know, wouldn’t you?" There was something in Ken’s voice that made Aya stop his counting and look at his teammate. His face became an impassive mask as he recognized the hate and disgust burning in the younger man’s eyes.

// What do you think will happen when they find out that you aren’t a powerless waste of flesh like they are? They will hate you for it at worst and fear you at best. //

Why those words sprang unbidden into his mind, Aya wasn’t sure; but he couldn’t shake them from his thoughts, not even when Ken shuffled away to prepare to close the shop. The younger man couldn’t know about his power, could he? That was a ridiculous thought. But why else would Hidaka look at him like that, after making comments about him knowing things? Hugging his right arm tight against his chest, Aya stopped counting and just stared at the counter for several minutes.


Arai went over the report she’d written concerning Siberian’s visit while she waited for Bombay to arrive. She wondered if Kritiker would be concerned by the fact they had a budding psychopath on their hands or not. Shrugging her shoulders, Arai decided she didn’t really care.

But the man’s hate and anger had been delicious, even more so when spiced with angst, envy and unrequited love. Weiß was turning out to be quite the soap opera, what with this agent pining for that one and so forth. The team’s dynamics should be very interesting from now on as Siberian’s feelings had drifted from camaraderie to hate for Orchidee, thanks to her carefully directed questions. She’d kept pushing things until the assassin had finally stumbled on the fact that his teammate was psychic, much like Schwarz, Weiß’s enemies.

Ah, poor little Orchidee. On top of everything else wrong with his life at the moment, he’d have to face the loss of the support of his teammates as well. Siberian’s hate would likely infect the rest of the team once he told them of his suspicions, and more pressure would come to bear on the precog. It would only be a matter of time now before he snapped. Orchidee had become rather dependent on his teammates; the man had a bad habit of letting them get too close to him. Judging from his sessions after losing his first team and right before he left his second, Orchidee would be very vulnerable and she’d finally be able to tear down his damn shields. Arai smiled hungrily at that thought.

A knock on her door caused her to school her expression. "Enter."

Bombay entered the room smiling brightly at her. "Dr. Arai, I presume?"

"Yes. I’m pleased to meet you, Bombay." She returned the youth’s bow.

"Ah, please call me Omi. Is it okay to take this chair?"

"Please do." Yech, someone was too sickeningly sweet and cheerful for words. Plastering a friendly smile on her face, she took out her notepad and started the recorder to tape the session. This should be another fun one; Bombay was a potential treasure trove of buried angst due to his kidnapping and early training as an assassin.

"So, I’m sure you’re aware of why you’re here. Kritiker would like to know your opinion on what happened during Weiß’s last mission. Would you mind telling me your thoughts on what went wrong that night?"

Bombay treated her to another sunny smile as he sat up straight in his chair, his hands crossed in his lap. "Certainly. Part of the problem was the lack of accurate information Weiß had received about the smuggling ring. We had no idea of one of the smuggler’s importance, which resulted in the failure to retrieve important data. I’m not sure why the information was never supplied to us, but I sincerely hope that there will never be a repeat of this situation."

Hm, someone was a specialist in damage control. Sweet little Bombay had a brain in his genki head after all. Arai often didn’t pay attention to the academic records of her patients; there was a vast difference between book sense and common sense. It seemed that her latest victim had an overabundance of both.

"I can see why you’d be concerned over that matter. I’m sure our superiors will correct whatever problem there was in regards to supplying you with the correct information in the future." Or not. She suspected that there were several reasons why Kritiker would withhold vital facts from Weiß, and all of them led back to Orchidee. "What about your teammates? Any abnormal behavior? I’m particularly interested in Balinese."

"Balinese?" Blue eyes blinked in confusion. "Well, I don’t know if you’d consider it abnormal, but he has changed over the past few months. He’s finally settling down, spending more of his nights at home than out getting drunk. I’d say he’s finally growing up and becoming serious, but now that I think about it, that is pretty abnormal for him."

"Oh really? And to what do you attribute this sudden change in lifestyle?" She wasn’t picking up much from the young man other than a faint dislike for her, a sense of worry and amusement, and intense concentration. For a normal, Bombay had pretty impressive mental shields, most likely due to his high intelligence and years of training to be a team leader. She always did enjoy a challenge.

"Hmm." Bombay made a big show of thinking over the question. "Well, it’s not that much of a change, he still drinks and has lots of sex, he just doesn’t do it as much in strange places anymore. Like I said, I think he’s growing up a bit. Ever since Weiß was reformed he’s been a bit different. I think he suddenly realized something important when we got back together."

He wasn’t lying, Arai was certain of that, but she couldn’t quite place the trace of amusement and challenge that shaded the teen’s thoughts. "So you don’t think he engaged in any risky behavior beforehand that might have resulted in his lack of focus during the mission?"

"I believe that Yohji was extremely focused on his mission that night. In answer to your question, no, he didn’t engage in any risqué behavior the day of or even the night before the mission. He barely left home at all those days, and I know he didn’t drink or… take anything else during that time."

She wrote that fact down as she nodded her head. Unlike Siberian’s anger towards Balinese, Bombay only felt affection and concern for his older teammate. "What about Siberian?" Ah, now that was a sudden wash of love, lust and worry. Arai wondered if either young man knew about the feelings the other had for them.

"He was in perfect form for the mission. I never have to worry about Ken; he’s always solid and dependable."

Why wasn’t she surprised that he gave his crush such a glowing report? She’d have to try and blindside him about the brunet later. "Ah, I see. And Abyssinian?"

Bombay frowned as he laced his fingers together. "I… well, he… I’m sorry to say he wasn’t in the best shape for the mission. If it hadn’t called for four personnel, I would’ve ordered him to stay home."

Now she was getting somewhere. Arai drank in Bombay’s concern and slight embarrassment to be turning in one of his teammates, but the teen should be used to it by now. He’d been doing it for years. "Please elaborate."

The young blond sat up even straighter and looked her in the eye as he projected his voice. "To be quite frank, Doctor, he hasn’t been in top shape because of his sessions with you." Arai felt her smile slip a little as the unexpected words registered in her mind.

"I’ve been dreading having a mission on a day he’s seen you ever since he’s become your patient. When he returns home after spending an hour here, he’s clearly depressed and withdrawn. He fails to get sufficient sleep on the nights preceding and after the appointments, and his appetite has dropped off as well. I fail to see how your sessions with Aya have been anything _but_ detrimental to his health. He was in better shape before they started."

The little bastard, she was going to kill him. There was no way Kritiker wouldn’t hear about this, not when someone arrived to pick up the session tape as soon as she was done interviewing members of Weiß. Her eyes narrowing in anger, she forced herself to speak in an even tone. "I fail to see why I’m to blame for this. These sessions were deemed necessary for Abyssinian’s well-being after his sister’s abduction. I’m trying to make him better; the young man does have a lot of issues to deal with, and it’s always a little rough at the beginning of a relationship with a new patient as things finally come out in the open."

"But he was recovering from Aya-chan’s abduction on his own, before the sessions started. His well-being took a serious decline _after_ the Thursday appointments were instigated. Besides, it’s my understanding that he’s had years of psychiatric help, he’s not exactly a neophyte at this. No, I stand by my assessment; his association with you has negatively affected Abyssinian’s performance. Besides being depressed and more anti-social than usual, and his declining health, his personality has seriously changed. I fear that he lacks the necessary desire to fight back against the enemy."

She could only stare at her patient as he gazed back at her with ill concealed contempt and dislike. Every damn word he’d said was true, at least in his opinion, and his voice conveyed that conviction. So sweet little Bombay thought to take her on, did he? She’d take great delight in twisting his psyche about until he broke down and cried like a baby.

"I see. Well, those are very valid concerns, though ones I feel are misguided and blown out of proportion. I’m doing my best to help your teammate and hope to make progress very soon. You’ll see quite a change in Abyssinian when that happens." Or maybe not. When Orchidee was finally broken, she doubted that Weiß would ever see the man again.

"You’ll be happy to know that I’ve heard only glowing reports about you from your teammates. Kritiker will be proud to hear of their opinions of you, after all, our supervisors are used to receiving updates on them from you, not the other way around. It seems you do a very good job reporting on them." The little fink. Arai smiled at the slight stab of pain those words produced. Someone felt a little guilty at being a spy.

"But such a response is not unexpected. I mean, it’s very clear that Kritiker is your life. The organization took you in after your father abandoned you and gave you a home. Your loyalty never seemed to be strained, not even when you received orders to kill your real family." Ah, now that was definitely more than a slight stab of pain. Tapping into Bombay’s angst and guilt over being a Takatori, Arai let her smile become a notch less friendly.

For a moment, Bombay radiated agony and guilt then the hunched form straightened in the chair. "I don’t know if I’d say it was never strained, but I don’t regret what I’ve done. My father and brothers were evil and deserved to pay for their crimes. They were my family only through an accident of birth, Weiß is my family of choice." He gazed back at her challengingly. "I’m Omi Tsukiyono, not Mamoru Takatori."

It seemed that the battle was engaged. Oh, this was going to be fun.


Gritting his teeth in pain, Yohji lifted his left leg in the air once more. He’d promised Aya that he wouldn’t get out of bed, other than a quick stop in the bathroom or two, but hadn’t said anything about not trying a few exercises. It hurt like a bitch, but he was getting his leg a little higher each time forcing the injured muscles to move. Gods, why couldn’t he have been shot in the arm or something? He was used to that.

The door opening made him stop halfway through a leg lift, and Yohji straightened out his covers as Aya walked in with a tray in his hands. "You done in the shop already?" It wasn’t even five o’clock yet, and he hadn’t expected his lover until Omi returned from the hospital.

Aya didn’t say a thing, just thrust the tray filled with sandwiches and a mug of coffee into his hands before sitting down on the bed. Setting the food aside, Yohji pulled the quiet redhead against him, wrapping his arms tight around the slender frame as he buried his face in crimson hair. "How’re you feeling? Your ribs bothering you?"


"Okay, were you paying any attention this morning when I talked to you? About the whole talking thing? What the hell am I to make out of ‘hn’?" He pressed his lips against a pale shoulder as he slid his hands under the black sweater Aya was wearing. The smaller man shivered and hugged the hands tight against his body. "Aya, love, talk to me."

Aya rested his head against Yohji’s shoulder, his eyes closed and his lips turned down in a frown. "No, they don’t hurt. It was busy in the shop, and I got fed up with the fan club and kicked them out. You should eat something, you must be hungry."

"I’ll eat in a minute. Right now I’m enjoying myself." Nibbling his way up the man’s neck, Yohji stopped right below Aya’s adorned ear and lavished the sensitive spot with attention as his fingers tugged on a hardening pair of nipples. He drank in Aya’s mewls, loving the quiet sounds he could wring from the normally reserved man.

"Ku-kudoh, stop." Aya pressed his hands against his chest trying to stop the torturous caresses.

"Give me one good reason why, other than my leg," he growled in the man’s ear, making Aya shiver. Refusing to be thwarted, he tugged up the black sweater, knocking Aya’s hands aside. "We’ll be careful, so don’t worry." When it looked as if his lover was still prepared to put a stop to things, Yohji pulled him close for a kiss as he slid his hand down the front of Aya’s cargo pants.

The redhead arched into his touch, gasping in pleasure as he was stroked to hardness. Yohji transferred his mouth to the pale neck, sucking on it until he left a bruise. This was what had been missing from his life the past few days: the touch, taste, and smell of his love. The world, which had been so bland lately, sprang back in brilliant clarity as he stroked his hands and lips and tongue along velvet soft skin as the scent of roses surrounded him and his mouth was flooded with sweetness that carried a bite of spice.

At times like this he wondered idly if it was possible to love someone too much. Yohji felt as if he’d die if deprived of Aya and the pleasure the man brought him. He was just so damn addicted to the stubborn bastard. But once he managed to unzip Aya’s pants and tear them off the long slender legs, he forgot all about thinking of anything but being inside Aya as soon as possible.

A sudden shove sent him flying back onto the bed, and for a moment Yohji worried that things were coming to a halt. But the look on his kitten’s face, the intense concentration and passion that was all for him, reassured him otherwise. Pale hands tugged at his sweatpants, and Yohji willingly raised his hips so the garment could be pulled off as he searched for the tube of lubricant.

Aya bent his head down to whisper in his ear. "If your stitches tear, I’m sending you to the hospital with Omi." As a threat, it was rather inspired. The damn chibi would insist on him remaining there until completely healed of the thigh wound and whatever Omi and Aya inflicted on him for opening the injury.

"They won’t." They better not or Yohji was looking at no more sex for a very, very, _very_ long time. All Aya did was "hn" in response then mewled when Yohji thrust a slick finger inside the man. He was so incredibly hard it hurt, and it wasn’t helping any that Aya was writhing on his lap, head tossed back and eyes closed as he pushed down on the finger.

As soon as his lover was ready, Yohji positioned Aya above him and lowered the pale man onto his cock. It was so hard to resist the urge to thrust up, and he had to bite his lip to control himself. When he was completely buried in Aya he let out a moan, his face damp with sweat. Gods that felt so incredibly fucking good.

He let Aya do most of the work, just raising his hips slightly when Aya pushed back down on him, angling the man’s hips until Yohji had him mewling softly. Yohji smiled at the sounds, his world perfect once more. Stroking a hand along his lover’s shaft, he rested his head back onto the pillow and concentrated on the pleasure coursing through him. "Aya, love… ah, don’t know how long, oh gods you’re so fucking tight, can’t last much longer." He groaned as the velvet heat around him clenched tight, a mewl of his own escaping his lips.

Yohji started to jerk off Aya roughly, trying to bring the man as close to the brink as he was. Aya moaned out his name, whimpering slightly as a hand trailed along the pale chest to tweak a nipple. Looking up at the redhead, Yohji groaned at the sight of the flushed, beautiful face, mouth panting and violet eyes darkened to indigo. He grabbed an eartail and yanked Aya down for a kiss, thrusting his tongue deep into the open mouth.

His orgasm surprised him, ripping through him as he nibbled on a kiss-swollen lip, and Yohji felt as if he was pouring every last drop of himself into Aya. The pale man pulled back, pistoning his hips frantically as his hands joined Yohji’s in stroking his shaft, and with a muffled cry he came as well. Sighing contentedly as Aya curled up on his chest, breathing heavily and whispering his name, Yohji felt a grin form on his lips. That had almost been worth several days of no sex. Almost.

"Kudoh, wipe the smile off your face."

"No can do, love," he dreamily replied. That had been just perfect and his whole body was limp with pleasure. When Aya tried to shift off him, Yohji clutched the smaller man tightly against his chest. "Hey, where do you think you’re going?"

"Your leg-"

"Is fine. Now stay still," Yohji chided as he tucked Aya’s head underneath his chin. "I’m enjoying this."


"Ah, and so are you apparently or else I’d be back in the hospital." The two of them remained like that, holding on to each other, and heard a door across the hall slam shut. "I take it Omi’s back. Wonder how his visit with the Bitch went."

Aya reached up a hand and twirled a strand of his hair around a finger. "Knowing Arai, probably not well."

"Probably not." Kissing the top of his kitten’s head, Yohji sighed as he traced fingers along Aya’s spine. Gods, the man’s skin was still so cool even after that bout of sex. He dreaded to think of how Aya was going to feel when winter came. "He’ll bounce back after attacking his sugar stash and a little surfing for some porn. How much you want to bet?"

There was no response from the smaller man other than a snort.

"I know what I’m talking about, I’ve a very good memory. It may be years and years ago, but I can recall what I felt like when I was his age. There were so many distractions around that I could never stay in a bad mood for long."


Yohji tugged up a bed sheet and wrapped it around his lover trying to stop Aya’s shivers. "Yeah, distractions. You know, pretty girls, pretty boys, driving my mom crazy, skipping class, looking cool, trying to get this piece of shit bike my dad left behind to work and so on. Always seemed like a million things to do that I’d stop to catch my breath and find out I wasn’t upset anymore. Which was a pain, because I am so incredibly sexy when I brood. Ow." He rubbed his sore ribs, which had just been nailed by a pointy elbow. "What about you?"

Aya tensed in his arms and remained quiet for several moments. "Aya… please don’t make me repeat the discussion from this morning. I can’t be the serious one here. Now open your mouth and say something other than ‘shi-ne’." Just when Yohji was about to make a comment on how things wouldn’t work if Aya refused to talk, the pale man spoke in a low voice.

"When I was Omi’s age… I was working, waiting tables at this small restaurant." Yohji bit his tongue, keeping back the questions that were trying to escape since he was afraid to break Aya’s train of thought. "It always seemed as if I was working, either at the restaurant or doing translations for my father, or on homework. Skipping classes was never an option; my father received regular reports from my teachers. When I did have some time to myself, Aya-chan would always drag me off, making me escort her and her friends around the city. I think she was trying to fix me up with one of them."

That didn’t sound like a lot of fun. Yohji bit back on a chuckle when he pictured his lover surrounded by a pack of love struck girls, all trying to get his attention. He got the impression that Aya didn’t give them the time of day, considering the amount of disgust that had been obvious in the last sentence. "Ah, I bet you broke a bunch of hearts. Such a mean kitty." He tugged on an eartail, forgetting entirely that Aya had a hold on his hair as well. Dammit, he had to have lost most of it in that one yank. "Ow. You should be taking pity on a wounded man, you know."

"You certainly don’t seem wounded," Aya retorted as he sat up on Yohji’s lap. "Eat your food."

Pouting a bit, Yohji reached for his cup of coffee and took a sip. "It’s cold."

"Whose fault is that?"

"Yours, for looking so damn sexy all the time." He grinned at the sigh Aya heaved and took another sip, not really minding that the beverage was cold. It had been more than worth it for the bit of fun, and his lover seemed much more relaxed than he’d been when he first came into the room. Yohji picked up a sandwich and took a bite, then offered it to Aya. The quiet man raised an eyebrow and nibbled on it for a moment before handing it back, making him want to groan out loud. Oh yes, so incredibly damn sexy.

Finishing off his sandwich, Yohji snagged the other half as Aya stretched out beside him on the bed. "Hmm, these are good. You waited tables, for real?"


"That’s hard to imagine, you having to be civil to someone." That earned him a nasty glare, but Yohji caught the hand about to whap him in the ribs just in time. "I used to work at pretty much whatever was available when I was a kid, trying to earn some yen. Running errands, unloading trucks, stocking shelves, whatever someone was willing to pay me for. It came in handy when I became a detective, I could bluff my way into anyplace by pretending to work there. I even had this one job where I needed into this one members only club to catch this guy cheating on his wife. I pretended to be a plumber, fixing a sink behind the bar. Would you believe I got it to work and managed to get the evidence I needed? Shame was I made more as a plumber than a detective that day." Ah, mission accomplished, there was actually a hint of a smile on Aya’s lips.

The pale man traced a finger over Yohji’s tattoo, making his skin twitch from the light touch. "Waiting tables was the only job I had before…." Aya didn’t look up from the tattoo and the smile faded into a frown. "I was too busy with schoolwork to even join any clubs at school. I’d come home only to have more classes with private tutors. Then I’d have to do some work for my father as well as my homework. If I was lucky I had some time to spend with Aya-chan."

That didn’t sound like a fun childhood at all. No wonder Aya was an anti-social workaholic. Brushing the end of an eartail along his lips, Yohji smiled at his lover as he tilted up a pale chin. "I have an idea. What do you say that as soon as my leg is better, we play a little hooky?"

Violet eyes blinked and stared at him in puzzlement. "What are you talking about?"

"We skip out of work for a day. Leave things in Ken and Omi’s hands, and just… I don’t know, wander around Tokyo. Go wherever our feet take us. Eat at kiosks all day long. Get off at random subway stops, do some shopping. No rhyme or reason, just us having fun." The chibi would give him hell for ditching his shift, especially since he was being punished, but Yohji thought it would be worth it if he could get Aya to forget about his troubles for a while. Hell, he’d do his best to ensure that he had the man smiling all damn day long. Miracles could happen.

Aya hn’ed and rested his head on Yohji’s shoulder. "I don’t-"

"Aya, just say yes. It’ll be fun, and we’ll be together. Think of it as reclaiming a slice of your misspent youth. Do something a little crazy for once. Let me lead you astray, I’ve been dying to do so." He leered at his lover and felt his heart lighten to see Aya smile just the littlest bit.

"Here I thought you already had." Aya kissed him on the shoulder and closed his eyes. "Alright." They remained quiet for a short while, Aya almost asleep and Yohji content with feeling the man in his arms. It wasn’t until they heard Omi head back downstairs that the smaller man shifted about and sat up. "I need a shower."

"I know the feeling. I think I’m due a nice long soak in the tub tonight, the wound should be able to handle that." Yohji scrubbed a hand through his oily hair, which he had kept pulled back in a ponytail the past two days. He wasn’t coming out of the tub until all of him was nice and squeaky-clean.

"Huhn, I’m taking one now. Have the mission later."

That was a reminder that Yohji could live without. He didn’t want to think of Aya out there possibly running into Schuldig without him at the man’s side. Or the chance that Ken could beat him to the kill. Nope, he wanted the Bastard all to himself, to watch the spark of life fade from the telepath’s eyes as he tightened his wire more and more. Hell, a guy had to have his fantasies, right?

He watched his lover rise from the bed and gracefully cross the room to gather up his robe before leaving. Reaching for a cigarette, Yohji lit it and inhaled the smoke as he scrubbed his chest clean with a corner of the sheets. His leg ached dully, more of a persistent annoyance than true pain, and he let his thoughts drift.

A soft knock on the door snapped Yohji back to reality. Omi stuck his head inside, looked left to right, and then came in. "Chibi, I warn you now, if you’re here to abuse me some more I will tie you up and leave you as a present for Schwarz."

"No, I’ll wait til you’re feeling better and then make you suffer for today. I take it Aya’s in the shower?"

"Yeah." Yohji sat up in bed while Omi settled on the couch.

"How’s your leg feeling?"

"Not bad." Yohji scratched his chest and stubbed out his cigarette. "Listen, Omi, I want to talk to you about something. It’s about Mastermind." For a second there was a flash of emotion on Omi’s face, but with the sun setting and no lights on in the room Yohji was left wondering if it had been a trick of shadows. When he blinked his eyes, the teenager appeared perfectly normal. "Keep an eye on Aya for me. I don’t want him to be alone for a single second, not with the Bastard out there waiting to mess with his head some more. He tends to stay away when Aya’s with other people."

Omi nodded his head. "I can arrange it that he never leaves my side tonight. He’s still a bit bruised, so he shouldn’t go off on his own. I doubt that Kritiker will have us do anything other than recon until you’re healed."

"Great. Any idea why this ring refuses to throw in the towel? I thought they were supposed to fold when we took the leader out."

"No, from what I can make out from the reports the second in command, Umemoto, played a bigger part in the organization than was suspected. He’s why there was some data missing from the computer system, apparently he has some of the files Kritiker wants on his PC. Once Weiß is back to full strength, we’ll be taking on the ring again."

Which wasn’t a happy thought, considering the latest development. "That means Schwarz as well, since they seem to be working together now. This assignment just gets more and more fun," Yohji grumbled as he lit another cigarette. Somehow he doubted he’d have to worry about lung cancer. But an inevitable face off with the freaks meant he’d have a shot at Mastermind. Guess there was a little good in the whole damn situation.

Standing to his feet, Omi flashed him a wry grin. "Well, consider this a lesson as to what happens when you mess things up. Now I have to get going and check on dinner. You hungry?"

"Yeah, I worked up a bit of an appetite this afternoon." The sated grin back on his lips, Yohji gestured to the empty plate and coffee mug and asked Omi to take the dishes with him. The boy agreed, and just as he opened the door Aya walked in with a curious look on his face.

"Ah, Aya-kun, it’s good to see you looking so well. I have supper on, and we’ll go over the mission specs then." Omi waved goodbye and left.

Yohji scooted to the end of the bed and gestured for his boyfriend to sit down in front of him. When Aya complied, he snatched up the towel the man was holding and used it to dry the wet mop of hair. When he was finished, Yohji dropped the towel and wrapped his arms about Aya. The pale man seemed a bit quiet once more, as he’d been earlier. "Are you worried about tonight?"


"Okay." Stupid question, as if Aya would ever admit to being upset over a mission. "Are you sure that something’s not bothering you?"

Aya didn’t say a word, just rested back in Yohji’s arms as he combed his fingers through the man’s hair. "I guess someone had his talking quota for the day." Yohji knew better than to keep prying, otherwise he’d cause Aya to shut up for good. He didn’t want to lose the ground he’d made today. "Well, you know where I’ll be if you want to talk. And be careful tonight, or I’ll kick your ass when you come home."

"Hn." Aya rose to his feet and walked over to the closet, pulling on some boxers and his mission pants. For his part, Yohji reclined back in bed, hating the thought that he had to remain home tonight. Mastermind better not try a damn thing or he’d track the man down, on crutches if need be and permanently remove one problem from his life.


Aya held his katana in his right hand and looked up at the sky. Weiß was perched on one of several water towers, staring down on railroad tracks as they waited for Umemoto and his men to show up. A train was supposed to arrive containing a shipment of weapons that night.

Omi was seated beside him, working on a school assignment on his pc while they waited. Ken was stalking across the narrow walkway that surrounded the water tank, flexing his fists repeatedly. Aya could feel when the brown eyes rested on him, making him want to shiver from the malice directed his way. Something had changed the way Hidaka thought about him, and he was afraid he knew what it was. During the mission debriefing the man had made several more comments about Aya knowing about things before they happened, interrupting Omi a few times to get Aya’s opinion on something. He hadn’t said a word, and a kick from the younger teenager had finally made Ken shut up.

What he couldn’t understand was why Ken wasn’t saying anything to Omi or Yohji. Not that the two men wouldn’t figure out something was wrong if the athlete continued to treat him this way. Then he’d have more hate and anger directed his way. Aya closed his eyes as he thought of Yohji looking at him as Ken was doing right now. It hurt too much to even think about. Would the new understanding they’d reached bear this pressure? He didn’t know, and the sound of Schuldig’s mocking laughter filled his head, along with Cassandra’s voice, telling him that Yohji did love him. It was so hard to figure out who to believe.

"Abyssinian, they’re here. Siberian, get down." Aya hunched down further on the metal catwalk as he opened his eyes, and felt Hidaka’s body heat as the assassin settled next to him. Omi put his computer away and pulled down his goggles, using the special lenses to enhance his vision.

"Tell me again why we’re sitting up here, open targets, and doing nothing?" Ken’s voice was thick with anger as he stared at the line of vehicles pulling up to the train tracks. Among the half a dozen trucks were a limousine and a sleek, black sedan. Aya wasn’t surprised when Umemoto got out of the limo, or Schu, Oracle and Prodigy from the sedan.

He watched intently as the paranormals stood clustered together, paying no attention to the smugglers. Aya waited for a flare of anger or hate upon seeing Schu, but all he felt was a longing ache as he smelled cherry blossoms. How the hell had the man messed with his mind this badly?

<Who said I messed with it at all? Maybe your emotions changed all on their own.>

Aya could feel it when a pair of green eyes shifted his way, and knew that Schu was smiling at him. He bared his teeth in response. ‘Don’t even try to lie to me, Sch- Mastermind. If you hadn’t done something, I’d still be hating you.’

"Shit, am I imaging things, or is Mastermind looking right at us?"

"Siberian, get back down right now! Stop being so paranoid."

<But there’s no reason for you to hate me. I wasn’t the instigator of any of your troubles, merely the tool that carried some of them out. You’re just coming to your senses finally.> A phantom caress ran along his cheek, making the pale skin tingle in pleasure.

His body trembling, Aya stared down at the telepath, unable to tear his eyes away. He was oblivious to the train arriving and the wooden crates being telekinetically loaded into the trucks. ‘Everything you say is a lie.’

<No, not everything. Not when I said that I love you, or that Kudoh will betray you. Or that your teammates will hate you when they find out what you really are. Three simple truths right there, mein weisse Kamelie. Why are you so afraid of them?>

‘You fucking bastard.’ The anger had finally surfaced, but lacked its usual fire, as it was not being fueled by hate.

The green eyes closed a moment then stared back at him, almost glowing in the night. <Most likely. I never claimed I was anything else. I don’t cloak my true nature in denial, telling myself that although I might be a murderer, it’s all for a good cause and hence all right. The only thing that separates us anymore, precious Aya, is the tiny sliver of conscience that you hold onto. What good will it do you, when your teammates and lover won’t remain by your side? You’ll be all alone one day, and even a ‘fucking bastard’ will be welcome company.>

"He keeps staring our way, Bombay!"

"But nothing’s happening, so calm down! Don’t draw any attention to us."

"It’s too fucking late for that! Abyssinian… Abyssinian, damn you, stop looking at him."

The vision from the alley swelled Aya’s thoughts until everything else faded away. Once more the air was thick with the scent of cherry blossoms, with a hint of expensive cologne and cigarettes. In it he could taste the clove cigarettes on Schu’s tongue and he wrapped his legs tight around the man’s waist, pulling him closer. Aya needed his presence, needed the reassurances Schu gave him…

A slap to his face shattered the vision. Aya raised a hand to his cheek and stared at Ken, struggling to make his face its normal imperturbable mask. The other assassin stared back at him, his mouth opening and closing, and finally asked in a small voice if he was okay.

"He knows I’m here." Aya didn’t want to look down at the telepath, didn’t want to see the face that had been smiling at him moments before in the vision, but found himself glancing at him anyway.

"Is Schwarz coming for us?" Omi asked.

<No, we’re not in the mood to chase after kitties stuck in a tree. Think hard, Aya, on who it was who hurt you today, and who tried to spare you pain.> Schuldig started to back up to the car, now that the weapons were unloaded. He never broke eye contact with Aya the entire time. It dawned on the redhead that none of the smugglers seemed to notice that someone in their midst had his attention focused on the water tower. Instead, the men just piled back in the trucks, until only Schwarz was left standing outside. <Don’t try to follow us, kitties. We’ll find time to play later.> Schuldig waved and blew him a kiss before sliding into the car.

"They’re just… letting us go? What the hell is going on here?" Ken stood to his feet and headed for the stairs as he asked the question. Aya followed him, his head aching as the scent of cherry blossoms refused to fade away. Omi quickly packed up his pc and trailed after the older men.

A rapid scan revealed no one left behind to stop them, and Omi quickly relayed the direction he’d seen the targets leave in over his cell phone. The three of them hurried to Aya’s car, determined not to lose the trucks. When they came to the Porsche, hidden behind an empty rail car and covered with a dark tarp, a flat tire immediately attracted their attention.

"Shit, the bastards sabotaged it. When the hell did they manage that?" Ken kicked the deflated tire as he ripped the tarp away. "Fuck, we should have taken them on while they were here!"

"And what, been killed instantly? They would’ve seen us coming for them, and Prodigy could’ve held us still while Umemoto’s men shot us full of holes," Omi retorted, his voice laden with uncharacteristic anger. "Besides, our mission was recon only. We can confirm that the ring received the weapons, and that they are still enlisting Schwarz’s help; someone else can track the trucks."

For his part, Aya didn’t say a word as he set about changing the tire. There was no way he could drive his car over the rough terrain until it was replaced, unless he wanted to rip out the suspension after a kilometer or two. He opened the trunk and pulled out the jack and spare, wincing a little as his ribs protested for the first time that day.

He had the jack on the ground when Ken swatted his hands off it. "Get out of the way, you’re in no shape to do this. Let the jock handle it." It didn’t take the brunet very long to change the tire, aided by the fact that Aya kept the wheel lug nuts in good shape and greased. In a matter of minutes the jack and flat tire were tucked into the trunk.

Opening the car’s door, Aya instantly smelled flowers. On his seat was a beautiful arrangement of tuberose, cherry blossoms and camellias. He touched the flowers with a shaking hand, for a moment wondering how Schu had found the cherry blossoms. They were months out of season.

It wasn’t until Omi touched a white petal that he remembered he wasn’t alone. Clutching the flowers in his left hand, Aya slid into his seat.

"They’re… they’re from _him_, aren’t they?"


Omi reached from the cramped back seat to grab the flowers. "Don’t touch them, they could be booby trapped!"

// Think hard, Aya, on who it was who hurt you today, and who tried to spare you pain.// "They’re not."

A hand grabbed Aya by his left shoulder and jerked him around as he tried to start the car. "How the hell can you be so sure? This is Mastermind we’re dealing with."

He stared coldly at Ken. "I’d be more concerned about there being a bomb in the car than anything in the flowers. Besides, it’s not his style to do that."

"Yeah, he prefers blowing up bigger things, like buildings," Omi snidely commented. About to shift the car into gear, Aya rested his head on the steering wheel for a moment. Even with that painful comment about his past, the hate was nowhere to be found. He was so fucked.

"Ayan, I’m sorry for mentioning that." Omi touched his hair, causing Aya to jerk away from the boy’s hand. Blue eyes regarded him intently for a minute. "What did he say to you back there? The two of you were talking, weren’t you?"

Scrubbing a hand over his face, Aya put the car into gear and started back to the Koneko. "It was just the usual lies from him." He didn’t need to glance over to see how tense Ken was beside him, hate all but radiating off the brunet. Hate for Schuldig, and now for him as well. All because of an accident of birth, gifting him with powers he never asked for. No, Schu didn’t need to hurt him this time, fate was doing quite a good job of that on its own.

The rest of the ride passed in silence, all three young men lost in their thoughts as they returned home. Once they reached the highway the flowers were tossed out a window, scattering petals in their wake.


Yohji stroked his hand through Aya’s hair as he watched his lover sleep. Every now and then the redhead would toss about and mumble under his breath, but the touch seemed to soothe him and he’d grow quiet once more. Twirling an eartail around his fingers, Yohji took another swig of whiskey.

Omi had told him what had happened that evening while Aya had stood under the shower for almost an hour. When Aya had finally finished and come into the bedroom, he’d said to Yohji that Mastermind had talked to him that evening, repeated a bit of their conversation, and refused to say anything else. Then the smaller man had curled up under the sheets, hair still dripping wet and had immediately fallen asleep, as if desperate to escape from reality in one way or another. It was also likely he was trying to avoid another fight.

So much for keeping his boyfriend safe by not leaving him alone for a moment. Taking another hit from the bottle, Yohji closed his eyes as his teeth ground together. Just when he thought he had come up with a solution of sorts, the Bastard had to thumb his nose at him as if laughing at his ass.

Why did it seem as if Fate was determined to take away any and all of his happiness? Yeah he was a killer, but he tried to make the world a better place with his sins, not worse. He deserved Aya for the hell that his life had become, not to lose the man to a hated enemy. There was no way he was going to let that happen. Yohji hadn’t been able to keep Asuka safe and by his side, and the pain of that failure still gnawed at him to this day. If he lost Aya, he’d have nothing to live for.

So he’d watch over his kitten for a little longer, making sure he was sleeping normally. Then tomorrow Yohji wasn’t going to leave the redhead’s side, not even for a single damn minute. Aya would likely kill him for that, but tough shit. He already had the ghost of one lover haunting him, he’d be damned if he let another join in.

When he did finally fall asleep, Yohji was tormented by dreams of a dead and rotting Asuka, hardly more than rags of skin on bleached bones, holding him trapped in a lake of blood as Schuldig carried a sleeping Aya away in his arms. As he cried out Aya’s name, he heard the princess’s voice and turned to see her standing at the shore with a look of sorrow on her face.

"One and three, fair knight, or two and four. The black birds flutter about your head, omens of despair and hope. The crossroads lie not far ahead, and your decision looms before you. Two of you have bled, Fate waits for one more. Then you’ll see how tied you are, green and gold and red."

"Help me dammit, don’t just babble nonsense. Make him bring Aya back."

Grey eyes regarded him sadly as he struggled to free himself from Asuka’s grasp. "So sorry, I am so sorry. Tied my hands are, as should be my tongue. Watch him, knight, watch him as he dreams. You’ll soon understand what fate has in store should you choose odds over evens. The birds will not leave you be; a choice must be made. Blood and more binds you to him, think hard before you sever those ties. Once cast asunder, they may never be regained once more." The longhaired woman turned her back to him and walked in the direction that Mastermind had gone, ignoring Yohji’s cries.

He fell deeper into the pool of warm blood, the feel of dried leather and teeth against his cheek as Asuka graced him with a cruel parody of a kiss. "We’ll be together again soon, Yotan, joined forever in death and madness. I can hardly wait." Yohji slid beneath the blood’s surface, drowning in it as Asuka held him tight.


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