Bleed

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chapter 7

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by nekojita

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Omi stifled a yawn as he left the bathroom, feeling only slightly more awake after taking a shower. He’d spent another night tossing about on his bed, suffering nightmares where his teammates abandoned him after branding him a traitor. At the very least, it would require something along the lines of a couple cups of coffee before he felt fully human and be able to face his classmates. Omi could deal with the lack of sleep for one or two nights, but not several in a row. Between the events of the past week and the nightmares that had taken to tormenting him after that session with Arai, Omi wasn’t getting much sleep at all. As he walked down the hall, he noticed that the door to Yohji and Aya’s room was open and a light was on inside. When he neared the door, he could faintly hear some music.

Poking his head into the room, Omi found Yohji sitting upright and leaning against the bed’s headboard. Aya was curled up beside him, his head resting in the blond’s lap. Bloodshot eyes met his and Yohji waved him inside. Omi quietly approached the bed and sank down on the edge of it.

"Yohji, is something wrong?" Aya hadn’t moved a muscle the entire time, not even when the mattress had shifted. Normally the redhead woke up at any sound or movement near him.

"Aya had another of his attacks, chibi." Yohji removed the cigarette dangling from his lips and ground it out in an overflowing ashtray. That explained why the air in there was so thick with smoke a person could cut it with a knife. Yohji stroked a hand through Aya’s hair as he rubbed his eyes. "It was a bad one, but at least we figured something out last night; the Bastard’s behind these migraines of his."

It took a moment for the words to sink in and make sense in Omi’s tired mind. "What? Aya’s migraines? How is Mastermind responsible for those?" The telepath had mentioned something to him about Aya’s power causing the headaches, that and not taking his medication. Then Omi felt like smacking himself. When had he become stupid enough to trust Mastermind at his word?

"He’s been sending Aya these dreams about me leaving him." Resting his head against the backboard, Yohji sighed and reached for his cigarettes. "That’s why Aya thinks I’m going to betray him, and I’m willing to bet that’s why he’s been acting so weird lately. The Bastard’s twisting his mind during the damn things and making him forget about the dreams. Hell, if I hadn’t woken up at the right moment last night he’d have gotten away with it. I’d just think that Aya was having another of his migraines and keep on wondering what was affecting him." Yohji paused to light a cigarette then entwined a crimson eartail around the fingers in his left hand.

"He was getting to Aya, that’s the scary part. Aya woke up convinced that I’d left him for someone else; the dream was that real. Now he’s all conked out on his meds." Blowing out a lungful of smoke, Yohji grinned ruefully at Omi. "Sorry, Omittchi, but neither of us are gonna be able to work today."

"It’s okay, Yohji-kun. Ken should be able to handle the first half of the day, and I was looking for an excuse to miss that music recital, so I’ll come back and help him with the after lunch crowd." Omi made a face and stuck out his tongue to show just what he thought of his classmates’ playing ability but only received a ghost of a smile in response. He gazed worriedly at Yohji for a minute, taking in how tired the older man appeared.

"Are you okay? Do you want me to bring you anything? Maybe some coffee or a bite to eat?"

Yohji shook his head. "Nah, I’m gonna go back to sleep now that I’ve caught you. Didn’t get much last night for some reason," Yohji spat out bitterly. He stubbed out his cigarette and started to shift down the bed, making sure to keep Aya close beside him the entire time as he laid down. "I can’t believe I fucking didn’t see the connection for so long. Great detective my ass."

Unsure of what he was supposed to say, especially when he himself had never thought about Mastermind being behind Aya’s migraines, even when he knew more about the situation than anyone suspected, Omi patted Yohji’s shoulder and tucked a sheet around him. "I better get going then. I’ll check back before I leave for school, just in case you do need something."

"Hm, the head of a certain German prick on a silver tray would be nice, but that’s about it. Sorry about you missing school, Omi. I’ll write an excuse for you later today."

Omi smiled reassuringly at his friend. "Really, Yohji-kun, it’s alright. Besides, I’ll get to spend some time alone with Ken. Now get some rest, you look almost as bad as Aya." There were dark circles under the emerald eyes, and Yohji looked much older than his age. Quietly leaving the room and closing the door behind him, Omi walked downstairs to the kitchen deep in thought.

Kritiker wasn’t going to be happy to hear that Weiß was down to only two agents fit for active duty, even if all they were doing was recon. However, he could get some payback of his own and twist things to make Arai take the blame for the situation. He’d report that Aya was severely stressed by his approaching appointment with the psychiatrist, which had triggered another of his migraines. It would be more proof of how the woman was detrimental to Weiß’s, and especially Aya’s, well-being.

Once in the kitchen Omi started to brew some coffee. While he’d come up with a suitable cover story, the fact still remained that Mastermind was, in all intents and purposes, brainwashing Aya. Why the German was going about it in such a roundabout manner was beyond him, but Omi had to admit that he was definitely getting some results. Aya’s behavior in the train yard the other night had been disturbing to see. No wonder Yohji was so worried, especially if the man’s lover was being made to doubt him.

As the coffee brewed Omi made himself a light breakfast, needing the energy to help him get through the day. With everything that had been happening lately, his stomach wasn’t in the mood for much, so he settled for some miso soup and fresh fruit. Shortly after he started to eat, Ken entered the room.

"Morning," the brunet mumbled as he made straight for the coffee machine. As soon as a mug was poured Ken started to drink it down, not bothering to add any sugar to it or let it cool. When the mug was emptied he wiped his mouth and poured himself some more.

"Man, I’m still tasting the dust from crawling around that warehouse last night. Yech."

Omi rose to his feet and fetched a bowl of soup for his teammate. The smile Ken graced him with warmed him through, making him happy for the first time since he’d woken up that morning. It made Omi think back on their stroll in the park yesterday, when all they’d really done was walk very close to each other and comment on the people and things around them. It had been a refreshing breath of normalcy, made all the more precious by Ken’s presence.

Then he remembered the two lovers upstairs. "Ken, you’re going to have to manage the Koneko on your own today, until I can get out of school early. I hope to be here by noon, maybe earlier."

Ken’s eyes first went wide and then narrowed at that bit of news. "Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the two lovebirds’ excuse today? Yohji have a relapse during the night from too much sex or something?"

"No, it’s sorta the other way around. Aya had another of his migraines and will probably be in bed all day." Omi paused to fetch himself some more coffee. "Yohji wants to stay with him today because… it seems that Mastermind is behind the migraines. Yohji said something about him twisting Aya’s dreams without him knowing about it."

Ken remained silent for a moment, anger flashing across his face as he gripped his mug tight, and then he sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Dreams, huh? I… alright, I’ll open the shop by myself. You don’t have to skip class if you don’t want to, I can probably handle things alone. At least we don’t need any arrangements done for weddings or funerals, or any ikebana ones. Those are all out of my league."

"Nothing special is going on at school, so it won’t be a problem to leave early. I’ll work on the more complex arrangements as soon as I get back. Besides, you shouldn’t have to face the fan girl mob all on your own." There was no way he was going to let the girls touch _his_ Ken. Omi patted him on the shoulder. "You’re not mad at Yohji or Aya, are you?" He remembered the athlete’s odd behavior towards Aya the day before.

"Nah, I just wish Mastermind would drop dead and quit causing us so many damn problems." Ken brooded for a moment then offered Omi a tender smile. "I just have to keep in mind that it’s all his fault. You better get going if you want to make it to school on time."

Glancing over at the clock, Omi bit back on a yelp when he saw the time. It would help matters if he made it on time for his first class, considering the fact that he would be leaving early. Smiling thankfully at Ken, he dashed back up the stairs to his room.

A quick change later and his schoolbag in hand, Omi hurried down the hall. He paused in front of Yohji and Aya’s room, and after an internal debate peeked inside the room. Yohji had fallen asleep with Aya curled up at his side. Guess he didn’t need anything other than some rest. Omi quietly closed the door and snuck downstairs, not wanting to wake the men up.

Ken must have gone down to the Koneko to get the shop ready, since there was no one in the kitchen. Grateful that he didn’t have to worry about making himself lunch that day, Omi hurried out the door and hopped onto his bike. As he wove in and out of traffic, he recalled Arai’s words to him, her insinuations that he was a traitor to Weiß. It wasn’t as if he’d had much choice but to spy on his teammates in the beginning; he’d only been following orders. Having been all but raised by the organization, Omi knew just how ruthless his employers could be and wasn’t about to jeopardize his and anyone else’s life by refusing an order. Later on he’d continued to report, albeit with a few minor edits, mainly because if he didn’t, someone else would. Someone who might not be so understanding of Yohji’s whoring and partying, of Ken’s refusal to accept that he had no right to any life outside of Weiß, of Aya’s rash actions. No, he’d been keeping his friends safe by sending his edited reports in.

He had also believed that he’d been doing what was best for Aya with his secret arrangement with Mastermind. The swordsman possessing a talent put the whole team at risk, and Omi had done whatever was necessary to make sure that Kritiker never found out what exactly their agent was. He even went so far as to make a deal with the devil. Mastermind wanted Aya for himself, that had been a known quantity for Omi to work around and manipulate, or so he thought. As long as the telepath kept Aya safe, he’d been willing to work with the man, but only up to a point. However, Omi had made a mistake in thinking that all Mastermind would do was suppress Aya’s talent. He should have expected something like the dreams, should have been the one to make the connection when the redhead had started to act all funny.

Instead, all Omi could think about was of that time in the hospital after Aya-chan’s abduction. He hadn’t been able to do a single thing when Aya had unleashed his power, and neither had Yohji. Only Mastermind had been able to take control of the situation.

The sound of a horn honking behind him shook Omi from his thoughts. He sped through the now green light he’d been sitting at and resisted the urge to shake his head. His thoughts were getting him nowhere. Mastermind needed to die, of that there was no doubt, but could Weiß control Aya after that happened? Could they keep the man safe? Whatever happened to Aya, Omi was certain that Yohji would be by his side the whole time or die being pried away. So it affected half the team, really. The loss of one friend would be hard enough, but there was no way he was going to lose two-thirds of his family. Omi just had to pray that a suitable solution offered itself to him sometime soon.

*******

The smell of cigarette smoke filled his nostrils, making Aya choke. As he drifted awake, he became aware of pain and nausea, the latter growing stronger with each breath he took. Trying to shift away from the source of the smell, the motion made Aya’s head hurt even more, which in return made the nausea grow stronger. He made a gagging sound as he tried to control his rebellious stomach.

"Shit, Aya, not in bed!"

Aya found himself suddenly jerked upright and lost the battle with his stomach. Luckily, a trashcan was placed in his lap moments before he threw up. Clutching the receptacle weakly, Aya let the heaves wrack his body until there was nothing at all left in his stomach. He then became aware of a hand stroking through his sweat-dampened hair and gagged again. Damn Yohji and his cigarettes. The man had to be trying to kill him.

"What, aren’t you done yet?"

"Kudoh…" Aya tried breathing through his mouth and telling his stomach that there was nothing left to throw up. "Cigarettes."

"Huhn? Oh shit, sorry." There was the sound of one of the damn sticks being ground out, and Aya tried to sink back down on the bed. However, even the sheets reeked of tobacco, causing his mouth to flood with saliva. He swallowed quickly and tried to distract himself with the image of force-feeding Yohji a whole damn pack of the things.

The hand, reeking of smoke, returned to comb his hair, and Aya tried to avoid it by curling into a tight ball. There was a muttered curse and then the covers on top of him were tossed aside and Aya found himself being picked up. Opening his eyes to glare, he immediately closed them when the bright sunlight caused him pain. It was his turn to mutter as he was dropped onto his feet and led out of the bedroom, too busy trying to remain upright and not be sick again to put up a fight.

The next thing he knew he was being pushed into the bathtub, the porcelain cold against his skin. Aya shivered as his sweatshirt was yanked over his head, then he was lifted enough for his boxers to be pulled off. Yohji then turned on the hot water.

"I’m dirty." He was sweaty and most likely covered with vomit. Aya didn’t like soaking in the tub until after he showered off first, trying to make the best of a Western style bathroom. Whoever had remodeled the bathroom here had to have been either a foreigner or perverse. Though it was his secret belief that the renovation had most likely been done just to torment him.

"Hence the bath. Sorry, love, no chance in hell of you taking a shower at the moment with both of us in such lousy shape; you’ll have to make do with this." There was a rustle of clothes, sounding loud to Aya’s over acute senses, and then a warm body joined him in the tub.

If Yohji hadn’t reeked of cigarettes it would have been nice to lean against him, but as the man became wet the smell intensified, making Aya feel sick again. Then the scent of lavender overcame the stench as something soft and wet was rubbed against his chilled skin.

"Let’s first get you then me cleaned up." A kiss was pressed to the back of his neck. "I’m sorry, Aya, I forgot how sensitive you are to smells when you’re sick like this. Guess it didn’t help that I pretty much went through a whole pack last night and this morning." Yohji gently washed him, and all Aya did was lean forward to rest his head against his knees and close his eyes.

The scent of cherries filled the room when Yohji washed his hair, using the detachable shower nozzle to wet it for him. Then the blond quickly washed himself off and pulled out the drain. Aya shivered as the hot water vanished, but Yohji held him close and brushed back his wet hair.

The nozzle was sprayed again, and then the rinsed tub started to refill. Yohji used some more of his bath supplies to fill the tub with lavender scented bubbles, and the two of them reclined, Aya cushioned against his lover’s chest. His head still hurt like hell, but at least he could feel Yohji against him and be assured that his lover was still near him.

A hand combed through his hair and rubbed his temples. "Aya, do you remember what happened last night?"

"Bad dream." All he wanted to do was fall back asleep, but then Aya recalled why that wasn’t such a good idea. A bit of anger directed at a certain foreigner helped to wake him up. "You said Schuldig was messing with my dreams."

"Yeah, I think he was." Yohji held him close and pressed a kiss against his forehead. "That wasn’t me, you know. In the dreams. The whole thing about me leaving you was one big lie."

"Hn." Figures the idiot would try to convince Aya of that fact when it hurt too much to think, hence ensuring that Yohji won an argument for once. His fears and doubts remained with him, but they were buried under the enjoyment of having Yohji near him and holding him tight. Schu messing with his dreams did help to explain things, but Aya didn’t feel like dealing with the problem at the moment. Not with his head hurting this badly.

One of his eartails was tugged on. "You better know that. I’ve gotten all of two hours of sleep since you woke me up and I need to run to the store later for more cigarettes since I smoked all of mine while I was awake and worried all night."

"Yohji, don’t even mention the damn things." Aya didn’t want to think of the vile, smelly sticks until his stomach stopped threatening to heave at any moment.

All the blond did was hum in response and trace lazy circles along Aya’s chest. The touch felt nice, a constant reminder that Yohji was with him, and the two of them remained in the bathtub until the water started to cool. Aya was then jostled upright when Yohji crawled out of the tub. A moment later he was jerked out of it.

A towel was rubbed against him for a minute while another was wrapped around him. Aya found himself pushed down onto the rim of the tub and a glass of water placed in one of his hands. Someone sure as hell seemed to enjoy bossing him around when he was too tired and sick to strike back at the audacity.

"Here, take these, your face is getting all scrunchy from the pain again. I’m gonna get us something to wear and start airing out the room."

Swallowing the pills, Aya breathed through his mouth for a few moments as he convinced his stomach to keep down the water and medication. His headache had gotten worse the whole time he’d been awake, and he was tired of the pain. Hopefully the things would kick in soon and he’d fall asleep before the urge to kill a fussing Yohji overwhelmed him. He rose to his feet and relieved himself, leaning half against the wall as he did so. Gods, he fucking hated how weak he felt after these attacks, all courtesy of Schu. He was going to kill the prick when he saw him next. While he still couldn’t hate the man, Aya was managing to work up an impressive amount of anger towards him.

His headache flared again as he felt hands stroking along his body and heard endearments whispered in his ear, spoken in German. Aya shoved the thoughts away and sunk to the floor, telling himself that they were just lies. Schuldig was just trying to manipulate him, to use him for his power, and he wasn’t going to give in to the man.

"Hey, what the hell are you doing on the floor? I can’t leave you alone for one second, can I?" Aya was roughly hauled upright and leaned against the wall once more. Yohji combed back his bangs and peered intently at his face. "You okay?"

Of course he wasn’t, he was totally fucked and didn’t have a single clue what to do about the situation. But all Aya did was nod his head the tiniest bit and glared at his boyfriend, who frowned back at him and pushed something onto his head.

"What?"

"Che. They’re called clothes, Aya. We need to get you dressed; you’re shivering like it’s freezing in here or something. Come on, help me a little here." Aya held up his arms and let the cashmere sweater, one of Yohji’s, slide down his chest. Fortunately it had just come back from the cleaners and didn’t smell like cigarettes.

Next came a pair of boxers and his black cotton pants. Yohji reached out into the hallway and grabbed, of all things, a thick blanket from their cedar chest and wrapped it around him. As soon as Aya was completely enveloped in the thing he was bustled out into the hall and down the steps. He had to clutch at the railing to keep from falling down headfirst and spared a dirty look towards his lover’s way.

Yohji snaked an arm around his shoulders and helped steady him, smiling in the face of the glare he was receiving. "You know, I could be as mean as you and say that if you fall, I’ll leave you lying on the floor. But I could never do that to my sweet little kitten." Aya wished he had the energy to snarl as furiously as he wanted to, but only managed to sputter a bit. Which only added to his growing temper. Schuldig had to be made to pay for this.

He was led to the couch and pushed down onto it, Yohji immediately curling up beside him. The older man urged him to stretch out until the two of them were lying there on their sides with Aya pressed against Yohji’s chest. The furniture smelled of smoke, but not as badly as the bedroom had. Aya sighed and tucked his head under Yohji’s chin, enjoying the man’s body heat and the scent of lavender.

Lying here like this, the pain wasn’t so bad. The thought of spending the day on the couch, close to Yohji and too tired to concentrate on his various problems wasn’t a bad one, either. It was a nice break from worrying about his sister, Schuldig, work and the psychiatric sessions….

Aya closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His sessions with Arai, he’d forgotten all about them. He had to go back tomorrow, had to face the woman again after she’d talked to the others and had no doubt found new things to torment him with. But what made it that much more difficult to face was that in the past Schu had been masking his emotions, had distracted him and prevented Arai from realizing what her jibes did to him. What was he going to do now? He’d rather spend an evening out on a date with each and every member of his fan club from the Koneko than accept the German’s help again.

"Hmm, you’re all tense. What the hell are you thinking about?" Yohji massaged his shoulders, sliding his warm hands underneath the blanket and Aya’s sweater. He shivered at the touch.

"Arai and Schuldig."

"Gah, that sounds depressing as hell. Stop it." Aya’s head was tilted upward and he found himself being kissed. Yohji’s tongue slid into his mouth, lazily flicking about until Aya relaxed and kissed him back. They remained like that for several minutes, and when they broke apart Yohji smiled at him.

"You look exhausted, why don’t you get some sleep? I can use some too, so I think I’ll do the same. Just don’t dream of anything other than me ravishing you silly, okay?"

Weakly jabbing the blond in the ribs, Aya hn’ed and closed his eyes. The medication tugged at him, urging him to sleep, and hopefully it would help prevent any nightmares or dream visits. Knowing his luck, Aya wasn’t holding his breath.

*******

Schuldig sat at an outdoor table at the café across from the Koneko. After concentrating for a moment he leaned back in his chair, making sure that his sunglasses were firmly settled on his face. His hair was pulled back in a ponytail, its distinctive color hidden by a blue bandana. He sipped his coffee for several minutes, his green eyes riveted on the front of the flowershop. It wasn’t long before the man-whore slinked out the door and limped down the street, heading out for cigarettes. Hate filled eyes followed Kudoh’s progress until he disappeared around a corner.

That was his cue. Schuldig rose to his feet and focused his power once again, doing his best to ignore a faint headache as he did so. With the rest of the Weiß kitties suitably distracted, he sneaked around back and entered the building through the kitchen door. Once inside, he made his way to the living room, searching out one kitty in particular. His, to be exact.

Ah, there he was. Aya was curled up on the couch, fast asleep. His tuberose appeared paler than normal, dark circles around his eyes and his lips tugged into a frown. Crossing the room, Schuldig fell to his knees before the couch and leaned down to kiss the smaller man’s lips.

For a moment he was kissed back, Aya’s power recognizing him and straining against its bounds at his presence. Then a pair of violet eyes fluttered open and Schuldig spat out a curse when teeth snapped down on his tongue. Holding a hand to his mouth, he fell backwards onto his ass, Aya following him off the couch. The Japanese man had his hands outstretched as if to grab or choke him, but was too weak to do more than paw at his chest. All Schuldig felt from the man was anger and pain. Guess someone was a bit miffed by finding out about the dreams. He’d come here to see if a little damage control was necessary, and it seemed it was.

Schuldig reached out and grabbed Aya, jerking the other man onto his chest and holding him tightly against him to prevent him from escaping. Aya cursed and tried to hit him instead.

"Let go of me you bastard! Shi-ne! Yohji!"

"Great, we’re back to being shi-ne’d. What the hell is your problem? And stop yelling, I’ve made sure that they can’t hear you downstairs. Besides, your boyfriend decided that a smoke was more important than you and took off for a pack. Screaming is going to accomplish nothing but giving you an even worse headache. Calm down before you hurt yourself. "

Well, it was an improvement of sorts to be glared at as if he’d just sprouted another head or something rather than receiving a look furious enough to kill. Aya actually stopped struggling for a moment, and Schuldig used the lull in his attack to shove Aya back against the couch and pin him in place. The puzzled look directed his way turned back into a potent glare.

"You fucking bastard, you’ve been messing with my dreams. What the hell have you done to me?"

Oh, Aya was more than pissed about the dreams, judging from the emotions he was picking up off the man. It had been hard to read his thoughts earlier due to the medication and pain, but they were coming in loud and clear now. "All I’ve done is shown you the future and then let you react to it. I didn’t twist your thoughts, Aya, that was all your doing. All I gave you was a taste of how you’ll feel when Kudoh leaves you-" Schuldig gazed at Aya in shock, spittle running down his face. He couldn’t believe that the other man had actually spat at him.

Growing angry himself, Schuldig telepathically froze Aya’s body, preventing the man from abusing him again as he wiped his cheek. Then he slapped him, snapping Aya’s head to the side with the force of the blow and splitting open the skin over his cheekbone. "Don’t you ever fucking do that again. Who the hell do you think you are? You’re _mine_ and I won’t stand for this shit."

He could feel the precious idiot’s emotions as he just sat there after the blow, the roiling anger and sense of betrayal that filled Aya. The pale man was trying his hardest to hate him, the pain from his injured cheek overwhelming that of his headache for a moment and lending fuel to his anger, but then there was a hint of panic when the hate failed to surface. Schuldig smiled and jerked Aya’s chin back until the man was looking at him.

<You just have to keep fighting this, don’t you? So you found out about the dreams, what are you going to do now? I wasn’t lying, sweet tuberose, I really didn’t twist your thoughts. You chose me all on your own once Kudoh betrayed you. You came to my bed willingly in those dreams, and you _enjoyed_ me fucking you. You thought yourself as my whore and didn’t give a damn. But you aren’t a whore, you’re _mine_. Not just some piece of flesh for me to fuck. That’s why you can’t hate me anymore, because you know I really do care for you. So stop fighting this.>

Violet eyes glared at him, luminous with fury. Schuldig relaxed his control enough to see what new verbal abuse Aya was going to heap on him and wasn’t disappointed. "You’re lying, everything with you is a lie. You wouldn’t even let me remember the dreams, even now I can’t recall more than a few things. This is all one big game to you, to see how much you can twist me. Fucking bastard."

Schuldig stroked his hand along the cheek he’d hit, taking away the pain with a touch as he smiled at the furious man. He could feel an echo of Aya’s headache in his own mind, no matter how much he tried to block out the pain. Their link had progressed to the point that he couldn’t quite block the man out anymore. But as susceptible as he was to Aya now, the other redhead was that much more to him. Even if Aya was beyond pissed at him for the time being, the dreams had done their job and the hate was forever gone. When reality played out the same way, Schuldig would be waiting in that hotel room for his lover to come to him, and the catalyst would be his completely.

"No, no lies. Your own power’s revealed Yohji betraying you, but you refuse to see reason. I can read in your mind what happens when you think of cherry blossoms lately. You taste me on your lips and feel me touching you, loving you, and you’re completely willing. That’s the future Aya, not some fantasy. You need me too much to ever let me go. I’m the only one who understands you, who can satisfy your needs. Why you have to be such a stubborn fool is beyond me." He used his own power to try and soothe Aya’s temper, to calm the man and tamp down his anger.

"You need me, precious, more than you can ever imagine. I’ll never leave you, never toss you aside for someone else." Dammit, Aya was still resisting him, tossing his head to the side to avoid Schuldig’s touch. He felt a stab of anger for a moment but pushed it aside, not willing to let his temper slip its leash again. There wasn’t much time before that cocklicker Kudoh returned, and he had to reverse some of the damage that prick had done to all his hard work last night.

He pulled Aya closer to him, holding onto the man’s chin so he could stare into the violet eyes. "I’m all that keeps your power dormant and cloaked, the person who keeps your employers from finding out the truth about you. I’ve protected you these past couple months, I’ve even helped you against that bitch Arai. For all of this I’ve asked _nothing_, other than to be in your mind and to see you in dreams. Dreams that are a glimpse of the future, not some lie, not some figment of your imagination. Kudoh will break your heart soon, and I’ll be there to put you back together."

"Hn. You’re the one who broke me in the first place. Go to hell, Schu. Go to hell and leave me alone." Aya’s voice was tired and quiet, yet still possessed a spark of anger. Schuldig ground his teeth together in frustration. Some people just didn’t want to listen to reason. Very well, he’d have to do something more drastic to prove his point.

Reaching out with his talent, he flooded Aya’s mind with the image of the two of them kissing in a room scented with cherry blossoms. As soon as Aya was lost in the vision he leaned in and kissed the man, savoring his taste and feel. Schuldig’s anger evaporated when he was kissed back and he released the rest of Aya’s paralysis. Pale hands entangled in his hair immediately afterward, and pleasure thrummed between the two of them. It was so hard not to take the man right then and there, to remember that he had to wait a little longer to have this forever, without any coercion on his part. But Schuldig had always hated to wait.

It would be so very rewarding to remain like this, drinking in his love’s presence and desire until Kudoh returned and found them together, but that wasn’t very practical at the moment. Deep down, Aya was still fighting him and the vision, and he needed to convince the stubborn fool of one or two more things before Kudoh could be made to suffer. Reluctantly pulling away, Schuldig gazed at the confused and angry expression that slowly crept across Aya’s face.

"Now listen to me before you start yelling again. I can read your plans for tomorrow, about you blocking me out. It would be a huge mistake. Arai knows that Kudoh wants you, though I prevented her from finding out his true emotions. There was a reason she saw your teammates, and that’s to have something new to throw at you tomorrow. She’s gotten quite the arsenal prepared for you, guaranteed to rattle you until you break. Without my help she’ll know that you love the Schwanzlutscher, and Kritiker will use that against the both of you."

"I can’t trust you, Schu. Besides, how is she any worse than you? Now get the hell out of here." Aya’s temper had returned, preventing him from hearing reason. Shaking his head at the man’s stubbornness, Schuldig stroked the bruised cheek one more time, smearing the blood dribbling from a cut, before rising to his feet.

"Fine, be that way. You say I only tell you lies – well, you’re wrong. I told you the truth about your lover, and Hidaka as well. Tomorrow Arai is going to do her best to break you, wait and see. Maybe then you’ll realize that I didn’t tell you one lie today, especially about the dreams. You better get used to the fact that you’re mine and that nothing is going to change that fact, mein weisse Kamelie. I can’t wait for that night with the cherry trees, it promises to be… highly fulfilling. Think of me whenever you see or smell them, not that you have a choice. Our night will come to pass regardless of how much you fight fate."

Aya growled softly and tried to force his weak body upright for an attack. All Schuldig did was wave goodbye and blow a kiss when he reached the doorway, which was about the time that Aya finally managed to make it onto his feet. Putting to use his enhanced speed, Schuldig was out of the Koneko before the other redhead got more than a few meters from the couch and fell down. He made sure to turn to the left when he reached the street, not feeling like running into Kudoh at the moment. Schuldig doubted he could refrain from shooting the prick and returning to the shop to snatch Aya. It galled him that he couldn’t just do that and resolve the situation the easy way. Things had to proceed in a certain way if he wanted a willing catalyst in his bed and forcing things any more than he’d already done would jeopardize that. Though, it was hard to keep that thought in mind when he could smell Aya on his skin and taste the man on his lips.

Schuldig made his way home and entered the safehouse, not sparing a word to any of his teammates upon his entrance. Not that anyone noticed. Brad was locked in his office, Nagi was in his room, and Farfie was sitting in front of the television, watching ‘Touched by an Angel’ as he muttered curses in Gaelic and licked his knives.

Making his way to his bedroom, Schuldig removed his green jacket and laid down. As soon as he closed his eyes he sought out a certain psyche, deciding that he wanted a few answers before setting a certain chain of events into motion. Crawford had given him a hint of what would go down tomorrow, but Cassandra would be able to tell him more, seeing as she wasn’t blinded by Aya’s talent like the American was.

When he opened his eyes, Schuldig found himself standing in the middle of a garden. Taking a moment to orient himself, he headed for a particular rosebush. He found it near the cliff, having doubled in size since he’d last seen it. One of his hands reached out and stroked a white petal edged in crimson. The scent of roses and Aya flooded his senses.

"Careful, evil one."

"And a good evening to you too, alte Hexe." Schuldig turned around until he faced the old woman, but he never let go of the rose, even when the thorns started to bite into his scarred palm. "I’ve a few questions for you."

"Yes, yes, you always do. Will there be more threats this time?" Cassandra stood there staring at him defiantly, but her hands twisted in her tattered grey skirts. It made Schuldig wonder what she was worried about, and once again he wished he could read the woman’s mind.

His fingers caged the blossom in his hands, pressing together until more fragrance was released into the air. "How did the Penner figure out the dreams?"

Cassandra sank to the ground, her skirts spreading out around her, and started to weave together strands of grass that she’d plucked. "It is what he does, putting pieces together. Warned you, I did, to not be so zealous with the dreams, but you didn’t heed me. No, you wanted the star child too much to use caution. The Knight has sharp senses and an even sharper mind, and your name on his lover’s lips was enough for him to see what the pieces formed. You’ve influenced Death too much." Grey eyes stared at him reproachfully.

"Not enough, apparently. He’s fighting back against me, trying to deny the future. Our future." Schuldig felt something under his fingers shift, and when he looked down realized that he’d broken loose some of the rose’s petals. He lifted his hand and sniffed the fragrant bits before letting them float off in the breeze. They smelled like Aya.

"I think I need to remind you of our agreement. It’s rather simple, even a nutcase like you should be able to understand it. In return for your death, you give me Aya. No catalyst, and I will make you suffer for the rest of your life, which I guarantee will be a very long one. Keeping that in mind, do you see anything that will prevent our wishes from coming to pass?"

Cassandra didn’t look up from her weaving. "…The Erinyes looms on the horizon, and torments the Knight even now. He will choose, and there will be repercussions of that decision. The cherry trees will bloom, and you will have your heart."

Waiting to see if the madwoman would add anything else, Schuldig stroked a finger along another rose. He noted Cassandra’s reluctance to discuss the matter and promised to devote more attention to both her and it from now on.

"What about my plans for the doctor?"

"There will be blood and madness and death. Proceed as planned, knowing that she chose one and none. Her and the other three. One and none, no twos to be found. That’s your problem."

Schuldig’s brows creased as he stared at the woman. "What the hell are you talking about now?"

"Three. But not the three of the rhyme, but three of the weave." She held up the grass she’d braided together. "One and two you are, sorrow and joy. Evens and odds. Tied you are, entwined together all three. That will be both your sorrow and joy. Remove the one and things unravel, for there is two no more but one and one. For you three there must always be a one with the two, or no two at all." Cassandra tossed her bit of grass at Schuldig.

He caught it in his free hand and gazed down at the weaving for a moment before crushing it. "I don’t have time for this nonsense. Focus on my wish if you want yours to come to be. I want Aya." Schuldig pinched off a rose, frowning when thorns bit into his palm once more. The star shaped scar burned for a moment and his headache returned as he tucked the flower into his jacket’s left breast pocket. "We both seek death."

"Death and blood. Roses have thorns that pierce and tear. Their beauty can only be had at a cost."

Schuldig walked away from the rosebush and crouched in front of Cassandra, grasping her face with his bloody hand. "I don’t care about the cost, I _want_ this particular rose. I’ll make the world awash with blood if I have to for him to be mine, starting tomorrow. Give me what I want or yours will join the flood."

Straightening up, Schuldig inhaled deeply the scent of his prize and then found himself lying on his bed. His scarred hand ached and the aroma of roses clung to him. His mind filled with images of Aya, Schuldig proceeded to rise from the bed and stroll downstairs. When he reached the living room he leaned against the doorway and watched its lone occupant.

"I see you’re in the mood for a bit of blood today, Farfarello."

"Yes." The Irishman didn’t even glance away from the x he was carving into his flesh.

"Good. I think you need to pay your favorite little witch a final visit."

 

*******

Yohji entered the kitchen and tossed his set of keys on the counter before going about putting his few groceries away. He never should have stopped down in the shop before running to the store; he’d been pounced on to get Omi some ice cream and soda and Ken his energy bars. What should have been a fifteen-minute trip had turned into twice that long thanks to the shopping list he’d been given. But at least he got a can of the green tea that Aya liked and some tiramisu ice cream for later, if the man’s stomach was up to eating.

As soon as the goods were put away, Yohji picked up the can and his carton of cigarettes and headed for the living room. Aya had been sleeping when he left, doped up from his medicine, and Yohji had figured that the man would remain unconscious the whole time he was at the store. He’d felt bad leaving his kitten alone, but he’d been craving nicotine terribly and had wanted to stretch his leg a bit. It was amazing how quickly the wound was healing, not even bothering him much for the seven blocks to the store then back again. If anything, he’d limped more when he’d started the walk since the leg had needed a little exercise after lying down all day.

He’d check on Aya, see if the man was awake or not, and if he wasn’t, would go change his shirt, since the first thing he’d done upon leaving the store had been to light up a cigarette. For a moment Yohji idly thought of quitting, but the habit helped to relax him, and now wasn’t exactly a good time to try and break his nicotine addiction, thanks to psychotic telepaths, psychiatrists and scheming employers. Nope, maybe in a month or two he’d reconsider the idea. Though hopefully by then the Bastard would be dead and Aya no longer plagued by the migraines.

The first thing Yohji noticed upon entering the living room was the fact that the couch was empty. Looking around he found Aya sitting on the floor several feet away from it, much like he’d found the man in the bathroom earlier. "What the hell are you doing down there, love?" He tossed the can of tea and his cigarettes onto the recliner and bent down to help Aya up. Had he fallen on his way to the bathroom or something?

Crouching on the floor as he reached out, Yohji noticed that Aya was repeatedly smashing his fists onto the hardwood floor and was refusing to look at him. Letting out a small cry when he noticed a smear of blood, he snatched at Aya’s hands. For a moment the smaller man tried to pull them out of his grip but then stopped struggling. Yohji quickly checked the extent of the damage. The left hand hadn’t fared too badly because the cast had acted like a cushion, but Aya’s right hand was bruised and bleeding from the repeated impacts.

"What the hell’s gotten into you, Aya? Why aren’t you on the couch?" Cradling the bleeding hand in his, Yohji reached out with his other and jerked Aya’s face upward. He wanted an explanation and the silent treatment was starting to piss him off. Why had he fallen in love with such a self-abusing bastard? Violet eyes stared back at him as if he wasn’t there, glittering with some suppressed emotion, and there was more blood to be found on a split and bruised cheek. "What the hell?"

Had Aya fallen trying to get off the couch? Somehow that seemed unlikely. Closer inspection of the bruise that discolored Aya’s left cheek revealed what looked to be a handprint, with a clear delineation between thumb and fingers. It had taken a lot of strength to leave a bruise like that, and Yohji couldn’t see how Aya could have possibly done it to himself.

"What happened while I was gone?" There was no answer, just the blank look that reminded Yohji too much of Aya’s expression after finding his sister gone. He started to shake the redhead, desperate for a response. "Answer me dammit, what happened?"

Aya bared his teeth and grunted at him, his eyes narrowing in anger as they finally focused on him. For a moment he tried to wrench himself from Yohji’s grasp but didn’t have the strength to successfully break his grip. However, the sudden jostling caused Yohji’s injured leg, unhappy at the crouching position it was bent in, to spasm in pain. He fell over to the side, dragging Aya with him.

As painful as the tumble was, it at least provoked a verbal response from Aya. "Get your fucking hands off me." The amount of venom in Aya’s voice shocked Yohji so much that he almost listened to the man before he regained his senses and shook his lover instead.

"What the hell happened, Aya? Who hit you?" He expected more silence and swear words, foreseeing a prolonged battle to get the quiet man to speak again.

Aya surprised him by actually answering the question. "Schuldig came by. You were gone and the others couldn’t hear me. You weren’t here and I couldn’t fight him." Anger and pain were reflected in Aya’s eyes for a moment, his lips pressed tight from the emotions. Then he looked back down at the floor. "I’m sick of this, Kudoh, I’m sick of the mind games." Aya started to pound his right hand into the floor again. "I’m not him anymore, I can fight now and do what needs to be done. Why can’t I fight back when I really want to?"

"Love-"

"Don’t." Aya jerked his hand out of Yohji’s reach and glared at him. "You weren’t here, you never are when he plays his games."

About to point out that his absence was most likely the reason why Mastermind picked those times to torment Aya, Yohji took one look at the man’s face and decided it wasn’t worth it. For the first time in a while his lover was truly angry, probably with both him and the Bastard, so he decided to take it as a good sign. His old Aya was starting to come back. But the words and the implication behind them still hurt.

"Aya… I’m sorry. If I had thought for one moment he would show up, I’d have never left. I’m sorry." Yohji brushed back the bangs falling into Aya’s face and frowned when the man flinched from the fingers touching his injured cheek. Seeking a distraction, Yohji jerked a hand through his hair, tucking it back out of the way as he snorted in anger. "How the hell did he get in here? Omi changed the locks the other day." That was it; they needed a new security system, this time comprised of more than just some supposedly unpickable lock. To hell with arousing Kritiker’s or anyone else’s suspicions. The Bastard had broken in here twice in one week, which was a major cause for concern.

The anger helped keep Yohji’s guilt at bay, due to the fact that he’d been getting fucking cigarettes while Aya had faced Mastermind alone. So much for his vaunted promise to never leave the man’s side. It terrified him, the thought of what could have gone wrong while he’d been gone. He could’ve come home to find Aya gone, or dead, or….

Caught up in his dark thoughts, Yohji didn’t notice Aya pulling away from him until the man sat upright and then shakily stood to his feet. When Yohji rose as well and tried to steady his lover, Aya glared at him and weakly shoved him away. Deciding to give the swordsman some space, he carefully watched as Aya barely made his way to the couch and lay down on it, curling up under the blanket with his back towards the room.

After a moment he quietly went into the kitchen and fetched the small medical kit stashed there. Yohji returned to the living room and stood beside the couch for a couple of minutes, looking down on its half hidden occupant. He sat down and gently pulled aside the blanket and grasped Aya’s right hand. The pale man didn’t flinch at all when he cleaned the split skin with an alcohol wipe and then started to bandage it. When that was done Aya turned to face him, his eyes closed.

Opening another wipe, he tenderly cleaned his lover’s bruised face. When the task was done he set the medical kit aside and laid down beside Aya.

"I’m sorry, I really am…" for leaving Aya alone, for not managing to kill Mastermind already. For… Yohji sighed as he thought there were probably a lot of things he was sorry for, but suddenly felt too tired to drag them into the light and face them. With his luck Aya would throw them in his face anyway.

Aya tugged him closer and rested his head against Yohji’s chest. "Idiot. Stop going away."

"I’m not going anywhere, love." He stroked his hand through Aya’s hair, debating whether or not to ask what the Bastard had wanted. Though upon reflection, if he thought hard enough he was pretty sure he could figure it out on his own. Aya.

Running his fingers along the arm that rested on top of his waist, Yohji tapped the temporary cast lightly. "When’s this supposed to come off?"

"I see the doctor tomorrow, before Arai."

Yohji winced when he realized that his attempt at a distraction hadn’t been terribly successful. Great, why didn’t he remind Aya of what he had to face tomorrow: a session with the Bitch. The only reason his love was sleeping at all today was because of the medication.

He tried again. "I brought you some green tea, if you want it. Or I can fetch you something to eat, do you feel like eating now?"

"Hn. Stay." Aya thumped him on the hip with his arm and snuggled closer. As Yohji fussed with the blanket, Aya tucked his head under his chin and called him an idiot again. He hoped it meant that he was forgiven, as Aya wasn’t famous for humoring morons, let alone curling up next to them and falling asleep.

Even if he wasn’t, it was worth it just to have Aya angry at something again. Yohji never thought he’d think that way, but it was the truth. Somehow, despite all the shit the Bastard had thrown at them, he’d helped bring the old Aya back, even if just a little bit. Maybe it was trying to strengthen their relationship that had done it, or his brush with death, or Mastermind being too much of a manipulative bastard, but now he had some hope. It would just be nice to keep that newly awakened anger directed at anyone other than himself.

*******

Arai tilted her hips upward, trying to make Jei thrust inside her even deeper. The foreigner chuckled softly and increased his pace, pounding into her as his teeth sunk into her left earlobe. Arching off the bed from the intense pleasure/pain, she wrapped her legs even tighter around her lover’s waist.

Jei shifted one of the limbs onto his shoulder, never once stopping his onslaught as he did so. A silver knife flashed in the light and a long red line spread across her inner thigh, blood pouring out from the wound. He tilted his face to lick at the crimson fluid before cutting her again.

This was bliss, was more pleasure than she’d ever felt before, but… Arai tried to tilt her hips again, desperate for more. No matter how much Jei did to her it wasn’t enough. Everything coiled impossibly tighter inside of her, but relief still seemed so far away.

"More, dammit, _more_."

There was another chuckle, low and sibilant, then Jei suddenly pulled out of her. Arai whined at the loss of contact, then let out a startled noise when she was suddenly flipped onto her stomach and then hauled onto her hands and knees. Jei shoved himself inside of her, reaming into her once again as fingers cruelly dug into her breast and a knife took to tracing along her back.

Oh, this was better, but it still wasn’t enough. Jei’s cock was a solid presence battering her inside, almost distracting her from the lines of fire forming on her shoulder blades, but Arai wanted to whine again in frustration. Why couldn’t she come? She desperately sought after her own release, which was proving so damn elusive this night. Jei had come once already, and her skin was covered with cuts that even now radiated pleasure, but it wasn’t enough.

"_More_."

"Such a needy little bitch," Jei hissed in her bitten ear. The knife dug deeply into the small of her back, causing Arai to arch in pleasure that only coiled tighter inside her. She felt like sobbing and hated both herself and her lover for that weakness. Then Jei pulled out of her again.

About to turn around and punch the man for stopping, Arai was prevented from doing so when her face was shoved into the bed. Furious at the treatment, the tears did fall when something impossibly thick and hard tore into her anus, making agony spike through her body as delicate flesh tore.

Oh, the pain was so intense, so consuming, and all she could do was cry out in ecstasy from it. Jei continued on brutally, tearing her up some more with his harsh thrusts, and it was almost, almost enough. But it wasn’t, not even when the knife was biting into her flesh again. Arai’s breath caught, the tension in her building to an impossible pitch, stringing her along until she felt her nerves were made of piano wire, thrumming and taut. Each thrust seemed to last an eternity, and she could feel the steady progress of blood down her thighs, but it wasn’t enough.

Jei let out a choked cry and warmth flooded inside her. For a moment Arai was furious that the man had come for the second time that night, and she was still frustrated and needing release. Held still by her shock and anger, she didn’t move when Jei reached over her for something in her nightstand. When he shifted back he pulled out of her.

"Dammit, Jei, I-" the diatribe was cut short when the scarred man slapped her face, knocking Arai back down onto the bed.

"I’m done with you, little witch. Your blood doesn’t taste so sweet anymore." Jei straddled her waist and wouldn’t let Arai rise from the bed, in fact he pushed her face back into the mattress. "All you care about is pleasure and not sin. I can find better than you. Fuck yourself with this from now on." Something was brutally shoved inside her once again, something cold and hard. As soon as it started vibrating Arai recognized what it was and blindly reached out with her talent to turn Jei’s brain to mush. The fucking bastard, to even think of treating her like this.

Another blow to her head prevented that from happening, and Arai’s vision went dark for a moment. The worst of it was the fact that the abuse only intensified her frustration, merely heightened her need that much more. As soon as she could gather some control over her body she sat up in bed and pulled out the vibrator. Glancing around the room, she found no sign of Jei other than the small knife left on her nightstand. Her empathic senses didn’t reveal his presence anywhere in her apartment building, either.

Wondering how the man could have vanished so quickly, she swore and threw the vibrator against a wall. Shakily rising to her feet causing more blood to flow down her thighs, Arai decided to take a shower and try to collect her scattered wits. It was so hard to think, as frustrated as she was. Maybe she shouldn’t have thrown the vibrator like that; she needed to do something to bring herself some relief. Dammit, she’d been reduced to masturbating to see to her own needs while that bastard had gotten off twice. The next time she saw Jei, that man was going to be in for some serious pain, and not the good kind.

She entered her bathroom and debated for a moment on whether or not to take a cold shower. Figuring she’d provide her own relief, Arai turned the water to hot. As she waited for the water to warm up, she turned to the mirror to see how bad she looked. Jei had bit her ear, it occurred to her, which might be a bit difficult to disguise or pass off as an accident. Arai didn’t want anyone to find out about her cuts; it had been hard enough keeping them a secret from that nosy med student the other day.

Jei really hadn’t left much unmarked flesh. Looking in the mirror, Arai noticed that some of her cuts didn’t look like random lines. She cursed in fury as she realized that Jei had carved the kanji for ‘whore’ all over her body, some deep enough to leave faint scars. Turning around and peering over her shoulder revealed that her whole back was covered with huge kanji.

The mirror shattered as her fists pounded into it again and again. The sound of Kirie Arai’s enraged screams rang throughout the apartment.

*******

"We’re going now, see you guys later," Omi called out. Ken waved goodbye to him but all Yohji did was glare at him from behind the register. Oh, someone was still a bit upset about not being the one to take Aya to the hospital.

It had been decided last night that it would be best if someone accompanied Aya to the hospital and remained with him the whole time since he was still feeling a bit weak from his migraine attack. Considering the shape he usually was in when he came home from his sessions with Arai, it wouldn’t be a very good idea to give Mastermind another unguarded shot at Aya. But the situation presented a bit of a problem.

Yohji always was the one escorting his lover to the Magic Bus Hospital, but he usually waited in the park for Aya so as not to attract attention. That wouldn’t quite do today, since it would leave Aya unguarded for several minutes. It would also look funny if he spent the day at the hospital waiting for his ‘teammate’. No, it would look less suspicious if Omi went with the redhead instead. No one who knew about both of their pasts would ever suspect Aya of having any romantic feelings for a Takatori, so they wouldn’t think much of Omi’s concern. No, they would just assume that he was taking his team leader responsibilities seriously and checking up on his teammate’s condition. But try explaining that to an over-protective Yohji. Omi’s ears were still ringing from how loudly the older blond had yelled upon being informed of his decision.

Leaving the shop, Omi walked over to where his bike was parked. Aya was waiting for him there, sunglasses resting on his expressionless face and his head bowed. Not blaming the redhead for his quiet demeanor now that he personally had experienced Dr. Arai, he resolved to get to the hospital and back again as quickly as possible. Omi felt a bit nervous himself, and he didn’t have to sit through another session with the woman again. Hopefully, after today, neither would Aya. Not after the report he’d sent to Kritiker yesterday.

"Ready, Aya-kun?" He handed the older assassin a helmet.

Aya merely hn’ed and pulled it on, settling on the back of the bike. Omi hopped on and started the engine, and as he looked about for traffic, he saw Yohji standing in the Koneko’s door, staring at them. He waved at the man, but didn’t receive one back. Yes, Yohji was definitely pissed at him. Fortunately for the former playboy, he wasn’t taking that anger out on Aya, or both of them would have killed him. Even Ken had kept his word not to be angry with the pale man over being stuck in the Koneko all day yesterday and again today. The last thing Aya needed at the moment was to deal with a bunch of idiots.

The ride to the hospital was uneventful, and Aya didn’t say a single word as he and Omi entered the building and made their way to Dr. Rôyama’s office. Glancing at the man out of the corner of his eye, Omi noted his paler than normal skin and the tight line Aya’s mouth formed. Aya could still be a bit unwell because of his migraine, but Omi didn’t think that was the only reason for his subdued behavior.

At least they didn’t have to wait long for Rôyama to see them. It seemed that as soon as they arrived in the doctor’s waiting room they were hustled inside to one of his evaluation rooms. The man didn’t even blink an eye when Omi tagged along, if anything he seemed a bit relieved. Omi, suspicious of the man because of his connection to Mastermind, soon figured out why the doctor wasn’t upset by his presence. Aya remained quiet the entire time, but even with the sunglasses covering his eyes the room was filled with strong feelings of dislike and ill will. At least Rôyama had him there to talk to as a distraction as he first x-rayed Aya’s arm and then went about removing all the stitches from the swordsman’s wounds as he waited for the films to develop.

"You say Kudoh is doing fine and is back on his feet? I want to see him myself this coming Monday at 10 am. Tell the man to be here. Ah, thank you, Nanase. Now let’s see if that fracture has healed at all." Dr. Rôyama snatched the x-rays from the technician’s hands and held them up to the light board. He hemmed and hawed over them for a minute as Aya pulled on his clothes, and then turned the board off.

"Alright, it’s pretty much healed, you can take the cast off now." He stood there as Aya did just that. Then the doctor fidgeted about nervously. "It’s a good thing that you… heal so quickly. I’ll inform Kritiker that after another day or two to recover from your migraine, you’re cleared to return to active duty. Remember to continue taking the medication, and let me know if you have any more attacks. We might need to increase the dosage again if that happens."

"It won’t." Aya growled out his first words in over an hour and abruptly turned and walked out of the room. Omi smiled apologetically at the doctor for his friend’s rude behavior and trailed after him. Putting his longer legs to good use, Aya remained a few paces ahead of him the whole way. It was only when the older man reached the door leading to Dr. Arai’s office that he paused, his hand resting on the doorknob for a moment. Aya closed his eyes and seemed to take a deep breath before opening the door and entering the room.

Omi took a seat next to his friend and wished that Aya was more like Yohji or Ken and wouldn’t be offended at a reassuring squeeze or hug. The man looked like he desperately needed one, but it had been made perfectly clear that Yohji was the only one that Aya allowed to touch him in such a personal manner. All he could do was fidget until the man looked at him and then offered him a smile. It was hard to tell if that worked or not, as Aya’s pale face remained blank and the sunglasses covered his eyes. Letting out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, Omi sank down in his seat and wished he’d thought to bring his homework. They still had a good half hour before Aya’s appointment, and his nerves were already strung taut. He had a bad feeling about this session.

*******

Aya sat in the leather chair and waited for Arai to arrive. The psychiatrist’s secretary had allowed him in the room a few minutes before his appointment, and he’d been expecting to find the woman sitting behind her desk. It had surprised him to find the office empty. Almost as much as the fact that his appointment had started five minutes ago and there was still no sign of Dr. Arai. She usually wasn’t late.

Another minute ticked by before the door opened and the woman limped into the room. His eyebrows rose slightly when he saw that Arai was wearing more clothes than he was. A thick pale blue sweater covered the woman from her jaw to her hips, and she was wearing the first skirt he’d seen her in, made of thick suede that hung to the floor. Aya tugged on the cream cashmere sweater he’d borrowed from Yohji for its warmth and comforting smell then folded his hands into his lap.

<Someone looks a bit ragged around the edges today. Watch out, Aya, the bitch is in a rare mood, and you’re sitting there with a target painted on you.>

As if his day couldn’t get any worse, Schuldig had decided to bother him. For a moment Aya’s hands clenched as the anger from yesterday washed through him. His right hand was still sore from when, pissed beyond words but lacking the energy to chase his enemy down, he’d taken some of his frustration out on himself and the floor instead of the man who’d deserved it.

<But I don’t, not really. You need to get beyond this, tuberose, and right now.>

‘Go to hell.’ Noticing that Arai was staring at him intently, Aya tried to push down on his anger. He could already feel the pressure building in his head and worked to control his feelings.

"I see you’re recovering well from your injuries, though the bruise on your cheek seems new."

"I walked into a door," Aya replied woodenly, not willing to explain the bruise to Arai. One didn’t need to be a genius to figure out that wouldn’t be a smart idea.

The doctor’s mouth pressed into a frown and the pen clutched in her gloved hand tapped against the desk. "You should be more careful then. Do you walk into doors very often?"

"No."

"What did your teammates think of your clumsiness?"

He guessed that the session had just started in earnest. "I don’t care what my teammates think." Well, Hidaka and Tsukiyono, at least.

<That’s it, keep hedging the truth like that, though it won’t work forever. She knows you didn’t walk into a door, and she thinks that Siberian or Balinese hit you.>

Resisting the urge to close his eyes and sigh, Aya forced himself to concentrate on getting through the next hour with as little damage to his teammates as possible. It figured that Schu wouldn’t leave him alone.

<Let me in and there won’t be any damage.>

‘No. Fuck off.’

"That’s very interesting, considering what they think about you. I don’t think that I’m violating patient confidentiality when I say that Bombay holds you in high regard. He had nothing bad to say about you at all. It’s surprising, considering the fact that he’s a Takatori. I’d have suspected more conflict between the two of you due to his true parentage. It’s very healthy that you can put aside your hate for the family that destroyed your life."

The word ‘Takatori’ echoed about in Aya’s head. For a moment he recalled standing in front of the building that housed his father’s business, then watched in slow motion as it exploded. Once again he saw Aya-chan crumpled on the ground before him, lying there so still, as if she wasn’t even breathing. He remembered willing her chest to move, feeling something snap inside his head as she drew in a breath. Next came images of the magazine and newspaper articles he’d clipped over the following years, showing Reiji Takatori and his sons partying at various functions as he struggled to earn the money for Aya-chan’s medical bills, reduced to killing in cold blood for the funds, to selling off pieces of his soul. They’d had everything they could ever want, and they had callously destroyed his world.

His hate, long buried these past months, rushed through his blood, along with the usual feeling of guilt and hopelessness that filled him when he thought of his sister lately. The emotions tore at him, made him want to hit something or just hide away.

<She’s smiling, you know. The bitch is drinking in your pain and loving it. Lucky you, Arai has decided that today is the day you break. She’s not pulling her punches anymore and is being as subtle as a brick wall. Her power’s bearing down on you at full blast.>

"But then again, Bombay is so… easy to like." The odd tone in which the comment was made stirred Aya from his thoughts, and he looked over at the doctor. There was a predatory gleam in her eye as she regarded him. "He seems the be the type who as long as you do your job to the best of your ability, you’ll have no problems with. Which is good, considering he’s Weiß’s team leader and reports everything back to Kritiker. It’s very nice to have such a calm and intelligent man who would have no cause to bear you a grudge to be in charge of your group and welfare."

She was trying to get him to doubt Omi, Aya knew that. But he’d come to terms with Omi’s reports long ago, when he’d successfully covered Yohji and his relationship, and continued to do so. As for the boy’s true heritage… that issue had been resolved even longer ago.

Arai sat up in her seat suddenly, her eyes intent upon him, and Aya could feel the pressure in his head increase. "Yes, you seem to have a very good relationship with him, from what Bombay and you have told me. But I understand there is some difficulty between you and Siberian. It’s not hard to understand why, considering how different the two of you are. He’s an open book, very emotional and eager to form bonds with people, while you’re… more aloof and calculating. I can’t imagine that you would jeopardize yourself by falling in love with a civilian such as he did. No, you have no hopes of leaving Kritiker, do you? Not as long as your sister is still out there, somewhere, held captive by _your_ enemies."

Just as the guilt of that statement settled in Aya’s chest, Arai shifted the topic again. "No, you and Siberian don’t strike me as the "friends" type. It would be hard for someone of his temperament to see anything of interest in someone like you. But then again, they do say that opposites attract." Arai paused for a moment, once more pressing with her talent. "The potential is there for some sort of attraction."

<She’s picked up on your emotions for your lover and is trying to figure out who it is on the team. Let me in now.> Schuldig seemed to be agitated, his emotion sinking into Aya and making him nervous.

"We get along well enough," Aya said as he tried to ignore the German telepath. Schu was just trying to rattle him, and he refused to let the tactic work. Arai couldn’t possibly have guessed about him and Yohji.

"Really? Hmm." Arai jotted in her notes for a minute. Hidaka and he got along fine, considering the other man couldn’t stand him at the moment because he was a freak. Feeling the self-hate and shame directed his way strike a chord inside him, Aya shook his head back and forth the smallest fraction, trying to rid himself of the thought. He couldn’t be thinking like that, not right now. Nor could he let the psychiatrist influence him.

There was a tap of the pen against the desk. "I’ve commented on this before, but it must be hard to be on a team comprised of so many diverse personalities. At least Bombay and Siberian have some sort of work ethic, which seems to be very important to you. Balinese, however…"

The pressure was back, and Aya was hard pressed not to flinch in pain from it. He had to remain calm, had to prevent the woman from finding anything out.

<Because if she does then she’ll run to Kritiker with that news after doing her best to hurt you with it. You’ve been here before, little tuberose. Which devil do you trust? Me, or her? She’ll definitely hurt you and the man-whore, but me? Are you so sure I will?>

Yes and no. Aya brushed a finger along his bruised cheek. Schu could still cause him pain, but not Yohji. All because of the promise he’d made a couple months ago.

<What’s wrong with those dreams and the other ones?>

‘Because you’ve been hiding the other ones from me. Because I… can’t hate you now.’ The anger rushed back, and Aya used it against the pressure in his head, letting it wash over the rest of his feelings and tried to block out Schu as well.

"Balinese is a very interesting person. Highly intelligent, and in his own way, loyal. But he’s also narcissistic, hedonistic, lackadaisical, and unmotivated. There must be some friction sharing close quarters with someone like him."

"We manage." Let her get bored and move on to another topic. Aya had long ago given up on wishing for things, but he did just that at the moment. Let her move away from Yohji before something slipped past him.

"But I imagine that it must be hard. You seem intensely personal and reserved, while Balinese is the opposite. According to you, you have no relationships at all, other than those with your teammates and other Kritiker agents. Balinese, on the other hand, seems to prefer outside relationships. He constantly seeks out people for… temporary relief. Is there any conflict between you two over this?

"No."

"I find that hard to believe. At the very least you should view him as a security risk." Arai set her pen aside and leaned over her desk, her hands clenched around her elbows. "We’ll never progress in your therapy if you continue to hide things from me."

"I’m not."

"I’m not so sure." Their eyes locked on each other, and Aya was very careful to make sure his face remained impassive. The pressure was back in his head, making his eyesight darken. A smile slowly formed on Arai’s mouth. "Do you realize that your posture is hunched and closed in? As if you were trying to keep things inside? Now I wonder what that could be?"

Dammit, he’d focused so much on masking his face and thoughts that Aya hadn’t thought about his body language. He forced himself to sit back in his chair and rest his hands back on his lap, making them fall away from his chest, where they had been wrapped around.

"I don’t want to hear about my teammates, I thought these sessions were supposed to be about me."

"But your teammates are an important part of your life. You’ve closed yourself off from everything else, they are one of the few things that impact you anymore. Them, and your assignments. Would you rather we talked about them? I was hoping to get to last week’s mission at some point. The one where Balinese fucked up, but you managed to salvage things. How do you feel about that? Aren’t you the least bit angry or resentful with your teammate over that? He failed in his duty, and you were injured completing his job."

"He was injured as well. All that matters is the mission objective, not who achieves it."

Arai’s smile grew stronger. "Ah yes, mission objectives. I’ve taken a look at some of your past assignments. Quite… interesting. Do your teammates know about them? Your targets aren’t all ‘dark beasts’, are they? What would Siberian think of all the dead corpses you’ve left for their families, often comprised of young children, to find the next morning? What would Balinese think of all the women you’ve killed? He has a soft spot for them, I understand. You’ve killed quite a few, all by yourself. I saw the picture of the one, what was her name? The one who made perfume? She looked a lot like his former lover, I thought. I can understand why they gave the mission to you and not Weiß, especially Balinese. He’d have never managed to kill her, but you did. Then again, nothing matters to you but the paycheck. Your teammates aren’t quite so mercenary."

He wasn’t going to think about this, not now. Yohji knew about his missions, or at least knew that they weren’t so clean cut as Weiß’s normal ones. Aya wasn’t going to think about Asuka either, and Yohji’s obvious attachment to the woman, even now. This was not the time.

<Ah, but she can feel your emotions more and more each minute. Do you really think she’ll stop now when she’s scented blood? Balinese only makes you vulnerable, Aya. He only leaves you open to pain.>

"No, I can see why they have some reservations about you. They try their hardest to be as normal as possible, whereas you can’t be bothered. That’s what makes you such a good agent, the perfect assassin, now that your obsession with the Takatoris is over with. All you care about is money to pay your sister’s medical bills, which is so… touching and filial of you. Though I wonder what you’re doing with the cash now that your sister is gone. It would be dangerous for you to lose your focus at this time, which is partially why you’re here."

The pain in his head was becoming blinding, and Aya didn’t want to speak, unsure of what he was supposed to say. He felt… guilt, shame, bleakness, and wasn’t sure if they were his emotions or not. Everything had become so confused.

<Because she’s doing this, she’s weakening your shields to the point that she can fuck with your emotions. Aya, listen to me. You can’t take much more of this. If your shields go down she’ll be in your head, and she’s too fucking eager to rip your mind to shreds. Once that happens… she’ll know about you and Kudoh, she’ll know about your power, she’ll know every dark little secret you’ve hidden away and she will use all of that against you. Against Weiß as well, because they won’t let you go without a fight.>

"Do you ever envy your teammates for being able to have some sort of life outside of Weiß? To be able to take classes, to be trusted with children, to have people wanting them all the time? Don’t you ever long for human contact? I can understand Balinese’s excesses, in a way. It’s a reaction to being so inhuman most nights that he gives in to human needs with such a vengeance. Perhaps the two of you are even more opposites than Siberian. You both seek your relief in different directions. Don’t you ever wish to shed your aloof nature and to feel for once? I imagine Balinese could teach you something."

"I’m fine," Aya whispered, trying hard to think through the words and the pain. He could feel Arai’s growing triumph and tried to focus only on the pain. It wasn’t safe to think of Yohji at all right now.

<Aya….>

"If you were fine, you wouldn’t be here. What’s the matter, Fujimiya? All I’m doing is suggesting a little role-playing. I just want you to think of Balinese, to imagine him in your mind. To think of yourself as him. It’s always good to step out of your own mindset once in a while and embrace another’s. It helps to clarify things. Now think of Balinese. Think of how different he is from yourself."

The implications were clear: to think of someone who wasn’t so cold, so ruthless, a person without a soul. There was more pressure, and Aya threw himself into the pain to escape thinking of Yohji.

<Aya….>

Things were stretched tight in his head, his thoughts felt moments from shattering. All he could see was Arai’s mouth, her teeth gleaming behind cherry red lips opened in a wide smile.

<Aya….>

A picture of Yohji was starting to form in his mind. He recalled how his lover had looked this morning; hair tousled and eyes sleepy, but a leer on Yohji’s lips as he’d reached for Aya. Clenching his hands into fists, Aya let Schu back in, let the telepath flow through his thoughts as in the past sessions. The pressure immediately began to fade at the soothing presence, and Aya’s emotions were once more his own.

Schuldig immediately gloated over his victory. <Oh, she’s pissed as all hell now. She knew she was so close, but now the bitch is completely shut out again. Don’t worry, weisse Kamelie, she can’t sense anything now. I’ll keep her out. She can’t hurt you anymore, I won’t let her.>

He’d done it again, had chosen one devil over the other. But this time, Aya knew that it wasn’t as simple as he’d thought in the past. Schu was back in his mind, which meant that hidden strings had to be involved somehow. He’d be paying for this later on, but at least Yohji wasn’t going to pay for it now. Aya rested his head against the back of his chair and regarded Arai with heavy lidded eyes.

The woman’s face appeared shocked for a moment then her brows furrowed in intense concentration. She sat there glaring at him for several minutes and then sat back in her chair as well, gloved hands shaking as she picked up her pen. "I believe we were going to try some role-playing. Are you thinking of Balinese?"

"Yes." A phantom hand stroked along Aya’s bruised cheek, and as it had happened yesterday at Schu’s touch, the faint pain from the injury faded into nonexistence. His anger flared for a moment, but this time it was directed solely at himself. He’d let Schu back in.

"Good." Arai’s gruff voice sounded as if she thought anything but that. "How do you feel different?"

<Well, for starters, if you’re pretending to be Balinese you’re now a chain-smoking fashion disaster of a whore. Hmm, taking into consideration that last part, maybe a little change wouldn’t be that bad. I can meet you outside after the session, tuberose.>

Gritting his teeth, Aya regretted for a moment not letting Arai shatter his mind. He wouldn’t be putting up with this if that had happened.

<You’re rather ungrateful, precious. But I still love you anyway.>

"I don’t. He has the same problems as me, the same fears; he just reacts to them differently. That’s what keeps Weiß together, even though we’re all so different. The four of us are murderers."

"Fujimiya, you’re not even trying. Your superiors won’t be happy to hear that." Slamming down her pen, Arai’s right hand drifted under the desk as she continued to talk. "Kritiker has gone through great pains for you, you know. They’ve seen to your welfare and training, rescued you when you took it in your fool head to leave the organization, placed you in three separate teams, and arranged for the best doctors to look after your sister."

For a price: a rather steep one that had required him to go out at least weekly to kill someone. Kritiker had done those things for him, but Aya had the worst part of the bargain.

<She acts as if they’ve done you favors. Stupid bitch.>

Arai continued on with her litany. "They’ve looked after you the past couple of years, taking a gamble on an untrained, sheltered brat hell-bent on revenge. And you repay Kritiker by leaving, not only once but twice. And now you’re sitting here, wasting my time."

Aya pressed his palms against his thighs as he leaned forward in the leather chair. "I’ve done everything that Kritiker has ever asked of me. I left the first time because they weren’t living up to their end of the bargain to supply me Takatori, and as for the second time, I’d held up my end of the bargain. Takatori was dead, and my deal had been made with Persia. I was free to go. You mentioned my sister and her care, well I more than paid for every cent of it, and Kritiker couldn’t even provide her with adequate protection."

"You’re still a rich little brat who suddenly finds himself faced with the real world, Fujimiya. You have obligations here, and it’s expected that you will meet them." Both of Arai’s hands were now resting on the desktop, and she was clutching them so tightly it had to be causing her pain. "You better start listening to me, you spoiled asshole, and understand that I’m in charge here. That means you’ll stop ignoring my questions and will do what I tell you. Sulk and whine all you want later, but you have no choice here. As long as you’re in my office and hope to remain on active duty, you’re mine. Disobey me, and you won’t be able to get your thrills by wielding a substitute for the dick you seem too afraid to let near anything remotely human, unlike yourself, and getting off like the nice little psychopath you are."

Aya didn’t say anything after that outburst, but only sat there and noticed the feverish gleam in the doctor’s eyes. Warmth began to fill him, and Aya had the sensation of something that had been binding him now slowly loosening. For a second there was an image of thousands of threads before him, and the knowledge that he only had to touch one of them to see things more clearly, but that immediately faded away as Schu’s presence in his mind grew stronger.

<Aya, listen to me. Leave the office now. If you stay here, she’s only going to get worse.>

‘She’ll have them take me off active duty, and then I won’t be able to track down any leads on my sister.’

<No, she won’t. My word on that, and don’t give me any shit about me being a pathological liar. You know you can trust my word, the few times I give it. So get up and leave right now.> Somehow, Aya knew that the telepath wasn’t lying to him this time, and that things would go very badly if he remained here much longer. <Go.>

He didn’t need to hear the suggestion another time. "If I’m wasting your time, I’ll leave." Aya rose to his feet and started to walk towards the door, each step coming faster and faster. He needed to get out of here before… something happened. Besides, if the session was over, Schuldig would have to withdraw from his mind.

<Yes and no, Aya. Yes and no. I told you that you’d never be alone, never again. I always keep my promises.>

There was a flash of a dream, making Aya shake his head in pain, but then the door was in front of him and he needed to be on the other side of it. Arai called out after him, but he ignored it. Somehow, Aya knew that she wouldn’t have the power to hurt him for very much longer. There would soon be one less devil in his life.

*******

Arai watched as Orchidee stalked out of her office. Surprised speechless, she didn’t say a word until he reached the door, and then she called out after him. "Fujimiya, get back here right now! This session is not over!" Oh no, the bastard wasn’t walking out on her, not before she broke him. Dammit, she’d been so fucking close before his shields had sprung up once more. Enraged beyond the point of logical thought, Arai chased after him.

Orchidee had managed to leave her office entirely and was out in the hallway talking to a young man. Arai saw red when she recognized the blond teenager as Bombay, who was largely responsible for the mess she now found herself in. She stormed over to the two assassins.

"Fujimiya, get your ass back in my office right now! We still have almost a half hour left."

He stared down at her, his eyes hidden by dark grey lenses. "No."

Without thinking, she swung her arm and slapped the redhead. Or at least tried to, but found her hand blocked at the last moment. Fujimiya held her hand scant centimeters from his bruised cheek and squeezed her wrist painfully before letting go. That spark of pain/pleasure only added to her frustration, driving her further into madness.

"Get the fuck back in my office now, you shitty little freak. I’m not done with you."

It was Bombay who answered her. "Aya, I order you not to. I’m sorry, doctor, but I refuse to let a member of my team suffer any more at the hands of a deranged person. He’s leaving with me, and I hope to have a talk with your sup-"

It seemed that Bombay wasn’t as adept as blocking blows as Orchidee was. The slap sent him spinning into a wall, blood trickling from his mouth. Orchidee immediately shoved her aside and helped his teammate to his feet. Sliding her hand into her skirt pocket, Arai grabbed the hypodermic needle she’d filled earlier that morning, not giving a damn about her supervisors’ wishes. There was enough psychotropic drug in the syringe to knock Orchidee and his fucking shields to the ground with no hope of getting back up for hours. She’d dose the bastard and then drag him back in her office, and before that brat Bombay could do anything, the redhead’s mind would be shattered into thousands of little pieces. Her job would be done, someone would be made to suffer, and Kritiker could worry about putting Orchidee’s mind back together. Dammit, she’d been _so close_. He’d been hiding something from her at the end, right before his shields had returned. Something that would have been the key to breaking him.

Flipping off the cap, she held the syringe with the needle ready to plunge into the pale man’s flesh. Once the drugs were in Orchidee’s system, she’d have that key. He was still bent over his teammate, but somehow seemed to sense her plan and turned at the last minute, knocking her aside. As she fell to the ground, the syringe flew out of her hand. Arai landed with a thud, her skirt flying up about her knees as pleasure/pain coursed through her at the impact.

She started to jerk her skirt back down, mindful of the bandages that all but covered her legs, and felt the hilt of the knife stuck in her boot. Jei’s knife, which she had felt compelled to take with her to work that day. As she fingered the warm metal, people started to huddle around her. Her secretary, Ani, bent down to lend her a hand back to her feet. Behind the crowd stood Orchidee and Bombay, both assassins gazing at her warily. Then Orchidee shifted his attention down the hall.

Arai glanced in that direction and felt her face flush with anger. An older woman, a cigarette in her hand, stood in front of two large men dressed in orderly uniforms. As Arai watched, a slim figure clad in white broke from the shadows and walked over to the woman, lifting a hand to brush along her cheek when he came near. Jei smiled evilly at Arai for a moment before kissing the other woman’s cheek, then continued on his way after seeming to have whispered something to the bitch. The woman raised a hand to her cheek with his passing and tucked back a strand of her hair. She gazed at Arai for a moment before walking towards the crowd.

//I can find better than you.// Jei’s words filled her head as the bitch came closer to her, and Arai’s hand clenched around the knife’s hilt. So he’d found himself a new whore already? One who would try and take her position away from her because of a freak’s stubbornness? Arai didn’t think so. When the woman tossed aside her cigarette and reached out a hand to touch Orchidee on the arm, Arai sprang into action.

In one smooth motion she was on her feet and lunging forward, mindless of her numerous injuries and cuts. As Bombay was reaching out to prevent the other woman from touching his friend, she slashed the knife along the brat’s arm. She’d finish him later, right now there needed to be one less ‘whore’ left alive. It seemed as if the blade didn’t meet any resistance at all as it sank into the woman’s throat. Blood sprayed everywhere when Arai jerked the blade back, intent on tearing it again and again through her rival’s body, but Orchidee’s hand on her wrist prevented that. Using her talent as a sledgehammer, she pounded at the precog’s mind until he moaned in pain and let her go as he crumpled to the floor. Laughing gleefully, she swung the blade again.

This time it was one of the orderlies who knocked her to the ground as he tackled her. The knife went flying from her hand and someone started to scream hysterically. Snarling, Arai sank her teeth into the arm wrapped around her chest and earned a curse and a smack to the head. The orderly began hitting her to make her let go, but all the pain did was fill her with a tingling pleasure. The sound of someone laughing filled her head, and as something sharp pierced her flesh, the last thing Arai saw was Bombay helping a groggy Orchidee to his feet and leading him away from the swarming mass of people filling the hall. Then things grew dark.

<Gotcha, you bitch.>

*******

Omi half dragged Aya down the hallway, flinching each time someone passed them. People were appearing out of the woodwork and rushing to the corridor that they’d just fled. He got the impression that whomever it had been that Arai had killed had been a very important person. Why else would someone try CPR on a woman whose throat had been torn out like that? Years of experience had taught him what a dead body looked like, and that had certainly been one lying on the floor back there.

Right now his main concern was getting Aya out of the hospital. Panic had filled Omi when he saw that woman and the two orderlies approach his friend, one of them holding a hypodermic needle in his hands. Somehow he doubted that they had wanted to ask the man the time.

<Right you are. They were going to take him away.>

Omi almost dropped Aya as the voice rang out in his head. The swordsman moaned softly and clutched an arm about his shoulders even tighter, which caused him to wince as the cut on his arm was tugged on. It would need stitches, judging from how much blood he was losing. Sparing his friend a quick glance, Omi noted the blood that trickled from his nose and underneath the sunglasses.

<Arai used her power on him. He’ll be fine once you get him home and let him sleep for a while. It’s mostly all pain and little damage.> Mastermind’s ‘voice’ sounded tired and thin, as if he was in a bit of pain himself, but still carried a smug note. Why did Omi suspect that he’d had something to do with what had just happened?

<Of course I did. I told you, I watch over my little tuberose. Arai won’t hurt him ever again, and Kritiker is going to have something else to worry about other than figuring out his talent. Now get him out of here.>

Cursing under his breath, Omi sarcastically wondered what the hell he was trying to do if not that? But Mastermind didn’t reply, and he had a feeling that the telepath had decided to leave him alone after barking that order at him. Omi then wondered if he had Mastermind to thank for the fact that no one seemed to notice a bloody teenager half carrying a dazed man through the hospital. Even though over a dozen security agents ran past them, not one stopped them or even glanced their way.

By the time they made it to an exit Aya was leaning a little less on Omi. Still, he was beginning to worry about how the hell they were going to get home, considering the fact that he’d have one hell of a time driving his bike one handed, and there was no way Aya would be able to drive since Omi doubted he could even hold on long enough to reach the Koneko.

"Aya-kun, how are you feeling? Can you tell me if there’s a bus that will stop by soon?" If not they could try to hail a taxi, if any would stop for two bleeding young men.

"Huhn." Aya tried to straighten up and walk under his own power but slumped back onto Omi after a few seconds. "Five-forty, fifteen minutes. Get us home."

Hopefully that translated into the bus’ number, ‘every fifteen minutes’ and ‘will get us home’. Omi desperately wanted to be back at the Koneko at the moment and be held by Ken. His face and arm throbbed in pain, making it hard to think. As he carefully navigated the shallow steps leading down to the sidewalk, Omi heard his name called out.

The welcome sight before him almost brought tears to Omi’s eyes. Parked in a ‘no parking’ zone was the Seven, complete with Yohji leaning against the sportster’s side. It only took a second before the older blond started to half run, half hobble over to them with a worried expression on his face. Aya was snatched from Omi’s arms and green eyes raked over his body.

"What the hell happened?"

"Oh, Yotan, I’m so glad to see you!" Omi threw his good arm around the man, almost knocking the three of them to the ground. "We need to get out of here right now."

"But you’re bleeding-"

"_Now_, Yohji." Omi didn’t wait for any more argument and hurried over to the waiting car. He’d fetch his bike later, right now he just wanted to get home. As he crawled into the back of the car, Yohji assisted Aya into the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel. Omi leaned forward, a hand above the knife wound on his arm as he tried to staunch the blood and looked over at Aya. The redhead was rubbing his face, smearing blood all around as he did so.

Yohji pulled right out into traffic with a screech of tires, from both the Seven and the cars forced to stop as he appeared right in front of them. "Okay, I want some fucking answers. What the hell happened?"

"Arai went psycho on us when Aya walked out of the session. Then some strange woman showed up to… talk to Aya, and Arai killed her after cutting me. We didn’t stick around after that. Yohji, what are you doing here?" Had Mastermind arranged this also?

The lanky man grinned sheepishly as he settled an arm over Aya’s shoulders. "I, ah, got tired of waiting for you guys to come home, so I ditched work and figured I’d hang out at the hospital. I was planning on seeing if Aya and you wanted to join me for a bite to eat. At least, that was the excuse."

Figuring he could smack the man for skipping out on work later, and that it wasn’t worth adding to his punishment for the delinquency considering that he and Aya were now speeding on their way home safely, Omi sighed and sat back in his seat. At least, until he noticed that he was still bleeding profusely.

"I’m sorry, Yohji-kun, but I’m getting blood everywhere." He was starting to feel a bit faint.

Yohji glanced back at him and then pulled out his cellphone. "Don’t worry about it, chibi." He then hit the autodial on the device. "Hey, Ken, it’s Yohji. Shut up, stop bitching me out and don’t ask any questions, but empty out the shop _right now_. And break out the med kit, Omi’s hurt and needs stitches." Yohji abruptly jerked the phone away from his ear as even Omi in the back of the car could heard a loud squawk. "Yeah, whatever, we’ll be there in two minutes."

Powering off the phone, Yohji turned and smiled at Omi. "He’s a wee bit concerned about you, Omittchi. Play this up for all it’s worth." Then he returned his attention back to the road.

Up front, Aya muttered quietly. "What was that, kitten?" Yohji asked.

"Sorry ‘bout the sweater." Omi looked over to see that a sleeve of Aya’s sweater was soaked with blood, most likely from his wound, and there were streaks down the front of it as well. Guess they both were being a bit hard on their clothes today, but at least he wasn’t wearing a very expensive cashmere sweater. Judging from the size of it, it was Yohji’s, hence the rare apology from Aya.

"Aya, love, I could care less about the damn thing, just as long as you’re safe." Yohji reached out and tucked back Aya’s bangs, lightly running his fingers along his lover’s jaw when that was done. Then he flashed Omi a look in the rearview mirror. "You too, chibi."

"Thanks for remembering about me at all, Yotan." The familiar teasing helped to calm Omi down after the scene in the hospital, but he was still in pain and growing fainter by the moment. Arai had slashed him pretty deep, and the wound needed to be closed very soon, which wasn’t a pleasant thought. "Are we there yet?"

"Almost. Hang on a little longer."

Omi closed his eyes and the next thing he knew Ken was trying to very carefully pull him out of the Seven. Shakily standing to his feet, he let out a yelp when the older teen picked him up and carried him into the kitchen. Sitting out on the table was the med kit from the bathroom, all spread out, and Aya was sitting in one of the chairs.

Ken gently set him down in a chair as well and looked over at Yohji, who was in the process of stripping off Aya’s glasses and checking his eyes. They were bloodshot, Omi noted, and a dark violet purple. "Hey, Kudoh, Omi’s the one who’s still bleeding."

"Yeah, but he doesn’t have a head wound." Yohji glanced their way with a frown on his face, one that faded when he looked at Omi for a moment. Then he sighed and looked down at his lover. "You going to be okay, kitten?"

Aya shoved him in Omi’s direction and rested his head down on the table. Yohji stroked a hand through his hair for a moment before hurrying to Omi’s side. "Okay, chibi, let’s see how badly you’re hurt."

Long, agile fingers carefully removed the sleeve of his jersey, though Omi winced when the arm was gently prodded. "Ow."

"I’m sure," Yohji commented dryly. Ken sat in the other chair and pulled it over to Omi’s side, then clasped his hand in both of his.

"That definitely needs stitches."

"No shit, Sherlock. Question is, who does them, you or me? Neither of us are the experts at this, being much more prone to being wounded then they are." Yohji glanced over at Ken, and after one look at his anxious face sighed again. "Nevermind, I’ll do it and we’ll hope he doesn’t look like some Frankenstein monster when I’m done. You just hold his hand." Yohji reached for a bottle of painkiller and then cocked an eyebrow at Omi.

"Fifty cc’s is enough. Then 80 of antibiotics."

Grunting, Yohji measured out that much and shot it into Omi’s wounded arm. He reflected that the good thing about the limb being all cut up was he didn’t even feel the shot. Ken’s hands gripped his even tighter and shifted closer as Yohji cleaned the wound as gently as he could while waiting for the medicine to kick in.

"So, is anyone going to tell me what happened?"

Grateful for the distraction, Omi filled in his teammate on the events, never once letting go of the man’s hands. He described how Arai had first tried to hit Aya then had been more successful with him, how she’d then tried to inject something into the redhead only to be knocked down to the ground, and when she’d come back up it had been to cut him and kill the strange woman. Brown eyes remained intently on his the whole time, but when he finished the account they were turned to glare at Aya for a moment. Great, they were back to that, were they?

It was a good thing that Yohji was distracted by trying to make the stitches as even as possible or else he’d have probably been out of his chair and screaming at Ken for that look. Also, Omi was relieved that Aya seemed to have fallen asleep at the table and hadn’t noticed it either.

After a few minutes Yohji injected him with the antibiotics and stood to his feet. "Ken, why don’t you finish up with Omi while I tend to Aya." The lanky blond hurried over to his lover’s side and touched him on the shoulder. When that didn’t get the redhead’s attention he shook the man until he woke up. Aya was grouchy and mumbled death threats under his breath, his eyes closed the entire time, as Yohji wiped his face clean.

Omi watched the couple as Ken bandaged his arm and started when his chin was touched. He looked up into a half-smile and a worried set of eyes.

"Sorry, but I wanted to check out your face. It faired better than Aya’s at least, but you’re going to be a sight for a day or two, thanks to a swollen lip and a huge bruise." Ken dabbed at his swollen and cut lip with a wipe for a moment and gently rubbed some cream on the side of his face. Omi found himself leaning against the brunet as he felt the last of his strength ebb away.

"Hidaka, why don’t you get Omi to bed while I do the same for Aya?" They looked over in time to see Yohji cautiously lift Aya into his arms, the smaller man asleep again. Omi remembered Mastermind’s comment about Aya needing some rest and refused to become worried about him. As he watched Yohji take a couple small steps, he smiled slightly and headed for the stairs with a more confident pace.

"There is no way in hell Kudoh is using his injury to get out of work again if he can carry Aya up to bed," Ken muttered. Omi stifled a weak giggle at the frown on his friend’s face. A pair of brown eyes glanced down at them, the irritation and anger in their depths changing into concern and humor within a few seconds, and Omi found himself being carried again.

"Well, I’m not letting a wounded, chain-smoking reprobate show me up. Come on, let’s get you to bed too."

Not about to complain about being carried by Ken twice in one day, to bed at that, Omi curled his arms around the young man’s neck and rested his head on his shoulder. This was so nice, being held safe and breathing in the man’s scent, and the drugs were starting to make Omi drowsy. He actually moaned when Ken set him down on the bed, heartbroken at the loss of contact.

"Are you alright, Omi?"

"Yeah, I’m okay." Omi sighed and tugged at his bloodstained shirt. "I guess I should sleep a little."

"That sounds like a good idea. Here, let me help you get more comfortable." Ken gently removed Omi’s jersey then his shoes and socks. He tucked Omi under the sheets. "Anything else?"

Debating for a moment, Omi decided to voice his wish, thinking he could always blame it on the drugs later if Ken refused. "I… could you stay a while with me? Every time I try to sleep I have these nightmares, and I don’t want to be alone."

Ken was quiet for a minute, and just when Omi had given up hope the brunet pulled off his slippers and the apron he’d still been wearing and slid under the covers, curling up behind him. An arm snaked its way around his waist, and Omi smiled with happiness.

They both were quiet for a minute, until Omi remembered a scene from the kitchen. "Ken-kun, are you mad at Aya again?"

Warm breath tickled the back of his neck as Ken sighed. "You got hurt today, Omi, and I can’t help but think it was because of him. I don’t… it’s not good that you’re hurt because of him."

"How is it Aya’s fault that Dr. Arai went nuts?"

"I know, Omi, I know. I keep telling myself that, but the fact remains that you were out with him and you were the one who ended up hurt the most. At least, that’s what it looks like. What exactly happened to him?"

Relieved that there had been a note of concern in that question, Omi thought of how to go about explaining the situation without revealing that he’d gotten his information from Mastermind. "When Aya tried to stop her the second time, she… did something to him. There was this look of concentration on her face, and then he collapsed. I think she might be a telepath or something. It would explain the sessions with her, how she…"

"How she seemed to know what hurt the most and where best to stick the knife. Yeah, I guess that makes sense." Ken rubbed his cheek along the top of Omi’s head. "Great, that means Kritiker has some freaks of it own. Insane ones at that."

"Yeah." Omi waited to see if Ken made a connection of sorts between Arai’s talent and Aya, but the older teen just sighed and hugged him closer. Content despite the worries that filled his head and the faint ache of his arm, Omi found himself drifting off to sleep.

*******

Schuldig leaned his head back against the leather chair he was curled up in. Rôyama had one hell of a comfortable chair, so he’d better get moving before he fell asleep in it. The good doctor might be tempted to do something very stupid if he found Schuldig dozing, such as trying to live out the fantasy of slitting his throat. Then Schuldig would have all the work and trouble of finding a new puppet to replace the fool. No, he’d give his headache a few more minutes to die down and then be on his way.

The pain was his own fault, really. He really should have expected some sort of mental strike from Arai, especially after the way she’d used her power on Aya during the session. But Schuldig was still unused to manipulating his love’s talent and had been too engrossed with all the balls he had in the air to notice that lone little thread. As it was, even if he’d foreseen the attack, he wouldn’t have had the energy to deflect it. No, he’d been occupied with keeping Aya’s power from escaping as he used just a fraction of it, bringing together all the elements he needed for his plan and planting the illusion of Farfie in the bitch’s mind. At least she’d been too exhausted from the session to do much damage to Aya and hence him. Though he was now stuck with one hell of a headache, and wouldn’t be able to sleep it off like his sweet tuberose would as soon as the man-whore got him home. For a moment he thought wistfully of curling up in bed with the other redhead.

A smile spread across his face as he thought about Aya. Every time the man gave in to him was so incredibly delicious, Schuldig just had to savor it again and again. Granted, Aya had no choice in the matter unless he wanted to be insane and to compromise the man-whore, but he’d still chosen Schuldig anyway, even after finding out about the dreams. That was a choice made consciously in the real world and put him one step closer to his goal. He had destroyed the man’s hate and had a foothold in gaining his heart, now he had one as well in securing Aya’s trust.

All in all, it was a good day. The bitch had been taken care of, Kritiker was crippled and Aya rendered safe and his. Crawford would be very pleased with the second result, and maybe the slave driver would let him take a short nap before Schwarz reported to Umemoto. Schuldig made a face when he thought of the work ahead of him. In another week, they could kill the man and his associates, once the shipment they were awaiting arrived in Tokyo. The Elders wanted to be armed to the teeth after the Convergence and were arranging things accordingly. Guess they believed in having a well-stocked army to help them take over the world. The paranoid bastards. What a waste of time. It wasn’t like Schwarz would need the weapons when they turned the tables on their ‘masters’. No, by then they would have a catalyst in their midst, and there was no more powerful weapon than that. Schuldig smiled as he rose from the chair.

*******

Crawford snapped back to reality and dazedly noted that he’d set his mug of coffee down just in time before the vision had overtaken him. He’d have hated to spill any liquid on his desk or himself, not to mention that he now had something to help wash down the pain relievers for his headache. But the pain was more than worth it for the vision it had revealed. Kritiker had lost one of its secret controllers, and the other three of that shadow cabinet would now fall into chaos. The Elders would be very pleased.

Not that he gave a damn what the senile pricks thought, but the report of Smoke’s death would raise Schwarz in Esset’s esteem and guarantee that they held a place of honor at the Elders’ sides when the time came. That would put them in the perfect position to ensure that their plans came to fruition. Finally, everything he’d worked so hard on for the past several years was finally happening. For a moment, Crawford wondered if it was Abyssinian’s ill-wight nature that was helping the pieces to fall into place so neatly and suddenly. Things were proceeding far more smoothly than he’d ever imagine.

And thanks to Schuldig and Farfarello’s games, he’d have a bit of a bonus to report to his supervisors as well, one that would be a positive mark for Schwarz. There promised to be a very interesting talent born in another nine months, one that Rosenkreuz would indeed kill to get their hands on. Crawford would smooth over any doubts that organization had about his allegiance and that of his teammates' with that report. They didn’t need to know that by the time the child was born, Rosenkreuz would be too disorganized to send someone to snatch it away.

Crawford sighed as he resisted the temptation to rest his aching head on his desk. There were so many machinations that needed to be set into motion, that already had been set into motion and needed to be closely monitored. There would be very little rest for him until after the Convergence, that was certain. But at least there promised to be a short period of peace and quiet in the near future, one where a certain pest wouldn’t constantly plague him. Crawford eagerly looked forward to that time.

But for now, he’d rest for a few minutes to help his headache die down. Then Schuldig would be here, and the night’s mission would start. Crawford was reminded about the phrase ‘no rest for the wicked’. He and his were definitely that, and would be very busy this upcoming week. There was one vision of his that still had to come true. Once it did, an enemy would find their teeth and claws pulled, at least in regards to Schwarz, and a certain ill wight would be bound to them beyond hope of ever being free.

******* 

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