Cathedrals

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Chapter four

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Time for some answers…..

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It had been another long night. Weiß’s youngest member rubbed his eyes as he made his way downstairs to the kitchen. He needed coffee and sugar desperately before starting to get ready for school. Omi knew he shouldn’t have stayed up as late as he had, but there were several things troubling him that he just had to try and solve.

The first was this current mission. Kritiker should have supplied a bit more information than they had this time, and the police reports were oddly not as thorough as usual. The team was completely in the dark over this assignment, and Omi knew it was important that they didn’t fail. Were their employers setting them up so that they did? Why would Kritiker do that?

The other puzzle had to do with Abyssinian’s medical files. The young hacker had checked the organization’s database last night, searching for the team’s latest medical reports. Upon finding them, it made him wonder why Dr. Rōyama had downplayed Aya’s condition in the document, although he had left in that the swordsman would most likely be incapacitated the next few days until his allergies were brought under control. Which was the real diagnosis, the one the physician had turned into his superiors or what he’d given the assassin? Maybe the man was just trying to protect Aya, but why would he do that?

Then there had been the discovery upon cross checking the rest of the team’s medical files that the redhead’s were in no way as detailed as everyone else’s, at least in regards to the yearly check-ups. It was as if the most pertinent information was being withheld. Omi sensed a conspiracy of some sort going on, but wasn’t sure if confronting Aya with it would be wise. The older man might not even know what was going on, and the last thing the youth needed was making his short-tempered friend pissed off at their bosses.

Omi nearly had a heart attack when he flipped on the kitchen light and found Aya sitting quietly at the kitchen table. "Aya-kun, what are you doing here in the dark? Shouldn’t you be in bed?" The older man looked so pale, dressed in a white t-shirt and light grey boxers. His hair was damp and clinging to his face, the eyes shining unnaturally bright behind the strands.

"Hn. Had to get up." The deep voice was oddly distant, and barely louder than a whisper. He continued to stare at the younger man, completely unnerving the youth.

"Is everything okay?" Omi asked. The redhead just sat there silently. "I can make you some breakfast if you’re hungry, Ayan. How does some miso soup sound?" At least the pale man shook his head in response. Needing to do something, the genki blond started a pot of coffee as he prepared himself a bowl of cereal. Breakfast in hand, he sat back down at the table. About halfway through his meal Aya spoke up again, nearly startling him into dropping his spoon.

"The music store."

"Na-nani?" Omi sputtered as he wiped at the milk trickling down his chin. "The music store, is that what you said? Need me to pick up some cd’s for you?"

Aya shook his head. "The music store, tonight." He rubbed at his temples, a pained expression on his face. "I don’t know what it is, but I had to wake up and tell you that."

"What about the music store? Do you mean the one by the arcades or down by the Tetley café? You /are/ talking about the ones in Shibuya, aren’t you?" The blond was trying to puzzle out his friend’s cryptic statements.

"By the arcades. All the threads lead back to there. They’re pulling at me, telling me tonight. You have to go instead." Closing his eyes on the tears of pain that welled up in them, the swordsman cursed. "Why won’t the damn headache go away?"

Omi rushed over to his friend’s side. "Aya-kun, are you alright? Did you take your pills yet this morning?" Maybe all of this was just some drug-induced rambling.

"No." Oh well, so much for that theory. The chibi fussed over the older man, fetching him a glass of water and patting him on the shoulder. After a few minutes Aya pushed him away and stood up. "Just go tonight, Bombay. It’ll all be over then." The blond shivered as he got a good look at the man’s eyes, the pupils had shrunk to the size of pinpricks in dark purple eyes. It was as if two precious gemstones had been set in his teammate’s eye sockets. Aya picked up the glass of water and left the kitchen.

Unsure what the oddly behaving redhead’s intentions were, Omi followed him upstairs and into the oldest assassins’ bedroom. He stood in the doorway as the pale man sat down on the bed, next to Yohji’s sleeping form. Wavering between waking up the older blond or not, the archer watched as Aya opened the medicine bottles and shook out a pill from each. He swallowed them, washing the tablets down with the glass of water, before curling up against his lover. Convinced that his friend wasn’t going to do anything harmful to himself or his teammates, Omi turned as he pulled the door shut. Right before it was completely closed he heard Aya’s voice drift out to him. "The music store, tonight."

*******

The annoying beep kept droning on and on. Prying open an emerald hued eye, Yohji glared at the alarm clock. After mentally willing it to explode into thousands of tiny pieces failed, he snaked a lanky arm out from under the covers and slammed down on the snooze button. Grumbling over the fact of being woken up, he glanced at the redhead snuggled against him.

Aya was dead to the world. The older man remembered drifting awake in the early morning to find the bed empty, but had been too tired to be concerned. His lover must have wandered off somewhere and then returned back to bed. The smaller man was wearing a t-shirt and boxers, which was a lot more than he’d gone to sleep in. The two men had figured out that the medication took about thirty minutes to start making Aya sleepy, and had put that time to good use. Yohji brushed back the man’s bangs and planted a kiss on his forehead. Hmm, smelled as if the redhead had gotten up and taken a shower. He shifted closer to Aya. It was so nice to be snuggled in a comfy bed with another warm body. The blond started to drift off again when the snooze timed out.

Cursing under his breath, he turned the alarm off and rubbed his eyes. He now had a little over twenty minutes to get a shower and a bite to eat before having to work. Half tempted to say the hell with it and lock the door before going back to sleep, Yohji remembered that Ken would be down in the flower shop all by himself. Not a good thing. He could imagine a set of bugnuks carving the door into kindling, heralding the arrival of a very irate brunet intent on killing his missing coworker. Besides, might as well save blowing off work like that for a time when the kitten was awake and up for a bit of fun. Regarding the swordsman once more, Yohji was amazed at how out of it the man was. Normally it didn’t take much to wake Aya up, and here he had slept through the alarm twice without moving a muscle. The blond hoped the damn medication did its job and was worth all this hassle.

A quick shower and a cup of coffee later, Yohji walked into the flowershop munching on a waffle. He settled behind the register, where Ken was busy ringing up a customer. As soon as the man left with his floral arrangement the brunet turned to face his co-worker. And immediately grimaced upon seeing what the older man was eating. "Peanut butter on waffles? That’s sick Kudoh."

"It’s not as bad as you’d think. Wanna try a bite?" He offered the gooey mess to the athlete, who made gagging sounds. "Besides, there isn’t much left in the fridge, Omi’s been too busy to do any grocery shopping. Some of us don’t live on carbohydrate bars and Gatorade."

"Touch my stuff and you’re dead." Ken growled. The blond had a nasty habit of poaching everybody else’s supplies just to avoid going to the store himself.

"Whatever." Yohji leaned against the counter, enjoying the feel of sun on his skin. "Hey, did you see the fearless leader this morning? He was up and about for some reason at an ungodly hour."

"Omi mentioned talking to Aya earlier. He seemed to be worried about something, but wouldn’t elaborate. You know how distracted that boy gets when he’s trying to puzzle something out." The teenager’s behavior had disturbed Ken a bit. It wasn’t like Omi to be so quiet in the morning. Besides him commenting about seeing to the redhead at breakfast, the only other thing the young blond had said was he wanted Weiß to focus on the area around the arcade tonight. Ken passed this news on to Yohji, who was busy licking his fingers free of peanut butter. At the playboy’s curious look he merely stated that he was just the messenger, and hadn’t a clue about why Omi had made the request. "Maybe the boy wonder has found a lead."

"It’s about time. I don’t know what Kritiker was thinking handing this case off to us with so little information. We never used to get so few details before." Yohji lit a cigarette since it was just him and the brunet manning the shop. They had an unspoken agreement, he could smoke and Ken could play with his soccer ball to his heart’s content when it was just them working.

The athlete tugged on a dark brown lock as he thought about what Yohji had said for a moment. "Well our success ratio was never this high before. It really has made a big difference having a fourth member on the team, and the missions have changed accordingly."

"Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to do a bit more investigative work instead of just surveillance, guard duty and assassinations. I’m only saying it seems as if we are completely in the dark on this one. None of the victims remember a thing, nothing was caught on camera, nada." The lack of evidence got on the former private detective’s nerves.

"We had almost as little to go on for the Aso case, and we solved that," Ken pointed out.

Yohji blew a smoke ring in the younger man’s direction. "Yeah, but we had a list of suspects within the first night or two. Nothing so far on this job. All we are doing is acting as bait."

"Wouldn’t be the first time." Ken smiled at the blond has he waved away the smoke. "Besides, I thought you enjoyed having an excuse to spend the night out with Aya. And buying stuff with Kritiker’s money."

"Huh. As nice as it’s been, this assignment doesn’t make the top ten fantasy mission list. That calls for Aya wearing a lot less clothes and a more luxurious setting." The blond’s eyes slightly glazed over at the thought of some of those fantasies. He gave himself a good shake before finishing off his cigarette. "Anyways, I really do hope the chibi’s come up with something. All this work is getting to me. It’ll be nice to have an excuse to lounge around in bed all day. Not often when I have the kitten as a captive audience."

"Nice to see you guys have kissed and made up. Of course it would be more impressive if one didn’t know you’ll just be screaming at each other in another couple of days."

"I scream, he makes death threats. If you’d get off your ass and make a move on Omi maybe then you’d find out that fights like those help keep the spark alive in a relationship. All those opportunities to make up, comprehend?" Yohji winked at his teammate.

The brunet shook his head, not willing to get into a discussion concerning his love life or lack thereof at the time being. Besides, it was so much more amusing to focus on the playboy’s, especially considering whom he was involved with. "It’s comforting to know that you and Aya will never have one of those diabetes inducing sappy romances. Although it would be easier on the nerves." Eyeing the smirking man, Ken decided Yohji was in a good enough mood to be asked a favor from. "Listen Kudoh, between covering for Omi and now Aya and this mission, I haven’t had much time to see the kids. I’d really like to get in a quick match with them before heading down to Shibuya tonight. Would you mind keeping an eye on things here by yourself?"

The older man pretended to think the offer over. Once Hidaka was gone there was no reason to keep the store open. He could then close things down and go curl up beside his lover. "Tell you what, help me handle the lunch crowd and the few deliveries, and you can leave afterwards. Deal?"

"You got it." Ken didn’t stop to think if Yohji had an ulterior motive, the less he could later on say that he knew, the better.

*******

Whistling to himself, Yohji swept aside the last of the dirt and tossed his apron on a counter. The Koneko was officially closed for the day. In another hour or so there would be dozens of disappointed fan girls hanging outside, but they never were responsible for much business anyways. Besides, it wasn’t like he could actually be expected to wait on all of them by himself. It would just leave him too exhausted to be any help with the mission tonight. Excuses firmly established, just in case Omi or the gods forbid Aya thought to give him grief over the decision, the lanky man headed upstairs.

Upon reaching his room he quickly stripped off his clothes and slid under the blankets. Heaven. Yohji spooned himself behind the sleeping redhead, reveling in the warmth the man provided. There had been times over the year he’d known the younger man when he would have sworn Aya was colder than ice. It was so nice to finally be in a position to know otherwise.

The redhead mumbled something unintelligible as a pair of thin arms snaked their way around him. Taking it as a sign that the drugs were wearing off, Yohji started kissing the back of Aya’s neck as his hands roamed underneath the shirt and boxers. The pale man drifted awake at the feel of those caresses. "Yo-hji?"

The older man trailed a series of kisses along the back of his lover’s neck to his ear. "Mmm, of course. You trying to tell me you let someone else crawl in bed with you, kitten?"

"Hn." It felt as if he was still dreaming, what with the mouth nibbling on an earlobe and a hand stroking him erect. Still drowsy, Aya just laid there, moaning and shivering, as Yohji’s touches slowly drove him wild.

Cursing softly in frustration, the playboy pushed his boyfriend’s boxers down and the t-shirt as far up as he could. Aya didn’t seem inclined to move, but he wasn’t objecting much over the matter. It wasn’t often that he had a passive redhead in bed, willing to let Yohji do whatever he wanted. There was a delicious feeling of being completely in control that turned him on almost as much as the thought of sex did. Maybe even more, since Aya so rarely surrendered that control to him.

Wanting nothing more than to be inside of his lover, the blond quickly slickened two fingers and started to stretch the younger man’s entrance. Aya gasped at the intrusion, hips pushing backwards to work the fingers in deeper. The man actually whimpered when Yohji brushed the digits against his prostrate. Not wanting to wait any longer, Yohji withdrew the fingers and steadily pushed himself inside the smaller man, barely giving the redhead time to adjust. A deep moan was issued, half agony and half pleasure, but the redhead didn’t stop his lover. The hand stroking his own shaft made him not care at all about the pain.

Spooned behind the swordsman, Yohji set a slow pace that left the smaller man mewling out his name. He would pump his hand in time to the thrusts, stopping when he felt his kitten was too close to the edge. The blond wanted this to last as long as possible, to enjoy dominating Aya to this degree forever if he could. Murmuring possessive endearments, he bit into the redhead’s shoulder, drinking in the strangled ‘Yohji’ that greeted the action. The older man angled his and Aya’s hips so that he was thrusting in as deep as he could.

It felt as if Aya was suspended between two worlds; pleasure and pain, dream and reality. He started to plead incoherently with his lover to push him squarely into the one or the other, not caring which it was. As if that had been what he was waiting for, Yohji angled his thrusts once more, brushing against the smaller man’s prostrate as his hand hastened its stroking. Pushed fully into pleasure, Aya came in his lover’s grasp, body tight with the waves of bliss that radiated out from his center. He laid there spent as Yohji once more sunk his teeth in the back of his neck and came as well. The pain barely registered, it was just one more pulse to overloaded senses.

After several minutes the blond shifted back from his lover, wiping his hand on the man’s t-shirt. He took a moment to fully remove the shirt, and to clean a pale stomach with it. Once that was taken care of he laid back on the bed, pulling the quiet redhead onto his chest. Running his hands through Aya’s tangled hair, he felt a smug grin spread across his face. "You still awake there, kitten?"

"Hn." Aya propped his chin on the older man’s chest and looked up at him. Yohji definitely appeared well satisfied. "What time is it?"

"Uhm, about half past four." Yohji reached out a long arm and snagged his cigarettes. His lover wrinkled his nose at the smell of burning tobacco, but let the incident pass without comment. The blond was left wondering if there was a way to convince the doctor to keep Aya on the pills forever. It was a welcome change to not be bitched at for smoking in bed. "You want to get something to eat? We have a little time before I have to leave and you take another dose."

Impossibly enough, the younger man paled even further at the mention of food. Kudoh wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it. "No food," was the strangled reply.

"Aya love, did you eat anything today?" The crimson hair flew as its owner shook his head. "How about earlier when you woke up?"

"No." Aya wanted off the topic of food as soon as possible. The mere thought of it was making his stomach churn.

Yohji frowned as he tapped his cigarette into the ashtray. "I know the pills are supposed to make you feel nauseous, but you have to eat something. What about a nice bowl of soup, or some toast?"

"Kudoh. /No/. Food." The blond was all set to argue, maybe curse the smaller man’s stubborn nature some more, when he noticed the green tinge to Aya’s face. Okay, so food was out. Last thing he wanted was a sick redhead throwing up in bed.

"Alright then, how about a cup of tea with honey. You need something in your system other than drugs and water." The pair of violet eyes closed, as if inwardly consulting the offer, then opened back up as the pale man nodded. "So, I’ll brew a pot while I grab a bite to eat. You gonna come down or should I bring it back here?" Yohji brushed back the redhead’s bangs, waiting to be snapped at for babying the smaller man. He was rather surprised when it never happened.

"I want a shower. Just bring it up here." A please would have been nice, but this was Aya he was dealing with. Not getting yelled at was the most important point. Maybe the blond should try shaking him more often during a fight; it seemed to have helped drive his point home last night.

"Will do. Just don’t take too long in there, I need one too. It appears as if Omi might have a lead on the case, so I want to get down to the shops a little early, maybe try to chat with him a bit about what he suspects."

In the process of lifting himself off of the taller man, the redhead brows furrowed. "A lead?"

 

"Yeah, did he happen to mention anything to you this morning?" Yohji frowned at the swordsman, who appeared lost in thought. "Earth to Fujimiya, you hearing me?" A gold toned hand tugged on a long eartail.

Aya snapped back as he swatted the hand away. There had been something this morning that had compelled him to get out of bed and talk to the teenager. He remembered pain and multicolored threads wrapped around him, pulling him towards a store. Nothing else. "The music store."

"Huh, you mean the one by the arcade? Which you bitched about for almost two hours for having no classical section worth mentioning? Wonder why the chibi is so suspicious about that place." It didn’t look as if the redhead had a clue either, so Yohji got out of bed, taking a moment to pull his underwear back on as he left the room. Aya sat there a minute longer, feeling as if there were thousands of strands sunk into his skin, tugging him here and there while at the same time being influenced by his every breath. There was a dull throb of pain in his head, quite unlike the agony he’d recently suffered through, that slowly faded away. As it vanished so did the feeling of those threads attached to him. He made his way to the shower, mind once again busy blotting the event out.

Far away, a grey woman looked up from a book, her face a study of fear and wonder. She ignored the novel falling off her lap as she stroked a plain silver ring on her middle right finger. Glinting around the precious metal was a flash of crimson, a stolen strand that she considered her most valued possession. It warmed her so, and just now it had flared ever so hot, almost scorching her skin. Cassandra smiled, a not quite sane twist to her lips, as she felt the future shuffle about ever so slightly for the second time in the past day. She would need to consult with the evil child, and to inform him of the changes. That one had no clue of the inferno he played with. It would be amusing to remain silent and let him be burned to a crisp by his ambitions and desires, but she had promised. However, that would have to wait. Lying back on her bed, the psychic set about weaving a web to both shield and contain that precious flame. Regarding her task after a long period of crafting, the half mad woman briefly reflected that maybe they should have called her Arachne instead.

*******

Blue eyes scanning the crowd around him, Omi nearly growled in frustration. He’d spent most of the evening sitting around and doing nothing but play with his Gameboy and drink iced coffee. Every now and then he’d get up and check out another shop, but for the most part his attention was focused on the record store across from the bench he was sitting on. Over by the fountain Yohji was holding court with a crowd of young women, all of them eager to chat with the playboy. Ken had limited himself to the games right around the entrance of the arcade, and was beginning to look rather bored with the sharpshooter game he’d played at least twenty times already.

Nothing. He’d been here all evening and nothing. Maybe it hadn’t been too wise to listen to Aya after all. Granted, the man’s theories and hunches often proved correct on previous missions, but it might have been just the drugs talking after all. In an hour he would have to go home and start his homework, and most likely it would be another fruitless night for Weiß. Or worse, Manx would inform them that there had indeed been an attack, only somewhere else in the district.

Thoroughly bored, the young blond got up to make another round of the shops. There was a candy shop right next to the music store that he had made himself promise to not stop in until the end of the night. Or else he’d have spent the whole evening shaking from the sugar high, all on top of the caffeine one he’d already developed. Taking a slight detour to toss away his cup, Omi exchanged glances with Yohji, shrugging his shoulders at the man’s raised eyebrow. When the older blond had approached him earlier to ask if he’d figured anything out, the teenager had just replied that one of his pattern finding programs had spit out the location. He wasn’t about to tell the playboy that his boyfriend was acting a bit on the odd and unstable side, more so than usual.

Roaming the candy shop for a good twenty minutes, the hacker departed the premises with enough condensed sugar to have him bouncing off the walls for a week. He’d have to hide the stash, or his roommates would toss the candy out in an effort to save themselves from a dreaded attack of the Mecha Genki Omi. Shoving his goodies into his backpack, he was bumped into from behind. There was an mumbled apology as the small youth staggered over to the left. Nodding his head, Omi tried to regain his feet, only to be brutally shoved again. Right into the narrow alley between the candy and music store, leading back to the delivery areas. About to open his mouth to protest, the young assassin felt something cylindrical and hard in nature shoved into his back. "No noises, keep walking." There was a tight grip on his upper right arm, and the slight attempt he made to turn around was prevented by a crushing grip jerking him off balance once more.

Finally. The target had taken the bait. Omi went along with the man, left hand shifting slightly to activate the supposed pager on his belt. If Yohji and Ken had missed him being abducted, their alarms would be going off now. Whimpering in mock fear, Bombay let himself be herded to a waiting delivery van. He was stopped right in front of the rear door, which the strange man holding him at gunpoint quickly fumbled open. Once more jerked around, this time up into the vehicle, the teenager felt the gun be pulled away and the man behind him shift about. Anticipating what was coming next, Bombay fell forward so the blow only glanced off the back of his head. He pretended to be unconscious as the stranger shoved him about in the cramped storage area and slammed the door shut behind him

Lying still, he soon heard the distinctive rev of Yohji’s Seven trailing the van for a couple blocks. Then the sound faded away. The sportster was too unusual of a car to follow the van for very long without tipping off the driver. Balinese had probably only driven so close to the target just to let Bombay know he had backup. Muscles relaxing, the archer covertly fingered the darts he had hidden up his sleeves, making sure that they were easily accessible. All that was left was to wait until the psychotic man stopped the vehicle.

The delivery van slowed down, and then came to a halt. Above the whir of a garage door Bombay caught the roar of a familiar motorcycle engine driving past. Closing his eyes once more, he kept his body limp as he was dragged out of the vehicle and into another room. As soon as he was dumped on the ground he slit them open just enough to establish he was in some sort of laundry room. The floor was disturbingly covered in dark brownish blotches, and there were several flies buzzing about.

Without any warning, the youth received a kick to his ribs. Biting back a cry, Bombay just laid there. As soon as he established where the target was he would move. "Filthy little bastard, wake up." There was another kick that the youth used to help roll his body over. Arms now free to move, the assassin quickly sat up and whipped out a dart. The small projectile caught the thirty-something man in his throat, dark brown eyes wide with shock. The psychopath stumbled backwards, banging into a wall. The opposite door then burst open, and a scowling Siberian entered the room. Catching sight of the now standing Bombay and the choking older man, he swiftly descended upon the target. Weiß’s objective was finally achieved as the sharp tiger claws cut deeply into the stranger’s chest. Balinese walked into the room in time to see the man collapse onto the floor, blood spreading everywhere.

"Yech, messy. I get any of that on these shoes and you’re paying for a new pair, Hidaka." Ignoring his glowering teammate, the playboy glanced over at Bombay. "You okay, chibi?"

"Yeah. My ribs are a little sore, and I feel like Aya-kun thanks to this headache, but I’m good. You guys sure got here fast." The archer had thought he’d have to dig out one of his poisonous darts from his backpack and finish the target off himself before the rest of his team would arrive.

Ken spoke up, torn between standing where he was and going to fuss over the young blond. Yohji just grinned sardonically behind his shades. "Well, we’d been keeping a pretty good eye on each other tonight, so the two of us noticed you being shoved down that walkway right away." The fact that Omi had been leaving a candy store had played a large part in their attentiveness. The older assassins lived in fear of the genki youth’s sugar overdoses. "And both of us parked close to the shopping center, just in case. You think Kritiker will help with the parking tickets since we completed another successful assignment?" He settled for patting the younger man gingerly on the shoulder.

"Maybe, if you’re really nice to Manx the next time you see her." Omi smiled up at his friend before looking away to the corpse. "I wonder who this guy was."

"Who cares. Let’s go."

"Wah, Yohji-kun, how can /you/ not care? Doesn’t the private detective part of you want to know why he killed all those people?" Ken nodded his head, clearly sharing the young blond’s opinion.

A pair of green eyes regarded the two over dark shades. "I’m sure Manx or Birman would just love to fill us in after having people scour over the place investigating and disposing of the evidence. We were paid to kill him, and that’s now done. I’ve had enough. All I want is to go home to a nice comfy bed filled with a gorgeous redhead and not even think about work for the next thirty-six hours. You want to paw through some nutcase’s effects and try to establish a motive, be my guests. Just don’t be surprised if you find more than you thought to, these freaks always got a few ‘projects’ lying around." That said, Yohji swiftly made his departure.

Exchanging glances, the two youngest Weiß decided to follow his example. Walking through the filthy house, they were glad that they had changed their minds. There could be anything hidden under the debris and filth, it was clear that the target had been a very disturbed individual. The two young men exited through the back door, sneaking down the alley in an effort to not attract any attention.

*******

"Honey, I’m ho~ome," Yohji shouted out in English as he stripped off his coat. The Koneko was dark and quiet. Running up the stairs he flung himself into his bedroom, landing on the bed in front of a frowning redhead. "There you are, kitten. Wanna hear about my night?"

"Hn." Aya tucked his journal into the nightstand’s drawer, away from a pair of curious emerald eyes.

"Knew you’d want to, try not to be so enthused." Yohji’s inamorata let out a long-suffering sigh, which he’d perfected since dating the blond. That earned the man a stuck out tongue. "We got the bastard. Well, technically Omi did, but then Ken helped to finish him off. I just contributed stunning good looks and immense brain power."

Aya wondered if maybe he should have confided in the doctor that yes he was in a sexual relationship, and with whom. It was probably Kudoh who should be on the drugs anyways. "Good."

"Good?" Honey blond eyebrows waggled up and down. "That’s all you can say to Weiß saving the lives of countless youths, against all odds and obstacles? You are so no fun."

Eyeing the pouting playboy, the pale man debated taking his medicine right away. It would be advantageous to be unconscious while Yohji was in such a jocular mood. "What do you want me to say?"

Yohji pushed up onto his hands and knees and crawled over to the smaller man resting back on the pillows. He kept moving forward until the two men were nose to nose. "How about ‘oh Kudoh, you are just the most amazing person I’ve ever known. Take me now’. Something along those lines, I’m willing to let you improvise a bit."

Violet eyes rolled as their owner snorted. "Are you drunk?"

"Not yet. Thought I’d come play with my kitten for a while first. Ready to lavish some affection on the conquering hero?" A golden nose rubbed against a white one.

"Hn." The redhead figured it would be a small enough sacrifice if it got the older man to shut up. He reached out and grabbed a handful of long wavy hair, tilting his lover’s face for a kiss. Yohji growled at the embrace, letting his weight slowly rest on the smaller man. His hands were busy untying the sash that held Aya’s yukata closed. The other man in return started to yank his cropped top over his head, briefly interrupting the kiss. It was swiftly resumed, with Yohji groaning his satisfaction of getting the damn knot untied into his kitten’s mouth. He was pushing aside the cotton robe when Omi and Ken arrived upstairs.

"Aya-kun! Did you hear the go-" Omi’s voice strangled off as he bounced into the room, excited about completing the mission. He hadn’t stopped to think that he might find his two friends half naked on the bed, especially since the door hadn’t been closed. "Uhm." The youth’s brain was thrown completely out of whack by the sight before him. Ken cautiously poked a curious head into the room. Taking in the stunned teenager and the flustered couple, he withdrew back into the hall, loudly sniggering. For once it had been someone other than him.

Yohji was trying to decide if yelling or laughing would be the best response. Aya’s face was buried into his shoulder, he could hear the man shi-ne’ing his fellow teammates. "You know chibi, we hadn’t planned on putting on a show tonight. Shouldn’t you be busy writing a report or something?" Blue eyes blinked at him in shock. "Omi, get out." Bluntness seemed to work, as the dazed chibi finally turned around and started to walk away. "And close the door behind you, please."

Once the lock clicked Kudoh decided to find out just how much trouble he was in. "So kitten, how painful is my death going to be?" he asked the taut body in his arms. Aya fell back onto the pillows, glaring up at his guilty boyfriend. "Hn."

Stroking his hand through the angry man’s hair, the older man turned pleading green eyes on his lover. "It’s going to be worse than the scallop revenge, isn’t it."

Aya smiled evilly. And then leaned up to nibble on the blond’s chin. Yohji gulped and closed his eyes. Pushing both of them into the mattress, he set about persuading his vindictive lover to forget about the whole incident.

*******

Omi sat down at his computer, at a loss of what to type. He had informed Kritiker about Weiß stopping the murderer while on the way home, and now that his homework was finished he was in the middle of writing his report. The youth didn’t know what to say, and was trying to figure out if he should mention Aya’s ‘assistance’ in solving the mission. How had the redhead known that the target would be looking for victims around the music store?

After typing and deleting the same line several times, the youth heard a knock on his door. Eager to get away from his computer, he got up and opened it. And immediately blushed. "Ah, Yotan, I’m really sorry about earlier. I hope Aya wasn’t too upset."

The older blond leaned against the doorjamb, a content smirk on his face. Omi noted that the man was dressed to go out, in leather pants and a form fitting shirt. "Don’t worry, he’s not real upset anymore." If anything the smirk just increased in intensity. "It’s my fault for leaving the door open. You still working on the report?"

"Uh-huh, almost finished. You going out?"

Yohji stretched as he straightened up, the movements languid. The man radiated satiation and a decidedly satisfied air. "Yeah. Aya’s conked out again, so I thought I’d sneak out and have a drink or two. I won’t be up too late. Make sure you get some rest tonight kiddo." He waved goodbye to the youth as he sauntered down the hall. Omi bit his lip, trying to squash down the jealous feelings that had been bothering him since he’d interrupted the couple. They’d looked so right together, lying in the bed. He was beginning to despair that anything was going to happen between him and Ken. The stupid jock was busy snoring away in his bed, all alone.

Omi sat back down at his computer, once again debating what exactly to tell his bosses. Since finding out about the discrepancies in the swordsman’s health records, he was a bit leery over mentioning the incident. Common sense busy fighting his conscious, the archer didn’t realize that someone else had entered his room. Not until a gun was pressed against him for the second time that night. This time it was digging into his skull.

<Don’t move Bombay, unless you want to die a young man. And that goes for screaming, too. Just means I’d have to kill Siberian as well when he stumbles in here.>

"Schuldig." It was easy to keep his voice low, hate for the man making him hiss the name out.

"Such a bright boy. Are there really that many German telepaths running around in Japan that you have to clarify which one you’re talking to?"

Omi’s slight form shook with rage. The bastard who’d killed his sister and hurt Aya and Yohji so badly just a few weeks ago was standing here cracking jokes. "What do you want?"

"A lot of things. But right now there is one that coincides with your wishes as well. Making sure a certain redhead we all know and love is kept safe and sound. Promise me you’ll behave and I’ll explain just how much of a mistake you almost just made. Try anything and I’ll kill you and your oblivious sweetie as well, understand Hosenscheißer?" The telepath lightly scanned the youth’s mind, ascertaining that he’d threatened and intrigued the boy almost enough.

"Why should I believe you, Schwarz didn’t kill us the last time we clashed. And you certainly didn’t care about Aya’s welfare then." Hee, cue the chibi’s defiant nature. Some people were just so predictable.

<Because that was then, and this is now. The future constantly changes, thought someone as smart as you would know that. I don’t need you or the sleeping idiot alive at this point. As for the Kätzchen, I was simply trying to teach him a lesson. However, what I did to him is nothing compared to what will happen if you send in the report about his recent behavior.> Ah, that had snared den kleinen Jungen well and good. Bombay was so endearingly possessive about his teammates.

The young blond nodded his head, not believing that he was sitting here talking with Mastermind instead of killing him. He felt the gun move away from his head, and twisted around in time to see the German leave his room. Rushing out to the hallway, he saw the man enter Yohji and Aya’s room. He ran in, ready to throw the dart in his hand.

And found himself unable to let go of the projectile. Schuldig settled on the bed, draping an unconscious Aya in his lap. <Behave, or I’ll have to spank you. And not in the good way you dream of the Wichser down the hall doing it. Now close the door and sit down so we can talk like two civilized assassins.> Omi found his legs carrying him to the couch after he shut and locked the door. "Stop it you bastard."

"Aww, you wound me. Such an nasty name coming from a sweet little chibi. What’s the matter, a little frustrated are we? Haven’t found anymore siblings to have incest with? That why you’re so obsessed with the dunce down the hall?" Omi tried to snarl at the man but found his tongue unwilling to move. Schuldig grinned evilly as he ran his hands through the unconscious swordsman’s hair. He didn’t know what was more enjoyable, Bombay’s rage or the fact that his Knuddelhäschen was snuggling into his lap. "Wanna know why he’s playing so hard to get? His last male lover betrayed him so badly. You could say it scarred him for life. Poor Siberian is so afraid it will happen again, that you’ll leave him broke and hurting. Considering what you almost did to Abyssinian tonight, boy’s right to be afraid."

Omi managed to grit out "What are you talking about?" It seemed as long as he didn’t try to yell or insult the German he could speak. "I’d never hurt Aya."

"Not directly. But if Kritiker ever finds out what happened today, you will be responsible for the deaths of at least you and your boyfriend, possibly that Warmduscher Balinese as well. And Abyssinian’s life will become a living hell." The telepath stroked his hand across a fragile cheekbone, much like one would pet a cat.

"Nani?" The blond thought about this morning’s event, and the mission. "Aya’s a precog, isn’t he?"

"No. He’s something a million times more rare and precious. The Kätzchen doesn’t predict the future, he directly influences it. Have you ever heard the term ‘Katalisator’?"

"Uhm, that means catalyst, right?" Omi desperately tried to figure out where the telepath was going with this. "I don’t understand, is that why Kritiker has altered his medical files?"

"It’s why Kritiker has done many things in regards to Abyssinian. They think like you do, that he is a clairvoyant, although a mostly latent one. They keep a very close eye on him, requiring him to have extensive physical and mental evaluations twice a year to see if he or his ‘talent’ have changed in anyway. Not all those visits to the hospital have been in regards to his sister." Now that den kleinen Jungen’s curiosity was absorbed by the discussion, Schuldig could spare a fraction of his ability for his precious tuberose. He made each touch set off a minute spark of pleasure, a slight echo of what he’d used on the pale man before. The telepath had to be careful that he didn’t do any harm this time.

"Haven’t you ever wondered why your employers are so fanatic about never letting him go? Why they sent two of their best agents to bring him back to the fold not once but twice, a totally unprecedented event. Why they kept bouncing him around from team to team until he found one he fit into? They never spent that much effort on anybody else, they’d just kill the troublesome element and move on. But he’s considered special, and so worth the extra endeavor."

The youth gritted his teeth as he spied one of the German’s hands drift down Aya’s naked chest. The smaller redhead moaned ever so softly and buried his face in Schuldig’s thigh. There was an oddly tender look on the longhaired man’s face that scared Bombay. It meant Schuldig wasn’t just interested in fun and games. He sought to distract the man. "Because he’s a catalyst. Whatever that is."

Schuldig cocked an eyebrow, making it disappear under his bandana. "What ‘that’ means is why you were successful tonight, and in all of your previous missions. Didn’t you ever stop to consider how often Weiß beats the odds? At all the strange coincidences surrounding your team? They are because of Abyssinian’s presence. You and your friends were to have died on that dark field, at the hands of Takatori’s pawns. But the Kätzchen stepped in to save you. And did so, against laughable odds and a heavily armed trained combat squad. Granted Weiß was a little preoccupied at the time, but didn’t any of you ever stop to consider what had just happened? There have been many similar incidences since Abyssinian joined the team."

"A catalyst directly influences fate. Because of them things happen that normally never would. They can alter things to such a drastic degree, merely by being. It was due to his nature that sweet Ran failed to die when his parents did, even though he should have." The telepath lifted a slender hand to his face and cupped it against his cheek. Just the feel of the younger man was intoxicating. "His powers first emerged on that day, saving him and sparing his sister. She should have died, in fact did, ever so briefly, before he altered things ever so slightly, leaving her alive in body. His devotion is what keeps her breathing to this day."

Pale green eyes glittered at wide blue ones. Hopefully the chibi was getting the point of this discussion. "Kritiker became aware of him after the bombing. They feel that his guilt at failing to save his family is what mostly blocks his power. There was his first team, where once again he beat the odds and survived. Instead of ridding themselves of a supposed failure, your superiors placed him in Crashers, where they kept a very close eye on him. And found that virtually any mission he was part of was a success, not matter how difficult. That he could learn any skill necessary in a matter of months that would take others years. They were very upset when he left the organization to go freelance. It should have meant his death, but he was just observed instead, and when the time was right brought back into the fold."

The telepath looked at the man sprawled in his lap. His tuberose’s skin glowed in the darkness, much like the flower his nickname represented. Running his knuckles across the man’s lips, he smiled as the smaller man murmured his name. "Half the missions you’ve been given have been tests for Abyssinian. To see how well his talent works. That’s why Weiß has been given the hardest cases, the ones with the least information or probability for success. And you are successful because as a catalyst your leader draws all the necessary elements to him. Such as Hikage, that Tomoe bitch, Aso, and tonight. Kritiker purposely withheld things from you regarding the latest assignment. If you tell them that Abyssinian had ‘predicted’ where the abduction was going to take place, they will assume for sure that he was a precog and recall him for more tests. And then find out what he truly is."

Omi’s head hurt from all the facts being tossed at him. All the explanations. "He was supposed to be chosen by the target, wasn’t he? But I was substituted instead." He wondered how much of that was Aya’s doing. Mastermind nodded his head at the last comment. "Is he really that special?"

"Wichser. Of course, haven’t you been listening at all? The man brought down the Prime Minister of Japan. Or have you forgotten about the death of your ‘father’ already? Everything that took place that night can be tied back to Ran Fujimiya surviving his family’s destruction and swearing vengeance on the one responsible. And that was with his true nature mostly latent. Once it is fully awaked and he aware of it, that will be mere child’s play to him. And whoever controls him. Organizations such as Kritiker will go to war just to be the one to possess him and that ability. Upon figuring out what he is your employers will kill anybody who would prevent them from using the Kätzchen as they see fit. His sister and possibly the Penner would be held hostage to ensure his cooperation."

The archer toyed with his dart. "Why haven’t they figured it out yet?"

"Because his nature is so far protecting him. It masks almost all psychics from guessing what he is. That’s why Bradley goes apeshit whenever Schwarz crosses Weiß, he sees the beginning but the end is always different from what he suspects. As long as Abyssinian’s talent is latent or masked everyone will assume that he is merely very lucky, if one can say that with a straight face, or slightly clairvoyant. Much like Kritiker does. Who would ever assume such a short-tempered, homicidal bookworm held such power?"

"You did." Blue eyes glared at the foreigner. "And don’t try to tell me you don’t want him just as much as everyone else."

"Oh, much much more." The German leered at the teenager. "I always knew there was something special about the dear boy, it just took me a while to figure it out. And now I’m making sure nobody else will. He’s /mine/, even have the visions to prove it. You’re just keeping him safe for me til then."

"That’s a filthy lie," Omi hissed out.

"Is it?" Schuldig ran a teasing hand behind Aya’s neck and lifted the man’s body up. He kissed the smaller redhead on the lips, then shifted him until the pale man was seated in his lap. Aya snuggled closer, his head tucking under the German’s chin. "He knows, deep inside, that he’s mine. It’ll only be a matter of time."

The boy could only stare in shock upon his teammate. It was the drugs, he kept repeating to himself. Aya-kun is so drugged he doesn’t even know what is happening, he thinks it’s Yohji holding him.

<No, not the drugs. Although if you want him to get well, you’d best make sure he keeps taking them. They’ll help keep his power latent until he’s ready to handle it. There shouldn’t be anymore slips like this morning, if there are you’ll be there to cover them. That’s why I’m confiding in you. He needs someone to look after him, and I can’t be here all the time. Balinese would just mess things up, he can’t be trusted. The damn Penner would take him off the pills if he suspected I was behind them, and all hell will break loose then. So be a good kleiner Junge and watch out for him. It’s the only way to keep your ‘family’ safe.> Nothing like twisting the boy’s protective nature to suit his purposes. Who would ever have thought that Mastermind would one day consider Bombay an ally of sorts? Once more his hand stroked the unconscious man’s face.

"Really, you have the oddest attachments to those you consider your flesh and blood, don’t you? Hee. Poor Siberian doesn’t have a clue what’s in store for him, the Arschloch." At the glare he was receiving, Schuldig pulled a contrite expression on his face. "Sorry, couldn’t resist. As an apology, and to prove everything I’ve said tonight is true, I’ll give you a little present. Next time you hack into your organization’s database, try the word Schatten. Be prepared with a serious encryption program. Once in, look up Orchidee. You’ll find all of Abyssinian’s missing or hidden files within." He looked down one more time, placing another kiss on the sleeping man’s mouth. Savoring the taste, he rearranged Aya back on the bed, tenderly tucking the sheets and duvet around the pale form.

The telepath then regarded the young assassin with a disturbingly serious gaze. "Remember, make sure he takes the pills. The sleepiness will pass in another day or so, as his body adjusts to the medication. And there shouldn’t be a repeat of this morning once that happens. Be very careful of anything Kritiker asks you to do in regards to him, and what you report about the Kätzchen. They’ll be going over everything concerning him in minute detail, and there will be more tests." <I’ll always be close by, so don’t think of trying anything smart. I truly won’t hesitate to kill you or anybody else that threatens him. Think of all the innocents who could get caught in the crossfire, much like dear Ouka did.> He ignored the garbled swear words as he tucked an eartail behind an adorned ear. "As much as I’ve enjoyed our discussion, it’s time you turned in that report. Don’t want to keep the employers waiting any longer, and believe me, they are very eager to receive the document. Night."

Omi just sat there as the telepath left the room, mind trying to take in all that he had just learned. After several minutes he got up and crossed over to the bed. Gazing down at the swordsman for a bit, the teenager attempted to correlate what Schuldig had told him with what he had always assumed to be true about the team and its members. Especially Aya. He bent down to tug the eartail back across the redhead’s face and neck, and left the room. It was time to go lie to his superiors. And to do a little more hacking.

*******

Schuldig leaned back into his pillow, a satisfied grin on his face. Bombay had sent out a very convincing parcel of fabrications that should ensure Abyssinian’s safety for a while. Content with the night’s work, he let himself fall asleep. Crawford had a busy agenda for the next day.

One moment there was nothing, and the next he was sitting in a garden, sunlight shining brightly upon dozens of different flowers. The scent was overwhelming. Growling softly, the telepath set about finding who was responsible for this dreamscape. It had never been one of his. Over by a lacy gazebo he found a dark haired woman, skin tinted a golden hue from exposure to the sun. When she gazed at him with pale grey eyes, he realized who it was. "Cassandra?" The longhaired man was incredulous. This young feminine woman was nothing like the grey hag hidden away by his keepers.

"What the hell are you doing in my head, you Alte Hexe? This shouldn’t be happening."

"Hush, child. There is much you’ll never know. Now behave and listen to what I have to say." The psychic sat down on a bench amidst a clutch of yarrow. "Close your mouth."

Schuldig felt his jaw snap shut at the comment. He needed the verrückte Oma right now, only by reminding himself of the fact that he got to kill her in the end helped him to calmly lean against the gazebo, pale green eyes regarding the woman mockingly. "I’m all ears. The sooner you explain the quicker I can get you out of my head."

"Now you know how all your poor victims felt. Including your heart. He’s why I’m here. The catalyst is starting to wake up, largely due to your interference. Foolish foolish child. Such a grabby, impatient nature. Maybe now you’ve learned something. The steps I’ve informed you to take have helped, but I’ve had to weave a cloak of shadows, cobwebs and deceit about him and his power. His flame is hidden, much like a star locked in a coffer. Bright and burning, but not for eyes to see. Yes, not for eyes to see. Safe and sound. But not his conscience. She still shines from his love. Soon the Erinyes will find her. The perverted creatures. They seek vengeance not for the clever one spilling a kinsman’s blood, but for the death of their master at the hands of your heart. Even more foolish than you. They should rejoice in their freedom, but dance down the path of their destruction instead. Their bronze wings will be shredded, their ripping claws and hissing vipers stilled. Three down, Tisiphone, Magaera and Alecto. But the dead one will live."

Great, now he had a headache. Deciphering the Alte Ziege’s visions was always painful. "You mean his sister, yes? And those harping bitches Schreient? When will they find her?"

"Soon. The moon will wane and wax and wane and wax to waning yet again. The Erinyes will snatch his conscience and seal their fate. The old fools will come as supplicants, seeking to turn their desires to flesh. I will lie for the evil child, and you and your brethren will be unleashed, Esset’s Wutendes Heer. It will all end in water and death, sweet death. But you will catch your star at last. Have no fear. Just patience and time. The weaving will slowly unravel at your touch, and the inferno rage forth. A sun caged in filaments of darkness. Oh yes, I have been very busy for you, naughty thing. Never forget your promise." The last was said in a beseeching tone of voice, the woman’s one fervent wish.

"Trust me, I long for that day as well. So you’ve hidden my tuberose away, neh? And caged his talent. Madwoman. When will ‘the star’ be mine?" The German bent forward to better regard the woman, a malicious air surrounding him.

"Time and patience. Your one dream could still come true, but would lead to heartache. Curb your impulses, and seek him amidst the temples high and low. Sweet sweet cherry blossoms. That’s the best. Even that idiot clairvoyant who thinks he leads your pack would agree. Half-blind ass. He’ll never see the star now, such a loss. Look down on poor Cassandra would he? As only one not touched by the gods would. One who runs away from knowledge, truly oblivious to the cliff. No trust at all in this reversed fool."

Schuldig cursed in impatience. "As nice as it would be to trade insults about Bradley-poo all night long, I really want you gone. Don’t come back unless you have something new to say." He glared at the woman, who tsked as she whirled her long skirts around her. There was a swirl of grey, and the telepath found himself once again alone in his mind. Muttering about insane precogs, he buried his head under a pillow and tried to block out visions of Schreient swooping through the air with wings and Crawford running around with a little dog playing at his heels. Damn woman.

*******

Stretching his arms above his head, Omi rolled over to glance at his alarm clock. And let out an eep upon seeing the time. He dashed out of bed, seeking out his roommates. Calling out their names, he realized that none of them were in their bedrooms. So he headed downstairs.

He finally found two of them in the den, curled up on the couch. Yohji was sitting upright, flicking through channels, and Aya was lying down, his head in the blond’s lap. There was a blanket over him and a book on Yohji’s knee. The playboy calmly regarded the chibi as he came to a screeching halt in front of the couple. A violet eye opened, glared at him slightly, and drifted closed as its owner hn’ed.

"Hey kiddo, love the penguins." It was a reference to the pajamas the teenager was wearing.

Omi was at a loss of words for a moment, taking in a scene that was eerily familiar to one last night. Shivering slightly, he eventually remembered why he had come charging downstairs. "Why didn’t anyone wake me? Do you know what time it is?"

"Almost seven o’clock. You missed an early dinner, nothing spectacular, just some take-out. Better eat it before Ken comes home." Yohji decided on a program and set the remote down, his hand settling on the crimson mop in his lap.

"It’s seven at night!!!! I should have been awake over twelve hours ago!!" The older blond winced at the high pitched shriek, and Aya woke up to glare at the teenager once more.

"Yeah well that’s what you get for spending all night on the computer. Your alarm had been going off for at least ten minutes before Ken got tired of it and turned it off. He figured if you could sleep through that you needed to have a holiday. All of us did."

Omi rubbed his eyes in frustration. "What about my classes?"

"Homework’s on the kitchen table. Had about a score of girls showing up to drop it off, crying over poor Omittchi being too sick to attend class. You got a lot of offers to help you study, if you’re interested." Yohji had taken to tickling his lover’s nose with an eartail during this speech. The sleepy man mumbled something as he swatted the strand away, pulling the blanket up to his eyes. Smiling, the older man started combing his fingers through Aya’s hair.

"And what did you guys do today," the chibi asked.

"Ken did the shopping, you owe him one. Then went off to play with those brats of his. Sleeping Beauty and I just…. hung out here the whole time." A leer accompanied that last statement. "Aya actually managed to stay awake somewhat today. He might even spend a few hours vertical tomorrow." A pale hand crept out from under the blanket, grabbed the book and swung it upward towards the playboy’s face. Yohji easily intercepted it and placed it on the couch’s arm.

Shaking his head, Omi left the couple alone. He didn’t know just how he was supposed to act around Aya now, and needed a little time to figure it out. Walking into the kitchen, he reheated some noodles and glanced over his homework. It wasn’t too bad, he should be able to finish it in an hour or two. Once done with his meal he went back upstairs, dropping the assignments off in his room and then taking a shower.

It was much later when he was interrupted by a knock on the door. Telling the person to enter, he swiveled on his chair to see Yohji come in the room. "You okay chibi? You seemed a little out of it earlier. Ken said you looked completely exhausted, that’s why we let you sleep all day."

"I guess I was." The hacker had spent all night breaking into Kritiker’s computer system, only to find that Schuldig had been correct in everything he’d said. It had been a very disturbing night. He’d managed to crawl into bed an hour or so before his alarm had been set to go off, but hadn’t been able to sleep right away. The youth just couldn’t shake the sight of Aya curled up on the telepath’s lap. It felt as if his whole life had just been set upon its head. How was he to trust Kritiker anymore, knowing as much about their schemes involving the redhead and Weiß that he now did?

"Uh, chibi? This isn’t helping me to stop worrying about you. One space case is all I can handle at this time."

"Huh?" Omi looked up into a pair of concerned green eyes. "Sorry Yohji-kun, just thinking. Did I mention that I found out a little bit more about last night’s target?" As the older man shook his head the teenager continued. "Seems he was happily married, and had this really good job. One day his wife announced she was pregnant. Guy was truly excited, in fact he bragged all about it. But when the baby was born it was clear he wasn’t the father. His wife had carried on a short affair with an American friend. She left with the child, claiming he was threatening the two of them. So he quit his job in shame, and the only new one he could find was delivering cd’s and stuff to local music stores. Guess seeing all the kids reminded him about his stepchild, and drove him over the edge. At least that’s what Manx said in her email." As a means of distracting himself, it failed miserably. It only reminded him about Aya’s insistence of staking out the music store. Of the man’s odd power and Mastermind’s involvement. But is seemed to have made Yohji forget about his concerns.

"Said it before, the guy was a nutcase. Thing is I’m sure the next case we get like this one, the guy will be even weirder. Pretty soon we’ll all be as jaded as Aya." Yohji reached over to ruffle his friend’s hair, and then turned for the door. "Try not to stay up all night this time, alright?"

"Yohji." The older man stopped, raising an eyebrow at the youth’s questioning tone. Omi tried to figure out what to say. "Is Aya starting to feel better?"

"Yep. Trust me, I’m in a position to know." Yohji winked at the blushing hacker.

"That’s good. You will keep a close eye on him though, won’t you? Just to make sure he doesn’t get sick again, right?" He couldn’t come right out and tell the man he needed to do a better job of protecting his boyfriend from a psychotic telepath. Omi didn’t want to even think of Yohji’s reaction if he ever found out about last night. Of the revelations and the agreement, and Aya’s strange reaction to the German. Maybe it really had been due to the drugs and Schuldig’s talent, but it still had been frightening to see.

"And here I thought you were supposed to be the smart one of the group. Of course I will, I live for the chance to enforce some bed rest on the grouch. He’s so cute when he’s sleeping." Omi smiled at that comment. "Go to bed chibi. Get some sleep yourself."

"You too, Yohji-kun." A green eye winked at him once more, as Yohji stated that he promised to do the first, but it would be a while before he followed through on the second. Hopefully a very long while. Omi felt his face turn red for a second time as he waved goodbye.

*******

Aya set down his comb, refusing to give in to the yawn that was threatening to emerge from his mouth. If Yohji or Ken saw it he’d be hustled back into bed in a heartbeat. The two men had agreed that he could come down to the shop and work on the orders after taking a short nap in the morning. Gritting his teeth at the thought of their fussing, the redhead noticed that the cedar box, which held his few pieces of jewelry and mementos, was cracked open. Prying the lid up, he placed the trailing edge of black velvet ribbon back inside. Yohji’s gift was beautiful, but not entirely suitable for work. A glint of red caught his attention. Tucked inside the box was a bracelet of exquisite workmanship, brilliant rubies and red opals set in what looked like platinum. The links separating the gems was in a Celtic knot motif, surrounding the precious stones in endless whirls of gleaming metal. It was beautiful, if a little odd with the combination of blood red and reddish orange stones, filled with splashes of color. As if by its own will his right hand reached out and picked up the bracelet, attaching it to his left wrist. The sleeve of the green shirt he was wearing fell forward, covering the jewelry. It was one of Yohji’s shirts, unbelievably soft and comfortable, and a bit big.

The redhead made his way into the flowershop. He glared at his two coworkers, daring them to fuss over him. Yohji merely smiled upon seeing what his boyfriend was wearing, and Ken appeared relieved. Probably happy someone else got to do the flower arrangements that day. There were several order slips cluttering up his table, so Aya got to work, happy to feel as if his life was returning somewhat to normal.

It was an hour or two later when he heard a unfortunately familiar voice. "Red! There you are. You’ve been hiding from me, you bad boy."

"Teddy." Aya assumed it was all part of his cosmic debt for being an assassin. The scales were evened by the unleashing of Stout upon him. "What do you want?"

A light blue eye roamed over him a bit critically. "You look a bit thinner, and you haven’t been getting a tan lately, that’s for sure." The American leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "Heard you’ve been confined to bed. A certain blond been busy keeping you there, or what?"

Teddy laughed as the pale man growled. "Got it in one, huh? It’s nice to see that you’re feeling better, ‘snugglebunny’." He laughed again at the expression on Aya’s face from that comment.

Forcing himself to let go of the wire cutters before he did something that he wouldn’t regret but would get in a lot of trouble over, the redhead gritted out, "Stout, it would be best if you forgot about ever hearing that word. In any language." Yohji had begun drifting over towards the two younger men. He’d recognized that tone of voice, and hoped to prevent a homicide.

"Ah, guess I’ll have to stick with ‘kitten’ then, huh? What is it with guys naming you after cute little animals?"

"I. Don’t. Know." Aya felt his headache returning, but knew what was causing this one. Maybe he could convince Kritiker to let him assassinate the foreigner on the principle of his health. "Drop. It."

The longhaired man stuck his lip out in a pout. "We just haven’t found the right name for you yet. How about ‘swee-mph!’." Yohji’s hand was completely enveloping the American’s mouth, and most of his lower face. He leaned forward to hiss in the mumbling’s man ear "don’t /ever/ say that word around him if you want to live." The blond had found out the hard way that Aya had a seriously negative connotation with that nickname. The man hadn’t been crazy about it before a drugged Yohji, under the telepathic influence of Mastermind, had called him that while raping the smaller man. The first time he’d used the name after the incident had ended up with him being violently kicked out of bed, nursing a black eye.

"Behave." The blond said, as he removed his hand. Teddy glared at him as he gasped, trying to breath in fresh air. After a moment he flipped his hair back over his shoulder and returned his attention to Aya. "Okay, we’ll just stick with Red for right now."

"What do you want, Stout?" Aya asked, eager to be left alone in peace.

"I stopped in for some flowers, and to ask the two of you a question."

"What?"

"Uhm, Koyu really wants to meet you, since you weren’t here when I brought him on Monday. And there aren’t too many people he likes to hang out with since the attack. So I was wondering, how does the sound of a double date appeal to you?" Teddy rushed through the last part, doing his best chibi expression with the big pleading eyes.

Stunned, Aya sat there wondering how he could arrange a relapse as Yohji burst out in a laugh.

*******

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